Altering existing sweaters

Okay, fellow gurus and knitting fanatics, I am asking for ideas on this -- I have a friend whose Mom knit him some absolutely great sweaters. The problem is that they are too short in the torso now that he's older. The most obvious thing would be to add extra ribbing or some similar kind of welt to the bottom edges. The one has cable twisting into the ribs so I can just go down with a white yarn in plain ribbing, adding an edge to the cuffs and neckline to coordinate. The other 2 are more challenging but the trickiest one is the Fair Isle design: There is striped ribbing at the bottom but the thing I want to do is match the dark rust turtleneck at the top. If really daring, I'd just take out the cast on edge, unravel up and rework as plain stockinette, then redo the ribbing in a close matching rust. Only real drawback? The sweaters are all seamed. Do you think I should just pickup stitches around and work down? My concern is that the ribbing would then be too long. Any other thoughts? I wish I had a digital camera and could post photos but it isn't possible. Any and all help greatly appreciated. Thanks.


HuskerChub's picture

Let me start by saying, better you than me. But, seriously, I think if you were to just try adding length to the bottom of any of them you will end up with a ribbing that is ridiculously long and it may look strange. The problem with your solution for the fair isle sweater is that you cannot simply unravel knitting from the cast on edge up, it has to be picked out, stitch by stitch and it is not fun as the yarn gets reallllllly long and it will take you till this time 2011 to do lol. This is what I would do on any sweater that I was trying to add length to. Since they are pieced, you will need to first take out the side seem up to a few sts above the ribbing. Then at the very edge of the 1st row above the ribbing, snip the outside leg of the stitch, yes cut it. Go to the other edge and do the same. Then unravel a few sts from one side or the other and give a firm tug and the ribbing will fall right off ready to be worked on. You will have live sts on both the ribbing and the sweater, since they are not new and have been worn/cleaned you "shouldn't" have to worry about the ribbing sts running, and as started before the sweater body sts will not run up, just be careful not to snag them and unknit them.

So now you have a piece of ribbing that you put on your needles and knit up the required number of inches and then graft (Kitchner) the new fabric to the old. Repeat the other pieces and you have successfully lengthened the sweater. With the cabled sweater, you should be able to figure out the # of rows/sts in the cables and duplicate them. On the Fair Isle, well you could figure out the pattern, or create a band that honors the feel/colors etc of the original and slip it in, the kitchner row may be obvious but maybe it can be planned into the design.

What I see as being your biggest challenge is finding yarn to match, fiber/color/weight. Sometime you can get very lucky though.

Hope this helps and let us know what you decide to do...and who know someone may come up with an easier fix that will work!

Tallguy's picture

Shawn is quite correct. You cannot rip ribbing from the bottom up. Been there, tried that!! The only solution is to cut off the ribbing as he says, and I might even rip the ribbing, and re-use it somewhere. You would knit from the live stitches down, and all is well. You cannot add to ribbing downwards when they have been knit upwards. Tried that too!

The really hard part is matching the yarns. You could put in a stripe of some sort and do the same for the sleeves and maybe collar to help it coordinate. I might suggest even adding this stripe across the chest, and the middle of the arms (or 2 stripes on one arm). It looks like it belongs there! That is not as easy to do with the FairIsle however. I may try to introduce a band of different colours, coordinating of course (goor time to use the ripped out ribbing), somewhere in the middle of the sweater and sleeves, or even 2-3 stripes to give it a more planned look. It must not look like extensions of a too-short sweater!

See the DVD by Lucy Neatby -- she shows how she adds some length and even shortens a piece on stranded work, and matches the patterning. Quite easy, really.

Ambitious project. I might just want to start over -- seems simpler somehow.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Thanks, Shawn and Tallguy. Your comments bring out what I was dreading and hoping to avoid. Matching the yarns will be nearly impossible as the sweaters were knitted about 30 - 40 years ago [by my best guess] and were in fine yarns - most likely Shetland and Irish wools. Dan would be happy with just adding to the ribbing as it is but, given my standards of work, I have a problem with that. I, too, have been on the "picking out row-by-row" end of knitting and shudder to remember it. I must admit, Shawn, that the idea of knitting up from the ribbing before grafting it hadn't occured to me. Tallguy's thought of ravelling the yarn to knit the extra length, using a contrast color to do the ribbing, is also a good option. If nothing else, the reseaming of the sweater will be a good lesson in humility. I won't be starting this project for some time yet, so anyone else adding thoughts, prayers, etc. will be more than welcome. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.