Is Starshower the new Honey Cowl? Only time will tell (but it looks good).

Dolman Rerouted

Dear Ann,
Remember this?
dolmanup.jpg
You don’t? This is Dolman Updated, a design in the Fall 2003 Interweave Knits. Back in November 2003, I was knitting this then-brand-new pattern in the back seat of a tiny car that was careening and skidding around the hills of the Piedmont region of Italy. Usually just before or after eating a meal with 4 appetizers and a blur of other courses after that.
Dolman Updated is a simple yet ingenious pattern. See how the seams are on the outside? See how the sleeves are not knit separately, but formed by casting on stitches when the armhole level is reached (you can’t really see that, but I’m telling you)? See how it’s constructed of 4 nearly-identical pieces? I made this sweater because I liked its easygoing esprit de sweatshirt. I also thought it would be just the therapy to shake off my Bad Dolmans of the Eighties.
What? You don’t remember the Bad Dolmans of the Eighties? Here’s a reminder:
dolman80s.jpg
The thing to note here is that the armhole begins at the waist. Why was this considered good? We don’t know. It did a great job of disguising under-arm dingle-dangle, and it allowed plenty of cargo space for emergency Kleenex, but at what cost?
Not all that bad, you say? How about this one:
dolman80s2.jpg
Doesn’t that just sear your brain cells? I wore a lot of these sleeves In The Day. I suppose I didn’t have much choice; these were the sleeves that Fate dealt me. The good thing about having worn a lot of Dolman sleeves is that I now have a healthy respect for the concept of the Set In Sleeve, and its also-flattering cousin, the Raglan. I think there should be a PBS Documentary–a Nova or a Frontline or at least a The American Experience– devoted to the pioneers who spread knowledge about these crucial Dolman Alternatives throughout our land.
But I digress (quel surprise). All I really wanted to tell you is that I finally finished the dang thing. I had knit all the pieces by the time I returned from vacation. (This was in 2003.) I promptly blocked it and sewed up the 4 ‘inside-out’ backstitch seams, which I found challenging (being the Queen of Mattress Stitch but not even a minor royal of backstitch). Then I left it in the bottom of my Sew-up Basket. For a full year.
The reason is that during the partial sewing-up, I had twigged to the fact that the sleeves were WAY too long for me. I probably could have figured this out from reading the pattern, but I didn’t have even the faintest premonition until after I had knit up 12 balls of Debbie Bliss Cotton Denim Aran. Since these sleeves are knit sideways instead of top-down or bottom-up, there is no practical way to shorten them, and they can’t be reknit without re-knitting most of the sweater.
To make matters worse, it was only after I had sewn the thing halfway up that I unearthed this little Repressed Memory: I have a Tummy Issue. The issue being that my tummy is Convex where it ought to be Concave. Wearing a boxy little pullover like this calls a good deal of attention to this Issue. Eww.
Time to Recalculate Route. My task became selecting a long-armed, flat-tummied recipient. And luckily, I happen to know a long-armed, flat-tummied recipient:
pamdolman.jpg
Pam! I sewed the last underarm seam in Pam’s living room. The arms were a bit long, but it’s a sweatshirt. The arms are joogeable. Another nice thing is that like me, Pam has a wool allergy, so she appreciates the fact that my version of the Dolman Updated is in cotton.
I call this a Happy Ending. I still need to find a way to exorcize my Bad Dolmans of the 80s, but it’s a comfort to know that Pam has gotten rid of her Dolman ghosts, shoulder pads and all.
Love, Kay
P.S. And lookie here! Pam’s been Log-Cabinning:
pamlogcabinpeachesandcreme.jpg
Pam started knitting about a year ago. Other than scarves, this is her first project. It’s in Peaches & Creme, the very best 100% cotton yarn you can buy for $1.28 a ball. She let me pick out the colors. Cheerful, no?

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. You have a killer eye for color. The next time I start a color work project, I’m consulting you.

  2. You guys are my new favorite blog! Delightful writing! I spied that log cabin throw in the background, even before you mentioned it, but sure glad you did!! I love the colors! I can’t believe it’s made with cotton! Genius!

  3. heavens…. did there ever exist a “mrs. dolman”, who actually invented those sleeves?… zany pics! …. the log cabin is absolutely fetching and professional for a new-be knitter!…kudos galore….

  4. i want to make a log cabin throw now, too, after seeing this one. i’ve been jonesing for some more peaches ‘n creme since i got the 2-ball consolation prize in the MDK poetry contest. am definitely on yarn-buying probation though.

  5. Don’t diss the dolman! My first pret-a-porter purchase was a flannel black and white buffalo check OMO Norma Kamali (remember her?) blouse. The shoulder pads were linebacker sized.
    Now that we’re on the topic of 80s fashion, what about jodhpur (sp?) pants. I had a pair in a paisley print.

  6. Remember how they used to sell cartons of shoulder pads, in case you needed to supplement the ones that were already in the garment?
    Even in the height (depths) of the 80s, I promise you I never stashed extra shoulder pads. My mom did. In late 2000, she was the last woman West of the Missouri to give up her shoulder pads. She still misses them. They were ‘slimming’ she says. When your shoulders are 8 feet wide, you have a wasp waist.
    The tide is high…..oxox Kay

  7. I remember the dolman sleeve as it was very difficult to squeeze two of them into a jacket; unless of course you had the green leather dolman jacket with the double breasted snap front and of course extremely large shoulder pads that I bought at Lohmann’s in the Bronx for $200 or so in the late 80’s. I threw it out last year when it got moldy but still miss it; perhaps I could have reconstructed it into something slimmer?!

  8. O.k., me, I remember some story in the ’80s about a hostess catching fire to her dolman sleeves during a party. As for myself, I remember wearing them in blouse and jumper (the kind with a skirt, not the Brit a/k/a pullover kind) from a YSL sewing pattern. 1″ shoulder pads, too, of course. Yep, Yves was doing dolmans (and jumpers) which is just a mind-boggling thing to remember. (We’ll leave aside the memory of how cute I thought I looked in that outfit.) Knitting-wise, I still have one old Tahki pattern with dolman sleeves. It should be tossed, really it should, I know I will never knit it, but somehow it clings to the shelves and won’t let go…

  9. Evelyn: A. You DID look cute. Fashion is of the moment. A raglan sleeve would have looked plug ugly geeky at that time, plus you couldn’t have bought one if you tried–they make the shoulders look narrower! That was a Cardinal Sin! And remember the alternative to the Dolman? The dreaded puffed sleeve, even in a menswear-inspired suit or shirt? Icky poo!
    And 2. It is a sin to throw out an old knitting pattern. They are always good for decoupage at some point.
    Loving the Parade of Moldy Dolmans. I keep remembering more and more Dolmans in my past. In which I DID look cute. xoxoxo Kay

  10. I’ve long covetted the Dolman Updated. Doesn’t it suck when you make something that you thought you loved which is actually unflattering? At least you were smart enough to gift it. I have a little shelf of to-be-frogged-someday-uglies! The log cabin Pam made is lovely. Excellent tutelage.

  11. I somehow missed the dolmanic revolution; I was too busy adjusting my COWL NECK SWEATER. The cowl neck with the Add-a-Bead necklace dangling out. The cowl neck I was wearing when I wasn’t wearing one of eight shetland crewneck sweaters that went so well with my BASS WEEJUNS. That I wore when I was applying the BONNE BELL LIP SMACKERS that I pretty much ate for snacks.
    I had a raincoat with such enormous shoulder pads that I regularly snagged my purse strap under the edge of the shoulder pad which set off a terrible raincoat/purse tangle that made me miss my subway train because I could not get to the token in the bottom of my GIANT AND UGLY (yet now collectible) Dooney and Bourke pocketbook.

  12. Forgive me for this little William Safire moment, but I think the accepted spelling of the sleeve-crumpling term popularized by Mis-TAH Carson is “zhuzh.”
    And as far as fashion crimes are concerned, I was a one big earring wearer. I cut up my t-shirts and layered them so that I had competing necklines. And I had a haircut that was entirely inappropriate for my hair. And my life.
    You can laugh, so that should make us even for the zhuzh crack I made.
    You get HUGE knitting kharma for finshing the Dolman for someone else.
    smooches.

  13. Hi Kay! I’ve been knitting that dolman sleeved sweater for a while now. Christmas scarf knitting has gotten in the way lately and it’s sitting in a bag in the craft room, but I’m re-inspired now that I’ve seen yours all finished! Thanks for the boost!

  14. Wendy’s so right about cramming dolmans under a jacket. I’ve been rejecting the current crop for exactly that reason.
    I wasn’t aware of overdoing the shoulder pads until my Ma took a photo of me wearing the blouse with shoulder pads under the jacket with shoulder pads topped off with the coat with shoulder pads. Linebacker just about describes it.

  15. always be suspicious of the garment when a skinny girl won’t remove her elbows from her sides.

  16. Yup, I just about choked over my breakfast with those dolman sleeve photos. Being taken back to the 80s in such an involuntary, shocking way so early in the day… it’s not good for you!
    Of course I did rather love them at the time. In fact I recall sewing several blouses with strange wide square set in sleeves (and when I say set in I mean set in practically to the waist). They went really well with huge shoulder pads and massive red plastic glasses. God was I ever cool. Or not. I do like the dolman updated though. May have to give that one a try, just for old times sake…
    Pam’s log cabin looks lovely by the way!

  17. I was able to by-pass the dohlman era..as I spent the 80’s in maternity/nursing clothes.
    However, the dress I made for the Prom my junior year in High School, I’d saved the pattern for reasons unbeknownst at the time. This past July, my oldest daughter was in a theater production of ‘Sweet Charity’. We reused the same pattern of the 1976 Prom, for her ‘hippie’ dress. I even found the old gauze fabric for it! (Kid looked so much better in that pattern than I ever did!)
    So, all you keepers of old treasures…you just might need those old patterns of all types for ‘authentic reproductions’ at some point. (Just another reason to stash..huh?)

  18. Evelyn, I made 2 of those Thaki sweaters–or one that must have been VERY similar. I remember a cropped waist and BIG sleeves that had a kind of folded pleat at the shoulder seam and looked puffy in a tailored sort of way. That Japanese designer, what was his name? Kenzo?
    I have a confession: I have shoulder pads stashed in the way back of my top closet shelf. I loved them. Having always been a roundish sort of person, with very narrow shoulders, I thought they helped. Maybe they’ll come in handy for a costume someday… These days, set-in is my best bet–I’ve still never found a raglan I can wear in good conscience.

  19. I didnt know these sleeves had a name… but I do remember loving them.. they were really good for hiding my very unfashionably big teenage breasts.. That was certainly another time..

  20. Umm . . . when were big teenage breasts unfashionable? I must have missed that.
    I keep waiting for mine to develop. (I’m 47.)
    And, oh, the fashion mistakes of the ’80s! Long, layered and permed Bonnie Raitt hair was probably the nadir for me.
    And Ann, you always looked adorable and put together.

  21. You still do.

  22. Why my name has disappeared, I don’t know. It’s MN.

  23. Uh, Mary Neal, you are kind to omit mention of the eyeglasses. The upside-down glasses.
    The thing I keep coming back to is this: what a crummy piece of luck to come of age in surely the grimmest decade in fashion history? The late seventies and early eighties are just the pits any way you look at them. It’s just not good. Women in the twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, even the sixties (OK the early sixties) looked fantastic. Even Ma Joad had that shirtwaist dress thing going on. I look at pictures of my mom in her 1952 splendor and think, Damn that’s a good look. Women looked better. They just did.

  24. You’ve got the color thing going, Kay
    Judy