Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Seamless Hybrid Sweater

Keep an open mind, and venture into the territory of the seamless sweater.
--Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitting Without Tears
My romance with Elizabeth Zimmermann continues with my newly completed Seamless Hybrid Sweater.

Let me begin by saying this romance was a bit rocky at first. I attempted this same sweater over five years ago and quit, ripping it out nearly three-quarters of the way into it out of frustration and madness. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what all this Zimmermann lore was about. I guess you could say I really had, in Betty's words, "sup[ped] the porridge of regret with the spoon of sorrow."

Back then, I'm sure this all had to do with how "chattily written" the pattern was. I was used to being told what to do in knitting--how many stitches to cast on, knit to such and such length, then cast off--rarely did a pattern require any original thought. But with Zimmermann's Seamless Sweaters, to which there are four variations, much thought and planning was in order.

Five years later, I have literally fallen in love with her Baby Surprise and Modular Tomten jackets, so back in October I decided to give the Seamless Sweater another chance. Of the four variations, I still liked the Hybrid best...and I still had that bag of Cestari Navy from my first attempt. (Beautiful yarn and great to work with--I even love how it smells.)

To begin, she has you determine the width of your sweater by laying flat one of your own, and measuring it. You multiply the number of inches around by your gauge, the result being the number of stitches to cast on for the sweater body. The sweater I measured was just over 19 inches, and with my gauge of 5 stitches to the inch, I rounded to 20 inches, giving me an even number of 200 stitches around. (She even assumes the number 200 in her pattern, which makes things easier.)

One thing I don't like about sweaters knit in the round is how "round" they seem to fit on the body. So I created a false seam with a single purl stitch on each side that goes up the full body length, and which helps the sweater hang flat on the body.

I knew I wanted a knitted hem rather than a rib, and liked the idea of the reverse hem in a contrasting color. (Thanks, Brooklyn Tweed.) I also had some leftover Cestari Natural Medium Gray, which I thought would create a nice contrast to the Navy.

To me, a seamless sweater reads a sweater with no sewing, so I knew there was no way I was going to be sewing any hem. I decided to use the provisional cast-on, which can be easily undone to expose live stitches, and then creating the hem with a three needle bind-off. Pesky at times, but worth it.

I started with the inside of the hem, the side with the contrasting gray, on a U.S. 5 (one size smaller than my gauge needle size), and switched to the main color for one row before the purl/fold row in a U.S. 6 (main needle size). Once the right side/main color reached the same length as the wrong side/contrasting color, I picked up the stitches from the provisional cast-on with a second needle, and then continued with the three needle bind-off.

I did the same for both sleeves.

It's a little more tricky with the neck, as you're going the opposite way (main color to contrasting color). Once all my neck stitches were on the needle, and while I was knitting the first round, I threaded a darning needle with a third contrasting color through each stitch before it went to the right needle. This didn't provide open stitches as the provisional cast-on did, but it at least provided a visual for where my stitches were to be picked up. (Is there another way I could have done this?)

I love the look of saddle shoulders and am really pleased with my outcome--but it wasn't all smooth sailing. If you know me on Facebook, you may recall my status on December 1, which read something like: "Eric thinks Elizabeth Zimmermann can take her Seamless Hybrid Sweater and shove it up her ass." That was during a moment of weakness while working the shoulders, and I said I was sorry.

I also like the Shirt Yoke, another option with the Hybrid.

Weaving the shirt yoke stitches together was a little clumsy at first, but once I figured it out, was able to weave the armhole stitches together with better ease. Zimmermann gives great instructions on how to weave in Knitting Without Tears, and the outcome is completely invisible. Thanks to Mary Lou for sewing up the remaining armholes. They look perfect; mine would have been a mess.

I couldn't be more happy with this sweater (alright, it could be 1 inch longer in the body), and consider myself three for three with Elizabeth Zimmermann. Betty, you rock.

The Specs
Pattern: Seamless Hybrid Sweater
Author: Elizabeth Zimmermann
Source: Knitting Without Tears
Yarn: Cestari Traditional Wool Yarn
Colors: Navy and Natural Medium Gray
Needles: U.S. 6 (4 mm) and U.S. 5 (3.75 mm)
Started: October 25, 2008
Finished: December 2, 2008