I LIVE For Days Like This!

Nothing special – nobody’s birthday, nothing very interesting happening, but it just seems like it will be a good, hard working day.  My horoscope agrees!

Virgo’s Horoscope (Aug 23 – Sep 22)
by Rick Levine
Friday, February 15, 2013 – You’re operating within your intellectual comfort zone today and you are confident because you know how to apply your expertise. Your belief that you’re being useful is your idea of heaven, because you know exactly what you’re doing and you feel empowered by your contribution. Make the most of this positive time by working hard and being productive.

Louet Yarn

Louet Yarn

Yarn is arriving thick and fast for several designs I’ve recently sold. This waiting period after submitting designs is the hardest part – all of the second guessing is exhausting!

Did I send the right design to the right editor? Would Editor X have reacted better to Design Q than Editor Y seems to have responded?

Mad Tosh!

Mad Tosh!

I’m still waiting to hear from a few editors, and it’s scary to agree to take on every piece of work that comes my way (what if I overbook myself?) and scarier to turn it down (what if I never sell another design?) 

Yes, these are silly but real fears, the fears of every free lancer. As one independent contractor once said, “When you free lance, every day is a work day, and every day is a weekend.”

Another once told me, “The worst thing about going free lance is you’re afraid to turn down work – ever!”

IMG_0012But, fears aside, today is a WORK day!

THE BOOKS HAVE ARRIVED!!

I’ve ordered enough books to fulfill my Kickstarter contributor obligations, and those will be the FIRST books to send out! There are upwards of 200 books to ship, so this will take a bit of time (especially as next week is full with 2 teaching dates and a trip to California for Stitches West – just for booksignings, not classes)

But I’ll do it!  We have a long weekend coming, up and two strong children! We also have a Chinese exchange student coming for the weekend (via a program at Hannah’s school) but it just seems wrong to put her to work. At least the first day.

St Paul Snow Beauty

St Paul Snow Beauty

Well – we were TOLD to treat her
like one of our own kids…

Seriously, though, we have some great activities planned for this weekend for Angelina – snow tubing, a visit to the Mill City Museum, a walk through our winter wonderland of Minnehaha Park, the Mall of America.  Just stuff, hopefully it will be fun for her!

I had received books a few weeks ago, but unfortunately they had the wrong cover (the source of the mix-up is unclear, but it was obvious we  couldn’t use those books…) so there’s been a bit of delay in getting these out, and I am SO happy to finally see them in person.

NOW IT FEELS REAL!!

If you purchase a copy of History On Two Needles, you’ll ALSO get the ebook (which comes as a pdf file and is just BEAUTIFUL – I have it on my ipad and I just gaze at it for hours…) 

And, as always, the patterns are available individually if only one or two of them pique your interest.

Giveaway
Now – who would like a free book?  Yep, you guessed it, leave a comment below and I’ll choose one person at random and ship them the book.

In your comment, tell me which historical era is your favorite – I love to know those sorts of things!  I’ll announce and contact the winner when I get back from Stitches (Tues, 2/26) and the book will ship shortly after that!  Good luck!

Anatomy of the Hand Knit Design Process

Winter’s supposed to be slow and draggy, but this has been an incredibly busy few weeks.

For the past 6 months I disengaged from submitting designs to any magazine while I finished History on Two Needles. When it was finally ‘in the can’ just before Christmas I discovered I was just a bit too late to submit to a few magazines I’d really been hoping to get into.

So I submitted late – I’m still waiting to hear if I may have struck it lucky – but I’m not holding my breath.

However, I did just hear that 5 designs were accepted for a theme driven publication (very exciting!) and I have designs out to 4 other publications right now on which I’m waiting to hear the outcome.

The ability to submit electronically is one of the great boons of our modern publishing era, but not every editor can accept electronic submissions. I’m fortunate in that I’ve built up a large enough body of work with various editors that when I submit something, the recipient usually has a good idea of what they will receive. This makes electronic submissions more feasible than it might be for someone who is be submitting for the first or second time to a publication.

That submission marked the beginning of a 4 week period when I was either swatching, sketching, researching, or driving (to California and back) and BOY are my arms tired.

THE PROCESS

Submitting A Design

Submitting designs to a magazine is a time consuming process. Every designer is different, but for me most of the work is research; looking up current fashion trends, experimenting with stitch patterns to create fabric with the right drape, spending time looking at compelling images from nature, science, the arts – anything that can get my mind moving.

If the entity I’m submitting to has a theme, I research that as well. I’ll watch movies or TV shows that are part of the theme, read books or reviews of articles, check out websites (I am particularly fond of Jane Austen’s World)

I love using Pinterest to store my research and find new sources of inspiration. I know there’s been some contention about Pinterest, but I find it to be an amazing tool and I love using it.

Once I have an idea, I do one of three things:

  • Multi Drape Kimono Schematic

    Multi Drape Kimono Schematic

    Create a rough sketch
    This helps me work through details that I might not have thought out in full; how will it close? what shape is the collar? are the sleeves full length or a variation? Is the back an entirely different pattern?

  • Multi Drape Kimono

    Multi Drape Kimono

    Create a measured sketch (schematic)
    This is helpful if the design is unusual in it’s shaping, like my Multi Drape Kimono featured in the premiere issue of Knit.Wear from Interweave Knits

  • Miliary Spencer research from the Kyoto Institute

    Spencer from the Kyoto Institute

    Find research that takes the place of a rough sketch
    If I can find a created piece from a different era that has the same detail and shaping I want to accomplish in my knit garment, I’m happy to use it as a basis for a more finished sketch.

Once I’ve done at least one of the above steps, I look for a yarn I think would knit up well and create the drape I like.  I also look for a good stitch pattern, this usually goes hand in hand with finding a yarn.

Stitch pattern seen at Opitz Outlet in St. Louis Park

Lovely stitch pattern seen at Opitz Outlet in St. Louis Park

I sometimes find stitch patterns in the most unlikely places, I’ve photographed bricks, walkways, the garments of passers-by, woven fabrics, clouds, tide patterns in the sand; ANYTHING that gives me the rhythmic feeling I’m looking for in my stitch pattern.

RS & WS of a slip stitch pattern worked in Malabrigo & Lorna's Laces Pearl.

RS & WS of a slip stitch pattern worked in Malabrigo & Lorna’s Laces Pearl.

The amount of time I spend  swatching, photographing and ripping out is difficult to quantify. By simply fiddling around I am able to get a good sense of what the yarn WANTS to do, and how to best compel it to work the way I’d like!

Recently I’ve been playing with slipped stitch patterns, I love to juxtapose a multicolor variegated yarn with a dark neutral or black, and here’s a stitch pattern I’ve come up with which looks just as interesting from the right side as the wrong side.

When I have all the pieces; my sketch, swatch, a schematic if I feel it would be useful and any other details, I create a composite image to send electronically to an editor.

Military Spencer; finished sketch & research

Military Spencer; finished sketch & research

I use Photoshop magic to recreate the appearance of an all-over pattern on my garment by isolating an area from the swatch and recreating it in my computer sketch (here’s a link to a previous blog post from 2011 on my swatching & photoshopping process)

Recently I’ve been using an iPad application called Procreate, which I’m absolutely in LOVE with! It’s brought back a great deal of my joy of sketching and has made me love my iPad even more!

Then I send in the sketch and swatch and hope for the best!

Design Non Acceptance

If my design isn’t accepted, the chances are good I’ll never hear. Often I have to contact an editor to double check that a design is open to submit to a different publication. This can be infuriating, as some magazines insist that you DO NOT CONTACT THEM for six months after submitting.

That’s great for them, but since it’s considered very bad form to submit the same design to more than one publication at a time, this ties up a time-sensitive design and makes submitting problematic. The sheer number of designs I need to come up with to satisfy multiple submission dates (usually occurring within the same 2 week period) can be frustrating. Often I’m left wondering if Design A would be more likely to be accepted by Publication X, Y or Z, and it ends up as a type of crap shoot.

Thoughtful editors will let a designer know in a timely manner which designs aren’t being seriously considered. I’m absolutely cool with an editor holding a design for a while, even if they decide that ultimately it’s not for them. What’s infuriating is when they hold every design submitted for the full 6 months, then accept none of them. But I find it’s rare to run into an editor who works this way.

Design Acceptance

If my design is accepted, the editor will be in touch to offer or ask suggestions on which yarn might work well (they have editorial and advertising considerations, so I don’t always get my first choice of yarn!) and we’ll set a design fee and a due date for the garment.

Contract

I’ll receive a contract outlining all of these details, plus the disposition of my design after the publication date; Who will own the rights? Will the pattern be for sale at the publication website? If so, how will the profits be divided? These are VERY important questions and must be addressed.

New designers are usually too excited when they have a design accepted to bother about the details, but they should! Contract reading is as important a skill for a hand knit designer as sketching, swatching and coming up with good ideas!

Designer fees haven’t increased much in the past 30 years, more’s the pity, and publishers sometimes count on the eagerness of a designer to see themselves published to keep the fees low.

At this point in the process there are already hours of work, perhaps a dozen, invested in a design, and that doesn’t even begin to count the hours spent knitting – or the fee paid to a knitter to work up the garment. All of this time has to be compensated in some way (financial isn’t the only reasonable compensation, but it’s an important one!)

Chosen Yarn - I was allowed to pick my own, which is a lovely luxury!

Chosen Yarn – I was allowed to pick my own, so I chose Jared Flood’s Shelter, which was a lovely luxury!

Yarn Day!

Then the yarn arrives, and it’s an exciting day! If I’ve hired a knitter I’ll swatch up the stitch pattern and double check the instructions I’ve already written based on my schematic and my swatching yarn.

This is the point where it’s vital to get in touch with the editor if there seems to be any problem with the yarn. If the end result isn’t going to be possible because of a misunderstanding about the fiber properties, it’s best to get it settled as soon as possible!

Knitting The Sample Garment

Once everything is squared away with the yarn and pattern, a package of information and materials is sent to my knitter, or I’ll undertake to knit the garmet myself.

Finished Design

Finished Design

I much prefer to knit my own garments when possible. This allows me to discover any tips or shortcuts that may make knitting the garment easier and more enjoyable. After all, we don’t just knit things to have a lovely piece when we’re finished, we knit to make ourselves HAPPY! I can tell when I knit a pattern that’s been thoughtfully written to include good, intelligent design choices. I try to accomplish this with my own patterns, I don’t know if I always succeed!

When the garment is finished I like to block it with steam using my favorite Scuncii Steamer, and then I photograph it on my mannequin, on my daughter or on a friend, in great detail, so I have a record of the design.

Shipping

It’s always a good idea to label the sample clearly with the designer name, the publication, the editor and a return address. The number of samples I’ve never received back is truly staggering. Each publication will have different shipping requests, some prefer a certain shipper, some use an account number, some want the designer to pay the shipping and may or may not reimburse this expense. I always insure my package, even if it’s not required by the publication.

Publication

In all honesty, by the time a design is published it’s a bit of a fading memory! I get excited when I happen upon one of my designs, remembering how much I loved working it up!

Published Pattern, Jane Austen Knits Issue 1

Published Pattern, Jane Austen Knits Issue 1

Of course, this amnesia also means that I have a hard time staying on top of my invoices, making certain I’ve been paid (or that I’ve even sent one OUT!) which is embarrassing to admit. I use a database to keep track of when I’m paid for a design (usually upon publication), how much, the check number, etc., but it’s easy to let it get away from me.

Questions & Corrections

When questions about the pattern roll in, which they inevitably do, some publications prefer for me to forward the questions to their tech department for answering. Since they’ve the last set of eyes to see the pattern, and may have made changes in my original worksheet numbers, this makes sense. Often questions are based on a misreading of a pattern (it can be confusing to read ANY pattern!) but sometimes there’s a problem with the pattern that must be addressed.

Now that Ravelry is ubiquitous, it makes it easy to upload a correction to a pattern that I sell from my own website. Otherwise, knitters need to check the publication’s website – or the designer’s errata page – to discover if there are any updates to a pattern they’ve purchased.

A note about contacting me. Email is best. I don’t make it to Ravelry as often as I probably should.

And that is the short version of submitting and creating a hand knit design. I haven’t even touched on dealing with various styles in magazines, sizing a pattern from XXS to XXL, and the other parts that take up so much of a designer’s time. Have I mentioned that design fees haven’t gone up much in the past 30 years..?

 

The most WONDERFUL women in the world…

just happened to be in Minnesota for a great weekend of knitting, eating (OMG!) and SO much laughter!

Somehow it transpired that 13 of the funniest, nicest women came to Minnesota for the ModeKnit Fall Retreat, and it was a terrific time!  The knitting was nice, but the relaxing was the REAL goal of the weekend.

Everywhere I turned litte  groups were chatting like old friends and ravelry names were being shared! Folks were knitting, resting, swimming or relaxing in the whirlpool or having seconds of tamari Salmon.

One of the most interesting aspects of the weekend was how healthy and inclusive the food was –most of it was gluten free, much was dairy free and vegetarian was achieved in every meal deliciously. Kathleen is an amazing cook – she used to do catering – and I feel fortunate to have her as my friend and my chef for these retreats!

London – www.myfriendlondon.com – is known to many of you as a supreme dyer of yarn and crafty woman.] She’s also an amazing friend and helped me organize the event, created the goody bags and acted as assistant to Kathleen.

Our own Beryl and Daisy!

We learned about simple Double Knitting, worked up a little bag, did a lot of laughing and – most memorable for me – ate incredibly delicious food as if there were no tomorrow.

Kathleen & London, my two partners in crime, cooked and organized and worked their butts off.  I was frankly astounded either of them had any butts left, after all the work we did.

I can’t say that I’ll do the retreat again – my own energy level was so poor and pain levels so high that I had to go lay down for a rest a few times, which made me feel very guilty – but if I do have a 2013 Retreat, there’s no way I could do it without Kathleen and London!

[we missed you very much, Heather & Bekka!]

Hey, Remember Me?

Sorry I ducked out for a week – life is INCREDIBLY BUSY.

GIGS

It’s going to be a VERY full Autumn and Winter for me!  I’m taking on as much teaching as I think I can handle, fibromyalgia and keeping the home fires burning notwithstanding, so if you want to catch me here are your best chances!

There are also 2 spaces left in my Fall Minnesota Retreat on Oct 19-21, it will be a very homey, warm, fun time with double knitting as our theme and FUN as our goal!

TECH HISTORY

My Sketch of Tissot’s Painting

History on Two Needles (when tweeting use hashtag #HoTN) is coming along BEAUTIFULLY!

All of the photography is finished, the layout is looking good – hopefully not confusing, just well balanced and easy to follow – and the tech editing is some of the happiest I’ve ever been involved in.

I work / design / write differently from many folks.  This isn’t unusual, being individual types of folks, we ALL tend to do some things our own way.  My own unusual style of knitting (Combination Knitting) is the source of some of my differences as a pattern writer, but even more pertinent is my feeling that just about anyone who invests money and time into buying yarn and a pattern is committed and intelligent enough to NOT be talked down to.

My problem with many knitting patterns is that they both talk down to a knitter (spelling some things out in painful detail, which can be more confusing than a clear illustration) while at the same time they sail over many knitter’s heads (using terms and making assumptions about things that ‘everybody knows!’ when – in fact – everybody may NOT know some of the unmentioned stuff…)

London in London in Tissot

My friend London wearing the finished Tissot Shrug

Often I’ll send a pattern in for tech editing and I’ll get back an unrecognizable set of pages with math fixed (thank you!) and verbiage changed (no, thank you…) for no good reason except it doesn’t fit into a ‘style.’

I will take clarity over style any day!

97% of tech eds I know are GREAT, most tech editors I work with are the unsung hero(ines) of any knitting publication, making patterns readable and usable by knitters and getting little more than grief and headaches for their hard work!

But there are a very few editors whose contempt for my unorthodox way of explaining things is palpable when I read their comments.  Or when I see what they’ve crossed out and changed (which speaks louder than any comments can!)

Most annoying is the rare tech ed who will begin changing things before reading through an entire pattern.  Among this narrow sub set are the very, very few who will email me with problems and changes before they’ve read to the end of a pattern.

This is beyond annoying, and I’ve learned to just ignore those first few emails because, eventually, I will get one that reads, “Oh!  I got to the 3rd page of your pattern and NOW I understand why you explained X like this and Y like that!”

But enough of my complaining.  As I’ve said above, most tech editors I work with are amazing, and my goal here is not to damn the hard-working lot of them.

My goal here is to praise the amazing tech ed I’m currently working with.  Or with whom I’m currently working.  I’ll leave that stuff to someone else…

Tech editing en route

Kate Atherley is well known in the knitting community as Wise Hilda, but I hadn’t worked so intimately with her before Shannon Okey at Cooperative Press fixed us up to work on History on Two Needles.

I love working with Kate.

She gets it.

Kate gets that I write about knitting things in an unusual way, that I use different terminology (and she doesn’t try to change it!) and she’s not just okay with it, she is 100% along for the ride!

Or, maybe 95% along for the ride, but she doesn’t try to make me turn off unless she REALLY needs a bathroom break.

Kate’s math is right on, she catches great mistakes without making me feel like a great moron, and is quick as a wink.

I love working with Kate.

This book has taken me over 4 years to complete, not in small part because I couldn’t find [was scared to look for] a tech editor who wouldn’t make me feel like the knitting equivalent of a wild-eyed, bomb throwing anarchist who can’t add.

Kate makes me feel like a slightly eccentric, differently-seeing designer who makes understandable math errors every now and then.  No bombs involved.

Hm, 2 ‘bomb’ references…
My blog is now being monitored
by the Dept of Homeland Security…

And that, my friends, is the difference between respect and finger wagging (from both sides) and I love working with Kate for this reason.

THE GIVEAWAY

We’re talking about the brown skein at the bottom

I have one more skein of Buffalo Wool that I’m willing to part with!  I have a nice stash of it that I’m using for a few designs, the skeins I’m parting with are exceptional yarn that I can’t use in a design, or have been discontinued.

My hope is that when you win this yarn you’ll knit it up, talk about it, blog about it, show it off and bring in more converts to the Buffalo Gold Cult Family.

This is a GOOD one!

It’s Buffalo Gold #11 Laceweight, 400 yds/50gr, 100% American Bison Down.  You will fall in LOVE with this.

It must be used for something amazing.  Let me know what you want to knit up with this, and you may be the lucky winner!

 

Knit Edge Subscription Giveaway!

I TOLD you all I had a lot of stuff to giveaway!

I was gifted with an iPad this past Mother’s Day, and the more I use it, the more I wonder how I did without it!  I keep my pattern charts on it, do my email, write my blog and – best of all – carry around DOZENS of full color knit & crochet magazines and books.  It’s a beautiful thing!

As much as I’d love to give away an iPad (or a kindle, or some other e-reader type of gizmo) I can’t.  My giveaway budget isn’t quite large enough to make that kind of magic happen.  Sad trombone.

Please note, Apple, that I would be HAPPY to give away
ANY product you’d like me to, call me…

Premiere Issue
(NOT included in subscription)

HOWEVER I can give away a magazine subscription to the fabulous new knitting e-magazine, Knit Edge

NOTE: YOU DO NOT REQUIRE AN IPAD TO READ KNIT EDGE, IT’S AVAILABLE IN PDF FORMAT!

Knit Edge is published by Cooperative Press, and the first issue features my rainbow sweater, Lopi Pride*.

I’m very excited to be part of Knit Edge, and look forward to future issues!

So here’s the thing, you can WIN a one year subscription to Knit Edge (3 issues, not including issue #1)  by simply leaving a comment below and telling me WHAT you would most like to see in a knitting magazine that you’re not seeing now.

I’ll pick one winner at random, and announce it on Wednesday around dinner time (how’s THAT for vague?)

If you ‘re not the lucky winner, fear not!  You can still be a winner…

Use the code “modeknit” when ordering Knit Edge and receive $1 off a yearly subscription.  You have until July 31 to take advantage of this code.

Additionally, one other lucky person, also chosen at random, who subscribes to Knit Edge and uses the code “modeknit” when checking out, will have their entire subscription fee refunded.  Too cool, huh?

Three ways to win!

So it’s not exactly an iPad, but it’s nothing to sneeze at, either!

*The pattern for Lopi Pride will be available for individual purchase at my website, anniemodesitt.com, this Fall

New Stuff, New Outlooks

I feel amazingly energized.

This has been one of those weeks when many, many good things happened, and I am very grateful!

#1 FIVE Years

It’s been 5 years since we were told that someone at Gerry’s stage of Multiple Myeloma probably had about 1-2 years.  That’s a 3-year win (and we are shooting for 30!)

Every day truly is a gift.  The fact that we all fully understand that just makes it sweeter.

Life is, indeed good.

#2 History on Two Needles Kickstart Project

I’ve been working on this book for almost the full aforementioned 5 years – and maybe Gerry’s health & recovery are part of the reason I’ve been dawdling.

But it’s time to crack down, get these projects & patterns finished, and get this book published!  With help from Cooperative Press AND my amazing backers who are helping through Kickstarter, it’s going to happen!

A Kickstarter project isn’t funded if you the goal isn’t met, so I aimed low.  My original goal was $8999 (still just a portion of the cost to produce a book), but I chickened out and went for $4999.

With the help of 100 backers, I reached that goal in 2 days (WOW!)

I will CONTINUE to raise funds until July 9th (I wanted to keep fundraising during TNNA) so go – look at my project – and consider becoming a backer!  I have some lovely rewards for folks… You can get one of the first printed books at less than the retail will be!

All funds raised will go directly into making this the best and most beautiful book possible!

#3 Car Loss / Car Gain

I love my PT Cruiser, you all know that.

I’ve loved it from the day I got it 7 years ago.  It’s been a damned good car.

But after a rather upsetting visit with our mechanic (many things hover at the point of fail, including the timing belt – ouch!) and realizing the PT can be hard to drive (terrible sight lines) we decided it was time for a change.

Last year an accident took our beloved Elantra Wagon, and we’ve been a relatively happy one-car family since then. (Have I mentioned that I bike?)

So we decided to return to what had worked for us – back to an Elantra!  As we signed the paperwork I told Gerry, “You DO realize this means you’re committing to being HERE for 10 years, right?”

A plain, sensible, 120K warranteed DARK GREY Elantra.

It’s a boring car.  But the fact we’re doing this speaks volumes about our hope levels.

#4 Bike Gain

To make parting with my Purple PT more palatable, part of the trade in was a gift card for a 7100 Trek bike from Penn Cycle (what the..?!)

I’m not complaining, as obviously I am the designated bike-ee.  I loved my old schwinn, but I will not miss it one bit.

The bike, I am happy to report, is BLUE.

So now we’re driving a different car, and I’m tooling around on a new bike.

And I miss my PT cruiser, but not half as much as I’d worry about Hannah driving it.

#5 Perfect Rose Cake

I’m the only one in our household who REALLY likes rose flavored stuff, but that’s okay.  I’m also the only gluten free chickie.

I perfected the walnut/rose cake this week, and have enjoyed it’s GF goodness for days.

A small thing, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve had unlimited cake – YUM!  I can’t do this all the time, but it’s been fun for a week!

For anyone who’s interested, here’s a link to a pdf file of the recipe.

#6 Refocusing

This may be the biggest of all.

I’m listening to a great audiobook about Roald Dahl (The Irregulars) and the British spy ring in WWII Washington.  It’s absolutely FASCINATING, and a casual reference to the fact that most spies were recruited between the ages of 50 and 60 hit me like a blast of fresh air.

I’ve been feeling SO old, so worn out, so sick and aching and feeling SO sorry for myself (not on purpose, I’ve been trying hard to shake it!)  It’s about time I moved ahead.

Hearing this one sentence made me feel – worthwhile? – again. In conjunction with a reading of  Madeleine Albright’s excellent book, Madame Secretary, I’ve been able to find a bit of perspective.

This was a refocusing that I needed, a looking ahead instead of looking behind.

In other news, I’m looking into a different kind of rear view mirror for my bike.  I’m trying the kind that attaches to the helmet – watch for updates…

Kickstart History on Two Needles

Well, it’s live.  I’m committed.  I’m asking folks for money, and that means I WILL have a book to produce for them!

I’m KICKSTARTING History on Two Needles!

 

It’s certain taken me long enough!

When I think that I produced 3 knitting books in 2 years (Twist & Loop, Romantic Hand Knits & Men Who Knit) and that it’s taken me 4 years to get this one to the point it’s at now – well, it’s worthy of consideration.

But first, a word from my favorite online astrologer, Rick Levine, which sort of sums up how I’m feeling today.

Virgo’s Horoscope (Aug 23 – Sep 22)

Saturday, May 26, 2012 – Perhaps a practical idea starts as a flash in a dream or even as a persistent daydream. Maybe something catches in the diaphanous web of your imagination, making you feel as if you are recovering a lost treasure from unknown realms.

Normally, you are very logical, yet now it’s wise to set aside your need for rationality. Keep open to any messages that come from your subconscious, even if they aren’t understandable right away.

History on Two Needles began long ago, as a class assignment in grad school.  The object was to take a period painting and design a piece of modern dress off of it. It was great fun, and something I’d kicked around once I moved back to hand knit design as a career in 2000.

But I didn’t actually start putting together research for the book until late 2006, when we were in the process of moving to Minnesota.

We all know what happened that first year in St. Paul – just getting by, just getting my current assignments and teaching engagements fulfilled (without bursting into tears) was my goal, and I set HoTN aside for a bit.

Each time I returned to it (and I never really let it go) it was with a sense of guilt that I was taking so long.

One of the great lessons of this process has been that guilt is, indeed, a useless emotion.  Or, rather, holding ONTO guilt is useless.

Guilt can be used like a shove out of a snowbank, but it’s as useless to cling to guilt as it is to try to push a car down a highway.

I’ve spent a lot of time pushing this car.  Obviously what was needed was a mechanic with a tow truck to help me fix what was holding me up.  Enter Cooperative Press (run by my good friend Shannon Okey, a force of nature)  CP will be publishing History on Two Needles, and as an author it’s an exciting proposition because it’s as close to self-publishing as I can get with the hand-holding that only a publisher can provide.

A book like this can be expensive to produce, which was one of the things holding me back.  Some museums have been gracious enough to allow the use of their work for a credit line or a very small fee.  I’ve also found a number of the images I want to use on pay-for-image sites, taken at a gallery (with permission) by gifted amateurs who are willing to license their work for a small fee.

I, myself, have been fortunate enough to have been able to visit some sites where I was able to photograph statues & carvings.

But some museums and galleries charge heftier fees to use research materials, and of course these happen to be among the most important images in the book.

Then there’s color printing (which is expensive) and advertising (also pricey) which has to be considered.  The entire financial burden can’t fall to CP – they’re a startup, too!

Which is why I’m KICKSTARTING the project!

With most excellent tech editor Kate Atherley (Wise Hilda) I’m making sense of the computerized chicken scratchings that make up most of the patterns and worksheets.  Thankfully I’ve kept pretty good records of every step I’ve taken, but I’ve also gone through several computer upgrades in the past 4 years.

It’s astounding how many hours I spend opening files that are in the ‘wrong format’.  I’ve gone through three separate writing/book layout software applications in the course of this – not because I didn’t like any of them, but because it’s taken so long that my apps keep going obsolete!  This is one of the unanticipated consequences of taking so danged long to get this book finished!

This is going to be a hard few months, pushing through and getting this thing published in time to get into stores (and hands, and onto ipads & kindles & onto knitting needles!) before Christmas!  But I work well under a deadline, and I’m motivated to get this thing done!

After all, I already have so many ideas for HoTN II…

Finding The Mistake

Mistakes happen.

Every now and then before one of my classes gets going, or during a break, someone will bring up the eternal question, “Why are there mistakes in patterns?”

And the answer is; Because patterns are made, figured, checked and printed by HUMAN BEINGS.  It’s our nature to be imperfect, that’s what makes us human.

Telling a knitter, “it’s not about perfection, but about dealing gracefully with imperfection…” is NOT the most helpful way to get someone past a frustrating point in their pattern, though.  So I try to hold back on the philosophizing when I’m actually in the midsts of getting someone over a pattern misunderstanding or mistake!

At this point I shouldn’t be astounded at how mistakes can creep into a pattern during the editing process, or how many mistakes I, myself, toss into the mix with stupid math errors, but every time it happens I’m a little blown away.

It’s good not to get complacent about mistakes, but it’s also necessary to treat them as what they are: Frustrations, roadblocks, not intentional slights by a designer.  I’d like them to be as few as possible, every designer would like that, but they creep in.

Sometimes mistakes aren’t mistakes at all, they’re just clumsy explanations that can be confusing for a reader/knitter.  These are the easiest to fix, and generally occur when several ‘cooks’ are involved in creating & editing a pattern, making edits and re-edits that might not always make sense.

Other mistakes are based in simple math.  This morning I was contacted by an editor who noticed that my row count on a project didn’t jive with the measurement given the stated gauge.  This was simple to fix – I’d calculated the measurement based on the wrong gauge (stitch vs row) and just had to change my multiplier.

The hardest math problems for me spring from the need to take into consideration the variables of sizing, motif repeat counts and gauge.  Because I don’t want to make your (or my) brain hurt too early in the morning, I won’t go into the deep details of my patterning, but here’s a simple overview of my process.

1. Size
I begin by creating RAW measurement numbers (based on schematics, pattern drafting skills & experience with different size patterns)  I generally like to design for at least 5 sizes (I’d feel like a traitor to the cause if I don’t size something up so that I could make it for me if I chose to)

2. Gauge
I work up a sizeable swatch so I can get a decent gauge.  I like to think of gauge as a tool, not THE tool, for determining fit.  Other tools include a measuring tape and the ability to measure the piece as we work it.

3. Motif
I figure out the best repeating pattern stitch count.  This is very tricky, as a motif count may work BEAUTIFULLY for 4 out of 6 sizes, but just will NOT fit into the other two.  Sometimes the motif counts between different sections of the sweater don’t play well together. Sometimes I just screw up the numbers.

The magic number 12 is the knit designer’s best friend.  It’s a good number, divisible by both even and odd numbers, and plugs into many motifs quite easily.  A good amount of my designing time is spent working motifs into a derivative of 12.

Once I’ve worked through these three elements once, I return to them, finessing the numbers and trying to make one motif fit for all sizes (sometimes this just doesn’t work, which is when you see patterns with 1 chart for sizes ABC and another chart for sizes DEF.)

It’s a lengthy process, taking – I’m not exaggerating – up to 100 hours for a sweater (NOT including the knitting process)

My family is very aware of the body language and facial expressions that announce, “Mom is in MATH HELL…  RUN AWAY!”

This number represents the working through the math so that the design and proportion distribution (one of the hardest parts) create an attractive garment in every size included in the pattern.

And I often fall short of what I hope to accomplish!  But every year I do this pattern writing thing, I get better.

Every time I sit down to create a pattern – even if I’m working off of a skeleton of an older design – I feel as though I’m starting a long journey all over again.

For a while this made me crazy – I kept thinking, “Why can’t I just simplify this process?”  Then I realized it’s because my mind works in a different way than many others (every mind works differently, I’m nothing special!)

I realized that I can no sooner leap over the above mentioned steps 1, 2 & 3 to the final pattern than I could teleport to TNNA in June.

I could fly to TNNA, but whether I drive or go by air I still need to make the journey every time. I can’t just wiggle my nose and arrive in Columbus!

I can use a pre-set worksheet to help with my math, but that doesn’t take the place of the necessary pattern writing process that’s as much art & poetry as it is math.

Right now I’m in a bit of math/pattern hell as I work through tech edits for History on Two Needles.  Our goal is to have something lovely to present at TNNA (a blad that folks can hold and order from) and a finished book in the stores by Fall (just in time for holiday giving!) 

In other news, I’m uploading a bunch of my patterns to Craftsy (and taking time to give them a good once-over) and finally reworking many of my patterns (for which I own rights but were previously published in other venues) by adding extra charts, tips and in some cases extra sizes before offering THEM for sale, too!

For instance, here’s the Luminarie Skirt with extra charts & in my own pattern speak – $7.00

Knit & Crochet Blog Week – A Knitter or Crocheter For All Seasons?

It seems I’m doomed to miss every other day of the Knit and Crochet Blog Week, but given the fact that I’ve been blogging an average of twice a month for a few months, this is quite a victory for me!

I love the topic today – knitting (& crocheting) to suit a specific weather / climate / time frame.

I often say in my classes that we don’t knit to make THINGS, we knit to make OURSELVES HAPPY.  And that’s true.  But it’s also true that having some useful, beautiful and completed item can make us happiest of all.

The Alpaca Ruana From Hell

Instead of worrying about completing an item to wear in the current season, I believe most knitters just want something comfortable to knit on.

I’ll always fondly remember my two weeks teaching in Faugére for French Girl Knits in 2007, but one thing I WON’T remember fondly was hauling around a heavy, fuzzy alpaca project through a very hot Southern France, knitting on it every chance I got to make a late September deadline.

Ruana, Front & Back

The feeling of that clingy, sticky yarn itching my legs, the fiber breaking off and filling my lungs as we zoomed around the beautiful countryside in a mini van sometimes haunts me in my dreams.  (Had I been working on the same project during my trip to Iceland last year, or Scotland the year before, it would have been an entirely different experience!)

I’m in an unusual situation because – due to editorial deadlines – I’m often working 6 months to 1 year ahead of the current season.  Add to that designs I work up for magazines in other hemispheres (Australia & Japan) and my knitting really knows NO season.  Which is a great way to be.

A knitted garment is not meant to be a frivolous wear-it-for-a-season-and-discard-it item.  A hand knitted garment should be treasured, worn for years and passed along to a friend or family member.

The idea of fretting to get something finished so it can be worn THIS SUMMER seems a bit beside the point to me; if it’s a well designed garment (without topical, faddish fashion gimicks) then a piece should stand the test of time and be able to be worn next Summer and all the Summers after that.

Baby Hannah in her Hand Knit Naming Dress

Of course, there are always non-editorial deadlines that knitters deal with; finishing a shawl for a lucky bride, creating a lovely wrap for a nursing mother (babies don’t nurse forever), getting a sweater finished so it will STILL fit the 3-year old who’s growing faster than Topsy*

These are excellent life-goal-oriented deadlines, they make sense because they mark the passage time time with a celebration or life event.

But forcing ourselves to see a great design, commit to it, buy the yarn, figure out the pattern, knit the darn thing up, finish it AND wear it all in one season may be beyond the speed of an average knitter.  And that’s absolutely fine.

Chevron Tank Detail (in Madeline Tosh Merino Light)

Carrying a project over a few seasons, deciding to make a beautiful Summer top that won’t be part of the wardrobe until NEXT year, is a realistic goal.

Happiness can’t be measured in knitting speed, it’s the actual work – the process – that brings a great amount of the joy.

Currently I’m working on a cardigan for a Spring magazine, a cape for the same magazine, a twinset for an Australian magazine (I believe it’s going to be for the Summer issue, but Australian seasons remain a mystery to me) I’ve purposefully used a very lightweight merino wool by Madeline Tosh for the tank top & cardigan so it will be a multi-season piece.

Biedermier Cape (in Lorna's Laces Lion & Lamb)

None of these pieces should be relegated to just one season of wear.  A cardigan is most useful in the colder months, but can be perfect for a chilly over-air conditioned office or a cool Summer evening (the only kind we have here in Minnesota!)

A tank top will get more use in the Summer, but there are MANY winter days when I layer my clothing so I can deal with my own ‘personal Summers’ that pop up at the most unexpected moments.

My advice to knitters is to use knitting as a source of pure enjoyment.  Find the joy and love in everything you make, try not to get too caught up in deadlines, and let passion guide you toward projects that speak to you.

Calendars are highly overrated.

 

*ask your mother.

Knit & Crochet Blog Week – Photography Challenge Day!

Well, I missed Day 1 of the Knitting & Crochet Blog Week, but here I am to participate fully in DAY 2!

I used to publish a lot more photographs of my work in progress, but limits on energy and fears about releasing some editorially-secure information have made me less photo-happy.

This is a shame as I ADORE photography almost as much as I love yarn and fiber crafts. This is probably why I was an early adherer to Pinterest (check out my boards under modeknit) and LOVE to see what other folks put in their flickr accounts (I’m also there under modeknit)

I use my photography as part of my job, to tell the story of my work, and to ‘sell’ a design.  I usually take a LOT of in-process photographs (which usually never see the light of day and are hidden away in my iphoto album) so I can recreate a technique or use it to create a line-drawing illustration.

To be honest, by the time a design is published I’m generally so involved in current projects that I have a hard time getting excited about digging up those old process photos and publishing them – but that’s exactly when I should be making them public!

A current sleeve stitch pattern, Hazel Knits Lively DK

I’ll often photograph or scan a swatch so I can isolate a repeating stitch pattern, shrink it, then ‘wallpaper’ it into one of my electronic sketches to present an eerily realistic vision of how I see the final garment.

But generally I’m relegated to tight little closeups of a garment (no revealing full body shots) or beauty shots of yarn.

For instance, I don’t think I’d be giving TOO much away to show how I’m using an all-0ver cable/trellis pattern to create a framework upon which I build a rose-garden of decorative chain embroidery & french knot roses.

Original Trellis Fabric

Here’s the fabric, with the trellis being worked over the center front and center back of the garment (the sides, where the shaping is taking place, are worked in stockinette stitch to prevent a murder-suicide in the knitting community)

Vines in Hazel Knits Woodland

Once the trellis pattern is established, it’s relatively simple (remember, simple does NOT mean easy) to work a decorative chain using a crochet hook along the trellis grid.  I’ve tried to wiggle the line, making an irregular vine pattern here.

Rosebuds worked as French Knots

Then I add French knots along the green vines to create tiny rosebuds.  Some of the knots are formed using 5-wraps, some are as small as 3-wraps (not all roses are the same size!)

The result is a lot of bang for the buck, and a chance for knitters to expand their horizons in a non-threatening way.

You don’t have to be a mistress-embroiderer to make this look good, and if you’d decide to just forego the embroidery you’d still have a lovely cardigan with a nice cable/trellis pattern strategically placed to be very flattering.