Archive for January, 2014

I went to the mailbox today and it had arrived. Downton Abbey season 4. Currently, it is sitting next to the dvd player. I can’t wait for tonight.

The Goldilocks Dilemma sweater is back to where I ripped from: beginning the armhole decreases. I decided to go with an 8 inch (20) cm armhole. I think it will be loose enough even with the lymphedema.

In design terms, the initial armhole cast offs start the transition from focus on bust width to focus on cross back width. The cross back measurement is an important one because it influences everything from the armhole up. For a long time, I didn’t understand how to measure for cross back width. Hence my sweaters came out looking like a garment for the Hunchback of Notre Dame or so constricted across the back and shoulder area that they gave the term “a close fit” new meanings.

I don’t pretend to speak for everyone, I can only speak for myself. My “I really don’t want to do this” feeling about taking a tape measure to my body and finding it’s dimensions, hampered my garment knitting for a long time. I found the idea of standing in front of a mirror and measuring as appealing as sipping cod liver oil. In short, not going to happen.

For years I knit garments strictly following the numbers in the pattern for what was “my size”. The results were always less than okay. Liberation from this insanity of doing the same thing over again and expecting different results, came when I learned I didn’t have to measure my body I could measure a shirt instead.

I now have a mini museum of 3 shirts that fit me perfectly and that I no longer wear. They are used for measurement purposes only. These shirts helped me find “my size” numbers and cleared up my misunderstanding of the cross back measurement.

The cross back measurement is found simply by measuring across the top of the shirt where the shoulders join the top of the sleeves. It is the number I get when I measure from the top of one armhole to the top of the other on the back side of the garment. It’s really that simple.

Have a good weekend.

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This sweater, which I have embarked upon against all good sense, is starting to follow the child’s story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Of the story, I remember three bowls of porridge, one too hot, one too cold and one just right. I don’t remember if Goldilocks gets eaten in the end by the bears, but I do remember she was clearly trespassing on their territory. I also remember the growing sense of dread I experienced while being read the story.

That growing sense of dread is happening again.

Yesterday I was decreasing for armholes, today I am back to the first 5 inches (13)cm of the sweater. Yep, ripped it right back after I discovered I’d been working the lace panel wrong. How could I knit almost 13 inches (33) cm without noticing the mistake? In my house it’s easy.

The lace is a 16 st and 16 row pattern. Every time I got to row 11 some disaster would occur: Yarn Rascal, The Skipper, my mother, Yarn Rascal, Yarn Rascal, The Skipper. I’d hurriedly put down the knitting, deal with the disaster and go back to knitting not remembering where I was. I’d look at the chart, I’d look at my knitting, match up both and figure I was a row further than I really was.

Yesterday, for the first time, I was able to carve a chunk of uninterrupted moments to knit and that’s when I realized my mistake. I was finally able to work through the 16 rows without being disturbed and what the needles created was quite different from what I’d seen up to then. There was nothing else to do but rip back to the start of the lace panel.

While ripping I calmed myself with the thought that I wasn’t completely sure about the armhole anyway. I was dithering between making it 8 or 8.5 inches (20.5 or 21.5) cm. Since my mastectomy, I get lymphedema that comes and goes. It increases the size of my arm at the precise area where the armhole occurs. I don’t want a tight-fitting armhole. On the other hand, I don’t want one that’s too big for when I don’t have the lymphedema. I want one that’s just right. So I am in a bit of a Goldilocks dilemma…You know, I really do think the bears got her at the end. Didn’t they?

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One year ago today I was in the operating room having my mastectomy. Sleet fell the entire day, covering everything in ice. Today the sun is out and the Polar Vortex is back with its biting temperatures. Today I am knee-deep into a test knit of a Spring sweater and that is what I want to talk about.

Admittedly, I don’t often knit sweaters for me because of the Sweater Curse, but the times I do decided to try to get past the Curse I always approach the selected pattern the same way,with dread by reading through the entire thing before I select a size.

Selecting an appropriate size, they say, depends on bust size. It’s as if they think bust size is some magical number that automatically makes numbers for waist, armhole depth, cross back, sleeve length, neck width, and the length of the garment all fall into place for a nice fit. It doesn’t happen that way. In choosing a size I also need to consider how the garment is supposed to fit and how that differs from the way I want it to fit.

So I scanned the bust sizes and giggled. For my breast prosthesis I was fitted by an expert so I knew my size, but for the sheer amusement of it, I measured anyway. It’s exactly the same we fitted the prosthesis for, 40 inches. Then I scanned the pattern to see if the designer included the measurement for ease. She’s a good designer so she had. The ease was two inches. That means the sweater circumference at the bust line is 42 inches (107) cm.

The industry considers an ease of 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 )cm close-fitting. On the other hand, it calls the ease of 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10) cm roomy. So 2 inches is both a close fit and roomy. I pondered this for a minute. I didn’t want a close fit nor an overly roomy fit. I decided that since 2 inches fell into both categories it probably meant it was not too close, not too roomy, but just the right fit. Or something along the lines of the story about The Three Bears. I am going with the size 40 sweater.

Time to get the paper, pencil and calculator. Yes, if I want a sweater that fits me and my proportions, I need to work for it. The first set of numbers I write down at the top of the paper is gauge: 5 sts and 6.5 rows = 1″ (2.5) cm. The next numbers I need to know are the total length for the size I’ve chosen, the number of stitches cast on, the number of stitches increased or decreased for any waist shaping (a little giggle here too, what waist?), the number of stitches worked for the long haul up to the bust. This last number should be 21 inches (53.5) cm for the back. I got 21 by dividing the total circumference by 2.

I look at the schematic to find the length for my size is 22.25″ (57) cm. My favorite shirt that fits me perfectly is 23 inches (58.5) cm long. I consider this. 23 is my ideal length. Looking through the pattern I see it is knit in stockinette stitch and lace panels, both of which tend to grow in length and width. I decide to stay with the pattern length.

Next up, check the bust measurement to see that the stitches I need to work equals half the total circumference of the sweater. A small snafu, naturally. The cast on uses a smaller size needle than the needle size I used to get gauge. Do I really want to do the math to find the gauge and then more math to find the width of the cast on? No. So I read further hoping the pattern will solve this problem for me and it does. I need to change back to the needles I used for gauge, knit a little, then waist shaping occurs. At the end of this shaping I have 104 sts. 104 divided by my gauge of 5 = 21 inches (53.5) cm. Since I have the right amount of stitches needed after waist shaping I decided to not do the math to figure out the exact circumference of the cast on for the peplum.

Next up, rows and length, armholes and cross back measurements and why I don’t weave in ends until I am all finished.

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Test knitting continues on the Spring sweater with the Bamtastic (Rascal proof) yarn. While I knit, Yarn Rascal sits under the corner desk and pines for the Shetland yarn that’s on top. He actually sits up on his little rear end and paws the air with both front paws and cries for the yarn. It’s terribly cute and maladjusted all at the same time.

Yesterday was the first day The Skipper was able to wrestle Rascal into his 4 boots. Between the frigid temperature and the time it takes (forever) Yarn Rascal to transact any business his feet were bothering him and we’d take him in before anything was accomplished. With the boots and coat, we buy a bit more time for him outside, but what a sad little face he wears when he’s all dressed. No, Yarn Rascal is not loving this winter, but then neither am I.

I am so grateful for being able to knit and crochet. My Cape Ann Afghan is on the bed between the sheet and the comforter so Rascal can’t get to it and destroy it. While I don’t get to visually enjoy looking at it on the bed, I do enjoy it’s add warmth all night.

This frigid air permeates indoors in a way I haven’t experienced. I am cold from the moment I get out of bed until the time I crawl back in. My hand knit socks are indispensable. My shawls are in use as are my fingerless gloves and this is just what I am wearing in the house. Of course the socks, shawls, and gloves are knit with merino wool, Yarn Rascal’s second most favorite type of yarn. When he is not crying for the Shetland yarn, he has his teeth wrapped around what I am wearing. So I move through the house with a dog attached to my sock, or hanging from my glove, or entangled in my shawl. I think of it as a form of closeness. A bond, based on merino wool.

Have a good weekend.

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Trying to Stay Positive

Since so much has gone so wrong and I am feeling like Sisyphus endlessly pushing the same boulder up a hill I need to concentrate on the positive and not the negatives today. That means I won’t talk about yesterday’s snow or that the temperature today is -20 with wind chill factored in. No I am only going to focus on the positives so this should be a short entry.

Yesterday this came in the mail.


Yessssss! New Yarn. It’s Bamtastic by Plymouth Yarn Company. I’ve never bought a yarn from Plymouth and I was very hesitant to purchase this. I prefer my yarns be made from all natural fibers. This is 60% Bamboo Rayon and 40% Nylon, not too natural is it? (Oops, slipping into the negative area.)

But I want to test knit a sweater I saw and liked and this was the yarn the designer used. I have to say, I am not unhappy with the yarn. In fact I like the color and like the feel of it. I think it is a perfect fit for a Spring sweater. Natural or not, Bamtastic might become one of my go to yarns.

Another plus, Yarn Rascal is not really interested in it. Totally ignored the box when it came. He was curious about it when I opened it, but is not drawn to it the way he is to Merino or Shetland wool.

Of course this is not the correct moment in time to taunt the Fates that so successfully govern The Sweater Curse hanging over me. (Oops, going negative again).

When walking back up the hill with box in hand and snow falling, I sprained my right foot. I am trying not to take this as an omen of things to come. But it feels like an omen. (Going negative).

On a positive note, Yarn Rascal turns 1 yr old tomorrow. Two days ago we had an emergency trip to the vet because Rascal ate something he shouldn’t and got sick. (Watch the negative). He is better now and at this moment he’s trying to get the pencil so he can eat it and get sick again (ooooh that’s really negative but true). He’s a total Rascal and I love him.

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Finally it’s time to start the decreases on the raglan sleeves for the imaginary baby sweater. A short recap. I increased from 34 stitches to 40 stitches (widest part of sleeve in schematic below) over 6.5″ (16.5) cm or 48 rows only 24 of which were RS rows and can be used as increase rows.

raglsn sleeve schematic

Now I need to decrease 40 sts to 6 sts over 4″ (10) cm or 30 rows of which only half, 15, are RS rows. All these numbers are now etched in granite, so to speak, because my imaginary sweater front and back have been completed, at least in my mind. The first thing I naturally want to do is panic. I can’t get 40 sts to 6 sts in 15 rows. Deep breaths, make a cup of tea.

Next grab a pencil, calculator and paper. It’s time for Knitting Math. The first problem I need to solve to calm my brain is make a dent in that number 40. The panicky little voice in my head keeps circling around the fact that 40 is so much larger than the 15 rows I have available for decreases. To ease it, I am going to take the 6 sts that will be left after all the decreases are done and subtract them from the 40. I now have 34 sts. The panic in the little voice goes down a notch.

The next number I need to subtract from that group of 34 sts is the number of stitches I originally bound off at the same point on the sweater body. My initial bind offs were two sts each side. 2 + 2 = 4. So 34 – 4 = 30. The panicky little voice disappears. 30 and 15 are numbers that play nicely together.

In order to evenly space the decreases along these rows I divide the number of RS rows available for decreases by the number of decreases. To find the number of decreases I need to divided the 30 sts by 2. Why 2? Because I am going to decrease 1 st at each end of the needle, which means each RS row I’ll be offing 2 sts. So 30 divided by 2 = 15.

To find the rate of evenly spaced decreases I divide the 15 RS rows by the 15 decreases and I get 1. That means I will decrease 1 st each end of needle every RS row 1 until 6 sts remain.

The knitting math I used to figure out the numbers on the baby sweater is the same math I would use on an adult sweater. Increases and decreases and the math that goes with them is the same whether it is for a wee one or an adult.

Here’s a tip I find helpful when making sweaters for a specific individual. Once I get the correct sizing I make a general schematic and plug in the numbers for the widths and lengths of the body and sleeves. I then file it. The next time I make a sweater for that individual, whether creating it from scratch or from a pattern I take out the file. Then all I need do is figure how many stitches and how many rows to get the widths and lengths I want. Once I know the math, I can adapt any pattern I want and so can you.

I hope this information helps. Have a good weekend.

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In the last post the sleeves of the sweater were behaving nicely. Below, the sleeve schematic for easy referral.

raglsn sleeve schematic

The beauty in the raglan design is, naturally, the raglans themselves. The raglans are the sloping armhole sides on the body (four in all) and the sloping sides of the sleeves as they decrease to the 1″ (2.5) cm top. The slopes are the focal point. They need to be neatly joined and to do that they need to be made correctly.

The raglan extends from under the arm up to the collar bone. It’s location and length place it in a prominent position. Sweatshirts often use this design.

The first suggestion for a neat raglan is to calculate for 2 selvedge stitches for each raglan including sleeves. One stitch on each side will be lost in seaming, which will leave one stitch on one side and one on the other making a nice raglan slope.

This next piece of advice is more like a rule than a suggestion. Raglan decreases and increases only occur on RS rows. All decreases and increases occur after knitting the 2 selvedge stitches at the beginning of a row and before working the 2 selvedge stitches at the end of a row. The decrease at the beginning of a row is an SSK, at the end it’s K2tog.

For the 6 month sleeve the cast on was 34 sts. Referring to the schematic, I need to increase to 40 sts. That’s 6 sts to be added. I need to add them while working the first 6.5″ (16.5) cm of the sleeve or 48 rows. But, I don’t really have 48 rows to chose from. Increasing on RS rows only means I have 24 RS rows or half the total number of rows, on which I can increase. Since the increases are worked in pairs (one each end of needle) I only need increase 3 times, or on 3 RS rows. While the numbers may seem small and insignificant, sloppy work in baby garments begets sloppy work in adult garments. As a designer and tech editor I treat baby garments with the same mathematical respect and eye for detail as I would an adult garment. If I am going to take the time to create something by hand I am going to do it to the best of my ability and knowledge.

Sleeve increases should gradually occur in a visually pleasing taper. To achieve this I divide the number of rows I have available for increases by the number of rows I need to perform an increase on. 24 divided by 3 = 8. Increase one st each end of needle on every 8th row 3 times. So far so good.

Now that I have the 40 sts needed it is time to shape the raglan by decreasing. I just reach the pinnacle and now I have to figure out how to come down. That’s why I like knitting. It is so much like life.

Friday, hiking back down Raglan Mountain.

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