Friday, March 7, 2008

Things I learned while knitting a sleeve

1. Don’t rush into important decisions

I finally finished the body of my Skrå Trøyer sweater and it fits PERFECTLY. It was finished just before I got to Scotland to make the rounds seeing friends. I knew that the sleeve needed my attention to get started for a number of reasons:

· It starts with twinned knitting and I had no idea how the gauge for twinned knitting would work out so knew I would have to experiment with it to make sure it didn’t end up too tight. Also I had to work in the button hole so it would be on the right end for the overlap (see next point).
· It starts flat and must have the seam section positioned correctly so when you put it into the round with the seam section overlapping the other end of the knitting, it will open the right way round and the button hole will be on the outside flap.
· The right number of stitches have to be on the needle for the 10-stitch repeat cuff pattern.
· Once back into the regular pattern (a 16-stitch repeat), the center star, ideally, should line up with the cuff pattern below it.

These are all things that just take time to work out. Some can be done on paper but I’m much better figuring them out on the needle. It was definitely not something I could do on the run so I waited until I had some quiet time towards the end of the trip. I didn’t get all of them right so will probably start this sleeve over again but it was worth doing to learn what I learned.

2. Pay attention to the little things

The body of this sweater was knit on a US size 1 (2.5mm) Addi Turbo needle. When I got to the sleeve, I went into the little stash of needles I had taken with me (just in case I had a knitting emergency) and found size 1 needles and got started off on the sleeve. After knitting for a little while, I realized that it was working even more tightly than the body. Hummm….Then it came to me – there are 2 different size 1 needles. Don’t ask me who the blankety blank thought it would be a good idea to have 2 different sized needles called size 1. You’ll notice above that the circular needle I was using was a 2.5mm. My double pointed needles were 2.25mm. You wouldn’t think that sounds like much, would you? Well, you’d be wrong. I think if you were talking about a 6mm needle vs a 6.25mm needle, the difference wouldn’t be so noticeable but when you’re talking tiny needles and big yarn, even that small difference made a difference.

I have been knitting in denial for a little bit but, together with the issues from above, I know in my heart that I will redo this sleeve. As with the body, if I’m going to put this much into it, I’m going to make sure I’m happy with it. If that means knitting 2 bodies and 3 sleeves, then so be it!

3. Remember which side of the fence you’re on

I decided that on the increase rows, I would just increase at the beginning and end of the seam section instead of increasing at the beginning of the row, knitting around and then increasing at the end of the row. It has to do with my attention span. I can never remember by the time I get to the end of the row whether I’m supposed to increase or not. Now I’m sure there’s some huge, terrible consequence to my compromise but you gotta work with what you got.

So the way I’ve got it set up is this: I have the seam section. To increase properly to the right of the seam section, I have to work from the beginning of the chart and increase towards the end of the chart. To increase properly to the left of the seam section, I have to work from the end of the chart and do the increases towards the beginning of the chart.

What I mean by this is that the first stitch of the new star after the seam section has to be the last stitch of the chart and as I add increases, I’m basically working towards the beginning of the chart. The reason for this is that I want to pattern to be consistent going into the next pattern repeat. To know where I am, I’m counting backwards on the chart for the increase section ONLY. Once I get to the first full repeat of the star pattern, I just knit the chart as normal.

It’s the same concept on the other side of the seam section but reversed. Once I finish the last full repeat of the pattern, I’m into the increase section. On the right side of the seam section, I’m working the chart from the beginning and increasing at the end just before the seam section so that the new star patterns are sort of growing out of the seam as I work up the sleeve.

All of this takes a little bit of attention as you begin and end the round. Before the seam section, I’m ending one row of the chart but after the seam section I’m starting the next row. It pays to remember which side you’re on! Trust me, this is the voice of experience.

Remember, too, that this seam section will run up the back of the arm rather than under the arm. Doing this allows the overlapped cuff with the button to be at the side of the wrist.

4. Listen to those around you

As mentioned, I started this sleeve on 2.25 double pointed needles. Because the fabric is so dense, it’s really not a comfortable thing to do. I was trying different things because I knew that the dps would only hold so many stitches. Doing the magic loop sort of thing didn’t work either as the needle sections were too long (and I hate those little circs). While at Knit Wits, Bonnie suggested I use 2 circulars. I, to may shame, must admit that I argued and wasn’t at all convinced it would work. But I went away with a second 2.5mm circular to try it out. Now, to my credit, I have to admit that I was completely wrong to doubt. It’s working a dream.

5. Follow your passion

On the plane back, I had been working on my sleeve most of the way over when a guy across the isle tapped me on the shoulder and asked me what I was making. When I told him that I’d finished the body and was now working on this sleeve, he made a comment about how complicated it looked and how I must be sick of doing it. I thought for only a second before telling him, No, I’m just as enamored of it now as I was before I started and I’ve enjoyed every stitch. He sort of looked at me as only a muggle could before he shrugged his shoulders and said, Well, good for you.
For the next 50 years, every time I wear this sweater I’m going to be reminded of all the wonderful time spent, not only knitting it, but getting it right. And I’m sure I will smile every time I put in on.

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