Thursday, November 05, 2015

Shoulder Pads and Phospho Glow

In this Shoulder Pad post, you will find:
1: why to use them
2: how to make them
3: how to add them to the pattern Phospho Glow
4: further reading

Phospho Glow: This design would suffer without the use of shoulder pads because of the sloping shape of my shoulders.

Shoulder Pads?! But WHY!?
I've been overheard to proclaim that there's nearly nothing I dislike more than shoulder pads.

And to be honest, I'm not sure why I've had that knee-jerk reaction.
It's not an uncommon one, though: a quick perusal of shoulder pad opinion on Ravelry produces buckets of scorn for this stylistic choice.

Shoulder pads, though, are like many things in life: not for everyone, most certainly for someone, and great in moderation.

If you do a bit of research into the proper fit of clothing (from the sewing and knitting world alike), you'll see that a good fit in the shoulders is very important to the overall look of the garment.

And as I've been sewing a bit more lately, I've run in to something about my body I had NO idea of before: I have sloping shoulders. This explains why I have difficulty wearing strappy things. Those suckers slide right off.

So shoulder pads (of a moderate size) could help me to attain a better looking fit with certain garments I may otherwise be unable or unwilling to significantly alter myself.

Equally, the stylistic choice of shoulder pads shouldn't be ignored: even a modest shoulder pad can create a powerful change in the look of your garment. And they're a look that's connecting strongly to a culture that's increasingly drawing upon recent fashion history in a conscious effort to generate both nostalgia and a sense of post-post-modern newness.

Just look at the cyclical popularity of: bell bottoms/flares, platform shoes, skinny jeans, tights, neon, plaid, high-waisted denim, and now the poor, maligned shoulder pad.

(Incidentally, don't make the mistake in thinking that the later decades of the 20th century "invented" styles like platforms and shoulder pads. Those things have a long history of ducking in and out of fashion. Did you know the fashionable set wore platforms in the 1930s? They totally did).

Some of my favourite cultural style setters are wearing shoulder pads now (Ke$ha and Lady Gaga, specifically). So if there's ANY strong argument to be made for wearing shoulder pads as a stylistic choice, I'd say that's it!

Ok! Now, on to the "how".

Shoulder Pads!? But HOW?!
You have options.
You can certainly pop over to your local sewing shop and buy yourself some pre-made shoulder pads. The advantage here is simply time-saving. You don't have to make these yourself.

But, if you're looking to add shoulder pads to your knits, then I'd have to recommend trying (at least once) to knit them yourself.
Advantages here include:
  • colour matching
  • fabric behaviour/characteristics matching
  • using leftover yarn bits/gauge swatches
  • size control

Colour/Fabric Characteristics Matching
Making your own shoulder pads for your knits means you have control over their colour and behaviour. The most easily accessible types of pre-made shoulder pads are generally not made from natural fibres, and will move/drape/behave differently from your knit. You may want this effect, but if you don't these qualities are something to be aware of.

Using Leftover Yarn
A shoulder pad doesn't have to  be larger! Even the larger ones wouldn't take up very much yarn. I know I always feel successful when I find a use for my leftover precious bits of yarn. And hey, what better use for a small amount of lovely, soft yarn, than for something that will sit directly next to your skin? You could even get creative with it and include some colourwork into your shoulder pads!! Or a gauge swatch!!

Size Control
Depending on the look you want, you may need a little, and bit more, or a lot of padding. I'd say you have the most control over this thickness when you create the pads yourself. Use one layer of sport weight, or three layers of bulky! I'm sure you can imagine the customizeable possibilities.

HOW to Knit Yourself Shoulder Pads?!!
Your considerations are going to include size and shape, and that's pretty much it. Shoulder pads are simple. You could even use gauge swatches! (Gasp! A use for gauge swatches!!)
Minds more studied than mine on the topic of shoulder pads can give you information as to shape options and effects. Here, I'll tell you how I knit mine for Phospho Glow.

The shoulder pads used in Phospho Glow may not be desired/necessary for you to get the look you want. Like I said, I have sloping shoulder, so needed the extra boost for my own sweater.

Detail of little puff that wouldn't be if I didn't add shoulder pads to my own Phospho Glow.
So, let me tell you a bit about what I did for my Phospho Glow:
  • considered the fact that I wanted yarn with drapey fibres (alpaca, in this case)
  • used needles that gave a drapey fabric, NOT a stiff one (this TOTALLY depends on your gauge!)
  • selected DK weight so that I immediately got a bit of thickness, but also the ability to fine tune by adding more or fewer layers
  • chose a colour that wouldn't show through the sweater
  • made a triangular shape, which gave a more feminine look than a large rectangle
  • created this triangle by casting on ONE stitch and increasing one stitch along each edge on the RS until it was as wide as I was looking for (about 4.5" at the base). I then repeated the steps backwards, and folded the resulting "diamond" into a triangle so that it was 2 layers thick.
  • positioned the point of triangle towards my neck, placed right where bra straps wraps around top of shoulder
  • ultimately, I created a pad that is only about 1/4" / 0.5 cm thick; so, a fairly modest pad (coat pads can be 1" / 2.5 cm thick!)

Here you see the pads before I folded them in half and seamed them up the sides.

How to Add them to Phospho Glow

Now, you can stitch them directly on to the knit, but I didn't do that because I was concerned that the fingering weight of Phospho would be too delicate for this extra heft and the stitches might be unattractively pulled out of shape.
Instead, I just tuck the pads under my bra straps and away I go. You could pin them down, too, but the fewer sharp and pointy things I wear the happier I feel.

Further Reading
Have I convinced you? Perhaps not.
So here I put into your hands some great shoulder pad resources. Go forth and read!

 And, one last note to leave on:
From the Coletterie:

The kimono sleeve came into fashion for "Western" women’s clothing towards the tail end of the 1940’s when the exaggerated shoulders which had previously been fashionable began to evolve into a more natural silhouette. As women’s fashion entered into the 1950’s, the fashionable silhouette for shoulders continued to move away from the large padded ‘Power’ look of the 1930’s/40’s towards the extreme opposite. A trend for petite and slopping shoulders emerged, alongside the nipped in waists, waspy hips and doll-like everything else, as a reflection of the demure and ultra-feminine stereotype to which society largely expected women to adhere.

1 comment: said...

I also did not like shoulder pads when I was younger. However, as I became older (and smarter:) I understood that shoulder pads are really chick:) So, thank you so much for interesting and useful post!