March 31, 2007

I think you can guess where I'm going with this

To say that I've been working a lot lately would be the understatement of the year. I've had time to pick up my knitting only once this week (and it wasn't pretty, folks - I sewed the front of Moxie's Man Hood directly to the back when I intended to sew it to the sleeve. We'll deal with that later!) In such times, I find that I begin to build up a bit of aggression that needs a constructive outlet (lest I drive sweet Moxie to divorce). Normally this outlet would be a hike or a run or one of those great sessions with a bunch of other crazy people on a spin bike. However, when you get home after dark when the gym classes have concluded on a Friday night, no such outlet exists.

The Hoolia gets all subversive with her cross stitch.

Instead, I turned to crafting. Let me just say upfront that I am not a cross-stitcher. This is, in fact, the only cross stitching I have ever done in my entire life. Cross stitching is the last thing that I ever thought I'd be caught doing, and when I was in Phoenix a few weeks ago and my friends there were singing its praises, I have to admit that I was listening to their exclamations because I was feeling indulgent and loving toward them, and not because I actually found the topic fascinating.

Then last weekend, when Marnie was in town, we hit a fantastic sale at Black Sheep Knittery - 50% off everything - books, notions, yarns, everything everything. (It runs through this weekend. If you are in the LA area and can spend a little - go! If you are easily tempted and broke - stay far away!) And I saw this book, and for some reason, probably the promise of the word "subversive," began flipping through it. I laughed my butt off in the store, and since it was 50% off, I bought the thing. When I got it home, I feared that perhaps I had made a hasty purchase (I don't like to misallocate the spending of even a paltry $7), but when I flipped through it again, I was not any less giggly than the first time. Okay, let's be honest. I guffawed. I sat in the girls' room and made Marnie listen to each and every one of these cross stitch sayings twice as I laughed hysterically. (Who's being indulgent now?) They really just hit my funny bone, you know. The saccharine sweet teddy bear next to the words "kill me now" just did it for me.

I am not a converted cross stitcher. In the end, I will probably make one or two of these as gifts and then be done with it. It is hard on my weary eyes, and so far only gives me limited pride in return for my hour of diligence. But I am very happy I bought the book. It totally cracks me up! Now I can go back to work...

Posted by Julia at 06:37 AM | Comments (15)

March 26, 2007

Pattern Notes: Marseilles Pullover

Marseilles pattern notes at last! I've been done with this sweater for two weeks and have worn it on several occasions already. At this point it feels more like an old friend than a new sweater. Sunday was Moxie's birthday, so we got up at a decent hour and immediately packed the Zosh into the car and headed over to Eaton Canyon in Pasadena for a morning hike to the waterfall. If you are ever in the area, this is a great hike if you prefer less strenuous activity and gorgeous scenery. It starts out in a sunlit wash full of wild flowers and cacti, and then moves through a wooded canyon along a stream for about half a mile to the waterfall. The most difficult aspect of the hike is navigating back and forth across the stream. It's accessible enough that a lot of families hike this trail. At the end, you can sit in the shade and enjoy the beauty of the waterfall.

Marseilles on our hiking excursion to Eaton Canyon with Zosia.

Marseilles Pullover
Designed by Kathy Zimmerman, Interweave Knits, Summer 2006
Knit with nine skeins (147 yards/skein)* of RYC Cashsoft DK (57% Merino/33% Microfiber/10% Cashmere) in Madame (fuchsia) (511), using size US 6 and US 7 Addi Turbo circulars.
Gauge: I'll check my notes soon. Promise.
Size: 38 bust. For me, the final blocked dimensions were 40" at the bust and 25" in length. Unblocked the sweater was closer to 39" at the bust and 23" in length. I made modifications that added drape, but regardless you should plan for growth. See below.

Smiling, but really cold as hell.
The waterfall is fed by a mountain stream.

The Pattern:
This was my first Kathy Zimmerman sweater, surprisingly enough (I love cables, and cables are what KZ does). It will not be my last. This pattern was extremely well-planned out, harmonious, and nicely executed. You can tell that Ms. Zimmerman either is or has an excellent tech editor - I'm guessing that the former is the case. There are no errors that I could spot in the size 38, and the only thing that I would suggest changing is the number of stitches that you reserve for the shoulders. The boat neck, as written, is not even close to workable for me, nor was it for my best friend, Laura, who made the sweater in the size 34 in RYC Cashsoft Aran. My bloggy pal Marie also made the Marseilles Pullover and followed my suggestions on the boat neck, so unfortunately I can't point to anyone I know on the internet who worked the shoulders/neckline as in the original. (Definitely check out Marie's gorgeous sweater and the awesome montage she put together for us.)

In both dk and aran weights of RYC cashsoft, the neckline was too wide for Laura and I. The instructions have you bind off the center neckline stitches and reserve the shoulder stitches on stitch holders so that you can do a three-needle bind-off of the shoulders when both the front and back are done. Since Laura warned me that the neck was too wide, I opted to keep all the stitches live until both pieces were done, and then played around to see how many stitches I needed to bind off to make the shoulders the perfect width for me. [Go to one of my previous Marseilles posts for photos of this process. Notice the two circular needles hanging from the neckline.] My definition of the perfect width is the point where the sweater is still technically a boatneck, but you can't see my bra straps hanging out. On the size 38 sweater that is twenty-four stitches per shoulder. The original pattern would have you use thirteen stitches per shoulder, so rule of thumb if you want shoulder-width like mine is to add eleven stitches to the number suggested for your size in the pattern and tweak from there. Once you've done the three-needle bind-off on the shoulders, you can simply cast-off the neckline stitches in the round.


A shot of the garter ridge that runs up the side seam.

Clever and simple.

This is not a beginner's cable pattern. There isn't any complex shaping, but the cable pattern itself is complex, particularly because some of the diamonds are filled with garter stitch. The garter creates a really pretty effect, but until you get the hang of it, working these sections is counter-intuitive, especially on the wrong side. The chart is correct. Follow it verbatim and you'll have a gorgeous sweater - I 've also included some tips of my own below.

One neat technique used in this sweater is a garter-stitch seam. It's interesting because it is very, very simple to seam, and the resulting seam is loose enough that if you leave extra-long tails on either end, you can stretch the seam after you finish it, so that it has the same resilience as the knitted portion of the sweater. It's also very pretty and decorative. Although it wouldn't work for me in every situation, here it mirrors the garter sections within the the cable diamonds nicely.


All laid out and ready for wear.
Advanced cabling with garter filled diamonds. Minimal shaping. Cool garter-ridge seam (see above).

I substituted a DK weight yarn for the worsted weight Goddess Yarns Phoebe called for in the pattern, so I ended up having to make some adjustments for my row gauge. (My stitch gauge was pretty close to the pattern, surprisingly, and definitely close enough to ignore.) I added a half repeat (notice that my version ends at a different point in the cable pattern at the neckline than Laura's does), and re-worked everything to make the armscyes the correct length on the body pieces. I was able to keep the pattern exactly the same as the original for the sleeves. How's that for serendipity? Sometimes, things just work out well.

Here's a good tip: Use a crochet hook as a cable needle. This is my new thing. When you screw up the garter segments inside the cables you can just whip out the crochet end of the needle and ladder those stitches into the correct orientation.

Easy peasy. Those garter ridge seams go very quickly and make adjusting your seam tension a snap. I washed and blocked per usual, in tepid water in the sink with eucalan, spun the pieces in the washer to remove excess water, and laid them carefully on towels to dry. The big trick here is not to let the pieces stretch too much when you gently squeeze water from them or transport them. There is the potential to end up with a very big sweater if you're not cautious while the pieces are wet.


Enjoying the great outdoors.
Impressions of RYC Cashsoft DK:
I used this yarn for my Clementine sweater in fall of 2005, and really enjoyed working with it both then and for the Marseilles Pullover. This yarn is not the one used in the pattern, and because it is a DK weight rather than a worsted, using it requires some adjustments. This substitution is entirely unnecessary, as the Goddess Yarns Phoebe used in the original is a great yarn that would work nicely without modifications. I just happened to have the Cashsoft hanging around in my stash, and wanted to use it to clear out room for future yarns. Due to the cashmere content, the RYC Cashsoft line, like the very similar Debbie Bliss Cashmerino line, will show wear almost immeadiately. If you are pill and halo averse, go with the original yarn or a nice merino instead. The Cashsoft works just fine for me, but it does not have a pristine appearance.

Possible substitute yarns:
There are about a gazillion substitutes out there for the Goddess Yarns Phoebe used by Kathy Zimmerman in the original. I personally think that if you are going to purchase yarn, sticking with the Phoebe is a fine choice. The alpaca content will give it drape and durability, and the price is good. If you substitute, I'd recommend a nice alpaca or merino worsted. My beloved Jaeger Extra Fine Merino DK (a heftier DK than the Cashsoft) would be a good choice, and Karabella's Aurora 8 could also do the trick quite nicely.

Tips & Tricks: Although there really aren't any errors that I could spot in my size, I do have several suggestions for making your Marseilles Pullover successful:


She who climbs up must climb down...
First, be aware that the gauge swatch you make is not going to grow to the same extent that your sweater will. On cabled sweaters this is always the case, because once your knitting reaches a certain heft, gravity is going to kick in and create added drape. This feature will not show up in your swatch because it is substantially smaller and less hefty. Additionally, the sweater has no cables in the sleeve pattern and the sleeve pattern is the pattern used to establish gauge, so the swatch will have even less drape and growth than it would if it were in the cable pattern. So, use the swatch as a guide, and be sure to wash and block it, but realize that you will very likely get an inch or two of growth in the body of the sweater. You can compensate for this by subtracting half a repeat, if you are very petite and think it necessary. Just remember to adjust the pattern so that the armscyes fall at the right place proportionately. I re-gauged the sweater to work with DK weight yarn, and also wanted more length, so I added half a repeat.

Blow up the cable chart, make several copies, and code and color the copies if it will help you. I did. The set up row is tricky, and I find that it's easiest for me to just write out the number of knit and purl stitches to work for that row across the bottom of the chart. I still had to knit each set-up row twice, but I would have had to knit them about five times if I hadn't written out the stitch counts for myself.

Use a crochet hook as a cable needle. This is my new thing. When you screw up the garter segments inside the cables you can just whip out the crochet end of the needle and ladder those stitches into the correct orientation. I made much use of this trick. The fact that the cables have garter inside in some cases makes this pattern a little challenging and unintuitive to work in the beginning. You will have to reign in your instinct to purl every time a purl stitch pops up in the row below in those sections. It's tough!

Some Parting Shots:

[Read all entries on the Marseilles Pullover.]
Posted by Julia at 12:12 PM | Comments (32)

March 22, 2007

I might have purchased some fabric while in Phoenix

And the pictures below might be of that fabric. But, there was a huge sale at 35th Avenue, so I got the beautiful and whimsical fabrics pictured below for a song - some were as much as 65% off. Here are my plans:

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Chocolate ticking for cafe shades;
Peas & Carrots with co-ordinating orange polka dot fabric for aprons
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Batik sunflowers and stripes for a small quilt; Batiks and florals for a king-sized duvet cover.

It's hard to accurately capture the beauty of the duvet fabrics. They are subtle and range from caramel-chocolate in color to light beige and cream with light grass-colored and blush accents. Here are some close-ups of the individual fabrics, but honestly, they're much more beautiful than they appear here.

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I'm considering using the Yellow Brick Road pattern for the duvet, but I may make some modifications (like perhaps larger blocks) or just create a pattern of my own. Marnie did a very nice createalong post on using excel to design colorwork, which I think could be employed to design a quilt and approximate the color patterns that different arrangements would produce.

Posted by Julia at 07:49 AM | Comments (19)

March 20, 2007

Postcard from Phoenix

I made a whorl-wind journey to Phoenix this past weekend to bask in the company of my friends from the law firm where I worked right after finishing school. These are my friends with whom I made the wedding quilt; now the first of them (Ellen) is very, very pregnant and a second (Julia) is pregnant as well. The last of us left the firm in the fall, and only one of us remains in private practice (she was smart enough to do transactional work, the rest of us are litigators). It's really interesting to see the changes in our lives and careers. It's also nice to see everyone happy.

I feel like each of us has found a way to make life work, which is a far cry from the stressful blur that our first few years of practice were. Phoenix was not the right city for me, but it has a place in my heart because I did so much growing there, and made so many wonderful friends. When you get out of the strip malls and move toward South Mountain or the Superstitions, there is a quiet and an alien beauty to the place that doesn't exist in my current landscape. It was nice to remember that quiet, and to enjoy seeing so many people that I care about enjoying their lives and starting their families. The weekend was filled with happiness and hope. Here are some photos of Ellen's shower, hosted by Julia, who will be having a baby shower of her own soon...

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Photos taken by Me, Jessica and Nick.

Top to bottom, left to right: The proud father-to-be displaying his son's tiny argyles; Julia and Bert's beautiful home; Yours truly happily contemplating life from behind her Mimosa; My gifts: the soon-to-be-blogged Harvey vest and pee-pee tee-pees purchased at Edna's; Close-up of the argyles made by Ellen's mom using the intarsia method; The girls all together: Me, Julia (pregnant), Ellen (pregnant) & Jessica; The radiantly beautiful Julia with her devoted pup Chewie; Ellen's mother and Delana laughing; Ellen's darling niece; A blessedly flattering close-up of my posterior in the Daktari skirt, petting Chewie; Ellen's nephews transfixed by the presents; Homemade cupcakes from Nikki's kitchen; Ellen unfurling the "cuddle quilt" which her mother hand-stitched for her.

Edited to add: I have had a few questions on the baby argyle socks. My guess is that these are not from a formal pattern, but I will make inquiries when Ellen's mother has finished her travels. In the meantime, these very cool posts are a great place to start when making argyle socks.

Posted by Julia at 07:47 AM | Comments (9)

March 17, 2007

What's that, Marie?

Hey, Marie! How is your Marseilles Pullover coming along over there across the pond?

What's that you said? You're done?

Let's see!

Let it never be said that I am unwilling to do silly, or even stinky, things for the blog. I am really busy with work right now and find myself without daylight hours in which to do a Marseilles Pullover photo shoot, so to feed my blogging buddies I threw the Marseilles Pullover on over my cycling clothes after I got home from the gym Tuesday and took a few silly shots very quickly so as not to befoul my new sweater. See how much I love you guys?

It will be a little while before I can do a proper photo session, since I will be spending the weekend in Phoenix showering the baby to be of my good friend Ellen and I sincerely doubt that I will be able to wear it there. (Who knows, though? Maybe early in the morning?) Happily, my serendipitous knit-along buddy Marie decided to put together a little teaser for you, using my sweater, Laura's, and her own in a lovely montage. Enjoy!

Posted by Julia at 12:12 AM | Comments (17)

March 16, 2007

Knits in Action: Bond

I really love the idea of knits in action posts, but here's the thing: It's really hard to make them look more candid than my photo shoots, because typically I take my shots early in the morning and I am dressed exactly as I will be for the day. Although I have occasionally dolled it up a little more for you guys, for the most part I try to look as I really will. Moxie and I love to take photos, as well, so our "candid" shots aren't much more candid than our staged ones. I'm pretty practiced with the self-timer, so unless we get fancy with the location, I usually take my own pictures, as well.

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Bond is a great layering basic. I let a little orange frill peek out from underneath.

I decided the best way to give you a really candid photo would be to take pictures of myself getting ready for work (I have a very casual office). So here I am, freshly showered in my hair turban. If you don't have one of these, you need one. It's the best method I know for keeping wet hair up and making it dry naturally faster. You gotta love the turban.

Posted by Julia at 12:00 PM | Comments (6)

March 13, 2007

The Hoolia on Reviews

DeciduousCIMG4496.jpgPrior to writing my first review, I considered writing a blurb on my personal review philosophy for this blog. Here's rule number one: I only review things I like. And for the most part I will only review things that I like a lot. Although I know it may very well be useful for you to hear about things that I don't like, I don't enjoy that kind of writing in this particular forum, and with the limited time that I have to blog and my tendancy toward long-windedness, it's not a hard decision to stick to the things I am actually interested in rather than harping on the things that I think suck. Whether you realize it from my writing here or not, I am a pretty harsh critic (I am a lawyer, after all), but that isn't my role at chez MOW. When I review something here, my goal is simply to share something that I like a great deal with you, my readers and friends. Hopefully you know me well enough to know where our opinions overlap and where they do not (well, at least in the knitting arena). I know you know yourselves well enough to make final decisions on your own, no matter what I say to you.

Rule number two is that I never review anything at the behest of someone else. Period, the end. I will only review a book, podcast, etc. if I feel like it. Similarly, if I talk about anything that a friend has designed, I will let you know in advance, so that you can take that potential bias into account. I will never tell you that a pattern is great if it isn't, even if it is designed by someone near and dear. And I will always let you know if there are aspects of a book, pattern, or yarn that I do not care for, or if there are things that may not appeal to certain sensibilities or skill levels, if those things occur to me. I will do it in a very nice way, and in a way that indicates that I am expressing my opinion rather than a universal truth, but I will definitely let you know. Naturally, sometimes my own preferences are so strong that your preferences may not be in the forefront of my mind, but I will try to be balanced. If a pattern book is involved I will include a healthy sampling of photos, as I think this gives you the best opportunity to make a decision for yourself. (I love thoughtful reviews with lots of photographs. Although I'm sure you've seen it already, here's a particularly good review with tons of photos.)

I recently read a review that was very critical of Lace Style and very critical of reviewers who gushed about it. This review was not aimed at me, and I seriously doubt that the writer read my review of Lace Style or is even aware that my blog exists. It simply got me to thinking about something that I had thought about before, and that is that I wanted you to know what my review philosophy for the blog is, so that you can evaluate what I say in that context. I also want you know that I am not gushing because I am blown over by "famous" (god help us) knitwear designers or being swept up by the vast peer pressure of the "knitting crowd." (What are we, people? Three?)* I am gushing because I truly like something and I want to share it with you. I stand by that gush with my every fiber, and I will no doubt live to gush again. But I also stumbled upon a review with what I felt could be pretty useful criticism of Lace Style, in the sense that it echoes what I can imagine many knitters with a different perspective than mine might not like about the book. It expresses what I can see being the dominant counter-viewpoint. If you read it and it sounds like you, you may want to give buying Lace Style a second thought. (The review also gives some good tips for figuring out if patterns are wonky - watch how the models hold their bodies and hands. Do they need to contort or to pull down an edge to keep a piece in place? Beware!) So, I wanted to share it with you as well. Reading an alternate opinion is likely to make your choices even more well-informed.

Finally, I invite you to let me know what you think of books that I recommend. Are there things that you don't like that I missed? Are there things that you loved that I didn't mention? I always like to know what hasn't occurred to me when I evaluate this stuff. I enjoy different perspectives, and I will gladly add your thoughts to the comments (or, if they're really interesting, to the review itself) so that other people can benefit as well.

* See, she is critical. Where did that come from?

Posted by Julia at 07:00 AM | Comments (14)

March 11, 2007

Marseilles Finished; Tuna Gets Some Play

Marseilles in Repose

The Marseilles Pullover is all finished and fabulous, but you're going to have to take my word for it that it looks great on, because we are having a record heat wave and I'm not so sure that I can brave the elements to wear it! I predicted that this would happen. The temperature has an inverse relationship with whatever I happen to be knitting. No sooner did I get the Daktari Skirt off the needles then we had a little cold snap. I had about a week to wear it and then I had to shelve it until now.

Ms. Tuna snuggles up.
It's only 90 degrees after all.
I am unconcerned, however. My strategy is to alternate hot and cold weather knits. That way I will always get to wear something right off the needles. Next up - Essential Tank Top! Get ready for some snow, Los Angeles!

The shot above was actually hard to get, because a certain someone kept inserting herself into the pictures. She likes new things, but she's also kind of a ham. I realized that I should probably have more pictures of her around here, lest you think I have only one little stinky orange cat. I think there are two reasons that I don't have many pictures of Tuna. The first is her coloring. She really is a challenge to photograph, especially on all the dark furniture that we have. The second reason is that it's hard to photograph Tuna in "action." If Townes is a doer, Tuna is a "be"-er. She's a little buddha kitty with exactly one pose:

And here it is...

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I wasn't kidding....

Posted by Julia at 07:20 AM | Comments (21)

March 10, 2007

Laura's Marseilles

Marseilles1.jpgI've mentioned several times that my best friend Laura and I knit Marseilles together. Laura finished first, which was a huge advantage for me, since I knew that the neckline would be too wide in advance and was able to remedy that issue along the way rather than having to undo the seams later as she did. I've been bothering Laura for Marseilles pictures forever, and she has kindly obliged.

I'll do a comparison later, but for now I'll just let you enjoy these pictures of my beautiful friend in her beautiful sweater. I'm so proud when I look at these. We've been best friends for 17 years now. She's an amazing person and a wonderful mother.

I am so, so lucky to know her.


Posted by Julia at 05:50 AM | Comments (16)

March 09, 2007

Knits In "Action": River

RiverCIMG0352.jpgI recently found out about the handknit street style flickr pool that Lolly started. (Via Kodachrome - thanks girl! I live under a rock!) I love to see knitters wear their handknits to places other than the yarn shop. One of my favorite moments was in an airport about a year ago when I spotted a woman wearing Kim Hargreaves' First Aid from an older Rowan - how often do you get such a cool sighting? Over the last few weeks I've taken random shots on the days when I wear my knits.

Zosia napped, too. She opted for fur.
Last Sunday was a wonderful day to wear River. Moxie and I sat on the porch and it was warm enough to enjoy, but cool enough that a shawl was perfect. I found myself getting sleepy, so I grabbed one of my big outdoor pillows (also handmade!) and said "Moxie, I'm taking a nap. Can you take a few shots of me after I fall asleep?" Voila! River in Action!

Posted by Julia at 05:20 AM | Comments (8)

March 08, 2007

Have You Seen...

This? Link via Faith. I nearly wet myself. It's long but worth it. I promise.

Posted by Julia at 09:28 AM | Comments (8)

Meathead Winners

Thanks to all who participated in the Meathead Contest, or who simply went over to Larissa's site to donate to the cause by purchasing a pattern. (If you haven't gone over the pattern is still available until noon PST, so run over fast!) I purchased patterns for the following five contest winners this morning:

Michele mi.yuck (AT) gmail (DOT) com
Alli allirosen (AT) hotmail (DOT) com
Lori jezebel99 (AT) earthlink (DOT) net
Charity stuart434 (AT) shaw (DOT) ca
Sarah sarah.shoemaker1 (AT) marist (DOT) edu

Larissa should be sending you the pattern shortly by e-mail. Please be patient - I'm sure she has many patterns to send out. If you don't hear from her in a few days, however, please let me know and I'll be sure to follow up. Thanks also to the generous folks who agreed to help me knit meatheads for the family. I will contact you to coordinate details as soon as I have more information on sizes and genders.

You guys are the best!!! Love, J

Posted by Julia at 06:22 AM | Comments (5)

March 07, 2007

Last Day of the Meathead Contest

If you missed my meathead contest post, you can still purchase the pattern from Larissa today, and I will be taking entries until tomorrow morning when I randomly draw winners to donate for. I will not know whether the winners purchased the pattern independently, and I do want to earnestly encourage you to participate regardless of whether you are able to donate yourself. I'm going to pay for the five patterns using the winners' e-mail addresses, so each winner will be sent a copy of the pattern whether they need it or not. Please don't be shy - just enter! At last count, Larissa had managed to raise over $600 for Cassie, which is really, really impressive. Thanks to everyone for their efforts, purchases and donations.

Click the photo for a close-up.
Apologies for the photo quality - the sun is not yet up!

Since I really wanted to put my money where my mouth was, I went ahead and whipped out my own meathead on Monday night. It took about an hour and it's adorable. I originally intended to make this one for myself, but I was lazy about gauge and ended up with a child-sized hat. And then it occurred to me that Cassie and her children should each have one of these hats. I know it may seem like a trivial thing to make hats for a family in the face of such tragedy, but I think that although it is a small thing, it is important to have little reminders in our lives that other people care more than we know, and that help can come from unexpected places.

I do not know how many children Cassie has, or their ages or genders, but I am sure that Larissa will get me that information. I've knit a hat that is suitable for a little girl. Since many of you have the pattern, is there anyone who would like to volunteer to make one of the other hats? If you can help out with a hat, please leave me a note in the comments and we'll coordinate to make this happen.

*Worked in one strand of Lamb's Pride Bulky and one strand of Manos on US 13 needles; the leaf was worked using only the Manos doubled, on US 10's, but I think I'm going to re-knit it - perhaps in brown? thoughts anyone?- to make it stand out better visually.

Posted by Julia at 07:08 AM | Comments (14)

March 05, 2007

Another Morning, More Marseilles

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A little clarification on why I referred to my mornings as goofy in my last Marseilles post: This is what I do from 4:30 a.m. until a little before 7:00 a.m. Not exactly typical knitting or waking hours, but I do what I can to make sure I get my knit on. These photos were taken on Sunday morning - same time frame! She is an early bird, that Hoolia....

The Marseilles Pullover is trucking along. Although I've actually done the knitting in a very short period, it feels like it's taking forever. When I started it back in November last year I was in a frame of mind where I needed something mindless, so I began with a sleeve. That has turned out to be a great choice. The body on this sucker takes a long time to knit and with my gauge modifications it takes even longer. I am so grateful to just have one sleeve to slog through now, rather than two!

Here are my tips on knitting this pullover so far:

LENGTH: Whether you knit it loosely or tightly the pullover will grow in length, so make sure that you either plan to avoid this by making a big swatch and blocking it properly or that you incorporate it as a design element. The sleeves will not grow nearly as much as the body, so the swatch that you make to get gauge (which is just the sleeve pattern) will not really tell you how much length you'll get for your buck. I don't usually get surprises when it comes to length and blocking, but in this case I'd say that the sweater gained about three inches in length and I was anticipating it would grow by about two inches. The sweater is designed to be knit in a worsted weight yarn and I knit it rather loosely in a dk weight, but I'm not sure if you would have much less growth if you knit more tightly in the worsted, because the added weight of the bulkier yarn would also have an effect on the length. My best friend Laura knit Marseilles in an aran weight, so I'll be sure to ask her what kind of post-blocking growth she got on her sweater.

I love the longer length of my sweater, so I lucked out. I'll note the measurements in the pattern notes so that others making it have a ballpark figure to work from.

BOATNECK: In both dk and aran weights, the neckline was too wide for Laura and I. The instructions have you bind off the center neckline stitches and reserve the shoulder stitches on stitch holders so that you can do a three-needle bind-off of the shoulders when both the front and back are done. Since Laura warned me that the neck was too wide, I opted to keep all the stitches live until both pieces were done, and then played around to see how many stitches I needed to bind off to make the shoulders the perfect width for me. [Go to my last Marseilles post for photos of this process. Notice the two circular needles hanging from the neckline.] My definition of the perfect width is the point where the sweater is still technically a boatneck, but you can't see my bra straps hanging out. On the size 38 sweater that is twenty-four stitches per shoulder. The original pattern would have you use thirteen stitches per shoulder, so rule of thumb if you want shoulder-width like mine is to add eleven stitches to the number suggested for your size in the pattern and tweak from there. Once you've done the three-needle bind-off on the shoulders, you can simply cast-off the neckline stitches in the round. I hope this helps!

Posted by Julia at 06:01 PM | Comments (14)

March 04, 2007

Modifications: A Designer's First Step

Debut of the Daktari Dress - with a curtsy!
Right after I kicked off the createalong, I realized that before I can play with my design in earnest, I really need to get the current WIPs off my plate. Except for the Marseilles Pullover, they are all gifts and will need to be gifted soon. The Marseilles Pullover itself is best suited to cool weather, and since LA has such a short chilly season, I need to finish it if I am going to get any wear out of it this year. So while I am finishing what I started, I thought I would participate in the CAL by doing some posts on the creative process in general.

This post covers the basic starting point for most designs - modifications - and borrows photos and an example from one of our very talented CALer's, Samantha. Sam started making a version of the Daktari Skirt (Lacy Skirt with Bows) for herself, but quickly realized that a single panel of the skirt could be modified to make a dress for her daughter. The pattern is the same as the original, except that only a single panel is used and there are garter stitch straps added at the top. These are simple modifications, but brilliant - what a lovely transformation.

I was completely taken by Sam's dress idea. When I was Sam's daughter's age my grandmother had a very similar ingenious idea. She took some of her old slips, smocked them at the top to gather the fabric in, and sewed on satin ribbons for ties. I had several of these slip dresses that I wore as nighties and used to play dress-up. I still remember all the details of those little dresses - that is how much I loved them. (I know that my mother, who reads this blog, has a photo of me in one - maybe you'll send me a copy, ma? I don't know if she still has any of the nighties.)

Guess who got the "shy" gene...
I am sure that many of you have made some sort of modification like this. We all do a little bit of tweaking to change a pattern to suit our needs, even if it is something as seemingly simple as lengthening the sleeves of a sweater or adding short rows to the bust. Don't underestimate the power of these tweaks. They aren't just useful for the project you just finished - they can also be a springboard for the next project.

Having finished her daughter's dress, Sam can now go on to make other dresses using the first one as a template. She has the measurements from the Daktari dress to use as a baseline, so for the next dress she can use the same basic shape and change the patterning. Or she could go one step further and tweak the shape a little, too. What would the dress look like with a fitted bodice? What if she changed the length a little? A completely new and different dress can be designed using what Sam has already figured out here, and with a few little changes she will have stepped from modification to design.

The same is true of little sweater modifications. I try to keep track of little details that I add to commercial patterns, and I also follow which measurements will tend to work best for me in different circumstances. I've learned over time that a bodice twenty inches in length is my "standard," and will fit in such a way to keep my midriff covered (No muffin-top to be seen here people! ). A twenty-two inch bodice will cover the waistband of my trousers and give a nice elongated look to an outfit (which is why I plan for Mishka to be about twenty-two inches in length). Twenty-five inches will give me a tunic or coat length. Knowledge of these measurements gives me a good starting point for design. I am fairly standard-sized, so I can take my measurements and simply add to them proportionally (more on that later) to get the other standardized sizes in a range, but if you aren't standard-sized you can simply figure out how differently your measurements run from the standards proportionally and then make those adjustments across the board for all sizes in a pattern. The opposite approach works as well. If you are working from a commercial pattern and know that you need to take in two inches at the waist as compared to the usual standard size you can work out that modification before you start knitting so that the piece will fit you in a flattering way.

These are just little things to think of as you design. Don't undervalue your experiences as you go along - use them for the next step. Just look at that dress!

A stroll on the ocean in Guam. With a backyard like this, would you miss wool?

Posted by Julia at 05:47 AM | Comments (7)

March 01, 2007

The Goofy Shit I Do With My Free Time

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A morning in the life of the Hoolia.

So I've been seeing all these beautifully photographed posts of other people's "studios" and days in their lives and feeling kind of envious. I love doing those kinds of posts, because I like letting you guys in a little on what my life looks like - mostly because I love it when other people do that. But after checking out several of these, I realized that in my current phase of life the only way I could give you a high-falootin' look at chez Hoolia would be to clean up the joint, style the furniture - or maybe just throw it all out and buy some new furniture - and create a big fat lie. Instead, here is my morning exactly as it really is: hair and teeth unbrushed, glasses smudged, trying on pieces of knits and taking photos of myself using the self-timer and the mirror. Ah, the glamor.

The Marseilles Pullover is coming along quite nicely. In the photos above I had the two body pieces on circulars and was using a little trial and error to figure out how many stitches to three-needle bind-off for the shoulders - I settled on twenty-four. One of the genius things about knitting this behind my best friend is that I know its "issues." There's only one and it's simply that the pattern makes the neckline too wide to stay on the shoulders well or hide bra straps. Binding off twenty-four stitches hits the spot.

My excitement for this evening was pinning the front, back and single sleeve that I have finished together and trying it on for fit. It's looking good. Life is so wild I can barely stand it. *smile*

Posted by Julia at 11:27 PM | Comments (18)