How to knit a miniature (Sólbein) cardigan

How to knit a miniature (Sólbein) cardigan

After sharing the latest pic and steeking progress on my mini Sólbein Cardigan on Instagram over the weekend, I’m getting a lot of questions about how I’ve adapted this pattern for child-size, and the specifics of what’s going on. Since it seems like a number of people are considering casting on, I thought I should tell you two key things now instead of waiting until I’m all done with the knitting—

THE SIZE

First, I have made no adjustments to the pattern. It’s a perfect demonstration of how gauge matters: All I’m doing is knitting the pattern as written, following the instructions for the smallest size, but using smaller stitches. The pattern gauge is 3.5 stitches and 4.25 rows per inch on recommended US10.5 needles — aka bulky gauge. I’m knitting with heavy-worsted yarn (chiefly Kelbourne’s Germantown) on size US8 needles, and my blocked gauge is 4.25 stitches and 6.25 rows per inch. Smaller stitches add up to fewer inches, ergo the sweater is way smaller.

I did stop to check the math and make sure I didn’t need to redistribute the sleeve/body stitch counts at all before I separated them. Making sure to count the underarm sts, I divided the stitch counts from the pattern by my stitch gauge to see where it would put me, which turned out to be about 25-26″ chest circumference (once I factor in button bands) and just under 10″ upper sleeve. I then consulted this chart to see where that would put it in the size/age range, and I’m looking at a child size 6. To double-check (especially since some of those numbers and labels are a little odd to me) I also asked a friend to measure one of her daughter’s sweaters, and these measurements seemed fine. So I’ve stuck with the stitch counts from the pattern right through the sleeve separation, and all I need to do differently is knit the body and sleeves to size-appropriate lengths, rather than the lengths given in the pattern.

I’ve made the body 14.5″ long (the yoke came out to 6″, so 8.5″ for the body). I’ll make the sleeves 12″ long, and you can see I’m leaving out the lower colorwork, just knitting contrasting hem and cuffs.

THE STEEK

One thing I did not take into account when shrinking my stitch size is that the pattern contains only 2 sts for the steek — you sew down those two stitches and cut the running thread between them. At my reduced scale, that is a very small target. Sewing along those 2 sts before cutting between them left me with no room for picking up stitches for the button band. I’ll need to pick up into the center of the first knit stitch, rather than beside it, which will leave me with a half stitch of colorwork butting up against the button band. I think it will be fine, if not ideal. But if you’re planning to do this, I would highly recommend giving yourself a couple of extra stitches in the steek, so you have more room to work with.

One side effect of my tenseness when I slid this under the machine to secure that narrow little steek is that I forgot to keep an eye on the tail of my waste yarn. And yep, I managed to sew perfectly along about a two-inch length of it. It’ll be my little hidden secret (my humble spot) once it’s turned under and covered with a pretty ribbon, but ack! I think I might be the only person in the entire #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed who had any trouble with the steek! It was fun anyway, and somehow the sweater is even more darling now that it’s cut open.

The other question I’ve gotten is why did I secure and cut the steek before knitting sleeves. The answer is two-fold: 1) I couldn’t wait to do it! 2) If I screwed it up, I didn’t want to have wasted time knitting sleeves.

What else can I tell you at this stage?

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PREVIOUSLY in Fringe and Friends Steekalong: Variations on a stranded them

Inspiring mods of the Steekalong

Inspiring mods of the Steekalong

While there aren’t people taking really major liberties with the Sólbein Cardigan (which 99% of the #fringeandfriendssteekalong participants are knitting), there are numerous smaller modifications happening that illustrate all of the freedoms and flexibilities that excite me so much about knitting, so I wanted to point you to some of them. These are the sorts of design detail tweaks you can consider for just about any sweater you might knit:

BOTTOM: Pullover. @heyjoanne9999 left out the steek stitches in front to convert Sólbein to a pullover, but is planning to steek some side slits at the hips.

MIDDLE LEFT: Short rows. Several knitters have added short rows between the neckband and start of the colorwork, so the back neck will sit higher. @caitmariejohnson shared her notes on how she did it (swipe to the third image in the linked post) as did @knitterbree.

TOP: Vertical button band. For her second Sólbein already completed, @ivyknitsfast (no joke) knitted vertical 1×1 rib button bands and seamed them on. If you’ve ever wondered what a difference that makes, just look.

MIDDLE RIGHT: I-cord edging. @ceciliainstafford opted for I-cord edging all the way around, which has given it a vintage sweater-jacket look.

It’s hard to believe we’re only halfway through the official timeframe, given how many finished sweaters there are. But again, the fact that so many people have completed sweaters in under three weeks tells you there’s still plenty of time to join in! And remember, you don’t have to be finished to be eligible for prizes. The details on all that are in the kick-off post.

I’m casting on this weekend! Happy Friday, everyone—

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PREVIOUSLY in Fringe and Friends Steekalong: Hot tips and tricks

Hot Tip: Resist the twist

Hot Tip: Resist the twist

When I was first knitting — almost entirely in the round, mind you — I had a lot of trouble with my yarn kinking up on me between my work and the ball. Some yarns were worse than others, and I remember running across a discussion on Twitter (this would have been 2012) wherein Clara Parkes was talking about it potentially being a problem of too much twist in the yarn, and/or that it can be an issue with yarns that are Z plied vs S plied … or maybe it was vice versa. I don’t remember! I have no doubt that was accurate information, but it didn’t lead me to a solution. One day I went to the nearest yarn store (which no longer exists) and asked the owner about it, as I was having a LOT of trouble with it and my yarn of that moment. She suggested I try knitting from the other end of the skein, which made no difference.

It was only in the past couple of years that it really sunk in that when I was knitting around and around and around in a circle, I was adding twist to the yarn in the process. So it’s only natural that it would have to be unspun once in awhile to get the kinks out — like the phone cords of yesteryear. But I also realized I have a habit of turning my work the same direction for every next row when working flat, which means I’m effectively doing the same thing whether I’m knitting flat or in the round. It was a hard habit to break, but I’ve gradually trained myself to turn the work one direction and then back the other, and I rarely have kinky yarn anymore.* The mnemonic that eventually worked is that I turn the work clockwise when turning to the right side (right/right, get it?), then counterclockwise to go back to the wrong side. Problem mostly solved!

*To be clear, this yarn I’m currently knitting with has no twist issues whatsoever. I forced it to kink for the sake of this photo!

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Swap your needle tips

Hot Tip: Swap your needle tips

Hot Tip: Swap your needle tips

The first Hot Tip I ever posted was about using two different-size needle tips if knitting on interchangeable needles. When you’re knitting in the round, you only use one end of the needle for making stitches, and the other end is essentially just a stitch holder, and it’s easier to work the stitches off of a smaller tip. Many of you responded at the time that you also mismatch your needle tips for working flat to make up for gauge differences between knit and purl rows, which I found completely fascinating and sensible! (Bonus tip!) And then on Instagram over the weekend, I saw a whole ’nother angle on this from my friend Veronika of YOTH Yarns.

Ve is knitting what appears to be a cardigan with the body knitted in one piece, flat, so she’s got about 48″ worth of stitches on a long circular needle, and she’s working a lot of cable crosses on top of that, which causes her wrist strain. To help with the strain, she puts a smaller needle tip on the left end (or non-working tip end) of her interchangeable and the proper gauge needle on the working end, again making it easier for her to work the stitches (and especially the cables) off the smaller tip. That does mean every time she gets to the end of a row and is ready to start back the other direction, she has to swap out her needle tips. Seems tedious, yet according to her wrists it’s well worth taking the 30 seconds to do. But on top of that, she had a really clever tip for how to simplify that process, which you can kind of see in my screengrab of her video above. She slides the needle key doohickey through the hole in both tips at the same time, unscrews one, unscrews the other, then screws them back on in opposite positions. Like most great tips in life, that seems so obvious now that I’ve seen it!

Ve is a fount of stuff like this, so make sure you’re following her on Instagram @yarnonthehouse. Thanks, Ve!

p.s. If you’re not using interchangeables, I highly recommend them, and we stock the Lykke Driftwood beauties at Fringe Supply Co. If you’re reluctant to commit to a full set without trying them, I always suggest buying a pair or two of needle tips in your most-used sizes (which means you’ll want extras of them regardless) and a couple of cords. Then if you like them, you can either build a collection of the sizes you use, or invest in a set, which really does pay off quickly. Says the person who bought an ungodly number of fixed circs in her first couple years of knitting …

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Allow for adjustments

Hot Tip: Allow for adjustments

Hot Tip: Allow for adjustments

Sometimes the finish line of a project is not a bright line — you can ease your way across it with finesse, as needed. Take this sweater, for instance, which I bound off on Labor Day. This was a classic case of why knitting top-down is great and also why some people rail against top-down: To wit, A) yes you can try it on as you go and get it exactly how you want it, but B) only if you take into account what happens when you block it. My unblocked gauge on this sweater was 7.25 rows per inch, whereas after a wash it came in at 8.25. That’s substantial shrinkage! Had I simply tried on the sweater and bound off when it looked done, it would have been way too short once it was washed. Here again is why it’s critically important to count rows rather than measuring fabric. But that said, I wasn’t 100% sure how I wanted it to fit or how long I wanted the cuffs and waist ribbing to be — those are all little fit and design details that I like to let the sweater dictate as it takes shape. Part of trying on a top-down in progress, for me, is letting it tell me what it wants to be.

So in this case, I did my math to calculate total rows and decrease placement for my projected lengths but also left room for last-minute adjustments, just in case. A few rows before what I thought would be final, I put the cuffs and body on waste yarn, washed and dried the sweater (this O-Wool Balance is machine washable, but you always want to treat your swatch and your WIP however you’ll treat the finished garment, whether that’s hand-washing or whatever) and put it on again to make those final decisions before binding off and seaming. (I knitted the sleeves flat, as usual, so yes there was seaming.)

It’s all about being the master of your own knitting! I’ll show you the whole sweater as soon as I can get photos.

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Don’t panic

The basting stitch lives!

The basting stitch lives!

I recently saw Bristol Ivy saying on Instagram that she had incorporated my “basting stitch” idea into a sweater she had made for herself (among other fascinating mods detailed in her caption). Bristol is one of the more fascinating engineering brains of the knitting world, so for her to try (and like) my little trick felt like quite the endorsement, not gonna lie. I know from traffic and comments, and so on, that this post continues to draw in a lot of people, and there are now even sweater patterns out in the world that employ the idea. So for those who maybe haven’t seen it, today I want to point you the post where I first detailed why I had the urge to seam a seamless knit, and how I went about it: Basted knitting: Or, How (and why) to seam a seamless sweater.

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The most important of all the Hot Tips

The most important of all the Hot Tips

This came up in one of my classes last week, and it really can’t be said often enough: If you want your knitting to turn out a particular length/height dimension, don’t measure it! So today I’d love for you to give this post a read: Count, don’t measure. And share it with your friends!

Actually, it’s a great time to just give the whole Hot Tips scroll a read …

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Check the back