Steek Learning Curve

I am such a smarty-pants-know-it-all. Patterns, shmatterns – when you really know what you’re doing, they are just guidelines, right? Sometimes, even the smarty-pantsest of us need to follow direction and take advice. Especially when doing something we haven’t done before…

Steeks.

That sounds a lot like EEEEEK for a reason.

In case you’ve never encountered this term before, allow me to enlighten you. A steek is a panel of extra stitches added to the center front of a cardigan, which allows knitting the body in the round from hem to neckline. Then, when you’re done knitting, you cut up the center of the steek panel to turn what looks like a pullover into a cardigan.

Did you catch that? You CUT through your knitting. Scary scary deal, even when you know what you’re doing.

The pattern is The Little Dude, and I knit it for my super sweet first cousin-once-removed. His mom and her sister are a generation younger than I am and have been more like my nieces than my cousins. They rock and I love them and their off-spring and they deserve nice things.

Here’s what the knitting looked like before and after cutting the steek open:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yup. I cut right up the middle of that steek – and it didn’t go as well as it should have. Despite my prudent reinforcement by machine sewing through the stitches on each side of the center steek stitch, stuff unraveled way more quickly than I expected. In the end, I made it work and I learned some things, but there was much sweating and grumbling under my breath in the process.

There are two things I could have done to make my life, and this steek, easier to handle. The first one is that I should have followed the pattern designer’s oh so wise advice to NOT USE SUPERWASH WOOL when you’re going to cut through a steek. You see, there’s a reason those wooly fuzzy Fair Isle sweater are fuzzy and wooly. That fluffy halo you see on Shetland-type yarns is what gives the yarn a natural tendency to felt (which is why tossing your wooly knits into the washer and dryer will turn them into tiny, cardboard-like versions of themselves). That felting helps the stitches stay put and not want to slither out of formation the minute you turn your back. Superwash wool, however, has had the feltiness treated right out of it, so you CAN toss it in the washer with (sort of) wild abandon.

All that makes good sense, right? So surely I stepped away from my superwash stash and invested in some nice, fuzzy Shetlandy wool for this project…

Nope. I used superwash. I had it right there in my stash…all the right colors…and it’s for a baby, so it needs to be soft and washable…and besides, I wanted to start knitting RIGHT NOW! You know how that goes.

Now, having said all that, I now know that there’s something I could have done that would have made my bold yarn subbery more viable: more stitches in the steek. This pattern only called for 5 steek stitches. That’s one in the middle (that will end up cut in half), and two measly guards on each side. That may be plenty, if your yarn is sticky and fuzzy and won’t slither, but, as I discovered, it’s not enough for uncooperative yarn types. If I knit this again (and I might, cuz it’s cute), I would add at least two more stitches to the steek, probably three. This would allow a much bigger buffer on each side of the cut edge, and it would allow more fabric to roll under and stitch in place on the wrong side, which is very messy and upsetting when all the knitting is falling to pieces under your fingers.

So, there you have it. I made some mistakes, but they weren’t deadly. The sweater turned out quite nicely in the end…

And my cousin-once-removed looks pretty darn cute in it…

 

Next time, I might possibly maybe consider considering paying attention to pattern advice. Perhaps.

Knit well!

Knicoleknits

Knit it. Love it. Wear it. Part One

How do I know I’m going to love – and wear – what I’m knitting?

A bit of trial and error over the years, but I’ve also learned to LOOK IN MY CLOSET. Right. Duh. There are clothes you love, and wear the most, hanging in your closet or resting in your dresser drawer. Knit them.

Writer, teacher, designer, Sally Melville’s motto:  Wear what you knit and knit what you wear (or is it the other way around?) Either way, it means that once you’ve figured out what your wardrobe staples are, there’ s no need to get all fancy, just find (or design, or modify) knitting patterns that duplicate those garments and you will find yourself blissfully wearing your knitting.

(p.s. I love love love Sally, so click on her name up there and check her out! I will be talking about her…a lot)

For example, I have concluded that a fitted knit vest over a dress shirt is a fast, professional, no effort way to dress myself for work. I have a handful of store-bought knit vests in my closet that I wear often – so, why the heck haven’t I knit one???  An excellent question – and a situation that I am remedying as you will see a little further along.

This is a sweater I made a couple of years ago from Vogue Knitting magazine. It’s the closest example I have to a knitted vest over a shirt. You can find all the details and my modifications on Ravelry here:  NicoleKneedles – Eyelet Blouse

See what I mean?  Comfy, yet stylish and office-worthy. This pattern would work quite beautifully modified into a vest…hmmm…I smell a new project….

 

Vest – I will knit, love, and wear.

This is the start of a fitted vest called “Vestpa” by Samantha Roshak – Check out her website…lots of well-designed and wearable patterns.

The photo below is of the back in progress, which is being worked from the bottom up. The cast on row is still “live” – the stitches are waiting patiently on a spare circular needle. When the front and back are complete, the side seams are joined and then the live stitches are picked up and the ribbing is knit from the bottom edge down in the round. The original pattern is plain knitting front and back. I explain my modifications below.

The original pattern has some really cool cabled twisted ribbing detail, but it’s too plain in the body for my taste, and I need something entertaining in the middle of all that stocking stitch, so I’m modifying the pattern by carrying a few repeats of the ribbing pattern up the center front and back. This was a bit tricky at first because the ribbing pattern is a twisted rib cable designed to be knit in the round and has only 5 rows between the repeats, which means that I had to do the cable crosses on the wrong side on every second set of cables.

After doing this for about 6 sets, I finally got smart and figured out that if I did 6 rows instead of 5 between the cables, I could do them all on the right side.

If you look very closely at the second pic below, you can see a very slight difference between the 5 row sets and the 6 row sets, but you really have to look closely.

Here’s the link to the pattern info on Samantha’s website: KnitQuest – Vestpa

 

Sidebar: I’m also training myself to lever knit while doing this project, so it’s coming along a bit more slowly than normal…but, if what the claims about lever knitting are true, the next project should be done in a flash!  I’ll go into more detail about lever knitting later – if you’re really curious, just google “lever knitting” and you’ll see many videos and blog posts on the subject. The Yarn Harlot calls it “Irish Cottage Knitting,” so you might look that up too.

 

Cardigan – I will knit, love, and wear.

I also have about a half-dozen light cardigan sweaters in my closet – again that I wear over dressy shirts or tees for work.

So, here is an interesting and very wearable cardigan pattern I’m working on – although it’s sitting dormant right now while I decide whether to start over in a smaller size – more on that below.

Below is the back of the Rivel Cardigan by Miriam Felton – You can see it on her website here:  Miriam Felton – Rivel Cardigan

(P.S. Miriam also designed the Rill Scarf which you can see on my first post)

The reason I’m contemplating frogging this baby and starting over is that I’ve lost 20 lbs and counting since I started this sweater…

I know! Go me!

…However, this yarn is waaaay too delicious to “waste” on a garment that I could be swimming in by the time it’s finished.  I really like the fitted look of the photo on Miriam’s website, and that’s how I want mine to fit.  Sooooo…the painful decision is… do I rip it out and wait until I’m at goal weight to start over…or…do I carry on and live with a beautiful sweater that’s oversized?

Comments?  Help me out here, people, if you are so inclined.

 

Okay, stopping now, because the knit-what-you-wear thing is a multiple-post topic.  Next time I’ll show you some knits from my closet that I intend to copy.

Until then – take good care…and Knit! It’s good for you.

Chain Chain Chaaaaain…

My delicious Podster Gloves are done!  Whoo hoo!

I know, they’re spectacular, thank you, but does anything strike you as odd?

Exactly right! The left glove is larger than the right glove.  You probably won’t believe me, but I did it on purpose.

I finished the left glove first, making the large size (the pattern is written for two sizes: small and large). I felt like the fit was just a smidge too floopy (yes, that’s floopy, not floppy), so I decided to make the small size for my right hand to see if the fit was better.  Remember, fitted items will often stretch out with wear, so a bit floopy now quickly moves into bagsville…and no one wants to live in bagsville – especially your clever fingers.

And the winner is….dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah…(Jeopardy theme)…neither! Oh drat.  As it turns out, ideally I need a MEDIUM size. So, back to the drawing board (aka the pattern modification board).

In other words, what I need here is the “Goldilocks” size…not too big, not too small…juuuuust right.

Here’s how they fit:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And how uber-cool is this thumb hatch?!  Genius!

These gloves do require a smidge of finishing – a loop and button and all, sooooo, just for fun, I thought I’d provide this tutorial for making the pretty little finger chain loop for the top of the mitten flap. You could, of course, make the same chain with a skinny little crochet hook, but I find it kind of fun to do with my fingers.

How To Make a Finger Chain Loop:

(The instructions for each step are BELOW the related picture)

Step One: Thread a darning needle with a single strand of your working yarn. Take the needle inside the mitten flap and bring it though just to one side of the centre top of the flap.  You can leave the inside tail loose and secure it later, or, alternatively (and probably the smarter way), you can turn the flap inside out and secure the tail with a few small stitches into the inside of the flap before pulling the yarn through (see below):

(This is also Step Seven)

 

 

Step Two:  Make a loop with the yarn coming out of the flap and stuff your thumb, index and middle fingers into the loop.

 

Step Three/Four:  Making sure the yarn is crossed at the base of the loop, pinch the loose end between your thumb and index finger, and pull it though the loop, making a second loop.

 

Step Five:  pull the second loop though the first loop until the first loop closes up. *Note: in order to tighten the first loop, you may have to hold the loose tail on the inside of the flap if you didn’t secure it in Step One.

 

Step Six:  Repeat pulling a new loop through the last one until you have the length you need. Draw the needle though the last loop to anchor the finished chain, then, a stitch or two away from the start of the chain, take the needle back through the mitt to the inside and pull just until the loop butts up against the top of the mitt.

 

Step Seven: Turn the mitt inside out and carefully take a few small stitches in the back loops to secure the loose ends. Be careful not to pull too hard, or you could pull your chain through to the inside.

Step Eight:  Tie the loose ends together in a square knot (right over left, then left over right)

Step Nine: Cut the tails, leaving a sweet little bow.

Step Ten:  Turn right side out and admire the lovely little chain your fingers made all by themselves!

I chose to place the button just above the ribbing for the wrist.  The button I chose is cute as can be, but, alas, too small and will have to be replaced.

Okay…enough with the gloves (although they are pretty magnificent – my grandma has already asked for a pair for next year!).

Next post will be (as I promised last time) about some of my favorite knitting teachers/designers. I have a lot to say on that subject, so it will take a post or two (or three) to get it out of my system.

Until then, take good care…and Knit! It’s good for you.

Cheers, Nicole

I think I’m in glove…

As promised – current project on Nicole’s kneedles:

These gloves are specifically designed for the hardcore smart phone addict (namely, moi). Not only do they have a convertible mitten top that exposes half-nude finger tips, they also have an adorable flip-back thumb tip for texting on the go – Brilliant!

The pattern is the Podster Gloves, which is a free download on Ravelry. (Reminder – you won’t be able to access this link unless you are a Ravelry member – which, as I said before, if you’re not, you should be).

Here’s some early progress:

Thumb stitches are cooling their heels on waste yarn, and two fingers are completed (ring and pinky still chillin’ on waste yarn).  You can also see that there is a line of waste yarn running through a row of stitches across the back of the hand – these stitches will be picked up later to add the convertible mitten top.

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And here is the front, or palm, of the hand:

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If you look at the original Podster Glove pattern, you will notice a line of increases running from the wrist to the inside of the thumb.  As you can see, my glove doesn’t have this line, because I inadvertently did my increases at the outside edge of the thumb instead:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I initially freaked out a bit when I realized that my interpretation of the instructions did not appear to be the correct one (free patterns can sometimes be a little on the vague side – but no complaining because it’s very very generous of people to share their work without compensation!), but after a while, my case of the s’posed-to’s subsided and I decided it was fine as is.

Now, fingers and thumb (with the adorable, and oh so fiddly, thumb flap) are complete and I have cast on and ribbed one row of stitches for palm side of the mitten flap.

Here I am picking up the stitches that were waiting patiently on the waste yarn across the back of the hand:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When all the stitches are picked up, I pull out the waste yarn and it looks like this on the needle:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, I do all my circular knitting with two circular needles. I find double-pointeds waaaaay too fiddly, and the Magic Loop method with one circular needle pulls at the stitches too much for my taste, but it’s very popular – here’s a link to a description of it on Knitting Daily: The Magical Magic Loop

Here’s the “palm” side of the mitten top with the second row of ribbing in progress:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, in case you’re curious, here’s the lovely yarn I’m knitting with (purchased at the Button and Needlework Boutique):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will post a finished picture of the first glove as soon as it’s done.  Number two should go faster, but it doesn’t always happen that way, as we all know.  However, I do want to be able to wear these puppies before it’s too warm for them, so I am motivated to finish them asap.

Next post will be about some of my favorite knitting teachers and designers.

Stay tuned!…and Knit! It’s good for you.

Nicole