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!

Obsessed With Downton

Mary can handle herself.

I am absolutely LOVING Downton Abbey.  It’s not the plot line so much (which is interesting, sometimes predictable and sometimes just silly.)

No, it’s the CLOTHES.  Susannah BuxtonRosalind Ebbutt have done a remarkable job recreating the Edwardian / WWII era in styles that resonate with a modern audience.

Ethel Knits!

It’s exceptional knitting TV.  I’m always looking for something to ‘knit along to’ that I can watch over and over again – always hearing or seeing something I missed before.

The richness of the details is very much appreciated by this half-attentive knitter.

Amazing hats, every one!


It’s obvious that the undergarments are quite good & correct for the period, the hair is – for the most part – exceptional, and the hats are filling my dreams.

I love millinery, and this is my hands-down favorite period.

The Simplest Hats are the Hardest

There are many great shapes and techniques from close fitting pre-cloches to wide, deep steam-boaters, to squarish toques.

The floral and feature trim is perfect, often times more simple than expected.  It’s the hardest thing in the world to get the simplicity of trim matching the hats, but this millinery is astoundingly good at it.

Lady Edith's silhouette is quite daring.

One of my favorite aspects of the DA costumes are how they foreshadow the changes in fashion.  Lady Sybill’s split skirt outfit was very daring (and the color was a little glaring) but it wouldn’t have been worn in public.

More interesting to me are the clothes that Lady Edith wears.  She’ll be the real clothing rebel, notice how her jodhpurs and long coat carry an echo of the post WWI fashions of a working segment of the ‘superfluous woman’

A woman comfortable in her own skin

And, as always, Maggie Smith is pure treasure.  Her asides, small comments and the physicality of her character (watch how she gravitates toward and away from other characters) is flawless.  It’s a joy to see her used and dressed so magnificently in her role!

I love the interplay (& love) between these two.

This whole series should inspire me to get History On Two Needles finished toot-sweet, but I’m afraid it just sets off new ideas in my head…

Some new ideas have to do with patterns, but I’m afraid most of them have to do with afternoon tea and gluten free biscuits.