Recently in Maxine Elliott Shell Category

Maxine is up!

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Hi everyone! I'm back from Oahu, with lovely knitting and non-knitting photos to show you, and even a little design surprise to share. There was much snorkeling, sitting-on-the-beach-with-a-book, revisiting of old family haunts, and sitting in hot tubs watching the sun go down over the Pacific.

But first, in time for May Day, I'm pleased to announce that the Maxine Elliott pattern and essay are up and ready to be read, bought, and enjoyed.

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I hope knitters enjoy working from this pattern as much as I enjoyed designing it. It was pretty much a delight from start to finish, and the finished product is a great addition to a Spring wardrobe. Heartfelt thanks to Erin over at Eat.Sleep.Knit. for speedy and communicative test-knitting, and happy knitting to everyone else!

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You asked for 'em

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You got 'em.

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We seized a few minutes - literally - of gorgeous sunny weather to snap these modeled shots of Maxine.*

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Although it was frustrating to have the light fade just as we were warming to our task, I think the twilit quality of the scene created some fantastic moody shadows. We don't have the lighting equipment (or fee-money!) to shoot inside in an atmospheric speakeasy-type bar, but this kind of light is the next best thing.

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For me, knitting Maxine was a joy from start to finish; I hope the test-knitters and purchasers feel the same! I held the fingering-weight yarn doubled, which gave me a DK-weight gauge. Combine that with the lack of sleeves, and it was a surprisingly quick knit. The beads and the bias-panels broke up the monotony of stockinette stitch, but the pattern is incredibly easy to intuit. No charts; no graphs! I think it's probably my most accessible sweater pattern to date. It's even sans waist shaping, which was a little nerve-wracking for me, but I love the end result. The fabric is drapey, and there are a few inches of negative ease at the bust and hips, so it still looks fitted while also being true-to-period.

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The trickiest part of this design is the seaming. The sides are just long, straight seams, with no increases or decreases to be found, so you would think they wouldn't require that much attention. You would be wrong. Not that they're deadly difficult or anything, but it surprised me how easily those beaded diagonals could get off-kilter if I let my mind wander, and they really are so pleasing when they meet each other exactly at the seam. I ended up putting a pin at every point of intersection, which meant that the seaming took longer and was slightly fussier than usual, but the end result is, without doubt, the most beautiful seam I've ever executed.

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The curved hems were actually a surprise, but I just love them. I love them from the front/back, and I love them from the sides; they add another layer of Deco-style, architectural sensibility to the piece as a whole.

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I'm proud of Maxine because I think it's one of the best articulations of a specific period that I've designed. I feel like I'm getting better at identifying signature details of particular eras, and also at thinking about how to communicate the zeitgeist (or at least, my rosy-spectacled conception of the zeitgeist) in a piece of clothing. Maxine Elliott was a living example of the carefree/careworn, youthful spirit of the 1920's, and I think her garment lives up to her story.

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*Note for those who care: that little fur piece is real, but I inherited it from David's grandmother; I wouldn't buy new fur, even if I could afford it!

Tease

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Maxine is done, and I am quite pleased with her.

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But I'm not quite ready for modeled shots. For one thing, the weather here is dismal. For another, my hair has become downright shaggy, very gauche for a period photoshoot. I'm remedying the situation tomorrow, and planning to tell my stylist to go "extra 20's."

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Sadly, there is no easy time of departure for the constant drizzle. Unless by "time of departure" you mean "August."

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Rest assured, though, there will be modeled shots as soon as we can wrangle it. In the meantime, the pattern sizing is pretty much done already! Hopefully a few test-knitters later, and it will be on its way to you.

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The way of time

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Geez Louise! How is February almost halfway over? So much has been going on, and I'm afraid I've fallen down on the blogging job. The lovely Mary-Catharine nominated me for an award (thanks, Mary-Catharine!), David celebrated his 30th birthday (congratulations, Sweetie!), and I have progressed toward several knitting-related goals, some of which I can even share. This one, for example:

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So far, this project has been absolutely lovely to design and to knit. These pictures don't show it, but I'm almost done with the back already, after which only the seaming and crochet-finishing will remain. (I decided against sleeves. I think it will be more wearable by modern ladies as a vest over a button-down shirt, and worn alone a sleeveless look is also truer to the 1920's period.)

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Maxine's my "reward" knitting at the moment, so I've been knocking out a row here and a row there after meeting other deadlines. I feel good, overall, about my productivity during the past two weeks, and Maxine is certainly an effective motivator. Soft, peachy silk yarn, sparkly champagne beads, and an intuitive design that stays interesting without requiring much concentration.

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I'm excited - and a bit apprehensive - about seaming this up and putting it on for the first time. Eventually, I'm sure, the excitement will prevail.

Fair and biased

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This report is shamefully out-of-date, but Maxine is progressing nicely.

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Knitting the alternating on-grain and bias panels simultaneously creates some interesting design challenges. The bias panels both slant upward from the center portion, so the sweater front has "wings" at the top. I'll be starting the shaping for the armholes, therefore, while the center portion is still below my bust, and in order to create a straight bound-off line, I'll have to decrease one stitch at the outside edge every row, since the stitches move at a 45-degree angle to the side of the piece. If I want to do the equivalent of the normal "decrease one stitch at each side every alternate row," I'll actually be working those decreases every fourth row. I think all this will work out fine in the end: the neck shaping will be contained in the on-grain center panel, and the shoulder shaping can't be too difficult to figure out (famous last words)!

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The angling also pulls the sides of the piece up, creating a kind of peplum effect that you can begin to see in the photo above. I wasn't expecting it, but I like it! In fact, despite the challenges, I'm really loving how this whole garment is coming out. The yarn, held double, is heathering beautifully, and the beads are just the right amount of sparkle. Now that I'm approaching the armholes, it's looking more strikingly period than it does in these photos, but I think it will still be wearable by modern ladies. The knitting itself, once I figure out all the details, is probably the easiest of any pattern I've designed: aside from the beading (which is not hard), one only needs to increase, decrease, knit and purl. No steeks, no colorwork, no cables, no lace. Yet it's still interesting, I think.

Yes, so far I'm pleased.

Femme

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A delicious project start for a cold, sunny January day.

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My great-grandmother, Maxine Elliott, was a flapper in the Roaring Twenties. She drank, smoked, and burned the candle at both ends. I do none of these things, but I do love a beaded shift in rosy silk and merino, with sparkling beads like bubbles in a flute of champagne.

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This is generally what I'm going for with the Maxine shell, although I haven't decided whether to include the circle sleeves or not. They're really more 1930's than 1920's, although i do like them. The deep V isn't open; that section is "on the grain" (regular knitting), and the two side panels are bias-knit and beaded along the drawn lines. So far, I am loving the work on this design; the combination of yarn (Sundara's Fingering Silky Merino, held double) and beads feels amazingly indulgent. It's a reminder that spring will come...eventually.

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