Monday, January 26, 2009

Insanity, and a plea for feedback

Or: In which I am brave, and also in need of feedback.

So, I sat down today and finished the right front half of The Sweater, having finished the back and left front half yesterday. I duly pulled it on over my head and took a look. It wasn't bad, but the side shaping was bothering me, as I thought it would, in that it seemed more dramatic than I'd wanted (it almost looks like there's a pleat in there), and the two stitches between the paired decreases didn't match in width with the two between the increases (because the decreases themselves look as if they belong to that center column, making it appear four stitches wide, while that isn't the case with lifted increases, so those center columns look only two stitches wide). I set it aside and went to eat some lunch and think.

I also grabbed some knitting books to look at while I ate lunch, hoping for inspiration. One of those was Knitting Without Tears, that lovely EZ standby. I'd already been wondering if the right solution mightn't be to snip a stitch and rip out the lower half of the body, something I've never tried before, but of which EZ often speaks so coolly that it seems like a reasonable option. No sooner had I settled down and looked at the cover of the book when it occurred to me (that EZ, inspiring by osmosis) that I'd cleverly left the underarm stitches on holders to pick up when I knit the sleeves; of course, I then had to wonder why I couldn't just drop those stitches right down to the bottom of the increase/decrease section, and reknit it, putting more rows in between the decreases to make the change less drastic, and leaving four stitches between the increases to make the columns look more even. Even though it would mean working back up through a lot of rows, it would still take less time than reknitting the whole body.

Why not, indeed? I only hoped that the ten stitches I'd left on holders would be enough.

When I sat down with the sweater, I realized that, in some prescient moment that I had forgotten, I'd actually put 20 stitches on holders for the underarms, which should more than cover the number of stitches involved in the whole increase/decrease thing. I started by letting ten stitches drop, but once I'd picked them up at the bottom, I realized that I needed more width to cover all of the shaping.

I duly let all twenty stitches drop down to the bottom of the shaping section on the left side and captured them on a dpn.
And I started to work my way back up.

Let me just take a moment here to say that reknitting all of those rows leaves one with quite a bit of time to think, and to think odd thoughts at that. It occurred to me as I was working my way up (and down, and up again), that there's really a lot to be learned from taking one's knitting apart this way and putting it back together. I absolutely understand why those Renaissance artists were so desperate to dissect the human body in order to better paint/draw/sculpt it. There's nothing like looking at the inner workings of something to really understand it. (Please forgive me if this analogy seems gross; I was raised by a nurse and a doctor, and to this day I think Gray's Anatomy is one of the world's coolest books -- I have, in fact, been thinking that it's high time to find a copy for the girls.) I'm starting to think that doing this kind of thing to one's knitting should be part of Knitting 101; even just redistributing the extra unevenness of some of the yarn to neighboring stitches was a really interesting exercise.

The biggest difficulty in the whole project lay in the fact that I was decreasing at a slower rate than I'd done before, which meant that at the point at which my floats were shortest, I was knitting more stitches than I had been on that row the first time I knit it, so things got a bit tight. I worked my way through the decreases, realized that I'd decreased too slowly, and decided to rip back and try again. On that second pass through, I first knit about an inch more than I'd done before, then decreased every three rows, but didn't decrease as many stitches as I'd done when first knitting the body. I then worked my way back up to twenty stitches again, and knitted up the rest of the dropped yarn, remembering to leave four stitches between the increase points.


It's not as smooth and even as my knitting usually is, but I think that the shaping is less drastic, will fit better, and I'm hoping (pleasepleaseplease) that blocking will take care of any residual unevenness.
That's the original on the left (the other side that I still need to do), and the new work on the right. See? Less drastic. I had a picture of the whole sweater, so you could see the difference between the two sides in terms of overall shape, but the camera has taken to turning the occasional picture blue (??), so I can't show you that one.

The feedback part comes in here: do we think (pleaseplease, did I mention?) that blocking will even out those stitches, or do I need to rip the whole body out and start again? I'd rather not, but I also want to be able to wear this. Also, does that shaping (the one on the right) look as much better as I think it does?

The other non-complete-ripping option that comes to mind would be to drop to the bottom of those stitches again, and then to knit them up evenly, staying at 20 stitches the whole way, but switching to smaller and smaller needles as the floats get shorter, and then back up to the right size as they get bigger again. That might actually end up being a pretty neat effect, but I'm not sure if there are hidden pitfalls there that I haven't thought of. Has anyone tried anything like that? I'm starting to become more and more enamored of that idea, actually, as it seems to be such an elegant solution, so someone save me quick if it's not a good one, because I'm now thinking that I'll try it on the second side to see what I think, and then go back and fix whichever side is less good.

19 comments:

Carrie K said...

Blocking should help. You could always pull a bit of the slack on all the stitches on the rows that seem too short too.

Isn't ripping, dropping and reknitting a revelation? I have to wholeheartedly agree with your dissecting analogy.

Gwen said...

Hmmmm....

If you use different needle sizes on the other side, you're going to have to redo one side or the other. Which, if you're willing, is not really a problem. (showing off those crazy dropping and reknitting skills!)

Before you do something different for the other side, try blocking what you have on the needles. Start with spray/steam blocking so it dries faster and see if that does the trick evening everything out.

Hmmmmmmmm.....

FUZZARELLY said...

Oh, blocking can work wonders on wool. I can't remember what fiber you're using.

I like the look, very much, of the new half. When the stitches get tight, you may want to think about using another piece of yarn. A little snip to the old yarn.

Try blocking the half that you have done, like Gwen said. Good luck!

=Tamar said...

Don't worry about the uneven stitches. Blocking will fix them, and heck, they're under the arm - anybody checking the stitches under my arms is braver than I am...

I third blocking what you have before reworking the other side. Maybe even trying it on.

Anne said...

I fourth the "block now" idea. It's amazing (inspiring? fabulous? terrifying?) the crazy acts EZ can inspire in the name of un-venting ...

Mary Lou said...

You are really right about the dropping and reworking as a learning experience. It sometimes teaches me how little I know! In my beginning knitting class I have the students drop several stitches down and pick them up again. And I think blocking will work it all out. A good soak and wet block will really sort out a great deal.

Rachel said...

Gasp! I totally admire you!
I HATE dropping and reknitting, it brings the worse yekke out of me,
I do it, I don't like the result, I rip, I knit from the start, stupid me!

I think blocking will make it look nice and even. I would try the needle size idea on a swatch to prevent having to drop and reknit again, this is partially me and partially practical, cause some yarn start to behave badly when you do it too many times.

Good luck with anything you decide to do.

kim said...

Go with your gut girl!

EGunn said...

I don't know. Those stitches don't look too uneven from here, so I think they'll mostly block out. On the other hand, it would be fun to try the different needle size thing, just for the heck of it. (Though that's a lot of stitches to knit back up just for the heck of it...)

Is it row gauge or stitches per inch that changes faster with needle size? I switched needle sizes on the sweater I'm working on, and I think my stitches got a lot wider but not much taller. If that's true, then I'd think that the needle sizing solution should work well without distorting the fabric. If the rows change faster than the stitch width, I'd worry about short-row sort of effects. I'm curious to see the needle size version, so I might selfishly say to try that. But block it first, just to see how it looks. =)

Miss 376 said...

What patience you have. I agree with the blocking too

scienceprincess said...

I have never yet completed a sweater fit to wear out of the house, so I salute your bravery.

Let me know how it goes.
Sarah

Alwen said...

I once dropped and re-knitted ribbing on a pair of socks after wearing them for a couple of months. Isn't it amazing how much of a change it makes?

Whatever you settle on, you end up with mad new skilz!

KnitNana said...

Ok, I'm one of those who find this sort of thing fascinating, tho' I've never done it on such a large scale...

Why not do the other side with the different sized needles and see which you prefer? Then you can reknit whichever one you don't care for...

And since I've not blocked a sweater (having never knit one) I can't say for sure, but the sage advice I've heard over the years is that blocking cures so much.

Certainly it does amazing stuff for lace, so why NOT on a sweater?

Ok...I'll be quiet now..
(((Hugs)))

Juno said...

That is genius.

I think washing will take care of it, mostly - why not get a spray bottle or similar and spritz the area? See if its OK. I reknit something from freshly ripped yarn once and used spot blocking to reassure myself that it would even out in the end.

the boogeyman's wife said...

you've got plenty of good advice now, so i think i'll just second what kim said - go with your gut. you probably know what will work best if you don't second guess yourself too much. the right side is looking better though :)

Rachael said...

I second (10th, 25th?) the blocking, I would go ahead and give it a good soak to see how it turns out.

I'm not sure about changing needle sizes, I think it's good in theory, but I'm not sure about putting it into practice.

If you're going to do it, wait & block after you've done the second side and see which looks better.

Bea said...

I like the new shaping and I think blocking should help. Tug it around a bit when you do it. But I'm really intrigued by this second idea. I haven't seen that done but it seems like it would be quite subtle and flattering without being too dramatic. I'm interested in what other think of this idea too.

beautyredefined said...

Thanks for this post. I had to redo a line of raglan increases in my first sweater, and I'm glad to see others ripping out portions and re-knitting them. It took me a few times to get it right, but I definitely agree that it should be part of knitting 101. I'm learning a lot with this sweater.

twinsetellen said...

Block away - I'm sure it will work. I've reknit and blocked enough myself!

And very mature of you to make yourself do the right thing by the shape of your sweater.