The Details: Selvage pockets

The Details: Selvage pockets

One challenge about these remnant fabrics I’m using for my alternate Carolyn pajamas is that the bolt size is quite narrow. (I think they’re Japanese?) For instance, it wasn’t possible to cut the two pattern pieces for the pant legs side by side. As I was cutting, and being left with these long narrow bits of fabric alongside each of the leg cuts, I decided to cut the waistband and the pockets on the cross-grain — meaning the stripes would run horizontally instead of vertically — thereby using that otherwise wasted bit of fabric and preserving my remaining yardage. It also meant I could lay the straight edge of those two pattern pieces along the selvage, which is a lovely red stripe. In the case of the pocket, that straight edge becomes the  bottom edge of the pockets, which also meant I didn’t have to do any kind of finishing on that edge, since it wasn’t raw — I could preserve the selvage and save a step in one fell swoop.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think it through with the waistband, which I was sewing via my usual elastic waistband method rather than with the concealed seam allowance as written in the pattern. I could have zigzagged the non-selvage edge of the band and been careful to make sure it got attached with the selvage side on view, but I had already prepped it the wrong way around, so that bit got serged off. Nevertheless, I’m happy to have that little strip of red across the pocket bottoms!

In deciding to turn the stripes sideways, I also decided not to even think about the pattern matching and just let it be however it turned out. (They are pajamas, after all.) To my great surprise and delight, the pocket stripes miter in a way that totally looks like I meant to do it! Love it when that happens.

See these Carolyn pajama pants
Lean how I sew elastic waistbands

The Details: Selvage pockets

PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Pajama pant perfection

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?

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!


PREVIOUSLY in The Details: How I sew elastic waistbands

The Details: How I sew elastic waistbands

The Details: How to sew an elastic waistband

Elastic waistbands are tricky, let’s face it: They can look great or utterly disastrous depending on the type of fabric, the amount of fabric piled up on the elastic, and most of all in my view, the width. To me, a wider band will always look better, and it definitely lays flatter. If you get the variables right, an elastic waist can be perfectly flattering and even chic. As noted yesterday, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how I do the waistbands on my modified Robbie pants, so here’s a rough how-to for you. I’m using photos I snapped while sewing the denim pair last year, and apologize for the photo quality and not reshooting them when doing the latest pair, but I think it’s easier to see what’s going on (even though the photos are so messy!) since the denim has a visible right and wrong side.

This is a method I learned sometime in my youth and have always preferred and used when making the assorted elastic-waist skirt or whatever. This is a totally different width and attachment approach than what you’ll find in the Robbie Pant pattern, and you can use this method with basically any waistband that is just a rectangle formed into a loop.

STEP 1: Cut a wide waistband
I like 2″ elastic. For that, your waistband piece needs to be 4″ tall, plus seam allowance on top and bottom, plus a smidge for wiggle room. And the width of your piece (the circumference) should be as it is in the original pattern, to match the pieces it attaches to. With the Robbie pants, I’m pretty sure I simply doubled the height of the waistband pattern piece to get the piece I’ve been using. Robbie is 1/2″ seam allowance, so that’s 5″ plus a smidge.

How to sew an elastic waistbands

STEP 2: Sew the ends to form a ring
Line up the two short ends, right sides together, and mark the center point. Using 1/2″ SA — or whatever your pattern calls for — stitch from one edge to the center point or just a hair beyond, and backtack firmly. (This point will undergo some stress.) Press the seam allowance open. Note that only half of it is actually stitched together, so fold and press the rest of open at the exact same width as if it were sewn all the way.

How to sew an elastic waistbands

STEP 3: Edge-stitch the seam allowance
I don’t like for there to be any flap of fabric inside the casing for my elastic to get stuck under when I’m inserting it, so I like to stitch down the seam allowance, as close as possible to the edges.

How to sew an elastic waistbands

STEP 4: Press the waistband in half
Now fold the waistband in half with wrong sides together and press along the fold. At this point, you have a prepared waistband ready to attach. On the outside (the right side, or public facing side) it’s a continuous ring, seamed at the join (aka the center back). On the inside (which is now officially the wrong side), there’s a gap at the seam, which is where you’re going to feed the elastic when the time comes. Lay the band on your ironing board with the seam at one side and press or mark the opposite side — that’s your center front. Now bring the seam (center back) and center front together, lay it flat again, and mark the fold at each side for aligning with the side seams.

How to sew an elastic waistbands

STEP 5: Attach the waistband
With your pants right side out, pin the waistband all the way around the outside, right sides together, lining up the opening in the waistband with the center back, and matching up the center front and side seams as noted. Seam the band onto the pants using the specified SA (which for Robbie, again, is 1/2″). I like to then serge the seam allowance, but you can zigzag, pink, or finish as you like. Press the seam allowance toward the pants and top-stitch in place. Again, this way there is no loose seam allowance inside the waistband to fight with your elastic.

How to sew an elastic waistbands

STEP 6: Insert the elastic
You can now feed the elastic through the opening in the inside of the waistband. It’s a torturous process, but I do it the old-fashioned way: with a large safety pin threaded into the leading end of the elastic. I also like to pin the loose end to the pants just inside the opening, so there’s no chance of it accidentally disappearing into the casing while I work.

When you’ve got it all the way through, overlap the two ends of your elastic and pin them firmly. Pull them out as far as possible so you can get them under the foot of your machine, and zigzag across them to secure. You can now put on your pants (or skirt) and see how you did!

I like this method, among other reasons, because I still have access to the elastic and can adjust the overlap however many times I might need to get the snugness exactly right. Once you’re sure you have it how you want it, you can either hand-stitch the opening closed (in case you ever want to get back in there) or pin the layers in place and top-stitch along both sides of the opening, which will permanently secure it and keep the elastic from trying to fold or twist. If you like, you can also anchor it at the front and/or sides.

And that’s it! I also prefer to work with stiffer elastic, which I find easier to insert and less likely to misbehave once it’s in there. It lays nice and flat, and that’s my whole objective!


PREVIOUSLY: Hipster painter pants

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.


PREVIOUSLY in The Details: Grafted patch pockets






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.


PREVIOUSLY in The Details: How to join a folded neckband

The Details: Folded neckband

Update 07.23.18: I put a video tutorial for this neckband technique in the @fringesupplyco profile at Instagram.

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 stop posting pics of this sweater, the answer might be never!