Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fitting feature panels

And.... done!! The Green Chai Cardi is finally off the hook and safely stashed in Mum's birthday/Easter goodie bag. It looks amazing :) Very happy with it.

Finished! The Green Chai Cardi
Just before Easter, one of our regulars brought a top in to be made up. It was a clever design (from the Debbie Bliss Andes book) which included a feature cable that ran around the top of the neck.
The usual way to fit something like this is to:
  1. Sew or pin the ends of the band together.
  2. Pin the band evenly into place around the neck.
  3. Sew the band to the neck edge, using a mattress stitch seam.
Debbie Bliss Andes - top with feature cable
Sadly, in this case, the band was a fraction too long for the neck edge of the garment. You can see the little leftover bit in the photo - barely 2cm long, but enough to make the cable look cramped and bunchy when I set it in using the above method.

I tried to unpick it to pull out the extra bit and discovered that Andes is hopeless to unravel! I couldn't get the knot undone for anything. In the end, with Easter looming, I bit the bullet and contacted the customer: would she be OK if I cut the extra bit off? (I didn't mention that I actually couldn't think of any alternative that would leave her with a sensible looking garment). Luckily, she OK'd it - I cut off the extra and cast off along the cut edge. I could then set the band into place and finish the garment off.

This got me thinking about tricks to avoid the nuisance of feature pieces that don't quite fit. The sideways cable is a reasonably common one - in her early books, Jo Sharp designed cardigans with a separate band and collar that had to be sewn on and one of the recent Rowan magazines has several designs that included a feature panel in a different yarn that had to be slotted in to the final garment.

In a perfect world, we'd all do our tension squares and knit perfectly even pieces that would turn out to be exactly the correct size and fit together effortlessly like a soft, woolly jigsaw. In reality, even quite skilled and experienced knitters can find themselves with a feature piece that is just that little bit too long, too wide, too short or too narrow!

There are a few ways to minimise the nuisance value of the feature piece:
  1. Leave a nice, long end and a loose knot when you cast off the feature piece. That way, if it's not quite right, you will easily be able to unravel a few rows to make it a perfect fit - or pull out the whole thing and start over!

  2. Intarsia is not just for colour blocks. One of my first Jo Sharp projects was a cardigan with a long button band that was supposed to be knitted afterwards and sewn on. Instead of driving myself mad trying to knit a band of the correct length and fit it into place, I knitted the band at the same time as the fronts, using 3.25mm double pointed needles and a separate ball of yarn. When I reached the end of the band, I twisted the yarn around the yarn I was using for the main body of the garment, as you would for two intarsia blocks. Although it was a bit fiddly, it was worth the effort when I cast off two fronts with perfectly fitted bands and no sewing up to do!

  3. Another option (which would have worked well for the cable band above!) is to pick up a stitch into the body then K2tog/sl K1 psso at the end of each row. This effectively knits your band into place as you go. The only disadvantages are that you have the weight of the made-up garment hanging from your needles, and it may not give a smooth/invisible join.
With those options in mind, I might go and spend the last few hours of my Easter break raiding my stash... There are a lot of odds and ends in there that could be used for Rowan feature panels if I find the right base yarn! Happy Easter :)

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