Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to analyze a schematic - part 1

Several loyal Knitting at Large Rav group members want to know:
  • Where do you start when you want to make a sweater?
  • How can you tell if a pattern will work for your body? 
  • How do you pick the right size? 
  • How do you figure out which mods you need to make?
The answer to all these questions: Analyze the schematic.

So what is a schematic?

For knitters, it's a sweater blueprint. The schematic shows you the garment shape and gives you measurements for every section of the sweater. Designers typically place schematics on the last page of a pattern.

As an analogy, think about building a building - or a tower. Do you think you could build the Eiffel Tower without a blueprint?

Of course not. You'd need a map, a plan. You'd need to know every dimension of single thing so that when you're finished, it all fits together perfectly.

Your sweater works the same way. You need a map, a plan. You need to know every dimension of single thing so that when you're finished, it all fits together perfectly - and fits you perfectly, too.

Schematics show the shape of the garment.

Let's start with this. Without negativity or judgement, think about drawing an outline of your torso. Are you curvy? Wider in the hips? Round in the middle?

With that basic shape in your head, now look at the garment shape on the schematic. The bottom line is that the shape of your sweater should match the shape of your body. But this doesn't usually happen, especially for ample women. Here's a typical shoebox-shaped sweater schematic.

But what if you're not a rectangle? What if you're more triangular? For example, let's assume you need a 53-inch finished bust measurement. Oh good, this pattern offers this size, so you slave away on it for months. It looks great - except that you have 56-inch hips and the sweater is too tight below the waist. Now you're just a knitting Goldilocks. One part is too big and another part is too small and only one part - the bustline - fits just right.

Given that you need a sweater with a 53-inch bust and 56-inch hips, shouldn't your sweater be shaped more like this? Where both your bust AND your more ample hips have room?
The answer, of course, is yes. So your task now is to make the schematic and the resulting sweater match your particular body. Welcome. You have just entered the Twilight Zone (of knitting mods)!

Caveat knitter!

If the pattern doesn't include a schematic, you shouldn't be knitting it. Well, that's an overstatement. If you're making a baby sweater, you probably don't need a schematic. But you cannot make an ample sweater that fits without one. All bodies come in vastly different shapes and sizes, but this is even more true for larger women. As women gain weight or get older, their bodies bulge, move, and grow in all sorts of unfortunate ways! A schematic let's you make a sweater customized to your own body.

(Beware of designers who do not provide schematics. In my experience, Knitting Pure and Simple patterns do NOT offer schematics, and some patterns from Sirdar don't either. They may offer perfectly lovely designs but if you don't know the dimensions, you can't alter the pattern.)

That's all I have time for today. Next time, I'll talk about making adjustments to the schematic so that you can alter your sweater for the perfect fit.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bienvenida Olivia

My Salvadoran friend, Elizabeth just welcomed her second grandchild into this world. She's already Abuelita to two-year-old Monica and now has little Olivia to rave about, too. I took a break from my Deb's Cardigan to whip up a cutey-petutey baby garment based on the Stefanie Japel's Whirligig Shrug.

Say hello to my Bienvenida Olivia shrug. What a great little baby sweater that came together in just two days!

I stash dove and found two different colorways of DROPS Fabel. Separately, the colors don't thrill me, but together, they're a perfect pink and purple explosion. Using these two colors together eliminates dreaded color pooling. As a comparison, check out this baby bonnet that was made with the pink colorway. I wouldn't have been happy wiht the giant pink stripe. But by combining the two different colorways, I eliminated the issue altogether.

Of course, I can't leave anything alone, so I changed up the front, replacing the double roll trim with more seed stitch. I enjoyed knitting another top-down raglan, too. Good practice.

While I was photographing this little project, Tom sat down at the dining room table. I looked up and realized he matches the shrug perfectly. Now girls, imagine what would happen if I'd made Tom a sweater in that color! He is so strange. Love him though. And he does look great (but not pretty!) in pink.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Way more than 9 Famous Sweaters

Oh, you'll really enjoy this post from Found Item Clothing. A crack team of graphic artists illustrated nine iconic sweaters from popular culture. I love it!

But there are a few sweaters that are missing from this Knitwear Hall of Fame. For example, this painting of the Prince of Wales sporting his beautiful fair isle jumper launched a craze that continues to this day.

Speaking of royalty, you know how much I love the angora bolero Kate Middleton wore to her wedding reception.

For another beauty donning a sweater,  how about Marilyn Monroe in the cowichan cardigan?

Or the original sweater girl herself, Lana Turner?

One of my favorites is Coraline and her star sweater which was handknitted by Althea Crome (watch her knitting in action).

One of the most famous sweaters ever: the Harry Potter Weasley jumper (this entry is dedicated to Katie Kearney).

Now for some TV star sweaters. I've blogged previously about The Killing and it's most famous Faroe pullover.

Laverne's monogrammed L takes me back to the 70s... how about you?

And while we're back in the day, don't forget Richie Cunningham's letter sweater from Happy Days.

Finally, who could omit the good man himself, Charlie Brown, and his famous zig zag sweater?

Monday, September 12, 2011

A fine kettle of fish

What a fine kettle of fish!

What I'm referring to are my two newest creations, both of which are made of kettle-dyed yarns. What is kettle-dyed yarn exactly, you ask? Well, it is fiber or yarn that is dyed in one pot often by an artisan and increasingly by a commercial yarn company. The result: beautifully colored yarn with mottled and variegated effects that reduce color pooling.

And what is color pooling exactly? It occurs when you knit with a variegated yarn and end up with splotches of color rather than a diffuse color placement. Knitting with Noro results in lots of color pooling by design.

I don't care for Noro or color pooling, probably because of the first sweater I made for the beloved bf, Tom. I bought the Patons SWS because the colors looked so beautiful in the skeins! I envisioned this beautifully mottled blue, taupe, and tan creation that would be perfect for my blue-eyed, Danish-looking boyfriend.

NOT. Instead I got a sweater that started out with fairly uniform stripes through the body and ended up with large, diffuse swaths of color as I got to the shoulders. He's never worn the sweater; he claims it's too hot. But I suspect he thinks it's ugly because, let's face it, it is. I've been anti variegated yarn ever since.

But I've learned some new tricks since I made that first sweater for Tom. I recently finished the Under Toad aka Undercurrent where I used a solid yarn to break up variegated color - I love both the effect and the sweater.

When I recently started the Deb's Cardigan using the kettle-dyed Araucania Nature Wool, I alternated skeins regularly to break up any color pooling. I love the result, a fascinating but subtle explosion of color.

I unfortunately can't get the resulting sweater to photograph correctly; it always turns out too blue or turquoise and not the emerald shown in the swatch above. Just squint and imagine and you'll be able to see as it really is.

I've loving this cardigan. It fits perfectly; I tried it on last night and am delighted by how well it sits on my shoulders. I'll wear it with that top button unbuttoned to give me a little more neck room. But I'm looking forward to seeing the final product - and wearing it, too.

I briefly veered off course this weekend and started a sleeve for Norah Gaughan's Callen using an incredible kettle-dyed yarn, Queenland Collection Rustic Tweed. I bought this usually $10-a-skein wool/alpaca blend for an incredible $2/skein from DBNY. I've been looking for a pink tweed for a long time and when I found this one at such a great price, I jumped.

I'm alternating skeins of the Rustic Tweed to reduce color pooling. So far, so good. I wish you could touch the cuff; the yarn is so soft and so pretty.

I fell in love with the Callen at first site. I love the wide collar and oversized but classic cabling. Norah's model garment doesn't fasten but I don't wear belts so I'm going to have to figure something else out. I love the model garment's Blackstone Tweed in Narrangassat - I wish I could have afforded it but it would have been five times more than the Rustic Tweed and I need the dough.

Finally, my negative talk about variegated yarn is JMHO. Eisaku Noro has made a bloody fortunate with his color-pooling yarn; his scores of fans I'm sure would throw me in the kettle with all those fish! As I always say, your mileage may vary. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I consider myself an expert knitter. I've knitted for almost half a century and have made over a dozen sweaters. My Rav profile shows 68 projects that include mittens, hats, pillows, handbags, dog sweaters, baby blankets, and more. I think this qualifies me as an expert - or at least an experienced craftswoman.

Despite this expertise, I've never made myself a top-down raglan sweater. These garments predominate the knitting world; you can't throw a stick in a yarn store and not hit a raglan pattern. But Deb's Cardigan is my first and I have to say that I love the experience.

Last night I put in the first buttonhole and sewed on the button just for good measure. Now it really looks like a sweater! And it fits. I slipped over my head last night and it went on like a glove. This is fun!

In my design world, less is usually more. I eliminated the yarn overs associated with the increases; this simplifies the look and allows the gorgeous kettle-dyed yarn to capture the eye. I'm instead using lifted increases; I lift and twist the yarn between the stitches, place the strand on my left needle, and then just knit normally. Easy peasy. And pretty.

Finally, I thought you might enjoy this photo. I use the back of my dog's desk chair to pin my work. As some of you know, Moose has his very own desk chair that he sleeps in whenever I work. And sleep he does. Today he slept right through the photographic session!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Deb's Cardigan KAL starts this week

Are you ready for some knitting? If you're like me, you've waited all summer for the Deb's Cardigan KAL to begin. Where's your knitting bag? The yarn? The pattern? Your needles? What is it again? Need a reminder? Here are the particulars:

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet which is fortunate since our pattern has three names: Deb's Cardigan aka A-Line Plus Cardigan #625 aka Top-Down A-Line Plus Cardigan. Fortunately, they're all the same pattern and you can download yours at Patternfish.

The pattern comes in bust sizes from 46 to 64 inches, although the design is available for misses and tween sizes, too, so everyone is welcome to knit along with us. You'll need between 1400 and 2800 yards of a worsted weight yarn like Cascade 220, Berroco Ultra Alpaca, Ella Rae Worsted, or Patons Classic Wool. Go raid your stash. I bet you already have enough to make this sweater in that back closet!

Deb's Cardigan offers a host of modification opportunities, such as changing up the sleeve length and body length - with specific instructions provided right within the pattern. MissMouse just finished her beautiful rendition in white with long sleeves and toggle buttons. I love it!

And Hazelanne's gray 3/4-length sleeve version personfies elegance. She looks terrific.

Besides getting the materials together, you also need to join the Ravelry Deb's Plus-Size Cardigan KAL group where over 70 other interpid knitters have already signed up. You'll get all the help you need from these fine women and if you don't need the help, you'll have some great gals to yak with anyway. Deb Gemmell, the talented designer, will also drop by from time to time to answer questions and provide support, too.

I started my Deb's Cardigan this weekend. I'm using Araucania Nature Wool from my stash (I know, don't faint!) in a gorgeous emerald green that reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. I've simplified the collar and plackets to a standard 2x2 ribbing and have eliminated the holes around the raglan increases. My plan is to create a classic collared cardigan that accentuates the beautiful kettle-dyed yarn.

Moosie recently modeled the buttons and swatch for my sweater. This is a repeat photo but he's so cute, I can't resist showing it again. :-)

So I hope you're ready for some knitting! Join our Deb's Cardigan KAL today. If you have any questions, just ask.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Free associating

"What in the heck is that?" asked the newly resurfaced Tom  (meaning that he's back from the hurricane, not that he's exfoliated). He spied the taupe fuzziness on the coffee table and couldn't make hide nor hair of it. For good reason.

I twisted, turned, and transformed the pile until you could sort of tell that it's a sweater. Maybe. Either that or fallopian tubes and a very large uterus (sorry, free associating here).

Such is the state of the Mighty Acorn aka Quercus. I've been making this according to my measurements, but it's time to pin it on the dress form just to make sure it's going to fit. Here goes:

You may not think it fits because of that big empty spot in the middle, but don't panic. That's where the wide band will go, as shown in the sample sweater from the pattern.

Here's the view from the back. Looks like it fits from back here, too. The sweater could really use a bath and some serious blocking but I'm not even sure how to go about blocking a all-in-one-piece, top-down sweater. I guess I'll find out soon.

So, so far, so good. Onward to the bottom which will be boring ole stockinette mixed in with some darts. I'll blog about the waist shaping next time. Meanwhile, I hope you're enjoying your Labor Day weekend and getting a little knitting done, too.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Help Amy Christoffers help Vermont

The incredibly talented knitwear designer Amy Christoffers is a Vermonter who isn't taking Irene sitting down. She writes:
The situation here in my state is very strange... People around here tend to be pretty prepared, for what ever, but nothing could ever be done to prepare for events like this. The last few days I have stayed pretty close to home as venturing out is just too heartbreaking. People's lives in muddy piles on their front lawns, roads that are open but just barely, dust everywhere. It makes me sick, it makes me cry, it makes me angry. Not just this week, but for months transportation is going to be a serious problem. Local farmers lost not just crops but all their top soil, their livestock. The infrastructure of not just our roads but our rural economy is in trouble.

What should I do about that?

For all of today 9/1/11 through 9/5/11 100% of the sales of my Ravelry patterns will be donated to Vermont NOFA’s Farmer Emergency Fund.

Its not enough but its a start. Spread the word, please.

I love Amy's sweaters and I also love Vermont. So I'm buying the Larch Cardigan.

It's not enough. But it's a start.