Tuesday, June 29, 2010

All you knit is love

In real life (aka when I'm not knitting or blogging about knitting), I am a graphic and web designer. I've been self-employed for 14 long years which seems pretty miraculous given the Great Recession. I am grateful and proud to have weathered the terrible downturn; grace of God, my business recently has been busier than a beehive. Let's hope this is proof that economic misery is on the wane.

Among the logos and websites I create for business, I also design advertising. Ads rarely stop traffic anymore; we're so inundated with demands for our attention that it all runs together. But once in a while, something sends me straight to my pencil cup to fish out the Xacto knife so I can hang it on my office wall. Here is one of those ads; in fact, it's the best knitting ad I've ever seen. (Click on the ad below twice to see a full-size version.)


Maybe I love this Malabrigo ad because I remember the Beatles. Or maybe it's because I know that I knit a little bit of love in every single stitch.

Malabrigo, make this a poster - I'll buy it. And while I'm at it, I'll even buy a skein - or 20 - of your yarn; after all, I'm an ample knitter. And all I knit is indeed love.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Swatching

Still working on swatches for my upcoming Knit to Fit class with the renowned Kathy Zimmerman. As homework, she tasked me to knit swatches for sweaters I'd like to make in my size. I'm bringing three:



Using Classic Elite Solstice, I'm also swatching for a new Sirdar cardigan pattern 9166 I discovered this week. I was afraid this yarn wouldn't work well for cables, but I was wrong; the cotton/wool blend really makes those cables pop. I was going to use Solstice to make the Curvy Knits 3-Button Cardigan, but after seeing several of them on Ravelry, I'm not sure I like how this sweater fits, so I'm contemplating this sweet cardigan instead. I think the dark blue will make it a little less prissy which for this middle-aged woman is a good thing.



Finally, I want to make Kathy's own Sparkling Red cardigan using Berroco Peruvia. This photo doesn't do justice to the yarn nor the color. It's really gorgeous. Think epitome of wool cabled cardigans and this is it. I don't usually wear green - somehow I always gravitate to white, blue, pink, and red - but this jewel-toned, dark leafy green will work well with my pale skin.




How will I ever get all these sweaters knitted? Perseverance and time, I guess. I also want to make the beloved boyfriend a sweater for Christmas. Speaking of my main (read: only) man, Tom is on the mend after his motorcycle accident. Here's a photo of us from my nephew's post-wedding brunch a couple of weeks ago. I'm grateful he's here - he shouldn't be. Just a second's difference would have left Tom dead. He is still in a lot of pain with a broken collarbone, several ribs, and his foot. I hate that he hurts, but I hope it's just enough suffering to keep him from doing numbskull things like riding a motorcycle ever again. But the important thing is that Tom's here so we can love for another day - and hopefully a lifetime. A real possibility if he stays off the damn bike!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Homework

On July 10, I'll be venturing back to western Pennsylvania for another class with the world-renowned knitwear designer, Kathy Zimmerman. This time, she's teaching a Knit to Fit class where I will learn how to make a sweater with my yarn, my gauge, and my measurements. In other words, the Holy Grail! My major goal in life is knitting a sweater that actually fits, so this class will be a real blessing.

As homework, Kathy told me to bring two patterns, two swatches, and a shirt or sweater that fits well so I can determine my ideal measurements. I'm thrilled by the prospect of making just about any sweater I've ever dreamed of, but damn! It's a difficult choice. There are hundreds of patterns I've seen over the years and thought, "I'd love to make this but it doesn't come in my size and I'll never figure out how to make it fit." Now I have the opportunity to make one dream sweater - actually two! And after I learn how, I'll hopefully be able to modify patterns to my heart's content.

My first choice: a sweater that has been bopping around in my brain for months. I want to make a circular yoke sweater with the venerable Barbara Walker's Saxon braid.


I want a simple, classic look, so it will button down the front. As I learned from the Handstrikket, I will forgo ribbing along the bottom and use a hem instead. Other than the cable, I want it to be simple - nothing but stockinette stitch. This will drive me insane from boredom, but I know I will like the sweater better in the long run. Here's a sketch and a swatch of what I have in mind.



I'm using my favorite yarn, Berroco Ultra Alpaca, in the Stone Washed Mix colorway. I'm in love with this heathery blue color right now. If anything looks like well-aged denim, I'm all over it.

For my second sweater, I'm pondering a couple of Kathy's designs. She is famous for her timeless, cabled sweaters. I'm going to work up swatches for her Sparkling Red and Katharine Hepburn cardigans and then decide.

 


If you're within driving distance of Ligonier, PA, come join me in taking the class. You'll learn from the best of the best, in an amazing yarn store, in a town that's right out of Frank Capra movie. Plus I'd love to meet you! Learn more about the class.

Meanwhile, all of this planning is keeping me away from the Handstrikket. No wonder - I'm lost in endlessly boring stockinette stitch. I would really like to finish this up before Kathy's class however so I can use it for measurements. I also desperately want to plow through my way-too-many UFOs. Sigh... besides my increasing pile of projects, I come up with something else I want to make every single day. 

I admit it: I am a fickle knitting floozy. :-)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A book about us

Over the weekend, I happened to catch NPR's Bob Edwards interviewing Mark Frauenfelder, author of Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World. The author advocates the joy and fulfillment inherent in creating things from scratch rather than buying stuff. From the book's description:
DIY is a direct reflection of our basic human desire to invent and improve, long suppressed by the availability of cheap, mass-produced products that have drowned us in bland convenience and cultivated our most wasteful habits.
Ain't it the truth. If I want a new sweater, I can waltz into Catherine's or Lane Bryant and buy a cheap, made-in-China cardigan comprised of the cheesiest acrylic yarn and plastic buttons available in the world today. It will cost me say, $45 on sale. I'll take it home, wear it a few times, and in a couple of years donate it to Goodwill because it's no longer in style and was a piece of crap to begin with.


But let's say I want a quality sweater that will last me a decade or more. It needs to be made of beautiful yarn and it must fit me. That's all I ask. I'll pay for quality, maybe even up to $200+ since it's a long-term investment. Could I find this at Nordstrom? Maybe Niemann Marcus? No. First off, they don't carry my size. Second, even those high-end retailers don't sell sweaters made from quality yarn.

No, the only way to get a good sweater is to make one. If I knit my own cardigan, I'll get a garment that fits in the fiber of my choosing, and in the perfect color to complement my pale skin. Plus I'll get months of stress reduction and relaxation that end with the satisfaction of knowing that I created something very complicated and special, too.


The book sounds interesting - and the radio interview definitely was. If you've got a few minutes, you can hear it at Bob Edward's website. I'm not sure the author wrote specifically about knitters, but he definitely wrote about us. It's nice to know there are so many other like-minded folks out there in our mindless, consumption-driven world.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Think Cinderella's slipper

Ann, a loyal reader of this blog, commented in part yesterday:
"Wow! The sweater looks fantastic! I think you might just have sold me on knitting sweaters top-down forever and at the same time, cured me of my old thinking that baggy sweaters somehow made me look thinner. Clearly, a well-fitted sweater is key. Kudos to you for your perseverance."
Thank you, Ann for the kind words. But mostly thanks for the wisdom. I think you're exactly right: a well-fitted sweater is key. I, too, have labored under the mistaken belief that covering my big, baggy body with a big, baggy sweater will make me look thinner. I was wrong. Baggy clothes make you look heavier. I've discovered this particularly as I've lost weight (I've lost about 150 pounds from my top weight). Although I'm still fat, I look a lot less fat when I wear things that actually fit.

One adjustment I've had to make is wearing things that are shorter. When I was at my heaviest, I loved anything that was 36-inches long. Those yard-long garments are now minidresses on me - except for the oversized shoulders that fall to my elbows. I look like a little kid dressed in her dad's shirt. My optimal length now: 29 inches. It covers my stomach (beware of belly gape sweaters) without turning into a dress.


So remember, girls: baggy clothes are unbecoming. So are sweaters that are too tight - avoid garments that fit like sausage casings - they won't make the most of your assets either. Instead, think Cinderella's slipper: your sweater needs to fit just right. Who knows? If your sweater fits you perfectly, maybe your perfect Prince Charming will come along, too.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Making progress

Check it out... I've finished the two Handstrikket sleeves. As you might remember, I originally made this cardigan too large with sleeves that were too long; to remedy this, I cut off the body and sleeves and am now reknitting the sweater from the top down. Top-down construction makes it easy to check the fit as you go, so I thought I'd show you some progress photographs. Sorry that they're horrible but I can't talk the dog into taking my picture. :-)


I'm really pleased with the fit thus far. Doesn't it look better? Look at those sleeves, especially compared to the original:


Another change I made to this version: I knitted some short rows at the back of the neck (see the dark blue section at the top) to make it fit better across my shoulders and neck. Smart move, I think.


Now I'm trying to figure out how big to make the bottom of the sweater. I don't want it to be too baggy but I don't want it curling in around my big butt either. So this time I'm going to make it with a hem. I'm going to knit to the bottom in stockinette stitch and then add a row of purl stitches. Then I'm going to knit the actual hem with matching Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light. This lighter DK weight will make the hem less bulky. I think it will work well.

Hey, check out my latest knitting treasure. I bought a crochet hook key chain from Knit Picks to make it easier to pick up dropped stitches, but soon started connecting my most-used notions to it. I added a tape measure my boyfriend gave me, stitch markers, some little Knit Picks interchangeable needles tools, a tapestry needle, a safety pin, and even my Gingher scissors which I connected with a stitch marker. I love this! Everything in one place and within easy reach. I thought I'd pass along the hint since I'm so proud of myself for making it.


And as a laugh, look at this ridiculous picture I took trying to photograph the back of my sweater. Watch out! I'm keeping a very close eye on you!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Happy marriage to Matt and Laura

Just a quick posting today since I'm running-running-running. My nephew, Matt, is getting married tomorrow. Aunt Dixie from Indiana and her entourage (aka cousin Leslie and her daughter Brianna) are coming for dinner - I made HOMEMADE lasagna, Caesar salad with HOMEMADE croutons and HOMEMADE dressing, and HOMEMADE chocolate and pistachio biscotti. Now all I have to do is clean up this HOMEMADE mega mess!

I wish Matt and his bride-to-be Laura all the best that marriage, love, and life have to offer. It seems like 27 minutes ago baby Matt was born, but it was really 28 years ago. Time sure flies...