Monday, July 30, 2012

My Ravel!@#$%^ Pullover - Part 1

The Ravelry Olympics (aka Ravelympics, Ravelenics, or my personal favorite, Ravel!@#$%^) commence! With the athletic theme, you'd think we'd get a good workout during the next couple of weeks, but alas, it won't be an aerobic one.
I cast on for my Ravel!@#$%^ Pullover over the weekend. With just 16 days to complete an entire ample sweater, I knew I'd better pick something with big yarn, big needles, and short sleeves. Better yet, a top-down sweater that would let me stop wherever I am on day 15 and bind off. Thus, I selected Bernat's free Leaf Top pattern and dug through my overflowing yarn shower to find some appropriate bulky yarn: Berroco Vintage Chunky in Breezeway.

The pattern comes in finished bust sizes up to 62-inches, so that's easy - no mods required for the top of the garment. I'll of course add waist shaping and additional room for the mighty derriere. However, I'm planning on making this top shorter and wearing a dark, long-sleeved tee underneath, so I may not need to add expand the hips too much anyway.

Just a few more rows and I'll be done with the lace bits. Then it's literally all down hill after that, just endless stockinette stitch until I get to the garter row hem.

Meanwhile, my Trio Jacket lies in a heap next to my chair waiting for me to return from this distraction. I've almost finished the first sleeve; just the second sleeve and the neckline finishing to go and that sweater will be history - until the fall when I can actually wear it.

So, go Team Knitting at Large! I hope everyone is having as much fun as I am hustling to get their project finished.

Friday, July 27, 2012

And the winner is...

The winner of the Cast On, Bind Off giveaway is Mandycharlie! Congrats, girl! I hope you enjoy making your mystery blanket with the Olympic theme - would love to see pics when you're done. Thanks to everyone for participating. Now let Ravel!@#$%^ begin!

Monday, July 23, 2012

I forgot! Book giveaway

Last time, I reviewed Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor, but I forgot to announce the book contest! I'll be giving away one copy of this great little volume on Friday, July 27 - otherwise known as the first day of Ravellenics. If you'd like to win, leave a comment below. Anything will do, but if you're participating in Ravellenics, I'd love to hear about your project. Thanks for playing!

Friday, July 20, 2012

A bevy of cast-ons and bind-offs

Pop quiz! Name as many cast-ons and bind-offs as you can. GO!

All I could come up with are: two long-tail cast-ons and that regular bind-off, you know the one, where you slip one stitch over another like with a potholder loom.

Leslie Ann Bestor beats me by a mile. In Cast On, Bind Off, her new book from Storey Publishing, Leslie presents 54 methods for both beginning and ending any knitting project. She provides a variety of cast-ons and bind-offs, including all-purpose, ribbing, super-stretchy, decorative, hems, and more. Every technique comes with step-by-step instructions with photos.

I love the book's design. This terrifically handy little volume fits into even the most crowded knitting basket. The wirebound binding folds open, making it easy to follow the instructions without having to hold open the book, too. The tables of contents are on the inside front and back covers - what a great idea! - so that you can easily find the cast-on or -off of your choice.

My favorite technique is the Old Norwegian Cast-On, which Leslie Ann includes in the book. She says, "This cast on, is a variation of the Long-Tail Cast On... however, much more elastic, making it suitable for socks and other pieces that need a very stretchy edge. After years of using the Long-Tail as my go-to cast on, I discovered the Old Norwegian, and it became my new best friend. I love the extra elasticity it adds, without losing any neatness." Her instructions follow:
  1. Make a slip knot, leaving a long tail. Place it on a needle and hold yarn in the slingshot position.
  2. Insert the needle tip under both strands of the tail yarn on your thumb.
  3. Come over the top and down into the thumb loop, coming out underneath the strand that is in front of your thumb.
  4. Bend your left thumb toward the index finger and reach over the top of the strand on your index finger. The loop on your thumb now has an X in it.
  5. Bring the needle tip through the bottom half of the X (nearest the needle), grab the index finger yarn to make your new stitch, drop the thumb loop, and tighten stitch. 
  6. Repeat steps 2–5 for the desired number of stitches.
Like I said, this is my go-to cast-on. Give it a try - I think you'll love it. In fact, give Cast On, Bind Off a try, too. It's an invaluable reference for any knitter.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Graceful Trio pics

I met up with my peeps this weekend for the Dream Sweaters monthly get-together. Lots of fun, as usual!  Dottie kindly photographed me in my Graceful Trio Jacket.

Tom says he can't tell about a sweater I'm making until it's done, but I think this is coming along pretty well. Excuse the clunky Hawaiian shirt underneath as well as the just-started sleeve on the right.

The sweater fits well, I think. This back photo shows that my usual mods have removed the extraneous fabric from my waist. The mighty derriere is still apparent, but no sweater is going to eliminate that! My daily swimming is working on it, however.

Here's a close up of the lace - pretty, isn't it? I'm very pleased with the Woolen Rabbit Grace hand-dyed yarn. I've knitted several skeins without any color pooling; note that I have not even had to resort to knitting  between two skeins at once to eliminate pooling. The yarn is so well dyed I don't have to do anything but knit!

My only concern thus far is the side view. As you can see, the sweater is riding up in the back. I even put in short rows around my hips. I'm hoping that when I get the sleeves in the cabled seam section will lift up a bit and even off at the bottom. Pray for me, would you? ;-)

I'm enjoying the sleeve construction. The pattern calls for picking up stitches around the armhole and then knitting short rows to create the sleeve cap. After the cap is completed, you then continue knitting down to the cuff. It's fun! And no seaming (Teresa!). The lace inset adds lots of charm, too. 

More soon! Hopefully this baby will be put to bed before Ravel!@#$%^ starts at the end of the month. Then all I'll have to do is wait until November when I can actually wear it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Getting closer

I'm almost done with the body of my Graceful Trio Jacket. I'll hopefully finish the left front tonight and then I'll be on to the sleeves. I should have this done before Ravel!@#$%^ starts at the end of the month. It feels great to be finishing another sweater - and hopefully one that fits well, too.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Graceful Trio Jacket update

I'm moving right along with my Trio Jacket. Made with the delightful Grace yarn from The Woolen Rabbit, the cardigan showcases a beautiful lace panel, cabled faux side seams, and a full collar. I'm done with the back and am now working on the right front. Won't be long until I've wrapped up the entire body and can move onto the sleeves. I'm anxious to get this put to bed before the end of the month so that I'm freed up for Ravel!@#$%^.

The only bad things about all-on-one-piece sweaters is that they're huge! Or at least they look huge. My crossback in these pictures is wider than it looks because the edge curls in. I'll fix this with blocking.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sweaters you can knit for Ravel*!#$%

Ravel*!#$%, or whatever it is now called (something having to do with calisthenics?) begins July 27. If you haven't heard about this utterly ridiculous controversy, see this Business Week article to learn more. This cartoon tells it all, too.

Team Knitting at Large is furiously making preparations for the games. As I understand it, our team is having two events:

  • WIP - complete a plus-size sweater that is already in progress. You must not have knitted on this project in the past 30 or 60 days or something? (I hate random rules - jmho)
  • New - knit or crochet a plus-size sweater from scratch
Projects for Ravel*!#$% must be completed before the Closing Event on August 12. That gives you 16 days to finish your WIP or new sweater.

God knows I have at least a dozen half-baked sweaters in my yarn shower. Of course I don't want to work on any of them, right? Instead, I've been collecting sweater patterns that a dedicated ample knitter could complete in a couple of weeks. This is no easy task; plus-size sweaters take inevitably take forever to make, but here are a few exceptions to the rule.

Cecily Glowik Macdonald majored in Cute Little Cardi Design in college. I love her work. She has several sweaters that could be completed in a couple of weeks, including: 

The Leaflet, a top-down, one-piece raglan with short sleeves in Aran-weight yarn, is a free Knitty pattern that comes in sizes up to 50 inches. It's worn open in the front so some larger figures might be able to wear this as is, but it would be easy to upsize, too. I'd have to lengthen the sleeves, but that's an easy fix.

The Streamsideanother top-down raglan worked in one piece, uses a simple rib pattern to form waist shaping. This cardi uses an Aran weight yarn and comes in sizes up to 57.25 inches. I'd need longer sleeves on this one, too.

Adorned with an easy-to-knit floral motif, the Tall Flower Cardi is knitted with either two strands of worsted held together or a bulky yarn (check your gauge!). This design sports set-in sleeves and sizes up to 53 inches.

But Cecily isn't the only game in town. I've been considering knitting Lisa Shroyer's Audubon Shrug from Knitting Plus.  This highly shapped little jacket moves right along since you only knit the back and sleeves. Lisa made hers in DK weight yarn but I've seen others make it in worsted.

But I think I have my winner. Yesterday, I stumbled onto a round-yoke lace pullover made in bulky yarn. The Leaf Top, a free pattern from Bernat, offers a nice shape and fit, but I don't like the lumpy bamboo yarn. Instead, I'm going to use Berroco Vintage Chunky in Breezeway. I am confident I can knock this out in a couple of weeks and have it look cute, too. I'm going to lengthen the sleeves to at least the elbows and add waist shaping - you know, standard fare for me. I'm also going to add some short rows on the back neck for a better fit. Hopefully this will be cute and look nice on me, too.

Last but not least, you might consider my new Carnation vest. Deb Gemmel pushed me to finish the pattern before Ravel*!#$% because she's confident knitters can finish the piece in two weeks. I am, too. Designed for bulky weight yarn, the Carnation comes in sizes up to 64 inches. 

Do you have any quick-to-knit sweater suggestions? If you're competing in this event, which design are you going to make? I'd love to hear; leave a comment here.

If you haven't joined a Ravel*!#$% team, please join ours: Team Knitting at Large - we'd love to have you!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

FINALLY. The Carnation has bloomed

Finally, after all these months and only because of Deb Gemmel, the Carnation is available for sale on Ravelry.

Designed specifically for plus-size women, the Carnation, a bulky-weight cabled vest closed with a coat-weight zipper, is the perfect garment for cool days, cold nights, and lots of dog walks.

Pick either a simple-to-knit braid cable or a more complicated, beautiful Celtic cable.

The Carnation is available in two shapes: straight sides or a modified A-line.

A thousand thank-yous to my test knitters, especially Maryanne, and a million, gazillion, quadrillion thank-yous to Deb Gemmel at Cabin Fever for her guidance, patience, and technical editing. I very literally couldn't have done it without her.

The Carnation comes in sizes 48-64 and is available for sale for $5.00 on Ravelry.

Mechelle, my belle

Last month, Mechelle posted pictures of her Summer Waves Cardi. "It's a lovely pattern but although I like it with the cream blouse and leggings, I don’t feel it works with the dress that I wanted it to work for," she wrote. "SIGH. I don’t know if it is the style, colour - or me with my butch shoulders... earburning Julie as well as anyone else with any advice."

Mechelle received a lot of advice and opinions, including reassurance that the sweater was just fine as it was. But I thought the sweater was too long - and said so. "I know, go ahead everyone, throw fruit! But I think if my beloved Mechelle cropped this to her waist, she’d get the same look she has in her beauteous black shrug/red dress pic." I remembered Mechelle's beautiful makeover photographs in which she simply radiates.

A picture paints a thousand words, so I mocked up some images. "Look at this… if she cropped this, it would work much better," I said. This sweater is a classic example of Amy Herzog's Fit to Flatter. If Mechelle shortened this garment, it would emphasize her waist and take full advantage of her figure.

I thought she needed some other mods, too. "The problem with quick-and-easy top-down raglans is that the necklines don’t fit well on larger women. This neckline should be all together lower and it would fit a lot better," I explained, again showing an image to illustrate my point. The sweater rides up on Mechelle and doesn't fit correctly at the shoulders because the neckline isn't deep enough.

My prescription? Major sweater surgery. Not an easy pill to swallow, I know! But I was convinced it would work. I gave Mechelle step-by-step instructions:
  1. Cut the extra fabric off the bottom, pick up the stitches, and knit a 1-inch rib.
  2. Unravel the bottom of the sleeves and knit a couple of more inches and then knit a 1-inch rib.
  3. Find your bravery - dig deep!
  4. Figure out exactly where you want the neckline to end and then subtract a half inch.
  5. Get out the sewing machine and stitch on this line twice, about an 1/8 of an inch apart. So you’d have two lines of sewn stitches.
  6. Trim outside the outermost line.
  7. Pick up stitches and knit a half-inch rib.
  8. Block and wear to the wedding.
I continued, "You’re so close, why give up now? Learn some more lessons! If it doesn’t work, you can make that shawl. But if it does work, you will feel victorious, capable, and most of all, PRETTY. Which you are anyway. :-)"

Mechelle thoroughly considered her options and then she went for it. Our intrepid British knitter started with "the easy bits," unraveling both the sweater hem and the sleeves. She then added a few inches to the sleeves, as well as a one-inch ribbing. She knitted an identical ribbing on the bottom which helped cinch her back waist for a better fit.

Scary as those mods may seem, the difficult part came next: the neckline. I suggested she eliminate one pattern repeat of the lace and then pick up the stitches and knit a few garter stitch rows.

The next day she checked in with her pals at the Knitting at Large group. "NECKLINE DONE and I am a very happy bunny with the new neckline. What a difference an inch or two makes. Just finishing off the ends." 

I couldn't wait to see the final picture - and here it is! Isn't she lovely? The deeper neckline lets the cardi fits beautifully on her shoulders. The shorter length and longer sleeves highlight her waist and emphasize her bust line and narrower hips. And check out the matching clutch Mechelle made. It's perfect! And adorable, too - just like Mechelle.

I'm incredibly proud of Mechelle for turning her okay sweater into the just-right accompaniment for her pretty dress. All hail Mechelle, the intrepid knitter!

Do you have a so-so sweater that you'd like to make spectacular? Are you willing to test your mettle, even if it means you have to hack up your already finished piece? Want advice about your particular sweater? Let's talk! Join our growing league of intrepid knitters who have great sweaters that FIT.