Archive for August, 2014

MadelineTosh Sock Yarn in Aura Colorway

MadelineTosh Sock Yarn in Aura Colorway

Sanity arrived in the post on Saturday. My new acquisition of yarnie goodness is MadelineTosh Sock Yarn in the Aura colorway. I’ve started a pair of socks with it for The Skipper. Socks are a comforting and calming knit for me. I find they soothe my soul and calm the rough waters of my life. I am reassured that the universe is not a weight on my shoulders. I do not control all that goes on in it. In fact, I don’t have control over much that happens in life around me. I can only control me, my thoughts, my actions, my responses and that is quite enough, thank you very much.

The “fun”, creative part of the Girl’s 1960s Smock is done. I spent most of Saturday crunching numbers. Knitting math is consuming. Alter one number and a slew of other numbers are effected and need to be altered too. I know there is Excel, but Excel doesn’t give me what I want. I prefer to deal with each size individually. Tinker in specific areas of a size, making sure that in the end, all the parts relate to the whole in the correct proportions for that size. So I use a calculator, pen and paper. In other words, I do it the old way. For me, this is the best way to ensure my numbers are right.

Not only do I deal with the lengths and widths at this point in the design. I also figure the numbers for the amount of stitches and rows for the lengths and widths. The amount of stitches decreased and the rate of those decreases over a set number of rows is also calculated. Increases, and their amount and rate are calculated. Sleeves and sleeve caps are also calculated at this point. As are neck shaping and armhole shaping.

By the time I am done with the knitting math part of a design I know when and where everything happens in the garment. I can knit the garment by just looking at the numbers. All stitches and rows are accounted for and equal their counterparts in inches and centimeters. Pattern numbers and schematic numbers match.

Next, I will tell you how to set up a design range and how to gather the needed measurements.


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The Cheshire Cat arrived yesterday. The answer to the design dilemma was always right in front of me on the initial sketch I made. I had, in a moment of hieroglyphical madness, written “. st”. Because I am making lantern sleeves, (I call them blousey sleeves, the fashion industry uses the term lantern), I had channeled my inner anal-ness and documented the sleeves and cuffs in detail, along with all the sizing numbers and math work that goes with it. So “. st” got lost amid all the data. In short, the plan was to use “Dot Stitch” as the body pattern. Knitting will commence this weekend.

In other news, I bought more MadTosh Sock Yarn. I really wanted to start a shawl I’ve been meaning to get to, but I have had this design rolling around in my head for The Skipper’s next pair of socks and while I was perusing MadTosh Sock Yarn on the Web I just happened to see the precise color I had in mind. The design is tentatively titled Ghost Love.

In the gardening news, we have tons of tomatoes on our plants, but few are ripening. The handful that have ripened have end blossom rot. This does not look promising and I may not be able to make my year’s worth of tomato sauce. The lettuce did very well, as did the beans and carrots. The kale is magnificent. The cucumbers are plentiful, the onion and garlic did well. The beets were bountiful. The corn is looking good. It just the tomatoes.

Have a great weekend.

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Initial swatch to see how things would look.

Initial swatch to see how things would look.

Designing is a bit like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. The Queen of Hearts is my internal editor. She can hack to pieces an idea before it’s fully formed or kill it after it’s formed. Her main goal is just to do away with it. While the Queen of Hearts is censoring ideas, the White Rabbit constantly whizzes by to remind me that I am running late, taking too much time, the project will never be realized, better to move on to something else. That’s the point when the Mad Hatter enters the melee and time stops along with any progress. I get stuck. Stuck. Stuck. Stuck. At this point, I travel the same path over and over. Passageways that seem to lead somewhere disappointingly circle back to the Pavilion of Stuck. The Cheshire Cat will make an appearance at some point. His grin, charming; his answers enigmatic, yet I will follow them as if I understand.

And that’s where I am ladies and gentlemen. The Queen’s been chopping up ideas right and left. The White Rabbit is on my tail about getting a move on, and here I stand stranded with the Mad Hatter in the Pavilion of Stuck. All this over the yarn I’ve already chosen and the search for the main stitch pattern for the smock.

The yarn I selected is 100% alpaca in a light fingering weight. Cue the song Edelweiss from the movie The Sound of Music that keeps playing in my head, particularly the lyric “Blossoms of snow may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever.” Alpaca is notorious for blooming and growing.

(An aside here. I find it highly disturbing personally, yet very interesting from a scientific psychiatric stand point, that I can remember all the words to a song from a movie I saw once as a kid and didn’t like, and yet it takes me 15 minutes of searching to remember where I just laid my reading glasses.)

I chose the alpaca for it’s blooming and was sure I could tame it’s growing with the proper stitch pattern. So far, I have tried 15 different texture stitch patterns for the body of the garment. All collide with the checkered boarder. Stockinette Stitch works fine, but it will exacerbate the alpaca’s tendency to grow. I tried Linen Stitch and because the weight of the yarn is light it tends to make a fabric that is stiffer and has less drape than I want. Today I am going to try the Half Linen Stitch. After that I am going to wait for the Cheshire Cat with his grin to show up. I will listen carefully to what he says, pretend I understand it and follow it to the best of my ability.

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The designer in me wanted to go with the “hot” turquoise, pink, and lime green found in the bedroom picture.

Notice the check pattern peeking out from beneath the coverlet of the bed.

Notice the check pattern peeking out from beneath the coverlet of the bed.

The three color combo said 1960s fun and bold. Alas,the trio was out of my comfort zone of colors I like to work with. I also kept having the urge to switch out the pink for coral. But I knew that changing to coral would update the palette to 2014 colors. I carried an argument around in my head for days over whether the substitution would cancel out the 1960 retro feel of the piece. Did I want the piece to feel truly retro or did I want it to give just a nod and a wink to 1960s? The more I wrestled with it the more the answer eluded me. When that happens I know I have to put it on a shelf and have patience while it works itself out in some behind the scene area in my mind.

Stuck on one thing, I moved on to another. What about the shape, the silhouette of the piece? I had a vague picture of white vinyl go-go boots, A-line shape, bell-bottom sleeves and then I saw this:


No go-go boots. And yes, they are maternity patterns. But they had the details and the silhouettes I wanted for this smock. The details that particularly interested me were the collar and button work on the yellow one. I really fell in love with the button placement on the yellow outfit and the Nehru type collar. The more I looked, the more I loved the idea of a Nehru collar with this silhouette. However, that decision presented some immediate issues.

My design range was babies from 0 to 24 months. But babies from 0 to 9 months don’t have necks. I knew a Nehru collar wasn’t going to work for them. On the other hand, I strongly felt that the Nehru collar was integral to making the silhouette work. That meant the smallest size would start at 1 year. Now I had to start thinking about the piece not as a cute retro baby smock, but as a cute, but not too cutesy retro garment for a child.

I was sketching the smock and watching TV news when the cuff of the TV news person’s jacket caught my eye. The jacket she wore was ho-hum, but the cuff made it zing. Turned back and in a satin checkered fabric, it made the jacket interesting and eye catching. The retro smock appeared as a whole unit in my mind. The main color was turquoise and the checkered detail would be stranded color work alternating the pink and lime green. The checkered detail would be used at the hem, the Nehru collar, the cuffs and the two patch pockets I now wanted on the front.

I researched the use of checks in 1960s clothes and found a treasure trove of pictures and ideas. Yes, there is more than one way to design with checks. See my Pintrest mood board here.

After all was said and done, the rough sketch I came up with was this:

sketch girl's 1960 smock 1

Once I added the patch pockets, the angled button detail wouldn’t work. It’s a feature I will save for another design. But what about all that fabric between the color work borders? Did I really want that to be all Stockinette Stitch? All Stockinette would be relaxing at first, but beyond the first five rows it might drive me mad.

Speaking about the color work borders, did I want all the floats to be exposed on the reverse side of the garment? The hems of a garment get a fair share of abuse. It’s easy to snag a float and pull the stitches out of line. It was time to think about and plan for a folded hem to cover the floats.

In the meantime, I had to find a stitch pattern that created a fabric I liked and that worked with the checkerboard borders. But first I had to come up with stitch counts and measurements.

More on that next time.

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Sometimes I wish I didn’t design knitwear. I wish I didn’t have the need to sketch, draw, and ultimately translate feelings and moods into knitted socks and sweaters. Why? It’s a whole lot of work, time, effort, thinking, planning, knitting, ripping, knitting again, altering, researching, sweating over large and small details and decisions, decisions, decisions. All with no guarantee that the end product will be successful. Successful meaning I might make back at least the amount of money I put into the pattern.

This is the background, the stage set, against which the creation and realization of a knitting pattern takes place. It’s not often talked about in knitting blogs. Instead most blogs let the reader in when the pattern is in final form and ready for sale. In other words, break out the champagne and let’s celebrate the launching of yet another knit pattern moment. All the sturm und drang happens off stage. Rarely shared, hardly mentioned.

But it’s the off stage struggle that interests me. How did the designer get from holding two needles and a ball of yarn to creating this piece of knitwear? What was he / she thinking? What were the influences? What did the initial sketches look like? What did the final sketch look like? Why this knit stitch pattern and not that knit stitch pattern? What did you want to say with this piece? What moods and feelings were you going for? How many times did you knit and reknit before the swatch mirrored what you wanted? What characteristics were you looking for in a yarn? How many did you sift through until you decided on this particular yarn? Did the creation of the piece travel in a straight line from A to Z or do you create by meandering?

I thought it might be interesting to let people in on the off stage happenings. This next monster piece I am creating is a girl’s smock. The idea for the smock was a famous 1960’s model called Twiggy.


One day I woke up and I couldn’t stop thinking about Twiggy and Carnaby Street fashions of the 1960s. Words like colorful, playful, happy, carefree, and mod kept flitting around my mind. So I decided to create a mood board regarding what I was thinking. The mood board is here. In my mood board I was looking for pictures to represent those words but in specific ways. For example, colorful led me to wondering what were some of the fashion colors of the era and how were these colors grouped together. What feelings did these color groupings create in me? What moods did they create? So I started to edit my color group choices so they would represent playful and happy. After all, it is a child’s smock. Through out all the color gathering, I kept coming back to the turquoise bedroom with the lime green and hot pink and to the 1960 oil painting called Into a Clearing by Wolf Kahn that is also on my board.

The next question I asked myself was did I want “hot” versions of the colors like in the turquoise room or did I want the more muted colors as shown in the Kahn oil painting. Could I find these colors in all one brand of yarn? I didn’t want to have to mix yarn brands to achieve the effect. So I started collecting pictures of yarn by colors, including only those brands that came closest to the “hot” and muted versions of the colors.

While I was busy playing with colors I still hadn’t decided on the shape or look of the sweater. I’ll explain how that came about in my next post. Till then….

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