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!

38 comments:

Monika said...

I say it again - WOW! Your top looks SO MUCH BETTER than the original one!!! If fits you perfectly, the color is lovely, it's gorgeous.
Thanks for the stay tape tip! I'll have to remember that.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend, and hopefully a lot of time to relax.

Lisa said...

That is gorgeous and I love the color. Kudos to you, Mr. Puffy, for your sharp eye. Do you have a rapier wit as well?

You, too, have a most excellent 4th. :)

Yarn It said...

Wow. I love your top much more than the original design. It was certainly worth all the extra work! It is gorgeous!

Channon said...

I loved knitting Stardust with Premiere. It's a yummy yarn, and I hope to knit with it again someday.

I actually like the changes you made better than the original. I also wish I'd seen that hue; I like it better than the sage-ish green I used.

Happy 4th to you too! I haven't even planned the family dinner that might happen this weekend. I'd best get my act together.

t does wool said...

not only do I get to see your fabulous handiwork, but I receive and education as well...you did an awesome job,Claudia with the adjustments...and you look ever so fabulous!! love the stay tape tip...clever girl!! xx

tiennie said...

It's beautiful on you! Fits you so well!

jillian said...

It's gorgeous! The color and fit, per usual, are perfect.

And bravo on pulling this knit out of the fire! Many great tips to file away :)

Have a wonderful 4th as well! Can't believe it's almost July already.

raining sheep said...

Claudia, you are amazing! I love that top. The stitch patterns and cabling just are most excellent. Beautiful, beautiful work and the lavender/violet color is so phenomenal with your blond hair. I do have a question for you regarding a gauge swatch. Do you measure it after it has been blocked or just knit one and measure? I am trying to knit something and not certain how to go about the gauge swatch.

the casbah kitten/inside the casbah said...

Oh my! WHAT a beautiful sweater! I agree that your design is much prettier than the original. Somehow, reading through what you did during the creation process...I felt you were sort of a female "McGuyver" and with just a rice cake and a hamster you could end up with a motorhome. SO much talent!! You keep me motivated with my projects.

Willow said...

I agree with Monica that your version looks MUCH better than the original. I like the yarn you chose.

Have a good holiday with sand, surf and sun. Make sure Mr. Puffy uses his sunscreen daily.

betty said...

I have to agree with everyone else -- your version looks 1000 times better than the original! The latter looks more or less like a textured sack.

Silvia said...

Wow! You made a great top- far more flattering than the original, and I love the idea of stay tape, especially with cottons! Thanks for the post!

Hilary said...

Ya know, I think I like your fitted, set-in sleeve version better than the original! It is so pretty and flattering!! Thanks for all the tips on modifying your fab top, and have a wonderful 4th of July, too!

Jules said...

That top looks great on you! The color is gorgeous. Great job, Mr. Puffy, on the advice--it worked better than the original, in my opinion.

amanda said...

What a smartie that Mr. Puffy is! I think the sleeves turned out perfect and look like they were part of the original design.

I've never heard of the stay tape suggestion before, but it sounds like a brilliant idea. Thanks for the tip!

Pat K said...

Love it! Fantastic pattern, fantastic job!

sweetp said...

Have a great holiday. I think the top is lovely, love all the detailing and your mods are fantastic, like has been said already much nicer than the original I think. Your posts are always so helpful, love all your little tips and tricks, thanks!

Bridget said...

Mr Puffy saves the day again - the top *is* much better with sleeves than the original design! What a beagle!

I also never heard of the Stay Tape, but it makes perfect sense, and thank you for sharing.

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday break!

knittingdragonflies said...

Wow, I like your top better. Also for the tip with the stay tape, I have done this with sewing, but never occurred to me to use it in knitting (duh).
Glad you didn't have to frog it, and thanks for the "sanity check" tip. I have a bad habit of just tearing into something and not looking at the big picture, until at least one migraine later.
Have a great Holiday!
Vicki

Bubblesknits said...

Beautiful top and a fabulous tip! Thanks!

Bhavna said...

No doubt, your version is much prettier. The top is beautiful!

Windyridge said...

Stay tape...what a GREAT idea!
Gorgeous sweater too.

lucky knitter said...

Oh wow, that is so beautiful! Perfect in every way!

subliminalrabbit said...

that is one adorable top. the sleeves look like they work perfectly! and stay tape? thankyouthankyouthankyou!

Renee said...

Gorgeous! I like it much better with sleeves. :)

Claudia ~ you, Mr. Puffy and Murielle are teaching me so much, thank you!

Happy holiday on the 4th!

Kristen said...

This sweater is beautiful and I love the way you were able to save it by adding sleeves! Clever girl.

BTW, I'm reading So Big and love it! Thanks for the recommendation.

Anna said...

Wow - your top is fabulous, and looks a hundred times better than the original, in my opinion! I love all the modifications you made, and I love all the technical details you gave here. I'd never heard of a stay tape - it's a brilliant idea that I will definitely be using in the future. Glad to have found your blog!

Tracy said...

The sweater is GORGEOUS, Claudia! And I love it even more than the original design, all the changes you made make such sense. Patterns are great--but sometimes the rules need to go--LOL! Your addition of short sleeves looks so much nicer and tailored compared to those cap-like sleeves in the original patter. I see so many tanks with great design that would be good for me with a little sleeve. You give me courage to try adding sleeves. Thanks for the Stay Tape trick and all the tips here. Maybe Mr. Puffy should write a knitting book--he's so full of great advice! Thanks so much of your lovely comment at my place and joining my giveaway fun--3 years blogging, it's been fantastic! Enjoy your 4th weekend coming up--sounds like you've got good doses of good times planned in between all the busy... Happy Days, my friend ((HUGS))

Alison Boon said...

Oh my oh my oh my. That top is so darn hot on you. It looks tremendous, and way way way ncer than the original. You totally rock.

globalwarming said...

nice post and good blog friend !,thanks for sharing!!!

At Home Mommy Knits said...

Your top looks fantastic! I love reading all of your modifications and tips and tricks. Keep them coming :)

I hope you have a wonderful fourth!

The Wooly Wumpus said...

Wow! You are so talented Claudia! And Mr Puffy, too. Such a clever mind lurking behind those soulful eyes of his!

I prefer the sleeves versus no sleeve version, and the colour is beautiful! Happy 4th of July to you, Steve and The Puffster!

dogwithbooks said...

Happy 4th Puffy!! If I wasn't already taken by a red-haired, dapple-eyed fellow, I'd want you to be my boyfriend ;)

Nik said...

I DO love the sleeves you added...much better than the original.

Marie said...

If you hadn't pointed it out, I never would have known that the sleeves were not part of the original design. They blend so well. Great job!
And thanks for the stay-strip tip. That's a great idea.

Isabelle said...

I just discovered your blog and i am really speechless before all your knittings : for me , you are really a great knitter and how many tips you give us : Thanks so much to you afor all your good advices .
Cheers from France ,
Isabelle

AC Repair Cerritos, CA said...

Beautiful Sweater!

<3 Lindsay

FAPORT International said...

WOW!! you have nice top, it is more beautiful than original design..u have a nice thought:)