Thursday, October 27, 2011

New patterns from Vera Sanon

Knitwear designer Vera Sanon writes:
I just wanted to give you a heads up on some patterns that were released yesterday...
One of them is a shawl that I designed with plus size women in mind (i.e. myself) because triangular shawls slip and slide off my shoulders and do not wrap well around my boob-ablige. :) It is “Princess Ruffles Shawl”.

The other just released pattern that is plus sized is “Summer Waves Cardi” its sizing is XS (S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL) -34 (36, 39, 44, 46, 52, 55)” chest size.
Cool! Gotta love a designer who thinks about the amples among us.

The beautiful Princess Ruffles Shawl features a lovely lace ruffle border, stockinette body, eyelet decreases, and fitted shoulders. The shawl can be made with only 900 yards of yarn, but you can easily modify it to make the shawl larger. Best of all, Vera's Princess Ruffles Shawl is free!

And here's more good free news: Vera's new Summer Waves cardigan pattern is also available for free. Made in Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima, this raglan cardi sports a pretty lace border opening and short sleeves. Ample knitter Robebe test-knitted this sweater, and wow, doesn't she look beautiful in her rendition? I love the color, the elbow-length sleeves, and the dress underneath, too! Wonderful work. Looks like it only took her three weeks to make. Talk about a quick knit.

A hearty thank you to Vera for her attention to plus-size knitters everywhere!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ease to please

Ever since I started this blog, I've been worrying about ease. Ease isn't so easy, unfortunately.

Let's start with a definition of ease: the difference between your body measurements and your apparel measurements, usually and particularly the width of the body or sleeves.

Ease determines the extra room you need to move. Remember in high school when you wore those skin-tight jeans that left marks at your waist? Or maybe that's just me. I could have used a little ease back in the day. Now I'm grateful for the lycra they put in mom jeans. I get all the comfort I need to accommodate lumpiness and eliminate bagginess. Best of all, no uncomfortable zippers either! Thank God for elastic waistlines. (I'm sure three-quarters of the female population would cringe at this proclamation, but I don't care. It's my truth.)

Ease also determines the room you have to layer garments. For example, if you want to wear a T-shirt under a sweater, you don't need a lot of ease. But if you're going to wear a coat over a bulky sweater, you want lots of ease. We all remember poor Randy from "A Christmas Story." (I just spied his cool mittens - I'd love to make a pair of those.)

Speaking of bagginess, it is also related to ease. While we may love wearing a big sweatshirt on a blustry day, it's probably not our most becoming look. But if we're laying around the house, we really don't care, do we?

So what does this all mean for knitting? The Craft Yarn Council defines ease as follows:
So, if you have a 50-inch bust measurement and want to make a sweater with standard ease, you should make the sweater 52 to 54 inches wide. In contrast, your baggy sweatshirt may have 12 inches of ease or even more.

Let's talk a moment about negative ease. Designers often make sweaters with zero ease or even negative ease if they want the garment to be very form fitting. One example: the Peyton Cardigan by Connie Chang Chinchio. This sweater just wouldn't work without negative ease; the gaping at the front openings is integral to the design.

Pullovers also come with negative ease. One example: Ysolda's Snow White. She looks lovely in this design, doesn't she?

Negative ease for larger figures often breaks down along generational lines, I suspect. Younger women, regardless of size, wear much more revealing clothing now than in the past. As an example, look at this dress from Forever 21. Even when I was thinner, even when I was younger, I wouldn't have worn something this fitting or short. I just wouldn't. But most young women seem to be comfortable with this look and good for them.

Maybe it's because I'm old, but I want positive ease and I believe it's important for larger figures. I've long suspected that ease on a skinny gal works differently than ease on an ample one. If we were talking about height instead of weight, an extra few inches would make a big difference between a tall and a petite woman, right? Wouldn't the same be true for wider women?

My bottom line? My bottom needs more ease than a thin woman's. My knitting friend, Dottie once suggested that ease should expand proportionally as the sweater increases. She's right! Let me give you a real-world example.

Assume a designer creates a sweater pattern for a 36-inch bust with two inches of ease for a finished bust size of 38 inches. If we divide the ease by the finished bust size, we discover that ease is 6% (2 / 38 = .06 or 6%).

Now, let's assume I want to make this sweater for my 56-inch bust. The problem is, if I only add two inches, it means I'm only adding 4% of ease, as shown in this little spreadsheet.

What I really need to do is add at least 6% ease to my 56-inch bust size -  or 3.5 inches, not just 2 inches. The additional ease assures that my sweater fits the same as the smaller version. Makes sense - if you can get past the math anyway. :-)

But I still wonder if ample women need even more ease - or at least different ease. Perhaps the bodice should only have two inches of ease, but the hips (or my hips anyway) should have six? I suspect this would work better for me, but I don't have any empirical evidence other than that my last sweater, the Under Toad, has this ease and it fits me really well.

So, I'm still worrying about ease. I'll keep experimenting and cogitating and will share the results of my research when I have more to report.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Oh no...

I just discovered that I knitted the cuffs on my Twinings wrong. SIGH...

Entwined with the Twinings

In November, Tom and I head west to Indiana for a family wedding outside of Fort Wayne. My Aunt Dixie's son's son ties the knot that day - and I'm doing my own knot tying. As in knitting! (No, we're not getting married - not yet - one of these days - you'll be the first to know!)

I've started and stopped six garments in my quest for perfect wedding wear. I've finally decided on Amy Herzog's Twinings, a Twist Collective sweater I've wanted to make since I first set eyes on it. But I worry about getting the just-right fit; if this pullover doesn't hit below the bustline, it just doesn't fit. When you're a skinny chick like the model below, it doesn't matter so much. But with my ample bustline, neckline placement is critical.

The sample sweater sports a gorgeous raisin-colored yarn, but the dark color makes it's difficult to see the beautiful  cabling in the photographs.

I'm making mine in ivory Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran. I already had eight skeins in my stash and ordered sufficient yardage to finish the sweater. I adore Cashmerino Aran, a soft blend of 55% merino, 33% microfiber, and 12% cashmere. The smooth, pearly yarn will look lovely with my pearls and really shows off the cables, too.

I made the cuffs on these sleeves three times. First, I made them as specified with seed stitch on the edges that grows wider as the cuff gets wider. I didn't like the look. So I frogged and made them again, this time with stockinette edges instead of the seed stitch. I didn't like this either. So I gutted it all again and made the cuff start and stop with a cable. Towards the top of the cuff, I added in a few increases to give the piece a little more room. Then, after the last cable row in the cuff, I made several increases across the cuff to expand the sleeve. I tried the cuff on as I went and it fits perfectly. I also shortened the cuff about an inch to 5.5 inches.

Because I fiddled around so much with the cuffs, I decided to knit them at the same time on a circular needle. This helped me duplicate the cuff exactly. If I'd knitted them one at a time, I know from experience that I would have struggled to replicate the second cuff. Now I'm working on the sleeves and have zoomed ahead on one of them. But I'll catch up, no worry.

I love the zigzag cuff. It's so easy! It's just a four-stitch cable with two side stitches butted up against a six-stitch cable. Truly simple and beautiful, too.

Next up on my worry list: waist shaping. Amy designed the pattern to put the waist shaping on the sides, but she included some thoughts about moving the shaping to the princess seams on the Twinings KAL page. I'm also engaged in my eternal internal debate about sweater length. I'm very short waisted with a low bustline, so I'm afraid to make this sweater short; if I did, the hem would only be a few inches from where the V would start. So I'm cogitating.

Should I list the pile of unfinished sweaters in my knitting basket? My Deb's Cardigan? The Early Bird? My own secret sweater design? Among others? There. I just did. I feel guilty about all of them, but there's not one among them I could wear to this wedding. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Waltham ala jeans

This picture is just for Pat!

I don't know what I was thinking. Now I think it looks fine. Thanks for Pat and Lor and all the rest who told me I was nuts.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Knitting at Large meet-up details

WHO: YOU! You’re invited! All are welcome, too.

WHAT: Knitting at Large Meetup

WHEN: Saturday, November 12, 2011, 1:00-4:00 PM

WHERE: 1801 Crystal Drive, Arlington, VA 22202

Terry, our kind sponsor, writes: “18th Street dead-ends at Crystal Drive right at my apartment building. It is the building on the left. Buzz the concierge, say you are with “Terry’s” group and he will buzz you in and direct you to the room.” The Crystal City Metro stop is nearby, too.

  • There is a parking lot in front of the apartment that is free but there aren’t a lot of spaces.
  • Underground parking is available on 18th Street just before you get to Crystal Drive.
  • Additional underground parking is available before 15th Street; come down 18th Street, turn left on Crystal Drive, and then left into the parking lot before they 15th.
You must pay to park in the underground lots. Take the elevator to the shopping area cross the street to the building, 1801 Crystal Drive.

COST: Free, although we’re going to order pizza so everyone will have to kick in a couple of bucks for lunch. BYOB, too.

BRING: Please bring your knitting, any sweaters you want to show off, and a tape measure if you’d like to learn about taking proper measurements for sweater knitting. If there’s time, we’ll also discuss drawing and using schematics for sweater modifications.

RSVP: Please email me if you'd like to attend.


Okay, I lied

Earlier this week, I dissed my poor Waltham after it failed to pass muster for a biz casual client meeting. Well, last night I tried the Waltham again, this time with a gray tank top and jeans to wear on my dinner date with the beloved BF. Really cute, warm, and snuggly in my favorite Ultra Alpaca, plus the shape emphasized my curviness, too. Best of all, no one asked me if I'd made my cardigan - woo hoo!

So I'm sorry, dear Waltham. You deserve better. I promise to wear you with pride forever more (or until the moths get to you anyway).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

We need another fairy tale

Once upon a time, Little Red Riding Hood (aka the Knitting Industry) set off with a basket of food for her sick grandmother. Then the Big Bad Wolf (aka Julie) came out and said, "Enough with the red hooded capes already!"

Enough indeed. A five-minute meander through the woods of Ravelry proves my point precisely.

Scarlet Capelet

Into The Woods

These are just the adult versions; there are also little red capes for real Little Red Riding Hoods!

Little Red Riding Hood's Cape

It's time for all of Knittingdom to adapt knitting patterns for other fairy tales. Perhaps Alice in Wonderland's white pinafore? Or Snow White's medieval prom dress? Or maybe we'll just settle for the nakedness of the Emperor's New Clothes - assuming he's a cute emperor. There are male unmentionables available on Rav after all...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall 2010 trendy colors? Blech.

Pantone, the world's leading color authority, always likes to hear itself talk. Here's what it's saying about the 2011 fall color forecast:
Taking cues from the great masters, sepia tones of old Hollywood, Chinese opera, cityscapes and countryside, designers are paying close attention to texture, contrast and color for fall 2011 – pairing menswear with feminine twists, warm prints with cool metals, incorporating both old and new influences, and creating an intriguing balance between colors.

“Designers take a painterly approach to fall 2011 by artfully combining bright colors with staple neutrals, reminiscent of how an artist would construct a stunning work of art,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “Much like a painter's masterpiece, there is a certain romance to this season's palette.”

Let's get real. I don't think there's a single masterpiece in these colors. At least not for this dark-haired, dark-eyed, pale-as-can-be girl.
The Bamboo, Afterglow, Cedar, Liqueur, Nougat? OUT. Not for me. I'll look as yellow as a jaundiced baby.

Pink is usually my color, but personally, I'm sick to death of Honeysuckle. Pantone declared it the color of the year this spring, calling it "Courageous. Confident. Vital. A brave new color, for a brave new world. Let the bold spirit of Honeysuckle infuse you, lift you and carry you through the year. It’s a color for every day – with nothing “everyday” about it."
Excuse me while I upchuck. As I said, Pantone loves to hear itself talk.
I guess I can wear Phlox and Deep Teal, but they remind me of the 80s and 90s when Lane Bryant made everything in purple and teal. If you dig in the bottom of my sock drawer, you'll find matching relics. Just add some linebacker shoulder pads to teal and it's back to the future.
Orchid Hush? First off, what a nauseating name! Do you mean lavender? Whatever it is, it looks like a color from a Bohus sweater, even if it's not.

I guess I like Quarry the best. As a Winter in Color Me Beautiful parlance, I'm supposed to be able to wear icy colors. But CMB also said I could wear taupe and boy, were they WRONG.
But taupe is closer to my personal nomination for color of the year. Considering our gloomy economy - is it the Great Recession or Lesser Depression? - the nail polish industry has it right. The color of the year is GRAY.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What's next

Perhaps they're listenting? The knitting industry - or some of the constituents anyway - seems to be offering  larger sizes for more patterns. And not just incredibly simple drop-shoulder pullovers that can be made for anyone just by making three rectangles and sewing them together.  No. What we're finally getting are absolutely gorgeous designs sized for ample wearers.

This morning I have two soon-to-be-released gems to share with you. First, have you heard about Coastal Knits, authored by Alana Dakos and Hannah Fettig? This self-published book delivers 10 knitted wonders right to your doorstep - and in larger sizing, too.

You've seen their stellar work before. Hannah Fettig routinely includes larger sizes in her designs. I wrote about Hannah re-releasing her Featherweight Cardigan in sizes up for 62-inches. Her wardrobe staple Calligraphy Cardigan contains similar sizing.

Coastal Knits offers five sweaters and a spattering of other accessories in a soft-bound book; patterns are not downloadable, but hey, the authors have spent their hard-earned dough to make this book. Let's support them in their efforts by buying Coastal Knits, especially since they've labored to include ample sizing for every single sweater design. Every single one sweaters goes up to at least a 60-inch bust size.

Hannah Fettig's Rocky Coast Cardigan, a top-down cardi knitted in simple yet elegant cabling, sits at the top of Raverly's most-popular-patterns list. The authors give a copy of this design for book pre-orders, so many of those looking forward to the book's release this week have already started this pretty cardi.

But I have two other favorites. I'm haunted by the idea of making Alana Dakos' Gnarled Oak for Thanksgiving. The cardigan is seamlessly knit from the bottom up to the armholes. Separately knit sleeves and the yoke join together to form a stunning oak leaf neckline.

I want to make the Gnarled Oak in brown. I like the multi-tonal green yarn from the original, but it hides the beautiful yoke pattern a little, so I'm looking for a solid option (although I do love that green yarn... just gorgeous). The question is: can I get this done in time? The book is being released this coming week and I've placed my order, but I don't know how long it will take to get here. I really love it - classic and different all at the same time.

On the other side of the year, I also adore the springtime Wildflower Cardigan, from Alana. The Coastal Knits website describes this sunny beauty as: "A lightweight, ¾-sleeve cardigan perfect for layering on a brisk spring day. The sweater style itself is basic and flattering while the flower motif pockets and delicate edging add just enough feminine detail. Wildflower is knit in pieces from the bottom up and seamed together at the end."

I would love to make this pretty thing over the winter to remind me that spring sits waiting for her debut. For my body, I'm very anti three-button cardis that provide belly gape, especially ones that include adorable pockets right in the just-wrong spot. But I may have to make an exception. Heck, I might even make it in yellow, a color I usually studiously avoid because it make my pale skin even paler. But the Wildflower is so pretty, it can't help but make the whole world more beautiful.

More good news about Coastal Knits: the authors provide on the website a comprehensive schematic for every single pattern! Now you can check out the sweater map and see exactly what you're going to need to mod, all before the book makes it's way to you. Just brilliant.

Finally, I want to show you a sweater Marly Bird gave me a sneak peak of a few days ago. She told me not to tell anyone, but now that Knitters Fall 2011 is out, I can show your her incredible design. The Artichoke Twist sports Bijou Basin yarn and knits up from the bottom; separately knit sleeves are then joined to the body to intertwine classic cables into a show-stopping neckline. Marly also includes instructions for horizontal bust darts to provide a better fit. I'm apparently all about the yokes this fall because I really want to make this one, too.

So girls, remember to vote with your pocketbook. Support those in the knitting industry who support us. This is the only way we'll get larger patterns. Two others things you can do for this effort? Please create a Rav project for every sweater you make and then post pics modeling your garment. The knitting industry doesn't believe that fat women knit sweaters for themselves. Let's show them just how wrong they are.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The problem with success

Oh boy! (Or girl as the case may be.) The brisk fall breeze, swirling with golden leaves, chills just enough to warrant a sweater. Hurray! All those cardigans I've made since spring can finally make their autumn debuts.

I've been cuddling up in my creations every chance I get. As it turned out, I wore my new sweaters in reverse order. I started with my latest, the striped Under Toad. On a cool October evening, I pulled on my cardi and headed to dinner with friends. The best news is that no one asked me if I'd made my sweater. I always wait for that question - and am convinced if asked that the sweater must look homemade, not handmade. But this time, no one noticed or at least bothered to mention it. I smiled inside though, happy with the fit and stripes, too.

Next, I donned a denim skirt and my pink Laura Petrea for a date with the beloved boyfriend. Tom never needs to ask if I've made my sweater; he's sat beside me for millions of stitches holding my arm while we watched TV - and I knit. Somehow, however, he managed to tell me I looked pretty. He's a good boyfriend. :-)

I was pretty happy with the Laura Petrea, but frankly it didn't fit as well as the Under Toad. I learned a lot making this Amy Herzog pattern, including the princess-style darts she uses to fit her garments. They rock! So much more becoming than side seam shaping. But the upper bodice didn't fit so well. When it came time to make the Under Toad, I took all those lessons learned and managed to fix the upper bodice so it fit perfectly. No gaps, no pulls, enough room for my busty bustline and small enough in the back to remove the extraneous fabric.

And then yesterday, I pulled out the Waltham. I've been dying to wear this because I love the luscious shawl collar and the mellow blue Ultra Alpaca. My plan was to wear the Waltham with a pair of jeans and a burgundy gingham collared shirt to a casual business meeting. Psyched, I pulled on the cardigan - and literally froze. The Waltham is pretty. It's fine. It really is. But it doesn't fit well and certainly not well enough to wear to a client meeting. Off it went. I wore a commercially made cardigan instead - and thought of the 4,000 things I'd do differently to improve the fit. (And no, I'm not going to reknit this. Onward and upward.)

With the Waltham, I put all my shaping in the side seams, which is better than no shaping at all. Part of the problem with the Waltham is that there really isn't any way to insert any other shaping. If the area on the side of the sweater was stockinette or garter, I could sneak in some shaping. But there wasn't any way to add waist shaping without disturbing the ribbing that wraps the sides of the Waltham.

I now think of side seam shaping as being two dimensional, left and right. Don't know about you, but I don't get wider and narrower at my side seams - my shape undulates in all sorts of directions! The best shaping I've found thus far is the princess shaping which takes my flat, two-dimensional garment and turns it into a well-fitting, three-dimensional, cylindical shape. The reason the Under Toad fits me so well is because it uses princess shaping.

My experimentation continues. I've been talking a bit about my first sweater pattern which I hope to someday soon sell on Ravelry. More details soon, but here is a sneak peak at the shaping. Look at how the side panel curves in and out at the waist. I'm really proud of that! (Don't worry. My pattern will include instructions for a straight-sided garment for those of you who don't need waist or A-line shaping.)

So, to end where I began, the problem with success is that you realize how much you missed! If I knew then what I know now, it would all be different. Clearly, I garnered lessons from every sweater I've made, but by wearing my sweaters this week, I realize how far I've come in just a few months. It ain't over, but I am on the trail to a perfect fit. My pot of gold is right over that rainbow - of autumn-colored leaves.