Category Archives: Work / Office

I must have been VERY bad

In a past life I must have REALLY pissed off someone – or maybe in this life – because the pain I’ve had the last few days is crazy.  A sore back sent me to bed early on Tues, where the pain became SO bad at 3am that Gerry said we should go to the ER.

Test, test, test.

Test, test, test.

Apparently I had had a kidney stone. Different tests showed that there’d been one, and the fact they couldn’t see it on the scan led the doctor to say that I’d passed it. “The pain should go away now, just rest for a few days and make an appt to see your own GP.”

But the pain didn’t go away, it got worse.

And added to this pain was an incredible skin sensitivity (think of how your skin feels during a bad flu, then add poison ivy pain to that) and I had a lot to talk about with my doc on Thursday. As she was examining the part of my back that hurt the worst, in the general location of my right kidney, I half joked, “It couldn’t be shingles, could it?”

Yes, yes it could.

My constant companion

My constant companion

I’m on the watch for shingles all the time, but for Gerry, not for me. Because of his stem cell transplant and various drugs he’s on, he’s more susceptible to develop shingles. There has been at least one time when I caught the symptoms on him just in the nick of time (earning raised eyebrows and a smile from our oncologist) At the time it was taken care of with a quick course of Valtrex.

But these shingles had a bit of time to settle in, and they are intense.  Everything you’ve heard in those TV ads is true. I have so much pain that I’m nauseous.

The nausea makes it hard to keep the pain meds down. It’s a vicious circle, and I’m in the center of it.  I haven’t had this kind of out-of-control nausea since my first pregnancy.  I can’t wear anything but the loosest cotton dress, anything touching my body is cause for agony.

In other words, I’m not a good date.

In fact, if you asked me what was going on with my body (and if I hadn’t had a hysterectomy and wasn’t 52) I’d say, “Obviously I’m in labor!”

Since Tuesday. This sucks.

Work Continues…

Our newest design, Lanark Plaid Cowl, worked in Bulky Loch Ness, Thistle & A Wee Dram

Lanark Plaid Cowl, worked in Bulky Loch Ness, Thistle & A Wee Dram

The worst part is that I can’t get much work done. I finished up some schematics for my new book and got that out the door, and yesterday I wrote up a simple plaid pattern for a multi colored cowl (in our new Caledonian Colors) but my concentration is poor, and I can only knit for a few minutes before pain causes me to change my position into a non-knitting one.

Thursday evening we had to reshoot three sweaters for my upcoming book, and I KNEW that if we didn’t do it, it would be BIG TROUBLE. Andy goes off to college next Thursday, and I really needed to get front shots of 3 garments.

My photographer (Lara Need of Math4Knitters) is amazing, and she did most of the work. The models (Andy & our friend Lydia) were beautiful with great attitudes, so it was as stress free as a shoot could go.

I consider it a huge success that I was able to wait
until we got home to be sick. We all have different yardsticks.

I haven’t been able to ride my bike (the idea makes me break out in a cold sweat) and that makes the fibro pain grow in unwanted ways.

Well, what doesn’t kill us… right?

I find myself SO hesitant to write about this (I’ve actually been rather hesitant to blog at all these days…) because I know that someone will pop up to say, “Stop whining about your pain, just work through it!”

And they’d be right in a sense. The best thing to do with pain is to find a path through it, and sometimes talking about it isn’t the best path.

But the last 3 days have been overwhelming. I gave birth twice, to two big babies, the last one (11lbs) with no medication. This pain is worse. And it doesn’t seem to want to end.

Having said that, the pain does seem infinitesimally better since yesterday. I think the meds are working, but the nausea is as bad as ever.  But even that small change for good is reason to hope.

The cowl, down Jasper gets around

The cowl in it’s down position.
Jasper gets around

Your Reward

For reading my long tale of woe is that I’d like to gift you with the cowl pattern!

Lanark Plaid Cowl To download click on image of pattern.

Lanark Plaid Cowl
To download click on image of pattern.

Bear in mind, it’s been written by a woman in pain, and the tech edit was pretty quick and dirty. But the pattern is crazy simple [notice I didn't say EASY, just SIMPLE] and if you want, you can consider it a fun test knit…

And (because I’m not in my right mind) I’ll pick ONE name from the comments of a person to receive a ball of ModeWerk Bulky. This is soft, beautiful yarn – it knits up like a dream – AND it’s super wash. I so hate making a gift for someone, then attaching a “care instructions” card to it.

Just leave a comment below, I don’t care what it’s about, and your name will go in the hopper for the drawing!  I don’t want to restrict this to US folks, so if you want to participate and you’re in a foreign country you’ll have to pony up $10 for shipping (I’ll cover the rest, and all of the shipping costs if the winner’s from the US) Leave your comment by midnight on Sun, Aug 17th (US Central Time) and we’ll pick a winner on Monday.  Good luck!

So go, leave a message, and make me laugh.  Please.

“Nonnatus House, Midwife Speaking…”

You’ve probably noticed how quiet I’ve been – I apologize for that! Believe me, it’s all because of work, and that’s a good reason!

We just shipped our first wholesale order, which was huge (to me) and this adventure will NOT be duplicated until 2015, when we’re set up to seriously seek wholesale accounts.

All those things you read about businesses growing too fast are actually true,
and this first huge order gave me a glimpse of how easily that might happen!

NEW ‘NO SPOILERS’ COLORS!

Peace Rose Colorway

Peace Rose Colorway

If you’re as big a fan of Call The Midwife as I am, you will be SO excited tonight when Season 3 begins on PBS stations all across the US!  Our friends are back, and the art direction and costumes in this season are absolutely amazing! The Midwives and Sisters are moving into the 60’s in London, with all the color, light and edgy fashion that entails (Jean Shrimpton hair, anyone?)

Mid Century Industrial Extravaganza!

Mid Century Industrial Extravaganza!

They’ve moved into a new location (still in Poplar) with a new Community Clinic where new ways of dealing with the pain of childbirth are taught, along with many other new lessons.

Sadly, as we bring in eight new colors, we will have to say goodbye to six of the 221B colors (we’re keeping A Study In Pink and Bristol Pool! Huzzah!) 

I hate to say goodbye to colors that are selling so well, but the truth is that I just cannot dye so many different colors all at the same time – so for my own sanity we’ll only have two NO SPOILERS color sets going at any one time, and will keep a few colors from each set if they prove to be good sellers!

So, ladies and gentlemen, here are all eight colors of our newest NO SPOILERS collection, “Midwife Speaking”, which I’ve based on characters and incidents of the upcoming season of Call The Midwife.

I’ll not give any secrets away, and the color names are neutral as far as plot points,
but this is going to be a TREMENDOUS season.

I’m releasing all 8 colors tonight so folks can get the mini skein set at once. Besides, I’ve been SO overwhelmingly busy with the dyeing (good) and the designing (also good) that having time to do eight separate days of blogging for “Midwife Speaking” isn’t going to be happening!

But I promise to try to be better about writing. Believe me, dear readers
(and yarn customers, and well-wishers, and all my knitters and crocheters)
I love to connect with you via my blog and newsletter –
I really do miss you when I’m too busy to write!

 

Bum-bum-bummble Bee!

bumble bee jasper modesockIf you’re of a certain age and grew up on the East coast, then you know the Bumble Bee Tuna song.

I, myself, grew up in the Midwest (well, Ohio) and didn’t learn the song until I moved to NY in 1982 and friends would sing it whenever we made tuna sandwiches. Yes, I have always hung out with the wildest folk.

The song is IN MY HEAD like a – well, like a bumble bee – and it’s because I just worked up THIS colorway:

I like the golden yellow, the greenish overtone and the unexpected black that shoots through it.

We’re naming it BUMBLEBEE JASPER (which is really a thing) and it’s the newest color in our growing panoply of hues!

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 1.56.57 PMWhen I work up the colors I go one of three ways:

Semi Solid – A color which is pretty much just one hue in various degrees of saturation, lightness and darkness.

Color Blend – Two hues which are blended after the initial dyeing process, but to such an extent that it’s hard to tell where one color begins and the other ends.

Color Block – Three or more hues which are worked together after the initial dyeing process to produce a choppy, blocky color.

Sometimes it’s hard to determine if a color is a blend or a block, but Bumblebee Jasper is definitely a Color Block.

And now it’s up for sale in our store!  But it won’t be there long if it’s like our other colorways!

BUTTON FRUSTRATION

I apologize to anyone who’s tried to add one of our yarns to the cart and got a bad response. The truth is, the code for the buttons is crazy sensitive (and I’ve discovered that when used together with a lightbox plug in I really like it’s easy to screw it up)

From this point on I’ll be testing every button on a regular basis, but please let me know if you run into any problems ordering from our Modeknit Yarn online shop!

KEEPING UP WITH MODEKNIT YARN

Live Sales: We’re putting together a list of fiber shows we’re hoping to visit in 2014 with our yarns, if you know of one we should consider, please let us know!

If you want to stay up to date on our plans for selling our yarn live (at shows or in yarn shops) sign up for my e-newsletter for the latest news about that!

If you want to hear about our newest colors or latest batch of fresh yarns ready for purchase, follow me on Twitter or like our Facebook page and watch for the messages which start, “COLOR UP!” – that means something really good has just come out of the dyepot and it’s ready to purchase!

If you’re interested in our color inspirations, we have a board at Pinterest where colors that have passed the “can we actually DYE something that looks like this?” test are kept. All colors there may not be yarns yet, but we can always hope!

Preparing For Our First Dye Day

My basement dye 'studio'

My basement dye ‘studio’

After testing many colors and working hard to achieve a certain uniformity in color and depth, it’s time to move over to a large dye area for a day of FULL SKEIN dyeing!

My basement work area is pretty nice, it has all that we need (water, electric, microwave, a bit of space & a heater – very important in Minnesota in the Winter)

Plus it’s where my office is (in a separate room with a cat/dog/child proof locking door!)

The Yarn ARRIVES!

The Yarn ARRIVES!

Yarn arrived just before Thanksgiving, and it’s being skeined up as I write (well, I had to stop rolling skeins to blog, but I’ll begin twirling that swift as soon as I’ve posted this!)

As I’ve worked up colors I knit them because, to my mind, I can’t really tell what a color’s going to do until I see it knit up. Yarn can look remarkable on the skein, but then go a bit dead when knitted if there isn’t the right kind of depth.

I tend to be annoyingly organized so I’ve developed a database to keep track of how much dye I’m using for each swatch and how I’m working it into the yarn. That way when I wander onto a perfect combination, I’m be able to recreate it. Well, that’s the idea.

I’ve been working on dyeing some full sized skeins with mixed results. Some are tremendous, and some have fallen a bit flat (increasing dye amounts appropriately and ‘reading’ yarns in the dyepot to get an idea of their final colors are skills I am developing…)

I really want to be able to achieve a uniformity so we can market our colors as colorways, not just as ‘one-offs.’ Here are a few of my successes – I’m happy with the distribution of the colors and the depth.

I need to take some of the sample yarns to work into design samples so we can create some nice kits, that’s my job this afternoon while I’m waiting at the dentist office (and afterward, when I know I’ll be out of commission for the evening!)

Wednesday Kathleen returns from a week visiting family in Florida, it will be great to see her again! We’ll be packing everything up and heading off to a dye studio for a day of dyeing on Thursday. I’m thinking we’ll do red tones in the morning, blue/green tones in the afternoon, and we’ll see how that pans out! I can’t lie, I’m very nervous.

Even though I’ve had my own business for 12+ years, it’s been a sole proprietorship so I didn’t have to worry about vendors, etc. Because this is a larger undertaking, we’ve moved on to Quick Books so we’ll be investigating the ins and outs of that for keeping track of our expenses, inventory and (hopefully) profits.

So while I wait for my visit to the dentist today, I’ll try inputting our receipts for yarn, dye and supply purchases. I know how to make a day fun, don’t I?

New Horizons

First Batch of Colors

First Batch of Colors

I’ve been insanely excited for the past month(s) because I’m embarking on a new endeavor with a partner, and I can’t hold it in any longer!

IMG_0203We’re starting an independent yarn dyeing business!

I know, us and 450 other folks this week…

Why? As I have come to love so many independently produced yarns (and their dyers) I felt like there were holes in the market I’d like to try to fill – colors I have been searching for, but haven’t been able to find anywhere else.

And I love yarn, and color, and I love dyeing things.

And, most important, I’m continuously looking for ways to stay at home more, yet keep our household in the black.

Dyeing was my favorite part of grad school (hours over a hot dyevat, mmmm) Recently while working on some preliminary colors for ModeKnit Yarns I found myself going to sleep with the smell of dye on my hands and a big smile on my face.

IMG_0188Rubber gloves will help diminish the former,
real life will probably take care of the latter;
but a girl can dream!

My partner is Kathleen Pascuzzi, a phenomenal person who has business expertise that I lack. We’re in the process of doing all of the legal stuff, being adult about this, but our goal is to have some skeins available for purchase by the end of the year. We intend to take it slow, with a ‘soft start’, and move on from there.

IMG_0126We’re aiming for an initial palette of 10 colorways, grouped in 5 sets of 2 and available as kits for my Morse Cowl (a yet unreleased pattern, but you’ll love it, trust me!) 

Our inspiration for our colors are gemstones and semi precious minerals. Kathleen was the manager of a retail jewelry store for 17 years (I told you she had business savvy) and her great eye is immensely helpful!

I’ll still be designing – probably more than I currently am – but I’m hopeful that along with creating patterns that sell yarn for other companies, now I’ll be creating some patterns that will sell some of OUR fine yarn!

This end of the business is new to me, so I’ll be blogging about our journey in the coming weeks as we get our initial orders ready and begin our marketing – stay tuned!

Colors, Round 2

Colors, Round 2

Book Giveaway

The winner of the book, Crochet At Play, is ShellyD.  She’s been notified, and she’ll be receiving the book from the publisher.  Thanks so much for playing along!

DocU Camera SPNN

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!

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!

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!

IMG_0014

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

IMG_0002

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.

IMG_0014

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?

IMG_2018

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.

IMG_2032

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)

IMG_0023

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.

IMG_0003

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

IMG_0003

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.

Winner! And A Techie Meltdown!

So we have a winner for Theressa Silver’s book, Hat Couture – and that winner is KATE!  She was chosen at random and has been alerted via raven email, so CONGRATULATIONS to Kate, may you enjoy making many hats for a long, long time!

Now to my meltdown.

I’ve had an email list for, oh, 12 years.  I don’t advertise it a lot (I guess I should…) but it was pretty big, over 5K.

Each month money was automatically deducted from my bank account for my web hosting / email marketing, and it worked well.  But then about 6 months ago I began the changeover from my bank to a local credit union.

All’s been going well, but I KNEW that something would fall through the cracks as I moved my various accounts over.  And that thing was the monthly $19 email marketing fee, much to my chagrin.

I didn’t send out an email blast this past month, which is a shame because then I would have caught this within the 30-day information retrieval window.  As it is, I was 5 days late when I discovered this today, and that means I’ve not only lost my entire library of images, logos, book covers, and past email blasts, I’ve ALSO lost all of my subscribers.

So, if you used to get  my email newsletter – or if you’d like to start getting it – please signup here.

I promise I’ll never sell, giveaway, trade or reveal any of your information, and I further promise to NOT inundate you with emails.  I don’t send a lot, usually when I have something to say.

I’m looking at this as a sort of silver lining as I’ve needed to clean out the list for a long time, and now I can require that folks tell me what state they’re in when they sign up (useful for letting folks know when I’m in town for teaching gigs!)

Also, please share with your friends if you feel THEY’D like to be on the list! I’ve lost my only way to get in touch with some folks on my list, and that makes me very sad.

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..?