Yes! The Big Day is finally here and we can all grab our needles and cast on (assuming yo've done the required homework of the gauge swatch). If you haven't, stop what you're doing and visit THIS POST about getting gauge. I want to make sure your hard work is worth it.
Unlike an MKAL, the entire structure of our pattern is already in your hot little hands. You can work through this sweater as quickly or as slowly as you'd like, but because I like to give useful tips and tricks throughout a KAL I'm going to breakdown the next 6 weeks as follows:
Week 1 (TODAY!!!): casting on, setting up and knitting the first 5" or so of the sweater.
Week 2 (Feb 12th): finishing all increases before dividing for the sleeves.
Week 3 (Feb 19th): dividing for sleeves, starting the stripe pattern and working 7-8" of the body.
Week 4 (Feb 26th): finishing the body and the hem ribbing.
Week 5 (March 5th): working the sleeves (both).
Week 6 (March 12th): the front band pick up and completion of the sweater.
We're starting out slow since I know that a sweater is a big endeavor. I expect a lot of questions over the first couple of weeks. Then you'll all be in a rhythm and you'll probably leave me in the dust!
Let's Get Started
This week we'll need 4 markers, a nice long needle (I'm using a 40" circular since I'm making a 40" sweater) and one ball of my main color.
To cast-on, you can use your preferred method. I happen to prefer a long tail cast-on since I know it's good and strong. If you're a long-tail fan as well, a "tip" I learned ages ago from some knitting guru (I can't even remember who it was now) told me that the average woman's arm span is just about the right length to cast-on 60 sts on a US 8 needle.
How's THAT for random trivia for you? And only moderately useful since we're not really casting on 60 sts, regardless of size, but it should help you estimate how much yarn to pull out if you're going to do a long tail cast-on.
So do your thing. I happen to prefer a shorter tail hanging around so I cut mine short so I don't have ridiculous inches of leftover tail.
On the first row after cast-on, as you're purling back, put your markers in place. I recommend two different types of markers, or different colors, to help differentiate the back from the front of the sweater. It's not necessary but we're all about making this easier, right?
Knitters, start your increases!!!
As you begin to work your increases, some of you may see a pattern right away. Others, like me, when I did my first raglan sweater, will stare and stare at the pattern trying to sort out the rhythm of the increases. So hopefully I can help you figure out the pattern a bit with some simple memory tricks.
When you're holding the work with the RS facing, everything is the opposite of what it should be. The left front is on the RH side. So, when you work the first increase on Row 3, to do the shaping of the Left Front, you're going to work a M1R... because its on the "RIGHT" side of the work. Conversely, when you work the last increase on Row 3 you're going to work a M1L because it's on the "LEFT" side of the work.
OK, so what about the other myriad of increases throughout the shaping rows? Let's see if we can simply it.
All of the increases are worked in pairs. If you work a M1R, there is a matching M1L to go with it. And that matching increase will be just on the other side of the marker.
Here's how I remember what increase to do: if the marker is to the LEFT of where I'm making the increase, I make a M1L(eft). If the marker has been slipped to the right needle and is then to the RIGHT of where I'm making the increase, I make an M1R(ight).
Did that confuse it? Or make it simpler? I hope it makes it easier.
Here's one more tip that will hopefully help you remember HOW to make an M1R vs and M1L. I forget what these are called but it's using letters to remember words... or something. So, and M1R has an "R" in it so you pick up the running stitch from the REAR (rrrr... right, rrrr... rear) and knit the stitch.
Conversely, to make an M1L, there is an "f" in the word "left" (as in a make 1 left increase) so you pick up the stitch from the FRONT (ffff... left, ffff... front) and knit through the back loop.
As I type this, I'm dreading that some of you may be shaking your heads thinking I've had one too many glasses of wine but this is what goes on in my head to remember what increase to make and how/where to make it.
So increase away. By no means are you restricted to knitting only the first 5 inches. Knit as much as makes you happy, though I'd probably stop before the division of the sleeves if this is your first sweater.
If you feel I've glossed over anything useful, let me know. I want you to have fun and learn something along the way!
What if I don't get gauge?
Gauge can be a tricky thing. There are "average" gauges, such as what you see on the wrapper of a skein of yarn, and then there are "designer" gauges, which is what you see in patterns. That's not to say that they can't be the same. In some cases they definitely are. But I tend to design to my gauge. In the case of the Zoey Cardigan, my gauge is 17 sts and 25 rows over 4-inches. The "average" of a worsted weight yarn on US 8 needles is 18 sts and 25 rows. So I get the rows but not the sts.
If you find yourself not getting gauge, here's how to handle it (keeping in mind that a tighter gauge than what is designed to will use MORE yarn):
For stitches: if your gauge is, for example, 18 sts / 4" you would divide the total number of cast on sts by 17 (the designers gauge), and then multiply by 4. I'll assume you're knitting a size large (which is what I'm knitting).
The pattern says to cast-on 48 sts. So to break that down, I want to know what the target knit length is. 48 sts divided by 17 sts = 2.82. Then we multiply that by 4 since the 17 sts is over 4". So our TARGET LENGTH of cast-on is 11.3".
What that means, if you get a gauge of 18 sts, is you want a TARGET cast-on length of 11.3". So divide 11.3" by 4", which is 2.83. We then MULTIPLY 2.83 by 18 which is 50.94 sts. It's desirable to cast on in multiples of 2 so you can round down to 50 sts or round up to 52 sts. 52 sts will make the sweater marginally larger than the pattern, 50 sts will make it marginally smaller. But given that the pattern has 3" of positive ease, going down to 50 is likely your better option.
What about my row gauge?
More often than not, a knitter will match stitch gauge, as it's far more critical (i.e.: less math) to match that, than row gauge. Row gauge is typically used for the length of an item. For example, you'll read in the "Body" section of the Zoey Cardigan pattern that you're to knit the sweater until it reaches 14" from the underarm. Would it just be better to KNOW how many rows you need instead of whipping out the tape measure every 5 rows?
So with row gauge, you'll take the TARGET length that a piece is supposed to measure, say 14" as for the sweater. Divide that by the number of rows by 4" - so 14" divided by 4" = 3.5. Now we multiply 3.5 by 25 rows so we get the total number of rows necessary to make up 14" - 25 rows times 3.5 = 87.5 rows total. I prefer to round up slightly if there's a half row so I'll knit 88 rows of the "Body". You can substitute your row gauge, say 23 rows instead of 25, and you'll get a target number of rows of 80.5 rows (or 81 if you prefer to round). Easy peasy, Mac'n'Cheesey!
You can apply this math to ANY pattern. It's how to convert worsted weight patterns to fingering weight, or vice versa. As long as you know the TARGET length or width and know YOUR gauge, you can do the maths.
That's all for this week!
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