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!