Friday, October 29, 2010

Comprehensive listing of plus-size knitting books

A hearty thank you to loyal blog reader, Pat, who gave me the idea to post a comprehensive listing of plus-size knitting and crochet books and booklets. This list includes printed materials specifically designed for ample knitters, not just books that either offer larger sizing or do-it-yourself patterns.

I'm providing links both to purchase the book and view the associated Ravelry projects where possible, but remember to check your local library, too.  If you know of other materials related to ample knitting that I've missed, please let me know by leaving a blog comment or emailing me. The books are listed alphabetically by title.

Big Girl Knits
Amy Singer and Jillian Moreno
Buy on Amazon | View projects on Ravelry

Big Knits
Dawn French and Sylvie Soudan
Buy on Amazon | View project on Ravelry

Classic Knits for Real Women
Martin Storey
Buy on Amazon | View projects on Ravelry

Curvy Knits Cambridge
Jillian Moreno, Classic Elite Knits
Buy | View projects on Ravelry

Curvy Knits Park Street
Classic Elite Knits
Buy | View projects on Ravelry

Curvy Knits Pemaquid
Jillian Moreno
Buy | View projects on Ravelry

Curvy Knits, Volume 1
Jillian Moreno
Buy | View projects on Ravelry

Curvy Knits, Volume 2
Jillian Moreno
Buy | View projects on Ravelry

Family Circle Easy Plus-Size Knits: 50 Knit and Crochet Styles
Trish Malcolm, Family Circle
Buy on Amazon | View projects on Ravelry

Great Big Knits
Dawn French and Sylvie Soudan
Buy on Amazon | View projects on Ravelry

Great Inspirations
Buy | View projects on Ravelry

Knitting Goes Large
Sharon Brant, Wendy Baker, Jennie Atkinson, Martin Storey

Buy on Amazon | View projects on Ravelry

More Big Girl Knits
Amy Singer and Jillian Moreno
Buy on Amazon | View projects on Ravelry

Knitting Plus: Mastering Fit + Plus-Size Style + 15 Projects Lisa Shroyer
Pre-Order on Amazon | View projects on Ravelry

Plus-Size Crochet
Margaret Hubert
Buy on Amazon | View projects on Ravelry

Plus-Size Fashions to Knit
Kathleen Power Johnson, Leisure Arts
Buy on Amazon | View projects on Ravelry

Plus-Size Sweaters to Crochet
Melissa Leapman, Leisure Arts
Carol Rasmussen Noble
Buy on Amazon  | View projects on Ravelry

I am proud and/or ashamed to admit that I own all these books, except for Knitting Plus which won't be released until next year.

While I'm at it, let's give props to those folks who routinely care for and about ample knitters:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More new plus size patterns

Perhaps the knitting industry has finally heard that over 60 percent of Americans are obese or overweight. I've written recently (post 1 and post 2) about new ample pattern books that will soon be on the market. Today I'll share additional evidence that suggests the knitting industry finally knows about our huge untapped market (pun intended).

First, Vogue Knitting Holiday 2010 offers at least two larger patterns. Maybe the editors heard the outcry that followed their editorial stating that they weren't interested in making patterns for larger "silhouettes." The editors went so far as to list other websites that sell ample designs so that they don't have to! Many knitters were angry and offended, and I was among them.

Given this, I am thrilled to discover that Michele Wang's Cabled Swing Poncho goes up to 3X. You know I don't believe in sizes - I live by finished bust size - but the Ravelry entry doesn't include measurements, so I'll go on faith that this design could easily be adapted to fit me. And before you even say it, yes, I agree, it's dumb for the model to being wearing a hooded garment AND a hat! But this design would work for my mountain of bulky red alpaca.

Norah Gaughan also has a pretty 2X round yoke pullover in the soon-to-be-released Vogue Knitting. I'd have to lose the giant turtleneck, but I love the cables around the neck and the shorter sleeves that Fit to Flatter says emphasize a narrower waist.

Do you crochet? If so, there's a new ample crochet book just out from Annie's Attic. Jill Hanratty's Plus Size Fashions offers five crochet sweaters designed for a larger figure. I'm not crazy about the yarn and colors used for these pieces - they're all pretty bland - and the patterns are a bit bland, too. But the book does offer some good, basic sweaters.

Remember, if you want companies to offer ample designs, you need to buy plus-size books and magazines. This is America - pattern publishers only sell larger patterns if people actually buy them. Vote with your pocket book! Show the yarn companies and the publishing houses that there is indeed a market for plus-size knitting. As I said earlier, we represent more than 60 percent of Americans. Shouldn't that mean that over 60 percent of patterns should be offered in larger sizes? YES. But only if you buy them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Early Bird Special and more

If you've been reading my blog, you know that I came back from Kathy Zimmerman's last week on cloud nine. Kathy shared one of her new stitch designs and arranged for me to get the very first skeins of a new, not-yet-released alpaca/merino blend. The plan: to create a cardigan of my own design under Kathy's tutelage in her Fearless Knitting classes. This advanced technique series starts next weekend.

I've got a name for this venture: Early Bird Special. Why? Because I got the stitch design and yarn before anyone else in the world! That's what I call special. Check out the swatch I finished over the weekend. Isn't it gorgeous? I love the cables and I plan on encrusting my cardigan with them. I'm been wanting to knit an aran cabled sweater for years and now's my chance. Even better, I'm going to design it using my exact my measurements. How exciting!

Look how pretty the sleeve will look with that main cable running up the arm. Moosie likes it, too.

I adore the Alpaca Handknitting Yarn, which will soon be released by Kraemer Yarns. Kathy kindly sent me the remainder of her skein so I could swatch in advance of next weekend's class. My only regrets: the lackluster name and mega-dated looking label. Kraemer, if you're out there watching, I am a freelance graphic designer, marketing expert, and avid knitter and I'm looking for work. Please hire me to market your yarn. I could make all the difference. You need me!

But regardless of the marketing, the good news is that there is an absolutely splendid new yarn coming to market. When Alpaca Handknitting Yarn lands in your LYS, go feel it - you'll fall madly in love, too. Here are the specs from the yarn-inducing label:
  • DK weight
  • Approximately 220 yards
  • U.S. Needle #6 (I used #5 for my swatch)
  • 23 sts = 4 inches, 5.75 sts = 1 inch
  • 70% Alpaca, 30% Merino
  • Made from North American Alpaca blended with Merino woo
  • Hand wash, dry flat
  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • Alpaca Fiber Cooperative, 877-859-0172
Let me give you an update on a couple of other projects. First, Tom's sweater. This picture looks a lot like the last picture I posted, but this time, it's the right size. I frogged everything I did before and started over - something I absolutely hate to do. But now I know the cable pattern almost by heart which lets me move along a lot more quickly. A good thing considering this sweater needs to be done less than two months - aargh!

My next project: this giant pile of red alpaca that currently lives on my dining room table as a constant reminder that I don't know what to do with it.

I was going to work on turning this into the modified Lafayette coat, but then I saw this poncho in a Vogue Knitting email last week. I hesitate to buy anything from Vogue Knitting since the editors are so unsupportive of ample knitters, but the Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande would make a perfect hooded poncho. The magazine doesn't hit the news stands until the middle of November, so I guess I'm going to wait until I can check out the schematic. Damn! I've never fretted over a project so much in my life. I need to just decide about this and be done with it.

But while I'm deciding, I'm looking forward to my Early Bird Special. It is going to be special indeed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More ample knitting patterns to look forward to

We've got to wait until February to see Interweave's new Knitting Plus. But hopefully the uber-talented Ysolda's new plus-size patterns will appear long before then.

Ysolda will soon publish Little Red in the City, a collection of patterns provided in plus sizes as well as traditional women's sizes. As Ysolda writes on her blog:
One thing that’s always bothered me is that it’s great to find a pattern that includes your size but if you’re not close to the size of the model it can be hard to visualise how it’s actually going to look on you. No matter what grading decisions the designer makes, the same pattern is always going to look different with different proportions. When I first thought of doing a book of garment patterns I knew immediately that I wanted to show everything on at least two different models, with different sizes and body shapes.
God bless her! Ysolda is one of the few designers who really gets it. Here's a preview of the upcoming book. Don't know about you, but I LOVE what I see.

BTW, that cutie on the right is Ysolda herself. While we wait for Little Red in the City, you can get these Ysolda patterns now. Coraline comes in sizes up to a 62-inch finished bust size!

And the Vine Yoke Cardigan goes up to 56 inches.

Ysolda offers lots of other creative patterns, too. You can learn more about her and her designs at

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New plus-size knitting book

Have you heard there's a new plus-size knitting book in the wings? Knitting Plus, authored by Knitscene editor Lisa Shroyer, features 15 new wearables designed specifically for the ample among us. I've been hearing buzz about this book for months; Ann Budd blogged about the photo shoot ages ago, and then Kathy Zimmerman told me one of her designs will be in the book. I've been looking forward to the book's release. But now that I see the cover, I'm even more excited because the subtitle reads "mastering fit." Now wouldn't THAT be nice?

From what I've seen, my favorite design is the Barton Cardigan from Marlaina Bird. Isn't this gorgeous? I mean really? I can't wait to make it. I figure by the time I've finished Tom's complicated cabled Christmas sweater, I'll be ready. I wish I could make it in the prescribed yarn, Bijou Spun by Bijou Basin Ranch Bijou Bliss, but it would cost me over $400! Way too expensive for my feeble budget. And you know what I'm going to say next: I'd put in a placket with buttons down the front to eliminate the belly gape. Of course. :-)

I really don't like variegated bamboo yarn. I don't like the feel, I don't like knitting with it, and it really looks dated to me. But I do love Lou Schiela's Seagirt Pullover. In a different yarn, the deep V neck and nice detailing would be great for me. I also like the short sleeves - during the Fit to Flatter class, Amy Herzog suggested that I make sweaters with short sleeves to emphasize my waist. I also like the extra room in the front since I'm personally not shaped like an upright shoe box. It's interesting how the sweater falls naturally on the model, regardless of the additional ease.

Lou Schiela has another garment in the book with similar shaping. The Cleveland Shell, featured on an early version of the cover, looks great with a white blouse underneath. This ensemble would be neither too warm for our often mild DC winters nor my encroaching menopause.

I'm usually very skeptical about shrugs on ample women, especially top-heavy girls. Shrugs always scream LOOK AT MY BOOBS! and I guess I'm too conservative to want to solicit so much attention. But I do like the Audubon Shrug designed by Lisa Shroyer. It seems right-sized for a fuller figure and sports a yarn that looks tidy and professional. I still don't think I'd make it, but I like it none the less.

I'm anxious to see the rest of the projects - about a third of the designs don't have pictures yet on Ravelry. I also really want to read the fitting section. I hope the book talks extensively about how to make garments that truly fit a larger form.
But most of all, I'm glad the knitting industry in general and Interweave in particular are finally addressing the needs of the majority of women nationwide who aren't willowy, reedy, tall, thin, trim, narrow-hipped, flat-chested, and twenty-something. It's about damn time.
Knitting Plus will be published by Interweave Press in February 2011. You can pre-order the book on Amazon now.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A lovely day with Kathy Zimmerman

I ventured back to Pennsylvania yesterday for another class with Kathy Zimmerman. This time, I took some pictures so that you know exactly what you're missing! If you're ever in the Laurel Highlands east of Pittsburgh, make sure you stop in for a day at knitting nirvana, aka Kathy's Kreations.

Located in the picturesque, archetypal American small town of Ligonier, PA, Kathy's Kreations resides in a store that has been in the Zimmerman family for generations. The establishment, once an appliance store, features classic American architecture including bay windows and a stamped tin ceiling. When you enter the store, you're transported back to a gentler, better, simpler time - all while getting the very latest in knitting yarn, patterns, and projects.

Meet Kathy! She's always there with a smile to greet you and help you with your biggest knitting challenge. That's Tracy in the back; she and the rest of the staff are just as kind, knowledgeable, and helpful.

The store personifies order. You can actually find yarn in this store! And if you can't, Kathy and her staff can dig up the most esoteric knitting-related item in an instant.

I love Kathy's Kreations. It's my most favorite yarn store of all and I've been to a gazillion of them. Of course, the main reason the store is fabu is Kathy. Here we are, me adorned in my Augusta for the first time, a sweater that Kathy helped me with from the beginning. And look how much better it looks with a non-baggy shirt underneath.

Yesterday, she helped me with the entire basketful of projects I hauled from Maryland. First up: Tom's sweater. ACK! I showed Kathy the sweater, lamenting that the pattern calls for a half-repeat at one end, making the sweater unbalanced. I hate that! But Kathy took one look at it and said, "How big do you need this to be?" She measured and it's at least eight to ten inches too narrow. Damn! Yet another thing to rip out and start over again. Oh well, this debacle lets me fix the half-cable problem. This time, I'm going to do eight full pattern repeats rather than that half-repeat. Kathy sagely pointed out that I'd just completed one hell of a swatch. True that.

I was supposed to learn about combining cables and lace yesterday but got sidetracked by hours of discussion about the knitting industry in general and sweater designing in particular. Towards the end of the day, Kathy suggested that she show me how she designs and prepares patterns for submission for publication. Fascinating! I loved seeing how her ideas morphed into swatches and then into full-fledged patterns.

But then she reached into her own personal knitting bag and pulled out the most gorgeous cabled swatch I've ever, ever seen. Ever. She whipped up this lovely cabled masterpiece using a modified Japanese stitch and it's just plain glorious. It was love at first site. I must make make a cardigan with this stitch pattern! It's required by law.

But that's only half the miracle. The other part is the yarn. It is the most amazing DK weight alpaca/merino yarn I've ever seen and it hasn't even been released yet. She's got the very first skeins ever made. I'm telling you, I've never felt anything as glorious as this yarn. It's got all the softness of alpaca topped off with a dollop of soft merino that stablizes the often droopy alpaca. The result: the most perfect yarn ever. It will soon be released by Kraemer Yarns - but not soon enough.

I'm lamenting this fact when Kathy picks up her cell phone. It's 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon and I am drooling (figuratively - not literally!) all over this amazing yarn. I thought maybe she was calling her husband or something, but the next thing I know, Kathy's got the head of marketing at Kraemer Yarns on the phone and she's ordering me the very first bag of this yarn ever sold in the United States. WOW WOW WOW! Unbelievable!

SO... instead of making the Katharine Hepburn cardigan, I'm going to make an aran style sweater of my own design, created just for my own personal lumpiness, using an exclusive, unpublished cable pattern created by the illustrious Kathy Zimmerman, with the most glorious alpaca/merino yarn that hasn't even been released yet. Talk about knitting nirvana. I mean REALLY. Really! We start in two weeks. Can't wait!

I will keep you posted about this new sweater, the release of the yarn, and when Kathy's pattern will (hopefully) be published. Stay tuned.

But now you know why I venture every month 160 miles one way to see Kathy Zimmerman. Who wouldn't? Knitting dreams do come true, it can happen to you, if you're young at heart willing to make the trip! I can't say enough about Kathy and Kathy's Kreations. Go if you can. You will love it.