Thursday, March 31, 2011

EZ as Pie Sweater

I recently finished my first sweater using EZ's (Elizabeth Zimmermann) Percentage System. I say this is my first, because this is such a brilliantly simple way to build a sweater based on the yarn you want to use, that I fully plan on using this formula again in the future. I thought I'd write about what I did here, and then perhaps flush out her instructions to clarify.

It's knit from the bottom up, and I used Cascade Eco, with a generous 478 yards per skein. My entire sweater took not even one and a half skeins -- the sleeves were the only thing I needed the second skein for. It's pretty itchy, but knits up into a nice sturdy wool sweater.

A guage swatch is essential for knitting a sweater like this -- you have to figure out how many stitches per inch you get because you will multiply that number by the number if inches around you are so you know how many stitches to cast on. I measured the widest part of my hips, because I knew I wanted the sweater to come down that far, and ended up casting on 144 stitches. I used a knit three, purl one rib for about three, maybe four inches on the bottom hem, then knit straight for an additional three inches. I wanted a slightly shaped sweater, so I added in some decreases on each side, then increased back up to 144 stitches, then continued to knit straight until the body of the sweater measured 10" from the bottom. (Now that it's completed, I can tell that I should have knit for at least another 3"-4" -- it's shorter than what I was planning for.)

The sleeves were simple. I wanted 3/4 length sleeves, so I measured that part of my arm and multiplied that number of inches by my guaged stitches per inch, then added a few stitches since the ribbing would allow for elasticity. I cast on 40sts for each sleeve and matched the bottom hem with k3p1 ribbing. Made two (duh).

I wanted to use Raglan shaping for the shoulders, so I did one round where I simply knit across to join the sleeves to the body. I put 10 sts at the side seams and underarms of the sleeves on hold to be grafted later, and put all 224 stitches together on one needle. I placed markers where the sleeve underarms met the body, and then proceeded to do a standard raglan decrease for another 5 inches or so.

Standard Raglan Decrease:
Round 1: Knit to 3sts before 1st marker; ssk, k1, pm, k1, k2tog; knit to 3sts before 2nd marker; k2tog, k1, pm, k1, ssk; knit to 3 sts before 3rd marker; k2tog, k1, pm, k1, ssk; knit to 3sts before 4th marker, ssk, k1, pm, k1, k2tog.
Round 2: Knit.

I put my sweater on waste yarn and tried it on until the neck was where I wanted it to be, minus about an inch and a half. Since this was my first time using this form of construction, I figured that was the most fool-proof way. When I got to where I wanted (like I said, about 4 or 5 inches up from the armpit), I knit the collar using the same k3p1 pattern for the hems and cuffs. Bind off using EZ's sewn bind off technique, and tah-daaah!!

I blocked the hell out of it -- it was tight and short, so I got it good and soaking wet and stretched it periodically over the drying time (about two days to be completely dry). It's not as tight and not as short, but still tighter and shorter than what I thought I was going to get in the end. Note to self.

I've written out the whole pattern completely, so send me a message if you want more details. I'm thinking of trying this again using some lovely Pima Cotton I got on sale and making a summer t-shirt out of it ... but still have a few things in the works before that will happen. Look for future posts explaining EZ's method in more detail!

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