What to do when you can’t (or won’t) “get gauge”

What to do when you can't (or won't) "get gauge"

When I asked about your all-time favorite posts, lisakoby said: “I have the post regarding swatching to get the fabric you like and using the gauge to adjust the fit bookmarked and I refer to it every time I swatch for a new pattern. Every single time. It has been invaluable in my knitting life.” That makes me so happy! I do find this to be a really important lesson for sweater knitters to learn, since often you simply cannot match both the pattern writer’s stitch and row gauge, so then what? It’s pretty critical to know how to think through the implications of knitting at a different gauge and making adjustments as needed — and it’s not even hard! So today that’s the post I’d love for you to read: How to account for gauge differences.

p.s. That post was tied to the knitalong for my Anna Vest, and I’ve had several people recently asking about that one. I’m aiming to get it published as a standalone pattern this fall!

(Bento Bag and ruler from Fringe Supply Co.)

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Introduction to sweater knitting: Construction types and starter patterns

Introduction to sweater knitting: Construction types and starter patterns

If there’s one past post — or set of posts — that I believe to be endlessly useful and also of particular relevance at the moment, it’s Pullovers for first-timers: Or, an introduction to sweater construction and its lesser-known sequel, Cardigans for first-timers: Or, how button bands work. As we head into Summer of Basics, I hope to see a lot of people knitting their first sweater, and so I offer you these bits of guidance in choosing where to start. But whether you’re participating in SoB, maybe just thinking about getting started at some point the future, or have knitted a sweater before but want to gain a better understanding of the different sweater construction methods/types and their respective pros and cons, give these posts a read. And of course, they’re also chock full of pattern recommendations of every variety!

PICTURED ABOVE clockwise from top left:
Basic Round-Yoke Unisex Pullover by Hanha Fettig: top-down circular yoke
Sweatshirt Sweater by Purl Soho: bottom-up seamless raglan
Dwell by Martin Storey: fully seamed, set-in sleeves, sewn-on bands
• Casco Bay Cardi by Carrie Bostick Hoge: seamless, bandless, collarless

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The Details: That sweatshirt V-patch look

The Details: That sweatshirt V-patch look

I mentioned when I first envisioned this little sweater vest that it was inspired by a jersey garment I once owned and adored — a sleeveless fleece top modeled on a classic sweatshirt. Unlike my version (full post here), that one did have a waistband; and I don’t remember whether it had the side panels or not, but I believe it did. I’m certain, however, that it had that classic sweatshirt neck detail of the little V patch just under the ribbed collar. Does anyone know if there’s a proper name for this neck detail? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard one, which is surprising given how ubiquitous it is. It must have a name — and I’m sure one of you will know. Anyway, I knew I wanted this vest to have it, and it was simple enough to do!

I’ve seen various such treatments in many knitted garments over the years (a favorite being Ysolda’s Polwarth sweater), but rather than studying them, I just measured the V on a sweatshirt in my closet and got out my trusty pencil and Knitters Graph Paper Journal and charted it out. Because of the marl here, I was concerned about the V having enough contrast with the main fabric, being rather small, so to help it stand out I worked the adjacent stitch on each side as a twisted knit stitch (knit through the back loop, in other words) holding only the grey yarn, then worked the stitches within my V in reverse stockinette. For the first few rows, I thought the grey stitch wasn’t accomplishing anything meaningful (and you definitely can’t see the lower ones shown in the chart below, meant to mimic the overstitching), but in the end I think that subtle frame of grey twisted stitches does help set it off just enough.

Mine is basically 13 sts wide (and 8 rows tall), which is slightly more than the number of stitches I bound off at the center for the start of the neck shaping. That was a conscious choice and meant the V business continued upwards at the neck edge for a couple of rows into the shaping, as you can see in the upper chart below — which made it a little more complicated. (And I have no idea why I didn’t BO an odd number so it was perfectly centered; told you I was apathetic!) But the easiest thing to do would be simply to make your patch the same number of stitches wide as the center neck BO called for in your pattern, as shown in the lower chart below, and then all there is to do is begin knitting it that many rows before your neck BO. In the totally hypothetical 13-st example shown, 8 rows before you reach the neck BO, you’d start this. Make sense?

https://fringeassociation.com/2018/05/10/the-sweatshirt-vest-2018-fo-13/#comment-75284

IN SHOP NEWS: We’ve got the indispensable Cocoknits Knitter’s Block back in stock, plus a full complement of Bento Bags once again, and all the other beauties over at Fringe Supply Co.

Happy weekending!

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Hot Tip: Check the back

Hot Tip: Check the back

Even if you think you’re really good at reading your knits and purls, it’s not always entirely straightforward. Some stitch patterns are harder to decipher than others, so you also have to get good at finding other ways of tracking or counting or seeing things. Often, it’s as simple as flipping your work over and checking the back side. Take this stitch pattern for the Bellows cardigan, for instance. The main texture is “broken rib”: purl rows alternating with k1/p1 rows. You can get the hang of how to count those purl bumps in one column vs the other, or you can just flip it over — the back side is garter rib. It’s not only easier to count the columns of knits (for me, anyway), but it’s also quicker to see where you are in the stitch pattern at any give time.* The same can be true for large fields of cables and many other textures. So whenever you find yourself working on a stitch pattern that’s a little harder to read or count, check the back! You might find the answer there waiting for you.

*Just remember: A purl bump is the back side of a knit stitch, and vice versa.

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Logalong: How to avoid, minimize and weave in ends

How to avoid, minimize and weave in ends

We all know one of the deterrents to any multi-strand or patchwork project — such as Log Cabin! — is how many ends it can leave you to weave in. Even the most sanguine among us — the ones who will extol the virtues of end-weaving as closure and bonding and meditation — can sour on the process when faced with too many of them. Ends are a fact of life, but not only are there lots of methods for weaving in ends, there are at least as many ways to minimize them! Which is what I’ve polled our illustrious Log Cabin Make-along panelists about for today. (There’s also lots of general community advice under How do you weave in your ends? and a good overview of basic methods in this Purl Soho tutorial.)

I have it comparatively easy. First: My fingerless mitts project consists of two 7-inch blocks — plus some appendages and fanciness — each made of 9 strips, so even if you changed colors on every single strip, the absolute project maximum would be 36 ends. (As compared to a blanket?) Second: Mitts have a wrong side. Nobody will ever see the inside of them, so it isn’t as critical for them to be artfully done. That said, all I’m doing is sliding my tapestry needle one direction under a stack of bumps, then back the other direction, as seen above. Done.

Were I more concerned about it (or more accurately, if I could remember to do it!), I would knit them in as I join each new color, which is done in the same way as trapping floats in colorwork. For this, I hold my working yarn in my right hand and the yarn to be trapped in my left hand. Every-other-stitch, for maybe 10 stitches or so, insert your working needle into the stitch to be worked and under the strand to be trapped, wrap the working yarn around the needle as usual and pull up the stitch. You’ve caught the loose strand in the backside of the stitch, and it won’t show on the front of the work. (Very Pink demonstrates an alternative version here.) Once you’ve trapped it a handful of times, snip off the rest of the end. For many people, this is sufficiently neat and tidy to be done even on a blanket or such where the back of it will inevitably be seen. If you want it to be more like invisible, or not to exist in the first place, here’s the rest of the panel with further thoughts and ideas! And of course, if you haven’t checked out the #fringeandfriendslogalong feed, I highly encourage you to do so!

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Logalong: How to avoid, minimize and weave in ends - Russian Join

VERONIKA JOBE of YOTH Yarns (Instagram: @yarnonthehouse)

One of my tackles with my Log Cabin project has been the many ends I’m producing. Now, don’t get me wrong! I actually find a peace and rhythm in duplicate stitching my tails in place at the end of a project, but when we’re talking 18 ends per 9-block square, that makes even me cringe. I have high hopes in publishing this beauty as a pattern and kit at the end, so cutting down on work that the common knitter dreads is key.

I started by posting on Instagram to see what my community had for suggestions — went through various comments and links, eventually landing on the good old-fashioned Russian Join. I am by no means an expert at the Russian Join, but I do have some experience under my belt with this technique. If you are up for wanting to try it out for the first time, I highly recommend watching one of the many YouTube videos out there and seeing the actual process. [Editor’s note: My first introduction to Russian Join was this Susan B. Anderson video.] Here are just my little tips and tricks that I found useful!

1. I like to knit to the end of my row where I want my transition to happen, mark it using a thin removable marker inside the plies of my yarn, and then unpick 6-8 stitches back so I have enough room to work with.

2. My preference is to overlap my yarn ends about 3″. Most tutorials recommend 2″, but I like to lean on the side of caution.

3. Not all yarns like to be invaded and create a nice opening down the center, so I just weave my end in and out of the plies in a various manner. Nothing too precise. The key is to get that end to lock in. Weave or slide in further than you think. If you end up having a little tail sticking out, don’t worry. You’ve left yourself a whole 1″ cushion and you can just snip it off!

4. You can easily tighten or loosen your gauge a bit to make sure that the transition lands right where you want it to once you start knitting.

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Logalong: How to avoid, minimize and weave in ends

KAY GARDINER of Mason-Dixon Knitting (Instagram: @kaygardiner)

I have a tough-love attitude about weaving in ends: I just do it.

With log cabin, which typically is worked in garter stitch, it’s not an unpleasant task, as it’s easy to hide the ends by weaving them back and forth through the “bumps” of the garter ridges. (The two photos of the WS of my piece show a mess of ends and then how neatly they disappear when woven in.)

I try to minimize the number of ends, for the sake of the integrity of the piece. It’s a game: When I eliminate an end, I win. One firm rule: I never cut the yarn after I’ve bound off a strip if the next strip is in the same color, as is the case with certain color schemes.

Logalong: How to avoid, minimize and weave in endsIn the case of my log cabin pullover, I’m knitting all the strips in a single color. If I were working the basic spiral log cabin block, around and around, I’d never have to cut the yarn until the main body piece was finished. Unless there was a knot or break in the skein (aka an Act of God), I’d have only 2 ends!

But my strip layout is done courthouse-steps style, with 3 sides that form a U shape. The pattern requires you to work the two side strips (which are identical) before working the bottom strip of the U. If you go back and forth knitting Side A and then Side B and then the bottom strip (C), you may end up with more ends than necessary.

After working the initial Side A, I cut the yarn. I start with new yarn to knit Side B. I do not cut the yarn after Side B; I then work Side C, the bottom strip that completes the U, then (without cutting the yarn), I work Side A of the next layer of the U.

Then I have to cut the yarn, go across the piece to the other side, and start Side B. But I knit 3 strips with only 2 ends—victory is mine!

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CAL PATCH of Cal Patch (Instagram: @hodgepodgefarm)

I’ll be the gloater here because crochet has the clear advantage of being able to hide ALL THE ENDS as I go! I should really write  a post about it — I have several tips — but this one shows the main part of it.

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ANN SHAYNE of Mason-Dixon Knitting (Instagram: @annshayne)

Blanketophobes whinge on about all the ends that a log cabin blanket generates. I say phooey.

When you change colors, just wet splice the yarns. If you’re working with non-superwash pure wool (like the Donegal Tweed I’m using), or alpaca, you can eliminate virtually all ends by wet splicing (or spit splicing, which just sounds gross but there it is).

In this blanket, I stop seven stitches from the end of a square and break my yarn, leaving a tail about five inches long. Then I splice the new color to this tail and knit to the end of the row. Voila: the new color emerges at just about the right moment. With no ends to fool with later. 

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Thanks, panelists! And I want to hear from the rest of you: What’s your strategy? Weigh in below!

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PREVIOUSLY in Log Cabin Make-along: How to crochet log cabin and Elsewhere

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The Details: Sleeve length

The Details: Sleeve length

Being a persnickety sort, I’ve written before about converting seamless-bottom-up sleeves to top-down and stopping to block top-down sleeves before finishing them off (among other sleeve-obsessive posts), all in the service of knitting a sleeve to hit exactly where I/you want it. The challenge with sleeves — no matter what you’re making or how you’re making it — is that no two sweaters fit or sit exactly the same way. It’s not enough to think you prefer an 18″ sleeve (and to know how to re/calculate the shaping for yourself), because an 18″ sleeve attached to an 8″ armhole will be an inch shorter than an 18″ sleeve attached to a 9″ armhole. And even then, depending on the density of the garment, the drape, the way it sits at the neck (what kind of neck), even two sleeves of the same length will hang differently. So I’m fanatical about studying a schematic (or plotting out my own course), doing the math — hopefully making sure I’m calculating rows, not measuring unblocked knitting — and so on. I take time to get things just where I want them, and I know how to do that. But then along comes a sweater like this grey Cline of mine, which presents a whole new conundrum.

It seems simple enough: The Cline pattern is designed for 3/4 sleeves, which is not my thing, plus I have long arms and compact row gauge. So if I knitted it as written, they would be more like elbow sleeves (as learned in my try-on). So I needed to add some length, but figuring out how much in this case is not straightforward. Cline has a very unusual sleeve shape — it reminds me of a stingray — and no normal spot from which to calculate measurements. Working from a simple shoulder-to-wrist measurement isn’t an option because the sleeve doesn’t start right at the tip of the shoulder (especially on me). But nor is it a regular raglan yoke-depth situation, where you can add yoke depth and sleeve length for the desired total. It’s something of a hybrid. So once again, the only way to get it exactly how I wanted it was to knit the lower part of the sleeves last. To do this, I did the following:

1.) Cast on the allotted number of sleeve stitches in hot pink waste yarn, as seen in the photo up top, and knitted into them, working in stockinette upwards. (In other words, skipping the cuff ribbing and starting the pattern on the next row.)

2.) Added 8 rows into the start of the sleeve, simply by knitting a couple of extra rows before each of the first few increases.

3.) Knitted the remainder of the sleeves as written, plus the front and back of the sweater.

4.) Blocked everything and seamed the sleeves into position, as well as sewing up the side seams, leaving only the unfinished sleeves unseamed at this point.

5.) Picked up the neckband stitches and knitted the ribbing, so the neck’s affect on the sweater’s hang would be taken into account — especially as I was deliberately cinching up the neck a bit.

6.) Clipped together the unseamed edges of the sleeves and tried it on, and at this point determined how much more stockinette I needed to knit downwards before starting the 2″ cuff ribbing (23 add’l rows, in my case).

7.) Removed the waste yarn and put those live stitches onto the needle to complete knitting the lower arm and cuff.

8.) Used the long-tail tubular bind-off, the world’s best BO, which I find faster and less fiddly than the equivalent version of the tubular cast-on. Same effect with less fuss!

The only thing I didn’t do, and should have, was take a moment to check what the cast-on circumference would amount to. It could actually stand to be 3 or 4 stitches bigger through the forearm (I do have slight Popeye arms) but I’ll see if I can do anything with that the next time I block it. And meanwhile, it’s totally fine!

If you missed it yesterday, here’s the full rundown on this fabulous sweater.

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PREVIOUSLY in The Details: Grafted patch pockets

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The Details: Grafted patch pockets

The Details: How to knit patch pockets

So about these pockets on my just finished Vanilla Cardigan! I’m on record as being a huge fan of an inset pocket — one of the most magical of all the knitting tricks — and yet I didn’t do them on this sweater. That’s because my original plan for the pockets was something else entirely (now saved for another time) and I didn’t want to commit one way or the other during the knitting. The happy upside being that I wound up making patch pockets for the first time, and you know how much I like to do something new — especially in an otherwise extremely straightforward project like this one. While grafting on a patch pocket lacks some of the TA DA!! of an inset pocket, it was every bit as satisfying to do, and looks amazing.

I’d read up on patch pockets versus inset ones ages ago and looked it up again. As with anything in knitting, there are lots of ways to do it — from picking up stitches and joining the ends of the rows as you knit (so there’s no seaming), to picking up for the bottom edge and sewing down the sides afterwards, to knitting them entirely separately and sewing them on … with all manner of variations in the details of all three. I wanted to knit my pockets during our pop-up shop, which meant knitting them separately, but when it came to sewing them on I was torn. Most of the sources I’ve ever looked at suggest sort of whipstitching the selvage stitch to the adjacent stitch from the body of the sweater (same or similar to sewing down the backside of an inset), but I wondered why I couldn’t use mattress stitch so that the selvage stitch would be turned under on the inside of the pocket. It occurred to me to pull my copy of The Principles of Knitting off the shelf and see what the esteemed June Hemmons Hiatt has to say on the subject, and that was exactly her recommendation — although she calls mattress stitch “running thread stitch.” So that’s what I did!

The Details: How to knit patch pockets

My pockets are about 6″ tall and 30 stitches wide, 2 of which would be my selvage stitches — the stitch at each edge that disappears into the seam. So (after blocking the pockets nice and flat, of course) I counted off the 28 stitches of the body that I wanted the pocket to lie on top of — I chose to start it 8 stitches away from the button band — and stuck a DPN in the gutter so you/I could see it. That’s the stack of bars I would use for my mattress stitch up the sides. I also pinned a marker in the two stitches that would correspond to the lower corner stitches of my pocket.

I like the shadow line of the bottom pocket edge to be the same as the top row of the ribbing — that’s always my aim in pocket placement — and I would be using duplicate stitch to graft the bottom edge. So the row of stitches I’m duplicating is the first row of stockinette above the ribbing.* I chose to work the bottom edge first — leaving a tail long enough to sew up the right side — and then go back and do the two sides.

The Details: How to knit patch pockets

Here’s how to graft the lower pocket edge—

Step 1: Thread the needle and bring it up through the right bottom corner stitch on the body.

Step 2: Run the needle behind both legs of the first stitch (skipping the selvage st) on the pocket.

Step 3: Run the needle back down into the center of first body stitch (go back in where you came out, in other words) and up through the center of the stitch to the left of it.

Repeat all the way across for designated number of stitches, pulling the tail (the duplicate stitches) into position after every few. You need to be careful to pull the tail just enough that the running thread mimics the tension of the stitches — you don’t want to actually cinch up your fabric.

Once the bottom was grafted, I went back and worked mattress stitch up both sides, picking up the bars in the gutter identified above by the DPNs and the bars next to the selvage stitch on the pocket. Weave in the ends, using them to secure the upper pocket corners firmly and neatly, and voilà.

The Details: How to knit patch pockets

For a pocket in textured fabric where the grafting would be more challenging, I think I would stick with an inset pocket. But for simple stockinette like this, I might actually prefer this method. I’m extremely happy with the results.

For the rest of the yarn and pattern details (complete recipe) for this sweater, see 2017 FO 17 : Vanilla cardigan.

And see also:
How to knit inset pockets
How to knit inset pockets (top-down)

*Note that this sweater was knitted top-down but here I’m working with it and the pocket from the bottom up, so that’s how I’m picking out and aligning the stitches. It doesn’t matter which direction they were originally worked — you’re just identifying and aligning columns of Vs.

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