Sunday, January 25, 2009

Casting Around

For an answer.

The sweater I'm knitting as a Christmas I.O.U. for my tall-elegant-mom is coming along nicely. All the pieces are done and ready to assemble. I'm using the same Kid Hollow Mock Neck pattern that I just finished making for myself in a different colorway. It's knitted in the Kid Hollow Farm brushed mohair that's just handfuls of soft fluff; it feels so light it might float away.

I made a few changes in the pattern this time to suit my mom's more tailored style. I changed the let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may rolled neck and hem to a ribbed edging, and made it a crew-neck rather than a mock-neck.

Everything was going great as I got the shoulder seams done, picked up the stitches and knitted the neckband. Everything, that is, until I tried experimentally pulling it over my head. Not a chance. No how, no way. It was not going over my head, and that was final.

It was my fault, of course. There is nothing wrong with Puff the Magic Rabbit's nice pattern. I had gone down in needle size for a neat ribbing but hadn't thought very hard about what it would do to the circumference of the neck opening. And I'd just bound off normally, without making much special effort for looseness or elasticity, other than going back up one needle size.

So I just admonished myself inwardly and set to undoing the bind-off. Then I bound off again, taking elaborate care to handle it loosely and not pull anything up too firmly. It worked, and I got a looser edge. This time, it went over my head without a problem, and I even tried it on world's-most-patient-husband for good measure.

So everything's fine, right? Well, there's just one thing. When the neckline is relaxed, that loose edge looks a little messier than I'd like. If the sweater were for me, I could shrug it off. But since it's a gift, it troubles me. I want it to be as nice as I can make it.

What do you think? Is this neckline noticeably messy? It seems to me I have these choices:

-- Try to bind off again, slightly less loosely to make it look neater. (But this risks making it too small again.)
-- Rip out the whole neckband and knit it again on larger needles. (That's not a prospect I relish, though I'll do it if I have to. But then would the ribbing itself come out looking too loose and open?)
-- Look for some extra-stretchy bind-off method and re-do it.
-- Leave it as it is; grin and make the best of it.

Not being quite ready just yet for the last of these options, I've spent a little time hunting around for stretchy bind-off techniques. Binding off loosely seems to be an issue of great concern for knitters of lace and toe-up socks. I've found several techniques and have tried out a few on my swatch. But if you look past the flim-flam (all that together-knitting, through-back-looping, left needle-returning, pulling-or-slipping-without-dropping), most of the techniques seem to boil down to one of two things: making the loops bigger or adding extra stitches between the original ones in the bind-off row. The former is what I've got already -- albeit with loops not necessarily of such nice uniform size -- and the latter can cause an edge that buckles when unstretched.

I haven't given up yet. Weebleknits has a page here that describes some interesting ideas that I may need to try out on my swatch. And I still haven't consulted Montse Stanley's comprehensive tome. The woman has 40 cast-on methods in that book; she must have an answer! (Perhaps I should have gone there first, but, honestly, her prose is a little stuffy.)

Oh, wherefore art thou, cast-off of my dreams?


Bess said...

I would redo the neckband because that's the part everyone looks at. It's the part closest to the face. That's why I do so much i-cord bind off around necklines. It always has a finished look and even if I do it loosely it doesn't look stretched out.

I'll be fascinated to hear what you come up with.

Anonymous said...

Oh, i-cord sounds good. Have you heard of the suspended bind-off? It's in the Knitter's Hand Book of Sweater Patterns- Ann Budd. If you don't have the book and it isn't on the net anywhere, you can email me ( and I'll type it up for you.

cathy said...

Good point; the neck is not a good place for messiness. I-cord is an interesting idea. I can see how it would be stretchy.

And I'll have to look carefully at the suspended bind-off (yes, I do have that book, thanks!

I need to experiment some more. :)