Here’s an interesting thing about knitting that a lot of people – even knitters – don’t know. You can add or subtract to the length of a knitted piece by working upside down.
If you think about it, the loops that make knit stitches are just loops. They look the same right-side-up and up-side-down. Instead of always working from the top of the loop, you can work from the bottom of the loop.
Here’s an example of why you might want to do that. Mr. Math has this gorgeous cabled alpaca sweater which he bought in South America. It’s wonderful, but it was too long. (Incredible. Mr. Math is tall, but evidently the knitting ladies in South America expected tourists to be even taller.) He didn’t wear this sweater because he thought it looked sloppy. It fit him perfectly, except that it was about 3″ too long.
So, in service to fabulous sweaters and their need to be worn, I intervened.
First, I cut off the cast on edge of the sweater, at the hem. You can never unravel this, so just surrender it. Then I unraveled the sweater. I unraveled the 2.5″ of ribbing at the hem, balling the yarn as I went. I unraveled another 3 inches of the aran body of the sweater. This is the tricky part – I then picked up the loops all across the row.
If you think of knitting stitches as hills and valleys, when you knit upward, you knit the hills. To knit down, I picked up the valleys on my needle. Doing this means that the vertical rows of stitches are off by half a stitch, so it’s best to do this where there’s a change in the stitch patterns. If you do it in the middle of stockinette stitch, it will show. If you do it where the aran meets the ribbing, no one will notice.
Once the stitches were all happily on the needle, I knit 2.5″ of ribbing and cast off the hem. Presto! The sweater is 3″ shorter, Mr. Math is happy and the sweater will be worn.
You could do this to make a sweater longer, but you’d need to do something to disguise that half-stitch step-off. Maybe you’d add ribbing to the hem. Maybe you’d work in a different stitch or a different colour. It’s pretty easy to do, either way.
Isn’t that a nifty knitting trick to know?
If you want to know more about this trick, have a peek at this more detailed blog post.