About Woolly Wits

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

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.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My Finest Plaid Pullover, Vogue Knitting, Winter 2014/15

Vogue Knitting Winter 2014/15
copyright SoHo Publishing

I think I may have hit the pinnacle of my plaid knitting.  How am I going to top this?

This was a thrilling project for me, not just because of the fabulous outcome.  This was the first time that a magazine editor approached me, asking for a contribution.  Just what every designer dreams.  Just at the worst possible time.

The call to discuss my contributing a plaid design to VK's winter issue came in late July.  In the week between the first call and working out some design issues, we sold our house and simultaneously bought a new house a state away.  My two teenagers were thrown into hysteria, as we had to be settled in Wisconsin by the start of school the day after Labor Day.  And, I was under so much pressure I was mainlining the Maalox.

But, those kind editors at VK smiled upon me and gave me a very generous six week deadline.  This was very good, as I literally could not knit for the three weeks before the move.  I was so busy packing I had almost no time, and just could not physically knit when I had a moment to sit.  So much for Elizabeth Zimmerman's admonishment to knit on with confidence through all crises!

So, we arrived in Wisconsin, dropped the boxes, and I knit.  So, as you look at this lovely sweater, you are literally seeing the first three weeks of my life in Wisconsin.  Looks great!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Make It Work

This fall I took a break from knitwear design work as I was working on improvements to our new home.  So, I took the rare opportunity to knit a sweater for me.  I also used the opportunity to  use some stash yarn acquired from String Theory in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  This project proved more of a stretch than I had anticipated, but I am happy with the results.

As I said, I  bought the yarn at String Theory over a year ago.  I purchased it to use up store credits from their summer sidewalk sale.  (You de-stash, they sell it and you earn store credits.  Great concept.)  I just love the teal color of this Feederbrook Farm worsted weight BFL.  I knew it had to be a sweater, although I generally prefer a dk or lighter weight for my own sweaters.  But the biggest issue was that they did not have enough of the teal for a sweater quantity for me.  There was a lovely dark green color, and in a fit of inspiration, I decided that I could use green for the bands and cuffs. The first 'make it work' moment.

The second 'make it work' moment occurred this fall when I had decided on a pattern for this project - Sablier by Nell Ziroli - and pulled out the yarn to wind it.  One of the teal skeins was definitely not like the others.  When shopping, I had just grabbed all the hanks, assuming they were the same dye lot.  Not so.  So, with more Tim Gunn inspiration, I decided to knit the back in two row stripes of the off shade and the others.  It had to be stripes, because there would not have been enough to work the entire back in the single skein, and the two colors were different enough that to try to transition from one to the other in a single piece would have been obvious.  It also would have looked odd to try and knit one sleeve with this skein.  But, since all the cabling was on the front of the cardi, and the back was plain stockinette, I thought it could work.  

I think it worked.  From the front you have lots to look at - cables, button band, collar, color contrast - and from the back you have some subtle interest from the stripes.  I love the pockets on this design, as I seem to be all about the pockets lately.  (As does the rest of the knitting world.)  My Sablier has not gone into heavy rotation, as it is, indeed, a little heavy for indoor wear.  But with a windchill of -23 F today, I think I will wear it to my afternoon knitting group.  If I am brave enough to venture out, that is.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Downton Abbey, Season 5 and a Coupon Code

My design: Modular Lace Blouse

Last night (Sunday), was the long-awaited premier of the newest season of Downton Abbey for those of us in the US.  (The British season begins in the fall and ends with a Christmas episode.) 

To celebrate, Interweave/F&W Media is running a special promotion on digital  issues of Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits 2014. Below is a link to the issue from the Interweave Store and a coupon code for 20% off on this issue (active January 8-16). 

Coupon code (active 1/8-1/16): DOWNTON20

This is a fabulous issue filled with great designs from top designers.  If you'd like a sneak preview before purchasing, pop over to Ravelry and search on the issue.  When you find it, only three designs will appear but you can click on the 'view all 26 patterns' button so see them all, and click on any individual design for more details.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tweet Tweet Danger*

I plan to have one (or two) more topical posts this week, since I will be stuck at home with remodelers for the next few days.  But I had to pop in with this cutie - a Chubby Chirp from Rebecca Danger.  I knit him up as a charity project for the Madison Knit Guild.  It turned out so adorable that I play to work up a few more for them, and a couple for my nieces for Christmas.  Is this my new addiction?  Good thing this one is calorie free.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Tale of Two Vests

These past two weeks I have been busy with visitors, my daughter's musical and home remodeling projects that are finally getting underway, so I have been slow to post about my two new vest designs.  Both are in books from Sixth & Spring, the book division of Vogue Knitting.  But, the two vest, while wildly different, both reflects aspects of my design passions.

9781936096817-98_smallThe first is Sky Beauty from Vest Bets: 30 Designs to Knit for Now Featuring 220 Superwash® Aran from Cascade Yarns.  In my mind, this was 'the hourglass vest', as it's intention is to allow the colorblocking and strong outlines create an hourglass figure.  In that sense, I think it is quite a successful design.  I also enjoy how sporty it seems because of the dark outlines, and the combination of sporty and feminine is not easily achieved.  

In designing Sky Beauty, the color combination was the most significant factor.  To make the sides visually fade away thus slimming the figure, they need to be darker than the center.  But, should the outlines be darker still?  I created a couple different options in my proposal.  The first option is the direction the editors chose to go, only substituting navy for the royal blue in the outline.  The two second options both place the darkest color at the side, and then use a mid-tone color for the outline.  They are more slimming, but lack the sporty flair of the first option.  This is why it's a great idea to sketch a color combination before committing to the knitting.  

Line2_small2My second vest design, the County Line Vest, is from Modern Country Knits: 30 Designs from Juniper Moon Farm by Susan Gibbs.  Surprise!  It's plaid.  But, I think this may be the nicest of my plaid designs.  This design uses the two-stranded intarsia and applied crochet techniques combined.  The two strands of Findley worked up like a dream.  The fabric is nearly weightless, but with a luminescence.  It really is just gorgeous, and the photos don't do it justice.  

Line1_small2Color was again important here, so the editors had me work up several swatches of color combinations.  I have not yet received my designer copy of the book, so I can't say whether they made the final cut.  Maybe'll I will dedicate another post to discussion of those options when it arrives.  

And don't you love the kid in the photograph?  I have always had a weakness for goats, but can't imagine how they got this babe to kiss the model.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Stylin' Falkirk

Plaid knitted jacket with tie-beltshoulder detail

The fall issue of the e-mag, Twist Collective, included my plaid cardigan, Falkirk.  Friday it appeared in their regular blog feature where they show ways to style their sweaters. Here's the nice things they had to say about it: "Fall and plaid are a really excellent pair. At my friend Alysse's family cottage, there are a bunch of plaid shirt-jacket things (I call them lumberjackets) that everyone wears when it gets chilly at night. Falkirk is the refined version of that. Super cozy, and exactly what you want to wrap yourself in on a icy night, ideally near a roaring fire or wood stove. The details keep it looking super polished; the contrast edge on the buttonband and collar, the perfect rustic buttons, and the perfect saddle shoulder. Take a look!"  
three outfitsI love the way they paired bright colors from the plaid with the cardi because it reads as a neutral from a distance.  I also love the 'sexy secretary' shoes they matched with the first two outfits.  And, it's easy to miss, but I especially love the touch of leopard under the cardi in the red pants outfit.  So, how would you wear Falkirk?