Thursday, 22 September 2016

My Hand-Knitted Wedding Gown: Part 3

I’m back! Sorry for neglecting you for the past few months. When your husband plans your European holiday, turns out you don’t see as many spinning wheels or embroidery. But here I am again, back in Australia, back telling you about my knitted wedding dress.
This is part 3 of my posts about designing and knitting my wedding dress. My previous posts on the topic can be found here and here. I’m going to be referring a lot to the lace stitch patterns which I mentioned in my second wedding dress post.
Designing a new knitted project can seem daunting. Really though, it’s not that hard. Believe me? Maybe not, but I’m telling the truth, and here’s my secret: I am lazy. I wash my clothes in cold water primarily because it means I don’t have to separate them. I eat the same pre-packaged breakfast food everyday in the car on the way to work because it means I don’t have to make a decision. I wasn’t going to get stressed by designing a complicated wedding dress.
Being original is great, and there’s an elaborate way to do it and a lazy girl way to do it. And for my wedding dress in particular, well, we set the date of the wedding to be 8 months after the engagement, so I didn’t have time to design something complicated. So here it is; how I designed my wedding dress based on existing stitch patterns (lazy, remember)and made a wedding dress I was thrilled to wear down the aisle with no frantic rushing to get it finished.
First Step: Gather Your Supplies
Before I had a pattern at all, I selected a yarn to use. I had an idea of the dress in my head already, so I knew what kind of yarn would be good. It had to have a sheen to it and not be woolly. It had to be fine because I wanted an open-work knitted gown. Because I’m a vegetarian (and also cheap), I didn’t want it to be silk. That actually leaves you with lots of choices: mercerised cotton, bamboo, certain kinds of acrylic. In the end, I selected a 2 ply mercerised cotton thread called Satin, by Milford, in white.

To find the right needles, I began by swatching, trying out stitch patterns with different sized needles with the yarn I had selected. As you might have read in my last post, I had sneakily started planning this gown before we were officially engaged, so I actually started swatching six weeks or so before there was a ring on my finger. My now-husband (who had no idea about the wedding dress until the wedding day) saw the swatches on my couch a couple of times and asked me what I was doing. “Just playing around with stitch patterns,” I’d said, “I might make a skirt or something”. Kind of true. I did make an “or something”. I started with biggish needles, in the region of 4.5mm (bigger needles mean faster knitting mean less work), but that compromised the definition of the leaves in the main pattern I used. The swatch I liked the best used 3.75mm needles, so in the end that’s what I went with.
Yarn and needles selected (and official engagement in the past), I then had the task of fitting the stitch patterns to a pattern.

Making the Pattern
My last post gave a bit of an overall description of my gown, but in short; it was an off-the-shoulder dress with full length sleeves and a short train. It was made of five separate pieces:
  • Left sleeve: worked bottom up
  • Right sleeve: worked bottom up
  • Dress: worked top down
  • Bottom front trim of dress: worked sideways and knitted as I went to the bottom of the dress.
  • Shoulder strap (worked by picking up stitches from the sleeves and the dress): Worked bottom up.
Diagrams were very useful in helping me place all my measurements

To go into the finer details of the whole gown’s construction would be a monster post, but here are the basics for me making a pattern for the sleeves and the dress.

Step 1: Take Measurements.
I took measurements around various points in my body and also measured the distance between each measurement. So for each arm, the measurements I took were:
  • Wrist circumference
  • Arm circumference around elbow
  • Distance between wrist and elbow
  • Arm circumference at armpit
  • Distance between elbow and armpit.
For the dress, the measurements I took were:
  • Body circumference at armpits
  • Bust circumference (widest point)
  • Distance between armpit and bust
  • Circumference just under the bust
  • Distance between bust and just under it
  • Waist circumference (narrowest point)
  • Distance between waist and just under bust
  • Hip circumference (widest point)
  • Distance between hip and waist
  • Knee circumference
  • Distance between knee and the floor

Let’s now take the sleeves as an example of how I calculated stitch numbers for a pattern. I applied basically the same principle to the dress, except for the dress was partly knitted in the round with eyelets on either side for lacing up, and the rest knitted in the round. The sleeves were just knitted flat, so it’s easier to explain.

The stitch pattern I used (Willow Leaves - see my most recent wedding dress post) had a very convenient tension. One pattern repeat was 10cm stitch-wise and 5.5cm row-wise, and it was 16sts across. Let’s split up my working into length and width.

I determined that my arms were 50cm long (wrist-elbow = 23cm, elbow-armpit = 27cm). That meant I needed 50cm worth of rows, and to make things simpler, I rounded it to a whole number of pattern repeats, and so worked 9 repeats (9 X 5.5 = 49.5cm). I did 4 repeats from wrist to elbow, and 5 from elbow to armpit. This becomes relevant when we start looking at width.

My width measurements were as follows:
Wrist: 14 cm (=1.5 repeats)
Elbow: 24cm (=2.5 repeats)
Arm at armpit: 28cm (=3 repeats)

So, between the wrist and the elbow, I cast on enough for 1.5 repeats (stitch-wise), and as I knitted, increased (by half a repeat at a time) the number of stitches so that by the time I got to the elbow, I had 2.5 repeats stitch-wise. Then I followed the same process from the elbow to the armpit. To simplify things, I only increased stitches by half a repeat or one repeat at a time, and only did so once a full row-wise repeat had been completed. I didn’t do anything fancy to make the increases flow on from the previous bits of the pattern. Had I more time to design, I might have, but for a wedding dress, it’s the big picture that’s going to get noticed and I don’t think my dress suffered for not making sure the pattern flowed perfectly throughout.

I worked the rest of the dress more or less as I did with for the sleeves, but with more additions. From the top of the dress until the hips, I worked it flat, adding in a garter stitch border with eyelets. I did this so I could deliberately make the dress too small so that when tightened with a ribbon, it would fit perfectly. This was both because I was losing weight and because knitted items do stretch.

From the hips to just above the knees, I knitted the dress in the round and quite fitted to my shape. Where the eyelets had been, I knitted a simple mesh panel. From just above the knees, I flared the dress out, firstly using pi shaping, and then when the number of stitches got too large to manageably do that, by increasing the number of stitches by a third. Where the dress hit the floor, I separated the front and the back. For the front, I knitted the Grandmother’s Lace Edging (see my last post), attaching it to the dress by knitting the last stitch of each right side row with a live stitch from the skirt. For the back of the dress, I used short row shaping to make a short train (a semi-circle with the back of the skirt being its diameter), not in the Willow Leaves pattern but in the simple mesh pattern I had running down the back of my dress. I edged this with the Willow Leaf edging from the Heliotaxis shawl. When that was all done, there was some fiddling around to find a stitch pattern that would work for the strap which went round my shoulders (I tried the Grandmother’s Lace edging at first but it didn’t work out), but once I found one which worked, I sewed the sleeves to the top of the dress, picked up stitches around the body and shoulders and knitted for a cm or two, then worked the selected stitch pattern for the shoulder strap.

And there you have it: My pattern design process, in brief. In my next post I’ll talk about how I went about my process of actually knitting the dress.

Now, did that sound too complicated? Maybe but it really wasn’t. If you can measure, add, and multiply, you can design a wedding dress. See, school maths does come in handy.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

My Hand-Knitted Wedding Gown: Hiatus

I'm sure you've all been wetting your pants waiting for the next instalment of how I made my wedding dress. Thus, I'm here to disappoint. Only temporarily, I promise. You see, I've gone to Europe for a part pilgrimage/part second honeymoon, and I'll be away for a couple of months. That means all my notes on my wedding dress are on another continent so I won't be able to blog about my dress until I get back :( . However, for those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that when I took a different trip to Europe four years ago, I found plenty of textile-related things to blog about, so stay tuned for blog posts about random tapestries and knitting shops in Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Germany, Austria, France, the UK, and Ireland. Peace and God bless,

The Knitted Kitten

Thursday, 23 June 2016

My Hand-Knitted Wedding Gown: Part 2

A year ago today, he took me to the top of a mountain and gave me a ring. He made one request: that I be his wife. I said yes. And sometime after that I started planning what my wedding dress would look like.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I might have already bought the inside layer of the dress over a month before we got engaged. In my defence, we had already decided to get married long before the official engagement. And I was going away for a month and the dress was on sale!

So I was only a little bit jumping the gun. Oh, and I’d started swatching lace patterns for my dress. Only a little bit crazy, I swear.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I might have designed my wedding dress long before I met my husband. I’ve always wanted to get married. I even designed my school formal dress (two years in advance, when I was 15) to be a poufy ball gown because I knew I wanted a slinky gown for my wedding (but ball gowns also rock). When I was 18 or so, I came to a deeper desire to engage with my Catholic faith, which got me thinking about this thing called vocation; the path of holiness God calls you to. After a time, I became sure once again that yes, marriage is my vocation. It’s for life, not just for a day, like a puppy (but also more spiritual than a puppy). That said, when I started to get ready as a single person for marriage and being a wife one day, that was when I REALLY started to daydream about my wedding day, as a momentous occasion to represent my commitment to another person. It’s more than just a chance to be a princess, which I also enjoy. That’s when I started sketching my wedding dress. For years, I had a drawing of a wedding dress in my bible which I drew when I was about 19. I carried that bible down the aisle on my wedding day and I’ve just flipped through all the pages now and I can’t find that drawing, otherwise I’d have shown it to you.

Okay so maybe I’m a little wedding crazy.

But let’s ignore the fact that I had my wedding dress largely planned a)before I met my husband and b)before we got engaged. Here is the first post about how I designed my wedding dress. I’ll begin with the overall design and choosing lace patterns (I'll cover yarn and needle choice in another post).

Overall Design of my Gown

My wedding gown is composed of two pieces. The first is a strapless sweetheart fishtail ivory dress (no train). I bought this dress from with a promo code. Unfortunately I think the dress (called Mira Bella) has been discontinued, but here is a picture (and Boohoo is a pretty cool website for affordable clothes IMO):

As you can see, it has a peplum on it, which I had to remove, which means I had to use a sewing machine, which I am not that good at. But I did it! Yay! Cheers to my wonderful friend who let me borrow her sewing machine and was the first person after my sister to know I was knitting my wedding dress.

The second piece of my dress is of course the knitted bit: a lace off-the-shoulder gown with full-length sleeves, fishtail skirt and a small train. It has a lace-up back from the gluteus maximus upwards. From the bum down, I included a panel of mesh lace (think [k2tog, yo] with the odd K1 here and there) in the centre all the way down to the floor of the dress. I then continued this mesh pattern round the back half of the dress, using short rows to create the train, which is finished with a thick lace edging. To shape the skirt, I made it quite fitted until just above the knees, and then used pi shaping and variations of it to flare out the skirt.

My dress, minus sleeves. Gives some idea of the construction and shape.

Me in my dress a couple of weeks before the wedding, when one of my stellar bridesmaids helped me try it on.

Choosing Patterns to Use

So, I’ve had my eyes on knitting my own wedding dress since I realised how versatile knitting is and that I’m a pretty capable knitter (pretty much anybody can be - it’s not as hard as it looks). That’s why I already had a collection of nice lace shawl patterns favourited on Ravelry, and also I love lace. The more open-work, the better. I’m not sure when I decided on wanting a leaf design, nor when I favourited the Heliotaxis Lace shawl by Renata Brenner, but when I started looking through my fourites on Ravelry, it stuck out to me as the right pattern for my dress. And it’s a free pattern, too.

I used two of the lace charts from this shawl in order to make my dress. The first one, used for the vast bulk of the dress was called Willow Leaves. It’s a design of two strands of leaves bordered by yos and a knit stitch. Why’d I pick it?

  • It’s pretty.
  • It’s relatively simple.
  • It’s quite open.
  • It is a pretty ‘fluid’ looking design - not grid-like. I wanted this for my gown.
  • I thought leaves would be a cool motif.

Other advantages of this pattern:

  • As it turns out, the yarn and needles I used meant that the tension for one pattern repeat was exactly 10cm stitch-wise, which is a very handy, easy-to-multiply measurement. It was also 5.5cm row-wise, which isn’t bad.
  • Because it was quite a short pattern row-wise, it meant I could change the shape of my very fitted dress frequently, which means I never had to cut off the pattern halfway through a row.

As I’ll explain in a later post, I modified the pattern sometimes throughout the knitting, when I needed half a repeat stitch-wise.

Willow Leaves swatch (with funny modified bit on the right)

The other pattern I used from the Heliotaxis shawl was called Willow Leaves Aeolian Border and it is the same edging used in the shawl. Reasons why I chose this pattern:

  • The nupps add some interest because I didn’t have time to faff around with beads.
  • It ties in with the leaf motif.
  • The peaks along the edge are a pretty feature of lace knitting.

Me, on the wedding day, having some alone time with the Willow Leaves Aeolian Border
A shot of both the skirt shaping and the Aeolian Border
Along the front bottom of the dress I used a  pattern called Grandmother's Edging, which was worked sideways. It has a pretty scalloped edge to it and looks kind of leafy.

Along the top of the dress (across the shoulders) I chose a Peacock tail pattern (found here). It has some sneaky elastic in it to help hold it up. I had at first wanted some nice crisp scallops but in the end I liked it how it was. That top two inches was the bit of the dress I had the most trouble with, but I will talk about that in a later post.

Top of the dress. PS: Head piece is also hand-knitted by me out of wire.

Next Step

My next step, after choosing patterns, was to measure myself and make a pattern for the dress. That’s for next time.


The Knitted Kitten

Saturday, 11 June 2016

My Hand-Knitted Wedding Gown: Part 1

Do you have a masterpiece? Something you’ve made that you look back on and you get a little burst of pride in knowing you made it with your own hands? Would you like one of those?

This is my current masterpiece; my wedding dress. I’ve had a few masterpieces in my knitting life (my first pair of socks, an intarsia Che Guevara cushion, my bamboo lace cardigan) but this one takes the white marzipan-encased cake. I’m sharing my process with you because I want every knitter to make her or his own masterpiece.

My next few posts will explain how, in about six months, I designed my dream dress, spent my lunch breaks knitting every wedding frustration, hope and dream into it, hid the secret from my now husband, and got an even bigger kick out of our special day by wearing something I made stitch-by-stitch. As a bonus, I think it looks pretty good too.

I invite you to visit this blog over the next few weeks to read how I made my masterpiece. What will your masterpiece be?

Saturday, 4 June 2016

How I Taught My Friend to Knit

This is the story of how I taught my friend to knit.

In late 2014, I got a Facebook message from my friend Gabriel* with this link on it: . "No needle knitting!" He said, "There's definitely a needle surplus in the world now". And he said he wanted to try to make an arm-knitted scarf for his sister's Christmas present. I encouraged the idea, because knitting.

Gabriel is a friend I'd met at my university's Catholic students' society. He had just finished an engineering degree, liked to talk about theology to atheists, and could grow a great beard. A few of us from that churchy scene had started hanging out socially once a week at a pub quiz. One of the few times just the two of us had hung out was a couple of months earlier, when we sat in a pub and talked, because the quiz was booked out and our friends all bailed on a movie. We talked about everything, like how he wanted to learn to shear sheep ("I do too!" I'd said) and butcher sheep (ooh, me, not so much), plans for the house he had just moved into, studying, family...enough conversation to last longer than the movie would have gone for. At that time I was getting ready to finish my Masters and I told him how, when I moved back to Adelaide with my parents, I wasn't in a rush to find a psychologist job. Maybe I'd start up a craft stall and sell knitted things alongside my dad's vegetables.

However, in the intervening time between that conversation at the pub and Gabriel's message about arm-knitting, I had been convinced by friends (in large part by him) to stick around in Tasmania for a while. "I'm not quite done with Tasmania," I'd said to myself. 

I told Gabriel I'd happily go with him to select the right yarn, so a week or two later, we did just that. We went to Spotlight and found him some super-bulky maroon yarn. We chose a soft acrylic, because who wants a scratchy wool that shrinks in the wash? I also found some blue yarn so I could make a present for our friend's son (who at that time was yet to be born). We went back to his house, and I left him on his own to follow the tutorial.

A few days later, I was on placement in a counselling office, waiting for a client to arrive, when I got a message from Gabriel with a picture of his right arm tangled in the yarn I'd helped him pick out, cast on but no rows knitted. Not knowing how to proceed, he was trapped, and I'm told it was quite a hassle for him to take the photo.
The ensuing conversation went something like this:
G: Am I doing it right?
K: It looks right but way too tight.
G: I can't get it up my arm. My forearm is thicker than my wrist.
K: You need to start with a longer tail. Unravel it and cast on more loosely.
G: Aw
*a few minutes later, Gabriel posts another picture of his arm all wrapped up in yarn again*
K: Yay! Did you do a row?
G: Yeah, but I don't think I'm doing this right.
K: It looks right to me.
G: I dunno...
K: Do you need help?
G: Yes please.
K: I'll come over tomorrow night.

Actual photo of Gabriel's arm. I did a good job on the yarn choice, no?

The next evening, after a day of placement, I got to his house, he made me a delicious dinner and I became slightly more impressed with him than I had been previously. I’m not going to lie; he was growing on me. "I'm not quite done with Tasmania" might have been code for "I'm not quite done with Tasmanians".

He had the YouTube video all set up to play from his TV and he played it but really, it wasn't my first time knitting so we mostly didn't watch it. Instead, I demonstrated with some yarn I'd brought and he followed along. Eventually he got the hang of it and we sat on the couch while he arm-knitted his scarf and I knitted a shawl - or was it the baby cardigan? - I can't remember. I even drew him a diagram about how knitting works, which I didn't think made much sense but hey, he's an engineer (A couple of weeks later when he'd decided to make another scarf for his sister-in-law, he said my diagram came in handy when he had to fix a mistake)!

When he was done with the knitting I showed him how to cast off and attach the ends together such that it made a Möbius strip, because he likes Möbius strips.

And then we were done. Then he made us a cup of tea and I told him about growing up as the daughter of aquarium enthusiasts and I drew him a diagram of an axolotl.

Then I had finished drawing pictures, so he made us a cup of tea and he showed me videos about Möbius strips and Klein bottles and physics.

Then that was done so he made us a cup of tea and we talked about theology and the monastery in the country we were both going to visit the next day.

And then it was 11pm and he had to get ready for his work which started at midnight. And so, he made us a cup of tea and he got dressed for work and then we talked until he had to leave for work and we both left.

And that is the story of how I taught my husband to knit.

Postscript: That baby, who was the recipient of the cardigan I mentioned? He's our godson.

*Gabriel’s name is not actually Gabriel. The first time I saw him across the room and I didn't know his name, I decided he looked like a Gabriel because his long blond hair reminded me of a cartoon Archangel Gabriel in a Christmas movie I watched as a kid.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Barn Dress

Just quickly, I wanted to share a picture of a dress I recently finished for my baby niece ("barn" is Swedish for "child", hence the name of this post. Sorry if you were trying to find suitable attire for a hoe down). The pattern I used was this one, and I'm super pleased with how it turned out. As I write this, my niece is just under two months old, but the dress will be her first Birthday present from me. I'll hopefully be able to present it to her personally. If you're playing at home, the mummy of this baby is my sister, whom I have done some collaborative projects with and whom I mentioned in a recent post because she has her own blog. I have another niece, and also a nephew, whom I've mentioned on this blog too. They are equally as excellent as their little cousin.

The Knitted Kitten

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Synaesthesia and Knitting

There's this phenomenon called synaesthesia. Basically, it's when a person associates certain sensory stimuli with other, apparently unrelated ones. For example, Monday "feels" dark blue to me, and Thursday "feels" brown. I don't think it's that uncommon to have sort of feeling around what colour numbers, letters and days of the week are. Some people have this synaesthesia in a way more pronounced way, though. Some people even associate smells with people's names, and others "see" colours in music.

So last night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I was thinking about a cowl I recently knitted. I made it far too short to be very warm, but I didn't realise until I had already cast off. I had used a sewn cast off, so it's a bit of a pain to undo, so I haven't got around to making the cowl bigger yet. In my half-asleep state, I imagined myself doing the cast-off on that cowl. If you're not familiar with it, a sewn cast off is where you forgo the right needle and use a sewing needle instead, to finish your knitting (see here). "Gee," I thought, as I watched the sewing needle in my mind's eye weave through the stitches, "the male needle is doing all the work here." And then I was like "What? Male needle?" It occurred to me that I view the right needle as the female needle and the left needle is the male needle. Therefore, in a sewn cast-off, the left needle, which has all the stitches on it, is doing all the work, because the right needle has been replaced by a sewing needle. There's no real reason for me to perceive the needles as two different genders, but I kind of do. And I think this is an example of a mild case of synaesthesia. I realised also that I view RS rows and odd-numbered rows as "female" rows (I guess because odd rows tend to be RS rows). The only possible explanation I can give for this feeling is my tendency from an early age to view anything that relates to me as "my team", as it were. Therefore, because I'm right handed, the right side is the better side, girls must rule because I am one of those, and all actresses called Katherine are insanely talented and beautiful.

Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting observation. Am I the weirdest or do other people think similar things?


The Knitted Kitten.