Monday, December 28, 2015

Guess what? Another TS Christmas knitting project!


This one is more complicated. I made a zipped cardigan for my son (details on my Ravelry page). The yarn is Briggs & Little sport in a dark grey. It's a one ply with a manageable tendency to bias. It is very rustic, complete with bits of what looked like wood and straw, and wild hairy bits. Off the skein it's oily and stiff but washed, it has a fluffy but very seriously woolly quality that I like. It left my Passap full of lint. Maybe I should plan to do a deep clean once a year...

A nice variety of things went wrong with this project:
  • I made a PDF of the pattern quite a while ago (from a library book) but when I went to start my project, I only had the last of five pages. I still have no idea how that happened.
  • I requested the book again and it took days and days and days to get to my branch.
  • My parents visited. (This isn't really anything "going wrong" but it was another source of delay.)
  • Stitches delighted in jumping off the needles.
  • (This is totally just between us.) I knitted an extra rib up the side of one front. Didn't notice for the longest time that one piece has 4 ribs instead of 3...
  • In converting my hand-knitting pattern for my machine using basic knitter's math, I failed to note that the sweater is supposed to be 45cm from the bottom of the sweater to the armscye, including 6cm of ribbing. I knitted 6cm of ribbing and then 45cm of stockinette. And then I washed and blocked the first front and DID IT AGAIN before noticing.
That last one cost me a good night's sleep. My inner dialogue at 2AM: "Leave it as is?" "He'll hate it if it's too long." "Cut 6cm out of the middle and kitchener stitch?" "Frog back, rehang and reknit?" "Leave it." "But if I do he'll never wear it." "Cut 6cm out and kitchener?" "Frog back?" (Repeat endlessly.) 

By the light of day it was obvious I should frog back because he would not like a sweater that was too long and let's face it - if you have a knitting machine, reknitting is a lot easier than connecting two bits of knitting invisibly by hand. And in the end it was really fast; so not worth losing hours of sleep over.

Given all of this, I'm really pleased with the finished project. I managed to go straight from the ZZ cast on row to a 3x2 ribbing pattern (this involves lots of transferring stitches between beds). I managed to knit ribbing up through the body of the sweater without any obvious gauge problems (I knit the back bed purl stitches on stitch size 6 when the front bed was SS 8). 

I accurately (subject to my mistake noted above) graphed the pattern and worked from these diagrams. 

I can knit anything!

But the source of most happiness is how well the collar turned out. The pattern called for a standard hand knitted collar which in part (at CF and CB) was knitted straight from the body pieces rather than from cast off edges. The collar is in the 3x2 rib pattern and doubled (i.e. knitted 12cm, then the cast off edge is sewn to the neck edge on the inside). This would make a facing to hide the top of the zipper tape on the inside. 

Cashmere turtleneck sweater 
I wanted a single layer collar (2 layers of Briggs & Little would be too much), and I wanted it to attach the same basic way as the turtleneck of a commercially made cashmere sweater I own. See, there is a single layer of ribbing, and it is knitted directly to a few rows of stockinette - both inside and out - and those stockinette stitches are neatly sewn together through the body of the sweater. Neat huh?

Except I am lacking the machine (a linker) that does this kind of sewing, and I wasn't 100% sure how to knit the little stockinette flanges directly onto the ribbed collar. 

But I did it! I'm so chuffed! For anyone with a Passap, here is how. After knitting the number of rows of ribbing I needed for 6cm, I filled in the missing 2 stitches of each purl column on the front bed by hanging the purl bump (from the row below) for the adjoining stitches on the empty needles. I did the same re the missing 3 stitches of the knit columns on the back bed, but I left the centre needle empty. Then I set the lock to knit circularly (CX/CX) at a stitch size between that of the ribbing (6) and the main knitting (8) - just to keep it a bit firm. I knit three rounds (6 passes) and then some rows of waste yarn. 

Right side
Wrong side
To attach the collar, I hand basted the wrong side flange to the inside of the sweater neckline. Then I very carefully chain stitched the three layers together with a crochet hook, making sure the hook went through the matching loops of the last row of the Briggs & Little. I had to fudge a tiny bit at the CF edges to keep them relatively straight. Subject to that, IT WORKED PERFECTLY!

I sewed the sweater together and installed the zipper with my sewing machine. To keep the inside of the neck neat and make it soft, I added a little fleece facing.  

Top secret Christmas knitting - 3rd edition

You know Cidell? She and I egg each other on about machine knitting. I really like that simple striped cowl she made (four times) for the women in Jordan's family. I really like the same yarn; in fact I had used it for TS Christmas project the second. So I riffed off her project but instead I made a scarf for my dad.

I decided to knit my scarf flat but double width, and seam it along the long edge. I used the same needle pattern that I used for my mom's shawl; 3 in work, one out of work, etc.  I did a 1x1 rib at each end, and the fact that the ribbing is also in a tube is a little weird, but not unacceptable I like to think.

I went with five colours: chocolate, denim blue, sage green, grey and black and calculated how many stripes I'd need to get my desired length (not too long, said my husband) of 54"

I think it took longer to cast off (my achilles heel of machine knitting) and seam it than it did to knit.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Top Secret Christmas knitting - take two

You already know that I made my mother-in-law a machine knitted shawl. Flushed with my success, I decided to make a second one for my own mother for Christmas, but to "improve" the pattern to get rid of the curling edges.

Curl is built into any item that has any version of stockinette stitch right to its edges, where those edges are not stabilized by being sewn into seams. It's structural, and it causes the bottom and top edges to roll towards the right side of the item, and the side edges to roll towards the wrong side. (TechKnitter wrote on the subject, if you wish to study it in detail...)

Purple swatch - Wrong Side
So anyway, shawl #1, while lovely and purple, had ends and edges that rolled to an extent that (in The Sewing Lawyer's opinion) was excessive.

A swatch told me that if I added ribbing at the ends, and along the edges, I could cure the curl.

Compare the left and top (curling) and right and bottom (ribbed) edges.

I made the entire shawl like this. I will not bore you with the technical difficulties overcome, or the mistakes that had to be fixed/fudged. There were several of each. In the end, I had a cushy, seafoam greeny blue coloured shawl, with more or less flat sides (we can live with their occasional tendency to fold back to the wrong side), lovely corners and ribbed ends.

Top secret Christmas knitting

I compulsively scan the newly published patterns on Ravelry. That site is so addictive! I am embarrassed to tell you how many patterns I have faved. So I won't.

There are SO many new ones every day. Most of them (between you and me) are supremely awful. Patterns for dishcloths and boot toppers, coffee cup cosies and ugly, chunky cowls. Sorry if you like making such things - I think life is too short. I'm always most interested in the sweaters. Most of them are also very forgettable, but every so often one comes along that almost takes my breath away.

And so it was with "Graphic Sweater" from the Fall 2015 edition of Vogue Knitting. See?

Breathtakingly, riotously patterned. I would never in a million years make such a thing by hand. But I have a knitting machine and I know how to make it knit me a crazy stranded pattern.

And so I made it. Out of 50-50 cashmere cotton yarn in ecru and darkest navy from my favourite yarn pusher supplier, ColourMart. I would have used wool but the recipient has sensitive skin. Well, this stuff is so soft, you have no idea.

Needle Selection Tool
What a fun project! Contemplating it led me to get my ancient KnitKing out of the closet and clean it up. It is really an amazing machine, though completely manual. It has a straightforward if somewhat time-consuming way of patterning that is infinitely variable. Unlike people with more complex, more sophisticated machines that use punchcards or other automatic patterning systems, you have to hand-select the needles for knitting with each colour. I have a wonderfully simple tool to make it easier with repeating patterns like the ones in my sweater.

At about the 2 minute mark in this enchantingly antique video, you can see the knitter using this tool; she's knitting a Norwegian style of patterned sweater on a machine that, so far as I can tell, is just like mine except branded "Knittax" (the brand name was different for Europe).

Contemplating this project also led me to get out my brand new version of Excel to plan out the charts because (a) Vogue Knitting editors are apparently incompetent at publishing charts without mistakes and (b) the designer and/or VK editors paid scant attention to the flow of the patterns into each other or their placement on the body. I shifted things around until I was satisfied that they flowed and were more or less centred. Not that you can probably tell, but I also completely redesigned the first chart so that it repeated on the same number of stitches as the second chart above it. This satisfied The Sewing Lawyer's persnickety perfectionism.

KnitCompanion Screen Shot
And finally, making this project confirmed me in my love for KnitCompanion, an iPad app that allowed me to easily follow the charts through 80 rows front and back (and 27 on each sleeve) while making only one patterning mistake. You will never get me to reveal where it is.

There is something so very charming about making a crazy patterned sweater using computer technology assists for a 50 year old 100% manual knitting machine.

And I'm so pleased to report that the recipient really, really, really likes her sweater :)