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Gnarled Oak Cardigan Progress

July 15

For me, one of the greatest pleasures in knitting is working a particularly beautiful pattern and motif. That’s how I felt when I finished the oak leaf motif in the yoke of Alana Dakos’s Gnarled Oak Cardigan The photo shows a small bit of the detail.

I’ve wanted to make this sweater for forever! I’m using Tosh DK in the Grove colorway.

Aren’t these leaves brilliantly designed!

Gnarled Oak Cardigan, Alana Dakos, Coastal Knits, Tosh DK

All I have left to do on the sweater is the neck and button bands. The pattern calls for a garter neck edging to be worked right after the leafy motif. Instead, I am going to bind off, then pick up stitches to make the edging. This will give the neckline stability.

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Resources:

Gnarled Oak Cardigan pattern, from the book Coastal Knits by Alana Dakos and Hannah Fettig.

Madelinetosh Tosh DK

Stabilizing Tea Leaves

July 7

If you follow my blog, you’ve read about my experiment to add stability to top-down seamless sweaters (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Here’s how I’m applying my experiment to the Tea Leaves Cardigan, shown here in a photo from the pattern; note the gathered yoke pattern, which is where I’ll hide the shoulder seams:

tea_leaves_macro_low_res_medium

The first step was to cast on partway down into the neck edging pattern, so future picked-up stitches would reinforce the neckline. Then I identified where the fake shoulder seams would go, increased one stitch before and one stitch after each seam, and marked the seam with markers.:

MarkSeams_Sml

I worked the pattern as written, except that I knit between the seam markers on the RS and purled them on the WS.

Here’s the seam in progress:

WS_Seam_Beg_sml

When the seam got to be about 2-1/2″ long I ended it. If you look closely at the top of the seam you can see that I used a ssk and k2tog to decrease away the seam stitches so may stitch count once again matched the pattern:

RS_Seam4_sml

The next step was to use the mattress stitch to sew up the seam. On the WS it looks like this; you can see how it will prevent the shoulders from stretching out:

WS_SeamSewn_sml

I was happy to see that from the RS, the seam is undetectable:

RS_SeamSewn_sml

 

Here’s what the piece looks like now that I’ve worked the yoke and some of the body. There’s no seam in sight, and you’d never know the stitches around the neck had been picked up and worked upward. The neck and shoulder treatments should give me a nice stable sweater that won’t stretch out:

TeaLeavesNeck_First2_sml

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Resources:

Super-pretty stitch markers are made by my friend Laurie. They are great because the don’t catch on the yarn, like some stitch markers do. Plus they are fun and sparkly. She sells them through her Lima Pop Shoppe.

Tea Leaves Cardigan by Melissa LaBarre.

Stabilizing Seamless Sweaters, Part 3: Neck Edging

June 17

If you follow my blog, you’ll remember that I’m on a quest to put stability into the top-down seamless sweaters that I make. Too often, I’ve watched my beautiful sweaters grow droopy around the shoulders and ever-larger in the neck as time goes by.

As you may remember, I’ve been wanting to make the Tea Leaves Cardigan for forever. I’ve been working on a swatch to develop techniques I hope to carry forward into other top-down patterns as well.

In Part 1 of this series, I explained how I placed the cast-on edge a few rows down into the rows of garter in the beginning of the pattern. In Part 2 I showed how I added seams to the shoulders. Now in Part 3, I’ll explain how I finished the neck. (I’m using a contrasting color just to show you how I put this together – it’ll all be one color when I make the sweater.)

Fortunately, the beautiful Tea Leaves Cardigan pattern starts with several rows of garter stitch at the top, making it easy to hide a cast-on edge and subsequent picked up stitches into a knit row between two purl rows.

tea_leaves_macro_low_res_medium

 

In 5 rows of garter, I used what would have been a right-side knit row (row 4) for my cast on edge (see the Part 1 post for details). Here you can see that I picked up stitches just above the garter row of purls (which is the last row – row 5 – of garter called for in the pattern). I learned (the hard way, of course) to be careful where I pick up the stitches. Because I’m adding rows from the bottom up, I need to pick up stitches into the right-side-up “V”s in the row below the cast on. Otherwise, the orientation of the added garter rows is wrong.

PickUp_Sts21

 

 

Picked_Up_Sts1

 

This means I can pick up stitches and then add the garter rows 1-3 back in, working it as I would a bottom-up sweater. By doing this, I have a super-stable neck that will not stretch out and that will support the weight of the sweater’s back. The result is nearly identical to what the sweater would look like if knitted from the top down as written, starting with 5 rows of garter:

 

 NeckEdging3

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Putting it all together

Here’s the game plan for my Tea Leaves Cardigan, then. The back of my swatch shows the modifications I’ll make to add stability to this top-down seamless sweater. First, I’ll work my cast on several rows lower than what the pattern calls for. Then to prevent the shoulders from stretching, I’ll insert seams along the shoulders. And finally, after the seams are done, I’ll add picked-up stitches to lend stability to the neck. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to try this on your next top-down seamless project yourself!

Back31

Ok…I’m off to start my Tea Leaves Cardigan now. I’ve been gazing longingly at my beautiful Tosh Vintage yarn, and can hardly wait to cast on!

Stabilizing Seamless Top-Down Sweaters, Part 2: Adding Shoulder Seams

June 11

In my first post about adding stability to a seamless top-down sweater, I described how I strengthened the neckline by casting on a couple of rows into the pattern, then picking up stitches and finishing the neckline as you would a typical seamed sweater. The picked up stitches prevent the neckline from stretching out.

Now that the neckline piece of the stability puzzle is solved, what about the shoulders? Without a seam to hold them in place, they tend to stretch out, making them look droopier the more times they’re worn. The challenge was to figure out how to incorporate a seam into a top-down seamless construction. I experimented with a swatch and came up with a technique that I think will work for the next sweater I’m going to make, the Tea Leaves Cardigan. I’ll add “seam” stitches right into the work, then seam them up using the mattress stitch.

The most difficult part of the whole experiment was figuring out where the seam should go. On the typical seamed sweater, half the stitches are allocated for the sweater’s front and half for the back. I couldn’t just divide the cast on stitches by two, since the Tea Leaves sweater has a button band which had to be taken into consideration. From the swatch I made on the smaller needles used for the button band, I know that the button band will be about 1″ wide. That translates to about 5 stitches. The size I’m going to make calls for casting on 96 stitches. Adding the 1″ (5 stitch equivalent) to the cast on, I get a 101 stitch equivalent, which I’ll round to 100 so it’s divisible by two. If this were a pieced pullover sweater, there would be 50 stitches in the back piece and 50 stitches in the front piece. But this being a cardi, I’ll leave out the button band stitch equivalent.  Going back to the cast on instructions, I’ll take the 96 cast on stitches and subtract the 50 stitches which will be allocated for the sweater’s back. This leaves 96-50 = 46 stitches for the front. Since this is a cardigan I’ll need to divide that 46 stitches by 2, leaving 23 stitches for each front.

Now I can figure out where to place the shoulder seams. I’ll work 23 front stitches, insert two stitches that will act as a seam, work 50 back stitches, insert 2 more stitches for the other shoulder seam, then finish with 23 stitches for the other side of the front. As for the length of my seam, I know that from my own neck to the point of my shoulder is about 4.5″. I see from the pattern’s photo that the neck is rather wide. So I’m going to estimate that seam should be about 2.5″-3″ in length. I can also look at the photo and see that there’s a garter area between the pattern’s stitch motif, so it might be good to end the seam just before the final stitch motif (in this case, some ruching).

tea_leaves_macro_low_res_medium

Whew – with the math part out of the way, I can start the knitting. At this point, I only  have the cast on stitches on my needle (and in my first post I describe that the cast on is a few rows into the garter neck trim, so I can go back and pick up stitches later for added neck stability). I know I want to increase stitches by 2 for each seam, but I do not want to put the increases adjacent to each other or they’ll distort the fabric. I knit 22 stitches of the first front side, then increase 1 stitch using a M1. I place a marker for the seam. I knit 2 seam stitches and place a second seam marker. I increase again, then knit 48 of the back stitches. I work another increase (which brings the back stitch count back up to 50), then place a seam marker. I knit two seam stitches, then place another marker. I work another M1, and finish with the last 22 stitches of the second front. From here out, I’ll knit the seam stitches (between the markers) on the RS and purl them on the WS. When the seam is long enough, I use decreases to end the seam and get the stitch count back to normal.

Here’s how my swatch looks, with Step 1) add sts, Step 2) maintain seam sts for length of seam, Step 3) use decreases to get rid of seam sts prior to using mattress stitch to seam the seam sts:Seaming

 

 

Once the seam is long enough, I use the mattress stitch from the front of the work to seam the two seam stitches together. I weave under the bars between the seam stitches and the pattern’s regular knitting. (If I were seaming pieces instead, this would be the equivalent of weaving under the bars between the selvedge and the next stitch in.) Here’s what the seam looks like from the back when I’m done:

seam back

I used a different color yarn to illustrate the seaming on this swatch – for the sweater of course I’ll use the same color yarn as the rest of the sweater. Another detail is that I did not use the usual figure 8 at the bottom of the seam since I will be picking up neck stitches along that edge.  I’m pleased with this seam, since I can’t see it from the front side at all, yet it will add all the stability I want to the shoulder.

In Part 3 of this series, I’ll show you the last step for adding stability to the seamless top-down sweater: finishing the neck edge.

 

 

Stabilizing Seamless Top-Down Sweaters, Part 1: Casting On

June 3

I love knitting seamless top-down sweaters. But I don’t always love the way they wear over time. With no seams to support the neck and shoulders, they have a tendency to stretch and look droopy. Some people crochet an edging around the neck to add stability. There is also a way to crochet a chain along the inside of the shoulder, which can help.

I’ve had a different sort of experiment rattling around in my brain for a while now, and am finally getting the chance to put it into practice. I want to add a firm neckline and shoulder seams to my next top-down seamless sweater. The little bit of fiddling I’ll need to do will be worth it in the end, when the neck and shoulders of my sweater look good, wear after wear. No more sagging, I hope!

I hope that by following my blog posts about the process, you’ll get an idea of how to customize your favorite top-down seamless sweaters too. You’ll just need to adapt my technique for your particular pattern. So, let’s get started…

I’ve wanted to knit the beautiful Tea Leaves Cardigan for the longest time. This is not to imply that this particular pattern would sag or stretch – it’s just the right one for me to try my stability experiment on. The ruched stitch pattern on the yoke is fairly straight-forward, with no interruptions (like horizontal cables) to worry about, so adding shoulder seams should be no problem. Here’s a photo from the pattern:

tea_leaves_portrait_low_res_medium

 

Based on the pattern, I originally tried a swatch where I made little versions of a back and two fronts, then seamed them together. It dawned on me that while this worked great in a solid color, it would be a mess in the hand-dyed Madelinetosh I’ll be using; the colors would work up differently in each section.  That means I had to figure out how to build in shoulder seams that allow the yarn’s colors to flow along with as little interruption as possible.

Ultimately, I settled on a three-step process to add the stability I want. First, I cast on the neck several rows down in the pattern’s neck edging; second, I added two stitches at each shoulder which allowed me to create seams; third, I picked up stitches along my cast on and added the pattern’s neck edging back in. I’ll address each of these steps in separate blog posts, since the instructions are detailed.

The first quandary – Step One - is how to add stability to the neckline. Even though it isn’t a very firm cast-on, I’ll use the long tail method in anticipation of picking up stitches later. (Later in Step 3, I’ll be using picked-up stitches around the neck to add firmness to the neckline.) I need to work the cast-on into the neck edging in a way that stays true to the pattern, so it needs to start several rows down, then be finished as if it were a bottom-up sweater. Another way to look at it is this: Imagine a bottom-up construction; the neck is bound off and then the neck edging is added. In place of the bound off row is my cast on. It starts within the neck edging, like a bind-off would, and is then worked upward to finish the neck edging. I whipped up a little swatch that I hope will give an idea of how I planned the neck:

GarterSwatch3

Fortunately the Tea Leaves Cardigan starts with several rows of garter stitch, so it’s easy to figure out where to place the cast-on. By placing the cast-on a few rows down into the garter edging on a knit row, it blends in beautifully. I can later come back and add the rest of the garter, just as I would on a bottom-up cardigan where the edging is added after the bind off. In this case, rows 1-5 are garter in the pattern, so I’m counting the cast on as row 4 (a right-side knit row). I’ll be able to add the three missing rows of garter back in later, by picking up neck edge stitches, so it will look exactly the same as the pattern.

The garter neck edging is an easy one to work the cast-on into. I’m sure I’ll have to work new swatches for other stitch patterns in order to work out the best placement for the cast-on/picked up stitches/neck edging.

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Resources:

For an excellent discussion on the value of seams, check out Sandi Rosner’s article in Twist Collective: “In Praise of Seams

Tea Leaves Cardigan pattern by Melissa LaBarre

Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage yarn

 

 

Forest Weave Top

May 15

I recently finished this top, Forest Weave by Yumiko Alexander. The yarn in Schulana Kilino, a worsted linen/cotton blend.

pullover, summer top, cables, drop stitch, worsted

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I enjoyed the clever design, with its big cables separated by dropped stitches. And I’m so proud of myself, for once completing a summer top in time for summer!

ForestWeave4_sml

 

Chipmunks

May 10

For the past several weeks, I’ve watched a mama chipmunk dash in and out of her underground nest with goodies to feed to her young. The babies finally emerged to explore their world.

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Is it safe to come out now?

Chipmunk 3

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The children stay close to Mom while they check out their new surroundings.

Chipmunk 1

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Sibling Kisses

Chipmunk 2

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Mama dashes back into the den

Chipmunk 4

 

 

 

 

posted under Critters, Nature | No Comments »

“Reversible Scarves” PDF Edition

May 7

For everyone hoping to purchase the digital PDF edition of my book Reversible Scarves: Curing the Wrong Side Blues, the wait is over!  Although it’s sold through Ravelry, you can purchase your copy whether or not you are a Ravelry member.

If you’re a Ravelry member, you can check out the book’s details page and purchase it here:

ravelry-88x31

If you don’t have a Ravelry account, you can buy the digital PDF version of the book through the AudKnits website here:

Reversible Scarves Cover

Buy Digital PDF Edition Now – $16.95

“Reversible Scarves” PDF Edition – $16.95

 

If you’re looking for device-specific editions, try these sources:

Apple iBooks

Amazon Kindle

Barnes & Noble Nook

posted under Book | No Comments »

Celebrating Spring & Another Linen Stitch Scarf

April 23

I love it when the wisteria bloom. The smell is heavenly, and the delicacy of the tiny blossoms is sweet.

Wysteria 2014

Wysteria_2_2014

I liked the spring-like greens in the Araucania Lauca yarn I used for this linen stitch scarf. The pattern is a popular one from my book Reversible Scarves: Curing the Wrong Side Blues. It’s a great one for using up those gorgeous skeins of variegated and tone-on-tone yarns I have piling up in my stash!

linen stitch scarf, reversible

 

 

 

posted under Book, Projects, Scarf | No Comments »

TKGA Level 2 – Passed!

April 17

I am delighted and relieved that I finally passed Level 2 for the TKGA Master Hand Knitting Program. After knitting (and re-knitting) 24 swatches, answering 19 questions (and I did not get them all right the first time around), writing book reviews and a report, working 2 small project plus a vest (which I chose to design from scratch) it is OVER. Hurray!

If you’d like to perfect your knitting skills, you might want to tackle the Program too.  This level covers seaming, decreases, lace, cables, buttonholes, button bands, stranded knitting, and intarsia. There is a fair amount of pattern writing, preparing you for designing your own patterns and submitting them for publication. There is quite a bit of research involved in this level. I found it very challenging, but it was worth it. My skills improved a lot as a result of completing it.

Here’s my work. The only thing not showing in these photos is the vest. I hope to publish it one of these days. You’ll see it then.

 TKGA Level 2 Level2_7_12 Level2_13_18 Level2_19_24 Level2_Projects

TKGA Meets the Real World

April 17

You may remember I’ve been working on completing Level 2 of the TKGA Master Hand Knitting Program. It is a detailed and challenging program! Before I started the program I didn’t understand the real-world application of it. Yes, I wanted to learn how to become a better knitter. But I didn’t realize tAll Postshat each level’s notebook becomes a valuable part of my reference library.

Here’s an example of how helpful it is for me to have my Level 2 notebook full of swatches and instructions. I’m making the Forest Weave top designed by Yumiko Alexander. It’s worked sideways, and the sides are bound-off edges. One of the swatches in the seaming section of Level 2 is a horizontal-to-horizontal seam like this.  I’m able to look at my swatch and instructions from my notebook to easily remind myself how work this kind of seam. Very handy!

Knitting and seaming

 Wish me luck. I’m re-submitted the swatches and text I had to re-do on Monday. Let’s hope I pass this time!

TKGA Resubmits Level 2

April 14

You may remember I’ve been working on completing Level 2 of the TKGA Master Hand Knitting Program. I’m embarrassed to say I received my comments and list of re-do’s last summer, and only now have re-knitted and re-written the things I didn’t do right the first time around.

The committee members who reviewed my work took an incredible amount of time to write detailed and very helpful comments on my strengths and weaknesses. I so appreciate their efforts! They complimented the things I did right, which was encouraging. Their criticism of the things I did wrong, and the kind way they put it, helped me to learn a lot. I got to add new techniques to my skill set that will prevent me from carrying the same old mistakes forward into future knitting.

I sent in my resubmits today. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this time I will have passed!

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