Monday, February 28, 2011

Hour-glass shaping for the overample

Well, by all accounts, Lisa Shroyer's Knitting Plus is a big hit (pun intended). If you haven't bought your copy yet, run to your LYS, bookseller, or Amazon. This fantastic offering belongs on your bookshelf right next to the Big Girl Knits books and the Curvy Knits ones, too.

As you know, I'm fascinated - nay, obsessed - with learning how to make a sweater that fits. Lisa Shroyer chocked her book with technical information about sweater mods for the larger figure. I wasn't ten pages into the book until I got the first invaluable tip: "In a garment with waist shaping, the full bust girth must be reached before the armholes-preferably with a few inches worked even before the first underarm bind-off." Uh oh.

I'm in the middle of my Early Bird Special cardigan - and I mean literally in the middle. I'm working on the hour-glass-shaped back. My original plan: employ standard waist shaping as provided by Sweater Wizard, doing decreases from the hips to the waistline, then knitting an inch at the waistline, and then adding an equal number of increases to the armholes. Sounds right, yes?

Wrong. What I need to do instead is decrease to the waistline, then rapidly increase to the full bust measurement, and then knit straight up to the armholes. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. My body doesn't gently expand to my breasts. Instead it goes from my narrower waist to BOOM! BOOBS!

Lisa also goes on to say that it's important with hour-glass shaping to make sure that the angles mirror the body, noting that the hip and bust measurement need not be the same. I've been contemplating this very point. My hips are larger than my bust, so I'm going to do fewer increases past the waist to match my bust measurement (plus ease).

Sadly, this means I've got to rip out about six inches back to the waistline. But better to rip than to make a sweater that doesn't fit. My belief: if you can't frog erroneous stitches, you shouldn't be knitting at all. The truth is you can't knit anything good if you're unwilling to unknit the bad.

I'm glad Knitting Plus shipped in February; if the book had come in March as I anticipated, I'd have the entire sweater done and would sitting here wondering why it didn't quite fit. The chance of a well-fitting Early Bird just increased significantly - and a well-fitting Waltham, too, since I'm going to use the same shaping on that project.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What's next?

What does a devout knitter who is in the middle of two complicated cabled cardigans do in her spare time? Daydream about all the stuff she can make after she finishes! Here's what's dancing around in my brain:

I adore the Brigid Jacket by Courtney Kelly from the just-released Vintage Modern Knits (which I got in the mail yesterday). I'd love to make this beautiful cardi a longer, but love the set-in, elbow-length sleeves, something that Amy Herzog tells me I should be making. So cute! Would make for a great KAL project, too.

I love this gorgeous Margarethe Lace Shawl by Kate Gagnon Osbourne, also from Vintage Modern Knits. I've wanted to make a faroe shawl for ages but have never found a pattern with the correct proportions; the back panel is always too wide, goofy, or froo-froo, but this feminine-but-not-gaggy shawl would make the perfect wrap for daily wear. I desperately need to replace the god-awful acrylic rag I bought from Catherine's and am ashamed to wear even to open the door for the mailman. This is just the ticket. I'm envisioning gray and am contemplating perhaps making it in a worsted weight rather than a DK to make it larger.

Another dream-worthy entry: the Erin Cardigan, yet another Vintage Modern Knits design by Kate Gagnon Osbourn. LOVE this sweater! Definitely want to make this cabled wonder one of these days.

I fell in love with Marly Bird's Barton Cardigan the very first second I saw it. One of the most beautiful projects in Knitting Plus, it's also one of the most complicated - and fascinating. I wish I could afford the gorgeous Bijou Spun Bijou Bliss specified in the pattern, but it would cost me literally hundreds of dollars. Sadly, that's definitely not in the budget.

Finally, meet the magnificent Missimer Pullover by Katya Wilsher, also from Knitting Plus. This project may get made the soonest because I need something dressy to wear to a Bar Mitzvah in May. I could wear this beauty over a skirt, especially if I made it in a silky yarn. I'm not sure about the dolman sleeves - I don't think I own anything with dolman sleeves - and I need to study the pattern to see how it's constructed. It could be the just-right thing, as my ex-husband used to say.

All I need now is to win the lottery, retire, and knit all day. Talk about a daydream...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Waltham game plan

Most ample knitters interested in making the Waltham Cabled Cardigan will open their books, make their swatches, get gauge, and start knitting.

I'm not so lucky. If I want this beautiful sweater to fit me, I need to make some modifications. The following lays out my Waltham game plan. (Note that the graphics aren't to scale - I'm wider than this - but you can at least see what I'm planning to do. And the neckline isn't right either; it should be V-necked, but I don't have time to change all the graphics.) So here goes:

Make the hips significantly wider. The pattern's largest bust measurement, 60.5 inches, is perfect for me, but I need more room in the hips. So one way or the other, I need to have a 72-inch hip measurement.

Convert the body to hour-glass shaping that matches my own form. I'm doing this shaping with my Early Bird Special cardigan and from what I can tell, it will be a big improvement over the boxy and A-line shaping I've done previously. I won't have any trouble with this mod because the sides are done in a ribbing. I'll adapt my Early Bird shaping directly to the Waltham. Note that the actual waist shaping will curve; it will not be pointy like shown in this graphic.

Reduce the crossback to 18 inches. The pattern calls for a 23.5-inch crossback measurement, way too large for me. I need an 18-inch crossback. To make the upper back narrower, I will bind off 8 additional stitches at the underarms on the two front pieces and both sides of the back. The math:
  • Crossback modification: 23.5 -18 = 5.5 inches
  • Amount I need to reduce on both fronts and the back underarms:  5.5 / 4 = 1.375 inches
  • Number of stitches to be reduced on both fronts and the back underarms: 1.375 * 6 spi = 8.25. Rounded down to 8.

Expand the sleeve cap to accommodate the crossback mod. Because I am moving the crossback in a total of 5.5 inches, or 2.75 inches on each side, I need to add that back amount back into the top of the sleeve, otherwise the sleeve won't fit the armhole and the sleeves will be 2.75 inches too short.

Add 1 inch to the sleeve width. The pattern's sleeve width is 20 inches; I need 21 inches. This means I need to increase by 1 inch the sleeve depth on the body and the sleeve width at the top of the sleeve. For the body, I will knit the back and fronts a half inch longer under the armholes, adding an additional 4 rows before binding off for the sleeves. For the upper sleeve width, I will fit in an additional three rounds of increases, two stitches on each side of the sleeve each time, giving me an additional inch of width (this totals six additional stitches or 1 inch of width). Note that I don't want to make the sleeves longer so I'm not going to do an additional three rows; I'm going to do an additional three rounds of increases instead.

These modifications result in a sweater that is custom-made to my particular lumpiness. To sum up, the original sweater is on the left; the sweater revised for me is on the right.

Sorry to show you my mighty ass again, but doesn't this schematic look like it would fit me pretty well??

That picture of my might ass brings up another issue: sweater length. I've always wanted my sweaters really long to cover as much of myself as humanly possible. However, when I went to Amy Herzog's Fit to Flatter class last fall, her biggest suggestion (no pun intended) was that I make my sweaters shorter so that they stop above my widest part. She said I was making all of my sweaters six inches too long - and given this photo, I think she might be right.

So, I think I'll try this shorter length on the Waltham. The only way to know if to try. I discussed this issue with my long-suffering boyfriend who is (God bless him) willing to spend an hour on a Sunday afternoon discussing whether my sweaters should cover my mighty ass or not. His bottom line (again, no pun intended): Amy is right. Make the damn thing shorter. Now can I watch TV?

Just a two more things about my Waltham game plan. First, I'm starting with the sleeves, as Kathy Zimmerman suggests. Second, I got my buttons today from an Etsy vendor in China. If you want to spend hours of your life looking for the perfect button, go to Etsy. You'll find more buttons than you ever knew existed, including some really cool antique ones. I selected these metal buttons to echo the points in the cables, plus I like the tarnished silver finish next to the bright blue. I think buttons these will work well. And if they don't, I can spend another three hours on Etsy looking for new ones. :-)

CAVEAT READER! These are mods that I need to make for my weirdo body. You don't need to do these. I've been knitting for over 40 years and I've spent the past five years doing nothing but making sweaters in an increasingly less vain attempt to make one that actually fits. Don't let these mods scare you. You can make the Waltham according to the pattern and it will be fine.

I am warning you: if you use my game plan to scare the beejeebies out of yourself, I'm going to hunt you down and shake you senseless. Now is the time for all intrepid knitters to start making their Walthams!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Waltham sleeve tips

The Waltham KAL has officially begun! While knitters everywhere scrupulously study their new copies of Knitting Plus, I cast on for my first sleeve and knit the first few inches. Let me share with you what I've learned thus far.

To begin the Waltham sleeve, you start by knitting the setup row using Chart E. Contrary to your usual experience in knitting, you're NOT starting from the right and knitting to the left, nor are you knitting the blank chart squares and purling the dotted squares.

Instead, reverse all your thinking. Abandon your experience and follow directions closely!

The setup row actually begins the wrong side of the sleeve. You are therefore knitting the chart from left to right, and you are purling in the blank boxes and knitting in the dotted ones. Begin and end where the chart indicates for your size and then complete this stitch pattern repeat to the end of the row. When you finish this row, you then turn your work and you're ready to knit row 1 of the chart (which if you're not paying attention would seem like row 2 of the chart). Note that with row 1, you're back to knitting "normally," knitting right to left as usual.

It's a little confusing at first because it's like knitting backwards! But it works well. Just remember you're working on the backside, and therefore are knitting and purling from left to right.

If you have questions, just ask. Either post a question on this blog, the Ravelry KAL forum board, or email me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New, free pattern from Knitch

I found a cute pattern this morning in the lastest edition of Knitch, an "online fashion magazine for knitters."  This cute vest is available in finished bust sizes from 32.5 inches to 57.5 inches. God bless designer Therese Chynoweth for the wonderfully extended size range.

The vest, which uses Caledon Hills Chunky Yarn, features large, simple cables, a little turn-down collar, and a three-button top closure (but I'd be making mine with buttons down the front). The garment's  long, vertical lines and cabling would prove slimming to any form. This design would also make for a great first project in cable knitting, too.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy birthday, George and Abe

Happy birthday, George and Abe! Thanks to America's two best presidents, we have the day off. Tom and Moose are snoring away this morning while I write to my knitting gal pals and get ready for the Waltham KAL.

I took full advantage of having a nice boyfriend by getting him to put together my new piece-of-crap-from-Wal-Mart knitting bookshelf. Just the right size, the shelf gives me elbow room to buy a bunch of new knitting books, too. For $35, it's a great investment.

Another joy from this three-day weekend: extensive time knitting my Early Bird Special cardigan. As I told you, I planned on using hourglass shaping for this sweater. On paper, the design looked fine. But when I actually started knitting, this crazy trapezoidal shape appeared. YIKES! How can this be right? Especially when every other sweater is shaped like a shoebox?

Well, I dragged the knitting into the bathroom and held the piece up to my waist. PERFECT. Wow! How can this be? It looks like it was made just for me - which of course it was. Now I can't wait to get this thing finished. If this shaping works, I'm going to use it for the Waltham Cabled Cardigan and every other sweater I ever make, too.

More big three-day weekend news: this afternoon, Tom plans to wrap me in duct tape. No, this is not some act of middle-aged kinkiness. He's just going to help me make another dress form. I've lost 50 pounds since we made the first one and I'm shaped differently now. Actually, I think I'm shaped exactly the same but smaller. We'll see... I'll post pics when we're done. Here's a photo of me with the original dress form (to learn more, read the original posting). I want to make a currently sized form to help fit the Early Bird and the Waltham. Can't hurt, right?

So, thanks again, George and Abe. I appreciate the day of relaxing and knitting -and for your wise governance during difficult times, too.

Friday, February 18, 2011

An update on the Waltham KAL

Wow! I just checked and we've got almost 60 intrepid knitters who have signed up to knit the Waltham Cabled Cardigan from the newly released Knitting Plus. Many of us have been waiting impatiently for this book, especially because we want to make this beautiful cardi designed by Kathy Zimmerman.

Would you like to knit along with us? Here is a quick review of the KAL basics:
  • Sweater ranges from 40.25 to 60.25 inch finished bust sizes.
  • Gauge: 24 stitches and 26 rows over four inches on size 7 needles (your mileage may vary).
  • Specified yarn: Louet Eastport Alpaca.
  • Substitution yarns: you need a DK weight. Some of the participants are using Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light, Berroco Vintage DK, Knit Picks Merino, Berroco Inca Gold, Finatura Lanarota Puno Alpaca, and many others.
  • Sign up for the Ravelry Waltham KAL group where we're all yakking, exchanging swatch info, showing pictures, becoming friends, and generally having fun. We'd love to have you, too.
  • Buy Knitting Plus which will be in your LYS or bookstore in the next week or so. Some of us pre-ordered the book on Amazon and received emails yesterday saying the book will be shipped in the coming week.
  • Knit your swatch. For more information, visit the Waltham swatch info page.
If you have any questions, worries, or concerns, email me or post a comment here. I'm happy to help and if I can't find an answer, Kathy Zimmerman, the designer, has agreed to provide support, too.

While I have your attention, let me show you the latest pictures of my Early Bird as modeled by my sweet, long-suffering pug, Moose. It looks great him. What a handsome boy.

Here's a more conventional shot. You can really see the evolution of the cable pattern and the waist shaping. However, all I can see is how far I have to go before the Waltham KAL begins! I am afraid I'll be multitasking unless I begin speed knitting or something.

Finally, look what came in the mail today: a new bookcase. Why? Because I've bought so many knitting books, pattern booklets, and magazines that they don't fit in the old bookshelf. Now, where's that bf when I need him? Get your cute butt over here and put up that shelf!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Early Bird shaping and cable sequencing

With the sleeves on my Early Bird finished, washed, and blocked, I'm working now on the back. I've decided to try something a little different with the Early Bird. In the past, I've made my sweaters A-line shaped to accommodate my over-ample hips. You can see the shaping in the Handstrikket, for example.

Unfortunately, the A-line shaping leaves some extraneous fabric at my waist. I'm sure you remember my mighty ass by now, but just in case, here's a reminder. Even though I'm fat, I do have a waist - a waist that is 20 inches smaller than my hips, which makes fitting much more complicated.

This time, I'm going to try hour-glass shaping. Instead of decreasing directly from the hem to the underarms, I'm going to decrease more sharply to the waist and then do increases to my bustline. I'm hoping this will give me a better, more flattering fit. This graphic shows the schematic of the Augusta cardigan (that's what I'm wearing in the photo above) and the schematic I'm using for the Early Bird.

Every sweater thus far has been an improvement over the last, at least in terms of fit, so I'm praying this approach is the right way to go.

Over the weekend, I worked out the cable placement for the back. This required some intense visualization, figuring, charting, trial, and error, but I finally came up with a cable sequence I like.

I now have a proof of concept as shown in the bottom back of my Early Bird.

I really like it, I think. You can see that I've started decreasing already. The Sweater Wizard calculations I'm using call for decreasing every other row 26 times. I hope this works. I'm still giving myself eight inches of ease at the waist - that's a lot! But I don't want to look like an overstuffed, corsetted Victorian porkchop when I'm done either.

My next worry is the length. I still don't know how long to make my sweaters. Amy Herzog told me I should make them 27 inches in the back and 26 in the front; this would eliminate the sweater wrapping around my mighty ass as shown in the green sweater above. The problem with this approach is that the shorter length doesn't cover my belly - an absolute requirement in my book. Amy says to wear longer shirts underneath with the shorter sweater on top and this is indeed becoming. But I can't always dress like this and sometimes I just want a big boyfriend sweater to cover me up. Guess that's not going to be the Early Bird though.

All this goes to show why it's so hard to find garments that fit me properly. I'm getting a lot closer to successfully making clothes specifically for my body. But the sad truth is that all the alterations in the world aren't going to make me a proportionally shaped woman who can throw anything over her head and look good. I so envy MaureeninFargo (you must see her work - she's amazing). Maureen looks spectacular in every sweater she makes, mostly because she can pull off a boxy shape so well. I unfortunately cannot. I'm a busty triangle and that's the bane of my existence.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Three dozen tulips and lots of love. What more could a girl ask for? Especially a 50-something lumpy chick who spends way too much time, thought, and energy knitting. I love the bf, even if he won't wear my sweater. I really do.

I'm in love with my Early Bird cardigan, too. I started the back this weekend and am watching the cables morph into being. I'll post more photos when you can better see the cable pattern, but here is Monica - someone else I love -  modeling my progress. (Moose, my beloved pug, is busy in bed this morning snoring in unison with Tom). Now I'm spending all my waking hours worrying about waist shaping. I wish I was rectangularly shaped; it would make it so much easier to make this sweater (or any other for that matter). But I'm a busty triangle and that's just the way it is.

I wish you lots of love on this Valentine's Day - whether you have a dude or not. Dudes come and go. Sometimes on February 14 you have one, sometimes you don't. Regardless of your romantic status, you are incredibly lovable - and you don't need a dude to tell you this either. You deserve all the love in this world. (And I do, too.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The swatch chair

Do you have a place in your house where you keep all your swatches and in-progress knitting? I keep mine on the catch-all easy chair in my living room. This is the chair that serves as resting place for the dog's leash, extraneous shopping bags, my purse, and any knitting-related item on which I'm currently working.

The little Barbara Prime pug that I made last year lives here, too. (This pic shows Moosie on an old couch that now resides at the county dump where it belongs.)

The chair sits diagonally across from where I knit in every day which gives me the chance to eyeball my finished pieces at will. Once in a while my boyfriend will even comment about something that's taken root there. He said last night that my Early Bird sleeves were looking pretty good - high praise from my non-knitting, manly man beloved.

Speaking of which, can you believe Tom has yet to wear that Beagle sweater I slaved over at Christmas? We went out for dinner last night with friends and I asked him to don it but he forgot. Before we know it, spring will be here and my labor of love will sit brokenhearted in a drawer until Christmas. Tom says he's afraid he'll ruin it or get it dirty. I'd rather he wash the car with the damn thing than have it cower in a closet! Maybe we should clear a space for it in the china cabinet and display it like a highly prized relic. Grrrr...

Friday, February 11, 2011

I'm really a turtle

One of my favorite designers, Cecily Glowik MacDonald and I couldn't be more different, at least in the body department. I've written previously about how designers design for their own bodies, and rightly so; some day, I will design patterns for lumpy chicks like me.

It's a given that Cecily creates sweaters for her lithe, long, lean form, as shown in my favorite photo from the previous post. Just compare her skinny little ass to my giant one.

Another difference between Cecily and me is that she actually has a neck. I do not, or at least not much of one. My neck is maybe an inch high which means I cannot comfortably wear turtlenecks or cowl-necked sweaters. Cecily, however, pulls off long-necked pullovers with great aplomb. Check out the pretty Hollyhock sweater she published today. She looks lovely.

Now check me out in the same design:

I'm smiling under that giant neck - hope you are, too. In my next life, may I have a long neck and a skinny ass just like Cecily, and use a lot less yarn when knitting a sweater, too. ;-)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Another Early Bird update

Whew! Last night I finished the second sleeve from my beauteous Early Bird Special Cardigan. I gave both sleeves a bath this morning and now they're napping the afternoon away on blocking boards.

Let me show you my absolutely perfect buttons! The buttons, shown here on the swatch, foreshadow a beautiful design detail suggested by Kathy Zimmerman: I'm going to put the buttons and the buttonholes in the middle of the first cable. (This photo simulates what the sweater will look like when buttoned.) Imagine my delight when I stumbled on these oval celtic buttons at Kathy's store. She only had a few but I was able to find the rest I needed online.

Last night I also mapped out where the cables will appear on the back. I'm enjoying designing this cardigan. Kathy sent me on my way with some design milestones such as the cable stitch pattern and the buttonhole details, but I get to decide exactly which route I take to get to the finished sweater. It's so fun! I plan to cast on for the back this evening.

I'm still pushing to have the Early Bird finished by mid-March before we start the Waltham Cabled Cardigan KAL. If you haven't signed up or want to learn more about this knitalong, visit our Ravelry page. The 50 intrepid knitters who have signed up are busy choosing their yarn and starting their swatches. Come join us! We'd love to have you. Here's a photo of the gorgeous Waltham in case you haven't seen it.