One of the most invaluable skills I learned about early was yarn substitutions. I was extremely lucky and am very happy the way I went around learning to knit. It was totally on accident as well. I was looking up patterns for my first sweater project when I saw a pattern that I LOVED! I had to have it immediately, but it was only available in the book.
This happened to be Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Seamless Hybrid Sweater. This was published in Knitting without Tears, which was first published June 1971. I went out looking for this book at bookstores; checked if I could order it from Chapters etc. No such luck, it was re-printed 1995 as a Fireside paperback edition. I gave up on bookstores after discovering that some yarn stores carried books (don’t judge me, this was in my knitting infancy). I ended up finding it at the third store I checked and promptly bought it and headed back home. I had already seen the yarn requirements from Ravelry, and wanted to cast on immediately.
If anyone has ever read an EZ pattern, you will know that it is a little more difficult than just casting on 98 stitches and doing the ribbing. On one hand, I had not expected this and was slightly annoyed, but on the other hand, it really made me THINK. It gave me that fundamental understanding of gauge and how it worked. There are instructions on how to measure your store bought sweaters and work with a swatch and those numbers to specifically get the perfect size for yourself!
Knowing this now, I always use a witch-crafty combination of checking my actual gauge and what size I want the garment to be and comparing the patterns gauge and what the expected outcomes will be. This might sound confusing, but it allows me to measure a well fitting sweater and figure out how many stitches I would have to cast on (at my current gauge) to get that size. Then I look at the pattern and check if that is a legitimate size.
This process definitely sounds overly complicated, and it totally is. There are much easier ways of checking your gauge, BUT what happens when you have a totally different yarn size and the pattern gauge is just not going to hack it?
I am actually re-writing a pattern for a friend right now. She chose a smaller yarn size than the pattern calls for and it is an all-over cable style. This was not too bad; I just had to take the measurements of the sweater and her gauge swatch and apply it to the pattern. If pattern has to be a multiple of 8 for the cables to work out (I am just using random numbers for the example) and the number of stitches is 200, then you’re golden! It is a little bit trickier with cables, because 8 stitches cabled is not the same as 8 stitches in stockinette; but I digress and there is a formula for that!
I think this book deserves it’s own place in my Technical Tuesday posts, because it built an AMAZING foundation for learning about gauge. If there is one knitting book I would prompt someone to read, it would be this one. Elizabeth Zimmerman was a clever, witty woman and I think I can lay at least part of my open-mindedness in knitting at her door.
Miracle of miracles Wednesday has come again! This week is going entirely, really, very not well; so I am glad we’re over the halfway point. On a positive note, this week is my blogging week for KNITmuch. I’ve done five articles for them about Red Heart’s new yarn Scrubby. It’s made special for dish cloths and is ah-mazing, head on over to check out those posts.
This week I managed to finally finish Paul’s Socks of a Different Colour! Yaaaaay! It’s nice to have them off my pate and get into something new. Of course by something new, I mean continue working on my Grandmother’s Sweater! I am on the last sleeve. I am actually scared to start working on the body again, but, maybe I’ve built it up in my mind as really tedious and hard work? Right? Right?
I think having all the sleeves done will help to motivate me into getting the second back and both fonts done. There are four pieces to each sweater, total of eight for both, if four sleeves are done and one back that means I’m more than half way? Right?!
I’ve written before about how I keep a pair of socks in the car to knit on, and I had an interesting surprise when I went to knit them yesterday. One of my dpn’s was broken in half! I had thought one of them felt a little bendy as I was knitting with them, but that could have been a figment of my imagination. I probably kicked it or dropped something on it at some point.
I usually align all my needles parallel to each other to prevent things like this from happening, but I guess something got jostled in the bag. Luckily I usually only use four needles but they come in packs of five or six. There are a couple spares floating around.
Hopefully next week I’ll be able to show you some updated progress on my Grandmother’s sweater! I need to have this one off my mind! If you haven’t heard about it in a while, keep me honest and BUG ME ABOUT IT!!! This sweater is going down!
I have finished knitting the body for my Stripes Gone Crazy Cardigan. The end result looked a little… asymmetric. However! In the pattern itself, the designer wrote that this is totally normal and it will bock to look like a regular cardigan. I thought nothing of this and threw it in the washer to wet block.
I don’t know if I have mentioned this before, but I use my ‘damages’ to knit samples from my own yarn. A ‘damage’ is a skein of yarn that had something wrong with it and I deemed it not fit to sell. This could mean anything from a knot in the skein to the colour not looking quite right. The skeins I had designated for this sweater looked fine, so I assumed there were knots in them or something. Little did I actually know, when I had dyed the purple, I had used too much dye. The yarn was very saturated and I was having trouble rinsing it out. I was afraid the colour would bleed and this would equal my whole business failing horribly.
I am really glad I didn’t sell those skeins because they bled onto the yellow and turned it a weird purple yellowish colour. Which I was totally not impressed with, so I washed it again. When I say I washed it, I mean I threw it in the washer on the wool cycle with some soak. There is no agitation and the soak is actually rinsed out. After the second wash the yellow was still a gross colour and then a light bulb went on in my brain. This is made entirely of superwash yarn, it doesn’t need to be on the wool cycle.
I put the sweater in again with the regular cycle and detergent to see what happened. Most of the purple came out of the yellow, but it still wasn’t the sunshine yellow that it was.
The yellow is now the exact same colour as the gold yarn in Gilt Leaf and Rule the Night; so that is what I will market it as. The sweater itself doesn’t look bad, but I am a little bit sad the really bright yellow didn’t stay bright. Perhaps I will have to make another one…
The Stripes Gone Crazy Cardigan is one that uses a lot of short rows to get the effect of leaning stripes. I will not lie to you, my short row skills were a bit rusty before I started knitting this cardigan. It also took me a while to remember how to do them properly. Through the trial and error that is my knitting style and a couple well- that-doesn’t –look-right’s I managed to figure it out, so I am going to try to help everyone here understand them better and save yourself the horror of really ugly short rows…I am hoping I can block that out.
I took a short row class during Vogue Knitting Live New York 2014, that was really the second experience I had with short rows, but the first time didn’t count because I didn’t know I was attempting to do short rows. The VKL class was very comprehensive and covered the basics of short rows and a little bit beyond. For the class, each person had to knit their own swatch and put a few short rows in it. The end effect was a curved swatch. After this class, I would say I have a basic knowledge of short rows; I can follow a pattern with short rows and maybe figure out a short row heel for socks. I would definitely not be able to success fully add short rows to a sweater. I am sure if I knit a few sweaters with short row shaping in them, I would be able to pick it up. For now, I feel like I would probably put them in backwards.
Adding shape to any garment is usually something I highly recommend, so if I can give any advice on this subject, it would be to learn as much as you can about short rows and shaping in general. I will go over another shaping technique next week so short rows are not the only option!
The anticipation can end! We are finally going to talk about how I messed up the Stripes Gone Crazy pattern. Let’s be honest for a minute though, it IS a complicated pattern and I don’t use a whole lot of brain power on the best of days.
In the beginning, the shoulders are shaped by doing short rows. Now there are lots of ways to start a sweater and I think the designer thought for a minute ‘oh, now I am really going to screw with people’ then decided to do short row shoulders, or it could have been an aesthetic thing since the sweater is already so busy.
As I was knitting, I was trying not to look at what I was doing, or think about it too hard. Just following the pattern was enough to think about and, like I said, I’ve been lacking brain power. The lights are on but no one is home, so to speak. I had all the markers placed for the increases and was doing them the way the pattern specified, I followed the instructions to a T. When I actually started to look at it though, it didn’t look right; I checked my stitch count. I counted the total amount of stitches and I was bang-on. There was no room for mistakes because I counted them twice and then got Paul to count them twice. At this point I went to the section break down, the part where it tells you that you should have X amount of stitches in the front lapel and X in the arm. It turns out that I had the correct amount of stitches, just not in the right sections. The front and back were too large and the arms were too small. This was not the end of the world though, the stitches were all there, just not on the right side of the stitch markers. I hadn’t gotten to the neck shaping yet, so it didn’t REALLY matter where the increases were, as long as they weren’t so close together that they create a ruffled effect.
I got all my ducks in a row and started on the stripes, this was the easy part of the stripes, you just have to make two plain ones, no increasing or decreasing, just two stripes. I had no problems here, I actually added in two more because the pattern specified If you like your long sweaters, add another couple stripes here. I had no problems separating the arms either, it was the pattern that foiled me later on.
In the pattern there are quite a few lines that tell you to go back and repeat lines X through Z. You’re not exactly reading instructions so much as thinking ‘okay, now go back and do those lines too.’ While I was working on this cardigan, I was listening to a podcast and sitting at the kitchen table thinking about how awesome I was and how awesome this cardigan was. Then I realized my stripes looked a little bit smaller than the ones in the photo. I blew it off and thought they would get bigger as the pattern goes on, you know, like a gradient…. It’s not a gradient. Instead of repeating rows 1-10 I was switching colours and starting a new stripe.
Theoretically this could have worked, because I would just have to do the same thing for the rest of the sweater. I did not want to do that much thinking through the rest of the pattern though, it looks like it only gets more complicated. So I ripped out about four inches of sweater with short rows. Heartbreaking right?
I started again and I am back to where I would have been if I hadn’t needed to rip out all that knitting. I was working on it the other day and I was mentally grumbling to myself about having to rip out that knitting when I realized I had dropped a stitch. DROPPED A STITCH?! Doing short rows and colour work, I dropped a stitch. I sat there and stared at my knitting for a few minutes, then grabbed a crochet hook and brought the errant stitch to the top. Since there are so many short rows I had to hang my crochet hook off the knitting until I managed a row that would pass by that area and I could pick up the stitch.
I am not even done the sweater so let’s hope the last bit goes easy…. Even if it does look the hardest. I am sure I will be fine though, I just need some quiet time to work on the cardigan and maybe a glass of wine. Wait. Short rows in the cardigan…. Scratch the wine.