About Woolly Wits

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

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Woolly-Wits Asks: How Does a Vertical Line Flatter Your Figure?


Thanks to the Webs catalog for a great example of how a simple design change can make a huge difference in how a hand knit sweater enhances the body.  These are their Basic Pullover and Basic Cardigan patterns available as downloads.  Each pattern can accommodate not only a range of sizes, but a range of yarn weights.  Although the picture captions don't identify the yarn weight used, they both appear to be about a worsted weight.  Both sweaters have the same basic shape: crew neck, drop shoulder, long sleeves, no waist shaping, ribbing at hip and cuff.  And, they are clearly modeled by the same person in the same lighting.  But, look how much slimmer the model appears on the right!  In the pullover, her torso looks shapeless.  There is no feature to direct the eye other than the contrast of sweater and skin at the neck and hands.  That means the eye just circles around and around, turning the lovely model into a visual blob.  When you add the button band, there is now a design element which attracts the eye and moves it vertically.  So, she looks taller and slimmer.  Granted, a button band is a big step up in skill and time required over the pullover, but I think this is the strongest photographic evidence possible that both are the best possible investment. 

These photos are even an argument against the crowd that loudly proclaims that dark colors, especially black, are slimming.  There's no way you could convince me that she doesn't look slimmer in the vivid fuchsia cardigan than the navy pullover.  So, go ahead and live and wear color!

Monday, October 25, 2010

What Not to Knit, Couture Edition

This weekend I was sitting back and reviewing my current crop of fashion magazines.  And, I found a sweater on offer that I thought could not go without comment . . .

This is from the pages of a top, top fashion magazine.  In fact, the very top.  What it is is a Michael Kors sweater and lace skirt.  The skirt is of organic cotton, but it is unclear from the descriptive text whether or not the sweater is also.  But, it is described as a hand-knit boyfriend sweater.  I guess so, if your boyfriend is a NFL linebacker.  I think it violates every rule in the 'What to Knit' guidebook:  grossly oversized, super-bulky yarn, drop shoulders, crew neck, light color, no waist shaping.  It also seems to want to defy the laws of physics.  If this is pure cotton, it has got to weigh a ton.  And gravity is certainly going to be pulling it out of shape with a sagging shoulders and neck - and it is!

What really struck me, though, was how much it resembles every knitter's first sweater.  Doesn't everyone begin with a drop shouldered, crew neck pullover?    And, isn't the craft world a wonderful place when even a beginner knitter can produce a sweater that sells for a mere $1,295 at Michael Kors stores?  (See proof to right.)

Maybe I should rejoice in the fact that the hand knitter might have made something close to an industrialized world living wage.  After all, if it took 20 hours to knit, and she (isn't it another great assumption that the knitter is a she?) made $200 on a $1,295 sweater, that's $10 an hour.  Now, that's probably a huge stretch to think she made that kind of money, given the 100% retail mark up and the number of middle men in the process from cotton boll to store hanger, but maybe it's progress.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Woolly Wits Review of Knitty Deep Fall 2010

I love Knitty.  What's not to love about free patterns that in no way resemble something your grandma would knit for you?  But, it's not just the patterns, it's the education and inspiration too.  And, the community. 

Ahhh, the community.  Doesn't it seem like all the knitty-istas are skinny young things?  Who design sweaters for other skinny young things?  But, there are a few goodies in Deep Fall . . .

Pleased to introduce you to Lia.  She's got a lot going for her.  A fitted shape to show off her curves.  A deep v-neck to elongate the neck and add height.  And, beautiful cable patterning which pulls in just below the bust to accent the girls.  But . . . bulky yarn?  In my view of the world bulk = fat.  The designer, Mandie Harrington, says she chose the Malabrigo Chunky to make the sweater a quick knit.  However, to be it doesn't matter how fast you can finish a project if, the first time you put it on, you think , "this makes me look fat".  Because then it gets shoved to the back of the closet and never worn and there's all the knitting time down the drain.  So, I really want to love Lia but I just can't, baby.

Meet Eileen.  What a great gal.  She has that great dress up/dress down combination of lace knitting and a zipper.  This is a sweater you can see over a dress at work or with sweatpants on the weekend.  She's at a great gauge of 20, so even though the stitch pattern is highly textured, it is not adding a lot of visual weight.  The open zipper and collar create a great v-neck, and the double-ended zipper allows the bottom to open for ease of movement and additional visual interest.  (This is how I wear all my cardigans.  I button two or three buttons just below the bust to highlight the girls and make you think I have a waist, but the bottom flares open to balance my broad shoulders and cover my generous booty.)  I do wish Eileen didn't have such fat arms.  The designer cut the armholes deep to make it easier to layer, but any excess of knitted fabric adds visual weight.  This feature would make me crazy enough to open up my Garment Designer software and rewrite the pattern for a European fit - a higher, tighter armhole.  But, I think Eileen's on my To Do list.

This is the Carnaby skirt by Nikol Lohr.  I love knitted skirts (and in fact I just finished the sidewinder skirt from the fall issue).  What I love about this one is the very strong vertical lines.  The skirt is knit vertically with a heavily textured stitch to help prevent sagging.  The patterned panels are interrupted by short rowed stockinette stitch sections which cause it to flare out and create the A-line shape. The gauge of 19 sts over 4" is just on the edge of what I prefer (since, as I said above bulk = weight) since no one wants extra pounds on their hips and bottom, but I think the vertical design elements help counteract the horizontal spread.  The designer was even thoughtful enough to acknowledge that not everyone is comfortable wearing a 17" skirt, and to give directions for lengthening (or shortening). 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What TO Wear Review of Vogue Knitting Fall 2010

Clearly, blogging is not as addictive as some claim. Or else I have a highly non-addictive personality. But, in either case, after a great communication gap, is my next blog. The magazine arrived on my doorstep the day after my last post. Anyhow, these are my favorite flattering designs from the current issue:

Pyramid Jacket, Knit One Crochet Too ad, page 32

This design breaks several of the What Not to Wear Rules, but I am going to give it a pass, because it looks like a fun knit. The body is worked in bias stripes, which, combined with the v-neck and button placket, make a garment which not only makes you look slimmer, but enhances curves. The design features which don’t tickle my feather are the apparent lack of waist shaping, and the drop shoulder which is resulting in a lot of excess fabric in the upper arm.

White lace shawl cardigan, Patons ad, page 46

Yes, this is a crochet garment. I know that expressing admiration for such may cause some to think I have gone over to the dark side. But, can I admire without intent to emulate? This sweater plays on the trend of circular garments, but in an interesting take with lace panels. The great amount of excess fabric at the neck creates a super-full shawl collar, and the garment is styled with a pin to hold it together at the waist. Very, very pretty and feminine.

Design #13 by Brooke Nico, page 84 & 85

My friends are now wondering why I am now singing the praises of another circular lace design. They know I am not the girly type. But, in the interest of objectivity, as well as the knowledge that just as we all have different body shapes, we all have different tastes. This design benefits from shaping which defines a waist and creates a huge portrait collar. And, it appears weightless. The deep blue color is unusual for a lace garment, but I think it adds to its unique charm.

Design #20 by Mari Tobita, page 93

This is a nice design for the more pear shaped. The upper body has deeply textured cable panels which end at the waist and release their fullness creating extra fabric to flow over the bottom and upper thighs. The button band and single cable down the center of the arm both help create the illusion of height.

Design #21 by Norah Gaughan, p. 94

True Confessions: I worship at the temple of Knitting Goddess Norah Gaughan. As I was getting serious about knitting and staring to look at designers, I consistently found myself drawn to hers. I love her unique geometric construction. I love her so much I can even admire a sweater knit in a gauge of 3 sts per inch. Normally I would never wear (or knit) a garment this bulky. The one exception would be a vest. Since the arms are not covered, they bring the sweater back into scale – and even look thin by comparison. This design is especially nice since the tie at high waist pulls the garment in close to the body. And, the ribbing also helps accentuate curves.

Design #28 by Heidi Kozar, page 101

This is a colorful choice for an inverted triangle shape. All the pattern emphasis is at the waist and hip, and this is the figure type that can use the visual weight to balance broad shoulders.