Sunday, April 29, 2012

Miette 12: Sleeves!

I'll warn you right up front:  this is going to be a long and picture-heavy post.  The good news is, once you've gotten to the sleeves, you're almost done!  Each sleeve is only about a third of the stitches of the body, and they decrease from there, so they're much quicker to knit.

I have a lot of pictures because I'm trying to show you a couple of my tricks step-by-step, and now that my beloved Picnik is gone, I can't edit them into a collage.  I'm hoping to try these again in video when I do my second sleeve, which may be easier to follow.  But I'm not 100% sure that will work out, so I'm going to put up the pictures today.

First let's take a look at the body so far:

I worked a couple extra rows of ribbing, because I liked
the proportion better.

I omitted the purl ridge before the rib, and I didn't do the kbl
rib the pattern called for, I just did plain 2/2 ribbing.

Once you've finished the body, it's time to pick up the stitches for one of the sleeves. The best way to do this is with your circular needle, threading it through the live stitches that are held on the yarn.  Thread your needle through all your sleeve stitches before removing the yarn - you never know when a stitch will get dropped, so it's nice insurance to leave them on the yarn until you're sure they're securely on the needle.

Once they are, you can cut the waste yarn and slide it out.  Now you've got this:

See that big gap under the arm?  The pattern tells you to pick up two extra stitches there, which will fill in that gap and be decreased in the first row, to get you back to the number of stitches you started with.

Now, I diverged from the pattern here, but you may not need to.  Here's why:  I have big biceps!  (I do regular weight training.)  In my size and with my gauge, my sleeves would only be 9.5" in circumference if I followed the instructions.  My biceps are 10" when not flexed and I really don't like my sleeves to be too constricting.  So I decided I wanted 0 ease in the sleeves.  Zero ease means I want the same measurement in the work as my body measurement.

At my gauge of 5 stitches to the inch, I needed 50 stitches to cover my hulking muscles.  I had 47 stitches already on the needles, so I decided to pick up four extra stitches under the arm, two on either side of center,  to give me a total of 51.  AND I didn't decrease these right away.  In fact, I didn't follow the pattern's decreases at all, but I'll get to that in a minute.

Here's how I picked up my stitches:

Here's that big gap . . .

and here I'm picking up the first stitch, using a new ball
of yarn and leaving about a 6" tail.

I picked up 2, placed a marker and picked up two more . . .

then continued knitting.

From there, I just continued knitting around and around.  I know some of you haven't knit in the round before, and are a little intimidated by it, but it's really easy!  No turning the work and purling, you just keep knitting and knitting around and around.  The marker is the beginning of the round ("row"), so every time you get back to the marker you've worked one row.  This is a good introduction for you to knitting in the round, because the stitches were already there for you - you just had to pick them up and knit them.  When you start something new and are knitting in the round from the beginning, that's where you'll have to be careful and not twist your cast-on row.  But we don't have to worry about that here!

Now, even though we picked up those stitches under the arm to fill in that gap, you're still likely to have some unsightly holes - I sure did.  Never fear!  I have a cheat for that too!

Here are my yucky holes, after I've knit a few rows.

I turn the work to the inside, and start pulling on some of
those loops from the back.   

Eventually you'll find one which, when pulled, will seem to close up a lot of the holes!

Pull it until the holes look as nicely closed up as possible,
without scrunching the work, and then tie it in a little
overhand knot.

Now here it is from the front - much better!  But I can still
fix a few of the remaining holes.

Go to the back of the work again, and using the length of
yarn left from when you picked up the stitches, start to
weave in and out around the remaining holes to close
them up a little more.

In and out . . .

and across . . .

and in and out . . .

and when you're happy with how it looks, weave in the
rest of the yarn to finish it off and secure it.

Et voila!  Isn't that so much nicer?

Ok, now here's how I shaped my sleeve.  The pattern has you work 35 rows, and then begin decreasing - if you're not adding stitches like I did, you can just follow the pattern from here on out.  But my sleeve had 4 more stitches than it ought to, to fit my big 'ole arms:

Perfect!  Not too tight, and not too loose!

So I worked the 35 rows straight, and then did paired decreases on the next row and every 5th row after that 4 more times.  What's a paired decrease?  Decreasing one stitch either side of a marker.  So my decreases went like this:  

          k2tog, k to last 2 stitches, ssk
          work 4 rows straight
          repeat these two rows 4 more times

The paired decrease eliminates 2 stitches per row, so working 5 of them decreases 10 stitches.  I had 51 stitches to start with, and I needed to get down to 40 stitches, because the lace pattern is based on a multiple of 8 stitches.  So after working the decreases above, I needed to get rid of one more stitch before starting to do the lace.  Here's how I did it:

          knit to last stitch of round, remove marker and slip this stitch to the left-hand needle, knit this stitch together with the first stitch of the next round

Here are my paired decreases.  You may
notice that I've switched to DPNs - the
circular needle I was using was too  short!

After I finished my decreases, I did the lace row as per the directions, again omitting the purl ridge before the ribbing like I did in the body.  I also worked 8 rows of ribbing, rather than the 10 the pattern called for, just because I like that proportion better.

When working top-down items, I find it best to do my bind-off with a needle one or two sizes larger than the needle I'm knitting with, to avoid having the edge too tight.

I also want to show you a little trick I use when binding off knitting in the round, to help it look a little neater.  The first bit of this is an old Elizabeth Zimmermann trick:  rather than just binding off every stitch, which will give you this at the end:

See how much higher the right side is compared to the left?

Instead, bind off to the last 2 stitches, then work those two stitches together (either k2tog or p2tog), and then pass the last loop over:

Quite a bit more even!

This keeps things more even, and also eliminates the unsightly loop you get from the last stitch.  I always do my binding off this way, both in the round and with flat knitting.

However, with knitting in the round, when you get to the end of the row, the right side is always going to be higher than the left side.  Why?  Because you're not really knitting rows - you're knitting one long, clockwise spiral!  So here's my little trick to make the very last bit more even still:

With the last loop from the bind off still on the needle,
go into the very first stitch you bound off . . .

and pick up a stitch there.

Now bind off that stitch as well . . .

and draw through a loop of yarn like you normally would
to finish a bind-off.  Now both sides are level!

BEFORE you cut your yarn, try on your
sleeve to  make sure it fits well.  If it does,
you can cut your yarn and weave in the end.

Ta da!  Here's the first sleeve!


  1. Wow, I really appreciate this post! I've been knitting the Miette on my own (I found this knit-along after I'd started it), and the sleeves have been stumping me.

    The pattern says to use a 24" circular needle, but that seems too big, no? I was going to try the magic loop technique. Can I ask what length of circular needle you used for your sleeve?

    Thanks, also, for the explanation about embiggening the sleeve. I'm going to copy that. :)

    1. Hi Alicia! I have to admit I didn't even look at the pattern re: needle length, I just grabbed my shortest one, which is a 16". Of course, that was still too long. I'm not a big fan of the magic loop, because it slows me down and I feel it stretches out the work, so I keep a nice assortment of DPNs around.

      We'd love to have you on our flickr group as well!

  2. Good to know. I've never used DPNs before (I've only been knitting for 2 months), but I'll give them a try. And I'll join your Flickr group! Cheers.

    1. Since you're new to DPNs, I'd suggest having your work on 3 needles (to make a triangle) and knitting with a 4th - rather than having it on 4 needles and knitting with a 5th. It will be a lot less floppy!

    2. OMG! Just went to your blog and discovered you're in Chicago!

    3. And I just realized you are too! What hood are you in? I'm on the NW side in Belmont Cragin (south of Portage Park). We should grab coffee or something.

      Thanks also for the DPN advice.

    4. I'm in South Loop - dangerously near Loopy Yarns! Yes, let's get together! I'll PM you :-)

    5. Oops - couldn't find contact info on your blog. You can PM me though!

    6. Whoops, forgot I hid my email. PMing you now...

  3. Wow, your Miette looks so lovely! Every time I see it I want to knit one too, I even bought the yarn and 4.5 mm needles. But my yarn choice (cotton + rayon) turned out very poor, I didn't like the sample I made, so for now I'm redirecting the yarn for a sleeveless dress (?) and just following your beautiful work.

    1. Thanks, Carmela! A sleeveless dress, huh? Intriguing! I can't wait to see that!

  4. Wow what a thorough walk through! It's great to see it all laid out. Your sweater looks lovely! I love the buttermilk-yellow color you used. Perfect for the season. :)

  5. Wonderful tutorial. I think that finishing is SO important to the FO. Even if it's under the arm, I still want it to look great. Such a nice kal, I wish I was with you.

    1. I agree. I'm kind of a stickler about finishing!

  6. This is so beautiful - I LOVE the colour. And your tutorial is so excellent, I think I'm going to have to make this sweater, whether it's "my style" or not. It's a great learning opportunity and you really are making that sweater look compelling!

    1. Thanks, Kristin! You can easily apply all of this to a sweater that is more your style too!

  7. This really looks nice-- it's so spring-y and sweet! Really wishing I was in on the Miette fun!

    1. Plenty of time, since there's no deadline!

  8. Thank you so much for the tips on the underarm holes and binding off (both straight and in the round). I'm never really happy with that last stitch. On my Miette I left the last bind off loose with extra yarn so I can try a better way than I'm doing. This is just perfect timing!

  9. Wow, what an information download! I'll definitely be checking this out when I get to this bit. I probably won't have to make the arms bigger though, I have the opposite situation- noodle arms! I'm planning to put a post up on my Miette progress today.

    1. I used to have noodle arms too, and Hubby kept making fun of me. So I started lifting weights, LOL! I'm going to try out making a video today, to condense all this down a little!

  10. I am so lucky... after months and months of contiplation... I finally decided on my first garmet... Lucky me you did this blog... I'm so much more confident to try this. I hope I choose well on the yarn. the recomended yarn was not avalible so my LYS recogmended cascade pacific, (60% acrilic 40% merino)worsted... I hope that works. I am also going to do my first block ever... (Im not a new knitter i've made many pairs of socks hats and shawls) I have just been afraid of garments. Wish me luck...

    1. Good luck Elizibeth! We're rooting for you!

  11. Finally got to the sleeves thanks to you KAL... But realized my needle cable is way too long. I will now need to buy a 16 inch one. They don't make them any smaller, do they?

    1. I'm not sure, Silvia. I don't use interchangeable circulars. However, with the normal circulars, you can get sizes all the way down to 9 inch. For instance, with the needle size I use for Fair Isle, I have it in 29', 24", 20", 16", 12" and 9" - so that as I continue to decrease stitches on a sleeve, I can use a shorter and shorter needle.

      If you can't find a 12" cable (that's the length I'd recommend), you can also use 2 circulars of the same size, or use DPNs. Or, you can use your long one and try out Magic Loop:

  12. Hey Gail - can I ask what kind of bind off you use for the body and the cuffs? I'm just up to binding off the body but can't figure out if I need a stretchy bind off or not, and will I need one for the sleeves? Thanks so much! Your KAL has been sooooooo helpful for me knitting my first ever cardigan :)

    1. Hi Jen - I'm glad this has been helpful for you!

      I used a normal bind off (knit 1, knit another, pass the first one over the second) with a needle one size larger, but making sure to keep it fairly loose. This works for me because I have a lot of experience with knowing how loose or tight to make it. I know a lot of newer knitters have trouble with tightness in the bind off though, so you might try Elizabeth Zimmermann's sewn bind-off or Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off. You should be able to find both via google. Sorry I can't link you up right now - getting ready to head out of state!