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Monday, January 17, 2011

Allow Me To Introduce ...

The Soho Smocked Dress (with sleeves) designed by Kristy McGowan, 
from her book Modern Top Down Knitting. 

I am just as tickled with this dress as I can be. It still needs a good wet block - which it will get today - but I couldn't wait to show it off in all it's bound off, ends darned in, crocheted edging glory. 

For sheer number of stitches knit, this is by far the biggest thing I've ever done. My KipFee sweater took a lot of time but it was, in the end, only sweater length. The trade off with this is that it consisted of millions of little knit stitches. Though - now that I pull out the calculator and multiply - I don't think there really were a million stitches - more like 100K. Humph. sure seemed like a lot more than that.
Okay - enough with the knitting math - what do I have to say about this dress? First off - 
you Kristy for coming up with such a classic beautiful design.

As for the things I learned while making it?

#1.  It went a lot faster than I thought it would and for that I must thank Mari (mderuntz) over on Ravelry, who knit this dress in 3 weeks!!!! Granted, she knit the small size and without sleeves. But still. I mean. sheesh! 3 weeks!!! But it prompted one of those funny little mind sets that can happen when you realize Other People have done this before you. It gives you a subtle, subconscious faith that it's not such a big deal. From the time I cast on I believed I'd have this dress done in time to wear this winter. 

#2.  A Really Big Project needs yarn that is Really Sweet to hold in your hands. Even though I can tell this camel merino blend is going to thicken up, and maybe even pill (it is, after all, mostly merino), it's nice as it fuzzes up and it's delicious to put on. Wearing this dress is like putting on a hug.

#3.  I bought way too much yarn. I don't know what the heck I figured wrong ... but the pattern calls for 12 220-yard skeins - which by my calculator is 2650 yards. Add 2 sleeves and a good bet would be 400 more yards. that's 3K yards which I bought ... actually I bought 2700. I have left ... 10 balls of 100 yds each. Looks like there is a Camelino vest in my future. 

#4.  The advantage of top down knitting is that you work on the part that is hardest to fit - all that shoulder, neckline, bust, armehole area - FIRST - when you are the most enthusiastic about a project. You know it fits because you can try it on while it's still just a small project. You aren't agonizing about the miles and miles of knitting you've done already and wondering . . . what if it doesn't fit!!!  What if it makes me look like a house with legs underneath? What if I hate this!!"

I honestly believe that many UFO's are created by doubt - not by boredom. Nobody is going to wear something that's flat out ugly on her body and a lot of knitted projects really are unflattering to women. Every time I see a drop sleeve shoulder pattern I cringe. I am sure the fashion photographers who use clothes pins to pull excess sweater bulk behind those rail thin models are minions of the devil. Each of us has a tolerance about fashion - or un-fashion. We each have an image in our mind of just how unfashionable we're willing to appear. Some decide to not think about it - some learn little tricks of drape, color choice, accesorizing.  Some may even choose to display wearable art on their bodies regardless of the fashion image they present, but for me, and I suspect for many, UGLY is not on the list of acceptable clothing choices. So. If you're not sure you'll even wear something it's very hard to keep plugging along with a project. 

This is not to say that the next picture you see of me in this dress will rival the model in the book - or even look as good as Mari's does on her. But my dress fits well and looks nice on me. It still looks like a big zaftig gal wearing a knitted dress - but it is the right shape and style and fit for this zaftig gal. 

So. What else? I am not positive the 2 rounds of crochet around the hem will keep the skirt from rolling - but I'll block it first and then decide if it needs another round. All this will get done today - because I really want to wear this dress on Wednesday. Also - I believe, if I were to do this again, with sleeves in it, mind you - I would have made the shoulder length (the original cast on) shorter. The cap sleeves of the original dress are perfect for a sleeveless dress but with full length sleeves growing out of them, they hang a little further over my shoulders than I like. It made me decide to keep the added sleeves narrow so I wouldn't look like the Empress Eugenia, all wide sloping shoulders and convex arms. 

And would I knit this dress again? In a flash. I'd really love a sleeveless version. But first I want to knit the Promenade Dress, also in Kristy's book - out of Quince & Co's chickadee! shucks. I can't find an image. Anyway - that will be my Next Dress. 

And now I get to start Something Else. I think it will be something very tiny that I can knock out in a flash - like a doll dress. LOL.  Or socks. Suddenly, all my socks have holes in them!

So. Here is a little picture of the cuff detail - where I made a mistake. I forgot to do the smocking on one of the ribs. I was soooo close to the end I couldn't bear the thought of ripping out a single stitch so I completed the cuff and sewed in the smocking. Betcha can't tell which one is sewn. 

Thanks for following along with me on this journey - I hope you've enjoyed it. 


  1. Looks grand, Bess! Congratulations! Now to be patient while you wash and block we can see it on you. Brave woman! ;-)


  2. You did such an amazing job! I can't wait to see it on you. I'm sure you will look, and feel, wonderful. Did I ever tell you you're my knitting hero (enter Bette Midler)! Way to go Bess!

  3. I like that you added the smocking to the sleeves. The dress looks great!

    I've been debating about the Promenade dress. I'm not sure I've got the skills to alter the chest area enough go make it work for me. Hopefully I'll have a little more knowledge under my belt soon since, like you, there are mupltiple patterns in the book that are quite appealing to me.

  4. I'm sooo thrilled for you that The Dress is finally finished! I can't wait to see it on you.

    I do like your very grounded comments about your dress being the right shape, style and fit for you and that you know it looks nice on you, even though you feel you still look like a "big zaftig gal wearing a knitted dress"! So often when I knit something, I think in my subconscious that when I finally get to wear my finished garment I should look like the wafer-thin model who was in the photo. When I don't, I can't seem to get past my actual shape to see if the garment itself really suits me or not. Slowly, I think I am learning, but it is taking time.