Know what today is? That’s right, those of you who are knit-alongers know: March 1st, our cast on day for the Briar Rose Vintage Knit-Along!
Today was the first day since fall that I had to break out my sunglasses again when I left for work this morning, so that tells me spring really is just around the corner. That makes it the perfect day to cast on for a lovely spring-y vintage sweater. Yay!
I’m so excited to get home later at cast on! Though I must admit…I still have to make a few decisions for my own sweater. I spent so much time in the last two weeks working on math that I haven’t done my own yet. 🙂
I promised to cover a couple of topics this week: knitting the body in the round vs. knitting flat, and how to read the knitting pattern. I’ll cover round/flat today, and will cover how to read the pattern in a couple of days when I can spend a bit more time on the subject.
Knitting the body in the round vs. knitting it flat
Before you cast on, you have to make a decision: are you going to knit the sweater as written, knitting a front piece and a back piece and then sewing them together, or knit the body in the round up to the armholes?
If you’re not an experienced sweater knitter and having trouble visualizing what the difference is, I hope this version of our now-familiar generic sweater should help a bit. This shows you essentially how you would knit the sweater in the round.
When you knit a sweater in the round, you start at the cast on edge, same as if you were knitting the front or the back piece. However, you cast on all the stitches for the body onto a circular needle—front and back, together, then join to knit in the round. (I assume you know how to knit in the round, if not check out the Large Diameter Circular Knitting video at KnittingHelp.com.) You then knit the body as a tube up to the armholes, instead of sewing it up into a tube.
When you cast on, place a stitch marker at the beginning of the round (Marker A), and then place a second stitch marker halfway through your row (Marker B). So if you have 200 stitches on the needle, place Marker B after the 100th stitch. Those two markers will mark your sides, where your seams would be if you were sewing the front and back together. Think of each stitch marker as marking the beginning/end of the front and the back pieces, if you’d been knitting them flat—the beginning of row (Marker A) starts the beginning of your back, and the halfway point (Marker B) starts the beginning of your front. So half the stitches on the needle represent the front, half represent the back.
When you get to the point in your pattern where you start the increases, work them on either side of each stitch marker (meaning 4 increases per row and not 2, like you’d be doing if you were working the front and back separately). This will work your front and back increases at the same time in the same row, since you have all the body stitches on the needle at the same time. I like to work decreases and increases two stitches in from the marker (when knitting in the round) or edge (when knitting flat or at an armhole or neckline), which is considered full-fashioned.
What do you do when you get to the armhole cast off rows? You’ll just work on half the stitches at a time. This is how to do it.
The instructions for the cast off row read (remember these numbers will be different if you resized the pattern):
When work measures 12 1/2″ shape armholes by casting off 4 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.
Up until this point you’ve been working in the round, with your markers telling you where to work your increases and indicating where the beginning of the front and back is. Now, you’ll just work on half the stitches (meaning you’ll work from the armhole up on the back stitches only, since our pattern has us work the back first).
Follow the pattern and cast off however many stitches your resized version tells you to, and continue across the row until you reach Marker B (which is the halfway point and marks the end of your back and beginning of your front). Turn your work. This now marks the beginning of the second row. You’ll be purling across now. Cast off the same number of stitches as at the beginning of the previous row and continue working just on the stitches you just worked across. The other half of the stitches? Those are your front stitches and you won’t need them again until you get to the front instructions from the armhole up, so place those stitches on waste yarn so they’re out of your way.
Does that make sense? You knit in the round up to the armhole, then you divide your knitting in half and work the back instructions on half the stitches. Once the back is completed you’ll return to the other half of the stitches that you left on waste yarn and work the front instructions on them. Then you’ll join the shoulder seams like you normally would.
Things to keep in mind about knitting in the round
First: Your gauge might change from knitting in the round to flat knitting, as most people tend to purl looser than they knit. Try out a sample first. In my experience using fingering weight yarn, the difference is negligible and I don’t notice a difference in my own knitting. However when I do this technique with heavier weight yarn like worsted, I often will switch to a smaller diameter needle when I get to the flat knitting. (This is something to keep in mind even if you’re knitting a sweater flat but want to work the sleeves in the round.)
Second: Don’t forget about your seam stitches. Remember when we did our math, we added 2 seam stitches to the front and 2 to the back, that would get ‘eaten up’ by the seam when we sewed the pieces together? If you work in the round, omit those stitches on the body from the armholes down to the cast on edge. Or just do your math such that you know the number of stitches you have on the needle matches the desired measurement you want.
Third: Why knit the body in the round up to the armholes? A lot of people don’t like to purl, or find they are faster on knit rows than purl rows. Or they don’t like to do any more sewing up of their knitting than they have to. Working in the round up to the armholes is not really a vintage technique, though I’m always tickled when I discover what we think of as a more modern knitting technique buried in a random vintage pattern (like short-row shoulder shaping, which I recently spied in a 1950 pattern) so I’m sure somewhere there are vintage patterns in which the body was worked in the round up to the armholes. I wanted to provide it as an alternative for those who’d like to try it. You’re the boss of your knitting, so the choice is yours.
Now go out there and cast on!
Any lingering questions I haven’t covered before we start knitting? Like I said, I’ll do a post a bit later this week on how to read a knitting pattern, for those of you who aren’t as familiar. Feel free to start threads or post pictures in the Flickr group. I hope at this point I’ve provided you with everything you need to know to get started, so happy cast on, everyone!