Tag Archives: fall2012

Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Seaming

Most of Hannah Fettig’s patterns are knit in one piece and require little to no seaming. However, there are a few that do require seaming and I’d like to cover it so that you don’t feel unprepared to knit other sweaters in the future!

Many knitters I know really dislike seaming. I honestly don’t mind it too much and I think it’s because I learned how to seam early on in my knitting and just went for it. One of my very first sweaters was seamed and while I prefer to knit sweaters in one piece so that I can try them on, I don’t dismiss a pattern just because it requires seaming.

I’m certainly no expert in the seaming department, but I’ll share what’s worked for me as well as some great resources.

Some Useful Tools for Seaming:

Darning Needles – we carry the Chibi’s at Stash

Marking Pins to hold your knitted pieces together – Also available at Stash

If you’re knitting a sweater that requires seaming you really need to block your sweater pieces before seaming. I know, I know. At this point you are sooooo close to having a finished sweater that you can wear and the last thing you want to do is wet your pieces and wait for them to dry before moving onto the next step. TRUST ME. Just do it. It’s really important that you block your finished pieces to the correct dimensions before you try and sew them up. It will be much easier to match them up if they’re all the correct size. Not to mention that blocking will help to uncurl those pesky edges.

Should you use the yarn you knit the sweater with to seam? In most cases, yes. However, if you’ve used a yarn that breaks apart easily (do a little tug test on a strand from your ball of yarn, does it break fairly easily?) or a single ply yarn, you’ll want to find something else to seam with. In this case, I’d suggest finding some sock yarn in a color that closely matches your sweater. This is a good time to dig through your leftovers bin! If you’re knitting a sweater in bulky yarn, you may want to think about using something a bit thinner to seam with so that your seams aren’t too bulky. Try seaming your swatch to test out whether you’d like to use something thinner before seaming your sweater.

Unlike with traditional sewing, you want to seam with the right sides facing you and the wrong sides together. The way you’ll sew them together will create a seam on the inside of the garment.

Using the mattress stitch, seam the shoulders first. Seaming the shoulders first will allow you to attach the sleeves with more accuracy. Knitty has a great article with pictures on seaming using the mattress stitch. Sometimes the pattern will have you do a Three-Needle Bind-Off for the shoulders instead of traditional seaming.

After you seam the shoulders, pin the top of your sleeve  to the body of your sweater using marking pins (or you can use split ring stitch markers or coil-less safety pins). I like to start at the top center (where your shoulder seam is) and pin the center and then each side. It’s also a good idea to use the same method when seaming. Again, use the mattress stitch. Typically, I cut a length of yarn, put it through my needle, stick the needle through the top center and pull half the length of yarn through before beginning seaming. That way you have yarn to use for seaming on both the front and back of the shoulder/top of sleeve. Start seaming the front and when you reach the underarm, stop and go back to the top and seam the back of the shoulder/sleeve.

Once you’re done seaming the top of the arm, use the mattress stitch to continue seaming down the side of your sweater. You’ll want to pin this as well before sewing. After the seaming the side, seam the sleeve also using the same pinning and mattress stitch process. 

Repeat for the other side of the sweater!

What if it doesn’t look as neat as you’d like? Well, you have a couple of options…the first, of course, being to rip out all of the seaming and try again. The second is that you can block your sweater or steam it and see if that helps even out the spots you aren’t happy with. It’s hard to believe that steaming or blocking could really make that much of a difference, but check out this post by Anne Hanson.

If you aren’t completely happy with it, rip and redo it. I know it sounds like a lot of work and it’s a bit demoralizing when you have a finished sweater and then you undo the seaming, but you won’t regret redoing it.

Some other great resources regarding seaming: Stitch ‘n’ Bitch: A Knitter’s Handbook by Debbie Stoller, The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt, and The Knitter’s Companion by Vicki Square. There are also countless videos on youtube and forum postings on Ravelry.

The last blog post in the series will be up on Friday: Blocking!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Tips and Tricks for Sleeves

I feel like I’ve thrown a LOT of information at you over the course of the blog series thus far so I’m hoping this post won’t be quite as overwhelming as the rest and hopefully not as wordy!  There are a few little things about knitting sleeves that I wanted to mention and didn’t want the information to get lost in some of the longer posts about modifying sweaters.

Picking up stitches at the underarm: If you’ve knit mittens, you might know where I’m going with this. Sometimes when you pick up the number of stitches that the pattern specifies (at the underarm of a sweater to begin the sleeves, or for a thumb on a mitten), you end up with a little hole on either side of the picked up stitches. It looks a little like this:

Real sweater WIP complete with little holes under the arm.

There are a couple of ways you can deal with this. The first being to leave a decent sized yarn tail when you pick up your stitches and use the tail to close up the holes. The other thing you can do is pick up a couple of extra stitches and then get rid of them on the next round by using K2TOG (knit two together). You can even knit those stitches together through the back loop to tighten them up a bit more.

Modifying Shaping: We talked about this a bit in our previous post, and I just want to reiterate that you’ll be much happier with your finished sweater if you take the time to shape your sweaters to fit your body. If you’ll be shortening the sleeves or lengthening them, you’ll want to think about if you want to put your decreases (or increases if you’re knitting bottom up!) closer or father apart. Don’t be afraid to change the sleeve length of the pattern! If you prefer 3/4 length sleeves…go for it! Want to change a short-sleeved or 3/4 length sleeve to full length? Add a couple of more decreases and keep knitting!

Working in the Round: I’m going to be completely honest, here. I loathe knitting sleeves on double-pointed needles. This is the number one reason I taught myself Magic Loop (knitting in the round on one long circular needle). I highly recommend doing magic loop for sweater sleeves. I find that with dpns, you end up moving your entire sweater each time you reach the end of your needle. There are plenty of people out there who don’t mind using dpns for sleeves, so give it a try if you really love using dpns! If you’re interested in learning magic loop, we have a couple of great resources at the shop: The Magic Loop Booklet and the Circular Knitting Workshop book.

Consider Knitting Your Sleeves Before Finishing the Body: Never in a million years would I have thought to do this for a top-down sweater, but it makes complete sense. Jasmin from The Knitmore Girls Podcast mentioned that this is how she knits her top-down sweaters, and I think it’s brilliant. Like I mentioned above, when you are knitting sleeves you are constantly rearranging/twisting your sweater. This method has you knitting the sleeves right after the sleeve split, so that instead of an entire sweater sitting on your lap you just have the top portion of the sweater. You might want to knit an inch or two of the body first to make sure that you’re on track with the fit just in case you need to rip back! I haven’t actually tried this yet…but I’m hoping to do it for my next top-down sweater to see if it helps my dislike of sleeve knitting. The only reason I can see NOT to do this would be if you are worried about running out of yarn. In that case, I’d knit the body first and split your remaining yarn in half using a kitchen scale so that your sleeves will be the same length.

I think that’s all for sleeves! Next week we’ll have our final 2 posts in the series and then it will be time to start our sweaters!!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Making Adjustments on the Fly

The biggest appeal of seamless sweater patterns is that you can try them on as you go and make adjustments to fit your body. It’s a little more difficult to do with bottom-up sweaters, but it can certainly be done! Top-down sweaters are perfect for making adjustments as you go!

I think one of the biggest things to keep in mind is that you don’t need to follow the pattern exactly. You’ll be much happier with your finished sweater if the smallest part of the waist lines up with your waist, the hem hits you in a flattering spot, and the sleeves are the correct length.

Let’s use the Bayside Pullover from Coastal Knits as an example. Below is the schematic from the pattern. We’ll start at the top of the sweater and work our way down.

We’re not going to talk about every single measurement and change you can make to your sweater, but I’d like to hit the big ones: Yoke depth, sleeve circumference, chest, waist, and hem.

Yoke Depth: As a fairly short person, I find that the yoke depth on many knitting patterns are a touch longer than I’d like. But some of you taller folks may find that it’s not quite long enough. Take a tape measure and start measuring from the top of your shoulder. Look at where the yoke depth as written will hit you. If you follow the directions, this is where the sleeves will be split off from your sweater. Does it reach where you’d like the underarm of your sweater to begin? Is it going to be saggy in the armpits if you knit that length? Figure out your ideal length. After you’ve done your raglan increases you can keep knitting without increasing until you reach this measurement. You can also “try on” your sweater to figure this part out. It’s a little tricky, but put your sweater on some waste yarn, drape it over your shoulders and pinch the sleeve stitches around your upper arm/shoulder. You can then decide if you’d like to make the yoke a bit longer or split for the sleeves.

Let’s take a minute to look at what your stitches on your needle will look like if you are knitting a top-down sweater:

If you are knitting a cardigan, the front stitches won’t be connected and you might be adding a button band afterwards, so don’t freak out if you try on your cardigan without the button band and it seems too small! The stitch markers mark the raglan increases. There will always be 4, and you will be increasing on BOTH sides of the markers. This will result in a total of 8 stitches being increased during each raglan increase round. 

Chest Circumference: If you’ve decided that you’d like your sweater to be an in-between size for the chest measurements, you can either do more or less raglan increases to get your desired size. For example, if you wanted a sweater (using the Bayside Pullover from above) that measured 34″, you could follow the directions for the size 32″ and do a few extra sets of increases. Now, you probably want to know how many sets of increases. Well…the gauge for the pattern is 24 sts/4 inches which equals 6 sts/inch. Since you want TWO extra inches you’d want 12 extra stitches. You’ll be adding 4 body stitches during each increase round. See Diagram Above. So, to achieve 12 extra stitches you’ll want to do THREE extra raglan increases on the BODY ONLY.

If you want your sweater to be a little bit SMALLER, just leave out an increase or two using your gauge to figure out how many increases to leave out.

Arm Circumference: The idea of altering the circumference of the upper arms is exactly the same as the chest circumference. If you’d like them a bit larger than the schematic, add an extra increase or two on the SLEEVES ONLY (see diagram above for placement of these stitches) and if you want them smaller leave out an increase or two. Of course, this would be a bit more complicated if you were doing a pattern that had cables or lace and required a specific number of stitches.

If you’d like your entire sweater (sleeves and body) larger/smaller, do more/less increases on both the body and sleeves.

Waist: Ideally you want the smallest part of your sweater to match up with the smallest part of your waist. The best way to achieve this is to measure how far it is from just below your full bust to just before the smallest part of your waist. You’ll need to look at the pattern and decide if the pattern as written will work, or if you want to do your waist decreases closer together or farther apart. Instead of doing decreases every “X” number or rows (this will likely be how the pattern has the decreases written), take the measurement from above and divide it by the number of decreases the pattern calls for. This will tell you how often to do your decreases. Let’s say that you measure and get 6 inches and the pattern has 4 waist decreases…you’ll want to do your decreases 1.5″ apart.  You can also look at the waist measurement and decide if you want to do more or less decreases. Is the waist measurement smaller than you’d like? Skip a decrease. Too big? Do an extra decrease!

Make sure you don’t begin your decreases until you’ve knit far enough to reach your full bust. You don’t want to start getting rid of stitches (and inches) before the fullest part of your bust. If the pattern says to start the waist decreases after you’ve knit an inch from the sleeve split, but your full bust isn’t until 2 inches past…wait until 2 inches.

The waist shaping is where being able to try on your sweater comes in handy:

To try your sweater on, either put it on 2 really long circular needles or thread a piece of waste yarn through all of your stitches and pull your needle out. If you use 2 circular needles make sure that the total circumference will be able to fit over your shoulders…you don’t want to drop stitches while trying on your sweater! Trust me, it’s not fun to have to pick them back up.

After your waist decreases you want to knit straight for a couple of inches to where your waist starts increasing to your hips.

For the hip increases, use the same method as for figuring out the waist decreases. Your waist decreases and hip increases may not be spaced out the same depending on your body type. For example, I typically spread out my decreases farther than patterns call for, but put my hip increases closer together. Measure on your body where you’d like your increases to start and end. Divide this number by the number of increases you want to do to figure out how many inches apart to place them. There is no reason you need to do the same number of waist decreases and hip increases (unless you need a certain number of stitches for a cable or lace pattern). Tailor it to your body measurements. 

For sweaters that don’t have any waist shaping, such as the Rocky Coast Cardigan or the Schoodic Cardigan, you’ll just need to worry about hem length and the sleeves.

Hem Length: The beauty of a hand knit sweater is that you can make it as short or long as you’d like! Something to keep in mind: if you use wool, your sweater will likely grow a little bit. Err on the side of a little short (you can block it longer or add length later) instead of too long. Trying your sweater on is a great way to decide exactly when to bind-off!

A few words about bust darts: I’m nowhere near as knowledgeable about bust darts as I am about many other aspects of sweater knitting. I’ve done horizontal bust darts in one knitted top so far, and it worked out beautifully. I’ll probably start doing them more often, but I can’t really give good instructions yet! If you have a cup-size larger than a C, it’s worth considering doing bust darts so that the front of your sweater doesn’t ride up. Horizontal bust darts give you a little extra room in the bust area without making the entire sweater larger. The bust darts are done by using short rows across the front of the sweater. Custom Knits 2 (which we have at the shop) has a section on adding bust darts by using short rows. Little Red in the City (also at the shop!), has a great section on shaping and horizontal bust darts. Ysolda tells you how to calculate how many short rows to do and gives tips on figuring out where to place them. Little Red is chock full of other great sweater-knitting information as well.

Come on back on Friday for Tips and Tricks for Sleeves!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Tips for Knitting a Sweater with Hand-Dyed Yarn

As you know, we’re big fans of hand-dyed yarn here at Stash and they certainly help with that “Wow” factor in our finished projects. Since every skein of hand-dyed yarn is a little bit different, it can be a bit challenging to use in larger projects. However, there are some tips and tricks you can use to make sure that you’re happy with your finished sweater!

Here’s what you probably don’t want your sweater to look like:

No woman wants a line directly across the chest area! Needless to say, this sweater ended up in the frog pond.

There are a few things that went wrong here. The first being that my skeins didn’t match as closely as they should have. I also alternated the darkest two skeins instead of using all three at once.

So, how can you avoid a sweater with a big, obvious line when you change skeins?

1. When you’re shopping for yarn, choose the skeins that look the most alike. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when they’re twisted in their skeins, so it’s often a good idea to un-skein them and lay them next to each other. Like this:

2. Alternate Skeins while you knit. There are a few different ways to do this that we’ll discuss in just a minute.

3. If you’re knitting a top-down sweater, Save some yarn from the top to use when you go back and knit the sleeves. TRUST ME on this one (I speak from experience). It doesn’t need to be a lot, but I’d suggest phasing the skein you’re using when you split for the sleeves out and putting it aside to be used later. When you get ready to knit the sleeves, pull this skein out and use 1/2 for the top of each sleeve.

4. If you have skeins in your stash that you’re using and one skein is a bit different than the rest, use the different skein for things like trim, button bands, hems, and neckbands.

Alternating Skeins – to alternate skeins, work from two balls of yarn. Switch yarns every 2 rows (you can do 3 or 4 if you’re knitting in the round) by picking up the second strand of yarn from underneath the strand you’re working with. Make sure not to pull too tight when you pick up the new strand. 

If your skeins match really well, you can just alternate as you get close to the end of your ball to transition to the next one. It will look like this on the inside of your knitting:

When you knit a cardigan with button bands (or just front bands/collar) that are knit on afterwards, such as the Calligraphy Cardigan, you can alternate right at the edge of your knitting every 2 rows. Easy peasy.

If you’re knitting a pullover from the top town, alternate starting at the back raglan and after you split for the sleeves, alternate at the side seam. If the sweater is knit from the bottom up, you would alternate at the side seam and then transition to the back raglan.

This isn’t a pullover, but it has a decent shot of the back of the sweater so you can see where to alternate.

For a cardigan that has you knit the front bands as you go, you can either alternate at the sideseam/back raglan as in the previous example or you can alternate where the body meets the front band.

For Sleeves: alternate at the underarm, which will be the beginning of your round for each sleeve.

I know alternating skeins sounds a bit tedious, but it’s really worth it when knitting with hand-dyed yarn. I’ve never been sorry that I’ve alternated skeins, but several times that I haven’t I’ve regretted it (see: frogged sweater at the top of the post!).

Let us know if we can help you pick out well matching skeins at the shop or help you decide the best place to alternate skeins!

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