Remember the Ribena Cardigan? I started it last year, at the end of March, and worked my way through what felt like several miles of stockinette, I did get as far as finishing the body of the cardigan last summer.
I even got partway along on the sleeves, but that’s where I stalled out.
Why did they stall? Well, it turns out that when you knit laceweight yarn on big needles (US 6/4 mm), even the slightest difference in gauge shows up in a big way. The body of the sweater was one thing, because it was easy to work back and forth on a circular needle. The sleeves were another story, though; because they’re a much smaller circumference, even my 16″ circs were too long to allow me to work in the round. That meant I had to use multiple needles to work each round — but every time I switched needles, I ended up with an unfortunate laddering effect. I tried using DPNs, and I tried (as you can see above) using two circs.
I wrestled with this for a while, and finally decided that I needed smaller circumference circular needles. I ordered a 12″ one and a 9″ one from my LYS:
So, umm, those are Really Small Circs.
Partly because of the delay in getting the circs in (during which time I got busy with gift knitting and other projects) and partly because I was honestly a little afraid of the Really Small Circs, the sweater went into hibernation mode.
However, it is Mmmalabrigo Mmmarch again, and I find myself sort of in between projects, so I figured I would have another look at the sweater. This weekend, I frogged the sleeves, re-wound the yarn, and dug out those tiny needles.
While I was at it, I re-jigged the sleeve pattern — the original has you start with a provisional cast-on at the underarm, work upwards for the sleeve cap, then return to those live stitches and work downwards to the cuff, but I’ve seen several people on Ravelry work the sleeves entirely top-down, and that just seems so much more logical to me. I’m sure there’s a perfectly sophisticated and knitterly reason to do it the original way, but sometimes I’m really not all that sophisticated, and I just want to barge on through and “git ‘er done.”
Anyway: that was Saturday, and today (Tuesday) I’m already working on the cuff of the first sleeve. I could have been wearing this all winter if I’d known it was going to be so speedy to finish up!
I’m using the 12″ circ, and honestly? It’s not half bad. As you can see in the photos of the two Really Small Circs above, the 12″ needle tips are actually bent so that you have enough of a tip to hold onto comfortably, without compromising the overall curve — if the tips were straight, you wouldn’t be able to bend the short piece of cord enough to make a complete circle. As it is, working stockinette in the round is actually pretty comfortable, not the hand-cramping agony I was expecting/bracing myself for.
The downfall, though, is purling. When you work a knit stitch, the needle tips are at quite an angle to each other, so the cord bends quite happily. However, when you work a purl, the needle tips have to be pretty nearly parallel, and that short piece of cord really has to flex and strain to make it. It’s not impossible, just not something you’d want to do for any length of time; I think it would probably affect gauge over a stretch of fabric, too.
And in case you’re wondering? I’ve tried out the little 9″ circs too, but I’m not going to be knitting much with them any time soon. They’re so tiny that you can only ‘queue up’ a few stitches on the needle tips, so you feel like you’re constantly shuffling your work around. Worse, the circumference (which really isn’t that much bigger than what you get if you touch your middle finger-tip to your thumb!) is so small that there’s nothing to actually brace against your hand, so your fingers are doing all the work of keeping everything in place and supported. At least for my style of knitting, that’s just not sustainable for more than a couple of rounds! Maybe with thicker yarn (I am working with laceweight here) the yarn would do more of the work of holding the needle into a circle, but I just felt like I was knitting with a spring that was about to sproing at any moment.
But at least I have a party trick now…?