The Diary of an Unforgettable Sweater by Guest Blogger Joan Barnett

I received this beautiful yarn today. Unforgettable from Red Heart Boutique. The color is Petunia, 3950. Who would believe this is 100% acrylic yarn? I can’t wait to get started.

DrapeFrontCardiganModelI will be making the Drape Front Cardigan by Julie Farmer (LW3493). I saw this cardigan on a mannequin at the CHA Show in January and fell in love. I don’t like where the hem falls in the back, so I am making mine longer. I have a bit more to cover than the mannequin did.

Swatching. Many people hate swatching but to me it’s like a first date. You get introduced to the yarn and learn about how it behaves. This is going to be a relationship and I don’t want to be surprised at the end. A swatch is also a good way to practice a pattern stitch if one exists. This cardigan has a chevron lace pattern, which isn’t hard but I will have to pay attention.

I knit looser than most gauges, so I swatch a needle size smaller than the pattern calls for. I am using Susan Bates new Tipping Points needles. I will use the sharp point because lace requires manipulating the stitches.

Swatch completed using size 8/5.0mm. On this needle I was able to match the stitch and row gauge called for. Always important when you are making apparel. A few stitches either way can change the size by quite a bit!

I am also using a row counter to keep track of the row I am on since this pattern has a 10 row repeat.

Doing the math. Looking at the pattern scematic, I will need to adjust the number of stitches to make the cardigan longer. My favorite length is about 32 inches for jackets. If my stitch gauge is 16 sts = 4 in, that is 4 sts per inch. I want my cardigan to be 32 inches. 32 x 4 = 128. The pattern repeat is 10 + 1 sts which means I need a number divisible by 10 + 1 or 131. I am adding 2 selvedge stitches which brings the total to 133. Oops reading the pattern I see there are 6 stitches at each edge worked in garter stitch. 133-12 = 121. Hooray, 120 + 1 will work for the pattern stitch! I am ready to cast on.

I have worked 2 inches in garter stitch per the pattern. I am slipping the first stitch of each row and knitting the last stitch. Why you ask? This gives the edge a nice chained looking finish, no garter bumps. I picked up this tip from a pattern somewhere years ago and have been doing it ever since. Try it, you will never go back to a bumpy edge.

After working the garter stitch border, the next 12 rows are in stockinette with 6 stitches on either side in garter stitch, which keeps the edges from rolling. Then the fun part begins, working in the pattern stitch!

Do you have a Lifeline? Lifelines in lace knitting can be a lifesaver or at least keep you from tearing out your hair. They are so easy to do. Pick a nonfuzzy yarn that contrasts with your project yarn in a similar weight. Cotton yarns work great because they are not sticky. Cut a piece of yarn approximately twice the width of the stitches on your knitting needle. Thread a yarn needle with your lifeline and run it through the front loop of all the stitches on your needle. Do not run it through any stitchmarkers.

Make a habit of moving your lifeline when you finish a pattern repeat. That way if you mess up your lace pattern, you can rip back to your lifeline and your stitches are all held neatly on the lifeline waiting for you to pick them up and you know which row of the pattern . Trust me, you never know when you are going to have a lapse in concentration and have to rip.

Stitches held on the lifeline                         Putting the stitches back on the needle
StitchesOnLifeline    StitchesBackOnNeedle

Knitting along and ready to join another ball of yarn. I don’t remember where I first read about “Russian Joins” but now I can’t live without them. I finished an afghan recently that used 21 balls of yarn and by using the Russian Join technique, I only had the tails at the beginning and the end to weave in.

A yarn needle is all you need to do RJ. Thread the needle with the tail from the end of the working yarn. Leaving a loop, weave the tail back into the yarn. Before you pull the loop tight, pull the new yarn tail through it. Weave the tail into the yarn for 3-4 inches. Repeat with the new yarn tail. The join will be double the thickness of the yarn but it magically disappears when you knit it in.

I have been working on the pattern on and off. I have tied in my third ball of yarn and it is completely different than the first two. It’s very dark purple for a long stretch. I’m not crazy about the way this looks so I will rip back to my lifeline and try another ball. Didn’t I tell you life lines were brilliant?

I also switched to the medium points on my Tipping Point needles. This yarn is a slightly twisted roving type yarn and I found I was splitting the yarn too much with the sharp points. That’s the beauty of these needles, you can change the points to suit the yarn and your style of knitting, even with the stitches on the needle.

Work showing dark rows and lifeline

The body of the cardigan is done! On to the sleeves.

This pattern calls for the sleeves to be knit flat, seamed up and set into the armhole. I have to admit that I hate sewing in the sleeves. There has to be a better way.

I perused my collection of knitting books and Wendy Bernard in “Custom Knits” has a great tutorial on “Afterthought Sleeves”. After picking up the stitches around the armhole on a circular needle, she directs you to place 6 markers in 3 different colors. Color 1; one at the beginning and one at the halfway point or shoulder.

Divide the total number of stitches picked up by 3 and round up to an even number. Divide this number by 2 and place the second and third markers in color A this number of stitches on either side of the shoulder marker. Place markers 5 and 6 in color B the same distance from the beginning marker as two and three are from the shoulder marker. Work short rows to shape the sleeve cap between the A and B markers. When all the stitches up to the B markers had been worked, I continued to work in the round. Looking at the pattern, I knew I had to decrease down to 36 stitches by the time I reached the sleeve cuff. That worked out to decreasing 2 stitches every 6th row. I actually ended up with 40 stitches but don’t tell. Here is what the sleeve cap looked like after the short rows had been completed. That’s Wendy’s book at the top.

The best part of knitting the sleeves in? There no seams and only 2 ends to weave in!

Second sleeve done, ends woven in and ready to wear.

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