Friday, July 10, 2009

Interesting Knitting Techniques

I just told someone at work that your brain works on problems when you’re away from them and not even thinking about them. That’s a big strategy of mine – I set things aside, wondering what a solution might be, and at some later point, poof! the brainstorm arrives, usually when I’m not even thinking about it.

I learned this studying music. As you practice, you pick your way through a piece and wonder if you’re even making progress, and then one day, you see a sudden improvement.

In just this way, I had an idea about a way to do the sideways baby sweater and eliminate a lot of seams while I was working on something else. With this technique, you’d only need shoulder seams and seams down the length of the arm.

When I finally got home and had a chance, I sat down and started knitting up my idea, voice recorder in hand (this is how I create my detailed patterns – I say each step as I do it and type it out later). I couldn’t be more pleased with the fact that this sweater incorporates a bunch of extremely practical techniques that you don’t often see in patterns:

Use of the garter bar to “park” one side of knitting while you knit the other side. This technique is in fact faster than waste yarn because it’s so fast to put the stitches back on the needles later. It’s better than putting stitches in hold because you don’t get grease marks across the knitting from the carriage going across it repeatedly.

My machine knitter’s version of using a cast-on string, like hand knitters sometimes do for an open cast on. This short-cut takes the place of waste yarn to hold stitches and is very practical for this particular project.

A very simple 1-stitch buttonhole that works beautifully in 1 x 1 ribbing. I prefer buttonholes that aren’t too large and don’t unbutton too easily. These are great for a baby sweater. A 5/16” to 3/8” button is just about right. Remember: knit the buttonholes, then take the sweater to the fabric store and try the buttons with the actual sweater. What you think looks good will probably change when you actually try it.

Sleeves knitted from the top down using decreases, then bands added by hanging a weight and transferring every other stitch to a ribber needle.
A fave method of binding off ribbing (hint: looks just like a hand knitter’s ribbing bind-off).

I knitted the second sweater in peach yarn, but didn’t do any embellishments as I knitted because it was experimental. After taking the sweater off the machine (yes, you end up with the whole sweater hanging on the machine), I declared the experiment a success!
I have only to add a couple bands and sew up the shoulders and sleeves. Then, off to the store with that one to pick out some pretty buttons.
I have several variations of this sweater in mind, including an adult variation with body shaping.

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