Steeking: Bottoms Up!

A few blog posts ago I told you about my first encounter with steeking. That was a top down cardigan based on the recipes in Tin Can Knits’ Strange Brew book. In Strange Brew, they offer instructions for both top down and bottom up sweater knitting. Today I will tell you about the bottom up cardigan I made.

Gotta say, it feels a little weird writing this with everything that’s going on. I’m really trying to find ways to do things that feel “normal” in this very far from normal circumstance. I decided that this might be a good place to do that.

It was really fun to make the two little cardigans. When I started on the second sweater, things were just starting to get weird with the whole Covid-19 thing. As such, I didn’t take photos as I was knitting it. So unfortunately, I only have one lonely WIP photo to share. Sorry about that.

Bottoms up:

You start off knitting the sleeves up to the armpit. I knitted the sleeves on the short little circular needles that I usually use to knit socks. That worked really well although it was a little bit tight for the cast on and the first four or so rounds of ribbing. I just took my time and persevered and it was fine. The increases for the sleeve are done a little differently compared to the top down sweater. I assume that’s because if you choose to change the length of the sleeve overall, it would get too complicated to work around those changes. Simple is good. Because I was knitting for toddlers, I didn’t want to do any colourwork in the lower portion of the sleeves. It’s too easy for them to catch their little fingers in the floats when they put it on. That’s no fun for them. So I kept it really simple. Once the sleeves are knitted up to the armpit, you set them aside.

Next you start at the hem of the body of the sweater. I found that for some reason, the body ended up longer on the second sweater. Maybe the measurement is more accurate when you are knitting bottom up. Maybe I just measured wrong. There is definitely no doubt about where to start and stop your measurement when doing it from the bottom up. On the top down sweater, it can be tricky to determine where to measure from. I was sure that I measured the same amount for each. It’s possible that my tension was a little softer in the second one. That could account for it. I didn’t count rounds to determine how long to make the body; I used a tape measure.

Once the body is long enough, you join the sleeves to the body. You do a little shaping so that the back of the neck opening sits higher than the front. Next you begin the colour work and the decreases for the yoke. I took advantage of the orientation of the knit stitches to make a pattern with hearts in it on this one.

The yoke was straightforward until I got to the bind off.

I tried binding it off using three different methods. Because I make a lot of socks, it’s my default setting to do a stretchy bind-off. Don’t do that here. I ended up doing the least stretchy bind-off I know in order for the neckline to lay nicely.

I applied what I learned from the first project to doing the steek and it went very smoothly. The zipper went in easily and I’m very happy with the result.

The only thing I would do differently is to make the sleeves longer than suggested. The sweaters fit well. (The body lengths ended up being perfect for each grandchild respectively. YAY!) The sleeves could have been a little longer to allow for a some growth.

I had so much fun making these cardigans.

I’m glad that I started with small sizes. I still want to make one for myself out of sock weight yarn, eventually. I really want to be thoughtful about the colour choices and the pattern. I don’t want to rush into it. Especially if I’m going to use sock weight yarn for it! That’s a lot of knitting time to invest.

Moving forward, I have a couple of WIPs that I want to complete before I decide what large project I want to start next. I have a few ideas in mind. I have a couple more sweater technique books that I recently brought in to sell in the store and I might try one of those projects to see how I like those books. It’s always good for me to have a solid understanding of this type of book so I know whether they are worth the money and so I can offer support to customers who invest in them. They can be quite an investment. I ordered one that retails for around $100. I only brought in one to see whether it’s worth it. It’s a completely new all-in-one construction method that looks really exciting. The more carefully I read it, the more I think it will be worth every penny. I look forward to trying out one of the patterns to see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted.

On a side note: Ricasso — our shop cat — says “helloooooowwwwww”. With the physical distancing rules in place, it’s kinda lonely for him. (I’m sure y’all can relate!) The other night, we had to actually get him from the store (he has a cat door between the store and home so he can come and go as he pleases) and bring him home after 10pm because he was patiently waiting for customers to come and cuddle him.

Ricasso will be fine. LOL We’ll all get through this together, at a distance.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and stay creative!

Happy Knitting!

Adventures in Steeking!

I have been looking forward to learning how to steek. Steeking is a knitting technique in which you knit a sweater in the round, and then turn it into a cardigan. Yes, you have to cut your knitting to do it; yes that sounds terrifying; yes it’s pretty cool! My first dabble in this new endeavour is well underway and I’m excited to share what I learned so far.

My interest in steeking led me to a book by Canadian design company, Tin Can Knits. They put together a “recipe book” that breaks down sizes for top down and bottom up seamless yoked sweaters. Their charts include sizes from new born up to big-man sizes. But that’s not all! They give you stitch counts for Sock weight, DK and Aran yarns. Talk about an incredible value. It’s a gorgeous book in full colour. I purchased the book to try it out and I have them in my store now.

I started with a child sized cardigan in Aran weight.

I reasoned that if I missed things or misread things or straight up just messed up, it wouldn’t be such a big deal to frog it back and fix it. I decided to do one from the top down and one from the bottom up. I am not all that far along on the bottom up one so I’ll leave that off for today’s blog and catch up with you next time around. The long term goal is to make myself a couple cardigans, first one in DK and then one in Sock weight once I feel really comfortable with the method.

Now, the book gives very clear instructions on how to knit the sweater. Of course in my enthusiasm, I didn’t read very carefully and missed a few things. I ended up knitting to the point of preparing for the sleeves when I realized that I was short a whole bunch of stitches; I had looked at a smaller size for one of the increase rounds by mistake. Instead of immediately frogging it back, I just increased at the point where you divide to add the sleeves… yeah, don’t do that. It’s really important that you increase exactly as they lay it out in the pattern. I almost finished the sweater and realized that because my increase was below shoulder level, the slope of the shoulder would not comfortably fit a human. (I was blissfully in denial up until then… sigh.) I did frog it right back to where I had made that initial mistake and reworked it.

I used a variety of needles in this endeavour.

I cast on the neck onto a 40cm fixed circular. (I used Knitter’s Pride Dreamz for the whole project.) I switched to an interchangeable with a 60cm cord when it started to feel really squishy on the 40cm. I started the sleeves on 40cm’s and then switched to 25cm fixed circulars once the decreases made it so the stitches were being stretched on the 40. This worked very well for me.

Strange Brew doesn’t give a lot of information on the specifics of steeking. They suggest some online videos as reference. They talk about holding stitches sacred at the centre front of the sweater as you knit, to preserve them for the steek. I had stitch markers on either side of those stitches. I did find that there were times when I struggled to wrap my head around how to do the increases and still keep those 5 stitches sacred between my markers. It was worth the time and effort to carefully plot out how to do that. Keeping those stitches isolated means a straightforward process once you actually do the steek. The benefit is that you can hide all sorts of things in that steek column. Starting a new ball of yarn? Add it in the middle of the steek. I started my new rounds in the middle of the steek to avoid having a jog in the colourwork.

Sadly, I was impatient. I had watched some steeking videos a couple years back and relied on my memory. Again, being impatient, I just flew at it. I stitched up on either side of the steeked stitches with my sewing machine… rather recklessly began cutting and then realized that I was cutting a stitch width too far to one side. Oops! I repaired that and did another row of machine stitching closer to the centre where I needed to cut. I cut it the rest of the way and that went well.

Then, I figured I’d use my serger to finish the edges. Bad idea. It stretched the edge so far out of shape that I had a whole new challenge to work with. I continued my “bull in a china shop” approach and threw a zipper in it, sat back and immediately felt disgusted with myself. After a few days of timeout, I picked it out and started over.

I cut 2 pieces of wide bias binding to about an inch longer than the finished size of my zipper. I stitched the ends inside out to create clean finished ends. I then carefully aligned it to the edge of the vertical column of stitches on either side of the opening (with the bias open; but stitching at the folded outer edge of it). Once that was done, I carefully contained the edge stitches inside the bias and pinned it on the inside of the cardigan. I stitched that with the sewing machine. Once I had the first side complete, I aligned the second piece of binding on the other front. Being careful to align the colourwork pattern to match the completed side, I pinned it and stitched it in place finishing it as I did on the first side.

I aligned the zipper with the knitted stitches beside the bias binding and installed it using the sewing machine. I then hand stitched the binding to the inside of the cardigan. Although my colourwork didn’t line up exactly, it was close enough that I came away feeling proud of my first steeking attempt.

I encourage you to tackle a new technique that kinda scares you. It feels so good!

Happy knitting!

Keeping up Traditions

Did you know that the oldest knitted artifacts date from the 11th century? And, the complexity of the knitting in those socks (colourwork, knit, purl and short rows) makes it pretty obvious that knitting had been around for some time before that. How’s that for being able to call knitting an ancient tradition? And you can be sure that if knitting has been around since then, people have also been mending their knitting since then too.

Anyone who knows my shop will know that a huge part of what I do is mending. Now obviously, most of that mending is on clothing, outerwear and outdoors related gear and it’s done using my various specialized industrial sewing machines. It is all mending (and alterations) none-the-less. I grew up in a family that couldn’t afford to be wasteful. My parents were hard-working, practical people. If we kids wanted to watch TV, we had to be mending something while we watched. The job I most commonly took on as my TV-toll was mending socks. Back then, I used an old lightbulb to hold the shape of the heel so I could carefully weave a new heel or toe with needle and yarn.

A long-time customer brought me a gorgeous Norwegian wool sweater, at least 30 years old. Other than the ravaged cuffs and a relatively small hole in one elbow, this beautiful lined garment was in excellent condition. It’s a testament to Norwegian craftsmanship. She asked me what I could do. I told her that there were a few ways to approach it, but that I really felt that it should be restored, as opposed to being repaired. I asked her what her budget was. She was willing to pay a fair bit, and although I knew it would not cover the time it would take to reknit the cuffs and graft a repair to the elbow, I just really wanted to restore it. I told her that I would be working on it in the evenings when I wasn’t too tired, in front of the television. It was not going to fall within my normal wait time for repairs.

I completed it this week and I thought I’d share how it went and show some photos of it. Now, please understand. I can’t afford to make a business out of restoring old sweaters for people. When she picked it up, she said, “I suspect I’m only paying about $2.00 per hour for all the work you did on this sweater!” She’s not far off! This was a labour of love on my part.

I began by choosing a row of knitting that would be easy to distinguish at the beginning of the cuff. There was a single round of green stitches that made it easy to know that I was getting the stitches from just that round. The sweater was knit with what appeared to be 2-ply yarn. The yarn I was using for the cuffs was 4-ply. So I had to decide how many stitches I would ultimately need and math my way through how many decreases it would take to get me there. I settled on 76 stitches and once I planned out how best to evenly divide up the decreases I set to work.

With the stitches picked up, I carefully cut through a single layer of the double cuff. I picked out all the bits of yarn from the old cuff, down to my needle full of stitches. Then I began to knit the cuff. I kept it simple with a 1×1 rib. After 30 rounds I did a purl round to make it easy to fold the cuff and did another 30 rounds before binding it off. I have to be honest, the sweater sat in a heap, mostly ignored for weeks at a time. I would knit a few rounds here and there. I finally repeated that process on the second cuff.

I picked out the stitches that held the lining fabric to the cuff and using the sewing machine, I stitched the lining fabric to the very end of the cuff. Once that was complete, I folded the cuff and very carefully pinned through the layers where the ends of the cuff lined up. Being sure to tuck any exposed fabric into the seam, I stitched through all the layers to secure the cuff layers with the lining in between. I used a herring bone stitch to make sure that it would be able to stretch without popping any threads.

Next I set to work on the elbow. There were several rows that were simply unraveled; the yarn itself was intact. I picked up stitches below and as wide as necessary so that I could create a patch for the other areas and comfortably cover the areas where the yarn was worn away. Using the existing yarn I knitted up until I got to a row where the original yarn was not intact. I then separated the 4-ply yarn so I could work with only 2 plies and knitted back and forth until I had a patch to cover the damaged area. Using a darning needle and more yarn, I grafted that patch to the sweater. It’s not the most elegant patch in the world, but it wasn’t bad. I spritzed the elbow patch and then pressed it with an iron to “block” it. It worked well.

This was a very satisfying project. It felt so good to be able to bring this gorgeous sweater back to life. I feel proud that I was able to be part of a host of traditions by taking on this one project. The sweater may be too warm out now to wear it right now, but I’m confident that it will be back to active use next winter. I’m sure that its owner will get another 30 years of snuggly warmth out of it yet.

And now that this project is complete, maybe I’ll get to some of my other WIPs.

Happy Knitting!

CoBaSi and Alecia Beth

A couple years ago, a friend introduced me to a wool-free sock yarn called CoBaSi (HiKoo).

The name represents three main fibres in it:

  • Cotton;
  • Bamboo
  • and Silk.

At the time, I looked it up, hoping to bring it into my shop but until recently couldn’t find a Canadian distributor for it. I have since brought in the full colour line of this beautiful and interesting yarn.

CoBaSi is put up in 50g skeins, (201m) which to me is ideal. With a gorgeous array of solid colours (and coordinating multis) you can purchase it for stranded colour-work without buying loads more mileage than you need. Most sock yarns are in 100g skeins so you can end up with a lot of leftovers when doing colour-work.

It’s wool-free. The fibre content is

  • 55% Cotton,
  • 16% Bamboo,
  • 8% Silk and
  • 21% stretchy Nylon

All those folks that can’t or won’t wear wool have another option with this yarn. It comes in

  • sock weight,
  • DK and
  • Worsted as well.

(At this time, I only brought in the sock weight.)

From the moment it arrived in my shop I was chomping at the bit to knit something with it. My original thought was to have it arrive in time for the beginning of Tour-de-Sock (July 7th). I thought I would use it for a round of the Tour. I might still do that. However, it arrived in plenty of time before the beginning of the competition.

An overwhelming case of “Startitis” had me casting on a summer cardigan last Saturday evening.

My impression? I am in love with this yarn. It has a great twist to it and it knits very smoothly. I am finding that I’m actually knitting faster with it than I usually do. Very rarely do I split the yarn as I go. I am enjoying it so much that I can hardly wait to finish up the “must do” things in my life just to get back to my project… even when I’m feeling very tired. The more I knit it, the more I want to knit. As a result, I have made a lot quicker progress than I expected. When I set it aside at the end of the night yesterday, I was ready to separate the sleeves stitches from the body stitches already. For me, to be that far in less than a week is bordering on the magical and miraculous!

cobasi yarn sweater
Here is a photo of my progress on the Alecia Beth cardigan.

The colours are vibrant and the stitch definition is excellent. I have not washed it, but it is rated as machine washable.  I have knitted with a blend of cotton, bamboo and linen and that yarn (Nako Fiore) stood up to washer and dryer beautifully. After all the work in a cardigan made of fingering weight yarn, the jury is out as to whether I will risk the dryer on this project.

I want to do a shout-out to Polish designer, Justyna Lorkowska.

The design in and of itself is stunning. But just because someone is a wonderful designer doesn’t mean they can write a good pattern. Pattern writing is an art form completely separate from the design process. This is a beautifully written, thoughtfully laid out pattern. She has tables in each section with anticipated stitch counts between each set of markers. This allows you to see at a glance (no matter what size you are knitting) what you need to know so you can move along. She gives an overview of each section before giving row by row instructions. So you can go into each section anticipating what you need to pay attention to… rather than figuring it out after you’ve frogged a section in frustration. I’m excited to make more of her designs.

If you want to buy her patterns, you can find them here:

stores/justyna-lorkowska-designs

The first pattern for Tour-de-Sock drops on Saturday morning, so I will have the cardigan on hold while I’m knitting the competition socks. I’ll likely work on it as a “tweener” project. I’m so excited to wear it, I can hardly wait to finish it.

When you happen to find a pattern that is a pleasure to follow, of a design that you adore and you add in a fantastic yarn, you get BLISS!

Happy knitting!

 

Raglan, Anyone?

Most of my knitting buddies will agree.

We love to knit, but we hate having to sew the pieces of our knitted garments together when we’re done.

Even people like me, who sew a lot, usually don’t like to assemble a sweater once it has been knit. A raglan sweater (whether a pull-over or a cardigan) is knitted from the collar down and incorporates a yoke that allows the sleeves to be knit directly onto the body of the sweater. The sleeves and the body (in the case of a pull-over) can be knit in the round thus completely eliminating the need for assembly once it has been knit.

Now that is my kind of sweater: No seams!

The first time knitting a raglan sweater can be rather confusing. It’s not uncommon for designers to make assumptions about what you know. If you are inexperienced, that can undermine your enthusiasm and ultimately your desire to ever make another sweater.

I love beginners. I love watching people experience the process of discovery. Last year I posted a bunch of beginner knitting patterns. I wanted to step it up a bit from the dishcloths. It’s been ages since I posted a pattern and I figured it was high time.

So today I have a pattern for you.

It’s a miniature raglan sweater designed to fit “My Life” dolls.

Small enough that you can finish it in a few evenings, big enough that you can easily get a good understanding of the process of making a raglan sweater. I put a lot of energy into making the pattern as simple as possible to follow… with the beginner in mind. I hope that once you have done this project that it will inspire you to try making a full size raglan project. (Of course, there is no obligation!)

I did my best to explain how the construction works.

I also included a chart that you can follow so you can see, row by row, where the increases happen. It gives a clear visual of how many stitches are in each section. At first glance, you might think that I have been charged with the task of increasing stitch marker sales across the nation. But, trust me. A well placed stitch marker is your friend! I tried to include some helpful photographs as well.

It’s confession time: I did not have anyone else test this pattern. I checked it over, and over, and over and I’m confident that I caught everything. However, I am just a human. So, if you try it out and you have any trouble with it whatsoever, please drop me a message and I will help you. If there is an error, I will correct it and post the amended pattern.

I’m quite pleased with the result. I hope you have fun with it. And I hope that some lucky child will be getting a new sweater for their doll very soon.

Happy Knitting!

Here is the Pattern!

Hayfield Baby Blossom Chunky

I ordered Hayfield Baby Blossom Chunky yarn to sell in my store. I thought it was kind of cute. That having been said, I only ordered one bag of each colour. Then it arrived; then I knitted a sweater out of it. Before I even had the yarn officially on the rack I had sold enough to make four sweaters! I’ll definitely be ordering more! This yummy-soft chunky yarn comes in 100g balls. Continue reading “Hayfield Baby Blossom Chunky”