Mapping my time with the knitting gods

Although I may not know what day it is on any given week (since leaving my 9-to-5 they do tend to blur), I am clear about my goals for each day and importantly, how much knitting time will be allowed.  I'm a planner, aiming to launch one design a month, and of the many things I've learned over these past few years, most prominent is to make the plans but hold them loosely.  I've come to let the knitting gods take lead.  It's been a hard fought lesson at times to be sure as I struggle to stay visible on the internet's indie designer landscape, but ridiculous to resist.  The beauty is in the process, I tell myself.  The rest just happens as it does.

Laura 2.0

Last January Laura was among my tasks at hand, plucked from my pattern rewrite to-do list (a list that now numbers an ambitious 34).  I know this because I track my time – a hold-over from my days working IT for customer billing.  I'm my own customer now and I like to see where I've been.  In January I had taken a step in Laura's direction, then retreated as Lucy, Ethel, Happy Thought, and finally Robin's Song designs came into view, one after the other.  I had gone along with their flow and it was April before I was able to circle back. Created in 2013, I knew Laura's pattern text would benefit from the tweaks to format, abbreviations and phrasing I'd undertaken since my Linda scarf publication by Quince & Co.  I'd learned a lot from them and since, have been determined to perfect all designs that had come before it.  I would now give Laura's rewrite a week and happily check it off before embarking on a yet-to-be-determined new design offering for May.

Juliet modeling Laura c.2013

Juliet modeling Laura c.2013

I started with her sleeves – such delightful lace – and noticed how instructions would be so much more sensible if the shaping was worked on the wrong side rows instead of the right, away from the complexity of the stitch pattern.  I revised the math slightly, and just to be sure, reknit one as sample using some Chickadee wool I had on-hand (2 skeins of the parsley color, a very nice green, leaving 2 more in the drawer).  The sleeve was perfect.  I put it to the side and continued.

Since charting the shaping of this lace would provide a reassuring double-check on my text and be helpful to the knitter, next I went off on that.  It turned out to be definitely useful and a worthwhile pursuit, but for all 7 sizes, tragically time consuming for my plan.  By now my self-allotted time limit for Laura's rewrite was pretty much up and I was growing anxious to have a new design underway.  I tabled Laura – promising myself that it was only until I posted the next design.  I would return to it then and get it checked off my list.

Laura begot Farrah

With calculations for Laura's sleeves all worked out and charted, it made sense to jump from these.  I paired them with the simplicity of Lucy's cropped cardigan, still fresh in my mind, reusing its shape in the hopes of saving some time with measurements.  I imagined the design (that I would eventually name Farrah) in a soft pink, and placed an order with Quince & Co. for more Chickadee wool, in their shell color this time.  Then I started writing out the pattern.  Working from completed pattern text and making edits along the way, is much more enjoyable to me than stopping to calculate, write, and restart.  I've done it both ways and definitely have a preference.  By the time the wool arrived the pattern was ready and knitting commenced.  And after several focused days the bodice was done and blocking.  It was then I saw the flaw – the side shaping/lace conflict that could not remain.  I unraveled it back to its hemline and while waiting for these curly strands to relax, began knitting the sleeves with the unused skeins I had left.  Fast forwarding through the tale of a few more trials, the third turned out to be the charm for finally getting things right.  May delivery gave way to Farrah's early June publication, and my familiar monthly design delivery angst persisted.  Despite my plan, Laura remained tabled.

Farrah c.2017

Farrah c.2017

Farrah begot Uncloudy Skies

Betting on the promise of a second June release to catch up on my publishing quota, and remembering that perfect parsley green sleeve...  is how Uncloudy Skies, my next and most recent design, got started.  I took its name from a Willie Nelson song off of one of Marlene's CDs.  Making use of my stashed yarn was a plus so I ordered 3 more parsley skeins of Chickadee to supplement those I had left.  With 1 sleeve done, I planned to knit up another with available wool and take it from there.  While waiting for delivery I began the pattern.  

I soon realized that I couldn't be sure of its length at this initial stage, which is a problem when you're working from the hem to the neckline.  So I turned my plan upside down.  Working the pattern top-down (neckline to hem) – the logical creative choice for my uncertainty – now required new math, new charts, and no time saved.  I unraveled and reknit that perfect sleeve from cap to cuff.  Then I knit the next one.

When the supplemental yarn arrived, I found, to my dismay, that its dye lot difference was dramatic.  That happens.  The original skeins were bought a long time before.  I took a shot at alternating strands in the hopes of a gradual blending but got stripes, so resorted instead to color blocking.  The sleeves would remain in the original lighter green along with the upper bodice, while the lower bodice and trim would be worked in the new darker shade.  I allowed the yarn I had left of the original lot to dictate the bodice's lace point transition – that serendipitously turned out to occur at a point just below the waist where I initially imagined it would.  Knitting gods?

After blocking, assembling, trimming, and steaming, I tried on the now finished version again (there had been numerous try-ons along the way). Something wasn't right, but what?  Then I realized it was the neckline.  With further tucking, pinning, and brainstorming, I finally just turned the damn thing around making the back the front – yes, we can count this among my hard fought learning episodes – and viola!  A simple gesture, that revealed a chic solution, required only a brief pattern rewrite but A COMPLETE RESTART.  Knitting gods.

I reordered wool, this time in the Bird's Egg blue (a better, though unintended, match for its name) and reknit the whole thing. It's just right this time, I'd say, finally right, and Cloudy Skies publication is planned for next week.  I'll update this post and send out a tweet upon its release.

Uncloudy Skies c.2017

Uncloudy Skies c.2017

Laura's rewrite is still next on the list, but I'll see how it goes.  The beauty is in the process, I tell myself.  The rest will just happen as it does.


Update – Uncloudy Skies published 7/17/2017.

Planning and persistence

Among several tasks on my excellent, new, to-do tracking system for last week, there was only one real priority – to re-publish my May design (that I posted about a few weeks ago in Catching Up). The task seemed do-able.  

It's true that what started out as a simple rewrite to modify yarn and add metrics had taken a turn when I decided to redevelop it to be knit in the round instead of flat and embed its shaping invisibly inside the cable stitch pattern instead of at its edges.  Then the gauge of my new yarn, Quince's cotton Willetturned out to be slightly different than its obsolete predecessor and required a bunch of recalculations.  But by now I had made great progress on the bodice, and had only to trim the neckline and work the ever-so-short cap sleeves.  Then I'd be done.  Re-publishing within the week seemed do-able and I would happily check this off of my list!

Cotton is less elastic than wool, and because of this, I found out, tends to be less forgiving in some aspects of sweater-making, such as picking up stitches along the deep v-neckline of May for its rib trim. The stitch counts my calculations told me I needed left noticeable gaps, and after a few trials I determined that the problem lay in the absence of a selvage along this neckline.  Since the v starts below the armholes and the piece is knitted bottom-up and now in the round, this remedy required both sides of the bodice front and its back to be unraveled down to this start point.  I took a breath, did this, and began again.  

After 2 days of re-knitting, with my neckline now complete with selvage, I gave it another go – with the same disappointing result, unfortunate gaps along the pick up edge.  I took a few more breaths, (I did breathe in between these trials, but hardly), unraveled for the second time, re-knitted it as it was, and while I was doing so thought hard about another solution.

In my third attempt, I tried a method I'd read about but hadn't used before.  With smaller needles I picked up a stitch in every row along the front v edges  many more stitches than I needed, but with no gaps.  On the trim round that followed where I introduced the knit 1, purl 1 rib, along these front v edges I modified the sequence as knit 1, purl 2 together to decrease these extra stitches away.  Finally, success!  

4 days later.. so much for planning.

Among several tasks on my new to-do tracking system for this week, there is only one real priority – to re-publish May.  The task seems do-able.


Update  revised May finally re-published 1/15/2016.

Catching up

Wow, I didn't mean to let so much time go by since my last post.  No excuses though, I have been (happily) busy.  In this 3 month interim I've published M's Favorite, Mad's Gift, and Mitzi, and revised Corinne – adding a smaller cowl in the process.  I've also been working out a journal system for keeping track of all of this craziness, with a to-do list that starts out with 

  • post twitter
  • post instagram
  • post blog

so, ya, my bad – until now.  

As I've written previously, I'm driven (since working with quince&co on Linda) to update my patterns with metrics and Quince's formatting terminology and language. Starting with my early designs (first public offerings in 2010-11) this review sometimes goes beyond the surface and I find myself tweaking other things. The latest in my revision queue is May.

May was designed with Classic Elite's Wool Bam Boo (50% Wool, 50% Bamboo), my go-to yarn at that time, that has since been discontinued.  So embedded in this task is an opportunity to try something new.  Juliet's birthday gift to me this year was a gift certificate to quince&co.  Starting there and checking for comparable gauge I discovered their Willet, a sport-weight cotton.  I find it thrilling that they are environmentally conscious, and this cotton yarn, billed as cleaneris also quite lovely to work with.  I'm swatching now for my revised May to be followed next by pattern #128, as yet unnamed but with design coming into focus.

More to come, sooner than the last round.  I promise.

Bonanza redux

The people have spoken or rather, have not in response my Bonanza, published recently with very little fanfare. 

And I listen.  So in an attempt to amp up her versatility, you'll find Bonanza now reconfigured her glorious fringed collar, detached.

Ever the optimist, I'm glad for the required changes that have made this piece better than before.  Fringe on both sides of the moss stitch cowl doubles the fun, and with it separated you can wear it with other outfits too!  It's definitely a win-win.  And the resulting crew neck of the pullover? loving that so, a win-win-win, right?  Yup, I'd say so.

Marlene had a facelift

Following Hilda's lead, Marlene had a facelift – not a big one, just a few tweaks here and there.  And although she was certainly fine as she was, she feels great about herself now.  So do I :).

Hoss-Marlene2-pst.jpg

In addition to modified abbreviations, phrasing, and enhanced schematics (that now include centimeters), I took the liberty of normalizing a few of the measurements across sizes.  All finished measures are shown below.  Having fully internalized my dad's constant mantra that "neatness counts," I simply had no choice :).  It's doubtful that anyone will notice – besides me and dad, of course. 

If anyone who purchased Marlene does not yet have the pattern upgrade in her or his library, please don't hesitate to let me know. 

Meanwhile Mildred's revision is hot on her heels.

Evolution

I love to see how processes evolve, and mine surely have over these past 5 years of knitwear designing.  Most recently, with the publication of my Linda Scarf by Quince&Co and following their formatting protocols, my pattern writing has undergone transformation too – abbreviations have been tweaked, phrasing made clearer, and given the reach of the internet it's obvious to me now that measurements must include centimeters along with inches.  It's all good.  Except – the revision of all of my 50+ existing patterns is going to take me some time, but so I begin.

Thanks to questions from a knitter in France, I've decided to start with Hilda – that also happens to be my oldest. Although published after Marlene, this piece was derived from a design I had begun a few years before, that I had circled back around to.  Knitters will now find my revised Hilda pattern available for purchase (or in their download libraries if purchased already), complete with aforementioned changes, and since the addition of centimeters has pushed the envelope on page spacing, it also includes a new table format that compliments associated schematics, like this:

64 schematics.jpg

I'll aim to post revised patterns every few weeks or so, fit in between my new designs.  Next in the queue is Marlene.