Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010: Thank You!

2010 is coming rapidly to a close. What a year!

This is the year I went pro. I finally gave up the day job, and have been working full-time as a knitting professional. It's been challenging and busy, but I'm so very glad I did it.

I can't believe all the things I've done this year:

I've taught classes at
-Lettuce Knit
-The Purple Purl
-the dearly departed Naked Sheep
-two DKC events
-the Creativ Festival
-Shall We Knit in New Hamburg

And I've had speaking engagements at
-the Kawartha Lakes Knitting Guild
-the Kitchener Waterloo Knitting Guild

I've written for
-this blog
-the Knittyblog
-the Signature Needles blog

I've had designs published in
-Yarn Forward Mag

I've appeared in several books, including
The Perfect Finish

Behind the scenes, I've done:
-technical editing & production support for 4 issues of Knitty
-editing for 4 issues of A Needle Pulling Thread Magazine
-various other tech editing work for yarn companies and publishers

I've published a bunch of new designs, including
-the Heirloom Baby Bonnet
-the Roasted Carrot Sock
-the Walking on Sunshine socks

And I've loved every single minute of it.

Thanks a million to everyone I've worked with and for, and everyone who has bought my patterns, and everyone I've met this year. Your support means so much to me.

I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to 2011. 2011 brings new challenges and ideas and publications - not least of which is my very own book. More details on that as we get closer, but we're hoping for spring/summer publication.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crowdsourcing: Thank you!

Big thanks to my readers and Twitter followers for some help they've provided me recently: I have lots of babies' head measurements, and some great feedback on the catnip-stuffed mouse pattern.

I have learned several things: my readers are helpful and generous, babies' head vary greatly in size, and some cats are pretty vicious!

Friday, December 10, 2010

May I Please Measure Your Baby's Head?

A few months ago I worked on the pattern for the Heirloom Baby Bonnet. It's been a winner - people love knitting it, and I love seeing the adorable results.

I've been asked about writing it for multiple sizes. The original pattern was sized to match the original bonnet. (See story here.) It fits about a 3 month old.

It's not as easily resized as a standard hat, because of the way it fits. I've found useful tables of head circumferences only - the Craft Yarn Council of America site has a great page here.

(The graphic comes from their site.)

But head circumference isn't immediately helpful for this design. I need the other direction - around under the chin and up over the top of the head, and then the partial circumference around the back of the head at about cheek height.

I've been grumbling that I don't have access to a baby to measure, and I'm pretty sure I'd be arrested if I started trying to measure the heads of babies in the street.

And then it occurs to me - out there in internet land, there are babies! And mamas of said babies who might be willing to help me.

Mamas? Can you help?

I'm looking for the following info, for babies up to 18 months old: age of the babe, circumference of the head around the chin and up over the top of the head, and measurement around the back of the head from cheek to cheek.

Please leave a comment or email me the info. Free copy of the multi-size baby bonnet pattern to anyone who can help.

Thank you!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Happy Birthday Lettuce Knit - Still Reasonably Local

I moved into the Kensington Market neighbourhood of Toronto 7 and a half years ago. At the time, I remarked to my hubby that it seemed perfect - everything we needed was in walking distance - except a yarn shop.

This said was purely in jest, as there was a very good yarn shop 1.6km (1 mile) away, a very nice 15 minute walk through a park.

And lo and behold, 6 months later, Lettuce Knit opened. On the very street on which I live! Just over 200m (about 230 yds) away. I was in heaven.

Over the 7 years the shop has been open, it's moved twice, each time to larger premises. Sadly, it's been moving further away.... now it's at number 86 Nassau Street, a whole 70m (75yds) further down the street.

Despite this extra distance, I may well be the luckiest knitter in the world - I don't know many who live quite that local to their local yarn shop. It's less than a skein's distance away!

And I'm even luckier to be part of the Lettuce family: I've been teaching and working there for 4 of its 7 years. Happy Birthday to my most local yarn shop, and the great team that works there!

Anyone live closer to a yarn shop? (Megan, who lives about 50m away, doesn't count, she's the owner!)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Being Rude Again/A Victim of Geography

I had a Twitter conversation with a friend this morning, and N. pointed out it me that it looked from the outside like I was being rude about a designer. Specifically, I said that I thought the designs of Debbie Bliss are "gorgeous... her write-ups not so much".

I do have a bit of a big mouth - my opinions can be strong, and I sometimes type before I think. I don't take back my statement, but let me add some context.

I love love love the designs of Debbie Bliss. She has a genuine gift for simplicity and elegance. She understands that less is more in a way that few other designers do. I've knitted a number of her designs over the years, and I buy her magazine and her books.

But I have been known to grumble about her pattern writeups - and today I did. Her instructions are known to be fairly... shall we say... minimal. It's not about mistakes or problems, not at all. As a knitter and a teacher I've never encountered any actual mistakes or problems with any of them. The issue is always about the level of detail in the instructions.

I don't actually blame any of this on Debbie Bliss or her technical editors. I blame geography. And it's not just Debbie Bliss - the Rowan pattern books are similar in the way they are written.

I've recently been doing some technical editing for a yarn company, helping them convert some patterns published in Europe to a more North American standard.

The standards for pattern writing are wildly different between Europe and North America. And the UK patterns fall somewhere in between.

It's about space. European pattern books typically print their patterns in multiple language, and therefore where they can edit to be more concise, they do. And that conciseness results in patterns that require a little more knowledge and experience to successfully follow them, that's all.

Consider the following example, taken directly from a pattern published in Europe.

Cast on 117(129) sts, then work over the 39(45) sts at each outer edge as foll: edge st and st st, in pattern mix foll chart A over the 39 center sts, dec 4 sts evenly across as given = 113(125)sts. When work measures 32 cm, on 103rd row patt mix, bind off for armholes at each end 3(5) sts once, then on every 2nd row 2 sts once and 1st 3 times = 97(105) sts.

It's perfectly correct, and it's perfectly knittable, but there's a lot of information packed into those few words. And it's not just about denseness, it also requires a fair bit of experience. For example, it tells you to bind off sts for armholes "at each end... every 2nd row". Taken at face value, that instruction could be tricky... after all, it's not possible to bind off at the start and end of a row (without doing some "stitch gymnastics", anyway).

Re-written to a style more familiar to North American knitters, the instruction becomes:
Using 3.5mm (US 4) needles, cast on 117 (129) sts.
Row 1 (RS): K 39 (45), work Chart A row 1 across center 39 sts (including decreases as charted), k to end. 113 (125) sts.
Row 2 (WS): P 39 (45), work Chart A row 2 across center 35 sts, p to end.

Continue in pattern as established until pattern row 102 is complete.
Bind off 3(5) sts at the start next 2 rows, continuing to work Chart on center 35 sts as established. 107 (115) sts.
Bind off 2(2) at the start of the next 2 rows. 103 (111) sts.
Decrease 1 st at each end of the following 3 RS rows. 97(105) sts.

Compare a typical Debbie Bliss or Rowan pattern to this European example - it's positively voluble!

Patterns published in the UK don't necessarily have the same space constraints as other European patterns, as they are only publishing in one language, and therefore they do provide a fair bit more detail. It's just that it's not necessarily the level of detail that you see in typical modern North American patterns.

Really, the biggest issue with this is that because Ms. Bliss's gorgeous designs appeal to newer knitters in their simplicity, but the pattern instructions can challenging.

There's a longer discussion here about how much knowledge is appropriate to assume on the part of the knitter... I know that there have been, and there will always be, discussions about whether simplifying and adding more detail is "dumbing down".

Despite my somewhat cranky demeanor, I'm all about encouragement. I want knitters to feel confident and be successful with their projects - and if that means taking a few extra lines to explain something in more detail, then I'm all for it! After all, we knit for pleasure - we shouldn't make it any more difficult than it needs to be.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

And so the Holiday Season Begins...

Happy December!

It's a time for celebrations and feasting and decorating and giving of goodies. No matter what you celebrate, I hope the closing of the year finds you well and happy and surrounded by what gives you joy.

Me, I'm surrounded by knitting, delicious treats and a warm, sleepy dog. We're a bi-festive family, celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah.

For the past couple of years, I've designed a couple of holiday treats for my lovely friends at Signature Needle Arts, one of each of the holidays I celebrate.

This year there's the Argyle Stocking.

And the Hanukkah Mitten and Sock Garland - for decorating, and filling with gelt.

Visit the Signature Needle Arts Website to get the patterns.