Here is what I have been working on for the past 3 weeks, fresh off the drying rack. It is from a pattern I purchased on ebay (I love the Norwegian Star pattern) which is probably from the 1980’s. It was done with a New Zealand 10-ply knitting wool which is lovely, soft and still has the lanolin scent. I worked it on 5.5 mm needles. There are three natural colours: light gray, tan and dark brown. I achieved the 18 stitches/10 cm gauge on the body; the yoke came out 19 stitches/10 cm which didn’t surprise me. It is seamless and circular.
I was very unhappy with the Tingwall Jumper because I think there were too many of what Lucy Neatby calls “unhappy stitches). I am a very even knitter and 99% of the time I achieve the gauge recommended on the yarn ball label. So, when the stitches weren’t as nice and even as I thought they should be, I was most distressed. So, I decided that I would try alternative methods of stranded knitting to see if I could learn to knit better. You may ask why I had to do an entire jumper and not just a beanie or scarf. My reply is that I believe that it takes a lot of fabric and stitches to really test out something. So, I had a go at this jumper. By the way, I can’t explain why I knitted an extra-large size for me since I wear a medium. It has something to do with my own self image: I always think I’m much larger than I actually am. Oh well.
I knitted the majority of this garment using a Shetland knitting belt with 30 cm long DPN’s. Now, that was an experience! Definitely, one can knit much faster with the belt; the right needle is stationary and the right hand flicks the wool while the left arm makes the stitches. I liked this method. So far, so good. But, then we have to discuss those damn DPN’s – I hate them! My feelings have nothing to do with their length (which wasn’t a problem) but the laddering that I could not prevent. I tried the trick of knitting the first stitch of the next needle onto the needle just knitted but all that did was give me spirals, which, BTW, didn’t come out in the wash. For the sleeves, I decided not to continue with that trick and to just knit up the needles which gave me ladders. No matter what I tried to do, I could not avoid either the spirals or the ladders. Granted, the ladders are far less noticeable than the spirals but they are still there. Then, if that weren’t enough, there were all those dropped stitches off the needle ends (I couldn’t find any end caps here in any store). There was a point that I thought I was crocheting this garment because of all the dropped stitches I had to pick back up! When I knitted the stranded design in the yoke, there were no ladders because of the double yarn pulling the stitches along. Perhaps that’s why the Shetland knitters can use them without laddering?
Next, I wanted to try various methods of holding the strands of wool. I tried both strands in the right hand which took a bit of work but I finally got the hang of it but the problem was that I had some puckering of the fabric. Next, I tried both strands in the left which just didn’t work for me. Then, I tried a strand in each hand which was very awkward with the DPN’s and belt. So, when I got to the top of the star design, I switched to my beloved Addi Turbo circulars and retried the above three methods of holding the strands. The other part of stranded knitting that I tried was to carry floats (I have been weaving every other stitch on past garments). This was 99% successful with only a couple of places where the fabric puckered from tension that was too tight when I used the DPN’s and the belt while carrying the strands in one hand.
I love the collar. I did a 1x1 ribbing on the outside, purled the turn row, then knitted plain stockinette the same length, purled the final row to try to tame the curl and then hand-stitched the live stitches down. It is a soft and substantial collar, nice to wear and attractive to look at.
To end this posting, I’ll tell you what worked best for me. First, I love the belt but since I can’t seem to prevent the spiraling or the laddering, I’ll have to forgo it. Maybe others can do a better job so if you want to have a go with a method that really is fast, then get a belt and the needles (thanks to Christine “knitmaniac” for telling me where I could source the 30 cm size). There is nothing like an Addi Turbo circular for knitting – I love them! So, it’s circulars for me! The strand holding method I prefer is to have one in each hand. I will do the next garment with floats and carefully monitor the tension. I am convinced I will achieve much “happier” stitches. Finally, I knitted while thinking often of my friend Azza (Rooboy2000) who also likes knitting technique and experimentation.