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European Knitting Patterns

Yesterday, I taught my class on how to make a commercial pattern fit your body. Had a blast, thanks to Debbie, Julie, and Lynda. Part of this class is looking at current magazines for schematics.

I took in a copy of Burda’s Verena knitting mag. This has been out for a while, but the earlier issues didn’t really interest me. This one has a bunch of plus size patterns which I hoped would help me in writing some larger sizes of a new pattern.

Charlotte Yarn has the latest Katia mag which has great graphs to go with some of the patterns. That precipitated a discussion of US vs other patterns.

I hear many people complain about British patterns. Part of the problem there is that the are written in English, just not our English. We want you to call it a “yo,” not a “yfd.” We want a translation. It’s obvious that we need a German pattern translated; less obvious about that British to American bit.

The patterns or pattern magazines that I like best come from the continent. (Doesn’t that sound so sophisticated?) Thanks to yesterday’s class, I had to define why I like them better.

1. The patterns tend to have a more womanly fit. They are shaped. You see very few straight lines, and I dare you to show me a straight line on your natural body. Shaping doesn’t require more skill or even really more work. Just a bit of attention.

2. There are always schematics (photographs lie!!!!) and usually include more data than US patterns, excepting Vogue. Makes fitting me much easier.

3. Most patterns have set in sleeves. This was more important ten years ago when pattern mags here thought we were only skilled enough for drop sleeves (I shiver as I type those two words.). You know my bias toward set in sleeves for everyone.

4. Cultures differ and so do the details on their clothing. I get some easy to knit details that I often haven’t really seen here. I’m never above stealing a bit of trim from another pattern to embellish a plain sweater.

5.  Many have a ruler down the side of the page–each page.  I find that useful and nice.

6. Last is the reflection of the latest trends. We are still a year behind Europe in couture. Because I always hate the latest trend until I finally grow to embrace it, if I can see it earlier, I can get over my knee-jerk dislike earlier. Oh, to have a truly open mind.

That brings up another question. Do people built like a healthy fashion model look at new styles differently from me? Or do they,too, worry about if it will make their butt look big? Hm-m-m.

Seduce Swatching

Seduce is a great name for this yarn because that’s what it did.  It seduced me.  I bought two skeins of it at Baskets of Yarn a year ago.  They sat in the bag.  I couldn’t figure out what to do with just two skeins.  Then Remi caved and started carrying it in lots of beautiful colors.  I got three more skeins and I’m still dickering with what it wants to be.

Stockinette on a size 7 needle and bird’s eye lace.  Don’t like the lace.  I’ll catch and pull it on something.  Like the simplicity of the open stockinette.  But what about all that curl.

Seed stitch solves the curl, but I don’t know.

Mix it with another yarn.  This is some Classic Elite Bamboo which might make the purple pop more.  But mixing it might also take away from the luxuriousness of the Seduce.

I know I want it near my face.  At my age anything that brings light to the face is a blessing.  Time to sketch.

Two ideas so far.  This one with two yarns with or without sleeves.  Or

This one which is all Seduce except for something on the bottom front lapels.  I don’t know what yet.  The back 0f this could be in the same dark yarn.

Still thinking.  And knitting simple socks.

Learning how the hard way

I’ve designed a sideways vest and a top down jacket that I want to publish.  To do that, I need to size them to fit folks other than me.  This is a complicated thing.  Add to it that I have some strong, really strong opinions about sizing and fit, and it becomes harder.  Then add in that I want every pattern to be a lesson—well, I’ve over-complicated it.

I’m spending hours that I probably don’t need to spend, doing math, drawing schematics.  But I am learning lots.  This is a lot like being a testing director.  Many balls to keep in the air at the same time.  Carla Scott, an editor of Vogue Knitting, told me that they don’t ask you to size the patterns for them; they prefer to do it themselves.  Wow.  What a gift to a designer.

I’m very sensitive to Plus Size folk and do not want to simply scale this up for them.  I intend two patterns.  One is size XS–XL.  The other is the larger sizes.  I want the shoulders to fit  better in the larger sizes and that means I have to do the increases for the bust, etc., in different places.  More to learn.

I’ve read and studied Deborah Newton and Shirley Paden’s  books.  I’ve ordered Catherine Lowe’s book on Couture Fitting and mathematician-knitter Pat Ashforth’s book both from lulu.com.  I’ll let you know about them when they come.  I haunt my favorite, The Knitter’s Guide to Sweater Design by Carmen Michelson and Mary Ann Davis (out of print).

For me, ideas come from trying to put things together in a new way and just finding out what the yarn wants to do and letting it.  Sketching is like playing paper dolls.  I can’t draw a bit (The only B I made at the local community college was in a drawing class.)so I use models under the paper and draw on them.  Then I get to play, very inexpertly, with colored pens and pencils.  Shades of girlhood!  It’s just plain fun.  Figuring out how to make it to fit me isn’t hard even.  Put it on graph paper and alter it as I go.  Now this sizing stuff is hard!!!!  But fun.

I wonder if I could audit some courses at the Art Institute of Charlotte.  Do they require talent or just tuition?  I’ll check.

Crisp finished

This is it and I really like it. Wendy Bernard’s pattern “Crisp,” with my changes. You knew I would make changes. The first one was to raise the neckline.

Wendy designed this as a vest with a deep V neck. Because it is knit top down, I could easily knit it until it was as low as I wanted, and then I just cast on a few sts and joined it.

Then when it was finished covering the “girls,” I added two rows of purl and copied the woven st she put on the shoulder. Repeated the two purl rows and I had a nice Empire detail.

I like the fit at the back. I like my shoulder seams just on the inside of that boney knob at the top of the shoulder. Then if I put a sleeve in the armhole, the weight of the sleeve pulls it perfectly into place. If you knit with cotton or other heavy yarns, it’s very helpful to anticipate the effect of the weight of the garment.

As you can see from this side view, I eliminated some of the bust sts to make it more form fitting. Vertical darts are my friends.

The neatest thing I did was to copy the saddle shoulder pattern down the sleeves. This was very easy to do because the use of the saddle meant I was knitting the sleeve down from stitches instead of rows. I always knit set in sleeves by picking up around the armscye and knitting down. Why?

That brings me to the thing I don’t really like—the sleeve length. Too short for my aged arms. However, if I knit them long enough to cover the wobbly bits, the sweater will probably be too hot to wear past April. Dilemma. Do not send message about working out to improve arms. Ain’t gonna happen. But–if I decide to lengthen the sleeves, all I have to do is undo the bind off and keep knitting. That’s an excellent reason to knit them top down.

The yarn is Queensland Haze, a scrumptious corn/cotton blend I purchased at Charlotte Yarn which I knit on a size 5. It feels great and, after two wearings, shows no signs of the dreaded stretches.

Saturday in Athens; Michael

Old is sometimes good.  Empty nests are okay, too.  I realize this because I am sitting in the Athens Clark County Classic Center, with 500 parents, waiting to sign my grandson up for summer camp.

DD1 got in line about 8 this morning, outside in the crisp, pollen-filled air.  She had hoped to finish and pick me up later to attend her Chamber Singers rehearsal at 10.  Clearly, by 9:30 that wasn’t going to happen.  Z and Steve brought me to her, and they headed off to drive bumper cars and play mini golf.  By 10:15 DD1 was beginning to crumble.  Too many responsibilities.

Mom to the rescue.  We got permission for me to stand in for her and she headed off to rehearsal–filled with pollen and more than annoyed.

So here I sit, glad for the seat.  Eavesdropping on the quiet complaints as people discuss what they are missing:  soccer games, lessons, birthday parties.  Me, I’m kind of happy.  I brought my knitting–of course–and a book and my iPad.  I have no idea when or how I will get back home, but it’s Athens!  I can hang out in this town for hours.

The real parents, a generation younger, are not so lucky.  Many have small children with them and there is little to entertain them.  This is when I began to remember that Old is not so bad.  The responsibility thing.  You have less and if you screw up, people just shake their heads and comment about age, without ever getting mad at you.  Not to shabby, ey?

12:15–Z registered.  People in charge pleasant and helpful.  It is Athens after all.

12:45–1:00– Jackson Street Books, my favorite used book store.  College towns are wonderful for used books. No knitting books,  but bought three vintage mystery paperbacks. I don’t collect;   I just like to read the old ones.  See?  Old is a theme.

1:10–Sitting at the bar at Trappeze Pub drinking a Corsendonk Abbey Brown Ale.  Still no responsibilities.   Writing this on my iPad and attracting envious people to talk about it.

Life is good.

Oh, about knitting—

Cast on some socks for Steve in a bamboo/merino blend.

Had an epiphany about raglan sleeves after reading some sewing sites.  Swatching furiously.

Am working on a plan to trade free knitting workshops for test knitting.

Also reflecting on Michael Godfrey who died suddenly this past week.  He picked on me unmercifully.  Which always made me know he liked me. Regretting not staying in closer touch with him.  So talented, so unique.  He had so much to teach all of us.  My favorite Michaelism, “Life is too short to knit with cheap yarn”.  Right!   Way too short.

Weavette arrived!

No, I’m not looking for another hobby.  Think of it as a remembrance of my childhood combined with a need to use up scrap yarn and a need for embellishment.  Or just think of it as I wanted it.

With the help of the instruction booklet, I whipped up a sample. Lesson learned: don’t use boucle yarn.

Lesson learned: sport weight cotton yarns with be very sheer. This has all kinds of possibilities. Edges, sew on patches, scarf pieces.

I bought mine from Lois Scarborough at http://www.bountifulspinweave.com. It’s fun and portable and mindless.

FYI–If you like Plymouth Sockotta sock yarn, and I do, Discontinued Brand Name Yarn has it on sale for $5.49 per 100 gr ball. I bought Steve and I 5 balls.

Ordering Yarn online

Sometimes I add sock yarn to an online order just to meet the magic Free Shipping quota. I mean who really has too much sock yarn?

The solid-ish Maizy may be a place to explore a stitch pattern, but the Regia is definitely a man’s simple sock. I may use a slip st pattern on it to make the color pattern blend more.

Gifts for others? Probably.


When did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?

Will I ever?

I’ve been thinking again with a swirling ADHD mind about who I am as a knitter?  Last night at 2am I just wanted to be someone who knits lots and lots of stockinette stitch.  Today I tried to fire myself up to work on new pattern ideas, but while surfing on the new iPad, I discovered every idea I had has already been done–several times by several people.  Why bother?

BJ is always telling me I should write a book because I analyze and construct things differently from other people, but I only think brains like mine (and BJ’s) really care about that, and those brains are already doing their own thing.  Besides writing is hard and conflicts with actual knitting.

Go to amazon.com and search “knitting”. Then sort the results by publication date.  You will find umpteen new books available for pre order and among them are several I might have written (in an alternate universe).  One is about making every pattern fit you perfectly; the other is top down stuff based on Barbara Walker.  Noting this got me thinking .   Again.

I love to figure out from scratch ( or a photo ) how to fit and knit a garment.  I love drawing graphs and I even like swatching when I am trying to answer a “What if . . .” question.  I don’t like writing the pattern.  One reason is that I don’t like telling someone else to knit my numbers.  You should knit the numbers that fit or satisfy you.  Standard formats for patterns don’t allow me to tell you the little things you might need to know to be successful.  Sure I can add these as endnotes, but people do not read endnotes.  Newer knitters need the notes right at the point they apply.

So what should I write?  “How-to” articles suit my urge to teach much better than do patterns.  My friend akabini has a line of patterns called Unpatterns available from her website or Patternfish that may be just this kind of thing.   This seems to me the way to do it, to share a pattern.

For a workshop I wrote a handout explaining how to fit a sideways knit vest to your body.  I suggested some stitch patterns to use, but told you to suit yourself. (Knitters always get to chose because they are the knitters). The workshop didn’t fill, so I never published the handout.  I was amazed no one wanted to know how to do this.  I am always amazed when people don’t want to free themselves from patterns and imposed gauges.  A colleague suggested that the idea frightens some knitters.  Well, that’s why you take the class; it’s the instructor’s job to banish the fear.

I’m rambling.  What I think I am saying is that first and foremost I am a teacher.  Even knitting has an academic niche in my life.   Even this blog is intended to be a “Look what I discovered” place.

So what am I asking?  And why does the same question come up every three months with its accompanying mind swirl?  It could be as simple as I am trying to do too much.  But it could also be that I am trying to do the wrong thing.

What would happen if I just didn’t knit for a week?  Bad idea.  What would happen if I just didn’t knit in the mornings?  Forget that.  What would happen if I just knit and let the rest of it go for a while?  Maybe.

I think I’ll just knit and hope one of you reading this has a suggestion.  This time it’s me that wants one–merely one.


I won one.   It was awarded by PfeifferGrad03 who used to visit me at the Sewing Bird.  She’s in grad school now and I am honored she spends some of her very limited free time reading my blog.  Her awards are posted here on her site and you will see some other names you know if you read this blog.  She called me “Charlotte knitting royalty”  which I think I’m going to embroider on a pillow just so Steve will show me the respect I deserve. :)
So here are the rules for accepting the award:
1. Put the logo on your blog or within your post.
2. Pass the award to 12 bloggers.
3. Link the nominees within your post.
4. Let them know they received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.
My Twelve
Turtlegirl’s Bloggy Thing–  I know she’s already won but this is one of the first I read especially on Tabby Tuesday.  She always has a new something–thought, pattern, technique, and she writes really well in her own voice.  Besides, she’s an adopted daughter.
TECHknitting–This is where it’s at as far as knitting goes IMHO.  The skill in writing this blog is amazing.  It is not easy to explain knitting with no movement.  This resource is invaluable.
better living through knitting–Karen is an amazing woman.  She designs, she teaches, she runs marathons.  She has a line of patterns called Unpatterns which will teach you to knit your own way quite comfortably.  She’s also funny.
Knitting in Color–Nanette keeps me fed on color and great fair isle designs.  I knit my first pair of gloves after buying her selfpublished book on the subject.
Knitcircus–The blog that adjoins the magazine of the same name.  I’ve recently gotten to know Jaala online and enjoy that she makes me aware of newer designers and knitting in Wisconsin.
Abent Vaerksted–Ruth Sorenson’s blog which she so graciously translates for us English only readers.  Her colorwork is amazing and she is very generous with her wisdom.
Ulli’s Blog — is written in German, but she has a translator on the page about halfway down.  Usually it is just huge pictures of socks she has knitted.  She uses Opal yarns often that we don’t see here in the states and she links you to the patterns.  It is amazing how prolific she is. She also is a very proud mom.
Molecular Knitting–Brenda is a scientist.  It’s amazing to me how many science folks knit.  She buys and shares magnificent yarn through her excellent photos.  I like to read her because she seems to like the same patterns I like and finds new ones for me.
Marjut Katajala–Marjut is Finnish and again is nice enough to translate her blog for the English readers.  She is a cat lover and her cats have their own blog.  She posts great photos and has been around a long time.  Her blog is a neat jumping off place to see other European knit sites.
HjemmeUte is from Oslo, a city I fell in love with once.  Her work is superb as are the photos she shares.  The blog is in English.  You will learn a lot from Mariann.
Knitting on Impulse –  Ruth is a marvelous dyer from Whistler, BC, Canada.  Sound familiar?  I discovered her blog just before the 2010 Winter Olympics and she fed us inside info every day throughout the event.  She will delight you with her knit pics and with those of some very muscled men.
Holly Goes Lightly lives here in Charlotte when she isn’t traveling looking for cool things to share.  This isn’t a knitting blog, but the photos Holly shares brighten my day and she keeps me thinking about clean design.  Actually she did take a class from me, but her real addiction is classic designs with a unique perspective.

March Socks–Lessons Learned

On April 1 I just sat myself down (southernism) and made myself finish this pair of socks which I really started Feb. 2.  The yarn is CTH Supersock in shades of purple, from the Stash.  Both socks are knit from patterns design by Lori Law of Oceanwind Knits.  Here’s the saga . . .

Sleepy Hollow

I first saw this pattern on Yarn Harlot’s blog.  I was intrigued by the gusset design.  It’s a top down sock—my pref—which works the heel flap and the gusset together in the round.  I expected to love this, but I didn’t.  It’s a well-written pattern and most of what I didn’t like is purely personal preference.  Yarn Harlot loved this design.

The leaf lace design is charted in a way that scrambles my brain and made it harder to quickly “see” the design and get free of the chart.  —– I made some changes in where I began the round and ultimately solved that, but I never had fun knitting this pattern as a sock cuff.  That’s the crux of the matter—sock cuff—because I really love every leaf lace pattern I’ve ever seen.  Again, it’s beautiful, but my lack of enjoyment really made me find excuses NOT to work on this.  I just gave it up in the end and today I put a plain foot on it just to finish.

[I am resisting the urge to lecture you on why it is so important to swatch patterns before starting a project.  If they are new or hard, you learn it in the swatch; if they don’t entertain you, even more reason to learn it in the swatch.  Guess I didn’t resist all that much.]

The gusset creation and decrease was an interesting intellectual project.  The directions were good and it was easy to do.  But on me, the fit sucks.  The heel flap is too short and it doesn’t have that lovely “cupped” heel feeling my standard heel has.  This could be altered of course, but not by me.

I’m glad I knit this sock.  I learned some things from it.  Now it’s done.  Notice I said sock—one sock—because I didn’t knit the second one the same.

Persephone’s Sock was a much different experience.  Loved it!!!!

The cuff pattern mixes twisted and untwisted knit sts with purls for a ribbed effect.  The yarnovers give a bit of lace and make the unstretched cuff look cool.  It’s a simple 4-row pattern which is easy to “see” so you are quickly off the chart.

Stretched is even better.

The Sleepy Hollow heel had me spooked, so I used a standard slip st heel flap.  It fits well and feels the way I like.

The gusset area is all purl sts:   A bone simple way to get a very neat look.  I really like it and will use it again.  I picked the sts up from the gusset normally and then began my purls on the next row.  Easy and attractive!

Once you finish the gusset decreases you then start to create the arch.  I loved this. My least favorite part of knitting a sock is the foot.  Turtlegirl 76 says it’s because I wimp out and stop knitting the cuff pattern on the instep (She knows me pretty well.)  This really rocked my boat.

You continue the instep pattern, but you decrease it two sts every other row, replacing those stitches with knit sts on the sole.  This gives you a lovely V on the instep in the pattern as well as building in an arch that hugs your foot gently.  You aren’t glued to the pattern, but your mind has a little something to do.  The result feels great on my foot.

Now to figure out how to add this technique to all my socks!

Socks are my “go to” portable knitting and I’m rarely looking to complicate the process.  However, taking the time to try new techniques can result in pleasant surprises.  And even if all you learn is how much you really prefer what you’ve been doing all along—Well, that’s good to know.

April socks will be for Steve.

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