Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Oh Rob... I mean Tom...

I loved Amy Herzog's Petrea the minute she posted it on Ravelry. I adore the Petrea's deep scoop neck, curvy shaping, short sleeves, and lace columns. But when I saw her friend Caro's version, I was sold. I thought this cardi would work for me - plus I saw an opportunity to quickly make a cute summer sweater that would teach me more about fitting and sweater length.

I know I'm dating myself here, but I'm calling my version Laura Petrea, named for Laura Petrie, the beloved housewife from my childhood played by Mary Tyler Moore.

You remember Laura. She the one who helps her husband up off the floor after he's - yet again! - tripped over the ottoman.

I started the Laura Petrea like I always do, with the schematic.

My plan:
  • Add shaping to from the hips to the waist using darts.
  • Work one inch of short rows at the top of my hips to keep the sweater from riding up in the back
  • Continue the shaping after the waist to the bust line.
I've done waist shaping on all my most recent sweaters but have always done the increases or decreases on the side seam. This time, I followed Amy's lead and created darts instead which gives a much better fit. The fabric naturally conforms to my form without leaving me with dumb little triangles that need to be chopped off like with the Waltham.

The short rows were a given given my previous sweaters, all of which ride up in the back because of my big butt and hyper-curved spine. I've always wanted to add short rows to the back, but the cables on all of these sweaters have precluded it.You can't add short rows without screwing up the cable stitch pattern.

The Petrea's mostly stockinette back offered the opportunity to try short rows - and from what I can tell thus far, they work. Look how straight this hem is! We'll see how it looks when the sweater is finished, but in the meantime, I'm praying. (By the way, I decided to skip the back lace pattern. It's beautiful, but it would emphasize the giant derriere, something I'm forever trying to avoid.)

I've gotten a few questions about how I figured out the short rows. I finished the hip darts, knitted a couple of rows, and then began the short rows 20 stitches in from each side. I knitted seven short rows (or one inch) before returning to knitting another few rows before starting the upper waist shaping. This resulted in a wedge about 18 inches wide and one inch deep. I decided to put the short rows in this location so I didn't mess up the darts. I also figured that the waist is where my body  curves outwards and that the short rows would be less noticeable there than if they sat at the widest part of the hips.

For better or worse, I'm making this sweater only 24-inches long. I get opposition every time I talk about making a shorter sweater, but the only way to tell whether this length will work for me is to make one. So that's just what I'm going to do. My reaction thus far is that it takes a heck of a lot less yarn, money, and time knitting 24 inches than 30! But the proof will be in the pudding. We'll see how it looks.

Finally, let me tell you about the yarn - and the color. I know the beloved bf loves me but after nearly four years together, we're more like old married people than teenaged love birds. Imagine my shock when Tom looked at me a couple of weeks ago, cocked his head, and said, "You look so pretty in pink." I did a doubletake and then celebrated the lovely compliment by going straight to the computer and buying seven skeins of Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage in the color Molly Ringwald. The yarn is very pretty - but I can't help thinking that a little alpaca would really help. I'm just crazy about alpaca.

The moral of the story: dark-haired brunettes with brown eyes look pretty in pink. Just in case you need it, here's even more proof courtesy of Laura Petrie. :-)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Comprehensive list of plus-size knitting books

I've updated the comprehensive list of plus-size knitting books and posted it on my website. I will update this list regularly so keep coming back.

Take a gander at all the new offerings from Bernat and Patons. Kudos to these companies, the first pattern providers in the world to make every sweater pattern in sizes up to 62 inches. Please, buy their booklets! They so deserve our support.

If you know of a plus-size pattern book that's not listed, please contact me.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

CNN reports... and we need your help

Christine, a kind and devoted Knitting at Large reader, sent me a fascinating article from CNN: Plus-sized women: It's our turn for fine fashion. I encourage you to read the entire piece, but I am sharing my favorite section here because it echoes my own call to the knitting industry to provide better support to larger knitters.

But first, a caveat. I don't like or appreciate this piece's subtly snarky undertone about fat people. I am looking past it to get to the important message. I hope you'll do the same. Anyway, author Amy Wilson writes:

...only 17% of women's apparel dollar was spent last year on plus-sized clothing, according to Marshall Cohen, chief retail analyst for the NPD Group. This happened even though plus-sized women had 28% of the purchasing power, he said.

It makes you wonder about the higher math. The average-sized woman in America is either a 14 or 16 -- depending on who you ask and what style she's got on (and sometimes which afternoon she's trying it on). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she weighs 164.7 pounds.

Now consider this: Most designers and some mall stores call a size 14 a plus-size.

The United States is continuing to fill up with those larger-than-size-14s. Remember those numbers out of the CDC that say that two out of three Americans are overweight or obese and in need of a good workout?

And yet with only 17% of the market dollar contributed, plus-sized women still plunked in more than $17.5 billion in sales in the 12 months ending in April 2011.

So what we have is a potentially huge -- and getting bigger -- market for plus-sized fashion. According to Cohen, that market came close to $18 billion in the April 2009 to April 2010 buying season, but it backed away in the season ending April 2011. That's because when times got hard for retailers, the first product line they cut was, yes, the plus-sized line.

Again, why the disrespect?

Cohen says one reason is there's the perception, backed some by reality, that a part of the larger-sized market is not fashion-centric, "not into clothes." And, two, there is simply not enough product available for them to spend money on.

"If you don't give them more than 10% of the floor space of available retail floor space, " he asked, "what do you expect?"
So, now we know that the fashion industry functions just like the knitting industry. Do fat women tend not to knit sweaters for themselves because they're not interested in fashion? Or because the industry offers so few plus-size pattern options - giving us less than 10% of the floor space, so to speak?

We all know the truth.

Want to help? Donate your measurements

Upsizing patterns is no easy feat. Many designers would love to create larger versions of their designs for ample women, but they're unsure how to proceed. And when they do make larger sizes, the sweaters often do not fit the plus-size knitters very well. Why? Because the industry standard measurements for plus sizes frankly suck.

Amy Herzog
For this reason, Amy Herzog has launched an important effort to collect measurement data from plus-size women. She will then tabulate and analyze the measurements and publish size standards that have a basis in reality, ones that designers can use to make patterns that really fit larger forms.

Please help. Visit Amy's Plus Size Measurements page and enter your measurements today. It's completely anonymous and free - and imporant.

If you need help figuring out how to take the measurements, visit the Craft Yarn Council of America's standard measurements and sizing page.

I'll keep you posted about this effort and will let you know when Amy finishes her analysis. A million thanks to Amy for taking on this project - and to you for donating your measurements to the cause.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Waltham lessons learned

My sweaters always serve as great teachers, and the Waltham Cabled Cardigan is no exception. Today I glean the lessons learned from this complicated cardi.

Avoid 1/3/1 cables.

My biggest stitching challenge was definitely the 1/3/1 cables. These little monsters, which are worked with  two cable needles, offer another order of difficulty by twisting in opposite directions on each side of the main horseshoe cable. I spent at least two weeks of my life unknitting and reknitting these tiny banes of my existence. I'm proud that ALL of my 1/3/1 cables point in the proper direction but this only occurred because I am hellishly anal retentive. If I go the whole rest of my life and never knit these little bastards again, it will be too soon.

Use lots of buttons.

I hate cardigans that gap and gape at the button band. To make sure this didn't happen with the Waltham, I used ten buttons. Not only do they keep the sweater securely closed; they are also beautiful. I bought my authentic Norwegian pewter buttons from Nordic Fiber Arts. I love them. The motif gently mimics the horseshoe cables and the pewter looks lovely with the bright blue Ultra Alpaca.

My sleeves aren't too long. My crossback is too wide.

When I posted pics of the final cardigan, someone commented  that the sleeves are too long. I get her point, but the sleeves really aren't too long; my crossback is too wide. Look at the shoulders. Even though this is a modified drop shoulder sweater, the sweater falls off my shoulders - and the sleeves tumble down my arms. The top arrow shows my shoulder; the bottom arrows points to the shoulder seam. For a better fit, the seam should be at least a couple of inches closer to my shoulder.

Why did this happen? Because I knitted this for an 18-inch crossback. I had Tom re-measure me and he says I have a 17-inch crossback (assuming he's measuring correctly since he's never done this before). I'll be making my next sweater with a narrower crossback. I bet it fits better.

I have a higher waist than "normal."

I worked diligently on making the Waltham genuinely fit and I'm proud of my efforts. I spent a lot of energy and time figuring out the just-right waist shaping and it paid off; the sweater really does fit me better. But one thing I learned is that my waist isn't centered between my bustline and my hips like "normal" forms. Instead, my waist is higher. You can see what I mean in the dress form that Tom and I made a couple of months ago. I definitely have a waist, but it is a short and high one.

In my next sweater, I will move the waist shaping up a few inches, as shown below. This shaping will better mirror my shape and provide a better fit.

Sweater length - or let's talk about my ass AGAIN.

I've blogged multiple times about my unsuccessful quest to find the perfect sweater length (post 1, post 2, post 3). It always eludes me - and it confounded me again with the Waltham. I made this cardigan 27-inches long, shorter than previous sweaters but I suspect not short enough. Amy Herzog in Fit to Flatter says that sweaters for bottom-heavy women should end either above or well below their widest parts. The Waltham, even though I made it shorter, still ends smack-dab on my ample ass.

I think the answer may be to end the sweater before it curves around my butt. If I do this though, I will still struggle with the question, "when I'm wearing jeans, what in the heck do I wear so I can cover my belly?" I don't have a good answer for this. I initially photographed this sweater wearing all white underneath but I don't think it looks good. And I'm not going to wear black 24x7. The best look is probably to wear a skirt although I won't wear a skirt every day either. It continues to be my personal challenge.

One more thing on sweater length: I recently purchased a short scoop-necked lace sweater to use in my analysis of sweater length. This cardi is only 22 inches long and I think it looks pretty good on me. I'm going to make my next sweater this length and we'll see how it compares with the Waltham and my other sweaters.

I need short rows in the back.

This shorter sweater picture underscores a fit issue I've yet to address. I need short rows in the back of my sweaters so they don't ride up on my butt. I couldn't have really done this with the Waltham because it is so cabled, but on my next sweater, I'm going to make this mod. Short rows will also help an associated fit problem: my sweater hems are never parallel with the floor. I can't wait to make a sweater that corrects this problem. The main issue is anatomical; I have hyperlordosis, an exaggerated curvature of the spine that makes it impossible to stand completely upright and gives me a perpetual Victorian bustle (dammit). One of my uncles has this genetic abnormality, too. When he was in the Army, he was regularly dressed down by his commanding officer for not standing up straight. I completely relate.

My sweater isn't perfect - but it's more perfect than ever.

In my eternal quest to make a sweater that fits, I'm still searching for the Holy Grail. The Waltham isn't quite right - but it's a lot closer to my dream cardigan. I'm proud of my efforts and will wear this beautiful sweater with pride. As Voltaire said, perfect is the enemy of the good. My Waltham is good enough.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

No rest for the weary

You know you're addicted to knitting when you finish a sweater in the morning and start a new one that very night!

No sooner did I sew on the very last button on the Waltham than I casted on for two new projects - and dreamed up 17 others. I started with the Barton Cardigan, the delightfully cabled sweater designed by Marly Bird. I'm using that first-class Bijou Basin Bliss yarn that served as payment for logo work I did for the Arkansas Fiber Festival Extravaganza. The yarn, which was dyed by Lorna's Laces, simply stuns. I love the mottled color variations in this hand-dyed fiber. At Marly's suggestion, I'm alternating skeins periodically to avoid excessive color pooling.

The Barton looks complicated but it's really not. I easily memorized the stitch pattern and abandoned the chart in short order. Now all I need to do is to keep knitting! We were supposed to have two sleeves completed by today, but I definitely missed that deadline. Finishing the Waltham took top priority.

My second new endeavour: the Margarethe Lace Shawl from Vintage Modern Knits. Kate Gagnon Osborn designed this lovely Faroe shawl using the luscious Road to China Light, but I want and need a bigger shawl. I decided to substitute yarns and am using my favorite Berroco Ultra Alpaca, a worsted weight wool and alpaca blend. The larger gauge yarn naturally gives me a larger shawl; the final dimensions according to my calculations are 39x80 - aka perfect. Another sweet thing about this shawl: I'm making it with the leftovers of Tom's Christmas Sweater. God forbid we ever wear matching clothing! But I still like the idea of wrapping up in a shawl made from Tom's yarn, so to speak.

Before the Waltham is complete history, I'm compiling a list of lessons learned and will be blogging about this shortly. I was also excited this morning to read about Kathy Zimmerman in Kathleen Cubley's Knitting Daily blog post. The blog post also quotes the Interweave Knits article I wrote about Kathy (and mentions my name, too - twice!). Interweave recently published a new e-book with six of Kathy's beautiful cabled pullovers. If you love classic cabled sweaters, this book is a must.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

It's done!

The Waltham is history. Finished. Complete. Finis. Done. Baked. Over. Ta da. The end.

Lessons learned coming soon and much better pictures hopefully, too. But until then, here are the cruddy pics I have already.

Monday, June 6, 2011

West of Toledo

Everyday I think, "Today I'm going to finish the Waltham." And every day I don't.

Not for lack of trying. It's just taking forever to finish. The collar all by itself is endless! I've used this analogy before, but it's like driving from DC to Aunt Dixie's house in Indiana. You think once you hit the Indiana line you're almost there - but then it takes another hour. I'm 30 minutes west of Toledo but still have miles to go before I sleep. Sigh...

However, it is beginning to look like a sweater - and even better, a sweater that fits! It's close enough to Indiana to counting the minutes.

Maybe today I will finish the Waltham. I sure hope so.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Plus-size pattern round-up

Let's go shopping! Today I'm taking you to the mall to buy some pretty new knitting patterns designed just for us. Get your purse and hat and don't forget that Visa card. As Betty and Wilma would say: CHARGE IT!

You know how much I love my polar opposite, Cecily Glowik MacDonald. She's out with a new e-book of little summer cardis that I as usual adore. My fav is Tidal, a short-sleeved buttondown that comes in sizes up to 56 inches. She describes Tidal as "A summer jacket with a turned bottom hem, slight puff sleeve caps and slip stitch details. Tidal is worked from the bottom of the body up, split for the armholes, with set in sleeves and picked up neck and buttonbands."

Near the top of my queue is the Mork, a gorgeous pullover with cables that remind me of cathedral columns. Designed by Julia-Farwell-Clay, one of the original minds behind Twist Collective, Mork comes in sizes up to 57 inches. Julia knitted her sample garment in Berroco Ultra Alpaca, my most favorite yarn ever. In fact, I already bought a bunch to make this very sweater.

We all love Marly Bird, especially because she designs such lovely garments for ample girls. One new example: the Lachina vest, available in sizes up to 63 inches, and made out of buffalo yarn. You could easily switch to DK weight yarn though.

I'm not much of a tank top girl, but I do think the Cable Tank Top by Sue McCain is a beauty. Maybe I could wear this as a vest instead? Those of you less trepedatious about showing your arms would look great in this slimming cotton garment. It comes in sizes up to 60.25 inches.

Another cute summer top with a nautical feel comes from the pages of Knitscene Summer 2011. The Rayleigh Tee, in sizes up to 57 inches, was designed by Mandy Moore. She also designed the Poppy Cardigan from Knitting Plus.

Finally, meet Vera Sanon, a designer for Plymouth Yarns who also creates ample patterns for us. She recently released the easy-to-knit Hollywood Flair Top in sizes up to 64 inches. The pattern comes with both sleeved and sleeveless options.

Whew... I need a Diet Coke. I'm going to the eatery to take a break. Happy shopping, girlfriends!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thanks for the memories

Thank you to the more than 50 women who shared memories of their veteran and active duty loved ones this past Memorial Day weekend. As Alibeee said, "I'm sure every family has a story to share." I'm glad we could stand together in memory of those who served their countries.

I'd like to announce and congratulate the winner of the Chevron Collection: Nicki from Austin, TX. Nicki shared this memory:

I got a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes when you asked us to remember someone dear to us who was in service.

The answer was both easy and terribly painful for me: Sgt. Scott Lange Kirkpatrick, a young man who was a gifted writer and a renaissance thinker. I was a friend and mentor to him for six years in the DC Poetry Slam ... I met him when he was sixteen. Scott was caring, smart, funny, satirical, sharp and compassionate all at the same time.

I miss him EVERY DAY. If you ever visit Arlington National Cemetery, please visit Scott's grave, and whisper a thank-you to this valiant young man with a courageous heart and a poet's eye.
Nicki's memory truly touched me. Like Scott, I grew up in the Washington, DC suburbs. He's my neighbor. Or was. I wish I'd known him. offers a wonderful biographical portrait of Sgt. Kirkpatrick. He sounds like a regular guy, except that he was both a poet and a soldier whose life suddenly and tragically in Baghdad. He was only 26 years old.
Sometime on Saturday morning, August 11, 2007, Kirkpatrick and his squad were out on patrol in an abandoned building on the outskirts of their sector in Arab Jabour. Private First Class William L. Edwards, a 23-year-old from Houston, Texas, stayed behind in the Bradley that had transported them there. At some point, Edwards opened the hatch and was hit by a sniper’s bullet. As the sniper darted into a nearby house, Scott and three other ranking soldiers pursued him into the building. Inside, one of the soldiers stepped onto a pressure plate rigged to 30 pounds of explosives stashed under a stairwell. In an instant, all four young men were dead. Edwards died later in an Army hospital.

Sgt. Kirkpatrick in Arab Jabour, Iraq
Sgt. Kirkpatrick was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and a Maryland State Patriot Medal. Let us all hold the Sargeant and his family in our hearts today and pray for the safe return of all of our soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and indeed throughout the world.