Sunday, March 17, 2013

Agatha cardigan, take 2

I have been a knitter for most of my life and while I have knit many well-loved sweaters for family members, my track record in sweaters made for myself is less-than-stellar.  All have been well-knit (if I do say so myself!), but there were always fitting issues....

I'm finally conquering this and I'm thrilled!

In my last post I showed the sad state of Agatha cardigan from this pattern by Andi Sutherland.  The design of that sweater is super-cropped and I had somehow deluded myself into thinking that extending the waistline (after the decreases) and including a nice wide band of ribbing would make it right for me. Wrong!

I ripped back to the waist shaping with the plan of shifting straight into hip shaping and a more average hip length. In short: I am really changing the shape and style of this cardigan.

Keeping in mind that I don't yet have a buttonband and I still have a little AGGRESSIVE BLOCKING to do (after 30 years I am finally going to be in the possession of blocking pins and a good mat!!! I have ordered these and these!), the fit is....GOOD!

Excuse the midnight photos.

Most exciting: I know how to make my next sweater a BETTER fit!

I am so grateful to Nic and Liz for introducing me to Amy Herzog, sweater fitting goddess.  I linked from her blog to her Craftsy class, which I watched in its entirety this weekend. I have already learned soooo much from Amy and am finally starting to understand what I can do with my sweater knitting to make some very wearable, flattering items for myself.  Yaaaayyyyy!

While I wait for my new blocking supplies I am going to start my "test sweater" for Amy's class.  I'm using a cardigan pattern called "Tempest" from Knitty Spring 2008, probably with some subtle colour blocking rather than stripes.  I have some gorgeous emerald solid and variegated Koigu KPPPM on hand for this project and, most importantly, I have several modifications planned: I'm going to move the back waist shaping from the seams to the 1/3 and 2/3 points in the back piece, I'm going to knit a size based on my upper chest measurement and add 1" worth of vertical bust darts, and I may eliminate the front waist shaping altogether (still mulling that one over).  I'm excited to get started....

Finally, I have one other sweater-fitting resource  in the queue and that is Ysolda Teague's Little Red in the City, which I mentioned in my last post. My overloaded brain and overloaded calendar can only handle so much at once right now, so I'm going to work through "Tempest" with Amy...and then I'll start to explore Ysolda's lovely, detailed book.

For now, it's on to my green cardigan and some more adventures in pattern modification.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

so many balls

Hello Blogland!  It's been a while.  I'm happy to report that my mind is on my work, where it really needs to be during this precious research leave (which is almost at an end, sniff sniff)...and there is still a little stitching going on, but nothing like the fury of thread, fabric, and yarn that characterized deep winter.

This little blog serves me very well as a kind of diary of creative efforts and I don't want to abandon it even as I get deeper in my two current book projects.  So while my posts may be brief, I'm hoping to keep them going!

I have a few quilt sampler-related things I'd like to write about...soon....My Farmer's Wife quilt top (finished nearly a year ago, egads) is next to be basted and Pony Club sampler and Nancy Cabot 1933 sampler both seem like perfect summer projects for me, given the fact that I have soooooo many balls in the air right now.

I love that sampler blocks offer themselves up as small, do-able tasks, objects of challenge and beauty in their own right, each offering a sense of accomplishment on a small scale. Mmmmmm.  Sooooooooon.

Meanwhile, I can report a quilt finish -- my second Scrappy Trips Around the World quilt, based on Bonnie Hunter's excellent tutorial.  This one is the product of the over-loaded red-pink-orange corner of my fabric stash and is a gift for my good friend Miriam, co-conspirator in the mass conversion of 14-year-old private school girls to the Cult of the Quilt (more on that soon, too). I hope to get some good photos of the finished quilt soon but for now here is some evidence of its existence: Saturday night basting party.

This time around I used 3.5" strips to make my blocks, and this larger size has some REAL advantages.  First, everything goes more quickly: each block finishes at 18", so 25 blocks and you have a queen-sized quilt.  Yay!  The larger squares also show off larger prints; this is great too.  

Fabrics: scrappy with a big dose of Denyse Schmidt. The "stems" of each block (for lack of a better term -- these are the lines that criss-cross this quilt) are two of the black and cherry prints from Denyse Schmidt's Greenfield Hill and the backing is yards and yards of  "Preservation Peony" from that same line.  It looks lush and vaguely decadent.  I bound the whole thing in a red and pink polka dot print from Denyse's first line for Joann's (can't recall the name).

On the knitting front, I finished the main part of my Agatha cardigan...but after blocking (and obviosuly before making the buttonband) I remembered why it is that I should avoid cropped styles: my shoulder-to-waistline distance is really small.  And then my waistline to hip length is relatively long.  So with Agatha's waist shaping (which, in the original pattern, never gets reversed), the bottom of the cardigan just straaaiiiiiins around my tum.  Not comfortable and not flattering. 

You would think I would know better by now...but no.  I just knit along merrily, despite the nagging voice that said, This will not work for you!

Anyway, live and learn.

I have unravelled the body up to the bottom of the waist shaping (see the giant ball and the smile of a woman no longer restricted by a too-small-cardigan?).

I'll pick up the knitting at this point and start hip increases right away.  I think a longer cardigan will be nice too...I just have to go back to Romni wools, where I prematurely returned 2 skeins of this yarn, thinking myself to be a buttonband away from a finish.  Sigh.

Knitter know thyself. Discovering the timer on my camera is a step in this direction.

It's a hard pill to swallow, but after 30 years of knitting I'm still learning about what will and what will not work for me. In fact, when I started knitting in the early 80s, "fitting" was not an issue that knitters discussed.  You followed a pattern, probably one for a sweater with dropped shoulder and boxy pattern pieces.  Maybe it's because I'm such an experienced knitter that it's hard to break with habit and think critically about how to tailor a pattern to me.  I'm going to work on this.

(EDITED TO ADD: even with this amount of "frogging," I can see that the fit of what's left is not ideal.  The bunching on the side under my arm, at the bust, is probably due to the fact that I need an FBA -- more increases at the bust -- while I could probably do with a smaller size for the basic shell.  These are exactly my fitting issues in sewn garments.)

From a little online research, it sounds to me like Ysolda Teague's "reference" section in  Little Red in the City is probably the best guide to fitting shaped knits. And how can I resist that title, sooooo perfect for me?

Do you have any favourite reference books for shaping and customizing your knitting? This old horse is ready to try some new tricks....