Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sweater Surgery

In the early 90's I made a cardigan that I just loved with Missoni wool.  The wool was/is a beautiful blend of colors that knits up beautifully.  I am saddened to say, they quit making knitting yarn to concentrate on the clothing side of their business.  It is getting harder and harder to find their yarns, but it is well worth the hunt.  In any case, I made this sweater using a fair isle technique.

 However, the sweater was quite large on me and unfitted, plus I had put heavy metal buttons on it and it stretched out in the front pretty badly.  After years of sitting in my closet getting little wear, I decided it was time to perform some surgery.  I decided to steek the sweater.  What is steeking?  Scandavians use it for many of their sweaters.  The Scandanavians knit a sweater in the round, then sew two seams down the front of the sweater and the cut up the middle of the seams to form a cardigan.  I already had a cardigan, so I just sewed around all the pieces and then I cut the sweater apart.  Unfortunately, I don't have any before photos because I did this a couple of years ago and the sweater has been sitting around ever since waiting for me to come up with a new design.  I have had a couple of ideas, so I finally sat down and got them on paper.  The first idea was to knit stripes that were small at the waist and got larger toward the hips.

Maybe it is partly the colors I used, but I didn't really take to the stripes.  They seemed a bit busy and competing with the design on the top.  Next I thought about knitting a larger pattern on the bottom, but again thought is was too busy.  Finally, I considered knitting gores.  I have seen a sweater that was knitted in a bright orange with two lighter orange gores put in front and back to flare the hipline of the sweater.  I have always loved the design, so I decided to give this idea a try...

I apologize for the quality of my quick sketches, but it does give an idea.  I liked this idea much better.  Now for the harder part, finding a yarn that will work with the colors already in the sweater and available in a darker and lighter shade.  I have drawn the gores in a darker shade, and the main part lighter, but I may reverse this idea depending on what kind of yarn I can find.  I like the subtlety of this design, not so busy to compete with the pattern above, but not a plain knit so that it doesn't look planned and just added on.

The next step is to take the sweater pieces that I have and cut them down to the proper size for a better fit.  I took a fitted jacket pattern to be made with a heavier wool and took the back pattern piece and cut the pattern out of an old t-shirt.

I then pinned the front pieces of the sweater to this pattern piece to check the fit and size the front pieces of the cardigan. One problem that I knew I faced was the front of the sweater was stretched from the heavy buttons.  I then took the pieces and steamed them with my steam iron and worked them back into shape.  You can see the difference the steaming made below.

Next, the t-shirt pattern piece I cut was giving me some problems, so I cut a new pattern piece out of a leftover dress muslin I made several years ago.  The crazy pattern pieces are really used sheets.  I often use worn out sheets for muslin rather than buying new. 

Now comes the next hard part, I need to stitch around the pattern with a sewing machine using a small stitch (1.5-2.0) without stretching the sweater, and then cut the excess sweater around the edges.  I will continue with this tutorial as I make further progress.

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