Helping Hand

This seems to work very well for a 4-ply cardigan, but not for 3-ply yarns or when I’m using two strands of 2/30s so I’ve two main problems:-
1) If I knit a band using this method, it puckers when the garment has rested.
2) If I measure the length I need using the main tension and knitting this on MT-1 and MT-2, the bands are then too long. I’ve a standard gauge machine without a ribber and wonder if other knitters have this same problem? Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks, Margaret Robinson

Let’s look at both options, Margaret. Firstly, if the band really puckers there are too many stitches in it. Reducing the tension for bands and welts to make them pull in is common sense. On the other hand, when you’re using fine yarns on a standard gauge machine, you’re already knitting at a fairly tight tension, so taking it down even further can make knitting very difficult. You need to calculate stitches for bands on the lean side, whatever thickness of yarn you’re using. If the band consistently puckers into ‘waves’ rather than fans out slightly, there’s probably an inch or two of excess knitting.

A typical 3-ply tension is 32 stitches and 48 rows to 10 cm (4 in). Let’s suppose that the front edge measures 51 cm (20 in) when blocked, then 51 x 3.2 = 163 (or 20 x 8 = 160 in inches). Alternatively, use the golden rule that we pick up two stitches for every three rows, so 51 cm x 4.8 (rows per cm) = 244.8 rows. 244.8 ÷ 3 x 2 = 163.20. 20 in x 12 (rows per in) = 240. 240 ÷ 3 x 2 = 160.

Whichever way you work it out, the result is about the same, so try reducing the number of stitches you pick up by around 8 or 10. In our example, you’d probably try picking up something like 150 stitches. (Don’t forget to leave an equal number of stitches between buttonholes.) You’ll have then taken out just under 4 cm or 1½ in and this should be ample, especially if you also tighten the tension by one whole number.

If the problem still persists, try a ratio of one stitch to one row twice and one stitch to two rows once. You can also knit the band sideways but separately and then sew it in position instead of picking up the stitches. You may simply be stretching the knitted edge too much and not pressing or blocking it back to the correct size. Years ago, when welt bars were supplied with machines, we always pushed the welt bar through the band and gave it a good tug before joining the ends. It closed the stitches nicely and straightened the edge. A clean, narrow ruler or smooth, flat length of wood can be used as a substitute.

Another ploy knitters used years ago was to block out the fronts of a cardigan, press if appropriate then leave to dry without removing the knitting from the blocking mat. They would then sew the band in place with the knitting still more or less pinned in position. It helped them keep to the correct measurement, especially if the band was knitted lengthways. It may be something else you’d like to try and I hope this helps your bands to lie flat in future!