Today is a little bit of Monday Mishaps and Technical Tuesday mixed together. A while back, when I was knitting quite a few Fair Isle sweaters, I was really into colour work. I’ve done mittens, sweaters and all manner of garments in Fair Isle. This also means I have made my fair share of disasters with colour work.
When you make a mistake in a colour work pattern, it is usually pretty obvious; there is a pixel the wrong colour, so to speak. I will drop the stitch and go down to fix it if I can, but there are times when you can’t just make an easy fix that way. There are times when you just have to rip it out and ripping out colour work is just not fun.
The first time I ripped out a couple rows for a Fair Isle sweater I got the multiple colours of yarn hopelessly tangled. You almost need one person to do the ripping and one person to do the balling. If you don’t, the mountain of fiber before you will turn into something monstrous or it will just take you forever to complete.
When doing this by yourself, I recommend ripping out an arm’s length of stitches, then balling them. If you do much more than that you’re bound to get criss crossed. I had to rip out part of Paul’s special request sweater and untangling the yarn was a nightmare, especially since there were so many. I think there were something like five colours in his sweater, they weren’t all happening at the same time but at the point I ripped it out there were more than two.
You don’t always have to totally rip out your colour work either, there is always a chance you can drop down and change the stitch colour. I wrote a previous post about that here.
This post ended up being a little shorter than I anticipated, so I will regale you with a story about two colour knitting. I have a knitting bowl for my yarn, it’s exactly what it sounds like; a bowl you put yarn into. When I am doing two colour knitting, I can only put one colour in the bowl because it is just not big enough to accommodate two. Usually this bowl is situated in the living room with all my other knitting paraphernalia; I do a lot of knitting on the couch in front of the TV. The cats usually wander by and demand I pet them a little bit, but not too much; can’t mess up the fur. I have three and two of them cuddle up with me while I knit, but the other one is much more aloof. She will usually sit at the end of the couch while I knit, or on the floor.
While I was knitting this sweater for Paul, she kept getting closer and closer. I thought she may have finally been getting over her antisocial behaviour, you know, trying to associate a little more. Then she casually popped up onto the coffee table, grabbed my ball of yarn in her mouth and started to run away with it. I can’t even express how funny this was in the moment; it was like she was a cartoon character. It was that perfectly laid out. I had to chase her down and get my yarn back, and she maintained this interest in the yarn for the rest of the project. I think the Eco Plus yarn from Cascade must have smelled especially sheepy to her sensitive nose.
When I was re-doing the button band on my coolbreeze sweater, I came across a really interesting technique for sewing on buttons. Whenever I have sewn buttons on ANY knitting, the button pulls the knitted fabric where is it sewn on. It would stretch so in a couple months or years, that small square of knitted material is ready to leave the sweater itself! The problem here is the thread had much less give than the knitted button band.
Piotr Jankowski | Team Ponam
The first time I sewed the buttons on the coolbreeze sweaters I was scared the buttons would rip right off the button band. They looked so strained that I didn’t feel comfortable leaving it buttoned up! As you know, I ended up having to re-do the finishing touches so it really wasn’t that big of a loss.
Piotr Jankowski | Team Ponam
I came across a video of someone sewing buttons on a knitted garment. At first I thought it didn’t really apply to what I was looking for because they were sewing on ribbon and very large decorative buttons. I didn’t want to use ribbon and my buttons were normal sized, but I kept watching anyway.
Instead of simply sewing these large heavy buttons onto their knitted sweater, they sewed the large button on the front (where you can see it) and a smaller button on the back (where it is hidden from sight). This is pure genius!
Piotr Jankowski | Team Ponam
I think it might be a sewing technique because I was speaking to a friend about it and she said her mom used to do that when sewing buttons on delicate fabric. I had never seen this before at all and think it is the best thing since sliced bread!
I wasted no time in running around my house trying to find buttons that were relatively inconspicuous and the appropriate size. I don’t have a lot of buttons in general. I usually don’t put buttons on things and if I do, I run out and find the perfect button for the garment I am finishing. I ended up raiding the spare button stash in my sewing room.
Piotr Jankowski | Team Ponam
I have a container full of the extra buttons that come with clothes, coats, pants or any piece of clothing you buy that has the potential to lose a button. I am pretty sure I no longer own the pants that these buttons were taken from. Hopefully anyway.
After I sewed them on, I tried it out. It works like a charm. The button on the back spreads out the force of the pulling on the button band. I cannot believe no one told me about this! It is something I cannot live without. I will never sew on another button without the behind the scenes stabilization button.
Another Monday and more mishaps to tell. This one happened a while ago as well, but it is keeping with the theme of Nordic sweater misfortunes. It was on Paul’s special request sweater, if you remember I blogged about it here.
He wanted a cardigan and I didn’t know how to do a zipper at the time. The obvious closure was buttons. There were no problems knitting the sweater itself, everything went as smoothly as could be expected. However, when it came time to do the seed stitch button band, I was not careful enough. When picking up stitches, I watched to make sure I wasn’t picking up too many. I started knitting and everything looked good. I think my tension must have loosened as I got closer and closer to binding off because when I finally finished, there was a very definite curve in the material.
It wasn’t extremely noticeable so I started on the other side in hope that I would do better, but I didn’t. At this point I took solace in the fact that they matched and it wasn’t a glaring mistake.
Apparently I don’t learn from my mistakes because when I was doing the button band for my coolbreeze cardigan, blogged here, I did the same thing! It really wasn’t quite as bad. I knew the type of yarn I used significantly relaxed after touching the water, so I knit the body a little on the small side. The button band, on the other hand, was a ribbed surface. It looked much smaller than it actually was. As soon as I blocked that bad boy, the button band sagged so badly that it was decorative.
I did rip this one out, and did it again. I still haven’t sewn on the buttons. I am thinking if it still looks bad this time I will attach a zipper on the inside so when the buttons are done up, they won’t pull at the fabric and make it look like I am about to explode out of said sweater. I don’t care how skinny you are, if you’re wearing a button up cardigan and EVERY SINGLE button is gaping, it’s not flattering.
One of the best pieces of advice for button bands that I have ever gotten was to use your swatch to test how often you need to pick up stitches in order to get the perfect number. Believe it or not, I actually did this with my coolbreeze sweater. The integrity of the yarn changed so drastically I didn’t anticipate the drape well.
I love the coolbreeze pattern so much that I am determined to make it work out. It has no chance to thwart my plan, this cardigan WILL behave!! Trust me, it’s happening.
As you’ve noticed, I’ve been in something of a knitting rut. There haven’t been very many finished objects coming out and I realized this the other day. I was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of ineptness. Like I was fighting some kind of futile uphill battle. I had several WIP around the house, but haven’t really gotten onto them and finished any. So I did just that!
First on the list, the Coolbreeze Cardigan! Yes, it is complete! I ended up going with the shorter sleeves because I think I would wear it more. I realized I always pull up the sleeves on all my sweaters and if the sleeves don’t go up to my elbow, I don’t wear them as much. I really like the look with elbow length sleeves.
I may have to re-do the button band. I know that this yarn in particular relaxes quite a bit when blocked, and I knit this sweater with that in mind. However the button band lost all it’s firmness and has a beautiful drapey quality to it, but it really doesn’t work for this cardigan in particular. Since it was knit from the top down and the increases are uniform around the yoke, there isn’t much shoulder shaping. As a result, it needs to be buttoned up to fit properly; but the button band is so relaxed, it looks like the fabric is strained. I think I will have to re-do the button band and just not wash it until I have worn it enough to create shoulder indents.
Here is the progression of progress leading up to Vogue Knitting Live!
Second finished object of 2014! The mohair and cascade 220 scarf for my mom. if you’ve been reading, I finished a matching hat and blogged about it here. I ended up ripping out the pattern I was doing and knit a waffle stitch bias scarf. I remember looking for an easy stitch that looked difficult and the one I came up with looked difficult and WAS difficult.
I suppose it doesn’t count as a finished object yet, but I finished one of the socks I’ve been making from the yarn I dyed in Chicago. I just rounded the heel on the second one and am picking up stitches for the foot!
I used to hate making socks, they were small and you HAD to use double pointed needles, or two circulars. Now that I’ve done a few of them, I like them more and more. I actually think I might make my dad a pair for his birthday on February 15th. I have a nice green yarn that would make really nice socks. It’s thick too, so it would be warm and knit up really quick.
Hopefully this trend of finishing past WIP’s will continue! Wish me luck
First week back at home and everyone survived! The house isn’t clean, but we managed to unpack! Tonight I am headed to LYS Johanne’s Knitn’Stitch to show everyone the results of my trip. I acquired a few books including a small book of knitting cartoons by Franklin Habit. It is a really charming book that would make any knitter roll their eyes and smile, because they know it’s true.
Hopefully I’ll get a good chunk of the Coolbreeze button band done while I’m there. I think it is the last thing I have to complete before it is my first finished object of 2014!! I am getting restless and need to finish something! I feel like I am in the knitting black hole, where you knit like crazy and don’t go anywhere.
For the main part of this post, I am going to talk about a skill every knitter either has, or longs for. Knitting without looking. Sometimes when I am in a public venue, I’ll knit along on something and someone will sidle up and ask how I can do it without watching. Now, I am not doing complicated lace charts or anything; just stockinet, or ribbing. Chances are, if you’ve been knitting for a while, your hands know what to do. It is like touch typing. When you become familiar enough with a keyboard, you don’t need to look in order to figure out where the letters are located.
I began knitting without looking because I wanted to read while I knit. I would prop up a hard cover book and hold down the pages with my iPhone; I was horribly slow, but I was succeeding. This really took off when I was knitting Gryffindor
scarves for the last Harry Potter movie. It was plain stockinet in the round for a good 10 inches then change colour and another 10 inches. I would read, or watch tv, in order to keep my mind occupied while I completed these tedious, mindless projects, I think in total I made approximately five of these scarves.
Chloe also discovered the joy of climbing up inside what was, essentially, a 6 foot tube.
They weren’t perfect either. I dropped stitches and sometimes forgot to change colour, but by the time I was done those bad boys, I could stockinet without looking. To help train yourself I suggest you find something your eyes want to look at more than your knitting; a movie, the view from a vehicle window, a conversation partner. Sometimes I simply put my head back and close my eyes. It must look really strange, but if you have a slight headache (as I have SOME experience with these) it feels nice to rest your eyes, but continue knitting. You will be able to feel the stitches coming up on the left and passing to the right.
As you become more and more comfortable with stockinet, you will be able to move onto ribbing. I am most comfortable with K1P1 ribbing, but that is personal preference. I can do K3P1 ribbing, but I have to count it in my head, it wouldn’t be good if I were knitting in complete darkness and could not see.
If there were one knitting skill I absolutely would not give up, it would be this one. I can knit in moving cars without feeling motion sick, I can knit in movie theatres, or people watch on public transit. It generally contributes to my stalk-y people watching in a really huge way. No one thinks I am paying attention because I am knitting… that must take my full focus, right?
Like anything in life, it just takes practice. I find, especially with knitting, you learn to love the things you hate, as long as you don’t give up on them. When I first started knitting, I HATED purling, it was really awkward and made my wrists hurt, but the more I did it, the more comfortable I was because I stuck with it. I just realized the other day that I used to hate purling and now I can’t wait to get to the purl side row on my grandmothers sweater because there are no accursed CABLES!!
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