Sunday, April 3, 2011

knit pleats that work

I tried to put pleats into Matisse's 1940s Peplum Sweater, but the results ended up being more ruffled than pleated:

I got the basic shape of the pleat right, but the inner fold didn't work as I had anticipated. It's a handsome sweater, with princess shaping and the flouncy peplum, but the end result is softer and not as tailored as I had hoped.

I knew I would have to pleat again. I read up on pleats in both woven fabric and in knits, and I felt confident that I could design knitted pleats that worked like box pleats in woven fabric.

I was working on a sweater in the oh-so-delicious undyed organic Inca Cotton to replace the two Inca Cotton sweaters that flitted out of my life.

The first Inca Cotton sweater, in Quaker rib with a zipper, stopped fitting when I lost weight, so I gave it away. The second one, in Hunter rib with a better zipper, was stolen one morning when I was dancing. I've been expecting to see that sweater about town, and looked forward to confronting the wearer with the fact that I created that sweater and it was cruelly stolen from me.

Oh well.

I considered letting the whole idea of Inca Cotton go, but it's the softest, cushiest, comfiest cotton I have ever worn. It's just the thing to brighten a gray day, warm a cold, or soften the edges of a harsh comment from a relative.

This new one is in Cartridge Belt rib with buttons, and I wanted something a little more formal than the previous zippered sweatshirts. Something with a little panache. Something that would whisper “I'm a luscious crème caramel and I'm worth every bite.”

As I was finishing the bodice and getting ready to make the first buttonhole, the slipped-stitch ribs in the Cartridge Belt pattern suggested pleats to me. This jacket, they seemed to say, would look ever-so-much-more appropriate out on the town or at a business event if it had a peplum with pleats.

And, the ribs went on, the ribs supposed they could be the focii of princess shaping to set up a curvy, 1940s-style silhouette that would go great with a pleated peplum.

A vertical line of slipped stitches bends inward along the slipped yarn. Cartridge belt rib uses this effect to create a softly fluted fabric with slipped ribs. I would extend this effect to make three box pleats. The outer edges of pleats would be formed by the ribs on the right side of the fabric and the inner fold line of the pleats would be formed by ribs on the right side of the fabric. The ground of the pleats would be garter stitch, in keeping with the basic pattern of Cartridge Belt rib.

The line in the photo above shows a pleat that has been opened. The inner fold line is faintly visible just to the left of the black line in the photo. The two outer fold lines are clearly visible as stockinette ribs.

The pleat is fan-shaped through the use of increases.

The pleat starts on 1 knit stitch (a slipped rib stitch in this pattern). All slipped stitches are slipped with the yarn in front. I used a knit-front-and-back for the increase, but a make 1 or knit-below would work just as well.

Here's the basic pleat formula I used:

Row 1 (right side): k1, yo, k1 in the one knit stitch
Row 2: sl 1, k1, sl 1
Row 3: k1, (k1, yo, k1) in next stitch, k1
Row 4: sl 1, k3, sl 1
Row 5: k1, (k1, yo, k1) in each of next 3 stitches, k1
Row 6 and all even rows from here on: sl 1, knit to last stitch, sl 1
Row 7: k2, place marker, sl 1, k5, sl 1, place marker, k2
Row 9, 17, 25, 33, 41, 49: k to marker, sl 1, knit in front and back of next stitch (kfb), knit to two stitches in front of next marker, kfb, sl 1, knit to last stitch, sl 1
Row 11, 15, 19, 23, 27, 31, 35, 39, 43, 47, 51: k to marker, sl 1, k to 1 stitch before marker, sl 1, k to end
Row 13, 21, 29, 37, 45: k1, kfb, k to marker, sl 1, kfb, k to 2 stitches in front of next marker, kfb, sl 1, k to 2 stitches before end, kfb, k1

Work 50 rows.

These pleats will also work for stockinette by purling all the wrong side worked stitches except for the stitches on the inside of the markers, which should be knitted.