Sleeves: Now With More Sass!

Having smugly cut open your knitted body tube, it will be time to turn your attention to making some sleeves.

For the purposes of our KAL, I'm going to ask you to knit them from the cuffs up. This is because there is a little magic to be worked at the sleeve tops, and I want to do it with you at the end. Just trust me; you'll like it.

The first consideration will be what type of sleeve silhouette you choose. The original Pattern-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named features kimono style sleeves which are worked from the top down (flat, of course) and shaped ever-so-slightly with a few decreases (6 total) giving only about 1" of difference between the sleeve top and the cuff. For the life of me, I cannot tell why the sleeves should be knit in the opposite direction to the body. The charted motifs would look different when oriented like A-shapes, rather than V-shapes(!). It must be some misguided Fair Isle thinking, which, I reiterate, this design is NOT.

So your sleeves could be straight cylinders, moderately-tapered flowerpots, or steeply-sloped funnels, depending on what you're going for. Once you've made that decision, calculate the number of cuff stitches you'll need (can be any odd number) and write it down. The math is like this: # of desired finished cuff inches X your gauge +/- 1 st for an odd # = CO.

I'm making traditionally-shaped non-kimono sleeves. I decided I wanted my finished cuffs to measure about 9 1/2 inches, so my CO is 61 sts for each.

I'm knitting my sleeves both at the same time, a Sexy Party Trick I hope you'll try along with me because 1. Your finished sleeves will have no jogs in their rounds. 2. They will match one another precisely. 3. You won't have to weave in any ends.

Let me just say that again: You won't have to weave in any ends. How often do you get a promise like that?

Here's how to start: If you know what your edge treatment will be, CO the number of sts you calculated and work it. If you haven't decided yet, do a provisional CO. 

Here are my two cuffs, worked back and forth in rows. They're simple faced hems, knitted in on the final row. All I do is arrange them on a circular needle like this, and knit across the first one. At the end of that, I cast on 6 new sts for a steek, then knit across the second one. Then I cast on 6 more new steek sts at the end of that, and join the whole thing (without twisting, naturally) for working in rounds. That's it! From this point I just work in rounds, increasing as needed on both sleeves.

Here are my two sleeves, growing along simultaneously:

Remember, when setting up the first row of the chart, you'll need to center the motifs on each sleeve, just as you did for the body tube. It's helpful to draw on your chart where the sleeve edges/increases land. Mine looks like this:

Here's another view of my conjoined sleeves, with one of the steeks visible:

I like to put stitch markers on either side of each steek. The first stitch marker of the round is a different color, so I can tell if I've worked both sleeves or not.

See how hard this isn't?

Cut Your Knitting: Part 2, Secure and Cut

So you've done all the math-y legwork. The stitches at the top of your body tube are divided and held on waste yarn. It's finally time for the shears!

Warning: This post contains graphic images of sweater-cutting. Not for the faint of heart.

Here's my body tube, inside-out and placed over the end of my ironing board.  This photo shows what I refer to as the "Yarn Tail Combover". Note that every time I ended/joined a color, I left 6" tails hanging on the WS. I tie knots to join strands, which you may have heard we're never supposed to do. That's only true in Fair Isle knitting, which Permission Denied is not. My yarn contains slippery silk and alpaca. Tying knots is the best way for me to manage it. And I can tie as many as my heart desires, because I'm not going to weave them in. That's right. I'm going to trim them all off and hide them under the same covering I use to hide my cut knitting edges. 

First, I do the Combover: With my fingers, I comb the tails so they lie horizontally across the steek. Then I stick them down to the WS of the body tube with painter's tape. Notice that the tape is well away from the area where I'll be securing the steek. Depending which edge of the steek the knot ended up on, I comb the tails away from it and across the steek.

Then I secure the steek with four passes of machine stitching. Is this the only way to secure a steek? Of course not. But it's the best way for this yarn and this project. Come see me in "Eeek! Steeks!" class for more (gobs more) on the subject.

Once the steek is secure, I gently lift the tape away from the body tube, without removing any of the yarn tail strands from the tape.

I carefully trim the tail strands, right up next to the outermost line of machine stitches, kind of like a haircut.

All the yarn tails stay attached to the tape for quick and easy disposal! Sexy Party Trick Complete.

Time to Do The Deed. I carefully cut between the center two machine-stitching lines. Slasher photo:

And that's it. Mischief Managed.

Are YOU ready to be a cut-up? Do comment with your questions.

Cut Your Knitting: Part I, Sweater Math

So you've finished your Permission Denied body tube. Congratulations! That went really fast, didn't it? I'm always amazed how fast and easy it is to knit stranded colorwork sweaters, once the groundwork of gauge, motifs and charts has been accomplished. Now what? Before we cut, a bit of prep work will get us ready to hack into our knitting with confidence. Job One: Math. With all the body tube sts still live on my needle, I BO the center front steek sts. Then I break the working strand(s), and set it aside while I do the following:

First I draw an oval shape in my knitting notebook. This represents the top of my body tube, if I were looking down on it from above. In the center of the oval, I write the original number of body sts from my cast on, exclusive of the steek sts (243, for my sweater). At the bottom of the oval, I draw a little space that represents the bound off steek sts. Since they are bound off, they are not part of any of this math; it's just a visual representation.


Next, I draw the location of my armhole steeks. Since there are no special waste sts cast on for these, they are just regular old live sts located at the sides of my body tube. I usually designate 6 sts for each of the armholes, but I found out I could match the pattern perfectly at its shoulder seam if I only used 5 sts for each armhole. Thanks, Knitting!

Now I visually divide the body tube into sixths. On the back half of the sweater, there are 3 groups of sts, roughly 1/3 of the back, each. On the front half, there are 4 groups; 2 for the shoulder fronts, roughly 1/3 of the front each, and 2 little groups, one on each side of the center front which add up to the last 1/3 of the front. These  groups of sts will become my shoulder fronts and backs, and my neckline front and back. 

I label each of my 7 stitch groups with their approximate fraction of the whole body tube, minus the armhole steeks.

Now I can haul out my calculator and find out how many stitches are in each of these groups.

First I subtract the stitches I know I'll need to use for the armhole steeks (243 - 10 = 233). Then I divide by 6 (233/6 = 38.666). Now I can round each group up or down to get whole numbers of stitches. The 4 shoulder groups (Right Front, Right Back, Left Back & Left Front) all have to be equal, so that's easy. I'll give them 38 sts each. I'll round up 1 st for the center back group because I started with an uneven number, which gives me 39 sts for the back neckline. Then I'll use the remaining 42 sts in my round for the front neckline, placing half on each side of the center front steek. This means that the center front neckline is 3 sts wider than the center back neckline. I could move everything around to make my groups more equal, but then my motifs won't match up at the shoulder seam. 3 sts is an acceptable margin of difference, in my experience, so I'll roll with it to make my motifs match at the shoulder joins. Then I check my math by adding all the stitch groups back together: 21 + 38 + 5 +38 + 39 + 38 + 5 + 38 + 21 = 243. Yay!

Now all I do is thread a tapestry needle with some smooth waste yarn and place each group of stitches on its own separate holder. When I come to the armhole stitches, I bind them off by looping one over the next with a crochet hook. Here's my actual sweater, with its live stitch groups held by waste yarn:

Click to enlarge

As you can see, in this photo I've already cut my center front open. Wait until part 2 for that, please. I still have a couple of things to show you before you actually cut. Stay Tuned!