sunburst shirt dress

I may have broken all my previous records with this latest knit. When I saw the pattern at TNNA in June, I immediately pegged it as a fantastic Rhinebeck sweater. It was clearly ambitious, it was new and different for me (I’ve never knit a dress before), and it would show off a design by a real-life friend of mine, Anna Cohen (who designed Emily’s wedding dress, when I knit the bride a shawl). But the pattern from Imperial Knits Collection wasn’t ready yet, and the kit yet to be put together, so I had to wait and hope that I’d have enough time to finish. As September was passing me by I got more and more nervous. October 15 was coming up fast.

The kit was in my hands on September 27. A Tuesday. Two weeks and four days from the Saturday of Rhinebeck. It was do or die!!

And I DID. This baby is knit on size 4 needles, but I didn’t let that discourage me. I just did the quickest swatch ever and dove in. Thirteen days later, I had finished the three-needle bind-off and dunked the dress in a sinkful of water and wool wash. Thirteen days! Plenty of time for it to dry before the Saturday festival! It’s important to note that in those 13 days I ended up having 2 sick days, 1 comp day (so a total of 3 days off of work) and two weekends—without those long stretches I may not have finished in time.

The yarn, Imperial Yarn’s Tracie (too bad it isn’t their “Erin” yarn!), is a rustic Columbia wool with a lot of lanolin so it’s really nice to knit with (though with my 10-hour-long knitting jags, I did start to get something like rug burn on my finger!). The pattern, Sunburst Shirt Dress, I must warn you, is definitely for experienced knitters—a lot of jugging many parts at once, knowing how to read your knitting like a pro, etc. But trust your own instincts and the photo of the dress and you’ll be fine. It’s ultimately a simple shape; it just requires some sophisticated managing.

I made it longer by about an inch in the lace and then two inches before the armhole (plus blocked it to be a bit longer), so it was more dress-like than tunic-like. I’ve never worn a tunic before and knew it would make me self-conscious. I didn’t want to wear a T-shirt under it, but the cold and rain meant I needed more layers! I didn’t want to wear a shirt under it because of the back. It’s so gorgeous, I probably should have worn my hair up, too (the model in the pattern has very short hair—this dress is awesome enough to make you want to copy her!).

[Stitchy McYarnpants worked as our stylist for the shoot, smoothing out wrinkles, taming flyaway hair, and of course, ensuring that my ass looked as good as it could. Ahem.]

I also modified the neckline on the front, figuring that the high straight neckline would chop me off too abruptly; given I’m not particularly tall, that doesn’t do me any favors. I just picked a spot for the neck and worked each shoulder separately on either side from there (but maintaining everything else the same at the armhole edge). I worked the shoulders as short rows so that I’d have a nice clean edge when I bound it all off. If I’d had more time I might have gone back and raised the neckline a bit, but it was nice like this, too.

Rhinebeck is, of course, the perfect place to shoot photos of your finished Rhinebeck sweater, and how better to get a great assortment of photos than to enlist a professional photographer? Caro of Splityarn and I went back behind the Antiques Museum building with some friends and had a silly little photo shoot. I enjoyed employing all the standard cliche elements of a single FO shot in my first pic above: pigeontoed, tucking the hair, etc. Big thanks to her and Stitchy (and of course the hecklers who sat to watch: Pam, Cass, Wendy) for doing what me and a tripod would have never accomplished!

33 Responses to sunburst shirt dress

  1. WhitMc says:

    Oh. my. goodness. I had to wait for my mouth to close from the shock of (a) the amazingness of the dress/tunic and (b) THIRTEEN DAYS! On size 4 needles? Woman, you are a goddess.

  2. Ana says:

    The dress is beautiful and this post cracked me up several times (specially the “ahem” photo). I loved the modifications you made to (already wonderful) design. The back has a huge “tchan” factor.

    Your avid readers want more.

  3. leo says:

    Jesus Christ that dress is fabulous. And I love the picture of Stitchy reaching up your dress. She is clearly an assistant who will go that extra mile, do whatever it takes, etc etc.

  4. Cirilia Rose says:

    WHOO! Up with knitted dresses! Or just…up knitted dresses.

    The best thing to wear with these are Spanx, or something Spanx-like. Then you’re basically golden. I just shot something where the photographer kept diving into MY SHOE to adjust socks…sweet Jeebus, that tickled.

    This looks amazing on you, I love Anna’s work!

  5. ChristyNotHip says:

    Oh man! that ass shot with Stitchy is THE BEST! Also, I shall totally copy you by making this. With you making Still Light, we shall be double twinsies. However, I probably need to wait on this one until after Christmas knitting. I am really excited about it though, b/c I love the Imperial Yarn people. I got to go to the ranch for their sheep shearing a few years back, when they were first starting into yarn, and it was so great to see their passion for their ranch and sheep.

  6. Karen C says:

    The dress is so stunning on you (with or without stitchy!). Congrats on getting it finished in warp speed. Sorry to have missed you last weekend – I was wearing a dress too!

  7. Anna Cohen says:

    Wow Erin!!! What a beautiful job you did! It looks amazing on you!!! And nice job on the neckline. I really love everyone’s comments and appreciate you choosing one of my designs. Fantastic!! More coming next season! Yay!! Big hugs – Anna

  8. Jacey says:

    I still cannot believe how fast you knit this! It’s incredible, and as I said on flickr, that back neckline is stunning. Woo, Minty! Way to go!

  9. Rachel says:

    So, I have to ask: what, precisely, did Stitchy do to “adjust” your ass? Because it looks like it worked and I’d like to try it.

    This is gorgeous, as are you!

  10. She who taught you to purl says:

    I am so proud of you! Almost makes me want to pick up my needles again – but needlepoint is easier in car pick up line!!!
    Seriously, who knew? You rock.

  11. Cassy says:

    WOW! You’re a knitting rockstar. I can’t believe you did that in under 3 weeks on a size 4 needle. Amazing. I guess I should have come to Rhinebeck on the Saturday of it. Seems like that’s when most of the action was!

  12. janieb says:

    That is a-maz-ing. Thirteen days, I bet you could have done it in single figures:) Your Rhineback outfits must steal the show. I so need a holiday stateside to hit the glory of Rhinebeck. I’m still hanging on a Rhinebeck skirt pattern…

  13. Taraesa says:

    I am having real problems with this pattern I can not seem to get anybody to answer my questions on exactly where the rib pattern starts on the lace pattern. In the middle? Or the pearl row that goes all the way up. And now if you go p1 k1 rib then the p row does not go up. I would really like to talk with some one who has made this dress. Would you be interested? I would like to not have to start all over again.

  14. Sarah says:

    Awesome post! I am neck deep in knitting this dress/tunic and making many of the same modifications you did! It is indeed a very challenging pattern and I am also knitting on size 4 needles! I have a few questions and am wondering if you could email me some answers/thoughts?

    -Does your lace come to a peak under the arm?
    -Do you have a pattern for the neck line?
    -Did you end up inadvertently adding stitches as you transitioned between stick types?

    Thank you and you look fabulous!

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