Friday, August 31, 2012

FO: Ice Blossom Crochet Scarf

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My first real crochet project is done - finished, blocked, and ends woven in - like a boss!  This was a really fun first project, and very simple.  It's pretty much just double crochet and little shells, but it makes a very pleasing vertical pattern.  I think it would be a really fun scarf to layer with other skinny scarves, maybe like the California Roll scarf I knit over holiday break last winter.

I basically crocheted until I was totally sick of the pattern, then pulled the tail through the last stitch.  How cool is it that in crochet, you really don't have to bind off?  I guess the trade-off is that you can't drop down and fix problems a few rows back - you just have to rip it out.  I have a feeling that crochet isn't going to replace knitting as my favorite hobby, but it's really nice to feel comfortable with another skill.  And now I have a growing "crochet" favorites tag on Ravelry!

My Ravelry Page: Ice Blossom
Pattern: Free Pattern from Bad Woman Yarn, not on Ravelry
Yarn: Classic Elite Silky Alpaca Lace
Yardage: One 440-yard ball - I probably used about 420 yards total
Hook Size: Clover Soft Touch Crochet Hook, Size F - this was a pretty comfy hook, and I'd definitely buy another from the same line!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cowl Swap!

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Monday night we had the cowl swap at Purlygirls, and I received this gorgeous long cowl - the Dandelion Days pattern - knit in Madelinetosh DK in the colorway Dahlia.  It's long enough to be wrapped twice around the neck, and worn in several other different ways, and it's the perfect color for me!  I can't get enough warm purples and pinks in my life, and this will be the perfect cowl to bundle up in this winter.

Thanks to Sharon for an awesome cowl, to the Purlygirls for participating, and to Erin and Ariel for setting up the whole shebang!

The cowl that I gifted is Purls and Seaweed Wrap Scarf in Hazelknits Artisan Sock, colorway Beachglass - I used up almost all of the yarn (probably ~390 yards) and I think it was just the right length.  And I think I need one now, too!

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Well then.

So about a week ago, I got super excited about Finishing All The Things! and reached into my basket of things to finish.  I was all set to seam my Zelda sweater, when I realized two things.  First, I knit the sleeves with the wrong stitch pattern - no big deal, they look pretty good anyhow.

The second thing is a much bigger problem.

When I set in the sleeve, I noticed this gigantic blob of fabric in the front that wouldn't go away no matter how I eased it in.  In pictures it doesn't look so bad, but in real life, it's quite bulbous.  I don't need an extra pouch by my armpit, no matter how convenient it might be to keep my keys/wallet/spare ball of yarn handy.

Sooo after all of the problems that I've had with this sweater, this made me go all

But then I remembered that I've been practicing this fitting stuff at school every day for the last three months!  So I got my pins and pinned in some of the excess fabric.

The problem, though, is that unlike woven fabric, I can't just hack off that extra inch of fabric.  So I'm going to re-knit the sleeve, probably fix my "oops I accidentally the pattern" mistake, and change the shape of the front of the sleeve cap.

So why did this happen?  Well, as near as I can figure, it's because I have forward-rotated shoulders.  This means that I usually need a shorter armhole & corresponding edge of sleeve shaping on the front than the back, and it would explain why there's too much fabric in the front of the sleeve.

Although in sewn garments, there has to be a difference between the front and back sleeve shaping in order to fit most people correctly, knitted garments have more versatility in fit, and most times knitted sleeves look roughly like this:

Normal knitted sleeve

They are identical on both the front and back sleeve shaping, and most of the time this works fairly well.

But this sweater pattern has a very distinct shape and fit in the sleeves, and there is no way that the above sleeve pattern is going to attain that fit on someone whose fitted sleeve looks roughly like this:

Cory's wacky sleeve of amazingness!  Hooray!

So it makes total sense, even if it is infuriating.  It just goes to show: the difference between a "pretty much okay, I guess" sweater and an amazing sweater is purely in the details.

I might have to let this simmer for a bit and then give it another shot.  I'm sure glad I have an extra ball of the yarn!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Forward Progress!


It has been many months since I started working on my black dress, and it's finally starting to come together. I've been focusing on the bodice for the last couple of weeks - the skirt is actually almost finished, save for the pocket detail.  It's the fit of the bodice that's really been causing problems.  The bodice shaping on the left is the final version - on the right you can see some drag lines around the upper bust and armpits, as well as some unhappy puckering from the center front side of the princess seams.

No matter what I changed, the princess line on the center front bodice was puckering in a bad, bad way in every muslin I've sewn.  Since the side panel is supposed to have the extra ease and puckering is a sign of too much ease, we knew that the center front panel needed to have more ease taken out.

To fix it, we took a teeny dart out of the center front princess line, which gave a total of about 1/2" of ease on the side panel - much better!  When I sewed it together, all of the puckering above the seam smoothed out, and although you can see it's puckering below the seam on the side panel, I think that's a combination of fabric, pressing, and how many times it's been sewn together - the first sewing is usually the smoothest, and this was the second time for these pattern pieces.

After I was happy with the princess line, I sewed around half of the neckline at 5/8", clipped, and turned the seam allowance under.  I'm really, really happy with the resulting shape.  It's wide and deep enough to show a bit of collarbone and just a shadow of cleavage, but high enough to be appropriate for work.  And I think the curve where the front and back neckline join is quite fetching.


Now all that's left is to draft some pockets and fit the sleeves.  Hooray for some major forward progress!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Outfit: Girly Menswear

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Last Friday I felt like dressing up a bit, so I grabbed these wool slacks from my closet and took them out for their first wearing.  (Yep, this is Seattle in August - cool enough to wear wool pants!)  I got them when I went out thrifting with my friend Sparkle during my visit to Oberlin in April, and hadn't gotten a chance to wear them yet.  They're fully lined, and although the plaid makes them read a little like pajamas, I'm not sure I mind.  Plus, they were $7 - oh, how I miss Ohio thrift store prices!

I've probably already talked about this sweater, but in case I haven't - I found it almost a year ago while thrifting and immediately thought of the Schiaparelli trompe l'oeil bow sweater that made her famous.  Actually, the pattern for the original sweater is available through Schoolhouse Press here.

I wanted to go for a mixture of of menswear and feminine elements here, which was easier than I expected - the slacks and oxfords read pretty masculine, but the belt, bow sweater and the pink in the oxfords added some girliness.  I can't quite pull off the androgynous look with my figure, but it's still fun to play with masculine elements!

Schiaparelli-Style Bow Sweater: Banana Republic, thrifted
High-waisted Plaid Wool Pants: Savannah, thrifted
White Double Belt: Daisy boutique in Issaquah, several years ago
Colorblocked Oxfords: Fluevog Amandas

Friday, August 24, 2012

Stash: Street Spirit Handspun

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A couple of weeks ago I was browsing Etsy looking for handspun when I came upon this gorgeous skein at moondogswife's shop.  I was initially drawn in by the name - the colorway is called Street Spirit, which is one of my favorite Radiohead songs ever - and then I saw the color.  Fingering weight handspun in shades of pink, blue, and purple?  Yes please.

I was actually afraid that it would come while we were in LA and sit on our doorstep for the long weekend, but it ended up being delivered the day before we left.  Good timing!

It's about 350 yards, just enough for a small shawl, and I'm really excited to see how the colors knit up.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Yep, Still A WIP: Spruce Forest

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I was a very bad knitter and worked on this a whole lot while I was in LA.  There were other, more pressing things to knit (no seriously, stuff with deadlines...eesh), but then every time I picked up this shawl I would have a moment of fugue and regain consciousness two hours and a few dozen rows later.  Oops.

The pattern is lovely, the fabric is wooly and light, the yarn has small bits of vegetable matter in it every so often - which always gives me a little nudge as if to say, remember where I came from? - and the color is a bewitching not-quite-mauve that is very nice to look at for long periods of time.

Now I just have to finish up my cowl for the swap I'm doing, so that I can devote some guilt-free time to the shawl.  Although, maybe it's just the guilt that makes it so nice?



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dressing for Body Shape, Sweaters Part I: Things That Don't Work

I've been thinking a lot lately about my shape and how to dress it.  As I have probably mentioned a zillion times, I've learned a ton about the realities of my body by going to fashion school, and I thought I'd share some of what I've figured out.  I'll start off with a disclaimer that this is just what I find works for my personal style and body type - although I do hope that it's helpful, I am no expert!

First off, let's break it down:

Based on my measurements, I am (pretty much) an hourglass.  But you can tell from this picture, I'm not a straighforward hourglass:  I'm a full-busted, narrow-shouldered, short-waisted, medium-hipped hourglass.  The black lines above are the places that I generally have the most fit issues, and in general they are my widest and narrowest parts.  All of these things cause special fit problems and considerations, whether I'm fitting for a sewn dress or a knitted sweater.

Edited to add:  I've edited the graphic slightly - my hip width in the previous graphic was not quite accurate between the angle of the photo, the way I'm standing, and what my arms are hiding.  The updated version should be more correct.  Thanks!

For now, I'm going to focus on knitted sweaters.  Some of these are hand-knits, maybe with a commercial sweater or two thrown in later.  In general, I am going for the hourglass look in my personal style.

So what works, and what doesn't?

Part I:  Doesn't, and Its Little Cousin, "Does, But Only With Help"


This sweater causes me lots of heartache.  I love it in theory and I spent a buttload of time knitting it, but it just does not work for me.

When I first knit this sweater, I felt like a linebacker and thought that it made my shoulders look too wide.  But when you look closely, the points of my shoulders are still very narrow in this sweater - it's my upper arm, just below the shoulder, that looks large.  This, combined with my full bustline just below that, draws the eye to a vast tundra of chest and arm.  Not flattering.

So what is it about this sweater, construction or otherwise, that makes it not work?

To me, first and foremost, the shoulder treatment.  (A lower neckline would probably also help, but only to a point.)


It's a saddle-shoulder, which means there's less of a defined shoulder line as there would be in a set-in or dropped shoulder sleeve.  In general, if there's a line, your eye is drawn to that line, which emphasizes the size of whatever it covers.  From that, I'll say there's a general rule that I don't want horizontal lines to hit at my widest points because I don't want to draw attention to them.

In contrast, I do want a vertical or diagonal line at - or very near - my shoulder point, to draw attention to the shoulder width that I do have, and de-emphasize the arm width right below it.

The only style lines that occur here are in the hems, cuffs, and upper arm - you guessed it - right where I am widest.

There are some other problems here: it's a highly textured pattern in a worsted-spun yarn, which creates a thick, heavy fabric.  Using a more lofty woolen yarn probably would have been a better choice.  And the arms are too short - I realized this after seaming it up, because I couldn't tell how dropped the shoulder would be before sewing it together.  And unfortunately, I pretty much knew all of this stuff the minute I tried it on when it was finished.  I'm hoping that someday I'll find someone who can wear it.  Until then, it will sit in my closet unloved.

Take-Home Message:

For my frame, shoulders are important.  Choose shoulders that emphasize the shoulder point and de-emphasize the upper arms.  I've found this means that raglans, saddle-shoulders, the wrong kind of dropped shoulder, and most yoked sweaters are out.

Onto the little cousin!

Does, But Only With Help


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This sweater is cute, but I have a hard time styling it.  It doesn't have any waist shaping, which totally doesn't work in the front, but somehow kinda does in the back.  It's not horrible, but it's not quite the shape I'm going for.  Because I have a full bust, hips of a similar measurement, and a tummy at my high hip, it's easy for my waist to get lost in there, and I tend to go for true waist definition whenever possible because it makes me look smaller.

So what does work about it?

It has a set-in sleeve and a detail at the neckline.  The set-in sleeve gives a little bit of interest to the shoulder point (yay!) and the button & ruffle detail draws attention away from the full bust.  Usually crew or jewel necklines don't work for me, partially because they mimic and over-exaggerate the roundness of my bust and rounded jawline, but the vertical button placket tones it down and makes this style pretty wearable for me.

In this case, the fix is simple:


Put a belt on it!  Like "put a bird on it"... but with belts.  This is how I end up fixing most fit problems with lightweight blouses and dresses.  And, as mentioned before, adding a line emphasizes what it's covering: in this case, it's highlighting the fact that my waist (this is actually my high waist, right below the bust) is the smallest part of my torso.

Take-Home Message:

Because I have a full bust and a tummy but a smaller waist, I need to make sure I can see my smallest part, whether through waist shaping or belting.

I'll post another installment soon, and please let me know if you have any comments or questions!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Two Skirts

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I'm back from LA, and how!  My mom and I went to two different fabric shops last Friday - one a wholesaler, and other the famous Mood - and came back with a whole lot of fabric for my line.  The two above were some cuts that we got from the wholesaler.  We spent two or three hours looking around their warehouse and trying out different color combinations, and it was there that my looks started to really come together, which was pretty awesome.

The left combination is for a skirt with a turquoise underlayer and a stretch lace overlay.  I really wanted to play with the idea of layering texture or pattern over a color, and I decided that turquoise would be a great contrast.  I love the unusual pattern of the lace - it reminds me of umbrellas or chrysanthemums.  There wasn't quite enough of the turquoise fabric (a gorgeous crepe de chine) for the skirt, and we ended up getting a similar color of silk charmeuse at Mood.  I'm hoping there's enough of the smaller cut to make a little camisole, because the color is amazing.

The second combination is a very drapey cream silk crepe and an eyelet pattern on peach silk georgette.  This skirt is going to have cream for the body of the skirt and the eyelet draped diagonally across.

And if it seems like these don't go with my original storyboard ideas, it's because they don't!  I have ended up revising and changing my inspiration for my storyboard and line.  I really wanted to go with the '70s/flight attendant inspiration, but I kept on getting stuck.  In the end, I decided to go the direction that I was resisting because it's what I always want to do: feminine and frilly, with a touch of Japanese inspiration.  I'm much more excited about my line now, and getting fabric has just made it more real!

Hope everybody had a great weekend - I did get a bunch of knitting done during my trip, so I'll have some WIP photos to share in the next few days.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sick Day WIP: Spruce Forest

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So tomorrow afternoon, my whole family is going to southern California to visit my grandma.  Unfortunately, by around 9 pm last night, it was pretty clear that my mystery allergy symptoms were in fact a cold.  So I skipped school this morning, slept in and have been pounding water and Gatorade in hopes that it will shorten the illness as much as possible.  In any case, because of the trip I will likely be taking a blog break for the rest of this week and Monday of next week.

My main work in progress right now is a gift and I didn't want to get my germy hands on it, so I cast on for a new project - Nancy Bush's Spruce Forest shawl from Brooklyn Tweed Wool People Volume 2.  (My review of Volume 2 is here, and lo and behold, Spruce Forest is in my favorites!  Shocking, I know.)  I'm using Brooklyn Tweed Loft in the colorway Postcard from my stash, and so far I'm in love.  

I did have a bit of trouble winding the yarn - it was a little tangled in the center, and because Loft is so delicate, I didn't want to pull too hard on it and break it.  Luckily, after about 20 minutes of gentle prodding and some help from Lumberjack, I was able to get it wound safely and without any breakage.  And it was worth it, because this yarn is wonderfully wooly and plump.  The color is a pink-tinged beige, a very strange color but sort of fascinating to work with.  And oh, how beautifully it nupps - they're like teeny little berries made of wool!

Hope everyone has a great weekend, and with any luck, next week I'll be recovered and have lots of shawl progress to share!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mackie McMackerson, Esq.

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Either my allergies are really acting up or I'm getting a cold, so here's a rattie interlude for today.

Mackie is quite the busy little person these days!  I've been having him out several times a day on our bed or just out for a quick snuggle with my elbows (he prefers to hang out my forearm with his nose in my elbow), and if it were even possible, he's started to chill out even more.

His favorite pastimes while out:

1.  Trying to eat my engagement ring.  Which is made of diamond.
2.  Bouncing.  When he's excited, it's like he has a rocket pack strapped to his butt.
3.  Hanging out on my shoulder and wrapping his tail around my face for balance.
4.  Licking my face in hopes that I have saved some lunch for him.
5.  Licking my forearms.  I have no idea why.
6.  Hiding under pillows.
7.  Headbutting pillows to get out from under them.
8.  Running across my computer keyboard.
9.  Tunneling around under the bedspread.
10.  Nibbling things, deciding that they're not delicious enough, and bouncing away.

Gosh, it's tough to be a rat.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Garment Duplication: Santa Cruz Jacket

First off, I wanted to thank you guys for your comments on my last post.  It's really cool to hear all of your opinions, and I appreciate your taking the time to share them!  I posted a comment in response, which you're welcome to read if you're interested.

But moving on!  What have I been up to in fashion school lately, besides beating my head against my storyboards and black dress patternwork?

Actually, some pretty awesome stuff.  These past three weeks, I've been taking a garment duplication class.  And although the slang term for garment duplication is "knocking off", I've found that there's a lot more to the process than simply copying a design.

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I have this jacket that I bought at a little shop in Santa Cruz almost six year ago, and it's my go-to cool weather jacket.  I wear it by itself in the fall and spring, and layered over cardigans in the winter.  I love the crap out of this jacket, and I'm fairly sure that I could never find one exactly like it again.  So when I heard about the garment duplication class, I was pretty excited to make a copy of my jacket, because the original is literally falling apart at the seams.

So I brought it in to class, and we started looking at the construction of the jacket.  There are a few interesting things about it: the princess line that shapes the front of the jacket is actually a curved dart; the sleeves are two-piece sleeves, which gives an excellent fit; the seams inside the pockets are unfinished; there's much more shaping on the back than there is on the front.

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I think perhaps the coolest thing that I learned about it, however, is the way that the pattern pieces were cut on the back.  See, usually center back is cut straight on the lengthwise grain, but in this jacket, it's not:

Apparently this is a pretty common technique used in men's jackets, and it would help explain why I love the fit of this jacket: I have prominent shoulderblades, and the shoulder on the bias allows for easier movement.  I also really appreciated the fact that the fabric is a herringbone, which gives a really clear picture of what the grain is doing.

My eventual plan is to finish patternmaking the jacket as it is, and then grade it up a size.  Although I love the shape, I've often found myself wishing that there was a touch more ease to allow me to wear thicker sweaters underneath, and I think a straight size larger would probably allow for that.

Although there are ethical issues involved in straight-up copying a design, I think there's a lot to be said for duplicating vintage and favorite clothing that can't be replaced - it can provide insight into the kind of fit that works for your body type, the tricks that manufacturers use to put garments together in an efficient way, and the sheer amount of thought and work that goes into producing ready-to-wear clothing.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Small Gripe


ETA: photo changed to a delightful Mackie photo - I don't want to complain about a particular pattern or designer, as I feel this is unfair and counter to my intent, which is to have a discussion!  Thanks again for all your input.

There's a constant conversation in the knitting community about the "correct" ways to do things.  And I definitely think that there are many correct ways to get to the same results - it doesn't really matter how you knit, as long as you like how you knit!  I sometimes get people telling me that I should switch to continental-style knitting because it's faster, but to be honest, I like my pokey English style.  And I think that's a totally legit reason to do what you do: "because I want to," full stop.  Knitting is for fun, and it should be fun for everybody who does it!  (Unless they don't want it to be fun, in which case, that's deeply weird but probably scratches some itch that I don't have.)

I do, however, get a little more opinionated when it comes to knitting patterns, and that is because they are one person's way of thinking that needs to be accessible by many knitters of varying skill levels and learning styles.  I get a little frustrated when I encounter patterns where the online errata has vanished or the charts are done in a non-standard charting system.  I do understand, though, that things can be complicated: copyright can change hands and chart software is expensive, for example.  I will still be cranky about it, but at the end of the day, shit happens and sometimes I have to just take a breath and deal with it.

The thing the bugs me the most, though, that's totally preventable: complex stitch patterns that are written only, without charts.

I'm the kind of learner who doesn't do abstract concepts.  You could verbally tell me how to change a tire a thousand times, and I wouldn't get it until you physically put me in front of a car and explained it while pointing at things.  And it's especially true in knitting.  I get lost in written stitch patterns: I skip things, and I read the wrong line, and I feel fuzzy and lost without a picture of what it should look like.  The second you put a chart in front of me, though?  Blammo!  I'm the best knitter in Ze World!  Of COURSE it's a shell pattern with yarnovers on every row and nupps in the center of the leaves on the border motif!  It's right there in the chart!

So it bugs me a lot when I pay for a pattern - a complicated pattern with varying stitch counts on every row - and then when I take a closer look, there isn't a chart to be found.  I don't really want to spend an hour and a half muddling through charting that stitch pattern, when the designer already knows what it looks like and how it changes.  It makes me a sad, frustrated panda, and I'm not sure know how to deal with it in a way that's respectful of the work of the designer while still acknowledging my needs and frustration.

And I think the opposite must be true for folks who are abstract, conceptual thinkers.  I have a few knitting friends who only work from written instructions, and have a hell of a time finding lace shawl patterns that have written instructions.  Bottom line is that it seems to be a common problem among knitters of both flavors.

So this prompts some questions for me: what is (and isn't) the responsibility of the knitwear designer, and what is the best way to make patterns accessible for the largest number of knitters?  Does it make sense to have multiple versions of a pattern available, so that knitters who love charts can work from a charts-only pattern, and knitters who love written instructions can use those?  Is it even fair to ask the designer to essentially write two different versions of the same pattern, which can take twice as much time and energy?

I'm also curious what the ratio of chart-knitters to instruction-knitters is.  Is it 1:1, or 10:1, or 1:10?

What do you guys think?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Yarn Swap

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1.  Shilsdair Aran, unknown colorway  2.  Schaefer Yarn Company Audrey, colorway Gloria Steinem.

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3.  Spirit Trail Fiberworks Sunna, colorway In Dreams  4.  Wolf Creek Wools Superwash BFL, colorway Freesia

A few weeks ago, one of my knitting groups had a stash swap, which is both dangerous and awesome.  Dangerous, because there's a more than zero chance that you will leave the same amount of yarn you brought - or possibly even more.  Awesome, because you can trade or sell yarn that you're not super excited about to someone else who really likes it.

The verdict?  I left with 8 fewer skeins of old yarn, and 7 more skeins of new-to-me yarn.  Not too bad - but didn't exactly make the stash smaller.... hahah.


The five skeins above were either bought or traded, but these two skeins are a little special - a friend in the group had seen on the blog that I love pink and laceweight yarn, and gave me these two skeins of gorgeous pink Knit Picks merino laceweight from her stash.  It was super sweet of her!  I will have to find an appropriately awesome shawl to make out of it.