Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Unseamly stretching

I blocked the lace shell last week, and then it was dark and rainy for several days and I didn't get a chance to try it on for pictures. Then, when I tried it on, I realized that it had stretched.

When I first knit my swatch, it seemed like it grew a little in length, even without heavy blocking. I measured, and couldn't really detect a difference. When I blocked the shell, I was very careful not to stretch it out at all. In fact, I even scrunched it up a little bit to keep the measurements where I wanted them.

When it was dry, it looked just fine laid out, but not so great when I tried it on.

I liked the new length better for the body, but there was a disproportionate amount of sretching at the armholes. Far too much to be attractive. At first, I considered pulling out a couple of repeats of lace from the shoulders and re-grafting. And then I decided to think on it for a little while (could also be read as I didn't feel like messing around with un-grafting).

On Saturday, I tried it on again, and looked more carefully at where the stretch was happening. There are a good 2 inches of stretch at the armholes, and only about 2-3 inches over the entire rest of the body. So 6 inches of knitting was stretching as much as the other 14 inches combined. Hmm.

I intentionally knit this piece flat because I thought that seams would be really important for the lace stability. The part that was seamed wasn't stretching much at all. The part that had a raw edge stretched a lot, and caused the entire garment to sag. Fortunately, that is easily fixed:

10 minutes and a crochet hook allowed me to put a crochet "seam" along the free edge of the armhole. I was careful not to crochet tightly, because I didn't want to pucker the fabric. It made a good, firm edge that's almost invisible (the right hand side of the picture has the crochet reinforcement, the left hand side doesn't). Much simpler than ripping and re-grafting, and much more likely to solve the problem.

And now?

An armhole that fits.

I'm not sure what I'd do to avoid this in the future. The crochet edging works, but it's not a very elegant solution. I'm thinking that a slipped selvedge would probably do the trick; I used a stockinette rib as the edge of the shell, and if I'd slipped the first stitch on every other row I'd have had half as many stitches to stretch out on me.

Of course, if I added sleeves (as I'd originally planned), I'd have a seam to stabilize the armhole. I'm still torn on the sleeves, but my inclination is that they will take away from the lines of the final garment. (Doesn't that sound all abstract and designer-y? I didn't mean it that way, but as soon as I typed it I felt just a little snooty...)

Since it's almost summer, I think I'm going to leave it as a tank top for now. I'll see if I wear it, how it wears, and then decide whether or not to add sleeves when the temperatures fall again. I wouldn't wear it to work anyway, as lab and clothes you care about do not mix. If I find myself not wearing it, or being too chilly while wearing it, I'll add some kind of cap sleeve. Evolving garments...could be a new trend!