It’s been a year since I’ve had a machine knitting project for myself. I’ve felt a bit guilty lately about not putting in the effort to get better at machine knitting. No fault of the hobby, I just always have something to sew. I’ve been sewing for 25 years so I’m also just better and faster at it.
With this in mind, I tackled the black sheep sweater made famous by Princess Diana and attempted my first fair isle project, my first cut and sew and using AYAB for more than a sample.
Yarn is “firefighter” from Made in America Yarns (MIAY). MIAY is based out of Philadelphia and comes on a cone, a win win for choosing my fiber. I wish it was a brighter red, in person it’s a more muted color that I’d call watermelon. Cones from MIAY are $25 for a pound vs twice as much other places. It also didn’t have to travel from far, so it got to me around the holidays in two weeks (normally takes a day from Philly). So not counting my time, I made this for around $100. It’s selling from Rowing Blazers at the moment for $300. Which after having made this and done a crazy amount of handwork to get those black eyes, if I had $300 and couldn’t make it for myself and enjoy the making process, I would just buy it, lol.
I’m pretty pleased with myself. I did many things for this first time on this sweater and pushed myself. While the sweater isn’t perfect (will get into that below) I’m very proud of myself.
I’m going to get into some really specific details in case any other machine knitters, Garment Designer or AYAB users come across my post
My first sample had crazy floats. I did work out a ladder back jacquard that locks the floats down using your ribber. But it’s VERY labor intensive (two carriage passes for one row of fair isle) and with my wool, kept dropping stitches at the ear. This wasn’t a problem in acrylic testing.
So the combo of yarn and the 30+ stitch distance between the ears created a problem. Instead I just abused my fabric when blocking to help it fuse better. I also disnegaged the MC button and removed the white yarn when knitting rows of stockinette.
Cut and Sew
This was my first attempt at cut and sew. Part out of necessity, but also to learn a skill and level up. For the back, I’d forgotten to subtract the rows needed for the hip band in calculating the number of rows and repeats I would need for the bodice. I’d also done shaping on the shoulder slope and found the back too long by 3″. I realized I’d need to do cut and sew to fix that, so I knit the front with no shaping, since I know I’d need to cut my garment anyway. This was much simpler.
I can’t point to a great tutorial online for the neckline treatment. I did buy a tutorial that is *fine* on Ravelry. But the directions are for a stockinette fold over band and I wanted ribbing. I googled for some ribbing and cobbled this together. It’s not great but it’s better than having to do fair isle shaping at the neckline during construction.
Sizing / Garment Designer
This is operator error. I knit my swatch at T5, plugged in the dimensions from the handknitting pattern and got my shaping instructions. Except the pattern called for 214 needles on the front and back. My machine only has 200. No problem I said to myself. How much of a difference can 28 stitches make? Turns out three whole inches of difference. So this is drafted to to be 47″ (my full bust is 45″ and high hip 47″) and I tried to stretch the life out of it in blocking, but it’s a SNUG 60s fit vs the 80s oversized fit I envisioned. It also means the shoulders don’t drop as much as they should, since the garment isn’t wide enough.
The way around this was simple too. I just needed to increase my Tension dial from 5 to 6 or 7 to go up a size. I’m pretty annoyed with myself over this because it’s a rookie mistake and really a simple fix. My sleeves are also snug because I forgot to accommodate for my full biceps (a 1″ difference from the draft). I don’t really know that this sweater style is suited to a full busted, plus size body… but I care about that less than I do about the overall fit. So don’t be surprised when I make this again, bigger and in a different colorway. I shall be avenged!
The software to make easy fair isle patterning is free. You need to put together the device to talk between your computer and your machine. But it’s $100 vs $800 for professional software (I can’t justify the cost of pro software because I just don’t knit enough). The problem I had with it was a slight mispatterning. I don’t know if I did something, or my machine isn’t correctly fixed from a repair or if it’s AYAB. The biggest issue I ran into was row counting. AYAB counts by repeat AND row. So instead of it saying “Row 220” it will say “Repeat 6, Row 2”. So you have to work out how many repeats you need before you start knitting. Hence my miscalculation noted above.
So there you have it. A sweater I like a great deal, but do not love. Yet, I learned so much that I regret nothing. I’m looking forward to knitting this a second time since I’ve worked out techniques and preferences. In the future, I shouldn’t punish myself with knitting a yarn that isn’t quite what I was looking for. But, you know… I’d already spent the money 🙃.