A gray handknit sweater, showing a repair made to the hem, rests on a table in the foreground, with a black notebook in the background.

Mending a Sweater Hem

As spring arrives, some of my most-loved winter knits have seen some wear and tear. I’ve accumulated a small mending pile, including one of my favorite sweaters – the Poet sweater by Sari Nordlund (see it on Ravelry), knit in local Jacob wool yarn from Avillion Farm.

The hem of the sweater had unraveled a bit, so I thought I’d share how I mended it. Here is a before photo. As you can see, the bind off had come undone, and a bit of unraveling had occurred.

Before the repair

For the repair, I used locking stitch markers, a small-diameter crochet hook, and a circular needle approximately the size the sweater was knit with.

The first thing I did was to catch the live stitches – locking stitch markers are handy for that. I then used the crochet hook to ladder up the stitches that had run – you can do it from either the knit or purl side, but I often find it easier to work from the knit side.

I managed to get a bit of video of this process. You’ll notice that I use a second crochet hook to grab the stitches I’ve already fixed, and then I transfer them onto a second locking stitch marker. ((Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera set up quite right and all the work is going on in one corner, but you can still watch how I ladder up the stiches and place them on the stitch marker.)

Laddering up and catching the stitches

Once all the stitches were secure, I attached new yarn (fortunately I had a bit of the same yarn left over) and bound off the stitches once more. Now all that’s left is to weave in the ends! As you can see in the photo at the top, my sweater looks good as new.

The ribbed hem of a handknit sweater, repaired, with ends yet to be woven in.
Sweater hem after repair

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A pile of handknit items in shades of gray, red and blue rests on a table.

Washing Your Woolens

I’ve been washing some of my design samples to get them ready for Carolina Fiber Fest next weekend. I’m doing a designer showcase from 12-12:20 on Saturday March 12, so if you’re local to me please stop by and say hi! More information is available on the Carolina Fiber Fest website.

Anyway, I thought it would be a great time to talk about washing all those precious woolly handknits. One of the benefits of wool is that it’s naturally antimicrobial and doesn’t need to be washed all that often. However, it’s important to wash your woolens if you plan to put them away during the warmer months, as moths feed on the bits of skin, crumbs, or other debris on your clothes (they aren’t actually interested in the wool itself!).

So, how to was your handknits without shrinking or felting them? To start with, as you’ll know if you’ve been following my breed study posts, not all wools are equally feltable. Down and down-type breeds are often resistant to felting, and cashmere and alpaca also don’t felt as readily as some wools. And, of course, there are the wools that are treated to be machine-washable.

If you’re washing something more easily felted, use a gentle soak, avoiding agitation, and avoid shocking your wools with drastic temperature changes, especially going from hot to very cold water. You can, however, wash your woolens in pretty hot water without danger.

To wash by hand or machine? Many newer machines, especially front-loaders have a wool setting, and I’ve been testing mine out recently. I used to wash my superwash wool socks in a regular cycle with my other clothes, but lately I’ve been doing a wool-only cycle using my machine’s wool setting, and I’ve even been including some non-superwash items. And they’ve come out just fine.

Now, you may not want to try this with your special heirloom knits – I’m still wash many things by hand – but for everyday things like socks you might want to try the machine. Some knitters want to get away from superwash wool yarns for environmental reasons, and being able to care for these knits more easily can encourage that. If you’re considering trying the wool cycle on your machine, the best thing to do is to wash your swatch – yet another good reason to swatch your knits!

Do you wash your handknits in the washing machine? Let me know in the comments.


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Kerry is standing outside wearing a handknit teal pullover sweater with jeans and a handknit hat.

Choosing a Sweater Size Part 2 – An Example

A few months ago I wrote in this post about choosing your sweater size based on your upper chest measurement, and I thought I’d give an example of how I used this method to select my size in another designer’s pattern.

The sweater I’m wearing in this photo is the Gingerbread Sweater from Espace Tricot. It’s a boxy raglan pullover with a suggested ease of 10 inches/ 25.5 cm. My upper chest is around 34 inches; as of this writing my full bust measures 39 inches, a 5-inch difference. The first size listed is a finished chest of 43 inches, which would give me about 9 inches of ease in the upper chest, and 4 inches of ease in the full bust. The next size up is 46.75 inches, which would give me 12.75 inches of ease. Since the first size is closer to the recommended ease, I chose that size. This is also the chest circumference of a favorite boxy top of mine, so I knew I would be happy with that amount of ease. I also compared my upper arm measurement and armhole depth to the schematic to make sure my chosen size would fit in those areas.

The only modification I made, other than adding a bit of length to the body, was to cast on the number of neck stitches for the next size up, and eliminate one increase round for the raglan. I would have been fine with the neck cast on for my size, but I prefer a slightly wider neckline, and I’m very happy with the neckline on the finished sweater.

As you can see in the photo, the sweater fits me perfectly. You’ll notice that it fits similarly to the sweater in the pattern photos. If I had chosen the size that had 10 inches of positive ease in the full bust, I think the sweater would not have fit correctly in the shoulder and neck area, and I know I wouldn’t have been happy with the oversized fit.


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A spinning wheel flyer with multicolored yarn being plied.

Managing Takeup When Spinning Fine Yarns

Recently I was chatting with Mary Ann at Three Waters Farm about an issue I consistently have with spinning finer yarn and/ or slippery fibers like her Polwarth/ silk blends. I have a vintage Ashford Traditional wheel, and I often find myself fighting the takeup of the wheel with these fibers. I adjust the brake band tension until there is no tension in the spring at all (and the brake band wants to get caught in the flyer hooks), and still it feels like the takeup is too much. The result is that I have a death grip on the fiber, and my hands tire easily when spinning with short forward draw.

It turns out that part of the problem is that I’ve souped up my wheel too much. I’ve replaced the old flyer (which was missing on this wheel when I bought it from a thrift shop) with a new, multi-whorl flyer and I’m using a new poly drive band. I love the ease of treadling with this new band, but the downside is the issue with fighting the takeup.

This month the focus in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry and Facebook groups is consistency. Since I’m working on a fingering weight yarn using short forward draw, I figured this was a perfect time to work on this issue.

Here are some of the tips I’ve found helpful to manage takeup:

  1. Use a wooden bobbin. On top of the new flyer and brakeband, I couldn’t help ordering myself some lovely Akerworks bobbins. These reduce friction even further, and when working with a fine or slippery fiber, a bit more friction is helpful. So going back to my classic Ashford wooden bobbins would have helped in this case.
  2. Add some sort of core to your bobbin. This is a tip I haven’t personally used, but one I’ve seen mentioned. When I came back to this project after the holidays, I had a half-full bobbin, and wasn’t having trouble with the brake tension. When I switched to a new empty bobbin I noticed I started having the issue again. Once I built up a core of fiber on the new bobbin, I was able to increase the brake tension slightly and still spin comfortably. Adding a core to start with would likely have helped.
  3. Try cross-lacing. Since I had already started spinning on a new bobbin, and I didn’t want to switch to a wooden one in the middle of the spin, I tried this trick that Mary Ann suggested. It helped reduce the tension until I filled the bobbin enough that I could continue to spin without it.
Close-up of a spinning wheel flyer holding a bobbin with singles cross-laced.
An example of cross-lacing to manage takeup

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Close up of the raglan shoulder seam on the Sagebrush tee.

Sweater Knitting: Seamless vs. Seamed

Recently in my Instagram stories, I posted a poll on knitting sweaters in pieces vs. one piece. Not surprisingly, there are some strong opinions on seamless vs. seamed sweaters. Now, I love a good seamless yoke as much as the next person, but I generally prefer to knit sweaters in pieces.

Here are a few of the reasons to knit sweaters in pieces:

  1. The project is more portable. It’s easier to carry around a piece of a sweater that you’re working on than a whole sweater. Personally, I think sleeves especially are an underrated on-the-go project. And you don’t have as much sweater in your hands and lap as you knit, which is a) less weight for your wrists to deal with, and b) less hot in the summer.
  2. You can use the sleeve as a gauge swatch! Of course I’m going to be a stickler and tell you to knit a proper gauge swatch, but there are times when my knitting changes between knitting a swatch and knitting an actual garment. Maybe I didn’t knit a big enough swatch, or maybe I’m simply more or less relaxed when knitting the swatch vs. the actual garment, but starting with a sleeve is a great way to double-check my gauge. The downside, of course, to using the sleeve as a swatch, is you may have a bigger chunk of knitting to rip out if your gauge is off or you don’t like the fabric you’re getting. And yes, you do need to stop and block the sleeve before measuring the gauge.
  3. Seams help add structure and may prevent bias in the fabric. This is especially true for fibers that have a lot of drape, or for plant fibers which will tend to bias (twist) when worn. Have you ever had a cotton top you knit twist around your body when you wear it?
  4. This is more particular to top-down seamless sweaters, but in my experience trying on as you go works better in theory than in reality. I know lots of folks will argue with me on this point, but hear me out. First, you usually won’t have blocked the sweater if you’re trying on as you knit, so if your gauge is going to change with blocking, you won’t get an accurate sense of the fit. Better to knit an accurate swatch (see above) and do a bit of math. Second, I’ve found that it’s easy to overestimate the length of a piece that’s on the needles – I think maybe there’s some wishful thinking at play when I want to get the piece done!

Reasons to Knit Seamless Sweaters

On the flip side, seamless sweaters do have some advantages. The most obvious one is that once the knitting is done, there is less finishing standing between me and wearing my new garment! And one time I do appreciate a seamless sweater is when I’m playing yarn chicken. If the sweater is knit top-down, or if the sleeves are picked up and knit down from the completed garment, I can make adjustments to the body or sleeve length (or both) according to how much yarn I have. If I don’t have enough, I can maybe live with a slightly shorter hem or a 3/4 sleeve.

What is your favorite way to knit a sweater? Are there any advantages or disadvantages I haven’t covered here?


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