Thursday, November 21, 2013

Knit to Flatter

Last Saturday afternoon I took a class with Amy Herzog, knitting author and all around genius.  I never understood the concept behind "girl crush" until I spent four hours with a woman who completely changed the way I will look at clothes, and shopping, forever.  Seriously, she's so good, she should be teaching self-esteem classes to teenage girls.  I hate to shop, but now I'm kind of looking forward to it after taking this knitting class, she's just that good.

Amy's the author of a book called Knit to Flatter, and her premise is if something doesn't look good, it's the clothing's fault, not your body's fault.  She demonstrated this by changing up the outfit she was wearing by rolling her cuffs, buttoning her cardigan, and slipping out of her shoes.  The transformation was amazing - and not in a good way, but she knew that.  Her explanation that sweater patterns are designed for "Miss Average," was like a lightbulb moment - of course a sweater pattern based only on bust size is not going to flatter everyone, because the difference in all your other measurements affects the fit.

Amy taught us how to take all our measurements - distances between waist & hip, shoulder to waist, multiple hip circumferences, and nearly a dozen others - and then use those measurements to adapt patterns to fit us to create the most flattering sweater possible.  After all, who wants to spend all those hours knitting a pullover to discover upon completion that it makes you look dumpy and misshapen?

I currently have two separate cardigans on the needles - my birthday project from last year, and another one I couldn't resist starting with some of the yarn I bought at the Fiber Festival - but I have put her book on my Christmas wish list and plan to make one of her patterns as soon as I finish these two sweaters.

If your local yarn shop ever offers a class with her, go - eat Ramen, sell your children, sell (gasp!) some of your stash, but go - it is an amazing experience and you will leave with an unbelievable number of practical tips for knitting yourself something perfect and flattering.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How many days until Christmas?

My fall has been crazy between work & volunteer obligations, and I've been very lax about documenting what I am working on, besides Halloween decorations.  But no more!  Here's what I've been up to lately:

My fall edition of Love of Knitting magazine had this beautiful Falling leaves hat pattern, made out of Berocco Boboli, which I just happened to have four skeins of sitting in my stash.  Fate! I used one for the hat, which knit up in about 4 days, and then decided to modify the pattern to make a matching scarf, which I haven't photographed yet.  It needs to be blocked, and probably never will be.  Just after finishing the scarf, I wandered into my favorite local yarn shop and discovered they were carrying Boboli Lace in virtually the same colorway, so of course I needed to make matching gloves......  This ate up about a month of prime holiday knitting time.  Which I feel a little bad about, but then I note that it will be a wonderful set to keep someone warm, and this is New England so this project was necessary.  Totally.

Way back in June we were in NY for my cousin's youngest son's christening, and my other cousin's husband asked if I would knit him a hat.  He has always wanted a hand-knit hat, you see.  He rides the Long Island Railroad every day to work in the city, and apparently there are several women on the train who knit (hello sisters!) and he asked one of them who was working on a hat if he could buy it from her.  She kindly explained to him that most knitters are working on something for a particular someone and suggested he find someone he knew who was a knitter and ask for a hat.  My mistake was working on a pair of socks in front of him, although I don't think it's much of a secret in the family that I knit, as I have knit his sister-in-law three baby blankets in recent years.  Anyway, he wanted a black hat.  Snore.  So I found this cute pattern by Jennifer Burt called Changing Seasons Men's Hat, and knit it with that.  It only took a couple of days.  The photo makes it look grey, but it is most definitely black.

In addition to the knitting, I have just finished an 8-week class for 4-harness weaving.  I liked the weaving, and my classmates and teacher, but oh boy, do I hate warping that type of loom.  Our first project was a sampler, using scrap yarn for the weft, to try out different patters:

I am not crazy about some of those colors, but it was a practice piece, so you don't want to spend a lot of money on yarn when you're just starting out.  I didn't have too much of a problem following all of the different treadlings to make the patterns, so I probably could have used more of a coordinated color scheme, except that it would have been against our teacher's directions.

Our next project was called a Rose Path Sampler.  For this I chose a rayon-cotton blend warp, in three separate colors, and a contrasting weft to make the patterns stand out:

I love the colors, and a lot of the patterns, but the blocks of pattern are not all the same size and the asymmetry of it bothers me a bit.  I had thought about turning it into a gift scarf, or maybe two, but the end piece, which is all one pattern, is not long enough and I can't do much fringe for either end of the scarf.  I guess that means I'm a pretty efficient weaver with not a lot of waste, which is the silver lining here.

  There are about 40 days until Christmas, and the project list for gifts isn't getting any smaller.  I think I will get over my dismay about the asymmetry on that woven scarf rather quickly as the calendar counts down.....

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Fiber Festival

So, this year I journeyed out to the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, MA for the 4th annual Fiber Festival of New England, which happened the first weekend in November.  I went with a knitter friend who is a festival veteran, and therefore my guru - seriously, she pre-screened the vendors & had a list of places to stop; had a project list for "must haves" and "would be nice" for yarn, drove, and brought water for both of us.  I put on clean clothes.  If I ever have to go into battle, I am totally putting her in charge of operational supply lines.  She has four kids, though - and she still has time to knit like crazy.  We should bow down to her incredible time management and innate organizational skills, I think.

There were over 200 vendors.  Most of them selling yarn.  Much of which I bought.  (But we'll get to that in a minute.)  There were also vendors selling animals, like alpacas:

Photo courtesy of my friend Dorothy

Look how cute! They were kind of expensive, though:

Photo courtesy of my friend Dorothy

My friend and I got momentarily silly, deciding that if I bought them, we could stick them in the back of her mini van.  I am particularly enamored of alpacas, not because I think it's the fiber equivalent of farm-to-table (hoof-to-garment?) but because my husband thinks they are a pyramid scheme.  He makes a strong case that people raise alpacas to sell them to other people who will raise sell to other people.  "Where does it end?" he always asks.  Anyway, I went home and told him we could have been the proud owners of two new female alpacas, and he started in with the pyramid scheme theory again.

"A lot of people knit with alpaca," I argued.

"How much alpaca yarn do you have in your stash?" he asked.

"Um, none....but I have an unusually small stash for a knitter, given that I only have stuff in one cabinet and one short rolling cart in the family room."  J's eyebrows went back into his hairline at this point, which is even more impressive than it sounds given he's nearly bald.

"Pyramid scheme," he announced. 

I was going to buy some alpaca yarn to knit him a pair of socks, but got distracted by all the choices and forgot about it before leaving.  Also, he doesn't know what it feels like, so I could buy some crap yarn at a commercial big-box store in beige or brown, knit him some socks and tell him it's alpaca.  But I won't, because I have plenty of good stuff on hand.

The Alpaca Pyramid Scheme conversation served as a nice distraction for the bag full of yarn (mostly sock yarn) that I brought home from the festival.  Seriously, I pretty much spent the year's budget for fiber in 4 hours.  My friend was no help, because after offering to fold down her car seats for the alpacas, she kept telling me sock yarn does not count towards stash.  I took her pronouncements as gospel, because I bought 12 skeins of sock yarn.  But oh, the colors!  And I'm supporting local small businesses!  Right?  RIGHT? 

I also bought yarn to make myself a sweater.  Because I've been so successful with sweater knitting - I've almost finished exactly one, and it needs to be ripped back because my stitch pickup was wrong for the hem and the sweater hangs crooked.

It's a lovely teal color, which doesn't really show since I photographed this before sunrise on my very blue kitchen counter using artificial light.  I'll try to get a good shot of the finished garment, sometime in 2021 when it's done.

I understand that it's a slippery slope with yarn, that your stash starts off small and continues to grow until you're stuffing it in random closets and hiding it from your spouse.  My spouse cares deeply about animal pyramid schemes (not really) and not at all about the yarn.  (He likes to tell me that it's more productive than a crack addiction, and certainly more socially acceptable.)  I have made a pact with myself to use up my stash and not buy anything new until at least June of 2014.  Except the yarn for a baby sweater for our neighbors.  And some for a hat for J for Christmas.  And.....

Since I am semi-restricted from shopping, expect to see lots of sock project photos going forward.  And maybe I can knit J a hat with an alpaca on it.  And a pyramid.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Halloween redux

Halloween is one of those holidays that I utterly, totally adore, and make the biggest, grandest plans for crafting and decorating each year.  Which almost always comes back to bite me in the backside.

On my knitter's loom, a Halloween throw started at the beginning of October:

Yes, I know Halloween is over.  I never ever finish anything on time for Halloween.  Except this year, I did.  I made curtains out of this fabric, to hang in the kitchen & laundry room:

I saw the fabric and had to have it - I am not usually such an impulse buyer, but it reminded me of something from Dexter.  I had no real plan in place for how to use it, but then sitting down to eat dinner one night and looking up at the windows, I decided the fabric would be perfect for curtains.  I merely created a rod pocket, and cut them to width before putting them up.  I didn't create a hem of any sort, mostly because I was in a rush and because the fabric was difficult to work with on my particular sewing machine.  I also don't plan on washing them, as they generally will only stay up for about a month each year.  And I didn't actually get around to photographing them on the rod before I packed stuff up for the season.  The piece above is leftover yardage that I am thinking about turning into end table covers for my sun porch.  But it gives you an idea.

I added to the decorations again this year (of course) and am pretty pleased with how they came out:

Dining room table

Fireplace with skulls

You can sort of see the bloody curtains on the windows at the end

Nobody plays that piano anyway

Martha Stewart would be proud

I am particularly pleased with how the shelf above the porch door turned out in the photo above - most of those items were on sale, between 40 - 60% off, two weeks before the holiday, allowing me to do my two favorite things - get a good deal, and buy stuff for Halloween.  It's not the clearest of photos for showing the detail, but it gives an idea of what I put up.

My new goal is to finish the Halloween throw by Thanksgiving.  Because then I will need to start working on Christmas weaving.  No rest for the weary wicked.