Thursday, January 11, 2007

Crunch Crunch

It feels like we’re living in the freezer today. There’s a couple of inches of snow and the side streets have a layer of ice on them that crunches (loudly!) when cars drive by. I woke up at 5am feeling cold and then didn’t get back to sleep after T-Man went to work. Now I’m wearing my long-johns (pink!) and my fleece layers and my Fish Trap beaded wrist warmers and feeling somewhat more toasty. Still tired though. I didn’t get to bed until late last evening after my spinning class.

We earned a sushi dinner last evening paid for by my boss, Cara, after T put together a new Ashford Traveler kit wheel to bring the current total up to 6. It was great to get all the wheels in better spinning condition as well. Surprisingly all my new students made it in the snow and we had a great class with everybody making continuous yarn by the end of the first lesson.

Now on to today’s real subject, a rant that I’m sure others have sounded off on: knitting magazine photographs. You can probably add sewn or handwoven garments in there too. I’m talking about showing a garment on a model. You want to see how it fits, how it hangs and drapes — or not. You don’t need to see lovely floral or architectural backgrounds. You don’t need to see poses with accessories, bicycles, pets or what-have-you. You don’t even need to see the model’s head! You just need to see the garment, the whole garment, on a body. Preferably a “normal” body, not a tall skinny model (unless you’re actually shaped like a tall, skinny model). You want to see the front closure, the hems, the shoulders, cuffs and neckline. You don’t want them to “cheat” and pin out extra fullness, disguise a too-low neckline with a scarf, angle the body in some odd pose or cross their arms. The reason is because you want to see what the darn thing really looks like so you don’t spend months and dollars knitting something that’s going to look really ugly on you! Even if you have all the details it’s still easy enough to get it wrong. It shouldn’t be harder than it already is to choose something that will fit and flatter and give the effect that you wanted. Otherwise what’s the point?

I’m reminded of this subject by the issue of Knitter’s I got in the mail yesterday. I had a chance to go through it this morning while I was waiting under the covers for the house to warm up. There are altogether too many of the faults I mention. There’s one spread with both models crossing their arms. There’s one where they never show the hems or cuffs. There’s a man’s sweater with a shirt collar covering over most of the neckline. There’s a model with her hands on her hips holding in the sides of a jacket. There’s a vest where you never see the full front, just a tiny inset picture of the closure. Shouldn’t this all ring some kind of alarm bells in your mind? If it doesn’t look quite right on a pretty model, is it going to look any better on me? Who are we kidding?

I have to admit though that Knitter’s does get some things right. Each pattern has a very obvious side column for each pattern with a ton of useful information: level of difficulty, expected fit (ease) and dimensions, gauge, yarn weight and amounts of each one used, type of needles recommended (straight, circ, dpn), extra notions (buttons, zip) and the size and number of them, and any additional tools needed (holders, stitch markers etc.). Plus they have schematics. I love schematics. You can see the shapes you’re aiming for and their dimensions and choose whether or not to adjust them. I always adjust the sleeve length because my arms are a couple of inches shorter than most people’s. The actual yarns that are used for the model garment are detailed in a separate block of text, usually right over the photo which can make it hard to read. But at least it gives more of an impression that you can choose something else. You don’t have to use the exact yarn specified.

Another thing they get right is the Knitter’s Paintbox on the website. You can see and create your own colour scheme for the garment. It’s really fun to play with (especially if you were fond of colouring books as a child) even if you weren’t planning to make the item in question. It’s a colour coordination lesson when dealing with multicoloured garments. It also gets away from the “must make it exactly like the picture” mindset that supposedly afflicts 80% of knitters. Too bad it’s not available for every pattern. You need the Java plug-in to make it work. And you can print out your results. Though I guess the drawback comes if you can’t get your yarn in those colours. Another reason to dye your own.

Well, the sun is out and it’s looking rather arctic out there. At least I’ll be able to see the dirt and dust bunnies I’ll be vacuuming up today.
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