Saturday, May 2, 2015

Two knitting books probably not large enough for amples

Hello, my ample friends. Today I'm going to tell you about two books that may not have a sweater large enough to fit your fluffy frame - we've been down this road before, haven't we? That's the way of the world, I guess. I still think if 60+ percent of Americans are overweight or obese that 60+ percent of the knitting patterns should be sized for them, too. But, alas.

First up - Amy Herzog's latest offering, Knit Wear Love, a follow-on to her first book, Knit to Flatter. Thematically, the two books are similar in style and approach. The first book focuses on helping knitters determine their body shapes: top-heavy, bottom-heavy, and proportional. The latest book enables knitters to discover their clothing style: casual, sporty, bohemian, modern, romantic, and avant garde. My opinion: knowing how to best clothe my body shape was revolutionary and I will forever be grateful to Amy for teaching me about how to knit sweaters that make the best of my figure. Knowing my particular clothing style? Not so much.

Knit Wear Love works similarly to Amy's very useful Custom Fit software. The book presents "meta patterns" for the pullover, cardigan, vest, cowl, tunic, wrap, tank, and bolero. She then shows how to add details to make the meta pattern match the clothing styles mentioned previously.

The problem for ample knitters is that the patterns only go up to 54 inches. If your widest measurement is under this, then Knit Wear Love could work for you. If you're above 54 inches (raising my hand here), then IMHO you'd be a lot better off going to Custom Fit and buying a custom-fit pattern that's made for your measurements. Just remember to add additional ease in the Pop the Hood section unless you want a nearly skin-tight sweater. When I made my Custom Fit sweater, I added six inches in the hip. As an example of what I'm talking about, consider this Bohemian Tunic from Knit Wear Love. In my book, it's at least four inches too snug in the waist and hips. But kudos to Amy for using a real-size woman as a model.

Next up: Wanderlust - 46 Modern Knits for Bohemian Style, edited by Tanis Gray. This book was created around Cascade's Longwood yarn, a 100-percent extra fine merino superwash wool. Tanis describes the yarn as having "the lovely properties of wool without the itch and without the possibility of accidental felting." Longwood looks beauteous in the book's designs - I'd like to try it myself. Longwood, an aran weight, comes in 100-gram skeins of 191 yards in over 40 colors. It is also available in DK and sport weight.

The 46 patterns in Wanderlust are mostly scarves, cowls, shawls, hats, mittens, matching sets of mittens and hats or scarves. I'll leave you to discover those on your own since I am a sweater knitter at heart. Suffice to say there are many pretty non-sweaters you can make from this book.

Wanderlust includes are seven sweater patterns but sadly most are too small for the ample among us. The one 59.75-inch sweater is an over-sized cropped top which I'd bet 99 percent of you would never wear - I certainly wouldn't! That would even cover my mighty bustline.

My personal favorite is Amy Weaver's Lady Gansey, an updated gansey cardigan that's just perfect for my bottom-heavy frame. The Longwood yarn really shows off the pretty cables, plus I love the cabled button band - very clever. This one is definitely on my to-do list. It only goes up to 51.75 inches (grrrr) but I can manage the upsizing to make it.

So, here's the crazy thing. Lady Gansey's smallest size is a 32-inch finished bust size; it takes 5 skeins of yarn. When I make this sweater for my 60-inch finished bust size and 72-inch finished hips, I will buy a whopping 11 skeins - more than twice as much yarn. Remind me again why the knitting industry caters to skinny chicks? I just don't get it...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Around the block with a new sweater

Good lord, it's cold. I live outside of Washington, DC where the average February high temperature is 47 degrees; today we hit a high of 20 degrees with a bone-chilling 10-degree wind chill. Freezing is usually a good thing for knitters - we get to wear the knitables we made over the summer. But wearing them all at the same isn't what I had in mind. (Truth in advertising, this picture is from last winter which was also way too fricking cold.)

On Saturday, the sky dumped 14 inches of snow on my neighborhood so I never left my house. I'm a Mid-Atlantic woosie - we don't do snow here. I hunkered down with my beloved pug, knitting away on a new sweater and watching endless episodes of Intervention. And Birdman (I liked Boyhood better.)

I'm excited about this new sweater, a cardiganized (is that a word?) version of Julia Farwell-Clay's Oxford. I'm wondering how this pullover, which was photographed on the skinniest, longest-waisted girl in the world, will look on my over-ample, short-waisted, old-lady self. I think I can pull it off - with adjustments, of course.

I'm using the same yarn Julia used to design the sweater: Color by Kristin from Classic Elite Yarn. In a lucky break, it's currently on closeout at Webs. This worsted yarn, a blend of 50% wool, 25% alpaca, and 25% mohair is Gorgeous with a capital G. I didn't expect to be wowed, but I am. When I swatched, I was underwhelmed - the yarn looked like it was rode hard and put up wet. 

But then I washed the swatch, went to bed, and looked at it the next morning. I'd heard about yarn blooming, but I'd never witnessed it before. Wowwww. Wowwwwwwww. Gorgeous. The cables popped, the stitches rebooted, and my confidence was restored.

Here's a crappy progress photo (why do my iphone and ipad take such lousy pictures?). Coming right along, plus I finished another repeat over the weekend. You're looking at two saddle shoulders and the upper back here.

And check out these perfect buttons - how cool is it that the button mirrors the cable crossings? Love it!
As I mentioned, I'm going to turn this into a cardigan. Other planned mods include:
  • Upsizing the sweater which only comes in sizes up to 51 inches (I need 60 in the bust and even more in the hips)
  • Dropping the front neckline for a better fit in the shoulders
  • Revising the stitch pattern under the arms to avoid the all-ribbing of the original design - I don't want this sweater to cling to me like a whiny child
  • Adding some waist shaping 

I'll have more to say about this project soon. But for today, the moral is: wash your swatch. It can make a real difference, especially for animal fibers. If you're knitting in acrylic, I don't think your yarn will ever bloom, but that could just be my yarn snootiness talking. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A trip to Folly Cove

The Folly Cove Designers, a group of 45 Gloucester, Massachusetts craftswomen, spent over 30 years creating exquisitely wrought designs cut into linoleum blocks and then printed on fabric. All glory to their splendid textiles! 

Gloucester by Eino Natti, 1969
Much like a medieval guild, the Folly Cove Designers worked on their own and then gathered monthly to exchange ideas and offer critiques. 

As a wannabe New Englander (alas, I am a Marylander), I love the Folly Cove Designers' work as it reminds me of my annual treks to my happy place, as my aunt who spends every summer on Cape Cod so aptly puts it.

Home Port by Louise Kenyon, 1948
Into my New England appreciation sails Julia Farwell-Clay, my friend and Massachusetts knitwear designer. While she may have born too late to participate in the creative endeavors of the aforementioned craftswomen, Julia honors their work with her first book, From Folly Cove, published by Classic Elite Yarns.

As Julia writes, "I have a long standing appreciation of their work, and for how those women (for the most part) fit art and craft into their lives alongside family and practical concerns of life on Cape Ann during and after the Second World War. As a designer, I often see the potential for knitting in beautiful things, and this collection is precisely that. Every pattern in this book is inspired by the work and personalities of these women, and together they are an homage to their legacy of design and collaboration."

From Folly Cove includes a hat, two pullovers, two cardigans, a skirt, a dress, a vest, and a cowl. Julia's designs are uniformly lovely and innovative, but I'm going to tell you about the Meteori Shawl, a gorgeous lace shawl made with Classic Elite's Mountain Top Mohawk Wool.

Spun with natural undyed fibers, Mohawk Wool is a sportweight blend of  lustrous merino, lofty romney wool, and durable nylon. Available in seven natural colors, Mohawk is truly the perfect yarn for Julia's airy design.

Julia found inspiration for Meteori from a painting in Life Story by Virginia Lee Burton, founder of the Folly Cove Designers. As the description says, "Burton's art and text tell the history of earth from beginning to present day." I'm guessing there are multiple meteors in there, too.

The Meteori Shawl measures 62-wide and 28-inches long, but like many shawls is knitted from the center point outwards, so you could easily make this shawl larger and longer by just continuing to knit in pattern.

As part of a celebration of this collection, I'm participating in Julia's blog tour and am giving away a free copy of the Meteori Shawl. To enter, just leave a comment below by February 3 and I'll choose a winner at random.

But there's more! From Folly Cove is 10% off on Ravelry this week; enter the code FFC10 at checkout for your 10% discount on any purchase of patterns or the entire e-book. At the end of the week, visit the Classic Elite Blog for a chance to win yarn for the project of your choice from the book.

Tomorrow, the From Folly Cove blog tour continues with Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne from Mason Dixon Knitting