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Posts from the ‘Knitting’ Category

Knit to Flatter on Craftsy

Full disclosure:  Amy and I have been friends for several years.

I was pregnant and my shape was rapidly changing back when Amy was working out the original Fit to Flatter tutorials, and I have benefited greatly from what amounts to ongoing personal consultations over the course of several years.

I watched (and informally modeled, on more than one occasion) as Amy knit the book sweaters.  Through this process I’ve learned a lot about what works with my shape, and how to tailor sweaters to both fit well and flatter my unique body shape.

I say this, because I want you to know that although I am already familiar with the material, and have already put the techniques into practice to produce wardrobe staples, I found Amy’s Knit to Flatter class on Craftsy to be a truly worthwhile experience.  I cannot express with words how much I wish there had been something like this when I first began knitting 10 years ago – it would have saved me about 6 or 7 years of knitting failures.*

Knit to Flatter

These beautiful photos by Karen Pearson are from the book Knit to Flatter by Amy Herzog, due out on April 2nd.

I was deeply moved by the class discussion on body image (and our distorted view thereof) and the role clothing plays in our self-presentation.  I was impressed by how detailed and informative it is (more on that next).  It’s not new material to me – I’ve been discussing these ideas with Amy for a long time.  But the class still blew me away.

I found Amy’s discussion of silhouette and the basic principles to creating visual balance within your particular silhouette useful not only for knitting, but for selecting my clothing in general.

Her instructions and reasoning on using set-in sleeve construction were game-changing for me.  Within the knitting community, there is a strong move toward seamless knitting, to avoid finishing/seaming/armholes, etc.  I was included in that – I was intimidated by seaming, and by set-in sleeves.  Also, I wanted to spend my crafting time actually knitting, not seaming.  Once I got over that fear and just did it already, I am fully converted to the benefits of a seamed garment with set-in sleeves.

Moreover, the idea of using shoulders as the base measurement was particularly poignant for me, as a broad shouldered, small-busted figure, anything that is sized for my bust is guaranteed to be too small everywhere else.  (I feel like the Incredible Hulk, bursting out of the armhole seams.)

This is also directly applicable to women with large busts – their bust measurement has no correlation to shoulder size or waist size, and so choosing a sweater on bust size alone is actually foolish when you come to think of it.

And her step-by-step instructions on how to actually make the modifications are the final gem of the course.  Amy takes the mystery out of creating beautifully tailored sweaters.

Having gotten to spend some quality time with the book, what I can see now is how the class and the book work together. Much like school (although, probably more useful than about 98% of the classes we took in school) the book serves almost as a text book companion to the material covered in class, with practical exercises (the sweater patterns). In class, Amy brings those concepts to life – you can see her passion on the subject as she personally walks you through each step from the most basic ideas of body image to the most detailed of modification calculations.

But the book gives you physical materials to refer back to, make notes in, and pull off the shelf each time you see a sweater pattern you love… because you know it’s not worth knitting an entire sweater (the time! the money!) unless it’s going to fit you perfectly, and customized to flatter your unique figure.

You know how we each have that one knitting friend who is a prolific knitter of beautiful, well-fitting sweaters?  And you wonder why you can’t do it, but you figure it’s just because you’re not a sweater knitter?  That’s not actually true.  This class will help you become the sweater knitter you never thought you could be.


*There’s a pervasive attitude that we might spend all this time knitting on projects but that it’s kind of a craps shoot on how it might turn out.  Knitters spend so much money on yarn, spend so much time knitting a project, and even if the project turns out beautifully, it’s often a mystery if the project will end up being something we’re happy with.  Or a mystery why this beautifully knit sweater ends up making us feel uncomfortable.

We loved it in the pattern picture, right?  We knit it with the right yarn, to gauge, and with great skill.  Then why don’t we wear it?  The pages of Ravelry are littered with these projects, my own included (although I recently cleared much of them out, because I hated looking back at all that waste).

It doesn’t have to be that way.  This is the class that breaks that cycle.


Afterlight Begins

For such a simple-looking pattern, Afterlight is all about the details.

I was particularly delighted to see that the pattern instructs the knitter to cast-on using the tubular cast-on, which creates a neat, beautiful, and extremely stretchy cast-on edge in 1×1 ribbing.  It’s been my secret favorite knitting technique for awhile, as I find it much easier to tension than the Italian tubular cast-on, with cleaner results.

I am almost finished with both sleeves, and then it’s onto the body…

New Towne

Another beautiful wardrobe staple designed by Amy Herzog:

New Towne - Small

Courtesy Caro Sheridan of Splityarn

I could wear this sweater every day.  It’s warm, soft, luxurious, and works with a number of pieces in my wardrobe.  I followed some of Amy’s suggestions for my body type (my broadest point is across my shoulders) and so lengthened the body and made the sleeves 3/4 length.

It fits like a glove, and it flatters my (sometimes difficult to work with, see: broad shoulders) body shape.

You may say to yourself, Jackie is crazy!  Look at that picture! Her shoulders aren’t broad!

Let me assure you, it’s not a problem with my self image – it’s concrete measuring: my shoulders are 2 inches broader than the average for someone with my bust size.  My upper bust is actually 2.5 inches LARGER than my bust.  (I blame the children, they did a number on my rib cage.)  The reason you can’t tell is because I modified the sweater in accordance with Amy’s guidelines, and it makes me look proportional.

(Put me in a deep scoop-neck, and I look like a linebacker.  This is a fact.)

Also, the yarn was a dream to work with.  I knitted the sleeves like 8 times trying to get gauge (notes on gauge below) and I didn’t even care, because it was like knitting with a fast cloud.


Pattern: New Towne

Yarn: Blue Sky Alpaca Melange

On Ravelry here

Notes on gauge:  I didn’t know that alpaca can be tricky to block.  Unlike wool, which you can pretty much throw down on a towel and lay flat to dry, alpaca will grow significantly if let to hang (even a little tiny bit, taking it out of the blocking tub) when wet, and is very suggestible to how you lay it out when blocking.

The knitting the sleeves 8 times was really my inexperience with blocking alpaca.  Some care when handling wet, and the use of blocking pins and a ruler is all you need to avoid this issue.

Knits in Action

Yesterday I, along with Eric, my 3 brothers and their friends, my uncle and his friends, went to the Patriots AFC Championship game in Foxborough.  In total, we had a caravan of 8 cars.

The tailgating was awesome.  We had food stations with slow-cooked pulled pork, ribs, chicken wings, chili…. but the pièce de résistance was deep-frying chickens, and then anything else we could put in the deep fryer – meats, cheese, PB pretzels, cookies.  We all reverted to our inner 15 yo boy selves around the deep fryer.

(I don’t know who the weird guy in the background is, and yes, that’s a TV hooked up so we could watch the NFC Championship game.)

I don’t want to talk about the game, or what an absolute spanking it was.  The overlooked story of this game was the wind chill, and the battle of gear vs weather.  I came to the fight prepared:

SnowmatesEndpaper Mitts layered under Bella’s Mittens, to allow fingertips for picking at chicken or opening beer.

These handknits were but a small portion of the wool.  I had knee-high smartwool socks under a wonderfully soft and warm pair of Red Maple alpaca socks I got at Rhinebeck from Mel & Dave.  I had full-body woolen long underwear, under another pair of long johns, jeans, 2 woolen sweaters, a down coat, a giant woolen scarf, lined woolen hat with earflaps, with my down-filled hood up and pulled snug.  I had hand warmers and toe warmers stuffed in mitts and shearling lined boots.

Overkill you say?

The opponent was a sustained wind in 18 degree weather, for a windchill of 5 degrees F (That’s -8 / -15 C for the rest of the world.)  Our seats were about 10 rows from the very top of the stadium, so I don’t know, we were probably 10 stories up in the air, with no shelter.  In fact, what’s the opposite of shelter, because it felt like the stadium created a wind tunnel of brutality.

I stood in this for 4 hours straight.  Almost comfortably.  Almost.  I still have all my fingers.

The real victor last night?



I realized late last night that I need to rip my current project back about 2/3rds of the way back to the beginning.  The project will be perfectly serviceable if I don’t rip, but I know that I won’t be happy with it unless I do.  I SHOULD be eager to rip back, get going, and churn it out.

But instead I’ve done this:

And this:

And this:

I didn’t even realize what I was doing (you know, other than having food ready for the week, of course.  What a help it will be to have all this on hand.  Etc. Etc.) until I churned the 3rd baked piece out, had nothing left in the queue, and thought, I should really rip that project out now, and then, what about some rice pudding for dessert tonight….

It’s out of hand.

2012 Year In Review

I think it’s obvious what I spent my last year doing:


Snapping fuzzy pictures of my kids with my iPhone, as one does.

What hasn’t been showing up, on my iPhone, Flickr, blog, Ravelry, or anywhere really, has been the upswing in knitting content.

This I resolve to change.

People, I have been sleeping through the night for a few months now, and I’ve spent the past year or so re-establishing my career as a financial services and small business professional (accounting, tax, financial analysis and cash flow management services!), and it’s a wonder it didn’t happen earlier, but really it was only a matter of time.

(I suspect it was the combination of consistent sleep and regular childcare.  The combination is like alchemy.)

My professional training has seeped into my knitting.  I have spreadsheets.  Concrete, measurable goals.  A master schedule even.  Ideas.  Lots of ideas.

I expect you’ll see some of the results right here on this here blog.

2013, here I come!

Rhinebeck Sweater

Rhinebeck, as always, was great.  We stayed in the Beetlejuice house again, ate ridiculously delicious food, stayed up way too late, and reveled in the company of a 3 day sleepover with close friends.

I was happy to have a well-finished, well-fitting Rhinebeck sweater.  This does not always happen.


All photos courtesy of Caro (Splityarn).

Somewhat coincidentally, the sweater is Snowmates, from Knitting it Old School by Caro and Stitchy McYarnpants, pattern by Tami George and engineered by me.

I knew I wanted one the second I tried on the sample for the book.


What I really love are the details:


Like the Jackie O neckline with contrast hem


and the colorwork blocks.

Added bonus: the pattern calls for Cascade 220, my favorite workhorse yarn.

It was a good weekend.

Sweater Weather

It has been prime knitting weather the past few days – the autumn chill has arrived, with clear, crisp, 72 degree days.  As I type by my open window watching the boys play outside, my fingers are chilled, and my coffee lost its heat almost immediately.

Fortunately for me, I am about 3 rows from finishing Snowmates.  It emerged from its third re-knitting of the hips and a sound blocking in glorious triumph, and by that I mean it fits perfectly.  As if it were tailor-made for me.  Which, of course, it was and is the whole point of handknitting for one’s self, so, yay.

I embarked on a swatching adventure for New Towne, after starting on a sleeve with the hopes it would be a good gauge swatch. It took knitting 5 different half-sleeves before I admitted I would not simultaneously hit stitch and row gauge as listed in the pattern.

Sleeve 5 of 7.  Two more and I’ll have myself a hot Borg.

With some guidance from Amy, I chucked caution to the wind and with my modified gauge I’m knitting two sizes up and hoping for the best.  I’m almost done with the 2nd full sleeve at this gauge and size, which at this point including all the other sized-sleeves I’ve knit thus far, means I could gift this cardigan to an octopus, were I so inclined.

I wish I could say I minded though – the yarn is a dream to knit, and the sleeves are uber-portable, so I’ve been happily cranking them out in the car, at the zoo, at the playground, at the pool, etc. etc. etc., in lieu of Snowmates, the worsted-weight pullover that requires only 3 more rows at the turned hem.  Not quite so portable, that one.

So, knitting continues apace, and I’m thinking that I’ll have 2 new sweaters to wear just in time for the cool weather.  Perhaps not quite in time, because I would definitely be wearing New Towne right.this.minute if it were done.

Are you up on your fall knitting?  Thinking about a Rhinebeck sweater, or already working on one?

In which I speak to Quilters.

Box bags, yo.  I made some.

Blue Zipper Bag is sweater-sized, and Green Zipper Bag is mid-sized (though I affectionately refer to it as The Pudge Bag.)  Perfect for a child’s sweater project, several of which are in my queue for the fall.

Crazy gratifying, and also addictive:  I have several more cut and ready to sew.  I want to go back to IKEA for more fabric, and given that I am still scarred from my last trip, that is saying something.

The sizes have been determined by the lengths of the zippers I had in my stash, and of course , sizing on-the-fly is one of the benefits to sewing something one does not intend to wear.

This has been a wonderfully experimental learning process.  Like tweaking a recipe to your own tastes…

I don’t want to beat a dead horse (though now that I think about it, who wants to beat a live horse?  Really??  Why do we say these things??), but in case you’ve been living in a cave for the past half-decade, there are many, many tutorials out there for making box bags.  I will let Google give you the comprehensive list.

I perused several, but mainly I used this one by One Shabby Chick, because it was for an unlined bag.  I didn’t need or want a lining, because I used home decor weight from IKEA, not flimsy quilter’s cotton, which requires interfacing for its shape.

I had to go to a Local Quilt Shop for some thread, and after asking if they carried home decor weight fabrics (no!) and explaining that I was not in for the August sale on Batiks (but that I do indeed know what a Batik is!) we had a nice little cross-cultural exchange.  I described the box bags, one of the quilters admitted to keeping a little knitting project on the side at times, and we all shared a goodwill moment of maybe-your-thing-isn’t-really-my-thing-but-we’re-all-craftspeople.

I’m definitely a knitter (or more broadly, a yarn/fiber person), but I also dabble in sewing.  I think if you have one main craft, it’s likely you spread into other side crafts as well, it’s hard to avoid.

Or is it just me?  I feel like I’ve seen knitters foray into sewing, quilting, embroidery in several forms, even canning and preserving feels more crafty and less cooking at times….

What’s your side thing?

Worth It.

Last Friday I went to IKEA.

This boded poorly for me, for two reasons:  I hadn’t been to IKEA since moving to our house 3 years ago, and I went alone.

I should have known better, but I was out there for a client, so no kids (an in-and-out trip, thought I!) and I didn’t have carseats with me (all the better to fit things, thought I!), and away I went.

4 hours later, drenched in sweat, bedraggled in wrinkled work clothes, I hauled away two carts laden with office furniture, children’s furniture, and all the assorted things that make IKEA so compelling to shop at (dish towels! tea strainers! train tracks! fabric! all-the-things!)

EJ ended up with a new big boy bunk bed and I ended up with a scrap of home decor weight fabric destined to be a box bag:

Seriously.  Even though I wanted to die trying to load up my car in 105 degree parking garage August gas-fumed heat, I still freaking love IKEA.