How and When to Rip Out a Sweater

The knitter in me is cringing as I write this post. While I hate to admit it (almost as much as I hate to rip back sweaters) this is a necessary post. No matter how careful you are at some point you will probably have to rip back a sweater.

How and When to Rip Back a Sweater

Before we talk about how, let’s talk about why you might want to rip back a sweater. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.

First,  you might rip out a sweater because your gauge is off. If you are knitting at the wrong gauge your garment will end up bigger or smaller than you intended. This might not be a huge problem if your gauge is only a little off or the garment your knitting has a bit of ease you can play with. But you might end up with a garment that will not fit and needs to be ripped out.

I recently knit a gauge swatch and I was a little lazy about it.  I only counted gauge over one inch areas instead of counting my gauge over a four inch area and calculating my stitches per inch from the four inch stitch count. This a problem is because I thought my gauge was 5 stitches per inch when in reality it was 4.75 stitches per inch. Had I counted the number of stitches in a four inch area and divide that number by four I would have known my actual gauge.

Second, you might just not like the garment you are knitting. It can be difficult to picture how a particular yarn will knit up until you actually do it. It is such a shame to put hours and hours into a project that you don’t absolutely love or isn’t your style. I’m not sure who said it first but,” If you don’t like it now you’re not going to like it 14 rows from now.” So do yourself a favor and rip it back.

Now lets get into the how. For this I am going to assume that you are planning on re-knitting the sweater or at the very least you are planning on using the yarn again.

First, you are going to need to figure out how much of the sweater you are going to rip back. Are you going to rip out all of your knitting or is there a portion that is salvageable? If you are ripping back to a specific point go ahead and insert a lifeline this way there are no live stitches to pick up.

Next, it’s time to take your knitting apart. If you’ve got a lot of ripping to do you are probably going to want some entertainment. So pour yourself a glass of wine and queue up your favorite show or a knitting podcast and grab your project.

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Now you are going to start ripping back your project winding the yarn into balls as you go. You want to be careful not to end up with a tangled mess.

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Once you have your yarn wound into balls it is time to soak the yarn and get all the crinkles out. This step is important because crinkled yarn is going to knit up differently than smooth yarn. For this I wind my yarn into hanks using my swift.

Once, my yarn is back in hank form I make sure they are tied securely and I put them in the tub for a soak. Then I squeeze out the excess water and hang them to dry.

I’m not going to lie, after I rip out a project the yarn typically has to sit in timeout for several months before I can knit with it again. Have you had to rip back a sweater? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Sock Heels: Short Rows or Heel Flaps

Creating your perfect sock recipee is a time consuming process that takes a lot of trial and error. And honestly, even after five years of sock knitting my perfect sock recipee is something I am still working on. While gauge and stitch count definetly matter in the world of sock knitting I’ve found that these variables were a lot easier to lock down than my perfect sock heel.

You see there are two basic sock heel constructions: short row heels and heel flaps and gussets. I have tried them both and I have come to the following delema; heel flap and gussets create too much space in the heel/instep area and short row heels don’t provide enough.

I heard about Mina’s Mini Heel Flap Adjustment a few years ago but  I had never gotten around to trying it out until recently. I  started knitting a pair of vanilla socks and I decied to give it a go.

Mina’s instructions are great and super straght forward and knitting the mini heel flap followed by a German Short-row heel was pleasent and uncomplicated. Since it is the middle of summer here in the the United States it will be a few months before I can take these socks for a test drive but I am excited to see how the heels fit!

Tell me about your sock recipee in the comments below!

The Seven Steps to Knitting a Perfect Gauge Swatch

Cue the collective groan. Everyone hates swatching and I know you are all thinking ‘why Myra, why do we have to swatch?’ And there are some really good answers to that question.

First, if you are knitting a garment I am sure you want it to fit it’s intended recipient. In order to ensure a good fit you need to know how many stiches and rows it takes to knit and inch. Most patterns will give gauge specifications for 4 inch/ 10 cm areas and that is becasue you’re not a machine and your gauge is going to vary a little bit no matter how consistant of a knitter you are. Additionally, your gauge might end up being something like 4.75 stitched per inch. It’s pretty hard to measure three quarters of a stitch but 20 stitch/ 4 inches is a much easier measurment.

Second, you will need to wash your garment at some point and washing hand knit garments takes some care. Felting your finished garment would be heart breaking but felting your swatch is a minor inconvience. Knitting a swatch gives you the opportunity to give your yarn a washing test drive.

Third, you get to see what your yarn will look like once it is knit up. Knitting an entire sweater just to find out that you don’t like the fabric would be very dissapointing. Yarn often looks differnt in a skein then is does once it’s knit up and knitting a gauge swatch will allow you to sample your yarn.

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But what is gauge?

Simply put, knitting gauge is the number of stitches and number of rows in an inch of knitted fabric. In order to measure your gauge you are going to need to knit a gauge swatch, which can be torture. Knitting a sweater is so exciting and since I buy most of my yarn online I have to wait for it to arrive. Once I do get my yarn and pick out my pattern I don’t want to sit around knitting a swatch that I have to wash and block. But I  know that knitting a swatch will ensure a good fit so I suffer through, most of the time….

Step 1: Pick Out your Yarn

While swatching with left overs of the same yarn weight might sound like a good idea this can actually get you into trouble. Just becaues two yarns are both considered worsted weight does not mean they will knit up at the same gauge. There is a fair degree of variation within yarn weights so make sure you swatch with the yarn you will be using for your project.

Step 2: Pick Out your Needles

The type of needles you use can have a significant impact on your gauge. I know that bamboo needles gove me a looser gauge than metal and shorter needle tips give me a tighter gauge than long ones. So picking out the needles I am going to use for my project and using those to knit my swatch is super important.

Step 3: Pick your Stitch Pattern

Your pattern will most likely tell you what stitch pattern you should knit your swatch in. Make sure if your pattern says gauge is measured over a particular texture stitch that is the stitch you use to knit your swatch. If your pattern does not specify the stitch your should use, knit your gauge swatch in stockinette stitch (knit on the right side, purl on the wrong side).

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Step 4: Knit your swatch

You want your swatch to be bigger than four inches so that you can measure the stitches in a contigeous four inch area. I like to knit garter stitch borders on my swatches so that they lie flat. So if the gauge I am trying to hit is 20 stitches = 4 inches I will cast on about  30 – 32sitches. That way I can knit the first 3 stitches on either side in garter stitch and still have an area larger than 4 inches to measure.

Note: Knitting in the Round

If the garment you are knitting is knit in the round it is important that you knit your swatch it the round because your purl gauge is most likely different than your knit gauge. But don’t worry you don’t have to knit a swatch that is double the size. You can carry your working yarn along the back of your swatch like you would a colorwork yarn float. When it comes time to wash and block your swatch cut the floats down the middles so you can lie the swatch flat.

 

 

Step 5: Washing and Blocking

 

Once you’ve knit your swatch it’s time for washing and blocking. It is important that you wash your swatch the same way you will be washing your sweater. If you plan to machine wash your sweater don’t hand wash your swatch. Remember this is a washing test drive you want to make sure that this finished product will stand up to whatever washing routine your plan to use.

I am not a huge fan of superwash yarns, which means most of my garments require hand washing (or careful machine washing but that’s a post for another day). I use Eucalan lavender scented no rinse wool wash. I recieved this bottle as a gift a few years ago and I have used it on all of my hand knits with great results. I havn’t tried any other wool washes and probably won’t anytime soon because it is what my LYS carries. I cannot speak to the quality of other wool washes but there are other popular brands out there.

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For something this size I fill a glass mixing bowl with room temperture water and put a few drops of Eucalan in it. I let my swach soak for about 20 minutes beacause it does not take long for the water to permeate something that size.

Once the swatch is finished soaking I gently squeez out any excess water. You never want to ring out anything hand knit. Once I’ve squeezed out all of the water I can I put small projects into my salad spinner and give them a spin, this removes a lot of excess water that you wouldn’t be able to get out otherwise.

*I don’t use this salad spinner for food. I am not a medical professional but I don’t think there is anything in the wool wash that would be dangerous, particularly if the salad spinner was washesd thouroughly, but there is often excess dye that comes off the yarn when is is washed and consuming yarn dye would most certainly not be good for you.

After the salad spinner I pin my swatch to the blocking my blocking mats. I use children’s play mats for blocking because they are made of the same material as blocking mats but are significantly less expensive. An individual child’s play mat will be smaller than a blocking mat but when I purchased these I found the difference in price to be substantial enough that I could purchase enough childern’s play mats to cover the same amount of surface area as a set of block mats and still save money.

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If you don’t own blocking mats don’t worry. You can lay your knits out on a towel. However, if you knit a lot of lace projects I would recommend purchasing the necessary block materials because a good blocking is vital in achieving well defined lace.

Once you have set your swatch to block let it dry over night. If you live in a particularly humid climate or it is the middle of winter your swatch may require additional drying time.

Step 6: Mearsuring your Gauge

Now that your swatch is dry it is time to measure your gauge. All you will need for this is a ruler or tape measure and your swatch. Lay your swatch flat and make sure that you are not stretching it out. Place your ruler or measuring tape on top of your swatch and count the number of stitches in a 4 inch section. Make sure you count your gauge over multiple areas to get an accurate count. Repeat the process counting your rows.

Step 7: Write it Down

This is the most important step in measuring gauge. You need to write everything down. Your needle size and type, the yarn used, how you washed it, and your gauge. You WILL NOT REMEMBER IT IF YOU DON’T WRITE IT DOWN. I don’t care how good your memory is write it down.

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