what not to knit

a knitalong blog of garments of which stacy and clinton (or, if you prefer, trinny and susannah) would approve! choose patterns and colors that flatter your body type--this is the antidote to unflattering clothing everywhere, the reason many of us learned to knit our own clothing in the first place!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Queen of Cling

In previous posts, LisaBe has written about the flattering effect of an empire waist that flows over the stomach without clinging. Well, I'm here to speak up for the powers of properly applied cling. I believe that virtually everyone looks good in properly-applied cling. In fact, the empire waist itself relies on the powers of cling. There are a few tricks to making cling look good that are almost always overlooked in knitting patterns.

  1. Small gauge. The bigger the gauge, the more bulk it adds to your figure. Unless you have small arms and wish to add bulk to your torso to balance them out (or vice versa), it's probably not going to be as flattering as it could be. Large-gauge knits tend to badly approximate the shape of your figure underneath, as well, which can make you look lumpier than you are. Unless one has a knitting machine, I don't think anyone has to worry about making one's gauge too small.
  2. Shaping, shaping, shaping! This is probably the worst offender in the published clingy knit patterns I've seen. What makes a pair of socks comfortable and nice-looking? The fabric stretches an amount which is both flattering and clings nicely. When you're designing something clingy, start with constant stretch over the entire garment. If your bust is six inches larger than your waist, it should have a commensurate amount of fabric! Ignoring this principle can lead to wildly varying row gauge and strange fitting issues. Have you ever seen a supposedly clingy sweater fold and bulge out in strange places? That's usually a result of large gauge and insufficient shaping! Have you seen strange diagonal bulges over the waists of large-busted women? Those are the result of insufficient space for the bust (and can often be fixed with bust darts, which I'll discuss more in depth at another time)!
  3. Skim or stretch? Starting with constant stretch, adjust the garment to stretch more over the bits you like, less over the bits you don't. I'm not saying you should squish yourself down, just that the stretch will add emphasis. I don't want my bust to look too large, so I added a (large) bust dart and extra stitches to the sweater I'm knitting. This is related to putting details in spots you wish to emphasize, as they'll draw the eye where you want it.

I find that I'm quite far outside the regular knitting figure model, so I make a good test case: if something can look weird on anyone, it will probably look weird on me. Are there any other tricks to cling that you've found?

cropped cardis

gay writes, "just when i thought i had picked the perfect pattern for my body, i find myself confused once again! i usually solve the boxy waist problem with cropped cardigans by knitting them shorter than the pattern calls for so they hit me just above the waist rather than at the hips."
i think the catch here is that not all cropped cardis are the same. and also that not all wearings are the same.
first, note the differences between the blue sky alpaca cropped cardi and the not-so-shrunken cardi.
both have three-quarter-ish sleeves. both look relatively open (i can't tell whether the blue sky has a zip, button, or open front). but they have some subtle differences. the blue sky is much more fitted--or, as wendy (the designer of the not-so-shrunken cardi) would say, shrunken. these shrunken cardis were all the rage a year or two ago, about $20 at old navy, for example. way cute with a little tee underneath and jeans and flats on a spring or fall day. but i've come to find mine a bit constricting, really--i haven't been toning my arms as faithfully as i was when i bought my two shrunken cardis, and apparently even that little bit of change matters.
so this is why wendy designed the not-so-shrunken cardi. the sleeves aren't as closely fitted. also, though, the body of it swings a little looser. it *can* be made a little more boxy, as shown on the model. BUT the pattern offers mods in various spots for customizing the fit. it's knitted in one piece from the top down, body flat and sleeves in the round, and she suggests places where you might want to decrease more for added shaping at the waist, taper the sleeves (why?), and lengthen the sleeves. the pattern also has one to three rows--your choice--of ruffles crocheted along the button band (buttons do run the whole length of the sweater). this wasn't totally obvious in the beauty shot.
another difference between these two: the necklines. the blue sky neckline is lower and, i think, softer for a lot of body types. better for someone with a short neck, for example. i have lots of notes on necklines in the previous two posts.
i do think the sleeves on wendy's are going to be more flattering than the blue sky ones will. the fit on wendy's is adaptable, but i do like the neckline on the blue sky for many body types.
this is why "what not to wear" isn't universal! anyway, the point for gay's question: cropped isn't so much the worry as the shaping before you crop it. and as for wearing, i think how you choose to layer these pieces is a big part of whether they flatter or not. the recent trend toward empire waist is popular for a reason: most of us look good with a lovely pulled-together something right under the bust that says, "hey! here are my perky girls! and look how slender my ribcage is right under them!" and then a floaty piece of fabric just gently wafting away from that something that leaves them completely oblivious as to whether there's a waspish little waist or a big ol' belly full o'jelly underneath. nunya, right? right. but if the answer is "waspish," you can wear a cardi that's shrunken and holds the underneath layer against your body shamelessly, and that layer can be a clingy long t (everyone's selling these these days in response to the low-rise jeans trend that left all of our waists to freeze last winter and in this summer's air conditioning). (so that would be the blue sky example.) on the other hand, if it's not waspish and your belly isn't a concave ballerina tummy, i'd advise a cardi that allows whatever's underneath to float away and then make the whatever's underneath BE something that will float away. (and that would be the not-so-shrunken cardi. or something red, possibly arisaig, or cobweb.)
of course, every photo i ever remember seeing of gay is of the tiniest little body with like 1 percent body fat. but i digress...

Friday, August 25, 2006

more about september sexy knits

had some more thoughts about the sexy knitters club knitalong nominees, and i do want to try to remember to respond to estellika's question about foundation garments.
chunky knits add bulk. it's why the cropped cardigan from blue sky alpaca is tricky for anyone who's thick around the parts it'll cover--think big (whether flabby or athletic) upper arms, but also a big bust. making the sleeves on this (and on something red) hit below the elbow will flatter pudgier arms more than ending above the elbows, too. the chunkiness of starsky is what i think makes it cozily appealing to many who love it, but it's also what makes it so unflattering, i think. a great stay-at-home-sick sweater, though :)
among the candidates, the best choices for women with large breasts, i think, are going to be (depending on the other factors about which i've already opined) the cardigan in alpaca with glitter, the simple knitted bodice, or possibly sizzle (if done in a fine enough yarn as to avoid adding bulk), because those deep vs will divide the breasts instead of creating a monoboob. the caution with sizzle: many large-breasted women also have large arms, which i think is not a good look with a tank. also good for large-breasted women might be arisaig, because the wearer can wrap it as tightly as she wishes with the breasts always being kept apart.
i'd be concerned about the deciduous tank on a truly flat-chested woman--that wide expanse of chest is just going to look bony. similarly, any of the deep vs will need a cami underneath to avoid the same effect. but these wearers will look fab in rusted root (or in the deep vs with the right cami underneath).
if the wearer doesn't have much waist definition, she should avoid the boxy not-so-shrunken cardigan. instead, she should opt for one of the deep vs, the combo corset t, or the wrap (arisaig). a deep v breaks up the torso, and corsets and wraps add curves at the waist.
short-legged women shouldn't wear cropped tops alone (like, say, the cropped cardigan or not-so-shrunken cardigan, or any of the others just knitted too short). they don't want a gap at the stomach that makes it look like the legs weren't long enough to come up and meet the top. this is why god invented layers--lots of places are selling long tees for layering under things like this, though i think loose poet's shirts are lovely under some of these as well (less cling to the tummy and a lovely feminine look on the right day). it breaks up a long torso and makes the legs look longer.
women with saddlebags (ahem--not that i know anyone with *those*) can also get help in their knitting choices :) a wide neckline can balance out the hips, for example, like the one on tubey, the combo corset t, or rusted root. any of these choices should fit snugly and end at the top of the hips--this slims the upper body and narrows the waist.
deep vs and wide scoops are both great for women with short necks. nearly all of the nominees fit into this category.
so you can see from how many problem areas they flatter why i love my favorites :)
and now for foundation garments: i think every woman ought to have a few essentials in her wardrobe. first, get thee to a specialty lingerie shop or a really good department store for a first-rate bra fitting. unless you've had this done recently, you are probably wearing the wrong bra size. seriously. i was stunned--after having heard those statistics for many years and dismissing them, thinking, "how stupid do you have to be to wear the wrong bra size? i'm sure *i'm* wearing the right size!" i finally went to a specialty shop in a nearby neighborhood and asked for a proper fitting. i was a completely different size than i'd been wearing. i spent an hour, maybe an hour and a half, trying on a bunch of different bras--every brand and cut is a little different, it seems--and walked out with two. they really do change how my clothes fit and how i carry myself. believe it or don't, but do yourself a favor: try it :)
second, to wear under some items--many party dresses, but some off-the-shoulder or low-cut sweaters as well (tubey is a great example)--i love my seamless bustier. i swear i've recommended this to so many women that i should get a commission from victoria's secret. it was about $80 from vs a year ago, and i suspect it hasn't changed much. there's a post about it here that includes a photo of it. i can't put it on without help--too many hooks up the back--but it truly is comfortable enough to wear all day and well into the evening (i promise--but you have to start with the right size!). it is a supportive bra AND it smooths out everything beneath all the way down to the hipbones, creating a beautifully smooth line. i wore it under a mermaid-style satin wedding dress--truly unforgiving--and it was perfect. and a bonus of having a little support that long along your body: great posture and elongation of the spine. you carry yourself beautifully :)
third, a nice body shaper to stop jiggling in the lower half. i also wore this under my wedding dress--i was really worried about panty lines, so i wanted one continuous seamless line (or lack thereof) from top to knees. the one i chose was the seamless high-waist panty with long leg by body wrap. spanx is probably the most famous maker of such items--i just didn't like the way they fit, felt, or looked, personally. the one i bought was extremely comfortable, very well-made, and reasonably priced. like the bustier, i have worn it many times since last year. i love that it doesn't stop at the waist, so there's no big dent if i'm wearing something clingy there (can you say, "ribbing," (or "fine-gauge knits") boys and girls? i knew you could!). just nice smooth lines.
so there are the ramblings of a woman who does, indeed, wonder what stacy and clinton would say when i'm trying clothes on (and when i get dressed in the morning--and then i wonder why it takes me so long to get out the door) :)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

sexy? knitters club

nominations are up at the sexy knitters club for the next knitalong. some patterns seem sexier than others to me, but sexy really is about using what you have, not about the thing itself. i mean, a piece of lingerie can be sexy by itself, but (for most people) by virtue of the suggestion of a body wearing it--the right body, in our opinion.
so that brings me back to the nominations:
the cropped cardigan from blue sky alpacahas some things going for it on the right body. the knitter needs to bring the waist down to the right length for the wearer--the ribbing should hug the narrowest parts, not expand over any pudgy bellies, which narrows down the best wearers quite a bit, i think. but this sleeve length is great on a lot of people, as is the neckline.
something red by wendy of knit and tonic is similar in sleeve length, but more forgiving below the waist--it would disguise pudgy bellies. it should not, however, be knitted too long--a common mistake, i think. for most women, i think it needs to fall somewhere between the navel and hipbone (usually closer to the latter). the deep v neck is not flattering on all women, and definitely requires special care on women with both very large busts and very small ones. i think it's best on medium sizes in that area.
garn studio's cardigan in alpaca with glitter is yet another cardi; this one really requires a skinny minnie. all that ribbing around the middle will cling like sausage tubing to any little fat rolls. if the wearer just isn't particularly toned, a foundation garment like those i've discussed before will address those enough to make this lovely on her. but short of that, i'd say steer clear of anything like this unless the wearer has a stunningly toned midsection.
the simple knitted bodice is my favorite in this list by far. the sleeves can be knitted to any length. the body can be knitted to any length (again: for most of us, this is somewhere between navel and hipbone, usually close to the hipbone). the pattern at the narrowest point, just below the bustline, is the single most flattering thing you can wear, pulling the knit in *without being ribbing,* thereby NOT behaving like sausage casing, so disguising any rolls of fat while still shaping beautifully, drawing the eye to exactly where you want it, and providing the beginning of a slight flare out to a relaxed shape over the tummy. totally, utterly flattering. and the neckline is wide enough to broaden the shoulders visually, something most of us need to balance hips, but not so much to be unflattering on apple-shaped or broad-shouldered women--the deep v takes care of that. and the deep v is wearable with a v-necked cami underneath for some women or with a higher, scoop-necked cami for others. it's hard for me to imagine a woman on whom this would not be a knockout. plus, the pattern is available in sizes from 30 to 54. LOVE IT.
wendy's sizzle has the same great neckline as the knitted bodice and can also be knitted to any length on the waist, but man. the uninterrupted field of fabric over the torso is way unforgiving of figure flaws. and i don't know many women out of their teens with arms toned enough to wear sleeveless sexily (myself included). all i can say is, do your tricep, bicep, and shoulder exercises daily and year-round if you mean to wear this one.
starsky is not going to flatter many, in my opinion. it adds bulk all over and even more to the waist with that belt. it is also so long that it accentuates the largest part of any pear-shaped woman, though i suppose you could knit it to hipbone length and still wear it belted (though then it would flare out and have a totally different look, more like a peplum jacket, which would be odd for a 1970s throwback in every other sense). anyhoo, it's cozy looking, but flattering, not so much.
tubey is another one of these unforgiving-of-fat-rolls-but-otherwise-beautifully-shaped sweaters. if the wearer has a generally good figure and is worried about rolls, a foundation garment will take care of these. and of course for a woman with a model-perfect figure, this is a fabulous sweater. the point: all that ribbing is going to hug every curve whether you want it to or not. the good news: the neckline broadens narrow shoulders visually without being ridiculous on a broad-shouldered woman and it's low enough to be sexy without being unflattering on anyone.
heather from white lies designs is not my style, but it isn't unflattering. the neckline is generally flattering and the bust detailing naturally draws attention to that area, so if you're not *too* busty and want attention drawn there (that is, neither huge nor tiny there), it would look nice. i think the bead detailing is a mistake, though, drawing the eye downward and away from decolletage, collarbone, and, more importantly, the face (hello?), while drawing it toward areas of the body that are typically more problematic (tummy, waist, hips). if i made this, i'd leave it off entirely, or at least stop the drawstring way up near the bust join. the rest of the construction being flattering really depends on the drape and fit--if it isn't too snug and it skims the body, a fine gauge like this is okay with the right foundation garment. but the least bit tight and no foundation garment? every jiggle and every roll shows. yikes.
the same company's myrna has similar pitfalls (and advantages) to many others here: ribbing clings mercilessly to whatever it covers, especially in finer gauges. it has potential on a slightlier bustier woman who fills out the perpendicular ribbing, but she still can't be so busty that the v neck is a problem. i'd be curious to see this finished on some actual people.
iris. now here's a conundrum. this is something that really very few people are likely to see the wearer in, i'd think (or, if many people will see her, she's unlikely to be concerned about their honest opinions about her). this is a good thing, because frankly, it's a tough one to make look good without a healthy dose of fabulous body image. when you're wearing something like this, honey, that's about all you need. well, maybe a panty. personally, i loathe the color and fabric choices here, but i can see it being sexy in black and a whole lotta attitude. the great thing about something like this: it's truly all you. and when you're in this, you're likely in a setting where that is really all that matters.
the combo corset t is about like tubey, though without the forgiving nature for broad-shouldered gals, and definitely not for women with untoned arms. ribbed for your pleasure? you decide.
these lace stockings are pretty, but (a) patterned anything on the legs call attention to them, so the wearer had better not have heavy ones (and great ones would be a plus) and (b) i often find that lace or fishnet stockings can be uncomfortable on the soles and toes. i might at least knit a soft, cushy stockinette under the footprint.
arisaig has a lot of potential. the wrap, if positioned properly, under the bust, accentuates a great part of the body (well, two: the bustline and the narrow part of the body beneath it). the ribbing sort of hugs the waist in back but also swings loose of it in front--i'd love to see it knitted a bit longer, to hipbone length, and with the wrap tied a little lower than shown on the model. the neckline is lovely and flattering on pretty much anyone, and modifiable with the cami chosen underneath. i don't like it as much as the knitted bodice, but this might be my second choice for flatteringness (and i've had my eye on this for a while as a potential project, so there must be something that draws me to it).
regine is a pdf, so i don't have a photo to show you, but i think this is a lovely choice of simple sweaters. the neckline is wide and squared. in the right size, if it doesn't cling too much, it would be very flattering on the right wearer. (again: right foundations. foundations foundations foundations.)
rusted root *requires* thin or toned arms. period. knitters intending this for wearers without them should just pass this one right by. beyond that, though, this is an adorable sweater, no doubt about it. right fit and it'd work.
saunshine's scatter, like any tank, in my opinion, also requires toned arms to wear alone. barring those, this could be layered over a long-sleeved hanes perfect t, i think.
cobweb is a gorgeous shrug. something like this can camouflage a multitude of sins over a strapless or sleeveless dress (say, flabby arms?). pretty sure this would look good on anyone.
the deciduous cami is mostly backless. lots of toning needed here, both arms and back. skinny straps like this aren't great on broad shoulders, but it really is a lovely tank.
the prosperous plum tank is a better tank for broad-shouldered women, like many of the tanks with wider straps. it also has better shaping than some of the others. but...again: tanks really require great toned arms. and it will require a good figure underneath and good foundation garments. (this is a pdf, so i don't have an image.)
the final nominee is the not-so-shrunken cardigan from wendy at knit and tonic. i really love this little sweater. it's totally unassuming, worn exactly right on the model, over a floaty white blouse and a perfect-fitting pair of dark-wash boot-cut jeans. i see pointy-toed shoes with them and this is weekend casual done great. the neckline is versatile, the layering is forgiving of lots of figure types (and flaws), and the sleeve length is comfortable and flattering on lots of people. maybe this replaces arisaig as my second favorite.
so...there you have it. my opinions on what to knit (the knitted bodice, the not-so-shrunken cardigan, and arisaig), and what (probably) not to knit (unless your intended wearer has some very specific body types). these are just my opinions, of course, something i'm never short of :)