Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tis the Season

Finished objects.

Malcolm's Christmas concert vest, begun December 2nd, finished December 15th, and worn for a piano performance December 18th:

Original top-down design with Rope-and-Diamond cables, Spiral Rib, and Knotted Rib.

The finished (and by now much-worn) Twilight Forest poncho sweater:

And a pair of working gloves for Garry:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

90,000 stitches

The body of the Moss Diamond throw is done.

It's enormous: 90,ooo stitches.

Here it is on a king-sized bed:

It was meant to be 60" square, but it ended up 75" square. I calculated that, if it had been the size I had planned, I would only have needed to knit 57,600 stitches -- over a third less.

Here it is covering our couch:

There's no way to show how incredibly cozy it looks (and feels). Draping it over me while I was working on it was very comforting.

I still have the second fringe to do for it. That should be enough to keep me busy a lot of cold nights this winter.

Here's the fringe detail:

I've ordered yarn to make another one, but I think I'll make it 60" square this time, and with moss stitch borders instead of a fringe.

Meanwhile, the portable Twilight Forest Poncho Sweater is chugging along:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Top-Down Design Tutorial 8: Common Elements

Top-down designs start from the neck and knit down, shaping the yoke and shoulders along the way. There's a lot going on right at the start, getting from a neck-shaped thing to a sweater-shaped thing. It's trickier to start a top-down sweater than a bottom-up sweater, but there are several major advantages:
  • You get all the tricky math and counting out of the way at the beginning of the sweater.
  • You can try it on as you go. If it's not going to fit, you find out almost immediately and can rip it out and start over without a backwards glance.
  • The sweater grows organically, with shaping integrated into the knitting through the use of increases, decreases, and short rows.
  • You don't have to guess about body or sleeve length, but can make the sweater as long as you like. You can adjust sleeve or body length to available yarn.
  • You can easily lengthen or shorten the sweater, an especially handy feature if you are knitting for children.
  • You can easily replace cuffs and ribbing, the parts of the sweater that get the most wear.
  • You don't have to sew any seams. Most edges are eliminated and the rest can be picked up from existing knitting.
I've presented options for working top-down: raglan, round-yoke, or shoulder-down. I then complicated matters by presenting the most complicated kind of raglan, the poncho sweater, as an unspecified fourth option.

All top-down sweaters, however, start from the back neck and shoulders and work down the yoke to the underarm. At the underarm, the sleeve stitches are divided from the body stitches, and extra stitches are cast on to form an underarm gusset shared by sleeves and body. These extra stitches are incorporated as the body is knit down and later picked up and knit as part of the sleeves.

The body is knit down from the underarm to the bottom edge. The sleeves are also knit top down to the wrists, decreasing as you go.

About a third of the knitting (and about a third of the yarn) is in the yoke of a long-sleeved pullover, about a third in the body, and about a third in the sleeves.

The yoke of the sweater is responsible for 90% of the way the sweater fits. Almost all of the complicated knitting and shaping is in the yoke. If you can get the yoke to fit well, you can do almost anything with the body and sleeves and the sweater will still fit the wearer.

Top-Down Design Tutorial 7: Figuring the Poncho Sweater Yoke

Stop the presses!

Remember how, a few posts ago, I said that all the sweaters I knit fall into three basic yoke designs: shoulder-down, round yoke, or raglan?

I lied. Sort of.

I also knit a lot of poncho sweaters, which started life as raglans rotated 90 degrees:

See the cool chevrons and the pointed hem? What's not to love about that? It's a fun, flattering design for most women.

I progressed to filling in the back neck with short rows to avoid a V that matches the front and save the wearer from shivery feelings down the back.

I knit so many of them that I wrote a program to do the math for me (and for other people who saw them and wanted to knit them as well).

Eventually adding details like running a cable down the front as an accent:

The Moths-in-the-Twilit-Forest Yarn originally beckoned me because it wanted to be the next version of Azteca. It promised to be the yarn that would prompt me to write Azteca up in various sizes and actually publish a pattern for it. So I bought it, and had some recycled cotton yarn in mind for the other stripes.

The yarn was pulling the old bait-and-switch, however. When I got it home and wound, it insisted that it really ought to be a poncho sweater. The recycled cotton would work great for the ribbing, and (here it dropped its voice to a seductive whisper) I could try running a cable down the front in a contrasting color. Meanwhile, I could refine my poncho sweater program and perhaps port it from perl to Python.

Okay, deal.

Here you can see the short rows filling the back neck:

And this shows the neckline and start of the cable:

Well, I'm having fun, so I must be doing it right!

The basic poncho sweater, which is merely a raglan rotated 90 degrees, is fairly simple to figure. The only tricky part is that the fabric mostly hangs on the bias, so you need to figure out the diagonal gauge of the fabric as well as its stitch and row gauges. You get the v-neck for free with the center front increases, but you have to figure your neck cast-on as the hypotenuse of a triangle with the back neck as one side of the triangle and the neck depth as the other side. (Moreover, as I was trying to explain that bit, I realize that I got it wrong in the program and will need to refine it. Ah. Knitting design and programming, strange are the offspring thereof.)

The math therefore starts out just a little tricky, but quickly gets more complicated. Adding the back neck short rows makes it a bit more difficult to figure. Moving the sleeve increases so that you get normal raglan sleeve shaping yields a better fit, but complicates the shaping a little. And my latest idea for a modification, not starting the arm and back increases until after the neck ribbing, complicates it still further.

But on we go.

The first thing to do is to knit an unusual gauge swatch.

The gauge swatch for a poncho sweater needs to have the same bias as the fabric. So cast on 40 stitches, place a marker in the middle, and knit so:

Odd rows: K1, k2 tog, k16, left make one, k2, right make one, k16, ssk, k1
Even rows: Purl.

This gauge swatch needs to be on the large side, about 8 inches long. Row gauge is measured along the center line, nice and simple. Diagonal gauge is measured straight across the piece, 40 stitches divided by whatever measurement you get across the piece. Stitch gauge is measured along a single half row from the edge of the piece to the center line.

For Moths-in-the-Twilit-Forest, I got a row gauge of 5.33 rows per inch, a stitch gauge of 4.5 stitches per inch, and a diagonal gauge of 5 stitches per inch.

The body of the sweater hangs on the bias and uses the diagonal gauge for all horizontal measurements. The sleeves hang straight and use the stitch gauge for all horizontal measurements. The row gauge is the same in both cases, and is used for all vertical measurements.

From the top, now.

The back neck is 5 inches, just like the standard measurement charts. Add an inch and a half for each sleeve. Figure the diagonal line across the front neck using the Pythagorean formula: (c2 = a2 + b2), where c is the diagonal line you will cast on, a is half the back neck, and b is the desired neck depth.

With a poncho sweater, you cast on a lot of neck stitches because you get the neck depth for free as part of the center increases. Way cool.

As soon as you start the sweater, you start the center front increases. Put a marker between the two center stitches, as you did with the gauge swatch, or run a panel up the center and increase on either side of it. (The panel also changes the math for the hypotenuse, naturally.)

Work the neck ribbing, on smaller needles naturally, including the center front raglan increases.

As soon as you finish the neck ribbing, you work the short rows to fill in the back neck. You need to fill the depth of the front neck, so you work as many rows as it takes to get that number of inches, working center back raglan increases as you go. When you finish the center back raglan increases, you should have the same number of stitches in the back as you have in the front. Since you haven't started the sleeve increases, yet, you have a little fudge room here.
If you have a stripe pattern for this sweater (and poncho sweaters almost demand one), you need to figure the short rows so the striping will come out right.

Okay, once the short rows are finished, you can start the real work of the sweater. Front and back raglan increases (at the center) have to happen every other row to keep the chevron line going. You're going to have a fixed number of these increases to the underarm. The sleeve raglan increases, however, can be adjusted. So you figure out how many stitches you need to make the fronts and backs come out right (remembering the underarm cast-ons). The rest of the stitches go into the sleeves.

You had a lot of extra stitches in the cast on to account for the neck, so the initial quantity of sleeve stitches is much larger than normal. You will thus need to do a lot fewer sleeve increases than normal. Figure out how many this is and space them evenly over the the yoke, again remembering to account for the underarm cast-on.

So you knit downwards to the point where you divide the arms from the body (cackle! I love that part! Feels so witchy!). Do the underarm cast-on as normal, and put markers on the sides. For the rest of the body, you will do decreases on either side of these lines to make up for the center increases that you're doing. This will keep the garment sweater-shaped rather than poncho-shaped.

For a diamond-edged poncho sweater, you continue straight downwards, doing double increases at the front and back centers and double decreases at the sides every other round. Bust short rows and general body shaping don't work so well with this design, so I suggest omitting them.

If you don't want a diamond-edged hem, you can fill in the sides using increasing short rows.

If you want to knit a poncho sweater, you don't have to do the math yourself.
Send me an email
and I'll have my program do the math for you.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Speak No Evil

An odd thing happened the other night.

I finished Azteca and went rummaging through my stash for a sweater's worth of cotton yarn.

I couldn't find any. There were bits of cotton yarn left over from various projects, but not enough to actually make anything interesting. For that matter, there were only 4 sweaters' worth of wool yarn in my stash, plus enough sock yarn for 5 pairs of socks or so.

My yarn diet has been successful. Too successful, in fact.

I got the shakes. I went into yarn withdrawal. I sweated at the thought of having to spend a whole evening without knitting.

When the going gets tough, though...

...the tough go shopping!

I picked up some Plymouth Kudo (55% cotton, 40% rayon, 5% silk).

When I got it home, my daughter said “It's lovely -- like a dark forest night all full of moths.”

“What did you say?” I demanded before I saw the evil twinkle in her eye.

I'm swatching for a poncho sweater, with some other dribs and drabs of leftover yarn that coordinate nicely.

Nothing left to do but knit knit knit.

And thank my lucky stars that I have so little stash that the m-word can't worry me.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Azteca: the Finish Line

When we last saw Azteca, the body was mostly done, it had no sleeves, and none of the finishing work was done.

Azteca was designed to use up dribs and drabs of Amazon cotton. As I finished the body, I was running out of green and blue yarn, so I decided to complete the sleeves and then decide how to finish the sleeves, body, and neck.

I'd wanted 3/4 length sleeves, but You Can't Always Get What You Want. There wasn't enough yarn for 3/4 length sleeves in pattern. I contemplated doing the sleeves in simple stripes of purple and variegated yarn, and decided to go for short sleeves instead.

The longer I knit, the more I think about finishing, and the more time I spend actually doing it. With the right finishing, a sweater looks beautiful, perfecto, impressive. Without it, it's just a fancy stitch pattern made into a garment.

I wanted an edge finish that flowed from the lovely syncopated stripes of Azteca but ended crisply. I wanted something that flattered my curves and sat easily on my body.

As I got to the end of the sleeves, however, I was fretting. Stockinette tends to curl up, and, occasionally, it stubbornly flips up the border pattern. The long slip stitches in Syncopated Tweed worsened the curling and would need a strong edge to tame them.

To counteract the curling on the sleeves, I knit 4 rows of 1x1 ribbing, added a picot row, and then worked 8 more rows of ribbing on the underside. The extra length on the underside should help to tame the edge, and the picots would give a nice crisp finish to the sleeves.

The body required more care. I wanted a longer border, because the extra width in the body would give the curling slip-stitch pattern more prancing room. I also wanted the body border to accommodate some short rows, because I think a shirttail edge is more flattering on a woman than a straight edge.

There's no rule that says that the sleeves and body need to have the same kind of trim, but it's nice when there's harmony between them.

I was also running out of purple yarn, so the variegated yarn was the only possible choice for finishing the body. Besides, with a longer border, the variegated yarn would make a softer transition.

So, 1x1 rib again, with 6 short rows to add a gentle curve, and the same picot border as before.

There remained a little crocheting around the neck (a row of single crochet and a row of crab stitch, a nice match for a picot edge) and, voila!



Finis, finis, finis.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Top-Down Design Tutorial 6: Figuring the Round Yoke

Let's walk through the design of the top-down Azteca sweater, a round-yoked scoop-neck sweater knitted of bits of different colors of Amazon cotton in the Syncopated Tweed pattern.

Here's the actual pattern I used to knit the sweater:

It really doesn't have to be any more complicated than that. I ordinarily put this stuff on the computer, but mine was broken when I designed this sweater, so I did the work longhand.

The first thing I wrote, on the upper right hand corner of the page, is the gauge of Syncopated Tweed on the size 4 needles I'm using: 5.12 stitches and 8 rows per inch.

I ordinarily make a little sketch of the sweater with all of the dimensions I'll be using written in. Sometimes (as in this case), I simply use a pre-made standard size sketch as a reference. Many knitting reference books contain standard size sketches for both raglans and set-in sleeve designs. For a round-yoke sweater, I use raglan dimensions.

You can also find standard sizing information online.

At the top center of the page, there's a little sketch of the back of the neck and the shoulders. The back neck of this sweater is 5" and each shoulder is 1.5". I therefore need to cast on 8" or 40 stitches.

My raglan line (the length between the neck and underarm) was 9 inches or 72 rows. I thus have 72 rows across which to space the yoke increases. In a round yoke sweater, the increases are bunched in a few groups rather than every other row as in a raglan. In this particular stitch pattern, the increases need to happen on plain rows. I decided to work my increases in 6 groups, every 12 rows, starting with row 9 of the pattern.

How many stitches do I need? I'll need 184 stitches for the body at the underarm plus 72 stitches for each arm. I'll need to subtract the underarm cast-ons from the sleeves and the body. (Here I notice a mistake; I only subtracted one underarm cast-on, or 6 stitches, from the body, instead of both underarm cast-ons or 12 stitches. This makes the sweater an inch wider at the body. Oh well. It worked anyway.)

I charted my neck increases on knitter's graph paper to get a nice smooth curve, so I'll just note here that I have 30 stitches total for the neck increases.

I've chosen 6 stitches for the underarm cast-on. I usually cast on between one and two inches of stitches at the underarm, fewer for small children and more for deep-chested people. The underarm cast-on should be about half of the underarm depth; more and the cast-on line shows around the edges of the arm, less and the wearer has restricted movement at the underarm.

Let me pretend I needed 192 stitches for the body so I can do the math right.

(192 stitches for the body - 12 stitches for underarm cast ons) + (72 stitches for each arm - 6 underarm cast ons) * 2 for two arms = 310 stitches

310 stitches - (40 stitches we cast on + 30 stitches for neck increases) = 240 stitches to be increased

240 stitches to be increased / 6 increase rows = 40 stitches to be increased per increase row

I then note that those increases are to happen on row 9 of my 12-row pattern. Since the neck shaping complicated matters a bit, I decided to count stitches right before each increase row and figure out the increase pattern for Azteca.

In general, for a round-yoke sweater, this is my formula for figuring out the increase pattern:

(number of stitches present / number of stitches to increase) = magic number

The magic number is usually something messy like 1.34. I take the decimal part of that number and find a pretty close fraction, in this case 1/3. 1/3 of the time, we'll add an extra stitch before increasing and the other 2/3 of the time, we'll knit the whole part of the magic number of stitches before increasing. In this case, our increase row would be:

* (k1, make 1) 2x, (k2, make 1) *

When you don't have neck increases changing your numbers on you, the increase rows keep the same pattern, simply increasing the number of stitches you knit before increasing. So subsequent increase rows would be:

* (k2, make 1) 2x, (k3, make 1) *
* (k3, make 1) 2x, (k4, make 1) *
* (k4, make 1) 2x, (k5, make 1) *
* (k5, make 1) 2x, (k6, make 1) *
* (k6, make 1) 2x, (k7, make 1) *

There's no rule that says all of the increase rows need to be the same. If the numbers come out ugly, you can move things around to make your life easier. You can do more or fewer increases in some increase rows if that works better. The knitting police won't come after you, I promise.

I've decided not to use short row bust darts in this sweater because of the slip-stitch color pattern with the long slip stitches. I am doing waist shaping, decreasing 30 stitches over 6". I'll be doing those decreases on row 1 of my stitch pattern, which is always purple.

I don't yet know what I'm going to do after the waist, nor what I'm going to do with the arms. I'm not sure how much yarn I have, exactly, and I want to see how the stitch pattern behaves towards the edges. One of the nice parts of top-down design is that we can delay these decisions until later in the process, when we have a better idea how the sweater will turn out and how much yarn we have.

Getting Azteca started.

Neck increases on the Azteca yoke right before the cast-on that closes the neck.

Azteca body knit to just above the waist, being tried on for fit.

Top-Down Design Tutorial 5: Necklines

When I wrote the post on choosing the basic garment plan, I omitted drop-shoulder sweaters. Drop-shoulder sweaters are essentially constructed of rectangles with no shaping. They fit horribly and I never knit them. They're easy to design, however, so you see a lot of them in knitting patterns and knitting magazines.

I'm going to similarly omit a neckline that I never use: the boat neck. It's essentially a horizontal slit at the shoulders big enough to admit the head. It doesn't fit well, shows bra straps, and slides around on the shoulders. It is the easiest of necklines to design, and so many beginner knitting patterns include it.

My advice: don't waste your time on drop-shoulder sweaters and boat necks. If you're going to put all those hours of your life into a sweater, make it a sweater that will fit and flatter the wearer.

For necklines, you have three basic choices: round, square, or triangular.

A square neckline is usually a poor choice for knits. Knit garments tend to stretch, and a square neck tends to bag and sag. Knit fabric does not have the crispness of woven fabric that makes a square neck a fine choice for many garments. You can sometimes get away with a square neckline in a lightweight, stiff, nonresilient (or very springy) yarn knit at a firm tension and edged with a slip-stitch, twisted stitch, or crocheted edging. Conversely, you can use a square neck in a very drapy fabric that makes the sagging and bagging a feature. In most cases, however, a square neckline in a handknit garment is a disappointment.

A round neckline is a much better utility player. Here the characteristics of knit fabric work harmoniously with the shape of the neckline. The stretchiness and forgivingness of knitting smooths over any irregularities in the round edge. Round necklines can be wide, narrow, high, or low. A high, narrow round neckline is the classic crew neck. A high, wide neckline is a portrait neckline. A low round neckline, whether wide or narrow, is a scoop neckline. All of these necklines work great for knit garments.

The triangular neckline also works well for knit garments. These appear as short sharp triangles in the classic V-neck sweater or as the long, graceful shawl collar in a garment that opens in the front.

When planning a neckline, you can either copy a neckline from a garment or pattern that you like or you can wing it from your measurements. Both methods work well.

For many years, my neckline placement was often surprising. I copied and measured, and the necklines were often inches shorter than I expected them to be. The fronts of my sweaters rode up.

What I didn't realize was that sweaters hung from the backs of my shoulders, not the middle of my shoulders. The front of the sweater thus started close to the back of my neck, rotating the neck of the sweater back and up.

To find your own hanger point, hang a towel over your shoulders. and feel for the line where the towel hangs. Measure your necklines from that line, and the depth will be close to right.

Another thing to think of when planning necklines is the width of the neckline trim. The neckline of the initial garment needs to be deeper and wider than the neckline of the finished garment in order to allow for the neckline trim.

If you're copying a neckline from an existing garment, measure the width of the neckline at the shoulders, the depth of the neckline, and the width of the neckline at the deepest point. Choose the shape of your neckline, and proceed as if designing the neckline from scratch.

If you're designing the neckline from scratch, choose the neckline width at the shoulders, the depth of the neckline, and the width of the neckline at the deepest point. Settle on a neckline shape, and you're good to go. You can use a string or ribbon around the neck to try various neckline shapes before taking your measurements.

In top-down sweaters, the neckline is shaped with increases at the left and right edges of the neckline. The total number of increases is equal to the stitch gauge of the knitted fabric times the width of the neckline at the shoulders. The depth of the neckline times the row gauge gives you the number of rows to space these increases across.

For a triangular neckline, the increases are spaced equally across the rows. Don't worry if the math on this (or any other aspect of knitting) doesn't come out even; just use the nearest whole numbers that make sense.

For a round neckline, the increases occur more frequently as you go down. For about a quarter of the depth, you don't increase at all. For the second quarter of the depth, you increase every fourth row. For the third quarter, you step it up to every other row, and then step it up again to every row for the last quarter. The final group of stitches are then cast on at the bottom of the neck. You'll need to adjust these sections so the number of stitches come out right, but what you're looking for is a progression in increases from the shoulder to the deepest part of the neck.

Faking it is a major part of sweater design. Get the numbers somewhere in the neighborhood of where you want to be and then juggle things so they work with the stitch pattern and the stitch and row gauge.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Top-Down Design Tutorial 4: Choosing the Basic Garment Plan

I can knit any sweater from the top-down by using one of three basic garment plans: raglan, circular yoke, or shoulder-down.

The Peach Vine Pullover, a shoulder-down design

With a raglan or round-yoke sweater, you cast on the neck and knit the body and sleeves in a continuous circle (or back and forth if you're knitting a cardigan), increasing as you go. In a raglan, the increases are placed at the points where the body divides from the sleeves. In a round-yoked sweater, the increases are evenly spaced around the yoke.

For a shoulder-down sweater, you cast on the back, knit a couple of inches, pick up the front shoulders, knit the front down a couple of inches, pick up along the edges for the sleeves, and then knit the body and sleeves in much the same way that you would for a raglan.

Dragon Princess Shell, a shoulder-down design

In general, a raglan or round-yoked sweater will have a less fitted, more casual appearance than a shoulder-down sweater. A shoulder-down sweater hangs from the shoulders in a straight vertical line while a raglan or round-yoked sweater radiates out from the neck.

Hunter Rib Sweatshirt, a raglan

Raglan and round-necked sweaters are easier to design and knit than shoulder-down sweaters. A raglan has strong diagonal increase lines from shoulder to underarm. These lines can be a design point in a stitch pattern with a strong vertical element. You can put cables inside the raglan lines to emphasize this diagonal line. In other stitch patterns, the raglan lines create an unwelcome discontinuity.

Spanish Tile Cable Sweater, a raglan

Raglans are an especially good choice with ribbing and other stitch patterns that tend to stretch horizontally more than vertically. With stitch patterns that tend to stretch vertically, the shoulders and neckline will tend to stretch out of shape with a raglan.
Raglans are a good choice with wool and firmly knit cotton yarns, but might not be such a good choice with linen or silk blends or other yarns that tend to stretch out of shape.
The pony sweater, knit as a raglan

And with a round-yoke

Round yokes are used mostly when the pattern has a strong horizontal element that you want to continue uniformly around the yoke and you have the occasional plain round where you can stick a bunch of increases. Between the 3-5 increase rounds, you work the pattern uninterrupted. Round yokes are often used with color work, but can also be used to good effect in brocade, lace, or other pattern stitches.

The round yoke of Malcolm's Cat Sweater

A shoulder-down design works well with vertical patterns that you want to continue straight up to the shoulder and with designs where the sleeves have a different pattern than the body. If you want to knit a sleeveless garment such as a vest, shell, or tank top, you'll need to use the shoulder-down approach.

A shoulder-down tank top

A shoulder-down design has better stability in the shoulders, neckline, and sleeve caps. This makes it a good choice for nonresilient yarns, particularly those knit at a loose gauge. Shoulder-down designs are by far the trickiest top-down design to plan and knit, but they also yield the best fit.

When I first started knitting top-down, I knit everything as a raglan. Most sweaters work fine as raglans, and I knit them exclusively for almost 20 years. The first shoulder-down sweater I knit was a tank top, followed by a few saddle-shouldered sweaters with shoulder straps. Over time, I came to prefer the fit of shoulder-down sweaters and now knit more of them than anything else.

A plaid pattern, knit shoulder-down

I didn't learn about round-yoked sweaters until fairly late in the game. Traditionally, they're used in Icelandic sweaters, and I didn't do much color work. Now I use the round-yoked design any time I have a strong horizontal element in the yoke that I want to work continuously. They're somewhat more work to plan than a raglan, great fun to knit, and the resulting color work is usually quite popular.

The plaid design used in the previous sweater, modified to work with a round yoke

Monday, August 3, 2009

Top-Down Design Tutorial 3: Designing from the Yarn

Sometimes the yarn dictates the design for the sweater.

I have remnants of four colors of Amazon DK cotton: a variegated green/purple/blue, purple, a vibrant blue, and a light green. I don't have enough of any one of them to make a sweater, but I have enough of all four colors to make something smashing.

Slip-stitch color patterns (often called tweed patterns) are often an attractive way to combine different colors of yarn. Tweed patterns are also a good choice for cotton; the slip stitches make a firmer, less stretchy fabric than other kinds of stitch patterns, and so the tweed patterns help the finished garment hold its shape.

I first weighed my yarn to discover that I have 137 grams of the variegated yarn, 132 of the purple, 51 grams of the green, and 53 of the blue. I then weighed my needles so I could weigh my swatch as I went to determine the amount of yarn I'd need for a particular yardage in a particular stitch pattern.

I started swatching:

Left to right: Progressive Tweed, Syncopated Tweed, Three-Color Basket Tweed, Surprise Pattern.

The Progressive Tweed is a 4-color slip-stitch pattern. It uses even amounts of each of the four yarns. I thought I might be able to use it for part of the garment and make the rest in a two-color or one-color stitch pattern.

Progressive Tweed (14 grams)
32 stitches (5.675 inches) x 50 rows (5.5 inches)

My yardage calculations indicated that I have enough of the four colors to knit either the back or the front of a sweater, or perhaps to put some short sleeves on a sweater knit in another stitch pattern.

I decided that what I needed to do was to focus on 3-color tweed patterns, alternating the blue and green yarns for color C. First up was Syncopated Tweed:

Syncopated Tweed (6 grams)
32 stitches (6.25 inches) x 24 rows (3 inches)

Syncopated Tweed has a nice diagonal motion that I like. It also yields 20-25% more yardage than Progressive Tweed for the same amount of yarn. The variegated yarn also played well in this pattern.

Next up was Three-Color Basket Tweed, a pattern that intrigued me because of the long slip-stitches:

Three-Color Basket Tweed (6 grams)
33 stitches (6.5 inches) x 18 rows (1.675 inches)

I like this pattern, but it uses twice as much of color A as it does of colors B and C. The calculations and juggling required to make this work with these yarns seems like more trouble than it is worth. This stitch pattern also eats yarn, something I can't afford on this particular project.

On to Surprise Pattern:

Surprise Pattern (8 grams)
33 stitches (6.5 inches) x 24 rows (3.375 inches)

Just no.

At this point, even though I had several other candidates ripe for swatching (and a few that had been discarded after reading them carefully and realizing that they wouldn't work with the yarn), I decided that Syncopated Tweed had won the swatching contest and was The Stitch Pattern for this project.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I Dream of Jeanie with the Silver Stole

My Jeanie: Jaggerspun sport-weight Zephyr wool-silk yarn in a very light gray with a a metallic silver carry.

Here she is in all her glory:

The stole was designed for a thinner yarn than I chose, so I dropped the two side cables and used 4 intertwining cables for the mid-section instead of 6, for a stole of about the same width as the original design. I knit the length according to instructions. My Jeanie blocked to 20.5" x 82" (not counting fringe), about perfect for width and a good foot longer than specified by the design.

Jeanie was fun to knit, with the interesting exchange cables and the drop stitches and the edge stitches knit through the back loop. The pattern took longer to learn than usual, however. It just took time to figure out what the chart was trying to do.

One of the fun things about the design is dropping the stitches, both in the midst of knitting and at the very end. Here's the stole with the big ladders undropped:

And then dropped:

And another blocking picture:

The other thing I changed was to carry the exchange cables down into a fringe instead of finishing with a plain cable knit sideways. I like the way this worked with the overall design, and I also like the way it looks when the stole is worn.

Top-Down Hanover

This is my top-down adaptation of Jean Frost's Hanover sweater from her Jackets book.

I re-drafted the sweater so it was top-down and suited the Peace Fleece I wanted to use. I added bust darts and waist shaping to suit my figure.

I also re-drafted the leaf motif for the waist and sleeves. Unfortunately, the top-down version really didn't yield the same result, so I ripped out the bottom of the body and sleeves and re-knit them bottom-up.

Grafting the leaf motif-bottom onto the top-down top in shadow rib was a bit hair-raising, but I managed to do it without mishap.

When I first look at something I've grafted, I can always see the line, but I eventually forget that it's there and never notice it when I'm washing or wearing the sweater.

I finished my Hanover the first week of May and have been squabbling with 16-year-old Matisse over who gets to wear it when, but I haven't gotten around to putting the zipper in yet.

It'll be so awesome with a zipper.