Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fun with ribbing

Oh the possibilities for that title. No, I'm not going there today.

I mentioned before that I'm making the LOVE MONKEY a sweater. A big reason that I got into this knitting thing is because I've been frustrated by the lack of commercially available sweaters in the colors and designs and fit that I want. Hell yeah, I said, if I can't find them, then I'll make my own. Can't be too hard. har har

He bought this one sweater several years ago and it's his very most favorite - a brown and grey and light brown colorwork pullover with a hint of green and set-in sleeves. He's unhappy at how furry the sweater has become (fuzz fuzz fuzz pill pill pill) so I'm doing it in Karabella Aurora 8, much less hairy than the original mohair/wool/silk/acrylic blend. I'm using slip-stitch designs to achieve the colorwork effect, because I want some quickie gratification on this thing. And because I've never done set-in sleeves nor 2-strand colorwork before and I wish to only work on one at a time.

So I've been swatching, swatching, and thinking for months now but I finally started the sucker a couple weekends ago and immediately realized I needed to deal with the edging (well, duh).

K likes the look of ribbing, but he doesn't want it sucking in so much at the bottom. The 2x2 ribbing on his original sweater has completely stretched out and lost any elasticity it ever had, making it a straight drop from shoulders down to the bottom, and I think he likes that. So my options:

  1. Use a ribbing for the edge that doesn't pull in much

  2. Cast on a bunch of extra stitches for the ribbing then decrease them all as soon as I start the main stockinette/slip-stitch body.

K likes the look of the YxY ribbing, so we're going with option #2.

First of all, I have to figure out just how much a particular type of ribbing pulls in, so I know how many stitches to add to compensate for it.

Figure 1: 3x3, 2x2, and 1x1 knit x purl ribbing (from top to bottom)

swatches are 24 stitches on Aurora 8 - bottom 1.5" in ribbing, then change to stockinette. The ribbing is done in a 4 mm (US 6), and the stockinette in an 5 mm (US 8). Couple lines of garter at the top to try to keep it from rolling too much.

Now, I've always heard that 1x1 was the tightest kind of ribbing, or most elastic. See how little it pulls in compared to the others? The 3x3 pulls in MUCH more but there is less inherent stretchiness.

As far as I can tell, it's the switch from knit to purl that gives the fabric elasticity. But it's the distance between knit/purl changes that cause the "pull-in" factor: the bigger the distance, the more chance the swathes of stockinette have a chance to curl. It seems counter-intuitive to me: the stretchiest ribs are the ones that don't look like they're stretchy.

Just for laughs, I made up some other kinds of ribbings - still on 24 stitches, although I fudged the edges if the repeats didn't work out.

Here we have 3x1 ribbing on top, and mistake rib on the bottom (instead of lining up the columns of knits and purls exactly, you move them 1 off each other. I was surprised at the pull-in on the mistake rib. And for the 3x1, you can hardly tell there's a purl stitch hidden back there for every knit stitches.

K decided on the 2x2 ribbing so now I get to measure the difference between the ribbing width and the stockinette width and compensate by adding the number of stitches needed to make widths almost equal. I have to add stitches in ribbing gauge, not stockinette gauge (i.e. 10 stitches in ribbing is not as wide as 10 stitches in stockinette). I've got a bit of a fudge factor since he doesn't mind a little pull-in.

The caveat with all this is: will all those decreases right after the ribbing look weird? To satisfy myself that the design is viable with all those decreases on one row, I'm working up a test sweater in a toddler size. It'll also give me much-needed practice in doing set-in sleeves and help me figure out whether I should add a selvedge stitch at the edges or not. Any of you all have experience with selvedges (to selvedge or not to selvedge?)


Carole said...

You have way more patience than I'd ever have. I'd have plowed into the sweater by now.

Rachel Life said...

Keep in mind that ribbing can also be blocked open. it would have to be repeated each time you wash the thing, though, so that might not be the way to go for a man's item. assuming of course that your love monkey does his own laundry, which mine does not.
and thanks for the heads-up about the powell's contest. I go back and forth between my home in Seattle and Portland a lot. I am scheming about getting to OFFF!

BigAlice said...

I hadn't even thought of blocking it open, thanks for the idea. Since I'm kind of lazy about my laundry at best (I'll handwash, but have yet to block anything), I don't know if I'd be willing to reblock every time. Also, Love Monkey does also do the laundry, so I better make it easy on him.

The decreases are actually turning out to be quite hidden, so at the expense of some extra yarn and extra bulk. I think I'll go with that.

Woo! Hope you win the contest! I was tempted to enter but seems like someone not local should get the airline tickets, even if I'd like the hotel & food & gift certificate. I've never been to OFFF nor any other fiber festival. I better leave the credit cards at home.