Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fit To Be Tied: A knitting Saga; Part I, The Prologue

Something I have noticed in the last year or two in the world of hand knitting is that more and more knitters are addressing the issue of garment fit.

Now I love a comfy over-sized sweater as much as anyone. I have my favorite uber-large Eddie Bauer orange shetland, sized XXL that I utterly adore. It's floppy and shapeless and I can wear it about like a blanket with sleeves. It's way cozy and I can lounge at ease it, but is it flattering? No, not really. It's a garment I can get lost in.

This brings me to the subject of clothing fit. I got intimately aquainted with this topic during a two year stint working at Ann Taylor Loft in San Francisco a couple years ago. I loved the clothes there and used my employee discount as much as I could afford to. Let me tell you, though: working in a changing room with two big three way mirrors at either end for several hours a week, I got to know my body pretty well. A few inches here or there in garment length, the placement of darts or seam shaping, and overall proportion can change a garment from drab to wow very easily. If a garment is not a wow fit, then the wearer won't be shown off to full advantage. An epiphany came when I looked up and saw myself one day, while wearing an a-line skirt that hit my legs just below the bottom of my kneecaps. Damn, my legs looked good in that! My legs are fairly short proportionally for my body and I need to be careful what I wear. Cropped cuffed slacks that were big a couple years ago make my legs look like the reflection in a funhouse mirror. What I got from really seeing myself in that skirt was a sense that I want to make my clothes fit so that feeling that good, that hot, that put-together is not a fluke experience.

So what does all this have to do with handknitting, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. I have had two tough knitting experiences this year: one was a total growling tear inducing disaster, the other has been a drawn out fight filled with frustration. Over the next few posts I will expand on the two projects. The first was an Alice Starmore design, her "Grant Avenue Vest" from the book Pacific Coast Highway. The second was the Elsebeth Lavold cardigan "Zarah" from the Embraceable You collection. Both of these projects suffered from major lack of proper fit and some of fitting issues at least were inherent in how the sweaters were designed.

Don't get me wrong: I love the work of both designers. This was my first Lavold design, but not my first Starmore sweater. I have always had great results from A.S. patterns. My purpose here in these next few posts is to work through my own problems by clarifying my experiences and to share what I have learned with other knitters. (and possibly get some feedback!)

I am not a novice knitter. I knit my first sweater in 1987 and have never looked back. I know a lot of my short comings as a knitter (the loosest gauge that ever was) and an early bad (and now broken) habit of not doing a gauge swatch before starting a project. Still, I swatched here and even with my experience, I wasn't safe from fit disaster. So more to come on the Saga of my 2008 Knitting House of Horrors...

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