One of my favourite things about craft is problem solving. There is always a new technique to try, and challenges to puzzle my way through.* Even though I’ve been knitting for 13 years, and feel confident in tackling most projects, there is always something new to learn. In the process of knitting the Armande Cardigan by Andi Satterlund (still on the needles), I’ve encountered a few challenges and learnt more about knitting along the way.
The first lesson is a big one! It’s about tension. I’ve known for a while now that my tensions in knitting flat and in the round are vastly different, to the point where I have to change several needle sizes to match them. Even so, I’ve never quite managed a smooth transition between the two, such as where a short row sleeve cap changes from short rows in the flat to the rest of the sleeve in the round.
I was determined to resolve this problem, and set out experimenting with the Wool of the Andes I picked for this project. Combined knitting worked, sorta – I’ve used it for years in ribbing to tighten things up, but it hurts my hands too much to use for a whole project. Besides, it produced a very unsightly, too-tight swatch for stockinette in the flat.
With a bit more research, I learned my problem is rowing out: where very loose purl stitches are so much larger than the knit stitches in the same fabric, that they affect the gauge and create a distinctive line in the knitted fabric. It’s obviously been a problem for me some time – just look at the rowing out in my Anouk Cardi (below)! I can’t believe I didn’t notice it until now.
On the advice of forum posts, I tried to work purl rows with a much smaller needle. This didn’t really do much, and the mismatch in the needle sizes required was too great to be practical (the row gauges of 5mm and 3mm needles don’t really match).
And finally, I came across a solution. Nibbles & Bytes’ rowing out solution #1,849,113, a simple method of adding more tension to the purl stitches as they were formed, worked a treat. After pulling the loop of the purl stitch through, you position the right needle under the left at a 90 degree angle, before slipping the previous stitch off. Note that I knit in the “flicking” style, which is essentially a modification of the right-hand English method which is easier on the wrists. You might not even have this problem if you knit Continental!
It took a bit of practice (one baby layette, to be precise) but I’ve finally achieved even tension in the flat. Guys, my gauge in the flat is the same as in the round! I don’t even have to change needles during a project, and my ribbing is tight and even. What a revelation.
This has become a wordy post (is anyone surprised?), so I’ll share my second lesson with you next time!
*To paraphrase someone in a chronic illness support group: if I’m thinking about knitting, I don’t have to think about being sick!