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This weekend is looking like it might be an interesting one. Seems like I’ll be crocheting a sleeve. That’s right crocheting, not knitting, one sleeve. Not two sleeves. Just one. Not a garment. Just one sleeve.

The Skipper’s socks are almost done. I completed the torturous gusset decreases and am now sailing away on the foot towards the toe and finish line. But they are on hold for the weekend.

The crochet garment I was grading is complete except for the sleeve measurements. I crochet, but not often. I can, for the most part, read crochet patterns and figure out what comes next as long as I have the item in front of me and am physically doing the crocheting. While I can follow a knitted pattern in my head without picking up the needles I am not that adept with crochet. Hence the one crocheted sleeve weekend.

I have the yarn, I don’t have the exact size hook required but I do have the next size up from it. Usually I crochet tightly even when relaxed, so I normally use the next size larger hook. For this project I am counting on being wound up to the gills so the larger hook should work. The hook, even one size up is still very tiny. It will make lovely minuscule, tight, stitches. (Note to self: Super clean the reading glasses.)

In preparation for this weekend of crochet I’ll be stopping by CVS to replenish my headache / migraine tablets. I’ll also visit the organic food store for more relaxation drops. The relaxation drops come in a very, very small and expensive bottle with an eye dropper. Place one excruciatingly small drop on each index finger and massage into temples while inhaling and exhaling deeply. I figure start with the drops then on with my crochet odyssey.

I mean how hard can it be to crochet one sleeve? There are directions. I don’t understand them, but they’re there. The sleeve has some sort of sleeve cap shaping at the top which might be a little dicey in crochet because I can’t count crochet stitches as easily as I can knit stitches. (Note to self: Read dosage amounts for relaxation drops over a 48 hour period.)

Have a great weekend.

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Time once again for paper, pencil and calculator. I’ve learned few things in life are nice and neat and make sense from beginning to end and figuring out a sleeve cap isn’t one of them. The figuring itself is a back and forth kind of thing. The first 4 times left me dizzy, frankly, so I am going to try to make this as simple as possible.

The only reason I needed to rework the sleeve cap on the Spring Sweater was I changed the length of the armhole and the number of stitches bound off as well as the rate at which they were bound off. Nothing was wrong with the original pattern numbers. They were spot on standard figures. But my frame and build don’t match those figures. The minute a knitter has to alter the armhole from what is given, the knitter also has to alter the sleeve. Armhole and sleeve are like jigsaw puzzle pieces that are meant to fit together.

I need to begin my sleeve cap by finding the total number of stitches I’ll bind off initially, and the total number of stitches in the final bind off. The numbers for the initial bind off equal the same amount of stitches I bound off at the beginning of my armhole.

A word here about armhole shaping and armhole depth. They are two different measurements. Armhole shaping refers to the area over which armhole decreases occur. This area is usually 1.5 – 3″ (4 – 8) cm in length. Most armhole shaping takes place quickly and occurs underneath the arm in the armpit area. The initial bind off usually removes 0.5 – 1″ (1.25 – 2.5) cm of stitches on each side. Armhole depth is the measurement of the entire armhole from beginning of shaping to ending at the shoulder.

My stitch gauge for the sweater was 5 sts per inch (2.5) cm. My initial bind off on the armhole was 5 sts. Thus my initial bind off for the sleeve cap needs to be the same, 5 sts each side. A total of 10 sts removed over 2 rows. Part one of the sleeve cap complete.

Next I need to know the number of stitches bound off in the final bind off, part 4 of the sleeve cap. This part needs to be about 0.25″ (0.6) cm less than the width of the upper arm. I prefer to work in even numbers if possible when I am doing knitting calculations. Sometimes, when I am lucky, even numbers make things easier. Here I chose to go with an even number and hold my lucky charm as I crunched the numbers. The width of the upper arm is the measurement of the fullest part of the bicep when the arm is hanging loosely at the side.

Since my mastectomy sometimes causes lymphedema, which causes my upper arm area to swell, I take the measurement of both arms to get an idea of my parameters. My usual upper arm width is around 11 or 11.25″ (28 or 28.5) cm. The original stitch count for the upper sleeve area was 65 sts. I increased it by one st just to make it an even number, 66 sts. Thus the upper arm width is 66 sts x 5 (st gauge) = 13.2″ (33) cm. This is a comfortable sleeve fit for me.

To find the final bind off figure, I divided the upper arm width by 4, then subtracted 0.25″ (0.6) cm. The calculation looked like this: 13.2 / 4 = 3.25″ – 0.25″ = 3″. Or in cm: 33 / 4 = 8.25 – 0.6 = 7.65 cm. Thus my final bind off (FBO) width was 3″ (7.65) cm. How many sts does that equal? Multiply the FBO width by st gauge. 3″ x 5 (st gauge) = 15 sts. Stop the train.

I can’t do 15 sts. Toss the lucky charm. If the upper sleeve stitch count is even numbered then the final bind off number needs to be even too. If it were odd numbered the two would be odd. My upper sleeve stitch count is even, 66 sts. Therefore, I need to round 15 up to 16 sts.

What do I know so far? I know to bind off 5 sts at the beg of the next 2 rows…(info to be filled in)…on last row bind off rem 16 sts.

Next time, parts 2 and 3 of the sleeve cap. Isn’t knitting math fun?

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Everybody, including me, has body image issues. For instance, I refuse to measure my waist. The looks that attract me in a knitted or crocheted sweater don’t usually emphasize the waist, therefore waist shaping is minimal or non-existent in the pattern. But I need to know my other measurements if I am going to knit or crochet a sweater that fits.

The king of all measurements is chest / bust size. This had never been a body issue area for me until I had my mastectomy. Talk about body image taking a hit, the mastectomy was a biggie. I didn’t know if I would or could ever wear a knit sweater again. I mean, how do I get a bust measurement with one breast? I cursed myself for not taking an accurate measurement before the operation, as if that should have been the upper most thought in my mind: take bust measurement for future knitted sweaters.

An accurate bust measurement is necessary as it will affect all other measurements. My bra size is not my bust measurement. I didn’t know this until I was fitted for a special bra and prosthesis after my mastectomy. My bra size is the actual measurement I get when I wrap the measuring tape around my rib cage and back underneath and thus excluding the breasts. My chest measurement is 36″ (91) cm. But I wear a bra with a circumference of 38″ (96.5) cm so I don’t feel like a character in Downton Abbey all stiff corset and tightly laced in. For bra wear it’s the difference between the circumference of my chest sans breasts and the number I get when I measure and include the breasts that tells me what cup size the bra should be. It’s this latter measurement, however, that I use as a knitter to decided what size sweater I should knit.

But here’s the thing about the king of measurements, it only rules until I get to the point in the sweater where my bust is at its fullest and that coincides with where my underarm starts. At this point, the king takes a hike. The new ruling measurement is the cross back width. If I want my sweaters to fit from the fullest part of my bust up, I need an accurate cross back measurement.

The easiest way to get this measurement is to measure a shirt that fits me the way I want it to. Lay it out and measure the back from the top of one armhole to the other. In the picture below, notice that the measurement starts at the seam created by joining the top of one sleeve to the top of the shoulder and ends at the opposite side where the top of the other sleeve joins the top of the shoulder. That’s the cross back. It’s a painless, body image-less, measurement. It doesn’t hurt in anyway to know this number. It’s neutral, a no commentary number.

cross back 1

Next, I measure my shoulder width. Another neutral, no commentary number. The shoulder measurement starts at the seam created by the top of the sleeve joining the shoulder, goes straight across and ends at the neck. I don’t include the neck edging seam in this measurement.

shoulder width

The next number I need is armhole length. I measure straight down from the top of the armhole to the bottom and put a second ruler, or in this case piece of paper, at the bottom of the armhole to get a clearer measurement.

armhole depth

The last number I need is neck width. I find it tricky to measure this on a shirt. The area I need to measure is between the neck edge on one side and the neck edge on the other.

neck measurement

What I like to do instead, is take the tape measure in both hands and put it behind my head. I slide both hands down the sides of my neck and along the tape measure until I come to the base of my neck where it curves into the shoulder. I bring tape measure and hands forward and record the number between my hands.

Checking the accuracy of the individual numbers is easy. The cross back is the sum of my shoulder measurement times 2 and my neck width. If I have accurately recorded the cross back and one shoulder, I can easily find the my neck number without measuring. Multiply the shoulder measurement by 2 and subtract the answer from the total cross back number. What is left is the neck width.

A small aside here. I’ve been looking for this yarn that I don’t know where I got it or what it is. At the suggestion of a friend, I am posting a picture of my mystery yarn in hopes that someone might recognize it and tell me what it is. The only other clue I can give you is that its a fairly heavy weight yarn being knitted on US 8 (5 mm) needles at 4.5 sts per 1″ (2.5) cm. I am positive it is not wool as Yarn Rascal has little interest in it.

mystery yarn

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For sometime now, I wanted to write about knitting sleeve caps and how to get them right. An odd desire, I admit, but sleeves and sewing them in are a favorite way of mine to increase blood pressure and bring me closer to the edge of insanity. Much like I would stand on my head to brush my teeth if it was a sure fire way to prevent ever having root canal, I will do everything and anything to construct a sleeve cap that I won’t have to sew in and rip out repeatedly only to abandon it half done because I’ve reached my breaking point and want to take the scissors to make uncalled for alterations to the sweater. Getting sleeves right while knitting them makes sewing them so much easier.

In order to do this, the first measurements I need to get right are the cross-back, armhole depth and armhole length. But before I do that, I need to know the sweater’s neckline style, the front depth of the neck, the shaping of the back neck, shoulder shaping, stitch gauge and row gauge.

Let me repeat that last item. Row Gauge. All the people who ever said row gauge doesn’t matter, either never made a sweater so they don’t understand or are delusional. All lengths in a garment depend on row gauge. The success or failure of armhole shaping and length depends on row gauge. The number of rows I think I am getting over a 4 inch (10) cm length needs to actually be the number of rows I am getting over the length. Otherwise, I can’t get a successful armhole or sleeve to fit into it.

It is folly for me to follow a knitting or crochet sweater pattern exactly. All pattern measurements written by all designers are based on “Standards”. These are numbers that are generally agreed upon by the industry as fitting together based on the chest / bust size. Consider the chest / bust size as the king of measurements. Based on the king, studies have mistakenly extrapolated numbers to represent the serfs of the king. For example, my bust size is 40″ (101.5) cm. Based on that, the “Standards”” tell me my cross back is 17″ (43) cm, my armhole depth is 7.5″ (19) cm, my shoulder width is 5″ (13) cm and my neck width is 7″ (18) cm. The only number the “Standards” gets right is my bust size.

In reality my cross back is 16″ (41) cm. A comfortable armhole depth for a cardigan for me is 8.5″ (21.5) cm. My neck width is 6″ (15) cm, my shoulder width is 4-4.5″ (10-11.5) cm depending on shoulder shaping depth. All my measurements that don’t fit the “Standards” are areas that won’t fit me right if I blindly knit or crochet the sweater according to the “Standard” figures. So the first step in creating a sleeve cap to fit my armhole and not drive myself nuts doing it is get my numbers right.

cross back measurement

Yarn Rascal is heading for a Gold Paw type weekend. He absconded with the tape measure right after I snapped this picture. Next time, I’ll discuss the easiest and least painful way of getting the measurements needed to figure out the correct armhole length and the correct sleeve and cap length. For now, I need to find Yarn Rascal and divest him of my tape measure.

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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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What rows are to length so stitches are to width. The width of a garment is measured in stitches in addition to inches and centimeters. The stitches per inch (2.5) cm for my imaginary raglan sweater are 5.5. Of course there can’t be a half stitch. Like rows, in reality I knit an entire row or I don’t. Same with a stitch. I need to knit a whole stitch, but the universe likes to play with me.

raglsn sleeve schematic

Above is the schematic of the imaginary raglan sleeve that includes rows, stitches, lengths, and widths. It’s the way my schematics look when all the information I need is filled in. The smallest size on this schematic is 6 months, then 12 months, then 18 months. I’m going to concentrate on the numbers for the 6 month old sleeve.

After drawing the sleeve shape, there are two items I can put on the schematic right away for they will not change. The short top of the raglan sleeve measures 1″ (2.5) cm which in math terms comes out to 5.5 sts. But I’ve been here before with the non-existent half sts so I know the number needs to be rounded up or down. What I know about that little 1″ top helps me make this decision. I know that half the sts in that 1″ become part of the front neck and half become part of the back neck. Since I try not to encourage migraines, I want an even number, a number easily divisible by 2.

Now this is a baby sweater. A baby’s head is much bigger than the body and I want to fit the sweater over that 17″ head. I also don’t want a tight fitting neckline on an infant. So I want the neck opening to be as large as I can make it while still fitting properly on the upper body of the baby. At this point it helps to have a magic wand that can be waved over the pattern and poof! the proper numbers appear. Unfortunately I don’t own one of those so it’s back to my calculator and my knowledge of baby measurements and how certain styles are suppose to fit. In the end, I choose to round up and make this 1″ out of 6 sts. It’s easily divisible by two. I pencil in the 1″ (2.5) cm and put 6 sts near the short top.

Next up is the sleeve width at the wrist. I refer to my schematic range charts located here. The wrist width for this size goes from 5.25″ / (13.5) cm to 5.5″ / (14) cm. I select a width size of 6 inches / 15cm at the wrist. That’s a half inch (1.25) cm larger than the biggest suggested wrist size, which is okay here. The wrist area is worked in ribbing. It will pull in.

Now I need to know how many stitches to cast on for the wrist. I multiply width by stitch gauge: 6″ x 5.5sts =33 sts for cast on. Since it is easier to work with even numbers I increase the cast on by one 1 to 34 sts. So I will work in 1 X 1 ribbing for 1″ / 2.5 cm or 8 rows. (Remember we increased the rib row of the sweater body to 8 rows also).

Since the next part deals with the raglans and other migraine triggers, I think I’ll end here while everything looks positive.

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