Friday, December 19, 2014

Resized poncho? DottieD. And congrats

Someone contacted me recently about resizing a poncho - I can't for the life of me find the message. If you're still looking for help with this, contact the amazing Dottie Daiker. She is available to resize patterns, turn a chart into a written pattern, and do a host of other knitting feats. She's in my bimonthly knitting group and is a wonder to behold. I wholeheartedly recommend her! She's also starting to design for-sale patterns. Keep an eye out for the amazing DottieD.

And congratulations to Sharon in Surry for winning the recent Tempest by Holli Yeoh giveaway! I can't wait to see what Sharon makes from this great book.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Shepherdess

Just my humble opinion, but there is nary a more darling baby sweater ensemble than Julia Farwell-Clay's Welcome to the Flock. Julia's bevy of baby sheep grazing in a grass of green hand-dyed yarn is topped of with a matching top-knot beanie. If you have a baby in your life, you must make this duo for your little one.

Now meet the new Shepherdess in town, the latest offering from Julia Farwell-Clay. As she writes, the Shepherdess is, "An adult sweater with a whimsical heart. Thank you to the knitters who loved knitting my baby sweater pattern Welcome to the Flock enough to also ask for a grown-up version for themselves. And what knitter doesn’t love sheep just a little too much?" True THAT.

Julia's adorable round-yoked cardi, which is designed for worsted yarn, comes in sizes up to 58.5 inches (thank you, Julia). The Shepherdess is knitted flat from side to side, but you could easily knit it in the round and steek it. Fit wise, it is similar to the Hiro Cardigan so many of us have already made.

I particularly like that Julia knit the body of the sweater in stockinette, but garter stitched the little lambs. Love those little fleeces!

The Shepherdess is available for purchase on Ravelry. If you're a plus-sized wool lover like I am, this one is for you.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Tremendous Tempest

Hello, old friends. I'm writing today about Tempest, a lovely new book by Canadian designer, Holli Yeoh. Her creations feature the always stunning Sweet Georgia Yarns - honestly, I have never  seen a Sweet Georgia Yarn color I didn't like. If you're not familiar with Holli and Sweet Georgia, I'm happy to introduce you.

I got to know Holli while designing and building her website earlier this year.  Holli is an incredibly talented designer who is as comfortable creating women's cardigans as baby blankets. Vogue Knitting regularly publishes her innovative twists on the classics. Check out Holli's Ravelry pages to learn more.

As its websites states, Felicia Lo's Sweet Georgia Yarn hand-dyes "knitting yarns and spinning fibres in stunningly saturated colours." Supreme understatement! On steroids! Sweet Georgia Yarns simply sing. I could dig around for a more spectacular way to say it, but in this case, a picture truly speaks a thousands words.

Tempest offers 11 patterns - four sweaters, two wraps, four cowls, one hat and a matching pair of gloves. Holli's patterns are uniformly gorgeous, but the best news for us: all of the sweaters have at least a 60-inch finished bust measurement. Thank you, Holli!

My favorite sweater: Eventide, a lightweight pullover that alternates "bands of sheer and opaque chevrons create contrast and texture in this boxy pullover. Set-in sleeves and seams provide structure for a refined fit. Knit in fine merino and silk, this pullover has a sophisticated air while the easy silhouette makes it equally comfortable in a more casual setting." Holli designed Eventide in Sweet Georgia Merino Silk Fine and Silk Mist.

Another design I really love from Tempest is Haven, a veritable crayon box of a wrap. Holli's description says it all: "This simple project features an ombré fabric created by working with two strands of yarn held together throughout. You work colour changes by first knitting with two strands of the same colour, followed by a strand each of the old colour and a new colour, followed by two strands of the new colour; repeat!" The poncho, which is worked as a large rectangle, includes buttonholes in one of the ribbed selvedges. Fold fold your beautiful triangle in half, button it, and go. Haven uses Sweet Georgia's CashLuxe Fine, a merino, silk, and nylon blend.

To see more of Tempest or to purchase the book, visit the Tempest website.

And to win a free copy of the book, leave a comment here and I'll choose someone at random for the giveaway!

Tempest defines my life as well. It has been one hell of a year.  I appreciate the many prayers and kind words. During my time away, I've been knitting away. I will share my projects and lessons learned in the days to come.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Flyover of New Knitting Books - For the Home and More

Come fly with me, come fly, come fly away! Let's do a flyover of recent knitting books.

Sue Culligan
Want to knit robots, gizmos, video games, cassettes, cosmic, or atomic energy? Check out this fun book with a variety of projects designed for your inner geek. My favorite: this cute rocket baby mobile, perfect for your future physicist. 

You know how you flip through the latest Pottery Barn catalog and think, "Jeez - that's beautiful. I could make that." Well, this book gives you sophisticated, modern accessories for your abode. My favorite: this cable-covered ottoman. Gorgeous.

Take your knitting to the great outdoors - or bring the great outdoors to your knitting! This book offers lots of cute little craftsy projects, knitting and otherwise. My favorite: the Flying Fox which keeps drafts from sneaking under your door.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Sweater Chest

Welcome to my treasure chest. I may not have gold and jewels, but I do have sweaters. Lots of them and I made every one. My heart sings just looking at this picture. Goodness, how I love to knit.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Socks that Fit KAL begins!

We want to make socks that fit - really fit. So we’re starting the Socks that Fit KAL (or CAL, whatever you want to do). We’re focusing on difficult-to-fit feet, ankles, and calves, but anyone who wants to knit socks is welcome to join us.

Here are the rules:
  1. There are no rules.
  2. Make any sock pattern you want.
  3. Use any yarn you want.
  4. Knit, crochet, whatever - it’s up to you.
  5. Share your experience, strength, and hope with the rest of us.
  6. Have fun.
  7. We begin on June 1, 2014, but please come and go as you please.
I'm not sure what I'm going to make yet, but I'm certain the pattern will come from Big Foot Knits by Andi Smith. This great book REALLY explains how to make socks for large feet.

I wear a 9.5 shoe with a C width. My friend Dottie measured my feet and declared I had thinner ankles that usual, but I sometimes have issues with the calf width on commercially made socks - socks without ribbing aren't wide enough for me. And since second grade I have hated knee socks. I never owned even a single pair of knee socks that stayed remotely close to my knees.

I'm going to be moving to a new apartment in July and have been cleaning out my stash in preparation. This weekend, I found three skeins of sock yarn I didn't even know I had! I also bought two skeins of Malabrigo Sock for this KAL. We'll see which yarn wins out in the end.

If you're interested in making socks that fit, or are a sock expert who wouldn't mind sharing tips and tricks, please come join the Socks the Fit KAL. We'd love to have you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Up, Down, All-Around

Wendy Bernard gave me hope. I first discovered her in 2008 when she published her first book, Custom Knits. Her patterns were beautiful, but I loved her philosophy even more: knitters needed to make the modifications necessary to make sweaters that really fit. This made complete sense to me, especially since there wasn't a pattern in the world that fit my shall we say, unusual, form. Wendy Bernard set me off on a journey of knitting discovery (that sounds a little nauseating, but it's true).

Wendy is now back in print with Up, Down, All-Around, a stitch dictionary of pattern motifs that can be knit from any direction. Why is this important? Because you can take any motif and knit it top down, bottom up, or in the round. For every motif, she provides:

  • A large, crisp photo of the knitted motif 
  • Written directions for knitting flat
  • A chart for knitting flat
  • Written direction for knitting in the round
  • A chart for knitting in the round
She offers a tool box of knitting possibilities, giving you you the ability to swap out stitch patterns, cables, and lace in any garment regardless of how it is constructed. Take that plain-Jane pullover that you know fits well and make it again, this time with a cable or a fancy hem. Or swap out the cable in your favorite sock pattern with one of Wendy's. 

The book offers 11 patterns. The sweater and vest unfortunately only go up to size 50, but the hats, cowls, and mitts will work for anyone of any size. She will be doing a tutorial on how to use the dictionary to design your own custom cowl; if you're brand new to design, this would be a great place to start. To learn more, check out Wendy's blog at

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Socks the Fit KAL

After two dozen cardigans, I can honestly say that I've mastered the art of sweater knitting. There's always something to learn and tweak and try, and I will forever call myself a sweater knitter. But it's high time to learn how to make socks that fit. I mean really fit. Not kinda sorta. But really.

Beautiful Leyburn Socks knitted by EverythingOldEm

So I'm starting a new knitalong on the Knitting at Large Rav board called, appropriate enough, Socks that Fit KAL. The rules are simple:
  • Knit whatever sock pattern you want
  • Use whatever yarn you want
  • Start around June 1 or whenever you want
  • Just make it fit
I'll be blogging about what I learn regarding knitting socks for ample bodies and I hope the plenitude of sock knitters will chime in with knowledge, tips, suggestions, and warnings. Guidance about yarn and patterns are also heartily and gratefully requested.

To join, just go to the Socks the Fit KAL topic and start yakking. Get your yarn, your patterns, your needles, and get going! It's been a while since we've done a KAL and this sounds like the perfect summer project to me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The perfect buttonband

I've made over two dozen sweaters now and have learned a LOT, I'm proud to say. One of my greatest discoveries: the twisted stitch buttonband from Julia Farwell-Clay's Hiro. I think she got it from Elizabeth Zimmerman, the font of all knitting wisdom. Regardless, it is now my go-to buttonband for any cardigan.

Hiroic - my version of the Hiro which uses this buttonband
The problem with most buttonbands is that they are too flimsy, allowing the buttons to pop out of the buttonholes. They also stretch and sag. With this perfect buttonband, the stitches in the middle of the band with are knitted with twisted knit stitches which strengthens the band. It's almost like adding interfacing to a buttonband in sewing; you get the extra fabric strength you need to support both the buttons and the buttonholes.

Here's how it goes.

First, let's begin with the end: you have to seam. For all the sewing loathers reading this blog, if you don't want to seam, you can't have this fabulous buttonband. There's no work-around. But if you can get past your distaste for or phobia of sewing, you will be handsomely rewarded.

These instructions assume you are using worsted weight yarn; adjust your stitch counts as necessary for your yarn weight. Assume also that you have already knitted the body of your sweater.

Springbrook Cardigan - made with CustomFit
software, but I swapped out the buttonband and
used this technique instead
The general idea is that you knit the band and leave the stitches live on the needle or a stitch holder. After your seam the band to the body, you can knit or remove additional rows to make the buttonband the just-right length.

So for the left band:
  1. Using smaller needles, CO 10 sts.
  2. RS: k1, p1, (k1 tbl, p1) 3 times, k2.
  3. WS: p1, (p1, k1) 4 times, k1.
  4. Repeat these 2 rows until band matches length of sweater edge, with band slightly stretched. 
  5. Leaving live sts on holder, sew band and body together. Place markers on button band for desired placement of your buttons.
For the right band:
  1. Using smaller needles, CO 10 sts.
  2. WS: p1, (p1, k1) 4 times, k1
  3. RS: p1, (k1tbl p1) 4 times, k1.
  4. Repeat these 2 rows, checking for length against left band, working button holes as you come to markers in this way:
  5. RS: p1, k1, yo, slip first st without working to right needle, slip 2nd st tbl and reseat on left needle as a twisted st, pass 1st back to left needle and k2tog, (p1 k1) 2 times.
  6. WS: p2, (k1, p1) 2 times, k the yo tbl, p1, k2.
  7. Work band incorporating buttonholes until band matches length of sweater edge, with band slightly stretched. Leaving live sts on holder, sew band to body edge.

Memories of Maine - my rendition of
Marilyn King's Cape Code Cardigan, but
I swapped out the buttonband here, too
After you get the buttonbands exactly right length-wise, start at right side and work your buttonband stitches  in pattern as established, purling the last stitch of the band together with first stitch of the body. Work all body sts in k1 p1 rib pattern (or the ribbing of your choosing) to last body stitch. Work that stitch together with first stitch of left button band, and then work the remaining stiches of band in pattern as established.

Work the neck until you reach the desired ribbing length. Bind-off. That's it!

One of my other button tips is to use a lot of them. Buttonholes will gape far less if there isn't a lot of stress on the buttonhole. Having a lot of buttons helps keep the band from stretching out of shape and popping out the buttons.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Circling back

Four years ago, I started my Early Bird Cardigan, got very waylaid, and went off to knit 15 other sweaters. I recently found my way back to this project, a sweater I've always loved.

Back then, I started with a stunning cable from Kathy Zimmerman. She also turned me on to the perfect yarn, Vintage Alpaca DK from Kraemer Yarns. A softer, more glorious merino and alpaca blend does not exist. It is truly the perfect match for this sweater.

At the time, I finished the sleeves - aren't they beautiful?

And then started on the back before I got waylaid. I wrapped the original back around my beloved pug and took this picture, one of my absolute favorites of Moosie.

That was then - this is now. I've spent several years envisioning and re-envisioning this cardigan and have started again in earnest. I gutted the back - I've earned a four-year degree in sweater shaping since I first began and know much more about how to make a garment that fits my complicated (yeah, that's the correct adjective!) body. This time, I made it in the shape of my shape. That means it will fit.

Because of the all-over patterning, I can't do my favorite princess-seam shaping - there's no way to put the decreases in a third of the way in on each side without breaking the cables, so I have to make do with side shaping. It's turning out pretty well thus far - we'll see how the sweater fits at the end.

In this go-round, I added more of the main cables to the center of the garment and added more of the little cables at the sides. This give me a strong vertical up the center back. 

Unlike the first rendition, my plan now is to make this a modified drop cardigan, but with significantly greater decreases at the crossback than usual. This crossback is only going to be 17 inches wide - most modified drop sleeve sweaters are much wider. I want this to fit my shoulders almost like a set-in sleeve. I used a similar approach with my Memories of Maine cardigan and it fits great.

With this new approach, I am also adding a saddle shoulder, again drawing inspiration from the Memories of Maine cardigan. Note that the Maine cardigan was knit top down - my Early Bird is knitted from the bottom up, but it's using a similar construction.

This means I need to unravel the sleeve caps back to the widest part and then to knit straight up. When the new sleeve cap is the proper length, I'm going to continue the center cable to create the saddle shoulder, as shown in the mockup below. Everything will be seamed together at the end.

I will finish the back tonight and then maybe fix the sleeves so I can noodle some more on the fronts. I have this vision of a very interesting and beautiful button band and neckline treatment, but I have to cogitate some more on how to actually make it work. Stay tuned...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sleeve cap and armscye fitting

There's been some talk on the Ravelry Knitting at Large group (come join us!) about sleeve cap and armscye fitting. You may have never heard of the term armscye; Wikipedia defines it as "the armhole, the fabric edge to which the sleeve is sewn." Or in our case, it is a knitted edge, of course. (Note that in this instance, I'm talking about set-in sleeves, but you also have an armscye in raglan and round-yoke sweaters where stitches are grafted together under the sleeve.)

The sleeve cap is the curved top section of the sleeve that fits up against your shoulder. 

Sleeve caps are usually symmetrical and armscyes are, too. But this useful image below shows that this symmetry doesn't mean the sleeve sits symmetrically on the shoulder. Look at the angles at which the shoulder and side seams run - they're different - and how the back half of the armscye fits differently from the front half. Because we are working with knitting fabric that stretches, these differences are easier to work with, but the principle is still the same. 

When upsizing patterns, I often need to lengthen my armscye to give me room to make sleeves larger. For example, if a pattern has sleeves that are 17 inches wide at the largest point, I know that I need to make the sleeves two inches wider to accommodate my 18.5 inch biceps (1.5 inch difference plus .5 inch for ease equals two inches wider). Assuming I'm knitting from the cuff up, I adjust my increase rate so that my sleeves end up two inches wider at the widest point. Then I bind off those extra stitches in the next few rows of decreases used to shape the bottom of the sleeve cap.

If I make the sleeve wider, I also have to adjust the armscye opening so that the sleeve fits into sweater well. So I increase my armscye length by one inch on both the front and the back, thereby getting the extra couple of inches I need. I place this adjustment  in the middle of the armscye after the decreases for the sleeve hole opening.

These modifications give me a great fit every time. I do make other mods that improve my sleeve fit, but I'll save that discussion for another day. Until then, carry on, intrepid knitters! Keep making your own sweaters that fit.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Stephannie Tallent's Wild West

Need a warm vacation after this miserably cold winter? Then knit from Stephannie Tallent's "Lace 1," the first e-book in her new collection called "The Wild West: Patterns Inspired by the Flora, Fauna, Geology, and History of Arizona."

Photo by John Fowler
Inspired by her years living in the Sunshine State, this collection of five e-books draws on the desert which, "has a beauty all its own. Colors are often muted, softer, a bit dustier: but then you get flashes
of turquoise sky or red rocks with a vibrancy that shimmers," she says. "From the vista of the Grand Canyon to the red rocks of Sedona, the hues of the Painted Desert, the impact of Meteor Crater, to the subtle colors of the Petrified Forest — there’s so much to see and experience."

Stephannie has divided the Wild West collection into five books based on technique. Her first offering, Lace 1,  presents five beautiful patterns:

The Bisbee Blouse, a romantic, lightweight top with 3/4 sleeves, relies on delicate but simple intarsia lace panels to form figure–flattering vertical lines. As Stephannie says, "The dainty buttonband details, I–cord neckline, waist shaping and softly fluttering sleeve and body hems all combine into a gorgeous feminine sweater that you’ll treasure." The Bisbee comes in sizes up to a 54" bust.

I like the look and feel of this blouse, which  reminds me of the corsets and undergarments women worn in the 1880s - although this is clearly a far more comfortable, unstructured alternative. The comeliness remains.

The back emphasizes the curve of a woman's waist and hips - very sexy in an understated way.

Stephannie's Cactus Wren camisole offers "flattering waist shaping and lace in abundance. Crocheted lace trim and delicate buttons give this a vintage feel." Knit in a fingerweight silk, Cactus Wren is a perfect warmer-weather garment, but you could also pair this with a blouse or jacket in cooler weather, too.

The Cactus Wren comes in sizes up to a 58.25 bust and can be easily modified for customized waist shaping or additional length.

Lace 1 also offers two shawlettes and a pair of socks, all designed in lace. Meet the Pinyon Jay with the beautiful bead detailing...

The Diamondback, which features a rattle edging...

and the lacy, comfortable Cholla Socks

You can buy Lace 1 from Ravelry for $20. Stay tuned for the remaining four e-books in the Wild West Collection - I've seen a preview and I am truly psyched.

Her name says it all: Stephannie Tallent is truly talented.