Not Martha

I’m knitting a sweater: being schooled and practicing techniques

In the comments for my first post about the sweater Emily reminded me that I should check the gauge on my swatch after I had washed it. This makes a tremendous amount of sense. She also reminded me that when choosing which size to knit on a sweater pattern you should take your own measurement and add an amount of ease, in this case I’m going with 2 inches, which also makes a tremendous amount of sense. Thank you Emily, your advice saved me from a few embarrassing post-sweater conversations that would probably have included the phrase “you didn’t ___?” spoken in one of those amused/outraged Everybody Knows That tone of voice. If a tone of voice could roll it’s eyes this would be that tone. I hear this tone a lot.

So, I threw the swatch into the washing machine then laid it flat to dry (which is what I’ll do with the sweater) and it came out a whopping 1/2 of a stitch smaller, bringing it to 17.5 stitches per 4 inches. So, with everything sorted out I sit down to do some math to figure out what size to make.

The gauge on the pattern calls for 19 stitches per 4 inches. I chose 2 inches of ease because it’s going to a ribbed sweater and there will be room to expand and I don’t want the sweater to be too baggy. My chest + 2 inches ease = 40 inches around (really? wow). With the pattern’s gauge the 40 inch sweater has 190 stitches around (thanks again to Emily for starting me on this math). So, recapping here, at 19 stitches per 4 inches, 190 stitches = 40 inches. At my gauge, 17.5 stitches per 4 inches, 190 stitches = 43.428 inches. (I had to break out some paper and a pen there!)

An additional 3 and a half inches is, sigh, significant when it comes to clothing. I cannot get my gauge to be any smaller by dropping down a needle size so I’ll knit a smaller size sweater. The closest to being 3.5 inches smaller is the one with a 36 inch chest measurement, so I’ll knit that one. The smaller size will also be shorter, which is ok with me since I’m short and fit better into petite-sized jackets (woe the day I need to find a well fitting suit in a hurry).

I’ve been practicing tubular cast-on using these directions at My Fashionable Life (better than the books I consulted!). Here is what 1×1 rib tubular cast on looks like with 2×2 rib (the cast on edge is at the bottom):

After I got the swing of it I modified it to do a 2×2 ribbed cast on:

The back of that looks the same:

But, part of the sweater is 3×1 rib. I tried out tubular cast on to see which looked better. To the left is 2×2 tubular cast on, to the right is 1×1 tubular cast on:

I think I prefer the 2×2, especially when held next to the first swatch:

So, besides being a little bit careful about making sure the tubular cast on matches up where the ribbing will be in the sweater, I’m all set.

Next I continue to try to figure out this tubular bind off thing, which so far isn’t going that well.

· comments [20] · 06-28-2007 · categories:knitting ·

20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 anna // Jun 28, 2007 at 7:10 am

    Thanks for the link! I have a word of advice on the tubular bind off. It might sound complicated but like most things with knitting it’s actually quite intuitive once you try it.

    I find, that if I just go straight from 1×1 ribbing to working a sewn tubular bind off, my bind off stitches are all distorted and wonky-looking. To rectify this, I do two rows (one RS row and one WS row) of tubular knitting. Which basically means, knit the knit stitches, and slip the purl stitches with the yarn held at the front of the work. That gives the stitches just enough ‘wiggle room’ that they can line up nicely underneath the sewn bind off.

    I hope this helps and isn’t just confusing!


  • 2 Marnie // Jun 28, 2007 at 7:30 am

    If you find your pre and post washed swatch are really different in size, you may consider knitting a second swatch and not washing it, to keep it as a reference point during your knitting. You can also just continue to check your gauge, every once in a while, if prefer.

    Also, I love using excel to calculate my patterns. If you ever want some times on setting up excel, let me know and I’ll send you a sample. There are a couple of little key steps that will make it easier. :)

  • 3 Jenn // Jun 28, 2007 at 7:37 am

    The more I read about ease, the more confused I become and then I have to remember that of all the things I’ve knit, not one has come out wrong because of ease. Anything that’s come out wrong has been because I didn’t wash and dry the swatch. Swatching is annoying (at least to me) but it’s a necessary evil.

  • 4 ysolda // Jun 28, 2007 at 7:51 am

    I think that the neatest way to do a tubular cast on for 3×1 rib would be to do a cast on for 2×2 rib and on what would be the first ‘normal’ row of ribbing purl 2 together all the purl stitches and make 1 in between each knit stitch. If that row was a wrong side row you would knit the knits together and make 1 in between each purl stitch.

  • 5 megan // Jun 28, 2007 at 8:03 am

    ysolda – I see what you mean. The only thing is that 2×2 tubular cast is not as stretchy as 1×1 tubular cast on. I’d be afraid to loose 1/4th of the stitches in the cast on row as I think it would become awfully tight.

  • 6 maria // Jun 28, 2007 at 8:36 am

    I made that sweater, to the size I normally wear (and it came out with the correct finished dimensions), and it’s a little too big for me. I think maybe the finished size is calculated with the ribbing laying flat, not stretched at all. I started a second one the size down from that, and it was working out to be a better fit.

    Of course your experience may be different; this is just what happened to me. :)

  • 7 megan // Jun 28, 2007 at 9:19 am

    Anna – Thanks for that tip!

    Marnie – Thank you, I’m a dunce at Excel, so I’ll contact you if I get a desire to set it up to use.

    Maria – This makes sense, I think I’m being a little conservative on the sizing already. I was a little afraid that I was going to be making something a little small, so your experience makes me feel better about the size I’ve chosen to make (the 36″ finished measurement, which will be closer to 40″ with my gauge).

  • 8 Michelle // Jun 28, 2007 at 9:53 am

    As I understand it you don’t have to add ease to your measurements for every single garmet. It all depends on whether or not the pattern designer built ease into the measurements or not. Unfortunately not every designer makes ease measurements transparent. There is some math and pattern reading you can do to figure this out, but I’m not well-versed in it.

    Don’t forget to do a search for other peoples experiences knitting the sweater.

  • 9 Anita // Jun 28, 2007 at 9:56 am

    I’m having a hard time grasping the tubular bind off as well. Please post any tricks when you finally figure it out. ;-)

  • 10 Amanda // Jun 28, 2007 at 10:01 am

    If the length is not long enough for you it is simple to add additional length to sweaters. Just make sure to do it before the armhole decreases start on the body. Usually in a straight knitting part where there isn’t any shaping if possible. I am nearly 6ft tall and a size small… so I am always adding at least 2 or 3 inches to my sweaters and sleeves.

  • 11 elijor // Jun 28, 2007 at 10:43 am

    Before you start the sweater I think you might want to try and find others like Maria who have knit this sweater or possibly try contacting the creator. Generally knits do not require much ease and many of them actually look better with negative ease. I believe this is especially true with something that is ribbed. Of course it also depends on what you will typically wear under it since it is a cardi.

    There is a KAL here there haven’t been many posts lately but it might prove beneficial anyway. Also there are quite a few posted on craftster.

  • 12 Michele // Jun 28, 2007 at 11:04 am

    I’m far from an expert knitter, but my understanding is that you want negative ease for a ribbed garment, especially if it is knit in cotton. Cotton tends to grow a lot width-wise.

  • 13 bunchkin // Jun 28, 2007 at 11:09 am

    If this is a ribbed sweater and you don’t want it to be baggy, you should use negative ease. Meaning subtract 2 inches from your chest measurement to figure out what size to make. Especially with cotton. Makes your head hurt doesn’t it?

  • 14 megan // Jun 28, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Michelle – Oh gosh, I’m glad I have not cast on yet.

    Anita – I will. I got the 1×1 tubular bind off (sewn bind off) down ok last night, but research is showing that a 2×2 tubular bind off is either impossible, or done one of two ways in Knitting Tips and Trade Secrets.

    Amanda – Thanks, I’ll be sure to check it. After looking at the knit-along site and spotting a too-short sweater I’m going to double check.

    elijor – Thanks, that site isn’t showing up much information but these comments altogether have made me need to research the hell outta this thing before I start.

    Michele and bunchkin – Yes, my head hurts now.

  • 15 Emily Cartier // Jun 29, 2007 at 7:26 am

    Cotton yarns vary. Some of them will grow width wise, some will grow length wise, some don’t grow at all and some shrink. Some cotton yarns also have a fair bit of memory, others don’t. So it helps to know what sort of cotton yarn you have *before* you start to panic. Swatching helps because you get a feel for the fabric you’re producing and can make decisions based on how it behaves. Smush it, stretch it, hang it up with weights… there are all kinds of things you can try to get a feel for what will happen with the finished sweater.

    The reason I suggested checking row gauge before and after washing is I’ve had exciting experiences with a cotton yarn that shrank vertically on the first washing. The row gauge went from around 8 rows to the inch to something like 12 rows to the inch. Fortunately, I wanted a cropped sweater. The planned short sleeves ended up as cap sleeves tho :).

    It’s going to come out wearable, because you did swatch carefully. So don’t worry too much about perfect this time. I always find things I wish I’d done differently in projects.

  • 16 Bonne Marie // Jun 30, 2007 at 4:33 am

    Hi Meagan, I am thrilled you are making a Ribby for your first sweater. Fantastique!

    I think you are on track so far with your swatch, etc. Marnie – that Excel thingie sounds intriguing – would you email me the setup? (

    The Ribby Cardi dimensions from the pattern stats are finished measurements as is, which means there is no ease built in. The sweater was measured slightly stretched.

    Fit is such an individual preference — some folks like their clothes very snug; others like to wear this over a shirt or Tee and need a little *breathing* room.

    Since we are all so unique, my everlasting rule of thumb is to use a favorite existing sweater that fits you well [out of similar yarn, if possible] from your wardrobe as a template you can refer to for comparison — this really keeps me on track throughout the entire project (read more here: )

    For myself (36″ bust) I made the 38″ sweater. Your mileage might vary.

    If all the adjustment math is getting tiresome, I vote with the commenter from your initial post about going down a needle size and getting the spot-on stitch gauge before you start. I agree with Jane that the needle size suggested by any pattern is just a starting point.

    I almost always have to go down 1-2 sizes when knitting cotton to get the same gauge.

    Please email me with any questions – I am at your service, m’lady!

  • 17 megan // Jun 30, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Bonne Marie – Thanks so much for the notes!

  • 18 splatgirl // Nov 6, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    Hi Megan. Did you ever say how you modified the tubular cast on for k2p2? I found a decent tutorial (Sivia Harding’s) but it has you crossing stitches to get from 1x rib to 2x and it ends up not looking nearly as nice as the second swatch you show in this post.

  • 19 megan // Nov 6, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Splatgirl – The tutorial she has here is not what I do, I do something a bit more simple. I used this tutorial for 1×1 cast on at My Fashionable Life and altered it like so:

    In the directions linked above, step 2. says, essentially, purl the first stitch, then pull up a stitch from below and knit it, purl another stitch, then pull up and knit a stitch, continue doing that.

    For 2×2 tubular cast on I purl the first two stitches, then pull up and knit one, then pull up and knit another, then I purl two more stitches, and so on. I’ve found that you you *must* start with two purl stitches or the cast on edge will turn out poorly.

    I know you can fudge it a little bit. For the last two sweaters I’ve slipped in a knit 3, or maybe a purl 3, somewhere in the middle to match the sweater’s 3×1-2×2-3×1 ribbing. Tragically, I have forgotten the details of how I did this, but I have notes I’ll return to if I do a tutorial page.

    If you end up with one last stitch at the end, shown in the My Fashionable Life tutorial, you can leave it as long as you come back and catch that loop with the tail of the yarn or when seaming. I’ve done this too.

    The 2×2 cast on edge will not be as stretchy as a 1×1 cast on edge. Mine has stretched out and stayed that way, but I think it still looks good and it doesn’t appear splayed, and it feels tidy when you’re wearing the sweater. That said, I really like the bumpy side out for long tail cast on for ribbing, but it wasn’t feasible with the Cotton Ease which splits terribly when you attempt long tail cast on for something as large as the body of a sweater.

  • 20 splatgirl // Nov 7, 2007 at 9:28 am

    Fantastic. Thanks so much! My neck edge thanks you :)

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