Knitting Beyond the Neck

So now that you know how to knit neck openings, this time I'm going to talk about a few neck and collar related tricks and ideas that I've come across in my knitting that you might find inspiring.

Norwegian Neck Styles

So after all that talk about how many stitches to set aside, and where, not to mention the rate of decreases. There's another option. Knit straight to shoulders, and ignore any kind of shaping. Using tailor's chalk (or some kind of water soluble marker) and sketch out the shape and placement of the neck opening on your sweater. Using a flexible tension and very small stitches. stitch two rows around this opening. Cut on the inside of the neck portion, and there's you're opening. This requires little preparation or forethought, and you can directly control the shape of the neck. On the downside, once it's done, it's done.

My classification of this method as "Norwegian" is perhaps not entirely accurate. I've seen a number of knitting techniques (including a really nifty purling method) classified as "Norwegian," when in fact there is little evidence (to my mind) that these techniques are in any way representative of Norwegian methods. One thing's for sure, patterns for contemporary Norwegian knitting tend to involve steeks that are knitted with no preparation (as they are in the "Fair Isle" style,) as this technique is similar, I suppose the classification is fair. I should also point out the obvious, given that it requires a sewing machine, there's a very limited extent to which we can consider this "traditional," but that's really just a minor quibble.

Collars: The Scarf Principal

Once you have a neck opening, no matter how you obtained it, you still have to knit some kind of collar. The basic specification for knitting a collar is that you pick up stitches around the neck opening, and then knit some sort of border/hem stitch around t he opening for a little while and then bind off. Frequently borders/hems stitches are some variety of ribbing, but other possibilities include turned hems, seed/moss stitch, rolled collars, garter stitch, and just about anything that mixes knit and purl stitches. It's all up to you, and its important to find something that matches the spirt of your garment.

The scarf principal, is quite simply that while you need a little bit of a collar, you don't need much. If you're neck is cold, you can always wear a scarf, but if you're necks too warm it's sometimes too hard to take off a sweater. Thus I knit collars, pretty much without variation, that are an inch and a half, and since I've started doing this I've found my self much more happy with the way sweaters fit. Just a friendly warning to be mindful.

Hard Collar Lessons

These are fairly straightforward I suspect, because I think collars are such a crucial part of a sweater, here are my general concerns regarding collars:

  • I always err a little bit on the side of a little too big, rather than a little too small. Indeed this is a good rule of thumb for sweater knitting in general.
  • Shorter is better than taller, and this can often be the difference between a sweater that's just right, and a sweater that's too itchy/warm/uncomforatable.
  • Consider what kind of shirt you plan on wearing under a sweater when you're knitting the collar. It matters.
  • Make sure the collar is stretchy enough so that your head can fit, but the last thing you want is probably flaring.
  • Exercise extreme caution when sewing down hemmed collars.
  • Always make sure the collar is centered.

I'm, of course, welcome to additional collar related tips and tricks.

Three Needle Bindoffs

The three needle bind-off is one of those brilliant pieces of knitting genius that I think most knitters should know about. Rather than binding off, and then sewing two pieces of knitting together, this procedure allows you to join and bind off two pieces of knitting all in one fluid motion. To create an invisible seem turn the work inside out and holding the live stitches that you want to bind together parallel to each-other, take a third needle and knit one stitch from front needle together with one stitch from the back needle, and then repeat this, and bind off the stitches you have on the third needle as you go. Here are some better instructions with pictures.

Here's the cool part. If you knit in the round, and do back neck shaping, and have steeks, you can bind off using the 3 needle method blithely across the back of the sweater, lo and behold, it all comes out even, and you're left with a single neck steek to cut. This is the kind of thing that makes me feel smart about my knitting.

That's all I have for you know. Stay tuned, and please feel free to leave comments with your own musings on collars. I'd love to hear them.

Cheers, tycho(ish)

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