Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I Came, I Saw, I Re-Knitted

Just over a month ago, my friend Alison sent a plea for help:
The sleeves on one of my favorite sweaters are just too damn long. I brought it around to the tailors in my neighborhood and none of them would touch it. It was like they were pissed or something. Weird. But one kindly lady told me that I needed to find a knitter to help me shorten the sleeves.

Maniac that I am, I volunteered. My exact words:
This sweater can be rebuilt! We have the technology!

What I didn't realize was that a major time crunch is just a natural part of this pre-wedding stuff. Getting home late because of dance lessons = less knitting time. Etc. Plus, I wasn't going to touch it if there was food anywhere in the immediate area, or I was feeling too overwhelmed with everything else (and was therefore at risk of doing something stupid).

The short version of what I did: I unraveled the sleeves to just short of the desired length and re-knitted the cuffs.

The long version of what I did:
Step 1. Measure cuff. 1.25 inches. Wow, this is going to be fast.

Step 2. Map out cuff. I even drew a little picture. 2 rows reverse stockinette, 4 rows of 4x2 ribbing, 2 rows reverse stockinette, bind off. Yeah, this is really easy and straightforward.

Step 3. Decide where to rip back to. Alison had placed scotch tape at the desired length and I knew I needed to unravel back to 1.25 inches above that. I identified the row, and placed stitch markers in several stitches in that row.

Step 4. Measure how much is being removed. 5 cable twists were going to go--7.5 inches total. Wow. That is entirely too
much sleeve.

Step 5. Measure gauge. Both the reverse stockinette stitch and the ribbing had 7 stitches = 2 inches.

Step 6. Snip the yarn at the seam and pick out the bind off edge. Also pick out the seam up to the chosen row.

Step 7. Unravel. Um, hey. This isn't unraveling easily. What the? It seems that the yarn is twisted through the stitch below every time the pattern switches from knit to purl, which is a lot because this is ribbing. I've never seen this before. Maybe it's a machine knitting thing. After mentioning this to my mom, she uses the phrase, "locking stitch". She isn't a knitter, but she used to sew and crochet, and "locking stitch" sounds about right, so okay. The evil things are locking stitches.

Step 8. After about 3 hours of unraveling, regret not steeking (machine sewing a row of stitches, cutting the sleeve below those stitches (which will only unravel as far as the row of machine stitches), pick up new stitches).

Step 9. Realize that steeking is still an option. There's still plenty of fabric between the unraveled edge and the chosen row. What the hey! Steeking it is!

Step 10. Realize that I've never steeked before and now isn't the time to start.

Step 11. Back to the unraveling. (Note unraveling = unraveling up to a locking stitch, stretching out the locking stitch until it's big enough to slip through the small ball of yarn that's forming, continue until small ball is too big and cut yarn.) Many, many hours passed in this manner (not all in a row).

Step 12. Realize that continuing this way is going to end up with really big loops on the chosen row, caused by stretching out the locking stitch. This goal will not be achieved without scissors and a lifeline.

Step 13. Put in a lifeline. I slipped some embroidery thread through each stitch so that the thread would keep the row stitches from unraveling below that row. Like this:

Step 14. Get stitches on the needles. Holy crap! I never thought I'd live to see the day. This is over a week since I started.

Step 14. Measure the WPI (wraps per inch) of the yarn. I get 8 WPI, so it's aran weight.

Step 15. Determine needle size. Sizes 7, 8 or 9.

Step 16. Try size 9 because it feels right. Knit a few rows and measure gauge. I'm getting 8 stitches = 2 inches, which is too tight. Plus, it looks too tight.

Step 17. Tink back stitch by stitch because the thought of ripping back and then having to get the stitches back on the needle again gives me the vapors.

Step 18. Try size 10 needles. This time, the gauge is 7.5 stitches = 2 inches. Still too tight.

Step 19. Tink back again. It's OK. Sleeves don't have too any stitches in each row.

Step 20. Try a size 10.5 needle. This gets 7.25 stitches = 2 inches which is going to have to be close enough. Size 11s are too much bigger than 10.5s to be right. (These easy needle changes brought to you by Denise Interchangeable needles. The stitches stayed on the cord and I just changed the tips.)

Step Twenty-Freaking-One. Hey, that first row of reverse stockinette stitch isn't really popping. I wonder why that is. Oh hey! The evil designer who put in all those locking stitches did a row of stockinette stitch before the reverse stockinette so that all the stitches would stand out against the previous row. Without that, it kinds of blurs into the ribbing row above. Boy that evil designer is clever.

Step 22. Devise plan of attack. Since only one row of knitting remains to be done, I'll just drop stitches down to the first row I didn't unravel and then fix all the stitches with a crochet hook. That way I can make that last row all stockinette stitch. I can totally do this!

Step 23. Drop the first column of stitches and realize that I can't turn a purl stitch into a knit because of the freaking locking stitch thing.

Step 24. Sigh

Step 25. Put lifeline back in.

Step 26. Pray

Step 27. Decide that tinking back 7 rows is safer than relying on the lifeline.

Step 28. Tink back. Discover that the lifeline was 1 row too low this time, so tinking = good call. Feel smart.

Step 29. Realize that step 29 took 1 hour, aka one episode of Cast-On, with Brenda Dayne.

Step 30. Sigh.

Step 31. Start over, adding a row of stickinette stitch before starting the rest of the cuff.

Step 32. Bind off loosely.

Step 33. Realize that Steps 31 & 32 took 40 minutes. It took less time to knit than to tink back.

Step 34. Sigh.

Step 35. Hold the seam together and confirm that it's possible to fit a human hand through the hole.

Step 36. Sew up seam, weave in ends.

The re-done sleeve is the narrower one. Right about where the sleeve started to get too long, it also started to flare out so that it would be too wide as well.

Step 37. Snip seam of Sleeve #2 and pick out seam.

Step 38. Check notes about where to stop and place lifeline.

Step 39. Take out scissors and cut the fabric away a few rows below the lifeline.

Step 40. Unravel the last couple of rows.

Step 41. Put stitches on needles, remove the lifeline.

Step 42. Knit the cuff (repeat step 32) using unravelled yarn from sleeve #1

Step 43. Bind off loosely, sew seam weave in ends.

Step 44. Look smugly at the 7.5 inch chunk of sleeve that I cut off. You will not be able to torture me with your locking stitches, o chunk of sleeve!


Sleeve #1--36 steps. Sleeve #2--8 steps.

Step 45. Marvel at how much smarter I am now and how no weeping and very little wine was involved.

Alison has received the sweater and reports that:
It looks — and fits — great.



  1. What an undertaking! The results look great. You are a good friend indeed!

  2. ow! I've never heard of locking stitch. And I hope I never have to encounter them...


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