Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

How not to knit sleeves on a cotton sweater

Sometimes, drastic problems call for drastic solutions.

Two years ago I began knitting this cotton cardigan for my daughter. It's a challenging pattern done in a worsted weight cotton. We measured and swatched and washed swatches and remeasured. Basically the sweater body came out to her satisfaction, but the sleeves were massively too large. This was discovered late last fall, shortly before her wedding. We said, OK try washing the sweater and see if the sleeves improve. Months passed, and finally one knitting group day, my daughter returned the sweater to me. The sleeves were just too large, could we do anything about it?

Here's a photo on the original sweater sleeve:

I confess I stuck the sweater in a drawer for awhile trying to decide what to do. I now understood how the sleeves came to be too big, besides the maybe too few decreases. I had adapted the pattern. Instead of knitting the sleeves as separate pieces using straight knitting needles, I had taken circular needles, picked up stitches all around the armhole and knitted down to the cuff. Normally, this is a very good idea. However with this cotton yarn, the circulars stretched the yarn, causing a bigger gauge. And that meant the sleeve was too wide by about 4 inches. My choices were to completely reknit two sleeves, using the original design, or to try and fit the current sleeves to her size.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained the saying goes. If I cut and sewed the current sleeves and they didn't work, I was only back to reknitting them again with new yarn. Fortunately there was plenty of yarn left over, I had been knitting from large cones of cotton yarn and had a full cone left. So I switched my mindset from that of a knitter to that of a seamstress, and tackled the project of making the sleeve fit.

First I made a paper pattern piece of the way the sleeve would have been if knit flat. Here's a picture of the sleeve with the pattern piece on it, which shows how the sleeve had flaired too wide.

I actually wrapped the pattern piece around the sleeve, putting the excess fabric on the underarm side. Then I took thick crochet cotton and did a running stitch down the sides of the pattern on the sweater. Basically this gave me a section outlined on the sleeve that should be removed. I had to then cut up the middle of that area from cuff to armhole, so the sleeve would be flat. Once it was flat I could easily sew two close set lines of stitching next to the basting marks, and cut away the excess knitting. I then treated it just like a sewn sleeve, by laying the two right sides together and doing an overlap type stitch to sew the sleeve back together.

Here's a photo of the inside and the seam. It's not pretty, but it did seem secure.

On the outside, it's almost impossible to even see the seam:

I was finally sure it all worked well though, when my daughter tried it on that night. Here's the final picture of the finished sweater on her.

I have heard many horror stories about knitting sweaters in cotton yarn. I now seem to have my own to add to them. I will say that this pattern did knit up well in cotton. All of the cabling gave a nice firm feel to the fabric and kept the stretch to a minimum. Except of course for those sleeves!


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

vacation knitting

A vacation means a driving trip, and that means lots of knitting time for me. I do take my share of driving, but try and plan it after dark when I wouldn't be knitting anyway. So having returned from a recent vacation, I have a few photos to share of progress on the FLAK sweater, and a finished project.

First the finished project:

Both yarns are commercial alpaca called Baby Twist, and are very soft. I originally made the headband, because I fell in love with the dyed and sparkly skein of alpaca yarn, but there was only one skein at the store. So I did the headband, thinking that would use the whole skein. When there was over half of the skein left, I bought more black alpaca, using the pretty yarn as a stripe. Even that didn't use up all of the yarn! I imagine my next step will be to buy yet more black yarn and make a matching scarf. Good thing the black alpaca is a yarn the shop stocks!

I spent most of my non driving knitting time working on the aran knit along sweater (known as the FLAK). I got through the first five installments, which makes the sweater have the back and front knitted down to about underarm level. This sweater is being knit top down, and we started with the saddles, those bands across the shoulder, then picked up stiches for the back, and knit to desired length. The front was the same process except we had to shape a neckline. The nice thing about this knit along is that the designer is offering options for different looks. If I wanted a rounded neckline, I would have increased only a few rows. I chose the V neck line and so did increases all through the knitting of the front. I did each side separately, finally joining and knitting a few rows at the end of the V.

One of the challenges on this was to reverse the knitting order of the cables, so that they matched the order presented on the back. It wasn't hard, once I got a good start on the cables and could see them developing, but at the beginning, I often felt my mind crossing, right along with those stitches, as I tried to work out which cable pattern was next. Add to that was the constant increases at the neck edge which would have to be a cable, once there were enough stitches. I finished the front almost literally right before we got in the car to start home, I knew I would not work on it in the car, and wanted it to be ready for the next installment when I got home. As it has turned out, I have not knitted on it for a week now, even though the sleeve installment is printed out and ready to go. I think I needed a cable break.

The yarn I am using is from my stash, a sale bin purchase several years ago. It is called lana Moro and it is 50/50 wool/acrylic. I love the stitch definition on the cables with this yarn.

What I have been knitting on this week is the start of mystery shawl along 3. I am using Cherry Tree Hill merino lace yarn in the color Java. The shawl has a circular start, and I have about 20 rows done, but that blob of yarn and needles is not very photogenic. So instead I have a photo of the swatch I made to decide on needle size.

I am hoping that the subtle colors of the yarn show in this photo. I took the picture outside hoping to get the sunshine on the colors. It's a fantastic yarn to knit, so soft and subtle in the coloring. I am expecting the shawl to be very lovely when it is done.

I am still Olympic spinning, even though the olympics are long over. With the wonders of modern technology, I have about 75 hours yet taped on my dish DVD. I am planning to watch it all, and spin, to complete my self made challenge of seeing how much yarn I can spin. Right now I am spinning a lovely merino silk blend I got when I went to SOAR. It is spinning like a dream, but there is alot of the fiber, so I have over 7 hours spinning time in it already and am only on my second bobbin. That's the problem with very fine spinning, it does not make the stash reduction happen! But the good side of that is the nice lovely lace weight yarn that I can use for my current knitting obsession, a shawl.