This dress starts at the neck and is knit in the round all the way to the bottom of the skirt. I used Elizabeth Zimmermann’s excellent garment building principles to get my base numbers. I’m going to assume most knitters have a basic grounding with EPS. If so, my instructions should be rather straightforward. If you are not aquainted with EZ, read one of her (many, excellent) books first.
First you need your gauge, with your yarn, and the desired finished chest measurement. Using this info- calculate how many sts your chest will be and call that number 100%. These instructions use 40% for the upper sleeve. The neck starts at 60%. A very convenient number for a top down- 10% goes to each sleeve, 20% each to front and back.
So now we start knitting. We’re going to start in garter stitch to get that lovely square neckline. I put my short seam in the center back, but you could also leave it open in the front for an extra detail. CO your 60% and work one ridge of garter stitch placing markers after 10% (half the back), another 10% (sleeve), 20 % (front), 10% (other sleeve), and you should have the last 10% for the rest of the back.
After knitting one ridge you will start increasing 2 sts at each marker every second row (or each ridge). You can increase any way you like. I wanted smallish holes so I did 2 opposing M1 right next to the marker. A YO one stitch before and after the marker will a much larger hole. If you want no holes do the M1 one stitch before and after the marker. Do this until you like the width of the neck band. I did 8 ridges.
Switch to your main color and start knitting in the round. Your markers are already at the raglan increase lines. Increase 2 stitches every marker, every second round. Again, increase any way you like. I knit into the front and back of each increase stitch, mostly by force of habit, but there are many differnet looks you can accomplish by different increases. Knit on until your sleeve tops are 40% and each body section is 50%. When your sleeves and body are ready for separating put the sleeve sts on an extra needle or wool and keep going on the body.
If you want to add patterned decoration to the bodice, please do. Brocade tends to pull up, cables tend to pull in, but if you know how to deal with these things go right ahead. I stuck to some K2 P1 ribbing down the front. This stuff makes the knitter feel good and the recipient knows which side is front.
For an adult you may want to add waist shaping by decreasing from underbust to waist, for a child, this is unneccesary. You’ll want a high waist, anywhere from 3-8 inches below the armpit depending on your recipient. If you, like me, like to read while knitting I would finish off all patterning (I did some seed stitch to finish off my ribbing) and knit a plain stockinette skirt. Or you could add some fabulous cables, or lace, or anything you want. This is your project. Own it.
That said, this is the method for the skirt. The skirt is increased at 8 points spaced evenly around. Do your math and place your markers. If things don’t divide out perfectly place your markers a bit closer together in the back. We are going to increase at the rate of 11 sts every 9 rounds.
“What kind of random figure is that?” you say… It’s not random at all. We’re going to increase 2 sts per marker at the side seams and center back, and 1 stitch per marker at all the others (11 sts). Now you can count rounds and do all your increases at once, every 9th round…. but try this instead. Make your first increase, knit around until you come back to your M1. Knit on to the next marker and increase. Knit around until you knit that M1, knit to the next marker and increase. So on and so forth.
You’ll progress around to all the markers without needing to count at all. Rather brilliant, no? It takes 9 rounds to get back to where you started your first increase, and because we are increasing by 2 sts at center back and side seams you’ll increase 11 sts each full circuit.
Knit on, read a good book, watch a good movie….. At the desired length- switch to your contrast color and make a bottom garter stitch border. I thought my niece would like a ruffle so the first round of contrast color K3 M1 all the way around. Then 8 ridges of garter stitch and cast off. This is just what I did. Do your border however you like.
Sleeves: These were fun. I wanted the armbands to look very distinct from the rest of the dress, like they were actually fabulously wrought metal holding the sleeves up. Thus the dense cabling and bars of twisted stitches. The armband starts with your contrast color the first round of sleeve after it comes off the body. The armband is worked on the full sleeve sts so you’ll have a small puffy sleeve cap. After the armband you decrease for a smooth line and then start increasing again to make the bell. Ending with more garter stitch.
Hopefully your 40% is a nice number into which many things can be evenly divided. If not, no big deal. You can use your favorite cable patterns, or make one up. I wanted mine to pull in a lot, but you may not. The cable chart I used is posted above. The armbands should be between 2-3 inches high.
When your sleeve bands are done start your main color and K3 K2tog around. This will make the sleeve not puffy under the band. After knitting a few rounds plain start increasing at your seamline. I increased 2 sts every 4th round. If you’d like a wider bell you can increase every 3rd round, or even more frequently.
At the length you want (minus edging) you can put in a row of eyelets for cinching up the cuff with a cord. My dress is being made for a 3 year old, and I thought her parents would appreciate a way to keep her sleeves out of her soup. Basic eyelet instructions: K3 YO K2tog around. Knit 1 round plain then make a contrasting garter stitch border.
And now you have a fabulous little dress suitable for any princesses in your life, young, or old. Happy Knitting!