Friday, April 23, 2010

I'm Turning Japanese Story and (limited) Tutorial

So a while back I watched this video produced by artist Takashi Murakami and directed by McG.  The video starred Kirsten Dunst dressed like a Sailor Moon type character complete with magic wand dancing and singing "I'm Turning Japanese".  (with sparkles!)  I have loved the work of Murakami since being introduced to it about 5 years ago by Eli.  The colorful characters that seem happy and silly, but always with just a bit off about them that makes it all a bit creepy.  The highly graphic and commercial aspects of his work simultaneously revel in and poke at anime and fan culture in Japan.  The light bulb went on in my head as I'd been thinking about doing a new project since my McQueen tribute was on hold due to back-ordered yarn.

I decided I really needed to  make a Murakami inspired sweater. (Also watching the video about 20 times) Fresh off the toil of Eli's vest I was ready to take on another intarsia project and I thought the graphic flowers that populate Murakami's work would make an excellent motif.  So I sat down and began to plan.  I did a gauge swatch in some yarn I had left over from Eli's vest as I wanted to use Brown Sheep's Lanaloft Sports weight again.  I've been a bit obsessed with this yarn and the colors were too perfect so I went with it.  The gauge came out at 6 sts and 8 rows per inch on size five metal needles.   So I went here to get some proportional graph paper to plot out the sweater and make the charts for the flowers.  I particularly like this website because you can make the paper vertical or horizontal, can have 2 different line weights and make paper exactly your gauge.  My grid was exactly half size of my gauge so when I plotted the shaping of the sweater it was exactly half size.  Before I did that with any degree of accuracy I sat down and spent and entire day making the 2 color charts for the flowers.  Using photoshop and a googled reference image I made full color charts for myself to work from.  I made 1 extra chart of the big flower without the black so would know where to put the colors exactly as I intended on embroidering the black in after.

After making the charts I went to Interweave's waist shaping calculator (which is awesome) and made the required measurements of myself and input them.  The calculator is for knitting in the round so I had to do some fiddling with the numbers to make them even so the corrugated rib worked nicely.  I also input no ease into the calculations as I wanted this sweater to be fitted.  I knew it would relax over time and be very comfortable with a small amount of positive ease.  Taking these stitch counts and two pieces of graph paper I printed off I set to work plotting the back and the front onto the graph paper so I could place where and how many flowers were going to go on the sweater.  I had a few false starts.  I had printed the graph paper wrong the first time so the squares were taller than wider which started to shape up into a very tall sweater.  Oops.  I'm glad I caught it.  When I finally had the back plotted out to the bust I started thinking about the shoulders.  I recently bought Ann Budd's book The Knitters Handy Book of Sweater Patterns and I chose the set-in sleeve sweater size that was closest to the stitch counts from the waist shaping calculator.  This was a mistake!  The ease and size of armscye were huge!  The chest size that was the same as mine had a 9in armscye.  I'll get to how I fixed this later.

I dutifully plotted out giant arm holes and placed the flowers on the sweater.  For the small ones I cut out their size square out of some extra graph paper and traced them onto the sweater until I was happy with the placement.  Then I drew some leaves in as the sweater looked a little bare and I didn't want to add more flowers.  With the stems and leaves the front and back looked good and I cast on.   I finished the back and realized looking at it and holding it up to my body that the armscyes were way too long! the waist shaping wasn't hitting at the right point the sleeves would have had to be HUGE.   So I took my favorite and best fitting hoodie and measured both the armscye length and the shoulder rise and calculated that into stitches and revised my graphs.  Then I fixed the back.  The back flower is too close to the top now because of this, but it wasn't bad and I didn't want to reknit half of the back with some of the more difficult color work. I decided I could live with it.  If I had it to do again I would have moved down out of the way of the collar.  

Another thing I did when plotting out the back of my sweater was to make the back narrower than the front by increasing 4 fewer stitches after the waist than the front. I find that if I do this my sweaters fit better and after some measuring I have figured out that my back is narrower than the my front.  Your mileage on this may vary of course, but having a good knowledge of the size of various parts of your body to other parts and of how this may be different than "standard" is really helpful in getting a good fit. 

And so I finished the front and the back and sew them together for a fitting and it was good and I was happy.  I was feeling flummoxed by how to make the puff sleeves I wanted as I couldn't really find any good info on what shape they needed to be in order to look the way I wanted them to look.  So I started on the embroidery and it took what felt like forever.  I think my knit buddies wanted to strangle me.  I had this terrible compulsion to whine about it, all the time.  Silly me!

So I eventually got bored bored bored of embroidery and decided to tackle the sleeve o' doom.  Seriously folks I think by the final edit I had done the sleeve about 7 times.  Really.  I had knit the entire stupid cuff about 3 times and after trying it on deemed it wrong in some way.   

So for those of you skimming this for the tutorial here it is.  How to make a puff sleeve in a set in armscye by picking up and knitting and short rows.  ( Make sure all your seams are sewn before hand)

1.  Starting in the middle of the underarm pick up and knit a stitch for every row all the way around the arm hole.  For the underarm this will be 1 stitch for every underarm stitch.  This is going to give you a lot of stitches and allow the sleeve to "puff"

2.  Knit back to the top of the sleeve (in the round) and knit to about 1.5 in after the shoulder seam.  You are now going to begin short rows by wrapping and turning every row until you've consumed enough stitches to be just short of halfway down the armsyce measuring from the shoulder seam to the underarm.

3.  Now you are going to continue to knit back and forth but instead of wrapping and turning you are going to ssk on the knit side and p2tog on the purlside.  Do this for about 1.5 in or so.   This will give the sleeve some length.  You may want to do this more or less depending on your arms and where you wan the sleeve to end.  I did it 8 times. 

4.  Now knit plain in the round for about 2 inches.

5.  Place marker for underarm stitches and decrease all other stitches by half by k2tog.  I used a trick I learned from Sweater Design in Plain English to wrap the ribbing from the bottom of sweater around my arm at the tension I wanted and count the stitches to know how many to have for the ribbing.   Mine was 64 which was about 4 stitches less than I got by halving the stitches not part of the underarm so I decreased the extra in the next row.  Regardless of weather you need to decrease a few more stitches you should do another row before starting the ribbing so the great number of k2togs don't interact badly with the ribbing.  It can look like there are holes.

And that is how after much trial and error I finished the sleeves.  I did a nifty little i-cord bind off that prevent the corrugated ribbing from curling and kept it tight.  If you use one color ribbing this wouldn't be necessary. 

After finishing the sleeves I picked up stitches in white around the neck to start the collar.  I picked them up from the outside in so that it wouldn't show when you look at it.  I decided on reverse stockinette with garter borders because it would curl over the neckline nicely and  lay flat (because the border)  I knit it flat with a circular needle and slipped the edges to make a little bit lacy decorative edge.  I increased every fourth row every ten stitches with a lifted increase so it would be as invisible as possible.  Its about 2.5 inches long with 4 rows of garter stitch at the edge and 2 edge stitches in garter stitch.  I bound off a bit too tightly and make go back and fix it at some point but for now I'm pretty happy with the way it came out overall and it fits like a dream.