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.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Vogue Knitting quotes me - and gets it right

I had no clue. My client, pal, and favorite designer, Julia Farwell-Clay, writes this morning, "Hey,  I just saw you quoted in a little feature about plus size options in Vogue's Fall issue. Congrats!"


"Julie Matthews of the blog Knitting at Large demonstrated the absurdity of the gap between supply and demand for plus-sized pattern. She cited data from the Centers for disease Control revealing that more than 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. She then bemoaned the fact that only 14 percent of the patterns on at that time were designated as plus-size. "Plus-sized knitters are the most underserved market in the knitting industry," Matthews wrote. "We are screaming for more options. We will knit more if you make more."

Yep. I wrote "The absolute truth about plus-size knitting" to inform the knitting market about exactly what they're missing - which is a lot. Things are a little better now than in 2011, but the issue remains the same: plus-size knitters will knit more sweaters when we have more appropriately sized sweaters to knit.

The best news is that Vogue Knitting wins the most improved award. As proof, this Fall issue offers these ample patterns:

A-Line Cardigan - 55 inches

Aran Pullover - 54 inches

Plaid Coat - 54 inches

Fair Isle Coat - 50 inches

Lady In Red - 52 inches

Asymmetrical Tunic - 51 inches

Colorblock Coat - 52 inches

Cabled Colorblock Vest - 52 inches

Raglan Sleeve Pullover - 52 inches

Lace and Cable Pullover - 56.5 inches

Colorblock Cardigan - 54 inches

Applied Cable Fisherman's Rib Top - 54 inches

Lace & Fisherman's Rib Pullover - 56.5 inches

Oversized Top - 56 inches

Mullet-Hem Pullover - 52 inches

Sideways Turtleneck - 54 inches

Good work, Vogue Knitting! Remember that if we want designers to support us, we need to support them. If you can, buy a subscription to VK. Let's keep them keeping them coming.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A spate of new knitting books! Part 1

It's that time of year. The days grow shorter... ... it's too cold to swim... Christmas decorations are already in the stores and Halloween is six weeks away.

But there is very good news. Autumn brings in bright leaves, cool breezes, and a spate of new knitting books. I've got a stack on my desk now and I'm going to tell you all about them.

Let's start with scarves and shawls, always a favorite for knitters - although not usually for me. When I see a scarf,  I automatically want to turn it into a sleeve. Shawlettes morph into cardi hoods in my sweater-laden brain, and cowls... I don't know about cowls. I barely have a neck so I don't usually wear them.

But I do like several of the patterns in Ann Budd's Scarf Style 2, a fresh collection of 26 scarves, shawls, and cowls by famous designers like Lucinda Guy, Mags Kandis, Jared Flood, Pam Allen, Courtney Kelly, Deborah Newton and more. There's something for everyone. As Ann writes, "Whereas scarves were once uninventive garter-stitch rectangles, they now include rectangles, tubes, and mobius strips knitted from every direction and in ever imaginable stitch pattern." My particular favorites include:

Jared Flood's Cottage Scarf, a classic cabled muffler made two separate strands of fingering weight yarn, one brown and one gray that results in a thick, tweedy and warm scarf. This would be a great project for someone who wants to learn to knit cables and it's beautiful, too.
If you're up for learning fair isle techniques, then you'll love the Sylvie Scarf. As the book says, "In an attempt to capture and counteract winter's bleakness, Courtney Kelley chose a pattern reminiscent of snowflakes and flowers for one face of this reversible scarf and a simple salt-and-pepper pattern for the other." This technique is often used for Scandinavian fair isle mittens, too. The scarf is knitted in a tube with slipped stitches on the sides which lets the scarf lay flat.

If you can't find something you love in Scarf Style 2, check out Free-Spirit Shawls by Lisa Shroyer. This book offers 20 shawlettes, as well as tips on shawl construction and yarn selection. My favorite pattern is Bethe by Angela Tong, a traditional Shetland shawl made with only one skein of fingering-weight yarn. I like the drape and the trellis lace detail. Designed as a shawlette, I'd love to make this piece larger and add another row of the lace to make a full-sized shawl.

Basilica, one of the most popular designs in the book, uses mosaic colorwork to create a stylish, easy-to-knit triangular shawlette. Hilary Smith Callis employs a slipped-stitch technique that only uses one color of yarn at a time. If you're reticient to try fair isle but would still like to knit some color, make the Basilica. 

Next up: The Art of Seamless Knitting by Simona Merchant-Dest and Faina Goberstein. Seamless - I know you all love that!