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January 28, 2006

Shedir

I felt quite pleased with myself, Ali MacGraw-ish and bohemian and pretty, until Jeff busted out with the "I-I-I-I want the knife!"

Pattern: Shedir, by Jenna Wilson for Knitty Breast Cancer Awareness Month Printable issue '04
Yarn: Rowan Felted Tweed in color143 (cocoa)
Yardage: Approximately 100 yards
Yarn Source: All About Yarn
Needles: 3.25mm (US3) Addi Turbo circular; 3.25mm Crystal Palace bamboo DPNs
Gauge: ?? 17" circumference around ribbing
Modifications: Yarn substitution; main crown Saxon braid pattern worked for 3 repeats instead of 5; all traveling lines worked with twisted stitch for greater stitch definition.

See all entries on this project

January 27, 2006

Incoming

The pattern's not ready yet, guys. I know I promised it by now, but I'm all caught up in drawing fiddly little diagrams and organizing my thoughts on steeking and blocking into something that at least resembles coherence. I'll definitely have it up during the weekend - thank you so much for the wonderful encouragement you've been throwing this way.

During spare moments, Shedir, she grows.

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I read in a lot of the notes on finished Shedirs in blogland that this hat is really long. And how: I did only three repeats of the Saxon braid before decreasing (instead of five), and it looks to be just right. I am loving the way the twisted stitches look in the tweedy yarn; normally, I like my cables to appear in high relief on a solid color, but these are subtle and quiet and just right - stealth cables, if you will.

Oh, and Calmer? I guess I might have been a bit overzealous in expressing my opinion yesterday. I just don't think it's a particularly successful yarn - lots of people love how soft and stretchy it is, but it just feels wrong to me to knit with something so sproingy. Besides, if I want to knit with a cotton, it's because I want structure and a crisp feel. If, by some chance, I want the coolness of cotton but with a little more elasticity, I'll use a cotton-wool blend like Rowan Wool Cotton or Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, both nice (if very different) yarns that successfully take advantage of the best qualities of both fibers. On top of it all, Calmer seems really overpriced for what it is. Just my opinion, of course.

Jenna's posted a great entry about the development of the Shedir pattern, along with some notes on why she chose a much smaller needle size than called for on the ball band. Very interesting insight into creating a cabled motif, along with some funny thoughts on the wily marketing tactics of yarn companies - worth reading, for sure. Me, I'm using the same 3.25mm needle, with the DK weight Felted Tweed, and find that it's working out just fine.

January 26, 2006

Thunderstruck

a·ston·ish (ə-stŏn'ĭsh)
tr.v., -ished, -ish·ing, -ish·es.

To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. Synonyms: amaze, astound, awe, startle, surprise.

[Alteration of Middle English astonen, from Old French estoner, from Vulgar Latin *extonāre : Latin ex-, ex- + Latin tonāre, to thunder.]

I can't believe the response the vest got - thank you so much for the lovely comments. I'm working on putting the pattern together, and will try to have it up by or over the weekend...it will, unfortunately, cost a little bit - $5 or $6 - but I promise you'll get what you pay for: full-garment charts for every size, detailed steeking and blocking information, and diagrams galore.

Guts!

By popular request, the inside of the vest:

The pattern reads a lot better on the inside, which says to me that I should have switched colors in my right and left hands.

And the finishing on the turned-down steeks - I just blanket-stitched them with another strand of the Tiur, all the better to help them eventually felt.

Developing the pattern

What I think of as traditional Argyle looks something like this:

alternating blocks of two sharply contrasting colors on a medium-toned background. The effect is of two contrasting, sheer ribbons woven together. I really like this look, but prefer something more graphic, with a bit more punch. The logical step, then, is a wholly two-color pattern, with the blocks arranged in a checkerboard, and the lines done in an opposing checkerboard:

I love sweaters patterned this way, but don't love the intarsia involved - instant-gratification monkey that I am, I wanted to knit the pattern using the (already quick) circular stranded Fair Isle method so I could steek (even quicker). I had a certain width to each block in mind, but wasn't comfortable with how long it would make my floats over the widest portion of each diamond shape - so I added another line of contrasting color in each block to pare the longest floats down to 5 stitches:

Why does it matter? I guess it doesn't, really, except that I like the the knitted qualities of a pattern with frequent color changes - it becomes a cushy, firm, still-drapey fabric. I know very long floats are not uncommon, but I just don't care for them - I think it makes for a messy garment, with stitches easily distorted during wear and none of the structure that properly belongs to a Fair Isle jumper.

Charting did take a while, since I was too knuckleheaded to figure out some fairly obvious math issues. Did you guys know that even and odd are different? I felt brilliant when I finally figured out 12 stitches would split in two identical groups, but that 13 wouldn't...um, yeah.

**Please note that I'm in no way suggesting that I'm the first to come up with this variant on argyle - I'm sure it's been done many, many times before**

Anyway, the final product is more or less exactly what I pictured - a very fitted, snappy little sweater vest. It's also a little bit of a sartorial wink: Western Scotland's tartan knitted with Shetland's method; old-school patterns filling a modern outline; a traditionally laborious-to-produce look done at today's right-away speed. I like it a lot.

Right Now

As a little break before I start the knitting on my next big project (so excited about this one, though I think it'll take a while to get just right - it'll give me a chance to get out some of my knotwork cable ideas), I'm working on Knitty's Shedir hat:

I detest Calmer with the fiery heat of a thousand suns, so I'm using Rowan Felted Tweed, instead. The yarn doesn't have great stitch definition (it's rather loosely twisted, and it's, you know, felted and tweedy in places), so I'm doing all those pretty cables with a twisted stitch instead of a plain knit stitch. I normally don't care for interesting yarns and texture together, but I think the overall effect of this'll be subtle and sort-of sophisticated.

January 25, 2006

Deep V Argyle Vest

Pattern: My own
Yarn: Mysterious Korean merino wool, DK weight, in dark brown and cream
Yardage: ?? Two 100 gram balls, each color
Yarn Source: Gift
Needles: 3.5mm (US4) Addi Natura bamboo circular
Gauge: 5.5 st/inch; 34" around chest
Modifications: --

See all entries on this project

Finishing the Argyle

See what I mean about the whole funny-shape-before-cutting thing?

The mysterious crocheted steek - caught during its nocturnal prowlings!

I used an odd half ball of Dale Tiur for the crochet - it's a 60/40 mohair/wool blend in a DK or so weight. It felts if you look at it the wrong way (total nightmare to frog) - perfect for a secure, tight steek even with not-so-sticky Merino base knitting. Come to think of it, it would make a beautiful, unusual Fair Isle, the colors luminous through the ever-so-slight halo of mohair...

After cutting.

And after adding bands and blocking:

I really love the finished product. I don't think it's a complete slam dunk - there's some funny stuff going on in the bust, and I really should have either shaped the shoulders or made them a bit narrower, but I'm not going to get too grouchy over it. It fits tolerably well, is really cute, and is just the right kind of sexy librarian thing to cheer my up during these gloomy months. The false starts made the sketch-to-FO process about two weeks, but the knitting of this particular piece only took two or three days - huzzah for sleeveless knits!

Next up? I have another plan for a sweater, but right this minute I need something to keep my melon head warm. The smoke ring was totally bogarted by my mother the first time she saw me wearing it ("Oh, that's so my color! Did you make it for me?"), so I'm thinking Knitty's Shedir might be on the menu.

Off to the yarn store!

January 24, 2006

One mile to go

Almost there.

Please ignore the ripply, bubbly, generally fugly look of the thing right now; I'm confident that the pattern will look more, well, coherent when it smooths out during blocking.

The Fair Isle decrease principles at work:

Hopefully, cutting comes tonight! Stay tuned.

Wonderful comments yesterday. I absolutely did not mean to offend anyone - if anything, I was kind of laughing at myself for splitting semantic hairs. It's certainly not for me to decide who falls in and out of my arbitrary designations...I was more using this space as a sounding board to organize some of my own thoughts. The word "designer", I think, is already a pretty arbitrary label (yuk yuk yuk), more and more a marketing buzzword than something with a concrete denotative meaning.

I love what Kelly said: "If anything, it makes me feel more a part of the tradition of knitting. I'm taking a basic shape, structure, etc, and adding the colors, details, or embellishments that I like. "

This is exactly what I meant about creating something within basic guidelines being a great thing, only expressed better. Standing on the shoulders of giants, and all that. It is peculiar and wonderful, the freeing nature of having so many of the pieces in place already.

The ability to conceptualize, brought up by a number of commenters, was something I hadn't considered. I still think that anyone (seriously, I mean ANYONE) could take a pattern for, say, a ribbed sweater with a large central cable motif, swap it out for a different motif, and call it an "original design". I still think that that's precisely what a lot of "original designs" are. My hard-line stance starts to get a bit fuzzy, though, when I think about what it takes to build a coherent, beautiful garment as a whole. From that angle, I suppose it does take considerable thought over the details, along with a defined idea of "look" or aesthetic. Some textured sweaters I see, and some Fair Isle sweaters, really do express a mood or evoke a season - I think that process takes imagination, beyond technical excellence, to go from idea to paper to fabric.

So, this is something I need to give some more thought to; I hadn't even begun to think about the world of fiber artists, or of the nature of craftsmanship versus that of artistry (Yael's beautifully written comment really made me think, though I don't necessarily feel exactly the same way). To be honest, all this was spurred by some idle musings on copyright law, which turned into a thought about originality and the ways we choose to market ourselves. Awesome food for thought - I love blogging.

January 23, 2006

Phew

I must say, I'm totally overwhelmed by all the nice comments over the steek series - I hope you'll find it useful, either now or later.

The argyle vest is growing, but not as quickly as I'd like. Twice over now, it's been knit to the armholes and then thrown down in disgust:

The culprit?

a tricksy drawer o' needles. Obviously, while I'm sweetly dreaming abed, they collude and conspire to deceive me - twice, I selected what I thought, knew was a 3.5mm circular, and twice I've been hoodwinked. The first time, I knit merrily at a half millimeter smaller and got an absurdly tight tube that made me resemble nothing so closely as an andouille ready to turn; the second time I knit with a too-large needle and produced an argyle cape.

A pox on you, cozening, guileful needles! Oh, what a tangled web we weave when...what's that? I should just organize them better? I ought to put and keep them in order?

But that would be crazy.

Anyway, I finally bought myself a needle gauge, and started again. I've set my front neck steek, and am on my way.

I thought that I was going to lay off the pedantry for at least a little while, but I apparently don't know myself very well. I've been thinking a lot lately - what makes a "designer"?

For the most part, I really believe that there is very little that's innovative in the world of handknit design. It's a very old craft, and after all, it really boils down to sticks and string - there are only so many different things that can be done with them. A sweater is a sweater; a cable a cable - when it really comes down to it, there is no real difference, I think, between one cabled sweater and the next. The motifs might be different, the shape might be different - but nothing about either one sets the world on fire, and it is very easy to produce a hundred different cabled sweaters that have nothing really unique about them.

98% of the patterns we buy required nothing more than some math to cobble together. For my own part, I've realized that the things I've made without patterns - Jeff's Aran sweater, the print o the wave shawl, this vest - aren't "designs", they're arrangements. Likewise, I wouldn't ever call myself a designer; at best, maybe, a patternmaker. It seems unbelievably pretentious to do otherwise, since handknit patterns are generally Lego-built - swap a collar for this neckband; add this lace edging or that one; this motif or another.

All this is a good thing - I have tremendous respect for all forms of traditional knitting, and I love that within fairly rigid parameters there is room for a wide aesthetic spectrum. Being a plain old cabled cardigan doesn't mean that it can't be beautiful and fresh-looking; the same Fair Isle motif can be garish or appealing, depending on the colors used and the placement on the garment and the motifs surrounding it.

Still, I'm always so impressed whenever I see something that really makes me think about handknits and knitted fabric in a new way - a construction that would never occur to me, or an unexpected shape, or something that capitalizes on the properties of a stitch in a very functional and lovely way. Likewise, I think there are traditional knitters who transcend "patternmaking" by doing it spectacularly well, with a fascinating sense of color or texture. I'd put, say, Hanne Falkenberg and Veronik Avery in the first group; Meg Swanson and Alice Starmore in the second. They all make me want to be a more thoughtful knitter.

My point is, any knitter could plan a beautiful garment, given a gauge swatch and some long division (not trying to be flippant; it's no secret that I try and try and usually fall far short) - but it takes something more, something only a handful of people have, to make a designer (and I don't necessarily think that all the big names have it, nor that only hugely famous ones do. Anna comes to mind as someone who produces amazing pieces that grow out of a fascinating, organic thought process).

My $0.02, which no one asked for, of course, but it's never stopped me before - what do you think?

January 20, 2006

The Steeking Chronicles: Putting it all together

Introduction; Setting Up Steeks; Handling Color ChangesPlanning and Placing Steeks; Handling Decreases in Fair Isle KnittingThe Traditional, Unreinforced SteekThe Hand-Sewn SteekThe Crocheted Steek • Putting It All Together; Working Sleeves; Blocking; Finishing • A Word On Norwegian Steeks

So, maybe you know all the reasons why you might use a steek. You know when to use one, how to use one, all the different methods you might use to keep it from turning your whole sweater into a pile of limp, crinkly threads. You definitely know how to scissor into knit fabric - in fact, the image is burned indelibly on your brain :)

But what comes next?

On the needles, the body of a sweater (this is a scale model, of course; it's about 80 stitches in circumference and 70 rows tall) will look funny and misshapen, drawn in at the top by the neck steeks at back and front. Get ready to cut your steeks by putting the shoulder stitches on four seperate holders and anchoring all your steek stitches in some way.

Steeks capitalize on the reluctance of a knit stitch to run sideways, but even Shetland wool will ladder merrily from top to bottom. For this reason, steek stitches must always be bound off or held before cutting. Since the neck steeks will be folded away from each other and under the the fabric of their respective shoulders, they can be bound off.

Shoulder steeks, too, can be bound off, or can be held (seperately from the shoulder stitches!) and grafted or bound off together to form a continuous facing all the way around the shoulder.

You'll notice that for both neck and shoulder steeks, the border or edge stitch (the stitch worked with background yarn on either side of the bridge stitches) is held together with its shoulder stitches. For all intents and purposes, those stitches, which will be used to pick up and work bands and sleeves, are now part of the garment body, rather than part of the waste stitches.

Apply the reinforcement of your choice, and open the garment up.

Close the live shoulder stitches however you like - I use a three needle bindoff, but grafting works well, too. Close the front and back sides of the armhole steeks along with the shoulder "seam".

The edge stitch, which we've made such a big to-do over, finally comes into play here. Worked all in the background color, it creates a distinct line along which button bands, neck bands and sleeves can be picked up and knit.

Work all bands and sleeves, incorporating the held stitches at armpit and center necks. Now, before final finishing, is the time to wash and block the garment for the first time - soak it in cool water with mild soap, rinse carefully with water of the same temperature, and roll it in a towel to get as much water out as possible. Pin it out carefully, and let it dry completely.

I wetblock everything, and find that I am very pleased with the way Shetland wool blooms and softens with a gentle washing. The women of Fair Isle generally dressed their finished garments with a washing, too, and a ride on the wooly board for a completely smooth, flat fabric - today's knitters, of the gauge angst and macro fright, tend to forget that the first Fair Isle colorwork was necessarily done very quickly and without excessive attention to the appearance of the fabric before dressing. I've read that knitting with four long pins held at in a knitting belt created a rather corrugated piece, particularly where the jumper started bunching up on a too-full needle - they knew that a serious blocking on the rack would fix almost any perceived inconsistency.

Some people steam with a hot iron passed over (not touching) the fabric; I find that the yarn doesn't bloom as fully and the garment doesn't drape as well as with a real washing. Steam does come in handy, though, for ribbing that may have been stretched out by a proper blocking - after the garment dries, thoroughly steam the stretched ribbing and pull it vertically to encourage it back into shape.

Finishing the steeks is the absolute last step of the traditional Fair Isle jumper - the washing and blocking will have slightly felted and strengthened the waste stitches. Turning the garment to the inside will show that the cut stitches naturally fold back and lay flat, but badly need neatening. There are a few options here:

1) Do nothing. Trim the steeks as close as you dare to the reinforcement (or to the fold line for an unreinforced steek) - one or two or three stitches is about right. Call the garment done then; continued washing and wear will, over time, marry the steek and body together.

2) Tack the trimmed edge down. Use a simple whipstitch:

Or a crossed stitch:

Or a blanket stitch:

in a single strand of the knitting wool.

And there you have it - a whole garment, made quickly, and without a single seam. Maybe we don't count on finishing a jumper a week to pay the grocer; but aren't we lucky that the women who did, working by daylight and fireside with no pause for cramped fingers or strained eyesight, did it with such attention to craft and workmanship, and with such endless ingenuity?

Next: A Word On Norwegian Steeks

All posts in this series:

January 14, 2006

The Steeking Chronicles: The Crocheted Steek

Introduction; Setting Up Steeks; Handling Color ChangesPlanning and Placing Steeks; Handling Decreases in Fair Isle KnittingThe Traditional, Unreinforced SteekThe Hand-Sewn Steek • The Crocheted Steek • Putting It All Together; Working Sleeves; Blocking; FinishingA Word On Norwegian Steeks

Oil and water. Seafood and cheese. Poprocks and Coke. Crochet and I - yeah, we shouldn't really be mixed, except with full knowledge of the high probability of disaster. Isn't it peculiar, then, that the crocheted steek (described further in Meg Swansen's Sweaters From Camp) is my favorite one?

(That's the swatch o' the day, and the most successful one so far, I think. If I just reverse the gradient of the background to make it run from light to dark to light again, and fuss with the edge treatments a little to make the border bleed into the white background, I think we might have a winner. That's the last you'll be seeing of it today, incidentally - wave! It was, indeed, worked with crochet finishing, but it proved impossible to get a picture that showed the stitches under all that hairy fuzziness. Little swatch, we hardly knew ye.)

For the sake of all our eyeballs and my (rapidly diminishing and therefore increasingly precious) sanity, I'm going to show you the crocheted steek in a smooth, DK-weight Merino that shows stitches clearly. The crochet method, in fact, is eminently suitable for smooth animal fibers like this one - as with the hand-sewn steek, the real work is done by the natural cling of the yarn, but extra security is provided by the applied binding. Again, this isn't particularly appropriate for superwash wools, plant yarns, or synthetics, or for anything at a large gauge. Without tightly woven floats or a firm base fabric, the tightest crochet won't guarantee hold.

This is one of those very intuitive processes that take a thousand words to describe properly. In an attempt to keep this post pithy, I'm going to rely on poorly-drawn graphics and color-coding to clarify where my words fall short (everything's a tradeoff these days, you know. Take it up with management).

A crochet steek is worked over the center three stitches of the bridge - meaning that, for the first time, we'll be using an odd number of steek stitches, and the cutting will be done up the centerline of a whole stitch, rather than between two stitches. The basic idea here is to bind the right half of the first of three stitches together with the left half of the center stitch, and the right half of the center stitch to the left half of the third stitch, all before cutting up the middle of the center stitch.

Oh, dear. See what I mean about the wordiness thing? This graphic explains it a lot better.

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The blue stitch in the center of both drawings represents the center stitch of your steek, and the black line up its middle the line along which you'll cut. The pink represents the stitches on either side. Every knit stitch forms a distinct "V" shape, with a right side and a left side - the second drawing shows, in red, the pairs that need to be joined with a single crochet chain - the first pair is made up of the adjoining parts of the leftmost and center stitch, and the second pair is made up of the adjoining parts of the center and rightmost stitch.

I've heard about people working a steek of the three stitches needed - and only those three stitches, plus one border stitch on either side for picking up. Since I'm not as brave as that (I hate the idea of putting that stress directly on the cut edge), I've allowed a generous bridge of seven stitches, plus the two border stitches (meaning the whole thing takes up the first five and last four stitches of the round). You can see them here, with the center stitch marked in blue, the two adjoining stitches marked with big pink arrows, and the border stitches marked with smaller pink arrows. I've worked the steek in stripes again, to guide me in crocheting.

As long as we're here, it would be worthwile to address the issue of changing colors in an odd-numbered steek. While an even-numbered steek allows for a convenient switch smack in the middle, right along the cutting line, that's clearly not possible when the centerline falls in the middle of a stitch. I've worked the sample with only two colors for simplicity, but it's important to understand that colors need to be changed in this steek in a way that keeps ends and knots away from the center three stitches. This is most easily accomplished with a spit-spliced or felted join, or by introducing new colors at the beginning of the steek, weaving them until the beginning of the round, and then weaving the old color behind the work for a few stitches. The hanging tails will, of course, need to be darned in or otherwise dealt with later - better to just spit on them, already.

One more variation would be to work an even numbered steek, change colors as usual in the center, and work the crochet reinforcements at least one stitch away on either side of the centerline (that is, the new or last stitch with any color should NOT be incorporated into the crochet). This works fine, too, but the resulting edge will need to be trimmed carefully after cutting.

Phew! Okay, down to the actual method. This is written so a knitter with no crochet experience can follow it - huzzah for exhaustive detail! You'll want a crochet hook smaller in diameter than the knitting needles you were using, and a working yarn of matching or finer weight wool to create a tight, hard-wearing edge that felts together over time. Use the smallest hook you can without actually distorting the gauge of the knit stitches - I'm using a 3mm hook for work done on 3.5mm needles.

Turn your work so what would be the left side of the steek is closest to you. You'll be working this side first - the center stitch is marked again with blue, and the adjoining stitch marked with pink.

Starting at the far right side (the bottom of your steek), pick up the far side of the adjoining stitch and the near near of the center stitch with your crochet hook. If things were right side up, you'd be picking up the right half of the first stitch and the left half of the center stitch, just as in the diagram. Be careful to pick up only those two loops and not the floats behind the work.

Lay your crochet yarn over the hook so the working (skein) side runs to the left and the short tail to the right. Catch it with the hook, and pull it through the two loops on the needle.

Catch the working yarn with the hook once more...

And pull it through the loop on your needle. That's one stitch of single crochet.

Keep going by picking up the pair of stitch halves directly to the left (the next row, were things oriented - which stitch is which is noted, again, with blue for center and pink for adjoining):

Pull a new loop of yarn through the picked-up stitches, but not the loop of working yarn. You should have two loops of working yarn on the hook.

Catch the yarn with the hook one more time:

And pull it through both loops of working yarn on the needle to end with one loop.

Continue this way until you reach the last stitch pair on the left (the top row of the steek). Work those stitches as described, cut the yarn, and pull it through the last stitch on the needle to end.

Turn the work 180 degrees, so the right side of the steek is nearest you. Starting from the far right side again (the top of the steek), work just as you did before until you reach the far left, or bottom. Cut the yarn and pull it through.

The finished crochet should look something like this - the visible loops should slant neatly away from the center, rather like a book laid open. It's important to note that the tension should be firm, but should not pucker the knitting - go up or down in hook size or adjust the yarn weight if the crochet looks too loose or is gathering the steek in.

If you gently pull the two lines of crochet apart, you'll see a ladder of the base knitting. These are the purl bumps of the center stitch - what you'll be cutting in a couple seconds.

More cutting trauma for everyone:

Don't be like me - buy some small, sharp scissors for this endeavor. It's very, very easy to snip the crochet by accident - for this reason, it's smart to 1) do the crochet in a highly contrasting color (it'll be folded under and hidden, anyway); and 2) cut very carefully, one ladder and the accompanying float at a time.

Believe it or not, this is a straight-on photo of the cut edge. Hopefully, you can see the neat, tidy criscross of threads that holds the thing together.

This is why I love this method - the edge is so clean it needs practically no finishing, but it still matches the knitted fabric itself in flexibility and stretch. It works beautifully on smooth yarns, without the sloppiness of hand-sewing; sure, it's a bit fiddly, but it's worth it. I plan to use it on all the openings of the argyle vest - you should be seeing it in action in the next week or so.

Next: Putting It All Together; Working Sleeves; Blocking; Finishing

All posts in this series:

January 13, 2006

The Steeking Chronicles: The Hand-Sewn Steek

Introduction; Setting Up Steeks; Handling Color ChangesPlanning and Placing Steeks; Handling Decreases in Fair Isle KnittingThe Traditional, Unreinforced Steek • The Hand-Sewn Steek • The Crocheted SteekPutting It All Together; Working Sleeves; Blocking; FinishingA Word On Norwegian Steeks

After the horror of the naked, unstabilized steek, every other kind should appear to be slightly less insane. Today, I'll show you my method for a steek stabilized on either side of the cut with hand-stitching.

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While the unreinforced steek is really suitable only for Shetland wool or other very hairy, very "sticky" yarns, hand-sewing works to stabilize smoother animal yarns - think Merino or other wools that feel soft against the skin, but would still be candidates for felting. The hand-sewing provides some hold, but isn't a complete guarantee: the real work is still done by tight gauge, closely woven floats, and the natural tendency of animal hairs to cling together. Superwash wools and plant yarns aren't great prospects for hand-sewing - the possibility of a slippery yarn popping out of its thread binding is too real for my tastes.

For this steek, I've used eight bridge stitches and two edge stitches, and worked the color changes with vertical lines rather than checks. The two methods are interchangeable, though some people prefer lines for the guidance they give when sewing and cutting. The edge stitches, worked in the background color (shades of gray) are marked again with pink arrows, and the end-of-round jog (between the fourth and fifth bridge stitches) is marked with a blue arrow. Once again, that end-of-round point will be our cutting line.

011101.jpg

I sew as close to the cutting line as possible - that is, exactly half a stitch away on either side, or down the centerlines of the fourth and fifth stitches. If cutting into the sewing by accident is a concern, there's no reason why sewing can't take place a whole stitch or stitch and a half away from the cutting line, but the longer unraveled ends will have to be trimmed as part of garment finishing. The stitching lines are shown here in green, on either side of the blue cutting line.

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Plain polyester sewing thread works fine, as would cotton or linen thread. Thread a sharp needle, and run the thread all the way down and back up the steek, catching as many floats as you can. The goal is to split the plies of the yarn (hence the sharp needle used) to create a secure hold.

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Backstitch along the running stitch foundation you've laid, taking very narrow stitches that split the yarn itself. The finished stitching should be strong and firm - making tiny stitches allows you to create a firm seam without pulling or puckering or otherwise distorting the gauge of the steek itself. The smaller your stitches are, the tighter they'll hold the floats once cut.

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Repeat along the other sewing line. Begin and end each line of sewing by taking two or three stitches very close together to secure the thread.

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On the wrong side, the stitching is more obvious, since it isn't buried in the valley of a knit stitch - some people prefer to cut from this side, to ensure that the stitching isn't inadvertently cut.

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I know you love these pictures!

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Seriously, cut very slowly, snipping just a float at a time. Slipping and cutting into the backstitching will spoil the whole thing, and you'll curse the Shetland archipelago and Scotland and knitting and every other damn thing you can think of. Patience, patience.

The cut steek, ready to be turned under and tacked down. Done correctly on the proper wool, this method should give you a secure, stable edge without stiffness.

011101.jpg

(for those who are interested in such things, the swatch here uses the same pattern as yesterday's, but the background and pattern colors have been reversed. Neither is really a success - but that's what swatching's for, right?)

Next: The Crocheted Steek

All posts in this series:

January 12, 2006

The Steeking Chronicles: The Unreinforced Steek

Introduction; Setting Up Steeks; Handling Color ChangesPlanning and Placing Steeks; Handling Decreases in Fair Isle Knitting • The Traditional, Unreinforced Steek • The Hand-Sewn SteekThe Crocheted SteekPutting It All Together; Working Sleeves; Blocking; FinishingA Word On Norwegian Steeks

Today, I'll show you the scariest steek - the one with nothing to stabilize it. No sewing, no crochet, nothing to keep the whole sweater from unraveling but some peculiar properties of Shetland wool. This method won't work for any superwash, manmade, plant fiber, or otherwise smooth yarn, or yarn much thicker than DK weight - hairy, prickly wool fibers and tight gauge are what promote the slight felting that holds the cut steek together.

For a no-sew steek, the bridge can be formed by any even number of stitches, depending on habit and comfort. I have read of production knitters in Shetland working with as little as two steek stitches, for speed and reduction of waste, but I like to use between six (shown below) and ten stitches, depending on the stress the stitches will receive after being cut - more along a high-stress area like a button band or armhole; fewer along a less-manipulated area.

The steek proper is flanked by two edge or border stitches (marked with pink arrows here), usually worked in the background color, which become the stitches for picking up and working sleeves, neckbands and button bands.

There are several ways of working the steek itself. For an unsewn steek, the arrangement of stitches isn't particularly important - the main requirement is frequent color changes (usually every stitch) to create a tightly woven fabric. A steek with long floats of color will not hold together well, while a steek made of yarns that alternate every stitch has a firmness that promotes cling. I follow Alice Starmore's advice and alternate colors every row, creating a checked or seeded effect, while others stack colors, creating vertical columns that can be easily followed for stitching and cutting.

The end-of-round is marked with a blue arrow in the picture above, clearly showing the jog where each row ends and the next begins. The end of round, whenever possible, should take place in the center of a steek, as the jog is hidden and color-change ends become a non-issue once cut. When casting on, the steek stitches should comprise the first and last few stitches of the round.

I simply knot new strands at each color change, though a felted join or no join at all works just as well. If the change takes place outside a steek, I'd later unknot the ends, pull up the tensions, and weave them in. I'll just leave these as is, and trim the knots away with any other hanging ends once the bridge has been cut.

Remember to bind off your steek, or put it on a holder if you prefer to graft or bind off the two sides together. Now, there's nothing left to do but cut.

Elizabeth Zimmerman gave some famous advice about retreating to a dark room with a stiff drink after making the cut. I don't know if it's necessary to go quite that far - though it certainly couldn't hurt. Just cut slowly, snipping a few threads at a time, with a pair of very sharp scissors. Since we have an even number of stitches, we're cutting between the third and fourth stitches of this six-stitch bridge.

Here's the edge formed. As you can see, hardly anything has unraveled at all.

It stands up fine to washing and blocking, too. Further handling will only strengthen the edge - those suckers aren't going anywhere.

Next: The Hand-Sewn Steek

All posts in this series:

After the whole debacle of the baby sweater, I needed something to cheer me up - I started last night on an argyle vest for me in the Korean Merino. If you can make out the "lazybones" scribbled at the top, it's because my construction for this takes the easy way out - no intarsia, knit entirely in the round in stranded Fair Isle (shoulder shaping, too! Walk, do not run, to read this), with the pattern plotted with double lines to ensure that there are no floats longer than 5 stitches.

I'm hoping the final product will be a good union of a very traditional pattern, modern (that is, easy-way-out) construction, and up-to-date shaping, all in an old-school garment (I mean, who wears a vest anymore?). It's going to be a long-line kind of thing, with wide ribbing and a rather deep (below the bust) v-neck. I picture wearing it with a pink oxford, white wide-leg pants, brown slingbacks, and my hands in my pockets - we'll see.

January 11, 2006

The Steeking Chronicles: Planning and Setting Steeks, and Handling Decreases

Introduction; Setting Up Steeks; Handling Color Changes • Planning and Placing Steeks; Handling Decreases in Fair Isle Knitting • The Traditional, Unreinforced SteekThe Hand-Sewn SteekThe Crocheted SteekPutting It All Together; Working Sleeves; Blocking; FinishingA Word On Norwegian Steeks

While I've been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response to this series, I have also received two or three emails that basically told me this stuff is boring, or inaccessible for the "average" knitter (whatever that may be). I certainly don't want to alienate anyone, but I think the technical whys and hows of traditional Scottish Fair Isle knitting (the unending work of baby-hampered women, beautiful yarns twitching with marvelous speed through calloused fingers to make fine things for the wealthy - how strange it must have been for them, the growing jumper a vibrant spot against the drab of the patched skirt!) - is an enormously interesting subject. Even if garter stitch scarves are more your bag, the science and craft and ingenuity that went into those garments are compelling things - I think the trendy knitters, the luxury knitters, the old-school knitters, the avant-garde knitters all owe respect, at least, to the ones who didn't do it for fun.

Not to suggest that some latent schoolmarm tendency prompted these posts - just trying to explain why I think it's so fascinating.

Planning and placing a steek

I talked a little bit yesterday about the importance of beginning and ending your rounds within a steek. The reason is simple - the less visible the join, the less obtrusive it is. Circular knitting is, in effect, knitting in a giant spiral that grows by one whole stitch every round. Though there are lots of methods for a "jogless join" floating about, I've found that there is no absolutely flawless way to create a seamless meeting of pattern - the end of the row will always appear to be one row higher than the beginning. Hiding the join within a steek (whenever possible) eliminates that annoying jog, and does away with color change ends, to boot.

If you are knitting a cardigan, the first steek will, of course, extend all the way up and down the front of the sweater. The steek should be cast on with the body of the sweater, as the first few stitches cast on and the last few stitches cast on. Work the steek as usual, right through the ribbing, right into the body of the sweater.

Keep your end-of-round in the same place for the whole sweater - once cut and trimmed and folded under, the body of the garment will have perfect pattern symmetry from bottom to top and hundreds of ends will have been done away with.

A pullover doesn't offer the same advantage, of course. Work your end-of-round at one side or the other, where the seam on a flat-knitted garment would run. Knit until you reach the point at which you wish to start the armhole on that side, and put the armpit stitches on a holder.

It's worth noting here that traditional FI garments, with their dropped sleeves and square shaping, place just one armpit stitch on a holder to be picked up with the sleeve stitches later. Picking up and circularly knitting a sleeve down from a shaped armhole is tricky and requires lots of short row math to handle the sleeve cap - nevertheless, if shaped armscyes are on the menu, the armscye stitches bound off in flat knitting would be put on the holder now. Both sides of that armhole - that is, the front side and back side - should have their armpit stitches held now: you would knit to, say, the sixth or seventh-to-last stitch of the round, hold those plus the first six or seven stitches of the next round, and then proceed.

With the armpit stitch(es) on a holder, cast on one border stitch, the bridge stitches, and the last border stitch.

The end-of-round will now fall in the center of the steek - you can now continue knitting the body of the sweater, set the steek on the opposite armhole, and go on your merry way.

When it comes to casting on steek stitches, I use the plain old long-tail caston, treating one color as the tail and one as the working yarn. Backwards loop and cable caston all work fine, as long as both strands make it all the way across the steek (whether held double-stranded or worked in alternating stitches).

Steeks set within one row (as opposed to straddling the end-of-round), like a neck steek or the opposing armhole steek, are handled much the same way. When setting your neck steeks, knit to the point at which you'd normally start binding off stitches for the center neck (or the point at which you'd stop and turn to work the first side of the neck), put the center neck stitches on a holder

cast on your border, bridge, and border stitches as usual

and knit on. The steek stitches lie between the stitch markers in this photo.

Because steeks are often narrower than the number of stitches they replace, the held stitches pouch out a bit. This is a good time to get out that ziploc of scrap yarn, since those fancy stitch holders in your notions bag are too rigid and will distort the stitches.

Handling decreases in Fair Isle

Steeks afford the knitter the freedom to shape the garment however she likes within the fabric of the body. Decreasing in a patterned fabric, though, can present some problems when done the usual way.

In plain knitting, most of us decrease like this:

The decreases are made two or three stitches in from the edge, and they are worked such that they slant away from the shaped edge and toward the center of the garment. A smooth, continuous line is created where a series of decreases runs. To create the edge above, a ssk is used, while the opposite slant would be created with a k2tog.

It's all very well and good, but it presents problems when done in patterned knitting:

Even the simplest seeded pattern (a 1x1 check) is disrupted by the decreases. The two stitches between the decrease and the edge, though worked in pattern, are thrown out of alignment with the stitches above and below them.

The very simple solution: in Fair Isle and other colored knitting, always (1) decrease in the first or last two stitches possible (right up against the edge or steek); and (2) reverse the decreases, meaning each decrease should slant towrads the edge and away from the center of the garment.

An edge that slants from right to left as it grows is made of k2togs:

while the edge that slants from left to right as it groes is made of ssks.

Next: The Traditional, Unreinforced Steek

All posts in this series:

January 10, 2006

Steeking Chronicles: Introduction

Introduction; Setting Up Steeks; Handling Color Changes • Planning and Placing Steeks; Handling Decreases in Fair Isle KnittingThe Traditional, Unreinforced SteekThe Hand-Sewn SteekThe Crocheted SteekPutting It All Together; Working Sleeves; Blocking; FinishingA Word On Norwegian Steeks

To begin at the proper beginning -

Why bother with a steek in the first place?

To quote, uh, myself: "In practice, setting, knitting, and slicing a steek is just a handy way to knit an entire sweater in the round by creating a bridge of waste stitches wherever a separation would be, i.e. between front and back for an armhole, or between the right and left sides of the neck, or all the way up the front of a cardigan.

Pictures are worth a thousand words. On the left is a stylized image of a pullover body. As you can see, the body could be knitted as a tube up to the armpits, but the front and back would have to be worked back and forth, as would each side of the neck. On the right, you see what a steek allows you to do - by filling in all those openings with a bridge of waste stitches, the entire garment may be knit as a tube, in the round, with all your armscye and neck shapings done in the sweater body.

Why should we care about knitting in the round? For a variety of reasons, stranded colorwork is easier and faster in the round: the knit stitch is quicker to form than the purl stitch; the pattern is always visible, allowing the knitter to read his work; seams are minimized or eliminated altogether. Production knitters favored the method for its speed and ease - as do hobby knitters now.

Is steeking only for Fair Isle or other colored knitting? No. The basic principles may be applied to any knitting that can normally be done in the round. There are a few things to consider, though: first, the frequent interweaving of two strands within the steek itself is an important part of what makes the traditional, unreinforced steek work. Careful thought should be given to the stabilizing method used to compensate for the single thickness of plain knitting. Second, not all sweaters are better for being worked seamlessly - a traditional Fair Isle sweater, with its frequent color changes, is a sturdy, firm piece, but plain and textured sweaters may need seams for structure and shape.

Which steek should be used when?

The infinite possible combinations of stabilizing technique, finishing method, stitch number and stitch arrangement can seem sort of overwhelming. Knowing that different steeks are appropriate for different yarns makes things much simpler.

From top to bottom, this picture shows a strand of jumperweight (fingering) Shetland wool; a strand of fingering weight wool; a strand of DK weight Merino; and a strand of fingering weight cotton. You can see that the Shetland wool is coarse and fuzzy, with hairs sticking out in random places. The regular wool and Merino are still fairly hairy looking, but the cotton is almost perfectly smooth. For the purposes of our discussion, all the fibers in the world can be split into two groups - hairy fibers that felt, and smooth fibers that don't. The first group includes natural wool and other animal hair yarns - anything you wouldn't machine-wash - while the second includes all plant yarns, synthetics, and superwash wools.

Steeks are useless, of course, if they unravel into the body of a sweater - different methods need to be applied to different yarns to ensure that this doesn't happen. To wit:

  • The traditional, unreinforced steek relies on slight as-you-work felting to hold the cut edge together. Along with tight gauge and frequent color changes, extremely "sticky" yarn is needed to make it happen. Shetland wool, with all its little fuzzy bits and scaly, wiry hairs, works beautifully. Other extremely grabby yarns may work, too.
  • Hand-sewn and crocheted steeks have some extra sturdiness from the applied reinforcement, but the real work is still done by the natural hold of the yarn - the reinforcement merely holds the strands in the close alignment needed. All yarns that felt are good candidates.
  • Machine-sewn steeks are very firm, with the machine stitching providing all the hold needed to stabilize the cut edge. Since the stitching does all the work, smooth, slippery yarns can be used. Beware, though - machine sewing and handknits don't get along particularly well; I often find that machine-stitched knits have an unpleasant stiffness that interrupts the fluidity and drape that are the chief pleasures of knitted fabric.
  • Wound steeks, which are purposely unraveled to the edge and darned in, end by end, don't need to stay together and are therefore suitable for any type of yarn.

Setting up the different steeks

All steeks are worked with a bridge of stitches flanked by two border stitches, worked in the background color (marked with pink arrows), which will later become the site for picking up and working sleeves, neckbands and button bands. Unreinforced and sewn steeks are typically worked with an even number of bridge stitches and cut between the center two stitches (shown on the left), while crocheted steeks are typically worked with an odd number of bridge stitches and cut through the center stitch (shown on the right).

Either type may be worked either in stripes or in a basic seeded pattern - the main requirement is frequent color changes, usually as often as every stitch, to create a tightly woven, coherent fabric. A steek with long floats of color will not hold together.

Within the basic distinctions of even and odd, a steek may be worked with as few or as many stitches as preference and comfort allow. I have read of people working with only two or three bridge stitches for speed and reduction of waste - my heart's not strong enough for such a narrow margin. In general, I work with a nine or ten stitch steek in an area destined for lots of stress (button bands and the like), while a six or seven stitch steek feels comfortable for lower-stress areas.

The reinforcing can be applied at different points on the steek, too, as preference dictates:

The even numbered, sewn steeks shown on the left are usually sewn through the centerlines of two stitches on either side of the cutting line. They may be sewn very close to the cutting site (red dotted line), or further away (green dotted lines), or anywhere in between. Sewing closer to the cut creates a wide strip of fabric that may be folded back to form a proper facing and puts the stress of picking up stitches as far away as possible from the cut edge. Sewing closer to the border stitches creates a narrower facing and reduces the possibility of cutting into the sewing by mistake.

The odd numbered steeks shown at right usually have their crochet worked over the center three stitches of the steek (shown in red), creating a wide facing. Alternately, the crochet may be worked over any other stitch pairs in the steek for a narrower facing.

For all types of facing-forming steeks, the final finishing of the garment will include trimming all ends back as close as possible to the reinforcing (or as close as desired to the body of the sweater, for an unreinforced steek), and tacking the folded portion down.

Changing colors in Fair Isle

Though steeking has several attractions, the non-issue it can make of hundreds of color-change ends is mighty appealing. Try to plan your garments to put the end-of-round within the first steek - the steek stitches should be cast on as the first and last few stitches of a round. In a cardigan, this means that your end-of-round will lie at the front of the garment, while pullovers should be planned so the end-of-round lies along one side, and can continue into the first armhole steek. In an even-numbered steek, the end-of-round should fall in the direct center, between the two middle stitches, while an odd-numbered steek should make the center stitch the first stitch of the round.

In an unreinforced or sewn steek, colors may be changed by simply knotting in each new color to the old with a granny knot:

The knots can be trimmed away after cutting. Caution needs to be exercised to avoid catching hanging ends or knots as the reinforcing stitches are applied. When colors are changed in this way outside of a steek, each end will have to be unknotted, its tension adjusted, and woven in or otherwise dealt with.

A crocheted steek must not have knots or ends within the stitch pairs to be joined - this can be accomplished either by weaving new colors for several stitches before and old colors for several stitches after the change:

or by using a felted or spliced join to change colors. This is a handy way to change colors outside of a steek, as well - though the blended colors create a bit of pattern ambiguity for the first few stitches, the properly executed join is smooth, sturdy and more or less invisible.

This join will work only with yarns that can be felted, of course. For those unfamiliar with it, the strands to be joined should both be broken (never cut!). A 1.5-2" tail is about right for a join that blends colors for four or five stitches.

Tease out half the thickness of the yarn on both strands, and break it off.

Laying the two half-thickness strands together, hold the yarn in your palm.

Wet the strands (spit and water both work fine, though we could write a whole 'nother post on the raging debate there), and rub your hands together vigorously to felt the strands together.

The biggest advantage of the spliced join, of course, can speak for itself:

(no ends, except the caston and castoff tails. Wheee!)

Next: Planning and placing steeks, and handling decreases in Fair Isle knitting

All posts in this series:

January 09, 2006

Make it stop

I broke.

Yes, it's true - I ended up screeching into the Babies R Us parking lot, printing out the registry information, and picking out a gift, all thirty minutes before the shower. What have I become? I wrestled a heavily pregnant woman for a bluebird mobile. I cursed in front of a toddler. For God's sake, I USED THE STORE WRAPPING PAPER! Clearly, my soul is a blackened, shriveled twist of tissue.

I'll give her the sweater when the baby is born - the thrill of twenty women with spatula-slathered makeup and claws filed to points oohing and ahhing and secretly thinking that I'm cheap for not just buying the same thing from Baby Abercrombie and Fitch is just something I guess I'll have to go without. Thanks for the commiseration, though :)

I think that I perhaps didn't explain very clearly what the problem was. Tallguy says:

OMG!! What went wrong? There is no need to rip anything -- there is always a way to fix it.

Why didn't you like the steeks? Too much bulk you say? Then you did something not quite correct in that case. There should be no bulk at all! And heavens, no! You don't have to weave in all those ends! This needs more work; I'll have to get back to you on this.

Hmm. I don't think I did anything "wrong", exactly. There are several traditional variants on the steek, all of which form a bridge of waste stitches where holes should be so the knitting can later be cut. I suppose the major division lies between steeks where the waste stitches are kept as a strip of knitted fabric, and steeks where the waste stitches are dropped or unraveled. The nitty-gritty of cutting between or through stitches, how many stitches wide, stabilizing techniques, and "finishing" techniques don't really matter - I think those variables are usually determined more by preference and comfort and habit than anything else.

This first time around, I used the first technique - the steek people are most familiar with, with an alternate-stitch seeded pattern and a background color edge stitch on either side. Everything was fine until I went to pick up the sleeve stitches - to up the utility of the garment, I'd constructed the shoulders with about an inch of front/back overlap. The overlapping portions of the front and back tapered to a point, meaning that, when folded into position, the neck facings and shoulder facings of each side also overlapped. When the front and back of the shoulder were put together and joined, six layers of fabric came together.

To tell the truth, I didn't like the feeling of the facings, even at a single thickness around the armhole, for a baby garment - they just provide too much bulk for such a wee little sweater. For me, it's a proportion thing...in an adult's garment, a facing is unobtrusive, even pleasingly stable. In a baby garment, the facing seems too stiff for the delicacy of the piece.

So, the Baby Fair Isle v.1.2 employed the principle behind the wound steek. I think the usual wound steek - where the yarn is wrapped around the needle x times, dropped and wrapped anew the next row, creating a ladder as you work - is messy and sort of unwieldly. To keep things compact, I just knitted bridges of ten stitches with both colors carried together and dropped steek stitches rather than binding off.

I put the single shoulder stitches on safety pins, and cut my steeks.

Then, I just dropped each steek row to get a bush of 2" tails - two for every row.

I know it seems counterintuitive - for many people, a big attraction of the steek is the way it eliminates fussing with ends - but you're suppposed to weave in each and every tail with a wound steek. I braid mine instead - it's the same concept as a french braid, but incorporate new strands only on one side of the work and drop old strands as you go, keeping each part of the braid to four strands of yarn. Trim the ends close, and you have a narrow, flexible, delicate cord running down the selvedge - it even naturally turns back onto the wrong side of the work, just as a facing would, to cover picked-up stitches.

So, that was the problem and the solution. That, and the baby shower was at 1pm and I was writing at 3am. Oh, that we didn't need to sleep :)

Miscellany:

Keridiana linked to another version of the Print O' The Wave stitch, and asked me what the difference is. I haven't knit a swatch, but reading the chart, it appears that the major difference is simply that each finger is a stitch wider and a pattern row taller. It's a very old pattern, with lots o' variants floating around (har har har!) - I charted mine using a couple different images I'd seen, and then downscaled it to work with the planned delicacy of the piece.

Constests and such - I'm always the last to know about anything :) Thanks for participating, and for the lovely things you've said. These things seem to be a lot of fun, and it IS kind of cool to have won - in absentia, no less. I think the best part is seeing my name up there with the other winners and nominees - really amazing bloggers, one and all. Thanks!

January 07, 2006

Absolut Dementia

Did you have a nice New Year's Eve/Day?

I did.

It was great to come back to all those sweet comments - warm and fuzzy-like, even for someone (like me) not prone to warmth-and-fuzziness. You guys are great.

I wish I had the underwater photos right now, but my version of Photoshop (silicon-dated to the late Neolithic age) doesn't support the ORF format we did scuba snaps with. Take my word (for now, anyway) that the diving was great.

On the surface, I knit and knit and knit and knit and knit (what's the past tense of "to knit", anyway? "I knitted"? "I knit"?).

I steeked at armholes and neck,

I did my neck shaping with decreases leaning towards the steeks to cleverly maintain pattern continuity,

I carefully unknotted all my ends:

and adjusted start-of-round tension to make the jog noticable only as an interruption of pattern before weaving tails.

I hand sewed the steeks because I didn't have access to a sewing machine (and because I think machine sewing and knit fabric don't mix, period), and sliced away

and then I picked up and knit the ribbed edging along the top edges of front and back.

I was immensely pleased with myself for working out the shoulder overlap just right....

until - thud. There was no way it would have worked; terrible planning on my part (suprise!). The steeks made the fabric six layers thick at the lapped portion of the shoulder - neck steek, armhole steek, and knitted fabric for both front and back, stacked and folded and crammed and wrestled with to be able to pick up sleeve stitches through all layers. Ugly, bulky, thick and awkward - ixnay.

Besides, once it was knitted up - and this is a thing I've found to be true with nearly all my so-called "designs", despite competently-laid plans and plenty of thought - the proportions just looked wrong. It needed to be shorter below the armhole and longer above, and narrower all around. I decided that simply splitting the work at the armhole and working back and forth would be the simplest solution.

This morning, on the way to the airport, I started knitting again.

I knit while waiting an unexpected hour for our delayed flight,

I knit during the safety brief,

I learned to purl with two-handed Fair Isle while the kid behind me rehearsed for her Riverdance audition on my seatback and prepped for the World's Screamiest Six-Year-Old competition.

Now I have a piece with a completed up to the armhole and all the way up the front. Unfortunately, the tension is all wonky on my purl rows - I really need to knit my Fair Isle circularly to keep things even until I have a little more practice. Maybe wound steeks, with the ends unraveled and woven on each round, are the answer?

This baby shower starts in ten hours. What to do, what to do?



TO BUY

GRATIS