Sunday, January 30, 2011

attaching raglan sleeves in bottom-up sweaters

I recently helped one of my friends attach the sleeves to her Bellyphant baby sweater, and I admit, it is a little hard to wrap your brain around what you're doing the first time you do this. What you have when you join the sleeves to the sweater body is two small tubes and one large "tube" that is not a tube because it is a cardigan. The difficult thing to imagine beforehand, but what becomes really obvious once you've done it, is that when you're holding a sleeve tube up next to the sweater to attach it, the back side of the sleeve (closest to the armpit) is held with right side facing the right side of body, and the outside of the sleeve is held with right side facing out. So the stitches you are binding off at the armpit are bound off with right sides facing -- using the tail end of the yarn you used to knit the sleeves -- and then you use the working yarn from the body section to knit around the outside of the sleeve all the way to the other side, and then continue working the back of the sweater.

The diagrams in this Vogue Knitting article by Jared Flood help to clarify this all. Jared has you put the armpit sleeves on holders rather than binding them off. If that is easier for you, by all means, do it his way. For me, I like as little finishing as possible, so I like the three-needle bindoff.

So here's the process as I am working that row where the arm stitches are joined:

First I knit the right number of stitches of the body section for the cardigan front. Then I hold my sleeve up to the body section. (I've been working the sleeves magic-loop, so half the sleeve stitches are on one side of the circular needle and half are on the other, and the two needles are both facing with the points to the right.) I use the length of yarn that's hanging off the sleeve stitches to bind off the right number of stitches of the body and the sleeve together with three-needle-bindoff. The sleeve needle that I am binding stitches off of is the back needle of the sleeve (the one that has purl stitches facing me as I am looking at the sleeve tube). After I've finished binding off these stitches, I knot that yarn from the sleeve and drop it. Then I pick up the working yarn from the body section and continue knitting across the sleeve -- but this time I knit across the top needle of the sleeve (the one that has the knit stitches facing me). When I have knit all the sleeve stitches, I go on across the back of the body section until I get to the next sleeve and repeat the process.

Does that help at all? It sounds really hard until you do it. It's hard to visualize ahead of time and to describe in words, but it's very intuitive when you are actually knitting.

Side note: some knitters on Ravelry have wondered why I designed this one bottom-up instead of top-down like the other raglan sweater patterns I've done. The answer is that there's a little bit of variability in people's row gauge, and if you are knitting the sweater top-down, it's hard to be precise about placing the elephants at the bottom and making sure that the sweater is the right length. If you start with the elephants, you can knit the striped part of the body as long as you need it to be before adding the sleeves -- the stripe is only a 4-row repeat but the elephants are something like 18 rows tall.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Eighteen inches of snow! Here's what it looked like in my neighborhood at 8:00 this morning.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sunny Snow Day Knitting

Snow day! No school -- which made sense at 5 this morning when the snow was pretty bad, but now the sun is shining and this is the view from my window:

So a good day to catch up on some knitting and finally photograph some FOs.

First, I finally finished my Daybreak Shawl, and it is just gorgeous! I've been wearing it nonstop since.

It's a pretty great size -- I knit the large, but then I stopped at 18 stripes of each color and 5 garter ridges at the end. This is an easy pattern to knit, but it did take quite a while, especially when those rows got really long at the end!

When I finished the shawl I made myself a matching beret. This was the Purl Bee beret pattern, which I think I added some stitches to because of a gauge difference. A nice simple pattern. I didn't like the way the decreases made the top pucker on the Purl version, so I spaced mine out a little differently. It came out to a nice size, a tiny bit bigger than I'd like perhaps. Sorry not to have a modeled shot -- I'm still in my pj's with no makeup in lazy snow day mode!

I was wrangling two and sometimes three balls of yarn, because I had two colors of orange that were slightly different and I decided to work them kind of like a gradient. Then at the end I was running out of one of the oranges so I did stripes of the two oranges together. It worked relatively well. I like the brighter orange better, though -- "Smaller Yellow Ant," if you are looking for a really gorgeous, rich, slightly brighter than pumpkin color. Fabulous. The other color is "Ruddy Daggerwing," which looked much darker and redder online, and is in fact only slightly darker and browner than the other orange (still a lovely color, but not as rich and bright). I had originally planned to stripe the two oranges, but they weren't different enough in color, so I ordered some more contrast yarn. The green is "Juniper Hairstreak." Again, a gorgeous color with a lot of depth. I had heard a lot about Sanguine Gryphon colors, and it was all true -- such beautiful, rich, sophisticated colors, with a nice variety of tones, but no pooling -- a truly gorgeous yarn. Bugga! is really soft but seems relatively strong. It did lose a little of its elasticity in blocking. This was fine for the shawl, though if I were to do it again I'd use smaller needles (I knit this on size 4). For the beret, it meant that I had to thread some elastic through the ribbing band. No big deal. Anyway, Bugga! is by far my favorite fingering/sock/light sport yarn now. So far it's wearing quite well, though of course it's a scarf, not socks. I don't think I'd use it for socks -- too soft, maybe not elastic enough, probably would wear out quite quickly. It's a tad on the pricey side, but the yardage is really generous. When I win the Megamillions, I am going to buy a skein of every color.

What I'm working on right now (somewhat furiously) is a super-late Christmas present for my bestest friend. She's the only person I've gifted knitting to who really seems to appreciate it. Non-baby knitting, that is -- I've knit a lot for babies and the moms (and grandmas) are always super appreciative. Anyway, I had ordered some pretty blue DK cashmere from Colourmart before Christmas to make her a cowl, but it still hasn't arrived a month later! This is a real fluke for Colourmart -- I have ordered from them a few times in the past and things always come shockingly quickly, considering that they're coming across the Atlantic. [update: it turns out the delay is due to US heightened security measures that were in effect between November and January. So their shipping should be at normal speed now if you order from them.] So I finally gave up on waiting and bought some Madelinetosh Pashmina to make a Honey cowl -- bandwagon knitting again!

It's a really beautiful fabric and a sophisticated final product, but it's kind of a tedious knit, especially because I decided the larger size really looks much nicer, and because I'm using a finer-gauge yarn than the pattern specifies. I am using Fleegle's garter-in-the-round hack, as suggested by Christina (Bowie on Ravelry) -- a brilliant way to avoid purling! But it does leave you working with two different balls of yarn, which is a little less portable, I find, and it also means that you have to keep peeking behind the slipped rows to make sure you're on track, because the wrong side is facing you when you knit these rows instead of purling them. And I find that I am just absent-minded enough that I mess up whether I am knitting or slipping a given stitch with relative frequency. Luckily the fabric is pretty easy to read so it's not a huge deal. The Pashmina yarn was nice and soft in the store, and really beautiful colors. Knitting it now I'm a little underwhelmed -- it doesn't feel quite as soft knit up, and it looks to me like it's going to pill and halo pretty quickly. For yarn that expensive I was expecting higher quality, I have to say.

Anyway, it's a lovely day to be sitting here in my cozy apartment, with a warm dog sleeping on my feet and a warm piece of knitting in my lap! Happy snow day to you all!