A Stitch in Time

I finally finished this cardigan (Manu by Kate Davies) in August 2018.

Before I got to the stage of being able to wear it there were a few false starts – I needed to make it two sizes bigger than I had begun in order for the sleeves to fit (and to fit over the roomy dresses and smocks I love from The Slow Wardrobe) and also it was originally going to be all orange.

However, the skeins of yarn I was using (Shilasdair Luxury DK – now discontinued) are hand-dyed and dyed with natural materials at that (Madder root for the orange) and so, although I thought I had matched the colour of the skeins well when I bought them at Wonderwool in 2017 it turns out they weren’t similar enough. I could have switched between two skeins of orange every other row as is recommended with hand-dyed yarn, but I didn’t. The point at which I was getting going with the second skein was also the point where I realised I was knitting the wrong size. Which meant I didn’t have enough orange yarn anyway. So, I decided to do the recommended striping, but with other colours!

Many who know me will say that I can be quite indecisive at times (and at others, so not!) and so it was that, although I was pretty sure it would work really well with three colours striping through, I couldn’t decide which additional colours to use. I think I bought seven. The others are still waiting patiently in my stash.

I loved the narrow stripes and the way they repeated up the body. Especially the way the short rows at the back of the neck separated the final set of green stripes from the rest of them. It did, however, result in lots of extra ends to weave in!

Rear view of me wearing a recently finished Manu in the garden.

I also discovered that my knitting and purling tensions are not the same. The body is worked flat (knit one row and purl the next) and that was made first, as far as the armholes. I wanted the stripes on the sleeves to line up with those on the body. The sleeves are worked in the round (knit every round), but my stripes were not matching up. Turns out my purl stitches are tighter than my knit ones, so the stripes on the body were ever so slightly narrower than the sleeve stripes. The solution? Rip the sleeves out and try again with a slightly smaller needle. Fortunately that worked, or my whole striping plan would have been out of the window.

You can see that this cardigan took quite a lot of effort to come into being. So, when it started to wear thin under the arms on the body and the sleeves I had to do something about it. I got the spare yarn out and duplicate stitched (sewed over the knitted stitches, recreating them exactly) large patches of the fabric, maintaining the original striping. It took a long time and, again, there were a lot of ends to deal with. But it worked and the reinforced fabric looked brand new again.

The reinforced areas under the arms show up as darker patches when held up to the light.

Unfortunately parts of the reinforced areas are now wearing thin again and I’m not sure if working a third layer of yarn through those stitches will help or damage it further. I noticed this yesterday when I was working on the cuffs.

The whole body of the cardigan and the cuffs are worked in garter stitch edged with i-cord which gives a beautiful piped effect. But it’s not very stretchy, at least not with the yarn I had used (10% baby alpaca, 10% baby camel, 40% angora, 40% merino lambswool) which in itself does not have a lot of elasticity. And I am a sleeve-pusher. I like wearing long sleeved garments, but if I need to wash my hands, make bread etc I push my sleeves halfway up my forearms. I also have a tendency to stroke the edge of my cuffs between the fingers and palm of my right hand. Both of these things had meant the i-cord had taken a bit of a battering and the yarn had snapped and worn out in a few places on the cuffs. A year or so ago I mended them.

A close-up of the ravaged cuff that had previously been repaired just by whipstitching over the frayed edges.

Last week I noticed they were in a state again and this time it was much worse, with patches of knitting that were starting to unravel. Luckily the cuffs were picked up and knitted after the sleeves were complete, so I would be able to re-knit them completely.

But then I thought, why? Why remake the cuffs in the same way they were before when it doesn’t suit how you need your sleeves to function? And so, rather than knit a new garter stitch cuff with i-cord edging I decided to do something different. After all, one of the signs of madness is supposed to be doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, right? This time I would make the cuffs as stretchy as I could.

I cut off the old i-cord and carefully pulled out the garter stitch back to where the stitches where picked up. In several places the yarn was only just holding together still.

The old cuff cut off lying on a wooden desk along with the unpicked remaining yarn looking like instant noodles. In front of this is the sleeve of the cardigan with three double pointed needles picking up the stitches prior to re-knitting the cuff.

I put the picked-up stitches back on the needles and counted them. 42. I was planning to do a two by two rib, so I needed a multiple of 4. I worked the first round adding 2 extra stitches and holding my breath that the original stitches I was working through would hold while I did so. Then I worked another seven rounds and decided it was time to cast off.

I needed as flexible a cast-off as I could find and remembered Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off which I discovered in Knitty years ago. Because it had been so long since I had worked it I had to look it up again, but it proved to be exactly what I needed. Cast-off complete.

One new cuff and one old unrepaired cuff laid on top of each other for comparison, with an open MacBook in the background.

Once I had done the same with the other cuff and woven in the remaining ends, I had a cardigan I could wear again with pride (and much smarter looking cuffs than the old shabby ones).

Now I just have to think about what I will do when the patches under the arms wear through again…

2 thoughts on “A Stitch in Time

  1. I love the colours and the gathered neckline Kath.
    I have always found that casting off in rib on cuffs – where they are in rib – on a half size or whole sizelarger needle works well for me . Just a thought.

    1. Thanks Julia – that’s something I often do with shawls that need to be stretched during blocking! The really special thing about ‘Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off’ is that it adds a little extra ‘hinge’ stitch in between each of the stitches already there, which in my experience gives a fabulous stretch without losing any of the crispness of the ribbed cast-off.

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