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!

Unventing Martin Storey's Roan

In Rowan 56, designer Martin Storey presents the beautful "Roan", with as lovely a charted colorwork pattern as ever I have seen:

Photo by Peter Christian Christiansen

So lovely is Roan that knitters everywhere immediately embraced it, including our own Ginny G.  But a quick perusal of the projects on Ravelry reveals the caveats of other knitters:  

1.  It's knit back and forth in rows, rather than circularly

2.  It's *oddly* shaped.  The schematic looks something like this:

Challenge 1:  Knitting Flat.  I have no idea why our knitting friends in England insist on working traditional stranded colorwork back and forth, in rows.  This piece is even referred to as "Fair Isle" by the designer, though I doubt if any traditional knitters on Fair or anywhere in Shetland would claim this as their own.  And that's not because the style is modern, though it is.  It's because knitting this in 5 flat pieces and then seaming them together would be absolutely miserable. True Fair Isle knitting is worked circularly, by definition.

Challenge 2:  Shaping.  I suspect that Roan's silhouette is influenced by the Japanese Kimono, with its square drop-shoulder sleeves and continuous neck opening.  But there's just one little problem:  The shape of this piece doesn't allow us anywhere to put our necks.  I've read the directions and checked them twice, and the pattern clearly states that the two front rectangles should meet at the center of the back.  Which means there's no notch for the wearer's neck. The fronts, correspondingly, have to hike up at the center,  (see photo above: "hold the bucket up higher, honey!") Anatomically speaking, this shape can't properly fit a body.

This is the shape I would make, if I were to knit Roan. The chart and stitch counts will still work perfectly, with just a couple of small changes. I've imagined a few things that would make it friendlier to wear, and much more fun to knit:

The first issue I would address is the lack of back neckline.  The design would still look as it was intended, but fit better, with the simple execution of some decreases, adjacent to the top of the front opening. I'd calculate the math something like this:

I'd also taper the sleeves slightly at the cuff, just because I find true Kimono sleeves to be uncomfortably sloppy.  To do that, I'd draw a diagonal line on the chart from the cuff to the sleeve top, lopping off about 20% of the total sleeve sts at the cuff edges, like this:

Then I would knit two tubes.  That's it.  They would look like this:

The purple lines indicate where the vertical cuts happen, and the wee hearts represent evenly-spaced increases and decreases.  See how those neckline decreases cause my body tube to deform a little (get smaller) at the top?  It will lay flat once the center front cut is made.  

Alternatively, I could just knit a perfect cylinder for the body tube and cut out a narrow triangle from the front neckline: no math or decrease spacing required!

Important: Notice I have not indicated any special cutting area for the armholes? That's because I'd want to make the sleeves first, separate them, and sew their underarm seams. Then, and only then, would I cut some slashes into the sides of the body tube that are the exact measurement of the finished sleeve tops.  Never try to knit sleeve tops that fit openings - it's too hard. Cut openings to fit sleeve tops.  It's easy. For a tutorial on conjoined sleeves, CLICK HERE and HERE

Here are where the cut edges end up:

And that's all there is to it.  The stitch counts in the edgings would change, but that's about it. I drew a little slope in my shoulders for these diagrams, But on further reflection, I wouldn't actually add that shaping.  A square drop shoulder is perfectly kimono-like, and much easier to work.

I believe that knitting which is truly beautiful has to be satisfying (both fun and skill-enhancing) to make, AND it has to make us feel beautiful when we wear it.  Without those two elements, we might as well just go shopping.

Whaddya think, Gentle Readers? Would you be more, or less willing to take a whack at Roan with these modifications?