On soldiers and knitwear

Nanook – (almost) finished

At last, over a year after starting this all-in-one, top-down project, I am done. It has taken an age, but to be fair that is because I had a rest of about ten months in the middle, while I knitted other things. My fear of running out of yarn didn’t materialise, despite the fact that I lengthened the yoke, added extra stitches to the body and sleeves and didn’t work many decreasings down the fronts. But I did include some waist shaping in the back, which will have reduced the yarn requirement a little.

Bottom corners of fronts

Lower front corners

There were several new things for me in this project.

Firstly, the marvellous slipped stitch edge down the cardigan fronts, a sort of ‘I-cord lite’. It was easy to work and looks great. I will certainly use it again on cardigans and possibly other things like sideways-knitted hats, cowls and bags.  It has integrated perfectly with the I-cord cast-off (bind-off) along the lower edge and gives a smart, almost tailored look to the garment.

This was the first time I had Kitchener-grafted in the round. The sleeves were supposed to end in conventional ribbed cuffs, but I thought it would be a shame to have ordinary cuffs on such a fabulous garment. Also, the cardi already has a dramatic lace collar, garter stitch fronts and a stocking sitch (stockinette) back; ribbing as well seemed like one texture too many.

Instead, I worked each cuff separately using the Bear Track lace pattern from the collar, but since I had opted to knit the sleeves in the round (the pattern offers the choice between doing that and knitting them flat then seaming them), I had to convert the lace design to work every row as a knit side row. This gave me bottom-up cuffs which then had to be Kitchenered onto the ends of the sleeves. I was glad to find that Kitchenering in the round is, if anything, easier than doing it with two flat pieces, because you don’t have to do anything different to the first pair of stitches like you normally have to. I followed the video Kitchener in the Round on the Knit Purl Hunter blog, which explains the process very clearly.

1st World War Kitchener posterBy the way, do you know why Kitchenering is so called? It is named after Lord Kitchener, the same Field Marshal and Secretary of State for War whose “Your country needs YOU” posters were used for First World War recruitment. Kitchener was concerned to discover that his soldiers were suffering debilitating foot injuries as a result of chronic chafing from the bulky seam at the toe of their socks. He popularised a method of grafting the instep and sole of the sock together at the toe to produce an invisible and completely smooth join. He thereby added his name forever to the small band of noble British soldiers who have influenced knitwear design, along with Lords Cardigan and Raglan.

I find it hard to remember how to Kitchener graft and always have to look up a Youtube video. It’s not so much the process itself, it’s how to set up, start off and end. Once I get into the rhythm of “knit-slip, purl; purl-slip, knit” it’s fine, but I can never recall whether the tail of yarn should come from the needle at the back or the one at the front, nor how to work the first pair of stitches when joining flat pieces. (Things are a little different when grafting tubes, there’s no need to treat the first pair differently, although the end of the round requires care to join it up neatly.)

Well, this time around I decided to write a verse to set out the whole process and hopefuly make it more memorable. This is how it goes:

Knit sides out and purl sides in,
If you’re ready, then we’ll begin.
Points to the right and yarn from the back,
Start with the set-up, you’ll soon have the knack.
Purlwise through front, knitwise through rear,
Don’t slip them off or they’ll disappear.
Then two front and two back every time,
All you need do is follow this rhyme.
Chanting can help quite a bit:
“Knit-slip, purl; purl-slip, knit”.
Knitwise, slip off with the first,
Purlwise the next and leave it,
With the back stitches it’s the reverse,
Purlwise, slip off and then knit.
Finally, knit, slip the stitch to the fore,
Purl, slip at rear when there are no more.

Not exactly great poetry, but it may help someone.

But I digress. The other new thing (for me) about my rendition of Nanook was the applied I-cord cast-off along the lower edge. While the fronts were meant to be garter stitch all the way down to a conventional cast-off, the back was supposed to end in a ribbed welt, and again I wanted to avoid ribbing. The I-cord cast-off I used instead nicely mirrors the slipped stitch front edges. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to have prevented the stocking stitch back from rolling up. I will see if blocking with an iron and a damp cloth makes a difference, but otherwise I’m going to have to pull out the cast-off and a few rows of stocking stitch and replace them with garter stitch to prevent the curl. I put a lifeline in (that’s the fine white cord visible in the photo above) before the cast-off, which will make the task easier. The big reveal will have to wait for next time, when the cardi is completely finished and all the ends darned in.

Zig-zag wristwarmers

Wendy ModeWhat’s my next project going to be? Well, I acquired some inexpensive chunky (bulky) yarn in Skipton recently, for my cabled cardigan design project.

While I’m working out how to make it, I’ll be knitting a pair of socks using a Rico wool/bamboo blend. But before that, I’ve got a spot of knitting to do for a charity shop. One of the local Oxfams has a corner in which new handmade knitted items are sold. Someone has donated a bag of yarn odds and ends to my knitting group so we thought we’d make some saleable items. I have taken enough, I hope, for a pair of wristwarmers and a couple of hats.

I’ve already made a start on the wrist warmers, using a free pattern called Zigzag Fingerless Gloves. In the donated yarn was a full ball of Bergere de France Ciboulette 4-ply (fingering) in a lilac shade and a heathery-coloured chainette yarn of unknown type that looks to be about aran weight. I’m knitting stripes with 2 ends of the 4-ply and one of the chainette. The stitch pattern is apparently a Barbara Walker one (is there a stitch pattern that wasn’t documented by her?) and looks very effective in toning colours.

Zigzag fingerless gloves

About yorkshirecrafter

I live and work in West Yorkshire.  I've always enjoyed crafts of all types, from woodwork to lace-making.  I also enjoy anything mathematical, which makes knitting a favourite pastime, especially complicated designs.  I've been advising businesses and industry on environmental matters for 30 years and also have an interest in green living, especially where it saves me money. I live with my husband and our Maine Coon in a 100-year-old cottage that constantly needs something doing to it.  Fortunately, I enjoy DIY too.
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