Friday, August 28, 2009

Fashion review, fall 2009.

By request. I'm not aiming for snark, here. What I'm gonna do is just a stream of consciousness of what I think of some of the 'great designers' are doing this season. You can all decide if it's funny, snarky, or educational. I can never guess ahead of time what's going to set all of you off.

Anyone wanting to check in and tell me I have no fashion sense, I'm fat, I'm ugly, I'm unpopular, I don't get it, feel free. Remember I've got a hit logger and have seen it all before.

Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel:

Lagerfeld keeps producing collections based on men Chanel allegedly boffed. Which strikes me as really fucked up (ha), but I'm not an artiste. This collection is supposed to be inspired by some Russian Grand Duke. (I am very skeptical of Chanel's claims that she slept with 2/3 of the male royalty of Europe.) Can't wait to see what Lagerfeld produces when he gets around to Chanel's Nazi boyfriend from WW2. The Nazi Paris Ritz Collection. Wrap the models up in swastika flags and barbed wire. Anyway. I keep thinking if you divided this chick at the neck, her head would look fine in a sultan's harem in Cordoba in about 850CE, and her body belongs in post-WW2-Europe when they were rationing fabric and women were making suits with as little material as possible. They even dressed up their outfits with little splashes of color. Like a bright red belt. LoveloveLOVE the shoes, though.

Apparently we're recycling the forties, this year. You know. While doing everything NEW! and ORIGINAL! and ARTY! Personally I'd have chosen a decade without clothes rationing, but I suspect I think differently than these folks.

With all this in mind, I started hitting the bigger, older design houses first. The ones who've been doing this a while. Just to see what's what.


Latter-day ninja warrior meets runway 2009. Where's the sword? Shouldn't there at least be a fake sword? She could wear it across her back like Conan the Barbarian. Who wasn't a ninja, but wore his sword... oh, never mind. Seeing as the model looks like a post in this, I can't imagine it being flattering on anyone else. And as if winter weren't dismal enough, most of the designers went with a neutral palette this year. Like the boots, though.


Parka over miniskirt with hunormous bag. Didn't we all dress like this at age 18 in winter? Wear cute little dress, fling parka over top, freeze our kneecaps off? Plus a big bag to haul around all the crap we didn't need? I can almost feel my knees ache, looking at this and thinking of winter. I need a new pair of those 'granny boots'. Had a pair just like that and wore them until they fell apart.


Dior's recycling the New Look, because apparently it didn't suck enough the first time around. At least this time we're not wearing girdles. I hope to hell. Does that bag look like a black plastic garbage bag, or is it me?

Oscar de la Renta:

I had high hopes for Oscar. Usually he doesn't let me down. Sigh. Can't really see the shoes, either.

I took a look at Michael Kors' stuff, because we always love him so when he produces stuff for Vogue Knitting. (Or rather, he has a minion produce stuff for VK and signs his name to it for big bucks.)

Yeah. Good to see he's keeping up the good work.

Oddly, I couldn't find any of the other 'big names' VK produces. Perhaps it was the web site I was using. Perhaps.

Donna Karan went fuzzy this year:

I hope to hell that's warm. (Great shoes.)

But our old buddy Issac Mizrahi didn't let us down.

Still not sure it's warm, but you might look pretty in it. With different shoes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

And then...

...not a whole lot happened. Still recovering from my lovely experience with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. I've been swooning a lot, and laying in a darkened room with a cloth soaked in lavender water over my eyes, calling for laudanum.

Or else half out of my mind because the Goober's been waking me up at five in the morning again. Not quite sure. It's a blur.

Still working on the silhouettes for the fashion posts, and I found a good place full of clothing photos. I'm considering a run down of Fashion Week and apparently hot trends for fall, but I'm not sure I've got that much snark in me. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The most surreal experience of my life.

Or perhaps just the most fucked up. I'm still debating.

So this morning, I go over to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the Faraway Branch, to get a new driver's license. I knew going in it would be a long and bothersome experience, because I'd let my license expire (a long, long, LONG time ago... whoops) and would have to take a written test followed by a driving test. It's okay. I've done this before. My licenses always expire because I never get pulled over and I forget about them. (My last speeding ticket was in 1991. Last I heard, I had the only perfect score for a driving test in Pearl City.)

Right. So over I go, with the husbeast driving so they can't arrest me for driving, to Faraway Branch. I present my DoD identification. They tell me it isn't good enough. They want a birth certificate.

To get that Department of Defense ID, I had to have a BACKGROUND CHECK. By the FBI. The US Navy knows more about me than I do myself. HELLO. But it isn't good enough.

Away we go to County Seat of the Next County Over to get a copy of my birth certificate. (Damn lucky I'd been born nearby for this fun experience and I wasn't trying it in, say, South Carolina.) I go to the Health Department. I fill out a little form with my full name and date of birth. They give me a certified copy of my birth certificate in exchange for sixteen dollars. NO IDENTIFICATION WHATSOEVER IS REQUIRED FOR THIS PIECE OF PAPER.

(Oh, and I'm adopted, right? So there's two birth certificates on record, and by law I can't see the one with my original, 'real' genetic parents' names unless I sue the state for the information. I'm standing there, and the clerk is looking me up, and the clerk says "Birth mother from Oklahoma?" and I gaped at her for a few seconds and said "I have no idea. I'm adopted." and she cringed hideously and began pounding on the keyboard. I eventually got a copy with my proper - adoptive - parents' names like I legally should have.)

Back we go to BMV, Far Away Branch. I present the birth certificate, and all of a sudden they're really helpful. IT IS A WORTHLESS PIECE OF PAPER I NEEDED NO IDENTIFICATION TO GET, YET IT IS MORE VALID THAN A DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE PHOTO ID. I take the test, blah blah, more big issues about whether they can waive my driving test because I'm a dependent of someone in the military (suddenly they notice this after I present a birth certificate). I take the written anyway. They agree to call me and let me know.

On the way home, they call and say it can't be waived, but I can pick up my official, I Passed The Test Permit Thingie at the BMV, Local Branch. So we detour to Local Branch. There, I present my needed-a-background-check DoD ID. It is sniffed at. The clerk demands a birth certificate. I hand it over and the next thing I know, I have photo ID from the State of Ohio.

All on the authority of a piece of paper anyone with sixteen dollars, my name, and birth date could get.

Is it me, or does this make no fucking sense whatsoever?

Monday, August 24, 2009

The exciting non-conclusion!

I got really irritated and threw Cameo across the room last night. Wait. Ahem.

Please read (in your head) the following in a weekly serial radio show kind of voice.

When we last left our jumper/sweater/whatever, it was coming along nicely.

Except for an alarming lack of raw materials.

Well. Last night I decided to bind off the first sleeve with a bit less ribbing than I liked, what with that lack of yarn thing going on. So I did. About halfway through, I found a BIG HONKING KNOT IN THE BLOODY YARN.

At which point I threw it across the room in annoyance. It got moved around some since then, and I've decided what I need to do is tear back to the start of the bindoff (oh, how annoyed I am just typing that damn phrase), cut the yarn, and start over.

If I do it.

Tune in tomorrow (or next week, or, you know, in January) to find out if Cameo gets finished now, or ditched in favor of two Lustkofen that need done by December!!

(for anyone wondering about the previous little symbol, IT IS A MOUSE, for crying out loud! The C is the body and the 8 is the ears, it is crawling from left to right)

Otherwise, I really am working on the 'how to dress' series. It'll definitely be more than one post, and it will emphasize our top half since that's the half we normally knit for. But I'll discuss dresses and trousers some, too. I'm cruising my 'Inspiration' folder for fun examples of different ways to dress:

I believe all of that is from Vintage Textile. Please do endeavor not to drool into your keyboards; it is always a problem for me. (Anyone got a spare fifteen grand for the Fortuny wrap they've got on sale? I really want it.)

I know some of you are obsessing over the gamine/hourglass/boxy issue. If you've got a figure that doesn't fit 'gamine' or 'hourglass' you're likely boxy. It isn't a big deal with the approach I plan to take, because I'm going to cover "if you're bigger on top..." etc. Plus, as you know, there isn't going to be a quiz and I am NOT going to play Fashion Police with my Beloved Readers. (I may break down and do it with a few celebrities. Purely as a learning experience. Really. Honest.) I do strongly suggest busting out the tape measure if you haven't gotten good measurements of yourself for a while (I know some of you do that regularly because you make your own clothing). I would have SWORN I was a boxy figure, but when we measured, I found out my waist is fourteen inches (uh... 36cm) smaller than my bust. It was so shocking I re-measured five times. So, you never know. Toughen up, be brave, and get the tape measure. You never know. You may get good news.

As for some of these clothes, remember, most of these were worn with corsets under them. Which is cheating, to my mind.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Much of the same, here.

We're hanging out, playing in the sand on the porch (okay, the Goob does that), and spinning the end of the Crumb Cake (okay, I do that part), and running around town like a dog in the woods (mostly the husbeast does that but we get dragged along.

I am prepping for the post on fashion and how to dress.

Though the images still need a lot of work. And it's likely gonna be more than one post. We're going to start out with silhouettes of fashions from the last century (and examples of real clothes when I can find them), and go on from there. Anyone taking this seriously should get their own measurements and perhaps stand in front of a mirror, naked, and do an honest assessment. I'm going to be breaking down figures into gamine (boyish, fashion-model, slim, you get the idea), hourglass, and boxy. One is not better than another, but you've gotta figure out which one you've got if you wanna figure out what to wear after that. If you've gotta, pretend you're dressing a mannequin. That's how I started doing it. (I started off as gamine, went to hourglass as I got older, and dressed boxy the whole time. Not the best plan I've ever had.)

Other than that, interesting comments on the environmental posts.

Ellen in Indy points out (or her hippy son does) that hemp is probably the most eco-friendly fiber, and they're probably right. Problem is, EVERYTHING uses power and chemicals in processing, so even spinning your own fiber isn't completely 'green' unless you're growing your own stuff. Even then, if you're 'retting' linen or hemp fibers you're rotting fiber and pouring off chemicals. Any possible dye you use, even throwing your yarn into a coffee pot (works for protein fibers) is going to use chemicals that wind up in the watershed. Of course a single pot of coffee or tub of retting-water isn't going to make a difference. But six billion of them would.

I like very much how people popped up from all over, offered opinions, information, links, and shared it.

I'm very curious as to exactly how the chitin fibers work. I'll do what I can to dig up some information.

And, well, I think I've got to go do some more laundry and spinning.

Nothing but excitement, here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I was directed to this article by blog reader Bobbins. If you're looking for an interesting read, scroll down to "Why it matters". It is more fascinating information on the bamboo/rayon manufacturing process... apparently the biggest Superfund site in the country was a rayon manufacturing plant. Yeesh. Didn't know that.

Thanks, Bobbins!

Incidentally, I never set out to claim one fiber was good and another evil. I'm just presenting information and I chose that group of fibers because as a botany student I knew the claims of 'greenness' were sketchy at best. As Roxie pointed out, cotton and linen are tough on the soil and processing uses lots of power and chemicals. Wool uses a lot of processing chemicals, and the sheer number of sheep in some places cause all kinds of environmental problems (this also happens with Cashmere goats - the Chinese tried to up cashmere production and found large tracts of land horribly overgrazed).

There's no such thing as a free lunch, or a no-environmental-impact fiber. That's all. The only point I was attempting to make.

Oh. And I've got nothin' at all against killing bugs to get silk. Especially when the bugs were bred for six thousand years to make silk and wouldn't survive without humans using them to make silk, anyway. Maybe that makes me evil. I dunno. I consider it practical, myself.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I've been mentally debating about doing this post for a long time... last time I did an honest environmental post about ten percent of my readers left. But, darn it, I'm a treehugger and I can't shut up about it. (FYI, much of this is cribbed from "The Intentional Spinner" by Judith MacKenzie McCuin. Only honest discussion of synthetics I've ever seen in a fiberhead book. I hit Wikipedia for chemical info; *quotes are from there.)

Below, find discussion on how a lot of synthetic fibers are made. Decide for yourself if you consider them eco-friendly 'green' knitting, or not.

TRUE SYNTHETICS (nylon, acrylic, polyester):

All made from petrochemicals. If not oil, than coal, tar, or natural gas. To my knowledge, it does not rot under normal conditions. Researchers appear to have found a way to make it break down, using a fungus. Polyester appears to be made out of the same plastic (PET, polyethylene terephthalate) that uses antimony (a heavy metal, similar to arsenic) in its processing; the web sites are rather vague.

REGENERATED CELLULOSE (rayon, viscose, bamboo, Lyocell, Tencel, SeaCell):

These are produced two ways: The Viscose Process (nearly everything), and the Lyocell Process (Lyocell, Tencel, and SeaCell).

VISCOSE PROCESS: this accounts for all the bamboo, rayon, modal, 'art silk', and viscose used in knitting yarns, that I know of.

This one's kind of interesting. You get some cellulose fiber (trees, bamboo, leaves, anything plant-like, really), and you 'digest' it. That means dissolving it in lye. (No one talks too much about what they do with the lye, later.) Then it's dried, re-crumbled, 'aged' by exposing it to oxygen, re-dissolved in carbon disulphide (a chemical that's an emission of volcanic eruption, and may be " because it affects the nervous system. Significant safety data come from the viscose rayon industry..."*) left to 'ripen', filtered and degassed, then extruded through something that looks like a fancy shower head, to form the fibers. The newly extruded fibers go into a bath of sulfuric acid to harden (no one talks too much about what they do with the acid, later), then further processed by stretching and washing and sometimes cutting.

There may be some more chemicals in there, but after the lye and carbon disulphide it gets kind of blurry.

LYOCELL PROCESS: this produces Lyocell (duh), Tencel, SeaCell, and probably some other fibers I don't know about.

Supposedly, this process is just like the Viscose Process, but they substitute another chemical for the lye (N-methylmorpholine-N-oxide, if you MUST know), and the hardening bath is water and alcohol rather than sulfuric acid. They claim to use low-emission mills that recycle chemicals and even water, and won an award for environmental consciousness in the EU. They try to use farmed trees for the process. Apparently, due to the different manufacturing process, the fiber is harder to dye and needs more chemical additives to avoid pilling. No word on what those chemical additives are.

REGENERATED PROTEIN (corn/Inego, milk/Casein, soy, and even peanut/Ardil) dunno if this is the proper term for them - probably not - but that's how I think of them:

SOY: It was developed in 1937, so anybody thinking it's a new idea can scuttle that notion. It has been redeveloped in China, since, using more chemicals (dunno what, but I'm suspicious) to make the soy more workable. Sulfuric and hydrochloric acids are used.

CASEIN: It takes a hundred pounds of milk to produce three pounds of casein fiber. This strikes me as wasteful but that's another issue for another day. Otherwise, the process is a mystery. Having read the soy process, I'm suspicious.

CORN: Also probably wasteful (grinding up unused wood scrap to make fiber makes more sense than grinding up perfectly good food/ethanol/animal fodder). "For Super-Hero Zein, see AK Comics."* Teeheehee.

CHITIN: This is the cool stuff made out of shrimp and lobster shells and like that. It's put in sock yarn for anti-fungal and anti-stink properties, and used to be used to make bandages (and may be used again).

It was developed in the 1800s, can you believe it? Sounds so clever and space-aged when really it was cooked up at the beginning of industrial chemistry. Chitin isn't protein OR cellulose so it really does get its own category. How it's made is something of a mystery (no one will tell), but it's a polymer that's somehow close to cellulose - they say - so I'm betting the process is pretty cool (and maybe polluting; don't know).

There you go. Make up your own minds.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Goob photos and like that.

I appear to have an internet connection again (apparently Internet Explorer was screwing us up - go figure) so here are some photos of the last week.

Last week we went to a balloon launch. It didn't go so well - bad wind conditions. (Therefore, no cool photos.) There were a couple narrow misses with some of the balloons, and as we drove back home we saw five balloons landed in town, a few miles from the launch site - meaning between power lines - which is precision flying for hot air balloons. But the Goober was fascinated. Moreso once we drove past those landed balloons and she saw people near them and she figured out the scale. THEN she was interested.


Then, we did the local parade on Saturday. It was much smaller than the husbeast and I remembered; financial mess and a shrinking population base led to fewer, less elaborate floats. The marching bands we both played in were about a sixth the size they were when we were kids. That alone was pretty shocking. The parade also triggered lovely (? still not sure) memories of marching seven miles in August heat, carrying a tuba.

Here's the Goob saying "Eeeeee! A PAWADE!"

And here she is, getting to know the mascot of the local college. (Whoever was in that costume did a great job, and probably sweat off ten pounds.)

The excitement of the festival is over and our town has returned to normal. The Goob's probably disappointed, but the rest of us are relieved.

Next on the list: Tour of the local chocolate factories, or a trip to the zoo.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Still kicking.

...and having trouble connecting to the danged internet. This is coming to you from the husbeast's computer. (Mine has all the photos on it, of course.) That's going to get fixed (or else) later, but for now, here's what's going on. (Without photos. Did I mention the photos are on MY computer? And now I realize spell check isn't set the same on this thing, either. Joy.)

So I've got the body of Cameo bound off, and one sleeve almost done. I've got two balls of yarn left. Fifty gram balls. Not one hundred. The sleeve seems to take one ball and a little bit more (it's a short sleeve, obviously), which leaves me most of a ball to do the neck and front ribbing. So it's looking like it's possible to pull this off. It'll just be exciting, is all. I have a bad feeling this is going to be one of those projects where you hold up two yards of yarn and say "this is what I had left!" Ugh. Don't need this kind of excitement.

I had pictures of that. But did I mention, they're on the other computer?

I'm about halfway through spinning all the "Crumb Cake" laceweight, which is good, 'cause I've got a load of other stuff waiting. Remember That Neighbor, the fellow fiberhead? Well. I took her a half-pound bag of the freaking carbon fiber and told her she'd be doing me a favor to take it (I so don't wanna wind up spinning two pounds of that stuff). I also let her poke through my bead box and take some for her beading projects. When she tried to pay me, I told her to give me fiber instead - whatever she considered the value of the beads and carbon fiber; maybe something other than wool, because I'd been thinking of branching out. She told me she'd dig through her stash and drop some stuff off later. I said okay.

Next thing I knew, maybe an hour after that, the in-laws' kitchen table was covered with a pile of fiber about two feet deep. Alpaca, mohair, glittery stuff, a big ball of romney to experiment with (woolen vs. worsted, etc.), you name it, I've got a ball or batt of it now. I wound up with, oh, maybe twice or three times the fiber I thought was the value of the beads and carbon fiber. So everyone walked away happy.

And now I've gotta finish up that laceweight, so I can start on glitter mohair!

Oh- That Neighbor is also looking to unload a drum carder. I've been pricing drum carders lately. So I'm going to try to sell enough stuff in my shop to buy the carder. There's a pound of merino top on its way here, to get dyed in the basement (the new working conditions are going to be... interesting) and put up for sale. I assume people still want Purple Trainwreck. Maybe I'll try again at Dreamsickle. And I need a little something to experiment on. Though I bet someone would buy Menolade if I made it.

So that's the current fiber madness. Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to post photos of the damn parade we went to on Saturday. I hate a parade.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Carnivorous plants.

(Those of you who follow me on Twitter know where this is going. The rest of you are just stuck reading out of morbid curiosity. Don't worry. The end is pretty morbid, too.)

So. Carnivorous plants. In general, plants turn to taking heads (haha) due to crappy soil. Nearly all (I'd say all, but this isn't my speciality in botany) of these plants grow in swamps, where the soil is notoriously acidic and nasty, and, well, a plant's got to do what a plant's got to do (incidentally, the critters are digested for extra nitrogen). There are probably more of them than you think, and they're classified both taxonomically, and by how they catch, uh, prey.

Here are the general categories.

"Pitfall traps", most of which are pitcher plants.

The 'pitcher' is a modified leaf that holds a puddle of goo that can digest proteins. All the plant does is sit there and wait for some critter dumb enough to fall in. I know these from my childhood of running wild around NE Ohio, where they were found near little streams and around standing water. If I'd know how rare they were, I'd have probably tried to stop my friends from picking them and throwing the goo on each other. But I didn't know, and we did. In the bottom of the pitcher was a pile of un-digested bug bits (the chitin exoskeleton), so it was a pretty grody thing to get thrown on you.

"Lobster pot" traps, which are related to pitcher plants. They've got very small openings in the plant, lined with hairs that look like this:

The hairs point back down into the pit of the plant, and so any critter wandering through gets stuck inside and never gets out. (Ominous music here.) These plants only trap microscopic critters though, paramecium (parameciii?) being a favorite food. So they're interesting but there's no gross-out factor because you can't see the bodies without a microscope, and what's the fun in that?

"Flypaper" traps, mostly sundews, which act just like flypaper.

The plant produces modified hairs that ooze sticky digestive juice. Flies and the like land on them and are never heard from again. Some sundews have the modified hairs on a stem-like structure, like in the photo above, and some are more like leaves. Both curl up once a victim is snared; those hairs are triggers, too.

"Snap" traps come in two types, waterwheels and the famous Venus flytrap:

These are much the same as the sundews, but with a more dramatic WHOMP sort of thing going on. Just like the sundews, there are trigger hairs inside the leaves of snap trap plants, and when the hairs are touched, the leaves slam shut. Venus flytraps are like books slamming shut; waterwheels are like an umbrella slamming closed, with the stem as the shaft of the umbrella. Incidentally, the idea in most people's heads of Venus flytraps aren't too accurate: most flytraps are incredibly small. The one I saw up close and personal, the day I heard a lecture on carnivorous plants, was at most two inches high (probably closer to one) and the 'snap' leaves were slightly smaller than a pencil eraser. One had trapped a gnat and was shut, and the gnat was a full meal for that leaf. It was in a two-inch pot (very small) and passed around hand-to-hand during the lecture.

This brings us to the most fun to watch, the bladderworts.

These little guys are often aquatic plants (though some species aren't). They just float around in the water, not doing much of anything, until some unsuspecting critter touches one of those trigger hairs. Then the bladder opens up and sucks the insect inside. Yum, yum. Eat up.

So what brought this on? A new carnivorous plant was discovered in the Philippines, and it is BIG ENOUGH TO EAT RATS. I was hoping for something really cool and dramatic like a hunormous bladderwort or flytrap (even though I knew that was physically impossible). Instead it turns out to be what I expected; a really big pitcher plant. Details here.

I love botany.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Comment comments.

Since I got nothin' here but a half-knit sleeve and a bucket of stress (short-row sleeve caps seem to be working; if they really work, there will be a blog post about them). People have been asking questions in the comments for a while, and I shall go through and answer some. Most. Okay, the ones I can find again.

There was a comment about using silicone/graphite 'grease' on my spinning wheel. Mostly about how silicon is hard to get out of fabric. It is. That's why, for the bit around the orifice - the part that the fiber/yarn is likely to touch - we use dry graphite only. That way I can just blow it off again if I have to, and a good soak in soapy water will definitely remove it.

One of these days I'm going to just get a pencil and hold the point against the part of the wheel that needs graphite. Less complicated than the 'real' stuff that comes in a tube that says "dry graphite" on it.


I thought the Koi hat from this VK was kind of a hoot, but then I was the one who had pink hair in the eighties, so I'm not what you'd call high fashion. I tend to go for clothes I think are funny, rather than flattering. Love love love my zombie bunny tee shirt.


On a related note, you can go back to my VK 25th anniversary edition review (part two, link in the sidebar) . There's a section in there where they did a bit on the ten most popular patterns they'd published in those twenty-five years, and EVERY DAMN ONE OF THEM was something casual you'd wear with jeans, or at most, khakis. Not one of thier high-fashion bits got in. This hat issue, where everyone's going out to buy the mag for the hat patterns, reminds me of the issue they did a while back with eight or ten sock patterns. Same deal; everyone went and got it. DO THEY LEARN FROM THIS? Fuck no. They keep insisting they're high fashion. I think the editors and owners have WAY too much personal investment in the angle of the magazine.


The 'live' visitor log at the bottom of the sidebar's been there about six months. Thanks for noticing. Hahahaha.


How did I learn so much about fit? Partly by - gasp here - reading a lot about design and the history of fashion. Partly by reading gossip rags and really looking at how people dressed, what worked, and what didn't. Fashion Police is a good place to start. Try to separate what you LIKE from what LOOKS GOOD. They're often two totally different things. Pay special attention to older women (who don't have perfect bodies) and pregnant ladies. Some of them look marvelous. Figure out why/how.

Anyone interested in details? Like how to dress or something?


I don't review other magazines, because honestly, I don't need the stress. I get enough shit for the VK stuff. I'll weather the storm for the VK thing, because I despise them, but I don't wanna be stuck ragging on Interweave or anyone else because I mostly like their stuff.

The reason I do the VK reviews is to try and keep people from knitting things they'll regret later. When I learned to knit, VK was the only magazine I could get easily, so I kept trying to knit things out of it. There were four or five sweaters I tried to knit, cried over, and threw away. At a loss of about a thousand bucks' worth of yarn and a whole lot of stress (good yarn was hard to find and expensive as hell back then). Eventually I gave up on knitting clothes and did lace for about ten years. Since I've gone back to knitting clothes, I've done two patterns from VK. Both needed altered or fixed. Neither one would have been successful if I'd done them with intermediate skills.


Sizing. Yeah. Sizing for most of these magazines is a big steaming pile of horseshit. I'm not sure why it is so bad for other magazines, but I know why it sucks in VK.

I have it from (several) reliable sources, that VK asks for patterns to be written IN ONE SIZE, usually a thirty two or thirty four inch/81 or 86cm bust. (You know. Fashion model sized.) From there, VOGUE DOES THE SIZING. Not the author of the pattern. (This is also, in my humble opinion, why there are so many bloody errors.) To size something from 32 to 60 inches/81 to 152cm usually involves totally re-writing the entire pattern. It truly is difficult. Now, if they were to ask for a 44 inch/111cm bust and size in both directions, it would be much more easily accomplished. Not to mention the 44 inch figure is much closer to the average female size. Of course that would require either getting bigger models (horrors!) or having to knit a new sample for the models to wear (horrors!).

If you've never noticed, it's almost always the 'Very Easy, Very Vogue' patterns that get sized into plus-size range. That's because the boxier the design, the easier the sizing is to do. It's also why some of those complicated, multi-directional patterns come in only one really small size - everyone at VK was too lazy or too dumb to re-size it.


I think that covers most of the recent stuff. Now I think I'm going to go listen to my new, rockin' Memorex ear buds (didn't realize how shitty the iPod earbuds sounded 'til I got new) and read my new book. One of you guys - can't remember who, sorry - suggested I try "An Edible History of Humanity" by Tom Standage. I'd probably have gotten the book sooner if I realized it was by the same guy who wrote "A History of the World in Six Glasses" (I reviewed that book around here, sometime or other). Anyway, got it today and of course am enjoying it. Also got "Seeds of Change", another plant history book. So you guys better look out for more plant freak posts. Soon.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vogue Knitting, fall 2009

It's that time, again. As usual, photos from the VK web site, anything in quotes is from the magazine, everything else is mine. (Text, opinion, white spaces...)

This issue was kind of disappointing. I don't know why I expect otherwise. Usually the fall issue has a lot of good-if-not-high-fashion stuff, but this time around I feel like I was ripped off. Though that could have to do with the seven freakin' bucks I paid for this thing.

Advertising contains a lot of cardigans and pullovers knit in clever ways with fairly light/thin yarns. Worsted or lighter. I'm glad to see it, because the lighter stuff is more flattering. A quick flip, and I'm not seeing anything in the super-bulky range. Hopefully that is a fad that is on its way out. Alchemy Yarns has a new book out on color in knitting. The designs I've seen are stunning. Must have.


Meg Swansen discusses EZ's Ganomy Hat. She's doing a generational thing; this issue contains her mother's hat, next issue will be her version, and the issue after will be her son's. (He knits, and from what I've seen in Swansen's books, he's easy on the eyes, too. Yow. Unfortunately, he's married. Oh. So am I.) Cute idea, I'm curious to see what happens next.

Another article on Afghans for Afghans. Exposure for an excellent charity. Cool.

Article about Iris Schreier, designer. She's the one who made this:

Which I think is one of the classiest things VK has published in the last five years. It's a variation on scribble lace, using three different yarns, and very clever (fall 2007 issue). She does a lot of directional knitting and fitted stuff, and she's got a new book out, "Reversible Knits".

Article from Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed about switching knit-flat patterns to circular.

"Art Knits - A new generation of knitters is blurring the lines between craft and couture, putting art on your back and bringing garments into galleries." ...yeah. Well. This one left me staring blankly, going 'but is it art?' Maybe we'll have that discussion another day. But the article discusses - with photos - knitters who are getting stuff into galleries. I wouldn't call much of it garments, but it's interesting.

Needle felting, again, in case we didn't get it the last two or three times they've given directions for it. This time they make a scarf. Not to my taste, but it's a scarf.

The designs: More plus sizes this time. Sort of. If you consider a 48 inch/122cm bust a plus size. I think maybe our bitching is getting through. Or maybe they realized offering patterns that only 1/3 of the women in the world could wear was plain old bad business practice. For the record, I'm a size ten to twelve, firmly in the middle of average women's size, so if something won't fit me, it won't fit at least half the women in the world. Which, all else aside, is a bad way to sell patterns and stay in business.

Section one: The warming trend. Everything's red. I put the designer's names on everything; apologies if I spell them wrong, the font they used is a bitch to read. The photo shoot appears to be in a studio with a gray cloud type backdrop, then VK photoshopped autumn leaves around the edges of the pages.

1. Long coat by Coralie Meslin.

Bust sizes 36 to 48 inches/91 to 122 cm. Gauge 18 sts to 4in/10cm. Knit from Cascade Yarn's 'Cash Vero', merino/microfiber/cashmere blend. $158 USD to knit the medium size. Back, left front, and sleeves are knit bottom to top traditionally, right front is knit in a spiral. Neat idea, but the seam between back and right front would be a bear to work, and the edge of the coat from button down seems to be extremely stressed.

Plus, without the model working it, I fear it would look much like a bathrobe.

2. Belted cardigan by Heather Carlson.

Bust sizes 34 to 52 inches/87 to 132cm. Gauge 14 sts to 4in/10cm. This is a simple knitted jacket with a belt; VK offers at least one every issue. It's nice enough. Bet the bobbles add at least a full skein of yarn, extra, to the yarn requirements. Oh, and it's alpaca. Hope it's cold where you plan to wear this.

3. Sleeveless dress by Sauriell Connally.

Bust from 32 to 44 inches/81 to 111 cm. Gauge 20 sts to 4in/10 cm. No waist shaping. I think it'd look much better as a vest. And I think the pockets at the hips are kinda dumb 'cause who needs the bulk on their hips? Definite big butt length.

4. Rib and cable cardi by Irina Poludnenko.

Bust from 31 to 35 inches/78 to 98 cm. Gauge 23 sts to 4in/10cm over "slightly stretched" k3 p2 rib. Yeah. That's helpful. This thing's a lot more involved to knit than it seems at first glance, because there are panels at the cuffs and waist that are knit sideways. The designer did have the wit to pick up and knit from the panels rather than have the knitter sew the whole thing together. There's a random rib aspect to this that's pretty cool, and if you tweaked the pattern so the sideways panel hit exactly at your waist, it could be really flattering. If you're a 35" bust or smaller.

5. Cabled cape by Mari Murinonen.

One size fits all. Gauge 16 sts to 4in/10cm. If you need a cape, this one's kind of cool. The graduated cables that get smaller as you knit up toward the neck are pretty clever. The stitch glossary is extensive, including a 'decrease nine stitches' that reminds me of doily knitting. And there's an I-cord edging that would take forever. That doesn't make it a bad design, it just makes it an involved one. I also have doubts about VK's ability to print this pattern without errors; that's no fault of the designer, but it's a potential problem.

6. Multi-pattern cardigan by Shiri Mor.

Bust from 32 to 42 inches/86 to 100cm. They're saying this is available in plus sizes, so apparently VK thinks a 42 inch/100cm bust is a plus size. Assholes. Gauge is 21 sts to 4in/10cm. This is another design I think is just fine, but I fail to see how it's high fashion. It's a cabled cardigan. It's nice enough. There's a big butt length thing going on, but that's easy enough to fix with a quick tweak to the pattern.

7. Cable and guernsey pullover by Jodi Snyder.

Bust sizes from 36 to 56 inches/91 to 142 cm. Holy crap! Real sizes! Gauge 34 sts to 4in/10 cm. This is the pick of the section, if not the entire magazine, if you want a flattering pullover. The 'guernsey' patterning across the chest adds a horizontal line where you want one, then the cables add a vertical line around the waist where you want vertical, PLUS the cables suck in and add waist shaping through fabric structure. Clever, flattering, and in real sizes. Definitely one of the best of the issue.

8. Lace panel gloves, by Lisa Hoffman.

One size fits most, 8in/19cm around palm of hand above thumb. Gauge 28 sts to 4in/10cm. All I can do, looking at the photo, is wonder how warm gloves are when I can see the model's skin through the holes in the back of the glove. You could always make these more sensible by using another increase instead of the yarnover.

Next section, "Head Trips". Ten designers make stocking caps. "Our ten top hats are smart, sophisticated, and so very knittable." Now. I've got nothing against the designers. These are all nice hats, well-made and designed, and will keep your head warm in winter; they are all one would ask for in a hat. But HOW IN BLOODY HELL IS A STOCKING CAP HIGH FASHION??!!?? They are calling stocking caps SOPHISTICATED. IN WHAT FREAKING WORLD? Wait. I forgot. VK is totally divorced from reality. Because that's what it takes to say a stocking cap is freaking sophisticated. (To repreat: Nothing wrong with the designs or designers, I just think VK is, as usual, promoting everyday knits as high fashion and looking schizophrenic.)

One thing, as a knitter: A close inspection of these patterns shows that all of them were knit using a long-tail cast on (except for the koi hat). That's about the worst, least-stretchy cast on you can use, for something like a hat brim. I'd use a tubular cast on, or some kind of sock cast on for these edges.

9. Eyelet cap by Cathy Carron.

One size, 20in/51cm. Gauge 29 sts to 4in/10cm. Uses two skeins of possum yarn; this is a nice way to try out luxury fibers you couldn't afford to knit a whole sweater with. Plus hats don't get the wear and tear mittens or gloves would, so you can use the fragile stuff and have fun.

10. Cabled cap by Suri Simola.

One size, 21 in/53cm. Gauge 19 sts to 4in/10cm. This would be a good first project if you wanted to learn cabling.

11. Vine and leaf beret, by Angela Hahn.

Size, 20 and 22in/51 and 56cm at brim. Gauge, 24 sts to 4in/10cm. A good first project if you want to mess around with lace. I'd block it a bit more rigidly than this one was blocked, but that's just personal preference. Usually people put plates inside berets and leave them to dry when blocking; leaves a nice edge. That's what the directions suggest here, but from the looks of it, they may have needed a bigger plate.

12. Side cable hat by Mari Muinonen.

One size, 21 in/53cm. Gauge 16 sts over 4in/10cm. Kind of clever, with an asymmetric panel of cables in an otherwise plain stockinette cap.

13. Lace beret by Kate Gagnon.

Sizes, 18 and 20in/45 and 51cm. Gauge 32 sts over 4in/10cm. This one also looks like it was blocked wrong... maybe it's the way the fitter or stylist put it on the models' heads? At any rate, the chart for this looks way cool, in terms of how the decreasing was done at the crown. A quick check over at "VK 360" (video of each design) confirms that the decreasing at the crown does look really interesting.

14. Blossom hat by Norah Gaughan.

Size, 17in/43cm. Gauge 18 sts to 4in/10cm. Cute cabled hat.

15. Double knit hat by Elli Stubenrauch.

Size, 21 in/53cm. Gauge 26 sts over 4in/10cm. If ever you wanted to learn how to do double-knit, here's your golden opportunity. A small project that's practical when it's finished. I think I'd add a ribbing around the edge, or make the hat itself longer... it kind of looks like a beanie and hard to keep on your head, from the photo. Though that may also be the fitter/stylist and not a real problem with the hat. It looks more wearable at VK 360. Let's blame the stylist.

16. Koi hat by Tanis Gray.

Size 20in/51cm. Gauge 23 sts over 4in/10cm. Knit with good old Cascade 220. That'll keep your head warm. Wanna learn Latvian braided cast on? Here's your chance. The koi is duplicate-stitched onto the cap after it's knit, which seems like cheating to me, but it does let you knit in the round without the fuss of doing in-the-round intarsia. (Which is possible, three or four different ways, but a royal pain in the keester no matter how you do it.) On the other hand, if you wanna learn to do in the round instarsia, here's your test project.

17. Colorwork hat by Kristen Nicholas.

Size 20in/51cm. Gauge, 20 sts to 4in/10cm. Here's another 'wanna learn?' hat. In this case, here's your chance to learn stranded color on a smaller, less complicated project that will have a practical use when it's done. Are 'chullo' hats still in with the younger crowd? This could be a good Christmas/Yule/Hanukkah/solstice present.

18. Fair Isle tam, by Anne Featonby.

Size, 18in/45cm at brim. Gauge, 20 sts to 4in/10cm. Okay, I'll come right out and say it: I don't like the colors. It looks like they 'flash' - are the same intensity so your eyes can't focus and go all squidgy on you. Which is a shame, because the design itself is pretty cool. The scrolled colors worked into the crown decreasing is really neat, and it's another great project to learn stranded color.

Next section, "Natural High". Ah... yeah. "Green fiber and great design resonate through the seasons." Since I'm always ragging on the copywriters, lets see if I can do a blurb instead. Ahem. 'Natural knits. Projects for knitters who like to knit green.' ...nah. Too straightforward.

19. Sleeveless cardigan by Faith Hale.

Bust sizes 46 to 62 inches/117 to 157 cm. Real sizes! Gauge, 24 sts to 4in/10cm. Knit with 'humanely harvested' Silk Purse from Alchemy Yarns. $252 USD to knit the 41in/105cm size. Otherwise, it's a fairly straightforward loose, sleeveless jacket sort of thing. With the silk it'd have lots of drape, be very warm, and pill like crazy. Pretty, though. Someone take out a loan and buy me the yarn, so I can knit this.

20. Duo-tone cardi by Amanda Crawford.

Bust sizes, 32 to 52 inches/81 to 132cm. Yay! Wearable sizes! Gauge 16 sts to 4in/10cm over pattern stitch (a 'knit in the row below' deal). Knit with Lion Brand 'LB Collection Organic Wool'. I wonder exactly what 'organic' entails in that name. No waist shaping. A regular old sleeveless jacket using an interesting pattern stitch. Nice enough.

21. Cabled pullover by Cathy Carron.

Bust sizes 35 to 46in/89 to 117cm. Gauge, 13 sts to 4in/10cm. Knit with doubled up 'Lorna's Laces Green Line Worsted' which is another "organic wool". This is a nice enough pullover, but it leaves me wondering where the high fashion is. This is a knock-around sort of thing you wear with jeans to rake leaves in the yard. Nothing wrong with that, but why's VK claiming it's 'fashion'?

22. Cut out pullover by Kristin Omdahl.

Bust sizes 34 to 40 in/91 to 101cm. Gauge, 24 sts to 4in/10cm. Knit with "Be Sweet Bamboo". Didja know bamboo yarn is processed with sulfuric acid and lye? Yup. It's about as environmentally friendly as a 1970s paper mill. I think this one's got potential, but most of us would need to re-work it to make it fit, since the size selection stinks. There's no waist shaping, either, so without the model working it, it would fit like a sack. Still, you could fix that too. Of course with all that 'fixing' I start to wonder at the end of it whether the design is still the designer's, or if it's mine.

23. Shawl collared pullover, by Amy Polcyn.

Bust sizes 34 to 46 inches/86 to 117cm. Gauge 14 sts to 4in/10cm. Knit with 'Classic Elite Yarns Cheapskate', organic cotton and merino. Yet again I wonder at what the term 'organic' really means. That it contains a carbon atom? Regular old cable-knit pullover. I like the bottle green color, and the fit is good, but it's a regular old cable knit. You can't see it well in this photo, but in the magazine the skirt is horrific; there's a big, draping bag in the front that makes the model look like she's got a giant gut pooching out. Considering the model is probably a size four with one percent body fat, well, I think we're back to 'shoot the stylist'.

Hey, look! Upholstery is high fashion! They're shoving chairs down runways now! Next section, "Gather Ye Rosebuds". Nicky Epstein upholsters a chair and VK calls it "retro glamour" (quote from the website). More schizophrenia from VK.

24. Flowered chair by Nicky Epstein.

Yarn used, Cascade 220, felted. The flowers were glue-gunned to the chair, but personally I suggest sewing them on, if you're gonna get serious about it. This is a cool chair. I like it a lot. I'm going to keep it in mind if I have a studio when we move, and room to put a chair like this. Or, heck, I may just slap it in the living room in the midst of my Arts and Crafts decorating scheme. Funky, fun, involves knitting and yarn, you just can't resist it. But I still completely, totally, and utterly fail to see what this has to do with fashion. Yes, it is clever design, but it is still furniture.

Next section, Goldrush. "The burnished bravado of precious metal makes any jacket that much richer. Mine it for all it's worth." Whisky tango foxtrot?

25. Ballerina wrap jacket by Mari Lynn Patrick.

Bust sizes, 32 to 38in/81 to 96cm. This is one of the best designs in the magazine and it only goes to a 38 inch bust. Vogue YOU ASSHOLES. Gauge, 28 sts to 4in/10cm over rib pattern. This is a really clever design, and Patrick uses the directional stuff to fit the jacket. There are actual bust darts. The ruffle around the hips is in a small gauge yarn and so adds as little bulk as possible. There is a waist. AND IT ONLY COMES IN SMALL SIZES!!! AAAARGH!

26. Cropped jacket by Anne Farnham.

Bust sizes, 34 to 43in/87 to 109cm. Gauge, 13 sts to 4in/10cm. The trick/problem with cropped designs is doing them so they look cropped, and not just too small. Unfortunately, this one just looks too small. At least on this model.

27. Fair Isle collared jacket by Nichole Reese.

Bust sizes, 36 to 42in/92 to 106cm. Gauge, 12 sts to 4in/10cm over stockinette. A fine illustration of why you shouldn't do stranded color with chunky-weight yarn. See how the collar seems to sit above the body of the jacket? That's probably because it's so stiff and thick it won't lay flat. The body itself lacks any shaping, which is weird considering it's knit top-down and adding shaping is really easy that way. If you look at the photo closely, you can see how the model is working it (red lines):

Without her arms in the way, and the artful draping, this thing would hang like a sack.

28. Side wrapped jacket by Deborah Newton.

Bust sizes, 33 to 45in/85 to 115cm. One of the best designs in the issue and the sizing sucks. 45in bust for a jacket THAT YOU WEAR OVER OTHER THINGS sucks ass. That's too fucking small. Vogue, you assholes. Gauge, 16 sts to 4in/10cm over textured pattern. See that? IT HAS A WAIST. The sleeves are fitted to emphasize the line of the shoulders without making you look Joan Crawfordish. And the texture pattern, with the short little lines, adds a vertical look to the whole thing. Excellent design. And not enough sizes. ARGH!

Next-to-last section, "Private Lives." They're using the term 'staycation'. Urrrgh. How about 'lovely loungewear for knitters' down time'? Wait. I'm too straightforward again.

29. Hooded vest by Elsebeth Lavold.

Bust sizes, 41 to 56in/104 to 139cm. Gauge, 17 sts to 4in/10cm over seeded rib pattern. Okay. They may be calling this a vest, but if it is a vest, it's on growth hormone. It looks a lot more like a sleeveless bathrobe to me. $210 USD to knit the 48in/122cm size. It's a wool/camel/alpaca blend, so it'll be warm. Shorten it, put on sleeves, and call it a coat?

30. Drawstring waist cardigan by Josh Bennett.

Bust sizes, 36 to 48in/91 to 122cm. Almost plus sizes. Gauge, 24 sts to 4in/10cm. Nice, casual hemmed cardigan. The flowers are taken from Nicky Epstein, and I saw something in a Rowan mag a year or so ago that did the same floral spray. $167 USD to knit the 44in/111cm bust size. It's pretty, though. And wearable.

31. Leaf motif jacket by Melissa LaBarre.

Bust sizes, 32 to 37in/82 to 95cm. Gauge, 10 sts to 4in/10cm. Super-chunky yarn is gonna make a girl look super chunky. That model is looking kind of porky in that thing and she's, what, a size four? Six maybe? Plus if you look, the buttons are straining to hold it shut, so that's the tight version and it still makes the model look pudgy. Super-chunky. Sigh. $140 USD to knit this. That's another thing about super-chunky. It's expensive.

32. Hoodie by Dina Mor.

Bust sizes 41 to 54in/104 to 137cm. Gauge, 12 sts to 4in/10cm. This one's getting a lot of buzz on the internet and I'll bet you will be the most-knit design in this issue. It's a simple seed-stitch hoodie, with a zip front. (As always, I fail to see the haute couture in a zipped hoodie, but I've ranted enough for one day.) Of all the designs in this issue, this is the one I'd wear the most, and I'm tempted to knit it as some instant gratification. Unfortunately, my size, the 48 in/122cm bust, would cost about $95 USD to knit, and it's in cotton so it wouldn't keep me warm. I'm looking into silk-wool blends of bulky yarns, but those aren't cheap, either. But it's a nice, wearable pattern. Oh - I'd knit it in the round, not flat the way the pattern's written.

Last section, "Talking Fashion". High-profile designers are brought in to share their work.

33. Peplum cardigan by Nanette Lepore.

Bust sizes, 35 and 44in/89 and 104cm. VK is claiming this is 'plus sized'. Gauge, 16 sts over 4in/10cm. Is it me, or does this remind anyone else of the doily jacket from the cover of the last VK? Except this one has sleeves? I'm not so sure about a bulky-weight peplum over someone's butt, for the slimming factor. And if I were to knit this, I'd find a different cast on; if you look closely at the picture, the ribbing seems to 'suck in' at the cast on edge. I also wonder what this would look like without the leopard print belt on it.

34. Fair Isle cardigan by Rebecca Taylor.

Bust sizes, 35 to 47in/89 to 119cm. Gauge, 16 sts over 4in/10cm. This seems to be a fairly straightforward reworking of the famous Cowichan jackets, only this has colors. But the designer used a bunch of yarns that knit up to vastly different gauges, made of vastly different materials (polyester/viscose, wool/acrylic, nylon/polyamide). Look at the different bands of color; some are bigger and fluffier than others. I imagine this is considered a design feature and was done on purpose, but it looks accidental and... not coherent. Maybe knit it with all one yarn?

So there you have it, the latest VK in all its... VKness. Next up, I think we're gonna have the 'is it art?' argument. Brace for collision.