Archive for January, 2013

DSCN0047 DSCN0052 DSCN0053 DSCN0054Just some quick WIP photos of the January pages.

I may have developed a high tolerance to the cold but at a balmy, sunny 10C I felt warm enough to take my fibre outside to play with.  It was a little windy, but that turned out quite useful for my silk spinning, since it allowed me to let most of the piece I was working with float out of the way, and avoided it sticking to my skin most of the time.

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As you can see, there’s a decent variety of fibres to play with.  I decided to try that loose clump of fibre sitting loose on the paper in the photo above, first.  I didn’t know what it was at first, but liked how it complimented the purple custom blend.

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Photo above shared for two reasons – firstly to demonstrate how the colours look together.  Secondly, because that is the first photo I’ve taken of my purple fibre that looks true to colour.

Anyway, I opened up the clump of sticky, delicate silk to discover that it was actually a stack of about 4-5 silk hankies!  Albeit rather messy hankies, distorted from being in the container for, presumably, longer than intended, but silk hankies nonetheless!

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I’m afraid I don’t have any pictures of my drafting and spinning the hankies.  The process was too fiddly and the hankies too light for me to stop mid-work to take a picture.  But I basically followed the technique demonstrated here.  I had never worked with hankies before, so I don’t know exactly how they are supposed to feel, but mine seemed messier, fluffier and more brittle than the ones I’ve seen people use on youtube.  Not surprising, since the little packet of samples I bought was being sold by someone clearing out their stash, but something for me to keep in mind for when I buy hankies properly.  The first couple, I tried to draft into some of my merino and spin the two up together.  In the end, the merino was so much shorter and softer that I found it easier to draft the silk and then just hold some merino in my hand as I spun, pulling it out and letting it catch onto the sticky silk threads.  What I ended up with was a messy, but interesting, tiny little mini skein. Click the pictures to embiggen!

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I only made a tiny little sample, but I think it’ll be nice to try using it as an art yarn for embroidery, and try incorporating it into my samplers for February.  The rest of the caps/hankies I spun on their own, and I plan to ply them with some merino when I get the chance.  I was amazed at how thin and smooth a yarn I was able to spin from the silk, considering how inexperienced I am.  I imagine with better quality hankies it’d be possible to produce something quite lovely with relative ease.  Click the pictures to embiggen!

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I have a few different fibres left to play with, and I’ll post about them as I work with them.  I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with the different fibre types, especially the carrier rods and throwster’s waste.  Click the pictures to embiggen!

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As you already know, I’ve been having a lot of fun playing with the deep purple custom blended merino fibre I purchased from World of Wool.  I’m spinning most of it as simple singles, but have reserved some to experiment with, and had an interesting, if failed, experiment at incorporating nepps into handspun.

Well, I got lucky!  I’ve always wanted to try new and different fibres.  Merino is lovely to work with, but I’m intrigued by silk, alpaca and other fibre types.  What’s put me off trying new fibres so far is the cost – I know I can work with merino, and it’s relatively cheap.  The risk of spending money on expensive fibres only to find I make a mess with them is off-putting when you’re on a tight budget.  But I’ve always made a point of watching Ebay for bargains, and recently managed to pick up this adorable, mini sample pack of silk fibres for under £2!

It’s a really cute like pack, contains several different kinds of silk fibre and is ideal for someone like me.   I really love the different greens, from the colour of Spring peashoots to seafoam green.  The colours are almost a perfect contrast to my plummy, purple custom blend, so I’m going to try incorporating them into some of that and see how it goes.  Watch this space for updates!

I love knitting.  I’ll happily spend several hours at a time carefully knitting stitch after stitch and row after row, and with simpler patterns can easily devour an entire season of a TV show in a week, while knitting away.  But it took me a very long time to graduate from knitting hats, gloves and market bags to knitting actual clothing.  I currently only own one single piece of clothing knit by myself, and am working on a matching piece as a gift for my mother in law.

It’s no mystery why I’ve delayed knitting sweaters for so long.  Knitting takes time and effort, as well as the cost of the yarn, and as a plus size woman there is nothing worse than spending what would pay for 2-3 shop-bought sweaters on the yarn required for a single hand-knit one, then spend months working on it, only to have the result be an unmitigated disaster.  In fact, when I eventually did bite the bullet and bravely dive in to making my very first sweater, the results were terribly disappointing.

The Moody, by Elena Nodel, looked like a perfect pattern.  It was knit in aran-weight yarn, making it a relatively quick knit as well as being thick and warm for Winter.  The simple striped effect was flattering on the model, and the raglan sleeves meant that, despite being worked in the round top down, it’d still have a nice shape in the shoulder and armpit.  The open waist and chunky collar gave it a really cute, youthful look, when so many cardigans made available to plus-size women can be conservative in design, intended more for women in their 40s and over than those of us in our teens and twenties.

It also came with many modifications – different sleeve lengths, optional pockets, and optional increases and decreases at the bust, waist and hips which should have promised an excellent fit.

I took so much care with the pattern, rewriting it specifically for my measurements, sizing down to account for the generous positive ease, adjusting the sleeve and cross-back because I knew they would come up large on me.

It should have been perfect.

But the results were far from what I wanted.

Here’s a picture of me without the cardigan on.

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And here’s the wholly unflattering result, just waiting for me to knit the collar.

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I’m sure you can see the problems with the result, but let me be clear.  The sleeves, despite being adjusted for a smaller size, were incredibly baggy, to the point that I could actually fit my thigh in them, and despite being knit as short as possible – starting the cuff pretty much as soon as they were joined in the round – they reach my elbows.  The body is massive on me, despite being reduced, and looks shapeless.  The neckline gives the illusion that my bust – admittedly rather large in any case – makes up 90% of my torso.  And I looked dowdy, stuffy and stiff.

What went wrong?  Let me be clear, the problem is not with the pattern exactly.  I will admit that the pattern itself did have some issues that are very common when standard-sized patterns are upsized by the designer to plus sizes; the sleeves and cross-back appeared to be increased linearly with the rest of the pattern, when these are areas that, on most plus size people, do not usually get bigger at the same rate as the rest of them.

However, the main problem was simply that the pattern was poorly chosen by me.  I fell in love with the design having seen it worn on several women – all of them much slimmer, and with very different shapes to my own.  The only plus size person shown wearing the pattern was wearing it with multiple modifications which meant I couldn’t see what the default shape would look like on a larger lady.  I know, normally, that high necklines which entirely cover my chest do not suit me, and I know that vertical lines with nothing to break them up across my bust do tend to make me look bigger in the chest.  But I ignored my own common sense in favour of playing with a fun pattern.  And the end result was a waste of two months work, and having to frog the entire piece back to the start and use the yarn for something else.

Pretty much all of the flaws inherent in the pattern itself would have been forgiveable if I had simply chosen a better pattern for my shape to begin with.

I learned my lesson, and made a point of writing out a checklist of requirements for future patterns, taking account of the good and bad of the pattern I worked with.  So now, I only look at a pattern for myself if it is:

  • Aran or Worsted weight yarn
  • Sleeveless or set-in sleeves, or can be modified for those
  • V-neck, scoop neck or square neckline, or has angled textures and features breaking up the bust and neckline
  • Negative ease or only low amounts of positive ease, for a better fit

Following these preferences, and looking for patterns that also included my favourite things such as cables, colour-work and lace, led me to this design, which I think we can all agree looks much, much better on me.

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This pattern has everything.  The original pattern has sleeves, which are set in rather than knit raglan style, making it easy to adjust them to fit.  I opted for a sleeveless style, but could easily change my mind later and knit the sleeves whenever I feel like it.  The plunging v-neck flatters my bust, and the cables – which you might think would look bulky and too large on my bust – actually work to break up the shape of my chest very nicely.

Even better, the way this pattern is designed to drape and stretch to the shape of the wearer meant I didn’t need to adjust anything at the bust, waist or hips.  All I needed to do was shrink down the armhole a little – which was incredibly easy due to the design – and knit the back piece a size or two smaller for my crossback.  With minimal adjustments needed, there was very little that could go wrong.

There are several other patterns that I think will work equally well, and which I plan to make for myself when time allows.  They are very different from each other, but each have similar elements which work for me.  See if you can spot the flattering elements in the Fargo, the Cabelina, the Royale, the Plexus, the Twists and Diamonds or the Ruth.

It’s easy to avoid picking the wrong pattern if you stick to a few simple principles.  Identify what you like about the clothes you already own, and research what these design elements and fabric elements are called in knitting patterns.  Only buy patterns if at least one picture shows the entire thing, with sleeves, collars and other areas visible and not hidden by unusual poses.  Check on Ravelry to see what other knitters have made using the same pattern – look specifically for people similar in size and shape to you.  At least for the first couple of items you knit, choose patterns which are versatile, relatively easy and which do not require heavy alterations in order to fit you.  And if in doubt, check the Ravelry forums and ask for advice from other knitters.  They will be happy to tell you if they think the pattern will suit your shape, and to suggest modifications that you may want to use.

Posted: 28/01/2013 in Uncategorized

Fellow plus-size knitters! Feast your eyes on this lovely cabled freebie!

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It’s finished!!  And, I love it!  The yarn is soft and warm, the cables are classic and beautiful, and the darned thing fits the way it should!

I’ve given it a Welsh name -Olwen- just for the heck of it and I’ve graded it across 6 different sizes so hopefully something will work for you.  It’s my first graded sweater pattern.  Pretty exciting!  🙂

For those who would like to recreate this, click the pdf link above or here’s the spill:olwen

Skill Level- Intermediate

Finished Measurements (Chest) in inches– 32 (35, 38, 41, 44, 47) Shown in size 41 with no ease.

Yarn- Knit Picks City Tweed HW (or other worsted weight yarn)  890 ( 981, 1112, 1244, 1365, 1474) yds or 6 (6, 7, 8, 9, 9) balls.

Gauge- 3.8 stitches per inch in moss stitch with larger needle.  (size 8-10 US needle)

Directions:

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Using smaller circular…

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