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Knitmare on my street

In addition to being cruel, knitting just loves to yank my chain. Just when I’m feeling smug about some technique that I’ve mastered, along comes a project eager to smack that confidence right out of me!

While I was waiting for the yarn for the Scalloped Lace Toddler Sweater, I decided to cast on for the second sweater I had planned to knit the munchkin this fall. Several years ago, I had stumbled across A Cardigan for Merry, which was a baby-size adaptation of A Cardigan for Arwen from the Winter 2006 issue of Interweave Knits. I loved the clever reversible cable, and decided to use it as the inspiration for a sweater for my daughter. I had some Knit Picks Andean Silk yarn (an alpaca, silk, and merino blend) that I’d picked up when it was discontinued a few years ago which seemed as though it would make a scrumptious and warm sweater. It was a worsted weight, though, which meant that the cables from the original pattern would be too large for a child-size sweater. Serious swatching ensued, while I tried to determine the best-sized cable and settle on a fabric that would be dense and warm but not stiff (or unpleasant to knit).

I decided that I would put a small cable at the bottom of each sleeve. Since the cables are reversible, the cuffs could be worn folded up now and then unfolded later, so the sweater could hopefully see more seasons of wear. (I had used this same approach on a Baby Surprise Jacket for my daughter which she’d only recently outgrown after nearly two years of use.) To make the cuff completely reversible, I decided to graft the cable pattern. It was top-to-bottom grafting, so there wouldn’t be any half-stitch jog to complicate matters. And after all, I told myself, I am old pro at Kitchener stitch. Grafting in pattern wouldn’t be that hard.

Oh, such hubris! My first attempt wasn’t horrible, but I discovered that I needed to rethink how I’d planned to pick up stitches along the side of the cuf for the sleeve. So I knit a second cuff. That time, I used a different provisional cast on, keeping the loops live around a spare circular needles. I read a couple of articles about how to graft in pattern. I was ready! Well, that approach ended in abject failure (not to mention some rather unladylike language!). I tried again. Same result. (Well, maybe worse language, which I followed up with a beer and a good night’s sleep). The next morning, fortified with coffee, I decided to use the K.I.S.S. method: I cast on with waste yarn and knit four rows. I switched to the working yarn, knit the cuff again, and switched back to waste yarn for several rows at the end. Then all I had to do was follow the path of the waste yarn. Finally: Success! Picking out the waste yarn was a pain, but better than ripping out my hair!

Seamless cable cuff

What do you think? The grafted seam is just above the end of the yarn on the left side.

So tell me… what techniques give you fits?



Ease not so easy!

So what about that Lanesplitter skirt I was going on and on about?

I’d been steadily knitting away on it, and on Saturday afternoon, I finally reached the number of rows that I’d calculated my finished skirt should have. It’s basically a tube, so it’s the same width at the bottom, the top, and around your hips. The pattern calls for 0-6 inches of negative ease. I planned about 4″ of ease. When I got to that point, I pinned it together and tried it on. Um. Well, it looked like what it was: A tube top for my rear end. Which is to say: Not a good look for me.

Now, what I really should have done at that moment (since hindsight is always 20/20!) was to put the skirt on waste yarn, give it a nice long soak in some Eucalan and block it out a bit. Had I done that, I probably would have felt the yarn soften and relax a bit, and when I pinned it in place again, it might not have looked quite so… unflattering. But as I said, that’s what I should have done. What I actually did was to add about 8 more rows and try it on again. It seemed a little better, but not quite, so then I added another 7 rows (you can tell where this is going, can’t you?!). Then I grafted the seam shut.

Now Kitchener and I are old pals. I can zip up the toe of a sock in a few minutes. But a sock seam is usually 8-10 stitches; the skirt had 130. And I knit socks out of nice, tightly-twisted sock yarn. Noro Silk Garden is another beast entirely. First, I accidentally cut the yarn I was supposed to use to graft it shut. Non-ladylike language ensued. Then I decided that it would just make it easier to seam if I started with a free end, so I could adjust the stitch tension. And I started to graft. But of course, I was doing this in the afternoon. On a rainy day. And my kids were trapped inside by the rain and doing their best imitation of electrons, bouncing off the walls, the furniture, and each other. So somewhere, my stitches got out of alignment. No worries, I thought. I’m also an old pro at fixing my errors. I’ll just undo this and

Noro SG does not like to be frogged. It sheds so much, it’s practically self-grafting. I pulled my yarn free, but the stitches were still so stuck together, I couldn’t figure out where the previous rows were. More non-ladylike language followed (under my breath, so the kids couldn’t hear). I ripped, both in the knitting sense and in the literal sense. Tried to redo. More ripping, more cursing. Contemplated turning the whole thing inside out and using my sewing machine to seam it up. Decided that might be cheating. Ripped and cursed and growled. The kids thought about bothering me and decided that might not be such a wise decision. I finally got the whole thing ripped out and the stitches back on the needles. Then I got the locking stitch markers and placed one every 10 stitches. Ran out of those and substituted safety pins. And finally, finally, finally, I was able to graft the seam shut.

So then I tried it on again. It fit across my bottom, felt a little clingy around my thighs, and gaped about six inches away from my waist. Now how the heck was I supposed to fix that?! The pattern calls for you to pick up stitches around the waistband, knit two inches of 2×2 ribbing, and then fold it over and run elastic through the waistband. I decided to soldier on ahead. I picked out some black sport-weight sock yarn (anything but Noro at this point!), picked up my stitches, and started in on the ribbing. After about an inch of ribbing, I tried it on again. Still huge. I tried to make the ribbing fold over and realized that the fabric was pretty thick to begin with, so adding elastic and the ribbed waistband was going to feel like a spare tire around my midsection. Again, not so flattering on my post-kids belly. Okay, so forget the sewn-down waistband.

By this point, it was closing in on bedtime, and I still held out a hope that I could somehow salvage this skirt to wear it the next day. I sized up the ribbing and threw in a round of oddly-spaced decreases. Better, but not quite there yet. More rounds, with more decreases. Ribbing was looking seriously malformed now. Finally got to the point where I thought it wouldn’t fall down, bound it off, gave it a quick soak in Eucalan and set it out to dry.

In the morning, it was still damp, so I threw it into the dryer for a few minutes, which got it mostly dry but also seriously fuzzy. I hit it with the lint brush and put it on. It actually didn’t look awful. (Husband tried to take some pictures of me in it, but it was so dark and rainy, you can’t even tell what I’m wearing!)

So off I went. But here’s the thing… maybe it’s because the skirt was ever-so-slightly damp. Or maybe it’s just because it’s wool and silk and was hanging on my body. But as the day went on, the skirt stretched. Not so much lengthwise as sideways. In other words, it was the first time in my life that I was happy for a slightly too-tight bind off edge, because it was the only thing standing between me and an indecency charge!!

Obviously, I need to re-think this a bit. In the car on the way home, I decided that I could rip back the waistband ribbing, start with a k2p4 ribbing and eventually decrease it down to k2p2 ribbing, knit a couple rows plain to fold it over, then work k2p2 ribbing on the inside of the waistband (possibly increasing to k2p3, just to make the seam a bit easier), and put a big loop of elastic inside the waistband.

That’s the easier fix. The harder fix would be to take the waistband off completely, undo the kitchener seam (wine and weeping are assumed here), frog the extra rows, redo the seam, then pick up stitches for the waistband as above, without needed to decrease the ribbing so dramatically.

If I were to make it from scratch again (and I wouldn’t discount the idea completely; the colors are gorgeous and I did get a bunch of compliments on it, since the waistband was hidden by my shirt!), I think I’d do short rows every so often, so the stockinette stripe would stop 3-4″ shy of the top of the skirt, thus making the top of the skirt smaller than the bottom. And I’d probably use a lighter yarn; maybe NSG sock. Or some non-Noro yarn, for my seaming sanity!

But the good news is… I’ve probably got about six months before I’ll want to wear this skirt again. So I’m going to put it in time-out while I ponder what to do with it…