Friday, 26 July 2013

How to Stay on Knitting Message During a Heatwave

If you'd like to proclaim your love of or attitude toward knitting and it's too damn hot out right now to wear anything you've knitted, you can always do it by wearing a message t-shirt. This one's from Zazzle.

If you have a secondary interest, such as all things pirate, you can combine the two by wearing this t-shirt. From Zazzle.

If you're more rocker knitter than pirate knitter, this shirt might be more your style. From Kaboodle.

I love Art Nouveau, so this one from Zazzle is right up my alley. If you have a favourite knitting-themed artwork, you can always grab the image off the net and have a t-shirt made that will suit you to a... T.

Once the apocalypse comes, who do you think will be coming to us and begging for a stash-made garment? From Zazzle.

You may have been told that the devil has work for idle hands. What you weren't told was that you might actually be doing that work already. From Zazzle.

Sometimes, but not often, and even then only slightly. From Zazzle.

I've always liked this shirt from Craftster. Of course knitting takes balls, the more the better!

This is for the more stoic knitter. Because, at least in my experience, there is indeed crying in knitting. From Zazzle.

And this is for a knitter's non-knitting husband, who has more sweaters than he can ever wear and needs to know that there's a club for him too. From Zazzle.

"Future Knitter" onesies. Because it's never too early to begin on the brainwashing education of a knitter. From Craftster.

If none of these shirts appeal, there are probably hundreds more on the internet (Zazzle alone has 23 pages of knitting-themed t-shirts for sale) and there's nothing to stop you from having your own favourite slogan or knitting image custom-printed on a t-shirt. I find custom print t-shirts can be even better than pre-made, because you can find or create exactly the image or slogan you want and put it on a t-shirt in your preferred colour and cut. It may be a little more trouble, but it usually costs about the same. If you've made your own sassy knitter's t-shirt, feel free to link to it in the comments!

Coming up: My review of Interweave's The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits 2013 is scheduled to post tomorrow morning!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Knitting -101

Dan Bergstein may not know how to knit, but he can make a how-to-knit video because he has a videocam and a YouTube account and it's a free country and all that. Check out Knitting 101 for instructions on how to make a scarf the Dan Bergstein way, and for Dan's words of wisdom, which include, "It's okay to pull real hard, cause it's yarn. Yarn can't feel pain," and, "We're not making mistakes; we're making experiences."

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Married in White, You've Chosen All Right; Married in Knitting, It's Only Fitting

I've been meaning to write some posts on knitting for weddings for some time now, and here at last is the first one, on knitted dresses for the bride. (You can see my other posts on knitting for weddings here.) I was surprised when my initial search for knitted wedding gown patterns turned up very few patterns on Ravelry and elsewhere, and that those few were generally unimpressive. The key to finding attractive bridal dress patterns turned out to be searching through knitted dress patterns for dresses that would make appropriate wedding dresses when properly styled. So here's a selection of a dozen knitting patterns that I think would make beautiful wedding dresses. They range from fairly formal classic styles to more simple ones that could be worn again to any other dressy event, and from somewhat daring to demure. If you're looking for a wedding dress design for a bride, you must look past the styling of most of these designs to re-imagine them knitted in different fibres and/or colours and accessorized in a different manner.

These dresses might also work as bridesmaid dresses, though I'd advise brides to think at least twice, and possibly undergo a thorough psych evaluation, before undertaking the knitting of dresses for four or five bridesmaids as well as her own gown. And of course even those who are already married/have no intention of ever getting married may find this post of interest, because a number of these dresses could perfectly well be made and worn for various non-wedding events. And I promise you nothing I have selected will make you look remotely like this.

The photo above is the Principesa Dress, by Sarah Wilson, and the pattern is available as a $6(USD) download. I love this one and keep doing the math in my head as to how inexpensively it could be made. You'd need between two to four 115g/4oz skeins to make this dress (it's sized from Xs to XXL), and even at a luxury quality yarn priced at, say, $30 a skein, that's only $60-$120, plus $6 for the pattern, which seems very reasonable for even the most modest of wedding budgets. I certainly don't know anyone who has bought or made a new wedding dress in anything like recent times for less than $60. Making your own wedding gown will be time-intensive, but could really help you cut costs.

Here's another backless design, the Posy Slip, which was designed by Joanne Krantz and is a $5.50(USD) download. Be warned the rosettes are crocheted. I'm imagining this one sans boots and in a solid tint.

But perhaps you're not the backless dress type, in which case the Greenary dress, by Tatiana Tatianina, which is available as a $5(USD) download, might be more your style. You have the option of shortening the sleeves.

If you like the basic style of the Greenary dress above, but not the empire cut, this little Saturday In The Park Perfect Dress might be more your style, though you'll probably want to dress it up by adding some beads and/or making it in a high-end luxury yarn, and may want to make it in a more traditionally bridal tint. This dress was designed by Stefanie Japel and appeared in Fitted Knits.

If this little black dress were done in ivory, perhaps in one of those yarns that have bits of sequins and beads embedded in them, it would make a lovely wedding dress for a more low-key yet elegant wedding, such as second weddings tend to be. You will need to wear a slip underneath it. This dress was designed by Val Love and is available as a $7(USD) download.

If you like the idea of a knitted lace overlay worn with a silk or satin sheath, I've found several patterns along those lines. This airy little number, designed by Louise Harden, is the first. It's available from Verena Knitting for $4.95.

This knitted lace dress by Lily M. Chin has very simple lines. What you might do is make it in ivory with an ivory satin sheath for your wedding, and then have another sheath made in your favourite colour so as to be able to wear the dress again without it looking too bridal. The pattern is available as a $6(USD) download.

Here's a fitted lace dress design by Shirley Paden. The pattern is available as a $6(USD) download.

But then perhaps you're having a more formal wedding, and none of the dresses above will do. You want to see some more showy floor-length styles that will be suitable for your big day. All right then, I shall move on to some more elaborate styles. If you love vintage styles, this 1940s Inspired Gown, by Cheryl Nelson, might work for you. It is a $9(USD) download.

If you're not into the vintage look but instead prefer simple and modern styles, you can hardly do better than this perfect sheath. It was designed by Lisa Gentry and appeared in the May/July 2007 issue of Cast On, so you might have some trouble getting your hands on a copy of the pattern. I usually try not to include patterns that aren't readily available as it seems rather perverse of me to make you desire what you can't have, but this really was too lovely to exclude, and a really experienced knitter probably could recreate this pattern from the picture with perhaps some help from similar existing patterns.

Here's a long wedding dress that's simple and yet romantic. This is the La Lune pattern by Tatiana Tatianina, which is available as a $4.50(USD) download. It's intended to be worn over a crinoline.

If you want the traditional big white dress, this wedding gown by Linda Daniels and Jill Montgomery is your best bet of any in this post. In this pattern, which is depicted on the left, the skirt and bodice are knitted separately and sewn together. You'll have the option of replacing the pattern's bodice with any style that you prefer, as the bride on the right has done. This is a free pattern.

The Knit Dress as Deep as Your Love by Fashion Martina, with its long, fitted bodice and tiered skirt is definitely both high-impact and a big time commitment — that skirt is knitted in fine mohair and is 10 metres in circumference at the hem. The pattern is available as a $9(USD) download.

Stay tuned for more knitting for weddings posts, though I can't tell you when the next one will be posted.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Off-the-Shoulder Tops and Swing Coats: a Selection of Knitting Patterns from 1950-1959

This post is the sixth in my series of posts on 20th century knitting patterns (you can see the rest of the posts in the series here), and offers a selection of patterns dating from 1950 to 1959. I wasn't particularly looking forward to doing this post, because I've never cared for fifties fashions for women. The styles seem too exaggerated, and at the same too staid, to me to be very wearable or aesthetically appealing. The 1950s were a very prosperous yet very conservative time, and instead of using this time of plenty and technological innovation to continue the progressive arc of the last three decades and make more wearable, modern clothes, designers of the 1950s seemed to wish to swamp women in more fabric, and in more restrictive and even more infantile styles than had been seen in thirty years.

But perhaps my opinions on 1950s styles have been coloured by those of my mother. Born in 1938, Mum wore fifties fashions from her adolescence into her early adulthood, and her memories of 1950s styles are, to understate the case, unsentimental and unenthusiastic. I've never heard her speak negatively of any of the other decades of fashion that she's lived through, but she loathed fifties fashions. She hated the voluminous skirts, the exaggerated silhouettes, and the hats, which she thought she didn't have the height or the right kind of face to carry off, and she especially hated the garter belts one wore with stockings back then. As she puts it, "As soon as you sat down, you felt a Ping! Ping!, and then you had to figure out how to get to the bathroom without your stockings falling down around your ankles for everyone to see." And, back then, it was a lot less easy to just eschew a style you didn't like. As my mother says, when she was a young woman, "There was just one look in style at a time, and if you didn't wear it, you were out." She does speak warmly of the girdle's virtues, but that's all.

That said, I do think the fifties weren't devoid of stylish, wearable pieces that look good today, and I had very little trouble finding a selection of eleven 1950s knitting patterns for you, in which not a single poodle skirt is to be the seen. The fair isle twin set above is one of these patterns. The twin set was one of the fifties styles I especially wanted to include in this post, but I didn't want just any twin set, as a lot of them look dowdy and unflattering to modern eyes. I knew this one, with its eye-catching yoke, was the one for this post as soon as I saw it. This pattern appeared in Marriner's pattern booklet no. 162, and is a free pattern available on Subversive Femme.

Here we have an array of snazzy fifties socks and footwear. It was quite the thing in the fifties, as well as in the previous few decades, for men to wear patterned socks. My father still has a pair of argyle socks knitted for him by his grandmother in 1948, and he likes to tell the story of how my aunt knitted a pair of argyle socks for her sweetheart as a teenager, and how her sweetheart was so proud of the socks that he wore them to church and sat with his feet sticking outside of the pew into the aisle so that everyone could see them. The items at the bottom right corner are Norwegian slipper socks. In Richard Yates's novel Revolutionary Road, published in 1961, one character dons a pair of Norwegian slipper socks with the reflection that they are "really the nicest things in the world for knocking about the house". The booklet containing all these patterns and more is Fleisher's Hand Knit Socks for Men, Women and Children, no. 86, and is available for $16.95 from Iva Rose Vintage Reproductions.

The off-the-shoulder top was another style I definitely wanted to include in this post. I love this beautiful sequinned one, which is meant to be part of an evening ensemble, but of course the sequins can be left off as the top is so well-shaped that it would be interesting without them. This pattern originally appeared in Woman and Home in January 1950, and is available for free on Vintage Purls.

The reason I included eleven patterns instead of the usual ten in this post was so that I could include this pattern. It is crocheted but was too cute to leave out, so it got added in as a bonus pattern. It's called the Beau Catcher (reminding me of a certain 1950s cake pattern I have that's called Blueberry Boy Bait), it originally appeared in a Women's Day collection of knitting patterns called To Knit and Wear in 1950, and the pattern is now available for free.

This Polka Dot Ascot and Scarf, which looks to me exactly like something that might appear in Knitscene now, originally appeared in a Women's Day collection of knitting patterns called To Knit and Wear in 1950, and the pattern is now available for free.

I can see this Slipover Blouse for Winter looking really sharp on a modern woman. This pattern originally appeared in the Australian Women's Weekly in April of 1951, and is available for free.

Norwegian Mittens were another popular item during the fifties, and this pair is certainly very pretty. This pattern originally appeared in Needlewoman and Needlecraft No. 53, in 1953, and is now available for free.

I'm not a fan of the swing coat, but it was another look I felt I just had to include because it is just so archetypically fifties, and I must admit this Swing Coat is quite stylish, though anyone making it now will want to update the colourway. This pattern originally appeared in Stitchcraft in November 1953, and is a free pattern available from Subversive Femme.

This Angora Collar looks as though it might be an modern and improved variation on the cowl or on the little pullover shoulder cape designs that are appearing so regularly in knitting magazines lately. The angora's softness makes it drape attractively and the little buttons will allow one to take the thing off reasonably gracefully. This pattern originally appeared in Housewife Magazine in 1954 is now available as a free pattern from Sheep and Chick.

This little top is another piece that looks very modern and wearable and flattering for most women. I don't know what to make of the poodle, which appeared as a prop with disturbing regularity in so many of the fifties-era patterns I viewed while researching this post. I also came across patterns for knitted toy poodles which seem to have been popular in the fifties. My mother even has one that she made, in mint green. Notice how I didn't include the pattern in this post. I'm at a loss to explain the fifties-era poodles fetish, and am not even sure I want to know the explanation. This little pullover pattern appeared in Stitchcraft in March of 1955 and is available as a download for $1.25.

I really wanted to include a man's argyle sweater pattern in this post, but was not able to find one, so I had content myself with including some argyle sock patterns and this two-tone men's pullover. If the two tones are too high-contrast for your tastes, the sweater could always be knitted in two more subtly variant colours. This pattern is Bairns-wear no. 763, and is available in the original format for £2.75, as a colour photocopy £1.99, and as a pdf for £1.50 on the Vintage Knitting Lady. This site didn't have individual links for each pattern so you'll have to scroll down the page at the link provided to find the two-tone sweater, but on the upside there are also a number of quite nice 1940s and 1950s men's sweater patterns on the page.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Make Your Mark

Since I did a knitted book cover post on July 19, I felt I had to do a companion post on knitted bookmarks. Knitting your own bookmarks is actually a much more practical idea than knitting book covers. They'll be quicker to knit and more practical to use. They can be personalized by adding a favourite short quote or slogan or a name. They'd be a great way to try out a knitting technique that's new to you or to try your hand at design, because knitting a bookmark is like swatching with an intrinsic purpose. And the finished item will make a nice extra something to add to a book you're giving to someone or to put in a Christmas stocking. Here's a selection of eleven suggested patterns for you.

The first pattern, shown above, is the simple and elegant Flourish Bookmark, designed by Nina Casey. It's a free pattern.

If you are, or are knitting for, someone with a very classic literary and aesthetic tastes, Judy's Seashell Bookmark, designed by Judy Gibson, might be perfect. It has a very Edwardian look to me. It's a free pattern.

Those whose literary tastes are specifically geared to Jane Austen might prefer Marianne's Romantic Bookmark, designed by Carolyn Joan, which appeared in Jane Austen Knits' Summer 2012 issue.

If you're just looking for a pattern that will be perfect for a small amount of hand-dyed yarn that you want to use up, the Twisted Eyelet Bookmark, designed by Blythe Quelin, would suit that purpose. It's a free pattern.

If you'd like a cute and whimsical pattern, or are knitting for a small child, the Crayon Bookmark, designed by Ala Ela, might hit (and mark) the spot. It's a free pattern.

I love this beautifully crafted Squash Blossom Bookmark, designed by Bonnie Sennott, which got around the whole "bookmarks need to be flat but I want to include a three-dimensional element" dilemma by having the bloom peep from the top of the book. This pattern is a $4.50(USD) download.

If you want a flora or fauna-themed bookmark, but don't want anything sticking out of your book, the Magnolia Leaf Bookmark, designed by Evelyn Uyemura, might do. This pattern is a $1(USD) download.

If you have a little (or not so little) Harry Potter fan in your life, one of these House Bookscarves, which appeared in Laura K. Miller's Charmed Knits, might be the perfect gift. You can even knit a scarf in the Hogwarth house colours to which your Harry Potter fan feels more akin, be that Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, or Hufflepuff.

Maybe you'd just like to make the "bookworm" metaphor literal by making yourself a Slithers Bookmark, designed by Sunny Cannon. Of course Sliters is a snake, not a worm, but we'll humour you. This pattern is a $2.75 download.

If your sense of humour has a turn for the macabre, the Squashed Bear Bookmark, as designed by Amalia Samios, is a possibility. The attached pool of blood is optional. This pattern is a $3.50(USD) download. Samios has also designed a Squashed Rat Bookmark, but I found it just too gruesome to include.

The F--- Off, I'm Trying to Read Bookmark, designed by Edith Cummings, is for people who really hate to be interrupted when they're trying to read. I'd be inclined to do this bookmark in a yarn that's as close to a natural skin tone as possible, and to include fingernails in red or hot pink or what have you. This pattern is free.

If you haven't seen a bookmark pattern that strikes your fancy, you can always browse Ravelry's 262 English-language bookmark patterns, or just design your own.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Annabelle's Extra Yarn

My laptop and I have taken refuge from the current heatwave in our local library, where there is air conditioning and free wireless internet, and several of the librarians are avid knitters. I saw this book, which was prominently on display in the children's section, from the table where I was working, and wondered what on earth we're teaching the kids today — there's no such thing as extra yarn! But then I had a look through it, and if you'd like a way to brainwash make knitting look fun and appealing to the 3 to 8-year-olds in your life, I totally recommend Extra Yarn, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen.

Extra Yarn is the story of a little girl named Annabelle, who finds a box of yarn, begins to knit, discovers that her yarn never runs out, and just keeps knitting until she has transformed her entire town and an evil archduke decides he wants her magical box of yarn for himself. The story is cute and whimsical and the illustrations are charming. Extra Yarn is the winner of a Caldecott Honor and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, as well as a New York Times bestseller. It's available on Amazon
and is quite likely to be available in your local bookstore.