Friday, March 22, 2013

FO: The Giant Swatch

Today, I am linking with Tami's Amis and Fiber Arts Friday.

The Try-It-Out Sweater, a. k. a. the giant swatch, is completed.  The idea behind this sweater was to use inexpensive yarn to knit a sweater and in the process of doing so, try many techniques that were new to me.  Techniques I would probably not have dared to try on a piece of "real knitting" with yarn I like.  A good thing, because I would have had to unravel it all: a few things did not worked as planned.

Actually, the problem is mostly a problem of fit.  The body of the sweater is really baggy, the sleeves are a little too tight, the waist is lower than it is supposed to be and the armhole depth way too large.  However, the new knitting techniques that I tried worked very well for me.

This is going to be a long post.  In fact, I write it mostly for me because to make the most out of this experiment, I have to write a proper "lab report".  I am going to put a big title to each section, so skip ahead if some stuff is of no interest to you.

The Gauge
I did my gauge swatch using the Whole-Loop Method as explained by the TECHknitter.  It was a new way of doing a gauge swatch, so maybe I was a little nervous.  The gauge I obtained was 21 stitches and 28 rows  for 4 inches.
When I measured the gauge on the sweater, I had 19 stitches and 28 rows on the body, 21,5 stitches and 27 rows on the left sleeve (which was knitted with the magic loop method) and 21 stitches and 28 rows on the right sleeve (which was knitted using dpns).  The row gauge is pretty consistent, but my stitch gauge varies.
Lesson learned:  I need to be mindful of my gauge.  I realized this as I was knitting.  When I am cruising through on a large circular piece of knitting, my stitches because really loose.
Follow-up experiment: swatch a large circular piece, a smaller one using dpns, another small one using the magic loop, a flat piece with the Half-Loop Method, a flat piece with the Whole-Loop Method and, while at it, another flat piece back and forth.  Check for differences in gauge.  Get to know my knitting....

The Measurements
I took my own measurements.  That's probably the first mistake and the reason why the sweater waist is not at the right place (since row gauge was not much of an issue).  I also realize that I took my upper arm measurement with my arm in the air.  Maybe the circumference is larger when my arm rest against my body.  I need to check.
I also need to re-take the measurement for horizontal bust darts (see below).

The Design
The overall top-down raglan approach described by Barbara Walker is great.  It is completely seamless and you can try it on while knitting, which can greatly help (see the Bust Story).  I just need to adjust a few things:

I like the little cables at the raglan seams and going down the body.  However, the stripes are not a good idea with this stitch pattern.  On each side of the mini-cable, there are two purl stitches that are showing spots of color at each stripe beginning and end (see picture).  Not nice - to avoid in the future.

The sweater I had in mind had no ease.  Most of the sweaters I own have no ease.  Despite this, in my calculations, I have put an inch of ease on top of the bust, waist, high-hip, armhole depth and upper arm measurements.   Beside the upper arm which came out too small for other reasons, all the other parts of the sweater felt too large.

I wanted a boat neck, but I ended up with some sort of collar because I didn't want to increase in the ribbing  at the top of the sweater.  Clearly a mistake.  When I realized this, I decided to compensate by adding more rows to the yoke, which has probably contributed to the armhole depth and waist to be out of place.
The Bust Darts
Getting a good "fitted fit" for my shape requires some special maneuver (isn't it the same for everyone?), especially at the bust.  I've got a small waist and a large bust.  With the current breastfeeding, the difference between the two is even more pronounced.
Horizontal bust darts add length to the front of the sweater so that the hem/ribbing of the front and back fall at the same place.  When I took my measurements to make the bust darts calculations, I had the measuring tape follow all my curves rather than simply holding it at the top and bottom.  As a result, I added way too much fabric to the front of my sweater.
Moreover, I should try to include vertical bust darts as well, as the horizontal ones do not help with the waist/bust circumference difference.  The vertical bust darts would allow me to add more stitches to my rounds in the bust area, rather than have "an average shaping" done throughout the mid part of the sweater.

The Ribbing
Once I completed the ribbing at the bottom of the body, I understood that something was wrong.  It was completed flared, rather than bringing the fabric in a little.  I forgot to change for needles of a smaller size.  Not only was the ribbing completely loose, but the rolled stockinette edges were also enormous.
I knitted the right sleeve cuff in exactly the same way.  For the left sleeve cuff, I went down two needle sizes.  In addition, I used a slipping technique described by the TECHknitter which helps fixing the loose knit column I sometimes had in my ribbing.  I also have to mention that I knitted this cuff with the magic loop (which, it seems, makes me knit tighter) as I didn't have dpns the right size. 
The result: although the right-sleeve cuff looks flared, it feels comfortable.  The left-sleeve cuff is waaaayyy too tight.  And it was highly unpleasant to knit!  I think going down two needle sizes was enough to make things right.
I also tried a technique to improve the transition zone between the stockinette and the ribbing, but since the yarn is really dark, it is hard to see if it makes a big difference.  I guess I'll have to try this one again on lighter yarn to see whether it makes a big difference or not.

The Cables
I do like the little cables running along the raglan seams and down the body and sleeves.  However, I noticed that sometimes, the transition from knit to purl was a little sloppy.  I used the slipping technique on one of the sleeve.  See the difference?  Nice and tight on the sleeve at the top of the picture, a little sloppy on the body below.

Picking Up Stitches at the Underarm
Barbara Walker suggest to cast-on underarm stitches for the body, and then picking up these stitches when knitting the sleeves (rather than casting on more stitches and then sewing or grafting).  It works well, except that there is something wrong with my picked up stitches:  they seem twisted.  I'll need to pay close attention next time I do this.  Maybe even swatch it beforehand....

Phoney Seams
I have included phoney seams - as created by Elizabeth Zimmermann - on both the body and the sleeves.  Phoney seams are great, and so easy to make!  They make the garment fold properly, and add a very discreet tailoring effect to the sweater.
I didn't really need such seams on the body of the sweater because of the small cables running down the sides, but I had planned for them anyways because I really wanted to try them out.  I really like the end result!

Other Techniques
  • Slipping the first stitch when joining round and knitting it with the long strand of yarn that gets created on the second round works very well for me.  That one is adopted until something better comes my way!
  • I like the rolled stockinette edges, but they must be knitted on needle of a smaller size and made a little shorter, I think.
  • Knitting jogless stripes and weaving my ends "as I go" is great.  The problem is that I sometimes forget to slip the first stitch of a new color on the second round, so some stripes are jogless and others are not!

The Next Step
Wow!  You read it all the way here!!
Now, have you guessed what I am going to do next?  Yes.  I will knit another sweater, trying to do better.  I don't want to rip this one for two reasons.  Firstly, I don't think the yarn would survive it.  Second, I want to keep it to compare with the next one, which will be green, the color of hope!

If I haven't completely overwhelmed you, check out other finished objects at Tami's Amis and Fiber Arts Friday!!


  1. What a great project. I admire your ability to knit something that large purely for experimentation. You might like the Sweater Workshop by Jacqueline Fee. She has you make a big swatch (kind of like a sleeve) where you practice all elements of a sweater in a smaller form first.

  2. Wow. I also admire your fortitude to complete an entire sweater as an experiment. I think though, your next one is going to be so much better.

  3. Awesome project! So much work for a lovely result.

    Here's my FO:

  4. On my first sweater for myself, my armholes were huge. I always think I'm so big, so I add to patterns. And then it all ends up huge :(
    Oh, except the sleeves which are often shortened when I run out of patience, yarn or both!

    Love the idea of phoney seams. Looks like I'm going to have to pick up a Barbara Walker reference to learn a bit more.

  5. Oh my goodness, you brave soul. I'd be so tired of it, I'd never get the "real" one done.

  6. Not overwhelmed, just in awe. For one, I can't imagine having the patience to do that, I would just cast on and knit a sweater.

  7. Look at all of those techniques. I just don't think I could commit to that large of a project. Good for you.

  8. Learn by doing. The best method.

  9. What a great experiment! I really admire how you incorporated so many different techniques into this project. I knitted the sweater sample that Marie mentioned from the Sweater Workshop when I first started knitting sweaters. It was both fun and interesting to do.

  10. Sounds like a great way of learning! Lots of work, but worth while.

  11. Wow, I'm very impressed - sounds like this was a great learning experience and you are well on your way to sweater nirvana!


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