What’s Wrong with Kate’s Dress?

As a handknitting designer, Conventional Wisdom dictates that you position yourself with either the craft market or the fashion market. This is a silly requirement, of course, because what we’re doing covers both sides. Most knitting designer blogs talk about the craft of knitting. Today I’m going to talk the aesthetics of fashion.

Let’s look at Kate Winslet’s color block dress, worn at the 68th Venice Film Festival.

I will put myself on the record that I think Kate Winslet is beautiful. But this dress is all wrong. No one could wear this dress. No one Should wear this dress.

Clothes, like make-up, should be selected and worn to draw the eye toward the wearer’s best features and away from the weakest. This dress is a “working too hard” example, and in working too hard, it actually accentuates the areas that she’s trying “too hard” to hide.

The placement of nude beige across the body, in the shape of a body, and the use of black at the sides, is supposed to imply a narrower figure (especially waist) than Kate currently has. That tiny waist is Barbie doll proportioned. No one healthy has such a small waist compared to such voluptuous hips and thighs. You see instead, how wide that black part is at her waist, compared to the thigh, and realize that she’s thicker than she wants you to believe. Why should she want to camouflage her natural, adult figure? Why would an accomplished person want to pretend to be a teenager again?

The white bib, clearly, is to draw the eye to the chest, and visually lift the breasts to a more youthful line. If you look at the curve of her actual figure, you’ll see that her breasts begin an inch or two below the white portion. She’s cutting her breasts off at the bottom, and with that high neck, hiding the cleavage that nature only gives mature women. Why?  And if you look VERY close, and think hard, you’ll realize that not even a teenager has tits that high. It’s a completely unnatural configuration. It doesn’t look good. It looks weird.

The severe cut of the armscye also makes her look like a linebacker.

The color blocking isn’t the only problem with this dress. It appears to be made from a spandex-like creation; a fabric with little forgiveness and less breatheability. The only way she’s holding into the perfect, smooth surface is if she’s got significant foundation garments underneath. That means a hefty girdle.

So she’s at this event, in a dress that doesn’t suit her, that is ugly in design, and requires her to be crammed into a girdle, where she can’t possibly be comfortable.

The hemline is perfect, though. And the shoes are perfect. I can’t wear heels like that (weak ankles) so I’m always amazed by women who can.

Kate is so beautiful; what could have made her wear such an ugly dress? Isn’t it well past time that fashion respected an adult woman’s shapes, and clothing manufacturers started producing garments we feel beautiful wearing? Beauty is what comes out when you feel good about yourself. It’s not something you apply in order to conform to a standard handed down from on high.

That’s why we knit, folks. Make yourself something beautiful today.

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I love you, Uncle Walter.

There are a few people you meet once, who change the direction of your life entirely.

One of mine was my mother’s Uncle Walter.

I must have been five years old or so, and he and his daughter Bonnie came out from Atlanta to visit us and his sister, my Grandma Wina. Those of you who have followed me for a few years may recall when I went to clean out her house.

Here is the memory.

The big kids, particularly my brother Chris, were teasing me again. As the youngest of four I was subject to frequent teasing; in my mind, constant torment. I developed my own escape methods, many internal. On this day I went to play in our giant back yard sandbox. After some time, Uncle Walter came to find me, and he got in the sandbox, too.  He gathered a few leaves, some grass and lawn flowers, and together we made miniature Japanese gardens in the sand.

A short time after that, Chris and then my sister Traci joined me. And for the first and only time I ever remember, we played quietly together, with no hitting or teasing or fighting. Just played quietly, making miniature Japanese gardens in the sand box. I can’t see a vine maple today without being instantly relaxed.

Walter was my grandmothers only brother, and it was his daughter (not Bonnie) who came out to help take care of her estate. Would you believe that at 84 he was online and active? We emailed frequently until two years ago or so; He sent me pictures of his garden and the neighbor’s Jenny; poems by his father and Pablo Neruda. His vision and health were fading and I was busy. I meant to go visit him in Atlanta but never managed to schedule the trip.

This afternoon as I was cleaning out my email I found a note from Uncle Walter.  Written by his daughter, he had passed away peacefully at home on Friday morning.

It would be too easy to fall into sadness and regret never having gone to see him. I wish we had met again, but there is also a great deal of comfort keeping him as the kind, quiet, gentle man who made the teasing stop. At the darkest places of my life, when I couldn’t imagine anyone caring about me or loving me at all, there was always Uncle Walter, right up there next to Mister Rogers and Jesus. No matter what, I knew he loved me.

I know he does now. I am less sad at his passing (we all do) than I am grateful that I had that one time. One perfect moment of childhood forever enshrined.


So Many Claim to Speak for God

To be a Prophet all one needs
Is just to sow some random thoughts
Upon the fertile brain of man.
There they germinate and grow
And gather acolytes.
Thereafter, just let time pass
And some predictions will come true.
In retrospect, with Hindsight’s perfect vision
The Prophets’ far-out blather
Will become a fact.”See!see!.”
The myrmidons will loud proclaim,
“Our leader saw the future.
He spoke with God, who told him thus and so.
He wrote it down so all would know
The truest Word of God.”
Why did God confide in him alone, I muse,
When others listened just as eagerly?
Dare I wait to hear my Abba’s voice myself
Before I choose my Path?
If there were only one who claimed to speak for God
I could believe, perhaps, that one.
But rather than waste my life in Vain pursuit
Of another’s ” One True Way”
I will wait for God to speak direct to me.
And then— I, alone, shall be the Prophet

Walter Edwin Maurer 8/12/01


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I have not abandoned mittens.

Let me be clear on that. Mittens are not done. I will knit mittens for the rest of my life. Mittens are neat little succulent cookies of knitting.

And to prove it, two new in-progress designs.

Oslo, the proceeds of which will go to victims of the horrible attacks. This is an old design of pierced selburoses surrounded by dancers. I’ve worked a small chain before the main hand. The message is of community and togetherness.

Caught in a Web, another old design. Annemor calls the main pattern spiders in pine boughs. Clever weavers making their homes in evergreen.  It was a popular pattern for wedding gifts. I have placed coins on the palm and chained roses for love on the thumb.

What are you knitting?

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Brambles

My upcoming collection Botanica has a new member.  Brambles is a many-use design. Wear it as a shrug, a wrap, or use as a lap or baby blanket.   Rectangles are so useful, aren’t they?

The design inspiration comes from the thick brambles that surrounded Sleeping Beauty’s castle.  I had a dream several years ago, about a courtyard garden that just needed some bramble clearing and loving care to bloom.  New growth often requires clearing out the old to make room for the new. Here I am turning old dead canes into a soft, protective cocoon.

I’m using a very simple allover cable, suggesting layers of undulating, wrapping, enveloping vines. The edges are worked in seed stitch.

The yarn is the incredible Imperial Stock Ranch Desert Exotic in natural brown. A luxurious blend of 60% Imperial’s own Columbia sheep’s wool and 40% North American alpaca, the yarn is rich, lush, luxurious.  Columbia wool comes from Columbia sheep a rare breed specifically developed for the Western Untied States conditions.  I love that this yarn combines locally sourced fibers; it speaks of the land, of the terroir, as much as a wine or coffee do. The wool provides a springy, secure base, while the alpaca blooms into a soft, rich halo.

The color is darker than the bleached brambles of my dream, but more realistic. And besides, it’s beautiful, goes with everything, and was in my stash.

Imperial Stock Ranch is located in eastern Oregon.  I have not contacted them, I purchased my yarn at full retail several years ago on a teaching trip.  So with that in mind, I love everything I have learned about Imperial Stock Ranch.  They produce an incredible product, market and distribute it well, while maintaining sustainable practices.  I hope Imperial’s practices can become a model for other small ranchers and producers to follow.

As a family-owned ranch, we believe an ever-improving landscape leads to a healthy ranch economy, which in turn directly contributes to the vitality of our local and regional community. We invite you to be collaborators in the process by enjoying the fibers, garments and educational partnerships offered by the Imperial Stock Ranch. Together, we’ll move toward a sustainable future. (Imperial website)

I found this video while Googling for more on Imperial. Enjoy!

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Lichen, Digital Publishing, etc.

Thanks for the thoughts, guys.  I’m leaning toward going digital for Botanica. 

But BEFORE I DO.  Remind me to finish the pattern for Eskimo!  Need to get it to Piecework ASAP.

And when that is out the door, I’ll get back to work on the Red Sweater and her brother, Lichen.  Lichen is a men’s (unisex) pullover vest, with cabled ribbing and Half Brioche body stitch.  The yarn is Cherry Tree Hill Superwash Merino in colorway Birch.  It’s very soft, very squooshy, and very mindfull knitting.  The colors split and splattered across the surface of the fabric remind me of lichen on an old stone wall.

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Digital publishing?

Is print still the best way to publish? I’m starting to wonder. The basement is full of books already, so to grow my business I need to either buy some warehousing, or change how I think about the product I sell.

I can get terrific markup on black and white printing, but to go color is more expensive, therefore larger print runs are necessary to reduce the cost per copy. Then I need increased distribution to move those booklets out the door. Digital books are selling for just a few dollars per download, which sounds like pure profit (no printing costs, etc) but really, the printing isn’t the problem. It’s the profit margin, which gets split in half at every step of the sales chain. To make money off ebooks, you need to sell a lot.

Can I price an ebook to earn as much profit as I earn when I wholesale a paper book?

Question: Do you, or would you, buy digital-only knitting pattern collections? And if so (if I may be blunt) how much would you pay? Consider a booklet collection with a dozen patterns.

(I hear the buzz. Do you have a dozen new patterns you’ve been holding out on us? I’m working on it. Hesh up.)

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The Red Sweater

stitch pattern detailI have the hardest time coming up with creative design names.  I can make a swatch, a sketch, write instructions, layout the page, but ask me to name the sweater and I choke.

Such is life.

This beauty has been in progress for a while, and those of you who remember the old blog might recognize the colors.  It’s an original design in the traditional Norwegian spirit. 

Red Sweater work in progressKnit in the fantastic Rauma Finullgarn (which I adore and highly recommend) at 8.5spi, it’s a slow project, but oh! so worth the effort.  I have shifted the colors in stripes, like mottled light filtered through leafy trees.  The finished pullover will also have green embroidery on the centers of the pine bough clusters.  Overall the impression is bold and exciting.  I can’t wait to wear this sweater!

The original sketch.

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Books!

The first copies of Norwegian Knitting Design arrived today. My printer made a special 45 minute trip to deliver about 250 copies that I can ship to my retail buyers while we wait for the special ordered case boxes from the manufacturer. Self publishers, or even if you’ve ever considered self publishing, call Vincent at Snohomish Publishing. He is terrific. Preorder buyers, I should have all orders shipped next week. Thank you so much for your support.

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Norwegian Knitting Designsis a smallish book, about 7X9″ but packed with amazing charts taken directly from traditional Norwegian knitters. Please order your copy today and help continue this wonderful tradition.

I’m exerpting and updating a beautiful sweater pattern from NKD for Piecework Magazine. My book sample is beautiful, but I didn’t really follow or write a pattern. I just winged it. I’m knitting another sample and documenting what I do this time. I believe this design, first published in URD Magazine, a Norwegian publication, is the first documented pattern for a top down yoked sweater. I have read rumors and seen photos of the Knitting Madonnas, knitting Jesus’ seamless garment, and it is shown as a sweater knit in the round. If anyone knows more, I’d love to hear from you.

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Some actual spinning

Ok, so once I pulled out a wheel from the rubble known as my office-slash-studio? It already had a bobbin and a half of mystery wool on deck. So I finished that second bobbin and plied this hunk o’ gorgeousness. I call it Mystery Wool because it’s random amounts of God knows what breed that I sent off to the processor for blending. Don’t ask me what it is. It’s a mystery. Nice wool, though. I’d guess most of it is Corriedale-ish. Medium length, medium crimp, medium softness. It’s going to be a pinwheel blanket.


And I finished the vesty cardi thingie. Wanna see? I knew you would.



Of course, the best colors are right across the boobs. Happens every time.

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Tuesday is for spinning

Book is at the printer, finally, so today I reward myself with some spinning, a beautiful chocolate espresso brown romney that I bought at a Black Sheep Gathering some years ago. I had a m*th problem between then and now, and had to disassemble my drum carder to clean out all the casings, and the drive band stretched. Drat. In hopes of shrinking it down, I had a Brilliant Idea of hitting it with my garment steamer. Sadly, all this did was melt the glue on the drive band, and it popped in two. Crap. Ok, no problem. I have some two part epoxy (black and white make grey), a paper cup, and a toothpick handy. Mix it up, glob it on, and hold the seam in place with fiber strapping tape for a few days.

So no romney for me today. I’m substituting a latte colored CVM (also from BSG, maybe even the same year) which I sampled once upon a time, as a 4 ply cable construction. It’s soft yet crisp, and will make a gorgeous light weight aran.

And then I get an email from school. No hot lunch today, can I bring some lunch for Heather. Sigh. Tuesday is for spinning?

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