Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Magenta Snuggy and the Knit Contour

I've been wanting to get this sweater posted for some time now! It was sort of an impulse knit. Back in February, I bought a bunch of coned yarns from a delightful lady in town who responded to an ad I placed on (sort of like Craig's List). The white shrug I made was from her stash, and so is this sweater (I'm pretty sure). It felt like cotton, and once I washed the swatch, I noticed it had a shiny strand plied with it. Once washed, it bloomed and became very soft.My standard gauge knitting machine (Singer 327) is equipped with a built in "knit contour". Although I had read a bit about it, it still baffled me some. I decided since I learned how to use the ribber, I should learn how to use the knit contour, and to do so, I'd use a nice, but simple yarn, to make a nice, but simple sweater.

The knit contour uses paper patterns that show only the right half of the item--the needles to the right of 0. The patterns are 1/2 scale in both width and length (so, if the front of a sweater is going to be 20" across, the right half would be 10", and done in 1/2 scale, the pattern is only 5" wide). You start with a large swatch, wash it, and determine your tension setting and gauge. It's important to wash or steam it just as you would launder it. When making the swatch, you start with about 20 rows, knit two rows in contrast yarn, then 60 rows of the main yarn, 2 rows of contrast, and finish off with about 20 rows again. Half-way up the 60 rows, you mark st #21 on the left and the right of 0, so you have a span of 40sts between the marked sts.

You could also just knit a large swatch and using a standard ruler, count the sts and figure out for yourself how many are in 4". But we machiners have a secret tool. The "green ruler".I know that's not a great picture. This is the side used for measuring rows (you can tell by the "R"). You place the bottom of the ruler on the bottom of the first row of main colour after doing the 2 contrast rows. Where the next set of contrast rows meets the ruler, you read the number that's on the ruler. And it tells you--without any math--how many rows are in 4", even though all you did was knit 60 rows! The other side of the ruler is used for stitches, and you place it along the row of the two marked sts, and it tells you, based on the 40sts, how many sts are in 4". Cool! For this sweater, I got 26st and I forget how many rows, LOL.
Next thing you do is insert your pattern into the roller of the knit contour (this is on the left end of my knitting machine), line it up nice and square. Then you find a ruler marked "26" (or whatever your gauge is; they range from about 22st/4" to something like 40 or more) and place it in the ruler holder. The left edge of the ruler shows 0, and the numbers go up to the right (in single digits, even though they are multiplied by 10, for some reason). There are multiple sizes on the pattern, and where your size crosses the ruler, that's how many sts to cast on. In this picture, you can sort of make out that the largest size needs 38sts (the largest size is for a 40" chest which created a 41" sweater, slightly small for my front half, but too big for my back).
There is also a dial which you set for your row gauge. In front of it is a lever that the carriage trips everytime it goes by, and this moves the pattern up automatically, the correct amount for the gauge you set. The sleeve is angled, but you increase a stitch on both edges (you mirror the left side of the pattern) each time the line for your size crosses the ruler at the next whole number (because you can't have 1/2 a stitch). No more reading confusing wording like "dec 1st each side every 4th row 6 times, then every 6th row 4 times" etc. When the line meets the ruler, you should have that many sts. While doing the sleeve, I noticed that the increase happened every 9 rows. If I had set the row gauge dial differently, then that interval of increases would change too. For the sleeve cap shaping, there will be a horizontal/slight angled line. You cast off that many, and then every row take a look and see where the line is to know if you need to dec 1 or 2 or 3 sts. If I had a different stitch gauge ruler in, these numbers would be different too. This means that the one paper pattern can be used with ANY yarn suitable for that machine, ANY stitch pattern, ANY gauge that there's a ruler for.
For example, if I chose a thinner yarn, and get 40st to 4", I'd put in the 40 ruler, and the 20" piece of knitting would need 200 needles (or, the whole needlebed!). I'd use the same pattern, and it'd fit exactly the same, but the gauge is different. Wow!

So, back to the sweater. The paper pattern was for a crew neck, but I wanted a V neck, and changed my mind at the last minute. I wanted a deep, shallow V that widened out at the top. I drew this on the pattern and followed the lines. I didn't have to read "shape underarm by doing xyz and AT THE SAME TIME, shape neck starting at row 231..." (we've all been there, where we get to the shoulder and realize we forgot to do the "at the same time" instructions). You can visually see what and when to do things. However, when I got the pieces all finished (basically, one piece per day--or 4 days for the main knitting!), and got it sewn together, I found out the V neck was too deep and the top of the neck spread out way too much. Not the look I was going for! I have a tank top pattern that has a neat neckband, and I copied it for the sweater, to try to hold the neck stable. It works, but the V is still too deep. I need to get some pretty lace and fill it in (I'm braless in this photo though, and would never wear it like that; it was just for the photo).
I did have some issue with the 2x2 ribbing bulging; I didn't want it to pull in, but perhaps it's too loose (yes, I didn't swatch the ribbing!).
I REALLY wish I had learned to use the Knit Contour before making the sweater for my mom. I could have easily drawn out the schematic in 1/2 scale (the mag. provides good schematics just for this purpose), and used the ruler for the gauge I got, and not have to do all the math and guessing that I had done. Then, I would also have a pattern so anytime I found a yarn perfect for her, I'd just have to swatch it and I wouldn't have to do all the math again.

I already made adjustments to this pattern and knit a second sweater (cardigan) using the pattern but it still needs to be sewn up. This time I got daring and used a punch card as well!


Lynne said...

Great looking sweater even with the low cut. I agree I'm past the stage of the DEEP V makes it a little more difficult to wear unaltered. With a little lace as you suggested it will be great!

vsmama said...

Hi! Linked from SOAM, question I'm so intrigued now by knitting! How much did it cost u to make this sweater??

Jennifer said...

I'm SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO happy you posted this. (btw I'm also really behind on posts in my bloglines, so expect some comments for past posts as I catch up). I have 2 machines that I never use 'cus I'm afraid of doing it wrong, and one of them has a punchcard (I think), ribber and knit contour. I haven't even tried it 'cus I have a 43" I don't think I would be able to make something for myself with it, and when I got it I didn't have the boys yet...though it would probably make sweaters for them so fast! I really appreciate this post 'cus it helps to show how it works. Thanks!