New Favorites redux: Finn Valley and St. Brendan

New Favorites redux: Finn Valley and St. Brendan

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the Arranmore Collection — how much I loved all of the garments and how sad the photos made me. Turns out there’s a second set of samples knitted in alternate colorways, which are even better than the originals, and they were in the middle of being photographed on a simple dressform. When I saw this whole new set on Kelbourne’s blog, I nearly fainted. How amazing does Finn Valley (top) look in this gorgeous camel-y tweed? And the dark version of St. Brendan (bottom) is a sweater I truly don’t think I can live without — I want it exactly like this. (Clearly I’m nowhere near over that whole dark yoke sweaters fixation.)

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: the Arranmore Collection

How to improve your knitting and FO photos

How to improve your knitting and FO photos

There are more how-to posts on the horizon in conjunction with the Top-Down Knitalong (how to knit an inset pocket, a folded hem, all sorts of neckbands … among the contenders). But I also get a lot of questions about photography — specifically how to take better knitting and FO photos — and since this year’s panelists happen to be superstars at it, I thought this would be a great chance to talk about it. So I’ve asked Brandi, Jess and Jen (who has a degree in the subject!) to share their 3 top tips that anyone can do to improve their photos, and I’m adding mine to the mix as well.

I feel like we, as a knitting community, deserve a huge pat on the back. When I was first on Instagram and Ravelry five years ago looking for knits and knitters, the photos were a long way from what you find these days. In many of them, you couldn’t even make out what it was a picture of! Smartphone cameras have improved tremendously, for one thing, but I also think a lot of us have discovered that part of the joy of knitting (and the knitting community) is sharing our work, and in discovering the joy of documenting things well, we’ve gotten a lot better at it! I know not every knitter (or sewer) cares about photos at all — which is obviously totally fine — but for those who do find it fun and interesting and are always on the lookout for ways to improve, here’s our advice. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of overlap. ;)

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KAREN TEMPLER (see @karentempler)
All I own is an iPhone, so every Instagram, blog, Ravelry and product photo I take is shot on my phone. The editing apps have gotten so good I don’t do much in Photoshop anymore. These days, I really like A Color Story (largely because it has an actual curves tool, hallelujah!) and always start there. If I use any of the filters, it’s usually either just Everyday, or a combination of Sunny Day and Film Camera — and definitely dialed way down — but I always use the tools to adjust brightness and warmth and such (see below). If it’s a photo for the blog or shop, I might do a tiny bit more color correction in Photoshop. 

1) Focus. If you’re using a smartphone, wipe off your lense first — I promise there are fingerprints on it. Then focus or tap the screen so the camera is focusing on the right part of the image.

2) Side light. Make sure the light is actually falling on whatever you’re shooting, rather than your subject being backlit or in the shadows. And if at all possible, use side light not overhead light. If you’re taking pictures indoors, use the light coming in through a window. If shooting outdoors, do it in the morning or evening, when the sun is softer and lower in the sky. (If for some reason you have to shoot under an overhead/artificial light, make sure it’s not creating a big glare or hotspot in your photo, and adjust the color balance as noted below, to compensate for the yellowness of the light.)

3) Take 60 seconds to edit. By which I mean, take multiple photos/angles and see which is best. But also iPhone photos tend to be a little grey overall and a bit on the warm (yellow) side for my liking. So — whether you’re using the camera app’s built-in editing tools or IG’s tools or an editing app — at bare minimum, adjust sharpness, brightness and warmth. Playing around with even just those three sliders (or the curves tool in A Color Story) can mean a world of difference in your photos being clearer and brighter and the whites being whiter.

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How to improve your knitting and FO photos

BRANDI HARPER (see @purlBknit)
I use a Nikon D3100 that came with a 2-lens kit purchased from Costco and a Manfrotto 190 tripod. For self-portraiture, I use a camera remote snagged from Amazon. I always shoot on automatic mode and do my editing in Photoshop or iPhoto. I never use filters.

1) Lighting. All hail the sun! I only shoot in natural light, mostly right beside a window. When the sun is blazing, I use a white paper shade from Home Depot to filter and diffuse the light and decrease the appearance of harsh shadows. No flash ever. Rainy, cloudy days create amazingly moody photos with shades of grey; these images are my favorite!

2) Editing. I do all my editing on Photoshop CS6 keeping it really simple with the following: crop, brightness/contrast, sharpness, resize. Retouching I do in iPhoto since the tool is super user-friendly.

3) Composition and perspective. I love birds-eye view. You have to shoot right above the scene you want to photograph. When it comes to organizing tools and props, I aim for things organized neatly using right angles, no stacking, and space between every element. To this day, the best thing I ever did to improve a photo is to try and try again.

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How to improve your knitting and FO photos

JEN BEEMAN (see @jen_beeman)
For Instagram photos, I use my iPhone SE and edit in the Lightroom app and VSCO. For finished project photos, I use a Canon 6D with EF 24-105mm f/4L lens shooting RAW, and edit in Lightroom and Photoshop (if needed).

1) Lighting & Color Balance. I prefer natural light, always — bonus points if it’s directional because that will enable you to get really good highlights and shadows. These add depth and interest to your photos and will also really highlight the textures and stitch patterns of your knitting beautifully. I always correct the white balance and curves in the Lightroom App. This will help remove any color cast your photo might have (especially helpful if you can’t use natural light) and bring out depth in your photos. I prefer Lightroom because it syncs with my desktop version of Lightroom and because the white balance tool is really really good.

2) Composition. When photographing knitting I usually shoot from the top down or straight on. This is just personal preference because I like to remove any background noise or clutter so that the yarn or project is front and center. If you’re shooting across an object you have a background full of random information competing with the subject of your photo. I photograph a lot of projects on my front porch, but I crop out the scraggly bush to the side and shoot top down to avoid showcasing a street full of cars, since neither of those enhance the visual or add to the story of my knitting in any way. Also, like any self- respecting photo major, I take multiple shots of any photo ;)

3) Consistency. I try not to get too caught up in the consistency of my feed — if I take that too seriously I get stressed out, and that is not the point of Instagram! I prefer clean, natural, well- lit photos so I use a few filters in VSCO that enhance that look, but I always scale back the filter opacity to 50% or less. Sticking to the same few filters does add somewhat of a common thread to my photos and keeps my feed relatively cohesive.

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JESS SCHREIBSTEIN (see @thekitchenwitch)
I use iPhone about 99% of the time for my Instagram photos, but always take a photo with a Pentax K5 IIs for my finished garments. I find that the DSLR can get much better focus on stitch definition and color variation than an iPhone – obvious, but easy to dismiss. When formatting phone photos, I use VSCO, filter A6, then dial back the contrast. I used to have more fade on my photos, but got tired of that look – I prefer something that’s more saturated and true-to-life now. For DSLR photos, I use a combo of iPhoto and Pixelmator (a poor woman’s version of Photoshop).

1) Natural, indirect light. If there are any overhead lights, I turn them all off. They can add a weird yellowing or washed-out look to a final photo.

2. Focus on the knitting. I try to keep the photo focused on the object, the stitch pattern, or the yarn, and minimize any clutter in the shot unless it’s directly contextual or enhances the photo in some way.

3. Consistent look and feel. I like to think of my photos, especially on Instagram, as a constant and evolving series. I try not to get too caught up in “branding,” per se, because I feel like you can lose a lot of spontaneity and playfulness in photos that way. A visual voice will come through naturally, but it’s helpful to try to strike a similar color palette and tone in your approach so your photos all feel related as part of a cohesive story.

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Of course, the most important thing is to be yourself — to figure out how to have that come through in your photos. When it comes to props (or not), angles, and the look of your images and your feed, the best thing is to try stuff and see what you like. Once you get comfortable taking and editing photos on the most basic levels, you’ll find more freedom to play around and discover a style and look that works for you.

Please feel free to share your favorite tips in the comments — I know I, for one, always have more to learn!

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: WIP of the Week No.2 (and Elsewhere)

WIP of the Week No.2 // and Elsewhere

WIP of the Week // and Elsewhere

Before I announce this week’s WIP of the Week, I want to say something about prizes, because I think people have a tendency to put too much stock in them. Prizes are lovely, but PRIZES ARE NOT THE POINT. As I’ve said before, I feel like when you participate in a knitalong, the prize is your sweater! And never more so than this Top-Down Knitalong, where it’s a sweater you cooked up completely on your own — and for many of you participating, it’s also the first time you’ve done so. What you get out of the knitalong is a sweater, plus a lot of learning and experience and maybe even some new friendships. Priceless rewards. If you happen to be one of a few people who wins a prize along the way, that’s just icing on the cake, right? It’s the cake that really matters.

With that said, this week’s WIP of the Week is by Beth, who is @bethtais on Instagram and also beththais on Ravelry. I wrote an essay recently for an upcoming book about how we, as knitters and sewers, have the power to make treasures, and not just clothes. This sweater of Beth’s is such a beautiful example of that, so it really stood out to me in that regard. She’s knitting a little striped cardigan for her daughter, and really thinking of it as a part of an outfit and larger wardrobe of treasures.  The yarn is the last in her stash of a much-loved small-batch yarn, Flock, left over from knitting she’s done for herself. And likewise, the dress is sewn from fabric she dyed and made herself a dress out of, before using the rest for her daughter. It’s the sweetest little outfit (reminds me of Kathryn Davey) and I hope it gets worn and loved and saved and passed on to the next generation. And I just adore that touch of blue in the stripe sequence. So beautifully done in every regard.

So congratulations, Beth, you’ve won 7 skeins of Purl Soho’s Flax Down, in the color of your choosing! Please email me at contact@fringesupplyco.com to collect your prize! And big thanks again to my friends at Purl Soho for providing this week’s luscious prize. Next week’s prize is 10 skeins of the new Brooklyn Tweed Shelter Marls, so keep those photos and stories coming! Link your Ravelry project to the Improv pattern page if you’re using my tutorial (131 projects and counting!), and use the hashtag #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 wherever you post. I especially love it when you leave links in the comments to your blog posts, so everyone can see those.

Whether you’re participating or not, I really recommend clicking through the posts on Instagram — such an amazing range of knitters and sweaters and trials and errors and victories. It’s incredible. When you’re done reading through that, there’s Elsewhere:

Have you seen Brandi’s YouTube channel? Gorgeous

Have you heard about Ann’s Washalong idea? Genius

Tom’s sweater is a work of art

And Dianna’s queue is jaw-droppingly beautiful

Great tutorial on seaming perpendicular knits

LOVING this year’s Refashioners challenge

Darling

I might need to make this tank

And this hat

Happy weekend, lovely people! See you back here next week—

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: How to knit a compound raglan // PREVIOUSLY: Elsewhere

Queue Check — August 2016

Queue Check — August 2016

My phase of serial monogamy seems to have officially ended. It was nice while it lasted, but now instead of completing any knitting projects, I just keep casting on new ones! There are currently five sweaters and two hats on my needles. One sweater and both hats are officially registered with Wool Protective Services as orphans at this point, but that leaves four active sweaters:

1) The black Linen Quill cardigan is the longest I’ve ever taken to complete a simple top-down sweater. In my defense, other sweaters with hard deadlines have pulled me away from it. But this continues to be the sweater I most urgently need. So in Stockinette Situations for the foreseeable future, this is the one I’ll reach for.
Current status: body is complete and one sleeve barely started; needs sleeves, pocket and button band

2) The purple Lettlopi pullover that was the basis of the new Improv pattern and revised tutorial would be the quickest one to finish, and it would be nice to have a photo to post and something to cross off! But it’s the least pressing in terms of being even remotely wearable, much less needed. Motivation will come blowing in around Thanksgiving.
Current status: body nearly complete; needs a second sleeve, another pass at whipstitching the neckband down, and some seams

3) The long-awaited Channel Cardigan in Clever Camel is finally on the needles! This is the one I simply want the most desperately — and I can’t stop fantasizing about somehow having it for my travels in early October — but I know it’s going to be a long road and I’ll have to be patient.
Current status: just half of one sleeve, with a dropped ply in the fisherman’s rib to be dealt with

4) My Top-Down Knitalong sweater in Shibui Pebble is a joy to knit and I know I’ll absolutely love wearing it, but I expect to be working on it for awhile!
Current status: yoke is just past the neck join, long ways to go

On the sewing front, rather than making those 5 things I said I wanted to complete before summer ends, I apparently decided to make 3 of 1 thing! I’ll post those FOs soon, but the other 4 pieces remain in the queue!

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: July 2016

Knit the Look: Nastya Zhidkikh’s sexy little pullover

Knit the Look: Nastya Zhidkikh's sexy little pullover

I just ran across this older photo of Vanessa Jackman’s I had bookmarked awhile back, and had a whole new reaction to it. It’s Russian model Nastya Zhidkikh wearing a sweater that Jess did the perfect swatch for in her first Swatch of the Month post! It’s fisherman’s rib knitted on proportionally large needles for an open, lacy fabric, but in this case it looks like there’s a little bit of gauge-blocking as well: The upper part of the front yoke is done at a finer gauge. If you skip over that little detail and do it all at one gauge, this would be super simple to replicate as a top-down raglan, using my Improv pattern. Seriously, it’s like Jess’ swatch, Jen’s knitalong sweater and my black lopi raglan all merged into this sweater. If you like the marl of Nastya’s sweater, you could hold two strands of fingering-weight yarn together and use even larger needles than Jess did. I like the idea of using a Shibui’s sport-weight Twig for this — a blend of linen, recycled silk and wool with an unusual texture that I think might hold up nicely to this use! And if you’re not into the visible bra trend, it would look fantastic over a little camisole.

See this post of Vanessa’s for additional photos of this sweater — same model, different day.

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PREVIOUSLY in Knit the Look: Windowpane scarf

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Street style photo © Vanessa Jackman; used with permission

Make Your Own Basics: The t-shirt

Make Your Own Basics: The t-shirt

In our continuing quest for handmade basics, we’ve talked about tank top patterns and about that very specific tee that’s a category unto itself, the marinière (both knitted and sewn, for all of the above). Liesl Gibson’s Maritime Top pattern linked in the marinière post is an excellent option for any boatneck, three-quarter-sleeve tee you might want to make — navy striped or otherwise! For a trendier, more boxy tee, there’s Fancy Tiger’s Wanderlust. For a baseball-style tee there’s Named’s Geneva. But when it comes to the ultra-basic, timeless t-shirt and you want to sew your own, I don’t know of a better option than Grainline’s Lark Tee pattern — especially since the variety of neckline options (boat, V, crew, scoop) and sleeve lengths (cap, short, three-quarter, long) means you can make 16 different t-shirt styles with that one pattern! As you know, I just recently made my first t-shirt and it was a revelation. Store-bought tees are always way too long for my taste, so I’m on a mission to get good at sewing knits!

For good knitted tee patterns, see Moon Tee, Nauset Tee and Edie.

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PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The blue jeans

How to knit a compound raglan

How to knit a compound raglan

For this week’s Top-Down Knitalong post, I want to address the notion of a compound raglan, even though I know a lot of you are already past thinking about your yoke! But it’s interesting to think about and maybe play with on your next sweater, if not your current one. (I definitely think you want to have a grasp on the standard raglan method before messing around with this!) Shaped raglans are one of those things I started tinkering with when I was first knitting, just pondering how sewn patterns come together as opposed to how top-down raglans are created, and long before I heard the term “compound raglan.” What does it mean? When you knit a raglan the traditional top-down way (as detailed in my tutorial), what you’re making for the yoke is a flat rectangle with a hole in the middle for your head and mitered corners, which are the raglan “seams.” By increasing evenly in all four sections of the sweater, you’re creating raglans at a 45° angle to the neck, which isn’t necessarily the most flattering line running across the body, depending on the body in question and how high/low those angles start and so on. With a compound raglan, you increase at different rates in the sleeves and body, allowing you to create more of a curved raglan line.

My first attempt at it was just spacing out the raglan increases and then varying the rate of increase toward the bottoms of them, so that the fabric would sort of bend toward the underarms more gracefully, as explained in this old post. When I went to knit my black lopi pullover earlier this year, I wanted the ease of the raglan process but a look that was more like a saddle shoulder. I took a good look at (and some measurements from) a saddle-shoulder sweater in my closet, and wondered why I couldn’t just start out with a higher proportion of sleeve stitches than tradition calls for, and not increase them as quickly or as much. That would mean the sleeve-top sts would stay fairly constant in the beginning while the front and back sections got wider at a faster rate. Then I sped up the sleeve increases (to every-other row) while slowing down the body increases (to every fourth row), causing the seam to bend downward and creating something in between a raglan and a saddle shoulder. You can see from the stitch markers in the image above where I was increasing only every fourth row vs every-other row in each section, and what the resulting raglan seam looks like. There are precise details in the FO post about this sweater, but the key thing is that if you’re going to try this, you have to be really meticulous about your increase math, making extra sure you can fit all of your increases into the number of yoke rows you have available.

When I sat down to write this post yesterday, I thought about the fact that I now know there is this term out there, compound raglan (which I first heard on a knit.fm episode a couple of years ago), and I wondered what sort of norms or standards are reflected in people’s use of the term. So I googled it, which you’d think I would have done a long time ago! Apparently credit for the term goes to Maggie Righetti, who wrote about it in her book Sweater Design in Plain English long before I learned to knit. From what I can tell from the few blog mentions that come up in a Google search, her method involves increasing every fourth row vs every-other in certain places! Which means now I’m dying to know how close my approach is to hers. So if, like me, you want to know more about how to calculate for compound raglans, get your hands on a copy of her book.

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: WIP of the Week No.1