Monday, October 24, 2016

Scrappy Sock Experiment: Yarn Sample Cards!

Over the summer I cleared out and stored away some of my yarn to get things a lot neater around here. I also went through all my designing books and files and notebooks and did some pretty serious decluttering. It took a bunch of trips to the recycling center and some shredding, but I feel much lighter for it! I also feel much less distracted by not having everything out and in my face. I'm trying to focus. Give me strength!

Among the clutter there were some old yarn sample cards that, although I won't use again, I just could not part with. Some ideas came to me about how to use them instead of just trashing them. First up was an entire set of samples from Claudia Hand Painted Yarns. I once set up a wholesale account with the company and ordered a fair amount, a lot of which I still have, but that was six years ago. Knowing I would not use the yarn cards again, and knowing they were out of date, I started disassembling them. Once I took the strands out, I could see that most of them were a yard long each. I could work with that!

First I tried tiny granny squares with a few of them, but I soon saw that joining those into one piece or even using them to embellish another piece was about to get really fiddly.

Then I had a eureka moment and wondered if the strands could be worked into scrappy socks, my most recent obsession. I grabbed a partial skein of Claudia's Shells on the Beach colorway for my neutral and knit up a toe using Judy's Magic Cast On. Then I grabbed one of the yard-long strands from the color card and found that it would knit two rounds of the sock perfectly! Using the Fair Isle joining method, I just kept going, joining a new strand every two rounds until I got to the heel. Fortunately, there were two of these yard-long strands for each color, so I just set aside the second one for the second sock. 

It was so much fun watching the colors interact with one another. It was also fun choosing which color would go next and which would go next and...boy, were these not boring socks to knit!

On the first pair of socks, I used the same neutral colorway chosen for the toe to knit the Fish Lips Kiss Heel and then the 2/2 ribbed cuff at the end.

Once the sock was complete, I just turned it wrong-side-out and tidied up the strands. After pulling a little on each one to make sure there were no slouchy areas, I snipped the ends a little. Ultimately there were only two ends to weave in--the one at the cast on and the one at the bind off.

Sock pair number one is the first one that I knit. You can tell that I started with the more muted, natural hues for the foot and then got into some lighter, more playful colors for the leg. I also did not manage to match both the socks in pair number one as well as with pair number two. It took the second pair to get my system down. With sock pair number two, I was left with all the really bright colors. For the second pair I used Claudia's Stormy Day for the toe and the cuff, but used her Caribbean Blue for the heel to keep things more colorful.

So between these two pair of socks, you have just about all the colors from Claudia's 2010 color selection. She still has a lot of these colors available (some have been retired but some new ones have been added) and is now calling her fingering weight yarn "Addiction." Go check out all the beauty!

Now I am looking at some of my other old yarn cards and wondering what I can do with them. I'll show you if anything comes of it. 

Happy Yarn Scrapping!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Knitting the Top-Down Raglan Cardigan, Part Four

We've finally arrived at the button and buttonhole bands of the cardigan. If you've been knitting your own cardigan along with reading these posts, I know you're pretty glad to have an entire sweater sitting before you--with no seams! 

And that's one reason I chose the picked-up button bands for this sweater. There are other ways to construct a button band, one of which is to knit the band separately and seam it to the front openings. To keep this cardigan seamless, let's work it with picked-up stitches.

The pickup ratio for any part of any sweater (when adding an edge to the side of the fabric) usually goes like this--for lightweight yarns, a pickup ratio of three stitches for every four rows, and for heavier weights, a ratio of two stitches for every three rows. That's for knitting Stockinette Stitch perpendicularly onto the same stitch pattern. But we are working with two different stitch patterns and those two have different gauges. It gets even more complicated than that. 
Stay with me.

The body of the cardigan is worked in Stockinette stitch, but the button bands are worked in 1/1 rib. Of course those two have different stitch gauges!

My cardigan knit with Schaefer Nichole on size 4 needles has a stitch gauge of 6 spi (stitches per inch), but 1/1 rib with these materials has a gauge of 5.75 spi on the button bands and 7 spi on the body edge and cuff. Why the difference?

You can see in the above picture that the ribbing on the cuff is more contracted than that on the buttonhole band, even though they are the same type of stitch. One reason is that the rib on the cuff is worked directly onto the sleeve at the end of the Stockinette stitch sleeve--it is knit in the same direction. The rib on the buttonhole band is knit along the edge, or perpendicular to the Stockinette stitch. They each serve a different function and behave differently according to that function. The rib on the body edge and the cuff (especially the cuff) need to hug that area of the body. The rib on the buttonhole band needs to lie smoothly along the front edges and hold the holes for fastening the buttons. The opposite button band needs to lie smoothly along the other front edge and hold the buttons themselves. 

Okay, back to picking up stitches.

Before I started, I placed a marker two rows below my last neck edge increase so that would know where to stop picking up stitches. I did pick up three stitches for every four rows because it felt like it was behaving well that way. You will need to do what feels best for you.

In the picture above, you can see that for every three stitches there is a slight gap where I skipped a row.

Truly, the only way to know is to just pick up stitches, knit the band, bind off all the stitches, and lay it flat to see that it doesn't pull in too tightly or get all wavy because it's too loose. If you don't like it, rip it and adjust.  If its too tight, pick up more stitches, and if it's too loose, pick up fewer stitches. 

When working the button bands on my 3-spi version of the cardigan, I started by picking up two stitches for every three rows (as shown above) and soon determined that it was going to be too tight. I switched to three stitches for every four rows and it came out fine.

Once the button band was complete, I used markers to decide where to place my buttons. Then I replaced each marker with a button sewn on. This is all made easier with the use of ribbing to help you read the stitches. In this case, I was able to make the placement fall so that there were six knit stitches between each button (in other words, 13 stitches between each) and I attached the button to the next knit stitch. The lower button was placed six stitches above the lower edge, because I like for that lowermost button to fall in the middle of the body rib height. The topmost button was placed 14 stitches below the top edge because the very last stitch column is where I will pick up for the collar, making it disappear.

To knit the collar, pick up stitches at the top of the button band (one for each row of the band), more stitches along the right neck edge at the same rate as the band, all the stitches at the top of the right sleeve, all the stitches along the back neck, all the stitches at the top of the left sleeve, the same number along the left neck edge as the right neck edge, and then one stitch for each row of the buttonhole band. 

Yes, you may have noticed that I made the buttonhole and button band "backward." I say, out with that silly antiquated notion! Put the buttons on either side as to preference (or because you weren't paying attention). Will the planet stop spinning?  I can attest that it will not. 

Bravo to you if you have knit your cardigan. Bravo to you if you are thinking about knitting a cardigan. Any of the Figheadh Fundamental Top-Down Cardigans is a good place to start, as are any of the Figheadh Fundamentals. Each pattern has multiple sizes and instructions for knitting all those sizes in any of four yarn weights, which means you could use them for any yarn in your stash!

Thank you for following along on the top-down cardigan party. I could honestly just knit from this pattern forever, but I guess I'd better get back to some scrappy socks! I'll show you that next time.

Happy Knitting!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Knitting the Top-Down Raglan Cardigan, Part Three

We are in the middle of a bunch of information to help with knitting the Figheadh Fundamental Top-Down Cardigans, especially the women's version. These little tutorials will help you with any of the Fundamental Top-Down Cardigans, and there are versions for anyone in the family, even babies!

In this installment, we are discussing the sleeve knitting.

When the body of the cardigan is complete... will use your 16" circular needle to begin the sleeves. 
First, slip all the stitches from scrap yarn to the 16" circular, as in the picture above.

Pick up half (or nearly half) the underarm stitches from the body at the first of this round. Since this sweater I am knitting is the size 36 with bulky yarn, I only have two stitches to pick up here, and you can see them lurking up there behind the right-hand needle tip.

From there I knit across all the sleeve stitches, picked up one more stitch at the end of the round from the body, placed a marker, and knit the sleeve from there in the round. I did not add any extra stitches to the pickup to close holes. The stitches are so loose on this bulky version that I wanted to go a different route. You can see in the above picture that I do have a couple of holes and loose spots here.

So I turned the work to the wrong side, tightened up the stitches in those spots, and used the yarn end to work some duplicate stitching to further close up the holes. This looks good enough for me.

I am also working up another cardigan in size 34 with a sport weight yarn on size 4 (3.5 mm) needles using the 6-stitch gauge version in the pattern. I wanted to show you some differences. Above you see the sleeve stitches on the 16" circular ready for me to pick up the underarm stitches.

The picture above shows how I joined my new yarn and picked up the leftmost three stitches from the body underarm using my handy tool with a pick at one end and a crochet hook at the other (I love this thing!)

Then in the picture above you see that I slid those three stitches to my working needle, picked up two extra stitches from the gap between the stitches just picked up and the sleeve stitches waiting on the other end of the circular, and knit the first sleeve stitch. The first of those two extra stitches was picked up from the stitch below the third (the last) stitch picked up from the body. The second of the two extra stitches was picked up from the bar (or running thread) between the picked up stitches and the first of the sleeve stitches. This will sufficiently close the hole wanting to form there. When picking up and knitting these extra stitches, it is essential to twist them by knitting into their backs (sounds menacing).

After I knit across all the sleeve stitches I did the same at the other end, as seen above. I picked up an extra stitch from the bar between the last sleeve stitch and the body stitches. Then I picked up the second extra stitch from the stitch below where I planned to pick up the first of the three body stitches remaining at the underarm. Next I picked up stitches from the remaining three body stitches, placed a marker and knit the next round. In that round I decreased the extra stitches by working k2, ssk, k2tog, knit to last 6 stitches, ssk, k2tog, k2. That brings me back to my requisite 94 stitches for the sleeve at pickup.

After knitting a couple more rounds, you can see in the picture above that this made the underarm join nice and tidy with no holes. That means I have nothing to do in this area when the knitting is complete except weave in a couple of yarn ends. Good news!

Before we're done with this installment, I want to address some possible confusion in the pattern.

 When you arrive at the sleeve shaping you are told to "Work the dec to leave one knit stitch on each side of the marker by working ssk, k1 before the marker and k1, k2tog after the marker." If you are used to working your decreases at the beginning and end of one round, this instruction sounds funny. However, here's the sense of it. I always work my sleeve decreases by starting with the "ssk, k1" at the end of the previous round and the "k1, k2tog" immediately after it. In other words, if the pattern tells me to decrease every sixth round, I work ssk, k1 at the end of the fifth round and k1, k2tog at the first of the sixth round, but only on the first decrease. Afterward each decrease is worked every sixth round (or fourth round, etc.--you get the gist). I find that the decreases lie more in line with one another if worked this way. Lets have a look.

The lower orange marker in the picture above shows the decreases worked closer to one another. If you look to either side of the marker, which lies between the two decrease stitches, you can see the ssk to the right and the k2tog to the left. The ones at the upper orange marker show the difference it makes when you work the "k1, k2tog" decrease at the first of a round and the "ssk, k1" decrease at the end of that same round. The ssk sits higher on the right of the marker than does the k2tog below it on the left. This is why I like working the ssk at the end of the previous round instead of at the end of the same round as the k2tog.

I so hope that these little details will help you with your cardigan project!
I'll be back in part four with some insights about working your button bands and collar. 

Se ya soon!

Note: Bulky sweater is knit using Cascade Eco Wool, color #9008 and the finer gauge one is knit with Schaefer Nichole in the Julia Child colorway.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Knitting the Top-Down Raglan Cardigan, Part Two

Welcome back!
This post deals only with separating the sleeves from the body as you knit a top-down raglan cardigan, like the Figheadh Fundamentals Top-Down Women's Cardigan, which is the pattern I am working from. I decided to change my yarn to some marled Cascade Eco Wool from my stash. I have plenty of it and I want to work this cardigan with a bit more length in the body. I can do that because knitting top-down allows you to change the lengths of the body and the sleeves as you like. Bingo!

In the picture above you can see that I have completed the upper body of my cardigan. Boy, it went super fast, too! I am getting three stitches to the inch on size 11 (8 mm) needles, which makes the project fly!

At this point, I am ready to place the sleeves on scrap yarn while I finish up the body first. The pattern is very clear on how to do this, but let's add some visuals.

Above, you can see that I have knit across the left front section to the first marker.

Then, as you see above, I removed the marker and slipped all my left sleeve stitches (the ones between the first and second markers) onto some cotton yarn to make it easier for me to slip them back off and onto a needle later. I always tie a little bow in the ends of the scrap yarn to keep the stitches from wandering off while I'm not looking. I do not like using stitch holders, especially for this. They are too rigid and do not allow the fabric to be manipulated as easily. When you are knitting a big piece like this, you want everything to smoosh. 

The above picture shows that I have removed the second marker, cast on my three stitches (yes, not many, but remember this gauge is loose!), and am continuing to knit across the back stitches. When I reach the third marker, I will do for the right sleeve what I did for the left sleeve.

And here we have both sleeves resting on nice, contrasting cotton yarn, all bowed and secure. Only the body stitches remain on the circular needle and now I can knit, knit, knit for a while. I think I'll finish up that marathon of Season 5 of Vera now. I do love a good British mystery!

Thanks for reading. I will be back with some insights on knitting the sleeves of this cardigan very soon!