Friday, April 4, 2014

Sleeve cap and armscye fitting

There's been some talk on the Ravelry Knitting at Large group (come join us!) about sleeve cap and armscye fitting. You may have never heard of the term armscye; Wikipedia defines it as "the armhole, the fabric edge to which the sleeve is sewn." Or in our case, it is a knitted edge, of course. (Note that in this instance, I'm talking about set-in sleeves, but you also have an armscye in raglan and round-yoke sweaters where stitches are grafted together under the sleeve.)

The sleeve cap is the curved top section of the sleeve that fits up against your shoulder. 

Sleeve caps are usually symmetrical and armscyes are, too. But this useful image below shows that this symmetry doesn't mean the sleeve sits symmetrically on the shoulder. Look at the angles at which the shoulder and side seams run - they're different - and how the back half of the armscye fits differently from the front half. Because we are working with knitting fabric that stretches, these differences are easier to work with, but the principle is still the same. 

When upsizing patterns, I often need to lengthen my armscye to give me room to make sleeves larger. For example, if a pattern has sleeves that are 17 inches wide at the largest point, I know that I need to make the sleeves two inches wider to accommodate my 18.5 inch biceps (1.5 inch difference plus .5 inch for ease equals two inches wider). Assuming I'm knitting from the cuff up, I adjust my increase rate so that my sleeves end up two inches wider at the widest point. Then I bind off those extra stitches in the next few rows of decreases used to shape the bottom of the sleeve cap.

If I make the sleeve wider, I also have to adjust the armscye opening so that the sleeve fits into sweater well. So I increase my armscye length by one inch on both the front and the back, thereby getting the extra couple of inches I need. I place this adjustment  in the middle of the armscye after the decreases for the sleeve hole opening.

These modifications give me a great fit every time. I do make other mods that improve my sleeve fit, but I'll save that discussion for another day. Until then, carry on, intrepid knitters! Keep making your own sweaters that fit.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Stephannie Tallent's Wild West

Need a warm vacation after this miserably cold winter? Then knit from Stephannie Tallent's "Lace 1," the first e-book in her new collection called "The Wild West: Patterns Inspired by the Flora, Fauna, Geology, and History of Arizona."

Photo by John Fowler
Inspired by her years living in the Sunshine State, this collection of five e-books draws on the desert which, "has a beauty all its own. Colors are often muted, softer, a bit dustier: but then you get flashes
of turquoise sky or red rocks with a vibrancy that shimmers," she says. "From the vista of the Grand Canyon to the red rocks of Sedona, the hues of the Painted Desert, the impact of Meteor Crater, to the subtle colors of the Petrified Forest — there’s so much to see and experience."

Stephannie has divided the Wild West collection into five books based on technique. Her first offering, Lace 1,  presents five beautiful patterns:

The Bisbee Blouse, a romantic, lightweight top with 3/4 sleeves, relies on delicate but simple intarsia lace panels to form figure–flattering vertical lines. As Stephannie says, "The dainty buttonband details, I–cord neckline, waist shaping and softly fluttering sleeve and body hems all combine into a gorgeous feminine sweater that you’ll treasure." The Bisbee comes in sizes up to a 54" bust.

I like the look and feel of this blouse, which  reminds me of the corsets and undergarments women worn in the 1880s - although this is clearly a far more comfortable, unstructured alternative. The comeliness remains.

The back emphasizes the curve of a woman's waist and hips - very sexy in an understated way.

Stephannie's Cactus Wren camisole offers "flattering waist shaping and lace in abundance. Crocheted lace trim and delicate buttons give this a vintage feel." Knit in a fingerweight silk, Cactus Wren is a perfect warmer-weather garment, but you could also pair this with a blouse or jacket in cooler weather, too.

The Cactus Wren comes in sizes up to a 58.25 bust and can be easily modified for customized waist shaping or additional length.

Lace 1 also offers two shawlettes and a pair of socks, all designed in lace. Meet the Pinyon Jay with the beautiful bead detailing...

The Diamondback, which features a rattle edging...

and the lacy, comfortable Cholla Socks

You can buy Lace 1 from Ravelry for $20. Stay tuned for the remaining four e-books in the Wild West Collection - I've seen a preview and I am truly psyched.

Her name says it all: Stephannie Tallent is truly talented.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A love poem for you (and me)

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

- Derek Walcott

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Never forget

My friend, Lyn shared this today. We should write this on our foreheads backwards so we never forget!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Springbrook Cardigan via Custom Fit

Last night, I finished my first Custom Fit sweater and I have to admit, I'm impressed. The pattern, with one major modification that I'll tell you about, fits perfectly. But best of all, it allowed me to make a sweater I've always wanted to wear but could not buy. Custom Fit let me focus on what I wanted the sweater to look like rather than fretting over fit.

Based on my experience, here's what you need to know to make your own Custom Fit sweater a big success (pun intended):

Remember that this is bottom-up knitting. No top-down knitting is provided in Custom Fit. Amy Herzog, the creator of Custom Fit, is a big proponent of seams because they improve fit (and she's right, IMHO). She does provide guidelines for making the garment with a minimum of seams, however.

Take accurate measurements. No denial, my friends. The measurements need to be based in reality. Don't guess either. Get someone you feel comfortable with help you get ALL the measurements required. No fudging, either. If you want the sweater to fit, you must enter the correct measurements.

Make a gauge swatch. Yes, you must swatch. Just get over it. You have to make a 4-inch x 4-inch swatch and then you need to wash it and measure it again. Custom Fit makes your pattern based on a specific stitch and row count. Again, no fudging!

Add ease below the waist. Custom Fit is designed to create sweaters the skim the body. This works great if you don't have a mighty derriere like I do. If you're even remotely plus-sized, I think you're going to need more ease than the pattern gives you. Check out the Custom Fit projects on Ravelry and see if you agree. Many of them are too snug through the hips for my taste.

The good news is that Custom Fit lets you "pop the hood" and make manual adjustments to the pattern before you purchase it. Select this option and manually change the hips measurements (or whatever you need to change). To determine how wide your sweater should be, measure your favorite knit garment - sweater, T-shirt, anything that has some stretch. Enter this measurement in the "pop the hood" section. You will be happy you did.

Check the length, too. There have been some complaints that the sweaters are too short. This is another measurement you should check on your favorite garment. You can adjust this in the "pop the hood" section.

That's all my advice for the day. I'm looking forward to making a lot more Custom Fit patterns - I've got a million ideas rolling around in my head, and Custom Fit makes it a lot easier to make these dreams come true. I look forward to hearing about your experiences using Custom Fit.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Caveat knitter! Zips Dry Cleaners SUCKS

WARNING: NEVER take your dry cleaning to Zips Dry Cleaners. They'll take your beautiful hand-knitted sweater and return it two days later 30 percent smaller, violently faded, felted, and covered with glitter and feathers. Here's the photographic proof:

Then, to make things even worse, they'll:
  • Promise TWICE to send the wrecked sweater to the Dry Cleaning Institute and then fail to do so.
  • Spend weeks trying to "block" the cardigan into shape - which meaning that they tried to stretch it out 30 percent which of course does NOT work.
  • Refuse to provide any compensation for the $150 and three months it took to make this sweater, saying that they are not responsible because the handmade sweater didn't have a care label - how many knitters put care labels in their own sweaters??? 
  • Admit several times that they machine washed the sweater and before claiming they dry cleaned it.
  • Assert that sometimes 100% wool sweaters shrink during the dry cleaning process - despite the fact that they'd cleaned this sweater successfully several times previously without incident, and despite the fact that everyone knows this is utter bunk.
  • Fail to meet with the customer on the appointed day to discuss restitution.
  • Fail to call the customer to discuss restitution either.

It doesn't get any worse than this. Zips Dry Cleaners and Russ Kaplan (the owner and aka the guy who beat feet and never called me), are the biggest bunch of shysters I've ever had the displeasure of working with. Please spread the word. ZIPS DRY CLEANERS SUCKS.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Custom Fit update

Wait. January is over? It's Groundhog's Day? Well, here's what I saw when I checked Punxatawney Phil this morning. Guess this means six more weeks of knitting. Works for me!

Since we last spoke, it's been 40 degrees below zero here in DC. Actually not; we just whine about any temperature under 40. But it has been unreasonably, unseasonably freezing, so I spent a couple of nights whipping up a Two-Way Cable Slouchy Hat by Sweater Babe. A quick knit and warm - probably too warm for a regular Washington winter, but at least I know own a hat for those few days every year I might need one.

Here I am modeling the creation, as well as a scarf I designed, Easiest Peasiest, a free pattern on Rav, if you're interested.

But mostly I've been working on my Custom Fit sweater, Springbrook. Named after my alma mater and its school colors, this is a sweater of my own design, created with Amy Herzog's Custom Fit software. I'm using Berroco Blackstone Tweed, a lovely alpaca, mohair, and angora blend in Narragansett (dark blue) and Foggy (light gray).

As you can see, I'm almost finished with the body of the garment. I like the results so much, I've decided to add sleeves to my original vest since I'm much more likely to wear a cardigan than a vest.

Thus far, the Custom Fit pattern has been spot on. Easy to use, easy to read, lots of details. I particularly like that the pattern gives comprehensive finished measurements for every piece. This lets you block your garment pieces to precise measurements rather than just laying out the wet sweater and letting it dry.  I've never seen a pattern offer this feature, and it's a good one.

The proof, of course, is in the pudding and by that I mean fit. If it doesn't fit, I must quit, as Johnny Cochran sort of chanted in a very unfortunate circus of a trial. At the end of this process,  I'm hoping I'm happy because I'd love to use Custom Fit to design sweaters of my own design, just as I've done with this one. I've got a million ideas and Custom Fit takes the worry out of the nuts and bolts of sweater construction so that I can just focus on the design.

Now I'm going to follow Punxsutawney Phil's lead and go back to knitting. Enjoy your Sunday, Groundhog's Day, and Super Bowl all in one!