Sunday, April 28, 2013

A new way to make wider sleeves

I picked up "The Best of Threads - Fitting" at Joann Fabrics yesterday to learn more about customizing sewing patterns. I've got my brain wrapped around custom-fitted knitting, but knitted fabric is so forgiving with it's two-way stretch. It's not the same with woven fabrics.

For example, if your sleeve is a bit tight, knitting will accommodate the additional girth (within reason, of course). But if you're making a woven cotton shirt and the sleeves are too narrow, you soon risk becoming the Incredible Hulk.

While perusing the new Fitting magazine, I discovered a fabulous tip about making larger sleeves. I often have to upsize sleeves to accommodate my large upper arms. In the past, I have added the additional inches to the sleeve's side seams and and have tapered up from the wrist.
Then I've made similar mods to the sweaters underarms, both increasing the underarm side seams and making the sleeve cap a bit longer.

But with this new technique, it's possible to enlarge a sleeve without making any changes to the armscye or the underarm bindoffs. And it puts the fabric right where you need it, around the widest part of your arm rather than in your armpit. 
With this method, assuming you're knitting the sleeve from the bottom up, cast on for the sleeve as prescribed. When you are perhaps three inches before the elbow, figure out the middle stitch on the sleeve and then place markers one stitch to the right of the center stitch and then one stitch to the left, as shown here.

Then on the next right side row, add increases inside the markers.

 Before long,you're creating a wedge of fabric that runs up the center of the outside sleeve.

Carry on this way until your reach the underarms bindoffs and then begin decreasing in the same way but at a faster pace (meaning making the decreases at shorter intervals) to remove the extra stitches. By the middle of the sleeve cap, you should be back to the number of stitches specified in the pattern. Throughout this process, you can otherwise follow the pattern exactly as knitted, except for including this additional wedge of fabric.

To look at it another way, assume you folded the sleeve lengthwise. This image shows the original sleeve as designed; the widening of the sleeve at the seams; and the widening of the sleeves  by adding a wedge of fabric on the outer sleeve. 

This technique will work best on a stockinette or garter stitch sleeves; on highly cabled or colorwork sleeves, the increases/decreases  would likely break the cables or colorwork.

I haven't tried this technique yet but I will on the next sweater I make. I'll blog about it then so stayed tuned.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mindy KAL begins

Interested in making the magnificent Mindy cardigan by Julia Farwell-Clay? Then come join us with a new KAL that began over the weekend. This worsted-weight cardi comes in sizes up to 61 inches and in two lengths, regular and long (but you can of course make the sweater whatever length you want).

Here's how Julia's describes her Mindy design: 
I love graphic cables and snuggly collars. For the Mindy cardigan, I combined my two favorite sweater elements for a cozy sweater to wear for the first fresh air stroll in early spring. The slightly a-line cardigan with wide cable panels that act like ribbing and pull in a little. This makes Mindy a very forgiving sweater as far as fit goes. The sample shown is worn with several inches of positive ease...
The sweater is knit using traditional construction, worked as pieces and seamed although knitters are free to knit the front and back seamlessly. The set-in sleeves are worked in the round to the underarm bind-off. The collar is knit using short rows to incorporate front placket stitches, and finished with an i-cord edging. Collar can be worn up for a Mandarin effect as seen in the detail photographs, or folded over as shown.

Julia is knitting right along with us using Patina, another colorway of the gorgeous Lorna's Laces Haymarket yarn. I envy her ability to wear such a warm and wonderful color. Oh, how I long to make a yellow sweater!

Lots of participants are using Berroco Vintage, including Karen, who along with her beauteous black and white cat is knitting her sleeve in the Breezeway colorway.

Yvonne has knitted my favorite swatch - isn't this amazing? She lives in Germany and is using Lana Grossa Nord, a now-discontinued yarn I haven't been able to find in the US. I'd be making my Mindy in this stunning yarn if I could find it.

Instead, I'm making my Mindy in Knit Picks Capra in Celestial blue. I was going to use this yarn to make the Mork, the sweater companion to Mindy, but decided the Mork would be too clingy on me. Capra offers terrific stitch definition so the cables pop. And it's soft soft soft which still having some body, too.

If you'd like to participate, it's not too late. The examples you see here are from the early birds - the slow pokes are still getting their yarn and knitting their swatches. We'd love to have you along for the ride - come join us!

I'm going to be a little slow-going myself because I'm working on a cardigan for my youngest sister who is expecting. I love the cables and color of the Knit Picks Bare Worsted. My goal is to create a classic Aran sweater, complete with small woven leather buttons, as an heirloom that can be passed down from generation to generation, worn by both boys and girls. Thus far, it's turning out exactly as I hoped. The pattern, Aran Jacket, is from Debbie Bliss' New Baby Knits. The book is out of print now, but I easily found a used copy. Thirty fabulous baby sweaters, all designed by Debbie Bliss. Can't beat it.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A conversation with Amy Herzog

When I started my knitting journey, I committed to going to any length to create flattering sweaters that really fit - and that's just what I did. I started by getting ten fabulous tutorials recently published by a Boston-area knitter. When she announced in 2010 that she'd be holding her first class in coastal Maine, I signed up and headed north. Amy Herzog's Fit to Flatter class was born - and it changed my life.

Fast-forward to 2013 and Amy Herzog is now a household name, at least where knitters live. Amy recently launched a truly spectacular Craftsy class, Knit to Flatter, that allows people around the world to learn in the comfort of their homes. Now she has published the accompanying "Knit to Flatter" book which offers, as the subtitle says, "The only instructions you'll ever need to knit sweaters that make you look good and feel great!" No hyperbole here.

You'll love both the class and the book. Truly. Amy helps you figure out your particular body type and then gives you concrete instructions about selecting the best sweater for your body. Her advice and approach: discover your shape, select a flattering pattern, and then knit your first sweater that really fits. The book provides 18 attractive  patterns that are designed to be easy to customize for your particular shape. Amy says that after knitting a first sweater that really fits, you will then be able to apply this knowledge to almost any other garment and consistently make well-fitting sweaters that make you look your very best.

One of the things I like best about the book is that Amy uses real women with real bodies, including some larger models. I asked Amy about particular challenges and solutions related to ample knitting.

Julie: You've met a lot of knitters nationwide teaching about sweater fitting. What have you learned in particular about larger women and their bodies?

Amy: I think the most powerful thing about seeing so many larger women, and talking with them about their sweaters, is the coalescing of several facts into a whole picture. Fact one is that larger women tend not to have larger shoulders. Fact two is that the standardized measurement chart used by the fiber industry is a straight graded scale (everything gets larger together). And Fact three is that we're so hung up on size that many women assume their size is the cause of an unhappy sweater-knitter pair.

I knew all of those things before starting the workshops, and even had thoughts about how to address them (the first two by choosing a base size that fits well in the shoulders as a starting point for a successful sweater, the third by concentrating on the much-more-important shape rather than size). But really considering them all as a (powerful, terrible) unit was hugely, sadly enlightening.

Julie: What discoveries do larger women make in your classes?

First, that their size truly isn't the important factor in whether they like a sweater. It's all about that body shape and the silhouette our figures present to others.

Second, that they can in fact look great in hand-knit sweaters--the samples I bring to class are invaluable for this. For many women, it's the first time they've ever seen themselves in a properly-fitted sweater! And that's incredibly empowering.

And finally, what modifications they need to make to ensure a perfect fit.

Julie: Which are the most important sweater mods for larger women?

The single most important consideration to start with the right "base size"--one that will fit well in the shoulders. This number is often 6'' or more smaller than what the knitter would choose based on the fullest part of their bust.

After selecting a size where the sleeve cap math and shoulders work, the focus is all on the geometry of their particular body. Do they carry their weight all in front, with a more flat backside? They may knit the back and sleeves as written, focusing on making the front of the sweater wider to accommodate them. Are they perfectly proportioned and curvy, but larger? Add inches at the hip, waist, and bust--and shape, shape, shape that sweater! It sounds intimidating, but definitely makes sense once you know your body's inherent shape.

Finally, shaping is another super important modification for larger women. All women need shaping, but larger women especially--the  body is much more flattered by something shapely than by something boxy. And we go into detail about how to achieve that look without resulting in a sweater that clings.

Two special offers for Knitting at Larger readers!

Would you like to take Amy's Craftsy class? For a limited time, Knitting at Large readers can purchase Amy's Knit to Flatter class for only $19.99! You really should take this class. Seriously. Even experienced knitters will benefit from this terrific learning opportunity.

I'm also giving away a free copy of the Knit to Flatter book! To sign up for this contest, simply leave a comment that briefly describes your biggest sweater fitting challenge. I'll pick a winner on April 30. Good luck!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Stash sale!

I'm selling off some stash at fabulous prices. Just go over to my Etsy store to make a purchase. All prices include FREE shipping to the continental USA!



16 skeins or over 1800 yards of Classic Elite Wool Bam Boo in color 1616 White. All are the same dye lot. All skeins are clean; 10 skeins are bagged and the rest are in as is, perfect condition.

Classic Elite Wool Bam Boo's wonderful combination of fibers produces a yarn with drape, softness and sheen, plus bamboo's hypoallergenic and antimicrobial properties.

Content: 50% Wool/50% Bamboo
Care: Hand Wash
Weight/Yardage: 50g/118yd
Gauge: 5.5 sts = 1" on US 6
Knitting Weight: DK


BUY NOW - $33 includes free shipping to continental USA

8 skeins or 1200 yards of Berroco Comfort Chunky in color 5734 Black. All are the same dye lot. All skeins are bagged in perfect condition.

Berroco Comfort Chunky is soft, easy care, and perfect for those quick, sometimes last-minute knits-great for blankets and more!

Content: 50% Super Fine Acrylic/50% Super Fine Nylon
Care: Machine Wash Gentle Cold, Dry Flat
Weight/Yardage: 100g/150yd
Gauge: 3.5 sts = 1" on US 10.5
Knitting Weight: Bulky



1780 yards of Wool of the Andes in Blossom Heather, a beautiful delicate pink. Wool of the Andes, a classic worsted wool yarn spun that is plied carefully to achieve a wonderfully balanced twist, provides a sturdy yet soft yarn with excellent stitch definition and heirloom durability. Peruvian sheep are a cross between Corriedale (for the sturdiness) and Merino (for the softness), producing a strong fiber with an excellent softness quotient for a wide variety of uses. Felts beautifully.

Fiber Content: 100% Peruvian Highland Wool
Yarn Weight: Worsted
Knitting Gauge: 4.5 - 5 sts = 1" on #6 - 9 needles (4.0mm-5.5mm)
Crochet Gauge: 11–14 sc = 4'' on I - K hooks (5.5 mm-6.5 mm)
Yards: 110yds
Grams: 50g
Put Up: ball
Care: Hand Wash/Dry Flat



Knit Picks Comfy Bulky in Flamingo - at least 2500 yards - includes unfinished plus-size sweater! 

Soft and machine washable, Comfy Bulky is the ultimate solution for easy care and warm weather knitting. The breathability and softness of natural Pima cotton allows for comfortable wearing, while the touch of acrylic microfiber adds just the right amount of elasticity. This bulky cotton blend has superior wearability and longevity, which you are sure to appreciate over the years. Excellent stitch definition too!

Fiber Content: 75% Pima Cotton, 25% Acrylic
Yarn Weight: Bulky
Knitting Gauge: 3.5 - 4 sts = 1" on #9-10 needles 
Yards: 136yds
Grams: 100g
Put Up: ball
Care: Machine Washable/Tumble Dry Low

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Love the Bartok!

Today we held our meetup of the Knitting at Large/Dream Sweaters group in Brunswick, MD. We meet monthly and draw folks from WV, VA, MD, and PA - if you're within driving distance, you're always welcome. In fact, this time I brought my cousin Leslie from Indiana, a creative tour de force in her own right. And she makes me laugh!

I debuted my newly lengthened Bartok and received more compliments than I can count. But more importantly, I love it. Comfortable, cute, nice fit, both bohemian and Pennsylvania Dutch, and now long enough. It's enough to make me smile.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


I spent a few days pondering my recently completed Bartok Tunic and decided that I needed to make it longer. As a  tunic, it should be longer, but the way it fell on my body, it ended right above my belly - just high enough to drive me nuts. If I lifted my arms even a little, my belly would show and in my head I'd hear my mother's incessant half-whispered, very bitchy command to "PULL DOWN YOUR SHIRT!" (My mother loved me but she absolutely hated my belly.)

A couple of nights ago, I pulled out the scissors and chopped off the bottom. Then I set about picking up stitches and picking out little bits of cut-up stitches. It's not as hard or as scary as it seems; in my experience, the surgical patient has never unraveled uncontrollably leaving me with a tangled-up mess. Note that I knit only in natural fibers, usually with wool content. If you knit with a slippery man-made yarn, all bets are off when it comes to this kind of modification.

After I picked up the stitches, I just started knitting downward. I added almost three inches and then finished it off with an inch of garter stitch, like the original design. Easy peasy.

I should be finished this evening. After some brief spray-bottle blocking, I will model it for you. The Bartok really is a beautiful sweater and worthy of this modification that will make it more comfortable for me to wear. Plus I'll never have to hear my mother's admonition again - at least with this garment. ;-)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bartok to block

The only good thing I can say about having pneumonia for almost three weeks is that you get a lot of knitting done. I wrapped up the Bartok and took a quick middle-of-the-night iPhone pic just to check the fit.

This morning, I soaked the pullover in Eucalan and now it's laying out to dry (just like Moosie although he technically didn't get wet).

I'll have more pictures when it's dry. This is going to be one of those sweaters I wear once this season and then it will go in the trunk until next fall. Oh well, I knit sweaters all year long so it doesn't matter much. Just might need to buy another trunk!

Coming up: a review of Amy Herzog's new Knit to Flatter book and Craftsy class, a miniature Aran cardigan I'm making for my youngest sister who is pregnant, and the upcoming Mindy KAL - get your yarn now and start swatching!