My Monomania cardigan has taken me on a beautiful journey of personal growth—along with some serious brainbusters along the way.
I got the kit for this cardigan from Neighborhood Fiber Co. at Vogue Knitting Live. Ann Weaver, the designer of Monomania, was wearing a grayscale version, and she let me take it to the bathroom to try it on in front of a mirror. Ann declared that hers fit me perfectly, and I should definitely not make the next size up.
I’m making the next size up. I’m a lifelong upsizer.
It’s a nice rhythmic pattern, and I love the feel of this crisp sportweight on US 4 needles.
When I embarked on the sleeves of my Monomania cardigan, I faced the dreadful prospect of knitting sleeves in the round: narrow tubes. Two little sleeves, not even full length. I futzed around looking for two size 4 US circular needles so that I could cast on those 58 stitches in the round. Fiddle fiddle fiddle. So annoying, so poke-y. Pondered digging out some double-pointed needles. No—how would DPNs be less fiddly, for a sock agnostic like me? Considered relearning the Magic Loop. Remembered that I disliked all the stitch-sliding involved in that method.
Having rejected these alternatives, I soldiered on with the two circs, thinking that things would get better as I worked the sleeve increases, enlarging that narrow tube to fit the plow-pushing upper arms I inherited from my foremothers. I looked forward to having even 10 more stitches on the needle, so that I could transfer all the stitches to a 16-inch circular, even though I know that knitting around such a small circumferences gets my hands all hurty. There’d still be less stop-and-start, less sliding, less fiddle.
I posted this frustrated picture on Instagram and did a little public pouting. In response, I got a chorus of advice: use two longer circs, use a short circ, MAGIC LOOP, WOMAN, FOR PETE’S SAKE, MAGIC LOOP. Practical advice. Helpful encouragement.
To my surprise, I got a different take from two sources that I consider unimpeachable. Karen Templer said, “I like small circ knitting but am all about seamed sleeves at this point.” Bonne Marie Burns said, “I despise sleeves in the round and have started knitting all of ’em flat. A half hour seaming redeems hours and hours wrestling with cables.” With this blast of cool, fresh air from two trusted authority figures, the scales fell from my eyes. New vistas opened. The way forward was suddenly clear.
Reader, I knit those sleeves flat.
Clip & Save (Literally): How to Set in a Sleeve
Before I presume to tell anybody how to set in a sleeve, a disclaimer: I don’t really know how to set in a sleeve. I try to remember things I’ve been told about setting in sleeves. And I do the best I can, and generally feel OK about it after it’s over. After all, I have a sweater! It has sleeves!
When faced with setting in a sleeve, I ask myself this question: do I have to do this? If the sweater is knit flat, in pieces, and the sleeve is knit flat, the answer is no. You do not have to fit a finished sleeve into an armhole. You can join the shoulder seams, then mattress-stitch that sleeve head into the u-shape of the armhole, and THEN sew the sleeve seams and the side seams of the body. You can do this with a traditional set-in sleeve in a flat-knit sweater, and you can also do it for a raglan sleeve in a flat-knit sweater. It’s unorthodox. It’s a bit fiddly and imperfect. But that’s the way I do it.
By now you can probably tell that I’ve knit a lot of Rowan patterns. Rowan sweaters typically are knit flat and in pieces. This method of construction has its pros and cons, but one thing it does not do is create tubes that have to be sewn into holes in other tubes.
My Monomania cardigan is not constructed in the Rowan manner. The body of the cardigan is knit flat, but not in pieces. It is knit in a single piece from the bottom hem up to the armhole openings.
Designer Ann Weaver took advantage of this construction method to do gentle shaping decreases and increases that are hidden within the chevron pattern under the arms. (It’s genius, but it required her to write separate shaping instructions for each size.) When you get to the armholes, you work the body and the two sleeves separately to shape the openings. Then you join the shoulder seams, creating two holes where the sleeves have to be sewn in. The sleeves are tubes. You have to sew (or otherwise connect) them into the hole.
It’s a three-dimensional proposition, sewing a tube into a hole. You can’t lie the pieces flat, so it’s hard to get purchase on them; they wiggle around. The challenge is to get the tube and the hole lined up properly—smoothly and evenly, without bunching—and then to get them to sit still long enough to sew the seam. Over the years, I’ve tried regular sewing pins, safety pins, those wooden pins for knitting (the ones that look like tiny knitting needles). I even tried hair clips. None of these tools were 100% satisfactory: the knitting always wants to slip and slide a little. Metal pins want to catch on the yarn, or split it.
Voila. Step 1: clip the center of the top of the sleeve to the center of the top of the tube, and then clip the center of the bottom of the sleeve to the center of the bottom of the tube.
Step 2: evenly distribute the rest of the sleeve around the rest of the hole, clipping as you go.
Monomania’s stripes made this much easier, because all I had to do was line up the stripes and clip, clip, clip—the fabric was automatically distributed evenly.
Step 3: Backstitch the neatly lined-up edges of sleeve and hole together, removing the clips as you get to them. I initially tried crocheting this seam, but it looked too loose and awful on the right side of the seam, so I unzipped it and did the good old-fashioned back stitch.
I promise you it was not hard. I will never quite feel like I know what I’m doing when I backstitch a seam, especially a curved armhole seam. Backstitch is not as precise as mattress stitch. But I got it done, and it’s fine. And thanks to the wonder of Clover Wonder Clips, the edges stayed put while I sewed.
Now I’m sewing up my Monomania Cardi. The finish line is in sight!