Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How Norah does it

I love discovering how a brilliant mind works. Think of da Vinci's sketchbooks and you'll know what I mean. Want to see how a brilliant knitwear designer thinks? Then check out this recent blog post by Norah Gaughan. I don't have an iPad, but I could definitely use her techniques on my PC using Photoshop and Illustrator. My brain is percolating faster than my mother's old coffee pot!

Norah Gaughan: iPad Sketching

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Handstrikket Before and After

I finally got a guy in the rental office to take some pictures of me in my Handstrikket. Considering it was 93 degrees here yesterday, this was a feat of endurance, I tell you. After wearing that alpaca and wool sweater for only five minutes, I busted out a major sweat.

But the perspiration and perseverance were worth it. I present to you the before and after photos of my Handstrikket. Here's the front. I wish I'd had him photograph me with the sweater buttoned so you could get a better comparison, but I didn't think of it. Regardless, you can see that the sleeves are a much better fit. In the new version, I added some additional rows at the neckline which makes the cardigan fit better over my shoulders. And the entire garment is smaller, too; note how in the original I had the front closed with a DPN and didn't even have a placket. All in all, it fits better, I think.

You can really tell a difference from the back view. First off, the hem is much more becoming than the ribbing. Great lesson learned... I'll never put ribbing that draws in on my bottom again. In addition, note the short rows I did on the back of the neck improve the fit through the shoulders. And most of all, you can see I've lost some weight - and from my giant ass, too. Wonders never cease.

I don't have a before pic from the side, but here's one of the final version. Note that the cardigan looks like it's  higher in the back than the front. This is unfortunately evidence of my hyperlordosis AKA a severe curve in my lower back that makes me forever look like I've got a bustle and makes my back and hips hurt, too. Lots of folks in my family have this. When my uncle was in the Army, his drill sargeant always screamed at him to stand up straight. He was as straight as he could get and was still bent over!

Some of you may think the modifications are subtle, perhaps too subtle to warrant reknitting most of the sweater. I'd be interested to hear what you think. Please comment here if you have an opinion.

Now for my next trick: I finished the sleeve for the Augusta Cardigan from New England Knits. Love it! And best of all, it knits up quickly. I finished this sleeve knitted in less than a week.

I had a brainstorm while I was knitting and decided to figure out beforehand the exact row numbers for increases, decreases, and cable crosses. I wrote them down, used a row counter religiously, and found the whole process to be MUCH easier. Far better than having to count and remember that six - or is that five? or seven? - rows from now I need to decrease one stitch on each side. Now I just follow the directions.

I'm happy today, at least when it comes to my knitting, because I feel like I'm getting closer to my life's goal of making a sweater that actually fits. Between the practice, education, and your great support, I'm getting there, one cardigan at a time.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The august Augusta

What a miracle - I'm no longer working on the Handstrikket. It's like trudging through 12 long years of school and finally getting to go to college. Graduation is sweet!

Now on to a new beginning: the Augusta Cardigan from New England Knits. I started one of the sleeves last night based on an excellent tip from Kathy Zimmerman: start with the sleeve because if your gauge is wrong, you won't have as much to rip out if you have to start over. This is exactly what happened. My first go at the sweater was on the size 10 needles that worked perfectly for my swatch. But after knitting a bit, I noticed the cuff was 15 inches wide rather than the 10 that I'd planned. So I scrapped the whole effort and started over with sixes. The gauge is perfect now.

The yarn is gorgeous, btw - this photo doesn't do it justice. I'm using Berroco Peruvia in Sea Turtle, a 100% wool aran yarn. And from my vast and ever-expanding stash no less!

 I'll have more tips from Kathy in the next day or two. Can't think of a better use of a knitting blog than sharing educational wealth.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wonders never cease

Look what I've finished? I'll post photos of me modeling my creation as soon as it dries. I started the Augusta Cardigan last night - how nice to be looking at green yarn rather than brown!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

If I were King of the Knitting Forest

If I were King of the Forest - not queen, not duke, not prince -
My regal robes of the forest, would be satin, not cotton, not chintz
I'd command each thing, be it fish or fowl
With a woof and a woof and a royal growl!

I love Burt Lahr. And I love knitting. And I'd really love to be the King of the Knitting Forest. If I were king - not queen, not duke, not prince - I'd pronounce the following edicts:

1. All knitting needles will be stamped with their size, forever eliminating the ridiculous need for a knitting needle sizing thingy.

2. Berroco will never again hide important sweater details behind scarves and jewelry in the quest of artsy-fartsy images. While I like creative photography, I care far more about seeing every detail so I can imagine what a garment would look like on me. If the neckline doesn't show, I can't tell. Berroco's Cirilia Rose kindly photographed the collar of this pullover so I could see the detailing. By the way, Berroco is not the only offender here - Jared Flood and many others do it, too. In my kingdom, form definitely follows function.

3. Every knitwear designer in the world will fully recognize that NOTHING smaller than a 52-inch bust size qualifies as plus size. Don't kid yourself, Sharon Brant (et al), author of the supposedly plus-sized Knitting Goes Large. In the United States, 48 inches is barely even chubby. Ample knitters disdain your feeble efforts to design for larger women. You don't even have a clue.

4. A patient and kind arithmetic teacher/knitter will be hired to give free math lessons to me and any one else who would needs to figure out equally spaced increases and decreases without inducing a migraine.

5. All ample knitters will be required to summon the courage to knit sweaters that fit their forms. Free classes will be offered to teach such techniques, and grant applications will be accepted for those who cannot afford the $100+ needed to knit a wool sweater. My intent: to emancipate women who hide behind mittens, scarves, hats, scarves, and baby clothes because they're too afraid to make garments for themselves. (By the way, the following photo doesn't have a thing to do with anything. I just love the pug. And no, it's not Moosie.)

6. While we're at it, all yarn stores will be required to give a 25% volume discount to ample knitters who buy twice as much yarn are their skinny compatriots. We deserve a break today - and not at McDonalds! Webs gets it but no one else does - which is why Webs is royally kicking the ass of local yarn stores.

7. In my kingdom, cashmere will be cheap and acrylic will be expensive. Now really, doesn't that inherently make sense to you? :-)

Monday, July 19, 2010


Finished the hem this weekend. Think I like it. Button bands next. Hope it fits. Mostly can't wait to knit something - anything! - else.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I feel the earth move under my feet

In the middle of the night, I had the strangest dream: I was sleeping in a dark room and I suddenly felt a force race through my body from the top of my head down through my toes - and then it was gone. Jeez louise. My life is pretty chaotic right now, so chaotic that I'm dreaming about earthquakes? What is my psyche trying to tell me?

Well... nothing. It wasn't a dream - it was really a 3.6 earthquake, in Germantown, right where I live. In fact, the earthquake's epicenter was 39.167°N, 77.252°W... my apartment sits at 39.182°N, 77.265°W. Literally ground zero. The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake occured at 5:04:49 a.m. about three miles under the earth's surface - AKA three miles under my apartment!
I certainly never thought I'd experience an earthquake here in Maryland. Maybe this big rumble will shake up Congress? One could hope, but I seriously doubt it. :-)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cardigans and class

As I expected, I had another glorious knitting class with Kathy Zimmerman on Saturday. This time, she taught us how to make sweaters customized for our bodies. We started by taking lots of measurements of our bodies and then took the same measurements of garments that we think fit well. We then built schematics for our very own perfect sweaters.

For my target design, I decided to use the Augusta Sweater from the soon-to-be-released New England Knits. Why? Because so many of you contacted me after my last posting to tell me you loved it. Who am I to argue? I love the design, too. I'm going to whip it up in the Berroco Peruvia I already have in my stash - what a concept!

Unfortunately, Interweave didn't send me the book in time for the class. I ordered it directly from them at full price - instead of at Amazon where I could have saved ten bucks - so that it would get here fast. But after spending $5.39 for shipping, the company sent me the book parcel post. Parcel post takes up to nine days! For that amount, I should have gotten it via Priority Mail in two days.  Ridiculous. I hate companies that charge exorbitant shipping and handling charges. It's dishonest. Tell me what something really costs because it just pisses me off when I discover the ruse!

So, I ended up building a schematic that matches what I think the Augusta Cardigan will look like. I assumed the semi-obvious: set-in sleeves, knitted from the bottom up, using aran weight yarn. But I decided that mine will have a gentle A-line fit since that's the way my body is.

Speaking of the A-line fit, Kathy suggested putting the additional increases in the purl stitches that surround the cables. I'd never thought of this; I'd always assumed they should be done at the side seams. What a great idea.

Kathy also suggested that I try designs with set in sleeves and side seams (I know my friend Teresa is gagging now) because she thinks I'll get a better fit than the round yoke sweaters I usually make. We'll see how the Augusta turns out and how it fits.

This week, despite all the great inspiration, I've been trying to finish up the Handstrikket. Last night I completed the stockinette - grace of fricking God! I need to knit about an inch and a half in DK weight Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light for the hem and then sew it up. After that, it's the plackets, buttonholes, and buttons and then it's is FINIS. Cannot wait.

I'm not sure what I'll do when I'm finished. I've still got another Northman mitten to make so I might make a detour and finish this up. I like doing short projects in between the long ones for some instant gratification. Then I think I'll work on the Augusta.
But I've got another delight in the wings. When I was at Kathy Zimmerman's yarn store, I made a HUGE splurge and bought enough Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande to make New England Knit's Melrose Peacoat. I want a knitted coat I can wear to walk the beloved Moose. This will be beautiful. My plan is to knit the center seed stitch sections wider to match my wider body; make the right and left seed stitch sections the same width so there isn't a gape when the coat is buttoned; use four sets of woven leather buttons; and make the sweater about 30 inches long.

I knitted up a swatch of this miraculously soft yarn. So delicious I could eat it for dinner. Or curl up and suck my thumb with this little swatch, it is so soft. The next time I need a baby present, I'm making a blanket out of this alpaca delight.
Or maybe a extra-warm doggie sweater for my wonderful pug.
So that's my latest, girls. Oh, and I'm thinking about going back to Kathy Zimmerman for a finishing class in August. I still haven't mastered the Kitchener stitch and would love some professional instruction in seaming (stop groaning, Teresa!). Kathy's yarn shop is my Mecca. Glad to have found a wonderful place to go when I need to get away and learn something new.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Back and forth - or in the round?

Do you like to knit in the round or back and forth and then seam? I'm posting this little debate for my knitting gal pal, Teresa. I already know what she would say! BTW, that's Norah Gaughan and Cirilia Rose, the two creative geniuses behind Berroco. Norah is wearing her Ditto Cardigan, a sweater that I made last year.

The cat, the dog, and the Handstrikket

Will I ever, ever, ever finish this damn thing?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The final selections

After weeks of indecision and countless hours of fruitless swatching, I've decided on the following sweaters for the Kathy Zimmerman Knit to Fit class I'm taking on Saturday:

First, Sirdar 9166 in Classic Elite Solstice in Blue Moon. Still trying to decide whether to put buttons all the way down and to make the sleeves full length. I like the cardi just as it is, but I might wear it more with these modifications. I also envision wearing this with jeans more than skirts since I only own one skirt!  (And it's denim to boot.) My mother saddled me with this notion when I was a kid that I couldn't wear skirts because my boobs were too big and I was short-waisted. Thank you, Mom...

Next, Sirdar 9140 - sort of. I'm grabbing the cable off the yoke, but am going to make many other mods, including: using worsted weight yarn instead of bulky; expanding the placket a bit to give a little more room for the buttons; extending the buttons all the way to the bottom; and hemming the sweater instead of using ribbing. So I consider this sweater to be (mostly) my own design. I'm using my favorite yarn of all time, Berroco Ultra Alpaca, in Stone Washed Mix.

The cable yoke fascinates me, not just because the Saxon cable is beautiful but because the pattern uses short rows to make the yoke curve around the shoulders. Really cool - and complicated. For every row I knit, I rip out three. But I'm getting the hang of it. My plan is to knit the cable to fit and then pick up stitches on top for the ribbing and stitches below for the raglan body and sleeves.

Finally, I've struggled bitterly to find the perfect pattern for my giant stash of Berroco Peruvia in Sea Turtle. I've tried several different designs but am dissatisfied with almost all of them. My current plan is to make this simple, classic cabled cardigan called Augusta from the forthcoming book, New England Knits. The all-wool Peruvia is a good match.

But first I'm focusing on finishing the interminable Handstrikket (I'm almost finished with the stockinette body, grace of God) and the first two sweaters above first. I pray Kathy's class will teach me how to make sweaters that fit my lumpiness perfectly.