Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Tutorial: Picking From Garter Stitch

In need of some relaxing, as opposed to taxing, knitting, I'm working on a version of Madder's Uniform cardigan. I refer to  "a version", because I'm knitting the pockets into a deeper garter stitch border and making a few technical changes such as knitting the sleeves in the round, using my own preferred buttonhole method, and knitting the top down pockets following my own approach, among other things. I'm following the instructions to pick up 2 out of 3 stitches along the diagonal front edges, but I'm NOT doing that for the garter stitch portion of the body. For picking up stitches in general, see this blog post, in which I explicitly left the subject of garter stitch to a later time. That time is now.

First off, when you are working in garter stitch it is an excellent idea to slip the first stitch of each row KNITWISE. I learned about this decades ago from a now rather ancient video of Elizabeth Zimmermann's PBS knitting show. I hardly ever hear or read this advice from other sources, which surprises me because it is such a simple, neat, and elegant solution for three reasons.

1. It produces a lovely little nub at the edge of each garter stitch ridge (remember, in garter stitch two rows make one ridge) that makes for a very tidy stand alone finish. If you just knit the first stitch of each row as usual, you're in danger of a rather wonky, kindergartenish edge, even if you're an experienced knitter.

2. If you eventually intend to seam the edge, all you need do is draw a blunt sewing needle back and forth through the nubs on each side for a gorgeous, completely flat seam. The way the two sides interlock together is like magic, and the reason why I have no objection at all to working garter stitch pieces flat.

3. To pick up (really, knit up) for a border, all you need do is knit into the little nubs. An easy way to accomplish this is to thread a smaller size dpn through the nubs first (see the needle on the left),

then knit into the back of each of those stitches, like this.

 If you've made Harriet's Jacket (below), you'll have encountered these techniques before. 

Some news:

1. I put together Ikea's Norden table, so now I have an actual sewing table in an actual sewing room (courtesy of James moving out last December).

2. Spring is here.

3. I had my first Pfizer dose yesterday. Only a very slightly sore arm. Yay. Hoping that Canada's vaccine supply continues to improve so that we don't have to wait months for the second dose.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Same Old, Same Old

I wish I could write with exciting news, photos -- something, but it's same old, same old here. We're in a strict lockdown in Ontario, not that that means much given that Bill and I have been avoiding social interactions for over a year. I haven't been inside a shop of any kind since March 2020. Thankfully, Isabel is living within walking distance of us, at least temporarily until her big tech employer calls its employees back into the office in Kitchener/ Waterloo. She's "bubbling" with us, following identical restrictions. Not so for James, also within walking distance. I see him at a distance only, but we chat periodically by phone.

What's happening in my insular world of making? A relatively plain vanilla sweater, enjoyable rather than boring after all the chart following concentration of the aran cardigan project.

The yarn is Ultra Alpaca worsted in "blueberry mix", looking as usual with my camera, more grey than blue.

I finally plyed some singles that had been sitting on spindles into a nice DK weight, shown drying on my music stand. It's Ashford's Corriedale in "Grape Jelly".

Yesterday I cut out and began to sew a cotton dress for warm weather. The fabric is "Meet me in Ibiza" from Cotton + Steel. Love those Japanese prints.

Finally, I'm having my annual contest of wills with a robin determined to build a nest atop one of our porch pillars. I think the terracotta pot has succeeded in thwarting her ambitions. I feel slightly cruel, but the resulting mess from bird poop on the porch can be dreadful, and there are plenty of other nesting opportunities out there.

Note the mayflies (bird food) dotting the pillar. They should be over in the next week or so. It's the curse of living a stone's throw from Lake Ontario.

Going for my first dose of Pfizer on Tuesday. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Design Your Own Aran Cardigan, Part Fifteen: Wrap Up

Time for photos of the completed cardigan. Yarn: Topsy Farms Worsted, 4 skeins. Needles: 5 mm 32" circular for body and sleeves. 4.5 mm 32" circular for ribbing. Gauge in stocking stitch: 4 sts per inch. Buttons: 7/8" coffee-coloured wooden buttons from Darryl Thomas Textiles. Shown with this home sewn linen dress.

Some stats:

CO = 176 sts

body length to underarm = 11"

armhole depth = 7"

sts on hold at underarms = 18 

total sts involved at neck (same number for front and back) = 28

sts placed on hold before neck shaping (same for front and back) = 20

sts bound off at shoulders = 22

sts knitted up for sleeves = 60

sts after perpendicular join = 59

total sleeve decreases before ribbing = 11

rows between decreases = 6 

sts left after sleeve decreases = 37 

sts in cuff = 34 

OK, now it's your turn. Show me your projects on Ravelry by linking them here.  

Me in my new overalls. So comfy. I feel taller (always good when you're 5'1"). The grin is because I managed this morning to book my first and second vaccine appointments (May and August). Also because the sweater is #5 right now on Ravelry's "Hot Right Now" list and it seems to be inspiring a few knitters to venture into designing their own.

Design Your Own Aran, Part Fourteen: Sleeves

In the previous post I described the process of knitting up the sleeve stitches and working down to the point where the underarm stitches have been subsumed into the sleeves and the whole joined neatly into the round. Now it's time for a few more calculations. 

1. Figure out, approximately, how many cuff stitches to aim for. In a stocking stitch sweater, the cuff would normally be about 20% of the body stitches. So, if this were a plain sweater with no cables, a 36" sweater knitted at 4 stitches per inch would have 144 stitches in the body. 144 x .2 = 28.8 I'd probably aim for around 30 stitches, just to be safe. But, this is a sleeve with cables, so I'm adding a few more stitches, around 34. Don't forget that as you knit the sleeve you can try it on and make adjustments as you go. It's best to end the decreases a little early and allow for a few inches of working even for your forearm. You can always work a few more decreases when you start the cuff ribbing (if you're doing ribbing, that is). Knitting is very forgiving.

2. Estimate how many rows apart to work your decreases. Guestimate sleeve length from the underarm join, using an existing sweater. Multiply the result by your row gauge to learn the total number of rows you have to work with. Divide by the number of decreases.

Example: I had 59 stitches when my sleeve was joined into the round. I knew I needed to get down to around 37 (I adjusted my original number up so it would be an odd number since I was starting with an odd number and would be doing pairs of decreases). 

59 minus 37 = 22:  total stitches to decrease

22 divided by 2 = 11: total number of decreases 

15" sleeve (measured from the underarm join) x 6 (my row gauge) = 90 rows

7 or 8 of my rows would be dedicated to the ribbing, which brought me down to 82 rows. I like to have at least a couple of inches between the end of the decreases and the cuff, so taking away another 12 rows that brought me down to 70 rows. I divided 70 by eleven and ended up with a decrease spacing of every 6 rows, with a few left over. 

3. Play with the ribbing. When I arrived at the cuff, I decided to carry on with the cable ribbing as much as possible right to the end. Actually, I ended up turning the centre of the big cable into a little rope cable and decided to decrease 3 extra stitches in the first round of ribbing, thus arriving at 34 stitches. Don't forget to switch down a needle size for the ribbing. Not a bad idea for the last couple of rounds even if you're not ribbing, just to keep the cuff from flaring out.

And remember, to avoid cable splay, end with a cable turn just before binding off in pattern. 

The last part is here

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Design Your Own Aran, Part Thirteen: The Perpendicular Join

Do you consider thirteen to be unlucky? I don't, but I'm always surprised at the number of people who do. Regardless, here's how to knit sleeves top down from a modified drop shoulder. It's tidy, it allows the aran patterns to progress uninterrupted to the shoulder, and it's just plain fun. For an overview of the perpendicular join, see here. FYI, I also used it for the saddle shoulders in Glenora.

To double check before you launch into this, you should have an even number of stitches on lengths of waste yarn at the underarms and continuous selvedge stitches all the way up the upper body to the shoulders (now joined by 3-needle BO).

I use a 32" circular for the whole procedure (and also for the rest of the sleeve utilizing the magic loop method). Knit up stitches around the armhole in a ratio of 2 stitches for every 3 rows. Review this tutorial if necessary for where and how to knit up stitches. Whilst doing this, at the two bottom corners of the opening next to the underarm stitches, pick up the running thread and twist it before knitting into it to close any gaps, making each twisted stitch lean toward the underarm. Leave the underarm stitches on the waste yarn; they will be worked into the sleeve one at a time. You should end up with an even number. 

Example: my 7-inch tall arm opening produced (29 x 2) sts + (1 x 2) at the corners) = 60 sts total. 

At this point, if you haven't done this so far, stop to consider which, if any, aran stitches from the body you want to carry down the sleeves. Remember, it must be a stitch pattern that will look the same whether worked bottom up or top down. My gull stitch cable was ruled out for this reason. I chose to employ my largest cable, the Inishmore Cable, for the sleeves. Centre the cable over the shoulder and place markers around the stitches that will be involved. Note that you will begin, as you did for the body, on a WS chart row. The instructions below for the perpendicular join below are written for a plain stocking stitch sleeve; remember to work your chosen aran stitches in the area you have marked out for them.

Now, working back and forth:

Row 1 (WS): Sl1 wyif, purl to last st, sl1, sl1 from waste yarn, sl2 back onto LH needle and p2tog, turn.

Row 2 (RS): Sl wyib, knit to last st, sl1 knitwise, s1 knitwise from waste yarn, insert LH into last 2 sts to make and SSK, turn.

Rep Rows 1 and 2, cont to work back and forth in this fashion, eating up the underarm sts from the waste yarn until 1 st is left on the waste yarn and 1 sts remains on the needle, then work a double dec as foll: sl2tog knitwise (the 2 remaining sts just described), k1, P2SSO. You should have an odd number of sts left in total for the sleeve. Place a locking st marker in the double decrease and move this up as the sleeve progresses. This will be the start of the round. Yes, from here on you will be working your aran chart in the round, so don't forget that you will be reading EVERY row from right to left for the first time in the knitting of the cardigan. 

Here's how the underarm will look after a few more rounds, with the sleeve at the top of the photo:

 And here's how the perpendicular join will look when completed.

It's like knitting magic!
Part 14 is here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Design Your Own Aran, Part Twelve: Borders and Buttonholes

Front and neck borders are easier than most knitters think. Plus, if you do them at this stage of the knitting, not only will you get them over with, but you will also have the advantage that your cardigan will hang properly when you get to trying it on to assess the fit of the sleeves. Pretty much everything of a technical nature you need to know about picking up the borders can be found in my earlier tutorial here. There are a few extra points worth adding.

1. To get nice corners without those little "ears" where the yarn is cut and pulled through at the end of the row, work the last 2 stitches together. So simple, so tidy!

2. Be prepared to fuss a little to get a good arrangement of knits and purls in the ribbing. You will want to have a knit stitch at the outer edges of the neck ribbing (which will be worked first) to act as a selvedge for picking up the front borders. With the latter, manipulate your stitch numbers if necessary, by some judicious decreasing, so that you end up with 2 knit stitches at either end. Do the same sort of gentle manipulation to line up the cable ribs with the collar ribs, within reason. Here's the back neck of my cardigan showing a couple of the body ribs carrying forward into the collar.

You can see why I didn't cast off the back neck stitches. Indeed, in the "pickup" round, I purled some of the stitches instead of knitting them to keep them in pattern as they transitioned into the neck ribbing.

3. Knit the button border before the buttonhole border. Then mark, in purled sections, where you want the buttons to go. Finally, knit the buttonhole border to match. 

4. I use a buttonhole of my own invention for this task. On a sample of 6 stitches, here's how to work it:

Row 1: k2, p2, k2.

Row 2: p2, k2, p2. 

Row 3 (buttonhole row #1): k1, SSK, YO, k2tog, k1. Yes, that's right, now there are only 5 sts.

Row 4: (buttonhole row #2): p2, (k1, p1 into the YO), p2.

Row 5: k2, p2, k2. 

Note: I use this buttonhole in k2, p2 ribbing in WORSTED OR ARAN WEIGHT yarn because it accomodates a 7/8" or 1" button. In chunky yarn I generally just use a standard eyelet (YO) buttonhole. See my Willingdon cardigan as an example. 

In my last post, I neglected to show a photo of how the shoulders came together after the 3-needle BO. Here's how that looks. See how the columns of twisted knit stitches come together perfectly?

 Unfortunately, the gull stitch cables didn't fare as well. Apparently I mis-cabled (is that a word?) on the front side. Ah well, to err is human as they say!

And here's the cardigan with the borders completed. I have the buttons all ready to sew on whenever I'm in the mood.

The cardigan does not flare out at the lower edge as this photo suggests; that's just the angle of the camera creating that illusion. 

Next time -- sleeves.

P.S. I chose the lighter coloured buttons and buckles for the Ophelia Overalls. It's true that even though the base colour is navy, the yarn dyed effect results in a pale grey. All done!

Part 13 is here.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Design Your Own Aran, Part Eleven: Neck and Shoulders

You've knitted the body, placed your underarm stitches on hold, and now you're motoring up the back toward the neck. Time for some more arithmetic. 

1. Calculate the neck width: In general, for a standard crew neck, the neck width is about one third of the body width (not circumference). Example: My sweater has a width of 18 inches. Therefore, the neck of my cardigan needs to be at least 6 inches wide. Of course, you can alter this -- it's your sweater.

2. Calculate how many stitches wide your neck will be: This involves more than simply multiplying your filler stitch gauge by the number of inches of desired width because aran stitches compress stitch gauge. The best thing to do is to lay out your knitting and look at the lower body, which should already have been blocked. Now, measure your desired width across the centre back to figure out how many stitches you need to attain the desired neck width. Example: My gauge in stocking stitch (my filler stitch) is 4 sts per inch which would normally translate to 6" x 4 sts = 24 sts for the neck. BUT, when measured across the centre back with its aran patterns, it turns out that I need 28 sts to achieve 6 inches. 

3. Front and back neck depth: For a standard fitting neck, I like to begin the back neck shaping one inch before my final desired body length, and the front neck about 3 inches before the final length. Example: I want my cardigan to be 18 inches long in total. Therefore, I need to start my back neck shaping when my knitting measures 17 inches from the cast on edge. I recommend knitting the back before the fronts; it makes figuring out where to start the front neck shaping simpler. I make notes right on my chart about where I started shaping.

4. Curving the corners: To achieve nice rounded edges on your neck shaping (front and back), allow four stitches on either side of the neck for some strategic decreasing. Decrease one stitch at each side of the neck every row for four rows before going on to complete the neck depth.

5. How to decrease: Using my own cardigan as an example, when I get to the point where I want to start the back neck shaping, I transfer 28 minus (4 x 2) = 20 sts onto a length of waste yarn at the centre back. I then work each side of the back neck separately but at the same time, all on one circular needle with separate balls of wool. It's much easier to decrease into the aran patterns on either side in a consistent manner when this is done. I'll admit, it's the part that I like doing the least, but it's only for a short stretch of work. I like to decrease the two stitches at the very edge of the neck, but you could also work the decreases one stitch in -- knitter's choice. On the right hand side of the neck, facing you, work k2tog on the RS, and p2tog on the WS. On the left side, work SSK on the RS, and p2togtbl on the left. Once you're done the decreasing, make sure to maintain a selvedge stitch at the neck edge all the way to the top.

6. Join the shoulders: When all the neck shaping is done, join the shoulders, right sides together, with a 3-needle BO. Read more about that choice of method here

Try your cardigan body on now to be sure it fits. You can give it a soak now or wait until the borders are on if you think everything is on track.


While the cardigan was drying, I made some headway with the Ophelia Overalls (they're actually dark navy yarn-dyed cotton/linen, not grey). Here are the hardware options I'm considering:

Any opinions?
Part 12 is here.