Knitting a DIY Wool Nightgown with Lace!

I’m attempting to design a nightshirt.  Some might call it a nightie or a nightgown.  I haven’t designed it yet, so maybe I’ll change my mind about what to call it, too.

It’s not the usual knitted garment.  I haven’t been able to find a pattern, so I’m designing out of necessity.

Why I’m Handknitting a Lace Nightgown

Like many others, I believed that wool yarn is itchy and causes many allergies.  But a bunch of studies have come out recently showing that superfine or finer Merino wool yarn is good for eczema, which I have, does not cause allergies, and helps people sleep better.  (I’m prone to insomnia.)

Making a blanket seems like a good way to go, except I’m not using blankets much these days.

We’re in the midst of a worldwide heatwave, so I am very conscious that I don’t want this nightwear to cook me in my sleep, or prevent me from sleeping just because it’s too dang hot.  The solution, it seems to me, is to use a wool/cotton blend yarn, preferably #2 sportweight.  It’s not likely I have a yarn like this, and I don’t want to buy any more yarn right now.  I’ll dust off my problem-solving cap and get to work on it.

I using 2 more strategies to make it more comfortable in hot weather.  One, keep it short.  Two, use a lace pattern that doesn’t have gaping holes.  If the yarn’s a little fuzzy, and the holes aren’t too big, it shouldn’t look like an escapee from Frederick’s of Hollywood.

You should know is that I don’t know anything about designing patterns.  Well, almost nothing.  I’ll need to figure out the gauge to determine how much yarn I’ll need and what needle size I’ll use.  That’s about it.  I need help.

Basic Decisions

  1. Guidebook.  There are a number of books out there that guide knitters in how to make various knitted objects without a set pattern.  Since I don’t know what I’m doing, and I happen to already own The Knitter’s Companion, rev. ed., by Vicki Square, that’s what I’ll be using.
  2. KC tells me I need measurements.  It’s pretty much impossible to take your own measurements accurately, but there is another alternative.  Get the measurements you need from a garment you already own that fits exactly the way you want.  That’s the approach I’m using.
  3. I am planning on a substantial amount of ease in this garment, so after I get my size from the measurements chart, I check the Sweater Ease Allowance chart.  I’m definitely looking for an oversized silhouette, so I’ll need to make my final measurements 16 to 20% larger.
  4. Yarn:  I’ll have to paw through my stash, which isn’t easy to get to right now.  I used to have a legal paper sized log sheet that I made and used to keep track of how much yarn I have, weight, color, yardage, which bin it was in, etc..  I don’t think it’s very accurate anymore and I’m not sure where it is.  (This is why it’s so important to organize your knitting!)  One thing I already know, I’ve gone out of my way to avoid buying any wool/cotton blend yarn.  I may have some, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that I don’t have enough for my project.  Also, because of the size of the project, which is essentially an oversized, very long vest?, it’s unlikely that I would have enough yarn anyway.
  5. Geometry:  I’m a beginner!  I’m keeping this simple.  I’m going to make a long tube.  No sleeves.  In fact, I think I’ll even skip the tank top straps & go with i-cord  shoulder “straps.”  This will also significantly cut down on the amount of yarn I need.
  6. Double strand?  I learned to hold two strands of yarn together while I knitted when I was a child.  I could do that again to get the wool/cotton blend I want, but it would create a much heavier fabric than I’d like, unless I can find a very fine cotton yarn and I’m willing to sacrifice some of my laceweight wool.  This is possible.  It would be an enormously successful de-stashing strategy, too.  Yes, killing several birds with one stone!  (So to speak, no animals will be harmed in the making of this garment.)
  7. Update 1:  I found a very nice stash of 30 balls of an ultrafine merino wool/bamboo blend.  Slightly different than I planned on because I had no idea I had this yarn.  It looks like a grab bag purchase from webs.  It should be perfect for my needs.  The colors are:  fuschia (sort of), off-white, and mushroom brown.  I like the pink, the off-white is standard fare for nightclothes & undergarments, and the mushroom brown is a good neutral.  This is a win.
  8. Make my swatch sample, aka night cap!  Swatch cap?  The nightie will be oversized and really doesn’t need a gauge, but if I’m going to create a real design, I’m going to go all the way and determine the gauge.  I’ve even considered submitting the design to, if I can get it together.
  9. I’m going to be very creative with my swatch and turn it into a hat.  EZ was right, of course.  If you’re going to knit in the round, your swatch should be in the round, and in that case, why not make it a hat?  At least I’ll be going into this winter well supplied with hats for a change.  I’m making my swatch hat out of the mushroom brown.
  10. I drew a very rough picture of my design, including page references to the lace patterns I plan on using – more than one!  I’ve gone back and forth on how to handle the shoulder straps.  I’m leaning toward an i-cord going over the shoulders and lacing through the front and back center sections.  That will give a slightly gathered effect to the neckline, similar to my favorite nightie. I do wonder how I’ll feel about this design in winter…
  11. I’ve already cast on for my night cap/gauge swatch.  It’ll be a great opportunity to practice the stitch patterns.  I almost always find that to be helpful.  If you want to see a picture of the very beginning stages of the swatch cap, check out my yarn bra article.  It’s the one in the English muffin bag.

Update 2:  Swatch Cap to the rescue!  It’s a very good thing I’m making a swatch cap.  I’m planning on a narrow lace pattern as a sort of trim before moving into the main body of the nightie.  It’s called the Garland Pattern from Barbara Walker’s A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns.  The bulk of the piece will be knitted in a Seafoam lace pattern, which is basically garter stitch with yarnovers, from the same book.

The Garland pattern is written for flat knitting.  I’m doing circular knitting.  I tried converting the pattern in my head as I go, but that failed miserably.  I’m going to chart it out.  It’s a relatively simple and short pattern, but I need to figure out the direction of the increases & decreases, plus keep track of which repeat I’m on, etc.  And I dislike working from written out patterns.  I make more mistakes when it’s written row by row instead of charted.

That’s enough writing for now.  I have to get to work on knitting!  Updates will happen.

Leave a Comment