Trompe L’Oeil Sleeve Caps (Part 1)
June 3, 2011 § 12 Comments
A small, but noteworthy procession filed out of the house and made its way across the sun-bathed lawn to where the big cedar cast a grateful shade. It was headed by James, a footman, bearing a laden tray. Following him came Thomas, another footman, with a gate-leg table. The rear was brought up by Beach, who carried nothing, but merely lent a tone.
“Yes, your lordship.”
“Oh?” said Lord Emsworth. “Ah? Tea, eh? Tea? Yes. Tea. Quite so. To be sure, tea. Capital.”
–Summer Lightning, P.G. Wodehouse, 1929
Thank you for all the interest and encouraging comments about my new sleeve caps, which I’ve tentatively named “Trompe L’Oeil Sleeve Caps.”! Since my last post I’ve been busy working them into a sweater and am so happy with the results:
It’s time then for a more detailed explanation of how to work them. Today I’ll provide an introduction to establishing the sleeve caps – we’ll call it a test tutorial, to see if it makes sense to everyone. Once I’ve got a system worked out for the increase rate for the armhole in its entirety with which I’m 100% happy, I’ll post a more formal tutorial on a separate page on this blog.
A huge disclaimer: what follows is very long and wordy and the first time I’ve attempted to explain this. I suspect a YouTube video might eventually be a much better teaching tool, but it’ll be a while before I can manage to put one together. In the meantime, for the brave and impatient, I’m going to attempt it anyway. It’s really much easier to do than to describe, and your comments and feedback are very welcome.
Before we begin, you will need to get out your Montse Stanley or your Vogue Knitting guide and practice your Median, or Row Below, increases for left- and right- leaning, for purl and for knit. I can’t seem to find this lovely increase anywhere on the internet, or in Vickie Square. Down the line, the plan is to make a YouTube of how to work them and post it here. It seems to me that no dedicated top-down knitter should be without this increase in his or her arsenal. I also wouldn’t embark on this sleeve cap method unless you’re very comfortable with magic loop, as I’ll be using it in a new way.
So to begin, using a circular needle with a good long cable:
- Cast on sufficient stitches for one shoulder. Generally this is somewhere between 3 and 4 inches of stitches. You should pick a number divisible by 3.
- Purl across these stitches.
- Do three sets of RS short rows: For example, say you cast on 18 stitches, knit 12, wrap the next stitch and turn, purl a row, knit 6 stitches of next row, wrap next stitch and turn, purl a row, then knit across picking up wraps as you go. You should end up at the narrow edge of the wedge.
- At this point (trust me), you should be able to slide your work down the cable, rotate it 180 degrees and be well-positioned to pick up stitches along your cast-on edge, starting at the point of the wedge. You could in theory put your work on waste yarn, but I prefer leaving it on as the cable stabilizes the edge and makes it easier to pick up stitches.
- Pick up along the cast on edge the same number of stitches that you cast on to begin with.
- This time you will do two sets of purl side wraps and turns (there is no plain row first on this side, and yes it will be one row shorter than your first wedge, but it doesn’t appear to affect the final product in any way). So if you cast 18 stitches, purl 12, wrap and turn the next stitch, knit a row, purl 6, wrap and turn the next stitch, knit a row and then purl across all stitches, picking up wraps as you go.
Your knitting should now resemble this:
As you can see, you should be on the wrong side of your knitting, and I’ve placed a marker before the last stitch of this row. Now you have finished the first few rows of one shoulder (front and back) and next will begin to establish your sleeve caps. This will involve using magic loop to help you get around the tight curve at the beginning of sleeve cap (which will magically appear at the thin point of your triangle at the left of the picture above). But instead of working magic loop in the round, you’ll be working it back and forth with a right side and a wrong side. I’ve never seen this anywhere else, but I’ve done it a bunch of times now, and it really does work like a charm every time!
- Into that last isolated stitch of that row, you’ll need to work a single left leaning increase. Since there is no row-below to increase into, I fudge this first increase with something resembling a lifted increase. It really doesn’t show in the final product. So you should now have two stitches to the left of that marker.
- This is where things get a little funky because we are going to use magic loop to get around that corner. So rotate your knitting 180 degrees, and pull the needle into the stitches at the top and slide the knitting that you just did down the cable, freeing the needle to use in the right hand.
- Perform a purl side right-leaning row below increase into the first stitch of the needle, working the stitch as well and then place a marker. Take care to adjust the tension so that you don’t end up with ladders as you cross from one side of the work to the other, just as you would with a sock or sleeve. You should now have two stitches then a marker at the thin edge of the wedge of both top and bottom of your work. Purl to end of row.
- Flip over your work so the right side is facing. At this point you’ll want to designate this little piece of knitting as a right or a left shoulder. You’ll need some back neck shaping here in the form of three right side increases at the back neck edge. If you want a right shoulder you will want to knit 1 or 2 stitches here (as you prefer), and work one increase each right side over the next three RS rows. [If it will be a left shoulder, work until you are one or two stitches before the very end of the row, which is now directly opposite.]
- Knit to marker – we will skip an increase in this row just to get the stitches evenly established, slip marker, k2, rotate work 180 degrees, slide upper row of stitches onto needle, slide lower onto cable, k2, sm, knit to end.
- Flip over work, purl to marker, sm, perform left-leaning purl side increase into next stitch. Purl to end of stitches on needle, rotate work, readjust cable and needles, watching tension across the gap, purl to 1 stitch before the marker, perform right-leaning purl side row below increase into this stitch, working the stitch as well. Slip marker and purl to end. You should now have six stitches between your markers and congratulations, you have the beginnings of your sleeve cap!
- Continue as before – flip over work to RS. Perform back neck shaping increase (f making right shoulder), knit to marker, sm, work left-leaning knit side row below increase into next stitch, knit to end, adjust needles and cables, rotate work 180%, knit to one stitch before marker, work right-leaning knit side row below increase into this stitch and work the stitch. Slip marker, work to end.
This is it in a gigantic wordy nutshell! At this point you will continue knit and purl side every row, right and left leaning row below increases as established (along with your neck shaping until you’ve worked all three back neck increases plus a final purl side row. You should have 14 stitches at the top of your sleeve cap between the markers. Your work should look something like this:
Make another, reversing back neck shaping. You may notice some wobbly stitches and general unevenness. So far these have blocked out beautifully for me.
Next time I’ll discuss joining your two shoulder pieces and the various options for calculating the rate of increases for your sleeve cap as your work down the yoke. Good luck!