Thursday, February 25, 2016

Why hand knits get a bad rap

Recently I inter-library loaned a book published the year I was born.  Before the chapters even started teaching knitting, there was a list 36 items long about why so many hand knits look homemade.  Sometimes these reasons are why our creations get a bad rap.  Sometimes it's what I call the Ralphie syndrome.  The Ralphie syndrome is what I take away from the Christmas movie, The Christmas Story.  Someone sends a boy a large pink bunny suit, most likely a relative who doesn't see him often and lost track of how old he is.  Once you reach an age over say 4 or so, you don't really want a large pink bunny suit, except for maybe as a costume.

The book gives some other reasons why.  Poor knitting habits, poor finishing skills seem to top the list.  Sides not matching up in a variety of ways, saggy this or that, baggy here, too short there.  The list can go on and on.  As I was reading this list I was also listening to the Knitmore Girls' interview with Stephen West.  I realize he is not a conservative fashion person in the least.  He is, after all, one who made Swants aka sweater pants a popular clothing item among some circles.  But I doubt even he would approve of shoddy workmanship.

Poor knitting habits can be overcome if you know what you are looking for.  In general, needles way over sized or undersized for the yarn used, creating a fabric that is bullet proof is not really flattering.  A refusal to block your swatch and then your completed work can also be a poor knitting habit.  It can cover a multitude of sins like uneven stitches and make sure your fabric won't grow or shrivel thus creating something unwearable to the recipient.  Mistakes in the knitting such as dropped stitches, extra stitches, misreading the pattern are also poor knitting habits.  Don't be afraid to rip.  No you don't have to go all the way back to the beginning of the piece, usually.  Many times you can pick up the dropped stitch with a crochet hook or knit it back up.  You can drop and redistribute the yarn from an extra stitch added or do a knit 2 together or rip back to the point where the extra stitch was added.  Misreading the pattern is where you might have to rip back to the beginning of the section where you started the mistake OR you could continue if you like the fabric you are getting.  Misreading the pattern could be a stitch pattern that gets misunderstood or you missed something.  AS long as you keep the stitch count to what it needs to be, you can be adventurous.

Poor finishing skills can also make your garment look less than you would hope.  Things like not getting the fronts and backs to match up, making one sleeve or body panel longer or shorter than its mate, seaming failures are all poor finishing skills.  You need to be willing to rip back what is making your project look sloppy.  Now, while the front being too long for the back could be a poor finishing skill, it could also be a fit option.  Are you larger in the front than in the back?  Then you may choose to make the front longer than the back with the use of short rows.  That is a fashion fit.  Knit 2 extra inches on the front(s) than you have on the back?  That is a finishing fail.  Tear back those 2 inches by one of several methods.  Sleeves that are too long, short, wide or narrow need to be reworked.

I have no idea what the original purpose of this sweater was to be.  But it does cover some of the homemade failures I was writing about or at least enough for me to pick it apart.  The neckline is too wide.  The lower neckline where the stitches were picked up or changed from the sweater stockinette to ribbing shows uneven pick up rate.  The sleeves at the wrists are not the same size.  Unless this is to be an off the shoulder sweater, the room between the underarm and the shoulder will grip the wearer tightly.  The bottom edge is not even.  I'm sure it started out that way but the seaming created some bad things.  It decreases at the bust.  Most people (men and women) are not concave in the chest area.

Ways I would fix this sweater.  The sweater is probably supposed to be cropped. The concave areas on the sides of the sweater are obviously part of the armscye.  Remove the sleeves and stretch the sleeve cap or pick up evenly around the whole armhole for the sleeve.  Pull the side seams tighter so the sides are even with the center.  Use a ruler or one of those marked off dressmaking boards where there are squares every inch.  Block the whole thing in pieces after fixing the poor knitting.  Make sure all pieces are the proper size.  Each sleeve must be the same as its mate.  From the looks of it the front and back must be the same.  Do the seams.  Keep even tension from one end to the other.  If you are a pull tight person, make sure the same tightness is throughout the whole seam.  If you are a looser seamer, you have a slightly harder job.  Keep the same tension from one end to the other and from one seam to the next.  Pick up the neck evenly.  Each sleeve should have the same number of stitches on the same side in the tip of the cap.  The front and back may or may not have the same number.  It depends on the sweater.  But still care needs to be taken that it looks balanced.