About Woolly Wits

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

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Woolly-Wits Reviews Vogue Knitting Fall 2013

Girls with curves had several great pattern options in VK's Fall 2013 issue.  It's all about classic designs.

Usually I work my way through a magazine in page order, but this time I am starting with my favorite, the most classic of all - M. Patmos's grandfather cardigan.  Marcia Patmos is a designer I've been following for about a year now because I find her knitwear inspiring.  What's inspiring in this design is its simplicity.  The slip stitch rib is more interesting than stockinette stitch, plus it not only hugs the body, but creates vertical design lines.  A deep v-neck with shawl collar opens up the chest to elongate the body, and the buttons and button band do as well.  And the strong fully-fashioned raglan decreases create another very strong flattering design line.  What's the red flag here?  Watch the length!  As always, work to your best length.  Also, the pockets add visual bulk, so if you carry weight through the hips, you might want to eliminate them.  Me, I would work this exactly as it - if I ever have the time for personal knitting.              

Another classic design, also in red, is Yoko Hatta's jacket.  It's a simple knit - garter stitch and reverse stockinette.  As shown, there is no closure to the center front, which creates a strong, slimming vertical line.  For the sake of practicality, I would add a closure, maybe toggles?  There's a very subtle A-line shape, which is flattering for those who carry their weight through the hips and thighs.  But, if that's the case, watch the length.  It's not shown here, but in the magazine you can see that it is knit to end at the upper thigh.  Good for hiding a big bottom, not so good for hiding thighs.  So, adjust length as you need.

A note on yarn choice:  we all love merino.  But, it does pill badly.  On designs as timeless as these, I would suggest giving up a little of merino's softness in favor of a wool that wears a little harder.  Since I am not a fiber guru, I would direct you to one like Clara Parkes, whose excellent books and website could lead you to a good yarn choice.

Another excellent Yoko Hatta design is her A-line, cabled vest/sweater.  The cable twists create a strong vertical element, as do the deep v-neck and button band.  The hood is an interesting modern twist on a classic design.  I really hate that the model's pose hides the sleeve details, but the schematic tells me that they are quite short.  To hide my chubby arms, I would lengthen the sleeves to elbow length.  I would also add side shaping, which should be easily done in the moss stitch at the sides.  But would I really knit this (time issue aside)?  Probably not.  The deep texture of cables adds a lot of visual weight, and since I carry my weight through the torso, that's not a good match.  But, for those knitters who carry their weight lower, this could be a 'go'.  Just watch the length, which, again, is not shown here, but is to upper thigh.

I find Cheryl Murray's color blocked cardigan very interesting.  Of course, she's got the color all wrong for the slimming effect that we want, but the lines are good.  Love the raglan sleeve and how the raglan lines are echoed by the vertical color blocking.  And, of course I love that it's a cardigan with those lovely shell buttons.  But, let's chat about the color.  To visually slim the torso, we would want to have the lightest color in the center, and then fade to darker at the sides.  And those of us with fat upper arms really don't want them in a bright contrast color.  But, reverse the order, and you've got something that works for us.  In fact, this could be a pattern to get me motivated to drag my knitting machine out from under the bed.  Why bother to hand knit stockinette stitch when you've got a much quicker alternative?  I haven't mentioned the split hem.  This is a very trendy detail, so go ahead and work it up with the split and enjoy being at the height of fashion, but save some yarn to sew them together next year for a longer-lasting design.

The last pattern I want to present is the trendiest, but it's got interesting, and flattering, design lines.  Pat Olski's cabled color block vest has the 'mullet' hemline that a big fad.  (Why 'mullet'?  Like the 80's haircut, shorter in the front, longer in the back.)  In this design, the mullet hem not only cuts right across the bottom, it seems to cup and hold it.  I'll leave it to you to decide if your rear can stand up against that degree of attention. If not straighten out the hem (making it a much simpler knit), you've got a much more classic design.  A beautiful deep v-neck with strong contrasting bands make a good vertical line.  The contrasting color and cable patterning draw attention to the bust, so if you are generously endowed, consider working a more subtle contrast color.  A dark, medium and light tone of one color would be lovely.

Those are my favorites for VK.  Knitter's also arrived in the mail this past weekend, so I will get to that review in the next day or so.  The latest issue of the Twist Collective is also not available on-line, and since that is always good, I'm eager to review that, too.  As soon as we're past the rush of fall pattern releases, we'll chat on other topics, like fit, pattern adaptions, book reviews, etc.  Lots to discuss.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wooly-Wits Reviews IK Fall 2013

Last week I mentioned that I was disappointed with the Fall 2013 issue of Interweave Knits.  Why?  Editorial choices.

It is not a secret that the tastes and preferences of an editor are reflected in their magazine.  After all, they are paid to make choices, right?  As a result, a knitting mag editor who wears wild color combinations produces a magazine with bright, contrasting colored sweaters.  And a slim, petite female editor chooses sweaters that would flatter her.  So, while the lovely Eunny Jang edited IK, there were lots of crew neck sweaters perfect for Colorado weather.  But, they were sweater selections not so great for non-petite, non-slim women.  Which is not so say they were not gorgeous sweaters which would be a joy to knit.  They would just look lousy on our bodies.

This issue is the first under full control of the new editor, Lisa Shroyer, who formerly edited Knitscene.  Lisa is a beautiful woman complete with curves.  And, that was often reflected in her choice of patterns.  The Central Park Hoodie, from 2006, continues to be wildly popular because it looks good on virtually everyone.  So, when I picked up IK Fall 2013, I was hoping to see more of that.  Disappointment.

Update:  Thanks to a Webs podcast with Lisa Shroyer, I learned that Lisa only took ownership of this issue with the photo session.  So, my complaints about the choice of designs still lays on the shoulders of the former editor.  That means that I can again be very hopeful for future issues to offer a greater number of designs selected to fit a wide range of body types and sizes.

IK Fall 2013 has fifteen sweaters for women.  Of those, eleven have necklines which do not elongate the figure, i.e. crew necks, boat necks and turtlenecks.  Why aren’t they good?  Because they square off the torso, and who wants to look boxy?  These necklines do create a strong shoulder line, and that can work for women who carry weight in their hips and thighs because it helps to balance their upper half.  But, they still don’t elongate and visually slim the torso.

Lets look at the four more flattering neckline choices:  three v-necks and a scoop.  The Joan of Arc sweater by Deborah Helmke is right on trend for fall 2013.  That is a red flag for me, because if I invest my time in knitting a sweater, I don't want it to be classic.  The scoop neckline does do a nice job of opening up her chest and elongating the neck.  But, the curious effect of the reverse scoop at the hemline makes the model look short waisted.  It also puts a lot of focus on her hips and thighs, so I would not recommend this sweater if that's your problem area.
The first of the v-necks is an asymmetrical one by Maria Leigh (right).  That's about the only thing I like about this sweater, and I am really struggling to come up with a body type this would flatter.  

The Prisma Dolman by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark (left) is another story.  Lovely deep v-neck, fitted shape, lightweight yarn, vertical design lines, ahhh . . .   The only element marring the perfection is the excess fabric under the arms resulting from the Dolman shaping.  See the fold at her right armpit?  There's a reason the other photos show the model with her arms away from her body.  Excess fabric adds visual weight, and as a person with a generous bust and fat arms, I don't need more weight on that horizontal plain.  But, if those are not your issue, this is a very nice design for your consideration.  I would think about making it a little longer to be more on trend, but, as always, work to your best sweater length.

The last of the v-necks is the cover design, the Plowman Cardigan by Alex Capshaw-Taylor.  This is my favorite.  Which are the slimming design elements?  Cardigan, wrap, shawl collar, vertical color work, vertical garter stitch at hem.  What don't I love?  Again, me with the fat arms doesn't need a double layer of fabric and a button tab to draw attention there.  But, it would be an easy fix to work a vertical garter hem.  I would also lengthen the sleeve to the elbow.  More and more I find I am drawn to short sleeved cardigans in an outerwear weight.  They aren't too warm to wear indoors, but are often the perfect weight for outdoors in early fall or late spring.  They can even be worn over a lightweight long-sleeved sweater without creating too much bulk.  A winner for me.  And perhaps Lisa Shroyer's editorial influence can be seen in selecting it as the cover design?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Noro Magazine Spring/Summer 2013,
photo by Rose Callahan
This is one of my favorite design pieces - the Hourglass Top from the Spring/Summer issue of Noro Magazine.  Simple, but clever.  I love playing with Noro self-striping yarns to create flattering lines. Typically I do this by creating diagonals, such as my design on the cover of Knit Noro.  But here I played with horizontals.  The contrast of the hourglass design line and the wider/narrower stripes as the pieces get narrower/wider draws focus to the waist and literally does create the hourglass body shape.  And all by moving the side seams!  The top is still only two pieces.

The one struggle I did have with this design was choosing a neckline.  Originally I wanted a v-shape, since I thought it would nicely echo the diagonals of the waist shaping.  But, when sketched, I thought it really did not work.  So, I sketched out a few other options, and the second I tried the funnel neck it was a clear winner.

I've got another design coming up in the Fall/Winter issue of Noro Magazine, so keep an eye out for that issue to hit newsstands.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Woolly-Wits Reviews Knitty First Fall 2013

Back from vacation and I found the Fall issue of Interweave Knits in my held mail.  But, since I am still digesting my disappointment in that, I want to backtrack a little and review the First Fall issue of Knitty because it’s a good one.  I’ll get to IK when I am feeling more hopeful.

Knitty patterns are a reflection of their philosophy – a little walk on the wild side.  As a result, they typically skew young and hip.  That doesn’t always make them a good fit for an older, stouter knitter.  But, I love that their models are real people.  For those less familiar with Knitty, their designers are required to submit not only knitting patterns, but also publishing-ready photographs.  Since they are knitters and not professional fashion photographers (and not receiving a huge monetary compensation for their work), their models are typically themselves, friends or relatives.  In other words – real, genuine people with real bodies.  (Unless they happen to be buddies with CocoRocha and can catch her on a day off.)  Thus you have the opportunity to see the garment in a size 12 instead of a size 4, and can more easily imagine what the sweater might look like on you. 

Sinnesfrid by Madeleine Nilsson is the perfect example of a lovely vest shown on a full-figured, very real body.  And, it really shows that body off to its advantage.  Garments that conform to the body are more flattering than boxy shapes.  On the model, Sinnesfrid is a snugger fit than might be comfortable for some of us, but it is easy enough to simply knit a little larger size.  What else does it have working for it?  Side are shaped to emphasize the waist, the buttons and button band create a lengthening vertical line down the torso, and the square neckline opens up the neck.  What don’t I love so much?  The line where the pattern stitch begins cuts right across the bust.  This is not a good look for the full-figured.  I would move it up or down (probably up) so that focus is not drawn.  But, only two minor changes to a pattern is pretty good for picky me!

beauty shotVertical Ridge by Lyn Hale is a nice demonstration of the slimming effects of vertical vs. horizontal design lines.  And, it flares out from the waist for some shaping that emphasizes Lyn’s lovely hourglass shape.  A very nice design – but beware!  You want to be very careful where end your vest.  It should never be across the fullest part of your hips and thighs as it will only make them look broader.  If you are uncertain of your best length, Sally Melville’s book,   Mother-Daughter Knits: 30 Designs to Flatter and Fit, has an excellent discussion of finding your most flattering sweater length.  (Note to self:  good topic for a future post.)  If you need to alter the length, it is a little more challenging because you will need to cast on more or fewer stitches, so be sure to work a good sized swatch.  Complicating the matter is the effect of gravity, which will cause the lengthwise-knit sweater to grow, so estimate a little on the short side and block your swatch with a little extra tug across the rows.  Tug a little more for a heavier weight yarn.

Lewis by Jamie Besel is another nice sweater.  Fitted, v-neck, vertical patterning – all good.  For the bigger busted gals – be sure to knit the correct size so that the chest fits snugly without pulling.  I am not loving the way the model’s generous bosom is pulling the lace open. 

The Jackaroo cardi by the fabulous Amy Herzog is another good choice for real people.  Love the strong vertical lines at both center front and center back – so slimming!  Buttons and buttonband are another slimming element.  This sweater would not be so fabulous if it were buttoned all the way up to the neck because it would become boxy.  But, wear it open in fall or with a scarf in winter and you are set.  Did I mention the side shaping?  All good.  What’s to watch for?  The diagonal lines created by the slash pockets draw focus to the hips.  They also add volume to the tummy, so not the best choice if you carry any weight there.  But, the sweater could be worked without the pockets, although they are so cute it would be a shame.  The only thing that really strikes me as a little off is the ¾ sleeve length.  A sweater worked at a gauge of 18 sts per 4” always seems to me as more outerwear, and for outerwear I would want longer sleeves.  But, that is not a difficult trick. 

beauty shot

Not talking about Canoe. 

Do I love Checks & Balances by Boadicea Binnerts?  I do!  Would I every knit it for myself?  Never!  But maybe for my fifteen-year-old daughter . . . .