Thursday, May 29, 2014

Increasing Stitches in Pattern

Sorry that I have been away for so long, but life just seems to get really busy around this time of year, doesn't it? My teaching semester ended, but that just means I am beginning a new summer session soon, which entails a lot of planning. Of course, my kids are at the end of their school year, which means a lot of events and a lot of studying for final exams. Sometimes that involves mom providing some support!

I have managed to work on a bit of knitting during this hectic time, though, mostly on my husband's Kearsarge sweater. I began the sleeves and immediately realized that it had been awhile since I had been asked to increase a sleeve in pattern without explicit directions of how to do so. In fact, most patterns won't give specific directions about which type of stitch to knit into the make-one on the next row in order to keep the pattern consistent. Like my pattern, they will tell you where to increase, on what rows to increase, and how often to do so, but not exactly what kind of stitch to be knitting into any specific increase. I had faced this situation at least two or three times before in my knitting career but not often since most sleeves have a bit of stockinette or something like moss stitch before any patterning, which is fairly easy to keep track of while increasing. Since this sleeve is mistake rib, I had to come up with a system to keep track of it.  Here is a photo to illustrate how I am doing so:

Here is a step-by-step explanation of my method of keeping track of the pattern while increasing using the photo above as a guide:

  • The coiless safety pin marks the first make-one increase. Notice that it falls between the first stitch of the sleeve and the second. I decided to keep the first stitch in st st so that it would be eay to sew up in the end. 
  • The mint green locking stitch marker is marking the second increase. Since it falls right before the first increase, which is obviously a st st column consistently throughout the pattern, it is easy for me to look at the next instance of a st st column further along to see that I need to purl this stitch. 
  • Now for the arrows, which really illustrate the overall principle I used. The two hot pink arrows indicate the original first stitch of the pattern and the original second stitch of the pattern before I began the increases. This allows me to always refer back to the original directions and work backwards from there to determine which stitches should come in between these two.
  • The blue arrows indicate the stitches that have been increased. There are three increases so far; the first two are marked with markers lower down in the sleeve, and the third increase had just been completed recently, so it hadn't been marked yet. I usually move the mint green marker up to the most recent increase after I have built up a couple of stitches above it but before it is time for another increase.
  • To check to be sure I am increasing in pattern properly, I glance down the row to see what the stitches look like before the column of st st to be sure the look of my new stitches is the same. 
Here is how the sleeve is looking so far:

It had been much further along, but I realized after I had completed it up to about the elbow that I wasn't increasing consistently at the end of the row. Apparently, I was increasing at the beginning of the row every time I needed to do so, but I would often forget to increase at the end or that same row when needed. This would have produced an awfully lopsided sleeve! You know what that means -- rip!  It seems I do a lot of ripping, but it never bothers me too much since I love to knit so much. As you can tell I am a process knitter -- the time it takes me never seems to get to me too much since I just enjoy doing it. Not very efficient, though!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In Tandem: Making Progress on Two Sweaters

Lately, I have had the urge to make progress on both sweaters that I have been making since each of them was at a point where I needed to sit down and concentrate on the shaping. Kearsarge had been sitting in a corner patiently for a long time, needing some focus on the neckline shaping. I spent a bit of time with him and am pleased to now have the back and front completed.

This pattern is written so that you must knit a different pattern on the sleeves than on the body. I am a bit sad to be finished with the wonderful basketweave pattern (one of my favorite to knit because it is interesting yet simple and easy to get into a flow while knitting it). The sleeves are knitted in mistake rib patterning, so they will be great for carry-along knitting. I hope to be able to put this sweater to bed soon.

The sweater that I have been designing had also gotten to the point where the second front needed some concentration while shaping the neckline. Here are the two fronts and the back completed.

I am really liking the way this sweater is coming together, although, I am still a bit concerned about how narrow the two fronts look. I had this same fear when I knitted Lisa Lloyd's Ravensong, which is also a fitted sweater, but it turned out fine once blocked. I just keep telling myself to trust my blocked swatch since it shows how much the lace opens up, and it has the measurements upon which I am basing this design. Now, I am going to move on to making my calculations for the sleeves.

You might have noticed that both of the above sweaters are knitted in pieces. Some of you might be wondering why I don't knit them in the round, as knitting in the round has become so popular. I have knitted several sweater in the round over the years. I do enjoy that style of knitting at times for some of the following advantages it has over knitting flat:
  • You can try the sweater on as you go along if you knit it from the top down.
  • The knitting is continuous, so it is easy to get into a great flow.
  • Once the knitting is finished, you only have to sew in the ends -- no seaming!
For all of the above reasons, I usually knit a simple pullover in the round from the top down. One major disadvantage that I find with knitting something as large as an adult sweater in the round is that it gets heavy and cumbersome the bigger it gets. It also become difficult to carry around in a purse for knitting on the go. Lastly, it sometimes feels as if the knitting goes on forever since there aren't any clear stopping points when one moves onto to something new.

So given the advantages and keeping in mind the disadvantages of knitting sweaters in the round, I find that, overall, I enjoy knitting flat pieces a lot more. I also like the final results better. Some of the advantages of knitting flat pieces are the following:
  • The pieces are portable since they tend to be small or easy to roll up into a small piece for easy storage in a purse.
  • Once a piece is finished, you get to move onto something "new" since you are beginning a new piece with its own cast-on, shaping, etc. This makes it seem like the knitting goes by more quickly.
  • The seams seem to give the finished piece more stability, and they provide a great place to hide the yarn ends securely.
As for the seaming, it isn't my favorite part, I will admit. I like it for a brief amount of time when I first begin it, and it feels really cool to be putting together "puzzle pieces" in such an efficient manner. However, it loses its appeal fairly quickly for me, becoming something I just have to force myself to finish in several sittings. I can't do it all in one sitting since I am too slow for that, and I get back pains. However, once I reach the home stretch and finish, there is no better sense of accomplishment!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Just Because It Makes Me Happy!

I don't have a lot of new knitting/crochet to share today since I had a busy (wonderful) weekend attending my cousin's wedding. I got to knit a bit more on my cardigan, but there isn't much more to show. However, I wanted to share this picture with you just because it made me happy. 

I took it on a glorious Spring day last week when the sun was shining through the window for one of the first times in what seems like forever. It hit upon my crochet in a way that made me smile.

Looking forward to the small patch of fabric that is now the Granny Patchwork Blanket to grow enough to join its big sis, Granny Stripes, on the couch. Hopefully that will happen in time for the cold weather when it appears again come Fall. 

On a side note, I had a lot of fun reminiscing with my aunt about how we both learned to crochet with my Great Grandmother (her grandmother) teaching us as children. I hadn't realized that she had recently begun crocheting baby blankets again -- one for her new grandchild. It was a lot of fun learning that we shared this connection even though we live so far apart.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Product vs Process?

A discussion that regularly takes place in the crafting world is whether a crafter is a product or process knitter/crocheter/spinner, etc. My answer to that question has always been a resounding statement of "I am all about the process; the end product is just a bonus." During all of my years of knitting/crocheting/spinning, I have rarely had less than three projects going at a time (at least not since the very early days). I almost always finish these projects, but it often takes me months or sometimes years to do so. No sock has ever been left without its mate, but it may have waited quite awhile to be paired before being put in the sock drawer. Blankets have lain folded in a basket for years before becoming big enough to cover anyone properly. Sweaters have been tucked into corners, with only a sleeve to go or a button band to be picked up, for a very long time before something in me rises up and forces me to sit down and finish them! None of this ever bothers me, though. I knit because I love knitting! The garments/items are an added bonus, but they are not the end in themselves.

That is until recently. What changed? I took to designing my own sweater. Now I desperately want to finish it so I can see how well it all works out.  The process has become the designing and the only way to find out if I like what I am doing is to see a finished object, unlike when I am following a pattern, and I already know how it will look when finished. So I have dedicated myself to mostly working on the cardigan I am designing (with a little crocheting of granny squares to mix things up at times) until it is finished. With this new mentality, I am making swift progress given my limited time to knit. 

I will let you in on a little secret. My hurry to finish isn't only about seeing what it will look like put together, but it is also about wanting to see if it is big enough once blocked and put together. I keep having a nagging concern that the right front looks awfully narrow. My blocked swatch measurements tell another story, so hopefully, that story provides the happy ending for which I am hoping!  My plan is to block all of the piece before seaming. That way, I can make corrections if the pieces are completely off. It will be a painful process if that happens because it will mean a lot of reknitting, but it just might need to be done.