Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Knitting a Full-Figured Vintage Style Bathing Suit

Research, research, research...  In a quest to find the perfect yarn for knitting an old-fashioned bathing suit. I am considered a "full-figured" gal by fashion industry standards, a size 14-16, so I am looking for something with coverage, support in the bust, and either a one-piece or a tankini/skirted style. So many great patterns on Ravelry, particularly by Susan Crawford. There are three modest but elegant patterns for swim suits in her book, A Stitch in Time, Knitting and Crochet Patterns 1920-1949 volume 1.  She offers it on Ravelry in e-book format or on her website.  (A note on the Ravelry links, you have to sign in to see the actual pattern.)

Susan Crawford's "A Dashing Little Swim-Suit"

Many, many patterns use a cotton finger weight yarn or cotton blend, primarily Cascade's "Fixation." In Debbie Stoller's second book Stitch 'n' Bitch Nation, pg 140, Zoe Sargent offers an "Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Purple Polka-Dot Tankini" that calls for Cascade's "Fixation" yarn which is about 98% cotton and almost 2% elastic. Cotton is great for dishcloths because you can bleach and wash in warm water, but for a bathing suit, I would think it wouldn't hold shape and possibly deteriorate quickly. Technically cotton fiber loses strength in water and the yarns become heavy when wet. I searched for yarns made of or blended with spandex and several new sock yarns contain spandex but are blended with wool. Wool is basically water resistant, it will wick, but not as well as synthetic fibers. Wool is more elastic and holds it's shape better than cotton, but it will absorb water eventually.

I didn't want to crochet a bikini in a bag rather make a pretty vintage looking suit with a nice comfortable yarn that is less likely to lose it's shape in the water. Plus you don't want saggy ass from all the water it might absorb, ie the butt hangs down over your cheeks dripping rivulets of lake water down the back of your legs. I don't think a knitted bathing suit would work for a chlorinated or brominated pool situation as most fibers are going to be broken down and destroyed by the chemicals. Spandex and nylon is really the best option for pools, but even these fibers break down after a lot of exposure to chemicals and sun. I searched for a nylon spandex blend available to consumers for home knitting and there is no such blend available.

inspiration from Ruth's Valley blog
I remembered a pattern, also in Stitch 'n Bitch Nation (pg. 132), by Jenna Adorno called "Mud Flap Girl Tank Top" which I had substituted Berroco's "Comfort DK" yarn. "Comfort DK" is a blend of super fine acrylic and BINGO! nylon.  AHA!  NYLON!  If only there was a thread of spandex in there, but after knitting with this yarn I can tell you it keeps it shape well. The next problem to solve is that the knitting gauge of the Berroco yarn is thicker than the finger weight cotton yarns most bathing suit patterns use.

I scoured the internet and Ravelry for actual vintage patterns from "back in the day," and found a couple of websites that offered patterns and/or a discussion on updating them. To search Ravelry, I typed both "swimsuit" and "swimwear" into their search engine, "swimwear" producing the results I wanted. There is everything from wraps to bikinis to one-piece suits, including mens vintage knitted swim suits. There are two 1930's patterns which are old Patton's yarn offerings which were knit in their DK weight cotton. Other websites offer reproductions of vintage patterns: Pam McKenzie at "In Stitches" already wrote a discussion on the same topic with links. I found knit and crochet vintage patterns available at Knitting Iris. Beautiful pret-a-porter inspiration at Ruth's Valley blog. 1930's bathing suit patterns at Re Knitting. Being a DD cup I remembered Knitty had offered a pattern to knit a lingerie top in a full range of cup sizes from A-DD and thought it might make a great bikini top or possibly knit an attached bodice to it for a one piece. It's called "Zaftig" and available in their 2004 Summer issue which is actually chock full of vintage-style lingerie patterns.

Susan Crawford's "Sea Waves & Sunny Days Ahead"

I narrowed my choices down to creating a suit out of Knitty's "Zaftig" pattern or Susan Crawford's revamp "Sea Waves and Sunny Days Ahead!" A serious third contender is Annie Modesitt's "Esther" from her book KnitKnit: Profiles + Project's from Knitting's New Wave.  It's lusciously knit in Cascade "Fixation" cotton blend with delicate straps, beautifully rendered bustline, and cleverly shaped sides in rib knitting for fit. As I develop this crazy project I will update and work through problems so other knitter's wondering how an actual knitted swim suit works out in process and in the water goes. Wish me luck!

Annie Modesitt's "Esther" vintage beauty

Friday, February 7, 2014

Vintage Knitting Resources

getting back to the crafty posts:

I put together a list of sites that offer free vintage knitting patterns from the 1800's all the way through to the 1970's. A few of these are blogs that also offer tips and tricks to navigate a vintage pattern. Yarns and instructions have changed over time, so it's not as easy as it might seem to pick up a vintage pattern and knit it.

I plan on putting together a page for vintage sewing resources also, as I ran into free sewing patterns online as I was doing my research.  There are a couple of independent pattern companies whose patterns are vintage inspired, as well as Vogue, Butterick, and McCall's vintage series.

Shoes. vintage loving ladies need shoe resources.  Also, plus size vintage clothing is sometimes tricky to locate, so I will put together a list of sites who sell either reproduction or from the period plus-size clothing.  I will make an online library for vintage style resources.

My current focus is on pretty short sleeve pullover sweaters with bows in the front. This is a style that was popular in the 1930's. Watching Ken Burn's Jazz inspired me. Using an authentic pattern to recreate one of these would be fun.

While doing research on 1930's sweaters with bows I found an old photo of a knitted ascot. I remembered a similar pattern for one is available in Boutique Knits, 20 + Must-Have Accessories by Laura Irwin, pg. 19 "Best Felted Collar." Just about every pretty pattern in Boutique Knits looks vintage. It's one of my favorite knit books with hats and scarves and purses, even a waist-cinching wide belt.The hats are reminiscent of the 1920's and 1930's, cloche styles as well as berets, also patterns for glamorous fingerless gloves.

Karen's Variety has a more authentic pattern for the bow-tie ascot style: Free Ascot Scarf Knitting Pattern. Here's both a knitted and crocheted version at Hachi Yarns. Makezine also has a link to a cute keyhole ascot with sassy contrast center. The keyhole ascots are vintage, chic, and Parisian.


Pulling it to the side with stripes is jaunty!

Here is the page I put together: Vintage Knitting Resources 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Is Lamb really good with Mint?


this lamb's wool/acrylic blend by Lion Brand is actually soft and lofty...i purchased 12 skeins of it for a ridiculously cheap price on clearance.  the color is Seaspray a sort of minty-bluish green.  i searched for a pattern for a cardigan and finally gave up and looked on Lion Brand's website for a free pattern.  some of the patterns aren't anything that great, but i came across one for Vanna's Choice yarn which works with the needles and gauge.  you knit it from the bottom up and i am still on the Daisy Stitch peplum section of the pattern. 

now, as a busty girl, i wasn't sure this would work for me.  so what i am planning is to either add 3"-4" in the length of the top section or knit short rows in the bust area.  Knitty.com has a great tutorial on knitting short rows.

as far as sewing, i purchased a couple of different patterns with the $.99 sale at Joann's in addition to the coat pattern...one is a blouse that has that sort of Mad Men sexy secretary look.  every time i walk past that pattern sitting on the media table i want to rip it open and start sewing, but i don't have fabric for it, yet.  the pattern is a part of a new series by Simplicity that allows for different cup sizes, which is great for me as i have always had a larger cup size than B, which is the standard in sewing patterns.  that's right, a B cup is the standard.  i haven't been a B cup since i was probably a teen.  i also noticed that Simplicity has made the hip to waist ratio more realistic.

when i was in school for Fashion Design i did a research paper on standard sizing in the Ready-to-Wear industry and found that it is shockingly outdated:  as in the measurements the industry uses in it's standard sizing are taken from a study of women in the 1940's who had been through training for WWII.  in other words...not people who lived on Twinkies and Coke.  lol.

sooooooooooooooo...needless to say this is why store bought clothing does not fit anyone right.  and why we should return to custom made, tailored clothing.  no matter what size you are, if your clothing fits you feel good about yourself.  


Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Paris Loop" in Plymouth Yarns Baby Alpaca



nearly done Paris Loop
so i finally found a yarn that i loved and thought might work with Stefanie Japel's "Paris Loop" pattern...Plymouth Yarn's Baby Alpaca Grande Tweed.  it's what i imagine clouds are made of...fluffy light and softttttttttt.

it's not quite finished because after 3 skeins of the Baby Alpaca i ran out!  if i had to do it over, i would cast on a few less stitches because it turns out to be pretty big, or possibly instead of knitting for 7" on the two middle sections would only stitch 5"...  it's only short by 2.5 "  unfortunately.  i will wait to buy some more Baby Alpaca to finish it, i wouldn't want to hack it up at this point and this yarn feels luxurious and warm on.

i am still planning on the winter coat project and starting on 2 winter coats for people who have asked.  i enjoy the hand-stitching that goes along with tailoring jackets and coats.  and i have a serger to make quicker work of the project.

i love vintage style wool coats in fun colors and funky plaids...i would like to make felt patch silhouettes of bunnies and cats and deer and other cute woodland creatures to add some fun to the coats...and possibly knit collar and cuffs in fun yarns.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Zaftig Dress Form

i am tired of "sitting on the sidelines" as far as fashion is concerned...i have some curves, some big ones, and am tired of obsessing over vintage fashions but telling myself i am not allowed to wear such cute clothing just because i am too heavy to wear it.  tired tired tired of putting my sewing and design skills "on hold."

so...i found some instructions and videos online to make either a duct tape or packing tape dummy of oneself.  i am in a weird size range where my bone structure is too small for plus size patterns and clothing, but have too much padding in the bust for misses' sizes. i know how to drape and alter paper patterns to accommodate for a larger cup size, but a dress form of my figure makes it more convenient to whip something up quicker!

 for extra credit in my draping class i took at Wayne State, a group of girls and i made plaster molds and then foam dress forms...but i have long since outgrown that form.  and i kept telling myself, wait wait until i lose a few pounds, well, a few more...and i am tired of waiting.  now that i have a little extra time in my day i really want to start making clothing again.  the whole Michigan uniform:  tee-shirt, jeans, and UGG boots  is not me.

i get really frustrated with store-bought clothing not fitting right...ever.  and even the patterns sold at Joann's stores are made for a woman with a B cup size bust...something i looooonnnnng outgrew.  i sometimes lose patience with the cost of materials, but have found a website that often runs $1.95/yd deals for leftover designer fabrics!  incredible!  Fabric.com

hopefully today i am off to the hardware store to buy a few rolls of duct tape, or maybe off to an office supply store to buy packing tape.  i will photodocument the process so that other full figure fashionistas can have a reference for making a dress form.  too many of the videos i found on Youtube waste time on filming the people shopping for materials and a lot of the girls don't have boobs as big as mine...i really want to figure out a way to get an accurate fit...

because dressing up is not about what size you are...it's about clothing that fits and flatters.  i am so tired of tented blouses and dresses that make you look like a balloon...pants that fit in the hips but not the waist, dresses that have a waistline that is way too high on the body for me and my busty figure.

 wish me luck!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

tiered skirt trend

for our "Journey" trend at work, every summer it's world culture trend influenced by African, India, Morrocco,  long tiered skirts with tank tops or sleeveless shells are the look with big metal bangles and beading.  i don't really care for the urban hippy look, but i do like the solid black or solid white tiered skirts that fit closely at the top.  some have 2 layers of gauzy cottons and rather than tiers, have godets all around below the hipline...

i found a link to simple directions for a tiered skirt, though she uses a melange'  (fancy words)  of floral fabrics giving it more of a Laura Ashley look, it's a great instructional.  i remember wearing a colorful crazy gauzy long skirt in the 90's with a black tank top and crazy braids in my hair.  wore it to Porno for Pyros at the Phoenix Center in Pontiac.  proceeded to drink too much and throw my bra up on the stage at Perry Farrel. why?  i was young and stupid. 

i am looking for a more sophisticated look and fell in love with black top/white bottom look that was hot in Europe however long ago i lived there...usually a white wide-legged pant.  this weekend i plan on digging out some fabric and getting started with this...no pattern tiered skirt.

Monday, June 14, 2010

multi-colored fluffies

today in an hour i spun 1/4 lb of Louet Northern Lights 100% Top Wool, color combination: wild iris. i was like, oh is that it? it spun up quick and i didn't have to pre-draft it...

fluffy brains

spun into...

bulky yarn

it seems spinning your own yarn bulky style is not exactly economical...it would take purchasing the raw fiber, combing and carding it, then dyeing it yourself to really do it cheaper than buying from the store...but it's much more satisfying.  i have a feeling that spinning yarn and smoking opium have similar effects on the brain.