Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lots-o-knitting

Just showing you finished objects today - will write a lot more about the Memories of Maine cardigan soon. I want to tell you how I went about turning this 51-inch cardigan into a perfectly fitting 60-inch bust, 72-inch hips sweater.

But until then, look at all this stuff I've made!

Memories of Maine Cardigan, Marilyn King's aran knit made with the Harrisville Watershed I bought on vacation.




Tom's Sleeping Hat 2, a beautiful Mary Ann Stephens design made with Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, an ultra-soft yarn perfect for my beloved's bald head.


Elisbeth Headbands, a Celtic-cabled earwarmer from Bonne Marie Burns in Knit Picks Capra and Knit Picks Swish. This extra-quick knit takes only 70 yards of worsted yarn and about five hours to knit. Two of my friends are the lucky recipients.



I am officially done with my Christmas knitting and am now working on a vest for the Custom Fit Knitting at Large KAL - I've only just begun so I'll have more to say about this soon. I hope you'll join us - we're all knitting the sweater of our choice from Amy Herzog's new sweater software. You can either resize one of her designs or create your very own sweater. To learn more, visit our Custom Fit KAL topic on the KnittingatLarge Rav group.

I'm taking next week off work so hopefully I'll have some time to blog. I've been so busy at work this year - a real blessing - but not conducive to doing anything but work. Not fun but at least I'm making some money. :-)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Winning!

I'm channeling my inner Charlie Sheen this morning as I announce the winners of Kristen Rengren's Minette Cardigan and Minette Pullover patterns.


Congratulations to Naima Flint who won the cardigan and Jak aka jakkoclubs on Ravelry who won the pullover!


I'll be having more giveaways in the weeks and months to come, so please keep coming back!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Meet Kristen Rengren - and GIVEAWAY!

You know how we need more knitwear designers who create their patterns in larger sizes? Ones who are creative, talented, and understand that larger knitters need great sweaters, too? Well, I've found a great one. Meet Kristen Rengren.

Kristen is a long-time collector of vintage clothing and ephemera and a former vintage clothing dealer. Her work as a knitwear designer and author is inspired and informed by her vast collection of vintage knitting patterns, including thousands of patterns spanning from the 1920s to the 1950s. She has designed for Blue Sky Alpacas and Vermont Organic Fiber Company, among other yarn companies, and her designs have appeared in Twist Collective, too.

Kristen writes, "I have released a number of vintage-inspired knitting patterns in a wide range of sizes, both individually and with Twist Collective, and I thought that my newest patterns (or possibly many of them) would be of interest to the Knitting at Large group’s members."

Her most recent designs, the Minette Cardigan and Minette Pullover, comes in sizes up to 58 inches and can be worn together as a sweater set. "Both (are) top-down seamless garments that feature a hybrid raglan construction; the unusual construction uses a saddle type increases for the body only at the start of the sweater, before switching to more traditional raglan shaping, also incorporating some double increases as well. The result is a well-fitting, comfortable raglan shoulder and sleeve that also reaches the appropriate bust size without resulting in too many rows and excess fabric under the arm. Both patterns also include some other options for customization as well, and the pullover could easily incorporate short row bust darts," Kristen says. 

Some of Kristen's other plus-size designs include the Doverfell, a cute zippered hoodie that comes in sizes up to 59.25 inches. Note the attractive texture that adorns the zipper, hood, and pockets.


I don't know anyone who isn't fascinated by Celtic cables. Kristen's Barberry, which comes in sizes up to 60.25 inches, features twisted stitch panels on fronts and back and twisted rib bands at the fronts, hood, cuffs and hem. It's a real beauty.

You may also remember Zora, another of Kristen's patterns which appeared in Knitty. This classic cardigan comes in sizes up to 58 inches. I like the ribbing at the waist which would provide natural waist shaping without a lot of fuss.

To celebrate Kristen's great work, I'm giving away a copy of the Minette Cardigan and the Minette Pullover. Just leave a comment on this post to enter the contest.
I hope you'll check out Kristen's designs and buy them, too. Remember, if we want knitwear designers to create sweaters for us, we need to buy their patterns. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Knitting at Large goes international

Very excited! I recently was asked by the published of Let's Knit magazine to pen a guest blog about plus size knitting. Check out my "Five Things You Should Know about Plus-Size Knitting" at letsknit.co.uk.


Monday, November 11, 2013

An update on Memories of Maine

Just wanted to share a photo of my progress on Memories of Maine, my take on Marilyn King's Cape Cod Cardigan. I talked previously about how easily the sweater has been to knit. While I still adore it, I have to say that the sleeve is a mother-of-a-dog. Not that it's difficult - it's not - but I've been sparring with this sleeve all weekend and don't have that much to show for it.


But it is pretty, isn't it? And I think it will fit well given the overall shaping.

I was thinking that getting this done by Thanksgiving would be a breeze, but now I'm worried I'll be knitting up to the last minute. What else can I do but persevere? And knit.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

CustomFit Knitalong at Knitting at Large

I'm sure you've already heard about Amy Herzog's new knitting software, CustomFit. As her website puts it:
CustomFit makes custom patterns for hand-knit sweaters. It takes your choices, your body, and your hand-knit fabric and produces a pattern perfectly suited to you. CustomFit makes a sweater that is the correct size. From hem to neck, and everything in between.

The software takes your measurements and gauge and produces a pattern made just for you. You may still want to make mods to the pattern based on your particular shape (for example, you may want more ease below your bustline), but CustomFit will do all the math for waist shaping, bust darts, and more. Plus you can use whatever yarn or gauge you wish.

Starting December 1, the Ravelry Knitting at Large group is going to do a CustomFit KAL. Come join other ample knitters in making their first CustomFit pattern. Share your experiences and suggestions, get help and advice, and just hang out with your Knitting at Large friends, which is always a delight.

To join, just visit the CustomFit Knitting at Large KAL thread. I look forward to making my first CustomFit pattern right along with you.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sweater update and "Knitting Architecture"

Sometimes, knitting is like pulling teeth. Nothing works. You start, you stop, it sucks. You can't get the stitch pattern right or the stockinette puts you to sleep or you knit the first sock and decide there's no possible way you can ever make the second. You're just stuck.


But other times, it's all easy. It's a happy dog on a sunny afternoon getting a belly rub. The knitting floats on a breeze, skis smoothly downhill, and flows like a river. Ahhhhh.


I'm fortunate; my current sweater adventure is turning out to be a joyous experience. Here's the latest picture of the back of my Memories from Maine cardigan aka the Cape Cod Cardigan from Marilyn King. 


How much fun! It's a complicated sweater made easy. The top-down construction, which starts with a little rectangle saddle shoulder, blooms quickly into an entirely cabled cardigan. I will blog more about the construction in a future post; I want to get the sleeves done first.


Meanwhile, I've got a stack of new knitting books on my desk to tell you about. Today's offering: Knitting Architecture - 20 Patterns Exploring Form, Function, and Detail by Tanis Gray. In this book, the author uses the architectural design principle of "form follows function" to create beautifully knitted garments and accessories. My favorite: the King's College Pullover which, as Tanis says, evokes "the vaults, buttresses, and ancient archways of Gothic buildings... this structured pullover by Mari Muinonen is wearable architecture." You'll be delighted to know that this design comes in sizes up to 60-3/4 inches.


One nice graphic design touch: Tanis provides companion photographs that show the inspiration for the design. This is not the photo from the book, but it will give you a sense of what I'm talking about. Interesting, isn't it?


Besides sweaters, Knitting Architecture offers mittens, skirts, socks, and shawls, including this stunning Hotel Tassel Wrap by Asa Tricosa. I love the mesh design element and the sophisticated, sleek art nouveau feel. This shawl's inspiration comes from the Belgian Hotel Tassel, designed by architect Victor Horta. Again, I love seeing the inspiration behind the design.



Sigh. Time to get back to work. But tonight, I'm back to sublime knitting. I wish you an entire lifetime of sublime knitting.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My new sweaters

We must be heading into the holiday season because I've just finished a red sweater and have now started a green one. I promise not to wear them together!

This week, I finished my Red Rondo and am pretty happy with it. It's the first time I've worked with Cascade 220 and I'm impressed, mostly by how well it blocks up. My only issue is that the red yarn bled like crazy during the blocking. It didn't effect the sweater or the other colors, but the two white bath towels I used to squeeze out the extra water are now permanently pink.


As you can see, I decided to forgo a button band and insert a zipper instead. I like the look, including the simplified line down the front. My only complaint is that the zipper is a little stiff. I may take it out and insert one with smaller teeth. We'll see how anal I end up being.

With this sweater, I used a variation on the shaping that worked well. I usually do princess seam shaping, as shown in the Bartok's Tunic I finished earlier this year. This shaping removes extraneous fabric and gives me a better fit. Usually I do two sets of shaping, one below the waist and one above.


But with the Rondo, I moved the upper shaping to the side seams. This removes the line that points to my boobs but still gives the same fitted effect to the bustline. I like it, at least for this sweater.


With both of these sweaters, I've gone back to a longer length. This has been a challenge for me over the past few years. I see the benefits of wearing sweaters that stop before the widest part of my hips, but this also means that my belly roll shows. I hate that! I find the longer sweaters much more comfortable to wear than sweaters like this, for example, something I made but have never worn.


With my Rondo, I also used more ease. Recently Julia Farwell-Clay mentioned to me that not all sweaters need to be fitted closely to the body, and I think she's right. I still don't like big, shapeless sweaters, but not every sweater needs to be shrink-wrapped to my body either. I knitted Rondo using this sensibility. I'm happy with the fit even from the back, although if someone could find a magic sweater that eliminates my mighty derriere, I'd be much obliged.


Now that the Rondo is finished, I've started on a new sweater that I'm very excited about; I call it Memories of Maine because I bought the yarn there on vacation. Tom and I stayed in mid-coast Maine for an absolutely sublime week of R&R.


During one foray, Tom carted me two hours south to Halcyon Yarns in Bath, Maine. I walked in to find endless floor-to-ceiling shelves with yarn galore. Woo hoo! But next to the cash register, the staff had just finished setting up a display of a brand new yarn called  Harrisville WaterSHED. The colors are OMG gorgeous. Harrisville describes the product: "soft-spun, minimally processed, cushy super-heathered woolen yarn." Exactly.


I promptly bought every single skein of green in the joint; they even went upstairs to recover one skein that had been snatched by the photographer to be photographed for their upcoming catalog. It's in the photo below.


I started looking for a pattern before I finished the Rondo and decided on Marilyn King's Cape Cod Cardigan. I wanted to make a traditional Scottish cabled sweater to celebrate my newly discovered heritage. As described on the Rav pattern page: "Knitted top down from the saddle shoulder, this cardigan features modified drop-shoulder sleeves- also knitted from the top down. The cable pattern is easy to memorize- the featured cable is simply offset to create an over pattern. Size adjustments are made by adding reverse stockinette stitches between the cables, so the design is well balanced in all sizes. Front and Neck bands are picked up and knitted."


I knew my new yarn would be perfect for this pattern. I loved the swatch right away, as well as the thistle buttons I found at Knit Picks (KnitPicks sells some great buttons, btw).




I've made good progress in just a couple of days of knitting. The cable pattern is indeed easy to memorize. I like the saddle shoulder construction, too. I knit two straps and then picked up stitches along the long side of one. Then I cast on stitches for the neck and then picked up stitches from the other band. Then I knitted downward in pattern to the underarm. I then picked up stitched on the other side of the strap and knitted downward for the right front of the cardigan. Note: no seams for you anti-sewers!


I was hoping to have my Rondo done by Thanksgiving - and now I'm hoping I can have Memories of Maine done by then, too. After that, my conundrum begins: which sweater do I wear to my family's gathering? This is what's known as a good problem to have. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rolling along

I'm not quite finished - I'm working on the button bands - but my Red Rondo is very near the finish line and I'm loving it.


My cardigan version fits well, too. I made some adjustments to my fitting methods with this sweater. I'll give you details after I block the sweater and get some pictures of me modeling my creation. But I've made yet another Julia Farwell-Clay design that I love. She truly rocks.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Downtime

Once a year, Tom and I pack up our lives and venture north to our beloved New England. I may not have been born there, but I possess the soul of a New Englander. We're spending this week in our favorite home away from home, a beautiful little cottage on the Penobscot River in Maine. All I can say is ahhhhhhh.


The only joys in a long car ride are that Tom always drives and I always knit. This has given me ample time to work on my Red Rondo. I'm finally ready to start the colorwork, thank God. I've literally been knitting stockinette for MILES.


I'm hopeful I'll be able to finish the sweater this week - we'll see if I can do it while I'm relaxing with my beloved. So far, SO good.



Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Art of Seamless Knitting

Saying "seamless knitting" to some knitters is like running the can opener in front of hungry cats. Everyone comes running!


There's a new great flavor for you sewing-phobic cats: "The Art of Seamless Knitting" by Simona Merchant-Dest and Faina Goberstein. "Do you have the pieces of a garment hidden in a closet somewhere just waiting to be sewn together?," the writers ask. "If you're like a lot of knitters, those pieces have been waiting a long time because you prefer knitting to sewing. That goes a long way in explaining why we design as seamlessly as possible, but there are many other benefits as well."


As seamless devotees will tell you, these reasons include:
  • Shorter finishing time
  • Reduced bulk, especially useful for chunky-knit garments
  • No concern about making front and back pieces the same length
  • For top-down garments, the ability to try on the sweater as you go
  • For in-the-round garments, the front side of the piece is always facing you so don't need to work purl stitches for stockinette
This book covers every conceivable construction method for seamless knitting: top-down, bottom-up, set-in sleeves, dolman sleeves, raglan, and more. The authors also provide instructions on how to customize a seamless pattern for your own shape and size - that's music to our ears, isn't it? While they don't offer comprehensive instructions in upsizing patterns, they do provide information about changing gauge to modify sizing and using your own measurements to design your own sweater.

My favorite pattern: Faina Goberstein's Cabled Cardigan, a gorgeous, snuggly, worsted-weight, collared cardigan that is custom-made for the colder days to come. This tunic-length jacket incorporates a variety of cables, including a particularly pretty braid that serves as the buttonband and then wraps around the fronts of the full collar.  The natural holes formed by the cable crossings serve as hidden buttonholes.


The back reminds me of the Edwardian cardigans Lady Mary might wear in Downtown Abbey. I love how the center cable loosens as it moves down the body.


Although the Cabled Cardigan only comes in sizes up to 50.5 inches, the a-line shaping accommodates hips up to 72 inches. The other sweaters in this book range in sizes from 54 to 59 inches.

Besides sweaters, "The Art of Seamless Knitting" also offers accessories such as these lovely Lace Stockings by Faina Gobertein. These lacy beauties are fit for a queen - or a winter bride who is not wearing heals. :-)


Whether you prefer seamless patterns or not, "The Art of Seamless Knitting" is an artful look at this growing knitting trend.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Red Rondo

I'd like to introduce you to my new cardigan, the Red Rondo. You may have seen her sister, Plum Rondo a la Turk, who made her debut on Knitty last week. Plum turns heads, not only because she's beautiful, but because she's modeled by a knock-out ample model, Amanda from Lorna's Laces.


Julia Farwell Clay designed the Plum Rondo using the gorgeous Lorna's Laces Haymarket, a hand-dyed, single-ply, Bluefaced Leicester wool, worsted weight yarn. The Rondo is knit seamlessly from the bottom up; the sleeves and body are knit separately and joined to finish as one piece. 


I love the Rondo and know that attention-grabbing design at the yoke is just right for my bottom-heavy figure. I'm making a few mods:
  1. I'm eliminating the bottom hem rib and stranded colorwork. It's stunning, but I know it will draw attention to the mighty derriere.
  2. I'm making long sleeves.
  3. I'm turning my Rondo into a cardigan. Where I live in  the DC suburbs, a worsted pullover would make me melt. A cardi will give me some breathing room. I'm knitting it in the round and will then steek to add the buttonband.
I'm using Cascade 220 (my budget precluded the Haymarket, but there's definitely a Lorna's Laces sweater in my future). This little mock-up image shows my colors and the brass buttons I found that riff well off the colorwork. In real life, the burgundy color is more red as you can see in the pictures that follow.


I've already finished the sleeves. Easy peasy.


But the body? OMG. I'm embarrassed to tell you that I've knitted it three times. First, I made a mobius sweater. That won't work!


Then I started over, screwed up my gauge and made a sweater that's 95 inches wide. I have a mighty derriere, but it's not that mighty! So I started again and now have finished about ten inches. You can see my waist shaping AND Moose hair. No photoshopping here.


Although I'm doing some waist shaping, I'm not going to make this sweater super-fitted. I want a more relaxed fit, something to cuddle up in. Not baggy, but not conforming to every curve either.

I hope to have this finished for Thanksgiving; I wear a new handmade sweater every year - doesn't everyone? Probably not, but it works for me.