Friday, March 28, 2008

Knit inspiration

I'm always finding new sources for inspiration, and ideas for things I would like to make. Sadly, I have very little free time these days (as ever) and only have time to follow through on a small percentage of my ideas. Here's one idea that has been in the back of my mind for a while now, but I haven't been able to work it out fully enough to come up with the final design.

I saw this 'Bees to Honey Cape' at Anthropologie several seasons ago. I think I was mostly attracted by the lovely gold-flecked yarn, and how textural it was. It went on sale, and though I was tempted, I kept asking myself how on earth I would work a cape into my wardrobe.
This past winter I started thinking about the cape again, and then found this free cape pattern from Drops. I even found some gold flecked yarn in the right gauge that was on sale for something like $2 a ball. It would have been a $6 Anthropologie knock-off! But again, back to the impracticality of a cape issue. The mini-cape isn't quite substantial enough to keep you cold in the winter, yet it's more of an outerwear kind of idea, so I might feel silly wearing around work. I resisted my consumerist sale-driven tendency, and decided to make something I was certain I would wear instead.

This week, the idea came up again when I found this fantastic 80s sweater coat from slipteasevintage. I love the texture, shape, and color of it. I'm so tempted to buy it, but I'm not sure that my personal style is funky enough to be able to pull this one off.

However, now I'm thinking that I could combine the elements and feelings of these three garments to make a new design that is both unique and wearable. A less stylized, more practical version. I think that would suit me perfectly.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Shalom Tips 1

You guys are awesome!

I never expected such a warm reception for my first pattern. At last check, 333 people have queued the Shalom Cardigan on Ravelry, and over 1,000 people have stopped by the blog to check it out this week! I'm so flattered, and can't thank you all enough for your generous comments.

I'd like to help people make their own sweaters by posting some tips and tutorials on my blog. Shalom is a free pattern in part because I didn't bother making size adjustments--it's just one-size-fits-meghan. But don't be disheartened, you can totally modify this pattern to fit your body. And, I think it will be flattering on a variety of body types. Think of it as my challenge to you. Everyone likes a good challenge, right? I also really encourage people to share their modifications, yarn selection, etc. to help others make good knitting choices.

Tip #1: Yardage

I just learned the other day how to estimate yarn yardage for a sweater. First, measure out 10 yards (or meters) of your yarn. Weigh this bundle on an accurate scale, and weigh your finished sweater. Divide the sweater weight by the 10 yard weight, and multiply by 10. I took Shalom into work today and calculated that I used about 440 yards of yarn, give or take. This means that you'll need about 440 yards of bulky weight yarn, or twice as much light worsted or DK weight yarn if you intend to double (as I did). I have added this to the Ravelry entry, and will include it in the pattern when I get a chance.

Tip #2: Reclaiming Sweater Yarn

I have mentioned this before, but I'll say it again for good measure. There are some excellent tutorials out there for reclaiming yarn from thrift store sweaters. If you're thinking of using recycled yarn for Shalom like I did, here are a few things to keep in mind. Look for something that feels nice, and that isn’t felted or pilled. Try pulling at a yarn discretely to make sure it will move. I tend to avoid synthetic fibers, but that's just a matter of personal taste. As far as size–the bigger the better. I think the one I got was a men’s sweater, a couple sizes bigger than I would normally wear–but I wasn’t swimming in it. It had long sleeves–which is great, cause there’s a lot of yarn in sleeves, and I knew I was making something sleeveless. If you’re worried about having enough yarn, you could also consider getting two sweaters to unravel with colors that would look nice together (perhaps subtle variations of the same color) then using a strand of each in the Shalom Cardigan. I think that would look really great, and have been thinking about using something like that for an upcoming sweater.

Tip #3: Felting broken strands of yarn together

If you do decide to use reclaimed yarn, you might find yourself having many random lengths of yarn rather than one or two beautiful skeins. If you're like me, you probably hate weaving in ends. I learned this tip by reading Pamela's blog, Flint Knits. If you're working with a wool-based yarn, you can seamlessly join two pieces of yarn by felting. First, you want to prepare the ends by making them tapered. My yarn had two plies, so I ripped (no scissors!) one ply to make it about 2-3" shorter than the other ply, and did the same for the second end. I would then twist them together, and rub them together briskly in my moist palm (you can moisten with saliva, or water, if the idea saliva grosses you out). Give it a try some time, and you'll never want to weave in an end again!

Tip #4: Join Ravelry

Chances are, if you found my website, you're already on Ravelry. If you're not, go join now! You'll find a whole community of knitters willing to share information and help you out. You'll also (if everything goes well) eventually be able to see Shalom knitted by different people in different sizes.

Tip #5: Resizing Shalom

I'm about to run out the door to attend a dinner party, so I won't get into the knitty gritty details just yet on this one. In my next post, I plan to include a detailed schematic for Shalom, including many, many measurements. This should give you an idea of where you need to make adjustments. I also plan to talk about how I went about making the design--especially the yoke, which took more figuring than the body. In the mean time, I will once again recommend books by Elizabeth Zimmerman, who speaks wittily and plainly about knitting techniques and design. Writing knitting patterns is all about math--her books will really help demystify this process. In the mean time, go find some yarn, make some swatches, and figure out your measurements.

Check back soon for the next installment, and keep the questions coming!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Shalom Cardigan

The Shalom Cardigan pattern is now available as a free PDF download.  Please enjoy!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

From grandpa to fashion plate

Remember this sweater? I bought this a few months ago at the Salvation Army and unraveled it for knitting yarn. I would like to think that it is much happier now in its current incarnation!

Here's a first look at my new sweater. I've decided to call it the Shalom Cardigan. I'm not sure why that word came to mind, but it seemed to fit very well. The sweater is made from a thick knit fabric, and I really do feel a sense of peace with the ribbed yoke wrapped around my shoulders. It's like a gentle hug.

The cardigan was knit in two pieces--but I would knit it seamlessly in one piece were I to make it again. I held the yarn doubled to obtain a nice, thick fabric. I was even able to reuse one of the original buttons for the closure! Total cost for this sweater was about $5 (plus many hours thinking up the pattern, and a few days knitting time). I'm very pleased.

Check back soon if you're interested in making a Shalom Cardigan for yourself. I'm planning to write up a pattern and will offer it free of charge to anyone interested. The only catch is that I will not be making any size adjustments, nor can I recommend a particular yarn--since mine is thrifted, and certainly one-of-a-kind. But, if you're adventurous, or an experienced knitter, I'm confident that you'll be able to tweak my pattern to fit your needs.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Current Progress

I'm making great progress on the design and knitting for the Paul & Joe inspired cardigan I have previously mentioned. I'm making up this pattern as I go, but the overall idea was inspired by some designer sweaters, including (but not limited to) a lovely Paul & Joe number. It seems there were several sweaters with similar yokes on the market last season. It makes me feel like slightly less of a copycat, or maybe I should feel like more of one.

I'm using yarn that I recycled from a thrift store sweater. The original sweater was a couple sizes bigger, and had long sleeves and pockets. I decided to take a gamble and use the yarn double stranded for this knit--and I won't know if I have enough yarn until the end! I'm still somewhat hopeful, but whatever happens, I think it's going to be very close.

If this all works out I'll post a pseudo-pattern. I'm not going to bother with a proper pattern, with sizes and all since I didn't bother with proper yarn (and as a result had to buy US Size 10.75 needles! Didn't know they made those). Hopefully I can provide enough details that it would be easy for someone to follow and adjust for their yarn and size. Stay tuned--this is knitting up very quickly.