Level One Knitwear Designing, Make it Your Own

No, I am not officially a knitwear designer however the concept of designing knitwear, to me, has many levels.  When I think of top level knitwear designers, the people who come to mind are those who have had multiple original designs published in major knitting magazines.  Yarn companies hire these people to design using their yarns.  Then, there are the knitwear designers who design and sell from their own etsy shop, website, or the like.  You see many fledgling designers such as these on Ravelry.   And, then there are the knitters who have the ability to take a published pattern and make it their own with modifications, alterations, shape changing, yarn choice, color changing, to name a few ideas.   The later would best define where I am in the designing of my own hand knits.    With this particular project, this level one designer in me came out loud and clear.

Motivated to learn a new method called the two-tone cable technique, being taught at the local Guild, the sweater itself did not call to me so much.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a lovely pattern designed by Heather Lodinsky, I did not want a basic crew neck nor long, lacy sleeves.

So, I began to configure how I could re-design this pattern having the best of both worlds; learning this technique and having a garment in the end I would love.  Admittedly, the changes I wanted for this garment came quickly to me.

Design Plan

I don’t know if there is an order to the process of designing but in this instance,  the beautiful front and center cable was perfect inspiration for the long lean line I always try to obtain.  So, for that long lean look, all I had to do was extend the cable which led to tunic length. I thought  shaping at the side seams would make for a better fit.  I also knew side slits could be an option at the time of seaming.  I was drawn immediately to the idea of short sleeves with the cable pattern seen in the body to continue in the sleeves and that I would ditch the lacy fabric sleeves seen in the pattern.  I love details so I thought a provisional cast-on with an i-cord bind off would nicely frame the sweater and give it a bit of boldness at the edges where it is otherwise very soft looking.  I had the berroco lustra in my stash so the colors were pretty much chosen for me.

Use Resources for Help

Remember, I am not a designer and do not have all the measurements for different styles right at my finger tips.  Therefore, to help me in the tunic I wanted, I turned to my pattern stash, found a tunic length pattern with shaped sides in the weight of yarn I was using so used those directions and measurements for the shaping.  I give credit to Kate Davies and her exquisite eye for detail where I learned about provisional cast on with i-cord bind off when working on a different project.  Now I have that technique in my ‘tool kit’ so called upon it, here.

I could not understand the directions for the ribbing in the pattern so I used what I knew about corrugated ribbing.  I didn’t need to think about the slit along the side seams while I was knitting as slits are just seams that are not sewn closed.   So, really the major challenge came with the sleeves.

Well, I knew I wanted short sleeves.  I measured the diameter of my upper arm.  Knowing my gauge, I casted on x stitches per inch x no. of inches.  So, the corrugated ribbing fit just the way I wanted.  I knew I wanted the main cable pattern and at least one of the 4 stitch cross over patterns along either side of the main cable.  I knew I needed some more stitches for binding off along the selvage.  This gave me the number of stitches I needed in the first row after the ribbing.  Then,  I figured about two inches for the actual sleeve length (after ribbing and before armhole bind off) and needed to get to the number of stitches to follow the sleeve cap according to direction.  I knew I would be increasing and my gauge told me how many rows I had to do so.  I was home free, at point of armhole bind-off to follow the shape of the sleeve cap given in the pattern.  It became a mathematical computation to know how many rows to knit, when to decrease along the selvage to have the cap fit perfectly into the armhole seam of the body.  I sketched the shape of the cap out onto paper as it was a little tricky with the back of the cap sleeve shaped a bit differently than the front of it.

You can see some calculations and extraneous math.  Logic, math, and knitting skill came together for some lovely sleeves.  Gotta say, I am pleased.

Now, you can make plans till the cows come home but what you see in your mind’s eye might not always be what you see in person.  When I slipped on my sweater I was thrilled with all of the modifications I made except for one.  I felt the sweater was too long.

Change is Sometimes Needed

Did you ever know anyone who was a whiz at technology but the minute there is a screw-up cries for help?  Same with knitting.  The talent in any form comes if and when you are able to fix your own problem(s).  So, here I was with this ‘problem’.  Well, I thought . . . what do you see in ready-wear to help with shape, fit, and comfort?  Shirring!  That’s it!  I’ll shirr the side seams!  I took a crochet hook and worked 3 sc, (single crochet) chain 3 (for a little loop) 3 sc,, chain 3, repeat, along the inside of the side seam, threaded some durable narrow twill tape through the loops and pulled for fit.  Perfect!  And, I will flatten out when in storage so as not to wrinkle.

Celebrate by Wearing

I love my sweater.  I supported our Guild, it taught me this cable technique.  It served as design practice.  It was a perfect pattern for this yarn that was in my stash, and now it serves as a wearable garment for my wardrobe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Tone Cable Pullover ~ The Pattern

 

The Knitting Guild of Greater Buffalo is not only a friendly organization where one meets people who are passionate about knitting but the Guild is also very serious in its purpose and programming.  The two ladies deemed program chairs leave no stone unturned in providing ideas for programs and seeing those ideas to fruition.  It was in this way I became aware of Buffalo native and knitwear designer Heather Lodinsky and her two-tone cable method as this was the program topic at one of our monthly meetings.

 

 

 

Continue reading

Ripping Out and Resolving Renaissance

Call me obsessed.  Call me intense.  Call me stubborn.  This sweater, Renaissance designed by Teva Durham was NOT photographing to its fullest potential and it was driving me mad until I realized . . . oh, dear . . . it’s the SWEATER!!   My thinking . . . What was it?  The body fit perfectly, the neckline moved about in a ruffly kind of way as intended and certainly appropriate for its name sake.  The sleeves . . . dramatic, as seen in the pattern.  Wait.  The sleeves.  The sleeves.  Something about the sleeves.  Yes, they are long but that is the style of the pattern.  Oh, wait . . . what about their width?  That could be it.  If I made them narrower. . .   If I make the sleeves narrower, the cap to fit more snug at the top, that might give the sweater an overall better look.  Wait.  The sleeves. Maybe, just a little shorter.  For comfort sake.  Wait!  How ’bout three-quarter length keeping the essence of the pattern?  I notice I get excited, probably because I have a plan to resolve what seems to be ailing me about this garment.

Continue reading

Sweet Boyfriend Sweater and its Unlikely Source for Inspiration

A retirement gift, a plaque from the District where I worked, beckons me.  It is as if it can talk and recall; that plaque with the Varsity letter.  I hear students’ voices, excited anticipation in the air, their endless desire for learning.  It speaks my tongue and reminds me about lesson planning into wee hours.  It sounds with the hustle bustle of school life:  hallways all abuzz, meetings with teachers and/or parents, the frustrations voiced and the sharing of successes of each day.  One glance at this wall plaque of mounted school letter and personalized engraved plate, now hanging on a wall in my yarn room, does all of that every time I look at it.

Continue reading

Spring version of Renaissance Tunic

Well, I do keep my word.  Today, we had a redo photo shoot of my Renaissance Tunic, designed by Teva Durham.  Now, make no mistake as to how much I love this sweater as evidenced by its wearing this winter.  My love of this tunic is probably why I wanted to bring it to you, again as I wasn’t sure the first photo shoot did it justice.  However, this idea does add pressure to an already stressful activity.  That is how I feel with these photo sessions, pure stress.  Many reasons.  You see, hubby, who wants so desperately to please is not quite as flexible and energetic as he once was and the model is getting older.  Both get cranky and both want these photo shoots to be successful, at least in our eyes.  Also, a redo moment takes twice the energy to ready our ‘get-up-and-go’ and we (or at least, I) have high hopes of capturing some good looking shots.

Continue reading

Blue Skies Trench

First and foremost in choosing a project, that project must be wearable in my lifestyle and go with the existing pieces I have in my wardrobe.  Of course, I am always looking at new trends in fashion, as I would like to think that even in retirement, I can continue on this quest of always looking fashion-forward.  But, what I have realized is that not all the pieces I intended on knitting are appropriate to wear in retirement and that I need to tweak my intentions for better purpose once knitted.   In an effort to get my yarn and pattern stash aligned to my lifestyle of retirement, I’ve had to do some reconsidering of patterns and re-shifting of yarns.  This has encouraged me to catalog remnants into their respective weights.  The more I play with my yarn, the more ideas I am getting and the more possibilities I seem to muster.   While this is exciting and certainly mindful of utilizing all of the materials I have here at home, I continuously need to remind myself to have patience and that I will eventually be able to act on many of these ideas.

This process has me researching in places I didn’t even know patterns existed.  Such places as VogueKnitting.com > free pattern tab or LionBrand.com > free  patterns.   Maybe, most yarn companies with websites have free pattern availability.  A function on Ravelry that has become most helpful is the pattern tab and its settings on the left-hand margin with specific criteria, being able to drill down to what you are looking for thus making pattern research more expedient.  Also, the function on Ravelry called queue has never been as helpful to me as it is right now as I can keep my pattern ideas listed there so as not to forget.   Well, one thing led to another and pretty much this is how I found ‘Trench Coat’ by Wilma Peers, a pattern from Vogue Knitting’s online pattern store.  Not a free pattern, but on sale.  I literally paid pennies.

I am drawn to the unexpected when knitting.  Or the juxtaposition of opposites which oftentimes leads to the unexpected.  For example a cardigan that can be flipped upside down or right side up or glamorous yarn knitted into a hoodie, or pleats in super bulky weight yarn.    When I think of a trench coat, I think of rain or wind and in a twill type of fabric.  So, the fact that this pattern was suggesting knitting a Trench Coat was highly interesting to me.  Hmm. . . I thought.  A trench coat for blue skies!  Complete with lapels and pocket flaps and what appeared to be a beautiful contrast edging, I had to go for it.

Then I noticed the suggested yarn.  Acrylic.  100% acrylic.  Oh, boy my mind began racing with all the thoughts of what could go wrong with this project in this yarn.  On the other hand, being so inexpensive I thought I would give it a try and when all fails, simply start over with yarn I knew more about.

So, I began and learned the half linen stitch.  This half linen stitch, formed with slip stitches and yarn carried on the outside of the work, creates a woven looking fabric.  Being of bulky weight (by title only as the yarn itself is as light as a feather), knitting the pieces really just motored along.  No button holes, no pockets (what you see are just flaps added on at the end),  this was really a breeze  to knit.  5 pattern pieces (back, 2 fronts, 2 sleeves, and the collar which is picked up from the neck and knitted) and it was time for my favorite part of any project, the finishing touches.   Bands were fairly easy to knit up the front however I had to readjust the number of stitches I picked up (way less than what was called).  And, for some unknown reason, the side seams were not cooperating as I felt they should.  A minor bit of blocking helped that matter and truthfully I was surprised acrylic even responded to blocking.  The collar edging as well as the flap edging was downright fun to do.  One has to pick up the stitches neatly as when the lapel is wide open flips to the front with the raw edge to the outside.

Well, I kept waiting for epic fail of this project.  I got to the end and to my surprise, I have what I think, is a beautiful, trendy trench that can easily be worn with today’s shapes underneath.

Cape as Finished Project / knitting notes

If you are a reader of Hollyknits, you know I’ve been talking about a wedding cape I recently made for a daughter of a friend.  Also, a former student of mine!  Since it is a high risk thing to knit for another,  I share tips on how to do so, here.   I talk about details of gift giving, here. This post, while on the same project is moving away from the event and focusing on the knitting of the cape, itself.

It is kind of funny how I am so opinionated about capes and shawls.  Some people interchange these words in identification.  I see such vast differences in them.  To me, a cape has coat-like qualities typically with closures, sometimes with slits for arms, sometimes as pullovers.  Shawls I see are more like a scarf, typically in a geometric shape like a triangle or rectangle and meant to be wrapped around a body.  Truthfully,  I have such a vast like of one and dislike of the other.  This is a picture that Mom, bride, and I initially saw of the cabled cape wanted for this wedding.

Designed by Michael Kors and found in Vogue Knitting, Fall 2007.  It is a pattern that is worked from the ribbing at the bottom up to the neckline decreasing along the way at key points along the raglan seams in both front and back.  All of us loved the pattern especially the cable texture and I particularly liked the double breasted closure.  I appreciate the detail of stockinette stitch around the neckline below the ribbed collar.  The ribbed collar, k1p1 is wider in back and is shaped using short rows.  The short row method I find easiest is called the short row shadow wraps.  Directions can be found, here.   The bride wanted a single row of buttons along the edge.  She knew she wanted the cape in navy blue.

The beautiful part about knitting a cape is that there are minimal measurements needed.  In fact, the pattern did not even have a schematic. When I perused the other finished projects utilizing this pattern in Ravelry, I noticed a wide assortment of yarn that was used from sport weight to aran.  This would significantly change the fabric, weight, and could change the size of the garment if you didn’t alter the stitch count.  The yarn that is used to knit the example in the image above was no longer available, however looking at the content of the yarn, considering the size garment we wanted, and the venue in which it would be worn, we decided upon this lovely DK, a blend of merino, silk, and cashmere.

I used as large a needle as I dared with a sport weight to create springy and stretchy qualities while maintaining a luxurious cabled fabric.  Being that I was fitting another, I felt the elasticity of the fabric would lend itself some leeway in fit.  Also, by being elastic, I felt the fabric might hold position better around the shoulders and be more comfortable for movement sake.

The pattern has a mistake regarding the placement of the markers.  When you become familiar with the cable pattern, you can see that the double decreases need to happen outside of the middle p2k2p2.   In other words, you need to place the markers differently than indicated in the pattern.  This is of utmost importance as all of the shaping occurs at the markers and the pattern of cables and ribs follow.

Minor alterations for a better fit was made for the bride.  Buttons were purchased by Mom, sewn on by me.  We discussed the ease of removing the pearl buttons and changing to a different button to give a more casual look for future wear.  I did use the one row buttonhole method and I did sew a snap at the collar and just above the rib along the bottom to hold the overlap of fabric in place and purposely secure to not dangle below the hemline.

My saga now ends, fulfilling in every way and clearly the bride and groom are off to a very happy start!

photo credit to Amy Paulson/photography

Details, details / Gift Wrapping Knitting

I like details.  I think they often make or break a decision, a choice, how I feel about something.  Did you ever notice when an actor puts himself into character?  The bow of a ballerina?  The music before the start of a movie?  The role of an actor does not begin at the first scene but long before and after to draw the audience into the portrayal of the story or to leave one thinking after the story has been told.

To me, delivering the wedding cape, talked about here to my friend was an opportunity to set the scene for the wedding that was about to occur.  Everything had gone smoothly in the process of knitting the cape so I wanted the happiness to continue.  Maybe, it was like Chapter Two, Smooth Transition of Cape to Bride.  How could the delivery of the cape that meant so much to me be delivered in a most meaningful and thoughtful way, to let the wonderful story of a wedding begin long before the walk down the aisle?

Well, this is what I did and it created some inquiry on Ravelry.

It happens that I have not only a yarn stash but also a collection of sewing materials.  I was, after all a seamstress long before I was a knitter.  It is surprisingly often that I go into the ‘sewing vault’ for something I  am knitting.  Snaps, seam binding, elastic are some items I’ve needed.  So, when I was thinking about packaging this project, I remembered I had a catch of fabric bags I had received yarn in.   How perfect are these bags for gifts!   I love that the hand knitting shows through this fabric.  These are just squares of tulle with a ribbon as a drawstring top.  How easy would these be to make, in just the right size, with ribbon strung through to match the theme of your gift!

I knew that the bride’s colors were navy blue and orange.  So, I took some pictures, like the one above of the cape packaged by our Van Gogh “Sunflowers” painting and sent the photos to her Mom.   Maybe, to be added to the photo album of the wedding?  It was my way of staying within the theme of the story that was being created.

When I saw these photographs of the cut flowers and flower arrangers, I was taken aback.  First, I had to hold my breath at how gorgeous the flowers were.  Then, I noticed the warmth on the faces of the arrangers.  Then, and only then I realized how our Van Gogh painting came pretty darn close to the exact shade.  Sight unseen, I thought that pretty spectacular.  Can’t you just feel the love in the air?

Here is a picture of one beautifully created centerpiece.  I like the touch of the navy fabric underneath and the warm light bouncing from the flickering candles.

IMG_0055 (1)

I wish the bride and groom every happiness in their future, and I must say, as I notice details, I do love the navy pumps in the photo, below.

Photo credit:  Amy Paulson/photography

 

I said Yes to the . . . Cape / Tips on Knitting for Others

When I was recently asked to knit a garment, I couldn’t say no.  I couldn’t say no for many reasons.  First off, it was a friend who asked.  I will call her Mom.  The garment was to be a cape and I love capes.  A wedding cape!  Who doesn’t love a wedding?  This wedding was her daughter’s.   I happen to know the bride well as she was also a student of mine,  a diligent, hard-working, serious student I remember from many, many years ago.  This former student is now an adult and working her way through the leadership ranks of the service and getting married at West Point, of course!  Who isn’t proud of someone who has met with professional success? Who wouldn’t be honored to have their knitting worn by another and their talent of craftsmanship chosen for the task?  Hence, I said yes to the cape project and so, we began.

I don’t know if it is wise or not to knit for someone else.  Can’t you just imagine a myriad of potential disasters that could arise but I will say, if for no other reason but to remind myself (if I should take this on again), why this project did work at this time and for this friend.

Make and share the schedule for completion.   When the decision to knit this garment was set, the very first thing I did was map out the steps towards completion on a calendar.  I left a reasonable amount of time for each step with an entire month at the end for alterations.  There would be no last minute knitting or decision-making.  Since the bride knew she wanted a cover-up, cape style, and in the color navy, we were leaps and bounds ahead in the time factor.  So, we really only needed to plan when I had to have the yarn in my hands and the time I needed to actually knit the project leaving that must-have one month window available at the end for unforeseen issues and/or alterations.

Be flexible to allow for ‘surprises’.  I will not deny there was a day (or two) I freaked.  I was not aware that during the time frame of knitting the project,  Mom was going on a trip to visit the bride and wanted to take the project with her.  Somehow, this did not come up in the planning stages.  Did I say the bride was not local?  It caused me to knit like a fiend, the very thing I was trying to avoid.  I was able to knit up pretty close to the collar before her departure however I really wanted to finish all the cabling so as not to forget the pattern and the math I was calculating.  Minor alterations meant we were going off pattern.  I did not succeed in getting to the collar like I had hoped before Mom’s travels, therefore I took copious notes.  How I calmed myself down about the interruption was by looking at the situation differently.  If Mom was taking the project, this would give the bride a chance to try it on.  If alterations needed to be taken, better at mid-point than in the end.  Also, I had left that month window at the end for such surprises.  I was not angry as I think so much is taken for granted and we all live such busy lives, that this was simply a slip up in communication, pretty much the definition of ‘surprises’.

Assign a contact person.  This is like the saying, “too many cooks in the kitchen . . .”  Brides are very busy especially if they are professional people working throughout the planning stages of their wedding. So, Mom informed me that she was the go-to person.  This immediately made it clear to me who to contact when a decision needed to be made or a measurement was needed or a question arose.   It also kept all three of us on the same page.  This chain of command worked perfectly.  I will add that it also helps when the people for whom you are working are able to make and keep their decisions.

Give input or opinion but ultimately listen to what the bride wants.  Aside from some minor size adjustments, we followed the pattern pretty closely except for one detail.  The pattern calls for a double-breasted closure.  I could not see past this while the bride thought one row of buttons along the edge was what she wanted.  This would give an asymmetric  look which was what she was after and I did think snaps could hold the overlap underneath in its place.  She was so sure of this and it continued to be difficult for me to see.  My feelings, aside we did what she asked.  One row of buttons and buttonholes, two snaps on the inside so the overlap did not hang below the hemline.  Also, it took awhile for me to accept the navy blue as a wedding color but look how beautiful she looks.  And, that new hubby, too!

Keep in constant contact/communication.   Right at the beginning Mom and I exchanged numbers.  We shared with each other our preferred communication method.   I believe, however we used every device known to man today through this process.   True story ~ I recall calling Mom on the phone when I was in her driveway!  Lots of words of encouragement, support, photographs, even praying was shared between us.  I cannot say enough how this constant communication was so helpful and added to the success of the project.

There was the month at the end as planned.  It was so peaceful and comfortable and I had long moved on to another project.  I could not wait until the wedding day.  How sweet it was to view these beautiful pictures.  I have to say I loved helping the bride create the look she was after and love knowing this knitted piece has now become part of the memory she will always have of her wedding day.

Please note:  Photo credits to Amy Paulson/Photography.

A study of color and elements of design

So, my stash is well bundled now.  The ‘new’ yarns for projects continue in waiting and the scraps, which I prefer to call remnants, are bundled according to weight.  I can easily pull out the same-weight remnants and mix and match to my heart’s content.  This also helps me to get my creative juices flowing as somehow when I pair colors together, ideas come forth.  The project that this post is about has come into existence in exactly this manner.

When I purchase yarn for a project I always purchase at least one extra skein.  Many times I cut into that skein as my gauge rarely matches the gauge of the knitter who actually knitted the garment photographed in print.  If there is little yardage on a particular skein, I have been known to purchase more than one extra skein.  If the yarn is on sale, I have been known to buy out a particular color.  In doing this, that means there is typically extra yarn after a project has been knitted.  I LIKE that as then, without further yarn purchase, I can go and “play” with these remnants.

I chose to dabble with the remnants of the bulky weights that are in my stash.  By holding colors together, these three surfaced as cohesive in my eye.  They remind me very much of colors of a sunrise or sunset that we, hubby and I often see and appreciate.  The yarn came from these three projects:

Cabled Poncho

Fair-isle collared jacket  (The collar was knitted from fingering weight remnants.)

Elephant Cardigan  Each of the project links will take you to the patterns.

The red is Zealana Artisan Tui, the yellow is a Debbie Bliss chunky luxury, and the deeper blue gray color of the elephant cardigan is Rowan’s Colourspun.  Now, to add to the mix of deciding fibers, weight and content, there is always the possibility of going into another weight of yarn and holding it double.  When the Colorspun is held double, it worked perfectly as a bulky weight and was just the right shade for that sunrise/sunset appeal.  Many trials, a bunch of swatches, and research of a pattern that would be exciting to me, (fashion forward, unique, and wearable with my current lifestyle AND mix and match with existing wardrobe), I finally came to this.  Perfect, I thought.  With an understanding of construction,  planning ahead,

VKF11_TOPPER-02_medium2

I knew I had enough of each remnant to pull this off.  The pattern above is actually knitted in Zealana’s Tui.

Mari Lynn Patrick is the designer of this fabulous Topper, pattern can be found in Vogue Knitting Fall 2011.  I am such a fan of Mari Lynn and have knitted many of her designs.  (At the bottom of this post is a gallery of my work with her patterns.)  This pattern has quite the unique construction and sports an inside-out appeal.  The wrong side of the knit is face up, side seams are sewn with mattress stitch on the inside leaving the seam exposed on the outside.  Rolled hems on all edges, hem, sleeve, and neckline add interesting details, as well.

IMG_1147

I especially like that the grey is around my neck and at the pockets as it is amazingly soft and scrumptious.  Plus, I am reminded of the effort (and love) that went into the elephant cardigan for my husband.

IMG_1159

We waited for a sunny day to show off the beauty of the yellow.  And, the temperature was perfect for this outfit.  Can’t you just imagine the sun setting in the background in these beautiful colors?

IMG_1165 (1)

Here are other Mari Lynn Patrick designs that I have worked up in recent years.  Putting together a collection from one designer, a knitter can see details that perhaps were inspirational in choosing that particular pattern.  Perhaps a designer can capture his/her imagination and collect elements that are thought-provoking and possible to create in another original way.  As the owner of this existing hand knit collection, the color palate rings of similarity.  I had not realized that.  Am I drawn to these particular shades?  It leaves me pondering and isn’t that what creativity is all about?

 

Renaissance

One of my goals as I entered into retirement was to knit from my stash.  The stash I am talking about includes patterns I have loved and collected over time and/or the bundles of yarn that were purchased at a time when I thought I could knit a particular project.  I suppose enthusiasm outweighs time, at least that is my case, so in my new state of retirement, I am addressing this.  This project is an example of that.  I don’t even know where I first saw this pattern as I do not subscribe to Interweave Knits but I have been following Teva Durham, the creative designer since being aware of her work through Vogue Knitting.  The pattern is called Renaissance Tunic, as you will see, for obvious reasons.  And, I am thrilled to finally be adding this to my wardrobe.

Continue reading