Thursday, April 28, 2011

Read my article in Interweave Knits

I'm so excited I'm doing the Snoopy dance with great gusto!

I am now a published author! Well, I've been a published author for years and years - I even earned a writing degree from the University of Maryland all the way back in 1988. But this is my first published article about knitting. A big distinction. ;-)

On the news stands now! Or soon anyway. Read my full-length feature article about Kathy Zimmerman in the summer issue of Interweave Knits. I haven't gotten my copy in the mail yet but I saw today that it's for sale now on the Interweave website.

What a thrill! It all started when editor Eunny Jang contacted Kathy about doing a profile article. Kathy kindly recommended that Eunny contact me. Imagine getting email from THE Eunny Jang! OMG, what a thrill. She checked out my blog, signed me up, and I headed to Ligonrier, PA, to interview and photograph Kathy. I submitted the article and then didn't hear a thing until three weeks ago. Eunny sent me the laid-out article to review. Again, OMG! There's my name in lights, so to speak. I love it!

I'm happy to finally be able to share this with you. I've got some other tricks up my sleeve so stay tuned. But please join me in the Snoopy happy dance until then!

Hurray for Hannah Fettig

Three cheers for Hannah Fettig who joins the growing list of designers offering lovely designs for the plus-size market. Last week, Hannah re-released her popular Featherweight Cardigan in a 62-inch finished bust size. Made in lace yarn on size 6 needles, this cardi knits up quickly into the perfect summer cardi. Nearly 3000 knitters have made this sweater - check out the projects.

And then this morning, Hannah published the Calligraphy Cardigan, an updated classic with wide front bands, a full ribbed collar, and a slim fit. Worked from the top down in Madelinetosk Tosh DK (I've got to try this yarn!), this cardigan comes into sizes up to 60-inch finished bust size.

If this sweater looks familiar, it's because it is the reincarnation of the Gooseberry Cardigan featured on the cover of Interweave Knits Weekend 2009.The original Gooseberry came in the affordable Valley Yarns Northfield, a DK weight merino, alpaca, and silk blend. I've always loved this sweater but now it actually comes in my size via the Calligraphy Cardigan.

Hannah offers other sweaters in sizes up to a 56-inch finished bust, including the Spring Ribbed Cardigan, the Contented Cardi, the Trail Jacket, the Mediumweight Pullover, and more.

To learn more about Hannah Fettig, visit her website and her Ravelry page.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Guilt-ridden stash sale

Do a girl a favor. Buy some of my ridiculously overburdened stash and make me feel less guilty, okay? Fantastic bargains abound! First come, first served. Shipping is whatever it actually costs to send the yarn to you - no markup or handling charges (I hate that crap). Paypal accepted. Email me to make a purchase. And thanks!

$45 plus shipping
1,500 yards
Used a little of one skein to swatch but yarn rewound ball
Details here

$20 plus shipping
675 yards
19 granny squares included for free!
Details here



$65 plus shipping
2,390 yards
Yarn has been wound into skeins with skein winder
Details here


$55 plus shipping
1,485 yards
 Details here


$90 plus shipping
2200 yards
Details here

$90 plus shipping
1,534 yards
Details here

$5.00 plus shipping
130 yards
Details here

$5 plus shipping
130 yards
Details here

$10 plus shipping
108 yards
Details here

Interested in making a purchase? Email me now.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A lacey dream

She is a rare bird who can knit, crochet, and create lovely designs for ample women. This is why I want to introduce you to Marly Bird. She's making a name for herself in the ample world, having designed larger sized patterns for both Perfectly Plus and Knitting Plus.

In fact, Marly designed the most beautiful garments in both books, in my humble opinion. Her Panema wrap sweater graces the cover of Perfectly Plus.

And her beauteous Barton Cardigan, from Knitting Plus, is author Lisa Shroyer's personal favorite from the book - and mine, too. This summer, I'm going to hold a Ravelry KAL for the Barton; get your sport-weight wool now! Marly recommends against using a non-animal fiber for this sweater, so caveat knitter.

Marly and her friend, Jill Wright, recently published Curvy Crochet, a booklet with eight cute crocheted designs in larger sizes. I'm going to write more about this book soon. But for today I wanted to share one of her newest designs, the Lacey Dream.

This attractive vest comes in sizes from 35.5 to 63.5 - sizing that should make us all dance in the streets! Marly describes the design as follows:
Wonderful little addition to any wardrobe, this cardigan is a perfect layering piece. The delicate lace stitch with the large attached ribbed collar makes this cardigan look sophisticated without being stuffy :-)

I designed the Lacey Dream to showcase the beautiful Yak and Bamboo blend yarn by Bijou Basin Ranch while running the yarn tasting booth at Vogue Knitting Live. Many of you asked me for the pattern so here it is ;-) I hope you enjoy yours as much as I LOVE mine!
I sure love Marly's Lacey Dream. I can envision this gracing my wardrobe, especially if I added some waist shaping. This design would be attractive on any plus-size figure. Buy the Lacey Dream from Ravelry.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A tale of two dress forms

Last night, Tom and I finally got around to making my new dress form. We created the first one in June 2008; in fact, my inaugural blog posting was about the very event! Here's a pic of my body double and me from that very first post.

Since that time, I lost 50 pounds and the dress form was relegated to the garage because it no longer matched my body. I need an accurate representation of myself, so we went to the dollar store and bought 10 rolls of duct tape. Then I assembled the rest of the supplies: an old T-shirt, three cans of Fresca (served cold), and an old sweatband of my dad's that I somehow ended up with.

I meant to have Tom take pictures as we went along, but it was hard enough just getting me wrapped up. We used the instructions in Wendy Bernard's Custom Knits as our guide. Tom started by wrapping me horizontally and then vertically, and then he shored up the edges and the arms. I had to stand the whole time, which took a little more than an hour. Like the last time, I was so HOT. But not in a good way. ;-)

Tom finally used up all the tape and then carefully cut the dress form off of me starting at the back neck. As planned, he cut through the T-shirt but managed not to cut my bra strap. As soon as I was free, I ran to the bedroom, pulled the sweaty thing off my body, and lolled under the full-blast ceiling fan until I equalized.

This morning, I continued by stuffing the form. I used the polyfill from the original dress form, but because I'd lost 50 pounds, I had some left over. I bagged it up and put it away just in case I gain the weight back. (Been there, done that, hopefully never again.) I inserted a suit hanger at the top, taped it up, and then cut out a swatch from the old dress form to serve as a base for the new one. I slathered it all in tape. Voila! A new dress form is born. Here are the before and after pics. You can see where the weight vacated my premises!

All that done, I could now give my body double a trial run. I pinned the back of my Waltham to the form. Lucky me, it's a perfect fit. I'm delighted.

Besides all this, I've got something else to share with you today. I finished the back of my Spencer sweater last night and blocked it this morning. I haven't tried this on the dress form yet but as soon as it's dry, I certainly will. I made it the same shape as the Waltham except shorter so I'm pretty sure it will look the same. I'm going to cast on for the front tonight.

I'm anxious to get the Spencer done and get back to the Waltham - and the Early Bird, too. And to get some real work for my business done, too. Between tax day, Easter, Passover, and spring break, it's been pretty quiet. But it's time to get back in that saddle again and make some dough.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How to select a sweater pattern size - and plan for mods, too

An intrepid knitter from the Ravelry Ample Knitters group wants to make Sue McCain's Slip Stitch Pullover. She's bottom-heavy in the Fit to Flatter parlance, so how should she select the right size and modify the sweater to really fit?

Let’s start with the most important thing first: most beginning sweater knitters select knitting patterns like they’re ordering something from a mail-order catalog. You look up your actual measurements in the chart, pick the closest size, and order, right? This works because the retailer has already taken something close to your measurements and added ease. Knitting Daily defines ease as “the extra fabric that allows space between you and your garments--space for things like moving, breathing, comfort, and extra layers of other clothing.”

Makes total sense. Except this isn’t the way it works in knitting. When you look at a size chart in knitting, you’re looking at the finished sizes, not the bust sizes (or whatever body part). So your first task in determining sweater size is deciding out how much ease you want by taking your basic measurements and adding ease for the bust, waist, and hips (and sometimes other body parts like upper arms if they are wide).

So, assuming you have a 46-inch bust and want a standard fitting sweater, you usually add four inches. If you want a snugger sweater, you’d add zero or two inches of ease. If you want baggy, you’d add six or eight. But the Slip Stitch Pullover looks like it needs pretty standard ease, so let's assume four inches. This necessitates a 50-inch finished bust size.

(Caveat knitter: larger people need additional ease - I think. I’m still working this out for sure, but I know from experience that garments knit with four inches of ease are snug on me. So if you’ve got a 58-inch bust like I do, you should probably add five or six inches of ease rather than four.)

Okay, back to the 50-inch pattern. The trouble now is that this sweater doesn’t come in a 50-inch size; the choices are 48.5 or 53.5.
Our intrepid knitter's measurements are as follows:
  • Bust - 46 inches
  • Waist - 44 inches
  • Hips - 55 inches
Given that the bust and hip measurements are very similar, and that our intrepid knitter has wider hips (welcome to my personal club), I think she should make the 48.5 bust size. She questioned whether she should make a smaller size since she doesn't need much ease at the bust, but I think if you have any roundness at all, you need at least some ease. If you’re stick thin with no curves, zero ease is fine, but if you’re shaped like anyone else on the planet, skin tight does not work. This is of course my humble opinion - if you want skin tight, go for it. With the 48.5 finished bust size, we know she'll have sufficient ease for her bust and waist - but what about her 55-inch hips?

Definitely need some mods to make this sweater. Given that she needs about 59 inches for her hips (55-inch hips plus 4 inches of ease), she has two choices. She can either make an A-line top with decreases running from her hips to her armholes, or she can make a modified A-line (my term… not sure what it’s called in the fashion world). In this scenario, she'd do more severe increasing from the hips to the waist, and then knit straight up to the armholes. Here’s the original schematic (or something like it) with the two options:

Given my personal experience, I’d bet that the latter would be the most flattering. I’ve found that I look best in clothes that actually fit. When I buy apparel to accommodate my mighty derriere, it's much too large through the bodice. The best thing for me is to make the bodice fit perfectly and then to accommodate the hips, rather than the other way around.

Next steps: she needs to determine whether she wants an A-line or a modified A-line. If she decides on the latter, she needs to determine the length between her waist and hips so she can figure out the decreases. Which reminds me of another Fit to Flatter rule: for bottom-heavy women, have the sweater end above your largest part. When you make the sweater too long, it wraps around your hips and emphasizes them. For example, the pink sweater below looks better than the green one on my hips anyway - and I'm 50 pounds thinner in the green sweater. They're both too long though. I'm making my new Spencer sweater shorter - we'll see how it looks when I'm done.

One final warning: If our intrepid knitter wants to make sweater, she MUST make an highly accurate gauge swatch. She MUST meet gauge. Being a quarter stitch off gauge doesn't sound like much, but over the course of 59 inches, she'd add more about 2.5 inches to the width of her garment. You've heard it before and you'll hear it again: if you do not meet pattern gauge, the sweater will not fit. No way, no how. Yes, I know. Swatches are boring. But if you’re going to make sweaters, you have to meet gauge. Period.

After our intrepid knitter gets gauge and makes a fundamental decision about garment shape, it will be time to figure out decreases. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here's a quick update about my Spencer sweater. As you can see, I'm unknitting the original stockinette version and reknitting it as the new lace rendition.

Thanks to Lisa's suggestion, I ditched the ribbing and just did three rows of garter. I think this looks better and will fit better, too.

Now all I want to do is block this darn thing! I can't wait to see what it looks like after its stint as a giant washcloth ends. I need to finish the bodice first. Shouldn't be long - as always, I'm hoping for the best. Again, stay tuned...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cute chick for a cute chick

Know what I'm doing when I'm not knitting sweaters? I'm knitting a cute chick for a cute chick!

I discovered this adorable FREE pattern by Chloe Bunn on Ravelry this week and promptly took myself to Michael's to buy some cheap yellow cotton yarn. I really like this Bernat Cottontots. Soft, pretty color, and only $3.79 a skein... look what I'm missing being such a yarn snob?

It took about two seconds to whip up this sweet little nothing. Just knit a palm-sized piece with some minor shaping, sew up one little seam, and you're done. Add a felt beak and some beads for eyes. Then go buy Cadbury eggs, eat a bunch of them, and use one as "stuffing" for the chick. Give it to your BFF and make her happy for a week (God bless her, it doesn't take much).

If I weren't so busy with the sweaters, I'd be making one of these for everyone I know. Maybe next Easter...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kudos to Mary-Kate

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present Mary-Kate, a woman who had not knitted for 20 years before she belted out this beautiful aria of a Waltham.

Mary-Kate, who created her lovely cardigan in Cascade 220 in Como Blue, proves that knitting may run in the family. Her father began knitting at age six and hasn't stopped yet. I'm guessing he's taught her a thing or two about technique; just look at her Classic Elite Solstice swatch. Perfectly tight and even - a marvel to behold. I recently swatched with this yarn now and didn't do nearly as well.

Mary-Kate is now knitting Lisa Rowe's Solstice 3-Button Jacket from Curvy Knits Park Street. This is her second 3-Button. The first turned out a bit small so she's gifting it to a friend and trying again. However, her first cardigan offers a wonderful lesson in why you should block everything. This before-and-after-blocking pic shows how lovely the sweater looks after wetting, pinning, an drying. (By the way, the colors did NOT change; it's just the camera.) Amazing work, Mary-Kate.

I look forward to seeing what Mary-Kate makes next. I hope she joins me in the Barton Cardigan kal that I plan to do in a couple months (need to finish my three in-process sweaters first). If she's made such beautiful sweaters thus far, can you imagine what her Barton would look like? Keep up the tremendous work, Mary-Kate!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Knitters plan, God laughs

Remember that pink sweater I was planning, named for my beloved nephew, Spencer, who will soon celebrate his Bar Mitzvah? Well, as the old saying (sort of) goes: knitters plan, God laughs.

I started, like usual, by knitting a swatch. Actually, I made several swatches and then started on the back. My plan was to use the same shaping as the Waltham, but when I got to the underarms I realized that several things had gone terribly wrong.
First, the piece is too big; somehow I screwed up the waist shaping decreases. Second, I hate the fabric. It's not bad for what it is, but it feels and looks chunky and clunky, especially considering I want to wear this for a dressier occasion. The moral of this story is that this design really needs to be made with the thinner, silkier yarn spec'd in the original pattern.

I considered buying new yarn, but I now have TWO sweaters' worth of pink Classic Elite Solstice (actually I have three sweaters' worth: light pink, medium pink, and denim blue). I've got to stop buying yarn that never gets used and ends up in my giant walk-in-shower yarn stash!

Somehow or another, I've got to make a pretty sweater with this yarn. How about a lace sweater? That might dress the whole thing up. Something simple, fast, and pretty. I labored on Sweater Wizard, constructed a pattern that features a v-necked raglan with short sleeves, and then started on the sleeve.

It's pretty, but strangely very puffy! I blocked a swatch and it still seems bulky; I'm afraid it will make me look even heavier. So I tried the same stitch pattern with needles that are three sizes larger and then dampened the swatch. It looks and feels lighte. With the more-open mesh, has a lot more drape, too. I think I like this.

The ribbing looks a bit wonky, but I didn't really block this. Assuming I can get through this design process and make an actual sweater, I'll use wires and properly block everything.

So I think this is the winner? Maybe? I'm going to start the sleeve again using the larger needles and we'll see how it goes. The best news is that the knitting will be FAST; my gauge is 3.75 stitches and 5 rows per inch. I really need to finish this before mid-May - and then get back to the Waltham and Early Bird cardigans, both of which are about two-thirds done. I hate all this unfinished business! My mid-year's resolution: no new sweaters until these old ones are done.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kudos to Knit Simple

Ahoy, matey! When I was up at Kathy Zimmerman's this weekend, I picked up the latest issue of Knit Simple. This year seafaring designs abound and clearly Knit Simple knows nautical. I love the cotton bathing suit cover/pullover hoodie that sports the cover. Imagine my delight to discover that this sailor shirt comes in sizes up to a 55-inches bust and a 60.25-inch hip! Shocking, especially considering Knit Simple is a Vogue publication. Perhaps they've been swayed by our clamouring for larger sizing?

I'd love to make this Mari Lynn Patrick-designed sweater in navy with white trim. I will drop the patterning along the hem and sleeves so I don't underscore my giant bottom, but otherwise it's perfect for me.  A little upsizing and I'll be all set. The design calls for Cascade Pima Tencel, a worsted weight cotton/rayon blend.

Knit Simple offers many other plus-sized options, too. I don't wear sleeveless shirts but the Striped Tank, another Mari Lynn Patrick design, is just adorable. Now that the BBC has declared that horizontal stripes make you look thinner, this cutie is an attractive option. It comes in sizes up to 56-inch bust and a 64-inch hip. I'd lose the giant white stripe along the bottom for the reasons noted above, but what a perfect summer garment. Might be able to wear a little tee underneath, too.

If you're looking for a soft summer cardi, you might want to consider the lacy Mesh Cardigan by Cheryl Murray. Knitted in Lorna's Laces Pearl, a bamboo/silk blend, the v-neck cardigan comes in sizes up to 53-inches.

Top-heavy girls who don't have giant butts like mine would look great in pretty Lace Cardigan, a sleeveless lace vest by Karen Garlinghouse. This design comes in sizes up to 54 inches.

But I've left the biggest (and perhaps best, at least for some girls) for last: Knit Simple's special feature, "One Shape, Four Ways - Lace, texture, and color transform a single silhouette into a very of looks." This "single silhouette" is essentially the simplest of garments: two large rectangles dolled up with different details to make genuinely pretty sweaters. If you look great in simple, boxy shapes, these incredibly easy summer delights are for you. Unbelievably, they all come in sizes up to 68 inches!

This issue of Knit Simple offers many other patterns, too. Given all these plus-size wonders, I definitely think it's worth the $6.99 investment. Remember, if you want the knitting industry to support us, buy what they do offer in plus sizes (unless you hate it, of course). Kudos to Knit Simple for extending its sizing. Please keep up the good work!