Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sizes: A Manifesto in Parts

This is the first in what I'm hoping will be an ongoing discussion about sizes and knitwear patterns.

I love designing knitwear. You may know this about me. But, I'm also a dedicated and strident feminist (she says partially tongue-in-cheek)1.

If you'll indulge me: it's part of my "mission" to emphasize the importance of size/shape differences between us all. That's the confluence of my design and feminism.

We are all different sizes. YES! All different. No value should be attached to one over any other; we all know, though, that value is culturally assigned to one body type (which fascinatingly changes over time). But, let's move forward with this discussion assuming this is true: all body types are valid, not one is "wrong".

This is what I believe, and what I hope you all believe as well.

All that is to say:

Look at this.
Image on left © Michelle of My So-Called Handmade Life
See more great pics of her finished Lady Bat here.
Now, here's the value in my placing these two images side-by-side for you:

On the left we see a teenaged woman wearing a Lady Bat size XS in grey. She is 5'11" tall.
On the right, we see a 30-year-old me wearing a Lady Bat size XS in grey. I am 5'1" tall.

The 10" of difference in our height has little-to-no effect on this particular design.
A large part of this is because the piece is meant to drape, which I think you can see quite well in both photos.

When I designed Lady Bat I used the CYC standards (which are the standards, generally, for knitwear design), relying on the hip and bust measurements to determine my size range.

Lady Bat, like most of my sized garment patterns, has a large size range.

1This book, while not reflecting my personal feminism precisely, is a funny and energizing read. Linked here because she refers to herself as a "strident feminist".

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Me Made May 2013: Disco Romper Fabulous

I'm channeling my inner disco with this one.
And in just under the wire for MMM'13!

This romper makes me so happy I've gotta dance.

The pattern is from this 1970s Butterick 4121 "jumpsuit".

So, the happy things:
-I don't like wearing pants (ah! scandalous!) What I mean is, I prefer dresses and skirts. Pants have the nasty tendency to not fit in a variety of places. Because the waistline on this romper is so loose (and it can be, since the rest of it is held up by the top) I actually get to wear comfortable pants. But it's dress-like. Pantsy-dress. Skirty-pants. LOVE.

-These are my first pockets. Woo! Successful pockets!

-The pattern is for a size 6, and I'm actually something like a 12, so because I like to wing things, I just bumped the pattern out by an inch on each side and voila! It fits! I suspect this is drafting sacrilege, but is forgiven but the roomy nature of the romper itself.

-I conquered the pattern that I totally messed up last year.  I chose better fabric and overcame my fear of zippers to make this happy little disco baby. Or, make this disco baby happy.

The things I would change:

-Let me tell you, people, there will be more than one romper in my future! But for my next one(s), I'm thinking I might change the width of the shorts. The original pattern has (I think) tapered legs, so for this one I had to add a little notch along the side seam so that they didn't pull in and look too puffy (what with all those pleats!)

-For some goofball reason, the zipper runs along the front to the waist, and then they have you sew on a series of hook-and-eyes to close up the top. This creates some, um, torso-viewing opportunities. I'm thinking next time of making the zipper run all the way up as the closure, or maybe (if I'm feeling brave) moving it to the side of the outfit.

Any way, I loves this outfit. I'm stupid proud of myself for not royally messing it up, too.

So this has to be my last MMM'13 piece. But not my last romper!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

New Pattern: Lucania

Lucania, in Zen Yarn Garden colourway Poodle Skirt
I'm debuting a new pattern today!
Totes keen on this one. So much so that I had a super hard time giving the sample away.

A bit about it:

Lucania is the perfect cabled addition to your sleeveless sweater wardrobe. Great for layering, this seamless knit features a bottom-up, in-the-round construction and simple textural complements to the diamond-shaped cable repeats. The neckline and sleeve caps are picked up after the body is complete.

Buy kit here at Zen Yarn Garden.
Buy pattern here on ravelry for $6.50 CAD.

Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Worsted, 75% superwash merino, 15% cashmere, 10% nylon, 175 y/100 g, colourway Poodle Skirt, 3 (4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6) hanks
US 5 /3.75 mm circulars
18 sts & 26 rows/4” (10 cm) in stockinette in the round
18 sts & 32 rows/4” (10 cm) in 1x2 Moss Rib in the round
18 sts & 26 rows/4” (10 cm) In Twisted Rib in the round
28 (31, 34, 38, 42, 47, 50)” bust of garment
72 (79, 86, 96.5, 106.5, 119, 127) cm bust of garment
Special Skills
Grafting, cables, chart reading, short rows
Sizing Notes
This garment is intended to fit with 1” / 2.5 cm of negative ease. This means that you should choose a size that is within +/- 2” / 5 cm of your actual measurements.
Sizes listed above are the finished garment’s bust measurements.
See the Garment Schematic for complete list of finished knit measurements.

Lucania in Zen Yarn Garden colourway Yellow Opal
This is the second time I've worked with Zen Yarn Garden, and there's reason for that. This is beautiful stuff. You all need to try it. It's everything good you can say about a yarn. Beautifully complex colours, including multi-colour semi-solids and tone-on-tone gorgeousness.

I'm very glad I get to keep my Yellow Opal version. I love it so.
PLUS, I get the good fortune of being able to weave my wee dirndl top into my everyday wardrobe.

Monday, May 27, 2013

An Ode to the Hinterland; The Design Process Two

This is the sixth in my ongoing series, documenting the design process for my upcoming collection, Hinterland. 
Close up of a Hinterland Summer design.

Last we talked, we left the process at a tech-editor-ready pattern. This time, I'd like to talk (briefly) about the photoshoot.

There's any number of great photoshoot-organizing tips, posts, and articles out there. Etsy just had a very basic one on their blog recently.

But here, I want to let you know my philosophy going in to the Hinterland photoshoots.

Up until now, the vast majority of the patterns I've published have been exclusively modeled by me. This has its limitations. I've been stuck as the model mainly because I've been a bit shy in asking friends and family to model for me.

Well, that is no more! I can tell you now that I've had great luck in this regard.  Models of different heights, faces, and sizes will be included in the official photos for Hinterland.

Selecting models to represent your designs is always an important (and political) consideration. As I said, I've mainly been limited to myself through a reticence to ask others, but also through sheer logistics. If you have different people, you have to have different sized samples, and locally, so that they can be photographed in whichever setting you've picked to create your pattern/collection's look and mood.

I'll expound on the political considerations in a further post. Which, let me tell you, I can't wait to write, as the strident feminist I am wants to shout from the rooftops about culture and body shaming and sexism.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Indie Designer Day

Designer: Helen Carmichael
Blog: Stitches Studio
Rav ID: BChezza
Some Great Designs: BChezza's Rav Designer Page

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you gotta have a look: a designer's work should be instantly recognizable by the brand s/he's created.

And here, I think you'll see that BChezza has done a wonderful job. To me, she communicates warmth. Wearability. Comfort.

You can see this not only in her designs, but also in the photography and styling.

First I've included a close-up of my favourite of her pieces, Arrowstone Gauntlets. Look at that. Warm, texture, quick knit, all very attractive.

If you click on over to Miracle Beach Beret, I think you'll see just what I'm talking about with the warmth and coziness. That hat is solid: classic shape, warm look, interest in texture (and colour, as you see in some of the projects). I think it's fantastic.

Finally I'll point you to the White Swan Beret. Very much along the same wonderful lines as the Miracle Beach Beret, but somehow just a bit more feminine. LOVE!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Be Sweet; A Review and Tasting

A short while ago I was contacted by the folks at Be Sweet yarns. I'm always keen to try new yarns, so jumped on the opportunity to review a couple of their line and let ya'll know what I think.

First, here's some more about  Be Sweet:

"Be Sweet was founded on the principle of being kind to others. Nadine Curtis created Be Sweet in 2003 while living in Cape Town, South Africa.
Be Sweet’s mission; to bring socially and environmentally friendly products to fashionable consumers that evoke an individual style and help support community development around the world." (read more here).

See their yarns here.
On to the review!

I was sent three different yarns to test: Whipped Cream, Satisfaction, and Bamboo Taffy.

Swatch Whipped Cream
45% kid mohair, 45% wool, 10% silk
made in south africa
colour moss
50 g, 82 y / 75 m
4 sts/1" on 6 mm (US 10)
1 ply

My thoughts:
This is a good quality yarn. The fibres shine wonderfully, the stitches come out well defined, and the colour (and their colour range in general) is very pleasant. 
If I had to list a negative, it would be the pure fact that mohair sheds. This is nothing wrong with the yarn, just a reality of working with mohair (though I might add that the Whipped Cream yarn, with its higher mohair content than Satisfaction, did indeed shed significantly more).

Also: I gave my remainder of the moss Whipped Cream to a knitter friend. Her review was equally positive, possibly even more so, as she has nothing at all against mohair.

Pattern I think would look great in this yarn: Rikke Hat. Keep you warm, but avoid any delicate skin that would be easily irritated by mohair.

Swatch Satisfaction
60% wool, 20% kid mohair, 20% superfine alpaca
made in south africa
colour bubblegum
50 g, 115 y / 105 m
5 sts/1" on 3.75 mm (US 5)

My thoughts:
This is a good solid yarn. Nice hand, again, even stitches. The fibre quality is good, and the colours available are great.
I liked this yarn so much that I kept the remainder. Didn't share. Nope.

Pattern I think would look great in this yarn: Bumble. How cute would that be in Winter White, Marigold, and Espresso?

Swatch Bambino Taffy
70% organically grown cotton, 30% bamboo
made in south africa
colour french revolution
50 g, 100 y / 91 m
4.5 sts/1" on 4 mm (US 6)

My thoughts:
This one was my favourite. A wonderfully smooth and soft bamboo yarn, with pleasingly saturated colours. I enjoy the combinations they've put together. Here you see my little Bambino Taffy pouch. A joy to knit with. Great hand and fibre quality. The only negative? I don't know why, but I just assumed the colours would jump from one to the other. I was a bit surprised to find each colour knotted to the next (so, that is, five knots in the skein). That said, it doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the finished knit.
I think Elbie likes it too!

And now, you can enter to win a wee tasting of Be Sweet for yourself!

Some of the Be Sweet Yarn.

You get:
60% wool, 20% kid mohair, 20% superfine alpaca
made in south africa
colour: peacock
50 g, 115 y / 105 m
5 sts/1" on 3.75 mm (US 5)

Whipped Cream
45% kid mohair, 45% wool, 10% silk
made in south africa
colour: grape
50 g, 82 y / 75 m
4 sts/1" on 6 mm (US 10)
1 ply

Bambino Taffy
70% organically grown cotton, 30% bamboo
made in south africa
colour: licorice
50 g, 100 y / 91 m
4.5 sts/1" on 4 mm (US 6) 
Be Sweet package of goodies you can win!

Magic Ball
Mixed fibers including baby mohair, merino wool, ribbon, and more
50g, 9095 yards /87 m
3.5 sts/1" on 5.5 mm (US 9)

Pattern Booklet

Just comment on this post, letting me know what you think you'd knit with one hank of any of the yarns you'll win in the package!

Commenting will be open until May 31.
Winner will be announced June 4.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thanks to You All!

I recently asked those on my mailing list to participate in a short survey.
It's been such a wonderful experience! I've had the chance to get to know a bit more about you all, which is great, since I just yammer on and on about myself and hardly get to engage in conversation with you (certainly, a blog isn't the best platform for that).

Part of that survey was a giveaway: I'd like to announce the winners here.

FlossieKnits has won the grad prize of a Knit Picks gift certificate.
Amazonianb and bonniebeth have both won a free Canary Knits pattern of their choice.


Thanks to everyone for entering.

But before you go:

One thing I didn't ask in the survey was age. If you'd care to share, please answer the poll below.

What's your age? free polls 

Thanks everyone!

What's your age?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Me Made May 2013: Shift Dress Easy Stuff

If you jump into my magical bloggy Dolorean back to a few weeks ago, to this post has a mosaic pic of a whole bunch of retro patterns.

I just finished this 1970s shift dress, likely just like any other basic shift dress, but I'd like to think it's just that extra bit disco for its age.

I have to say I was a bit afraid of looking like a set of drapes with this fabric, but I think it's passable as regular fabric (it's actually quilting cotton. Very cute and on sale, so you know, I couldn't say no).

I'm rather proud of my hems, and pleased that the neckline actually fits - and perfectly! Even over my giganta-noggin!  It took some fiddling to get the facing to lay right (ish), but I'm wearing it. I don't care, dammit!

Since I'll be off and away on a vacay soon, it's likely this will be my last FO from MMM'13. Sad, indeed.
I have plenty of plans for more sewing, so stay tuned Batman!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Let the Summertime commence!

Hells yeah it's summertime.
I always equate vacation with summertime. I'm still a 12-year-old at heart.

Despite it being, in fact, MAY, and not summer, I'm starting my vacation-going early this year with a trip to Alberta.  I'm going with the man; he has family out there.

I've never been further west than Sarnia, so I have not ever actually seen for-real mountains. I cannot tell you how excited I am for this.

We've arranged a stay in cabins (squee!) in the mountains (super squee!) in Jasper National Park.  I'm frantically reading up on local birds, and planning out the perfect WIPs to bring along for the trip.

What knitting project would you bring on a trip to a cabin in the mountains?

I'm hoping to have copious photos to share when I return. But for now I leave you with this vintage Hinterland Who's Who video of the Mountain Sheep.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Indie Designer Day

Designer: Paulina Popiolek
Rav ID: PaulinaP
Some Great Designs: PaulinaP's Rav Designer Page

This designer overwhelms me with her textural accessory delight. Seriously, hop on over to her designer page on rav. You'll see.

To sort through the loveliness what difficult. I've narrowed it down to four here, which I'll run through quickly so that you go and click click click on her many other pieces!

Emanuela is the pictured pretty you see here. And a great example it is of PaulinaP's strengths: textural, pretty, feminine, wearable accessories. This is one of many shawl and wraps for you to see on her designer page.

In the topper category, there's the Pamir Hat. A good and stretchy (textured!) brim accents an otherwise simply knit and shaped hat. So wearable. This is the kind of hat that you could wear throughout the cold months of the year.

And, in a timely fashion, there's the Primavera Capelet. The lighter version of the Winter Capelet, this piece is knit in the round, accented with scalloped edging and delicate lace. A knit to dress up an outfit!

Now really, go: check out her designer page. There's like, 40 designs over there!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Me Made May 2013: For Real This Time with Neon Green

Now this is a dress I absolutely started and "completed" for MMM'13.

My friends, I did say that I'm not a sewer.
My issues here are compounded by the fact that
1) I like to learn as I go.
2) I'm impatient.
3) I strongly dislike anything at all that I view as wasting my time.

So, this dress was made by eyeballing up a dress I purchased and very much like.

My problem with this dress is the skirt.  I likely should have flared it out just a bit near the bottom edge, so that it's much more flowy and less.... almost pencil skirt like.

I'm thinking I can either accept this dress as-is and wear it out in public shamefully. Paranoid. Always thinking people are pitying me and my lack of the skillz.


I can attempt a fix.
I have a very limited amount of fabric left (almost a metre). Maybe I can slit up the side hems and add a panel on each side? Add width to the skirt?
Or, would this be a disaster/waste of time/no help at all?

For all my sewing peeps out there: what do you think?

ps: wearing neon green is amazingsauce.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Survey and Giveaway

Yarnny preview of soon-to-be-released pattern
Heads up, knitters!

I'd love to hear your feedback about Canary Knits.
I'm holding a survey for people on my mailing list. You can join by clicking here.

There are prizes to be won for completing the questions (of which there are only six!)

So, I'd love to get to know you better, and hear your thoughts about knitting in general and my designs in particular.

Thanks everyone!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lady Bat: Vote for the KAL

They're holding a vote over on the Holla Knits blog.
The top two patterns from The spring/summer issue with the most votes get to be in this season's KAL.

Interesting in participating in a Lady Bat KAL?

Head on over and vote!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Indie Designer Day

Designer: Astrid Schramm
Rav ID: attimania
Some Great Designs: attimania's Rav Designer Page

The wear-ably geometric style of this week's indie designer seems perfect for this cusp-of-the-new-season time of year.

Pictured is Moni, a slightly oversized shrug. Very fashionably so. Check out the other photos of the piece from the back. It's got some great drape, and is the sort of piece that you can just throw on over a simple dress (or t-shirt and jeans, as in the photo) and immediately complete the outfit.

Rhinia may be a simple cardigan, but it's structured, gracefully intertwining cables make it yet another one of those outfit-finishing pieces.

Finally I'll point out Cami Chickadee, which is very cute and summery, once again including interesting geometric elements (this time with the texture of the garment).

Check out her designer page on Ravelry - there's so much more to see!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Me Made May 2013

I'm a twitter kinda kid. I dig it.

And on the twitters, my feed has been flooded as of late with beautiful projects from people, hastaged #memademay13 (or something to that effect).

Here's what it's about: but basically, make stuff in May!

I'm sort of automatically doing that, knitwear-design-wise, but this whole discovery of Me Made May (MMM'13) seredipitously collided with my SPRING FEVER. Srsly, I have never been so alight with excitement for spring. It's ignited a desire for pretty me-made dresses.

And that is what I'm hoping to do with my MMM'13.

It's challenging for me, as I'm not a big sewer. I mean, I have made the odd costume, but that's a costume. No one will fault you if your hems are wonky (or, you know, held up by copious safety pins).

I've been picking up kickass vintage sewing patterns from the second hand shop for years now. The sewing desire has been laying dormant for quite a while.
Here you see some of them.
My vintage patterns - with a contemporary Cynthia Rowley one thrown in there too!

I'm hoping to chronicle some more sewing adventures this MMM'13, because, you know, I like to keep busy people!

Here's the first piece I've finished (though technically I've been working on it since April. Not sure if it really counts as MMM!)

Monday, May 06, 2013

An Ode to the Hinterland; The Design Process

This is the fifth in my ongoing series, documenting the design process for my upcoming collection, Hinterland.
Sneak peek at one of the patterns in Hinterland.

The process of producing that tech-editor-ready pattern comes in a bunch of steps.

Pen to Paper
Gotta sketch! Very loosey goosey at first, picking any major elements, stitch patterns, etc.

Something which I've come to love more and more. Still not my favourite part in the process, but very important. This math/idea testing provides you with the ability to accomplish the next step.

Referring to the info from the sketches and swatch, a garments schematic is drawn up, clarified with decisions related to any parameters imposed by stitch patterns and sizes. I write up a pattern, then, with my hypothesis of the grading. For it is a hypothesis, and in some cases, needs tweaking after the next step.

Knitting the Sample
Here is where I get to play with the yarn, for real! I usually try to churn out this step as fast as possible, but unfortunately I've found that my right wrist gets easily aggravated, and have to limit myself to only a couple of knitting hours per day.

There's a variety of opinions out there when it comes to testing. Some say it's important, some say it's not worth the time, money, and hassle. A professionally produced pattern has to go through due diligence. This (for me, and it seems is mostly the general opinion) is, at the very least, having it professionally tech edited. In the case of this collection, there are testers lined up. I'm very excited to work with them!

After knitting up your sample, gathering all the info from your testers, and adjusting the pattern if necessary, you're ready to send off that first version to the tech editor.

For further information:
I've found Craftsy to be a wonderful teaching resource. It has classes that reinforce professional standards in knitwear design, many of which complement and reflect what I've been saying here, including Handknit Garment Design, How to say it: Pattern Writing for Knitters, and Sizing Knitwear Patterns.
There is also the fantastic Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design, which covers topics mentioned in this post and many beyond. It's my rule book.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Indie Designer Day

Designer: Ash Kearns
Blog: Ash Kearns Handknitting
Rav ID: ashkearns
Some Great Designs: ashkearns' Rav Designer Page

I love this designer's work. She describes her style here:

"Because My Man is a stone mason, I compare knitting to building walls alot. I see my creations in my head in 3D (“tubes in space”)"

And yes! I'll point out a few to you, but there's tons more if you just clicky the link above.

I haven't been able to get the Lempicka Headband Hat out of my head since I first saw it. Just look at that hat! Virtuoso knitting. Wonderful structure, interesting shaping and texture. It's just so beautiful, and I might even go so far as to say it's the most beautiful knit hat I've ever seen.

Then there's the wonderful Everton Lace Wrap. This piece isn't just a plain ol' rectangular wrap. It has a great little flared neckline, keeping that chill away. Again, fantastic shaping and texture used.Very elegant, just like the Lempicka Hat.

The Replica Reversible Hat is best summed up by the designer herself, "Experimentation is required! Wear with the brim down for a cosy cloche, with splash of contrast peaking out; Or pull up one edge; Or all the way around to show off your colours."
I love its simplicity yet flexible functionality.

Last one I'll show you is the Grommet Eyelet Ridge Cardi Vest. Oh, you had me at "cap sleeved cardigan-vest hybrid that is knit entirely in one piece with no finishing!". Check out the pics. A great knit for this time of year. Just enough to keep a chilly breeze off. Delicately lovely!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Elbie is Famous!; Or, Embarrass the Bird in May

Elbie Jones!
Indiana Elbie!
Something to that effect.
Because the only way you could improve Indiana Jones is to make him into a lovebird.

April, as a WWI fighter pilot.
March, in the rain.
February, tux and tails.
January, in lederhosen.