Friday, March 21, 2014

Flamingo in Progress

Update! I've been calling the cardigan project for mom The Flamingo Cardi, not just because of the yarn color, but because the sweater itself actually reminds me of a flamingo. The long lines, the graceful sweep of the upper back, and the broad, folded back "wings" that make up the sides and lower back - all it needs is some black leggings! :)

I finally finished the shawl collar late last night and set it to block this morning. I wound up using just barely over 3 skeins, and it will be about 53" long and 13" wide when it dries. On mom's petite figure (same as mine), it should hit just at hip level.


I knit from both ends up, so that the slip stitch columns would go the same direction, and kitchenered them together at the center. Looking at the photo, the original sweater clearly just has a regular seam there, but I wanted something with a lower profile that would lay comfortably on the back of the neck, and not add bulk to an already considerably bunched collar. The graft isn't completely invisible, since I couldn't mimic the slipped stitches, but it is neat, smooth, and will be largely hidden when worn anyway.

 Of course, these were the easy sections. The sleeves only present a challenge in finding the right measurements for the sleeve cap. Once I work that out, actually knitting them will be quick since they are just stockinette. The real challenge is the side/lower back panels, what I've been calling the "wings." These pieces have extensive, asymmetrical shaping. Each wing needs to reach from the front shoulder, all the way down along the shawl collar and past it to hit at mid-thigh, and then wrap around the side, shaping the arm hole as it goes, to join with the bottom edge of the back panel along its curve.

The photos of the original sweater were a great place to start for some of the basic shaping needs, but there were two major problems - 1) Mom didn't move the sleeve, so several columns of stitches were completely obstructed, including the underarm shaping; and 2) it's a 3D shape, and as neatly as she had it spread out, I still can't see the shape of the flat knitted piece without actually ripping some seams out.

So, I turned to draping to help me work it out. Draping, in sewing and garment making, is the process of ruining a cheap piece of fabric by pinning it to a dressform where you need the final garment to hang, making sure to pin down where you need folds, darts, etc, marking the armholes and so forth, and then using that as a mock-up or pattern for cutting your nice fabric. It can also be useful in knit designing, because once you get all your outlines marked while the fabric is on the dressform, you can then take it off, lay it flat, and use the measurements to math out exactly what you need to do with your needles to make that odd shape.

I do not have much experience with draping. I am a lazy costume maker and I usually just dive right into my nice fabric. However, I recently acquired a very large lace dust ruffle at Goodwill, and the center of it (the part that usually gets hidden under your mattress) is a perfect source of throwaway material. Still, my first attempt at creating a draped mock-up for the wings was very Frankenstein:

I am terrible at draping. 
I completely misjudged the angle of the bottom hem with my initial piece and had to hack it up and pin the scraps all over each other to jigsaw it back into something that hung right. But! Once I had that monster held together just so, I was able to carefully remove it from the dressform, lay it down on a fresh section of my cheap fabric, and trace the outline to give me something whole and clean that I could extensively mark up with measurements, stitch and row counts, and shaping instructions. Et voila:

Sadly, based on the size of this panel and the fact that I have already consumed more than 40% of my yarn, I know now for sure that I do not have enough yarn to do the sleeves. I will contact Knit Picks to see if they even have any left in this dye lot, and then figure out what I'm going to do from there. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring is Coming!

The sun is shining more often than not, the flowers are starting to peek out - 'tis the season for knit lace!

Chloe is wearing the Esme pullover knit from Patons Beehive Baby Fingering in the color Vintage Lace - I just love it when the color matches the project so well. :)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Copycat Designing

Such a good sport!
A couple weeks ago, mom sent me photos of a coworker in a long, swingy, open-front cardigan and hinted rather strongly that she'd love for me to knit her one just like it. The sweater in question was store-bought, and an exhaustive search of the Ravelry pattern database turned up nothing even remotely similar. This by itself was actually pretty surprising, since the Ravelry collection is massive, comprehensive, and very well indexed, and I've seen similar flowy cardigans all over the place for the last few years. I even own a couple. It seemed inevitable that someone, somewhere, had written a pattern for something that was close enough to be modded with little difficulty. But I found nothing.

It was hard to be disappointed, though, because that meant I got to design it myself! Woo!
One of the super helpful structural photos mom took.
Copycat designing has its obvious advantages.  Since it's not my own original brainchild, much of the designing work is already done for me. There's an existing, wearable example for me to work from. Ideally, I'd be able to get my hands on it, measure it, possibly even deconstruct it, but alas, this particular sweater lives on the far side of the continent. The hardest part then, as far as getting a good replica, will be studying the photos as closely as possible and using everything I know about knitting to figure out, just by looking, what the stitch pattern is and how and where all the shaping was applied. I'll also have to adjust the proportions slightly for a petite stature.

The biggest downside is that this will be almost entirely a labor of love as far as pattern writing goes. Although I'm not exactly stealing a pattern, I am doing my best to reconstruct one from a finished object designed and sold by someone else, and so I think any attempt on my part to sell my copycat pattern would probably amount to plagiarism. Even if it's not exactly illegal, it would be artistically dishonest. But, if I take clear notes, I can at least reproduce the sweater more than once should anyone else want one, which is a much more acceptable route, legally and morally.

Close study of the photos revealed that the texture of the entire sweater, excepting the sleeves, was a 1x2 ribbing made of slip stitch columns and garter stitch. Easy peasy. The sleeves themselves are just stockinette, even easier. The front trim and gore panel in the back are actually fabric sewn onto the knitting. I will have to take a sweater piece with me to the craft store and hunt down the perfect coordinating lace.

For yarn, I went with KnitPicks Comfy Worsted in Flamingo. Comfy, as I mentioned in my last post, is one of my favorite non-wool yarns for mom projects. The color, a lovely pale neutral pink, is one that I suggested but never thought she would actually choose. But she did! I ordered 10 balls, thinking that just over 1000 yds would be plenty for this project. But now I'm not so sure I won't need more, which is always a pain in the butt because of the difficulty of obtaining skeins from the same dye lot. I will have to make my decision as soon as possible so that I can contact Knit Picks and see if it's possible to get more from that lot. It took most of one skein to do just the back panel, which is the smallest piece. I expect to use nearly four skeins doing the shawl collar, and the "wings" and sleeves are even bigger. Yipes.

Well, first things first. I figured out my gauge and completed the back panel, which has really cool symmetrical shaping that was fun to figure out with lots of staring and experimental charting.

The back panel. Note the super clever shaping. 
Next, I cast on for the shawl collar. This is going to take a while since it's essentially a short scarf. The weather was absolutely gorgeous today, so I made sure to get cozy outside for a while so my complexion and my stitches could soak up some sun.  More pics soon!

The sun does shine in Oregon.