Diary of a Fair Isle Sweater
January 26, 2011. As I wait for YOFIK’s rollout I realize I can at least knit in the meantime. So I search my stash and come up with 3 4oz skeins of off white wool, to go with 2 50 gram balls of purple I got in a bag of purple yarn at the Tactile sale. The white is OLD!! The price tag says $1.19! But it’s been stored well, and shows no evidence of moths.
My vague idea is a stockinette raglan with a band of Fair Isle around the yoke, and maybe one around the waist, depending on how far the purple goes. I think I’d like to do the neck band and cuffs in purple, as it’s softer than the off white. I drag out “Knitting from the Top” (thank you for saving me from buying endless almost-right patterns, Ms Walker) and knit a swatch. In solid off white, my gauge is 4.5 st/in. I know my gauge tightens in Fair Isle, so I switch my needles to size 10 (Thank you Denise, wherever you are) and continue in a random zig zaggy Fair Isle pattern that lets me check the stranded gauge without having to think too much. It looks good so I bind off my swatch and forge ahead.
The I hastily measure the back of my neck and find it is 5” across, which gives me 22 stitches. (4.5 x5= 22.5, and I decide to round down. Rounding up would have been a better idea and having someone else measure, at the point where I want the neckband to start would have been an even better idea. But I wanted to KNIT.) About a third of that is 7, for each sleeve. Then 4 seam stitches and 2 for the fronts gives me a grand total of 42 stitches, (22+7+7+4+2=42) which I cast on, using an invisible cast on with a piece of blue acrylic to hold the stitches. I tie the blue ends together and promptly cut it off in the wrong spot, leaving me a shorter thread than I’d like. I swear and retie the blue. At least it wasn’t the white.
I knit a purl row, then begin increasing 10 st per right side knit row- 2 at each section marker and one at each end of the row. I use the increases I used for socks, which actually uses 2 seam stitches, so I once I have enough stitches on the fronts, I use the stitch on either side of my section markers to increase. The increase sequence goes, K to the stitch in front of the stitch marker, K1 in the row below the next stitch, K1, slip the marker, K1, knit 1 in the row 2 rows down from the stitch just knit. This give me a raised row along the increases. I use the second type of increase after the first stitch of the row and the first type at the last stitch of the row to increase the fronts.
As I knit, I contemplate how the Fair Isle patterns will fit. I have a 15 stitch difference (22-7) between the back and the sleeves, so perhaps a star Pattern, centered in the front and back, and with the edge of the star in the center of the sleeves?
I knit until my hands begin to complain (I’m not doing nearly enough knitting lately!), then fire up YOFIK to look for 15 stitch wide Fair Isle Patterns. Nothing that really fires my jets. I experiment with drawing the entire front/back section, and a 23×8 Pattern, drawing a new 9×8 Pattern to go above it. Hmm Maybe. I play with that for a while, but nothing looks right, so I go to bed.
January 26 I’ve got 14 rows done, so I slip the neckline stitches off the blue acrylic onto a Denise cord, turning every other one so they all face the same direction, and add a cord to my live row, so I can spread the stitches out and see how it looks. I will want to do one more increase row, then cast on the neck and move into rounds. Also, I see my Fair Isle band will go way over my shoulder if I wait much longer to start that. So back to YOFIK to see if I can come up with an attractive Pattern.
I want to see how each attempt looks when repeated, without closing the Pattern editing screen each time, so I open another instance of YOFIK and switch back and forth between them, to see how the new Patterns look. I try out a couple knot designs, and come up with this one:
Knot Pattern for sweater
I draw Blocks the size of the front/back and the sleeve, and add the Pattern. And discover that YOFIK makes a great row counter! I have 2 instances of YOFIK open on my laptop, so I can switch between them as I move from section to section. I color the dark stitches of each row purple as I finish it, and the light stitches of the one I’m working on a bright green. I can see where my increases go, and how the Pattern is progressing. I knit with my computer on my lap, and I don’t even have to print the Block out! And I remember to switch to size 10 needles. COOL!
Feb 7 I have finished the Fair Isle yoke, AND remembered to switch back to size 8 needles to continue. Here’s how the patterned yoke looks:
March 19 I knit 7″ from the end of the Fair Isle band, and break the knitting into sleeves and body. Finally! Maybe it’s just the comparison between the sweater and the socks I knit for comic relief, but the rounds of the yoke seem endless! They get up to about 350 stitches before being split out into sections, which is about 7 times as many stitches as in a sock round. Maybe it’s not good to work on them in alternation.
I finish the second skein of white about one inch into the body. I’m getting nervous about having enough yarn. My LYS (Knit Knack in Arvada) helps me weigh the skein, and estimate the yardage. I think I’ll squeak by, but I can use Cascade winter white if the white doesn’t reach. Pictures as soon as I can get someone to take them.
June 27, 2011
The awful truth is that I don’t like how this is coming out. I set it aside for a while to decide if I could rework it as it sits, or if I should just frog it and start over.
Here’s where I went wrong:
1) I measured my own neck, instead of getting help. And I did it hastily, being eager to start knitting. As a result, the neck of this sweater is much higher than I’d like it to be. I may be able to cut the yarn and unravel the first inch or so, to get the neckline back down to where I want the neckband to start.
2) I probably don’t have enough yarn to make even a 3/4 length sleeve sweater. Both lots of wool are relatively ancient, so the chances of matching the dye lots are about nil. I might add a third color, if I could figure out which one and how to make it look like I did it on purpose.
I think I’ll take the sweater over to the next Denver Knitting Guild meeting, and/or my Thursday group, for their opinions.
Wednesday, July 7
I frogged my sweater back to about and inch and a half before the original armpit. Looking critically at the sweater, it was droopy under the arms, as well as too big in the body and the arms. So I took it apart back to where I went wrong, added 6 stitches to the armpit, and knitted the body and both the arms for 4 rows, then tried it on again. Much better now! And still plenty of ease under the arm, so I’ll still be able to move.
I also took the unusual step (for me) of measuring myself, and computing how many stitches I would need for the body just below the armpit. Since the numbers were in general agreement, and the sweater seems to fit better, I think I’m good to go. I think I’ll also measure my waist, and figure out how many decreases I will need to make in the remaining body.
I also found some more of what I think is the original yarn! Amazing what you can find when you clean house! The texture is exactly the same, though the dye lot may be slightly off. It was already knitted into a rectangle of garter stitch, using 2 strands of yarn. Since I plan to re-purpose this for the sleeves, this was quite handy. I just frogged it and wound it up into 2 balls. They each way about 25 grams, which may take me to at least 3/4 sleeves, if not 7/8. Slightly short sleeves are better for me, as I’m less likely to drag them through the gravy.
I’ve made great progress, but haven’t written about it. I have finished the body, including the purple band at the bottom, and have been working on the sleeves. I will use up all the white yarn I have on them, then all the remaining purple after I put a band on the neck. I also pulled about an inch off the neck. I had to cut the yarn and pull one row completely out to do this. Someday, I’ll learn to measure correctly before I go off half-cocked!
I’m using the magic loop technique to knit the sleeves, as I don’t have any size 8 DPNs (yet). I’ll reshape the front of the neck, with a modified steek, to make it rounder, and probably trim off the excess, rather than enclose it in the neckband. I expect to be able to wear this sweater this winter!