Category Archives: Work / Office

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..?

 

Relaxing on the Road

Oh, baby.

It’s been an intense few weeks, lots of teaching, lots of travel, LOTS of fun! But also lots of exhaustion!

  1. Beginning with Knit Lab in New Hampshire (which was excellent);
  2. Then my ModeKnit Minnesota Retreat (need I say, FAB-U-lous!);
  3. On to Knit Lab in San Mateo (also amazing!);
  4. TWO terrific classes at ImagiKnit in San Francisco (what a tremendous shop! What a selection!!);
  5. Back home to MN for a few days to repack – I love my home –I’m a Virgo;
  6. Then to Riverside, CA for classes at the local guild;
  7. And finally an extra special (and HUGE) experience with the wild women at Raincross Fiber Arts (also a DELIGHTFUL SHOP in a tiny space!  Amazing!)

Hyatt in Riverside, Aaaah!

Whew!

I am tired to the bone.

I can’t explain this exhaustion, what it’s like, how it encompasses every aspect of my life when it comes on. What I can explain is that I ‘store up’ my energy, and use it as I can.

When I have a run of weeks like this (hey, I have to work WHEN there’s work!) it knocks me out for a long period of time, which is why it can be weeks between blog posts.

Library in Riverside (classes)

When I read Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, I loved the book. Then I adored the movie. I must confess that when I learned she had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome I didn’t really understand it. “So she lays in bed and writes, what’s the big deal?”

Now I get it.

Sometimes after a hard day I sit in my chair at home (or a sofa in a hotel, or a bed) and I literally cannot move a muscle for an hour or so. I feel lazy, indulgent, slobbish – all of those things – but I also know that this is something that can’t be helped.  Or, rather, that I’m doing all I can to minimize it (eating right, resting, getting good exercise) but there it is.

LEMON TREES! LEMONS!!!

All those times when I was tired in my youth and said, “I can’t move a muscle!” – well, I was exaggerating.

Now I know how that TRULY feels.

It’s easy to allow myself to feel marginalized, out of step, when I’m this tired. I don’t have the mental or emotional resources to fight off negativity (whether it originates internally or externally) so I try to focus on the positive things, and know that I’ll feel stronger soon.

A Large Cat

Right now, though, I’ve been given a gift. An extra day!

I made a mistake when I booked my airline ticket home, I booked it for the 13th instead of the 12th (I got confused about Veteran’s Day) and so I have an extra day in Southern California.

Quel Dommage!

While I’m always sad to be away from Gerry and the kids, I’m happy to extend my car rental a day, and book a hotel with priceline ($60 on Redondo Beach!) so that I can sit by the ocean, knit, have a nice cup of tea, and just REST for a day.

This is a gift that I’m giving myself.

And who knows, after I rest a day, I might actually have something DECENT to blog about besides the sad tale of my tiredness!

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 – 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.

A New Project, A New Sidepath

Barbie's Scale set permanently at 110 lbs (image by CarrieBee)

A few years ago there was a Barbie doll who famously cried, “Math class is TOUGH!” as one of her pre-recorded soundbites.

Mattel heard the well-deserved cries of protest and yanked Teen Talk Barbie and chalked the whole thing up to a PR nightmare.

Girls don’t need encouragement to believe that mad math skills are beyond them.

My own math journey wasn’t smooth.  I was in advanced math in Jr. High, but upon transferring to a new school which didn’t believe in ‘advanced’ classes I was given a choice to return to a lower class with my 8th grade peers, or move into the 9th grade (elective) class.

I chose the latter, and the teacher (who wasn’t thrilled with a new girl in class, bringing the total female population in advanced algebra to TWO) dogged every equation I wrote on the board.

“Yes, Annette got the right answer,
but she got it the WRONG way…”

It was my last math class – I ended the year with a “D” after a solid A/B average for the previous 2 years in my old school, and I shied away from math stuff for years.

Then I began designing, and I re-discovered the joy of numbers.  It’s almost poetic when I can get the gauge and stitch repeats to work well together, creating a simplified, universal pattern that can be easily altered.  Here’s an example of a recent trip through math hell.

But for the past year – probably more (I’ve been trying HARD to ignore this) my brain is not dealing with sums as well as it has.  At first I thought it was my imagination, then I thought it was pure laziness

Now I’m forced to admit that when I’m return to a pattern in one of my math worksheets I have no memory of my previous encounters with the same formulas.

The good news is that it’s forced me to label all of my columns (which note body measurements and changes in the pattern) INCREDIBLY clearly so I can jog my memory when I return to the pattern.  Clarity is good.

The bad news is that patterns take longer to write.  Recently I wrote up a pattern for a simple shrug.  I’ll admit that the lace pattern was a bit of a bear (I reworked it 3 times to simplify it without losing the beauty) but still, writing the pattern took me approximately 20 hours when a similar pattern might have taken me 4-5 hours a few years ago.

This is so frustrating.  I know it has a lot to do with the fibromyalgia, and I wonder if – in a warmer, sunnier month my brain might be clicking away in a more efficient manner.  But right now it is what it is.

So, while I’m NOT giving up designing hand knit and crochet patterns, I’m branching out a bit to add a bit more joy in my life – and hopefully diversify my income.

Annie Modesitt Fine Millinery

Bytham Cabbage Rose Hat

I’m making Millinery. Hats. Caps. Dome-pieces. Do-rags. Lids.

And I’m selling them on Etsy!

These pieces won’t be available as knitting patterns, that’s part of the joy for me.  I just need to be able to MAKE stuff without worrying about how to tell others how to make the same thing.

Wisbech Cloche

I sometimes find myself stymied by the difficulty in explaining a complex technique, and I avoid some beautiful details in my work for just this reason.

So the hats will be an escape for me, a bit of joy in a few cold, dark months when math doesn’t come as easily as it might.  I’ll make hay – and patterns – when the sun shines.

Edmondthorpe Cloche

If you know anyone who is looking for a beautiful, unusual, interesting hat for a special occasion, direct them over to my website or etsy store.

I’m happy to do commission work, and with the wealth of yarns out there I can match or complement just about any fabric or trim.

It would be lovely to see more brides wearing fine millinery, and the lacework brims on my hats create a ‘shadow veil’ which is flattering to any face!

SO Uncool, Anthropologie!

Romantic Hand Knits Cover

Large retailers are accused of stealing designs from independent artists and designers all the time, which doesn’t make me feel any better now that they’ve gone after one of my own (favorite) designs.

Recognize this skirt?  I fondly refer to it as my “Butt Skirt”, but it’s actually the featured design on the cover of my 2006 book, Romantic Hand Knits.

Anthropologie Skirt & MY Skirt

Recognize the skirt below?  It’s a not-very-well-copied rip off of my original skirt sold on the Anthropolgie website

(they call it the “Needled Paths Sweater Skirt”, I call it theft.)

Thanks to My Friend London for seeing it and pointing it out to me!

I based my design on a vintage 1950’s girdle silhouette.  It’s pretty clear what Anthropologie based their design on (my design!)

So what next?  Will Anthropologie offer me a full time job designing for them, or will they just work through Romantic Hand Knits item by item for their 2013 collection?

 

Help A Teacher Out

In a totally unrelated story, if you click on the link to the left to check out my classes at Stitches West, you can help me win a prize.

So click away, no purchase necessary, and help a girl out!