Ithilien construction details

Although I do not plan to publish the pattern for Ithilien Brocade Jacket, I did want to detail some of the construction ideas I experimented with.

Waist Shaping:
I wanted this to be a fitted garment; and with the detailed stitch pattern, I knew I’d need to plan the shaping to happen at ‘seamlines’.  Since I knit it in the round, with a steek at the front opening, there were no actual seams, but I designated a ‘seam’ stitch at each side to help me while knitting it, and to help with blocking later.  This stitch was purled in the background color, to disappear into the knitted fabric.  (You can just see it in the picture below.. the left gusset is pointing to it.)


Left side and back cabled gussets

I also wanted the cable to be more than just a front band decoration, so decided to create a triangular cable motif that would complement the original cable, and which would act as side and back gussets. The best tool for me in determining where and how much shaping to build in was the duct tape ‘dress form’ that my daughter helped me make.  That provided an excellent way for me to see, double-check, and even dissect my measurements, without having to wait for someone willing to measure various parts of me at odd hours.  I knew, then, that I would need the majority of hip shaping at the sides, and some, but not as much, at the center back.  Since that gusset flows into the center back cable, it does not add as much shaping as the side gussets – just what I needed.

With the gussets doing the work as far as hip shaping was concerned, I could just knit the patterned sections straight.  After a short straight section for the waist, I increased gradually in pattern at the side seams to reverse the taper… then on to the next problem.

Bust shaping:
Yes, for a fitted garment, even I need some bust shaping.  If not working a complex stitch pattern, I would have gone with short row shaping to mimic sewn darts.  But that wouldn’t work here.  After a fair amount of measuring and pencil-to-paper work, I decided to try something I haven’t seen elsewhere – increasing on the fronts at the side seams to add about an inch on each side.  Of course, that extra fabric would have to be decreased as well!  I incorporated the decreases in the armhole shaping, drastically decreasing on every round at the front to eat up the increases and still get the usual armhole shaping taken care of at the same rate as on the back.

Side front increases

Red lines indicate bust shaping increases

This photo shows the side seam at the right underarm; the red lines mark the additional increases to provide bust shaping, and end at the grafted underarm.

Seamless Set-in Sleeve:
I had been unable to find much in the way of instructions or examples of a bottom-up seamless sleeve with the traditional set-in shaping – but this type of sleeve is the most fitted and appropriate for the shape of the entire sweater, so I was determined to give it a shot.  At about this point, I did find that Ysolda Teague’s Little Birds pattern uses a similar technique, so I purchased and downloaded the pattern from Twist Collective, Fall 2008 issue.

Basically, I knit the sleeves up to the armhole (figuring background colors so they would match), and moved the appropriate number of underarm stitches – an equal number on both the sleeves and the body – to waste yarn for later grafting.  I then worked the first round of right front, right sleeve, back, left sleeve and left front.  I had already plotted standard armhole decreases and the sleeve cap shaping, taking into account the extra decreases required for the bust shaping.  From there, I simply proceeded to decrease each section as if I had been knitting the pieces separately.

Seamless set-in sleeve

Seamless set-in sleeve

There’s one thing I should have done differently; I kept up with the purl-stitch fake seam around the sleeve/body join.  As it turned out, it was loose and rather messy, so just before beginning the shoulder slope, I used a crochet hook to pick up a column of knit stitches to take up the slack.  That worked pretty well, but now I know to avoid that whole issue next time.  Also, I should mention that the photo above was taken before blocking… the shape of the sleeve cap really does look better now!

I would advise putting a stitch marker at each ‘seam’ or joining point.  Then, when you decrease, be sure all decreases lean toward the marker.  In other words, do a left-leaning decrease, slip the marker, then do a right-leaning decrease.

The height of my sleeve cap was almost exactly 2/3 the height of the body from the beginning of the armhole to the outside shoulder, which seems to be standard for this particular sleeve configuration.

When I reached the point where one would normally bind off the stitches at the top of the sleeve, I carefully marked the center of those stitches, and stopped knitting in the round.  The remainder of the front was worked flat.  At the end of each row, I picked up one live stitch at the top of the sleeve, then turned to work back across and pick up the next live stitch at the top of the other sleeve.  When I got to the center sleeve markers on the front, I switched to the back and repeated the process.   (Not forgetting, of course, to do neck shaping where needed!)

The shoulder slope was done with short rows, again leaving live stitches.  The last bit, then, was a 3-needle bind-off of the shoulder seams, making sure the sleeve heads were neat and secure.

Inside shoulder

Shoulder seam 3-needle bind-off

Outside shoulder

Finished shoulder seam and sleeve

I would like to note that Elizabeth Zimmermann included a number of seamless sleeve options in her books… I believe Knitting Without Tears (scroll down on the page) is the one that spells out several variations.  In Vogue Knitting, Holiday 2009 issue, Jared Flood‘s article also gives directions for seamless set-in sleeves.  However, the shaping in those techniques is slightly different; the sleeve and body decreases are not done simultaneously as with this sweater.  I’m not sure that even a careful observer would notice the difference between the techniques in a finished garment – it probably boils down to knitter’s preference!

Next installment: Color and finishing details.

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2 Responses to Ithilien construction details

  1. dhelene says:

    Merci , Sharon, pour ces commentaires .
    Very interesting ! thank you !

  2. Su S. says:

    Very lovely! Thank you for the detailed description of how you got shaping into a complex color pattern. Hopefully we will see increasing numbers of well-fitted knits coming off the needles everywhere!

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