Friday, October 19, 2007

Knit Fu

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketI've had a lot of design ideas where the pieces are long and flowing and might be worn in layers. A very long sleeveless piece over a fitted "undershirt" with flared sleeves, for instance. Two pieces on the needles are hinting at a design phase or something, but I hadn't really had a concrete sense of that until I saw the film "Hero" again. It's a kung fu art piece made in Hong Kong and starring Jet Li. I like the film quite a bit (though I have my philosophical/political dispute with it), but that's neither here nor there. It's the costumes that have me captured right now. They are based in the traditional Han Fu style from China. Well, Emi Wada, the costume designer, has taken some artistic license, I suspect, but I love what she produced. Here's another example.

Now, I'm not going to be knitting anything so fantastic. That's enough fabric to clothe a family of nine. And you can't tell from the overflowing outer garments of the women what the foundations of the style are. Especially when they're all in one color. But that unstructured, layered, flowing feel. That's what I've been yearning for.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIt's the costume for Sky (the yellow and brown) that gives me the closest sense to what I was feeling coming out of my knitting. The costume is simple enough for me to begin to get at the roots of the style. In the film there are moments when I can clearly see the layers. I can just begin to see the schema. Just begin. But I can't find any good images showing the details of these costumes on the 'net. So, I thought I'd turn to researching the history and designs of Han Fu.

Now, I'm no researcher, but try finding information on Han Fu. Apparently, it's a politicized topic in China. Now I'll refrain from my own critiques of Chinese cultural and political history and simply focus on the facts - which I can't find - about Han Fu. Apparently, even though the Han Chinese make up the majority of China's very ethnically mixed population, their traditional clothing fell out of favor in some Dynasty or another and was all but forgotten. We're talking about the predecessor to the Kimono and many other Asian styles of clothing. Anyway, Manchurian style became the dictated de rigeur - because emperors used to dictate what style and colors everybody could wear based on their social position. There is now a small movement to revive this lost style, but there are scant records on the details. Perhaps there are resources in China, but when I search, all the references are other people looking for the same info I seek with responses that say, "don't know where you'd find that." So, people are winging it. Which is what I will do, since I was only going to use it as a reference point, not a strict recipe, anyway.

But I had hoped to find a recipe. I like to know the rules and make informed decisions about breaking them. Also, I might learn something intriguing about garment construction or dimensions and proportions. Well, I'll have to do with what I can find.

What I know so far: There are layers. Usually 3, but it can be more. The bottom layer is a bit more fitted than the others. The sleeve openings are wide to allow for elbow bending without the arm placing any stress on the fabric. This led to trends of exaggerated sleeves that draped to the ground, at times. The only closures were belts at the waist. You always cross the left over the right. Each layer was usually one piece, but sometimes there could be a bodice and skirt that were sewn together. Pants were a separate layer. The inner layer was thin and layers got thicker as you added them on. (Usually because you were adding for warmth.)

That's all I have for now. Where to begin.......

Oh, with some lace weight alpaca from Briar Rose. Yes..... Knitting forever..... Yes......

Abandonment Issues

I was trying to be focused. Stay on one project. Work it through. Finish something. Really, I was committed. And look what we have:

It's a sleeve! A finished sleeve. This is design attempt #4, wherein I finally employed the oldest design rule ever: simplify. I actually like this sleeve. It's a good sleeve. I like it so much I thought I'd make another one. I was so excited that I was ready to push through to the finish on this puppy. Just 6 0r 7 more inches on the bottom, a placket and another sleeve to go. That first inspirational sleeve was finished Sunday.

Here's what the sweater looks like now:

Hmmm. Yep. It still needs 6 or 7 inches on the bottom, a placket and another sleeve. What happened to all that inspiration and commitment? I guess they ran off with the rest of the yarn. Actually, I'm still ready to wrap this one up. But the yarn does seem to have taken an unauthorized jaunt. I've torn apart everything. Every room in the house has been turned out - and it wasn't pretty. I even desperately searched the PODS Circles to see if somehow it went to visit all the yarn from the store. But no. It's gone. If it was trying to hurt me, it worked. I don't know what I could have done to lead to this. It knows I have abandonment issues!!! I'm bereft. I loved that darned yarn. I'm not sure how I'll ever get over this loss.

Ok, I'm over it. I ordered more yarn from Cestari today. This baby will just have to wait until next week.

Being creatively A.D.D. these days, it hasn't taken long for me to get obsessed with something else. I'll write about that soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


How do you define progress? It certainly doesn't always mean seeing more end results. When running a business it can mean gaining clarity in vision. Seeing what really serves you and what doesn't. When sick, it can simply mean eliminating possibilities. Learning that one treatment doesn't work and you have to move on the next. And when you're knitting from scratch? Well, maybe it's the same thing. Here's the latest photo of the Siberian Collared Cardi (no, it is not a sweater made of Siberian collards.)

What? It doesn't look very different from the last photo posted? If you really pay attention to detail, you can compare and see that much progress has been made on the peplum. Well, maybe you can't tell. But this peplum has been knit 2 more times since that ole photo from way back when. Starting number of stitches has been adjusted for a more relaxed fit. Gusset increases have been sussed out and placement of same for flow of form has been determined. This peplum is on it's way to design completion. You may not see more fabric, but much design progress has been achieved.

And what about that sleeve?! Isn't it awesome?! Oh, you mean, there needs to be a sleeve for you to assess that? Yeah, yeah, yeah... The progress here: trying to imitate exactly the stitch pattern on the body doesn't work. The sleeve doesn't like going from stockinette to ribbing near the elbow. It tells you so by bloating out as though it's permanently "that time of the month." Can you imagine that this isn't flattering? So, I have a new plan. Follow the lines - horizontal to vertical to diagonal - to give an illusion of symmetry, but play with how you get there. Instead of copying the 1x1 rib in the waist, I'm borrowing the slip-stitch rib of the peplum and straightening it out first. Each sleeve will have a touch of opposing diagonal rib in the cuffs. With a gusset, maybe, for even further symmetry and, hopefully, a pretty little line over the wrist.

We'll see how that progress goes...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Over and Over

I'm calling this piece - which is clearly still in progress - "Up and Over". She's started at the mid-back. Then you knit up the shoulders and down the front, connecting the two parts above the waist and continuing in the round. This top continues my exploration of: 1) different construction options for fit control, knitting ease and just plain fun; 2) front and back proportions.

Have you ever noticed how many patterns split the full bust measurement equally between the front and back? I don't know about other women, but my back doesn't have anything sticking out the way my front does. So, I'm looking at different ways to redistribute. Of course, there is the short row option. It works. But I like to play. So.....

There is no reason you can't put more stitches on the front, adjust the distribution for the waist, then again at the hips (putting more in the rear this time.) By thinking in terms of sections, a knitter can readily adjust the distribution for her body shape. If you're fuller in the front than most, measure your front half and put the appropriate number of stitches up there. If like me, all of your hips are pushing out to the rear, rather than the sides, then put more stitches back there instead of increasing the front and back at the side seams. I'll be be working on how to write up the patterns so that you can simply knit, or you can play with the stitch distribution.

But first, I have to finish the design. I realize that if one wanted to, one could pretty much stop right here and have fine little vesty thing to go over a long sleeve top. But, of course, I had a vision somewhere along the way and this rather Grecian looking girl is going to be more of a tunic. The bottom skirt/peplum/floaty-whatever part will be knit in Karabella Gossamer - with a band of the ribbon hanging down. I'm trying to work out the drape of it. I knit it once, but the waist didn't fit well enough and it was too narrow. You can see through the Gossamer and it looked a little strange to suddenly see your a band of belly. And the Gossamer part didn't lazily sway the way I want it to.

So, though this is the Up & Over, I've just been knitting it over and over.

Onwards and downwards!