Knit + Sew = Skirt

The knitters among you will surely know the Lanesplitter skirt, a Knitty pattern from 2010 (link). This pattern is on its way to assuming “mandatory” status, as in it will soon make it onto that short list of projects that knitters seem compelled to knit. It’s a herd mentality, a way of becoming part of the crowd. Everyone knits the same patterns at some point or other, and then we can all compare notes and bond over our shared adventures. The mandatory patterns all seem small and simple enough to allow new knitters to play, while offering something cool and interesting for the advanced knitters. Other mandatory knits —

  • The mandatory Cookie A monkey socks (ravlink). Mine are knit in Colinette Jitterbug.
  • The mandatory ishbel shawl (ravlink). I knit this one three times, once for myself and twice as gifts.
  • Who could forget the clapotis? (ravlink) How many of these did you knit? I only did it once, in Chicago Bears colors, and it was sooooooooooo ugly. Blotchy orange and blue. WHAT was I THINKING???
  • The fetching mitts (Knitty link) which I knit out of possum yarn and sent to one of my authors who I knew would giggle at the thought of yarn from possums. Vile little rodents that yield exquisite yarn? That’s a metaphor for, like, everything about publishing.
  • The calorimetry headband (knitty link) which is the perfect thing for leftover bits of worsted. I’ve knit at least ten of these and I wear them all the time.

Those are just the mandatory knits I’ve fallen for. I’ve managed to avoid knitting the baby surprise jacket, the hitchhiker scarf, the February lady cardigan, the color affection shawl, and plenty of others. But it’s never too late to make a mandatory knit. They endure forever — I mean, it’s been like 50 years since the baby surprise jacket first came out, right? And that one’s not losing any steam. So I can probably still cough one up at some point, even though I’m resisting most of the other mandatory knits.

But the lanesplitter, that one had to be made. And having made it, I want to make it again. And again. And I can see why other knitters have racks of these in their closets. They are all the fun.

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A friend gifted me four skeins of Noro Kureyon in that sensational range of hot sunset colors. I wasn’t sure what to do with it and went back and forth between several patterns for some time. But it had to be a lanesplitter. Really, what other choice was there?

The whole trick to the lanesplitter is that there is no trick. It’s just a large rectangle knit on the bias with alternating skeins of self-striping yarn. Some rows are knit, some are purled, and you end up with a cool raised texture that highlights the stripes. That color effect just happens all on its own from the alternating balls of yarn. Nothing to it, really, though it’s not what I would call completely brainless. You do have to mind the pattern and alternate yarns and work some increases and decreases at the ends of rows.

Then, normally, you seam it along the short edges to make a straight tube, attach a knitted waistband in the same yarn, and call it done. I didn’t quite do it that way. The people in my knitting group right now would say I Theresafied it. That’s their word for changing a pattern to make it behave along custom preferences. Yeah, that’s right. I’m a verb for “can’t leave well enough alone.”

But in this case, I just didn’t want the bulk of an aran-weight waistband. I looked at the project pages on ravelry, and everyone who made the knitted waistband ended up with something sort of thick around the waist. So I hit on the idea of making a fake belt waistband. That black belt is heavy elastic belting sewed directly to the skirt. I added the buckle, which does open and close. Here’s a closer look at the waistband.

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That was no cakewalk, I promise you. The elastic belt has a finished width of 27.5″ including the buckle. The skirt has a finished width of 36.5″ at the waistband (more on that in a sec). The elastic belt had to be stretched hard — HARD — during the stitching. For every 9″ or so of skirt, I had to attach about 7″ of elastic belt, and I had to do it in a way that would let the buckle in front lay smoothly.

First, I attached the buckle ends to the skirt front center with safety pins, and repinned it about eleven thousand times to make absolutely sure it would lay flat when the buckle is closed and was absolutely dead center. Then I quartered the elastic and pinned it to the side and center back points, and stitched it on one quarter at a time. I broke two needles on that bad boy. This was not an easy process, but I’m really happy with how it turned out.

The skirt itself was supposed to be a tube, the same width at the waistband as at the hem. But here’s the thing. I usually have to alter skirt and pant patterns to accommodate a smaller-than-average waist (some would say, a bigger-than-average butt, ahem). I knit this to a finished size of 38″ hip, and when I blocked it, it grew to 46″. Argh. That’s Kureyon for you. So I had way too much fabric at a waist that was already going to have more fabric than it really needed.

So I made three more changes to the pattern to compensate for that.

  1. I sewed the side seam on my sewing machine instead of doing a hand seam with yarn. This took an inch and a half out of the circumference all the way up and down, waist to hem.
  2. I added a 2″ hip/waist curve in that seam, which removed 4″ at that side.
  3. I added a 2″ hip/waist curve in the shape of a dart where the other side seam would have been, if this had been knit in two pieces instead of one. That removed another 4″ on that side.

That brought the waist circumference down to 36.5″, still bigger than I need, but certainly more manageable.

My only other change was to add a nylon tricot lining. Noro Kureyon is sticky stuff. It needs a lining. This is how the waist and lining look from the inside.

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The tricot lining puckers quite a bit because of the way I had to pull the belt while attaching it. I stared at that for a good long time, trying to think of a way to pretty it up a bit, before realizing I don’t care. Nobody can see this puckering when I wear the skirt. I can’t feel it, either, because the tricot is so thin and fine and soft. So to hell with it. This one can look a little messy on the inside. I’ll find the strength to cope. Somehow. 😉

Which mandatory knits have you made?

Theresa