Friday, May 7, 2021

Frankenstein, or a little bit about sizing

I noticed that lately designers started producing patterns with many more sizes than before. Apparently, some knitters couldn't choose from the traditional pattern sizes (XS, S, M, and L) because they didn't fit them well and needed more detailed sizing.

Now, get ready, I am going to tell you something that you probably won't like. If you want a pattern in your exact size so you can knit it without changes and it would fit you like a glove, you'd better forget about it and stick with blankets and/or dishcloths. Because even with hats and socks sizing is important. And individual!

Ok, if by trial and error, you found your designer and his/her clothes fit you, good for you. This post is for the knitters who still have a problem with sizing of their finished projects.

Since at the time when I learned how to knit, there weren't many patterns around (with different sizes or not,) and sometimes I would make a garment just by looking at a picture in a magazine, I am used to starting with my own body and its measurements that I know by heart.

If you don't, I highly recommend you to measure yourself or at least measure your favorite sweater/shirt/t-shirt.

What kind of measurements do you need?

1. Hip circumference (you better have two - the one at the very beginning, where your hips just start getting larger, and the other one, at the largest point).

2. Hip to armhole length (from the point where the hips start increasing).

3. Arm length (from wrist to armhole).

4. Wrist circumference.

5. Chest circumference (pretty standard).

Write them down on a piece of paper and laminate it, they all will come handy when you pick a size that you are going to knit. Just look at the schematics in the pattern and compare its numbers with yours. If there are no technical drawings in your pattern, beware! You might get in trouble with your chosen size. And then check your gauge. If it is different from the one in your pattern, do not despair. I'll explain later how to recalculate all the numbers of your size for your particular gauge.

The next question is: how roomy do you want your future garment to be? In "knitters parlance", how much "ease" will you need (to feel easy enough in your clothes)?
And this is the trickiest question of all. Even after years of knitting, I spend a considerable amount of time before deciding on my future "ease". In most cases, I try to find a finished garment of a similar gauge (not necessarily knitted, just as thick or thin as my yarn of choice), measure it, and then visualize my future garment. Yes, it is a hit or miss process, but after several misses, you start getting more and more hits, trust me.

Now, look at the sizes that designer gives you in your chosen pattern. Pick the one closest to your measurements. Keep in mind the garment's construction. Seamless top-downs fit and wear differently than seamed knits. They don't have any shape of their own, and will cling to every curvature on your body. If you have at least one curvature too many you'd better pick a much bigger size. You'll have something very oversized, but then you can always say that it was the goal. Some people prefer to drown in their clothes to make something with seams. I understand and respect this choice even though I myself always pick another option.

No matter how close the pattern's measurements are to yours, you'll need modifications.

Why? Our bodies have… well, for the lack of better word, "protuberances" everywhere (some of us have big chests, some - accumulated belly fat, some are stooped, etc.).
For example, when knitting clothes for myself I've been regularly adding two more rows to the fronts just before the armhole decreases to accommodate for my chest. It is still easy to seam front and back together - two more rows don't make much difference but they certainly help with the fit.

When knitting jackets for my husband, I made fronts bigger than backs (used different sizes from the same pattern). The final fit is perfect, not too tight upfront, where he keeps some accumulated… muscles:)))

Yesterday I finished a jacket for myself. While making it, I used several different sizes from the same pattern and heavily modified sleeves. The result reminds me a bit of Frankenstein - a full wearable garment made from bits and pieces of a pattern. I am going to explain here the whole process so you can see why I did it and how it works. Maybe it will help someone, who knows.

For this project I picked a design from an old Phildar for men (I've been attracted to masculin designs lately, don't know why). I liked this jacket because it wasn't knit in one color, there are thin fair isle stripes (I picked white and copper). It would break the grey monotony of my last projects (three of them grey).
The yarn was bought on the island of Skye a couple of years ago. I've already tried to make something out of it (twice), the tags were long gone, and I had no idea what kind of wool it was and how much yarn I had.


The original pattern's gauge is 18 sts x 21 rs in 10 cm. My gauge on size 3.75 mm/ US 5 was 22 sts x 27 rs in 10 cm. To pick my size I had to make some minimal calculations.
The back's width had to be 52 cm (my favorite amount of ease for the moment). There are 22 sts in 10 cm. How many sts would there be in 52 cm? Here is the proportion:

X = (52x22):10 = 114.4.

Now let's look at the numbers of stitches to pick up for the back in different sizes. Size 1 - 104 sts, size 2 - 110 sts, size 3 - 118 sts, and size 4 - 124 sts. Actually, in the pattern you are supposed to pick up less sts for the ribbing, and add more in the first row of stockinette, but I don't like a big discrepancy between rib sts and stockinette, especially since I use much smaller needles for ribbing and do the ribbing through the back loops all around which makes it tighter. So usually, while making an old pattern, I pick up all the sts from the beginning. I decided to go with the third size for the back to make it roomier - 118 sts.


While knitting the back, I picked the smallest number for the armhole openings - 26 cm (because I was going to make smaller sleeves).
When the back was finished, I started ruminating about the pockets. There are no pockets in the pattern but adding them is no brainer, it just requires more yarn. And I didn't know how much yarn I had, remember? That is why I decided to make sleeves first to see if there will be enough yarn at the end for pockets.


I have short arms and have to shorten my sleeves all the time, it's a given. Here I was using a man's pattern and sleeves were designed quite long and large. I looked at the numbers of sleeve sts after all the increases: 96 sts for the first size, 100, 102, and 106. Of course I picked the first number. This is how many sts eventually I'll have at the widest place of my sleeve. Remember, my back armhole openings were already the smallest size, so fitting sleeves into the armholes wouldn't be difficult.
According to the pattern I was supposed to pick up 42 sts for the first size. That would have been too few. I wrapped the back ribbing around my wrist to find out the right number and came up with 54 sts, then calculated the length of the sleeve and the number of rows I'd need till the armhole decreases. Again, going through the same steps: 
21 rows - 10 cm, x - 36 cm

X = (36x21):10 = 75.6

I'll need approximately 76 rows. In the pattern directions there are 21 increases for the first size: 1 in the second row, and 20 in every 4th row in order to get 96 sts. It means 82 rows altogether. I needed less rows and more stitches to start with (54, remember?).
After some calculations, these were my numbers:
For a sleeve - pick up 56 sts, rib for 12 rows, change for bigger needles and add 10 sts in the first row of stockinette plus one increase on both sides in the next row. Then increase 14 times in every 5th row. Last increase in row 72.
Yet, when I got there, I figured that my sleeve would be shorter than I planned because of the whole cardigan construction. The upper sleeve part is rather short (only 8 cm, instead of regular 13-14 cm, so the sleeve had to be longer. I added 10 more rows and started decreasing following directions for the first size.
To be honest, this was the moment when I felt confused. I wasn't sure my sleeve was the right length and I couldn't try it on because of its form. In this cardigan shoulders are lowered and become parts of sleeves. I needed to know how low the lowered shoulder would go. For this I needed to make at least one front.


For the front I picked up 60 stitches - the biggest size. I want to be comfortable in this cardigan and wear it over other warm clothes. Yet, I needed the front to match the back at the armholes and shoulders (especially shoulders).
There were 33 sts left for each shoulder on the back, decreased 3 times in every second row (11 sts each time). Therefore, I had to get to 33 sts at the end of each front.
Keeping the decreases for the armholes the same as for the back (1 time 3 sts, 1 time 2 sts, and 3 times 1 st in every second row = 8 sts altogether) I had 60 sts - 33 sts - 8 sts = 19 sts to decrease for the neck opening.

In the pattern for the biggest size the neckline decreases go like this:
4 times 1 st in every second row, and 11 times 1 st in every 4th row = 15 sts
19 sts - 15 sts = 4 sts.
More than in the pattern. Therefore, I needed to start decreasing earlier to incorporate 4 more decreases. In the pattern neckline opening decreases start after the armhole, I started them 10 rs before the first armhole decrease. Et voila! I got the exact amount of stitches for a shoulder at the end!
Now, my back, one front part, and a sleeve were finished. I pinned them together to see if the sleeve was the right length. Fortunately, it was (no, before that moment, I wasn't sure, and was ready to unravel the sleeve and start it all over). So I made the second sleeve and second front with the same changes.


The last thing to make in this pattern - two ribbed borders for buttons and buttonholes that are sewn to the fronts by hand. It took me 3 tries to get the right size borders. The biggest size in the pattern needs 158 sts for each border. When I made it on the smallest size needles used for the ribbing all over the cardigan, it was way too tight. So I unraveled and knit a longer one (178 sts) with the same needles - still not enough. My third try was done on the bigger needles and it worked. So I made the second one the same plus the buttonholes.
Why, would you ask, couldn't I just pick up stitches along the borders? This way I could start with a tubular cast on that makes such a neat finish, and the insides look tidier.
In the end pockets didn't happen. I couldn't see them on this cardigan even though I love pockets and always add them everywhere.
Blocking and seaming the parts of this cardigan was easy - I had the same amount for shoulders, made the same number of rows for each side, and my sleeve cups fit perfectly in the smallest size armholes.
Mistakes? Yes, there are some. For example, I used the same size needles for the fairisle and plain stockinette parts (fairisle is usually done on bigger needles).
The stripes on the body and sleeves don't match. Actually, they don't match on the original cardigan from Phildar magazine. And it is not really noticeable, at least it is not distracting.
What I am trying to say here is this. You can figure out the numbers that you need for a garment that fit you from the numbers already given in a pattern of your choice. You don't need the exact stitch or row gauge, and you definitely don't need to use the same yarn. 

Just remember these two formulas:

X = (your sts gauge x number of sts for your size in the pattern) : pattern's sts gauge

X - number of sts to pick up for your size

Y = (your row gauge x number of rows for your size in the pattern) : pattern's row gauge

Y - number of rows you'll need to knit for your size

Now you can Frankenstein any pattern, or several patterns together. No one will know:)

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Not much yarn

The first thing that I do before even starting a project is checking the amount of yarn needed to finish it. Running out of yarn with an almost finished knit on your hands is extremely frustrating. Nowadays, most designers even specify the yardage or length in meters for every size which is exceptionally convenient. Plus with the ubiquitous Internet there is always a possibility to find an extra skein or two.

In this post I am going to talk about two projects that I made recently without having enough yarn to finish. I knew it from the beginning. And still managed to finish both of them.

The yarn in question is Rowan Alpaca Cotton. It's been discontinued as many Rowan yarns are rather soon after being first introduced to the knitters. I made a sweater in it a couple of years ago and had about two balls of leftovers.

The pattern of a hoodie that I saw on Instagram is by brilliant Olga. I already wrote about her while talking about my first polo sweater. She is not a professional designer, but a dentist and sells her amazing patterns only in Russian and only on Instagram.

When I saw her version of a hoodie I immediately bought it. But then I couldn't start it because every yarn that I would try wasn't the right match. I wanted something warm and fuzzy, soft and squishy, preferably in neutral color. At some point I remembered about Rowan Alpaca Cotton and knit a sample from a leftover skein. It looked and felt perfect. Quickly I unraveled my sweater following the method described here, and started working on the hoodie.

Yet, from the beginning I knew that I didn't have enough yarn to finish the hood. I could save some yards shortening the sleeves - which I did ( I always do). But to be on a safe side I searched everywhere trying to find a ball or two of the same yarn. I found 3 (!) ravelers who had some leftover balls and apparently wanted to sell them. I wrote to all of them but no one (!) answered me. Most likely, they stopped going to Ravelry like I did or got rid of this yarn years ago.

I also found a yarn in a similar colorway but thinner - Rowan Alpaca Classic on Love Crafts. Its colorway Feather Grey Melange looked almost like my Alpaca Cotton in Raindrop. While searching in my stash in hopes to find a lost ball of Raindrop I discovered a whole bag with 8 balls of Rowan Alpaca Cotton in a different colorway - Storm. At first I even thought about combining two colors making my hoodie - light shade for the body, and darker shade for sleeves and hood. Yet, in this case I would have had lots of leftovers. I don't like leftovers (who does?) and usually cannot either get rid of them or use them all. So instead I ordered from Love Crafts several balls of Rowan Alpaca Classic in Feather Grey Melange and in Charcoal Melange as well, to go with my darker shade of Alpaca Cotton.

I was right and even shorter sleeves were not a solution. I definitely needed more yarn to finish the hood. Fortunately, Alpaca Classic in Feather Grey Melange combined with Garnstudio Drops Alpaca in grey from my stash gave me almost the same shade and thickness and I was able to finish the hood at last.
The hoodie was done, but the sleeves were rather on a short side as a result of my attempts at saving as much yarn as possible. Normal people, who don't live in South Florida, don't want a hoodie with short sleeves. It kind of defeats the purpose of a hoodie. Plus I had lots of Alpaca Classic and Drops Alpaca. So I cut the ribbed borders of the sleeves, picked up stitches and knit long ribbed cuffs. If you look closely, you can see the difference between the shades, but not much.And I am absolutely smitten by this hoodie. If one day I find an appropriate yarn, I'll make it again.
The pattern is very easy. Back, front, and sleeves are made separately and then sewn together. The devil is in the details. The back is longer than the front and the shoulder seams land on the front. The seams are crocheted from inside in a contrasting yarn so you can see the contrasting stitches (I did it only for the shoulder seams, somehow I didn't like it with all other seams but, according to the pattern, all seams must be done this way). There is also a false seam in the middle of the front and back crocheted with contrasting yarn (there are detailed instructions and pictures in the pattern explaining how to do it).
The hood is a masterpiece, engineered with lots of clever short rows. It has a two sided edging hollow inside where I inserted straps cut from one of my sun hats - they match the hoodie colors perfectly.
While working on the hoodie (it went really fast), I decided to use the darker shade of the Rowan Alpaca Cotton for Brunoy - a pattern from an old Phildar magazine that I found and bought in the PDF version here. As many of you have already noticed, Brunoy looks surprisingly edgy and modern for such an old pattern. And I didn't change a thing, just used a bigger size and made it a little longer.
This is a man's pattern, but I think that unisex is a "motto" du jour and boyfriend jeans, shirts, sweaters became staples of our wardrobes years ago. Men's knitting patterns in the old magazines are crisp, streamlined, and polished. They have great constructions with a deep knowledge of human anatomy that make them fit well.
Brunoy is a simple sweater in stockinette stitch and 1x1 ribbing. It has deep raglan sleeves with an unusual form in order to accommodate a ribbed and zippered insert.

I've been seeing zippers everywhere lately. Since making two zippered jackets for my husband (both from old Phildars, by the way) I wanted to make something with a zipper for myself. My only problem was that I have a finite amount of zippers in my stash (yes, I've stashed even zippers - I live on an island miles and miles away from any knitting or sewing store, don't blame me). Then I saw PetiteKnit's zippered patterns (adorable, right?), went on her website, and ordered zippers in different colors. They look trendy and sporty, unlike the ones I found on Etsy or Amazon.

While the finished hoodie parts were blocked and drying, I started Brunoy using the same needles as for the hoodie and trying to get almost the same size. It meant that my size of choice was Hommes petite (44) for the front and back (112 sts to pick up).
The sleeves on this sweater are big by design so I chose the smallest size - 52 sts. The raglan decreases on this pattern are what you'd call "fancy" and are done with the help of an extra needle. Unfortunately, they are almost invisible on the fuzzy and dark fabric. I hope to knit this pattern in a lighter yarn one day just to make all its beautiful details apparent.
Two parts of the insert and a collar are made separately and sewn to the body after everything else is finished, all parts are blocked and seamed together.

I didn't have enough of the Rowan Alpaca Cotton for the insert and collar, as predicted, because I opted for a more generous size. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Rowan Alpaca Classic is thinner than Alpaca Cotton and I wanted to make the collar doubled to hide a zipper (and a thicker collar would stand up better while zippered). I knit the inserts in 1x1 ribs, all stitches through the back loop, which made them tighter (preventing stretching). After washing and blocking the parts actually fit.

To be completely honest, I didn't figure out how to put this puzzle together right away. It took some mental work and experimenting. Yet, as soon as the two inserts were seamed to the body, the rest was quite obvious. I sewed a dark almost black zipper in between two inserts leaving the rest of it dangle and wait for the collar.
Then with a much darker yarn (Drops Alpaca in black) I made a crochet chain around the collar, picked up stitches for collar in every loop of this chain (there were also some stitches left on stitch holders on the inserts) and knit in 1x1 ribs through the back loop as long as I wanted the collar to be (basically, it was the length of the dangling zipper) and then continued till I could fold it in double.
I sewed live collar stitches to the inside of the neck opening (except 5 stitches at both ends that I put on stitch holders) using the black crochet loops as my guide.

Then I finished with the zipper, hiding it between two parts of the ribbed collar. Using 5 open stitches at each end I made thin stripes that I sewed to the insert from inside covering the zipper's fabric.
The collar/insert manipulations were not easy but the most fun in the whole process of making this sweater. The rest was boring, plain stockinette, and following directions.

Brunoy is a success in my opinion. Mostly because of a thoughtful and correct pattern plus my finishing touches.
Anyway, this is another reason why I stopped looking for new patterns on Ravelry. There are so many great patterns in old magazines (one Pingouin that I have in my collection has 80!!!!!) and most of them, knit in modern yarns with minimal adjustments, would look stunning and fashionable. To say nothing of a great fit!

It is not surprising that my next pattern was also chosen from an old Phildar. But this is a different story (to be continued)...