Susan Guagliumi's Open Spaces

Instructions for this swatch can be found in Open Spaces (Ladders Module) Lesson 27 beginning 05:42. My variation is on a standard gauge machine using a pattern of 3 needles working and 2 needles out of work.

[This live event has passed. Click here to view the replay.]

I hope you're pleasantly surprised seeing a pretty sweater knit swatch at the top of this post! It's been a long time since you've seen a swatch I knitted on this blog, but I've recently been machine knitting swatches from Susan Guagliumi's new course Open Spaces. The course so far has been wonderful, intriguing, and fun, and I'm happy to say I'm an affiliate for the course. On Monday, December 30th at 5:00pm EST, I'll be interviewing Susan Guagliumi live. Yes, we'll be discussing sweater knits, and yes, we'll be talking stitches. Register here if you'd like to join us.

Though I don't consider my Crafting Fashion blog a machine knitting blog, in real life I am always researching stitches and hunting knitting inspiration. If you happen to be a sewist, who doesn't machine knit, I hope you'll find this post interesting. (Perhaps you'll take up machine knitting one day?) If you're a machine knitter reading this, I think you'll be as excited as I am about what this course has to offer.

Susan Guagliumi is not only a machine knitter; she is an educator, and author.  Her career in the machine knitting industry spans over 30 years. She's held positions with three knitting machine companies, culminating with the position of Education Director for Studio by White Knitting Machines. Susan's garment designs and technical articles have appeared in machine knitting magazines, including Machine Knitters’ Source, Knit Words and Machine Knit America; hand knit publications like Fashion Knitting, Knitters Magazine, Vogue Knitting and Family Circle Easy Knitting. Susan is my colleague at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and I'm happy to call her a friend.

As a teacher of machine knitting I believe that in order to truly understand the concepts of the machine knitting and stitch formation, nothing beats practicing and understanding hand manipulated, textural stitches. The course Open Spaces dives deeply into building openwork fabrics that are amazingly beautiful, sometimes challenging, and really fun to knit. The course is a companion to Susan's book of the same name, though the online course works well as a standalone. Knitting even a few swatches in each module will bring a deeper understanding to the knitter who has previously been machine knitting by rote.

I like having my tablet with Susan, her explanations, and suggestions for possible variations near, while I work at my machine. Recently, I learned of a knitter who enjoys video courses by watching, taking notes, and later tackling the knitting on her machine. A video course will usually accommodate your particular style of learning.
From Lesson 12, 00:45, I'm experiknitting with a 5-needle ladder variation of Susan's pattern.
Now don't laugh. Once I understand the overall concept of the stitch pattern and after I set up the needles, my favorite way to actually knit these repeating patterns of hand manipulated stitches is to compose a song. (Well, it's more of a chant, I suppose). My chant includes all of the steps needed to knit the stitch pattern. Sometimes my chants are long and a little hard to memorize; sometimes the chants are short and easy. Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this?

Charts are essential for grasping the sequences of knitting. Susan provides them as downloads in the last lesson of the stitching modules: Creating Eyelets, Ladders, and Super Slits.

Susan reviews the foundation techniques used in the lessons -- bridging and transferring stitches -- in the very first module. The course concludes with knitting machine patterns for six openwork sweaters! It's a complete program. Click here for further information.

And don't forget! I'm interviewing Susan Guagliumi live on December 30th at 5:00pm EST[This live event has passed. Click here to view the replay.]


Teaching and Crafting

I've posted my in-person teaching calendar for the beginning of 2020! If you're interested in learning to machine knitting (in Brooklyn) or improving sweater knit sewing skills (at Stitches United in Hartford CT), I'd love for you to join me.

All techniques covered fall comfortably into the crafting fashion category. Yes, Crafting Fashion, as in the name of this blog, chosen because it communicates that it’s not just design that’s important in fashion. I consider the act of crafting the garment of prime importance in the best fashion.

There are so many ways to enjoy the crafting process. I love figuring out the most effective and efficient ways to create a desired stitch pattern. 

Screenshot of O! Jolly! Off Kilter Plaid in the Design a Knit application
Selecting quality materials is one of my favorite parts of the process. What maker doesn't enjoy fondling the raw materials or browsing through catalogs?

The act of constructing the sweater is a most satisfying part, making sure the craftsmanship is neat and accurate. I often enjoy the process far more than the final product. In fact, I have several projects temporarily halted in the process phase (a.k.a. UFO, unfinished objects) at the moment.

Lately I've been doing lots of teaching. More teaching means less crafting, so I squeeze crafting in wherever I can by making samples and doing demos of specific techniques. Teaching is my excuse for breaking a project down into its smaller elements, a process I love. Teaching means observing exactly how and where my students grasp, or perhaps struggle, with a technique. Teaching means I'm always editing, always refining the presentation. Students bring a fresh perspective, and I get to see old standards through new eyes.

Teaching Since 16

Did you know I've been teaching since I was 16 when I taught pre-ballet to 5-year-olds! I was so proud of my class. I am not exaggerating when I tell you my fives were the best fives in the recital!

In my early 30s I taught commercial acting and modeling (after a brief career in show biz). Surprising as it may sound, it was a very satisfying job. We were located in a small and very scenic market, experiencing a boom in production during those years. A good 25% of my students booked jobs within 6 months of completing my class. A few students booked before they finished the course! This is unheard of in larger markets, where there's greater competition. It also helped that the school was attached to a talent and modelling agency.

In the 90s and early 2000s I helped craft an independent education for my son. By that, I mean we homeschooled. I prefer to call it an independent education because that phrase more accurately describes the process. Many people consider a 40-hour week full time work. It is not. Learning can happen at anytime and not only when sitting at a desk. Can you imagine the number of museum classes, soccer games, Broadway theater, off-off-off Broadway theater, classical guitar lessons, recitals, swim lessons, sailing lessons, nature walks, beach trips, and play dates we participated in or attended in the name of "home" schooling? We educated from birth through pre-college. Son later majored in computer science at a top-tier university and currently works his dream job as a game developer.

On a field trip with my favorite student! Sweater was a gift, designer unknown.

Current and Upcoming

My students' creativity at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design continues to be invigorating. The knitwear courses I teach at each school are part of the fashion design departments. But as stated earlier, it's never just about design, it's also about the crafting.
Knitting studio at Parsons
Two or three times a year I teach at the Textile Arts Center. It’s a beautiful, large space in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn. Though I teach only machine knitting at the school, a variety of fiber related crafts such as weaving, sewing, dyeing, and more can be explored there. This place is a textile crafting wonderland, open to the public.

March will be my first time joining the teaching crew of Stitches United. Well known for their large hand knitting conventions and markets, Stitches opened up a couple of their events to other fiber-related crafts. I’m presenting an introduction to cut and sew sweaters and also teaching a class on making the perfect crew neck for your cut and sew sweater. My class sizes are limited to 20 people each, so you're sure to get your questions answered at the presentation plus individual attention in the class. And of course there will be lots of other classes you can attend. I hope you can make it!


P.S. If you can't join me in person next year, perhaps you can join me online? Let's craft sweaters together!

Playing with Texture

Detail, Waves and Interference stitch pattern, wool

What happens when you finally decide to clear out the old storage unit? In my case, several cardigans and fabrics created in the '80s slowly get back into circulation.

Beginning in 1984, I machine knitted a series of jackets and fabrics. I used several techniques, but the ones I'm sharing today I learned from Susanna Lewis.

Clockwise from top left Waves and Interference coat, back of Teal Green Ripple Yoke coat, back of  Waves and Interference coat]. Photos circa 1985. Click to enlarge.

Hand knitters may be familiar with Susanna's book Knitting Lace [affiliate link]. Machine knitters know her from her book with Julia Weissman A Machine Knitters' Guide to Creating Fabric [affiliate link], or simply Bible, as machine knitters call it. Lovers of artwear may be familiar with Susanna's fabulous one of a kind machine knitted coats, featured in Julie Schafler Dale's book Art to Wear [affiliate link]. Off the Wall: American Art to Wear, an upcoming exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will present the work of Susanna Lewis and several others who created art to wear during the 1960s and '70s. The show will run November 10, 2019 through May 17, 2020.

Susanna Lewis taught a class at Parsons School of Design in the 1980s called Machine Knitted Fabrics. It was the best machine knitting training I ever had.

There were 8 students in the Parsons class, none of us taking the course for credit. Each Tuesday morning we sat around a table and Susanna would pass out worksheets. She would then show us swatches based on a technique of machine knitting, discuss the principles and methods to create them, and fill us in on variations. The next week we students would return with our swatches based on the worksheet and discuss what we'd learned.

Southwest Spectra jacket, cotton, back and front
These particular techniques are known as rippled jacquard and embossed rippled jacquard. They are double knit fabrics.  For the machine knitters reading this, texture is built on the technical face of the fabric by knitting extra rows on selected needles. I machine knitted on a bulky Brother 260 with ribber. I've also knitted the fabrics on a standard gauge machine, but they take longer.

All of the cardigans pictured are cotton, though I've used these methods with wool often. They are also fully fashioned; I knit each pattern piece in a simple shape with increases or decreases. They were sewn together by hand.

Daisy, cotton

I'm now quite nostalgic for producing fully fashioned pieces again and will take advantage of an opportunity to produce some soon. Plans are to revisit these knitted fabric techniques in the near future, I'm hoping for early 2020!


P.S. If you've been wanting to add sweaters to your handmade wardrobe, but didn't quite know how to approach them (without learning to knit), I have an answer for you. My How to Cut and Sew a Sweater opens again for registration very soon. Join the list to learn more about it!