Going to great lengths for a seamless cardigan

I have been wanting to knit the Salvia cardigan for years, and in 2015, I finally cast it on. I made the decision that I wanted to figure out how to work it seamlessly, or with as few seams as possible because I still have not mastered attractive seaming for my handknits (I promise, I am working on it and practicing).

I’ve been collecting techniques to avoid seaming over the years, including three-needle bind-offs, picking up stitches around edges, and so on, but this sweater has a unique challenge. The scalloped lace sections that give it its special style are charted from the bottom up, and because they are made with yarn-overs and decreases that play a visible role in the design, I wasn’t able to find an elegant way of replicating them in a top-down direction. I run into the opposite problem somewhat frequently in sock-knitting, where the lace only “reads” with the right gravity and flow in the direction it was designed. So I persisted anyway, quickly working the cardigan’s back, left, and right fronts all together in one piece to the underarms.

Diagram of a plan for knitting the Salvia Cardigan seamlessly

Next I worked the three pieces separately, back and forth on two needles, then finished with a three-needle bind-off at the shoulders. I’ve had my cardigan in a vest-like shape for several years now, while I hemmed and hawed about how best to proceed. The specific type of seaming I am worst at is setting in sleeves at the shoulder. Vertical mattress stitch is fine, but once I start working on a curve, it gets wonky and uneven, and no matter what I do, I’m not pleased with the finished product. So I’ve thought, on and off, for quite some time about how I could work the shoulders using short rows to shape the cap (I plan on something like this brilliant tutorial) and then pondered what to do about the bottom-up lace at the ends of the sleeves.

Recently I was grafting the toe of a sock using Kitchener stitch, thinking about what a neat finish it gives, and it finally occurred to me that I could probably graft in the round, so long as I had the live stitches from the sleeve and the lace portion matched up correctly. By placing the graft just above the lace cuff, I’m hoping it will be unobtrusive and neat and that the sleeve will appear as it is designed, without having to set in shoulders or compromise the design.

I cast on the first lace cuff the other day, and I can’t wait to find out if I’m right!

Previous Entries with this Project:
WIP: Art Deco Lace-Edged Cardigan

FO: Varsity Kermit Sweater!!!

Way, way back in 2011 I sketched out the plan for this sweater and finally today, on Kermit the Frog’s 65th birthday, it is finally finished. Yaaayyyyy!!!

Pattern: Self-Designed Seamless V-Neck Cardigan, using the Incredible Custom-Fit Raglan Sweater Worksheet by Pamela Costello (Project page on Ravelry)
Size: Made to custom measurements
Yarn: Red Heart Sport Solid, DK weight, 100% acrylic, in Limeade and Paddy Green

Started: October 26, 2011
Finished: May 9, 2020

The idea for this sweater had been percolating for much longer, at least as far back as 2007 when I bought this yarn for a different cardigan and laughed that the color was so bright it looked like Kermit the Frog. It should be noted here that I absolutely love Kermit the Frog. As I type this I have a Kermit mouse pad, Kermit is the screen background on my phone, I have a Kermit keychain, more than a few Kermit t-shirts, dolls, water bottles, and so on. He is one of my favorite characters of all-time and never fails to make me smile.

One day riding the ferry home from school, I was thinking about this sweater quantity of bright green yarn and saw a high school student wearing a varsity jacket. I started thinking about the history of varsity sweaters, Googled a bit about the meaning of the stripes, and by the time I reached Staten Island I had sketched out a little V-neck cardigan to declare my varsity-level Kermit love.

I found an iron-on Kermit patch and ordered it right away, then worked out the measurements from the custom-fit raglan worksheet linked above. I found a nicely coordinating darker green for the ribbing and stripes, and I decided that even though varsity sweaters customarily had stripes on only one sleeve, I would indulge myself in a bit of symmetry so both sleeves would match. Knitting the sweater was straightforward and fast, but then I hit a roadblock with the patch. As the yarn was 100% acrylic (chosen for economy, my super sensitive skin, and easy care) I was leery about ironing the patch on, as it would melt the acrylic along with the adhesive.

I sat with this problem for close to a decade, then finally came up with an incredibly obvious solution. I first ironed the patch onto a piece of quilting cotton, then made a sort of sandwich of this layer, the sweater, and a second piece of cotton for a backing.

I trimmed the fabric close to the patch and pinned it where I wanted it above my heart on the sweater.

I turned the edges under and appliqu├ęd the fabric as close to the patch as I could get it, pulling the edges in and slightly under the patch as I worked my way around.

It came out quite clean, and I’m delighted with how securely and neatly it sits on the sweater without pulling or causing it to sag.

I hemmed the inner piece of cotton and tacked it at the corners, to catch all the thread ends and knots and to further stabilize the patch. I had a good laugh, as my brother joined me during this part and recognized the Kermit collar points and silhouette from this back side, asking, “Are you sewing a Kermit onto that sweater??”

It feels lovely to be so understood.

The buttons are a cheery red plastic value pack that I found on eBay back in 2012. I like the contrast and extra little zip they give. At the time I was preoccupied with button bands gapping, so I made these nice and wide, then placed the buttons so closely together that it is nigh on impossible for them to gap at all. Having all these big, bright goofy buttons works with the aesthetic, and I am even more charmed than I expected to be by the whole effect.

Overall I’m thrilled with this project and so glad I took my time in making the decisions I did to get exactly the silly idea I had in my head to become a reality. One of the things I love most about knitting is that you can make anything you imagine, in any size or color you like, with whatever details you want, and you will end up with a one-of-a-kind handmade creation. I am also delighted with the success in making a sweater custom to my measurements so that the sleeves have the right roominess I was looking for, the V-neck hits in just the right spot on my bust, and everything is the right length and fit for a truly comfortable, just-my-size, just-my-style, and just-my-level-of-ridiculous cardigan.

Or as Kermit would put it…

Previous Entries with this Project:
Varsity Kermit Sweater

Educational Mistakes

At a job I once had, my boss would sometimes spend a huge amount of money and time on a vendor or a project that (usually foreseeably) didn’t work out, then shrug it off, “Well that was an expensive lesson.”

One might think I’d have learned sweater hubris by now, that I’d take the time to check gauge or try it on to check fit early on in the process…



And one would be wrong.

At first glance, this might appear to be a finished sweater (apart from the unfinished grafting under the arms) and technically, it fits. I waited until I had finished the neckline and cast off to try it on for the first time, expecting a roomy, almost boxy feel, and instead it is quite fitted, to the point of being body-hugging. At certain angles with careful layering and maybe if I were a little happier with my figure at present, it could work, but I wanted a cozy, smooshy, decadently textured and cabled sweater, not something clingy and short that can only be worn with Spandex underneath.




The little holes from careless neckline pick-ups block out, right??

My gauge, once I finally checked it, was way off, something like 5 stitches/inch instead of 3.8, which makes perfect sense, as this sweater is about 25% smaller than I expected it would be. I briefly tried to convince myself it would stretch a lot in blocking and end up at the expected dimensions, which it might, but since I have more than 5 balls of yarn leftover and this wasn’t exactly a quick project, there is no reason to compromise.




No, raglan decrease gaps don’t bother me at alllll…..

The closer I scrutinized it, the more flaws I started to find as well. I wasn’t happy with the gaps introduced by careless pick-ups for the neckline, but I was willing to sew them shut by weaving in some reinforcing threads. Ditto for the gaps made by raglan decreases along the shoulders, which probably wouldn’t have been so visible if the shoulders weren’t stretched as much. And weird decreases on the sleeves are just par for the course, right?




I mean, no one ever looks at sleeves, do they?? Sigh…

I know I would not be happy with this sweater as it is. I am a better knitter than this, and I care about these details too much to let them slide. The time I spent pretending I didn’t care or that, “It’ll all block out!” was “expensive” in knitting terms, but very valuable lessons. This sweater taught me how to make a seamless yoked sweater in pattern (way easier than I thought it would be). I also learned how important it is to track rows in moss stitch, after the first large frogging-and-restarting.

And now I’ve learned, for real, to actually check my gauge and not just follow the pattern blindly, hoping it’ll all work out. As this was knit with size 6 and 8 needles, I expect 8/10 will do the trick, so long as the pattern holds up. I also plan to make some adjustments with things I didn’t like, such as making a better plan for incorporating sleeve increases in moss stitch, inserting a filler stitch to absorb the raglan decreases on the sleeves, and learning how to pick up neckline stitches more neatly so I don’t end up with gaps.

This project has been like a security blanket for when I needed comfort or an escape from reality, and I mean it when I say it’s been a true pleasure to knit, so I don’t mind starting over to get something wearable with the right finishing details. Let’s hope I’ve actually learned my lessons this time.

Finish-itis??

I have long been afflicted with startitis, the condition common to knitters who enthusiastically cast on new projects left and right, but let them languish over time. I’m delighted to find the tide may be changing for me.



This weekend I worked up an inexplicable head of steam and finished the project I’d been knitting, then eyed my overflowing basket of nearly-completed projects and popped the sleeves on a sweater that had been chilling since oh, 2012 or so. I recently found a truly satisfying needle for weaving in ends, so I dug around and found several other projects that only wanted for a few minutes’ finishing.



I’ve got a bit of washing and blocking and photographing to do, but there are quite a few more finished projects on their way soon. I hope this bout of finish-itis is the first of many, or the start of a chronic trend.

A time to kill

I’ve killed before, and it came out so nicely it made me a devoted acrylic lover, but for some reason I was very anxious about killing my recently completed Mint sweater.

It’s got to be the most nerve-wracking form of blocking because it’s irreversible and so easy to accidentally leave the iron over one place too long and end up with a flattened, lifeless bit. I very dopily scorched a light-colored sweater when killing without a press cloth two years ago and still haven’t forgiven myself for it.

I had half a mind to wear this sweater to work tomorrow without washing or blocking it, but I bit the bullet and carefully steamed it. It’s sitting in the kitchen with a fan trying to hasten it fully drying and, ideally, fluffing back up into something soft and lovely.

Fingers crossed!