Saturday, February 27, 2010

Off the cuff and up my sleeve

Much to report on the Handstrikket this morning. As you may remember from my last dispatch, I finished the interminable plain stockinette body and started on the sleeves. Woo hoo! But then I hit a road block - and lots of frogging. The problem: colors.

I designed my original sleeve colorwork as shown below. The design looked great on screen - sufficient color contrast between the dark blue and dark brown. I was convinced it would work well.

I was wrong. In real life, the two dark colors are so similar in value that they are almost indistinguishable in all but the brightest light. Color value is simply how dark or light a color is. In this case, the blue and brown are equally dark and therefore share the same value.

So back to the drawing board. This time, I placed the lightest color, white, up against the dark brown. This picture shows the new sleeve colorway and a swatch of the original design (shown in the chart above).

I think I've got it right now. I like the contrast a lot better. This experience proves what I know to be the truth: it is very difficult to pick colors for fair isle designs, and contrast is key. In The Art of Fair Isle Knitting, Ann Feitelson writes:
The fundamental Shetland rule is that the pattern must be readable and coherent. Patterns are, after all, what this kind of knitting is known for.
For the pattern to show up, there must be sufficient contrast between it and the background. Shetlanders say, "the pattern is either light on dark, or dark on light." In other words, contrast is the ruling principle.

In addition to revising the cuff colorwork, I need to amend the yoke patterning, too. In the original, the yoke starts at the bottom with a dark blue border (see left chart below). I've revised it to start with a white border; this will tie into the cuff design, too (right chart).

I know where I went wrong in my design process. I used the original Handstrikket my mother gave me over 30 years ago as my guide; it has a white background and a dark brown initial border. I should have thought about this and reversed the values. Lesson learned.

To end today's post, I want to share a picture of my much-overlooked cat, Monica. Ironically, she perches perpetually by my keyboard hoping to catch an errant pat on the head. She personifies irksome! But she is remarkably sweet and spry for a 17-year-old feline. She even manages my pug, Moose with aplomb, despite the fact that he sucks every bit of love out of a room. So today I honor Monica - and promise to pay more attention to her, despite what my ever-demanding pug thinks.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The end of the road

Have you ever driven the Ohio Turnpike? It is boring, flat, featureless, and uninteruppted by any even a single quasi-interesting architectural element. This photo shows what the entire 241.26 miles looks like. OMG. Stupefyingly boring beyond all measure and completely endless.

But of course, I'm wrong. The Ohio Turnpike does indeed end. And then you wind up on the Indiana Turnpike.

LOL. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

This is all to say that my endless stretch of stockinette is finally over. Fourteen long, wide inches of interminable brown finished. Grace of God. Last night, I even knitted the first sleeve cuff - including a row of light blue. Woo fricking hoo! What a relief.

I adore the colors and love the yarn (Berroco Ultra Alpaca, 50% alpaca, 50% wool). I'm thrilled with how it's turning out - and so excited to finally be working on parts of this sweater that capture my interest and imagination.

Thank God life isn't the Ohio Turnpike. Things do change - including terrible economies with 10 million unemployed or years of heartbreak and mourning - even endless swatches of brown stockinette finally wrap up. As the 12 Step folks say: this, too, must pass. Thank God.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Even more Diamond Yoke pics

Tom and I met our friends Jamie and Hilary for lunch yesterday and I wore my Diamond Yoke Cardigan. Knowing full well that Tom can never take a good picture, I had him photograph me anyway. I've posted pictures of me wearing this sweater with a dress, but I thought you might like to see it with me wearing jeans. I always like looking at women actually wearing the garments they make. Showing a sweater flat on a table or on a hanger or even on a commercial dress form doesn't tell me a thing about how it actually fits.

For this reason, I present the following commentary about my Diamond Yoke Cardigan.

For the record. My breasts are symmetrical. Must be the light but my left boob looks much smaller than my right. It's not!

Even Tom noticed. Second, the shirt I'm wearing with this is too long and too baggy. Even Tom said so and most of the time he barely notices me. How we turned into old married people (who aren't even married) is beyond me. I swear I could show up everyday in my favorite faded Vermont t-shirt, unkempt hair, and no makeup and he wouldn't even notice. But even he commented that the shirt is too big for this outfit.

Gaping at the gape.You know how I feel about belly gape cardigans. Perhaps my strong opinion is based on this pattern which was definitely designed to open at the bottom. Not my favorite look. I wish it buttoned all the way down.

Where's my burka? This cardigan makes me uncomfortable because it is so form-fitting. You can see all the curves (that's a nice word for it!) that I always feel I should cover. Saying I feel ambivalent about showing off my body is an incredible understatement. I'm definitely more comfortable in baggy clothes.

A heartfelt prayer. Dear God, in my next life could I please have slim hips? Please? Please? Please? Whenever I see pictures of my mighty derierre, all I can do is cringe.

My gratitude list. Okay, enough of the criticism. Here is the good news:
  • I'm proud of making such a complicated sweater.
  • Pink flatters my skin.
  • I don't look half bad for a woman who turns 51 in a couple of weeks.
  • I've lost almost 40 pounds since I made this sweater. I don't think you can even tell, but I'm glad to know this fact anyway.
  • I'm grateful I have a nice boyfriend to take these pictures, one who takes me just as I am whether it's dressed in a sweater of my own making or a faded Vermont t-shirt.
My favorite therapist would now ask me: can you take yourself just as you are, whether you're dressed in a sweater of your own making or a faded Vermont t-shirt? I know I'm supposed to give a hearty "YES!" but I would be lying. Ambivalence is my middle name.

Yet I persevere. My goal with this blog is to find self-acceptance by making clothes that fit and flatter - and to help you do this, too. Self-love is a struggle for almost all women. Let's keep calm, carry on - and cast on, too.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Button, button, who's got the button?

My current quest: find the just-right button for my Handstrikket. As I outlined in my previous post, I found similar Norwegian pewter buttons at Nordic Fiber Arts, but they aren't as refined as the originals. Anne, a devoted reader (God bless her), suggested I use the buttons from the Handstrikket that my mother gave me 35 years ago, but I am reticent to wreck the beloved gift. Plus I need at least ten buttons and the original only has nine.

Yesterday, after taking myself to a discount matinee of Crazy Heart (★★★- great performances but a half hour too long, imho), I went through every single button at Joann Fabrics and Hancock Fabrics. I couldn't find a single silver-toned button that would work, nor any gold or brass ones either. Plus I spent three hours Friday looking under every rock on the web. I thought I'd found a worthy competitor at Schoolhouse Press, but they cancelled my order because they didn't have enough in stock.

I finally came across some neat leather buttons that I think might work. Hancock Fabrics' 40%-off buttons sale did the trick: for less than $7, I got ten buttons. Even if I don't use them now, they'll work someday on something, so I snapped them up. My plan: finish the sweater and see which looks better, the pewter or leather buttons. If neither work, I'll go back to the drawing board. But I suspect either would be just fine.

Now for the good news: I've only got three inches of stockinette to finish and I'll be done with the bottom of the sweater. Thank goodness. I'm already daydreaming about doing the fair isle on the sleeves. I can't wait to do something - anything!  - other than boring old stockinette. The light is at the end of the tunnel. Grace of God.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Status Report

The interminable Handstrikket soldiers on. Or at least I do. I'm barely more than halfway done with the "skirt;" I need to knit 14 inches for the bottom of the sweater and thus far I've finished a little over seven inches. Sigh. It is s-l-o-w going, but I persevere. I'm able to knit about an inch a night; with over 350 stitches per row, this is taking forever.

I wanted to show you three additions I've made to the Handstrikket: pug hair, aspirin, and buttons! My dog gets included in the things I make because he lays in my lap every evening while I knit. And this unending stockinette stitch definitely gives me a headache, so the aspirin bottle is always near by.

I found similar buttons to the original Handstrikket on Nordic Fiber Arts. The new ones are Norwegian pewter, but they're not as pretty or refined, plus they have an extra lobe on the flower. I'm going to keep shopping to see if I can find something better, but if worse comes to worst, I guess these will have to do.

I ordered a neat new notions case this week from Knit Happy. The case unrolls into four triangular-shaped, zippered sections that hold every little thing you can think of. It's a godsend; I put the case in my knitting basket and now everything is neatly within reach. No more digging in the bottom of the basket for a stitch marker or the scissors. Brilliant.

I also received a box of Berroco Pure Pima from Webs yesterday. I love the ice blue color of this soft cotton. It will be perfect for the Curvy Knits 3-Button Cardigan that Teresa and I are going to knit. Something to look forward to! But alas, the 3-Button has even more stockinette stitch than the Handstrikket! I wish I could have made that knitting machine work. Long stretches of stockinette definitely put me right to sleep. Zzzzzzz...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My own personal love story

I'm in love. I am. Even though I'm almost 51 and way too fat, I am madly in love. And wonders of wonders, he loves me, too.

Tom found me on a BBW dating site two-and-a-half years ago. I'd been dating like a mad woman - literally a hundred dates in 18 months. Who knew so many men dug full-figured, middle-aged women? I sure didn't. The problem: there weren't many good ones - or at least right ones. Like not a single dude in a 100 different dates. Sex addicts and married assholes? Yes. Decent, loving men? Sadly... no.

Tom spent the previous year on e-Harmony being matched with the "woman of his dreams." Too bad she turned out to be a psycho bitch from hell: needy, demanding, and quasi-deranged. Undeterred, Tom tried again. He clicked on a link for "BBW dating" even though he didn't have a clue what BBW meant (for the uninitiated, it means Big Beautiful Woman). Tom picked 20 women and sent them a quick message. I was among the respondents. We emailed and then spent hours on the phone. He finally asked me on a date.

It was just one of those things - one of those crazy, crazy things. We clicked from the very first moment we met. Tom said later it was like coming home again. All I knew was that this guy was different. The little voice in my head screamed, "THIS WILL WORK. DON'T SCREW IT UP!"

And it has. From that very first day, we've never been apart. Amazing and miraculous. Not perfect... he's a dude after all. And it's real life. We have struggles and challenges like everyone. For example, it took him forever to tell me he loved me. I fretted, inquired, and cajoled - do you love me? Do? You? Love? Me? He waited months and months because he wanted to be absolutely sure. Then on Valentine's Day 2008 Tom gave me a card:

For the million everyday moments that make up our happy life... I LOVE YOU.

And he does.

I tell you all this because if you're looking for love, there's hope - no matter your age, weight, shape, career, education, hair color, breast size, or credit worthiness. There's someone out there for everyone. Yes, even you.

If you're already in love, revel. If you're past romantic love and just want some peace and quiet, go for it. On this Valentine's Day, the only thing that really matters is creating a life you love.

Now that's a love that will last a lifetime.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Give it up for Knitscene

I want to give credit where credit is due - and today it's due to Knitscene.

Published by Interweave Press twice (thrice?) a year, Knitscene proffers trendy, hip patterns to younger knitters. Admittedly, I'm not Knitscene's market. I'll be 51 in two weeks, but like most baby boomers, I don't think I'll ever consider myself old (except in the morning when I get up and creak myself all the way to the bathroom).

The newest Knitscene offers the ample among us much to cheer about:  multiple patterns in finished bust sizes larger than 52 inches! Perhaps Interweave is listening to the constant call for larger sizes. Or maybe they're positioning themselves against the despicable Vogue Knitting whose latest issue includes an editorial that basically says "we only like 'fashionable' (read: young, tall, skinny chicks) and therefore won't be offering patterns for fatsos." Go to hell, Vogue Knitting. Many amples are boycotting VK - and I am among them. I hope you will join the fight, too.

Anyway, back to the good news. Check out these ample Knitscene designs:

Helleborus Yoke
Mathew Gnagy
Largest finished bust size: 65.5 inches! And cute, too!

Tudor Henley
Connie Chang Chinchio
Largest finished bust size: 54 inches

Ithaca Jacket
Connie Chang Chinchio
Largest finished bust size: 54.5 inches

There are other larger sizes in the magazine, too, including the Geodesic Cardigan (but it doesn't cover the belly which is against my religion) and the Surf Stripes Raglan (which has horizontal stripes  - also against my religion). Knitscene also offers patterns for a variety of accessories, if you're in to socks, scarves, shawls, and mitts.

As I always tell you, vote with your pocketbook. If you like these patterns, buy the magazine. Let's show Interweave that we're worth its investment.

One of these days, the yarn companies will figure out that ample women buy twice as much yarn for their sweaters. Seems like a no-brainer, don't you think? Yarn companies could make a fortune on us! Maybe that's why Classic Elite publishes the great Curvy Knits line and Paton's now routinely offers patterns in size 5x. Whatever it is, let's encourage them to keep it up.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Our own personal knit-along

As the Yahoo Ample Knitter's group ponders a spring knit-along, my knitting gal pal, Teresa and I have decided that we're going to move ahead regardless of which pattern the group picks. Our choice: Lisa S. Rowe's Solstice 3-Button Jacket from the latest Curvy Knits.

Teresa will knit her cardi using the prescribed yarn; she ordered Classic Elite Solstice in the beautiful Blue Moon. Meanwhile, I'm going to use the 100% cottom Berroco Pure Pima in Barely Blue. I'll be interested to see how they compare when we're finished.

I've blogged about my proposed mods before, but here they are again:
  1. Extend the placket to the hem and add buttons all the way down.
  2. Remove the yarnovers at the raglan line to simplify the yoke.
  3. Lengthen the sweater. The pattern calls for the sweater to be 23.25 long which is way too short for my taste. I'll make it either 28- or 29-inches long.
  4. Upsize the sweater. The largest finished bust size offered 58.75 inches and I'll need at 62-inch finished bust size.
I'm contemplating using these pretty Danforth Pewter dogwood buttons I bought last year for an abandoned project. They remind me of spring - and boy, do I need some spring! Plus this will be a spring cardigan. Seems fitting.

If you'd like to join us, we'd love to have your company on this knitting journey. My plan is to start in a few weeks after I've finished the Handstrikket and I bet Teresa starts sooner. No big rules... just do what you want. But we'd love to share lessons learned and photos of our progress and projects. And if Ample Knitters selects the 3-Button Cardigan, all the better! If you'd like to participate, leave a message here or email me at

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bored in a blizzard

Hey! Did you know there's a record-breaking blizzard happening in the Nation's Capital? Somehow I think you do, especially if you watch MS-NBC and CNN where they mention it about every 45 seconds. For once, the television networks aren't exaggerating about the snow storm. It is really awful. I  mean really. AWFUL.

I live Maryland suburbs of DC. Here is a cool time-lapse video done in nearby Tysons Corner, Virginia during last weekend's snow storm.

Now we're getting a second huge hit - on top of the 36 inches we already have, they're expecting at least another foot of the wretched white stuff. Montgomery County just announced that they're even halting all plow operations because it's so dangerous. Believe me, this is has never happened here before. Some winters, we get six inches of snow over the whole damn winter!

I hate the snow. My dog refuses to go to the bathroom - last weekend, he went 29 hours before finally exploding two feet outside the back door of my building. I miss my boyfriend. We usually see each other every Sunday but we've been snowed out for two weekends in a row. We literally risked our lives a couple of nights ago to meet halfway for dinner. I was really happy to see him but it was far too dangerous to be out driving around. I witnessed five multi-car pileups on the way home. I really want to go to Target, the library, and the bookstore. And maybe check out some movies from Blockbuster, too. But no go.

That's my bad news. The good news: I'm warm, safe, and dry. I have plenty of food. I live in a new building with underground electricity so I'm unlikely to lose power because of falling trees. My doggie is even learning to do his business on two-inch strips of available grass.

And best of all, the snow days have left my business quiet enough for me to organize my stash. I spent the whole afternoon yesterday sorting yarn and knitting swatches. It was really fun. Everything is now organized, labeled and stacked to the sky.

I swatched some various yarns as I went, including this Berroco Pure Pima in Barely Blue. I like how it knits up and am considering it for the Solstice Three-Button Sweater in the new Curvy Knits book.

See the swatch on the very right? With the variegated and white yarns? I'm thinking of using these yarns to make the Swirls Hat. I've never worn hats but this blizzard has me longing for one.

And just in case you're wondering, YES, I'm still knitting the unending stockinette section of my Handstrikket. I persevere. But since I'm dedicated to your interest in knitting and my own, too, I'm blogging about all these other matters instead. I can spend every night bored out of my mind knitting straight brown fabric if it means I can spend the day with you talking about anything else!

PS - My wretched Ultimate Sweater Machine is available on ebay for only $150 plus $10 shipping. A real deal since KMart sells it for $249 plus shipping. Just because I hated it doesn't necessarily mean you will!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Paralyzing! Crippling! Record-Breaking!

Watch this hilarious Baltimore weatherman to see how the MidAtlantic deals with Snowmageddon.

Weatherman Freaking Out Over DC Snowpocalypse
Uploaded by TheDlisted. - Watch feature films and entire TV shows.

PS - I've spent the whole damn day trying to use the Ultimate Sweater Machine to make a little kid's sweater. It still SUCKS! I haven't dropped as many stitches in four decades of knitting as this piece of crap has dropped in an afternoon. GRRRR...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Caveat knitter!

I am a victim of DC's Snowmageddon, the worst snow storm since... 2003. Yes. 2003. I wish you could see the wall-to-wall television coverage. You'd think this storm really was the end of the world.

We've got 30 inches of snow in a region where a third-of-an-inch of white stuff is sufficient to close every school system within a hundred miles. (This yardstick is courtesy of my brother who took this picture in his back yard.) We are officially debilitated, bored, and overfed - the grocery stored surrendered every egg, loaf of bread, and a pack of Oreos yesterday. When I ventured to my neighborhood store and bought its very last half-gallon of milk, the clerk reassured me that I was one lucky woman.

Anyway, to bide my time while I wait for the snow to melt, I decided to unpack the Ultimate Sweater Machine I bought in a half-price sale before Christmas. Thank goodness I bought it at such a deep discount because it is far, far, far from ultimate. I had visions of quick sweaters spewing forth from this easy-to-use miracle maker - but alas, I was wrong.

The biggest shortcoming of the Ultimate Sweater Machine? You cannot purl. Stockinette? Yes. Works fine and makes fast, even stitches. But purl? Garter? Ribbing? Nope. Nada. Zilch. Cannot do it. The accompanying video suggests that to do ribbing, you knit a couple of inches of stockinette and then MANUALLY unravel every other stitch down to the cast on edge and then MANUALLY use a crochet hook to rehook the yarn as purl stitches. Are you kidding? You call that a solution? I need 72 inches of ribbing and you expect me to MANUALLY unravel the stitches one by one? As my boyfriend's teenage son says, WTF?

There is an alternative solution which the company actually tells you with a straight face: hand knit the ribbing yourself and then slip the stitches one by one onto the Ultimate Sweater Machine to finish knitting. Jeez louise. Might as well just knit the damn thing by hand myself!

I'm contemplating what to do next. I'm likely going to pack it all up and sell it on ebay. Then I'll save my dough until I can get a real knitting machine that purls - at least! I don't want much. But I do want to knit - and knitting requires purling.

More disappointment, but this one isn't because of the knitting machine. Tonight I have to re-cast-on for my Handstrikket. I knitted about ten inches before realizing that either my gauge or my stitch count is way off because I've made a sweater that is 90-inches wide! I've got a big ass but it's not that big. Back to the drawing board, dammit.

Too bad the knitting machine is so deficient. I'd love to whip out the bottom of my Handstrikket in a night or three. No such luck. The moral of my story? Caveat knitter!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

And miles to go before I sleep

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

This poem, of course, is the sublime "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost. I thought of it this morning when Washington awoke to a beautiful snow - white nestled on every branch, every limb, every twig. Glorious! Best of all, this little storm caused little delay, allowing our busy world to move on in spite of white and wonder.

So snow is one reason I'm poetic this morning.

The other: I'm working on the never-ending stockinette portion of my Handstrikket and believe me - I have miles to go before I sleep. I need to knit 15 inches of boring, one-color stockinette; thus far, I've finished only six. Even worse, this knitting venture gives yet another opportunity to lament my way-too-wide ass. Sigh... to be a skinny chick who can knit the bottom of a sweater in just a few nights!

Oh well. I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep... the stockinette ventures on.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A pretty new pattern just in time for the Groundhog's Day

Ooohhh... a pretty new pattern popped her head out of the ground this morning... this means there are six more weeks left of winter! Happy Groundhog's Day, girls!

To celebrate, I present this beautiful lace sweater designed by Galina Fedtchenko entitled, aptly enough, Ample Yoke Pullover. God bless her, the finished bust size goes up to 64 3/8 inches! Wonders of wonders. A beautiful sweater that comes large enough, too!

Galina made this pretty pullover in Cascade Sierra, a cotton/wool blend. It's perfect for spring - paired with a cute skirt, this would make a perfect Easter outfit. 

I already ordered my copy and I hope you'll order one, too if you think this sweater would work for you. Remember that we need to vote with our pocketbooks. If we don't buy large patterns, the designers won't bother making them. Buy your Ample Yoke Pullover from Y2Knit.

PS - I am diligently knitting the Handstrikket but it's just miles and miles of boring stockinette. As a dedicated blogger, I feel it is my duty not to make you yawn so I'm sparing you my endless whining. Maybe I'll show you my progress tomorrow. If it's not too boring. :-)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gaping at the belly gape

I am have an announcement. Effective today, February 1, 2010, I officially declare that I am sick and tired of sweaters that gape. You know the ones: they button at the neckline and split apart revealing the often most unattractive part of the human anatomy - the belly. They're all shaped like 19th century frock coats like the ones worn in "Sense and Sensibility" (which I watched for the millionth time this weekend).

I recognize that this design works well for many women - specifically chicks who have the great fortune of being tall, thin, and disciplined enough to do daily sit-ups. The rest of us? Not so much.

Maybe I feel this way because my slim, staturesque mother berated me for 15 years about covering my pudgy rolls. I hated it at the time, but I do think she was right. Most larger women look better when they avoid exposing their big bellies.

The queen of belly gaping sweaters? The February Lady cardigan. Pamela Wynne fashioned her design after Elizabeth Zimmermann's classic February Baby sweater. Believe it or not,  knitters all over the world have churned out nearly 8,000 February Ladies. The pattern is now available in English, Danish, French, Icelandic, Mandarin, Spanish, and Swedish.  

I like the February Baby sweater a lot - hey, I just made one for my friend's granddaughter to be. But I propose that the ample among us move on to March and amend these belly-gaping designs to accommodate our larger asses and assets.

For example, I really like Lisa S. Rowe's Solstice Three-Button Cardigan available in the new Curvy Knits book. It's a cute sweater. But it would be cuter if the placket didn't stop at the yoke and instead extended to the cardigan's hem. This modification would also finish off the left and right center - I don't like or understand letting the knitted edge just roll under. It looks unfinished to me. This pattern now resides in my queue, but when I get around to knitting it, I will definitely be making this alteration. (And a couple of others, too. I'll make the sweater longer; it's only about 23 inches long - at least five or six inches too short for my liking. And I'll drop the yarn overs on the raglan decreases. I don't care for raglan sleeve holes and a simpler raglan line would look better in my humble opinion.)

If you're contemplating a new cardigan, consider closing that gaping gap so popular in today's patterns. I think it will be more becoming on you. And it will last longer, too. One of these days, these gaping cardigans will look dated. A classic cardigan with full plackets and buttons will always be in style.