The Details: Folded neckband

DETAILS: How to knit a folded neckband

Any time I make anything, I make a lot of decisions along the way — some of them quite minute. The more I knit, the more comfortable I am with the basic functions of knitting, the more attention I find myself paying to little tiny tweaks or details or finishing tricks. I revel in making things as polished as possible, including on the inside. (Even though I often unapologetically leave ends hanging around inside!) I try to share as much of my thinking as I can because you never know which little detail might be exactly the thing someone was wanting to know or didn’t even know to wonder about — I always appreciate that in reading about people’s projects. But it means I wind up trying to pack too many thoughts into every FO post, and a lot gets left out. So I’m starting a new series called The Details, and my aim is to pull out (at least) one little detail per project to focus on in its own space.

I’m starting with the neckband on my fisherman sweater — or more specifically, the spot where the fold meets the pick-up ridge. This folded neckband was a little controversial in the comments the other day, but I am a big fan of a folded neckband. To me, it gives even (or especially) a simple pullover a really nice polish. It’s quite common and popular right now, but if you combine a slightly higher neckline with a folded band, it does have a bit of a retro look. This sweater comes by its retro neckband naturally — it’s a 1967 pattern — but I’ve done folded bands on my last 4 pullovers: fisherman, yoke sweater, b/w striped sweater and the purple Improv sample. It’s one of those choices you’re always free to make — if a pattern has a folded band and you hate it, don’t do it; if it has a plain band and you prefer it folded, go for it.

Over these four sweaters, I’ve been playing around with different techniques for accomplishing the same task. A folded band is just a band that’s twice the width of the plain band, folded in half and stitched down to the inside of the garment. (Although some patterns will have you knit the dead-center row on a larger needle, but I find it unnecessary.) It’s best knitted from picked-up stitches, so you have that pick-up ridge to sew it to, but beyond that there are options. Technically, you can do whatever you want, as long as you’re careful to retain some elasticity where you’re sewing the two together. (Just like binding off too tightly on a plain band can make it difficult to get over your head, you have to be careful not to stitch a folded band down so tightly that the neck hole has no give.)

Some patterns call for you to bind off all of your stitches “in pattern” and then sew the bind-off edge to the inside. Other patterns will have you knit to the intended depth and then sew through the live stitches. That saves the step of binding off, but it means if you do make it a little too tight and the seam strand breaks when you pull it over head at any point, you’ve got live stitches on the loose. So I prefer to bind off all of the stitches, but you do need to do it verrrrry loosely so there’s plenty of stretch. I work the bind-off round (and sometimes even the round before that) on a needle 2 or 3 sizes up from my ribbing needle, and then use a separate strand of yarn for the seaming. The nice thing about sewing it down is the ribbing acts as a perfect guide — make sure you’re folding each rib down onto its own back side, and everything will be perfectly aligned all the way around.

But there’s the question of how you’re binding off and how exactly you’re joining the two edges. With this fisherman sweater, I found my absolute favorite mix of all the methods I’ve experimented with. I worked the bind-off row (on a size US8 needle after working the ribbing on US6) all as knit stitches, rather than in pattern, which leaves a visible chain along the edge of your ribbing. I love the way that bind-off edge looks when laid down next to the pick-up ridge — it’s like having a lovely bit of braid overlaying a join. To keep the neatness, I joined them together by running my tapestry needle down through the bottom leg of the stitch on top and the top leg of the stitch on bottom (the adjacent legs from each edge, in other words), pulling the yarn snug but not tight, then up through the next stitch and the bottom leg of the one above it, then back down through the next pair, and so on. It’s a lot like grafting — the seam yarn is basically invisible. I stumbled onto this out of a mix of haste and curiosity and it’s the neatest inside of a handmade neckband I’ve ever done. Will be my method of choice from now on.

p.s. If you’re wondering when I’m going to shop posting pics of this sweater, the answer might be never!

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Hot Tip: Knit all the parts at once

Hot Tip: Knit all the parts at once

Knitters will always tell you about socks and sleeves: knit them two-at-a-time so you don’t have that dread feeling of starting over with the second one. I feel the same way about ALL the parts. As much as I love a seamed sweater, I don’t enjoy starting back at the cast-on edge 4 or 5 times, especially once I’ve gotten into the rhythm of a chart or stitch pattern. So no matter what I’m knitting, I’ve become a polygamist: I rotate between the pairs or component parts rather than knitting them in the ol’ serial monogamy fashion. (Same for a top-down sweater — you’ll usually see me moving back and forth between the body and sleeves, advancing them all gradually.)

In the case of this fisherman sweater, I’ve now blocked a half-sleeve (as previously discussed) and the partial back, so I can see what’s really happening with my stitch gauge between the two (their being quite different, due to the differing stitch patterns) and make decisions about the respective sizes of the body and upper sleeves before I get to the underarms. So each time a piece went into the bath, that was a perfect chance to cast on the next one!

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Count, don’t measure

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Hot Tip: Count, don’t measure

Hot Tip: Count, don't measure

One of the fundamentals of knitting that it’s taken me the longest to truly absorb and incorporate into my process is that if you really want something to fit correctly in the end, as you’re knitting toward whatever length your project or pattern calls for (e.g. “knit until piece measures 7″ from cast-on edge”) you must count rows rather than measuring lengths. (Advice offered here by Kate Gagnon Osborn three years ago in a larger post about fit.) There are a couple of reasons why:

1) Measuring knitted fabric is an iffy proposition to begin with. A grippy or curved surface, the pressure of your hand, even wishful thinking can all influence it.

2) The fabric might change once it’s been soaked or washed in whatever way — it could grow, shrink, widen, shorten, you name it. If you’re just measuring your raw knitting and not taking into account how it will change in the end, that measurement could backfire on you.

Length is determined by number of rows and how tall each row is (i.e., your row gauge) and only a blocked swatch can tell you that. If your swatch doesn’t change — the row gauge is identical before and after you soak it — then only #1 up there applies. In that case, if you want to knit to the intended length and determine that with a measuring tape, ok.

But if your swatch does change, it’s a different story.

The way to be truly accurate, no matter what, is to calculate how many rows — at your row gauge — are needed to equal the intended length, and knit that many rows. Even if your swatch doesn’t change and you’re knitting two of something (sweater fronts, sleeves, sock cuffs …) counting rows is the way to make sure they match. To make keeping track simpler, try putting a pin in your work at helpful intervals, use the features of the fabric as a guide, or employ this elegant little trick.

EXAMPLE:
The two half-sleeves of my fisherman-in-progress above are identical, except the top one has been soaked and laid out to dry (with no pinning or stretching or manipulation of any kind, so I could find its natural gauge — this is my sleeve swatch), whereas the bottom one is virgin knitting. As you can see, this fabric (heavily textured Arranmore) pulls up a bit when soaked. Therefore, if I were to knit each sleeve to 18″ as told by a measuring tape, and then block my finished pieces, they would turn out too short. I think I’ve counseled before to think of pre- and post-block gauge in percentage terms, or just “keep it in mind,” but the precise answer is counting rows. My row gauge here is 7.3 rows per inch — measured on this blocked fabric over 9″ to be really certain. So if I want my sleeves to be 18″ long from edge to underarm, I need to knit 131 rows from cast-on (which will be longer than 18″ in virgin form but will shrink to that length when blocked). In this case, there’s a cable cross every sixth row, which makes it easy to add them up, and I’ll also make sure both sleeves finish on the same row of the chart to guarantee they’re exact twins.

See also: How to knit and measure a gauge swatch

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Test your pick-up ratio

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Hot Tip: Test your pick-up ratio

Hot Tip: Test your pick-up ratio

When it comes to picking up stitches along a vertical or slanted or curved edge of knitted fabric, have you ever wondered why so many patterns tell you to “pick up X sts for every Y rows” instead of stating a specific number of stitches? A lot (most?) of the time when we pick up stitches, it’s to create an edge treatment that will be worked perpendicular to the direction of the original knitting, such as a ribbed button band on a cardigan. If stitches were square, aligning those two bits of knitting perpendicularly would be a 1:1 situation, but stitches are generally wider than they are tall. So if you were to pick up one stitch for every row of your cardigan fabric, your button band ribbing (to stick to this example) would be wider than the length of edge it’s attached to, causing it to flare or even ruffle.* Since row gauge can be hard to match, and you might also have decided to make your cardigan longer or shorter than the pattern — or it blocked out a bit different than you intended, etc — it’s often best for the pattern writer to give you the formula to go by, rather than a fixed number. But even that’s not foolproof: You might do exactly as the pattern says and still find your ribbing is splaying the original edge a bit. Or there’s the inverse: If you pick up too few stitches, you’re gathering the fabric along that edge, causing it to be shorter than it started out. So if you run into trouble — or you’re not working from a pattern, or you’ve deliberately made changes — how do you know how many stitches to pick up?

My incredibly knowledgeable friend Kate over at Kelbourne Woolens advocates for an elegant mathematical way of figuring it out, by breaking your gauge down into a fraction (or potentially a compound set of fractions). I’ve used that as a loose jumping off point since first hearing her talk about it in a class at Squam a few years ago. But even then, I adhere to advice I first read in Pam Allen’s Knitting for Dummies when I was a newbie: Test it. Especially when you’re picking up along a lengthy edge, such as a cardigan front or a shawl border, it’s worth taking the time to pick up only along a few inches first, knit your edging, and see if it lays flat.

You can also do this on a swatch, although I prefer testing on a larger area than just 4 inches. The beauty of a picked up edge is that it takes very little time to knit — it’s generally only a few rows of knitting — and can be ripped out without having any effect on the original fabric. So it’s a simple thing, and completely worthwhile, to engage in a bit of trial and error.

*Same as if you pick up too many stitches around a neck hole — you wind up with a ruffly, stand-up collar. Pull that sucker out and pick up fewer stitches around the sloping parts to get it make a nice round shape that lays flat.

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EXAMPLE:
In the photo above (previously seen on Changing the Channel), I’ve entirely departed from the original treatment of Jared Flood’s Channel Cardigan — working a picked-up garter-stitch band instead of the pattern’s seamed English-rib collar. First, measure (maybe even mark off) the section you’re using for your test, so you’ll be able to tell if and how it’s changed once you’ve picked up into it — I used just the straight part of front edge here. I picked up 4 out of 5 for the first few inches (alongside the ribbing), then 3 out of 4 for the rest. You can see just looking at the photo that the lower part is being stretched — 4/5 is too many stitches here — and the rest of it was pulled in just a bit, so 3/4 is not enough. The correct ratio was somewhere in between, or rather a blend of the two. In order to effectively pick up 7 sts for every 9 rows, I picked up 3 out of 4, then 4 out of 5, repeat to the end. Make sense? Here’s how it turned out.

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Slope your bind-off

What I Know About: Holding yarns together

What I Know About: Holding yarns together

There are some questions I get asked over and over, some of which I have answers for and many of which I do not. So today I’m kicking off a new occasional series called “What I Know About” in which I or someone more knowledgeable than me will respond to your most pressing inquiries. It might be a Q&A, a guest post, who knows — but I’m starting with probably the MOST frequently asked question and my own answer to it: Why are you always knitting with multiple yarns held together?

There are basically three categories of reasons:

GAUGE
The most common reason I personally do it is to get the yarn I want at the gauge I want. For instance, I wanted to knit a cardigan out of the gorgeous heathery black Linen Quill, but it’s light-fingering weight. I neither want to knit at that gauge or want a sweater that thin, so by holding two strands together, I got the weight/gauge I was after. There are dozens of fabulous lace- or fingering-weight yarns I’d never get to knit with if I didn’t double them up. Conversely, there are limited options available at the bulky-superbulky end of the spectrum, so holding yarns together is a great option for knitting at a bulkier gauge without being limited to the available yarns. Such as my linen Sloper in progress, because there’s no such thing as bulky linen. (Possibly with good reason, lol!)

FABRIC/FIBER
It’s also quite common to hold yarns together in order to blend those fibers into one fabric. (The entire Shibui line is built on this concept.) For example, for my grandmother’s shawl, I held together one strand of Shibui Staccato (70% merino, 30% silk) and one Shibui Linen (100% linen), so the finished fabric is 50% linen, 35% merino, 15% silk. She lives in Texas, but I wanted the shawl to have more soft-cuddliness than 100% linen, so I blended it in this way. And again holding together two strands of fingering weight yarn created a weightier fabric than knitting with either yarn on its own. One really common trick is to hold one strand of something like cobweb-weight Silk Cloud or Kidsilk Haze together with whatever your main yarn is, to give the fabric that soft mohair halo. In addition to making the most astonishing swatch books I’ve ever laid eyes on, Shibui posts a downloadable Mix Cheat Sheet that shows what happens gauge-wise when you hold multiple strands of any one Shibui yarn or combine different ones, which is also a useful guide in general as to how yarns of differing weights might add up. You always have to swatch to know for sure, of course, but that’s a great starting point for getting a sense of gauge.

COLOR
Likely the first reason I ever held yarns together was to create a marl, and it’s still one of my favorite reasons. Again, there aren’t a ton of marled yarn options in the world, but by holding two (or more) strands together, you can create any combo you want!The yarns you’re mixing may or may not be the same weight or fiber content — you could create a 50/50 marl with two stands of the same yarn in different colors, or something much more creative with varying weights and fibers, so a combination of all of the above motivations and results. And it could be a marl or an ombré or lots of other effects. One of my all-time favorite examples of creative mixes is this Chloé sweater from a few years ago. (The swatch pictured up top is mine from awhile back, playing around with different Shibui yarns — two strands of an ivory, one black with one ivory, one ivory with one grey.)

Another example from my own past that’s a combination of the above is my Bellows cardigan. That pattern is written for two strands of Shelter (i.e. bulky gauge) and could easily be knitted with a single strand of a bulky yarn instead. I knitted mine with two strands of Balance, which served a dual purpose: 1) it got me to the bulky gauge, as the original pattern did and 2) it counteracted the need to alternate skeins when working with that yarn. Because the wool and cotton fibers in Balance take the dyes differently, Balance behaves a lot like a hand-dyed yarn. When working with hand-dyed, it’s important to alternate skeins every row if you want to avoid pooling or an obvious change in the fabric at the point where you joined a new ball. By holding two strands together, you’re literally blending them, thereby canceling out those concerns.

So there are lots of reasons you might hold multiple yarns together, but at the center of it is control and creativity — allowing you to create whatever you want.

For more on some of the things you can do with yarns held together, see: The other breed of colorwork

My Sloper mods: Longer linen V-neck

My Sloper mods: Longer linen V-neck

If you’ve read through the Sloper pattern and notes and the posts about resizing and reshaping it (congratulations! phew), you’ll see that what I’ve charted above, for my #sloperKAL sweater, is a combination of all of that. Knitting with two strands of Kestrel* on US13 needles, my gauge is 2.75 sts/inch instead of 2.25, plus I want this one to be more like 40″ circumference at the chest, so for both of those reasons I’ll need a few more stitches than the pattern calls for. (Here’s my swatch.)

My row gauge is actually more like 4 sts/inch (based on my blocked swatch) than the pattern’s 3.75, but I know from my striped tank that this Kestrel fabric will grow as I’m wearing it. So for my calculations, I’m sticking with the pattern’s 3.75. Which means I only have to recalculate the stitches (widths) and not the rows (depths).

20″ x 2.75 sts per inch = 54 sts

Technically that’s 55, but I’m rounding down to 54 stitches each, front and back, because I want an even number of stitches. I also want this version to be A-line, more like 42″ at the hem, so I’ll cast on 58 stitches (which conveniently works with the multiple for the [2×2]+2 ribbing) and decrease twice (2 sts per decrease row) on my way to the underarms. I’m also planning to knit 15″ (56 rows) from cast-on to underarm, for a somewhat longer sweater. (The pattern is 11.5″ to the underarm.)

I want the armholes to be even narrower — the shoulders even wider — than the original version, so I’m sticking with 3 armhole stitches, which at this gauge will amount to just under an inch difference between the side and the armhole edge after seaming. And I also want the neck width to remain somewhere around 7″, which at my gauge of 2.75 sts/inch means 18 sts (rounded down from 19.25). So when you subtract my 6 (3+3) armhole stitches and 18 neck stitches from my 54 sts, that leaves 30 for the shoulders — 15 each. As you can see in my chart above—

3 armhole | 15 shoulder | 18 neck | 15 shoulder | 3 armhole

All of which I’ll match on the back piece. I still have a little more thinking to do about the decreases and edge treatment for my neckline (I’ll report back about that) but the above is all I needed to know to cast on!

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I hope you’ve found this series of Sloper posts informative and inspiring, whether or not you plan to cast on a sweater for the #sloperKAL. But of course what I really hope is that you’ll take a leap and cast on!

(Fashionary sketch template and Knitters Graph Paper Journal from Fringe Supply Co.)

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*I have no idea if doubled Kestrel is a good idea or not! I’m basically making chunky linen, which is a weird concept, on its face, and might result in a tank that turns into a dress over the course of a day — who knows! But I’m excited to find out. And I have no idea how much yarn it will require. I’ll let you know when I’m done with the first piece.

PREVIOUSLY: Sloper mods, part 2: Reshaping the pattern

Sloper mods, part 2: Reshaping the pattern

Sloper mods, part 2: Reshaping the pattern

As I mentioned on Monday, there are lots of variables you can toy with within the existing parameters of the Sloper pattern to change the look of it in many ways — from playing around with the fabric and the seams to choosing between the crewneck and turtleneck options given in the pattern. And yesterday we talked about ways to resize the pattern without really changing the look of it. So today, let’s talk about how to actually make changes to the shaping of the pattern in order to change the style of the finished garment. (Download the side-by-side comparison of these diagrams in PDF form.)

WAIST SHAPING

Sloper contains no waist shaping — it’s a straight-sided, boxy little number.

• For a more curvaceous, form-fitting sweater, add traditional hourglass shaping at the waist. That is, decrease as you approach the waist, then increase again as you head toward the bustline. (For how the math on this works, see Improv.)

• For A-line shaping, cast on more stitches — being mindful of the multiple for the ribbing — and decrease out the extra stitches gradually as you approach the underarms. (Again, see Improv for how to calculate the spacing.)

Sloper mods, part 2: Reshaping the pattern

ARMHOLE SHAPING

Sloper has quite narrow armhole shaping — it’s designed such that the fabric reaches out fairly far on your shoulders, with armholes that just slightly nip in from the side seams.

Fig. A: For an even boxier look, you could leave out the armhole shaping altogether — just work the sides of the garment straight all the way up to the shoulder, leaving an 8.75″ gap for the armholes when you seam the sides together. (Note the corresponding adjustment at the shoulder, since the original 3 armhole sts and 10 shoulder sts are now all 13 shoulder sts.)

Fig. B: For a funkier look, mimic the camel version and make a squared-off armhole by binding off all three underarm stitches at once, rather than gradually.

Fig. C: For an armhole that cuts in farther, bind off more underarm stitches. You could bind off 2-3 on the first BO row(s), and/or work one or two additional bind-off rows, instead of just 3 per side. What you’re doing is taking stitches away from the shoulder, moving the armhole edge inward, so you’ll be left with equivalently fewer shoulder stitches to bind off. However many you’re left with, bind them off in halves. (So for example, the pattern has 3 armhole stitches and 10 shoulder stitches on each side. You could shift that, e.g., to 5 armhole stitches and 8 shoulder stitches, bound off 4 and 4.) Do the math to determine how wide your changes will leave your armhole and your shoulder, based on your gauge. (See yesterday’s post for more on all of that.)

Fig. D: If rather than the clean slipped-stitch armhole edge Sloper is designed with, you’d prefer to add ribbing or another picked-up edge treatment, you’ll need an equivalent amount of room for it. For example, if you want to add 1″-wide ribbing around the armhole, you’ll need to start the shaping 1″ sooner (3 or 4 rows at pattern gauge) and move it inward an inch, as we did in Figure C.

Sloper mods, part 2: Reshaping the pattern

NECK SHAPING

Sloper is written with a basic round neck for a picked-up neck treatment that can be finished as either a crewneck or a turtleneck.

Fig. E: For a V-neck, pinpoint how low you want the V to be (by calculating desired depth and your row gauge) and mark the tip of the V on the chart at the dead center of the garment, counting downward the appropriate distance from the top. Then rather than binding off stitches gradually as for a round neck, simply work that separation row [marked (D) on the pattern front] to the center stitch, place that first half of the stitches on hold, then work to the end of the row. To create the V, decrease 1 stitch at the neck edge every other row until your desired neck width, then work even to the shoulders. Repeat the process in reverse for the left front.

Fig. F: For a scoop neck, begin the neck shaping sooner (based on how deep you want it to be, calculated by your desired depth and your row gauge), so the front neck edge sits lower.

What you do with your neck edge is also up to you — pick up stitches and work ribbing or garter, or work a few rounds and bind off for more of a rolled edge. Or work a sloped bind-off and slipped-stitch selvage, same as the armhole edge, for a clean edge with no further treatment.

THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS

By combining different variations of armholes and necklines, along with changing up the neck edging, you can create a wide variety of garments. For instance, if you combine a scoop neck (Fig. E) with Fig C-style carved out armholes, you’ll have turned it into a tank top, whereas Fig A boxy armholes and a deep V-neck would give you a completely different look. Or what if you did square armholes and a low square neck! (I.e., just bind off all the neck stitches at once rather than gradually.) And when you factor in making it longer or shorter, hourglass or A-line, the possibilities really are endless.

As noted yesterday, just make sure any changes you make to the front are matched identically on the back, so everything matches up properly (same number of armhole rows, same number of shoulder stitches) when it comes to seaming the pieces together.

So once again, I can’t wait to see what you come up with! Link your Ravelry projects to the Sloper pattern listing, and use the hashtag #sloperKAL to share your plans and progress on Instagram in the coming weeks.

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PREVIOUSLY: Sloper mods, part 1: Resizing the pattern