I wore my new linen jumper for a few days and didn’t feel happy with its length. Then, midweek, I bit the bullet and took a pair of scissors to it. It was knitted bottom up with a shaped hem, so the only thing to do was to separate it into two in the middle of the body, knit some extra length onto the bottom part and then join it back together again with a Kitchener graft.
This is how it looks now, about 2″ longer.
The scariest part was cutting a thread.
I’ve never actually lengthened anything this way before, but I have shortened a few bodies and sleeves. The shortening process is essentially the same except you pull out some knitting before grafting the work back together again instead of knitting extra rounds.
Either way, lengthening or shortening, the process is very straightforward with stocking stitch or garter stitch, as long as you know how to work a Kitchener graft. And there are plenty of YouTube videos for that. I’ve taken lots of photos and one of these days I’ll write up a tutorial on altering the length of a knitted-in-the-round, stocking stitch item, using this jumper as a case study. The only issue with it was that I had blocked it quite hard to make it drapey, and the linen yarn lost a lot of dirt when I soaked it prior to blocking. The result was that both the post-blocking tension and the handle of the yarn were very different from the “off the needles” state. The next photo shows that – the extra rounds of unsoaked, unblocked knitting across the middle are all too obvious.
I considered winding some of the yarn off the reel, skeining it, rinsing it, drying it and then knitting with it in its cleaner state. But then I realised that the only way to be sure of achieving the same tension for the extra rounds of stocking stitch was to use the same size needles and the yarn in the same unwashed condition as before; after blocking, it should then end up the same as the rest of the jumper.
But what about the graft? Grafting is done without the benefit of needles to constrain the stitches to a particular size; instead, you adjust the tension of the grafting yarn, stitch by stitch, to match the tension of the knitting visually. Clearly, it was not going to be possible to do that when the stitches on one needle (the lower, extended portion of the jumper) were unblocked and unwashed and those on the other needle (the upper portion) were at a looser tension and in a softer, cleaner yarn.
It seemed to me that I had two options:
- Soak the newly-knitted section and a length of yarn sufficient for the graft so that it is all (hopefully) in the same condition as the rest of the jumper, reblock the lower half of the garment and then graft it back together when everything is dry; or
- Graft it loosely with the “raw” yarn, but don’t darn in the end. Then soak the whole garment and re-block before adjusting the tension of the graft when it’s dry and finishing off the end of the yarn.
I opted for the second alternative. I was worried that any mismatch in tension of the graft would be obvious because linen is such an inelastic fibre. It seemed more sensible to finalise the graft by tweaking the tension as the last step.
That worked, but the new section of knitting was still a darker colour. You can see it in the photo below of the second, post-lengthening but pre-graft-tweaking blocking. (I only soaked and blocked the body, not the sleeves.)
I’ve since given the jumper a wash and then blocked it yet again for good measure. The horizontal stripe is now scarcely visible and will hopefully fade to the same colour as the rest after a few more washes.
Renovating an old railway bench
My other project this week has had to be put on hold until it stops bucketing down with rain. I am renovating the cast iron legs of a garden bench which has been in my family for decades. You can see from the photo that the legs were in a shocking state with layers of flaking paint and rust beneath.
I was delighted to find when I got all the paint off the castings that they bear the initials GNR for the Great Northern Railway, which means they could well be over 100 years old, maybe even 170 years old. More next time.