Design wrapped up in a bow

The Skirt Project Chronicles, part 1

A few weeks ago, Emma had her 21st birthday.  I thought long and hard about what to get her.  I wanted it to be special.  I wanted it to be personal.  One night, the idea came to me, fully formed: For her birthday, I would give her a design collaboration.

Let’s step back for some background.  Emma and I have been thinking about knitting and design for a long time.  We spend hours pouring over patterns, discussing fashion trends, techniques, styling, yarn, texture, colour.  Emma would frequently say “Mom, you should write a knitting blog.”  I would procrastinate.  In the meantime, I began to modify patterns more and more, concentrating on fit, learning new techniques.  Emma took a course in fashion drawing at Central St Martins and we thought about collaborating on a design project.  I would procrastinate some more; life was busy, I had too little time to knit.

In late 2011, we started this blog.  I did the knitting, and most of the writing, but Emma was very active behind the scenes.  She set the blog up, did all of the styling, photography, layout; furthermore she was the person I bounced ideas off.  Sometimes, we would have a design idea and Emma would sketch it, we would discuss it and tear it apart on every level – looking at every aspect of the design and implementation.  Despite my best intentions, however, these designs never made it to my needles.

Then, Emma flew off to Canada for university.  She could no longer do the styling and layout and photos for the blog.  I had to figure it out on my own.  I thought about stopping the blog, but I found something about it intrinsically satisfying.  I kept it up, I learned how to do things, Doug and Leah stepped up to help out.  Emma was busy at university, and I started business school (in addition to a full-time job) but this didn’t stop the long discussions of design and knitting.  Sometimes, Emma and I will spend hours on Skype, sitting thousands of miles apart, each of us online, sending links back and forth, discussing projects, patterns, yarn.

I have not had much time for knitting lately, but hoped that when my business school Stage 1 exams were done that I would be able to knit a project for each girl.  When Emma came home in May, just before her birthday, I asked her what she wanted me to knit for her this summer.  “Skirts,” she said. “all I want are more skirts.”  I began to think about skirt designs.

All of this history must have been bubbling away in the back of my mind, because one evening when I sat and thought “What will I give Emma for her 21st birthday?” – there it was:  The Skirt Project.  I would give Emma a design collaboration.  The idea was simple:  I would design a prototype skirt – a template.  It would be simple, short and snug.  We would then use the template as a blank canvas and design a set of skirts, each of them having the same shape and structure, using the same yarns, but going wild on colour and design.

Emma, needless to say, was all over it.  When I approached her with the idea, I was thinking we would create four skirts.  I suggested a few ideas for patterns, she took them and flew with them, adding more and more, bouncing them to me.  I bounced back.  Things got out of control.  A few nights ago, during our late-night Skype marathon, Emma told me that she has now conceptualized three distinct themes, with 4 skirts in each theme.  She sent me a sketch of one of them.  It blew my mind.  Seriously, this is going to be amazing.

Emma and I will chronicle the Skirt Project here on this blog.  You can watch it unfold, from knitting the template and getting the fit right, through the design project itself, with all of the sketches, knitting, discussions, tears (hopefully not many), smiles, photos, ideas, ups and downs.  We will do some collaborative writing as well as designing.  (Who knows, I might get Emma doing some collaborative knitting as well.  Emma, by the way, could be a fabulous knitter, her stitches are so neat and beautiful it is unbelievable and her instincts are perfect.  She suffers from startitis, however, and rarely finishes any of her projects.  That’s why this collaboration is so cool; it plays to both our strengths.)

I will continue, of course, with my normal (if slightly more infrequent) posting.  The posts in this design collaboration will be labelled and tagged The Skirt Project Chronicles.  I hope that you enjoy them.

 

Pattern Radar April 2014

April has seen an explosion of knitting patterns.  My favorites list can barely keep pace.  Today, I’ll show you ten of the patterns that have caught my eye recently.  I will start with the fabulous men’s fair isle waistcoat, Machrihanish, designed by Kate Davies.  I love Kate’s designs, almost as much as I love her blog.  I believe this is her first menswear pattern; hopefully, it will be the first of many.

© Kate Davies Designs

© Kate Davies Designs

Next up is the Artemis Sweater, designed by Anne Podlesak.  I think this is a really simple but effective design.  The ribbing gives it a good fit, with just enough of an architectural cabling detail to make things interesting.  I especially like the sleeves.

© Kristen Brooks Photography

© Kristen Brooks Photography

 

I’m not usually one for pink but I am quite taken with the beautiful soft pink of the Dolores sweater, designed by Dawn Catanzaro for Quince and Co.  This is such a sweet sweater, pretty and feminine.  I am a fan of Quince and Co, both of their yarns and of their design portfolio.  Their sweaters are always beautifully photographed.  And the yarns really impress me, especially with their colourfastness and vibrancy.  I have knit with their Osprey and Chickadee wool yarns, but Dolores is knit with their Tern yarn, a wool-silk blend in a fingering weight.  Its definitely on my must-try list.

© Carrie Bostick Hoge

© Carrie Bostick Hoge

Dolores is not the only Quince and Co sweater to hit my radar this month.  I really like the clean lines of the Aisance cardigan.  This is designed by Kirsten Johnstone and incorporates really clever ribbing details on the back, as well as the beautiful columns of ribbing down the fronts.  Aisance is also knit with Tern.  I think the silk really gives it a nice drape.

© Carrie Bostick Hoge

© Carrie Bostick Hoge

You might think that April would bring mostly spring sweater patterns to the fore (how terribly Hemispherist of me!)  You would think wrong! I adore the brilliant navy and white graphics in the Enige Og Tro Genser sweater, designed by Arne & Carlos.  Isn’t it fun?  Arne & Carlos do kitsch is such a good way; their designs always make me smile.  This pattern is unisex and comes with a matching hat, but if I had a 20-year old guy to knit for, I would totally make him this.

© Norsk Flid

© Norsk Flid

 

I tend to prefer winter sweaters, but this year’s crop of summer designs is pretty good.  There are quite a few that have caught my eye, including the Austin Tee, designed by Jean Chung for the Summer 2013 issue of Knitscene.  The lace is pretty and interesting, but I especially like the shape of this garment, in particular the wide neckline and the sleeves.  If I had this in my wardrobe I think it would get worn a lot; it could as easily dress up a cute summer skirt as be worn with cut-off jeans.

© Knitscene/Harper Point

© Knitscene/Harper Point

The Twist Collective is one of my favorite knitting publications.  I eagerly await every issue and always enjoy their patterns and articles.  It is a well-designed on-line magazine and their production standards are very high.  Their were plenty of pretty spring sweaters in the new edition; I will just show you one – the lovely Finery by Karolina Eckerdal.

© Linus Ouellet

© Linus Ouellet

I think this is a perfect cardigan to dress up a summer outfit.  It has beautiful drape. To really appreciate it, however, you have to see a photo of the back:

© Linus Ouellet

© Linus Ouellet

 

And this brings me to the new Brooklyn Tweed release, Wool People 7.  Brooklyn Tweed has become a powerhouse of design.  The stable of in-house designers put together by Jared Flood, along with the subtle colours of the Brooklyn Tweed yarns, and the meticulous curating of the collections make each new publication an event in the knitting world.  Three of the ten patterns I’ve chosen for this post come from Wool People7; I could easily have included them all.  First up, Arabella by Ann McCauley:

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

I’m not quite sure why I like it so much, but I love the casual ease of it, which still manages to be sophisticated.  (I am in fact considering knitting it with the four skeins of Madtosh Light in Tart which I posted about here.)

I also love Yane, by Tokuko Ochiai.  It is a very simple design, using the classic pullover shape (but extremely well-executed) and enlivened by intarsia chevrons.  I find it very appealing.  I also love this photo. You should definitely take the time to look through Brooklyn Tweed’s Look Books; the photography is always superb.

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

 

I’ll end with Pente, a great, casual, comfy, drapey cardigan using two colours of Brooklyn Tweed Loft.  I love this one.  (I have a lighweight cashmere cardigan of a similar shape and drape which I bought close to 20 years ago at the KaDeWe in Berlin; I love it to pieces but it is looking increasingly threadbare.  I think it’s past time to knit a replacement.)  Pente is designed by Carol Feller, who regular readers of this blog will know is a particular favorite of mine.  (I also must point out that I adore this model; she is so gorgeous.)

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

 

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

That’s it for Pattern Radar.  I am very nearly finished with a new knit; stop by to see it next weekend!

 

Patterns for Men

It’s been a while since I knitted a sweater for Doug (the last was Brick, which you can see here).  I am thinking it is time to knit him another and so have begun the process of considering patterns.  I started by looking through the men’s patterns that I have favorited on Ravelry in the past six months or so.  As I thought this topic might be of general interest,  today I’ll show you some of the patterns that caught my eye for one reason or another.

Rowan is one of the few reliable print sources for Men’s patterns.  Each issue of the magazine has quite a few men’s patterns; always beautifully photographed.  They tend towards lots of ease, so beware if you knit one – think carefully about how much ease you really want in your finished sweater.  The recent issue of Rowan (Rowan 55) had two men’s sweaters that stood out for me.  The first is Guido, designed by Carlo Volpi:

copyright Rowan Yarns 2014

copyright Rowan Yarns 2014

I’ve never heard of Volpi before, but this is a great start.  I like the subtle texture used here and the colour palette as well.  This sweater is knit in Rowan Purelife Revive, which is a blend of silk, cotton and viscose.  I do love silk sweaters for men.

In the same volume is the pattern Estefan, a cotton vest designed by the great colour wizard, Brandon Mably:

copyright Rowan Yarns 2014

copyright Rowan Yarns 2014

I must admit it is hard to decide what I like best here: (1) the vest, (2) the model, or (3) the stairwell.  It is a tough choice but I think the stairwell probably wins.  (Oh dear, I’m afraid I’m showing my age!)

One of the most iconic sweater patterns of all time is the Marius pattern from Norway.  It is named after Marius Eriksen, Jr.  Marius served as a fighter pilot in World War II, before he was shot down and held as a Prisoner of War.  After the war, he became a champion skier and was twice Norwegian National Champion.  His mother, Birgit, designed and knit a sweater for him based upon traditional Norwegian sweaters.  Marius later became an actor and he wore this sweater in the film Troll i Ord.  There are literally thousands of variations of the Marius pattern; drop it in your favorite search engine for some idea of its endurance and popularity.

I recently came across a very modern and spare variation in a vest, called (not surprisingly) the Marius-Vest, by Sandnes Design.  This version is in grey tones instead of the more standard blue and cream.  I like it enough to attempt to translate the pattern from Norwegian:

copyright Sandnes Design

copyright Sandnes Design

To continue with the Nordic theme, I also like the Icelandic sweater pattern Spegilsléttur:

copyright Istex.IS

copyright Istex.IS

This was designed by Bergrós Kjartansdóttir and knit with Lopi wool.  The yoke design is very architectural to me, and feels like late, cold, winter sun coming through lead-paned windows.  (With a few mods here and there, it would make a great women’s cardigan.)

Kyle Kunnecke is a new designer who I am keeping an eye on. He designs and blogs under the name Kyle William.  I think his sweaters are clever and fun.  He is really someone to watch in my opinion.  He recently released this fabulous pattern, called Colton:

copyright Kyle William

copyright Kyle William

I love this sweater!  Houndstooth is big right now, and this is one of the most appealing examples of the houndstooth revival.  I think it is very sharp.  The colour choice here is great and the line and fit are perfect.

Martin Storey has designed more sweaters than possibly anyone.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he designed a sweater before breakfast each day.  He designs for everyone – men, women, children – and in every style – classic, fair isle, cabled, rugged, elegant, slouchy.  He is one of Rowan’s star designers (pointing out again that Rowan is one of the few go-to places for men’s sweater patterns).  I like lots of Martin’s designs, but found myself really drawn to this one:

copyright Rowan Yarns 2013

copyright Rowan Yarns 2013

He calls this Neat Tailored Jacket, which I guess says it all.  I think it is a gorgeous example of knitted tailoring.  I like everything about it.  This is published in the book Sarah Hatton and Martin Storey Designer Knits.

I couldn’t write a post about men’s patterns without highlighting Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed.  Jared has catapulted to fame in recent years both as a designer and as the founder and creative presence behind Brooklyn Tweed, a yarn producer and design house.  In the summer, BT produced its first issue of men’s patterns, simply called BT Men, which was a very welcome entry into this sparsely occupied field.  One of his contributions to the issue is the ruggedly cabled Timberline:

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

This is a great example of taking a traditional style and putting just a bit of a modern twist to it.  Look, for example, at the detail in the lapels.   It is this meticulous attention to details combined with a real love of the history and traditions of knitted garments that sets BT apart.

Interestingly enough, the sweater I like the most from BT Men is one I hardly glanced at when the issue was first released.  This is the design Redford, by Julie Hoover:

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

At first glance this is so ordinary a crew neck that I couldn’t see the point; surely this is the kind of sweater that you could buy rather than knit.  I mean, there are literally miles of stockinette stitch here, all knit in fingering weight wool.  But the more I look at it, the more I like it.  The details are super.  The side panels give a very modern line, the shoulders are perfectly fit, and I like the bottom edge – the lack of ribbing makes this fresh.  This is knit in BT Loft, a delicate, tweedy, fingering weight wool which I am using now to knit my Carpino sweater.  I think it would make the perfect men’s sweater fabric – very light and soft but still 100% wool goodness with all that implies.

I’m not sure whether any of these will end up on my needles for Doug.  There are many older patterns which just may provide competition.  In the meantime it is fun to keep searching.  Writing this post has led me to two observations.  First, there is a decided lack of patterns for men.  This is really sad and also incomprehensible to me.  Second, beards are definitely in this year!

[11 Feb – edited to fix two typos]

In remembrance of knits past

Yesterday, I came across this photo of a sweater designed by Marc Jacobs for the Fall/Winter 1985 edition of Vogue Knitting:

389_2__mediumI stared at it in shock.  Why?  Because I knit this sweater, and like many of my early knits I have no idea what happened to it.  I didn’t even remember it until yesterday.

I bought every issue of Vogue Knitting the instant it hit the news stands.  I was living in Washinton DC at the time, working as a paralegal in a law firm while taking time off between college and graduate school.  I read this issue and instantly knew this sweater was for me.  I remember shopping for the Lopi yarn.  I knit the sweater in a deep charcoal grey, and the colour panels in yellow, orange and red.  It was absolutely fabulous.  I loved it!  It was so completely 1980s too.  I was young without much cash; I could never afford a designer label but I could walk around looking like a million dollars in that sweater.

The sad thing is, so many knits disappeared over the years.  Why?  I can think of a few reasons.  I was considerably thinner then, what would now be a size 0, I think.  Once I hit my late 20s I began to put on weight and then pregnancy sealed it, so I am now a fairly average size.  Perhaps as I filled out I gave some sweaters away?  Second, some things definitely got eaten by moths over the years and were regretfully and lovingly retired.  Third, I have always been a wanderer.  I was born in California, and have lived in Michigan, Florida, New Jersey, Long Island, Manhattan, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston and Tucson before leaving the US over 20 years ago and moving to Australia, Germany and the UK.  And in many of those places, I would shift houses frequently.  With all of that moving, things are bound to get lost or left behind.  Moving aross continents is expensive so you tend to whittle away all of your belongings each time you move.

Another factor is that back then I was definitely a process knitter; I knit for the sheer joy of it rather than for the finished product.  But now, how I wish I had all of my early knits carefully packed away.  (Regular readers of this blog may recall the posts I wrote two years ago about the beautiful clothing knitted by my mother and grandmother that my mom has carefully kept all of these years.  I promise, I am now reformed.)

So, here’s to all the knits I’ve lost!  You kept me sane in crazy times.  You made me happy. I learned from you and became a better knitter.  We had fun together while it lasted.

The return of the dress

I spend an inordinate amount of time checking out new knitting patterns.  I pay attention to trends, see what’s happening with colour and shape.  I have a favorites list where I keep track of anything I especially like.  This includes things I would like to knit, things I would love to wear, things that would look good on my daughters, men’s knits, garments that I think are interesting or arresting or different, knits that utilize interesting construction details, etc.  This week I noticed that the two garments I had just favorited were both dresses.

The first was the Bryn Mawr dress by Alex Capshaw-Taylor (of worldknits), published in the latest issue of Interweave Knits:

CapshawDress1_medium2I think that this is gorgeous.  I want to knit it; I want to wear it.  I really love this dress.  It jumped right away onto my “Must Knit” list.

The second dress is one that combines a really tailored look with some positive ease.  It has very sophisticated details, like in the saddle shoulders and colour blocking, and a gorgeous line, but also looks so comfortable.  This was knit by RIlilie (here is a link to the Ravelry project page).  She has knit two of them, one in lime and cream and the other shown below, that are prototypes for the pattern which will be released in September.  This would look great on either one of my daughters, but they might have to fight me for it. Rililie’s blog, knittingtherapy, can be found here.

copyright rililie

copyright rililie

I love the ease of this.  It is knit with a wool and cotton blend and has such great drape.  I could see wanting lots of these in your summer wardrobe.  All you need is a strappy pair of sandals (flats, nonetheless) and you’re set.

Then, the new issue of Twist Collective was published, and once again, I noticed a cute dress:

ossel_z_500_medium2This is Ossel, by Alison Green.  It reminds me so much of a dress that I knit for myself in the early 80s with all-over cables.  Knit in worsted weight yarn, with cables within cables and  a moss stitch background, it should be chunky, but as you can see from the back, this one is clingy and sexy:

ossel_b_500_medium2So, what’s going on?  Is the dress really making a comeback among knitters?  Ravelry has a feature in its Patterns section, where you can enter a common category, like “socks” and it will tell you the top 100 patterns that are trending in this category.  I frequently type in something (like “cardigan” or “fingerless mitts”) and see what the top patterns are.  I noticed long ago that this doesn’t work well for the category “dress”. Why?  Because if you do, virtually all of the top 100 dress patterns are for babies and toddlers.  Apparently, knitters knit dresses mostly for the under-3 crowd.  (There is an advanced search option, but that misses the point I am making here.)  I tried this yesterday and there were only 7 adult dresses among the top 100.  These included Still Light (#3), Caviar (#25) and Allegheny (#48) which are all discussed below.  The other four are either beach cover-ups or tunics.  Despite this evidence, there are some knockout patterns for knitted dresses being released.  Here I present a selection of dress patterns released within the past few years that have caught my eye.  (There are tons more, so please run your own search too.)

Still Light, by Veera Välimäki  of Rain Knitwear, is a very popular pattern.  As of today there are 1456 Still Light projects on Ravelry.  The original pattern, shown below, is knit in alpaca, but this has been knit in every imaginable yarn and in many different lengths.  It has an interesting and unusual shape and is really a great, throw-something-on-to-walk-to-the-shops kind of dress.  Easy and comfortable but still fun.

DSC_8469_small2I love the Caviar dress, by Yoko Johnston.   If I was a few decades younger, I would knit this in a minute.  I think it is adorable, and at the same time looks so comfortable and wearable that you could live in it:

IMG_6854_medium2_mediumThe Allegheny dress, by Thea Coleman, published in Brooklyn Tweed’s Wool People 1, is a great classic office dress.  It has lovely features including a chunky, assymetrical cable, fake belt detail, and a cowl collar:

JJF-9908_medium2Kirsten M. Jensen is a colourwork master.  I love her knitting, and her way with colour and pattern is amazing.  (Her Sant’Angelo sweater is a masterpiece; I aspire to it. Some day when I grow up I want to knit like her.)  She designed the cute Mekko dress which is “inspired by the Marimekko designer Annika Rimala and her iconic graphic designs as well as the mod styles of the 1960s.”  I love it:

mekko_medium

(I showed this post to Doug and Mekko was his favorite.  Do you think this is because it is so short?  Or, do you think it’s because he can remember the 60s and it makes him nostalgic.  Hmm….)

Another dress that recently caught my attention is Icon, by Kari-Helene Rain of Purl Alpaca Designs:

icon_stunning_knitted_dress_knitting_kit_medium2I think this has lovely lines, and I love the way it flows.  I would definitely not make it in alpaca, however, as in the photo, nor in a natural coloured yarn.   I can picture this in a beautiful silk blend hand-dyed yarn in a vibrant jewel shade.  Red, anyone?

Emma loves the dress pattern called 50 Shades: Ash, designed by Allison Hendrix.  This has very similar lines to the Icon dress, but is distinguished by its deep, plunging back.

IMG_7895_medium2I think I would have some problems with all of those buttons down the back.  They may be hard to sit on, but there is no denying they look really cute.  It is a young, stylish, sexy dress with lots of swing.

The very talented Sarah Wilson of The Sexy Knitter has two dress designs that I really admire.  First, is the Principesa dress, which I have showcased on this blog before:

IMG_0836_medium2It also has a sexy, plunging back.  The front of this dress is really classy, however.  It is a great combination, with a stylish front view and a sexy back:

IMG_0854_medium2At my age, I love the classiness of the front view, but have troubles with the undergarment question.  What could you wear under this?  So although Emma is drawn to this for it’s plunging back, I could easily see knitting it for myself with a back that matched the front.  It would be uber-elegant and clingy.  In a totally different vein, Sarah designed the absolutely fabulous dress Miss Holloway, inspired by Mad Men and vintage 60s style:

photo copyright Emily Brewer

photo copyright Emily Brewer

Another fabulous pattern is Audrey Totter, designed by Kristen Hanley Cardozo of Knitting Kninja:

6217788390_23d6aacba8_zI think this is so elegant and beautiful.  I love the gauzy scarf, which makes a really dramatic statement, but I’ve noticed knitters making it without; as you can see, the dress has gorgeous lines by itself.  Thus you can make this as a wonderfully fitted but simple shell, or add the scarf for a real statement piece.  (I do know if I wore this, the scarf would get tangled around my legs as I walked; I would love to wear it to lounge against my collection of vintage cars, though – I wish!)

Another really cute dress pattern using colourwork is the Woodstock dress by Heather Dixon:

web_50c1302_medium2I think this is a great office dress.  I love the striped side panels, and also the little shock of colour at the pocket linings.   I would, however, make this in a yarn with less of a halo; I think it deserves a crisper silhouette.

I am going to end this post with a dress I simply adore.  This is the Katie Summer Dress by Andrea Rangel:

DSC_0283_medium2This is a fabulous dress!  Look at the back:

DSC_0284_medium2Wow, if only I had beautiful, toned arms like this model, I would never take this dress off! Andrea Rangel is a fairly new designer who is creating some really cute and clever designs.  She is really someone to keep an eye on.

So, is this the beginning of a strong new trend in knitted fashion?  I don’t know, but I sure hope so.

Venetian Audrey modelled

IMG_6465In February, I finished knitting my Venetian Audrey sweater for Emma.  Since Emma was in Vancouver (and it wouldn’t fit me or Leah), I published a post with unmodelled shots.  Emma is now back home for the summer, so I am happy to be able to bring you some modelled photos.  (Lots of modelled pictures; this will be a photo-heavy post).

IMG_6476I blogged about this sweater quite a bit during both the planning and the knitting; you can find these posts here.  I actually found it quite nerve-wracking to knit this without Emma around to try it on.  As the sweater has a huge amount of negative ease built into it, and the ribbing makes it hard to measure properly, I spent many hours with a tape measure and a frown, trying to size it properly.

IMG_6492As you can see here, the fit is fabulous.  I must admit, however, that when I sent it to Emma, I hadn’t yet blocked it.  I wasn’t sure it needed it and didn’t want to make a mistake in the blocking; I really needed to see it on her before I could judge appropriately how much blocking it needed, if any. I was kind of annoyed that Emma didn’t send me any photos of her wearing it.  When she came home and I complained, she pointed out that she thought it perhaps had need of a little tweaking.  (Emma has very exacting tastes; on the other hand, she is invariably right about these things.) The sweater has really benefitted from a good block.  I didn’t stretch the ribbing out at all, but I pinned the lace out, and added a good three inches to the sleeves and two to the body.  (I knit the sleeves a few inches longer than the pattern called for, and then blocked them out even farther.  If you plan to knit this pattern, don’t be afraid to build in lots of negative ease, and add lots of length.)

IMG_6488As readers of this blog may recall, I re-wrote the pattern for this sweater.  First, the pattern as written is knit in pieces and seamed.  Though I don’t normally mind this type of construction, it really didn’t seem to make sense for Audrey.  So, I knit the pullover in the round, bottom-up; knitting the sleeves in the round on DPNs and then attaching them at the yoke, and knitting the yoke in one piece.

IMG_6491I also re-sized the pattern.  This is because, as I have pointed out here many times before, Rowan patterns run big.  If you think you are a size 12, you should knit your Rowan pattern in a size 8.  Since Emma is already at the smallest size, I had to do quite a bit of math to get the sweater to fit.

IMG_6470Audrey has beautiful shaping details.  The waist decreases, knit into the 2×2 ribbing, are gorgeous.  They are very architectural, with columns of ribbing moving in and out across the canvas of the sweater.

IMG_6490The yoke and neckline are also beautifully shaped.   The line of the neck is elegant, sweeping, striking.  The lace is subtle; it is a garter stitch lace, which gives it a lot of texture.  We blocked out the peaks of the lace pattern to give it an undulating edge.

IMG_6494Emma wears it here with jeans and heels, but it is easy to dress up or down.  Last year, I wrote a post about my original Audrey in which I showed how easy it is to style it in different ways, and also how flattering it is to many different body types; you can find that post here.

IMG_6515I knit mine in Rowan Calmer, but the sweater is much more elegant knit in the Madelinetosh DK.  The colour is very rich, and the ribbing controls the tendency to pool; I didn’t need to alternate skeins.

IMG_6526I  am really happy with this one.  I think the fit came out just right, I love the colour, the yarn is soft and warm, the style is sexy and classy, and it looks fabulous on Emma (even when caught on candid camera – hehe!).

IMG_6505

Knitting is not a competitive sport

The super-connectivity of modern life has transformed the craft of knitting.  Thirty years ago when I was fanatically knitting in college classes and in coffee shops and on buses, I would rarely encounter another knitter.   Now, I use Ravelry (an online knitting community of 3 million users) to “meet” other knitters, find patterns, get advice, follow trends, get a knitting fix, rant, find out about events, and discuss yarns, patterns, designers and techniques.  I also follow “knitting blogs”; lots of knitting blogs.  It is easy to find fellow fanatics once you get online.

I was taught to knit by my grandmother and mother.  Every knitter I met had learned how to knit this way, from an older, usually female knitter, who would teach the basics and then hopefully be around to help fix up mistakes and provide some guidance.  If you needed any help, the only place to get it was from asking another knitter, usually at the yarn shop, or buying a book and teaching yourself.  Now there is youtube.  If there is any knitting technique you do not know, it is almost certain you can find a video on youtube where it will be explained and demonstrated.   And, unlike asking your grandmother to help you fix your mistake, youtube is never sleeping, nor in California, nor needs her reading glasses to see.  Ravelry and youtube together are like having thousands of grandmothers (and thousands of young, cool, hip fashion stylists) who never sleep and have an answer to every question.

When I started out, my choice of yarn was very limited.  There were a few big companies who produced mass-market yarns.  Now, there are hundreds of specialty yarn producers and dyers.  Many of these are small producers, who try to provide organic, ethical yarns.  Many of them specialize in particular breeds, or in astonishing colours, or in hand painting yarn.  There are huge and very popular knitting and wool shows where small producers can sell their wares.  But their viability as businesses are based on the internet.  (A word here – I love to be able to find small producers on the internet and support their businesses.  I also believe, very passionately, that you should support your local yarn shops.  You can do both.  The world would be a much sadder place without the local specialty shop, be it for yarn or books or vegetables.  And no matter how good, or how convenient, the internet, there is nothing that compares to a fine shop run by knowledgeable staff.)

My life as a knitter has been transformed by the internet.  This transformation has been almost entirely positive.  However, there are certain things I find annoying about the whole inter-connectivity thing (and my reaction to them).  First, it is rather addicting.  I spend an awful lot of time, every day, looking at knitting on the internet.  I check to see what my “friends” are up to, I check to see what patterns are trending, I check to see if there are any interesting discussions taking place, I look at projects and yarn. Sometimes, these forays take a minute or two, but other times much more.  Now, the sad thing about this is – when I am online, I am not knitting.  In fact, I have noticed that there seems to be a trend of knitters getting so sucked into Ravelry that they virtually stop knitting all together.  (You know the type – they have 4 projects on their project page but have written 32,417 posts.)  And, the more time I spend on Ravelry, the less I feel I can lecture my kids to get off of Facebook.

I have a favorite group on Ravelry.  I follow it religiously, every single post, every photo.  It is a group in which the members strive to make 12 completed adult-sized sweaters a year.  There are lots of knitters in this group, about 1500 of them, and a nicer, more supportive bunch of people is not to be found anywhere.  Most of them, like me, never get to their goal of 12 (I knit 7 sweaters in 2011 and 6 in 2012).  Quite a few of them manage to hit their target.  This is a personal goal – there are no prizes, no penalties, just a wonderful group of people cheering you on, and providing advice, and sharing a huge love of the craft.  There are also quite a few fabulous knitters, who not only knit the most amazing, technically-proficient, stylish, well-fitted garments, but who can easily knit 30 or more of them a year.  I love to follow their progress and cheer them on from the sidelines.  Sometimes, however, I look at yet another sweater which seems to have literally flown off the needles of one of these super-knitters, and I find myself thinking “I should knit a bit faster.  Perhaps, if I knit in the car on the way to work….  or, if I knit while I’m stirring the soup….or, if I give up reading and knit instead… or perhaps, if I double my knitting speed… I can knit more sweaters in less time.”

I then have to take a deep breath and remind myself “Knitting is not a competitive sport.”  I knit because I love it, not to be faster or better than anyone else.  I wrote a post last year about my personal history as a knitter (you can find it here), in which I talked about my difficulties with deQuervaine’s tenosynovitis, a repetitive stress disorder, and how it led to surgery and many years of not knitting.  In order to knit again, I had to purposely slow down my knitting, and I also have to purposefully limit the amount of knitting I do each day to avoid hand pain.  Trying to keep up with the super-knitters would be crazy (and, let’s face it, impossible).  To all you super-fast fantastic knitters: I love that you can do this.  I think you are amazing.  In the very back of my mind, I really, really want to knit 38 sweaters a year to your 37.  But, hey, knitting is not a competitive sport.  I will make a sport of watching those beautiful projects trip off your needles.  And I will console myself with the fact that I spend a hell of a lot less money on yarn than you do.