Thursday, June 08, 2006

Thursday Knits

More Sweaters for Knit for Kids

There are three sweaters there -- a black one didn't get in the picture, but it's of the standard K4K pattern. You may wonder about the patterned raglan. I got sick of knitting the other pattern.

I should admit that while I myself purchased the lilac yarn, I was given the dark purple yarn by a well-intentioned soul. I'm sure they said that about the person who planted kudzu in the South, too. Like kudzu, I can't seem to get rid of the dark purple yarn. I keep thinking I've finally knitted up the last of it and another ball appears, rolling out of a plastic bag, or working its way up to the top of a basket of oddballs. There it is. Purpling at me. I found one on the stairs yesterday, and if yarn can leer, it was!

Don't get me wrong; I like purple. I hope to be a red hat lady someday. I wear purple now anyway. But I think it is the curse of handknitters and crocheters everywhere to be worried about making something "tacky"; that others think everything they make is either purple, magenta, or of the pink poodle toilet paper cover ilk. I guess I've developed a hypersensitive fear of inadvertently falling headfirst into full tackydom with my knitting, and so purple just sets off alarms.

Anyway, the raglan sweater is top-down, which, to me is the best of all possible methods for making sweaters: a) I use the majority of my creative energy where I have the most stitches (at the yoke), b) once the yoke is done, everything else goes amazingly quickly, as there are now comparatively few stitches, and c) if it's not long enough, I can just unravel the cuffs/ribbing and knit as many more inches downward as required.

There are a few tips I use so that making a top-down raglan sweater doesn't require a formal pattern.

Tip 1: How big is your head? If a hat has to go over your head, so does your sweater. Therefore, the neck opening should be about the same size/number of stitches as a hat would be. If you have a standard or favorite yarn and favorite needles, and you know your gauge, all you need is a quick reference to the head size of your recipient. Now you know how many stitches to cast on!

Tip 2: The Math. Divide that number of stitches into thirds. One third for the front stitches, one third for the back stitches, and the other third is divided in half, resulting in one-sixth of the total stitches for the top of each sleeve. It will seem impossibly small. Don't worry, the very nature of raglan sleeves overcomes that. Now add 4 more stitches, which will be your raglan increase line stitches.

Tip 3: The Spiffulous Neck. Generally speaking, the sweater will fit better if the back neck is higher than the front. There are a number of different approaches, and for a comprehensive treatment of these, I recommend Barbara Walker's Knitting From The Top Down. Or you could be a lazy bum like me and work as follows - after putting your markers in place (we love markers here at Chez Myopia, they make it easy to remember what the hell we're doing) begin across the back. Knit past your marker by four stitches. Turn the work, slip the first stitch and purl across, picking up four stitches on the other side. Repeat until you are knitting all but a quarter of the total stitches, which should be located precisely in the center of the front. Now you will knit all the way around.

Tip 4: Raglan. Most raglan increases occur every other row. Same here. If you want something fancier, buy a damn pattern and get out of my hair. Continue until the raglan is sufficiently deep (nothing worse that underarm pinch). The yoke, including increases, should continue at least 2 inches below the pit. IN GENERAL, this works out just fine and dandy, and makes for a roomy sweater that will quickly become a recipient's favorite weekender. If you happen to give it to someone who thinks all sweaters should proudly fit tightly against their torpedo boob bras, give them a toaster instead. Knitting should reduce stress, not create it!!!

Tip 5: The Pits. Your yoke is done. Slide ALL sleeve stitches onto a spare, longish piece of yarn, cast on 1/10 of your original total of stitches for underarm ease on each side, knit circularly down to the bottom edge ribbing. Reduce stitch count by 10% unless you are knitting for a fluffy person, and finish your sweater.

Tip 6: Armbo-s, Elbows, and Wristies. There are a bunch of ways to shape the arms as you merrily knit your way down them. They are usually as long as the body, some add another couple of inches for flexing arms, whatever. You're a big girl now, you decide. If you need help deciding, buy Jacqueline Fee's The Sweater Workshop and vastly improve your life forever. I have found that my favorite sleeve stays much the same size to about 4 inches before I end it. Then I start decreasing 1/10 of the sleeve stitches every 4th or 6th row. Final sleeve stitch count should allow for a good 2 inches of stretch over the wrist size so that people can push their sleeves up easily. Unless they really stress out and should get a toaster instead. Most of the time you can eyeball this. Sleeves require an extra inch of ribbing in my opinion, just because some people will want to fold the ribbing up, some will put extra wear on it, or maybe you just want to use up the last (hopefully) of the damned purple yarn that's been haunting you.

Note for newbies: Get a pattern. Really. Until you are experienced enough to intuitively make a sweater of the approximate right size and proportions you will either drive yourself nuts or me, by asking questions and doubting yourself.

Knit on!


boobookittyfug said...

Once again, I thank you. But maybe I won't try to do a class on it 8-). Do you have any idea how long it has been since I wanted to wear a sweater, much less knit one for myself? I sit and drip in front of fans. But winter will come, and maybe I will do the right thing. I have at least 30 colors of 2/8 wool that want to be a steeked fairisle really badly.

Carol M

BoS said...

Oooh, thanks for leaving a comment! Hope it was helpful. I know what you mean about making a sweater for myself -- this whole menopause thing makes winterwear mostly unnecessary except for the decorative aspect.