About Woolly Wits

I am a hand-knitting designer and teacher. See and purchase my published designs on Ravelry.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ready For Autumn?

Knit Simple Fall 2015,
photo by Jack Deutsch

This past week I had a new pattern make its debut, and an old pattern make its first appearance on Ravelry.

My newest pattern appears in the Fall 2015 issue of Knit Simple, and it really speaks to fall.   It's also a blast from my past.  I created this pattern years ago for the class I taught at Knitche in Downer's Grove, IL.  The class was based on Ann Norling's classic baby fruit hat pattern.  While there are strawberries, raspberries, grapes, lemons, etc., there was no pumpkin.  So, not only did I offer it to the class, I made it a part of my own toddler's Halloween costume.  
My hat is different than some of the others out there in that the pumpkin's ribs start above the rolled band, and the stem is carries up and tied into a knot.  The stem does not begin until the top of the hat, a variation you might also want to make for a grape, apple or peach hat.  Knit Simple provided me with green yarn for the stem, but a tan color might be more realistic.  That said, in the original modeled by my daughter at left, the stem is green and I added some green leaves as accent.  If you are similarly inspired, there are many leaf patterns available.  I recommended Nicky Epstein's books as a reference.
Knitter's Magazine #88, Fall 2007
Photo credit: XRX
The second pattern to make a debut last week was Earthy from the Fall 2007 issue of Knitter's Magazine (#88).  Somehow when the magazine was loaded on Ravelry, my design was omitted.  A kind knitter pointed this out to me, and with a little help from the Rav staff, we got it fixed.   Issue #88 is out of print, but you can probably find a knitter willing to de-stash their copy.  Earthy is a simple men's pullover.  The saddle sleeves are plain stockinette and the front and back are a simple knit-purl stitch combination using the solid and a coordination variegated yarn.  The design is classic, and still as wearable today as when it was published nine years ago.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How Knitting Skills Save You Money: Retail Edition

A natural consequence of a growing interest in knitting is an ever-increasing stack of receipts from your yarn shop.  Yesterday, however, I was able to use those knitting skills and save money.

I had to make a quick trip to Chicagoland, and just had time to make my favorite detour to the Eileen Fisher Company Store in Schaumberg (home of Stitches Midwest).  On the damaged goods rack I found a beautiful navy blue lace and stockinette stitch pullover that I had admired on the mannequin in the front of the shop.  And marked down to only $29 from an original $158!  The damage tag clearly stated 'small hole', but neither I nor the sales clerk could find it, so I confidently strode off to the dressing room.

Well, in putting on the sweater, I did my usual 'horizontal stretch'.  This is a maneuver I learned from Trinny and Susanna, of the originally British What Not to Wear tv show.  Whenever I put on a knit top, I use my lower arms to pull it horizontally.  This fights gravity to create a little extra width, allowing the top to flow over my wobbly midsection, rather than cling to - and highlight - its excess.  Once the sweater was on, I found that my maneuver had revealed the hole and made the stitch drop down a couple inches.

No panic!  I carefully removed the sweater and examined the damage.  The run was fortunately in the stockinette section.  Had it been in the lace section I would not be telling this story.  The run began at the shoulder seam and ran down the arm, so I knew it was an easy fix.  I asked the sales clerk for a safety pin to secure the last intact loop of the dropped stitch.  If she'd not had one handy, I would have used a paper clip, or even some string.  Then I made my purchase.

Arriving home, I pulled out a tiny steel crochet hook and threaded a sewing needle with navy blue yarn.  Small hooks are not too hard to find, for although not many crocheters work with thread these days, may knitters use them for attaching beads.  I removed the safety pin and with the right side facing, inserted the crochet hook through the stitch from front to back.  *I grabbed the ladder from the next row up, and pulled it through the loop on the hook; repeat from * to top.  Take your time, work in a well lit space and lay out your piece so that you make sure you pick up the ladders in order.  

When you reach the top, use your sewing needle and matching thread to sew the last live loop to the seam.  My seam has enough bulk to provide a secure anchor and hide the funny business.

The completed fix was not in any way invisible.  Against the plain stockinette stitches, it was decidedly wonky.

I gave it a little steam and tugged the surrounding stitches first horizontally and then vertically.  This improved the appearance of the fix somewhat, but a few wearings and a trip through the laundry and I predict it will be invisible.

Here's a shot of the repaired sweater.  Ten minutes of my time saved  $129 off the retail price.  Who says knitting doesn't pay?

(And for those of you who say that I wasn't actually saving money because I spent $29 - well, I say everyone occasionally needs a little retail therapy.)

Friday, May 22, 2015

'Bye to the Bling

Shall we say goodbye to the accessories?

This thread began last week as I recorded the sweaters I have knit that are moving out of my life.  Time to purge.  These were class samples, out-grown, or in a style I no longer admire.  Yes, it is hard to let go of hand-made projects, but it you don't get rid of what you no longer desire, there is no room to bring in what you now want.

 This pillow was created as a sample for a class that never ended up running.  It was inspired by the bag I contributed to the Bag Style book - a combination of knitting and weaving.  The yarn is a Donegal tweed,so it does not make for a comfy pillow.  My decor has also moved away from blues and greens, so this need to move along, too.
The next item was a good time while it lasted.  One of the first classes I taught was on this original design - a shoulder wrap done in a multitude of novelty yarns.  One of my students wore hers to a wedding and had another guest buy it right off her shoulders - one of my best compliments, ever.  But, my version has never been work by me as peach and yellow are not - and never have been - my colors.

 Another decorative wrap that is going away is my first real crochet project.  I worked this up sitting on the beach in Douglas, Michigan.  As my first crochet project, I spent as much time staring at the photo as in reading the directions.  Little did I know that is often the case with crochet.  There are more options as to where you can put your next stitch than you can clearly describe in written text.  The yarn is a variegated chainette bamboo that was left over from my much-worn feather-and-fan skirt.  I was so proud of this little poncho - but I've only worn it maybe twice.
 Next up are my double-knit belts.  These were fun little projects for a class I taught several times.  But, I haven't taught it in years, and haven't worn any belt in longer than that!  The top belt was worked in a (now discontinued) ultrasuede-like Berocco yarn.  The bottom belt is in Rowan Denim.

 This linen stitch scarf was a more recent project.  This was not my own design, but from Churchmouse Yarns & Teas.  Linen stitch is very dense, so the knit goes very slowly.  This scarf is a reject because, although I like my scarves long, this one is way too long.  Here it's folded in half with a loose loop at the neck - and it still hangs below crotch length.  The yarn is a combination of a solid, a variegated, and one with long color changes.  The latter led to some cool effects, including a lime green stripe running vertically down the center of the scarf.  But, it was never worn.  This scarf will go to the Madison Knitter's Guild charity project.

Last is another set of class samples, this time of Kirsten Johnstone's sev[en] circle.  An oldie by a goodie.  Although I wear a lot of necklaces, scarves and cowls, I seldom wore these.  Both were knit from sock yarn, and that's about all I can remember about the yarn.

 Next week we'll move onto new stuff.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Goodbye, Old Friends

The spring purge struck hard this year.  Our new home in Wisconsin is slowly being updated, and, as a result, most of the knick-knacks and clutter have remained in their moving boxes.  And, I have come to realize, those boxes should never be unpacked.  I am enjoying the clean, fresh look of our new home and need to send accumulated bits and bob onto to new homes.

This applies to the knitwear, too.  I have hung on to nearly all my hand knit sweaters.  In the past I could justify this as many were class samples.  But, now that I am focusing my teaching on larger events and not my local yarn shop, the samples can go.  But, before they make their way out, I thought I would memorialize them here, as all of them are pre-Ravelry.  (Or at least before I started logging my projects there.)
. . .  Loves Me. . .
Knitter's Magazine #84

Today, the sweaters.

This first sweater has sentimental value, as it was my first published design in Knitter's Magazine.  To celebrate, I worked my own version in Cascade 220.  I think I wore it twice.  The fit was good, but I just do not care for worsted weight sweaters.  It also no longer fits, so it is easy to let it go.

This next sweater is a class sample.  It's the Faith Jacket from Sally Melville from The Knitting Experience:  Book 3.  This is a great design for beginner knitters with lots of skill-building opportunity.  Unfortunately, it's another worsted weight yarn (a thick-and-thin spun Malabrigo)  It is also very over-sized and lacking good drape.  So, out it goes.

Next on the hit list is a real oldie.  This is a Rowan Denim cardi to which I made significant alterations.  Can't remember what they were, but I know I did.  This is the sweater I would be most like to be wearing - of only it fit.  (Here's a hint - any sweater photographed on the gray mannequin no longer fits.  My body is now plus-sized mannequin, for sure.)

This little rib warmer was a popular pattern at Knitche.  Several of us knit it.  Can't remember the name of the pattern, but I think the yarn is Blue Sky Alpacas Sportweight.

And last, but not least, is Elizabeth Zimmerman's rib warmer.  This was another class sample, which you can tell since the paper tag is still hanging off it.  No longer my size, no longer my colors.  Bye.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Snoop Shopping

My snoop shopping trip
Last week I gave you some guideline for choosing sweater patterns to flatter your figure.  Why?  Because after investing your time and money in a hand knit sweater, you should be happy thrilled with the results.  But, these guidelines are theoretical until you actually test them on you.  And, the fastest and cheapest way to do that is with . . .

snoop shopping.

You are going to hit the stores, but leave your wallet at home.  The goal is to try on all kinds of styles and test the rules.  Pick sweaters you think will be flattering AND sweaters you think will be awful  – you might be surprised.

So, where should I snoop shop?  Department stores have lots of variety, which cuts down on the number of trips to the dressing room.  Or, you can go to a shop where you know you like the styles, although that may limit your opportunities to explore new options.  I recommend that you be aspirational and snoop even where you can’t afford to buy.  Why snoop shop at the Gap when you can buy a sweater there for less than the price of the yarn.  Too depressing!  If you do shop at a higer end store, dress nicely for good service.  Shopping on a good hair day and putting on a little make-up (if you wear it) will also take the focus off you and on the sweaters. 

What do you need to bring to the store?
·         Camera / Cell phone
·         Measuring tape
·         Optional:
·                 Gauge check tool
·                 Paper and pencil

What do you need to wear to the store?
·         A good bra
o   If you need a new one, that should be your first stop at the mall
o   With the girls boosted up into place, you will look slimmer
·         Thin camisole or tank top
·         If you are trying on bottoms along with sweaters . . .
o   Shoes that slip on and off easily

When you arrive to shop, grab all kinds of sweaters to try.  And, try other garments for their style lines.  Sweatshirts are great as a test, because their weight simulates a knitted fabric.  Once you find a style you like, take photos of you wearing the sweater: 
·         front and back views
·         special details
·         pattern stitches

Also capture the garment tag information – especially the fiber content.  If you are trying on a sweater, check the gauge.  

The paper and pencil were optional tools for you to bring because you can capture sizing information with your camera.  Take a large photo to see what is being measured and then zoom in close to read the tape measure.  

When you get home, relax and put your feet up.  Look at your photos.  I’ve found it’s much easier for me to be objective looking at a photo than in a mirror.  Hopefully you found some sweaters that made you feel good – and followed the guidelines.  Note any trends in your preferences, so that you can then use those to highlight in future Ravelry pattern searches. 

One last bit of work is remaining, and it is math.  Simple math.  An important component of your happiness in a sweater is its ease.  Ease is the difference between your body measurement and the garment’s measurement.  More ease gives you a baggy, relaxing fit, and less ease (even negative ease) will give you a Hollywood starlet va-va-va-voom fit.  To calculate ease, subtract your measurement from the sweater’s measurement.  Ease is usually calculated at the bust, but can also be a factor at the hip or upper arm.  The amount of ease will change based on the gauge of the sweater.  Bulkier knits need more and finer knits less, so be sure to note that. 

Now you’ve got lots of information on the design details which flatter your body, and the amount of ease you like in your garments.  Take this to Ravelry and start the hunt for your perfect sweater.

Monday, April 27, 2015

More Help Finding Your Perfect Pattern

On Friday I posted notes from my presentation on finding a perfect knitting pattern for your figure.  Those highlighted the general rules for dressing to dress taller and thinner.  I am going to continue on with guidelines for specific body issues, such as large or small shoulder, bust, hips, etc.  

Peek by Kim Hargreaves
Some Specific Body Issues To Consider:

·         Thick/Short Neck
o   look for designs with strong vertical lines
o   wear open necklines like v-neck, scoops and slits
o   avoid turtlenecks – mock or regular
·         Thin/Long Neck
o   add bulk with turtlenecks and full collars
o   avoid open necklines
o   wear high collars or turn up your collar
·         Broad Shoulders
o   wear unstructured tops to soften shoulder line
o   deep necklines like v-necks and scoops distract
o   diagonal lines from raglans and halters also interrupt the strong horizontal
o   wear tank tops to cut shoulder  line
·         Narrow Shoulders
o   add width with horizontal lines
o   wear boat neck and off-the-shoulder styles
o   saddle shoulder
o   epaulets add volume
o   be careful of deep necklines – they may fall off
·         Full Upper Arms
o   wear sleeves!
o   wear loose-fitting sleeves
o   avoid cap sleeves
o   sleeve should end below fullness of arm.
o   wear off-the-shoulder tops to distract from arms
·         Large Bust
o   wear minimal texture and pattern over bust
o   necklines:  v-necks, scoops
o   wear wrap tops
o   diagonals will emphasize your curves
o   wear small collars
·         Small Bust
o   wear lots of texture,  pattern and color over bust
o   you can wear horizontal stripes
o   diagonals will emphasize the curves you have
o   enjoy wearing spaghetti straps, halters and other styles which don’t accommodate a heavy-duty bra
·         Long Waist
o   create the illusion of raising your waist and lengthening your legs
o   wear garments below hip length to disguise the fact that your legs are proportionately short
o   wear one color from waist to toe
o   layer your tops
·         Short Waist
o   lengthen the torso by wearing Empire waists (just below the bust)
o   OR put emphasis at hips 
o   don’t tuck in tops
o   wear vertical stripes
o   be professionally fitted for a  quality bra  to hoist up the girls
§  it will give more space between bust and waist
·         Poochy Belly
o   wear Empire waistlines
o   wear sweaters with ruching across belly
o   wear tops long and untucked
·         Broad Hips & Thighs
o   tops should end above or below your widest point
o   wear lots of color, pattern and texture on top – even horizontal stripes
o   you may have to adjust patterns and knit for a larger size on bottom and smaller size on top
·         Narrow Hips & Thighs
o   bring focus below the waist with pattern or texture
o   keep tops simple

o   go for structure rather than drape

Remember that this figures issues have to be considered in combinations, and that some combinations frequently go together.  For example, women with larger busts usually also have fuller upper arms.  (If the larger bust was genetically granted, that is.)  Normally these guidelines will not conflict, but you may end up with a long list of criteria to satisfy.  Where they do conflict, you will have to choose elements to highlight your best features and downplay those with which you are less comfortable.

In the presentation I go on to discuss snoop shopping, and how to use it to test these rules on your real body.  Those notes will be up next.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Pick Your Perfect Pattern

Wedding Dress by Nicky Epstein
Vogue Knitting, Fall 2012

This Tuesday evening I will be speaking at the Windy City Knitting Guild in Chicago.  My talk will be an updated version of my 'What Not to Knit' talk.  Mary Coen and I started giving this program when knitters found patterns through magazines and books.  In the post-Ravelry knitting world, we now have more patterns available to us than we could ever see - almost 112,000 garment patterns as of this morning.  So, instead of asking "does this pattern work for me?", the challenge is now to use Ravelry search features to find the designs that potentially do work for you.  

The first section of my talk is the general rules for choosing sweaters to make you look longer and leaner.  I am presenting those notes here to save hands from cramping and trees from the chainsaw. You are, of course, without my well-chosen photographic examples as well as my witty insights, but that is for the audience that drags themselves to the Sulzer Library on Tuesday evening.

The basic rule of looking taller and thinner:  
create vertical lines.
How?  Move the eye up and down the length of the body
  • One color head-to-toe
  • Vertical stripes
  • Vertical design elements, such as button bands
  • Necklines: scoop, slit, unbuttoned cardigans    
  • A trim fitting, v-neck cardigan can be the most slimming sweater you knit                
Design by Theresa Schabes
from Knit Noro book
Diagonal lines:  also great for thinning and shaping
  • Wrap sweaters
  • Diagonal patterning
  • Necklines: v-neck, shawl collar 
Horizontal lines:  they move the eye across the body and widen you!
  • For most women, horizontal stripes create the single most unflattering garments.
  • Wear horizontal stripes where you want to look broader.
  • Horizontal lines can be worn to emphasize the narrowest part of you.
  • Necklines: crew, boat neck, turtleneck 
How else to look longer and thinner?

Fitted shapes hug your curves!
  • Garments close to the body emphasize the vertical
  • Boxy, oversize shapes make you look boxy and oversize
Thinner yarns are more flattering than bulky yarns
  • Smaller gauge garments will drape and cling
  • Big gauge garments add inches and tend to be boxy
Along the same lines, watch out for texture
  • Smooth stitch patterns, such as stockinette, as more slimming
  • Highly textured stitches, such as cables, will add bulk
Watch your armholes!
  • Set in sleeves are more fitted and therefore more flattering
  • Drop shoulders create excess fabric and bulk at sides
  • Dolmans also leave extra fabric to make you look wider
  • Saddle shoulders can create a strong horizontal element at shoulder
  • Raglan sleeves create a diagonal design line. 
Do you wear your clothes or do they wear you? 
Avoid ‘high concept’ garments which attract attention without flattering you.
  • This includes holiday motif sweaters.  
A word on pattern scale -
  • Shorter, smaller boned women should stick with small scale patterns.
  • Taller, bigger boned women can wear bolder patterns. 
And, beware of . . .
Bobbles – they can make you look diseased

Motif placement – they shouldn’t be centered on your breasts or other areas which you might not want brought into focus