Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Problem with Test Knitters!

Running multiple test knits at the same time is not without it's pitfalls!  Especially when the two patterns are "somewhat" related...both in this case being what I call "fickle knitter's specials", ones that contain lace, cables and texture.....and one is a secret and the other isn't.

I find that when I have "lived" in a pattern for the time it takes me to come up with the plan, chart it, write it, knit it (probably three or four times) and edit it,  I am blind to a lot of what is in the pattern when I send it off into the waiting hands of the people whose job it is to spot the errors and get me to fix them before the end user gets their hands on the pattern.

I try to be very approachable during a test knit, you have a question, I try to answer it really quickly!  I have been on the other side of that fence, waiting for the answer before I can continue working on a project that I have given priority to, because someone else is waiting to publish and it makes a difference to their income stream how quickly and accurately I get them the "it's fine" or "this doesn't work" or "this reads in a way that I could (and have) misinterpreted what you have said."

Today I was answering questions from the veggie garden that we changed the fence set up for and I started digging over and amending the soil to, so that we can have home grown veggies later this year.  (Smart phones are the greatest! except...I don't have my files on my phone!)

That is pitfall number one.

But the biggest pitfall?

When my test knitters share pictures, either on Ravelry or via email, with me and I end up with a serious case of yarn envy!

Is is just that it is spring and I want to knit all the things?  Or do you get project and yarn envy when you see what other people have made?

No knitting updates today from me, I have been working in the garden, and enjoying spring at it's best in Central Ohio!


Friday, April 22, 2016

Here Comes the Weekend.....

So how was your week?

Mine was...

Well it was a week anyway.  :)

I had hoped to get some finished object photo's but when the model and I were available the weather had other ideas!  I don't mind dragging her out in the cold, or the blazing hot sun, but I am not subjecting my merino/mohair shawl to pouring down rain!

Instead I have some WIP pictures for you. 

The third Colourmart Spring Contest Design entry is behaving itself relatively well.  I didn't actually do a full swatch for this one, so the sizing is a little up in the air right now.  TDQ and TOB say that I should add another pattern stitch to it, but to be honest, I am already getting bored with it.

I guess that shows, when I told the kids that I needed some peace and quiet for a while (actually the words I used were...can you all go away and leave me alone?  Don't talk to me, I am editing!) there was lots of whispering about hiding my needles and putting up a locking door on the stash room, because usually that is a sign I am about to stash dive in the most untidy way and cast on a half a million new things!

Really what I need is the peace of knitting and babysitting someone elses pattern for a bit.  Living in my own charting and writing is leading to a new kind of insanity!  (The kind where one idea leads to another and then a third and before I know it I have 7 word documents and 13 excel files open and I am trying desperately to get all the ideas out in one foul swoop.)

So far, I am keeping track of all the knitters who are test knitting different items for me!  At least I haven't sent anyone the chart for the wrong pattern yet!  I did have a snafu with one set of charts....pasting them as a picture in a word doc wasn't working so I tried doing something different in excel.  Which led to my somehow saving the file after deleting half of one chart. (Just one out of three, go figure!)  Having just got done knitting it, recreating the chart was going to be what I thought was easy peasy so I copied part of one of the other charts to give myself an edge to work to and filled in the blanks....with the minor problem of not being able to count to 32!  Luckily the test knitters spotted that one right off and it is all fixed now!

What I should do, to keep the startitis at bay, is pull out the shawl patterns and edit those....

But, this weekend is destined for putting plants in the garden and soaking up some Vitamin D while the sun shines.  Maybe, if I am lucky I can catch TDQ long enough to get those finished object pictures!


Quick reminder of the FAQ page link on the right hand side of the blog here!  There are also handy-dandy links to my Ravelry Store and Love Knitting in case you need them!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

If You Have to Explain....

I was having a conversation with someone a few weeks ago about a logo.  It was a very interesting logo, had a lot going on in it.  So many elements in fact, that neither one of us could figure out what it was the company was trying to say!  Which is incredibly sad, because we both happened to be on the board of this particular company.

So we asked.

Twenty minutes later the CEO finished explaining it to us, and it was a very cool concept...but....if it takes you that long to explain your logo, I feel that you missed the mark.

I felt that way about my first ColourMart Spring Contest Shawl Design entry.  The finished shawl got many "likes" but also the comment that the spine wasn't symmetrical.  To which I replied, it wasn't supposed to be symmetrical all the way down, there was a theme, but I didn't explain it because if the average viewer of the pictures couldn't figure it out I, too,had missed the mark.

After some discussion and a very friendly offer to look at my charts and fix them for me, I decided that I would make the shawl more symmetrical and changed the charts on my own.  No sense flogging a dead horse, or spine treatment in this case, and I still liked the individual motifs in the shawl but it was too big in the gauge I knit it at for "the average"* knitter to even attempt.

Changing the charts to be symmetrical wasn't hard.  A tweak here, cut and paste there and they were done....but....well....that felt like cheating.  Why make just those small changes when I could see another way to start at the same place, end at the same place, but have the middle take an entirely different path?

You guessed it, I reworked the charts again and came up with a whole different design!

Ever play "telephone" as a kid? 

The game starts with a message and you whisper it to the person next to you, who whispers it to the person next to them and so on and so forth through however many people you can gather together.  By the time the message it spoken out loud by the final person to hear it whispered, the message has morphed into something new.

That, is how I feel about this shawl.

She is brand new and taking up most of my attention right now....well that and keeping track of edits from my test knitters for the next socks!

Well, not that I am monogamous with my knitting projects, the sock after next might be on my needles as well!

I almost forgot, in fact I did until I previewed FAQ page has been in the sidebar.  As questions come in I am going to put them there so that you can always find them.  Especially for those "free" patterns**, that way you don't feel like you are bothering me and I don't feel like I am answering the same question too many times!


*Who is this mystery average knitter?  Do you know them?  Can you tell me what they want to see in my next grouping of patterns?
** I actually got paid for the patterns, so technically you (as the knitter) are getting a pattern on someone else's  dime.

PS- I am still in search of one test knitter for the sock currently being tested, please sign up in The Testing Pool on Ravelry, look for an Open Knit - Cable, Texture, Lace Socks.

Next call will also be a "Fickle Knitter" Special but it will be a secret test, no photos anywhere!  PM me on Ravelry if you are interested with the subject line of Secret Test.  (marydear on Ravelry)  As it is a submission the text is very different from my usual style.  :)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

New Uses for Large Shawls

Back during the summer of 2011, Andrea Jurgrau of BadCat Designs had a summer knit along called Back to the Garden.

Before the knit along officially started I had already knit one version, one of the best parts of being a test knitter is you get to see things first!

It is a beautiful, creamy yellow, semi-circle shawl and I have worn it a lot.  But, when the knit along started I fell down the path of "what if" and "why not" and cast it on again, with the group, but this time as a full circle in the fully inappropriate yarn choice of a ColourMart 2/15 Cashmere/Merino blend and used extra large (for me!) US size 7 needles.

Needless to say the shawl rapidly turned into a bedspread for a King Sized Bed, when unfortunately I have a Queen size and cats that like to put there claws in things, and sleeping on my bed both when I am in and not in it!  So into the closet she went.

Until today.

I blame TOB for the craziness that follows.

But first, a little more background.

A little while after I dragged the kids across the country and moved into a house in Central Ohio I bought them a fancy swing set.  They were young and it got a lot of use.  Having come from the West Coast, fireflies were new to them, and many an evening was spent with me sitting on a swing while they ran around the garden catching fireflies.  Many an afternoon was spent with them on the swings with me gardening.  But, time marched on and computers and video games started taking more of their attention than playing out in the yard. 

The poor lonely swingset turned into something that was in the way when mowing the lawn, but useful for draping hand knits on to dry.  The chains on the swings rusted, the tarp cover over the playhouse area ripped, then blew away in a windstorm, and even at the magnificent price of "free to a good home" nobody wanted it.

So I decided to repurpose it.  We can hang baskets growing flowers from the monkey bars, or bird feeders, or both. Plant a climbing vine near the ladder and have it become something new.  But the problem of the missing tarp cover remained.

Having heard me say that my ColourMart Spring Contest Entry Shawl was too big and needed some changes before becoming a pattern, TOB suggested that I use it in place of a tarp.


 But even at big it wasn't big enough, especially as it is a triangle shawl. But, on a dare, I went ahead and dug in my closet for the even bigger Back to the Garden Full Circle and gave it a whirl.

She's not quite big enough, but, she is also not really well blocked as I didn't have any space big enough to really stretch her out when I last blocked her (ummm...five years ago!)  Now it seems I have a space big enough!

The view when you look up from inside the play tower is nothing short of amazing!

I might just claim it as my knitting loft and leave the shawl there.  :)

How did you spend your Saturday?


Friday, April 8, 2016

I needed a Finished Object

Friday's are for finished objects and as I haven't had a chance to wash and block my ColourMart Spring Contest Shawl, and people were asking very nicely, presenting.....

Follow that Stripe!

The pattern will tell you that I have a love affair with self striping sock yarns, but, as with many knitters I get bored easily....Ohh, look shiny new yarn!  So I needed something a little more interesting to knit than just a plain Jane (or John, I knit for boys too) sock.

Do you remember a while back I mentioned a dinner conversation where the kids and I were talking about all the different places that inspiration can come from?  We talked about knitters and artists who look to math, biology, botany and everything else in the world.  We talked about the fact that inspiration can come from the most unlikely sources and TOB looked at me in all seriousness and asked this question..

"Mom, do all knitters do that, or are you just weird?"  Which really is a whole different conversation to be having, especially with a teenager!

But, that one word, Weird, was what started this whole journey.

Weird doesn't fit the spelling mnemonic I before E, except after C, but as anyone who has ever taken a spelling test will tell you, that rule has more words that are exceptions than follow it!  But that was the inspiration for how to knit this (these) socks. 

I wasn't sure at first that everything would work out the way I planned.  Who uses spelling to design a sock? (Other than me, of course!)  But I grabbed one of the (too many) skeins of self striping sock yarn that had been languishing in the stash and tried it out.

Hmm, so I before E except after C works, but what about the others?
Truth be told, I spent plenty of time on Google looking to see what all the exceptions to the rule were...I knew unless it says E as in Seize but from there I drew a blank!

I shortly found out that Unless it says A and Unless it Says I were also not only possible, but gave yet another spin to the pattern, so instead of one pair of socks having to be knit, there were really 5.
 (Yes I know, you only see 4 different socks there, and they are all pairs I swear on my stash!  I just didn't have enough feet available to get photo's of them all at one time!)

Originally I was going to skip the final exception, until one of the test knitters said something about the way she knit her socks which finalized it. 

I will tell you that once you get the basic idea and have worked your set up rows for the pattern stitches you can probably not print those, so if you are near a handy computer you can work from the pdf file and then consider these socks your "pocket knitting" and not even worry about dragging the pattern around with you at all!

I found out part way through having it test knit, that one of test knitters was knitting socks for the very first time using this pattern! 

I had a nice mix of experienced knitters who adjusted things to be the way they wanted (toe up for example) and a sock newbie, what more could any designer want?

I can tell you what the knitters want, having seen teaser photo's and test knitters projects, they wanted the pattern and sooner rather than later!  Between forum postings, private messages and emails the consensus was that people were tired of me dragging my feet* and wanted to see the pattern!

You can get it for yourself on Ravelry in my pattern store here.

I love seeing what other people come up with when using my patterns, the easiest way for me to see what you knit is to link the pattern to your project page in Ravelry.  If you haven't joined, you should, it is awesome!


*I hadn't originally planned on two other patterns being published last weekend! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

It Isn't Over Until the Blocking is Done!

I am one of those people who always feels just a little bit of a let down when the project is done.

Strange really, when the end is in sight I start racing to the finish and second guessing if the yarn or the beads will hold out.

On the final rows I was weighing the cone every row just to make sure that this yarn and I would make it to the cast off.

During the cast off I was counting stitches and knitting faster and faster just so that I would have that brief thrill of winning at Yarn Chicken (by a landslide I might add, there are 13 whole grams of yarn left!) and of saying "It's done".

Which is promptly followed by a small hole in my chest's done.  What next?

I can get over that well, this time, though.  When you knit lace and straight from the cone with ColourMart yarn, just casting off isn't enough.  The saying may be that it isn't over until the fat lady sings, but in this knitter's world, it isn't over until the washing and blocking are done.* 

Is she everything I dreamed?  I can't tell yet, but I can tell that she is bigger than I thought she would be, but exact measurements will have to wait until she has had her spa treatment.  Then it will be a round of photo's and putting the finishing touches on the pattern before I can say for real that she is done.

Washing the oils out of a ColourMart Yarn can take a while, so that will be a project for the weekend.  So, technically, this is still a WIP.  :)

As to the question what is next.....


*ColourMart Yarns come with machine oil on them to allow commercial weaving and knitting.  Getting those oils out of the yarn can take several hot, soapy, water soakings and gentle washing.  Merino and Mohair both shrink or full quite well given hot water, soap and agitation, so it has to be washed very gently or I will have wasted hours of work!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Back to the Shawl Again

Well, that was an exciting weekend! 

Not one but two patterns pushed out of their warm little hiding places in the "My Patterns" file on my computer, out into the world,  or at least onto the internet. Thank you to everyone who popped over here from Melody's Makings and Knotions.  I hope you enjoyed your visit to my little corner of the world.

Once  the initial excitement wore down a little (I am still not saying it has worn off!) it was back to the shawl design again.  The rows are getting longer and longer, while the cone of yarn is getting lighter and lighter.

I am certain the yarn will hold out to the edging, I am a little concerned about being able to make it through the edging.  Unlike my Caramel and Cinnamon Shawl, I didn't intend for this one to have a contrasting border, but it might yet!

Of course, my creating the charts and then knitting the shawl is just the first small step towards having a pattern for you!  (At the very least she needs a name other than ColourMart Spring Contest 2016 Design.) Assuming that I don't look at her once she is off the needles and decide I want to change something and have to knit her all over again, there is the written portion of the pattern to consider, photography, editing, proof reading, test knitting.....All the behind the scenes stuff that the knitter doesn't see, unless she happens to be the designer.

She doesn't look like much yet, but has already taken weeks of planning, charting and knitting!

That would probably be why my sock patterns out number my shawl patterns by a lot!  They are so much quicker to design, less stitches to juggle in a chart, less stitches to juggle on my needles and typically, less words to tell you how to do them!

For those who were wondering, Margarita's Coverlet and I had a slight falling out this past week. All the charting and planning I was doing on other projects meant she is back in the giant project bag, for a little while, but I promised her that I would get back to her sooner rather than later!  Maybe once I have cast off the ColourMart Shawl.

I didn't ask you on Sunday, but what's on your needles this week?


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sitting by the Dock of the Bay, (Not) Wasting Time.

At least once a week there is somewhere that I have to be, waiting for someone else to do something. For you that might be waiting for baseball, gymnastics or dance practice to end.

For me, a lot of my waiting time is in school parking lots, libraries and doctor's offices. But inevitably it is somewhere that the big project with beads, charts and patterns, just isn’t part of the program.

You have heard me mention before that I always have a "pocket project" going, usually socks, sometimes swatches, just something to break the boredom of waiting or feeling that my time was not well spent.

This sock was born during one of those times where I needed something to knit, but hadn't planned ahead enough to know what to knit!

 Sitting, in the comfy chairs, in the periodicals section of the local library I cast on for a sock and let the shelves provide the inspiration for what the sock would be.  TOB (The Other Brother) was very impressed when he was finished and saw how far into the leg of the sock I was and how it did look like the shelves in front of me!

But here is the best part.

 Melody over at Melody's Makings is hosting this pattern that you can grab from her website for free as part of her Guest Contributor Program.

Want to know a little more about the pattern?

We'll start with the name!

I have a very eclectic selection of music on my ipod, Sitting by the Dock of the Bay was playing when I started creating these socks, and I hate the feeling of wasting time so....(Not) Wasting Time was how I was singing along (just in my head) while knitting!

Knit from the cuff down in an easy to memorize two row stitch pattern you will be surprised at how quickly the socks knit up!  A minute here, a few minutes there and suddenly you are at the heel flap.

The pattern stitch is simple enough that you can use just about any yarn you like, from handpainted yarns (like in the blue and purple one) to stripes (the greens) or anything in between.

Offered in two sizes they are the perfect "knit it and forget it until the holidays" project. Or use some of that time that you spend waiting for someone else and knit a pair for yourself!

I love seeing what other people create from my patterns!  If you are on Ravelry be sure to link your project to the pattern, which can be found here, and I promise I will take a look and love what you make!

Edited to add:  Have questions?  I have an FAQ page here or you can contact me at the email address in the pattern!


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Step into Spring- on Knotions!

Last year I made a commitment to myself to actually write out some of the patterns that I was creating when knitting for friends, distant family, myself and my kids.  As a test knitter I had seen how a few designers approached creating and finalizing a design, given input into wording and proof read patterns and charts, so I thought that I had a good grounding in what I wanted to accomplish.

Writing clear, concise, patterns that knitters who do not have instant access to me to find out what I meant to say, rather than what I did say, proved to be harder than I thought, and I have learned a lot since I started.  I have learned enough that earlier this year when a submission call went out for Knotions Magazine  I looked at the submission guide and decided to give it a try.  I told myself there could only possibly be a blow to my ego when I got the (hopefully politely worded) No in response to my submission and maybe I would get some valuable tips on how to make submissions better.

Having never gone through the submission process before I sent a "pre-submission" email to the editor and asked if the way I was presenting was what the magazine was looking for and she emailed me right back telling me I was on the right track, but my photo's needed some work.  The pattern wasn't complete when I sent that pre-submission, so I finished it up and we started the round of photo shoots that I hoped would get me some good pictures.

I had some time to get everything together, but TDQ is the usual knitwear model around here, and between her school and work schedules it seemed like every time we were both available to do the photo shoot it was dark, which doesn't make for good photos at all!  Every time we hit a day where it was possible to be out in natural light to take pictures it was raining, snowing or just plain cold.

TDQ was a trooper!  On the coldest day we had in a long time she was sitting on the deck rail so I could try and get some good pictures of the socks.

 (We also took some pictures of some other pieces that are coming up, but more about them when the time is right!) A light dusting of snow on another day and she was also out there in her "stocking feet" so I could take pictures. 

While we were doing that there were lots of giggles and comments from both of us about having to edit the pics so that the blue legs and goosebumps didn't show, or that we could claim Mystique from X-Men was the model.

When all was said and done, the pictures edited to the best of my ability and the pattern fully written, it still took a bit of courage to hit send on the actual submission.  During the time between my pre-submission and being ready to actually submit I had heard that the editor had been inundated with sock patterns, so there was going to be a lot of competition for the slots available.

I hope you can imagine how happy I was when instead of a politely worded rejection I got a "we would love to have your sock be part of the Winter/Spring issue" email one Sunday morning!   Definitely an ego boost rather than a blow to my ego!

Step Into Spring Socks are a cuff down sock with a heel flap and rounded toe knit in a dreamy alpaca blend sock yarn from Unplanned Peacock.  I found this yarn when we were at Wool Gathering in Yellow Springs and bought two different colorways. This one is a "mystery" color, an early version of  moss agate, but there are lots of colors available on their site.  There is a very generous yardage in the skein, which means I have some left over, which I might have plans for later!

Nestled inside the cables are some little lace eyelets, when I was working out the pattern they reminded me of snowdrops when they are just barely starting to peek out from under what is left of the snow.  A little ribbing between the cables helps give the sock some stretch, which I like in my socks!

You can grab the pattern here, along with a lot of other brilliantly written beautiful designs!

I love seeing what other people create from my patterns.  The best way for that is to share your projects on Ravelry.

I'll be back tomorrow with another tidbit of news!


Friday, April 1, 2016

Aren't Friday's for Finished Objects?

I was going to make you a pan of brown e's for April Fools day, but somehow I have lost the picture of the ones my kids made me a year, or was it two, ago!  So you will have to make do with one!

Here you go...


Ok, now that the April Fool's Day Foolery is done...

All you get today is a progress report. 

The rows on my ColourMart Spring Contest Shawl are getting longer and longer.  It is really hard to accurately judge how much yarn is left on that cone, I keep weighing it and crossing my fingers that it will hold out through the charts I wrote and the edging.

If I was clever enough I would make one of those "What I think I do" photo things that I keep seeing on the internet.  You know the ones.

This one would look something like this:

What Knitters Think I do....and there would be a picture of the money rolling in.

What my Family Thinks I do.....maybe a picture of someone sitting in front of a television, in their pj's, knitting. (Not that I sit in front of the television to knit.  It may come as a shock to the rest of the world, but I think it has been three or four months since we turned the thing on!)

What Editors Think I do.....picture of someone blindfolded while typing a pattern.

What I think I do.....picture of someone having an "inspirational moment"

What I actually do....stressed out person creating charts in excel with a calculator, pencil and many ripped apart swatches covering their desk.

But, back to the progress report!

So far, all the charts are working out pretty much the way I intended them to.  The "spineless spine" has sections that look like actual vertebra, probably something like C5-T1, with some random L1-3 thrown in just because.  It is remarkably hard to chart though! 

Typically for a top down triangle you can chart half the triangle, put in the spine stitch with the repeat following it as just "go back and do the same again" with the edge stitches shown on the other end...this one has the knitter doing different things utilizing one stitch on the sides and one dead center of the shawl.  As soon as I figure that little conundrum out the pattern is just about ready for testers.  

If the yarn holds out I have 20 more rows of the body and the edging to go.  I should probably put in a lifeline now, as I am at a good stopping point for if the yarn doesn't hold out and can just add the edging here, but....

Well, I like to live dangerously!

I have said it before and I will say it again, about many things...

It is a calculated risk, but I am not very good at math!

I will see you tomorrow with some exciting news!!!