Here's a link to the pattern's Ravelry page: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/young-and-pretty I'm probably going to leave off the ruffle, which is knitted separately and sewn on afterwards. It's too girly. This project wasn't even on my radar but the next-in-queue didn't get gauge (I couldn't face the maths that night) and the yarn for the one behind that bled everywhere**.
Not only did I get blue hands, it stained the rug on the couch!
I haven't quite figured out how to get that off.... (I'm hoping it'll just wash out but have been procrastinating, so haven't thrust the rug into the washer.)
Anyway, in the end, I pulled 6 balls of Lidl's finest Crelando Anika sock yarn out of the stash and sifted through my pattern collection - and Ravelry queue - wondering what to do with it. I settled on Young and Pretty because I had enough yarn, it didn't need charting - unlike one of my other vintage choices - I hadn't knitted it before and, without the ruffle, it fits into my aesthetic.
As is usual these days, I'm knitting in the round. No, the pattern wasn't written that way. It doesn't need to be. Like many knitters, I hate sewing up seams. However, it wasn't until early 2011 when I had the "lightbulb" moment, "Why not knit it in the round and skip the seaming?". (Well, d'uh!) I don't remember exactly when the penny dropped but I think you can blame Jasmine from the Knitmore Girls podcast for that moment of inspiration. Ravelry tells me that the first sweater I knitted in this manner is the grey Willow, which I started in March 2011. (Thank heavens for Ravelry's project pages.).
What amazes me about knitting in the round is that more people don't do it. It's so simple. I was gobsmacked to discover that someone has written a book(!) detailing the technique like it's rocket science. No, I don't remember who or the title of the book - it was referenced in a podcast. It got me angry and I've been stewing over it for ages. I was incensed that something so simple was being presented as "here's MY big idea; MY secret discovery" when it patently isn't. The thing is: you don't need to spend good money on a book full of mediocre patterns in order to learn this technique when it could be summed up in five steps. Here is all you need to know.
How to knit a sweater in the round whatever pattern you're knitting
1. Swatch to check your knitting tension against the pattern's quoted gauge, both in the round and flat.
- Knit a long, half-n-half swatch. Using a circular needle, cast on 20 stitches more than the target gauge. Work flat in garter stitch for five rows, then knitting in garter stitch for the first 5 and last 5 stitches, commence whatever stitch pattern is quoted in the gauge section of the pattern. (If it says "25 stitches and 36 rows measured over lace pattern" then work the lace pattern. If no pattern quoted, work stocking stitch). At the end of your first row, slide the the swatch back to the other end of the needle and work the second row, leaving a large loop of yarn dangling behind your swatch. Repeat for 5 inches, then swap to knitting flat and knit another 4 inches before finishing with 5 rows of garter stitch and casting off.
- Wash your swatch and let it dry before counting your rows and stitches, firstly over 4 inches of the knitted-in-the-round section and then over the knitted flat section.
- You may be lucky and discover that both tension sections are the same. Or you may discover that your tension is very different when you knit in the round to when you knitting flat. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Many people have a different tension when they purl to when they knit. If the latter is true for you, then you will need to use a different needle size for the upper back and upper front of your sweater, because they are worked flat.
2. Read your pattern's instructions thoroughly. Does it include an extra stitch at either end of the body to give a selvage/space for sewing up? If so, then omit those stitches from your knitting.
3. To start your sweater:
- Using a circular needle, cast on the stitches for the back, place a marker and then cast on the stitches for the front. Work 2 rows flat, following the pattern's instructions.
- Turn and work your third row. When you get to the last stitch, check your knitting and ensure it isn't twisted.
- Place a marker and join your knitting, working in the round from this point. I like to use a dangling row counter for this marker. It will signify the start of each round, while the other marker gives you the side seam.
4. To divide for the armholes:
- If you haven't decided which side is the front and which side is the back, do so now.
- Pattern instructions usually tell you to cast off nn stitches at the start of the first row, work to end, turn, cast off the same number of stitches and work back. Ignore them.
- On your first armhole row, do not start by casting off stitches. Instead, work to nn stitches before the side seam marker, cast off nn-1 stitches. Swap your seam marker for a length of thread (2-3 inches long) and, over it, cast off that final stitch, by slipping it over the first stitch of the other side and your thread marker. Tie your thread marker in a loop. Cast off a further nn stitches. This forms the base of your first armhole and you have the side seam marked, which will help with placing the sleeve.
- Work to nn stitches before the end of this side and repeat the above step.
- Work flat from here on, following the pattern as instructed. Remember to swap your needle size if necessary to keep your gauge even.
- Using magic loop, knit your sleeves two-at-a-time in the round. On a long needle, cast on the first sleeve with one ball of yarn, then cast on the second, using a second ball of yarn. Again, work the first three rows flat before joining and working in the round.
- When the time comes to knit the armhole shaping, follow the instructions in the pattern (i.e. cast off nn stitches, work to end, turn cast off nn stitches, work back). To make your life easier later, mark each arm's "seam" with a safety-pin.
And there you have it. If you use a three-needle bind off for your shoulder seams, then the only sewing you'll need to do is setting in the sleeve caps. Much easier.
* Having dealt with both over the years, I think that while the collection of patterns is Jane's - and comes from her original 1970's edition of the book - all the work involved in the reissued book (resizing, knitting up, layout, etc) was done by Susan.
** Luckily, all is not lost. The Knitmore Girls also have a solution to this problem, a citric acid bath. http://www.betterthanyarn.com/2014/10/problems-and-solutions.html. I just have to reskein the yarn, having balled it all up and then follow Jasmine's instructions. I'm kicking myself that I didn't do this beforehand as a matter of course, but I didn't have any citric acid, didn't contemplate that the 15L of vinegar I have lying around the house could do the same job and thought "it'll be fine". (Famous last words.). Hopefully, I won't felt the 100% hand-dyed Gotland in the process. (In the end, I bought citric acid off Amazon.)