Apparently I never blogged about it, but over a year ago, I cast on for a pattern that had been on my list for a while, the Minimalist Cardigan. I took it with me on vacation in New York, zipped through the back and through one front, then decided the front was too narrow, frogged and re-knit. When I was ready to cast on for the sleeves, I hit a roadblock and followed my usual Scarlet O'Hara strategy. Off in the basket it went, to gather dust (literally, I am afraid to say) while I avoided thinking about it.
Here's the reason for the roadblock: I wanted to knit the sleeves down from the armhole rather than separately as the pattern requires, mostly because I had made quite a few modifications to the sleeve design. But I had never before attempted to knit sleeves down in a textured stitch pattern, and this worried me. Not to the point of actually giving it a try, but rather to the effect that I abandoned the project for a long while.
Fast forward to this Spring, where, after a many-month feast of garter stitch projects, I started to feel antsy for a real garment and the challenges that come with it. So I dusted off the cardigan and embarked on Sleeve #1. I "only" had to knit the first sleeve twice before I figured out the best way to proceed.
Forget the washed-out color -- the wool is actually a deep, blackberry purple shade of Cascade 220 Heathers. Moss stitch lends itself perfectly to hiding the short-row wraps of the sleeve caps. Thanks to Carole Wulster, the brilliant mind behind Sweater Wizard software, I also experimented with an improved way of picking up the armhole stitches for the sleeve cap, which goes thusly:
1. Pick up and knit stitches all around the cap, using a circular needle;
2. Cut the yarn, slide your stitches to the "beginning" of the circular, front still facing you;
3. Slip (as if to purl) one third of the stitches to the right part of your circular.
4. With new yarn, knit the top third of the sleeve cap, using whichever short row technique you prefer.
5. Continue, following the basic Barbara Walker method, but if you find, as I do, that this method yields sleeve caps that are a bit too full, then every 3rd and 4th row, instead of knitting the wrapped stitch and wrapping the very next one, knit an extra stitch before you wrap. This way you will be reducing the number of rows in your sleeve cap, creating slightly less volume. I don't do this very methodically, but anyway, it works well for my shoulders.
Once the sleeves were done, I tackled the collar band. The pattern calls for stockinette, but I knew that the curling at the edge, conveniently not shown on Interweave Knits photographs, would drive me crazy. Once again, Ravelry to the rescue. Did you know that you can search projects according through "helpful notes"? I didn't, but stumbling upon this filter saved me a lot of time. It turns out that quite a few other knitters had A. knitted the sleeves down from the armhole, and B. modified the collar band. I made mine in 1/1 ribbing, which gives me almost the same appearance as stockinette, plus the nice, firm, flat edge that I envisioned.
The one catch is at the center back, where the knitter must kitchener-stitch the two halves of the collar band together. I considered cheating and going for a plain sewn seam. But that would entail letting my hair grow so that no one would ever see that seam, and I like my hair on the short side. Besides, many years ago, I had taken a six-hour class on finishing techniques, taught by the unique Joan Shrouder, in the course of which we had practiced many different variations on kitchener. Now finally was my chance to practice what I had learned.
The set-up was complex and necessitated a very quiet house, with the baby off at the park, no radio blaring anywhere, no engine-powered gardening tools in the vicinity, no leisurely podcast-listening while I worked. It also required four dpns. The result was not perfect, but good enough.
This is what the front looked like, pre-blocking:
And, because I won't keep any secret, no matter how unsightly, from you, dear readers, here's the back:
The cardigan is now on the blocking board, as I wanted to give a good steaming to the sleeve caps before sewing up the sleeves and the body. I'll have lots more to say about the pattern and the modifications I made to it in a future post.