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When embroidering on stretchy stuff it helps to use a piece of waste canvas. Cut a chunk of aida cloth a little bigger than your hoop and just let the hoop stretch the material as much as it wants. Don't try to stretch them too much yourself. Embroider away. Then trim around the aida cloth and with tweezers, remove strand by strand. It's tedious but it's actually kinda fun deconstructing it. I made t-shirts for my whole family with embroidered designs. All of them get machine washed (and my husband's has been washed oh, a zillion times) and the embroidery is still fine and intact.
Visualization can do a lot. I'm a pretty average size, but almost ALL the patterns look doggy to me but when I fix them up in cool fabric and add my own touches they look cool.
I guess most of the patterns are directed towards older people (because the big pattern companies haven't figured out yet who's doing the sewing!) and so a lot of times they're pictured with a too-big fit or an ugly fabric or some dorky details.
So I don't have any specific information, but I can say that if you can find a basic pattern that's pretty close to a style you like you can probably snazz it up with some cool fabric and trims. Sometimes just that will do it.
Be very careful with the patterns in this book re: sizing.
First of all, you will be able to tell the general measurements by looking at the schematics. The drawings of the pieces of the sweaters. In general, slim fitting garments are 0-2 inches bigger around than your measurements, standard fitting are about 4, and baggy are bigger than 4. So, if you have a 36 inch bust and you want a garment that fits snugly, you'd want to make the garment about 38 inches around. Measure a favorite garment to figure out the amount of ease you like.
Now, for my warning. I'm not trying to turn you off of these patterns, as they are great patterns written simply so that you can customize them as you like. In the interest of making them simple to knit, however, they have incorporated very minimal shaping. Those form-fitting shapes they show on the models (like Daniele's sweater, the football widow sweater, and the belly button sweater) are PINNED. So the finished product will not necessarily look just like the one on the model because they have pinned more shaping into the sweaters.
Measure very carefully and pay attention to the measurements on those schematics. I didn't. I thought it was me--I kept knitting this one sweater over and over and wondering why it turned out so shapeless and baggy. When I looked at the schematic I realized it had way more ease than I wanted, and way more ease than what it appeared to have in the picture.
In some cases, I go down a size. Sometimes, however, especially if you are petite, even the small will be too big. If that's the case, simply figure out an XS. If the directions say cast on 30 (32, 34) then simply cast on 28. These sizes vary by a factor of 2 and you can make a smaller or bigger size by adding in your own factor of 2. (You could, incidentally, go bigger as well if you are larger than the 'large').
Good luck on those patterns, hopefully this gives you a lot of information and a heads up as well.
2 things: if you are making a hat on circs and then SWITCH to DPNs later, then you will have more success because of the extra work hanging down, you won't be twisting stitches and stuff.
Or, if this has left a sour taste in your mouth, then you can make a hat without circs OR dpns! Check out Hip To Knit by Judith Schwartz. The Fat Hats are so cute and easy and each only took me one evening. The yarn they call for is pretty pricy, so I used Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick. It uses EXACTLY one ball so you might buy 2 for insurance...I've had to make the tassels different colors before (different than the hat, I mean) because I ran out of yarn. You can do either of the hat patterns: they are pretty much the same with differences in the finishing.
Yes, definitely go for it. I think a lot of people don't like them but there are plenty of us who do.
My biggest advice is use some crappy yarn and your pattern and just practice using them before using your nice yarn. Even if you just knit a tube, you will get practice using the needles. After the first 2 rows I was like "I will NEVER get this" but stick it out for at least an inch before you give up, by that time it is much easier and the needles aren't flopping around on you.
I made an 'emergency' wrap skirt for my best friend the night before Halloween. (BTW, she is plus sized, and I am not, so I had only measurements to go by.) Fortunately this sort of skirt is very forgiving and easy to make.
I had her measure her waist and the distance from her waist to her knee. Say the waist is 40 inches and the waist to knee is 20. You want your skirt (so it can wrap) the distance around the waist plus half again as much. In this example: 40" (waist) + 20" (extra wrap) = 60".
I was working with a smaller piece of fabric so I had to cut an extra piece for the 60 inches and add it to my skirt. You also will want a few extra inches for seam allowances. Remember, you can always cut a little off or make a deeper hem, but if it is too short you are stuck.
So, 60" measurement, plus 4 inches for safety. 20" is the length I wanted, plus 4 inches for safety. Cut yourself a rectangle of fabric (by this example) 64" long and 24" wide.
Now, you need to finish all of the edges. Make a 'hem' on all 4 edges (make your hem about 1 inch wide, and tuck in the unfinished edge and catch it in your stitching: a blind hem).
Take your skirt and wrap it around you. I put 2 darts in my skirt, 1 inch wide and about 4 inches long. Take a tuck 1 inch wide and then sew on an angle until you hit the edge of the fabric, you want about a 30 degree angle. I made the darts in the back right about (this will sound funny) where your kidneys are. Got that? The darts make the skirt fit much better, and they only take a couple of minutes.
Then wrap your skirt around you with the darts all finished. If your front (wrap) piece is too long, you can just shorten it by taking another hem. If the skirt goes too far down, you can just shorten that, too. Put fasteners on your skirt. I used snaps, you can use a button if you want to do a button hole, or a frog closure or whatever.
If I didn't explain anything clearly, go ahead and ask...I have some basic sewing experience so I just kind of played it by ear as I went along. Because it's such a forgiving style, I just made it with extra room and then installed the closures once I had a chance to try it on my friend. (And if you should ever need to, you can make the skirt smaller or larger by simply moving the closures!)
Anything plain is a good beginner yarn. Wool is fine if you want (I prefer acrylic personally) or any basic worsted weight yarn. Don't use cotton. Red Heart acrylic gets trashed a lot but it really is easy to work with and super cheap, and it stands up to being ripped and reknit very well. A complex yarn will just give her fits.
I think it is way cool that you are teaching your grandma to knit.