I’ve Waited 10 Years For This!

I have a tremendous announcement, but first, a bit of housekeeping…

The winner of Kristen Omdahl’s book is Stella with the following comment:

I Love Ribbing

I Love Ribbing

Thanks everyone – I love hearing what each of you treasure from your own personal knitting tool boxes! It’s helpful to me, and interesting for everyone!

And now to my BIG NEWS!!

Confessions Of A Knitting Heretic Has Sold 100,000 Printed Copies!

And how am I celebrating this momentous occasion?

Announcing the KINDLE version of Confessions!

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I wrote the book in the early 2000’s, when I got back into knitting and realized that there were very few volumes that even discussed Combination Knitting, and NONE that championed it as a valid, respectable, legitimate way to knit.  It seems, from the research I’d done, that beginning around the 1920’s a ‘standard’ way of knitting – Western Style – slowly became accepted as the right way, and then the ONLY way sanctioned by the knitting Powers That Be.

The internet has had a LOT to do with folks realizing that there are many ways to create a knit and a purl stitch, and these will differ from person to person. Just like many things in life that we hold precious.

As a world we are coming to understand that there is no ONE way to pray, love, or eat (hey, that sounds like a book!) or KNIT! Folks who thought they’d never accept two men or two women in love now proudly embrace family members who are ‘out.’

As loud as the narrow minded folks who hate those who pray differently than they do may sound, I can see the world opening up. I can feel people being more accepting of those who are different.

Unfortunately, the last gasp of the narrow minded, the “throw the gun phase” I think of it, when they’ve run out of bullets, is never pleasant. We’re going through that right now in some quarters.

But in knitting, it’s been a pretty smooth transition from a general non-acceptance of different ways of knitting in the 1980’s (when I began knitting and designing) to the current Smörgåsbord of knit styles; and it’s a beautiful thing!

If I’ve had any part in that, I’m very proud.

When I wrote my book I shopped it to several publishers and received some of the loveliest rejection letters anyone’s ever received. “It’s a great book, but we think no one would want to buy it…”

After pondering things for a while, and after the death of my brother (a timely reminder that – well – why in the world was I waiting for an authoritarian sanction of my book on unorthodox knitting?) I decided to open up my Quark Express and create my own book. I read some books on self publishing (thank you, Fern Reiss) and got to work.

That was almost 10 years ago. My first order from Unicorn Books for 7,000 copies came just before I headed to Texas to be with my mother before she passed, and telling her about that order will always be a very happy memory. I would have been thrilled if the book sold 10,000 total. I never dreamed it would be 100,000.

But, toting up all of my print receipts (I keep a tally on them in my database) I realized that this October I would hit this milestone. So I prepared.

I’ve been working on this for several months. Converting a book to a kindle (.mobi) file is not as easy as I thought it would be.  I tried it back in 2012 with Knitting Millinery, and I had to give up because the eBook looked like – well – crap.

Making a pdf file is much easier, but it doesn’t read as well. I’ve grown to love the Kindle app on my iPad, the experience of reading a book using kindle is much more satisfying than just reading a pdf, and I wanted that richness of experience for my own books. For better or for worse, Amazon is the biggest game in town. To ignore it would be foolish.

So I dedicated myself to learning how to translate my 2003 Quark file to an InDesign file (I taught myself that trick while laying out History on Two Needles, thanks to Lynda.com and David Blatner!) and then I went one step further to translate the InDesign to a .mobi file (once again, thanks to Lynda.com and, this time, Anne-Marie Concepcion)

It’s been hard, I won’t lie. I’m good at this computer-graphic-html stuff (not an expert, but I get by) and there were times when working through this made my brain hurt. A lot. But once I was in, I figured I should barrel through a few titles (the hard won knowledge of cracking open OBPS files and adding <guide> tags won’t stay in my head forever!)

So in addition to offering Confessions Of A Knitting Heretic as a Kindle book, I’m also thrilled to offer Knitting Millinery in Kindle format. Huzzah!

Click on the image to order the eBook!

Click on the image to order the eBook!

The price is great, you can’t go wrong! Click on the above images to order either – and enjoy!

If you don’t have a kindle, like me, you can download kindle apps to use on your mobile device or computer – I think you’ll really like the ease of reading a kindle book!

The paper version is also still available, and as of today I’ll be beating the Amazon list price and offering it for $16.00.

Look for more of my books to be offered in kindle format! Knit With Courage will be next, and the big kahuna will be History On Two Needles. THAT will be a bear!

But I did the original layout, so I think I can fight through this.

Stick with me, sister and fellow heretics!

Downton Abbey In Process

Tomorrow I’ll announce the winner of Kristin Omdahl’s book, Knitting Outside The Swatch.

Today, though, I thought I’d share some in-process images from my recent pieces in Downton Abbey Knits.  It was a BLAST to work on that issue of Piecework – I adore historic clothing, I’m a fan of Downton Abbey, and – well – we all know that knitting is my life.

Louet Yarn for several projects

Louet Yarn for several projects

So here are some of the in-process pics that I took.  I take a lot of these as I work through designs, but I don’t often publish them. I can’t let them loose before the issue I’m working on is released, and often by the time a magazine is out I’m onto other stuff and going back and revisiting the design process is low on my priority list.

But today I’m celebrating the release of some cool stuff (more about that tomorrow…) by sharing images of past work – enjoy!

Wedding Kimono & Hat

Wedding Kimono & Hat

Wedding Kimono Closeup

Wedding Kimono Closeup

 

Oval Garden Hat

Oval Garden Hat

Cricket Sweater

Cricket Sweater

PU Sts for Cricket Sweater Armhole

Picking Up stitches for Cricket Sweater Armhole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mourning Blouse

Mourning Blouse

Footman's Vest

Footman’s Vest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, of course, the obligatory pic of one of my kids wearing a design!

I’m lucky to have two great fit models living in the same house!

Footman's Vest

Footman’s Vest on Max

Cricket Sweater on Max

Cricket Sweater on Max

 

 
 

 

And can I take this opportunity to remind you to tweet #CaribouKnits – you still have a few more days to add some inches to a scarf for a person fighting Breast Cancer!

Stained Glass Knits

I’ve been crazy busy this Summer, and it’s one of those situations where the busier I am, the less time I have to write/blog about it, so I’m entrapped in a cone of silence.

I’m breaking the cone!

I’ve been working up a collection of patterns called, not very creatively, “Stained Glass Knits”

I love color – it’s one of the most inspiring things in my world – and light traveling through colored glass is magical.  I wanted to catch some of that feeling in yarn, so here are a few of the pieces I’ll be releasing later this month as a collection (and also as single patterns, if you’re so inclined!)

Rose Window

Rose Window

This first is a circular jacket based on a small circular window.

I am calling it, simply, “Rose WIndow.”

I used Biggan Dup’s beautiful yarns – 100% Australian Merino, soft and lovely to knit with. Biggan sells a set of mini-balls (it’s the Wrap Yourself in Color kit).

Simple Stained Glass Window

Simple Stained Glass Window

I used those yarns as a jumping off point, plus about 6 skeins of black and 4 of grey, to create this lovely jacket. 

I can’t really capture how great it is in photographs, it’s so much nicer in person!

Strasbourg

Strasbourg

The next piece is “Strasbourg”, a shawl inspired by the rose window at Strasbourg Cathedral, and a ball of Kauni

Strasbourg Cathedral Window

Strasbourg Cathedral Window

I love it when a piece has multiple sources of inspiration! Separate small balls of a charcoal/black yarn are used to create the ‘leading’

Pantone Door Swatches

Pantone Door Swatches

Morse

The third piece is a cowl I’ve named “Morse”.

It’s not inspired by traditional stained glass, but by a cool door created with transparent slides of Pantone colors.

I love the measured brightness against the dark (which is the joy of just about any stained glass piece!)

To create this dichotomy in color AND in feel, I’ve used two yarns by Lorna’s Laces with a very different texture. The color is their shiny silk, Pearl, in colorway Motherlode. The dark is the lovely matte Shepherd Worsted, in Kerfuffle.

Wrightish Bag

Wrightish Bag

I’m just finishing up a bag and blanket set which I’m calling “Wright-ish”

It’s loosely based on several motifs by Frank Lloyd Wright, I found myself more inspired by his use of color and leading weights than by any one of his beautifully designed windows.

The Blanket

The Blanket

I’ve used Jared Flood’s spectacular yarn, Shelter in a modular knit pattern. I love this yarn – it’s bright and rich without being shiny. It’s true and honest and warm and very loving.

Inspiration for future work

Inspiration for future work

I have two other pieces I’m working through / designing. One’s based on a lamp, the other on this beautiful image the stained glass in Thanksgiving Square in Dallas.

These patterns will all be available soon at my website, anniemodesitt.com, and also in my Ravelry store.

I just thought you’d like to see how I spent my Summer vacation!

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

DocU ScreeningThis Summer was a departure for me in many ways, and I kept pretty mum about the biggest goal I embraced.

In addition to a pretty full design plate, I filmed & edited a short 10-minute documentary.

It was an adventure from start to finish, and I learned a TON about so many things (including—as always—about myself!)

I was part of DocU, a mentorship program our local public access TV station (SPNN) started last year.  I was one of twelve folks chosen to participate, and I was thrilled!

I wasn’t certain that my idea for a documentary about caregivers would pan out, would be worth watching, so I kept quiet about it.  I wanted to present caregivers not as heros, but as regular folks who do what they do because of love, and whose lives are equally enriched and complicated by the act of caregiving.

Essentially I wanted to examine how caregiving – giving CARE – translates into giving JOY.  And that’s the name of the doc – Giving Joy.

As of Sept 7th Giving Joy will be available to view online (link to come).

If you’re in the Twin Cities and would like to come to the screening on Sept 7th,
leave a comment and I’ll add you to the invitation list!

I was aided in the shooting by Gerry (who knows SO much about everything video) and Max (who worked at SPNN last Summer in the Youth Program, so was allowed to handle the camera and lights and was my ‘muscle’)  The filming went really well, I was able to get some great interviews with folks from Family Means in Stillwater, the Minnesota Board on Aging and a couple of other caregivers.

For B Roll (all of that footage in a doc that isn’t someone talking) I used quite a bit of still photography from our own family adventure with caregiving, and I also shot some great footage with Gerry and Max down at the Mayo clinic one sleepy Sunday.

But the part of the class I really loved was the editing.  I was in my element!
I’d taken an Avid editing class back in 1995 in NY, and at the time I loved my introduction to non-linear video editing.  Since then I’ve edited various knitting videos for my classes and websites, and a series of videos for Zealana Yarns highlighting some of my favorite techniques using their yarn.

But this was my first foray into Adobe Premiere, and it went very well.  I’m familiar with the Adobe ‘feel’, I use Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign regularly and have my own keyboard shortcuts that I insert into each app to make them feel ‘right’ to me.

Premiere was not entirely intuitive, some of it felt a bit kludgy, but it soon began to feel better and, with the help of Lynda.com classes, I felt fairly accomplished in a short time.

Because I purchased InDesign last year to do the layout for History on Two Needles (yes, I wrote, knitted (most of) the garments, made the charts & schematics, photoshopped all of the images AND designed and laid out the pages of the book!) I was eligible to sign up for the Adobe Creative Cloud for $20/month, allowing me access to ALL of the Adobe Suite apps.  This is a crazy bargain, and I have been grateful ever since!

I tell my knitting students that there are two sure ways to really learn a new skill; make a mistake, or teach someone. Mistakes I made — plenty of mistakes! — and I volunteered to help a couple of students who had stronger filming & interviewing skills but were falling behind in the short time allowed for editing.

After all, I was so fortunate to be able to do much of my editing at home,
it was only fair I used some of my time to help other folks out.

Will this experience be the start of a new chapter in my life? I have no idea, but I wouldn’t mind if I could eventually work in that field. Aside from knitting, nothing has felt so — right — in my hands immediately.

I have plans for a few other video projects that I’m really excited about, I’ll talk about them more when the time is right!

Some New (to me) Yarns & A Lace Class

NEW CLASS

Before I talk about the yarns, I want to give a shout out for a class I’m teaching at Darn Knit Anyway in Stillwater, MN this Thursday and next Saturday (a two part class)

It’s a class on knitting lace, learning to mistress charts and feel more intuitive about your lace, and the entire class will be working on Ruth Garcia-Alcantud‘s pattern Chambourcin, we’ll be using the nested medallion motif from that pattern as a jumping off place for lace calisthenics.

NEW YARNS

A skein of SilverSpun – 50g/173 yds

Recently I’ve been fortunate enough to play with some new yarns, well – new to me, so I thought I’d write about them on this hot, hot day with the thought of knitting with the alpaca blend I have on my needles is daunting!

My friend, Laurie Gonyea (Feel Good Yarn Company) has started a new adventure with SILVER yarn! She’s producing an American made cotton & pure silver yarn that has an amazing softness, bounce and beautiful texture! Laurie sent me a skein a few weeks ago, I did some knitting up with it and it was extraordinary!

There’s buzz that the silver can be helpful for arthritis, but I can’t really comment on that as I’m not a doctor.

What I CAN comment on is that this is extraordinary yarn with a feeling different than just about anything else I’ve knit with. It has a firmness, yet is very soft and pliable.

Laurie’s engaging in a Kickstarter campaign to help her get this yarn off the ground, I think it’s worth checking out!

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TNNA HAUL: Baah, Classic Elite, Lorna’s Laces & a maribou feather from the Columbus Gay Pride Parade

While at TNNA I was introduced to a few new yarn companies worth noting, and a few new yarns by established companies.

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 10.35.59 AMQUINCE & CO

This is the 3rd Anniversary of Pam Allen’s yarn company, but it’s the FIRST time I’ve used any of her lovely yarns in an editorial!

I just finished a beautiful (well, I think it’s beautiful) balaklava for Interweave Crochet in Quince & Co Tern, and I enjoyed working with this yarn SO much!  It’s got a great feel in the hand, good body, and the drape of the finished fabric is perfection!  I haven’t used it for knitting, but I’m DYING to!

I think I’ll knit some up right now as a swatch for a new lace project / class!

BAAH YARNS

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 10.00.15 AMI was pretty much blown away by both the soft firmness (can you tell I’m a sucker for a soft, firm yarn…) AND by the beautiful array of colors.

Bright, crisp and clear, I fell in love with the blues and yellows especially (it’s hard to find a good yellow!)

I’m hoping to use their lovely yarn in a new project, time will tell…

SWAN’S ISLAND

IMG_0018Not a new company, but I hadn’t really appreciated their rich, deep and satisfying palette until I spent some time handling it at TNNA this year.  It’s gorgeous stuff!

Organic merino and natural dyes combine to make a soul-satisfying palette. 

I’ve no immediate plans to use their yarns, but that’s not for lack of love!

Maybe the editorial gods will conspire to do me a solid and hook us up in the future!

DROPS

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Scarf & Jasper

I’ve been assigned a few pieces for the UK Magazine, The Knitter, using Drops Alaska and Nepal.

They’re both beautiful yarns, Nepal has a bit of alpaca to soften it up, but Alaska is wonderfully soft wool on it’s own!

“Girls, you’re BOTH pretty!”

I’m working up a few mens pieces, one of which is a reversible cabled scarf (shown with my own handsome fellow, Jasper the Poodle outside of a local Caribou Coffee)

I’d used DROPS yarn before, but never so much for 4 different projects. It’s a VERY enjoyable knit, and the colors are clear and rich – I like my colors like I like my men…

LORNA’S LACES

Flushing Colorway

In addition to a new marled yarn pictured above (I’m not sure if it’s out for public consumption yet…) LL’s just come out with some new colorways based on locations which have meaning for the LL staff.  I love this idea, and I adore the colors!

My favorite is Flushing – a beautifully masculine colorway, which would pair really well with a more feminine semi-solid for a totally different feel.

Keep up the great work, Beth, Amanda and everyone at LL!

Remember Me?

I haven’t posted for a while because we have been battling various pressures, none of them terrible alone , but together they create a firm barrier which I’ve been alternatively digging under and leaping over.

It’s curious how we underestimate a smooth, level, unobstructed path, huh?

Various recurring health battles (both for Gerry and myself) have reared their ugly heads, made bolder by the non-Spring weather, which kept me from cycling (which has slowly worn away my health resources.)

Nothing fills all my reservoirs like a good, long bike ride. As a matter of fact I was SO hurting for a ride that I borrowed Ysolda’s prop bike from her TNNA booth and rode around the show floor for 10 minutes.

Not near enough, but it was fun while it lasted. I got the idea when I saw Cat Bordhi doing it, so haul us both off to convention center jail!

TNNA
Yes, I went to TNNA. I wasn’t going to go. Between Gerry’s returning health issues and my own recurring pain and exhaustion I felt as if it were too much. About Gerry was insistent – he said something to the effect of “if you don’t go to TNNA and have a bad year, design-wise, I will feel responsible.”

I didn’t want to drive alone, I haven’t driven long distances for several years, (not since I took out a construction barrel on a highway in Illinois and scared myself silly) and I wanted to take Max with me. But I didn’t want to leave Gerry home alone, and he was up for the ride!

So we did the drive there over two days, stayed a day at an extended suite type of place (good for everyone!) and while I was at TNNA doing the necessary schmoozing, Gerry and Max slept in, then went to CoSi and had a terrific time (Gerry’s dreamed of taking Max to this great science center for years!)

Hannah (who would like to be called “Andy” for the present) is already up at Menogyn working as an engage for 2 sessions, then late in July she will head out on her 32 day Nor’wester canoe trip up into Canada with 4 other young women. I’m alternately bursting with pride, and terrified for her.

TEACHING
I’ll be teaching a two part lace class at a FABULOUS yarn shop in Stillwater, MN, Darn Knit Anyway!

Lovely Laces: July 17th 6-9 pm and July 27th 10-1pm.
We will cover the basics of lace knitting, charts, and how to go about memorizing a repeating motif to make lace knitting more enjoyable and intuitive. ANYONE CAN KNIT LACE!!

DESIGNS
It’s been a crazy busy few months of designing, which I love and which is good work for me as it doesn’t require a lot of movement (I move we’ll many days, but sometimes those unmovable Fibro days coincide with a teaching engagement, and all hell breaks loose…)

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt both so useless, and also as if so much is depending on me. It’s a bad feeling, but there’s really nothing for it but to keep my mind on my work and do my best.

I’ve just finished 16 designs for various magazines and knitting pubs, all places that pay fairly and offer good terms for designers to retain their rights on their designs. Look for my work in Jane Austen Knits, Downton Abbey Knits, Interweave Knits and Interweave Crochet, Twist Collective and in Austrlia in Yarn Mag and in the UK in The Knitter.

I have 6 other designs I’ll have completed by mid-July, also for publications that deal openly and fairly with their contributors, so I’m actually very fortunate, all things considered.

BRIDGES

I had a chat with a sister designer at TNNA where I was warned not to “burn my bridges” and I laughed. Some “bridges” are little more than zip lines, they only work in one direction.

Other bridges may be burning, but I didn’t set them on fire, I simply balked at the high toll.

I know I have carved a well deserved reputation for someone who will speak her mind about fair working conditions for hand knit and crochet designers and teachers, and that this has perhaps made me persona non grata with some entities.

There are still publishers who still insist on retention of designers rights after publishing a pattern, will only pay 10% of online pattern sales to a designer (50% should be more like it in my book!) or won’t cover the full hotel and airfare for a teacher at their functions (another designer told me this weekend she makes NO money teaching at TNNA for Offinger, but she does it to get at least part of her airfare covered.)

To me this remains unacceptable.

I think I was a little afraid I’d go to TNNA and begin to regret decisions I’d made to avoid/openly discuss corporations that make money off of the fruit of designers and teachers, yet treat these same designers and teachers as if they’re doing THEM a favor by hiring them.

But, happily and surprisingly, I found myself comfortable with decisions I’ve made, happy to continue to work with old friends and eager to forge new relationships with other yarn companies.

There is room for MANY different opinions in our business. If holding a position outside of the mainstream means I’ve burned a bridge, that might not have been the right path for me, anyway.

Now, off to get a good LONG bike ride in so I can start rebuilding my health and grow my strength for what lies ahead. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if hard work and fair dealing cannot provide me an income in this industry, it may not be right for me. I’m not going to change that by underselling myself or working on the cheap.

Note: if you see odd typos in this post, chalk it up to the fact that my computer has been out of commission for wifi use for 2 weeks, so I’m doing all of my online stuff with my iPad.  This is my first time doing a whole blog post on this tricky, disappearing keyboard!

Comparisons, Joy & Jealousy

I read a comment recently that “Comparison is a Joy Killer” and I agree.

I spend way too much time comparing my growth as a designer, my abilities, my time, etc., to other folks, and I expect that all of us do that to some extent. Since childhood my most fervent wish (prayer at times) has been that I don’t fall short of others.

I came to the conclusion that the only cure for this was to try – and succeed – to drown out the loud sounds of the comparisons.

My own personal ‘voice of comparison’ sounds a lot like my Aunt Lorraine, a truly sad woman who found joy only when others were sadder than she.

Twitter, Facebook and social median can be hard for this reason – I’m constantly reading about other folks doing great things. And I’m happy for them, and send along my “Go you!” and “Congrats!” messages whenever I can.

I realize that my natterings about my own successes can be causing the same grief, so I try to keep them circumspect and not too braggy. We all deserve our moments in the sun, and we shouldn’t hide who we are and what we’ve accomplished. But we also have to be aware of our luck, good fortune and the fact that the sun may not be shining in someone else’s yard today.

So that’s my job – perhaps for this week, this year or the rest of my life – to celebrate ALL successes, without falling victim to a comparison trap. It’s a game no one can win. Maybe I’ll just run away and join a carnival.

My dad briefly ran a carnival after WWII. My dad did a lot of things, few of them entirely sober. I think he was, in no small part, escaping the judgement of his sister – the aforementioned Lorraine.

There’s been a recent spate of questions posed to me, in person, via email or on Twitter, about how folks can find my Craftsy classes.

I don’t have any.

Stefanie Japel is a designer I admire, and a personal friend. When she started with Craftsy she asked our design group (Stitch Coop) if anyone would be interested in submitting a class, but I had too many other irons in the fire and begged off.

Later they asked me again, and after some negotiation on a topic at TNNA last year, we decided on an intarsia class (not my first choice, I wanted to do a plaid knitting class…)

The first producer assigned to me was very nice, and dealt with my oddities (I can’t speak – or rather, hear – clearly on the phone. I get confused very easily when someone calls me, especially if I don’t know their phone voice – I’m in the process of acquiring hearing aids, which is just – odd.)

But then my producer was changed and the new producer had no patience with my lack of phone ability, and with lightening speed (or so it seemed to me) I received this email, which broke my heart a little.

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 10.15.38 AM

So, the answer is that Craftsy won’t have me.

It makes me sad, and the week after I received this email I flew out to Denver to shoot a video for Interweave on Double Knitting (which has been doing really well in sales – yay!) That was a bit of a boost to my bruised ego.

My own online classes continue to do very well, although I’d love to re-shoot them soon with a higher resolution camera so they’re better to watch. A project for future! And I’m in the process of offering some classes via Udemy (right now I have a free how-to-knit class up at their website)

So when I see all of the news about Craftsy, the classes my friends are teaching, the Twitter and Facebook posts, I’m both very happy for my friends whose classes are doing well, and very sad that I’m not in their ranks.

I’d hesitated to blog openly about this, but so many questions have come to me (“Why can’t I take a class from you at Craftsy?” is the most popular query) that I thought I should try to explain. I hope I’ve been fair in my post!

And you’re always welcome to contact craftsy directly to let them know if you would like to take a class from me via their website.

I don’t honestly think it would make any difference, but it would have more of an effect than writing to me to tell me “You should teach a Craftsy class.!”

Desperately Seeking Groove

I’m certain it’s no secret to anyone who reads my blog or knows me that I’ve been battling with some pretty strong stuff for a while.

IMG_0385

Gerry & Jasper, BFFs

It’s not just Gerry – overall he’s doing well, his cancer return is being handled by Revlimid & Dex and we putter along as if we’re retired folks. He’s great on his own for short periods, but I do feel that I need to be here with him most of the time.

And it’s not just my Fibro – I deal with it, I suffer through it when the flare ups come (more often in Winter) and I hesitate to write about it much because, well, who needs the nasty comments about me ‘moaning about my health’

Keep those cards and letters coming folks!

I’m not certain exactly what’s been up, but I’ve felt like a hermit, a pariah, adrift and alone in the midsts of friends.

I know I’m not, I know exactly how fortunate I am, but handling the demons of self-doubt has been very difficult this past year. I question everything I do, I fear that I’m past any usefulness.

Yes, I realize what I’ve just written is a little dumb, and self pitying to boot.
Let’s just say it’s Wintertime, and the wallowing’s been easy.

After my radical hysterectomy (return with me now…) I was put on a blend of estrogen and testosterone. Although generally considered a male hormone, women’s ovaries produce trace amounts of testosterone, which is necessary for many things. Evidently self confidence and weight loss – at least in my case – are connected with Mr. T.

As I am no longer the bearer of a set of O’s (the procedure to remove them is called an ooectomy, which always makes me laugh) I produce neither estrogen nor testosterone.

But, insurance companies being what they are and our coverage being spotty for the past years, at some point my company stopped covering my estratest, then they wouldn’t cover the generic version of it, and then I had to go to a non-testosterone hormone replacement therapy (hrt)

Before anyone writes to tell me I shouldn’t be taking hrt, don’t bother –
Since I had a radical hystero, I will take hrt.

Had I my lovely ovaries, I probably would just deal with more holistic remedies.

After another marathon session of, “50 reasons why I hate myself” I realized that there was something going on that just wasn’t explicable. I battle depression, that’s not a secret, but this felt entirely different.

So I spoke with my doctor and she agreed to try to get me back on an estrogen / testosterone supplement, just to see how that would go.

No, the drug isn’t covered by my insurance, but I felt I really needed it.

The mechanics involved were insane – the drug is killer expensive – and I am grateful to WalGreens which has a pretty great drug club type thing that brings the cost to $30 for a 3-month supply.

After a few weeks I’m noticing a difference. I feel a bit less hopeless, more able to see clearly. I feel stronger mentally, more agile and less a constant ‘victim.’

I have NO idea if this is all in my head, if I’m experiencing some kind of testosterone placebo effect, or if it’s real. But I’ll take it.

I’ve been on radio silence for so long – hesitant to blog, to send emails, to communicate with many folks because I felt so weak (mentally and emotionally), so unable to cope.

IMG_0004The Winter That Will Not End wasn’t helping, but at least it’s pretty.

So this weekend I see a bunch of students at Yarn Over (the Minnesota Knitting Guild’s yearly AMAZING knit class / marketplace extravaganza) and I see a bunch of peers.

Seriously, Yarn Over is an event that is spectacular.

Outside of the knitting convention type of events like IK Knit Lab, Stitches or Vogue Knitting Live, this event brings in the most exciting teachers.

Yarn Over is the event at which I taught in 2006 when I ‘met’ Minnesota for the first time and determined to move my family here.  Ironically, it was then held at Arlington High in St. Paul – which is now called Washington High – and which is where my son Max is a student!

IMG_2140One more ‘moving to MN sidebar’

At the Yarn Over Teacher Dinner back in 2006 there was a prom group at the restaurant. They were SO happy, everyone all together as a group, not terribly “datey” or money centered (limos, etc.)

I remember thinking, “This is what I want for Hannah, a prom that is FUN, not an explosion of $$ and broken hearts…”

And this past weekend at her Perpich Gala, that is what my dear daughter got – a lovely dance with great friends – a dance that ANY kid would love.

Seeing my peers at an event like Yarn Over is always wonderful, sometimes scary, and I’m interested to see how my pathway out of confusion and darkness helps me interact better with folks that – true or not – I feel judge me.  Peer review, it’s the name of the game in any industry.

I’ve been pondering the concept of passion. For whatever reason, I feel I’ve misplaced mine, so I am trying to line up a series of interviews with other knit folks about PASSION.

If I happen to see you at Yarn Over and drag you into a corner and ask you to give me 15 words on what excites you, please play along – I’d appreciate it!

And if you’re not a member of the MN Knitting Guild, you SHOULD be! You can only take Yarn Over classes if you are, but you can register at the event and I know that I still have places in my knitting with wire class.  Bonus – you’ll leave class with a lovely bracelet, and the ability to create many more for Springtime graduation/Mother’s Day/May Day gifts!

Upcoming Projects

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With a darning needle create a skeleton of the flower shape.

It’s been an insanely busy few months, I sold a huge number of designs recently, and I’ve been knitting most of them up myself (I’m crazy fast, and I’ve been dealing with communication issues [my hearing is worsening, it makes me shy to communicate with anyone on some days] which makes me hesitant to contract knitters right now)

Things are flying off my needles and into the US mail so quickly I’ve broken three circular needles this week – no exaggeration! I’m very hard on my needles, this week is proof.

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Fill each wedge section with satin stitch, working from the center out

Six of the projects are for a magazine that’s under wraps, so I can’t speak about them except to say they’re lovely. Two are men’s pieces and embroidery is involved in several of the women’s pieces.

Pansies and a sort of Art Nouveau vine are the embroidered motifs for a matching set – here’s a brief tutorial on mistressing* a satin stitch flower which can easily become a pansy (or a rose, or daisy, or some other flower!)

You can see that I used my favorite technique of creating a knitted grid of rev St st rows and slipped st columns,

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Don’t worry if the outer edges are uneven!

This makes placement of the embroidered motifs much easier!

After the satin stitch pansy is finished, I outline it with surface chain embroidery, then I use the ends of the outline thread to tie a few French knots for some texture.

 

IMG_0007Spending so much time on knitting, I forget how much I love embroidery.

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Before the outlining, the pansy looks rough.

These projects are for an issue of Piecework, so I’m certain their readership will have no problem with some simple satin stitch, chain stitch and French knots!

Capelet

I’m also working up a few pieces for the next issue of Jane Austen Knits, I feel so fortunate to be part of this great collection again!

I look like I just got back from the Arctic.

I look like I just got back from the Arctic.

I just finished a short capelet using A Verb For Keeping Warm‘s lovely Annapurna in Indigo Blue Sky and Magic Bean.

The green ruffles look like lettuce, and the blue reminds me of Peter Rabbit’s coat, so I’d love it if they called this design “Soporific” (but it’s not going to happen!)

As with most true indigos, this one bleeds. (It washes off, though, making the suds in the sink a beautiful blue color…)

It was a delightful knit, making me feel that I should work up more shawls.  I also am GIDDY that I don’t need to work up multiple sizes!

A peek!  The green ruffles have a lot of stitches, the largest with 918 at the widest part. Be warned!

“It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is ‘soporific’.”
― Beatrix Potter, The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies

Pelisse

A lovely early 19th C garment, called a Pelisse, is the next up on the needles. I can’t show you an image, but here’s the extremely amazing yarn (Ensemble and Beaded Silk by Artyarns) that I will be diving into later today.

Ensemble (in green) and Beaded Silk (cream & brown) will be used in the Pelisse.

Ensemble (in green) and Beaded Silk (cream & brown) will be used in the Pelisse.

I haven’t even opened the box of Sweet Georgia yarn that arrived for a Twist Collective garment, or the yarn for a cardigan for Interweave Knits.

I’m lucky – and how odd it is that while I’m in the midsts of all this work my mind constantly wanders into a place where I feel – well – not worth much.  I think it’s the Winter that will not end.

And spending too much time with Twitter & Facebook can cause envy,
there are days when I just turn them off so I don’t sulk.

*Yes, I like to use the work ‘mistressing’ I’m a rebel. And a heretic.

Anatomy of a Knit Design II

Busy, busy, busy! But busy is DEFINITELY better than the alternative!

Virgo’s Horoscope (Aug 23 – Sep 22)
by Rick Levine

Sunday, April 7, 2013 – Running willy-nilly into the day by doing one thing after another may not be the best use of your vivid imagination today. You are in the midst of a busy time, and the more structure you give to your calendar, the more time you have for fun and relaxation. You won’t have to sidestep any of your responsibilities, but you need to cultivate your creativity if you want to do it all.

Well, I don’t know about ‘doing it all’ – but I certainly want to get it ALL done!

Oy, it’s been an insanely busy time, a good time, but very busy.

Spring is always a little crazy because the magazines are preparing their Fall & Winter issues, which means a lot of colliding deadlines.  I’m sure that as crazed as I feel with 16 designs on the needles right now, the yarn companies are feeling even MORE pinched for time!

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Louet yarn for a BIG project – multi colored!

Every time the mailman comes by with another package I feel a mix of excitement (oooh, what yarn is it THIS time!?) and dread (oh, I hope they sent a yarn that’s easy to work with!)

The kids are totally OVER rolling yarn for me, it’s no longer fun or profitable at 25¢ a ball.

Yarn selection is a huge part of any design, and a lot of knitters would be interested to discover how little control designers have over most yarn selections.

The Dream

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Some beautiful Madeline Tosh for an upcoming Interweave issue – my yarn choice – yay!

A designer sketches up a lovely sweater, drops their hand into a basket at their side and pulls out the PERFECT yarn for the project, knits up a complete and perfect swatch in the first attempt, sends it off to an editor who says, “YES! We MUST have this!” and the perfect yarn and lovely sweater are married in a public ceremony on the pages of your favorite knitting magazine.

The Reality

A designer gets a call for submissions and after perusing the styles / colors / themes for the specific issue at hand has a few different ideas floating around in their head.

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NOT the yarn or colors I’d expected,
but I kind of like them!

They do about a dozen sketches, each one with a variation on the theme of the issue, until some of them resonate with the designer.

The designer riffles through their working yarn collection (I keep my yarns in separate IKEA containers in bookshelves in my basement – er – office).  Every now and then I have to ‘harvest’ yarns that are no longer available (it’s useless to swatch something for a magazine if the yarn isn’t going to be available!) and contact yarn companies to send me a few balls of their new yarns.

This has become harder as more and more folks seem to be entering the designer fold and ask yarn companies for yarn.  Some companies outright refuse to send sample balls any more, they’ve just been overwhelmed with yarn requests.

With a selection of several yarns that MAY work for the sketch, the designer begins swatching.  So many elements go into this part of the process; is the motif a repeating one? If so, how many stitches repeat? Is it going to be too hard? Too simple (boring)? Is it memorable?

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So how exactly DID I do this?

As the swatch is worked, notes and mini charts are sketched up.  I can’t say how many times I’ve worked up the PERFECT swatch only to be faced with it in future with NO memory of how I actually created that pattern.

These days I draw a chart either in illustrator, or very quickly on my ipad using Procreate, then save it with a scan of the swatch in my database so I can access it (and remember it) easily.

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or this…?

I put the swatch and sketch together, along with any design notes, and send it off to the editor. 

The Dream

In the perfect world the design is accepted, the editor contacts me and asks me which yarn I’d like to use.  I suggest a company, they say, “Perfect!” and the yarn arrives within the week and the sweater’s finished by the following Friday.  This happened recently with a design in Lorna’s Laces, and I was the happiest girl in the Twin Cities!

The Reality

In the real world the design may be accepted, at which point the editor may or may not contact me to ask my advice on yarn.

The editor must juggle the need to use the yarns of advertisers (it only makes sense!) and the need to use a wide variety of yarns in different fibers, price ranges, textures, etc.

Plus they have to fit whatever yarn they choose into their issue palette (finding the right yarn in the right color is harder than one would think)

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Freia yarn I would use for ANYTHING!
And I can’t wait to get started with it!!

Sometimes an editor will just go with what I’ve suggested, which is great – and also forces me to OWN the yarn choice and make it work no matter what.

Other times the editor will suggest a different yarn, and contact me for my opinion and to help with color selection.  This is always welcome, I love having some input into the final design.

But often a box of mystery yarn will just appear on my doorstep, with no hint of which garment, issue or magazine it’s to be used for.  Emails are sent, clarification is achieved, and sometimes it’s a shock to see what yarns/colors have actually been chosen for a garment.

I’ve never been in a position where I thought the chosen yarn wouldn’t work at ALL, but I have been close (not for a long time, though – thankfully!)  Once two different yarns arrived for the SAME garment when wires were crossed at the magazine and two folks did the sourcing. Hilarity ensued.

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Louet Gems worked as a flower for a millinery trim
for a issue of Piecework.

The Dream

Back in my perfect world, I have PLENTY of yarn in the right color, all dye lots match, and I’m able to knit up the piece so quickly my needles catch fire.

The Reality

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Anzula yarn on hold for a future WONDERFUL project!

In the real world, often I barely have enough yarn for some projects (this is as much my fault as anyone else’s because often I come up with the yarn requirements – something I’m not as good at as I’d like…) 

There may be dye lot issues (why this should be I do not know, but it’s happened three times in the past month – it’s an annoyance) and I either have to get new yarn all in the same dyelot, or deal work around the problem in some creative way (sleeves in one lot, front in another, back in a third – the difference is usually so small that it’s not noticeable and can be easily corrected in pre-press.)

And that, my dear readers, is the yarn acquisition portion of a commissioned hand knit/crocheted design.

Next I’ll write about the process of actually knitting up a sample garment, and keeping track of the instructions/changes as I work through the design.