Sunday, February 08, 2015

If it's yellow then it's jello, if it's blue it could be stew


You those cheap (or even not-so-cheap) t-shirts with side seams that skew around after a couple of washes? When the knit fabric has not been cut perfectly straight and so the seams end up being on a bit of a bias, annoying, right?

I didn't think this could happen with hand knitted garments. It really shouldn't happen, because you are making perfectly proportioned pieces of fabric to sew together, not cutting out pieces of knit fabric. And yet, I seem to have made the handknit equivalent of a cheap t-shirt.

It’s a shame, because there’s a lot to like about this top, the Cable Back Shell from Purl Soho. It’s quite a simple pattern and there are many ways you could adjust or refine it.  Many have noted that it is quite short and boxy as written. I’m not at all tall, but I still needed more length to be able to wear it with jeans. It was very easy to make it longer and also quite easy to add some subtle waist shaping. It’s knit in one piece from the bottom of the back, up over the shoulders and down the front, then you seam the sides. You could probably knit it in the round instead and would then only have to seam the shoulders, but it is quite nice to have smooth shoulders (actually, you could probably graft them).

I’m quite happy with the way the neckline and shoulders fit: the ribbing on the back neckline looks too loose and stretchy on the hanger, but actually works perfectly. The sleeves/armholes are not perfect and the edging (first time I’ve done that cast-on-and-cast-off at once type of edging, an alternative to crochet) on the sleeves doesn’t actually stop them curling. I think it’s a combination of the curling and the very simple shaping which makes them a bit chunky. I sewed up the armholes a little higher than the pattern called for, which reduced the curling a bit. Although now I've realised they chafe and I will have to make them a bit lower again.

The front vee was too deep, but I expected that, and sewed it up a little bit at the end. Actually I tried making the vee higher at first (this is an easy adjustment to the pattern) but made it way too high and it was choking me.

It was only once I sewed up the seams and tried it on that I noticed the central cable was skewing very much to one side, which should be very obvious in the above photo. At first I thought the cable itself might be causing it. I’ve never seen a cable do that before, but then this is a kind of cable I hadn't done before. It’s ‘cable 22 back’ with no columns of purl stitches to set it off in the more traditional way. There is so much fabric being crossed over (11 stitches over 11 stitches) that it bunches and folds on itself and has a messy unstructured look.


On reflection I don’t think it is just the cable, because lots of people have knit this pattern and don't seem to have this problem. It seems like the whole fabric, not just the cable, has a bias to it, and the seams want to skew around. So I'm wondering if it is the yarn. It is an unusual cotton, Lincraft Denim 4ply, which is made from recycled denim jeans.

Lincraft Denim 4 ply

It’s got a rustic texture and is made up of two loose plies. Perhaps someone with spinning expertise could explain what’s happening. I really like the fabric it makes and I think it works well with this particular cable and simple design overall. But I wish it didn’t do this biasing thing. I will try some more serious blocking to make it straight. (I did my usual kind of blocking which is just to wash it and lay it out nicely. I also ironed it, which I don’t tend to do with wool.) But I’m not confident that will make much difference and as a warm weather top, I’m not interested in having to go to great lengths to block it every time I wash it. inside

I do really like how the cable looks on the wrong side, actually.