Monthly Archives: June 2011

hidden modifications

One of the great things about knitting is being able to make garments that fit just right – right? Of course we all have stories of the sweater* that was 4 sizes too big. Between gauge mistakes, errata, and user error these things happen. But, assuming we can avoid (or rip out) such things a perfectly fitting garment should be possible. This is what I mean by “hidden modifications” these are the changes knitters make to a garment so it will fit them perfectly, but which an observer would never know had been changed!

I’m going to take a moment to give some tips and tricks for my La Moelle vest pattern. I have some specific tips, but you should be able to take away the more general ideas and apply them to any garment you’re working on.

All garment patterns should have a schematic**, it will be your tool to figure out what the designer intended, and how to make things better for you – personally.


A schematic might seem a little intimidating at first. But remember, the designer (me in this case) is packing all sorts of information into this for every size. You’re probably just knitting one size (or maybe 2-3, I’ll address that soon) Another thing to keep in mind is that the schematic shows the actual measurements of the GARMENT this may not be your size, in fact it probably isn’t.

Start by getting a tape measure and measuring yourself (or having a friend do it, which is probably more accurate) you’ll need bust, waist, hips – but also length from underarm to natural waist, underarm to low hips. If you want to be really accurate measure yourself at every point indicated on the schematic. Honestly, knitted fabric is pretty stretchy and I usually just go with the main points when knitting for myself, but then I’m a pretty average size. If you know you’re broad shouldered, narrow waisted, or have a long torso then you’ll know to pay more attention to these points.

In the pattern I state that this vest is good with zero, or even negative ease. That means that if you have a 36″ bust you could knit the 36.5″ size and have a little extra ease in the bust, or you could knit the 33.25″ size and have some stretch (this is a personal choice, think about how you like your other sweaters and t-shirts to fit). As you choose which size you want to knit look at suggestions from the designer, or how the garment fits the model. If you really like how an oversize A-line tunic drapes on the model in the photo – you’ll probably want to choose a size that is a few inches bigger than you.

Once you’ve decided on the best bust measurement, if you’re lucky the waist and hip measurements will line up for you as well. If so, then congratulations! Go read a book or something. If you’re not let’s continue on.

I’m going to address modifications in width/circumference first, then modifications in length. Everyone is unique, so you may need one, the other, or both.

Let’s say you’ve found a bust size that works for you with your chosen ease, and the corresponding hip size is fine, but you’re narrow waisted and need a smaller waist. You just need to add in some extra decreases, right? Well look at the schematic again, see how the hip decreases go in to a point at the waist, and then right back out again for the bust increases? I’m telling you something here: specifically there’s not a lot of “work even” rounds at the waist. So if you need to add more decreases you can’t just work an extra repeat or three of the decrease round – unless you want a garment that’s longer than the vest in the picture (which is already tunic length and comes down to the low hips) Still, it’s not a tricky change, just one that needs some advanced planning. Just start the decreases a little earlier (aka when the hip fabric measures an inch or so less than directed) If you have the opposite problem and want a less-narrow waist you can do the opposite: start the decreases a little later and work fewer of them. Either way remember to work a similar number of bust increases to get back to the correct size.

Which brings me to my next point: let’s say you need some extra fabric at the hips. Rather than doing a lot of math to figure out how many stitches to cast on, look at the other sizes on the schematic. If one of them is close to what you need you can just work more than one size. Cast on with that larger number, and start the decreases a little earlier (as I addressed above) so you can work some extra repeats of the decrease row. Once you’re down to the given number of stitches for the size you need for your waist/bust measurements you can follow those directions through the rest of the garment. See? By following two of the given sizes you can skip some extra math and still get a nicely fitting garment. If you’re trying this I HIGHLY recommend planning you knitting in advance and going through the pattern with a highlighter. That way you don’t have to try and remember that you’re knitting the size 41.25 for the hips, decreasing an extra 2 times for the waist, and then following the directions for the 36.5″ bust. Sure it makes sense now, but if you get distracted by that pretty shawl for 2 months – do you think you’ll remember come fall? I wouldn’t…

Making changes for length follows a similar logic, in the case of La Moelle it’s easier because for most of the “work even” portions I’ve given a length (in inches and centimeter) so you can work even for 2.5″ instead of 3″. If you’re working on a pattern that gives row counts instead you’ll have to treat them like stitches, but instead of doing a lot of math consider shifting up or down a size like I recommended above. As always, look at what the schematic recommends, and consider how it’ll fit your body.

For instance, if you know you’re high waisted you’ll want to knit the even portion at the hips longer than recommended, and the even portion at the bust an inch or two less to balance it out. I’ve given the hip height and bust height separately specifically so these changes can be made. If you’re petite (or just don’t like tunic length vests) you can take 1 inch off of each “work even” area for an overall shorter garment. If you know your natural waist is long, maybe you want to work even there instead of starting the increases shortly after the decreases are done. Balance this out by working less length in the hips and you’re good to go.

Overall I think the take away message is this: Measure yourself. Know your body and how you’re different from “average.” Remember that patterns are sized to averages because honestly, we designers haven’t got anything better to work with. But even (especially?) designers know that almost no one is that magical “average” number. Use the schematic as a tool to see how the vest (or other garment) is meant to fit that average number (for each size) and consider what the fit would look like in your perfect pattern – the one written just for you. Choose a size, or sizes, based on what you want, and just do a little math to transition from one to the next – rather than trying to re-do all the math and basically re-writing the pattern.

Got questions? I’ll make up some answers! I can’t (don’t have the time or inclination) re-size patterns for everyone, but I’m happy to clarify on any of these steps if I’m not making sense.

*For me it was a bamboo tank top. My gauge was off (no I didn’t check it first, why do you ask?) I was working (what I thought was) a size 36 on 24″ circular needles – so I didn’t realize how far off I was until I divided for the front/back. At which point I discovered that the half-garment on hold on scrap yarn was big enough to fit over my head and shoulders without needing to use any of the fabric on the needles. That’s right, it was TWICE my size. Luckily it knit up twice as fast the second time around.

**Note – I said “should” I’ve seen garment patterns without schematics. In fact I’ve knit some of them. And as a pathological modifier it makes me cranky every time. Hats, socks, mittens without schematics? Fine. Garments, even ones with standard construction, really should have them.


Almost Perfect

The best part of independently publishing patterns is that if I want to share a perfectly good picture of an upcoming design I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission. This is an out take from the recent photo shoot with Sun Dial – one of the two patterns coming in July for the Time on my Hands e-book.

almost perfect

This picture is pretty much perfect, except that the cuff is folded over down at the bottom there. I guess this is why publishing houses have photo stylists on hand.

Don’t worry. I got some perfect shots for the pattern as well.

Like I said, this pattern is coming out in July. If you buy the collection now you’ll get the June savings (10% off), and the updated PDF will automatically be sent your way with each new release, details here.

Drum carder!

Amy left me her drum carder on Friday. I’ve been having lots of fun with it. I carded some of my ridiculously soft romney (somewhere from 2-4 ounces of it) with some gorgeous cranberry kid mohair (2 ounces) I picked up on farm tour weekend. Then I added a similar amount of white montadale. I got 6 batts, I’m guessing they’re about 1 or 2 ounces each:

mohair batts
(sorry this photo came out blurry, but if I make it small and you squint, I’m sure you can see the awesomeness!)

I blended some of the romney and montadale with a little (1 ounce) leftover into the whirled fiber that was a green/blue/purple/brown colorway

itw and naturals

But the most fun came from my rainbow fiber blending experiment. I had 3-4 ounces of montadale which I dyed in vibrant shades (food coloring dyes are ALWAYS vibrant) of red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. I added some purple in a different (but similar) roving (which I also got from Amy – clearly she’s enabling me)

fiber mosaic

These batts are what happens when I’m turned loose with a drum carder and a full spectrum of colors (plus white and brown) I’m pretty pleased with this assortment, although each batt is only 1-2 ounces so who knows what’ll happen with them once their spun up.

Speaking of spinning I’m doing the Tour de Fleece next month. This is where spinners set goals and spin every day – theoretically while watching bikers spin in the Tour de France. Since I’ve NEVER watch the real tour I’m clearly just in this for the camaraderie and the reason to try and spin every day. If you’re on Ravelry the group is here.


Knit night at my house tonight – I’m very excited.

My bean seeds are sprouting today and I can’t wait to see them when I get home!

Neil is coming home from his week driving across country today!!!!!!

I’m not excited for knitting tonight – my friend Amy is bringing her drum carder (Amy: don’t forget!) and I’m going to card up batts! All kinds of batts!

It’s free entry weekend at VT state parks, and we’re going to go canoeing!

I have two hand-related photo shoots planned in the next two weeks. My hands are all beat up from gardening. I’m not sure how this is going to work.

I may have been dying fiber samplers in bright colors all of last night.

Food dye colors skin too. See point above about hand-related photo shoots.

Our CSA starts up next week. It’s perfect because the lettuce I over-wintered is finally starting to go to seed from all the heat we had this week.

Mama chicken has been sitting on her eggs for 3 days longer than it should take. I’m going to give her new eggs after I clean the coop, but I’m afraid she’ll get bored and give up…

Did I mention Neil is coming home today??!! So excited!!

Knit Camp

It’s hot and summery outside, and it has me thinking of canoeing, hiking, and camping! So I thought I’d give a second shout out to VT Knit Camp. There will be knitting, good food, knitting, hikes, spinning, camp fires, talking about knitting, and probably some crochet too!

Seriously, it’s a wonderful time and you can check out my pictures from previous years here and here. I’ll be there from Friday night through Monday (august 12-15), and I always bring along my trunk show (such as it is) and this year I’ll have ALL the mitts from Time on my Hands – even the ones that aren’t published yet at that point (and I expect that all NINE pairs will be knit up by then)

If you’re in the New England area (or just nearby, people drive up from as far away as New Jersey) and like sitting around a campfire* knitting/spinning/crocheting you should come, it’s the best time that can be had for $17.50 (and you can pay via paypal)

night at camp

*you can drive right up to the lean tos, the composting toilets are nice, and don’t smell at all, and there are showers down the street, it’s not really roughing it.

New Skirt!

Back in April I picked up some fabric that I had plans to use for a skirt. This weekend I combined that blue and brown fabric with a delightfully vintage pattern (from my mom’s basement)

vintage pattern

And whipped up a quick skirt. The pattern is very VERY simple with a modified 3/4’s of a circle for the body, a waistband, and a pocket. I followed the pattern with the exception of adding more contrasting fabric along the bottom edge first.

new skirt

The printed fabric is a linen rayon blend which is heavier than most of the cottons in my stash. Add to that the fact that another print was NOT going to work well, and I was a bit flummoxed on what to use. I was standing in the fading daylight trying to match some solid color to the print when I realized that the blue was just the same color as faded denim. And since I’m horrible at throwing out worn jeans, I have a pretty good supply of faded denim as long as you can make due with the bits of fabric below the holes in the knees.

So I patched together strips the same width as the waistband to trim the ends and lower edge of the wrap around skirt. I sewed it together with the right side of the denim against the wrong side of the linen so I could fold it over and have both right sides facing and the raw edges all inside* I added ribbon along the edge, and then it was just a matter of attaching the pocket and waistband. Seriously, this would have been a much quicker project if I didn’t go modifying it…

in the details

But I think the little details make it look so nice! The dragonflies are a bonus. They’re leftover from a much older stenciling project. The jeans wore out and have been in the scrap heap for at least a year. I’m glad I was able to rescue them to decorate my new skirt!

all in good fun

A little shorter, worn lower on the hips, and in a large print fabric: I think this skirt updates pretty well! Also, the headscarf made an excellent ear cover to help keep the blackflies away while gardening all weekend.

*did that hurt your brain? It’s ok, I did it wrong the first time and had to seam rip the lower edge aka the longest seam in the whole *@&$ project…



garden is in

  • chicken-proof the fence – Garden staples (4 inches long and mean looking!) are my friend.  Also a row of rocks, not really a wall, to fill in some gaps.
  • expand the garden – toned down, just added a few feet on the south edge.
  • rip out grass – in the expanded section of garden, still took an entire afternoon.
  • move A-frame – I put tomato seedlings in here, also planted watermelons and some squash inside to give them an extra boost!
  • transplant seedlings – all the squashes (4 winter, 1 summer, cukes, and watermelons), broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, tomatillos, a gypsy tomato, 4 kinds of herbs, and strawberries (just from my back yard to my garden)
  • plant asparagus crowns – 10 of them, under the strawberries and herbs
  • direct seed corn, beans (green and 2 kinds of dry), and soybeans

grow little squasheslittle broccoli


  • move meat chicks out of small box and into larger space (fence off their side of the hallway first)
  • fix bent door hinge so the hall door swings wide enough to actually clean coop

I did sew that skirt I was talking about.  The library clean up went brilliantly! I actually feel like we can have patrons in there soon, and not be embarrassed.  And eating like a grown up was a complete success.  It helped that I bought myself scallops and fresh tuna (two things Neil doesn’t like) so I had something to look forward to cooking.  I even ran the dishwasher once (it’s the little things)

Not Done:

bought some plants

  • transplant grape vines, elderberry bush, strawberries
  • create a new flower bed, plant the rose bush, 4 perennials, and many annuals I bought, also the gladioluses (gladioli?) from the basement (why no, this wasn’t on friday’s list)
  • clean chicken coop- next weekend
  • do Something with the last three meat birds from last year (or I should just give up and name them)
  • Designing – um yeah… I spent the whole weekend in the garden.  But since I have only Me to hold myself responsible-  and I’m also the one who’ll have some late nights to catch up, I’m not letting anyone down.

to-do mountain

I haven’t had a full weekend at home in forever (honestly, 7 weeks) I’ve barely had a day at home to get stuff done. Last weekend was supposed to help, but then I drove to NH and back on sunday and visited with friends saturday and monday… So, who wants to see my to-do list?

Gardening (could take the whole weekend)

  • chicken-proof the fence – I’m making headway, they’re still getting in, but it’s solid enough they can’t figure out how to get out again (so not helpful)
  • expand the garden – involving another roll of fence and some more fence posts
  • rip out grass – in the expanded section of garden, enough work to earn it’s own bullet point
  • move A-frame – lettuce and peas no longer need it, put tomato seedlings in here instead
  • transplant seedlings – many squashes, and purchased broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc…
  • plant asparagus crowns – because every spring I’m sad I don’t have any yet
  • direct seed corn, beans, soybeans (edamame, yum!)
  • transplant grape vines, elderberry bush, strawberries


  • clean chicken coop (not happening this weekend ’cause I don’t want to disturb the nesting mama, but BOY does it need to be done)
  • mix chicken manure with horse manure from freecycle, mound for optimal composting
  • do Something with the last three meat birds from last year (do you really want to know what?)
  • move meat chicks out of small box and into larger space (fence off their side of the hallway first)
  • fix bent door hinge so the hall door swings wide enough to actually clean coop

Designing (I could spend a whole weekend on this too)

  • Write up 4 mitt patterns for e-book that are still only concepts
  • Edit and grade 2 mitt patterns that are only just roughed out
  • Make charts for all 5 patterns that need charts
  • work on cable technique diagrams for technique page
  • Write out pattern for texture shawl that started EATING MY BRAIN last night. Consider actually knitting it in spite of other projects on the go.
  • related – set up computer modem (that’s right, I may yet get high speed internet, they’re doing “line work” right now)
  • work on marketing info for book submission project

Other Crafting

  • make earring rack that I’ve had all the supplies to do for a month now
  • sew skirt that’s waiting patiently on the craft table to be cut and sewn
  • finish embroidery project from LAST WINTER so I can post about it
  • start baby shower knitted gift

Other Things

  • Library clean up day on Sunday (other people are coming, I have to do this one)
  • Type up Library meeting notes (because my handwriting is Horrid)
  • eat like a grownup (because Neil is gone for the next week, and popcorn for dinner is only fun once)
  • do laundry, run dish washer, and other boring grown up tasks

Is it bad that the last one is most likely to be ignored for other, more fun activities?

What I’m wearing: cosmetic edition

Today, I’m wearing layers:

wearing layers

because the weather guys SAID it was going to be sunny and cool, but then when I woke up it was cloudy, and I was afraid it’d be even cooler, and I hate my cold, cold office. The top is my modified version of A Little Something, one of my 12 sweaters in 12 months from last year (I had to have some quick knits in that project) I wear it All The Time in spring when I’m looking for transitional clothes. I should knit another lacy, vesty, sort of thing.

The other thing I’m wearing, is makeup:

i almost never wear makeup

I don’t usually wear a lot of makeup, but as I’m doing more modeling for my own patterns I’m starting to feel like having it available wouldn’t hurt. But I hate the idea of all the chemicals in regular makeup, so I’ve been exploring alternatives. I’ve been using, and loving, burts bees shampoo for years, and so I tried their tinted chapstick. It’s awesome. Suddenly I own it in three different colors.*

I got a free sample of Sweet Libertine mineral eye shadow in a package from the Sanguine Gryphon yarn company. The purple and rose seem to go together pretty well, and I’m getting a (free) larger set from them soon – in fact it looks like they still have some free packs left. (you do have to pay shipping) Most recently I picked up some mineral foundation at my local hippy/health food store where they carry Christina’s Natural Qualities.

All of these versions of makeup don’t contain chemicals like parabens or phthalates which was my goal. But they also have the benefit of being very light and not feeling all clingy. So that’s good enough for me! Along with all that, I’ve been wearing Black Pheonix Alchemy Lab perfumes for quite awhile. So that’s nothing new for me, but also on the “no weird ingredients” cosmetics list. The best thing about them is that they don’t make my mom sneeze. She’s highly sensitive to most commercial fragrances – except it turns out it’s the carriers she can’t handle. The natural oils and scents don’t bother her.

And finally, I’m wearing my home made deodorant. I got together with some friends and had a “not a stinky hippy party” last saturday and we made deodorant using the recipe from Angry Chicken.


I love this stuff and am so glad to have more of it! Mine is scented with tea tree and lavender essential oils because that’s what my friend used when she made some and introduced me to it. But one of my friends had a bunch of other essential oils and since we were making 9 pots of the stuff:


we had lots to experiment on. She made some for her fiance with cedarwood, rosewood, and pine- and DEAR LORD I think all men should smell like that stuff.

*three might not seem like a lot to some people, but given that before I owned zero lip stick, this is new and different for me.

Happy Ending

I made a passing reference to my baby meat birds arriving on Friday. You didn’t think I’d let that slip without details, right? They had quite an adventure.

It started at 9am wednesday morning which, according to the hatchery shipping bill, is when they hatched. Their next 52 hours are a mystery. I expected them thursday morning – priority overnight shipping of a box making as much noise as a pet store and labeled like this:

package with airholes

Is pretty reliable after all.

But when they didn’t show up I tried not to panic. After all the hatchery says it can take 48 hours. When the power went out, I only panicked a little. It’d probably come back on overnight, before the babies arrived. Right? (wrong)

When they didn’t show up Friday morning, I panicked some more. Then I called the hatchery and asked for a tracking number. All the USPS website said was that the package had been “missent” and they were attempting to deliver it as promptly as possible.

No mention of where it had been missent to, or why, or where it was at that moment. I got a little angry. After all, if the box arrived on time it was a bundle of noisy joy. If it arrived late it would be a box of dead baby chicks. No one wants that. And while the hatchery guarantees “live on arrival” and will send more if something like this happens – that’s not really helpful to the “missent” batch of baby chicks, now is it?

By mid-morning I had my local post office in on the search, and they couldn’t get any info on the package either. I was starting to hope that where ever it was some kind postal worker would look at the hatching date and just take them to the nearest farm, rather then having them arrive at the right place too late to save any. Somehow, and we never did get any details, they showed up at the post office right at 1pm. Even the guy driving the truck didn’t know where the package had come from… But I didn’t mind since they were alive (and NOISY cranky baby chicks are noisy) and in my hands. Too bad I still didn’t have power, because baby chicks need to be kept warm – about 95F. My solution?

chicks in the truck

I unloaded them into the footwell of the truck (not even my car, but a borrowed truck!) and cranked the heat. Within 10 minutes they were all eating (furiously) and drinking and taking little naps under the seat of the car (that was fun to clean up later)

So! That’s my solution for heating baby chickens with no power. Another option would be the woodstove – but since it was 65 and MUGGY I didn’t really want to start a fire in the house. The babies are a week old today, and they’re still 100% alive. I think that says something good about the vitality of these freedom rangers compared to the standard cornish cross chicks.

1 week