September 29, 2012

Sweater Placket How-To

Or, How to steek a placket: 

*This works best in non-superwash wool.  Steeking relies on wool's tendency to stick to itself so with cotton, soft wools and other fibers it's best to test a sample first.

Instead of knitting a sweater in flat pieces, sewing them together, and dealing with all that purling…knit it as a tube and insert the placket afterward.  You gain the benefits of knitting in the round, especially good when doing colorwork.  Plus you choose the length of the placket after the fact, when you can try on the almost finished sweater.

To begin with, knit a pullover sweater.  Try on the sweater and place a safety pin, stitch marker or piece of yarn where you want the placket to end.  Make sure you measure or count stitches to find the exact center front of the sweater.  My example has a cable around the shoulders with 7 plain sts at center front.  The central 3 sts will be used to create the placket.  If you've never steeked before it's a good idea to try this out on a swatch first.

Baste down the middle of the central stitch with contrasting color sewing thread (I used white), making a horizontal mark at the desired base.  With a sewing machine, matching thread, and a very short stitch, sew a straight line half a stitch to one side of your basted line.  When you reach the basted bottom, pivot the needle 90º to stitch across the center stitch.  Then pivot 90º again and stitch up the sweater half a stitch on the other side of the center stitch.  Backstitch at the beginning and end of each stitching line.  If your yarn may fray, stitch a second reinforcing line half a stitch away from the first.  I reinforced the bottom of the second line of stitching as well.

Basted with 2 lines of stitching
...and ready to cut

Once you've machine stitched and double checked that your cutting line is correct, cut right down the basting stitches.  You're cutting the center front stitch in half and only want to snip the horizontal strands that connect each half of the stitch.  With wool or a wool blend, non-superwash, the stitches should stick to each other.
The cut slit, stitches secure

Remove the basting thread and you're ready to pick up stitches on either side of the placket, 1½ stitches from center front.  The cut edge will fold to the inside and stay nicely out of the way.  If you wish, tack down the raw edges with some yarn or thread.
Picking up placket stitches

I began with the placket overlap, picking up stitches vertically and knitting enough rows to more than cover the 3 stitch gap, then cast off.  You can either pick up a few extra stitches along the bottom edge and knit those together with the last knit stitch every other row, or sew the bottom of the overlap band to the sweater.  I sampled both methods on a swatch and chose the former.  I forgot to take photos at this point I was so excited to be almost finished ;)

To create the underlap I picked up stitches the same way, but 2 fewer sts, then knit the same number of rows and bound off identically.  The bottom of the two layers are staggered and create less bulk.  The base of the underlap was stitched securely to the sweater.

There you have your henley placket, nicely finished from the outside and stable on the inside.  This placket has no buttons or buttonholes but go ahead and add them if you wish.  The neckline of my sweater was bound off with 2 st I-cord.  I knit 3 rows I-cord per 2 decreased sts and it lies flat on the body (though not in photos).

Finished placket, pre-steaming
Ta da!

September 20, 2012

My Mom

In a word, my mom is amazing.  I've dealt with chronic illness for 19 years and she's supported me the whole way.  While friends and community have fallen away, she's remained despite the pain she feels seeing me in pain.  My entire life she's been loving and supportive.  She's my best friend.

I mentioned hoping to go to a party last weekend and she said she'd drive me.  That would involve over an hour of driving just to pick me up and drop me off, plus her evening gone, but she's happy if it means I can see friends and enjoy myself.  I do the best I can to take care of myself, and I work really hard at it, but for the many many times I fall short it's so good to know my mom has my back.

That's why I was thrilled to discover that the Tangled Yoke sweater fits her perfectly!  She was so excited to have a new sweater, it's essentially made to measure for her, and the project was an unmitigated success :)
My beautiful mother in her new sweater :)

I took some in-progress photos while creating the front placket, so stay tuned for that mini tutorial plus better photos of the cable.

September 19, 2012

Serger Tension Settings

I had an email asking about my serger, and in the process of trying to explain how I find tension settings I thought "this would make a great blog post".   I use a scientific-ish method, typically changing one setting at a time.  The test results are written down on scratch paper, then the final settings are noted along with the fabric type, number of layers, and other information.

Recently I serged cotton jersey, 2 layers, with a 3 thread stitch and 2mm stitch length.  I usually make note of the stitch width as well.

My notes looked like this, x representing the unused needle:

                                  L R UL LL  [left, right needles, upper looper, lower looper]
2 layer jersey, 3thr 2ℓ    x  4  5½  5     lower looper tight; upper looper wraps under
                                             x  4  5½ 3½   upper very loose
                                             x  4  6½ 3½   skips stitches
                                             x  4  4    4      upper loose
                                             x  4  5    4      Final setting

Next time I need to serge cotton jersey I'll save a great deal of time testing settings.  Some tweaking is usually required, especially when changing stitch length or width, and that is also noted.  I keep very close watch on these notes as you can imagine!  Cotton jersey may work close to 4-4-4-4 base settings but muslin and poly satin have quite different characteristics.  That's not even getting into rolled hems!

September 12, 2012

Hip Meausurements

I've always been confused about hip measurements and sewing.  The directions are to measure around the widest part, which is my butt.  I know that's an important measure to have, but where exactly are my hips?  And what do they measure?  The hip is above the crotch, but where exactly?  And I'll still need to add width below the hip in order for my rear end to fit.  So confusing!

Recently I finally found an answer in black and white.  It was something like, High hip is 7" below waist, Full Hip 9" below waist.  This is what I'd been doing--finding the pattern's hip, measuring it, comparing the two--but now I had proof that I was right. lol

September 10, 2012

Sweater Update

After letting the Tangled Yoke sweater relax overnight, and myself too, the fit had improved!  I've given up trying to understand the whims of The Harsh Mistresses Gauge and Wool and just go with it.  There's the usual yoke sweater excess at the underarm but not a big bubble like the first night.  The fit is generally great, and I'll be able to steam out the few remaining bubbles under the cable.

I've been really sick so have no photos.  Tomorrow I'm hoping to sew the steek* and insert the placket.  I'll try to take photos of the process.  I started trying to sew tonight with grey thread on blue tweed wool and it just wasn't working.

*Steek: A slit cut in a column of knitting to insert a sleeve or to create a cardigan opening.  Lines of machine stitching can be sewn on either side of the slit to prevent raveling.  I'm inserting a henley placket via this method.

September 7, 2012

Sweater Failure

I was 98% finished with the Tangled Yoke sweater, tried it on (again) and realized that it's a total failure a mess up top.  The cable turned out ok but the fit of the yoke is poor and not something I can fix without major surgery.  There's a bubble of extra fabric above each underarm, more than is typical for a yoke sweater.  Adding a few decreases, a la raglan sweaters, would probably eliminate that.

I'm very upset that a designer's bad choice messed up something I've been working on since June.  I took many measurements of myself and my favorite sweaters, compared them against the stitch counts and schematic, and thought I had a winner.

I'll try to post photos tomorrow of the problem spots.  Even the magazine photos show the excess fabric at underarm:

The gathering under the cables:

September 4, 2012

The Cable is Vanquished!

I win I win I win I win :D  Sure it took me two tries, but that's the beauty of yarn.  You make a knitting mistake and it's completely reparable.  Now I just need to finish the bit above the shoulders, and the finishing-up, and the sweater she is done.  More of the Tangled Yoke saga.

The center back, where things went wrong terribly wrong the first time

I apologize for the terrible photo, it's dark.  And one of the cats tried to stand in the light.

I thought I'd share a super quick and easy "dinner".  It's also a side dish if you have higher aspirations than me.

Easy Yummy Lentils
1 cup lentils
1 smallish onion, cut into 10-12 wedges
1/2 tsp salt
dash cayenne pepper, if desired

Pop the lentils and onion wedges into a small pot and just cover with water (approx 3 cups).  Bring to a simmer and add the salt and cayenne.  Cover and cook, still simmering, for 20 minutes until the lentils are cooked through but still firm.  Serve hot or cold, seasoning to taste with more salt.  We add some salt during cooking so the lentils aren't bland, but too much salt (i.e., enough) and legumes won't soften.  One of those fun food chemistry facts :)
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