Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Magenta Snuggy and the Knit Contour

I've been wanting to get this sweater posted for some time now! It was sort of an impulse knit. Back in February, I bought a bunch of coned yarns from a delightful lady in town who responded to an ad I placed on (sort of like Craig's List). The white shrug I made was from her stash, and so is this sweater (I'm pretty sure). It felt like cotton, and once I washed the swatch, I noticed it had a shiny strand plied with it. Once washed, it bloomed and became very soft.My standard gauge knitting machine (Singer 327) is equipped with a built in "knit contour". Although I had read a bit about it, it still baffled me some. I decided since I learned how to use the ribber, I should learn how to use the knit contour, and to do so, I'd use a nice, but simple yarn, to make a nice, but simple sweater.

The knit contour uses paper patterns that show only the right half of the item--the needles to the right of 0. The patterns are 1/2 scale in both width and length (so, if the front of a sweater is going to be 20" across, the right half would be 10", and done in 1/2 scale, the pattern is only 5" wide). You start with a large swatch, wash it, and determine your tension setting and gauge. It's important to wash or steam it just as you would launder it. When making the swatch, you start with about 20 rows, knit two rows in contrast yarn, then 60 rows of the main yarn, 2 rows of contrast, and finish off with about 20 rows again. Half-way up the 60 rows, you mark st #21 on the left and the right of 0, so you have a span of 40sts between the marked sts.

You could also just knit a large swatch and using a standard ruler, count the sts and figure out for yourself how many are in 4". But we machiners have a secret tool. The "green ruler".I know that's not a great picture. This is the side used for measuring rows (you can tell by the "R"). You place the bottom of the ruler on the bottom of the first row of main colour after doing the 2 contrast rows. Where the next set of contrast rows meets the ruler, you read the number that's on the ruler. And it tells you--without any math--how many rows are in 4", even though all you did was knit 60 rows! The other side of the ruler is used for stitches, and you place it along the row of the two marked sts, and it tells you, based on the 40sts, how many sts are in 4". Cool! For this sweater, I got 26st and I forget how many rows, LOL.
Next thing you do is insert your pattern into the roller of the knit contour (this is on the left end of my knitting machine), line it up nice and square. Then you find a ruler marked "26" (or whatever your gauge is; they range from about 22st/4" to something like 40 or more) and place it in the ruler holder. The left edge of the ruler shows 0, and the numbers go up to the right (in single digits, even though they are multiplied by 10, for some reason). There are multiple sizes on the pattern, and where your size crosses the ruler, that's how many sts to cast on. In this picture, you can sort of make out that the largest size needs 38sts (the largest size is for a 40" chest which created a 41" sweater, slightly small for my front half, but too big for my back).
There is also a dial which you set for your row gauge. In front of it is a lever that the carriage trips everytime it goes by, and this moves the pattern up automatically, the correct amount for the gauge you set. The sleeve is angled, but you increase a stitch on both edges (you mirror the left side of the pattern) each time the line for your size crosses the ruler at the next whole number (because you can't have 1/2 a stitch). No more reading confusing wording like "dec 1st each side every 4th row 6 times, then every 6th row 4 times" etc. When the line meets the ruler, you should have that many sts. While doing the sleeve, I noticed that the increase happened every 9 rows. If I had set the row gauge dial differently, then that interval of increases would change too. For the sleeve cap shaping, there will be a horizontal/slight angled line. You cast off that many, and then every row take a look and see where the line is to know if you need to dec 1 or 2 or 3 sts. If I had a different stitch gauge ruler in, these numbers would be different too. This means that the one paper pattern can be used with ANY yarn suitable for that machine, ANY stitch pattern, ANY gauge that there's a ruler for.
For example, if I chose a thinner yarn, and get 40st to 4", I'd put in the 40 ruler, and the 20" piece of knitting would need 200 needles (or, the whole needlebed!). I'd use the same pattern, and it'd fit exactly the same, but the gauge is different. Wow!

So, back to the sweater. The paper pattern was for a crew neck, but I wanted a V neck, and changed my mind at the last minute. I wanted a deep, shallow V that widened out at the top. I drew this on the pattern and followed the lines. I didn't have to read "shape underarm by doing xyz and AT THE SAME TIME, shape neck starting at row 231..." (we've all been there, where we get to the shoulder and realize we forgot to do the "at the same time" instructions). You can visually see what and when to do things. However, when I got the pieces all finished (basically, one piece per day--or 4 days for the main knitting!), and got it sewn together, I found out the V neck was too deep and the top of the neck spread out way too much. Not the look I was going for! I have a tank top pattern that has a neat neckband, and I copied it for the sweater, to try to hold the neck stable. It works, but the V is still too deep. I need to get some pretty lace and fill it in (I'm braless in this photo though, and would never wear it like that; it was just for the photo).
I did have some issue with the 2x2 ribbing bulging; I didn't want it to pull in, but perhaps it's too loose (yes, I didn't swatch the ribbing!).
I REALLY wish I had learned to use the Knit Contour before making the sweater for my mom. I could have easily drawn out the schematic in 1/2 scale (the mag. provides good schematics just for this purpose), and used the ruler for the gauge I got, and not have to do all the math and guessing that I had done. Then, I would also have a pattern so anytime I found a yarn perfect for her, I'd just have to swatch it and I wouldn't have to do all the math again.

I already made adjustments to this pattern and knit a second sweater (cardigan) using the pattern but it still needs to be sewn up. This time I got daring and used a punch card as well!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Mommy!

Back at "Christmas" (held in mid-January), I took all my KnitWords magazines and had my mom casually browse through them, to get an idea of what floats her sweaterly boat. She took a real hankering to the shawl collar of one, called Dudette (I think). A fairly simple sweater, knit in one colour, on the standard gauge machine and using the ribber for cuffs and the shawl collar. Labelled "Advanced Beginner", I knew I could tackle it as a surprise birthday present...a month away.
I had some Headwater Wool in the Gauja weight from when I had first gotten the LK150 and thought I was going to make a cardigan with vertical fair isle front bands...and then we put the house up for sale in the middle of it....I was sure I would have enough of this denim blue colour, although one skein turned out to be slightly--but enough--different. I also had white and light blue.I spent a lot of time with my swatch and a calculator. Mom didn't quite fit the closest size, and my swatch didn't quite meet the gauge. At first it didn't seem to be too far off, but some math indicated even 1st over 4" (and whatever the row gauge was off by) was enough to mean that I couldn't do the pattern exactly as written. So much for beginner and quick.The first two pictures I think are to show the difference that blocking can make to the armhole shape.
The knitting, for the most part, was indeed, easy. No patterning, but there was side shaping which I had to do math for. I realized once I got to the armhole that I should have done the side recalculating differently, but it worked out in the end. The left side is blocked, the right side isn't. The dark spots are water spots from my iron.
Feeling confident, and on schedule, after doing the back, I got going on the front. For some reason, right from the start, the front had an attitude. Finally, I got towards the top (doing the neck shaping at the same time as armhole shaping....Oy. If this is Advanced Beginner, then I should move back down to beginner). I think I re-knit the top of the front twice, and then decided I was not going to have enough of the main blue to finish the front, and work it into some sort of pattern for the sleeves/collar. So, I ripped the front back out, down to the start of the non-shaped portion in the middle. I did some more math, and created a striped pattern to go across the narrowest part of the front--to draw the eye to the narrowest part. Got the front finally finished, and there seemed to be more than enough blue now.
I got to work on the sleeves, creating another striped pattern that reflected how much of each colour I had, LOL (I had also edged the front and back with the 'almost' blue). Well, because I combined even and odd number of rows, I was constantly having to take the carriage off and put it back on the other side. And remember to carry up the unused yarns. There were 4 different colours in the sleeves, although the darkest blue is only one row and doesn't show well next to the 'almost' blue.

Next came the shawl collar. OMG. My ribber was having serious attitude problems. I was having serious technical problems. I knew the math would be off, but didn't know how to fix it until I got it knit, and it just would. not. knit. In the middle of all this, the day BEFORE the birthday party, there was a suddenly eruption in family relations and I was caught in the middle, trying to calm sisters-in-law while figuring out how to get the party to happen and how to get the collar to work out. I was not a happy camper. I gave up several times. I knew there was absolutely no hope in having a seamed and finished sweater. I decided to do what any self-respecting knitter would do, and wrap it up nicely anyway. I carefully folded it all up in the box, hiding the waste yarn, and tucking the shawl collar into place, hoping my mom would pick it up by the shoulders to pull it out of the box.Instead, she picked up the collar. Here she is, above, pulling the collar off the sweater...And here, realizing that nothing was attached!Being a good sport, and the experienced mother of a knitter, she took it all in stride.
For awhile, the sweater stayed in time out. It had behaved badly and needed to learn its lesson. Eventually I got back to task, and refigured the collar. Then, refigured it again. During March Break, I did most of the sewing up, hoping to have it finished while we were up there visiting, but didn't quite get it all done. I thought we might go up for the day over Easter, so I cracked my own whip, and got it done.

I was quite please, in the end, at how it turned out. Not what I had envisioned to start with, but I was happy. I didn't give it a bath though, and it's a little itchy, LOL.
We finally got up to my parents yesterday and I presented it to her. I was so glad it fit! LOL. She did find it a little scratchy too, but a vinegar soak should help.

The next sweater I tackled on the Singer 327, was to learn the Knit Contour, so it was to be really simple too. It turned out to be such a great way to knit a sweater, I really, really, really wish I had learned it before taking on this project, as this would have gone a LOT easier if I had known how to use the Knit Contour. However, now I can take the measurements from this sweater, and make a sample pattern just for my mom!!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Wow, Some Finished Projects!

Since the last time I wrote, I have finished THREE sweaters!!! One crocheted, and two on the standard gauge machine. I'm almost finished another top I started a long time ago too!

I'm going to spread these projects out though, LOL. Got to get some mileage out of them. I'll start with the oldest of the projects.

Last year, the Orangeville Community Band was scheduled to play an outside concert during the Blues and Jazz Festival. Knowing that it would be dark by the time we finished, I decided I needed a white cardigan. I searched Ravelry and found a crocheted cardigan that everyone said was easy and quick. I believe I did that on Friday, May 29. I swatched all weekend, and got started, but things just weren't going right. According to the date printed on the pattern page, I printed out another option on Monday, June 1. Somehow, this:

turned into this:

Yeah, not exactly a white cardigan. The really strange this is, I remember starting it/swatching while at my parents...and we were not there in June. We were there in March and April, and maybe May....or perhaps it was the August long weekend (it was a very busy summer, LOL). Or, perhaps I'm thinking of an earlier attempt with this yarn. Doesn't matter.

I had some serious issues with the white cardigan, and gauge, and it just not going as quickly as the pattern said it should. The concert turned out to be a hot, humid, day and I certainly did not need a cardigan after all.

I struggled with this pattern a bit too. Gauge. Argh. I have such a hard time with crochet gauge! It didn't seem to be fitting as I was going along (I might have forgotten there was a wide button band), and I switched up hook sizes. Then, it seemed to be getting too big, so I went down again. I finally decided it was long enough, and had to go back to the sleeves.

Well. It sat, and waited. I looked at it once, but couldn't really figure out where to pick up for the sleeves. Then, I couldn't remember exactly which hook size I had been using at that point in the sweater (it's a top down design). There were always other projects 'more urgent' especially once the weather turned cold and a hole-filled cardigan seemed a little impractical.

Finally, I decided to just give it a go. I knew I had been using the green crochet hook near the beginning, so I started with that one. I couldn't even remember what size it was supposed to be to know how many st repeats there should be. I just did my best. As I went down the sleeve, I went down in hook sizes too, but this time, I used a marker, and then switched to the other sleeve to get them back at the same point. A funny thing happened as I got near the wrist and was at a fairly small hook.

The yarn started to pattern in almost perfect vertical lines. I was surprised at HOW much smaller the sts were, but the vertical lines also add a neat touch. I never bothered with the button band, or the tie. I have a short, dark wood shawl stick to keep it closed if I need to. Lucy wanted to know what the point of a holey sweater is. LOL. I have a couple t-shirts and tanks that will look good under this, and maybe I'll make a new sundress in plain brown. It does have a bit of a strange feel to it, I don't know if it's the crochet-ness, or something about the fit, or the pattern. The next time I'm wearing something suitable, I'll put it on and take a picture!

The yarn is Cool Crochet by Bernat, an interesting cabled yarn of cotton and nylon. Discontinued, but I have some more in other colours in my stash. Although I don't think there's enough for a cardigan--this took 266grams, or 5 1/3 balls. Perhaps I should use up the last ball and make it just a few rows longer....but what hook size did I end with.....

Sunday, April 04, 2010

February is for Finishing

I've been trying really hard to think of a project I've finished lately, to write about. During March Break, I made two 'cast socks' for my niece who broke her ankle. Made them in an afternoon using my parent's Ultimate Sweater Machine (Bond), while we were all staying there. Didn't take pictures though.
I decided a while ago (ahem, I think it was after February, but the title sounded better, and had been my intention) to clear out my 'time out' project drawer. The things that need buttons, sewing up, etc. I got a good start, but couldn't find the buttons I knew I had bought a long time ago. Several projects needed buttons. One top for me just needs a small amount of sewing together and the neckline/armholes trimmed. I ripped out the little Fisherman's Rib sweater that I made when I first started the ribber. As I went to sew it up, I just felt the mistakes were too obvious, too annoying. I had already made pants to go with it (that are just waiting for me to sew the tubular bind off...), so I tried the pull over pattern that goes with the pants. The collar/button band is in three pieces and needs to be sewn on. Should have picked up sts instead. I think I'll handknit a hat to go with it.
I've got two pairs of socks on the pair from "Favorite Socks" using Elann's "Fixation" a stretchy cotton, and one pair of Cookie A.'s patterns, in pink Kroy 3ply. Neither one is a 'brainless' project (now I want to knit all my brainless socks on the knitting machine), so I started a baby sweater. I'm still sewing up my mom's birthday sweater, and I finished another sweater on the machine that now needs to get sewn up.
My first pair of socks really have a whole now. Another pair--Drunken Bees--are threadbare in the heel. They are in Kroy 3 ply, and I'm really surprised at how quickly this happened. I will darn them by duplicate stitching, as all the sts are still intact.
So, I'm not getting any further ahead. Start, pause, rip, start, switch, sew, pause....