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What is a Turtleback?

January 31, 2011

The transformative nature of creation is well known. Making something out of nothing draws most of us to the magic of the art of creation through knitting, crafting, quilting, crochet, and the list goes on and on. What can be more transformative than creating something warm and comforting out of string?

Every so often I discover a project that takes the transformative nature of knitting and crocheting to a new level. <Enter> the Turtleback Jacket: a form-fitting (or loose) garment that suits every sized human. Who amongst us would have believed that a comfortable and cozy cardi-like wrap could be the result of a rectangle (or square) transformed?

Turtleback jacket

Turtleback Jacket (design by Sue Childress)

The garment begins with a knitted or crocheted rectangle (or square). The rectangle is then folded, meeting the short ends together. Two quick seams allow for armholes and bring the shape alive! Voila! A fabric wrap that not only keeps the chill from your shoulders, but comes complete with stitched in hugs.

Interested in creating your own version of a Turtleback? There are a few hints and tips that make the process easier. Ultimately, though, creating a Turtleback is as easy as stitching up a rectangle or square.

1.      Stitch Pattern:

Rib patterns seem to be the key to a good fit. The suppleness and give of ribbed fabric allows for a form hugging fit that leaves plenty fabric free to form a fold over collar that gently transforms into a neckline.

2.      The Yarn:

Soft and pliable and comfortable. Turtlebacks can be a quick knit if a chunky yarn is used. A more subtle effect (and larger frame friendly) comes from using a worsted weight yarn.  Crocheted versions often opt for a sport, or baby, weight yarn.

3.      The Dimensions:

This type of garment is not as picky with gauge as a more fitted cardigan, but creating a rectangle or square (for a shorter jacket) that is appropriate for your frame is a must. Turtlebacks can fit almost any shape and frame. Just be sure to knit the rectangle to suit you:

Small 32” x 40”
Medium 34” x 42”
Large 36” x 44”
Extra-Large 38” x 45”

4.      The Stitching:

a.       You will need two sets of needles in a size appropriate for your yarn. One will be larger than the needle used to knit the main body.

b.      With the larger needle, cast-on enough stitches to create a fabric that meets the above dimensions. Knit in pattern for at least 3” to 6”. When worn, one large-needle end becomes the collar and the other becomes the flounce.

c.       Change to smaller needle and knit in pattern until fabric is appropriate length.

d.      Change to larger needle and repeat step b.

e.       Cast-off loosely in pattern.

f.        Wrap the fabric around yourself and close with a shawl pin or other style closure.

5.      The Magical Fold and Seam:

Whether you’ve knit a square or a rectangle, the trick to creating the jacket lies in the folding.

a.       Matching the cast-on and cast-off edges, fold the knitted piece in half.

b.      Mark sides 7.5 (small), 8 (medium), 8.5 (large), or 9 (extra-large) inches from fold for arm openings.

c.       Sew side seams together from marker to cast-on/cast-off edge.

d.      Weave in all ends and get ready to be wrapped in warmth and comfort.

6.      Wearing the Jacket:

a.       With one hand placed along the front of the top edge, lift the top half of the garment and slip the other arm through one of the armholes.

b.      Slip your other arm into the second armhole.

c.       Pull the garment around you, making it as form-fitting or as loose as you like.

d.      Fold back the edge around your neck to form a collar.

There you have it! The Turtleback Jacket. I am looking forward to adding a number of these form-fitting, or loosely fitted, “pop-on” style jackets to many wardrobes…including my own. Now, go forth, grab your favouite stitch dictionary, and knit or crochet your own version of this truly magical garment.

You can check out my first attempt at a crocheted Turtleback on Ravelry.

Knit a hug today!

Knit a hug today!

For more detailed patterns in both knit and crochet, please visit Annie’s Attic. Easy Turtleback Jacket, by Sue Childress and Frances Hughes, offers eight unique designs for you try. Crocheters will appreciate Summer Turtleback Jackets, by Annie’s Attic. The pattern leaflet features a picot lace and a crescent patterned version of the Turtleback. Both are quick to create and result in a unique and airy addition to any summer ensemble.

Just in time for summer!

Just in time for summer!

Happy stitching…



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