Saturday, October 21, 2006

How NOT to Make a Shrug

Don't follow the instructions in Knit It! Magazine (Better Homes and Gardens) April/2006.

This is the Fisherman Shrug featured on the cover of April/06 Knit It! magazine. The shrug is knit with Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick. I have to admit that I like LB Wool-Ease yarns. I like the T&Q and the Chunky versions. I'm not a big fan of LB in general, but Wool-Ease yarns are soft and cozy and very nice on the hands. It's a good product that washes and wears well. I've made several super-bulky sweaters with it that I love to wear. The yarn has just enough wool for warmth without being at all scratchy. So many people I know refuse to wear animal fibers. I am dismayed since I love to knit and wear animal fiber myself, but there it is...Wool-Ease is a good compromise. Since this shrug is a Christmas present for my sister, I got the best of both worlds. Something I enjoy knitting that she will enjoy wearing, and a super quick knit.

The instructions inside the magazine are problematic, to say the least. The pattern tells you to knit the main body of the sweater on 6 1/2mm needles and the sleeve cuffs and bottom edging with 10mm needles. Okay, I get part of this. They want the sleeve cuffs to be super huge and loose, and the bottom edging has to be looser and stretchier than the main body, BUT...guage is 9st = 4", and there is no way I'm going to get that on size 10 1/2 needles. I tend to knit bang-on guage, and this yarn is designed to be knit at 9st on 9mm needles. So how is a person supposed to knit that guage on 10 1/2mm needles? Not to mention, that with yarn that bulky, you'd probably be fighting and cursing over every stitch on needles that much thinner than intended. Forget that, I knit with 9mm needles 'cuz that's guage. I used 9mm needles for the sleeve cuffs because I did not want to be swimming in them, and 10mm for the opening edging. And guess what?? It worked out fine.

Next problem:
The shrug is knitted in five pieces: one back, two small triangular fronts, and two sleeves. In the pattern schematics in the magazine, it is very clear the the sleeves need to taper along a particular raglan angle to fit to the back, and along a completely different raglan angle to attach to the small triangle front pieces. You can clearly see how the triangle fronts fit in to form the front shape in the above picture.

The pattern instructions have you increasing the sleeve to the armpit and then decreasing it in exactly the same way on both sides of the sleeve. It doesn't fit the schematic and would make it impossible to sew together the shrug.

You can find extensive pattern corrections on the Lion Brand Free Patterns Site. Go here (thanks B2!):

This is mostly helpful, but they haven't addressed the guage issue, and they still neglect to clear up the decrease issue on the raglan edge of one side of the sleeve. I fixed it by putting in three extra decreases on each front sleeve edge.

So...if you want to knit the shrug, I do recommend it as a super quick and relatively easy knit. It only cost me 24.00 'cuz the yarn was on a good sale at Michaels. I used four balls. You don't need the magazine. Use the LB pattern from the address above. You can make the back and the two triangle fronts with no problem. Just pay attention to needle size and guage. I used 9mm for all but the band around the front and bottom, and most likely you can do the same thing. Make sure your sleeve decrease rows add up to the same number as the decrease rows for the back.

Here's how I did the math for the sleeve decreases. I did a total of 13 decreases for the back raglan edges. That added up to 26 rows of knitting. For the sleeves, I did 13 decreases on the matching edge for the back and the difference between thirteen and the total number of decreases needed on the opposite edge for the front. In my case, it turned out to be five decreases, which I spread evenly over the length of the front edge. I needed a different amount because I Made my sleeves longer and thinner than in the original pattern. I wanted sleeves that came to the knuckles and did not balloon out or fold back at the wrists.

Oh yeah...the other glitch I ran into was that the pattern told me to pick up 100 stitches for the band that goes around the bottom, neck and front opening. I knitted the 100 stitch band, but it was too tight. I frogged it and then picked up one stitch for each stitch of the sweater around the band, and thus ended up picking up an extra 18 stitches altogether. That worked out great. You can also make the band wider than they say. I think I added an inch to mine before I ran out of yarn. A Wider band means you can make the fronts meet in the middle and stick a pin through them.

How do I keep track of everything? I always enter notes about my knitting projects in this notebook. When you have as many projects on the go as I usually do, you have to write everything down. I keep track of yarn and guage, size and type of needles, pattern notes and changes. I do my calculations and keep track of rows. I keep the book with me whenever I knit. I have found that to be one of the best knitting tricks I know.

Now that the shrug is done, I'm making a pair of fingerless mitts from a pattern I found online. More later.


Anonymous said...

Jayne your shrug turned out great!


Sandra D said...

You're an insta-genius with the insta-shrug! I have that issue of Knit-it, had considered the pattern but didn't like the hugeness of the sleeves at the underarm, plus I couldn't quite conceptualize how it would fit from the diagram. Yours is wonderful, and I admire you're perserverance at ripping out the ribbing and doing it over again to get the right amount of stretch. I know some people think wool and automatically associate itchy! My sister came over yesterday and I happened to be wearing my B&B made out of Highland Wool and besides me having to fish for compliments (ha!) she said "but isn't it itchy?" She'd be a good candidate for LB Thick & Quick, just a little bit of wool and not a huge investment in time, so I wouldn't get miffed over lack of appreciation. Thanks for the idea and good going on the shrug!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful job!

jayne said...

Thanks Libs, and Sandra and anon.

Sandra, the underarm part is not too bulky, and the yarn is pretty squishy. Yeah nothing worse than knitting for an unappreciative audience. My sis likes everything I knit but won't wear real wool. I think she'll like this piece. And selfishly, I really wanted to knit one but not necessarily own it, AND I hate gift knitting that goes on and on and on. Except for certain very special people. Ok, they have to be NOT in my family. ;)

Anonymous said...

Jayne, the shrug is beautiful! You would never know that it caused you such problems. I love your notebook. I also keep meticulous notes, but I have an affinity toward sticky notes, which lose their stick after awhile. I think I'd better spring a couple of bucks for a notebook like yours.

Vamanta said...

Jayne, I am constitutionally unable to buy LB yarns, a character flaw, I readily admit, but your shrug is pretty darn impressive. May have to casually poke down the LB aisle at Jo Ann's. Go girl!