Short Row Wrapping

Short rows are this little magic thing that you can do in hand knitting where you knit a row over only some of the stitches to create a piece of fabric that is longer in one part than in another, and also when coordinated correctly a sequence of short rows can cause the fabric to curve and bend. It's makes things possible in hand knitting that aren't at all possible using other textile process, because you're creating a piece of fabric that is a custom shape in three dimensions. Short rows appear for lots of reasons: dropping the bottom edge of the sweater, sloping the shoulders of a sweater, forming a top-down-sleeve cap, or to turn a sock heel, for example.

The problem with short rows, is that it can be quite difficult to hide them in an existing fabric, because there's a little gap or hole where the short row starts. Solving this little problem has given rise to an entire discipline of knitting techniques. Most of the time, after knitting a short row, you "wrap" the next stitch, which you slip and move the yearn around, as the basis of a transition. This anchors the yarn from the short row, and helps reduces an awkward effect on the stitches that you knit.

The problem is that the "wrap" is (often) visiable in your knitting, so that's in ideal. The options are:

  • in garter stitch the best thing to do is to just ignore the wrap. If the tension of the wrap itself is right, the wrap doesn't look out of place, and you can just ignore it.
  • most of the time you want to "process" the wraps, by picking up the wrap and knitting it together with the (now formerly) wrapped stitch. Getting the tension on this is quite hard, though you can twist the wrap or clean things up in the next row most of the time. If you're having trouble with wrapping:
    • consider wrapping in the other direction. So that you move the yarn to the front of the piece before or after slipping the stitch, depending on what you're presently doing. In my practice, wrapping front to back is slightly tighter than wrapping back to front, but I think this depends on your hands a bit.
    • rather than wrapping the stitch, a small yarn over can serve the same purpose, as long as you're sure to knit the yarn over with the stitch that was not part of the short row. Use this if your wraps are too tight.
  • for sock heels, and in some other situations, you can skip the wrap, but slip the first stitch of the short row and decease the short sliped stitch into the next (non-short row) stitch on the next row. This works only in situations where you can stand to decrease 1 stitch for every short row turn.
  • Some folks enjoy not processing the wraps, in situations where you're knitting a sleeve cap off from the shoulder down in a sweater. You can see the wraps, but because you're doing lots of sequential short rows, it looks like a pattern.

Sleeve Survey

I somehow managed to knit the body of a sweater in like 10 days, and am once again knitting sleeves. I also want to re-knit the cuffs of the last sweater, because I'm coming to terms with the fact that I'm not really happy with them, and my current plan is to knit the sleeves of my next sweater before knitting the body, which means I have a little bit of a queue for knitting sleeves.

In preparation I measured a lot of sleeves of sweaters that I've knitted (and still have, to try and figure out what I like. Here are my conclusions:

  • I realized that regardless of the shoulder shaping, the length of the sleeve should be basically the same. This is based on the assumption that the shoulder fits, and sometimes you can compensate for an illfitting shoulder by modifying the length of the sleeve, so take it with a grain of salt.
  • I've been measuring sleeves, on drop shouldered garments from the shoulder seam to the cuff, and for other shoulder shaping, from the underarm to the cuff.
  • I prefer sleeves that are a little bloused (e.g. bigger, with a more aggressive cuff,) because I like to wear sweaters over shirts, so having a bit more room makes things more comfortable. Also having floppy cuffs is not great.
  • The sweaters that I like the most, seem to have 21 inch sleeves total with 1-2 inch cuffs. I try and spread the decreases out, as evenly as possible. The cuffs seem to be between 8 and 9 inches around (ideally,) and shoulder apertures tend to be between 18 and 20 inches around.
  • I'm tentatively coming out in favor of knitting all sleeves from the shoulder down to the cuff, but I do want to give it a shot going the other way at least a couple of times before I'm definitive on that subject. When you knit the sleeves first of a sweater, the process of knitting the sleeve dictates the yoke of the sweater, which means if you're off a bit in the sleeve the whole sweater seems off. Knitting sleeves after the yoke, means you don't have to figure out the entire sweater when you're knitting the cuff.
  • Separating thinking about the sleeve cap from thinking about the sleeve, is conceptually useful (sleeve caps take a while, the process of knitting them in the round is different,) even if this doesn't make a lot of sense when you're actually knitting or thinking about a garment.

Quarantine Knitting Television

I've always enjoyed watching television while knitting, knitting itself is easy and doesn't take much thought most of the time, and I've never needed to watch it for every stitch, so it makes sense. I've never really felt as engaged with audio-only media while knitting for long stretches, though I do try sometimes.

My tastes, in this context, tend toward procedurals: not particularly because I love crime and/or medical shows, but because the cadence of the story telling is a good fit for my attentional needs while knitting, and the overall predictability means my attention can drift in and out as need be. It's also helpful that a lot of procedurals have had long runs which means there's a lot of material to keep me busy. Things that I've watched recently:

  • Bones has been quite fun to watch because it sort of fits the bill correctly, there are a lot of episodes. It's also very interesting because I remember watching some of the early seasons more or less when they aired, and it totally feels dated now.
  • Stargate Universe, which couldn't stick with, despite a lot of affection for earlier Stargate shows, I couldn't stick it out. I think that some combination of the show being very dark and isolating, with a few of the characters being deeply unlikeable.
  • The last few years of Star Trek TNG and Voyager. Which were nice, but it's super weird to watch television that's this episodic, and while I've watched a lot of Star Trek here and there, I must confess that I didn't really watch them systematically before.
  • Eureka is totally absurd, but was fun to watch, and was the right kind of "delightful, but mostly lighthearted."
  • White Collar has been fun. I'm particularly partial to shows set in New York City, and it's fun to be able to pick out the settings from familiar places. Sometimes the characters are great, and sometimes some of the "character growth" stories are a little bit ham-fisted. I also wonder what'd be like if there was a buddy-cop show where there characters were actually gay and not just incredibly homoerotic all the time.

I'm not super sure where to go after this, and would gladly take suggestions if people have favorites. I haven't tended to enjoy things like CSI very much, for whatever that's worth.

Knitting Gadgets

While I took a bunch of time off knitting, I didn't quite take enough time off to completely divest myself of all of my knitting things, which means when I decided rather abruptly that I wanted to start knitting again, I just had to run and pull a couple of boxes down off a shelf and I was off to the races. At the same time, after many years of small apartment living I didn't have a very large collection of gadgets or yarn.

While I don't really have a great interest in building a collection of knitting things, or yarn outside of material I have proximal use for, in the nearly 10 years, since I was a regular knitter, the state of the craft has evolved or at least changed a bit. While my collection of things hasn't changed much, the following objects

  • knitting needles, have always been complicated. I tend to work at fairly small sizes which makes needle flex/bend an issue, and my skin tends to react with nickle which rules out a lot of options.
    • at my mother's recommendation I got a few Dyak Craft knitting needles. The small-sized interchangeable needles are great, and the US 0s (which has been my primary needle) don't bend or flex at all, and have good cable/needle joins.
    • I have a small collection of 5 inch carbon fiber, double pointed needles in some small sizes and I think they're just perfect. I'm a loose knitter, so the little bit of grip that they have is great. Somehow, metal needles and six inch needles end up hurting my hands, and I've never used a pair of wooden needles that haven't broken tragically.
  • After a couple of projects where I was just breaking the yarn by hand, or using kitchen scissors, I gave in and bought a 4 inch pair of very plain Gingher embroidery scissors (for 20 bucks,) and they're brilliant for trimming threads and cutting open steeks. As a left handed human, scissors have always been something of a sore spot, and these are quite good.
  • I bought a couple of boxes of those lightbulb-shaped coil-less safety pins. I think the going rate is 6 bucks for a pack of 120, and they come in a few different colors. These are great both as stitch markers for the needle, and also to mark rows while knitting.
  • When I was going through my knitting things, I very quickly found a little cone of 8/2 mercerized cotton that I've had for years in lime green--a color I've never even gotten close to knitting with--that's really perfect for setting stitches aside or for provisional cast-ons. It's nice to use smooth, non-wool yarns for this purpose, and you don't use very much of it, but it's great to have around. While I've had this cone for 16 years or more, and it's conceivable that I may never finish it, it's great.
  • I've also given in a started storing in-progress knitting projects in draw-string canvas bags purpose built for knitting/crafting, as opposed to the vinyl bags that bed-linens come in, which had previously been my default. It's pretty essential that I be able to keep things safe from cats or the other things in my backpack (not that I leave the house much these days,) so containment is necessary, and avoiding velcro and zippers is ideal.

And that's about it!

Pattern Fragment 4

This is the follow up to Pattern Fragment 0, Pattern Fragment 1, Pattern Fragment 2, and Pattern Fragment 3.

Cut open the arm hole steeks, and joining new yarn at the top of the opening (after the shoulder seam), pick up stitches around the arm hole, at a rate of 2 stitches for every three rows. I picked up two extra stitches in the "corners" at the bottom of the sleeve and did not pick up a stitch from the shoulder seam.

Also, place markers where the shoulder decreases start at the bottom of the opening.

Knit 9 stitches, move yarn to front, slip the next stitch, move the yarn to the back, change directions, [1] slip the first stitch (again,) and work back to the "beginning of the row," at the shoulder seam. Work the next nine stitches, slip the next stitch, move the yarn to the front, change directions, slip the first stitch (again), move the yarn to the back, and knit across.

When you get to a "wrapped stitch" at the end of this "short row," pick up the wrap and knit it together with the stitch it wrapped, and then wrap the next stitch.

Continue in this manner until you get to the markers where the arm hole shaping ends, before switching to knitting in the round for the main body of the sleeve.

[1]You could turn the work, but I do this part just by knitting back backwards.

Pattern Fragment 3

This is the follow up to Pattern Fragment 0, Pattern Fragment 1, and Pattern Fragment 2.

Starting at the "end" of the back of the neck, join new yarn, and with a short circular needle pick up stitches around the steek. Be sure to pick up the first/last stitch of the steek. If you did not set aside a stitch at the bottom of the neck, increase one stitch at the bottom point of the neck.

When you've completed picking up stitches and have knit (plain) across the back of the neck, begin knitting in Knit 1 Purl One Ribbing, being sure to mirror left-to-right at the bottom of the knit (i.e. if the last stitch before your "point" or "bottom of the neck stitch" is a knit, then you should knit the stitch right after the point.) Always knit the "point" stitch. Additionally, on this first row you should do a centered double decrease at the point.

My favorite centered double decrease is a "slip 2 together, knit 1, lift the two slipped stitches over the knit stitch."

Continue knitting the collar, in this ribbing, doing one double decrease every other row, for an inch and a half. Bind off normally.

Pattern Fragment 2

This is the follow up to Pattern Fragment 0 and Pattern Fragment 1.

After the yoke decreases, in addition to the steeks, there should be 196 stitches in total, or 98 stitches on the front and back of the neck.

Knit the yoke section plain, until it is--in total--3 inches deep. On the front of the sweater, knit 49 stitches (half), cast on 10 steek stitches, and continue knitting round marking the stitches. Knit the next round plan, and then decrease one stitch on either side of the steek, every other round, 21 or 22 times to shape the neck (42 or 44 rounds). Knit plain from here to the end of the sweater. After the first 2-3 inches of decreases, you may choose to space out the decreases more for a gradual slope, though I wouldn't.

Meanwhile, when the yoke is 7.5 inches deep, set aside at least 26 stitches in the middle of the back for back-of-neck-shaping, cast on a 10 stitch steak, and then decrease on alternating sides of the steek over the next inch and a half, until the number of stitches decreased at the front is exactly equal to the number of stitches decreased at the back.

When the yoke is 9 inches deep, in the last round bind off the middle two stitch of both of the armhole steeks, ending with knitting across the back one last time. Turn the work inside out and using a three-needle bind off, join and bind off the shoulders.

Knitting off the Cone

I have, for a long time, done rather a lot of knitting from yarn directly off of cones, which is maybe a bit weird or at least uncommon, so I thought I'd elaborate a bit more:

  • Theoretically a cone of yarn, which often contains at least 250 grams or more of yarn, has fewer breaks in it than you'd have with an equivalent weight of yarn packaged in skeins or balls. This isn't always true, as cones of yarn do have breaks, sometimes, but if you have a construction that doesn't require you break the yarn very much you can probably save a lot of weaving in by knitting off of a cone.
  • Cones of yarn are often not quite ready for use: most often the yarn hasn't received its final wash, which often means that the spinning oil is still in the wool. This is potentially only true for yarn that's undyed or dyed before being spun, and not the case for yarn that's dyed after being spun. It's also likely the case that the yarn will be wound onto the cone slightly tighter than it would be otherwise. The effect is that the yarn will be a bit limp relative to it's final state. The color can also change a bit. You can knit with the unwashed yarn, but know that the final product will require a bit more washing, and the texture can change.
  • Typically the kind of yarn that's available on cones is boring, which is to say that there are less varieties in general but also of different colors. I think this is actually a great thing: knitting in more plain colors and simple smooth yarns draws attention to the knitting itself, which is often my goal.
  • Cones of yarn feel like buying yarn in bulk, and buying yarn by the pound or kilo (!) means that you can really get a feel for the yarn and it's behavior and knit with it for more than one project. Make a few sweaters, or many pairs of socks. See what happens!
  • Because yarn on cones is often used as a method of distributing undyed yarn to dyers in bulk, you can select materials on the basis of fiber content in a way that can be difficult when you also have to balance color considerations.

The clear solution to this problem is, of course, to wind the yarn off the cone into a hank (typically using a niddy nody or similar,) avoid tying the yarn too tightly, soak and wash the yarn gently with wool wash, and then hang it up to dry, and then wind it back into balls. I never do this. I should, but realistically I never do.