Solving problems I didn’t know I had #2: biased knitting

In the process of swatching for the Armande Cardigan, I learnt that my tension problems were due to rowing out, and could be solved by slightly modifying my knitting technique. When it came to knitting the cardigan itself, I came across another curiosity I’d never encountered before in all my years of knitting.

Firstly: I hate bottom-up knitting. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I can’t try garments on as they go, there are so many stitches to cast on (and cast ons are never as stretchy as cast-offs), and if I muck something up, there’s a lot of fabric to rip out and redo. That’s what happened with this project – I kept getting the sizing wrong, or worked a too-tight cast on, causing me to rip back and reknit.

A piece of knitting in progress.
The pattern has you work the pockets at the same time as the garment, which is actually very clever, but results in a lot of work when you’re ripping back and reknitting!

After repeating that process more times than I care to recall, I completely reworked the pattern to be knit from the top down. This isn’t a huge imposition in itself – I usually redo the math on patterns to suit my body shape, and because my gauge is often off. The trouble came in trying to convert the collar to be worked from the top down. It took a lot of thinking, but I finally came to a workable solution (I’ll share my notes with you when I’ve finished the garment).

I was so pleased with myself when I cast on from the top, and had worked down to the underarm join when I realised something was wrong. The entire back piece was on a slant! I had knitted, frogged and reknit the yarn so much that I had added excess twist, to the point where the yarn created biased fabric. (According to Clara Parkes, “the fabric leans in the direction of that excess twist in an attempt to release it.”)

Hand knit fabric which biases to the left.

A single-plied yarn is often inclined to bias, due to the lack of opposing twist in another ply to balance the yarn. But as I’m not fancy enough to work with single plies (Wool of the Andes certainly isn’t single plied!) I’ve never seen it happen in person, despite being an enthusiastic frogger.

There wasn’t much for me to do but rip the project out, turf the offending yarn, and hope I had enough to complete the project! I’ll keep you updated.

 

EDIT 17-05-17: I contacted KnitPicks for further information, and this was their response:

“The yarn was probably over twisted when it was spun/plied. Each time the yarn was ripped out, re-balled and knit again, it probably added to the twist, which is what likely caused the bias fabric and bumpy texture.”

I’m glad to know that the problem was with the yarn, and I can knit, frog and reknit to my heart’s content so long as the yarn I’m working with is not overtwisted to begin with. As the product was defective, KnitPicks refunded my purchase.

Author: Siobhan S

20 something, living in country Australia. Spoonie profile: ME/CFS, dysautonomia, anxiety. All about sewing, knitting and food. Unapologetic feminist and disability advocate.

9 thoughts on “Solving problems I didn’t know I had #2: biased knitting”

  1. Wow! As a looooong time knitter I am learning heaps from this series …. please keep going lol (Sort of seriously – I am learning but wish you well in completing this cardi) Cheers

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    1. Thanks for the positive feedback! Honestly these are tips I’ve only just learned myself. If I hadn’t been reading Clara Parkes’ Book of Yarn and Book of Wool at the time, I would have been stumped!

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      1. Re-skeining, washing, and then drying the skein hung with a weight at the bottom will straighten out knit yarn, but once it’s this twisty it’s probably only going to help a bit (ask me how I know… sigh). I’ve heard that you can figure out which way it’s twisted and reknit it the other direction and then re-skein it and wash it… but boy that’s a lot of work for something that may or may not work!

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        1. It sure is! I’ve steamed the kink out of frogged yarn before, but this yarn has a different quality entirely. This piece has been turfed, but I didn’t realise I knitted half my cardigan body in slightly dodgy yarn, so it looks very messy and lumpy 😦 I think this yarn is just a never-again type thing!

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