Thursday, August 25, 2005

What a Cut Up

Cynthia writes:
Over the past month, I have discovered the joy of cutting into my knitting. For some reason, I get a real kick out of putting scissors to sweater. (It might be that streak of Morticia Addams I have in me. She cuts the heads off roses; I cut apart my knitting.) It all started with this sweater:

I had tried a new way to make the sleeves, starting with the stitches on the cuff, and then doing a two-stairstep increase to a very large rectangle for the upper arm. I was excited about how easy it was to knit sleeves this way. After the sweater was done, I tried it on.

The sleeves were worthy of cruel laughter.

I had a choice: I could unravel and reknit them, making them tapered as usual, or I could try steeking (sewing and then cutting) to taper them. I didn't have much to lose. I talked to Mother of Kevin of Cynthia, who is not only a quilter but has also done a lot of Sewing of Knits. (Remember "Stretch and Sew patterns"? If so, you were born before about 1960.) She suggested using washaway paper, then sewing with a zig-zag stitch to keep the knit stretchier. These were brilliant ideas, and the sweater was saved with just one hour of sewing. I was emboldened.

Then came the shadow-knitting pillow incident. To create a pillow from the back of a sweater, I had to sew it and cut it. Once again, it was easy.

After that, a customer came in with a poncho that she had literally made while on drugs. (Don't worry--recovery from an operation.) It was, shall we say, an odd shape. We were trying to figure out what to do to fix it, and I told her that if she wanted to, I'd try to sew it and cut it--with no guarantees. She was game. I did it, and it worked.

The truth is that knitters are always worried about dropping stitches. I think that this stems from the days when we first learned to knit and didn't know how to pick up dropped stitches. It was scary when our stitches fell off the needle, leading to the risk of having to rip out our entire Barbie blanket (kid beginner) or scarf (adult beginner) and start over. From these early days, we have an underlying feeling that knitting wants to fall apart. It doesn't. When you begin to cut and sew it, you can see just how much it wants to hold together.

Today I got to do more cutting, and this was the most fun of all.

One of our customers had knit a sweater for her son--twice. The first time it was too big. She unraveled the whole thing and made it again. She is a strong, brave woman, who loves her son very, very much. It's gorgeous and was well worth that effort:

After she had ripped out the entire sweater out and reknit it in a smaller size, her son tried it on again. It was perfect--except for one small problem. The sleeves were one-and-a-half inches too short. She could tell by his face that he would never wear that sweater. She asked me what to do.

I'm sure you have guessed my solution:

Do I look a little too happy in this picture? (Hey, it wasn't my sweater.)

So I cut the cuffs off:

And after I had picked up the stitches, Ellen knitted down the sleeve... ending with the cuff. We used a Kitchener bind off so that the cuff was stretchy enough. (We read the Big Book of Knitting to learn how to do that.) You absolutely cannot see where we started and stopped, which was about an inch above the cuff:

And so Ellen went home a happy woman.

Me--I learned for real that knitting down is the same as knitting up. I had known this in theory but had never seen it happen before with my own eyes. And I loved that new bind off. I think it would be great for toe-up socks.


I suspect you'll be seeing a modification of my Really Clear toe-up pattern later this year.

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