Our knitting guild has a very nice holiday party every year, and for the 2017 party, as part of the fun, they did a fandom challenge. The challenge was to make something from start to finish in 2017 inspired by anything we were a fan of. Other than that, the challenge was wide open for creativity.
This Welted Coat, designed by Irina Shabayeva, had been in my queue ever since it first appeared in Vogue Knitting. I had just started knitting when that issue was published, and so I was definitely too intimidated to begin such a complex pattern. But since I am a Project Runway fan, and Irina was my favorite winner, I realized it was the perfect challenge.
The knitting process for this project was surprisingly fast and easy. It’s knit in worsted/aran weight yarn on size 11’s, so it goes fast. Even a relative beginner wouldn’t have too much trouble doing the knitting for this project. The challenge comes in the construction. If memory serves correct, it was a total of 12 or 13 separate pieces that are sewn together at the end. The pattern is not overly detailed about the sewing portion, nor are the schematics that helpful.
In truth, the most helpful thing in constructing the garment when I was done with the knitting was my mannequin. When I pinned the pieces together on the mannequin according to how the instructions said to sew it together, it started making more sense. But it took me two full days to do the sewing and finishing (much of which was spent just figuring it out), and I was very grateful I had extra time to myself over Thanksgiving to get it done.
Dealing with the construction issues ended up being worth it, and I am so happy to have this coat. It goes with everything, is flattering and so comfortable to wear! During the cold months, I wore it with everything, and gives the sensation of wrapping yourself in a cocoon. I am glad I made it in a relatively neutral color, and will wear it for years to come.
Nothing gives me more excitement than finding a new designer to follow. Or learning about a well-established designer that I hadn’t heard of before! The best designers are the ones who constantly pursue creativity, and their dedication shows. They’re the ones you watch with anticipation to see what they will release next. Here is my personal list of favorites, but I would LOVE it if you share yours with me! I’m always on the lookout for someone else to follow. Enjoy!
Irina Shabayeva is a fashion designer whom most people probably know from Project Runway. She is a great fashion designer, but I love it when the fashion world takes a few minutes to appreciate the knitwear world. Knitters may remember her patterns being published in Vogue Knitting – her fabulous welted coat has been on my list to make for a very long time! The photo above is one of my first-ever knitting projects, made as a gift for a dear friend.
I have not yet knitted up a Galina Carroll design, but I think she is also an incredible artist with a good eye for fashion. When her autobiographical book was featured in Vogue Knitting, I ordered it and devoured it from cover to cover. She even wrote a very nice personal note to me when she shipped it.
Yes, this is my boss. However, she is also a designer who has an eye for things that will pop into your wardrobe and go with everything. I’ve knit alot of of her designs, and they always end up being go-to pieces that I end up throwing on at the last minute when I don’t know what else to wear. Plus, I have learned a great deal about writing patterns from her personally, but also just from working through her pattern instructions. I also appreciate her ability to create something practical with yarns that I might not even consider buying otherwise, such as this poncho I’m wearing above.
She caught my eye when this sweater pattern was published in Knitty. At the time this was published, I was just learning to knit, and this pattern seemed totally out of my league. It sat in my queue for a LONG time, but her design stayed in my head, and after I started feeling more confident, I knitted it. It is a complicated pattern, and I was very proud of myself when I finished it!
No list from a color fanatic like me would be complete without Kaffe Fassett! I did not realize until I started reading his biography that he is a local artist! He now lives in England, and it seems everyone thinks of him as English, but he was born and raised in California. He is a very long-established artist, but his knitwear in older books is still very striking and inspirational color-wise, even though many of the sweater silhouettes are now out of fashion. He is truly a master of color, as well as all different media. If there is one person in the universe who could make me want to abandon knitting and take up quilting, it would be him!
I’m very grateful to the friend who introduced me to Kieran Foley. I just finished knitting one of his designs for a friend’s birthday. She is celebrating a milestone birthday, so I wanted to do something extra special for her, and his Camino Bubbles fit the bill. It takes a special skill as a designer to design a pattern that looks way more sophisticated and complicated than it actually is to knit.
What can I say about Stephen West except that I love him! His patterns are some of the best written out there – very clear and easy to follow. I met him and had him sign books for me at an event our shop held a few years ago. He was extremely polite and so nice. And I am always amazed when he releases new patterns how creative he gets with just simple Stockinette and garter stitch. He is a designer who truly understands how to take the basic elements of design and turn them into something innovative! Even though I have a good eye for color and usually pick my own, I think it’s very generous of him to take the time to put together color palettes for other knitters when he releases designs. But then again, if you have the chance to meet him, I think you’ll agree it’s not surprising!
Crocheters, lest you think I’ve ignored you, no worries! I am saving my list of favorite crochet designers for a separate post!
De musico, poeta y loco, todos tenemos un poco. (We are all a bit of a poet, a bit of a musician, and a bit mad.) Cervantes
I love this quote, which was in Esmeralda Santiago’s beautifully written book Conquistadora. It is all about a woman who becomes a hacendada (owner of a hacienda) in Puerto Rico in the 1800’s, a time when it was unheard of for a woman to hold this sort of role. I had a hard time putting this book down, although considering I’ve had company, run back and forth to the hospital to visit someone who needed me and been managing my regular life on top of it all, reading a book this long in one sitting is indeed mad. I was in Puerto Rico a long time ago, and the descriptions of El Morro and San Juan, as well as the countryside, are just beautiful to read in addition to painting accurate verbal pictures of what I saw in person. But my favorite part of this story is how this woman truly does become a conquistadora, conquering illness and hardships and society’s preconceived ideas about women to become mistress of her own estate. It is not a particularly happy book, as the owner/slave relationships unfold and you see all the complexities of society back then. You end up sympathizing both with the slaves as well as with the owners, and realize that you cannot just upend a societal structure, no matter how evil it might be, without thinking forward to how to handle the issues that arise when change takes place. This is not in any way to say that injustice should be allowed to continue, but it is an extremely interesting read because the author makes you think below the obvious.
She also has to make heartbreaking sacrifices, and as a reader, you find yourself wondering if you would love something so much you would be willing to sacrifice what she does. It makes you realize the truth of another quote in the book:
Hablar de la historia es abandonar momentaneamente nuestro obligatorio silencio para decir (sin olvidar las fechas) lo que entonces no pudieron decir los que padecieron el obligatorio silencio. (Talking about history means we momentarily abandon our obligatory silence to tell (without forgetting the dates) the suffering that others could not express in their obligatory silence. Reinaldo Arenas, “El Central”
Perhaps the depth and beauty of Esmeralda Santiago’s book is the reason I found it so difficult to finish Friday Night Knitting Club. I had been looking forward to reading this book, especially since my own knitting group has been so much fun and such a source of inspiration. The women (and gentleman!) in my group are such great friends, and even though this book was about women who bond over knitting, it didn’t capture this element at all. I am all for chick lit, but my judgment about any book pretty much boils down to whether it grabs me or not, and this one did not. When it comes to music, movies, books, etc., I don’t care about critical reviews, but it annoys me when a writer expects to sell books filled with bad grammar and sentence structure (which this book was) and then fails to even create gripping characters or storylines. I like the idea behind the book, but I won’t be rushing out to buy anything else by this author.
I find books very inspiring, both for the opportunity to step into someone else’s head, and also just to learn of different times and places. I know alot of artists work to be well-read due to the inspiration they absorb from reading. Next up on my reading list: Tim Gunn’s Golden Rules. I truly wish Tim Gunn was a part of my life. I don’t envy the Project Runway contestants except for the fact they get one-on-one time with Tim Gunn.
Not that I am ever bored, but every now and again, I feel the need to reinvent myself. I look at everything in my closet and FEEL bored, and wonder if I can really claim to have a good personal style if I basically throw on the same 5 outfits every week and don’t put more effort into being creative with how I present myself. The truth is that for awhile, I spent myself into a hole constantly trying to update my look and to feel stylish. (And let’s be honest, fashion and style for women is really more about emotions than it is about the “capsule” idea of having certain pieces in your closet that always work. Women want to FEEL the image their clothes are presenting.) Long story short, I had to sacrifice alot to get out of debt, and going back in is not an option. Plus, it goes against my nature to be (and feel) so wasteful, and so being creative in my dress has become an exercise in creativity itself.
This is one of the many reasons I love, love LOVE it when fashion magazines have little features on “how to update your look with what is already in your closet.” Often, it is just a matter of pairing things together you never wore together before or making small tweaks to separates. It does not usually require Project Runway-sewing skills, or a fortune spent at a craft store (because then really, why not just buy the damn thing at Macy’s and save yourself the trouble?!). Anyone out there who knows EXACTLY what I’m saying should check out this site, which expands beautifully on this concept! And if you have ideas about this, please share!