Saturday, May 2, 2015

Two knitting books probably not large enough for amples

Hello, my ample friends. Today I'm going to tell you about two books that may not have a sweater large enough to fit your fluffy frame - we've been down this road before, haven't we? That's the way of the world, I guess. I still think if 60+ percent of Americans are overweight or obese that 60+ percent of the knitting patterns should be sized for them, too. But, alas.

First up - Amy Herzog's latest offering, Knit Wear Love, a follow-on to her first book, Knit to Flatter. Thematically, the two books are similar in style and approach. The first book focuses on helping knitters determine their body shapes: top-heavy, bottom-heavy, and proportional. The latest book enables knitters to discover their clothing style: casual, sporty, bohemian, modern, romantic, and avant garde. My opinion: knowing how to best clothe my body shape was revolutionary and I will forever be grateful to Amy for teaching me about how to knit sweaters that make the best of my figure. Knowing my particular clothing style? Not so much.

Knit Wear Love works similarly to Amy's very useful Custom Fit software. The book presents "meta patterns" for the pullover, cardigan, vest, cowl, tunic, wrap, tank, and bolero. She then shows how to add details to make the meta pattern match the clothing styles mentioned previously.

The problem for ample knitters is that the patterns only go up to 54 inches. If your widest measurement is under this, then Knit Wear Love could work for you. If you're above 54 inches (raising my hand here), then IMHO you'd be a lot better off going to Custom Fit and buying a custom-fit pattern that's made for your measurements. Just remember to add additional ease in the Pop the Hood section unless you want a nearly skin-tight sweater. When I made my Custom Fit sweater, I added six inches in the hip. As an example of what I'm talking about, consider this Bohemian Tunic from Knit Wear Love. In my book, it's at least four inches too snug in the waist and hips. But kudos to Amy for using a real-size woman as a model.

Next up: Wanderlust - 46 Modern Knits for Bohemian Style, edited by Tanis Gray. This book was created around Cascade's Longwood yarn, a 100-percent extra fine merino superwash wool. Tanis describes the yarn as having "the lovely properties of wool without the itch and without the possibility of accidental felting." Longwood looks beauteous in the book's designs - I'd like to try it myself. Longwood, an aran weight, comes in 100-gram skeins of 191 yards in over 40 colors. It is also available in DK and sport weight.

The 46 patterns in Wanderlust are mostly scarves, cowls, shawls, hats, mittens, matching sets of mittens and hats or scarves. I'll leave you to discover those on your own since I am a sweater knitter at heart. Suffice to say there are many pretty non-sweaters you can make from this book.

Wanderlust includes are seven sweater patterns but sadly most are too small for the ample among us. The one 59.75-inch sweater is an over-sized cropped top which I'd bet 99 percent of you would never wear - I certainly wouldn't! That would even cover my mighty bustline.

My personal favorite is Amy Weaver's Lady Gansey, an updated gansey cardigan that's just perfect for my bottom-heavy frame. The Longwood yarn really shows off the pretty cables, plus I love the cabled button band - very clever. This one is definitely on my to-do list. It only goes up to 51.75 inches (grrrr) but I can manage the upsizing to make it.

So, here's the crazy thing. Lady Gansey's smallest size is a 32-inch finished bust size; it takes 5 skeins of yarn. When I make this sweater for my 60-inch finished bust size and 72-inch finished hips, I will buy a whopping 11 skeins - more than twice as much yarn. Remind me again why the knitting industry caters to skinny chicks? I just don't get it...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Around the block with a new sweater

Good lord, it's cold. I live outside of Washington, DC where the average February high temperature is 47 degrees; today we hit a high of 20 degrees with a bone-chilling 10-degree wind chill. Freezing is usually a good thing for knitters - we get to wear the knitables we made over the summer. But wearing them all at the same isn't what I had in mind. (Truth in advertising, this picture is from last winter which was also way too fricking cold.)

On Saturday, the sky dumped 14 inches of snow on my neighborhood so I never left my house. I'm a Mid-Atlantic woosie - we don't do snow here. I hunkered down with my beloved pug, knitting away on a new sweater and watching endless episodes of Intervention. And Birdman (I liked Boyhood better.)

I'm excited about this new sweater, a cardiganized (is that a word?) version of Julia Farwell-Clay's Oxford. I'm wondering how this pullover, which was photographed on the skinniest, longest-waisted girl in the world, will look on my over-ample, short-waisted, old-lady self. I think I can pull it off - with adjustments, of course.

I'm using the same yarn Julia used to design the sweater: Color by Kristin from Classic Elite Yarn. In a lucky break, it's currently on closeout at Webs. This worsted yarn, a blend of 50% wool, 25% alpaca, and 25% mohair is Gorgeous with a capital G. I didn't expect to be wowed, but I am. When I swatched, I was underwhelmed - the yarn looked like it was rode hard and put up wet. 

But then I washed the swatch, went to bed, and looked at it the next morning. I'd heard about yarn blooming, but I'd never witnessed it before. Wowwww. Wowwwwwwww. Gorgeous. The cables popped, the stitches rebooted, and my confidence was restored.

Here's a crappy progress photo (why do my iphone and ipad take such lousy pictures?). Coming right along, plus I finished another repeat over the weekend. You're looking at two saddle shoulders and the upper back here.

And check out these perfect buttons - how cool is it that the button mirrors the cable crossings? Love it!
As I mentioned, I'm going to turn this into a cardigan. Other planned mods include:
  • Upsizing the sweater which only comes in sizes up to 51 inches (I need 60 in the bust and even more in the hips)
  • Dropping the front neckline for a better fit in the shoulders
  • Revising the stitch pattern under the arms to avoid the all-ribbing of the original design - I don't want this sweater to cling to me like a whiny child
  • Adding some waist shaping 

I'll have more to say about this project soon. But for today, the moral is: wash your swatch. It can make a real difference, especially for animal fibers. If you're knitting in acrylic, I don't think your yarn will ever bloom, but that could just be my yarn snootiness talking. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A trip to Folly Cove

The Folly Cove Designers, a group of 45 Gloucester, Massachusetts craftswomen, spent over 30 years creating exquisitely wrought designs cut into linoleum blocks and then printed on fabric. All glory to their splendid textiles! 

Gloucester by Eino Natti, 1969
Much like a medieval guild, the Folly Cove Designers worked on their own and then gathered monthly to exchange ideas and offer critiques. 

As a wannabe New Englander (alas, I am a Marylander), I love the Folly Cove Designers' work as it reminds me of my annual treks to my happy place, as my aunt who spends every summer on Cape Cod so aptly puts it.

Home Port by Louise Kenyon, 1948
Into my New England appreciation sails Julia Farwell-Clay, my friend and Massachusetts knitwear designer. While she may have born too late to participate in the creative endeavors of the aforementioned craftswomen, Julia honors their work with her first book, From Folly Cove, published by Classic Elite Yarns.

As Julia writes, "I have a long standing appreciation of their work, and for how those women (for the most part) fit art and craft into their lives alongside family and practical concerns of life on Cape Ann during and after the Second World War. As a designer, I often see the potential for knitting in beautiful things, and this collection is precisely that. Every pattern in this book is inspired by the work and personalities of these women, and together they are an homage to their legacy of design and collaboration."

From Folly Cove includes a hat, two pullovers, two cardigans, a skirt, a dress, a vest, and a cowl. Julia's designs are uniformly lovely and innovative, but I'm going to tell you about the Meteori Shawl, a gorgeous lace shawl made with Classic Elite's Mountain Top Mohawk Wool.

Spun with natural undyed fibers, Mohawk Wool is a sportweight blend of  lustrous merino, lofty romney wool, and durable nylon. Available in seven natural colors, Mohawk is truly the perfect yarn for Julia's airy design.

Julia found inspiration for Meteori from a painting in Life Story by Virginia Lee Burton, founder of the Folly Cove Designers. As the description says, "Burton's art and text tell the history of earth from beginning to present day." I'm guessing there are multiple meteors in there, too.

The Meteori Shawl measures 62-wide and 28-inches long, but like many shawls is knitted from the center point outwards, so you could easily make this shawl larger and longer by just continuing to knit in pattern.

As part of a celebration of this collection, I'm participating in Julia's blog tour and am giving away a free copy of the Meteori Shawl. To enter, just leave a comment below by February 3 and I'll choose a winner at random.

But there's more! From Folly Cove is 10% off on Ravelry this week; enter the code FFC10 at checkout for your 10% discount on any purchase of patterns or the entire e-book. At the end of the week, visit the Classic Elite Blog for a chance to win yarn for the project of your choice from the book.

Tomorrow, the From Folly Cove blog tour continues with Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne from Mason Dixon Knitting

Friday, December 19, 2014

Resized poncho? DottieD. And congrats

Someone contacted me recently about resizing a poncho - I can't for the life of me find the message. If you're still looking for help with this, contact the amazing Dottie Daiker. She is available to resize patterns, turn a chart into a written pattern, and do a host of other knitting feats. She's in my bimonthly knitting group and is a wonder to behold. I wholeheartedly recommend her! She's also starting to design for-sale patterns. Keep an eye out for the amazing DottieD.

And congratulations to Sharon in Surry for winning the recent Tempest by Holli Yeoh giveaway! I can't wait to see what Sharon makes from this great book.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Shepherdess

Just my humble opinion, but there is nary a more darling baby sweater ensemble than Julia Farwell-Clay's Welcome to the Flock. Julia's bevy of baby sheep grazing in a grass of green hand-dyed yarn is topped of with a matching top-knot beanie. If you have a baby in your life, you must make this duo for your little one.

Now meet the new Shepherdess in town, the latest offering from Julia Farwell-Clay. As she writes, the Shepherdess is, "An adult sweater with a whimsical heart. Thank you to the knitters who loved knitting my baby sweater pattern Welcome to the Flock enough to also ask for a grown-up version for themselves. And what knitter doesn’t love sheep just a little too much?" True THAT.

Julia's adorable round-yoked cardi, which is designed for worsted yarn, comes in sizes up to 58.5 inches (thank you, Julia). The Shepherdess is knitted flat from side to side, but you could easily knit it in the round and steek it. Fit wise, it is similar to the Hiro Cardigan so many of us have already made.

I particularly like that Julia knit the body of the sweater in stockinette, but garter stitched the little lambs. Love those little fleeces!

The Shepherdess is available for purchase on Ravelry. If you're a plus-sized wool lover like I am, this one is for you.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Tremendous Tempest

Hello, old friends. I'm writing today about Tempest, a lovely new book by Canadian designer, Holli Yeoh. Her creations feature the always stunning Sweet Georgia Yarns - honestly, I have never  seen a Sweet Georgia Yarn color I didn't like. If you're not familiar with Holli and Sweet Georgia, I'm happy to introduce you.

I got to know Holli while designing and building her website earlier this year.  Holli is an incredibly talented designer who is as comfortable creating women's cardigans as baby blankets. Vogue Knitting regularly publishes her innovative twists on the classics. Check out Holli's Ravelry pages to learn more.

As its websites states, Felicia Lo's Sweet Georgia Yarn hand-dyes "knitting yarns and spinning fibres in stunningly saturated colours." Supreme understatement! On steroids! Sweet Georgia Yarns simply sing. I could dig around for a more spectacular way to say it, but in this case, a picture truly speaks a thousands words.

Tempest offers 11 patterns - four sweaters, two wraps, four cowls, one hat and a matching pair of gloves. Holli's patterns are uniformly gorgeous, but the best news for us: all of the sweaters have at least a 60-inch finished bust measurement. Thank you, Holli!

My favorite sweater: Eventide, a lightweight pullover that alternates "bands of sheer and opaque chevrons create contrast and texture in this boxy pullover. Set-in sleeves and seams provide structure for a refined fit. Knit in fine merino and silk, this pullover has a sophisticated air while the easy silhouette makes it equally comfortable in a more casual setting." Holli designed Eventide in Sweet Georgia Merino Silk Fine and Silk Mist.

Another design I really love from Tempest is Haven, a veritable crayon box of a wrap. Holli's description says it all: "This simple project features an ombré fabric created by working with two strands of yarn held together throughout. You work colour changes by first knitting with two strands of the same colour, followed by a strand each of the old colour and a new colour, followed by two strands of the new colour; repeat!" The poncho, which is worked as a large rectangle, includes buttonholes in one of the ribbed selvedges. Fold fold your beautiful triangle in half, button it, and go. Haven uses Sweet Georgia's CashLuxe Fine, a merino, silk, and nylon blend.

To see more of Tempest or to purchase the book, visit the Tempest website.

And to win a free copy of the book, leave a comment here and I'll choose someone at random for the giveaway!

Tempest defines my life as well. It has been one hell of a year.  I appreciate the many prayers and kind words. During my time away, I've been knitting away. I will share my projects and lessons learned in the days to come.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Flyover of New Knitting Books - For the Home and More

Come fly with me, come fly, come fly away! Let's do a flyover of recent knitting books.

Sue Culligan
Want to knit robots, gizmos, video games, cassettes, cosmic, or atomic energy? Check out this fun book with a variety of projects designed for your inner geek. My favorite: this cute rocket baby mobile, perfect for your future physicist. 

You know how you flip through the latest Pottery Barn catalog and think, "Jeez - that's beautiful. I could make that." Well, this book gives you sophisticated, modern accessories for your abode. My favorite: this cable-covered ottoman. Gorgeous.

Take your knitting to the great outdoors - or bring the great outdoors to your knitting! This book offers lots of cute little craftsy projects, knitting and otherwise. My favorite: the Flying Fox which keeps drafts from sneaking under your door.