Reknitting or Sweater Maintenance

June 26, 2018

Thank you so very much for the marvellous response to my post last week. As I said, it wasn’t a post I expected to write and now I am so glad I did, as you really got me thinking and I am grateful for that.

Over the last week, I’ve been tending to our knitwear. I am always struck by our emphasis in the making world on acts of creation. Our use of the acronym FO for Finished Object suggests that once we have cast off and blocked our knits or pressed our sewing, the item is done, finished, over. In fact, as we all know really, that is just the beginning. The garments we make have lives, they wear out and must be repaired, our bodies or preferences change and garments must be adjusted or perhaps we were never entirely happy with how the garment fitted, looked or worked in the first place and changes must be made.

I have talked here about remaking where we transform one or several garments into something significantly different but reknitting is something less transformative. It is the minor adjustment, the tweak, the repair.

Several years ago, I made Stephen West’s Enchanted Mesa with some handspun and some local millspun yarn. I made it initially without the cowl neck (thinking I knew better than the designer…oops), thinking it really needed a more open look. And perhaps it does, but what I didn’t realise then is that the assymetric dropped armhole construction creates a tendency for the one shoulder to runch every time you use that particular arm.  This effect has been magnified by me becoming somewhat wider since the initial making. The cowl neck obscures the runching and means you don’t always have to be pulling your jumper down, it can do its own thing.

Fortunately I still had some handspun Finn left over from knitting that sweater so it was easy to pick up the stitches from around the neck and knit up the cowl collar. Hopefully I will get a lot more wear from this sweater now.

Despite making the Helm sweater pictured below to the specifications suggested by the wearer, it turns out, he would prefer it to be two inches longer at the hem. Since this sweater was knitted from the bottom up in pieces, I was a little concerned about this request. For those who are non knitters, it is easy to unravel knitting from the top of one’s knitting but impossible to unravel from the bottom. Top down sweaters make hem adjustments simple but not so, the bottom up sweaters.

I didn’t want the sweater languishing for want of two inches, so I decided to get the scissors out, cut off the hem and reknit the hemmed edge from the top down. It was a surprisingly easy fix and once its been block again to relax the new hem, I don’t reckon anyone could tell it’s been reknit.

It’s not glamorous or exciting but tending to the knits (or any of our clothes) is a vital part of our making clothes last a long time.  It makes us feel competent too, knowing that we can adjust our jumpers in case of zombie apocalypse.


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  1. Yes! If things go well handmade garments have long lives in which all kinds of mending and adjustment might be necessary. And it isn’t as scary as people thing to re-knit the way you have done with helm. Such fine looking garments! I am delighted they will continue to see plenty of use…

    1. When I was in my twenties and my mum still knit me jumpers, she always made the sleeves too long. Even though I was a knitter, it never ever occurred to me to reknit the sleeves. After years and years of not wearing them, I eventually passed them on. Now it makes me shudder to the think of the good yarn that could have been repurposed or the garment altered. I just didn’t know I actually had the skills to make use of those sweaters. Crazy eh!

  2. I have just lengthened the sleeves of a top down jumper for a grandson who is at the stage of shooting up without widening much (he is 7). Everyone is pleased with the colourful additions to the sleeves and he will get another two years of wear. An East German friend said her grandmother always knit their jumpers top down and extended them for years as post war supplies were scarce. The project is “Same Sea” on Ravelry, I think. User name CarolGilham.

    1. This is such a great example of reknitting Carol, thanks for sharing it with us. If you are a Ravelry member the link is here. Children do go through that lengthening stage. Sometimes I try to build in roll over cuffs but really reknitting is the best solution.

  3. Oh this is good to know Rebecca. I have several cardigans that I feel could be longer I have no idea why I always seem to knit them too short…but anyway… they were knitted bottom up. Should I cut them off above the hem and knit down…should I just pick up the stitches at the bottom of the hem and knit down…no not a good idea. So I will do just as you have done…. and then I will wear them without constantly pulling them down around my disappearing waist!

    Altering garments used to be a part of life but these days so many people just discard the garment possibly because they just do not have the skill to alter it.

    1. I really do recommend the latter approach Lydia, the knitting is likely to be slightly different even if you have the same yarn. Using the transition to the ribbed hem is useful way of disguising the change. I too always seem to make things too short. I am short waisted and do the correct mathematical adjustment but I think as we get wider knitted things just start to creep up. I was going to try adding an extra inch to everything after I’ve done my maths bit.

      Just cut one stitch and then unthread the entire row from that one stitch. This is slow but neat. Then I pick up with a lace needle just to make things easier and only once everything is secure do I reknit with the correct size needles.

      Good luck!

  4. Thank you for your insights! One of my most satisfying fiber and travel adventures was repairing a Norwegian friend’s cardigan that her deceased mother-in-law had knit especially for her. The cardigan was very well made of good yarn, but the cuffs had frayed. The colors had changed over the years, so I took it to a local yarn shop where we had happy conversation considering yarn alternatives. I replaced the cuffs, knitting — as you did — top down. Not only practical but beautiful and enduring.

  5. Good for you redoing the helm. I must say I went back and read all the comments on your last post and yes……..THE TORTOISE WINS!!! Brilliant.

  6. I love how ‘Enchanted Mesa’ fits you, and the looser cowl looks so much more comfortable and attractive. I considered this pattern, but passed on it, because although I liked the design I was not sure how the finished sweater would actually fit. Photos, sometimes hide undesirable features. But you did an excellent job.

    1. Yes, you are right there can be difficulties with sweaters but mostly what hear is the making of them rather than the wearing. This sweater works best with lots of ease. In FO pics it looks wonderful all moulded to the body but for wearing it definitely needs ease. I find it’s best to wear this sweater next the skin with just a bra, another layer adds friction and when things ride up they stay there instead of slipping back into position. It’s not a sweater to wear with a jacket because of the asymmetric armholes. Having said all that, so long as you have ease and movement, it’s a comfortable sweater with wow factor.

  7. oh my goodness! as you know sweet pea this jumper of yours has always filled me with glee (and awe). I’m so excited to see this transformation, and to catch a glimpse of lovely and much missed you x

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