The Three Tube Situation
March 5, 2014
Yesterday I posted an instagram of my current LIP (lopapeysa in progress), as you do. Susan S piped up to request my tips on lopapeysa construction. Specifically, she wanted to know how the sleeves and body get joined up into a unified garment so that the colorwork yoke can be knitted on in the round. Someone else joined in, testifying that she had been deterred from knitting a lopapeysa when she saw some pithy pattern instructions on joining up the parts. Karen T jumped on the wagon. There seemed to be a clamoring need for my input. (Three people.) (They were clamoring I tell you.)
If, Gentle Reader (Gentle Ann), you are thinking of making a lopapeysa, my first advice is to think about what kind of knitter you are. If, like me, you plunge headlong in to a new pattern, chirping “how hard could it be?” or “tallyho!” — then you do not need a tutorial. As a veteran of five lopapeysas, I can attest that the instructions for Riddari and Verur (both typical Icelandic yoked pullovers) work just fine. Like turn-by-turn driving directions, yoke joinder instructions don’t make much sense if you are reading them on your computer in another state. But if you are in your car, at the corner of 108th and Maple, and it says, turn left and the gas station will be 50 feet ahead on your right, the direction makes sense in that moment, and you get there just fine. Have no fear that if you follow the instructions on your lopapeysa pattern, when you actually find yourself ready to join up the parts for the yoke, you will be able to do it.
For more reflective and perhaps more anxious knitters, who want to understand a thing before they undertake it, I hope this exercise will help.
To knit a lopapeysa in the bottom-up tradition, start by knitting the body up to the armpits (it’s a tube), and then knit the two sleeves up to the armpits (two more tubes). Now, you find yourself in a three tube situation. All three tubes have live stitches at the top, either on circular needles (preferred) or on strings or other stitch holders.
The bird’s eye view of the thee tube situation can be illustrated by two tumblers (the sleeves) and a bowl (the body).
The big oval (ish) line so artfully drawn here (technology!) shows how you want the stitches at the top of the three tubes to line up at the end of the joining round.
Start by putting a small number of underam stitches (centered on the stitch marker that marks the beginning of the round) onto strings. (Dishcloth cotton works well.) The number of underarm stitches you hold in this manner varies based on the size of the sweater. For a man’s sweater it will be something like 12. We’re going to say it’s 12.
In the illustration above, the short dark lines on the inner sides of the tumblers show where you will put the 12 stitches on a holder on each sleeve.
Once you’ve got the sleeve underarm stitches on holders, go to the left side of the body (the beginning of the round), and put 12 stitches (centered on the beginning-of-round marker) on a string there, too. (On the illustration, this spot is marked by a short dark line on the left side of the bowl.)
Now you get to start knitting (in the main color, no colorwork on this round).
Start at the beginning of the left sleeve (the first stitch that is not on a string), knit across those stitches until you are back at the string on the sleeve again. Now start knitting across the front of the body (starting at the first stitch that is not on a string). The pattern will specify how many stitches to knit. (Count carefully.) When you’ve knit that many, place the next 12 body stitches on a string, for the right underarm.
Now, start knitting on the second sleeve, starting again at the beginning of the sleeve (the first stitch that is not on a string). Knit across the sleeve stitches until you are back at the sleeve string again. Now start knitting across the back of the body (starting with the first stitch that is not on a string).
Knit all the way across the back of the body until you get back to where you started, at the beginning of the left sleeve. Put a stitch marker there to mark the beginning of the round, and Bob’s your uncle.
This is how a three tube situation looks flat, right after being joined up.
This is how it looks from the bird’s eye view, after you’ve been working on the yoke for a few inches. A gaping maw of sweater innards, yes. But a very well organized gaping maw of sweater innards, which is going to block just beautifully.
One thing that came up on Instagram was that after the joinder round, the first few rounds of the yoke may seem a little tight at the joins between sleeves and body. How uncomfortable this is will depend to some extent on how long the cable of your circular needle is, but a little tightness at the joins is inevitable at first, as the sleeve stitches get stretched out a bit to join up with the body, and this makes them unhappy. A clever young someone (Cirilia R) started talking about how she liked to do “a bit of magic looping” to ease this situation. I am sure she is right, and this works just great, but it is not something that I am likely to do.
Again, it’s a personality-of-the-knitter thing. I like to learn skills, such as Magic Loop, strictly on an as-desperately-needed basis. Like the venerable beast of burden that I imagine myself to be, I do not contemplate clever ways to overcome an obstacle if I have the option of groaning softly, putting my head down, and waiting for the discomfort to pass. In this case, if your circular is a reasonable length (not too long), the tightness is gone in a couple of rounds, and you gallop through the yoke. Perhaps snorting a little from high spirits, even.
But if you know the Magic Loop method and are fully, joyously alive to the myriad ways in which it can enhance your life, then by all means, go to it. We are knitters. We are here for this.
What happens to those 48 stitches languishing on strings? After you’ve bound off the yoke at the neck, you will graft the 12 stitches from each sleeve to the corresponding 12 stitches from the body. It makes a little hinge, ever so neat. Now you can put on your lopapeysa and flap your arms around as much as you want. Life keeps getting better and better.
Hope this helps all the lopapeysa hopefuls out there. Thanks for asking the question, Susan.