Monday, February 29, 2016

Don't forget about the sleeves

In both sewing and knitting I have learned that sleeves take up more yardage than I think. Years ago I made some flannel pajamas and thought I'd have plenty of fabric but, oops, not enough for the sleeves. Fortunately I had a yard of flannel in a coordinating color in my stash.

Kwik Sew pajamas from years ago - I still wear them and love them!

I'm planning on making some new pajamas and discovered that yet again, I don't have enough of the flannel print, but by some miracle (or compulsion of buying fabric), I had a single yard of the same flannel in my stash.

When I go to buy fabric without a specific pattern in mind, I tend to buy about 2 yards if I'm envisioning making a top from it. That's plenty for a short sleeve top and usually works for a t-shirt type top, but I'm learning that it isn't always enough for a long sleeve top if that top is tunic length or bulky or has full sleeves, and it's certainly not enough for a long sleeve dress. Sleeves are not just an extra little design feature - they can take up a sizable bit of fabric!

I'm learning that my denial of sleeve size exists in knitting as well. I'm currently knitting a sweater for my husband and using the yarn identified by the pattern instructions. The pattern called for 5 balls of the yarn, which was sold in 150 gram balls, so that's what I bought. Actually that is all the store had in stock. I later found out the yarn was discontinued and even the factory store (Schachenmayr) didn't have any more. I forged ahead with knitting the sweater anyway. The back took more than one ball to knit and the fronts each took almost one ball each, so that left about 1 ball each for the sleeves. I figured I had plenty of yarn for the sleeves until I studied the pattern instructions - actually I translated them because they're in German. That's when I realized how big the sleeves really would be. Knitting panic set in. I might run out of yarn.

Knitting sleeves always seems to be the boring part of a sweater, at least for me. Maybe it's because the back is usually knit first, when the project is new and exciting, so that goes quickly. The front is knit next and often has the interesting design detail on it, so that keeps me going. But by the time I get to the sleeves, I'm getting a bit tired of the yarn and the stitch pattern and anxious to just finish it so I can wear it or give it to the recipient and start a new project. And there are TWO sleeves. I don't know who was the first knitter to coin the phrase "sleeve island" - knitter's either view it as being on a deserted island (these sleeves are taking too darn long!) or maybe a tropical island (the hard part is over and now I can relax). Obviously I'm on the deserted island.

I started knitting the sleeve and simultaneously began searching online for more yarn. I could not find it for sale in the color I needed in any online stores or on eBay or Etsy. I found there are a couple of skeins listed in knitters' stashes on, though the owners don't list them as up for sale or trade. One knitter has one lone skein, so in the event I ran out of yarn, I hoped I could persuade her to sell or trade it to me. She's in Germany so I thought maybe if need be I could sweeten the deal with an offer of a sought after yarn from the U.S., which perhaps I could get more easily than she.

Knitting should be relaxing and usually it is. I use knitting as a way to pass the time and keep me from fidgeting on airplanes and trains and long car rides. However knitting this sweater had unfortunately become stressful. I had about two balls of yarn left for the sleeves, so if the first took no more than half that amount, then I'd wouldn't have to beg the German knitter for her skein...or make the sweater into a vest instead. As I knit, I eyed the remaining yarn and my thoughts bounced back in forth. I'll have enough. I'm going to run out. I'll just make it. I'll run out.

Finally, I finished the first sleeve. I got out my scale and...

Sleeve #1 = 141 grams

Remaining yarn + the gauge swatch and two pockets that I knit incorrectly = 159 grams

I have enough yarn! Just. I may have to use the yarn from the gauge swatch and the first pockets I knit with the wrong needle size, but I should have enough. Whew. Perhaps knitting the second sleeve won't be as stressful. But now I have that final nagging sweater-knitting problem...will the sweater fit?

So am I the only one with this sleeve-size denial problem in sewing and knitting? In your head do you give sleeves the yardage they need, or are you like me and think of them as secondary features of the garment?

1 comment:

  1. I used to buy fabric in 6 yard lots so that I would enough to make a long sleeve dress with a longer skirt. Sleeves take a lot of yardage.