Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm trending with the trendy!

In the great big football field of fashion, I'm on the sidelines. I don't play ball and I'm not a cheerleader either. I care how I dress, but I'm not part of the action. I don't subscribe to fashion magazines and you'll never see me in Manolo Blahniks. I'm a Crocs girl. I'd don't care if they're not sexy nor that they're no longer in style. Crocs are mega comfortable and that's all that matters to me.

Trends take a l-o-n-g time to trickle down to the plus-size market - if they ever get there at all. That's why I buy classics that last well after the trend train has left the station. But once in a while, I do wish I could be on the front of the Style Express.

Imagine my surprise then when I found this advertisement in our local newspaper. Paula's Boutique, a local shop that offers the latest in fashion, is selling my Ditto sweater. I can't believe that I'm in the cab of the fashion train and in a sweater I made all by myself!

Another stop along this fashion route: a radial yoke shirt on - and in my size, too. (I'm passing this one by though since I like the color nor the placket tie.)

So as my girlfriend Theresa so often says, "Check me out!" I'm a hip chick today... and here I thought I was just a hippy chick - and not in a late 1960s way either. I guess that makes me a hip hippy chick! That's fine with me.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lessons learned

Well, I started this effort desperately seeking Ditto - the Berroco cardigan that is. And I'm proud to announce that I've found her.

(First off, I'm sorry that my boyfriend can't take a picture worth a damn. The photos are uniformly awful but hopefully you can get the drift. I'm taking the sweater to the dry cleaners today and then I'll have someone else take some new pics. I think the sweater will look better after being professionally cleaned, too.)

So here's what I think about my new creation:

I'm very proud of the way it fits. I thought this would be a good pattern for me and I was right. But I also think my alterations made a big difference. Lowering the yoke to 13 inches was a great idea and using five buttons instead of four was smart. The longer yoke emphasizes my curviness which I like. Lengthening the whole thing works for me, too.

If I were to do this again, I might make the cardigan a little smaller, but just a little. As a big woman, I need lots of ease. Negative ease sweaters will never work for me.

I'd also do another round of decreases in the neckline and knit up another inch or so to make the neck opening a little tighter. This wide neck thing is very popular now, but I'd be happier if it were a little closer to my neck. This is a fitting problem, frankly. I thought my neck would be bigger than the published size and it is, but not as big as I ended up making it.

My biggest regret is in the yarn choice. I had trepidation all along the way but now I wish I'd used a better yarn. It's terrible to get to the very end with such a big regret, but what can I do other than chalk it up to experience and move on? It really does bug me though. In fact, it bothers me so much that I'm contemplating making the Ditto over again right now using the beautiful magenta merino I just got from Knit Picks. Or maybe their Shine cotton yarn, although I'd have to order that. I also have a ton of Knit Picks' organic cotton in marshmallow white - but that would be yet another cream-colored sweater and I'm longing for some color! I do think I should do it now though, especially since I've got the pattern so firmly in my head.

I'm happy to have a pattern that fits. I can use this shape again to make other designs. I can leave out the radial ribbing and maybe do some fair isle, for example. Hmmm... maybe that's what I should do... remake the sweater but change up the yoke so it's not a total redo. That would make it more interesting for me. I'll have to cogitate on this.

My friends think I'm crazy to even consider remaking this sweater, btw. They think it's perfect. But we knitters know the difference between crap yarn and good yarn. It's fine to use less expensive yarn for some things, but when you're making a sweater that takes you weeks to finish??? That's a different story.

I've got a couple of small things I need to knit next, and I want to work on my Fiesta Shawl, too. But after that, I think I'll be making another Ditto. Unless I change my mind. I've got two other sweaters in my queue: Jillian Moreno's Duchess Diamond Yoke Cardigan and Sue McCain's Empire Waist Pullover. Plus the Posh V-Neck Cardigan! Sigh... so many sweaters, so little time...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The damn plackets! :-(

My online knitting gal pal, Teresa hates to sew. She loves knitting, but sewing together knitted pieces is an eternal annoyance. She always gives me lots of praise and support, but thus far has only ever asked me one question: How much sewing does that sweater need?

I bragged to her earlier this week that I am an accomplished seamstress. I cut my teeth as a fabric store assistant manager; I was in my early 20s and was (very unwisely) taking a break from college. That fabric store job taught me two very important life lessons: one, how to sew well, and two, how to get your sorry ass back in college so you don't make minimum wage the rest of your life. Funny how being really, really broke brings you back to your senses - and school books.

Anyway, I am now lamenting ever telling Teresa that I am a good seamstress. Why? Because last night I started sewing on the plackets for my almost-finished Ditto cardigan. I thought to myself, how hard could this be? That was at 7:00 PM. By 1:30 AM, I'd ripped the plackets out three times and had used the F word more liberally than a sailor. By the time I went to bed, finally, maybe, one of the plackets is sewed on okay. Maybe. I think so. It needs to be blocked to get some of the weird curviness out of it, but I think it will work. Fortunately, I started on the button side so it will be covered with the buttonhole side. With all this hard-won experience, I am hoping the buttonhole side will go on much better than its predecessor.

This morning, I found the video Berroco suggests you watch BEFORE you sew on the placket. Of course, I didn't watch it BEFORE because I am an accomplished seamstress! But now that I know how lame I really am, I watched it in interest. And since I know several people are following this blog because they want to make this sweater, I present it here along with the admonishment that you watch it BEFORE you start sewing on your placket!

I'm hoping that by tomorrow this sweater will be done, photographed, blogged, and on Ravelry. Of course, that depends on that last placket. Let us pray...

Monday, August 24, 2009

I'll take Ditto to block...

Unless you're over 40, you probably don't remember the mega-goofy Hollywood Squares, a game show that aired throughout my childhood and beyond. Basically, contestants played tic-tac-toe with a board that was populated with B-rated guest stars like Rich Little, Morey Amsterdam, and Kaye Ballard. Paul Lynde, the one-time "I Dream of Jeannie" astronaut, lived in the middle square and could always be counted on for a laugh.

On this show, contestants would frequently say, "I'll take Rose Marie (or whoever) to block" in an attempt to keep their opponent from getting three Xs or Os in a row and thereby winning the game.

But in my case, "I'll take Ditto to block" means that I've almost finished my Ditto sweater! It's now washed and blocked and is drying in my living room.

I'm thrilled to report that it fits perfectly. PERFECTLY! My clueless-about-knitting boyfriend even asked me yesterday how I managed to make it fit me so well. He got a big kiss for that one! I'm now working on the plackets and hope to have this whole thing wrapped up in the next few days. Then I'll just have to wait until it's cool enough to wear it. Now that's a really good problem to have!

When I'm finished, I'll post my revised pattern here and on Ravelry; fortunately, it's a free Berroco pattern so I won't be infringing on anyone's copyright. I'll also post the Excel spreadsheet I used to do the math so that others can try making a perfect-fitting Ditto sweater.

Now that I know I can upsize sweaters, I can't wait to knit more garments that fit. I've got visions of sweaters dancing in my head - literally. A whole new world has opened up for me. I am ecstatic!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I heart Sue McCain

Another designer who deserves to be in the Knitting at Large Hall of Fame (along with Jillian Moreno) is Sue McCain from Vermont Fiber Designs. I'm going to do a full shout-out for her soon, but I couldn't wait to write about her newest pattern, Top-Down Empire Waist Pullover.

This thing of beauty is perfect for my curvy figure assuming I can get that waist measurement right. If the bodice is too short, it just won't work; I don't like empire garments tucked up under my boobs. I want a little space - at least! - below my bosoms. Now that I think of it, I wore a dress yesterday from Making it Big that hits just right. In fact, every empire dress from Making it Big fits me perfectly. Here's a short video of me dressed in a MiB dress posing with my dress form. (Very unattractive initial frame, but my smile improves the video in short order.)

Gotta run... I've got to go do a ton of Saturday stuff, but I promise to write a full tribute to the great Sue McCain soon.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A life goal nearly accomplished

Blue skies, smiling on me, nothing but blue skies do I see...

My chirpiness this morning means my Ditto is coming together well. I tried is on last night and it fits - beautifully! WOO FRICKING HOO! It looks so much better on me than I expected that I fell asleep with a smile on my face and woke up with one, too. Of course, it ain't over 'til it's over, but I'm optimistic. If this works, it means I'll be able to upsize virtually any pattern to fit me - and that will accomplish one of the ten things I'd like to do before I croak:

  1. Build a small but luxurious cabin in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom on a gazillion acres with a gorgeous view of the Green Mountains

  2. Get married again to the man of my dreams. My beloved bf told me on Sunday, "I'll absolutely marry you someday!" *smile*

  3. Have step-grandkids (something I really want since I couldn't have children of my own)

  4. Take a Meditteranean cruise (I've wanted to do this since reading The Odyssey in junior high) and visit Akrotiri, the lost ancient city on Santorini

  5. Take a knitting vacation to Estonia, Norway, Sweden, Latvia, Scotland, the Faroe Islands, and the like, visiting textile museums and yarn shops all along the way

  6. Design flattering, well-fitting sweater patterns for ample-sized women with finished bust sizes up to 65+ inches (as it should be)

  7. Exercise everyday and somehow grow to like it (is this even possible?)

  8. Live a peaceful life, being present in the eternal now rather the caught in the vortex of my miserable childhood (making progress on this one)

  9. Learn how to make a sweater that fits

  10. And last, but not least, knit daily (check!)

Hmmm... nothing about giving back to the world. That's not good. Better make that 11 life goals and make the last one "Do all I can to save humanity." Every little bit counts.

More good news on the Ditto front, literally: I found even better buttons on Etsy! These radial-patterned beauties are genuine pearl and are surprisingly heavy. The color is great. They'll be terrific.

I've got six inches to go and I'll be done! Except for the placket. And blocking. And seaming. Oh well, that's a knitter's life.

Now back to chirping... blue days, all of them gone, nothing but blue skies, from now on...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Looks like it's going to fit anyway...

By jove, I think my Ditto is going to fit. Here you can see it roughly pinned to my duct-tape dress form. I'm a bit dubious about the dress form, especially in the upper body; we really should have done the neck, too but I was keeling over from the heat. The result is an unnaturally rounded area around where my neck should be. Oh well. Good enough for government work, as we say so often here in DC.

I'm glad the sweater is going to fit, but seeing it on the dress form makes me worry about the ribbing. I wish I hadn't done any ribbing at all, but I wanted to replicate the pattern as closely as possible to see if my upsizing method works. I'm hoping that when it's blocked, the ribbing won't hug in around my butt and belly so badly. PRAY.

I found some vintage buttons on Etsy last night. I like how the sunburst motif echoes the yoke pattern. We'll see how it looks when they get here; they were inexpensive, so if I hate them, I'll look for others.

Now that I've gotten this far with the sweater, I wish I'd used better yarn. Maybe after blocking I'll be happier; in this stage of every knitting project, I'm discouraged because the piece always looks like a wrinkled, sloppy mess. But I don't want to abandon my project now. A finished-if-imperfect sweater is better than the perfect-but-never-made sweater in my head!

So I knit on. At this part of the yoke, I'm knitting the largest number of stitches in the project, so it's a bit slow going. I'll be glad when I can start decreasing - and will be happy to finish this up and knit something else. Maybe God/Universe wants to me enjoy the ride, but as usual I'm focused on the destination. Are we there yet??? :-)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

And for my next trick...

I'm making mega progress on the Ditto Cardigan! I've finished the sleeves, attached them to the body, and have started on the yoke. I don't have pics yet, so I thought I'd show you what I got in the mail yesterday from Knit Picks: Merino Style in Fairy Tale.

What color is Fairy Tale? Well, scrounge around in your Crayola Crayons of yesteryear and find Magenta. That's the color exactly (or at least exactly as I remember it). I thought the color looked pretty online, but OMG! In person, it's like a magenta orgy. Just gorgeous.

This lousy picture taken atop my keyboard doesn't do it any justice. So I made you a collage to give you a sense of this lovely color's spice and swing.

I bought this yarn to make the Posh V-Neck Cardigan. Can't wait to finish up my overabundance-of-cream Ditto sweater and start on this new one!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Finally rolling up my sleeves

WHEW! My endless Ditto stockinette trip, akin to driving from my home in Maryland to Aunt Dixie's home in Indiana, is finally over. About time! It seems like it took forever, but when I finally finished I realized I've already knitted more than half the sweater. Woo hoo!

Now I'm working on the first sleeve. The sleeves are only six inches long since they're joined into the yoke, so they won't take long. And then finally I'll get to work on the yoke which should be a lot more interesting and intellectually stimulating than what I've done thus far.

But most of all, I want to know if it fits! That will be hard to tell until I get the yoke on it. Then we'll see. Until then, prayers are heartily accepted.

I've got visions of other projects dancing in my head, too. I want to get back to the Fiesta Shawl, and then to the Posh V-Neck Cardigan that I'm going to knit along with my online knitting pal, Teresa. I ordered some Knit Picks Merino Style Yarn in Fairy Tale earlier this week. There's absolutely nothing - NOTHING! - in my stash that I could use for this project. *rolling my eyes*

Since I bought new yarn (that I'm not supposed to buy), I'm selling some stash yarn on eBay. That makes me feel a little less guilty. Just a little.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Almost to Toledo

Still lost in the endless stockinette known as my Ditto cardigan. Following the analogy from my last post, I'm now almost to Toledo. I have about three inches to go before I can start working on the sleeves - woo hoo! With this bottom-up pattern, you knit the body of the garment to the armpits, then knit the bottom of the sleeves up, and then join it all and start decreasing to create the yoke. It's a dull journey at this point, but I'm getting excited thinking about making the yoke. Then we'll see how this sweater is really going to look.

BTW, I've checked all my math and measurements thus far and it appears that the sweater is exactly the size I planned. Grace of God. At least I'm on the right track.

Hey, there's the sign for Toledo! Guess I ought to stop for gas. Next stop: Fort Wayne.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Plodding along

Sigh... I'm in the middle of miles and miles of stockinette stitch for my Ditto. Not much to say other than I feel like I'm driving to Aunt Dixie's house in Columbia City, Indiana, from my home in Maryland. It's an endless sea of stupifyingly boring interstates: I-270 to Breezewood to the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Pittsburgh to the Ohio Turnpike to the Indiana Turnpike and finally, finally, finally heading south on 27 to Fort Wayne and then onto 69 and then Route 30 and finally, finally, finally I'll be at her house. FINALLY.

So, using this analogy, I'm just about in Pittsburgh - with miles to go before I sleep. As I said, I'm plodding along. One stitch at a time. Over and over again.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I lied about the ribbing

I lied to you. I am so sorry.

I didn't mean to tell a lie, but I did. I told you that the Ditto ribbing was designed to avoid gathering in at the bottom, but I was wrong. Now that I'm several inches into the sweater, I'm frightened. I don't want that ribbing curling around my belly and butt! My bff, Theresa took one look at it yesterday and declared that she'd never buy a sweater with ribbing like that - and she's one of those skinny bitches who barely has a behind!

So I'm fretting. I'm already blocking the damn thing in my head, stretching out the ribbing and hoping that it will stay that way after it dries!

But I've got to move forward. If I had to do this all again, I'd make the sweater with a turned-up hem, but it's too late for that. If I turn back now, frog it all, and start over, I'll never get this damn thing finished - and I'll never know if my upsizing works. I've got to test this method! Because if it works, it means I can make almost any sweater I want - and then I can teach you this method, too.

So onward and upward - literally. This cardi is knitted from the bottom up. Now I'm working on the series of side decreases that will give me some much-needed waist shaping. I've got miles to go before I sleep - or at least finish the body of this sweater. Oh, how I wish I were a skinny bitch so sweaters took half as long to knit!

Don't tell anyone because I am NOT supposed to be buying knitting crap, but I got some really pretty new red yarn in the mail today. It was a steal from Ram Wools in Canada; 272 yards of 100% wool aran yarn for only $3.70 a skein! Plus it's a gorgeous red and ladies, I look great in red - if I do say so myself! Yet another reason to get this Ditto done...