Let's Steek: GET YER PREP ON
Welcome back! Last time, I made my case for converting pullover patterns into steeked cardigans, and today we’ll get down to business.
Before we get started, please enjoy my pump up song. (Did I grow up in Chicago in the 90s? WHY YES INDEED I DID!)
OKAY. HERE WE GO!
I’ll be working with the Hello From My Colors Crop by Jessie Mae. I LOVE the colorwork design on this one but I’m not super into short-sleeve wool so we’ll be adding sleeves as well as converting it into a cardigan. Jessie’s patterns are great (flexible and super well-written). The pattern includes instructions for three-quarter length and bishop sleeves, but I’ll be doing a more traditional shape with decreases every inch or so (it's a personal fit preference and will require maths but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it).
I’m going to use my numbers here just to give you a sense of what’s going on and why I make decisions the way I do. The pattern recommends choosing a size with 4-7” of positive ease in it, but since cutting the front open adds some extra width (especially once you get button bands on and if you wear it open, I’m going to choose a size closer to my actual measurements. I don’t prefer a lot of ease in my garments at the bust (I’m small-busted and narrow-shouldered).
My usual bust size for sweaters is a 32”. The finished garment dimensions at that size is 38”, plus 2” for the button bands, which would give me extra ease (which I’m not after).
I’m going to size down to the pattern size 28”, which will still have quite a bit of ease in it, but will fit more closely to my body (which is what I want).
This is all personal preference, so it’s good to know your preferences and your body. I’ve found that I like the fit of my converted cardigans best if I go down a size or two from the pattern recommendations.
If I’m going to steek, I’m going to use a grippy, nonsuperwash, crunchy, rustic, sheepy AF yarn. I love these yarns: I like wearing them, I like how they feel, I like how they magically meld together in colorwork, and I mostly love how I don’t feel like the steek is going to explode the second I cut it. Not everyone is here for this kind of yarn, I get it, but I’m a fan. My favorite brands are Harrisville, Rauma, and Tukuwool (I’m also trying out Jamieson and Smith for the first time ever on this project). Woolen spun yarns are best, but I’ve used nonsuperwash worsted spun with no ill effects (worsted spun yarns are smoother than woolen spun ones) .
IT IS POSSIBLE to steek superwash yarn. You have to machine sew the steek, and I hate sewing knits so much that I think sewing my ACTUAL knitting might push me over the edge. I opt for the crochet method for reinforcing my steeks, and it’s not suitable for slippery superwash yarns.
For this project I’m using a mix of Harrisville Shetland, Rauma Finullgarn, and Jamieson and Smith 2 Ply Jumper Weight. All are fingering weight, but the Harrisville and Rauma are beefier than the Jamieson and Smith. Is that going to be an issue? Maybe. Do I care? Absolutely not.
Okay, time for a fun part.
This pattern calls for a main color with four contrast colors. Picking colors for colorwork can be a bit of a challenge (and I work with color for a living and sometimes get it very wrong), so my advice is to do a little swatch to see if you like your colors.
A rule of thumb is that you want a good amount of contrast—take a photo of your colors together and change the color to black and white (it’s “Noir” on the iPhone). If you can see differing shades of black, grey, and white, you’ve got enough contrast. You can work around this (my blue and my purple aren’t very high contrast) with clever color placement. But also low-contrast colorwork can be LOVELY, so it kind of depends on what you're after.
This brings me to my next tip. I’m obsessed with Stitch Fiddle, a program that allows you to make colorwork charts and use your own colors. (There’s a free and a premium version). This can be a good way to get a rough idea of what your colorwork is going to look like, as well as make it easier for you to follow the chart (often designers will use their own colors in the chart in the pattern I’m too literal-minded to translate on the fly). It takes a little time to do it I find it’s ALWAYS worth it.
Here's what I'm using for yarn:
MC Jamieson and Smith Riverstone Heather
CC1 Jamieson and Smith Lichen Heather
CC2 Harrisville Shetland Loden Blue
CC3 Rauma Finullgarn Moss
CC4 Rauma Finullgarn Dusty Purple
I’ve been so into warm fall tones lately that it seemed like good manners to give the other side of the rainbow some love. Of course, I also immediately also ordered yarn for an autumn-toned one.
Before Cast On
Looking at the pattern, I already see some mods I want to make (besides the obvious ones). It calls for a rolled neck, which is super cute with the original design but won’t work for a cardigan with a button band. I’ll sub in 1x1 ribbing. I'm going with the cropped body length because all of my dresses/skirts are fairly high-waisted (as am I, as a human).
A NOTE. I’m not swatching. I’m a really experienced garment knitter and because there is so much ease in the size I chose, there’s a lot of flexibility. It’s unlikely to be too small, and if it’s too big, that’s not the worst thing, either. I’ve gotten to this point by making a ton of garments, swatching for them, knowing my yarns and my knitting and not caring as much as some people. Swatching is a great practice. I’ll swatch if I’m nervous or unfamiliar with the yarn or the designer but otherwise, I’ve earned the right to be this reckless.
I like to figure out my needle situation before I cast on.
I’ll be using a US3 for ribbing (my ribbing is messy as a general rule so I’m trying going waaaay down a needle size to see if that helps)
Since it’s all over colorwork, I’ll be using a US5. The pattern calls for a US 6, but since I want to minimize the ease situation a bit, I’m going to go down a size. I also know how I roll and I like fingering weight colorwork on 5s. My row gauge also tends to run big, so going down a needle size will (hopefully) help me not have a yoke that is too deep (I really dislike deep yokes where the sleeves start at like, your elbows. I need full range of motion- my arms are functional, not decorative.)
OKAY. That should do it for the day! See you back here next time for Actual Knitting!