I used to be one of the many knitters who didn’t particularly enjoy a visit to sleeve island. Working with dpns or a long circular and magic loop, I rarely looked forward to knitting the second sleeve of a pair. This changed radically when I started knitting with 8 or 9 inch fixed circulars a few years ago. I was gifted a few sets from Mel, who had tried them and (like many knitters, it seems) didn’t get on with them too well. But I found that in my case they really suited my knitting style, and that their effect on how I worked was transformative – particularly where sleeves were concerned. No longer did I worry about the occasional gap or ladder; no more was I forced to interrupt my rhythm when switching from one tip to the next. With my teeny tiny circulars, I zoomed away happily, round and round.
From being something of a knitterly chore, making sleeves rapidly became something that was genuine fun to do. Now, if I find myself with space and time for a day of relaxed knitting, I often treat myself to just making a sleeve, with audiobook or radio accompaniment. I think that one of the reasons I enjoy sleeves so much is precisely that they allow me to switch off. I spend lots of my knitting time working with my design brain: swatching and re-swatching; figuring bits of a garment out, ripping rows back, planning an area of shaping, knitting and re-knitting. But a trip to sleeve island offers the promise of plain sailing: because I have made so many sleeves, I know how many stitches to cast on, and the underarm count to aim for. And as I so very rarely knit these days with any yarn other than my own, there are few gauge surprises to concern me on the journey either. Thus so it is that whether I’m knitting smooth stockinette or something textured, and whether there are stripes or stranded colourwork, sleeve island is for me no longer a place of knitterly purgatory, but a happy end and destination in itself. Indeed, it’s a place I enjoy so much, I named a pattern after it.
I love knitting most sleeves, but for some reason I particularly enjoy whipping up one from cuff to underarm, of the kind that’s destined to later attach itself to a yoke or raglan. Indeed, I’ve been enjoying life on sleeve island so much of late that I currently find myself with four completed sleeves of this kind, and no accompanying sweaters. Spotting this group of lone appendages this morning, I imagined creating a garment that might suit Zaphod Beeblebrox, but thought better of it, and quickly cast on the body of a sweater into which my own regulation two arms will, at some point, fit.
Do you love knitting sleeves as much as I do? Or do you dread visiting sleeve island? And, out of interest, do you enjoy or dislike working with the small fixed circulars I love so much?