Eight Steps to Obliterating the Past

I know you all are biting your nails, waiting in breathless anticipation for the next post about the Blob, so I decided to oblige!

seamless swatch

I had originally planned a chevron pattern for the body of the Seamless Hybrid. But doing two inches of 1×1 ribbing just about killed me with boredom and I realized I’d need a quick pattern for the body. Moving yarn back and forth for knits and purls would interrupt the blazing speed of stockinette in the round. So I alternated the chevrons with a plain stockinette round. This made the pattern much more subtle, but not very appealing – more like it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be.

01 purls

Luckily, the recipient then conveniently said he didn’t want any pattern, so stockinette it was! But after completing the sweater I was still left with one repeat of chevrons at the bottom. I tried to ignore them, but they were irritatingly always there, albeit diffused. I would have to obliterate them!

Here’s how:

1. Snip a stitch along the topmost offending row.

02 snip

2. Unravel the line of stitches, one by one, along the snipped row in one direction only. As you can see, the stitches aren’t particularly eager to escape… they just sit there waiting to be picked up.

03 unravel

3. So oblige them, picking up stitches from the top only, using a smaller needle.

04 top needle

4. Unravel the offending rows. Remember to pin out the unravelled rows in order, so you can pick them up in the correct order.

05 rows

5. Knit these up with the correct size needle. Remember to always work in the same direction of the original knitting. Since I worked this in the round, I slid my needle back after each row to knit in the same direction.

07 knit

6. Use the snipped yarn to graft the rows back together towards the snipping point. I found it easiest to graft together about ten stitches and then go back and fix the tension, rather than aiming to graft with perfect tension. You will need to stop a little before the snipping point, since you need to keep a bit of yarn tail free to weave in. Once your grafting yarn is about 4 inches long, stop and continue grafting with a new strand of yarn.

08 graft

7. Remember in the second step you had unravelled the snipped yarn in one direction only? Now start unravelling in the opposite direction, one by one. Once you’ve opened up about 20 to 30 stitches, repeat the rest of the steps: pick up the top row, unravel the bottom rows, knit them up correctly, graft them with the snipped end, complete the grafting with the new strand of yarn from Step 6.

09 middle

8. Continue this way across the row. I got the best results by working in chunks of 20 to 30 stitches at a time. Any more, and I would end up with too much or too little yarn at the end when knitting up the bottom rows. It looks a little bit wonky with all the re-working, but a good blocking will cure all that!

And the best part? No remaining purls — all pure stockinette!

092 end

Yoked!

I tried out an experiment, and am quite excited it worked!

nov yoke

See, I’ve always wanted to do a proper yoked sweater with tons of stranding. But being top-heavy already, the last thing I needed was a heavy horizontal pattern band across my shoulders. Yoked sweaters are also unflattering on top heavy people since they visually turn the neck and chest area into one giant swathe of fabric.

And then I remembered reading, in this post, that it was possible to make a circular yoked sweater with set in sleeves. Perfect answer! I modified it slightly to make it easier, and solved some problems:

  • By raising the ‘circular’ part of the yoke from across the shoulders to above the shoulders, there is no broad horizontal stroke stretching from shoulder to shoulder.
  • Also, the modified yoke acts as a visual scoop neck, which is really flattering on top-heavy bodies.
  • Finally, the back scoop is raised quite significantly, making the pattern ‘hang’ lower in front than the back, which is quite visually pleasing.

Here’s what I did:

I generated a tunic length pullover in CustomFit. It doesn’t matter what neckline type you choose since that part of the instructions will be ignored.

underarms

I CO provisionally at underbust since I didn’t want the whole sweater flopping around as I worked the yoke. After all bust shaping was over, I worked till the underarm, then BO underarm stitches as usual. At this point, it is a tube (with some bust shaping, not shown) with the green lines denoting the BO underarm stitches.

back shaping

Then I worked short rows on the back, in wedges at the sides (black lines), to raise the sides. On the diagram there is room only to show a couple of turning points, but I actually had 10. While doing these short rows I also did underarm shaping decreases, denoted by blue circles.

Next, I worked the back straight. The white line shows the path of knitting – although I knitted straight rows, I was actually knitting along a scoop since the wedges had raised the outer edges. I continued till the outer edges (yellow line) were as deep as the armhole depth I would need for a regular set in sleeve in my size.

I repeated the wedge shaping on the front. At this point, the back and front were equally scooped (thanks to the short row wedges), but the back had been raised to the correct level. To connect it all into a circular yoke, I counted how many rows I had worked after the back wedges were done (yellow line), converted that into inches, and converted that into stitches using my stitch gauge.

I CO that many stitches between the tops of the front and back, so that all live stitches were in a large circle – back scoop, CO sts, front scoop, CO sts. Then I started my colourwork and finished the neck. I’m pretty pleased by how the yoke worked out, but haven’t yet decided on how to finish the collar. I think I’ll finish the body and at least one sleeve before deciding upon the collar!

Colette Dahlia

Well I’m back. A month of travel with a flight every 2.5 days is awful. Makes you hate planes like nothing else. However, there was a bit of this …

himalayas small

…and a bit of that …

rhino small

…so I suppose there were compensations!

On returning I wanted to make something quick, so it had to be a sewing project. I tried out Colette Pattern’s newest, Dahlia. I used an old fabric from my stash as a wearable muslin, but unfortunately the permanent crinkles in the fabric make the whole thing look rather un-ironed. Anyway, this is experimentation. I’ll try to be brief and organised in the rest of the post.

dress small 2

Pattern Analysis: The Colette pattern aesthetic – vintage, feminine – is one I’m ambivalent about. Most ‘vintage’ inspiration in sewing patterns nowadays (not only Colette) seems to come from the 50s and early 60s, decades whose fashions I find irritatingly cloying. The ultra-saccharine feminine stereotyping of that period just sets my teeth on edge. If I wished to sew vintage fashion, I would seek inspiration from the 30s, when women were expected to be dashing and spirited, and fashions reflected those attitudes. I see the change in attitude over and over again in movies (Indian and western), books and clothes; the fire and spunk of female characters in the 30’s is slowly drowned in syrupy, fluttery femininity by the 50’s . Even poor Nancy Drew did not escape (pdf link) – her spirited, back-chatting character was turned dependent and fearful as the decades went by.

It seems inconceivable to me that modern sewers would choose nipped in waists, gathered skirts, high necks and twee little peter-pan collars over long, lean, elegant lines. But apparently they do, and mine is a lone rant.

And so, when I saw the Dahlia pattern, I wanted it. The high-ish waist and the long vertical panels (in v.2) had potential for grown-up elegance as opposed to prissy femininity.

Looking at the photos, I thought I spotted a scoop neck – yay! Which brings me to a minor gripe I have with most Colette patterns – if they obligingly draft for larger cup sizes, why are most of their necklines high and wide? Why not deep and narrow, or scooped, which are the most flattering necklines for larger busts? Probably because they draw inspiration from those cursed decades, that’s why. And finally, a size zip – double yay!! Centre back zips require way more practice of the Head of a Cow than I’m prepared to do. I always move CB zips to the side anyway, so thank you, Colette, for doing it for me.

Fabrics: I used an embossed self pattern with crinkles, which make the fabric as a whole slightly stretchy. Anyone have any idea what this type of fabric is called? Upon sewing the edges frayed very quickly, so I had to do a sort of reverse flat-fell seam, tucking and folding from the inside. Very tedious! I originally thought the embossed pattern was butterflies, but they turned out to be bows!

fabric small

I made bias tape out of a small paisley print.

binding small

Size: I laboriously measured the pattern pieces to calculate what the garment dimensions would be at several key points. Size 0 at the bust gave me about an ¾” ease so I went with that since the fabric was stretchy. But I graded the waist of the bodice to size 2, and continued with size 2 for the waistband and skirt. The sleeves remained 0, to go with the chest measurement.

Why did I not go straight for size 2? I’ve learnt from my knitting that the key to a well-fitting garment is to get the shoulders correct. Everything below can be increased or decreased, but the shoulders and upper chest are critical, because that is your basic skeletal frame. If I’d gone by my actual bust measurement guidelines I would have made size 4 And everything would be gigantic.

Pattern Changes: I used skirt of v2 with bodice top of v1.

Sewing: I followed most instructions as given, except I inserted a lapped zip, not an invisible one. Narrowed sleeve cuffs and added shoulder darts because cuffs and neckline were really wide. Gathered front more than instructed, to about 4 inches.

Final Analysis: After all the changes I made, I actually quite like the dress. I think this would be great on busty shapes (by busty I mean larger cup size, not just band size) because the gathering allows for an adjustable fit and the waistband highlights the narrowest part of the torso beautifully.

However, there are some things I would definitely change:

a) Narrow the really wide sleeves. Since I didn’t want to mess with the underarm area (which actually fits well) I reduced about 2 ½” at the cuffs (tapering to nothing at the underarm) and added a shoulder dart about 3” wide and 3 ½” long.

b) Look at that neck – I started out thinking it was scooped, but it’s a scoopy, wide V, drat it! The sleeve dart did reduce a lot of excess width, but I still had to gather the front to 4” (as opposed to the 6” recommended in the pattern). And the back neck still gapes a tiny bit. So I would gather the back neck too. And perhaps change the front shape into an actual scoop, not a scoopy V.

c) I will definitely add a lining, if only to avoid attaching zips to several layers of cloth where the outer and inner waistbands, their seam allowances, and the bodice or skirt meet.

d) Reduce the flare of the skirt, to promote the whole long-and-lean aesthetic. Perhaps make it fall straight down from the hip.

PS: on reviewing my post, I’m a bit startled by how vehement I sound in the first few paragraphs. For that I squarely blame vintage inspired patterns with peter-pan collars. The sight of adult women in peter pan collars has deranged me!

Blogging the Blob

Quick update: I’m finally at the yoke shaping!

small raglan

There was a stretch of despair while I was on the third increase section of the body. It was just endless, endless, endless rounds of stockinette, with over 350 stitches on the needles. I gritted my teeth, watched a lot of Doctor Who, and finally arrived at the joining of the sleeves, my brain a little numb.

Then there were 500+ stitches on the needles for several rounds. It went on and on and on. And suddenly, the rounds were doable. At the end of the modified raglan shaping, I was even surprised that the yoke had arrived so soon!

Now the yokes are going a tiny bit slower than expected because of all the purling. But look at that beautiful line of shaping stitches!

small yoke

Truly this pattern is marvelous, although I’m sure I’d enjoy it more if I hadn’t been bedazzled enough to offer to make it in fingering weight!

Half a Chestnut

I’m suffering from serious second-sock-syndrome, people. I decided to make a pair of Cabled Knee Highs, but extended them to well over my knee in 2×2 ribbing and reinforced the sole with the slip stitch pattern commonly used on heel flaps.

small foot 01

It looks nice on the foot, the colour is a very delicious That Ol’ Chestnut  in Dragon Sock, and the fit is good overall.

P1080312

But omg the thigh high ribbing! I now loathe ribbing like I loathe nothing else. I suppose the second sock will have to wait a while to materialize!

small folded 03

The sock is so long, I couldn’t even get the whole thing into one picture without resorting to some cunning origami folds to show all the textures.

P1080310

Dissecting the Green Blob

Much has been said about the Seamless Hybrid before: its flattering clean lines, the textural contrast between the horizontal and vertically oriented fabrics at the shoulder, the rather astonishing fact that all this is done without sewing!

green blob 1

How does it work? We start with a torso circumference of X sts, and work up the body of the sweater. At the underarms, 5%X sts are put on scrap yarn on each side. Then each sleeve is started with 20%X, worked up with increases till it is 33%X; then 5%X is moved to scrap yarn for each sleeve. The body and sleeves are united on one large needle, and everything is knit in the round, making a centred double decrease every third round, at each junction of torso and sleeve, until half the bicep stitch count remains on the sleeves. Then the saddles are worked back and forth, knitting together with the front and back torso at each end. This ‘eats’ the torso stitches while extending the saddles across the shoulder. A gap is left for the front neck while the saddle continues along to mid back. Then the other shoulder saddle is worked similarly, and the two are grafted at the back. Finally, the underarms are grafted together and the neck is finished.

It sounds a little bit overwhelming the first time, but I’d read the instructions so many times in the last couple of years I could probably have done it in my sleep. Because this is a recipe, you substitute in your own gauge and percentages – there are no restrictive pattern stitch counts to maintain!

And of course I had to fiddle with the pattern a tiny bit…

Time for a pattern analysis!

I love:

  • The astoundingly entertaining and clever construction.
  • The clean, defined lines of the double decreases and saddle shaping.
  • How flattering it is on every single man photographed in one!

I changed:

  • The torso shapelessness – I calculated the desired width at hips and chest, added ease, and determined stitch counts with those measurements. The torso is a gentle V shape for good fit. Ditto for the sleeves.

For further refinement, I started the twisted rib hem with an Italian tubular CO. A twisted rib column, about an inch wide, continues along the sides to the underarm to maintain the fit. I’ll also add a few short rows at the back before the saddles begin, and probably line the collar and cuffs with contrasting yarn.

Since this is my first Seamless Hybrid and I don’t know how the yoke shaping will affect the ultimate length of the sleeves, I started them provisionally and will finish them with ribbed cuffs once I can hang the whole garment on a body to check fit.

I decided to make it a pullover because I wasn’t sure if the thin, drapey fabric would bear the weight of a zip without skewing. Also, I knitted at a tighter gauge – about 8 stitches per inch – for a more cohesive fabric which would not get distorted by its own weight. If I have enough yarn left I may darn elbow patches on the inside to forestall wear and tear.

Now I’ve got one more increase repeat left – 36 rounds – before I can finally get to the yoke shaping. I am sooooo looking forward to that!

Travelers Yarns

My brain is a little weird in that I find the explanations of magic tricks more charming than the tricks themselves. I actually enjoy re-reading mystery stories because you know exactly where you’re going, and so have time to pay attention to the literary scenery and admire the writer’s craft in planting clues artfully. I like shifting focus to the background and seeing it burst into detail!

And that, people, was a slightly awkward segue into postal tracking numbers. I love them. They reveal a glimpse of the inner workings of countries’ aviation systems, postal systems and impex processes – I warned you my brain was weird!

I once FedEx-ed  a package from Bangkok to Bangalore, naturally assuming that it would travel on one of the numerous direct flights between the two cities. But the package flew north to Guangzhou, southwest to Mumbai and then southeast to Bangalore. Why, why why????? What made it more efficient for them to do that???? Is that a regular hopping route for FedEx planes? Do they have a giant sorting facility in Guangzhou? So many questions, so much new information!

Final segue: I nerdishly tracked this yarn across the postal and Customs systems of two countries, estimating (rather accurately, I’m proud to say) with holidays and weekends how long it would stay at each stage. I noted with interest how exactly the same timestamp (controlled by computers) would appear on similar but slightly different messages (controlled by humans who initially input the standard messages) in the two countries. I saw the same timestamp got updated at different times in different countries. So much information, geography and infrastructure information from a little alphanumeric string! How delightful!

small 1

Oh wait, you’re here for knitting content. Yeah, this is going to be a Seamless Hybrid for my husband.

The sleeves are done (thank you, post-conference hotel nights tv!) and I’m now working on the body. 350+ stitches per round! But that’s how weird my brain is – I offer to knit fingering weight pullovers for 6’5” humans.

small 2

Milk Maiden

small horiz 3

Done and appreciated! I stalled forever on sewing up half the sleeve seams (the remaining halves were worked in the round). Work, travel and very often both together are my excuses. And also, the prospect of inviting heatstroke by wearing the sweater for the photos!

Background discussions here and here.

Not to be too theme-ish and all, but here’s an autumn coloured sweater, right in the middle of September, and it even has little leaves along the neckline! I really didn’t plan that, I promise.

 small full 1

Details
Pattern: Milk Maiden from Brave New Knits
Yarn: Cascade 220 Sport; 100% wool; sport weight; 150m (164yd)= 50 g; “Pumpkin Spice”; almost 7 skeins
Needles: 3.5mm bamboo circular
Mods: See previous posts.

Flight of the Milk Maiden

Or, Time Zoned Out

Or, More Marvelous Facts about the Human Body

When kept awake for 24 hours in perpetual artificial twilight on a long-distance flight with no real daylight stimulus, the body can knit for hours. Hours, I tell you. Tirelessly.

Of course I would never advocate taking unnecessary long-distance flights just to get a jump on knitting, that’s a bit too extreme; but wow, most of the body on a sportweight pullover done in one day! That’s amazing!

Here’s why my Milk Maiden pullover is now: body done, sleeves half done.

small body

I avoided all the fussy instructions around the neckline by knitting the body first and setting the sleeves in seamlessly. To shape the body I followed a CustomFit generated pattern up to the point where the bust ribbing starts. There I stopped making front increases, and just increased across the row as given in the Milk Maiden pattern. Then I continued with a twisted rib panel on the bust, bound off armholes after dropping faux seams to the bottom rib, finished the back in stockinette and finished the front panels in garter. When worn, the garter ridges get stretched and echo the thin vertical lines of the twisted rib on the bust, so the whole neckline looks cohesive.

small neck garter

Cuffs and hems are echo the bust panel in twisted rib, and are begun or cast off tubularly for more polish.

small rib

I may work a thin i-cord around the whole neck to make it look really polished. Or not. The yarn is Cascade 220 Sport in Pumpkin Spice, an interesting neutral which looks like brown with embers glowing from within.

Pondering the Barefoot Milk Maiden

Thank you everyone, for the interest in the Shifting Sands Recipe! I’ve never seen such a jump in stats before, and those little Paypal notifications make me very happy :)

Now I’ve been working on Milk Maiden from Brave New Knits; before tracking progress, let’s jump into a little pattern analysis.

small crop

What I Love:

  • The square neck
  • The leaves across the front
  • The ribbed bust panel
  • The fitted look

What Must Change:

  • Too clingy – 5 inches negative ease!
  • Neck just a tad too deep – I don’t want to wear a visible shirt under the pullover all the time, because nothing really will coordinate with the leafy neckline.
  • Sleeves too short – if it’s cold enough to wear wool, it’s cold enough to require coverage.

All the above are easy to fix: I generated a sweater via CustomFit with minimal ease and a deep scoop neck which I changed to a square neck by doing all the BOs in one row. Also, because that ribbed bust panel is such a feature, I changed it to twisted rib to make the vertical lines really prominent, and echoed that at the hem and cuffs as well.

And finally, something about the neckline instructions in the pattern just didn’t feel right. It just was too fussy, as if soldered on to an existing garment. So I poked around, and found a CLUE! Look at the designer’s post about the sample here – the neck is five leaves wide and the garter edges are very narrow. But by the time the sample is photographed for the book, the neckline has wider garter edges and one leaf less. Curiouser and curiouser!

My guess is that the original design (which was inspired by a medieval European, wide, almost-falling-off-the-shoulders neckline) was deemed too impractical and those garter strips were widened to compensate.

And that’s today’s edition of pattern investigation / analysis nerdery. Next episode when I start a new project!

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