About Woolly Wits

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

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

Friday, April 17, 2015


This weekend I will be teaching a new class, End-to-End, at YarnCon.  The class covers several techniques for avoiding knots, such as spit-splicing and the Russian join, as well as tips on knots for when they are the better option.

As an easy reference for my students, I am listing links below to tutorials for the techniques we'll be discussing.  I plan to keep these updated, so please let me know if you have an issue either with the link, or with the quality of the tutorial.

Russian Join
Invisible Braided Join (one color)
Invisible Braided Join (changing colors)
Magic Knot
Square Knot
Surgeon's Knot
Weaving in Ends As You Go

Friday, April 10, 2015


Back in February I taught at the Madison Knitter's Guild Knit-In.  It was my first teaching gig since moving to Wisconsin at the end of August, but I felt very welcome and appreciated by my students.  One of my classes was Intro to Entrelac, which got me thinking about some variations on entrelac knitting.  One of those ideas was combining entrelac with a gradient yarn.  While entrelac and yarns with long color changes, such as Noro, have had a long and illustrious history, entrelac and gradients were an idea which seemed unexplored, at least according to Ravelry.

 So, at the Knit-In marketplace I approached Jaala Spiro of knitcircus yarns with my idea.  Without a moment's hesitation she handed my a gorgeous ball of her Calliope gradient yarn in the Race to the Cookie Jar color way.  With a little math involved to make the most of this single ball, I came up with the CodaChrome cowl.  The name is a nod to both the beautiful colors and the musical inspiration of the yarn name.

The cowl will be making its debut at Chicago's YarnCon next weekend where Jaala will have kits available.  I will be teaching two classes on Saturday - End-to-End (new) and The Thrifty Knitter (second outing) - but will be hanging around her booth when not in class.  Hope to see you there!

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Accessories Issue

It seems to be accessory-palooza around here, with the unfortunate consequence of a great lack of posting, either here of in Ravelry.  (Many items have, however, made a brief appearance in Instagram.)  So, to force myself to get those photos taken, I am assembling my accessories into a little post here.

The last shall be first . . . here's my accessory in progress: fingerless gloves from Ogle Designs, both yarn and pattern.  I won them as a door prize at the Madison Knitters Guild Knit-In, lucky me!  The brown and tan colors do not photograph well (at least for someone with my poor-to-middling skills), but so look lovely in person.  A good pattern and a fun quick knit.  I see these being stolen by a teenager when complete.

At holiday time I became Barley hat crazed and knit three from recycled cashmere yarn as gifts for my husband, nephew and daughter's boyfriend.  When I found this well-aged ball of yarn I had hand dyed at Camp Stitches, I decided it had to be a Barley, too.  This is a great pattern from Tin Can Knits that really successfully walks the unisex line.  And, it's free!  I am not so excited about the color pooling on the ribbed band, but it is only a little bit that doesn't flow into the hat itself, so I (and, hopefully, it's future recipient) can live with it.  This pattern is excellent for using variegated yarns.

The other personal project is a hat from reclaimed cashmere yarn.  The pattern, bobble and cable hat by Laura Zukaite is, unfortunately, one of the worst written patterns I have ever experienced.  There are both poor design decisions (not working the ribbing on smaller needles), impossible attributes (and 18 st by 32 row gauge in stockinette, really?) and poor (actually horrendous) pattern writing (too many examples to list).  My version is what appeared in her Luxe Knits book.  According to Ravelry, the pattern is now available on the Knit Picks website.  I can only hope it has been strenuously edited.  This is my second version of this hat, and this one resolves all of the flaws I failed to correct in the first, so I am actually thrilled with the results.  I am wearing it any time the temperature dips below 30 degrees F, which, fortunately, is less often these days.

I think this item has not been posted because it really deserves much better photos.  Until that happens, I give you my Regia Zoofari mitts.  (No, although this photo was taken in the dead of winter, my skin is not actually so pale it glows.)  I love animal prints and had wanted to play with this yarn for some time.  I am not a sock knitter, but I think the two ball of the zebra print might end up as socks.

Much of my other recent knitting has been in preparation for teaching at the MKG Knit-In.  I worked an easy striped cowl from three recycled cashmere yarns.  The weights were not exactly the same, so there is a little resulting texture to the design which I quite like.  The pattern is super easy, so I plan to offer it for free here.  Hope to have it up soon.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Back In The Entrelac Saddle

(Opposite end from Instagram pic)
This weekend I had the honor of teaching at the Madison Knitter's Guild Knit-In.  It was the first time I had taught a knitting class since moving to Wisconsin almost six months ago, and what a great re-entry it was.

One of the two classes I taught was Intro to Entrelac. Although I have taught this class dozens of times, I found myself a sample short.  I have entrelac hats and purses galore, but the class project is a scarf.  And the only scarf I have is in a gorgeous but discontinued Noro yarn.  So I assembled a pile of all my Noro Silk Garden scraps and got to work.

The class project is designed to be worked in standard scarf structure - cast on a few stitches and knit rows until you cannot stand it anymore.  But I was concerned that this structure was not going to work well with such an collection of yarns.  As you can see in the pile, some yarns were much brighter than others, and I was concerned that the results would be blotchy.

So, I decided to turn my scarf on end.  I cast on over two hundred stitches and worked in long rows.  I began each row with a new color and worked with it until it ran out.  I tried to not worry excessively about how the rows blended with the colors above or below.  The result was a scarf that is decidedly brighter at one end than the other!  And what's the solution to that dilemma?  Wear the scarf folded and tucked with only one end visible.  Then it looks like I have two scarves instead of one.

 The scarf was a hit.  And I do have to admit that I am really pleased with the greater contrast between rows that was achieved here than in the typical short rows scarf.  I shall have to get to work on a pattern for Ravelry.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Selfish Knitting

We are almost into February, and I haven't yet posted about my first selfish project for 2015.  As a designer, I don't have much time to knit or crochet for myself, but I seem to have fallen into the habit of starting off the year with a new project for myself.  In 2014 it was a (still unfinished) crocheted moorish afghan.  This year it was Tabbethia's Skirt by Doris Chan.

This project was purchased as a kit from Long Island Livestock Company at VK Live! Chicago 2012, giving it plenty of time to age to maturity in the stash.  The fingering weight yarn is a beautiful blend of 68% llama, 21% wool, 7% bamboo and 4% nylon in the Midnight Magenta color way.  The only magenta I see are occasional slubs, otherwise it is a deep, tweedy purple.  I am not really a purple kinda gal, but recognize that occasionally I need to push myself out of my blue/green/brown rut.

But, what truly pushed me towards this as the 'Selfish Kickoff 2015' project was the damage to my  twelve-year-old purchased brown crocheted skirt.  Even having gained a not insignificant amount of weight over that time, the skirt still fit and looked good.  But, the catch of my bracelet caught on it and broke a couple chains.  It seems repairable, but finding the exact shade of army greenish brown seem nearly impossible.

So, in looking for a replacement, as well as a good crocheting time, I pulled Tabbethia.  I must say that Doris Chan knows her stuff.  The pattern was well written and a great match for the yarn.  Even as a relatively slow crocheter, I was able to complete the twenty-one motifs, joining as I went, in about a week.  Looks great, fits great.  My only struggle is what to wear under it.  My beloved brown skirt had an attached knit lining, making it easy-peasy.  With Tabbethia, my opinion is that the holes are too big for just a nude slip underneath.  So far I've worn it over brown leggings, but I just know I need to sew up a lining for it.  Now I need to find better fabric options than the big box stores.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fair Isle Mash-Up

Here at Woolly-Wits we've often gone to the Webs catalog for a 'which sweater is most flattering?' post.  Today, I am turning to Knit Picks for inspiration.  Their 2015 Fair Isle Pattern Collection caught my eye, and I thought the diverse styles would make for an insightful post.  After all, Fair Isle patterning is all about the horizontal stripe.  My major issue with the Knit Picks photos is that they sweaters are worn by a model, rather than the more normal human-type models often used by Webs.  A disappointment, but I hope the lessons carry over.

Beatitude Cardigan
Beatitude Cardigan by Katy Banks
Beatitude is a very classic and pretty cardigan.  The varying tones of red stand out strongly from the main cream color.  However, this design is all about horizontal lines.  Now you know that I feel pretty strongly that you should only wear horizontal stripes where you want to look wider, and I, personally, don't need to look wider anywhere.  But, I have trained myself to remember that some body types other than my own do benefit from the balance that a horizontal can bring to their figure.  Bodies that are bottom heavy (the majority of American women) are brought into balance with a strong horizontal at the shoulder.  And, bodies with broad shoulders and slim hips (commonly known as inverse triangles), can benefit from a bold hip band.
But, these body types are mutually exclusive, while this sweater combines boldness in both places.  A more pear-type knitter would look lovely in this cardigan without the band at the hem.  For the broader-on-top type, there would be more adjustment.  Beef up the patterning on the lower body by adding more bands, while eliminating all but the least solid of the upper stripes.

Flower Medley Hoodie
Flower Medley Hoodie by Daniela Nii
The Flower Medley Hoodie is very non-traditional Fair Isle.  It has panels of color patterning at the center front and back, which makes me wonder how this was constructed.  The Fair Isle panels could have been knit in a tube and steeked, or they could have been knit back and forth.  Unfortunately, the pattern description on both Knit Picks and Ravelry give no insight into the construction.  Grrrr . . .   But, we are here to talk about style, and it is not bad.  With so much patterning, the panels don't read so horizontal, and the strips of darker color at the sides are visually slimming.  The horizontal bands at the elbow do bring focus to the waist, so I would omit those if your waist is not an area to highlight.  The kangaroo pouch does add bulk at the abdomen, so you might want to leave it off if you have a bit of a tummy.  Conceptually, this is a great modern sweater.

Shetland Rose by Geoffrey Hunnicutt
On the other hand, the Shetland Rose Cardigan is quite traditional.  The colors are a more modern combination, but the strongly horizontal patterning keeps it on the classic side.  The horizontals also make this hard to wear for anyone but the slender.  Shetland Rose also has my least favorite armhole, the drop shoulder.  This choice makes sense for a steeked Fair Isle design, but it adds a lot of bulk.  Look at the deep folds between her bust and upper arm.  Not a slimming look.  It looks even worse in the catalog photo where the cardigan is buttoned closed, but that photo does not appear on-line, either at Knit Picks or Ravelry.  That photo also better reveals that the button bands were knit too loosely and gape unattractively, but that's an easy fix for any knitter experienced enough to complete this sweater.

Mull of Kintyre Cardigan
Mull of Kintyre by Anna Davis
The last design featured on this model is Mull of Kintyre.  I like that, as in the Flower Medley Hoodie, the density of the patterning makes the Fair Isle read as less horizontal.  And, if you've visited here before, you know I looooove a deep v-neck cardigan.  It's the most universally flattering sweater.  Unfortunately, I am concerned that there are some fit issues here.  Typically I would expect that a belted sweater would cross over, rather than just meet in the middle.  Is the sample too small for the model?  This is an pattern where you would need to closely examine the schematics to understand how the fit should be for your size.  There's also wonkyness on the right side.  The shoulder is pulled over and it's stretched over her breast.  Are there hidden safety pins pulling it together?  Again, tread carefully and understand the schematic before you commit to the knitting.

So, at the end here I am supposed to decide which design is most flattering.  I do like the Flower Medley Hoodie, but it harder to wear for a fuller figure.  So, I am choosing Beatitude.  Just be sure to modify the pattern for your figure type.