March 19th, 2015

48hrdishcloth1

One of the nicest things about the internet is that I get to talk to other designers on a daily basis. There are little pockets of creativity all over the place where we talk about industry things, vent, use the hive-mind to nurture ideas as well as support and encourage each other.

Earlier this week, during a conversation on the design process, a seed of an idea was planted. Like any good gardeners, we watered the seed, made sure it had good soil, and sunlight, and food, and it soon grew into a vibrant, robust thing of beauty.

The little seed nibblet was a rather innocuous comment about designing and publishing an item in 24 hours. We quickly realized that 24 just wasn’t feasible, no matter how good our intentions were, so we changed it to 48 hours.

The goal was to design, knit/crochet/create an item, write, chart, tech edit, photograph, layout and publish said design within 48 hours. As a sub-goal, we were asked to think about our design process, and discuss just what lessons we learned from the whole experience.

Really, how hard could it be?

I’m a fast knitter, and tech editor. I have access to Adobe Illustrator, so charting and layout wouldn’t be a problem. I had enough lead time on my current work project that I could fit this challenge into my schedule without causing too much of a flap, and really, my curiosity and sense of adventure were niggling me to take part.

I started by creating a timeline, and writing down my thoughts as I went along.

Tuesday Feb 17th, 2015.
Challenge accepted at 5pm, committed to publishing by Thursday, Feb 19th before 5pm

I’m feeling a little smug about the whole thing. It’s going to be a cake walk! And yet, even as I write this, I wonder when Karma is going to kick me in the arse and laugh?

Evening
Time to choose the type of project. It’s been a miserable winter, and I’m desperate for some sunshine, so I think about things that will bring a little brightness into the world. I decide to make some knitted easter eggs, with stripes, zig-zags and maybe polkadots on them. I have more tiny balls of sock yarn than it’s decent to admit to, so it seemed like a good idea. I charted a few things, worked out the shaping, dove into my stash and gleefully gathered a large assortment of scraps.
Sitting down to knit, I got half way through my first egg, when the doubts set in. Not everyone celebrates Easter. Not everyone wants to knit in the round, and – most importantly – I couldn’t find my stuffing.

40 minutes tearing apart my office to find polyester fluff, and coming up empty handed just made me cranky so I gave up for the night. After all, I still have a day and a half! I’m still not 100% serious about this project, still think it’s an easy challenge and still have no doubts about the whole process.

Wednesday Feb 18th, 2015
Morning
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning, and ready to devote the whole day to this challenge. Sometime during the night, I’ve decided a pretty dishcloth will be the perfect challenge object for the following reasons:
1. I love knitting dishcloths
2. I have lots of bright cotton on hand
3. It’s a small, easy to knit project
4. I have time to knit 2 or 3 within the time constraints – more than one counts as a test-knit? Right?

I started by searching Ravelry and my stitch dictionaries for a pattern that I liked that hasn’t already been used. Charted and swatched three likely suspects. Two of the patterns I liked very much, the third, I just didn’t enjoy knitting, so set that one aside.

I’ve worked out the math for sizing, charted correctly, and written up the patterns for both swatches. I’m still not sure which one I’ll use, but I’m pretty sure that once I cast on, it’ll figure itself out.

Of course, I didn’t like the first one I knitted – 3 pattern repeats and an hour and a half wasted. I set that one aside and start on the next.

Meanwhile, a time-sensitive tech edit issue just popped up for a project I’m working on, so I spend 3 hours sorting it out, and taking my brain from cotton dishcloths to fine lace.

Late Afternoon
Back to the dishcloth. One down, two to go. For some reason, I keep thinking that I need to knit three of these things for photographic symmetry or some such nonsense. Is it flower arranging where there has to be an odd number? Whatever the source, I know that I need to make three, and I also know that speed knitting cotton is not a feel-good experience. My wrists and shoulders ache, and I’m ever so slightly cranky about the whole thing.

It dawned on me that tomorrow, I have a crazy amount of work to do. If I’m lucky, Mother Nature will smile at me and let me get a shot or two in natural light before it starts raining. I’m not a whizz with a camera, and usually pay someone to do all my photography.

I’ve done a deal with a friend and we’re tech editing each other’s work. I generally pay between $30 and $40 per hour for TE, and around $50 per piece for photography, so cutting costs on this release is a bit of a relief. I’ll also have to do the following:

Write all these notes up – and, seriously, when did I become so verbose?
Edit pics and run them through PicMonkey for sizing and collating
Do final layout of the pattern
Publish to Ravelry
Publish this blog entry
Talk about it on Instagram (which I’m still getting used to)
Talk about it on FB, and in my Rav group
Bitch and complain about it all to my Designer’s group
Work through my usual panic over publishing anything
Allow three extra hours for the gremlins – that means I should have everything ready to go by 2pm Thursday.

Evening

I’ve settled down in front of the telly to do some serious knitting. I’m halfway through the second cloth, and my wrists are stinging with every stitch. For a little while, I wondered why I can happily sit down and knit a dishcloth any other day, but when it’s part of a challenge, it’s tough. And I realized that I’m seriously tensed up – probably from thinking about all the things still on the list, worrying how it will look to my peers when I fail. After all, who fails at a dishcloth? It’s a 12 x 12 square for heavens’ sake. I decide to chuck the whole endeavor in and admit that I’m a total plonker and cannot be expected to work under these ridiculous conditions.

Then I calmed down, and got back to work. I consciously relaxed my muscles and remembered that I actually enjoy the knitting process.

While I’m keeping half an eye on the boys from Supernatural, I think about the things that go into releasing a design, what I’ve learned from actively thinking about this process rather than just letting it happen, all the things I still have to do, and as I turn each row, I write them down again, making notes on each one.

I think the most important thing is that no matter the complexity or timeline of the pattern, I hold myself to a high level of professionalism. A pattern has to be firstly, pleasing – both to me, and to anyone who’d like to knit it.

Regardless of whether it’s a 2 page dishcloth or a complex two color cable design with 12 pages of photo tutorial, I think about the knitters experience. Are there any teachable moments? In this one, there are – it’s a great swatch for beginners in two color knitting. A great opportunity to practice floats and working on different techniques for not tangling your two yarns into a nasty mess.

Even for a short project like this, the same procedures apply –
design
swatching
thoughtful consideration of the end product
knitting
test knitting
layout
tech editing
photography
final layout
advertising – in this instance, blogpost, FB and IG, so no creation of ads
uploading to Ravelry
uploading blog post

Thursday
Morning
I have half a dishcloth to finish knitting and an impending sense of doom as I realize just how crazy this whole thing is. The whole #Design48hr concept is great in theory, but in practice, it’s exhausting. Too much knitting to do, too little time, and surely that’s a big cloud bank in the sky?

Photos are done, and I’ve uploaded them, played around in PicMonkey and made myself stop messing with them. I really miss my photographer at this point, but there’s no way I could have booked her at such short notice, so this will have to do, and I have to be fine with it.

I’ve also spent some time second-guessing my design. Please tell me I’m not the only one who has panic attacks about something so mundane as a cotton dishcloth?

I’m determined to be positive though. The old, “Fake it till you make it” adage is going through my head like a mantra, so I’m determined to be sunny and happy.

Thank you cable provider for choosing today for a township-wide outage. It’s very much appreciated.

2 hours later, most of this post put into the computer and internet back, I’m down to the wire. I need one last look at layout, and then keep my fingers crossed that uploading everything goes well.

…… and there goes Illustrator. The spinning rainbow wheel is mocking me. I have to restart my computer and it takes a good 20 minutes to shut everything down and start it all back up.

I will not cry – although there are dishcloths around to mop up any tears!

Conclusions
1. Knitwear design is not for the feint of heart. Every pattern release is a piece of your soul and there’s a fear that it will be dismissed, derided or (worst of all) ignored.
2. The process cannot be rushed. I’m not sure if the thinking about things or the rushing of the process made it such an unenjoyable experience, but either way, I’ll not be rushing things again.
3. On a positive note, I’m proud of the little dishcloth – it’s a good quality pattern, and I’ll knit it again – frequently!
4. On another positive note, thinking about the process in real time, has been a real eye opener, and I’d like to think I can take proactive pointers from it all – in theory anyway!

 

It’s finished. You can see it and buy it here!

July 19th, 2013

IMG_1100I was lucky enough to spend some time with Woolly Wormhead in Columbus this June. I always look forward to seeing her, not only is she a lovely person to be around, interesting, funny and charming, she is also an accomplished designer. Known for her stunning hats, Woolly takes shape and form and transforms them into gorgeous, wearable art.

She does so again in her latest book, Playful Woolly Toppers; 10 colourful hat designs to inspire your inner child. From cover to cover, Woolly shares her design aesthetic in a well-laid out, clear and visually stunning manner. From a practical level, the hats are all multiple sizes,  unisex and well shaped.

This is a great little book – Woolly’s photography is interesting and tells a great story. Using her home as a background, the visual interest is captivating. If you don’t know about the amazing world Woolly lives in, you can read all about it here. Meanwhile, if you’re itching to get your hands on an autographed copy of this book, leave a comment below and tell me who you’ll knit a hat for (and why).

July 15th, 2013

Today sees me chatting with the delightful Carmen from the Tapgurl podcast. We talked about the book, TNNA, Queen Street and more. Thanks for a great interview, Carmen! If you’re a listener, you can post your comments below for a chance to win a copy of Big Foot Knits!

This was the first podcast I’d ever done, and to say I was nervous is a bit of an understatement. Knowing that Carmen wanted to talk about the book was a big help, but I wondered if I really had a ton of entertaining stuff to actually say! It’s one thing to talk to a live person, you can see their reaction, but an unseen future audience is another thing entirely.

I practiced for this, which took me right back to my theatre days. I had friends send me questions, I even did a mock interview with Lindsey Stephens, which was a huge help. I had notecards of all the points I wanted to talk about, just in case I drew a blank, but I was nervous and worried that I wouldn’t “do good interview”.

I don’t think I’ve “heard” my voice in many years – how would I sound? Would what I say make sense? Am I boring and monotone? Do I actually have a clue about knitting, or would it sound like I was talking out of my arse? Would I remember not to swear? I swear a lot – this was a big concern. The panic was really setting in by the time the interview rolled around.

I think I did ok, though. I know we laughed a lot, which is a good sign. We just chatted, very naturally, and my panic subsided. We talked and laughed for over 40 minutes, and really it was just like any other skype chat. I really enjoyed myself!

So, lesson learned, it’s all about a little preparation, letting my love of knitting come to the fore, and relaxing.

However it turned out, I know that I had fun, that Carmen was a delight to talk to and that I think I conducted myself in a professional manner. Can’t wait for the next one!

If you’d like to interview me for your podcast, or your blog, please use the contact form here and drop me a line!

 

July 10th, 2013

The absolute highlight of my yarn year is always TNNA – the National Needle Arts trade show.  This summer, it was held in Columbus, which is always a blast! I had three goals in mind as I travelled down. Firstly, to reconnect with friends – much like going to a giant knitting group, I always feel inspired and rejuvenated after spending time with them. Secondly, to showcase a new design, both in the booth, in the Lorna’s Laces booth, and also at the fashion show. Thirdly, to source yarns for a new collection I’ve been working on. All three were accomplished (and then some!) with the added bonus of lots of giggles, conversation and a refreshing of the creative spirit that I know will remain for a good while!

DSC01975I was lucky enough to room with the super talented Miriam Felton, who was kind enough to run a photoshoot for me, not scream when I accidentally sprayed us with a cold shower, and generally be the best of roomies! She brought home made gingersnaps and even bought me a smashing new teapot – a match made in heaven! Thanks Mims!

For me, the show is always split into two distinct components – on the floor and off the floor. As amazing as it is to see all the pretty, shiny new things on the show floor, I sometimes think I learn more, see more and do more business off the floor. Whether it’s at the incredible North Market, or the bar at the Hyatt, each and every day there is filled with amazing every time I turn around.

queen-street-cardi

 

The highlight of my weekend, was seeing my new pattern debut at the fashion show on Friday night. Knitted in Lorna’s Laces Helen’s Lace, in the new colorway, Louisville, I was humbled and proud that it got a wonderful reception.The pattern is up for sale on Ravelry, and I’ll be blogging about it later in the week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I feel very lucky to be able to get yarn support for my design work, and this year, I had a specific collection in mind.

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First up is Titus. Created by the charming Verity, who owns two yarn stores in Yorkshire called Baa Ram Ewe, This yarn is a delicious mix of Wensleydale Longwool, BFL and Silk Alpaca. I’ve termed it sophisticated rustic – a bit of an oxymoron, but gosh, this is the softest and most beautiful of yarns. With a soft halo from the alpaca and a nostalgic homeliness, this is a delightful yarn to work with. I think  I’m equally in love with it because it’s a good Yorkshire yarn and because of the hand and colors it comes in. I can’t wait to cast on with this.

 

 

 

 

 

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Next up, I have Baah! Two skeins for the colorwork collection, and one skein just because it’s the exact same color as my hair! This is a superwash merino that has a lovely springy spin on it with strong, vibrantly dyed colors that make my heart go pittypat. I know this one will really highlight the stitches in my new design – the light just loves to bounce and play on stitches with a good merino.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC02007Here’s Anzula’s Squishy. If you haven’t played with this yarn yet, I strongly recommend finding the nearest yarn shop that carries it and literally giving it a squish. Superwash merino, cashmere and nylon create a practical yarn that is so soft and bouncy. It is such a joy to knit with, smooth and supple with a depth of color that is so visually pleasing, that I find myself stopping work and just looking at how pretty it is! As you can see, I couldn’t wait to start working with these two. Bright, pretty colors for a chid’s hat are working perfectly with my knitting technique – I’m really happy with the results.

I have so much more to share, including the book, the people, the gossip and a 3 book giveaway that is truly phenomenal! More soon!

February 28th, 2013

Yesterday was a bit of an exciting adventure as the first previews of What (else) Would Madame Defarge Knit? by Heather Ordover, hit the interweb. There are some delightful thumbnail previews up on Ravelry,  with photography by the amazing Caro Sheridan, and an interview with me. It’s smashing to be able to finally talk about my design in W(e)WMDfK?, it’s been a secret for quite a while now, and I’ve been bursting at the seams to share the pattern, my muse and the rather luscious yarn from Fiber Optic

You can read all about it here, along with a sign up for the newsletter, free patterns and all things Defarge!

If that wasn’t exciting enough, I’ve also been playing around with a new design.

 

 

 

 

 

I adore knitting two color cables and twisted stitches, they’re involved enough to keep you interested, but not so difficult that they’re distracting or frustrating. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this turns out as well as I’m anticipating – it’ll be a great weekend pattern. Have you done two color cable knitting? Let me know what you thought of it.

 

February 21st, 2013

A little while ago, I was asked if I’d like to design something for the second installment of What Would Madame Defarge Knit? Of course, I jumped at the chance. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s a great concept, I got to choose a delightful literary character and I got to work with some ridiculously beautiful yarn.

Well, that book is almost ready to hit the presses, and I can share that I have a jacket with a curious name in there. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be able to talk more about the design, which character I chose, the essay I wrote and why it all led to an interview where I talk about the importance of treacle.

More info on W(e)WMDfK? can be found here and on the CP website

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February 21st, 2013

With a title like knitting’s essential tool, you may think that I’m talking about needles, yarn, gauge guides, stitch markers or any of the myriad of tools that we knitters and crocheters just can’t live without. Instead, I’m going to wax lyrical about the lowly sheet  of grid paper.

I’ve found over the years that I can’t knit, much less design or tech edit without it. As you can imagine, it’s marvelous for row/round counting, for charting out colorwork ideas and perhaps transposing a chart off the computer. But it really comes into it’s element when you’re working a pattern with multiple directions worked at the same time.

I used to read the pattern as I knitted. Many of us do. But how many times have you worked a section of a pattern, got to the end of it, only to read those dreaded words, “AT THE SAME TIME….”

Now, whilst I’m guilty of sometimes not reading the entire pattern before working it, I do at least read through the next two sections.

Imagine you’re working a bottom up, lacy raglan neckline. You have the lace, the sleeve decs and the neckline decs all happening pretty much at the same time.

Here’s how I’d graph out the sleeve decs – let’s say, k1, tog, every 3rd row, 6 times

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now let’s add in the lace, let’s pretend that there’s a significant lace detail every 5th row

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve added blue circles around every 5th row – see how there are two on row 15? I probably would have missed that without making a note first.

Now let’s add the neck edge. Row 12: Bind off 3 sts, this and every alt row 6 times. I’ve colored in the squares for these because there were too many circles, but you get the idea.

 

 

 

 

 

Once I’ve done this, all I have to do is the actual knitting.  I’ll know what I’m supposed to do each row, without reading the whole pattern, and I won’t get to the end and realise that I’ve missed that third set of instructions!

What about you? What is that one knitting tool that you just can’t do without?  Have you had disastrous results from not catching that pesky AT THE SAME TIME instruction?

April 3rd, 2012

Finally catching up on pattern releases – 2 went to press today and 7 more waiting in the wings.

The first is Lillianthe, a stunning pleated hat knitted in Artyarns Supermerino and Beaded Silk!

The second is Bide a cardigan I originally knitted for Rhinebeck last year. Done in AlishaGoesAround Panoply of Peacocks worsted, this topdown raglan has a deep cuff and welt and is embroidered in daisychain swirls all over the stockinette body. This is such a flattering cardi – it suits many body types and is a joy to knit

March 29th, 2012

This sample I crocheted uses the same principles of the crocodile stitch, but has a more pronounced point. I’m kinda in love with the way all the groups cluster together and how the color definition is highlighted with this kettle-dyed colorway.

Once I’d mastered the crocodile stitch and understood the basics of it’s construction, I challenged myself to come up with 10 shapes that used those same principles – the dragon scales was the first one. It’s very similar to the croc, but it’s sides are more pronounced and the point more, well, pointy. Circles and squares were next, along with triangles, hexagons, leaves and flowers. I’m kinda happy with the results, although I’m somewhat stumped at what to actually _do_ with the stitch pattern other than a scarf or an edging. Perhaps that’s all it needs to be?

 

March 29th, 2012

It seems every few months, I’m able to really buckle down and get a lot of knitting done, I blog, I tweet, I facebook and I love it. Then, life rears it’s ugly head and I have to disappear for a while.

I think this time, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is just part of my natural cycle. As frustrating as it is, I’ve accepted the fact that 2 kids on the spectrum equals a lot of stress in my life which sometimes manifests as illness in me. That’s just the way it is – I’m learning to stop beating myself up about it.

I’m on an upswing right now, after a rather scary bout of Staph, which led to an amputation followed by a month in the hospital with MRSA. Not something I’d ever want to repeat. But I’m stronger every day.

Throughout my confinement – and isn’t that a wonderfully old-fashioned term? – yarn has been a constant. From the days of vapidly staring at pretty yarn through a drug-induced haze in the hospital to the revival in knitting, designing and creating that I’m experiencing now.

Before I tell you about the exciting new things that are happening at ChezBrit, I have to send out a huge thank you to my friends for being there for me, keeping me laughing and keeping me sane. Don’t think I could have done it without you, darlings – much love.

As you can probably imagine, everything I was working on before October was delayed by the four months I was out of action, which sadly includes my book Big Foot Knits (Cooperative Press, 2012) In a way, it’s a good thing, as I’ve been able to re-read it with fresh eyes and add a whole bunch of content. The book is in it’s final stages now, and should be out in May. I can’t wait to share it with you all.

A great incentive to get me up and moving is the opportunity to go to The Great Rhody Yarn Crawl in April. I’ll be teaching a couple of classes along with hosting a get-together at the Healing Coop on Saturday night. Lots of door prizes, good food, drinks and fun to be had there! Bring your knitting and come say hello if you’re in town!

On Friday night, I’ll be teaching my Crocodile Stitch and Beyond class at The Knitting Corner and Beadery and my Big Foot Knits workshop at the Healing Center on Saturday and at Slater Mill on Sunday, which is followed by the yarn crawl market place.

I can’t wait to see Traci, Bernadette, Stitchy and Alasdair! It’s going to be a wonderful weekend!

 

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