Monday, May 19, 2008

Altering the Leaf Kimono: Part I (In which I do battle with garment construction)

I have been so incredibly behind on podcasts that I did little else on Sunday afternoon except listen to back episodes of all my favorites and S-T-R-U-G-G-L-E with the math for the Leaf Kimono! I neglected many of my chores and nearly skipped dinner, I was that engrossed. I wanted to cast on for this project SO BADLY. So bad it hurts! (Ok not literally, but I had a serious jones to get my knit on yesterday).

Here's the breakdown: I look better in more form-fitting knits. A little oversized is ok, but way oversized? Not so much. I am one of those lucky well-endowed cursed let's just say I've got a little extra on top compared to how big around my ribcage is. I only really discovered this about three years ago, when I entered graduate school and needed to professionalize my wardrobe. Turns out button-up tops are all basically made for one cup size (not mine- ha!). It also explained why a few of my early sweaters looked great while blocking and horrible on my body. So I've been trying to look at knitting patterns with a critical eye for shapes that are flattering. What really drew me to the Leaf Kimono was the deep V-neck, the floaty lower hem, and the ribbon ties at the back neck. The first two are design elements in items already in my wardrobe, and the ribbon ties are just adorable and romantic and I love the back of my neck and I will wear this top around Europe this summer with my hair up, sitting in a cafe knitting and reading a book...

Ok, back to reality. Here's some shots of the top on a real person from the Interweave Knits website. The top is shown on the model in the magazine so that there are about 5 inches of positive ease in the garment. That means that the top is 5 inches wider in circumference around the bustline than the model. So if the top is the 37-1/2 inch size, she's about 32 inches around the girls. Now I have tried on tops meant to be worn this way, and they typically don't work if I try to fit them using my bust measurement as a guide. I've found that I really need to emphasize the smallest part of my middle: this is between my natural waist (for me, right where my belly button is) and my ribcage right below my bust. As long as that area is highlighted, I won't look 4 months pregnant when wearing the top. But I'm also fairly hourglass-shaped, so I could use a little extra room in the hips (oh yeah, I'm gonna lengthen that puppy so it won't hit me right at my tummy roll).

Here's where the problems start. Where do I want 5 inches of positive ease? In the bustline? If that's the case, I should be making the extra-large size. If it's in my waistline, however, I should be making the medium. Usually with sweaters (such as the Tangled Yoke), I trust that a little negative ease in the chest is good as long as it doesn't look like I'm swimming in the arms, torso, and shoulders. I pick a happy medium between my ribcage size and bust size and hope for the best. Here's another question: do I even want 5 inches of positive ease? I'm not so sure. The designer has some lovely photos of her original garment on her website, Rope Knits. I really like the waist ties on her pink version (yay, pink like mine!), I'm thinking that adding those would really help emphasize my waist the way I want it to be. Even then, do I really want an extra 5 inches of fabric being held back by some flimsy ribbons?

The best piece of advice I found about getting knit garments to fit the way you want them to is to find a sweater (or whatever) that fits the way you like, and measure it. With this in mind, I got out the two tops I have that have a similar deep V-neck and empire waistline, and they both have some shaping between the hem and underbust seam.

In conclusion, I'm going to lengthen the top so that there are 9 inches from the underbust seam to the hem, start at a 40 inch circumference, and decrease to about 37 inches. So essentially, I'll be starting the lower waist at the middle size, and decreasing down to the circumference of the next smallest size at the underbust. That way I'm at least working with some of the same numbers for the bust seams when I get there.

Whew! Still with me? Great! Thanks for listening, writing this out has finally convinced me that I'm ready to cast on for this project. Oh yeah, I did swatch for this, too. I'm not too worried about gauge because this is a lace project, and I can block the pieces out with varying degrees of severity, but I wanted to double-check that my size 6 (US) needles will be okay. I love the swatch. :)

As a reward for hanging in there, here's some lovely photos. I've been fiber stashing after getting all jealous and drooling over Bockstark's new fiber. I got some 65% merino, 35% silk combed top dyed by The Sanguine Gryphon via The Loopy Ewe.

Egyptian Green Merino/Silk
This one is the Egyptian Green colorway. I love it, makes me think of the Nile in flood season.

Arabian Nights Merino/Silk
This is the same blend, in the Arabian Nights colorway. This photo is a little flat in the color, the teal is very rich, edging towards a bright cobalt in those dark-blue-looking areas. Neither of these pictures really capture the shininess that the silk adds to the fiber. I can't wait to get these spun up, but I'm still working on the Lorna's Laces Blackberry superwash merino. I got roughly 1.5 ounces on the drop spindle and kinda gave up. I didn't want four knots in my skein of laceweight, so the rest of it is being done on the wheel. Hopefully by the next time I blog I'll have more spinning to show off, and have actually figured out how I'm going to alter the bust & sleeves on the Leaf Kimono!


elizabeth said...

I'm definitely going to follow your progess on this! I am shaped similarly (but larger) and your modifications sound like they'd work well for me. Maybe. Maybe I'll see how they work for you first!

Sarah said...

If you're on Ravelry, there was a KAL for this which might be worth reading through. Several people made modifications of one kind or another that you might find helpful.

I'd also suggest making the sleeves a bit longer than called for in the design to insure you have enough coverage and that the bust seam doesn't ride up across your chest.

I'm looking forward to seeing it!