14 February 2012

Errata: An Aran for Frederick

So, there is a minor glitch in the Double Wave chart. You could knit it in the round and not *really* notice, but a couple of savvy knitters have noticed, when swatching flat, that the cable crossings switch from even to odd in the second half of the chart. You can find a link to the revised chart here.

07 February 2012

When your hobby becomes your "thing"

I can't really say that knitting is my profession now, but I'm working towards that. Certainly, time-wise it's as close to a job as being a wife/mother, and I spend a lot of time thinking about it when I'm not actually knitting.

So, last month when I visited the Vogue Knitting Live marketplace (I received a ticket for being a last-minute volunteer during set-up), I made sure to be there for the panel discussion on When Knitting Becomes a Career. Melanie Falick moderated, and the panel included Trisha Malcolm (Vogue Knitting EIC, Deb Stoller (Bust founder, Stitch 'n' Bitch creator, you know who she is), Norah Gaughan (! If you don't know who she is, get thee to google), Erin Slonaker (EIC of Yarn Market News and, more importantly, Mintyfresh on Ravelry, who sent me some stashed Manos when I ran out on Nick's blanket), Kristy McGowan (Modern Top-Down Knitting), Kirsten Kapur (Ms. Through the Loops), Betsy Perry (owner of Classic Elite), and Laura Zander (owner of Jimmy Beans Wool). This was a seriously cool panel, and it was really great to be in a room with this bunch of women. I really appreciated the breadth and depth of experience these women have in the industry.

My big takeaway from this talk was that when your passion/hobby turns into your career, you need to find a new hobby. And lately I'm finding that is so true. I love knitting. I get such a thrill out of turning a little idea (often of the semi-crazy, "what if?" variety, like "what if you used ribbing to shape a piece?" or "what would that yoke style look like with cables?") into not just a knitted thing but a pattern for other people to turn into their own knitted things. I love yarn. My stash is barely under control, and visiting places like the VKL marketplace don't help :) But now that I'm trying to make it my business, I have to find something else to become my "down time".

To that end, I've gotten into a few things of late.

  1. Trashy, soapy TV: Gossip Girl (it's gotten terrible, but I can't quit it), The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (obsessed! I think it's partly the codependency between Kyle and Kim, and the rest of it is just voyeurism; plus, I love the recaps on Gawker), Downton Abbey (the classiest of the trashy, but still very soapy and fabulous, don't you think? I'm unsure of whether TV has gotten so bad, or it's so good), and Upstairs Downstairs on Amazon Prime (it's pretty funny to watch this and compare the production values with Downton Abbey - both are such products of their times; it's the same with the original Star Wars trilogy - so 70s - and the second set - epitome of the late 90s/early 00s - just look at the space ships, all sleek and organic in the second, very sharp-edged in the original).
  2. Candy making: I've been making marshmallows as Christmas gifts for the kids' teachers for the past few years, and then I saw a copy of Sugar Baby at the library. I tried my hand at the caramel spirals because they reminded me of the Snirkle candy we'd get as kids when up in Wisconsin. I've gotten a little addicted to the caramels - it's probably really bad for me even to eat a few, especially since knitting requires me to spend a lot of time on my derriere. Anyway, my next project is probably macarons because I'm crazy like that.
  3. OCM (Oil Cleansing Method): Washing my face with oil. Crazy, no? Pretty great, actually. Crunchy Betty's website has a lot of great information. I use jojoba and castor oils, which work really well for me. I tried switching out the jojoba for sweet almond oil when my face seemed a little dry, but that was a mistake, which I'm now patiently, gently washing away. After discovering that I'm allergic to propylene glycol (in an astounding number of things from sanitizer to all kinds of lip things to mouth wash), I've been trying to simplify my skin care routine. Two ingredients is pretty awesome for a cleanser/moisturizer. Seeing as I sometimes put my face on this blog, I prefer it to be spot-free and not in need of major retouching. I'm vain like that, I guess.
And, I guess this blog is more like semi-weekly at the moment. And sadly devoid of pictures. I will take some pics of the goodies I brought home from VKL for a future blog post. They are pretty!

27 January 2012

Maybe it's a weekly blog.

I'd like to get back in the daily swing of things, but for the moment daily activities include knitting like a fiend, shepherding children to/from school, feeding the family, and doing laundry. I will fold blogging back in there at some point. Maybe even with photographs (I received a new lens from my parents for Christmas but for some reason am intimidated by it, even though I put it on my wish list and am really excited to have it and all - just need time to get to know it, I guess).

So, we left off with swatching. When my swatches aren't lie-y lying liars, they are extremely helpful. Heck, even when they do lie, they're helpful. I know most of the time I'd just like to dive in on knitting the PROJECT, but we all know the heartbreak that can ensue. Plus, when I'm designing, the swatch is the cornerstone of the design.

After the swatch comes the math. Luckily for me, it's basic math, which my parents would quickly point out has always been one of my strengths. Once we got to imaginary numbers, I quit, but I'm seriously quick on the basics. Usually, I calculate the cast-on number for my key size, whether that's me or the size I've contracted to produce for the sample. For now, most of my designs are bottom-up, so I start with the hem. Since, in addition to working from the hem, I prefer working in the round, I figure out the start of the sleeve right away and usually cast on a sleeve first. That way I finish one sleeve right away, while I'm "full of prance" as Elizabeth Zimmermann said. Plus, I won't end up on sleeve island or suffer from second sleeve syndrome (cousin to the dreaded second sock syndrome or SSS).

I know some designers who write up the entire pattern before they knit a stitch (aside from the swatch), but I prefer starting with some calculations, then take notes as I go. Sometimes the design happens on the needles. Oftentimes I'm still working out an idea (usually a crazy, I should be able to do this with knitted fabric kind of idea, like adding ribbing for shaping in Turn of the Glass). As a designer I'm most interested in manipulating the knitted fabric to do what I want it to do, or what I think it should be able to do. And exploring the brilliant engineering that EZ pioneered (if you're interested, you should check out her Knitting Workshop). An Aran for Frederick came about because I was curious to see how cables would work into her hybrid yoke idea.

Once I've successfully finished the piece, I consult all the notes I've taken, mostly in my Moleskine notebooks, and write up the pattern for the size I've knit, leaving spots for the other sizes. And then it's time for the spreadsheet! I'm no Excel power user, but I manage to get my OpenOffice spreadsheets to calculate everything for the various sizes. Usually, I have rough numbers to start and then I massage them to make things smooth for all you knitters. For instance, I will have to adjust the number of stitches between cables, but not too much or it will start to look like a different sweater. I started out looking at Marnie's amazing spreadsheets (that woman really knows how to make Excel do her bidding!), though I ended up creating my own since hers was for a sweater knit in pieces.

When I'm massaging those numbers, I refer to the brilliant chart Ysolda compiled for different sizes [link], which has been extremely helpful. Grading patterns is a challenge. You don't just add an inch or two all around in all directions for each size. You do have to finesse it. I've also built a lot of checks into my spreadsheets, converting stitch counts back into measurements to make sure we haven't veered into crazytown.

And the really cool thing I've figured out sort of how to do is calculate yardage requirements. I was really worried about doing this when I started designing sweaters. It seemed like it would just be guesswork. It is a somewhat inexact science, since knitters take up yarn into stitches at different rates, but still. I keep careful track of how much yarn I use in the sample, then use the spreadsheet to come up with some calculations as to how many stitches went into the whole piece. I always make these a little generous, so you have a cushion. Plus, I wouldn't want to calculate each and every stitch, especially with shaping in some garments. Anyway, I was very excited when I figured out that part of designing and grading.

Happily, all this crazy spreadsheet work has, thus far, meant that my patterns are pretty clean as far as my numbers go. Of course, after it's all written up, it goes off to my tech editor to make sure things are correct.

20 January 2012

Swatches are lie-y, lying liars

I think the title says it all, don't you? Looks like I am not halfway through the current OTN project. Sigh. Never mind that I swatched a good-sized swatch, washed it, let it dry (sometimes, having patience on that is difficult), and measured carefully. It seems I should have measured larger samples, especially for the stitch gauge, in this instance. I usually measure in a few places on the swatch, but I think this time it would have been better to measure over a greater area rather than double-check my measurements over smaller areas. Lesson learned. And now shared.

18 January 2012

This is not a monthly blog.

Goodness gracious, where have I been? I haven't posted since ... December 19th?! Apparently, I've been busy. Last-minute Christmas knitting (bears for the girls and one of their cousins, hats + mittens + felted balls for the other cousins, scarf for Mom, as-yet-unfinished hat for Dad, and trying to design a cap for my sister), baking and candy making, and three weeks of kid wrangling, including over the East River and through the air to the grandmothers' houses. Life would be easier if Penelope's preschool calendar was in sync with Isobel's and Stephen's.

Penelope's bear
Penelope's Christmas bear (Isobel's needs minor surgery before her photo shoot)
Amidst all that I agreed to a design for Knitscene (yay!) and have been talking with the editor of the now semi-annual Jane Austen Knits (double yay that a one-time idea has turned into a regular publication) to do some projects for that. So, on my plate I've got one done, except for some last-minute calculations, one half-way through the process both in knitting and pattern, and one that's just a sketch and a swatch. Being a designer keeps one pretty busy!

On Sunday, before visiting the Marketplace at Vogue Knitting Live, we went swimming with some friends and their kids, and the missus asked me how exactly one goes about designing a sweater. So I thought I'd write a little bit about my process here. Of course, it's different for every designer, and it's not even the same every time for me. But here goes...

Inspiration comes in different forms. Sometimes I'm inspired by a call for submissions, sometimes it's an empty spot in my closet/sweater drawer, and often it's a "crazy" idea that I have to see through to the end. There are, of course, a wide variety of crazy ideas from a stitch pattern to a detail in a museum piece to my ever-increasing understanding of what you can do with knitted fabric. The more you knit, the more you'll know. I like interesting details, prefer working mostly in one piece (and in the round, if possible), and am always inspired by the brilliance of Elizabeth Zimmermann.

Next come the doodles! Nick would tell you that I've been in training for this since college, when my notebook margins were littered with dress sketches. Now, it's a succession of Moleskine note and datebooks that bristle with notes, descriptions, lists, and, of course, drawings.

And then, most often, comes the yarn (sometimes it comes first - we all know how it can go at the LYS: the yarn just demands to come home with you, saying "You'll figure out later what I'm meant to be"). I'm a loose knitter (the only relaxed thing in my world! Kidding! Sort of :) , so I often have to go down a needle size or two from the ballband suggestion, if I'm knitting a sweater. For lace, of course, you go up a needle size, and down for socks, mittens, even hats on occasion. The great thing about being the designer is that you are swatching for the fabric you want, not a particular number of stitches per inch. It's freeing, though it puts a lot of pressure on said swatch when writing the pattern.

More to come ... tomorrow? I'm not sure this will again become a daily blog, but I'm going to aim for at least a few times a week. Happy New Year!

19 December 2011

Pattern: JOY garland

JOY garland

A little something for the holidays! I dubbed this garland "JOY" because it came out even better than I thought it might. You see, I had this idea of using i-cord, and then it all fell into place. This is knit in one piece (oh, joy!), and I didn't even weave in the ends, just trimmed them to an even length so they could be used to hang the garland.

It comes in two sizes, and the pattern includes templates to cut out felt letters to spell JOY, PEACE, MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HANUKKAH, and HAPPY NEW YEAR, large and small.

My JOY garland hangs on our front door, makes me smile every time I see it (I seek out peace and joy all year round), and gently jingles when the door opens or closes (and we all know what happens every time a bell rings, don't we?*).

JOY garland
Our door, which does not photograph well for patterns
So, share some joy this holiday season (or work it up in other colors for festive bunting any time). If you can knit, increase, and decrease, you can have some joy in your life. I've included instructions for making i-cord, if you've never done it.

I chose Plymouth's Encore Worsted, since it was in the stash, cheery, and sturdy. You could use just about any yarn you like (I'm contemplating some teeny garlands in fingering weight yarn because I'm twee like that), though I'd save the cashmere for something else. And then you'll need to visit the craft store (unless you have a five and dime - I'm sure they would have had felt and bells at the 5 & 10 I visited when I was little) for some jingle bells and felt. I went classic here, but I saw glittered bells in various colors *and* sparkly felt. You could really bling this one up, if you were so inclined. I may have to go back to the craft store...

The pattern may be purchased through Ravelry or on Etsy, or you can use the handy button below to buy instantly.

May the coming year bring you peace and joy and lots of yarn. xoxo, Kathleen

*"Every time a bell rings, an angel gets it's wings," according to It's a Wonderful Life. Whether you believe in angels or not, jingle bells are a merry sound.

12 December 2011

Craft Fair 2011 and Etsy

Goodness, how the time has flown! I've been busy knitting up items for the kids' school craft fair, and anything that didn't sell is now available on my Etsy shop (see the sidebar). The craft fair, as always, was lots of fun, and again I was impressed with all the creativity in the room.

I've also been coping with turning forty and having a seven-year-old daughter. How did all that happen?!

I need to get back into the blogging habit, so I hope to show up here more often. There is a holiday decoration pattern in the works, so come back soon!