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Garments (or Sweater Designers Tackle the Infinite Universe)
When knitwear designers create a new garment, they are truly limited only by the scope of their imaginations. And it must be acknowledged that knitwear designers are an especially imaginative bunch. When designers are also bloggers, they give their readers the opportunity to participate vicariously in their design process. They may post swatch photos representing potential stitch combinations or construction techniques. Their readers probably learn about the inspiration that first led to the creation of each new garment. And it's likely they also bear witness to the various challenges and iterations that go along with the creation of a new project.
An original sweater pattern is a huge creative undertaking for any designer, no matter how experienced. The blogger-designers whose stories follow have been generous enough to share some of that process with the readers of Brave New Knits.
Connie Chang Chinchio, Physicsknits
Needing a respite from her PhD classes in condensed matter physics, Connie learned to knit in her second year of graduate school. Mostly, she wanted to make a personal gift for the boyfriend who is now her husband. "I thought, why not knit him a scarf?" Undeterred by the fact that she had not picked up needles and yarn since her grandmother had taught her to knit at age 6, she was pleasantly surprised to find that muscle memory took over, and she swiftly relearned the basics.
A garment struck her as the ideal second project, despite never having knit one before. Fortuitously, a friend had recently opened a yarn shop near the university and asked Connie to knit up several of the store samples, offering to pay her in yarn credit. The arrangement was a success, and it wasn't long before her stash grew to "obscene" proportions. Her only complaint is that the yarn is confined to available space in the home she shares with her husband, although "available space" can be defined in any number of creative, suspiciously open-ended ways. Like many knitters, she shares the conviction that knitting and yarn collecting is relatively benign as vices go. And thus the addiction was born.
Preferring classic styles and traditional yarns, she avoids anything that strikes her as "too ornate or fussy." Although at first she knit sweaters from existing patterns, soon she felt the urge to create her own designs based on what she prefers to wear. "I'm a real cardigan person--I find them so versatile and easy to wear. Whenever I reach for a sweater, it's almost always a cardigan." She had already begun to modify other designers' patterns to suit herself when she realized it wouldn't be such a leap to try her hand at designing from scratch. And while her physics background is not a direct source of inspiration, her math and spatial perception skills definitely help with designing and pattern-writing. As an unemployed physicist during the economic downturn, Connie found that knitting kept her busy, creatively stimulated, and intellectually challenged. A quick survey of her projects suggests that physics's loss is knitting's gain.
Her regular submissions to mainstream print magazines eventually paid off in a big way: fans of her patterns know that new ones appear reliably in the pages of Interweave Knits as well as Knitter's, KnitScene, and online magazine Twist Collective. She was KnitScene's Featured Designer in its Spring 2010 issue, which included three of her original patterns. In fact, in just 4 years she has become one of the designers whose work we anticipate eagerly with the arrival of each new issue of our favorite knitting magazines. In addition, yarn distributor One Planet Yarn and Fiber sells kits assembled for her patterns.
She credits Ravelry for facilitating her success. "I was very lucky that my designing career began at around the same time Ravelry started taking off; so where previously designers had to search the blogs or random Internet craft forums to find people making their projects, now with Ravelry everything is in one easily accessible place."
Even more important, Ravelry gives this independent designer the means to promote her original designs. She has a small fan group on the site, but the popularity of her patterns reaches well beyond its membership into the broader community that frequents Ravelry. With more than two dozen of her patterns being knit by members at any one time, "It's great to see all the different iterations." She cites the direct access knitters have to designers through Ravelry as one of the most valuable features of her fan group and of the site itself. "As designers, the best we can do is try to be as responsive as possible, and correct errors as soon as we find them."
Her style, for all its classic inspirations and graceful wearability, is distinctive and pleasingly consistent; even new design elements have a way of blending happily into her body of work. She has a clear preference for set-in sleeves and shaped necklines. Most of her garments can be identified by the clever use of lace details or texture that melds organically with the broader concept, but reveals a subtle restraint at work in their application. While her sweaters almost always have a delicate, feminine quality, none could be described as precious. The Apres Surf Hoodie (Interweave Knits, Summer 2008) is one example of her signature classic- with-a-twist style. She takes a wardrobe staple--the rough-and-tumble hooded sweatshirt--and gives it a fitted, feminine makeover using an unexpectedly light-gauge yarn and featuring an airy allover lace motif on the bodice and sleeves.
With her preference for lightweight yarns that drape well, Connie's portfolio has grown to include a number of body-skimming, empire-waist garments that flatter a wide variety of body types. Acknowledging the practical popularity of this style, she maintains, "I'll never design something for the sake of making an artistic statement. I want everything I design to be wearable." Her Printed Silk Cardigan published in Interweave Knits (Spring 2008) is just one example among many; the hip-length f lyaway waist and delicately patterned bodice reveal a fine eye for choosing stitches and textures that amplify all the best qualities of the project's silk yarn. A review of members' project photos on Ravelry demonstrates its versatility and flattering proportions.
While many designers are known for top-down, seamless garment construction, Connie is committed to knitting her sweaters in pieces, with seams. "Personally, I love seams; they give more stability to garments. And from a practical point of view, I love knitting garments in pieces because knitting in the round can make it harder to check gauge consistency."
In 2006, she started her blog, Physicsknits, for two reasons: to document her projects and yarn stash, and to join a New York City-based knitting group known as the Spiders. Having a blog was a requirement both to become a Spider and to participate in certain "destash" groups she had found online. But as the Physicsknits blog evolved, she discovered the wider community of knitting bloggers as well as the ease with which it allowed her to promote her own design work. "Now that I'm designing, I can announce new patterns when they come out in magazines."
In addition to patterns that appear in mainstream publications, Connie launched her eponymous pattern collection, PhysicsKnits: Designs by Connie Chang Chinchio, in 2008. She is also a member of the Independent Knitwear Designers Web Ring, which exists to promote the work of indie designers.
Although she knits almost constantly, she acknowledges it can be challenging for an active designer to have enough material to blog about when so many of her commissioned projects have to be protected until the magazine previews or publications are available. Indeed, there are times when the photo of a tantalizing "spoken-for" skein of yarn or the blurred edge of a secret project is the only hint to make its appearance on her blog, suggesting wonderful things to come.
TULIP PEASANT BLOUSE
by Connie Chang Chinchio
Rustic in look but luxurious in feel, Classic Silk is the perfect yarn for a simple peasant blouse trimmed in a tulip lace stitch. A notched neckline adorned with a leaf motif complements the tulip edgings. Wide dolman sleeves add a bit of whimsy, and gentle princess-line shaping flatters the figure, nipping in the oversized silhouette by just the right amount.
Skills Used: Basic increasing and decreasing, three-needle bind-off, following lace charts, single crochet edging, and short-row shaping.
XXS (XS, S, M, L, 1X, 2X) Finished Measurements Bust circumference: 31 1/2 (34 1/2, 38, 41 1/2, 45 1/2, 48 1/2, 52 1/2)" Length: 24 (24, 24 1/4, 24 1/2, 24 1/2, 24 3/4, 25)"
. Classic Elite Yarns Silk Classic Silk (50% cotton, 30% silk, 20% nylon; 135yd per 50g); Color: #6985, South Seas Coral; 6 (7, 8, 8, 9, 10, 10) skeins . 29" US 6 (4mm) circular needle, or size needed to obtain gauge . US 6 (4mm) double-pointed needles or short circular needle for sleeve edging . 4 stitch holders . Stitch markers . Tapestry needle . Size F/5 (3.75mm) crochet hook
20 sts and 28 rows = 4" in St st
The Sleeve Lace Chart and Body Lace Chart only show the odd-numbered rows. On the even-numbered rounds and rows, work stitches as they appear: knit the knits and purl the purls, treating yarnovers as knit sts.
For the Neckline Lace Chart, both even- and odd-numbered rows are included.
w&t: Wrap next stitch and turn work. Bring yarn to front and slip next stitch, bring yarn to back and return st to left-hand needle. Turn work, bring yarn to the back, and knit to the end of the row.
CO 162 (180, 198, 216, 234, 252, 270) sts and join in the rnd.
BEGIN LACE PATTERN:
Next rnd: Pm to indicate beg of rnd, rep the 18 sts of the Body Lace Chart around, beg with Row 1.
Cont to work the Body Lace Chart through Row 41.
Switch to St st and inc 4 sts as follows: *k1, M1, k79 (88, 97, 106, 115, 124, 133), M1, k1, place seam marker, repeat from * to end of round--166 (184, 202, 220, 238, 256, 274) sts.
Dart set-up rnd: *Slip seam marker, p1, k20 (22, 24, 26, 28, 31, 33), place dart marker, k42 (47, 52, 57, 62, 65, 70), place dart marker, k20 (22, 24, 26, 28, 31, 33), rep from *.
Next rnd (Dec rnd): Slip seam marker, p1, k to 1st dart marker, slip marker, ssk, k to 2 sts before 2nd dart marker, k2tog, slip marker, k to 2nd seam marker, slip marker, p1, k to 3rd dart marker, slip marker, ssk, k to 2 sts before 4th dart marker, k2tog, slip marker, k to end.
Rep Dec rnd every 5th rnd 5 times more--142 (160, 178, 196, 214, 232, 250) sts.
Work 10 rnds even in St st.
Next rnd (Inc rnd): Slip seam marker, p1, k to 1st dart marker, slip marker, M1, k to 2nd dart marker, M1, slip marker, k to 2nd seam marker, slip marker, p1, k to 3rd dart marker, slip marker, M1, k to 4th dart marker, M1, slip marker, k to end.
Rep Inc rnd every 7th rnd 3 (2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2) times more--158 (172, 190, 208, 226, 244, 262) sts.
Work even in St st until piece measures 14 1/2" from CO edge.
SEPARATE FRONT AND BACK:
You will work on the back first, working back and forth in rows rather than in the round.
Next row (RS): K80 (87, 96, 105, 114, 123, 132). Turn.
Next row: P1, M1, p to last st, M1, p1.
Next row: K1, M1, k to last st, M1, k1.
Next row: CO 3 sts at beg of row, p to end.
Next row: CO 3 sts at beg of row, k to end.
Rep last 2 rows once more.
Next row: CO 5 sts at beg of row, p to end.
Next row: CO 5 sts at beg of row, k to end--106 (113, 122, 131, 140, 149, 158) sts.
Work even in St st until piece measures 6 1/2
(6 3/4, 7, 7 1/4, 7 1/2, 7 3/4, 8)" from division of front and back, ending with a WS row.
Next row: K38 (41, 45, 49, 53, 57, 61), BO 30 (31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36) sts, k38 (41, 45, 49, 53, 57, 61).
Cont on left side only.
Next row: Work even.
Next row (Dec row): K1, ssk, k to end.
Rep Dec row on next RS row.
Work even in St st until armhole depth measures 8 1/4 (8 1/4, 8 1/2, 83/4, 83/4, 9, 9 1/2)", ending with a WS row.
Next row (RS): Work to last 10 (10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 14) sts, wrap and turn (w&t); purl back.
Next row (RS): Work to last 20 (20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 28) sts, w&t; purl back.
Next row (RS): Work to last 30 (30, 33, 36, 39, 42, 42) sts, w&t; purl back.
Next row (RS): Work across all sts, picking up and working wraps as you go.
Place the 38 (41, 45, 49, 53, 57, 61) sts on holder.
With WS facing, attach yarn to neck edge of the left back piece.
Next row (WS): Work to last 10 (10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 14) sts, w&t; knit back.
Next row (WS): Work to last 20 (20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 28) sts, w&t; knit back.
Next row (WS): Work to last 30 (30, 33, 36, 39, 42, 42) sts, w&t; knit back.
Next row (WS): Work across all sts, picking up and working wraps as you go.
Place the 38 (41, 45, 49, 53, 57, 61) sts on holder.
With RS facing, attach yarn to left armhole edge of the front piece.
Next row (Inc row) (RS): K1, M1, work to last st, M1, k1.
Next row (Inc row) (WS): P1, M1, work to last st, M1, p1.
Rep RS Inc row once more.
Next row (WS): CO 3 sts at beg of row, p to end.
Next row (RS): CO 3 sts at beg of row, k to end.
Rep last 2 rows 1 time more.
Next row (WS): CO 5 sts at beg of row, p to end.
Next row (RS): CO 5 sts at beg of row, k to end--106 (113, 122, 131, 140, 149, 158) sts.
Work even until piece measures 2" from division of front and back, ending with a WS row.
Next row (RS): K52 (56, 60, 65, 69, 74, 78), BO 2 (1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2) sts, k52 (56, 60, 65, 69, 74, 78).
Cont on right side of neck only.
Next row (WS): Purl.
Next row (RS): K1, work Row 3 of Neckline Lace Chart over next 12 sts, k to end.
Cont to work even, working lace chart as est, until armhole depth measures 6 1/2 (6 1/2, 6 3/4, 7, 7, 7 1/4, 7 3/4)", ending with a WS row.
Next row (RS): BO 6 sts at beg of row, k to end.
Next row (WS): Work even.
Next row (RS): BO 4 sts at beg of row, k to end.
Next row (WS): Work even.