Inspired by Anita’s comment on one of my recent posts, I’ve decided to reprint my response to the Loop-d-loop book, with a few updates– now that I am a more experienced knitter.


It’s a fine line between exciting and unwearable. I admire Teva Durham for walking that tightrope, and I continue to be fascinated by her style and approach to knitwear. I enjoyed reading the text in the new Loop-d-loop book. She has a poetic sensibility and an associative approach to design– the aesthetics mean something to her, which is the mark of a true artist.

But why does she irritate me so much? It’s not because when I ordered something from her website she sent an incomplete pattern. (I knitted the entire vest before realizing that the front and back were not the same. I wrote to her and she said–“oops! Sounds like you don’t have the back page.”) And then when I knitted it again (I was a new knitter and had not yet learned to approximate size) I realized that the XL had a finished bust of 38″ and would look silly on me. Something with ease on the model shouldn’t have negative ease on larger women, and yet this is something that pervades fit in her patterns, including those in the book.

I had hoped that the book would have solved some of the fit dilemmas in the patterns I had ordered from her website, but I was disappointed. She gives a size large as fitting a 10-16. This pretty much sums up every size I have been since I was 12, and there is no way that what I wore as a 10 would fit me when I was a 16, especially when the were body-conscious things as so many of her designs are. Some designs are listed for Small (2-6)/(Medium-Large) (presumably 6-16, if we are to go by the “understanding size” note in the back of the book). This makes no sense what so ever! What would fit my size six friends would not look at all right on me, and vice versa, but this approach to sizing seems to assume as much.

There is a laziness to designers who refuse to incorporate larger sizes in their designs. In my experience as a knitter who is looking for avant-garde stuff, Durham is great at coming up with femme, organic yet modern looks and absolutely the worst at writing patterns for a range of sizes. I wouldn’t torment myself with her patterns if I didn’t think that they were absolutely *meant for me* in every way but her sizing.

(I would add now, two years later, that Nora Gaughan and Stephanie Japel make edgy, earthy knitwear that is very fashionable AND wearable. Their patterns definitely scratch this “itch”– I will no longer be wasting my time and wool on Durham patterns.)

For instance, in the book there is a gorgeous yoke vest– very curvy with organic-looking fully fashioned decreases and increases. It is the kind of design that would make a bulky knit wearable for a fuller figure. But the large chest is only 34 1/2″, finished. (There is the “stretchy” note on the sizing which I take as a “one size fits all” middle finger). But a closer look at the gauge notes reveals that the pattern is only written for the size small (28″ finished bust). She suggests using a larger needle for the large. Sheer laziness on the part of the pattern writer! Not only will this not solve the fit dilemma, it will result in a more open fabric– sure it might stretch, but it will no longer look like the garment on the (size 0) model. It will be more open and less flattering, exaggerating the fact that the garment is “stretched to fit”. Like stuffed sausage, as my grandma used to say.

It seems significant that the man’s sweater that is “one size” comes with a finished chest size of 48 1/2″. Other patterns, like the princess seam jacket and the tree-bark rib sweater state a size large as 44 1/2″, making the sizing even more frustrating, as there is a lack of consistency throughout the book.

My guess is the patterns that are written in a range of sizes (the basketweave sweater, a
“unisex” pattern– lists a size large as 56″) were written for magazines with standard size requirements.

Another challenge in the book is yarn substitution. Many of the patterns are written using hard to find yarn (handspun wool from a friend of hers) or discontinued yarn (rowan polar), yet the weights are not listed. Sometimes a yarn seems to be doubled, but this is not actually said in the directions. Maddening! This leaves more work for the knitter who must google the yarn name to try to figure out what might work in its place, or whether the yarn was indeed doubled.

Another mind-bender– this capelet is supposed to have a finished measurement of 42″ at the base circumference:


This is a picture from the website. I ordered the pattern a couple years ago because I thought it would come in different sizes, and I couldn’t imagine I would be that much bigger than the model. But how is it possible she has her arms out like that? I bought the hooded caplet pattern from the website only to find it was one-size fits all a few. The base circumference of the adult version, 42″, is supposed to fit not only around the bust but both arms? How is the woman girl in the photo wearing it? The pattern was idiosyncratic enough that doing a basic resize would have been maddening.

In discussing the “one shoulder tunic” which has a finished chest measurement in the “large” of 24.5 inches, she says:

Still, even as I sit knitting and munching pretzels, there is something in me (and maybe in you, too) that yearns for this ideal: to attain the level of fitness at which you feel dressed even when almost naked. I’m often draw to skimpy styles thinking that if I buy them– or knit them– I’ll strive to look good in them…

I knit for the body I’m in now, to celebrate its power and beauty whether it be bigger or smaller than it was yesterday. My body has taken me to amazing places, and has survived serious illnesses. It is what it is, and I love it. I want to make clothes that don’t “stretch to fit” but are made for me. It is one of the reasons I knit.

Now that I am a more seasoned knitter than when I wrote the first version of this review, I can recognize qualities in designers I can respect, follow and learn from. It’s sad that Teva’s patterns which inspired me so as a new knitter were also the first patterns which– consistently and without exception– taught me the value of ripping what doesn’t work.

(originally blogged at purlygurl on LJ in 2005, with some edits)



I was so excited to knit Coachella that I ran to Liberty, determined to find a suitable substitute for Berroco suede. This is something I almost never do– buy yarn for a pattern. I have so much in my stash I usually try to just knit with what I have. I tried to swatch some silk from the stash but it just wasn’t right. So I found some Rowan Bamboo at Liberty and the manager there just happened to be knitting with it and showed me her project. A lot of it was ribbing which was causing her to “lose the will to live.” After knitting Coachella a second time, I know the feeling.

The manager’s project had this beautiful drape so I though the bamboo would be perfect. I was wrong about that. I don’t know the texture of Berocco suede but I’m imagining it a bit bouncier, perhaps more clingy rather than slippy like the bamboo. At any rate, it was much too heavy, causing the draping over the bust to lie in flaps rather than those sexy, clingy gathers.

coachella, long view

I have two tops like this already in my wardrobe– one by Lulu & Red and the other by TRAIDremade. I seriously love them both, so I had high hopes for this design.

I think also being busty is an extra fit challenge. Originally I knit the large and it was way too big for me. This time, I knit the medium. I added more increases after the hip shaping to make it longer and to accommodate my hips. That part fits perfectly, but the bust is still way too big.

coachella, side view

I did two rounds of short rows as called for in the pattern to fit a “D” cup (though I am actually a “G”). It is much too large– there’s room for two more breasts in there. If I knit it again I would omit the bust shaping.

At first I thought my gauge was off so the second time I knit it I measured obsessively as I went along, just to make sure I didn’t need to change needles. I suppose if I knit it again I might go down a needle size just for the bust portion. But I probably won’t knit it again. I’ve completely lost interest. Though if I got my hands on some of the Berocco suede I might reconsider…

I am knitting Knitty’s Coachella, a racerback cowl-neck tank. I substituted Beroco suede for Rowan Bamboo– hoping it might have some of the same drape. Berocco suede is not available in the UK. I checked ebay but all the lots were just for a few balls. I don’t get this– unless everyone is just making scarves, these lots are not enough for anything interesting.

Rowan bamboo is lovely rather slippy & heavy with a beautiful drape that I thought would be good for this top. But after I knit the whole thing, I realized the weight pulled down the armholes beyond what a crochet border would fix.

Also, I needed one more ball for the large. However, the large was huge. Even after trying it on mid-way as the pattern suggests, it was difficult to see how it would drape until it was completely finished. Only then did I realize the upper body was way too big and droopy. The drapes of the cowl actually fell all the way to my waist, and the neck opening went below the bottom band of my bra rather immodestly.

I realized for it to fit me correctly, I need negative ease at the bust. The bust has to act as a shelf for the cowl, in a way, and I didn’t understand this until I knit the whole thing.

I believe Harvill’s pattern measurements are helpful in that the “fit up to” really means “should stretch over with zero ease.” I made the large, with a 44″ bust. I think it would probably fit someone with a 44″ bust really well. But there was waaay too much ease for my 40″ bust. I should have known, but for a while I was making all these sweaters that were too small for me, so now I guess I’m making all these sweaters that are too big? Again, the idea that I’m an “XL” has been imprinted on my consciousness from shopping at “junior” style stores, and my sense of my body shape has been distorted by shopping in places where the smallest size is always up front, so when you get to your size on the rack it just looks shapeless and bizarre. But I digress.

The great thing is that this is easy to knit– good telly and tube knitting. And the Rowan bamboo is a joy to work with– very silky.

I don’t know if I will make the small or the medium. I will definitely have to increase more for the hips though if I make a small, as the large fit me nicely around the waist and hip, though it had more ease than the photo shows on the pattern page.

I ripped it before I was able to take pics. It was so revealing though– posting pictures would have been oversharing.