Plain Knitting Ahead

As I said in Knitting Catchup, I’ve been knitting a bunch recently--a few sweaters, and a bunch of socks--and I found myself writing a list of sweaters that I was thinking about knitting, and thought it’d be interesting to share. But first, some background…

I’ve begun a writing project that explores, in great detail, how to knit a very basic sock. I’ve knit socks here and there forever, but I think in the past year knitting lots of socks has become a thing and I think one of the most thrilling aspects of knitting is the way that repetition (at many levels,) gives you the space to develop a deep understanding of your project and I think this gives rise to craft. I definitely want to knit a bunch more socks, and also I’ve been toying more with the idea of knitting sets of socks, maybe on the order of 5 or 10 pairs (for myself and friends) so I can see what it’d be like to only wear hand knit socks.

The last sweater I finished was a bottom-up-raglan seamless number with a v-neck, and the whole process was a lot of fun and I definitely want to explore some variants on this. I’ve also been working on a colorwork sweater for a couple of weeks, and while I’ve enjoyed that a lot, I think that I’d like to mostly stick with a few more plain sweaters, to explore different shapes and also be able to have a collection of sweaters that I can wear most days during the cooler months.

Pursuant to both of these projects I’ve recently begun buying yarn in bulk, mostly un-dyed (either to stay natural or to be garment dyed at some point.) This affords reasonable and predictable options for getting really soft yarn. The first batch appeared over the weekend, so I’m itching to cast on a new sleeve!

Here’s the list of sweaters that I’m interested in knitting:

  • I’d like to explore knitting more bottom up yoke sweaters, I’ve never made the hybrid yoke sweater, and while i’ve done the set-in-sleeve option a few times, I haven’t done the saddle-shouldered sweater yet.
  • I’d like to give crew necks another go. Particularly with some of these silk blends, I think a nice crew neck could be fun to explore, both to see if I can tolerate wearing them. I’ve been doing a lot of collars with ribbing recently, and I think a crew neck with a rolled edge might be nice.
  • While I sometimes find lots of garter stitch to be too densen and sometimes awkward, a little garter stitch edge here and there can be really fetching, and I’d like to explore what it’d be like to put more garter stitch in places, like as a v-neck collar or maybe even the lower hem of a garment. I think, for me the challenge is mostly in finding a way so that he extra depth of the fabric doesn’t feel like it’s flaring out.
  • I’ve thought about doing a sweater that was entirely made out of 2 by 2 ribbing. This might be a terrible idea.
  • I made a sweater last year that had garter rib on the yoke, but was plane otherwise, and I really enjoyed it, though it has some flaws (Henley neck that doesn’t quite work, sleeves were a bit wrong,) and I’d like to play around with this idea, both with “garter rib for the yoke” but also more garter rib (in general,) including maybe a garter rib cardigan.

I’m excited. Looking back at this, I think I need to also pull together a list of more concrete pattern ideas rather than just a list of variables, but there’s time! And I definitely can cast on a sleeve for fun!

Knitting Catchup

I haven’t been writing or blogging much in the past few months, but I definitely have been knitting a bunch. Things have been busy and overwhelming, in totally unexceptional ways, and my knitting has been a near constant companion in providing balance and focus in various ways.

I embarked in the late spring in a kind of epic project: I bought a kilo of a lovely gray fingering weight Silk/Yak/Merino blend, and promptly started a cabled sweater based on Alice Starmore’s Na Cragga sweater (the cover of Aran Knitting). I changed a lot: the gauge (ran weight to fingering) and the construction (knit flat with pieces to in the round) and the shape (tapered body, short rows across the back, set-in sleeves and saddles,) and monkeyed with the pattern (added two repeats of the center panel, dropped one of the patterns, extended the ribbing pattern into the body of the sweater,) and made a v-neck. I kind of stalled out on the project, at roughly the underarms, in June and took a few months off of regular knitting.

In the late summer, as delta began to spike here, I started knitting socks again. I’ve always loved socks, and have gotten really into knitting really plain cuff-down socks with medium length ribbed cuffs. I’ve knit maybe 20 pairs of these socks, and while I’ve taken a bit of a sock-knitting break in the last couple of months--I guess during the depths of winter and the omicron spike--I definitely hope to knit a bunch more socks.

In the mean time I’ve been working on two sweaters:

  • a second sweater that I just finished knit out of the second half of the aforementioned kilo of Silk/Yak/Merino. I ran out of yarn on the collar which of course necessitated ordering more of this yarn, which is just utterly delightful. It’s a bottom-up raglan sweater with a v-neck. Nothing else special, and it’s so comfy and soft in every way. I’m not sure I’m sold on Raglan shaping, but I’d forgotten how much fun this construction is.
  • I started a two-color pull-over using some of my favorite color patterns from Norwegian and Turkish patterns. I’m almost to the shoulder, and the plan is to knit set in shoulders and sleeve caps (short rows!) with a v-neck. This is the first color work sweater I’ve made in years, and it’s been really fun and engaging to knit this sweater. I’d also given away almost all of my previous colorwork sweaters and they are very much my thing, and while I don’t know that it’s the kind of thing I want to focus on, making one of these every so often seems good.

There have been a few things that I’ve learned about myself as a knitter recently:

  • I don’t really enjoy knitting cables: the dense fabric rarely appeals to me as a sweater wearer, anything that isn’t really simple ends up breaking up the rhythm in a way that I find distracting and the result is that knitting feels like a chore.
  • I’m no longer afraid of grafting as I once was. I seem to only be able to really do it effectively if I hold the “right” sides together and graft from the “inside” of the garment (sock, sweater/etc,) but this seems to actually be fine in practice. This makes seamless bottom up sweater (as well as socks) much more approachable. In the past I struggled through it or tricked someone into doing it for me (or used 3 needle bind-offs.)
  • I did a lot of sweaters with open-henly-style collars for years, because I often find that crew neck sweaters are too warm and otherwise overwhelming. Since I started on this path, I’ve begun making sweaters out of fingering weight yarn, and have switched to the v-neck as a solution for the “more open” neck problem. I think this demands more investigation.

In an upcoming post, I’d like to explore some upcoming knitting projects and the design questions that I’ve been contemplating.

Stay tuned!

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.