Sunday, February 5, 2023

Knitting stripes

Why do knitters like stripes?
That's easy - because it's fun to knit. Instead of falling asleep bored by the rows of endless stockinette stitches you just keep anticipating a color change. You tell yourself - OK, one more row and I start with red (light blue, green, etc.) yarn - and are going and going. It's really addictive.

There are other benefits of knitting striped garments. It is handy when you have small quantities of yarn of the same gauge. This is usually what comes to my mind when I take a look at my enormous stash. Striped knits are good for stash busting.

Unlike fair isle or intarsia, striped knitting doesn't require any special techniques and it can be done while talking or watching TV.

What else? I think the most important advantage is their versatility and wearability. It is easy to combine a garment that has several colors. At least for me with my predilection for dark (usually black) jeans and pants.

Everything else about striped knits is unpleasant to say the least. Sometimes it's really painful.

First and foremost, the innumerous ends that you will need to hide at the end of work. Because even if you knit in the round it won't be possible to keep each thread of yarn till the end without cutting.

Then there is the need to match all the stripes on the body and sleeves.
Again, it is easier to do while working in a round, but still you need to know how to avoid a jog - a little step that appears every time you change a color. The Internet is full of tutorials of how to achieve a "jogless jog" and it is not a mind blowingly difficult technique. 
Yet, if you are like me and prefer knitting with seams to insure that your final garment keeps its shape a bit longer (and adds some shape to your aging body), you will live through a nightmare every time while sewing the parts together. I for example can never get through a seam matching all the stripes the first time. I need two or three attempts to make it work.

This task becomes even more arduous when you sew in sleeves. I do like the end result for sure but going through this process is not my favorite pastime to say the least.
Last summer I made a striped cropped sweater from some odd balls of ColourMart's cashmere lace - some of them doubled, some tripled - in seven colors similar to the pattern that I found in an old Georges Picaud magazine.
Since I was dealing with cashmere - soft and weightless - I worked bottom up with seams to give it structure. I couldn't follow the pattern from Georges Picaud because I didn't have enough yarn. Hence, my pattern was totally improvised. I made the back 2 cm longer than the front like in my previous sweater (to accommodate for my body shape) and managed to sew them together in a way that it doesn't look weird. But then I encountered a huge problem - the ball of bottle green yarn was so tiny that it was obviously not enough for two long sleeves.
I came up with a solution to this problem - and I am very proud of my solution but as a result the finishing took me additional two weeks so if you decide to replicate my way of knitting, be prepared.

First, using a provisional cast on I picked up the amount of stitches for the largest part of a sleeve, right before the armhole decreases. Started with the last stripe before the decreases. Then did all the decreases for the sleeve's top. Then picked up the stitches on the bottom and went down the sleeve, decreasing stitches gradually. Finished with 1x1 ribbing in red and a tubular cast off. I had to follow the same color order as for the body only for the top sleeve and could improvise with the bottom part, changing the stripes order a bit, and using less bottle green (I ended up using the ball up completely).
And then came the seaming process. The purl side is the right one in this sweater and it turns out that sewing together two purled striped sides is much more difficult than two knitted striped sides. Needless to say that when all the stripes were matched, and everything was finished, I just couldn't make myself hide all the ends. There were too many of them and I was exhausted by this project. I don't care though, because nobody can see these ends but me. Otherwise this sweater is great - it fits me well and is perfect for Scottish capricious weather. Which is why I wore it quite a lot last summer and the ribbing became a bit stretched and wobbly. Keep it in mind - ribbing in cashmere stretches!
After this herculean task I managed to avoid stripes for a while. Till this January when I came across some cotton yarn in my stash that I totally forgot about. The yarn is called Peria. It is 50% bambu, 40% viscose, and 10% linen, 230 m/245 yds in a 50 g ball.
I don't remember when I bought it but I remember why I did it - it was extremely cheap plus I liked the colors. When I opened the parcel with the yarn, I discovered that it was too thin to use solo, and I didn't order enough for a whole garment if used doubled. Instead of ordering more of it, like normal people would do, I just hid it in a bin because it looked so thin, light, and soft, that I couldn't imagine ever making anything from it.

Fast-forward several years, I unearthed the yarn, rewound it doubled, made a gauge (still seemed too small), and hid it back again.

Now, as you probably remember, every new year my only resolution is to use up my knitting stash. In January I took out a couple of bags with summer-y yarns that in my opinion could be used for something wearable in Florida. And I promised myself that I won't be working on anything else till I finally use these yarns.
It was pretty obvious from the beginning that I had to make something with stripes if I wanted to use this Peria yarn. I didn't have equal quantities in different colors so it took me a while to come up with a stripe combination that would use more yarn in one color and less in another.
Since I made several rather big swatches I knew that this yarn doesn't keep any shape or form whatsoever. It needed structure. Lots and lots of structure. Just seams or even full-fashioned shoulders were not enough. Lately I became attracted to saddle shoulder construction. I made a cardigan using it and I loved the fit. The problem with it though - it is tricky and all calculations must be done really well for sleeves to fit with the body parts. Now multiply the difficulty level by two because it was supposed to be knit with stripes!!!
I found a pattern for a t-shirt with a saddle shoulder in an old Phildar magazine. My gauge was different, so I used the biggest size. My colors were different so I used different stripes. Added a few rows of ribbing at the bottom. Otherwise I mostly followed this pattern.
The process of knitting was a lot of fun. I think both sides of the fabric look equally well - the purl side even more than the knit side. Like in the original pattern I ended up using the knit side for sleeves and the purl side for the body.
The seaming was a nightmare. No, nightmare is too mild a word to describe what I went through. It was a pure torture.
I was sick with some kind of virus and spent three days on my sofa trying to put this thing together. The result is not perfect (look at this back - it is a bit crooked).
All the while I was asking myself the same question: why cannot I just go to a store and buy a t-shirt for 5-10-15 dollars, wear it, and then put it in a laundry basket, like normal people do? Why do I need to spend an insane amount of time on something rather flimsy and stretchy that would require hand washing and drying flat?

But I like this one. It is roomy and airy, right for our Floridian winter (and probably summer as well).
Unfortunately, I am left with quite a lot of leftovers that I cannot just throw away. So in near future I'll have to make something with them, combining with more remnants of my previous projects.
In conclusion:
Knitting stripes is fun but must be avoided if possible.😎😎😎