Friday, September 24, 2010

Blomst = Flower

If the universe forced me to pick just one knitting technique to knit for all eternity, I would choose fair isle, hands down, no contest. My fascination with stranded knitting started when I was a young girl and continues to this day. I've made a host of colorwork projects over the past few years.

I have always loved but have never knitted folk art motifs. Lucinda Guy creates delightful designs in this vein, such as the Märta Embroidered Bag bag from Northern Knits. Clean, fresh, and, fun, Lucinda uses these classic images for many of her designs, especially for children. Lucinda says this bag draws inspiration from Marta Maas-Fjetterstom, an artist who re-envisioned traditional Swedish motifs with art deco styling.

Hence I was reminded of Marta Maas-Fjetterstom when I spied Torirot's new funky and fabulous Blomst mittens on Ravelry. What better way to feature classic Swedish motifs than on mittens?

Tori, an incredibly accomplished designer in her own right, creates gorgeous colorwork patterns. I've always loved her adorable Hippocampus sea horse mittens.

And how about this terrific Phantasy elephant hat? Just perfect for the Republican or Ganesh lover in your life.

I sent Tori a note telling her how much I loved the Blomst (which means flower in English) mittens. She promptly asked me if I'd like to test knit the pattern's English version and I responded with a hearty YES. I raided my sizable stash and came up with several bright colors of Knit Picks Merino, perfect for this pattern, as well as some cute buttons for the cuff.

I had planned to start Tom's Christmas sweater while am on vacation, but I think I'll finish the Melrose Peacoat and then work on these cute mittens instead. I admit I am powerless over mittens and my life has become unmanageable. I have two other mitten projects in progress and now am adding a third! Oh well. I'll get to them all one day.

I'll end by sharing one example of Marta Maas-Fjetterstom's fine work, a stunning art deco handmade rug. Lovely, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Short row rump shaping

Last night, I ventured into the unknown waters of short row shaping. Most knitters use short rows to give themselves some extra fabric in the bust area, as shown in this photo from Amy Herzog's terrific Fit to Flatter tutorials. Short rows let you insert a curve in flat knitting without having to increase the length of the garment. I've heard wondrous things about short rows and how much they improve fit.

Maybe short rows would help me in the bust department, but where I need the extra curve is in my derriere. I spend half my life tugging on the back of my garments. And my profile pics always bug me because what should be a parallel line at the hem is always pitched. I look like a Victorian woman with a bustle.

I literally have an anatomical, genetic reason for my unfortunate bustle. I have hyperlordosis, an exaggerated curvature of the spine. Besides making sweaters difficult to fit, hyperlordosis also gives me fits of pain and weekly trips to the chiropractor. 

I can't do a thing about my spine, but I can add some rear shaping to get a better fit. I will admit freely that I'm making this up as I go along. I knitted about 10 inches in length and then started the shaping. I left a 25-stitch margin on each side and then did the standard short row wrap and turn. (See the video below for a comprehensive discussion of the technique.)

You can see that I've added a gentle curve that makes the hem dip a little, but when I wrap this around my butt, the curve will (hopefully) be absorbed by my butt and result in a straight line. I suspect I should do more short rows and more research, too. I wish I had more confidence about what I'm doing. I know it's the right approach but whether I'm implementing this correctly is a mystery. I'll let you know what I find out.

I may be clueless about short-row shaping, but there's one thing I know for sure: I love my little man, Moose. He always makes me smile. :-)

Monday, September 20, 2010

CRINGE! Boyfriend sweater redux

Ah, the boyfriend sweater, the bane of female knitters everywhere. There's even a Wikipedia entry:
Knitters use the term Sweater Curse or the Curse of the Love Sweater to describe a situation in which a knitter gives a hand-knit sweater to a significant other, who quickly breaks up with the knitter.
Well, Tom and I fortunately beat the curse the first time I made him a sweater. I started this CRINGE-worthy project three years ago, about a month after we started dating. I gave him my veritable labor of love on Christmas day. He was completely aghast that a woman he had so recently met would give him such a big, meaning-laden gift.

Fortunately, it didn't freak him out enough to break up with me, but he never wore it either. Why?
  1. I made the pullover out of a variegated yarn that produced uneven stripes all over his body. I just CRINGE when I think about it now. I hate variegated yarn and this sweater is why.
  2. I used Patons SWS, a quasi-cheesy wool/soy blend that I got from Michaels. This cheap yarn makes me CRINGE as well.
  3. The V neck is too deep for a guy. I used Sweater Wizard to make the pattern and didn't know then to check every detail and measurement. Big lesson learned, one that makes me CRINGE.
The only thing about the sweater that doesn't make me CRINGE is that it truly fits him perfectly. I have a friend who is built just like Tom - very tall and thin with long-ass arms - and I used him as my fit model. I am still proud that I managed to make a sweater for Tom that was both long and lean enough.

I nagged the hell out of Tom for two years to wear that sweater but he refused, finally telling me that it was WAY too hot for him and that he wants to pick out any thing of any significance. He trusts no one. If he doesn't have his fingerprints on it, he won't like it.

After the sweater debacle, we collaborated on a small trial project. I made him a fair isle hat from Hats On! using Knit Picks Merino - but only after he had officially approved the pattern and yarn. He loves loves this hat and wears it all the time during the cooler months - he even sleeps in it. Of course, when you're bald, hats are an absolute necessity for dealing with the cold.

Given this success, I decided a year ago that it was time to make another sweater for Tom, one that is plainer, lighter, and much more likely to be worn. I picked some patterns and got his approval to make Norah Gaughan's John's Sweater. Thank God Norah's significant other is a burly dude because Tom never would have agreed to it otherwise.

The rub: Tom doesn't want a bulky sweater. Norah and her man live in New Hampshire where Berroco Peruvia is just the ticket for a warm pullover. Tom, on the other hand, lives in Southern Maryland where the winters are fairly temperate. I picked a wool/cotton blend, Classic Elite Solstice, and made a beautiful swatch. He loved it. But when Tom saw a lightweight Berroco Vintage swatch I'd made for a different project, he insisted that the Solstice would be too heavy.

So I ordered a skein of Classic Elite Chesapeake, a DK cotton/wool blend, and swatched again. He loves it, grace of God. The new swatch actually meets the original pattern gauge so I won't have to do a ton of alterations. I'm going to add another cable repeat to lengthen the sleeves and torso and that should be that.
BTW, the green Chesapeake does amazing things to his eyes. He's half Danish and looks the part with his blonde hair, pale complexion, and light blue eyes. But when I put this green swatch up to his face, his eyes instantly and eerily change from blue to green. So weird! Or at least so weird for a woman with dark brown eyes that never change no matter what I do. Apparently eyes don't really change color; they just reflect the ambient light nearby. But I still wish I could change my eye color just by simply changing my shirt.

Anyway, I'll be starting this new venture as soon as I'm done with the Melrose Peacoat. I've finished about a third of the back and the two sleeves, so I'm moving right along. I wish I could take some time off to make some mittens or socks, but I'd better keep moving. With all the complicated cables, this sweater is going to take me forever. During swatching, the hardest part was getting the foundation rows right. After that, I made better progress.

My plan: finish Tom's pullover by the holidays. But no matter how badly this project turns out, it will still never be a CRINGE-worthy Christmas sweater. That's another matter entirely. ;-)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What I did on my summer vacation

What did I do on my summer vacation? NOTHING. Because I never had one. But we're getting ready to make up for that by taking a New England autumn holiday.

After driving for most of the first day, we're starting our getaway in Brunswick, Maine, where I'll be taking Amy Herzog's Fit to Flatter class at Purl Diva. Amy authored an incredible, affordable set of tutorials about knitting sweaters that best flatter your figure. The class is her first venture into teaching real-live people about her techniques. I'm very excited to attend.

Then Tom and I are spending a couple of days exploring coastal Maine before heading west to Jeffersonville, Vermont, my most favorite place in the world. I grew up in the DC area but whenever I go to Vermont, I feel like I've come home. I'm not sure if there are soul mates but there are definitely soul places and this one is mine.

For years, I've stayed at Sterling Ridge, a beautiful place with a large handful of log cabins. There's no roughing it here though. Every cottage comes equipped with a jacuzzi tub, cable TV, firm king size beds, high-quality linens, fully equipped kitchens, and cozy front porches that are surrounded by Vermont beauty. I love it.

After a few days in Vermont, we're heading south to the yarn capital of the free world: Webs. I've never been there before but considering I spend half my earnings there every month, it's time to check it out. Webs is sort of on our way anyway; we're spending the last night of our trip in Massachusetts with my best friend from college, Judy, and her husband, Jeff.

Then we'll be slogging home down 95 and I'll be telling myself, yet again, to "work hard for another year so you can go back to New England, the place where you really belong." Sigh. :-(

But all is not lost. I'm coming back to lots and lots of knitting classes:
  • Locally, next week I'm starting a four-month class to prepare for The Knitting Guild of America's Master Level 1 certification.
  • Today I'm going to northern Virginia to take a day-long class in Aran sweater knitting from designer Beth Brown Reinsel who is ironically from Vermont!
  • I'm heading back to western Pennsylvania twice in October to take more classes with my favorite knitting teacher, Kathy Zimmerman. I'm scheduling a private class with her and then am taking her Fearless Knitting class to learn more advanced sweater fitting techniques.
  • I hope go back to Kathy's for her fall weekend workshop in November.
  • And of course, there's the Fit to Flatter class I've already mentioned.
It will be an amazing autumn of knitting. Keep coming back... I'll share what I learn. I'm so happy and grateful there's so much to look forward to!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The horizontal stripes

This cartoon from this week's New Yorker made me laugh and think of my fellow ample knitters.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Two sleeves down...

Back and fronts to go. Loving the Melrose Peacoat thus far. If you need more beauty in your life, go knit some Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande. It is truly GRAND.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The rant continues

Yesterday I ranted heartily about current knitting trends I despise. I thought I was done, but this morning I woke up with a couple more. Again, all of this is just my humble opinion (JMHO).

Entrelac usually lacks
Okay, in principle this technique would be interesting to do, but you should almost never take this entropy of color, pattern, and texture and plaster it on your body. Make a pillow! But leave the entrelac sweaters at home. Even a little tiny woman looms large in an entrelac pullover.

But there are a few exceptions. This wedding shrug is beautiful.

And I love this fun adventure in socks:

So maybe entrelac isn't all bad. Just mostly bad. Of course, JMHO.

Diamond knitting don't shine
Maybe I hate diamond knitting because the aforementioned LYS owner, who adores that Swing Swagger Drape book, perpetually tries to sell me on it. She daydreams all day long about selling me 5000 skeins of yarn so I can spend a year toiling away on this giant, hideous cape. She even had the gall to tell me it would be slimming on me! To which I wanted to scream, "WTF??? I HATE THIS THING!"

At least she didn't try to sell me on these horrible pants. They should be outlawed!

Vivian Hoxbro wrote a book on diamond knitting a decade ago - I've even got a copy - and the whole look seems tremendously dated to me. But there are exceptions. Isn't this a beautiful knitted tee? It would be lovely on many ample figures.

Or how about this cute dog sweater pattern?

It's adorable, but admit it, it would be more attractive on a pug. :-) Again and as always, JMHO!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Trending down - a rant

DISCLAIMER. I officially declare today as The World According to Julie Day, which means I get to opine openly about what I hate in current knitting trends. You're now duly warned. All that follows is just my humble opinion (JMHO).

I hate cowls.
Cowls were all the rage when I was in the college in the late seventies. I hated them then, too. Why? Because I have a two-inch neck. Maybe three. (See the photo of Tom and me below for empirical evidence.) There just isn't room to comfortably stuff a knitted loop around my neck. Yes, I know you'll tell me they draw attention up to my face and blah blah blah. But I ain't wearing them!

Much to my dismay, yesterday a cowl-bearing LYS owner chased me around and around waving her latest neckware design. I almost screamed at her: I DON'T WEAR TURTLENECKS, COWLS, SNOODS, OR DICKEYS - NOW GO AWAY!!! Then she started blathering on about how I could make a sweater in super bulky yarn and I almost screamed: ARE YOU NUTS? I'M FAT AND MENOPAUSAL - I DON'T WEAR SUPER BULKY WOOL! NOW GO AWAY!!! It wasn't a pleasant shopping trip, as you can imagine.

Many knitting classes offered today are for cowls, the perfect beginning knitting project. But for me, they're just a mega-yawn. I'll be happy when the trend shifts and no one wears them again for 30 years. Can't come too soon. JMHO, of course.

What is with all the shawls?
I know shawls make good beginning lace projects, but ACK! Half of the most popular patterns on Ravelry are shawls. What I want to know is why isn't anyone wearing them? I know one old hippie who routinely wears shawls but hasn't stopped donning them since the Summer of Love (there's a reference that will date me).

I admit I've got a shawl project stuffed in my purse. I take it with me everywhere and pull it out whenever I have to wait at the chiropractor's. When it is completed, I will wrap the shawl around me when I type because I get chilly sitting still. But neither this chiropractic shawl nor any other will ever become a wardrobe staple. Ever! I'll be interested to see what women do with all these large knitted squares and half-circles; I doubt they'll ever wear them more than twice.

But I do think lace shawls are beautiful. JMHO, of course.

I despise variegated yarn.
Listen. Just because a yarn manfacturer can use ten dye colors in a single skein doesn't mean you should be knitting everything you own in it. The first problem: horizontal striping. Even skinny chicks look heavy with stripes wrapped again and again around their bodies. Second, color pooling sucks! Although some manufacturers are figuring out how to dye yarn so it doesn't pool hideously, most  multicolored yarn does. Variegation doesn't bother me on mittens or socks and even some shawls, but I don't like it on anything else. And I just HATE variegated yarns used with lace or cables. When it comes to knitting something, pick one - lace, cables, or abject color - do NOT combine! I'd like to see your lace and cables but if they're smothered with wildly changing hues, I can't see them at all. JMHO, of course.

Enough with the ruffles!
Ruffles? Really? I'm 51 years old. Ruffles? Little girl dresses, yes. Wide-angled, middle-aged mamas? NO. JMHO, of course.

Death to skulls and crossbones
Maybe I'm too old. No, definitely I'm too old. But honestly, must everything be plastered with the universal sign for poison? God or Satan willing, this trend is dying, but it can't happen soon enough. (Love being able to get in a picture of a pug, however!) JMHO, of course.

Stop reproducing fornicating reindeer
And to end today's rant, I propose putting a permanent end to those horrible sex addicts, the fornicating reindeer. Why do people knit this motif? To shock their grandmothers? I'm not a grandmother but I'm old enough to be one, and yes, it shocks me.

Do reindeers f*** in the woods? Yes. Let them, and respect their privacy. Stop knitting this nonsense!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just my humble opinion!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Augusta Lessons UNLearned

I've written about some of the lessons I've learned in knitting the Augusta Cardigan (Lesson 1 post, Lesson 2 post). But today I want to explore some of what I have left to learn.

Better buttonholes

First, how in the heck do you make a buttonhole that doesn't gape?  I checked - even in the original Handstrikket, the buttonholes gape. And it was handknitted by a Norwegian! :-)

With the Augusta, I made a the buttonhole by binding off two stitches on the first row and casting on two stitches on the second row (this graphic shows three stitches, but you get the drift). I thought this would make a tight enough buttonhole. I was wrong. I'm going to have to do what I do with every buttonhole: sew around with either thread or yarn to tighten up and stablize it. I don't mind doing this but there ought to be a better way.

With my extensive sewing experience, I would never make a buttonhole without a facing and interfacing, but with knitting this isn't possible. I've pondered making a placket twice as wide, folding it back on itself and basting it down, and then using a sewing machine to make the buttonholes, but I'm not sure these would be right either. Plus can you imagine knitting a whole sweater and then screwing it up with one lousy buttonhole? Makes me tremble at just the thought.

I would like to use buttonholes on my Melrose Peacoat but Kathy Zimmerman suggests that I use snaps instead. This is what the pattern specs as well. I was lucky to find some red silk-covered snaps at Sew True so maybe they'll work. But I still wish I could do conventional buttonholes.

Short row shaping in the hips

In Big Girl Knits, Jillian and Amy talk extensively about using short row shaping for bustlines, but I think I need them for my ass. My sweaters consistently ride up in the rear. Part of this is because I have hyperlordosis AKA way too curvy spine. I suspect I need to add another inch or two or length in the hips to get a better fit. Not all the way around, just in the back. I'm going to try the calculations provided in Big Girl Knits to improvise short row shaping for the Melrose Peacoat. We'll see how that goes.


With my background in sewing, seaming doesn't make me completely miserable like it does my knitting gal pal, Teresa. She despises it. I don't mind it but I would like to learn more about finishing techniques. Kathy Zimmerman is holding a weekend knitting retreat in November that includes a finishing class - I think I'll go. Another question: which seaming technique works best for the shoulders versus the sides? And as always, I need to learn Kitchener. No matter how many times I watch the YouTube videos, I just don't get it.

Ease continues to trouble me. I'm not sure what the right answer is, but my handknits tend to skim my curves and that makes me uncomfortable. I'm used to wearing baggy clothes that never fit, I guess. Seeing my hips in the Diamond Yoke Cardigan or the Augusta makes me nervous. I'm knitting the Melrose Peacoat with more ease but that's because it's a coat. One of these days I'll figure out how much ease to use - or I'll get used to my curves and get over it.

I'm sure there are plenty of other things I need to learn, too, like how to stop worrying, live in the moment, meditate, trust the universe, and ad nauseum. But I have a far better chance of learning Kitchener than learning to relax. So I guess I'm starting with grafting. :-)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Stash Sale!

GREAT YARN DEALS! Take advantage of my yarn divestiture sale today. Here are the details:
  • If you see something you like, email me. First come, first served
  • I accept Paypal for payment
  • All sales include free shipping!
  • Everything is 15-30% off retail PLUS free shipping
  • Smoke-free home
  • I own a cat and a dog but all the yarn is bagged and stored in plastic bins
  • No returns
For complete yarn details, visit the Ravelry links provided below (free account required).

Berroco Cuzco - Teal
1 skein
130 yards
50% Superfine Alpaca/50% Peruvian Wool
$7.00 includes free shipping

Berroco Cuzco - Ginseng
1 skein
130 yards

50% Superfine Alpaca/50% Peruvian Wool
$7.00 includes free shipping


15 skeins
1770 yards
50% Bamboo, 50% Wool

One ball was used to start a sweater; I will send the knitted piece and the rest of the ball along with the other skeins.
$100 includes free shipping

Elann Peruvian Highland Wool
10 skeins

1090 yards
100% Wool
$23.00 includes free shipping


10 skeins
2800 yards
90% Wool 10% Cashmere
$55 includes free shipping


Mirasol Nuna
6 skeins
1337 yards
40% Silk, 40% Wool, 20% Bamboo
Discontinued color. One skein used for swatching.
$55 includes free shipping.


New Zealand Wool
17 skeins in multiple shades of purple
2125 yards
100% Wool
$30 includes free shipping


Plymouth Encore
13 skeins
2600 yards
75% Acrylic, 25% Wool
Discontinued color. One skein used for swatching.
$55 includes free shipping
8 skeins
4368.0 yards
45% Acrylic, 40% Angora, 15% Mohair
$35 includes free shipping