When I heard about Joan McGowan-Michael’s book, Knitting Lingerie Style, I was excited and bought it straightaway. After all, it was her designs that taught me the busty girl’s miracle of short row shaping, and her sexy designs were sized perfectly for larger knitters. But on looking through the book I was totally underwhelmed.

The designs seem rather literal. A knitted garter belt? Knitted panties? No thanks. And while the size range in the book is still excellent, the bust shaping in most designs has me skeptical. Since the cup shapes are heavily seamed and only go up to a D, I’m wondering how those of us with larger busts (I’m a G cup) will modify these patterns to fit us. (I’m reminded of how in America a huge range of breast sizes are supposed to squeeze in to a DD cup because in most places that’s the largest cups come, and that DD is somehow considered gargantuan. Most women in America are actually wearing the wrong bra size, buying too-big band sizes to compensate for a too-small cup, but I digress.) I’d come to love her patterns because bust shaping was never an issue, so I’m a bit disappointed. Also missing from these designs are the elaborate Victorian style embellishments which I considered a hallmark of her designs. Many pieces seem inelegant interpretations of older While Lies Designs patterns. Also, the styling in the book is strange– pieces are layered over clashing garments, and the models are very thin, oiled and made up Desperate Housewives style. Of course this is not the designer’s fault at all, but the patterns would have been better showcased with styling that gave a nod to retro-cheesecake.

What I really hope for in the book was some femme interpretation of lingerie construction. She’s done this in a few garments in the “corset” section but on the whole these just look like the kind of girlie patterns you can get on Knitty or Diva Studios, etc. There’s nothing new here.

58813554julianasissons_dsc6983.jpgI may use the designs in the book as a starting point for deconstruction. After seeing the apocalyptic, lingerie inspired designs of Julianna Sissons I am eager to take lingerie shapes and details like eyelets, lacing, gathers, and seaming and put them to work in a more wild and ultimately wearable way.


Favourites, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.


mamanSeeing Louise Bourgeois’ mother-spider on the banks of the Thames put me in a right webby mood.

I used to be terrified of spiders. Most people have a mild phobia but mine was paralyzing, sometimes literally. I would have nightmares about them and wake up screaming.

And then one day I was sleeping in an old apartment in Vienna and I was bitten. The bite was a spreading necrosis– truly awful. I got medical care in Austria which saved my leg and perhaps my life. It was only when I got back to America and had the wound cared for again that I was told it was most likely a brown recluse that had hidden in the suitcase of a past traveler.

Strangely, after that I no longer had the nightmares about spiders. I could not only be in the same room with them, but I also became fascinated with them. They were not so alien after all, but a part of me.

knitted spiderBarbara Walker has written many books on women’s myths and mysteries and fairy tales. I had no idea she had also written books on knitting. Most seem out of print or unavailable in the UK. Someone on ravelry tipped me off to this charted spider of twisted stitches from Charted Knitting Designs: A 3rd Treasury. I looked in vain for an affordable copy of the book from a UK seller and then I started asking around.

From the Walker book:

Here’s Arachne herself, the great-grandmother of all the world’s spinners and weavers, and still one of the best among them. Who of us can match her skill?

What’s that? You don’t think she is very pretty? Well, never mind. The pattern techniques to make her in yarn (as well as all her busy, real-life children in your garden) have much to teach you.

I plan to knit her as part of my Samhain meditations.

Guess who had the book and shared this pattern with me? My mother.

Favourites, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.



Illustration by Katleen at

Favourites, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.


It’s warm in London, but I’m still thinking about scarves. This one is particularly lovely (gleaned from Elle). I have some jumbo buttons I bought at Fabrications. Originally I was thinking they should go on a bulky cardi, but now I’m thinking scarf…

Another scarf gleaned from Elle. From a Max Mara ad. I’m wondering if the feathers have been inserted just for the photoshoot. I would never use feathers in my knitting, unless I gleaned them from the forest floor or something. Even then, I’m allergic. But I still love the way feathers look on garments, even if it troubles me how they got there. This scarf reminds me of a witch’s ladder I saw in the Pitt Rivers musuem– a rope stuck with feathers found in the attic of an old woman. It was said to aid in the stealing of milk and the cursing of enemies. I could use a scarf that stole (soy) milk and cursed a few people, yeah.

Gautier jumper gleaned from Elle. I’m intrigued by the panel insert here. And it’s of ingenious design– lovely and feral-goth-fey. I think I will have to knit something like it. It has a similar feel to the apocalypse blouse I knit for one of Edith Abeyta’s shows. I also like the use of angora at the sleeves and hip. I have some white angora which I don’t know what to do with. I think this cuts the potential “snow kitten” vibe rather well, especially with the asymmetry– the angora is on only one cuff. I mean, you either have to embrace the snow kitten and knit a fuzzy bikini or you have to subvert it.

I also like how this sweater is knit from the top down, with raglan increases in a tighter gauge on smaller needles (or maybe it’s also a different yarn) and then it’s picked up right over the bust and at the sleeves on bigger needles.. Or perhaps the inset is knit around, and the stitches are calculated based on the bust measurement, and knit as one big center-puckered circle which is seamed up the back. It looks like there might be a purl ridge right there before the switch. What a great idea. I am taking notes.

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