Thursday, May 12, 2011

My hat is too loose...

"My hat is too big!  How can I tighten it?" is a question frequently asked on community knitting boards.  Luckily, there are two good options, but today's post starts with two options which do NOT work, yet which are frequently suggested.

1)  Blocking the hat smaller  The idea behind this advice is that if you wet the hat and then block it smaller, the hat will stay that way.  It is true that thoroughly wetting a too-loose hat, then firmly yanking it lengthwise will make it both longer and narrower.  It is also true that pushing the fabric together and drying it in that scrunched-up position will make the hat look smaller. Yet, sadly, although blocking can do many magical things (such as make your knitting look more professional by evening out the stitches, or opening up lace) it cannot make things smaller.  Logic will tell you that any "smallerizing" you were able to achieve by blocking will be undone as soon as you put the hat on and wear it.    Plus, blocking really works best on wool, anyway, so if your hat is made of anything else, fuggedaboudit, as they say in New York.

2) Felting the hat smaller The idea here is to shrink the hat by felting it smaller.  It is indisputably true that felting will shrink woolens. However, imho, this advice is ill-advised.  Felting is a wild and uncontrolled process which goes very very fast when it finally happens, so getting the hat to shrink "just so" would be a matter of great luck.  A too-small, too-short, too-stiff object--a sort of a felt bowl--is just as likely to be the result of the experiment.  It is true that there are commercially felted hats, and even commercially-made felted jackets, but fitted felted garments are cut out of sheets of felted knitting and then sewn together. Home-made felted clogs are a popular exception, as are felted mittens, but clogs and mittens are meant to fit loosely--it is not necessary to have them sit "just so" around one's feet or hands, as a hat must sit around one's brow.

The one almost-exception to all this occurs with superwash wool. Of course, the whole POINT of superwash wool is that it does NOT felt, yet many knitters may not realize that putting this sort of yarn into a dryer helps it regain its bounce and size--a superwash hat laid out to dry will be much bigger than one machine-dried.  So, while throwing a superwash hat into the dryer is not felting per se, it is "shrinking" through using a clothes drier--an almost exception to the don't-felt concept.

Now we come to two ideas which DO work.

1. Lining the hat  This idea is 100% guaranteed to work 100% of the time.  The idea is to make a  lining--either a full lining or a headband style lining, which does fit your head exactly as you would like.  An excellent fabric to use for this lining is polar fleece. Polar fleece is stretchy, non-itchy, comes in various weights, and best of all, it does not fray (and so, does not need to be hemmed). The lining is then sewn inside the too-large hat, easing the excess fabric of the hat to the lining, one little stitch at a time.  Because the lining was made to fit your head exactly, the resulting hat must also fit your head exactly.  There are more complete details about the process in these two posts:
Lining a hat, headband style
Lining a hat, fully-lined style

2. Elastic Sometimes, lining a hat will not work, either because of its style--a slouch-hat, for example, with no real "band" around the forehead, or because a sewn in band is not a good fit for the style of the hat--a lacy cap, for example.  For such hats, you may wish to consider thread elastic, worked into the edge for several rows or rounds.  The how-to can be found in this post on tightening up socks--scroll down a bit and you will find thread elastic discussed.

Good knitting!

This post the fourth in a series on garment correction.  The other posts in this series are:
Part 1: My sweater is too wide
Part 2: My sweater is too long, my sweater is too short
Part 3:My sweater is too tight under the arms/at the bust/chest--the magic of gussets
Part 5: My sweater slips off my shoulders
Part 6 (still to come): My sweater is too small around my middle

You have been reading TECHknitting blog on "my hat is too big!"

Monday, May 9, 2011

My sweater is too tight under the arms, or at the chest/bust--the magic of gussets

If the bust/chest area of a sweater is too tight, you can fix this by messing around with the armhole length.  Are you surprised? In fact, the fit of the upper body of a garment is very highly affected by the length of the armhole, and a great deal of the designer's attention is paid to the exact measurements in this complex, saddle-shaped area where many seams run together, and the arm meets the body of the sweater.

The great thing about the upper body/armhole connection is that the entire fit around the bust/chest can be eased by lengthening the armhole (and, of course, the fit around the upper arm can also be eased in this manner).  Although lengthening the armhole sounds like a project which would require re-knitting the upper part of the garment as well as reknitting the sleeves, this is luckily not the case IF (and only if) the garment was made in pieces (has seams).

To lengthen the armhole, and thus add ease to the upper body area (and to the upper arm area, as well) we are going to use a gusset.  A gusset is simply an inlaid piece of fabric specifically designed to add ease to the applied area.  Our specific gusset, an underarm gusset for a sweater, is a diamond-shaped piece of fabric knit from the same yarn as the garment itself, then inserted (sewn in) along the top of the side seam and the top of the arm seam.

This magic diamond-shaped insert adds ease where it is needed, and thus saves you having to reknit a substantial portion of the garment. Although the line drawings below shows a gusset set into a set-in sleeve garment, the gusset trick actually works with every shoulder style--drop-shoulder, raglan, etc. This is because it is not added at the shoulder itself, but under the arm at the side seam, and so creates no distortion in the shoulder style selected. (And for the historically-minded, a gusset is a traditional method of constructing ganseys.)

As to how large to make the gusset, you must first determine how total many inches of ease you want to add around the garment at the bust/chest (or around the upper arm, if this is where the tightness is).  You would then work each gusset until the total width at the widest point of EACH gusset is ONE HALF the total added ease desired, so that both gussets together add up to the total ease required around the circumference of the garment.

As to knitting the  gusset itself:
Prep step: cast on, then work two rows of 2 st I-cord.
row 1: k1, m1, k1 (3 stitches on needle)
row 2:  purl.
row 3: k1, m1, k to with 1 st of opp edge, m1, k1.
row 4, purl.
REPEAT rows 3 and 4 until the diamond is HALF as wide across as the total number of inches of ease you seek, as explained above.
row 5: k across with no shaping.
row 6: purl across with no shaping.
row 7: k1, SYTK (or any other left leaning decrease you prefer), k to within 3 sts of other edge, k2tog, k1.
row 8: purl.
REPEAT rows 7 and 8 until 5 sts remain on a purl row.
row 9: k1, work a three stitch decrease (scroll) on the middle three stitches, k1.
row 10: purl
row 11: k1, k2tog, 2 stitches on needle
finishing step: work 2 rows of 2 st I-cord, bind off

Below is a photo of a gusset knitted according to the above instructions, the widest measurement is 17 stitches.

When you come to sew the gusset inside the garment, pick out (remove) the seam in the underarm area of your sweater (top of body, top of arm) beyond what you will need to sew in the gusset--this gives you some maneuvering room. To make sure of your gusset placement, begin the sewing centered on the center two (no shaping) rows (i.e.: rows 5 and 6) as shown in the illustration two below.  Resew the body and sleeve seams above and below the gusset insertion and wear your remodeled sweater in health and good fortune.

Here are some tips:

1) As to the actual sewing-in of the gusset, the illustration shows an overcast stitch worked from the outside, but this is only to give the general idea of sewing, and to maintain the perspective common to all the illustrations, namely from the back of the right arm.  The overcast stitch worked from the outside would actually be a poor choice. Far better would be to sew (or slip stitch!) the gusset from the inside. (Aaaand--if you had slip stitched the seams, rather than mattress-stitched them, taking out the seams would have been easier in the first place!)

Click this (or any!) illustration to enlarge

2) The sewing (or slip stitching!) from the inside is done at the rate of 1/1 (one stitch of the gusset is sewn/slip stitched to one stitch of the body or arm)

3) The instructions included in this post for knitting the gusset result in a utility sort of a gusset which adds width in a relatively concentrated area--just at the underarm.  If the problem extends past this area, work the gusset relatively longer (i.e." a longer diamond) by adding more plain rows between increases/decreases.  This will add more ease in a longer stretch of both the body and the arm.  Of course, if the problem is mainly in the upper arm, you can make the gusset shorter at the body end while knitting it longer along the arm seam.  If the reverse is true--if the body is tight but the upper arm is pretty much OK in circumference, reverse the procedure--making the arm part of the gusset relatively shorter than the body portion to provide bust shaping with very little ease added to the arm circumference. In these ways, the gusset can be customized to your exact ease requirements.

4) For supergeeks: If you are a demon for symmetry, begin the gusset with a provisional cast on in the very middle of the gusset, then follow the directions for the decrease portion of the gusset. When the first half is done, remove the provisional cast on to re-gain live sts on your needle, then work the decrease portion of the gusset again.  As you can see in the photo of the gusset, above, the decrease portion at the top of the gusset looks prettier than the increase portion at the bottom of the gusset, so by working both ways from the middle, you'll get two pretty decrease portions while avoiding the increase portion altogether.

Finally we'll end with a note on gussets at the crotch, rather than under the arm. Crotch gussets are a great idea for adding ease in an often-tight area. These are traditional in eastern-style pants and leggings.  While not common in western clothing, they are available as a specialty item.  Those who knit longies (either baby-bottom leggings or children's/adult leggings) can add a gusset to the crotch area in the identical manner as shown in this post for underarms. This eases the entire garment for better fit, as well as the side benefit of moving the seams to lower-stress locations.

Part 1: My sweater is too wide
Part 2: My sweater is too long, my sweater is too short
Part 4: My hat is too loose
Part 5 : My sweater slips off my shoulders
Part 6 (still to come): My sweater is too small around my middle

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My sweater is too long, my sweater is too short...

Changing the length of a garment is actually fairly easy (at least conceptually).  The technical details are in a previous TECHknitting post called "length reassignment surgery."  The purpose of this post is really only to provide an updated link for folks (and they are many) who have not been able to find the surgery link through a search-engine search: the title of THIS post is directly on point, whereas the title of the surgery post was not very findable.

This is the second in a series on garment correction. The others in this series include
Part 1: My sweater is too wide
Part 3:My sweater is too tight under the arms/at the bust/chest--the magic of gussets
Part 4: My hat is too loose
Part 5: My sweater slips off my shoulders
Part 6 (still to come): My sweater is too small around my middle

Friday, May 6, 2011

My sweater is too wide...

TECHknitting blog is starting a new series on garment correction, inspired by a question on Ravelry. The first in the series is:  "my sweater is too wide, how can I fix it?"

There are two main methods for fixing a too-wide sweater.  The most obvious (although not the most knitterly) method of fixing this is to get yourself to a serger, and simply take out a whack of sweater.  This may seem like odd advice, but when you come to realize that many commercial sweaters are in fact serged together from flat-knit sheets or tubes of knitting, it becomes less odd.  Here is a link to a sweater "saved by the serger," knit by my friend and fellow-Madisonian, the Ravelry hall-of-famer Rududu.  You can see that Rududu narrowed the sleeves on a mohair garment by simply serging them smaller.

For a more knitterly approach, consider reworking the knit fabric.  As you know, the same number of stitches in ribbing are substantially narrower than the same number in stockinette, because ribbing "draws up." TECHknitting blog has already shown how to rework stockinette into ribbing in the context of rolling stockinette scarves, and the cure is the same for a too-wide sweater.  A panel or two of ribbing in the middle of a stockinette field will narrow the entire garment.

If, on a bottom-up garment, the neckband has already been put on, it must be taken off again, and the same applies to the need to remove the bottom band on a top-down garment.  Once the band is off, pick out the cast-off until you have live stitches again, then rework the stockinette into ribbing using a crochet hook to rehook-up the dropped down columns (again, instructions are here).  You can make a single panel in the middle of a garment pattern or two panels, with a strip of plain stockinette between, or any arrangement you might like.   Work a few columns per panel into ribbing and try the garment on again.  Still too wide?  Add more columns (or panels!) of ribbing. Of course, you can try on the garment as you rework the fabric into ribbing, so you won't overshoot the mark.

And, naturally, you can tighten up too-loose sleeves by this trick also.

You have been reading TECHknitting blog on: "fixing a too-wide sweater."

This is the first in a series on garment correction.  The others in this series include
Part 2: My sweater is too long, my sweater is too short
Part 3:My sweater is too tight under the arms/at the bust/chest--the magic of gussets
Part 4: My hat is too loose
Part 5: My sweater slips off my shoulders
Part 6 (still to come): My sweater is too small around my middle

Monday, May 2, 2011

Items started along a long edge--how best to cast on

A perennial question on community knitting boards is how best to cast on along a very long edge, such as a scarf made edge-to-edge (as opposed to top-to-bottom) or a wide afghan made all in one piece.  IMHO, the best way would be to provisionally cast-on the long edge, using  COWYAK or the crochet method.  Afterwards, when the garment is finished, take out the provisional cast-on and work a bind-off to finish that edge.  This has two advantages.

1. The tension of the edge can be adjusted afterwards to suit the tension of the garment
2. The two edges will match perfectly, both tension-wise and appearance-wise, having both been bound off by the same method.

(In fact, is my humble opinion that this is also the best way to cast on for pretty much ALL garment knitting--such as a bottom-up sweater.  In other words, cast on provisionally, work the body of the garment, and only afterwards add the bottom band.  You can then freely experiment with different bands--hems, ribbings, etc.  Also by this method, The top and bottom bands will thus match along their edges, and the tension of the whole bottom band can be adjusted once you have a better idea of how the garment fits, and how the bottom band should best be tensioned to best fit the knitting of the body of the garment.  A further advantage to this method is that it also allows you to fine-tune the length of the finished garment, as well as of the cuffs for bottom-up work; or the tension and height of the neck band on a top-down garment.)