Sunday, March 07, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.--Oscar Wilde

Knitted sweatpants.

In Lion Brand Homespun. There you are. A true fashion lowpoint.

Perfect for exercising to "Sweating with the Oldies."

The Good, the Bad, and the Unalterable
Sunday morning and it's almost spring. Almost. At least in this hemisphere, with a nod to my friends from Oz. Time to talk about change or inability to do so.

Carol asked me to expand on what makes for an unalterable garment, and so I shall.

Here's Theory #1: Anything can be altered.

Here's the corollary to Theory #1: If you believe that Theory #1 is true, you will produce a piece of shit probably 50% of the time, with a +/- factor of 5. If you don't mind an out-of-kilter design motif in your sweater, you may stop reading here.

Here's my theory: The larger the motif--be it Fair Isle, lace, intarsia, raised stitch, what-have-you--the more difficult it will be to alter the garment IF you wish to retain the integrity of the original design. This is true particularly when applied to length, not width.

[Now come the boring bits, she says sotto voce] Let me use the Scottish Designer Whose Name May Never Be Mentioned In Public For Fear of Litigation as a good example of a designer of unalterable garments, since I am presently working her Queen Anne's Lace. If you have the book, turn to the chart. If not, humor me and read on.

The main motif for QAL, which is symmetrical, is a whopping 44 stitches wide. With a gauge of 7 sts = 1”, this means that each motif is about 6” wide. Not a lot of room in which to decrease or increase the size, unless you are willing to cut the motif in half. In fact, the motif is a diamond placed within a square, not unlike a quilt square. However, no matter how you slice and dice the motif, you will ruin the symmetry of the design if you narrow or enlarge the garment by less than the full 44 stitches.

This matters only for the body. Once you get to the armholes, decreasing the motif by small amounts for shaping purposes works. Why? Because the eye of the beholder is not looking at your armholes. The eye is looking at the center of the garment.

Length is the true problem in altering a garment with large-area motifs. The QAL motif is 44 rows high. Since the motif is symmetrical, I can conceivably dispense with 22 of those rows and begin at the center of the diamond, if I must shorten the length of the sweater or the sleeve length. This works to a point. The row gauge is 10 rows = 1” (at least, I think that's what it was--the book is in the office, of course). This means that in order to keep the symmetry of the design, I am limited to little more than 2 inches that I can dispense with. If the sleeve schematic is 19” long but I need to make it 17” long, I may be OK.

You can crunch the numbers by working the ribbing shorter or longer to make up for the lack of room in the motif, sometimes. If there is little or no welting at the bottom of the body or sleeves, I may be screwed. Sometimes the sweater design is such that you have no room at all to fudge. And you wonder why designers only offer a pattern in two sizes? This is why. Because their design concept will only work in a size small and a size XL, due to the size of their motif.

Some years ago at Stitches East, I saw the perfect example of an unalterable sweater, designed by a knitter from New Hampshire who is well-known in New England for her folk-art type designs. The sweater consisted of about 8 individual bands of Fair Isle, each roughly 3.5” in depth. Each band contained a different background color, and progressed from the beginning to the end of the rainbow. I don’t recall how the sleeves were handled—I think they were solid or striped. I’ve seen Philosophers Wool sweaters with similar design issues, come to think of it.

Lengthwise, it was unalterable. I didn’t like the length, too long. And I knew immediately that there was no way I could just knock off a band and maintain the design flow.

So now you know. It’s really just commonsense. The bigger they come, the harder they fall.

This also is why my Rainbow Peeries design, which I’m working on now, consists of reasonably sized motifs so the resulting sweater can be offered in a variety of sizes. When you design, it’s always nice to plan ahead. And to remember that if you wish to publish your design, you need to place your users’ needs first.

Blasphemous Activities
It’s true. I don’t just knit, although that’s mostly what I do because I love it the best. However, I also love to embroider, to spin (the mounds of merino-silk-angora in my spinning basket never seem to melt), and yes, even to quilt.

Here’s what I don’t do: needlepoint and tatting. Everything else is fair game, if I’ve a mind to it. And frankly, sometimes I get tired of knitting and need to refresh my palate, as it were. If I weren’t afraid that I’d collect fabric like I do yarn and if I had the time, I’d certainly do more quilting. I have my eye on a Civil War-era quilt design kit offered by Keepsake Quilting.

My belief is that any needlework technique you can learn will only serve to improve your knitting. It’s the mental brainworking involved, I think. Or right-brain, left-brain crap. I dunno. All I know is, with me it’s a fiber-and-dexterity thing. Perhaps I’m trying to prove my grade-school teachers wrong when they told me I was sloppy and my handwriting stunk because I was left-handed and lefthanders are the spawn of Satan. Read into that what you will. My attitude was, fuck you, I can do it.

I’m sure many of you read Piecework magazine, which is published by Interweave. If not, you should give it a try. Yes, it has knitting in it (Nancy Bush is a frequent contributor), but more important, its true value is its historical needlework information and re-creation projects. Pick up a copy—there’s interesting work done out there by needle artists. This issue has a picture of Ground Zero, a quilt made of pictures of 9/11 victims transferred to fabric. Splendiferous.

Plant a Bush or a Shrub
(With apologies to Ladybird Johnson, who’s still alive and doing well.) Anyway, my tirade against the PseudoPresident will continue unabated until Election Day. Thanks to Audrey for this link—you can go here to sign a petition against the Federal Marriage Amendment. Also, don’t forget Carol’s T-shirts.

Time to get rolling, lots to do. Today is my brother Rich’s 50th birthday. My bestest and only brother, fellow Yankee fan, and companion of my childhood. Both of my sibs are rare and handy. And younger. Heh.

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