Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Debbie Bliss Cotton Top

Knitting, like life itself, doesn't always work out just as you had planned. So you have to be flexible and keep an open mind during the process. It's best (although not an easy thing to do) to focus not on how things aren't what we wished them to be, but rather on what we can do to change things and improve them. With that preface, this post is more technical than most because I had to be flexible and make adjustments as I went along to make this project one that ultimately I love.

This is Debbie Bliss' Sideways Knitted Top from her new book, Coastlines. It is not knit with the yarn that it was designed for, though. The design recommends Debbie Bliss' Stella yarn which is a blend of silk, rayon, and cotton. Because my LYS does not carry that yarn I ordered it on-line. However, as soon as the yarn arrived, I knew that I had a problem because the yarn did not pass what I call a "Sanity Check."

Knitting Tip No. 5 - Perform a Sanity Check
A Sanity Check is something I learned to do many years ago while a junior auditor for one of the largest accounting firms in the world at the time, Deloitte and Touche. It simply means that you step back for a moment and evaluate what you are seeing and/or being told and test it against your common sense. In this case, I was being told that 11 balls of Stella yarn was needed to knit a sleeveless summer top. However, I had an enormous mound of yarn on my bed. Logic told me that using that amount of yarn, with that much mass, was going to create a garment huge, bulky, and not something enjoyable for me to wear.

So I substituted the yarn to Classic Elite Yarns, Premiere, a soft cotton/tencel blend yarn with great stitch definition and a smaller gauge. As a result I dropped the needle size down from a US 8 to US 6 and decreased from 11 balls of Stella to 6.5 skeins of Premiere yarn. So far so good.

Now this will surprise you. Despite calculating a new gauge and doing absolutely perfect math to recalibrate this project for the smaller needles and finer yarn there was a problem with the sizing. Once I had completely knit this top (which, dear readers, I think you know how much time that took) I realized ~ with a sick feeling ~ that I did not have enough width in the body to sew the side seams together to create the "mock sleeves." Here's a picture of the original design so you see what the design looks like and what I'm referring to with regard to the sleeve shaping:

My initial thought was that I had two choices. Either I could wet the fabric and block it heavily so that it was wide enough to give me the width necessary to create the sleeves at the risk of distorting the knitting or I could frog it. Neither option was very appealing.

So, as is always the case when I need good counsel, I discussed the matter over with Mr Puffy. Those of you who have been reading along will know that Mr Puffy is a great one for a quick solution and an early dinner. His thought was that I should just knit some sleeves and add those on. At first I was skeptical but the more I thought about it the more I knew he was right. That Puff. I tell you. He's a treasure.

Knitting Tip No. 6 - Adding Sleeves to a Tank Top

Adding sleeves to a tank top is simply a matter of knitting up sleeves in the same gauge and sewing them onto the tank. If you look through any of the numerous Spring/Summer knitting magazine you will find lots of patterns for tops with short sleeves. You simply knit a sleeve from a pattern that has the same gauge as the project you are making. For this project, I used the pattern for sleeves from my Cherry top and the only modification I made was to add a bobble panel insert to have the sleeves blend more with my overall project.

Speaking of adding bobbles to the sleeve reminds me that I wanted to show a close up of the beautiful texture of this design. There are panels of bobbles, seed stitch, and cables and it really creates a visually interesting piece of knitting.

One last technical tip, which is courtesy of my dear friend Murielle of Murielle Knitwear. When I showed her the top she immediately recommended that I add a "Stay Tape" to the shoulder seam to prevent it from stretching out over time. Because that's such a great idea and should be added to any hand knit item made with a yarn that has a tendency to stretch (i.e. cotton, silk, angora, etc.) I thought I would share it with all of you!

Designer Tips and Tricks ~ Adding a Stay Tape

A Stay Tape is a thin strip of fabric that is sewn on top of the shoulder seam to prevent the shoulder/sleeve area from stretching out with wear. Cut a thin strip of fabric the length that you want your shoulder seam to remain (my stay tape is 3.5 inches long and .75 inches wide) and firmly slip stitch the Stay Tape over the shoulder seam. When you put the time into knitting something by hand you want it to wear well and last for years and this will help it look its best for years to come.

Whew! That was a lot. There are a couple of other things I did, but enough is enough so I'll stop here.

Particulars: Debbie Bliss design, Coastlines, Sideways Knitted Top, 6.5 balls Classic Elite Premiere, US 6 needles. Heavily modified as discussed above.

Have a Great 4th of July Celebration!

I hope everyone has a wonderful July 4th celebration (The United State's Independence day). We'll be spending it at the beach with lots of sun, sand, friends, and fireworks! Between work (which is keeping me hopping right now) and being away for the holiday I'll probably not spend a lot of time on-line over the next few weeks but will look forward to catching up with everyone on the other side of the holiday!