Wednesday, October 10, 2007

October Sweater: Part Two--Building a Waist

How's your sweater going? Mine has had some ups and downs. Or maybe I should say ins and outs?

Before we talk about the ins and outs of waist shaping, let's recap.

We're knitting the October sweater from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac. I'm using JojoLand Melody Superwash in color MS11 that I picked up at a local yarn store.

I guesstimated my gauge at about 7 stitches per inch on US#1. I measured a favorite sweater at 37" around with moderate waist shaping. 7 x 37 = 259. I know I like a bit of negative ease and I wanted a "better" number, so I chose to cast on 256 stitches.

For lots of reasons, I decided to cast on provisionally and plan to knit down when I decide on the hem treatment. I had some Koigu KPPM left over from socks. I cast on using the Koigu, knit two garter ridges flat, then joined in the round and knit two more rows. Why the garter ridges flat? Simple--the last couple of times I've twisted my joins. Since these first rows are going to be taken out later, it doesn't matter and saves me from myself.

I knit about an inch, then started my waist decreases. Now that we're caught up, let's talk about waist decreases.

Shaping a Waist
Styles come and go, but the style now is to show off our feminine physique with waist shaping. For this sweater, I'm opting for some very slight shaping, so I'll do all my adjustments at the sides of the sweater. If I wanted extreme shaping--where the sweater actually hugged my curves--I'd do decreases at four points around the sweater.

We can get all technical about how to calculate the decreases, or we can do it very simply. The easiest way: measure a sweater you like. There, done. The more precise way? Take the measurements on your body.

My favorite sweater has a defined waist over about 9"--it goes in for 4.5" and then goes out for 4.5". Looking at my own body, I'll tweak those numbers slightly--I'll go in from hip to waist for 4" and out from waist to bust for 5", with a bit of a flat space in between.

But how much? I want the smallest part of my sweater to be 3" smaller than my hip/bust. If we trust my gauge at 7 spi, I need to take out 21 stitches. The number has to be even, so let's pick 20. Since each decrease row removes 4 stitches, that means I need 5 decrease rows evenly spaced over 4".

A quick check of my knitting shows I'm getting about 8 rows to the inch--but since I've only knit 1", this isn't very precise. That means 4 inches is about 32 rows. 32 divided by 5 = 6.4. Since I'd rather err on the side of decreasing too slowly (and I don't trust my gauge), I'm going to knit a decrease row, followed by 6 rows plain, and repeat for 5 decrease rows.

Talking about Decreases

I place markers to delineate 3 stitches at each side "seam" of the sweater. I have 125 stitches front and back, and 3 stitches between markers at each side. See, I told you 256 was a pretty number.

My decreases are placed on either side of these markers. Ahh...but which decreases! You know, I never remember. I understand that k2tog is a right-slanting decrease and ssk is a left-slanting decrease, but I never remember why I'd want left or right slanting. I looked it up. Use a right slanting decrease on the left side of the front. I swear I'm spatially challenged--is that my left or your left?

But this is an EZ sweater. Pick a method, use it consistently. If it is technically wrong, we'll consider it a design element. This is a sweater with lovely varigating yarn--who'll notice?

So here's my decrease plan:

Decrease row: knit 3 stitches to first marker, SM (slip marker), k2tog, knit 123 stitches (two stitches before next marker), ssk, SM, knit 3, SM, k2tog, knit 123, ssk

*Knit a decrease row
Knit 6 rows.
Repeat from * 4 more times (total of 5 decrease rows knit).
Knit 6 more rows plain (to lengthen the waist). Then begin increase section.

OMG!!! Have you been reading TechKnitter's latest stuff about left leaning decreases? Fascinating reading and I played around with one of her decreases. It didn't work for me as well as my normal SSK, but that's knitting for you!

I'm finished with my waist decreases and ready to evaluate the fit of my sweater, but let's do that another day, shall we? This post is already a bit lengthy.

Want some spinning pron to distract you?

From this:
To this. Yummmm....Blue Moon Fiber Arts Sheep to Shoe Kit in Fire in the Mountain


Linda said...

Oooohhhh - pretty handspun!

loopykd said...

Wow Karen, those colors are awesome!

Mary Llynn said...

Yeah!!!! you are back. ml