How to Knit a Simple Shell Top

This knit shell top has an incredibly simple shape, but when worn on the body, this knit shell looks much more interesting. This top has negative ease, which means that when worn, it stretches to hug your curves.

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Here are the materials and vital statistics for this project:

  • Yarn: Cascade Venezia (70% merino wool, 30% silk); 102 yards (94 meters) per 100 grams; 4 (5, 5, 5, 6) balls; color: Melon

  • Needles: US 10 (6 mm) needles, or the size needed to match gauge

  • Other materials: Yarn needle; stitch holder

  • Size: XS (S, M, L, 1X)

    • Finished chest circumference (unstretched): 20 (22, 24, 27, 30) inches

    • Finished chest circumference (stretched): 30 (34, 38, 42, 46) inches

    • Finished length: 22 (23, 23, 24, 24) inches

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  • Gauge: 22 stitches and 20 rows over 2 x 2 rib (unstretched); 14 stitches and 20 rows over 2 x 2 rib (stretched)

This top is a quick knit that you’ll love to wear. Wear it on its own in summer or under a jacket year-round:

  1. Cast on 54 (62, 66, 74, 82) sts to begin the back.

  2. Begin 2 x 2 rib as follows:

    Row 1 (RS): K2, *p2, k2, repeat from * to end.

    Row 2 (WS): P2, *k2, p2, repeat from * to end.

    Repeat these 2 rows until the back measures 15 inches (all sizes).

  3. To shape the armholes, bind off 2 (4, 4, 6, 8) sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.

    There are 50 (54, 58, 62, 66) sts.

  4. Continue with the rib pattern, knitting the knit sts and purling the purl sts, until the back measures 22 (23, 23, 24, 24) inches.

  5. Bind off all sts.

  6. To begin knitting the front, repeat Steps 1 through 3.

  7. Continue with the rib pattern until the front measures 17 1/2 (18 1/2, 18 1/2, 19 1/2, 19 1/2) inches, ending with a RS row.

  8. To work the right half of the neck, follow this stitch pattern:

    Next row (WS): Work 25 (27, 29, 31, 33) sts in rib pattern. Do not complete the row; place the remaining stitches on a stitch holder.

    Continue in rib pattern on these 25 (27, 29, 31, 33) sts until this side measures 3 inches from the beginning of neck shaping, ending with a WS row.

    Next row (RS): Bind off 12 (12, 12, 14, 14) sts, work in rib pattern to the end of the row. There are 13 (15, 17, 17, 19) sts on the needle.

    Work 1 1/2 inches in rib pattern, measuring from the last bind off.

    Bind off.

  9. Work the left half of the neck as follows:

    Replace the held stitches on the needle with the WS facing and rejoin the yarn. Work these 25 (27, 29, 31, 33) stitches in rib pattern as set for 3 inches, ending with a RS row.

    Next row (WS): Bind off 12 (12, 12, 14, 14) sts at the neck edge, and then work in rib pattern to the end of the row. There are 13 (15, 17, 17, 19) sts on the needle.

    Work 1 1/2 inches in rib pattern as set.

    Bind off.

  10. Using mattress stitch, sew the shoulder seams together, matching the outer edges of the front and back shoulders and lining up the rib pattern.

  11. Sew the side seams from the bottom of the armhole to the hemline.

  12. Weave in any loose ends and block, if desired.

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