Sunday, October 3, 2010

Seawolf: The Back

            Hey there blog readers.  Welcome back.  It’s nice too see you again.  I’ve missed you.  So allow me to bring you up to speed on Seawolf.  Things are going well.  The back panel is finished.  Allow me to walk you through the process.

*** Techy nerd alert! You’ve been warned! ***

So I’ve worked out my spec for the size of this sweater.  I started with my standard pull over sweater and graded it up one size since I want it to feel roomy and cozy.  Now that my spec is done I can enter it into my secret machine-knitting weapon.  I’ve developed a knitting pattern on Excel (registered trademark of Microsoft) that writes the pattern for your knitting based on your sweater specs and gauge.  It was pretty complicated to develop, but once I had it down it RULES!  If I ever need to change any specs, i.e. drop the armhole or widen the body, I reenter my numbers and the spreadsheet recalculates the whole pattern (insert 1960s technology sounds ala “beep beep boop boop”).  It’s not a completely thought free system though.  I have to add sections if any design details change.  It is invaluable though.  A lot of times my gauge is not always correct when I knit a small swatch.  In machine knitting it is recommended that you knit a large swatch in order to get a more accurate gauge. 
            Instead of knitting a large swatch, mostly because I’m impatient, I just swatch a normal sized piece.  Then I write my pattern based on that gauge, then I knit up the back of the sweater.  Usually there isn’t a lot of design details or shaping on the back of the sweater so it usually doubles as a large swatch for me.  I know, I know, “Haste makes waste”.  My rebuttal to that is, “Don’t drive in the left lane on the highway if you don’t wanna drive fast” and “Highway to the DANGER ZONE!”  So I knitted the back of my sweater and then I blocked my panel.  After checking the specs of the length, body width, neck width, and armhole depth; it turned out to be perfectly on spec.  Who’s house?! My house.
            So allow me share with you some pictures of my process.

This is my knitting machine.  She’s a Brother KH-260E (the E is for Eleganza… tres chic!) with a matching KR-260R Ribber.  Ahh she a trusty steed.

These are the cones of the yarn I am using.  I purchased them at the Silk City warehouse sale that happens once a month in New Jersey.  If you’re a machine knitter I would recommend you check it out. has all the details on the sale.

This is my swatch after I steam blocked it.  Notice the 4 eyelets on the left side.  As I’m knitting my swatch I put eyelets in them to indicate the tension I used on the machine.  That way I can swatch yarns to see how they look,, and then I can easily refer back to them later if I like the tension.  I learned that little trick from my college machine knit teacher Cindy Taylor (Can I get a “what what” for C. Tays?!).  As you see in the picture my sweater will be knit on dial tension 4.

This is my machine after I casted on my ribbing in a manner that is referred to by the manual as “perfect selvage” (see your knitting machine’s user’s manual on how to do this properly as each make of machines could be different).  I chose to do 2x1 ribbing.  It’s actually a knit 2 purl 2 in essence.  But the way the machine is set up there is 2 needles in work and then 1 needle left out of work on the knitter bed and the ribber bed.  It’s a pretty way to do ribbing, and I find and it looks more like commercial sweaters.  Almost forgot to note!  When you knit your ribbing you should always turn the dial down 1 step on the tension.  In this case my ribbing was knit on tension 3.  I’m not gonna lie to you.  This yarn was fragile and tore easily.  Immediately after I took this picture the yarn shredded in two places so I had to begin again.  It turned out when I was doing my perfect selvage I had the tension too tight.  The second time it was actually perfect!  The moral of the story is follow the manual exactly!

This is my finished ribbing!  After I transferred the ribbed stitches to the knitter bed I took the ribber bed off so you could see it fully.  This is the moment where you MUST MUST MUST remember to change your tension to the correct setting.  I can’t tell you how often I went right into knitting the body on the ribbing tension.  Don’t let this be you.

Here’s a close up of the ribbing…. Oh la la! I know it looks loose now.  But don’t worry.  It’ll tighten up.  That’s what she said.

So here is the body of my sweater knitted up to the armpit point.  I always use scrap yarn to mark the armpits, (not shown in photo) which makes it easier when seaming up the sweater.

Now here we have the sweater after I have decreased the armhole shaping.  I did a decrease two stitches every 2 stitches.  Now that I’m looking at it I probably should have done decrease 2 every 3-4 rows to make it look more commercial, but c’est la vie.  Live and learn.

Now I’ve knitted the back between the armholes and I’m getting up the neck.  This is where I put in the stitch change area to change to purl stitches.  I’ve reattached the ribber and have transferred the stitches that I want purled to that side.

Shown here in this photo is the complete back panel.  I did my shoulder slope shaping by partial knitting and I’ve shaped the back neck by decreasing toward the shoulder.  Sorry I didn’t take pictures at this point.  I was in a groovy and completely forgot.  I won’t forget when I knit the front.  The pink yarn is where I have knitted my shoulder and the center of my neck onto waist yarn.  Waist yarn is yarn that you will remove later, but they hold you knitting so it doesn’t unravel. 

This is the reverse side of the back panel on my ironing board where I am steam blocking it into the correct shape and size.   Preferably I would like to have a blocking board which is basically a huge padded area that you can pin your knitting to and steam it flat all at once and let it dry, but I make due and it works.

This is the back panel shown on the right side of the garment.

Here is a nice detail photo of my bottom ribbing.  Notice how the knitting tightens right up. 

            The fabric turned out VERY nice.  It’s soft and cozy, as a wool cashmere blend should be!  Also at the same time it is light weight and drapes nicely.   I apologize if this post was long winded, but I’m sure if you got to this point you’ve enjoyed yourself.  I’ll be posting soon about the other pieces of the sweater!

Philip- In Brooklyn

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