Welcome to the spring installment of the Progressive Needles Knit Along. No better way to usher in the season than with a sheep-themed project! I have all kinds of essential sweater techniques and know-how crammed into one tiny baby cardigan. I can’t wait to get started but first a nod to Skacel Collection, whose support makes these KALs possible.
Before we begin, here is an overview of the KAL:
- A portion of the 4-part mystery pattern is revealed here on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Thursdays in April at 9am Eastern time. The weekly pattern, video resources and lots of helpful tips are included in each post. An abbreviated, pattern-only version is included to download.
- All techniques are supported with video instruction at knitpurlhunter.com
- All questions and comments are monitored daily both here and in the Knit Purl Hunter group on Ravelry. It’s like having your own private knitting tutor!
- Projects completed by May 15 are eligible for the monthly prize drawing – first prize is a set of addi Clicks! See skacelknitting.com for all the info.
- After May 15th, the pattern will no longer be free but will be available for purchase on Ravelry.
Our first lesson begins before casting on the first stitch. Yes, the dreaded GAUGE word!
Knitters often confess to me that they never knit a gauge swatch. While this does not surprise me, I am surprised that most knitters fail to fully understand the implications of omitting this crucial step.
Most importantly, improperly sized stitches will yield a piece in a size different than the stated measurements in the pattern. Spending countless hours knitting a garment that doesn’t fit is no one’s idea of fun. Also, many knitters neglect to swatch for projects that aren’t required to “fit”, such as scarves, shawls, blankets, etc. While the gauge may not be crucial to the outcome of these items, it has a huge impact on the amount of yarn used. Because larger (loose) stitches use more yarn, it may result in a yarn shortage. Who wants to run out of yarn with just a few rows remaining? Taking the time to assess the stitches prior to the project will produce a piece that fits well, with optimum stitch appearance, and knit within the stated yardage.
A baby sweater is a perfect platform for testing and managing gauge. True enough that a baby will grow into a big sweater or can’t complain about a tight one, but let’s use this opportunity to get the stated gauge and measurements which will be crucial in knitting a sweater for yourself in the future.
Adorable Ewe’s gauge is 16 stitches and 24 rows = 4″ in stockinette using the larger needle. To knit the perfect swatch, read my Gauge Matters article released in a recent newsletter. (Subscribe to my newsletter for future issues.) Tips to measure your swatch are found in my Gauge video. Note, if you adjusted the size of the larger needle to obtain gauge then your smaller needle will be one size down from that adjustment.
While the number of stitches and rows are both important, it is more important to match the stated stitch count. After diligent swatching, the stitch count is often correct but the row gauge may be off. If the row gauge is slightly different, try experimenting with a different needle size or an alternate needle material to see if that will impact the rows. Also, try blocking the swatch to determine if it can be coaxed into the required row gauge.
If the row gauge is significantly different than the stated gauge, the pattern may be knit with some precautions taken. If a project states to knit to a desired length (as in a scarf or blanket), then the row gauge will not be a factor. However, if the pattern has shaping based on the row gauge then the frequency of the shaping must be altered. A loose row gauge (less rows per inch) will make the piece longer between each increase or decrease. Conversely, a tight row gauge (more rows per inch) will make the piece shorter between each increase or decrease. For example, if a pattern directs you to decrease one stitch every four rows, a loose row gauge will result in a longer shaping area. Decreasing more frequently, (perhaps every third row) will combat this issue and reduce the correct number of stitches in the desired length of knitting.
Due to the minimal amount of shaping in this pattern, a slightly different row gauge (+ or – a few rows) will have little impact. However, if your row gauge is significantly different then it will impact the length of the sleeves, the front shaping and the horizontal front bands (button bands). Fear not, I’m here to help!
With all of these gauge considerations in mind, we will be knitting the sleeves of the sweater first. While they are the most boring section to knit, the sleeves are a great place to double check gauge in a relatively small piece of the sweater. Ideally, your sleeve will match the approximate measurements in the schematic provided below. Designers include these graphics to assist you and they should be consulted frequently.
If your sleeve reached the stated 6 1/2″ before completing all of the increases, take back a few rows and increase more frequently (more on that later). Knit to the stated row gauge or slightly smaller, will have you knitting a few more rows after the increases to reach 6 1/2″ which is perfectly fine. If the finished sleeve is just a tad off the measurements, try blocking it to reach the ideal size.
Many knitters routinely slip the first stitch of every row to create a tidy edge. This practice is a good idea when the edge will be exposed. However, if you are going to be seaming or picking up along that edge as in Adorable Ewe, DO NOT slip the first stitch of the row. This elongated stitch makes for a weaker seam and an incorrect stitch count for the pick up ratio.
Let’s start knitting!
With the smaller needle and Main Color, cast on using the Long Tail method. I like the edge it creates when the first row of the pattern is a wrong side row, as worked here. See Long Tail Cast On video Leave a 24″ tail on the cast on to use in seaming later.
Knit the 4 rows of ribbing, then change to the larger needle and work the Set Up rows. The arm length is shaped by working increases near the beginning and end of right side rows using the neat and discreet Make One Left and Make One Right. See Make One video
I used standard pattern writing language for the increase instructions:
Beginning with a purl row and continuing in stockinette stitch, repeat Increase Row on next 2 RS rows, then every 4th row (i.e. every other RS row) 6 times.
This type of instruction can be very confusing to the newer knitter. For the less experienced, it is often helpful to make a cheat sheet that indicates the specific rows containing increases. I like to used lined paper and number each row on a line with simple shorthand – knit, purl and increase. We begin the cheat sheet after having worked the Set Up Rows and its increases. The Set Up Row is not included in the following row calculations. Using this system, the Arm portion begins with 24 stitches with a wrong side Row 1 worked as a purl row. The increases are made on the right side in Rows 2, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24 and 28 to bring the count to 40 stitches.
A correct or smaller row gauge will require the sleeve to be worked more rows beyond Row 28 to get to the stated 6 1/2″. If you reached 6 1/2″ before reaching Row 28 then some adjustments can be made. Rip out a portion of the sleeve and work the increases more frequently. For example, if you have 36 stitches at 6 1/2″ then rip back and add increase rows in Rows 18 and 22 to see if that helps. We could do a lot of math to find the perfect ratio, but I find a bit of fudging is all that is needed!
For veteran knitters, two sleeves can be knit at the same time. Simply wind both skeins and knit one sleeve from each ball on the same needle.
My completed sleeve is pictured below.
I’m excited for next week’s Part 2 featuring a darling sheep and some unexpected stitches!