24 August 2014

Opposites Coming Together

On my recent trip to the West Coast I took two projects -- the handspun swirl jacket, and the Carolyn jacket. I did do quite of bit of knitting. In fact, I did enough that I ran out of yarn for the swirl. And since it was handspun, I couldn't make more until I got home. With the Carolyn jacket I didn't have any knitting with me. Rather, I had worked two side panels and was ready both to sew in the side panels and to hem the jacket.

I'm not sure how long the Carolyn jacket has been in my stash -- probably four or five years. I purchased it at one of the early North Georgia Knitting Guild annual auctions. The jacket begins with a beautiful fully-lined but unfinished kinomo-style bodice. It lays over the torso in almost the same way as a liturgical vestment or tabbard, since the sides are unseamed. The instructions recommend doing some gauge swatches. After getting the proper numbers, you are directed to cast on ribbing and work back and forth for the cuffs, work the sleeves by increase shaping, and work a side panel the length of a whole side. After doing this for both sides, the jacket is completed by sewing the knit panels to the fabric panels, and then closing the two continuous seams in the knitting from cuff to underarm and down the sides of the jacket to the hem.

For some images of what other people have done, check out this blog post from The Yarn Haven in Knoxville, TN. (Sadly, they no longer carry Carolyn Jacket kits.) Or on Ravelry you can view this finished project by Jayel, this pink one by kubbo, this golden damask jacket by kittyknitter, this jacket in a multitude of neutrals by castoffjan, or this dark green, navy, and rose jacket by lasknits. All of these are adventurous knits, with plenty of color and stitch interest. However, this red and orange version by carolm7323 closely follows the directions in my Carolyn Jacket Simplified kit.

I, of course, was not interested in working a simplified version.

For one thing, the directions recommended working in either worsted or chunky yarn. I chose sock yarn. Specifically, I purchased three skeins of Knitting Notions Classic Merino Superwash Sock in colors that nicely match the fabric. I just didn't like the idea of heavy fabric. Also, I really love the kimono style of this jacket. Decreased sleeves with knitted cuffs just didn't make my heart sing, especially for a jacket that is meant to be a statement piece. So I decided to make mine a kimono jacket.

It isn't finished, yet. I evaluated the starting fabric on my body, and from those measurements decided to work side panels about four-inches wide by eighteen inches long. The fabric in this jacket is a wonderful mix of geometric patterns. Thus, I decided to work the side panels as modular knits. I worked one panel as if it were a short-row scarf, thus creating a pattern of triangles and stripes. I worked the other panel in modular mitered squares. I blocked both accurately to the desired size, using the blocking board and wires and I purchased earlier this year. The grid on that blocking mat was a big help! I decided to assemble the garment as much as possible at this point. I'll then evaluate what I have and design the sleeves.

I wanted to share how I attached the knitting to the fabric, as I am very pleased with the results. The original directions tell you where to pin the fabric, and then simply to, "Machine sew along bound off edge." I'm not sure I'm that comfortable with my sewing machine. And I took this project along on an airline trip, so you can bet the sewing machine was in neither my carry-on nor checked luggage.

The set-up:
To make this work, you'll need two elements.
  1. The fabric should be surged. This means it has machine stitching around the edges to prevent the fabric from unraveling.
  2. The knitting should have a tidy edge. I used a chain-stitch edge. When I knit, I can create this edge by using crochet-chain cast-on, slipped stitches as the selvedges, and a regular bind-off.
I pinned my knit side panels to the Carolyn jacket fabric. I evaluated the gauge of chain stitches versus surge stitches. On one panel the rate was one chain stitch to two surge stitches. On the other panel the rate was two chain stitches to three surge stitches. So on the first panel, I caught one chain, then two surge stitches. On the other panel, I caught one chain, then one surge stitch, then one chain, then two surge stitches. If the math started to get bad, the pins told me where to fudge.

The technique:
Interestingly, I did not need a sharp needle for the stitching. I only used a sharp needle at the end when I hid my sewing thread tails inside the garment lining.

Thread the blunt needle with appropriately-colored sewing thread. I splurged and bought silk thread. This is supposed to be a statement jacket, yes?
  1. Slide the needle diagonally from top to bottom, catching the horizontal surge thread as well as two vertical threads forming an upside-down "V."

  2. Bring the needle up through the knitting, essentially underneath both bars of a chain stitch.

  3. Take the needle down through the knitting, underneath both bars of the adjacent chain stitch.
  4. Repeat. If the math requires using more than one surge stitch per chain stitch, do step 1 multiple times before going to steps 2 and 3. I found I was able to do multiple stitches, then tug the yarn gently through several all at once.
I left a few inches of thread tail at the beginning. Then I went back, tied it off, and hid the tails when the sewing was otherwise complete.

I am super happy with how beautifully the knit fabric lays against the woven fabric. And I am thinking this technique would work for combining handwoven fabrics and knit fabrics. Possibilities await!