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Chic Knits TekTalk: How to Reinforce a Shoulder Area June 30, 2011

One of the most prevailing trends in the last decade of knitting has been the public love affair with Top Down Knitting.

I love it myself and have explored many of the types and styles that people have been using for decades and are now becoming a trend topic once more.

One of Chic Knits’ recent releases, VONICA, starts from the top, but is a traditional, set-in sleeve type sweater.

In this type of design, stitches are picked up along the shoulder through a cast-on area. Several things make this area prone to stretching, such as the type of cast-on used, the type of yarn used, and the nature of the lace itself.

Using a firm cast-on is key, but sometimes the other factors will combine to stretch that shoulder line. The sleeves should have a slight drop shoulder but should not travel down into the arm area.

Here’s my "discovery", born of a deadline, moving forward, from me to you to hopefully help you in your knitting! :)


What we’re doing…

The number one way stability is present in a garment’s shoulder area is by way of a seam, which adds both strength and support.

But "seamless" is one of the hallmarks of top-down knitting and this area often suffers a lot of stress in the blocking and wearing.

A traditional solution for this common problem is to sew a piece of ribbon along the line – this is seen very often in commercial sweaters.

But, I had to fix my sweater for a photoshoot, and had no time to go shopping!

Here’s what I came up with…

Pick Up Sts  

Using the smaller sized needle called for in the pattern itself, or two sizes smaller than the needle size you used to stitch the area, pick up sts through the loops of the shoulder cast on from the WS.

Mine looked like this – the loops were easy to spear. I picked up 1-to-1 as they presented, from the back to front, in a scooping motion.


View from RS  

This is what it looks like from the RS after all the sts were picked up
– ie. doesn’t show at all.

Picking a yarn  

Now, here’s where it gets interesting: although you can use the original yarn that you knit with and have success with this technique, you can do something that might improve the result even more.

If, going forward, you use yarn that is firmer than the one that might be misbehaving, it will tighten up the area even more.

So I dug through my stash and found a tightly spun, cotton/poly blend, in the same gauge, similar color, and used that for the next step.

Bind off sts  

Using whichever working yarn you’ve chosen, attach it to the wrong side of the garment, so you can work the "row" of sts you just picked up.

Now, here’s the sauce: simply bind off, knitwise, working with a firm, even tension, all the sts you picked up.

This forms a tight, chain across the shoulder line like a "seam" that will make that area behave and stay the right size.

Repeat for the other side.

ALTERNATELY: use a crochet hook, of the proper size, to make a chain through the picked up sts.


Steam lightly, from the WS, and enjoy your wonderful, well-fitting creation!

Chic Knits VONICA Lace Cardigan

For more info and to purchase the
pattern shown above

click here for VONICA…

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TYWYK June 24, 2011

One of the most certain ways to spark a debate online is to deconstruct the Language of Knitting.

From SSK to Reverse All Shaping to even Work even, someone, somewhere, is scratching their head wondering why. So when the folks from Soho Pub sent us this new volume of something called the KNITOPEDIA, we knew exactly what we needed to do: send it along to one of you with that itchy finger!

“… Knitopedia is organized as an A to Z encyclopedia with numerous cross-references that make it easy to find information. This remarkable resource contains over 400 individual articles and is lavishly illustrated and beautifully designed, with hundreds of color photos, technical illustrations, charts and maps.”

Here’s a small sampling of the contents:
• explanations of all commonly used abbreviations
• explanations and illustrations of all important knitting techniques, such as casting on, binding off, shaping and picking up stitches
• historical and cultural background information on all ethnic knitting traditions
• articles on the design process, fit and ease and other design-related topics
• overviews of today’s knitting world (the Internet, blogs, magazines, podcasts)
• over 100 basic stitch patterns, with photos and charts

THIS. Is a really great edition to a knitting library. It has topical entries (hence the “opedia”) instead of full chapters allowing for a more diverse sampling of techniques, definitions, and even history.

Along with the text copy, there are photos and graphics that richly describe many of the processes or styles.

My favorite, since I’m on a mission, are the pages about: SLEEVES.

Many of us, without a sewing background, are without those touchstone moments that come with putting together a fabric garment from the ground up. We are without architectural reference; not only do we not understand the basics, we might not have insight into why they are shaped the way they are for different types.

This cyclopedia gives a great breakdown of the many styles and renditions and the section is representative of why having a book like this is a great idea.

SO: we’re going to send this one out to a happy knitter!

Just leave a comment below on What is the Techinique or Thing That Really Leaves You Cold! We will draw for the book, at random next Friday!

Maybe, we’ll all even learn a thing or two!

TGIF! ;)

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All work and no play!? June 23, 2011

This being the most busy time of the year at Chez Chic would make it seem like there just isn’t any time to fool around.

But, as they say, all work and no play, etc. etc. etc. especially when you can sort of pretend it IS work.

Even in the middle of organizing, packaging, mailing and lots of paperwork, a girl’s gotta have a little fun!

So, I’ve been amusing myself by stitching on a cardigan that’s a little different from what has come before, but building on it all the same.

One of the ongoing trends that continutes to capture public attention is the love for the seamless. Although I thought this global crush was just about a lack of interest (né loathing) for finishing, I’ve realized that maybe it goes deeper, maybe it goes farther back, way way back.

Part of me has always wondered why knitting just feels so comfortable to me and all those thousands and thousands of others. In hand, it is the most natural thing to do. Talking with my mom (and in the past my grandma (Busia)), this is something that all the women in my familly did, generation after generation after generation.

And you don’t have to go very far into knitting’s history to see that people originally knit tubes on pins, long pins, connecting them all together by picking up stitches. Dissecting them into cardigans by steeking (and picking up more stitches).

Anywhere there was a connection, a “seam”, it probably was an area of the construction that was merely, casually picked up. It is just the most natural thing in handknitting; feels right and looks good.

I’ve been know to preach to the choir (?) about this endlessly: there is nothing like having a real grounding with it, a comfortable ease. I can’t think of anything else that just seems so organic. Picking up the stitches.

So this little number I’ve been working on does all this and more.

It is a non-raglan, traditionally shaped cardigan that looks like something off-the-rack, with set-in sleeves, banding and ribbing. But it starts from the top down, has short-rowed shoulders, then body-first (ie. Barbara Walker technique) set-in sleeves.

But because this is the bauble I’m dangling to keep me on track with all of my inevitable busy-work, I just had to mix it up even more!

Enter the Dyepot!

The yarn I’m using for my little cardi is cotton, nylon & acrylic, deep-stash 9 type yarn, that is discontinued. I bought a bunch of who knows how long ago – a couple of bags of a droll beige – a color that actually looks pretty sweet on its own.

But I’m in need of color! And I have soda ash! And Procion dye!

So I decided to see if I could turn this into a color win, in a way so unscientific it was going to be a crapshoot. ;p

With only a little time, it was curious versus meticulous with curious for the win!

I wound a mini-skein from some section leftovers and got to it with a little stainless bowl, water, salt and some Procion MX dye. These are all the things that would be used in a regular Chez Chic OverDye Fest, but tuned way down to the lab rat scale, the junior-high school science fair project!

Not having enough time (because but of course, multi-tasking was exploding everywhere), it was mixed and dunked and mixed and tested. Placing it near the coffee pot ensured that it would get at least a little love on the cuppa refills.

By the time I was ready to blow-dry my hair, it was dunked into a tiny bath and rinsed.

Here’s what came out of the mini-pot:

Not really bad! A little striation, like kettle-dyeing, from the fiber mix in the strand, a little lack of soda ash in the fixing.

Now all I have to do is pick a color and go to my favorite downtown art store, Dick Blick, and get some dye for real!

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