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Sweater surgery

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Posted (edited)

This is not my knitting; it is a store-bought sweater that I decided to “improve”:


Actually, three or four rows of the neck are my knitting, because I successfully altered that part (it was a huge, super-bulky turtleneck that threatened to suffocate me every time I put it on). Then I decided the cuffs were also too bulky, especially for how short my arms are and how much I had to fold them up. The problem is, when I went to frog said cuffs, it didn’t rip out like any knitting I’ve ever seen.


i dunno if you can see in the picture how the live stitch is not just pulled through the stitch below, but actually looped through it. It’s weird, and at some point I clearly got frustrated and chucked the whole thing in a bag for “later.” Well, it’s later all right. Almost twenty years later 😂

Anyway, I pulled it out of the closet last night thinking surely it doesn’t even fit me anymore, and maybe I can repurpose the yarn to make an Ursa. I swatched with some of the extra yarn from the turtleneck, and it’s not the right gauge for an Ursa, but the original sweater does, in fact, still fit! So now I’ve decided to finish what I started with the cuffs. I’ve gotten it down to one nice, even row, but there’s still weirdness on the edges (the sleeve was seamed):


That stitch on the edge can’t be picked up and unknit like a normal knit stitch; like the photo above, it seems to be sewn through, and if I undo it, it doesn’t leave another live stitch—the working yarn just goes back to the regular knitting. It does that on both edges. I’ve decided the best thing to do at this point is to ignore it since I don’t need to rip back any farther, but I have a few questions:

1) Should I continue flat and seam it up the way it was originally done, or should I re-seam it up to the live stitches and continue in the round?

2) Do I need to add a new stitch on each edge to match the width up to that weird selvedge? 

And 3) When I go to do the other sleeve, I was thinking of going in and picking up the row of stitches I want to go back to before taking anything out, and then just cutting it off a little above that, instead of trying to rip it back. Does that sound like a good strategy considering the circumstances? I have plenty of yarn ripped out from the turtleneck, so I can afford to lose some working yarn here.

I appreciate any advice anyone might have for me!

Edited by Claudia

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What an odd little problem this one is! It looks as though it ought to have been super-easy. Hm. 

I am really curious as to the structure of that knitted fabric. I can’t easily tell the details/clues that would help me to figure out what is going on so as to be able to answer your question! I’m trying to figure it out from the photos, but can’t, so here’s a couple of questions for you:

1. It looks as thought the stitches are formed using the yarn held triple. True?

2. What happens if you try to rip back the sleeve just a few rounds, enough to be able to put it back on the needles, say? What I am trying to determine here is if the yarn is following a standard pathway for knitting in the round, in other words, one stitch neatly after another on the needles, with all live stitches forming a circular “round/row” on the same vertical plane, so to speak.  In other words: Is there some weird double-knitting or other path the yarn is taking rather than a standard stitch path? (I have no idea if that is a coherent question or not.)

3. If you haven’t finished the whole thing by now: Can you take a piece of thinner contrasting yarn (such as brightly coloured sock yarn), and follow it through the path of the stitches in the same (one) round, either using the lighter stuff threaded on a yarn needle to run a sort of duplicate stitch through the stitches, or by using the lighter stuff to knit a new round or whatever looks possible. This would give us a visual representation of the stitch path for the knitted stitches.

And frankly, that last photo completely mystifies me. Here:

2 hours ago, Claudia said:

1) Should I continue flat and seam it up the way it was originally done, or should I re-seam it up to the live stitches and continue in the round?

This is the sleeve, and so when you say knitted flat and seamed “as originally done”,  you are talking about  seaming up the length of the underside of the arm, right? So, the alternatives you suggest are: to continue knitting flat and finish as a regular flat-knit sleeve with seam on underside; or do the seam only up to the live stitches (could you show me what the live stitches look like now before that’s done, if you can please) and then knit the rest of the way to the end of the cuff in the round. 

IF this is regular knitting in one of its usual shapes/forms, then this is what I would ask next:

What are the advantages to the first option, and what are they for the second option? One reason I tend to like seaming my sleeves and cuffs after knitting flat is that I like the bit of extra structure that a seam provides. A seam can be stronger than whatever you might get from something knit seamlessly in the round. One function I find particularly helpful: A seam acts as a “fence”, a barrier between sections, more or less, that can help confine damage to one section of the thing Thus, if you happen to catch a stitch and tear the yarn, a cuff knit in the round might ravel around and around and end up with a big hole (or a big mess!). However, if you tear a few stitches, and there’s a seam in the way, things will ravel only around to the seam, and then stop. In other words, it is easier for an accidental hole to get out of hand in a seamless bit of knitting than it  might do in a bit of seamed knitting. F

OTOH, many people really hate seaming. 

As you can see, this is provoking a bunch of curiosity from me! 

You know what...if you still need help with this and it’s the structure that is thwarting you, I’d be happy to jump on Zoom or whatever so you could show me “live”. 

And certainly, if anyone else out there in AdventureLand has any clues or thoughts or answers and wants to to chime in, please do! I have the feeling I am missing something really obvious here.

(One of my favourite “treats” at work for Interweave was when the Piecework editor would call me in to see if together she and I could figure out how a particular piece was made, so she could describe and date it for her magazine. Holding each piece with ill-fitting white cotton gloves on and marveling over the clever ways women made yarn and fabric and string work to make pretty and useful items was a delight and an honour for items generations old.)

It looks like super-squishy soft yarn!



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Yes, the yarn is held triple, and each individual yarn is made of of six strands of tiny two-ply, so it’s actually very dense (but it’s cotton/acrylic, so it is pretty soft). It’s flat, not in the round, and I actually got it ripped all the back to the stockinette part of the sleeve before I even posted, but I do have a whole other cuff that will need to be done. Just looking at the knitting on the untouched sleeve, it looks like it should be totally normal knitting.

I’m basically set to re-knit the first cuff, except that my width doesn’t match because of the weird selvedge; it’s about a stitch short. (And I have to get out the door for work, so I’m gonna post another pic later that better shows what’s going on with that.)

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Ahaha of course it’s been a week. I ended up working a six-day stretch, and I’ve had two migraines. (Actually I still have yesterday’s migraine, but whatever. I should log it like my doctor told me to.)

Anyway! This is what I ripped back to:


And it will rip back the usual way from here, except for the edge stitches:


I don’t know if this photo helps you see better what’s going on on the edge, but I have to basically unthread the yarn from that edge stitch, and it doesn’t leave a live stitch to work with; it just lets me rip back the next row down. The strand going behind the needle between my fingers is the working end of the yarn. I did undo the edge on the other side in order to get an even row of stitches, but now the edge stitch on that side is pretty loose. And the edge is also not a full column of stitches: 


Maybe it’s fine? I overthink things. There’s a decrease a few rows down, so it’s kind of like another decrease row? I guess I’m mainly worried it will make the seam wonky when I sew it back up, since it’s right on the edge.

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