Saturday, August 23, 2008
Momma T sweater
There are a lot of charities that are asking for hand knit wool sweaters in higher gauge, durable wool; sending them to places from Mongolia to Afghanistan to reservations in the U.S. - places where it gets cold, the people have little or no heat in their homes, and they can't afford warm coats. I have a wool sweater I made for myself out of this same yarn that I practically LIVE in all winter - it doesn't overheat you indoors but is warm enough for going out in the cold as well, so I know the power of a good sweater!
When knitting for charities like Warm Woolies, Knit for Kids or Afghans for Afghans (yes, they're asking for sweaters now!), you want to put durable over almost everything else. This is a piece of clothing that will get used, passed on, and used some more, daily, and maybe even worn to bed. So pass over the soft yarns that would pill with that kind of use and get the sturdier but coarser yarns and the recipients will thank you. The old-fashioned wool can last for generations and look almost as good as new. My favorite sweater looks better now than when I knit it, because it's fully bloomed and has a fuzzy-ness to it that I love.
Here is a pattern, dedicated to Mother Teresa (Shane Claiborne called her "Momma T" and it stuck in my head) who really needs no introduction. I made it with two strands knit together of a DK weight yarn that I hand dyed. The gauge was 13 stitches = 4" on #10 needles. I used around 800 yards, probably less.
Most of the charities I saw this year were asking for a size 10 child's sweater. I guess that's a popular size; or maybe the smaller ones are faster to knit so they get more of them.
The directions to dye the wool are below (or click here). This makes a very nice, colorful sweater. You don't need to do it in a rainbow, different shades of a few colors would work well too.
To begin, cast on 43 stitches. Do 6 rows of k2, p2 ribbing (or whatever kind of ribbing you like). After that, do stockinette, making a stitch by knitting in both sides of the stitch on each end of the row on alternating 6th and 8th rows for a gentle increase up the sides.
The pattern for the colors I used was 10 rows using both skeins of the same color, then 4 rows of one strand the color I was just using and 1 strand of the next color (for instance, between the green and the blue I'd use a strand of green and a strand of blue for 4 rows). The body was 14" wide by 18" high. It took me 80 rows, so I finished on the 10th row of the yellow (last color). When you get to the top, count your stitches. The neck opening should be 4", or 13 stitches. Subtract 13 from your total and divide the remainder by 2 - bind off that many stitches on each side, putting the middle 13 on a stitch holder (if you had an odd number of stitches left after you subtracted the 13, leave 14 in the center.)
Knit same as for back but when you get about 3" from the top make a neck opening. Count the stitches on your needles and subtract 5 from the total. Divide the remainder by 2 (if it was an odd number subtract 6 from the total). Add the 5(6) back to the number you got (if you have 75, subtract 5 to get 70, half of that is 35, add the 5 back and you have 40). Knit that many stitches then transfer the rest to a stitch holder (I use a contrasting yarn for a stitch holder and the darning needle to transfer the stitches on, 3-4 at a time). From now on, do the increases on the shoulder side, and on the neck side alternate knit and purl like a rib stitch the last 4 stitches so it doesn't curl. When you get to the top, bind off as many as you did for the back on a side and put the rest on a stitch holder.
Then pick up the ones from the other side of the front from your stitch holder, plus 5(6) from the neck edge from the same row (from the front, pick up one side of each loop; or from the back, pick up the tops of the stitches, your choice). Starting at the shoulder and leaving a tail of yarn, knit two rows like the other side. When you get back where you started you can tie the loose end of yarn off to the working yarn and then continue to the top.
Sew the front to the back and transfer all the neck stitches to a circular needle. Knit one row, making stitches every 3rd stitch (unless it is at the shoulder seam) by picking up a stitch from under the working stitch and knitting one into that (lifted increase if you want to look it up). Do 4 more rows and bind off loosly.
Cast on 20 stitches. Do 4 rows of k2, p2 ribbing then stockinette stitch. The color pattern for the sleeves is 8 rows of both strands the same color, with 3 rows of one strand each color for the transition. Every 4th row, increase at each end of the row by knitting in both sides of the stitch. They should wind up about 14" long by 13" wide at the top and about 5" wide at the cuff. (They are extra long in case the child doesn't have mittens!)
To assemble, find the center of the top of the sleeve. Tie or pin it to the center seam of the shoulder with right sides together. Stitch one side of the sleeve on. See where on the strip pattern it ends and start the other side at the same place on the stripe on the other side of the sweater and sew that side on. When the sleeves are on, sew up the sides, from the cuff of the sleeve to the bottom of the sweater. (Hand)Wash and block and see your beautiful results!