Tuesday, December 30, 2014

VATMOSS and VATMESS and January 1st 2015

In response to the VATMOSS changes to taxation for purchases for EU customers, I'm making two (small) changes to how I go about doing things.

I will offer my patterns, as always, through Ravelry and Patternfish. Purchasers in the EU will see no major changes in their Patternfish experience, other than they will have VAT applied based on their location. Ravelry purchasers in the EU will be directed to LoveKnitting to complete their purchases.

Pattern Writing Book
I'll be shutting down my own mini online store that I've been using to sell my Pattern Writing book. If you wish to purchase that after December 31st, your options are Patternfish and WEBS. The price will be the same at both sites, and the experience exactly the same. (Although I'm sure what WEBS is doing for EU purchases... ) (There is no support for e-books currently with LoveKnitting, but as soon as that becomes available I will make sure the book is available there, too.)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Design Along Contest

You've all heard of knit-alongs, where knitters support each other as they work on the same project. There are often contests for knitter who participate.

I'm very happy to announce that along with Kate of A Playful Day, and Jeni of Fyberspates yarns, we're doing something a little different: a design-along contest, coming up in the new year.

We're encouraging new designers to come up with ideas for a knit accessory. Designers will need to submit swatches/sketches/description OR a finished photo of something they’ve made already that they want to write a pattern for.

Kate, Jeni and I will judge the entries, coming up with 5 finalists, and the final winner will be decided upon by an open vote from your fellow knitters.

The winner will receive yarn support from Fyberspates, a 2-hour technical consult from me, and a one-hour consult from other Kate on publishing. Deadline is February 1, 2015.

More info here.

Friday, December 19, 2014

On Air Drying & Mildew

I wrote about sheep's wool and water a couple of weeks ago. In short: wool improves with washing. Wash it carefully, but do wash it.

I talk about this a fair bit, in my Blocking class, in my Finishing classes, and whenever given the opportunity.

There's a follow-up question I've heard a number of times recently... I thought it was worth addressing.

(Forgive some lazy sociology and history on my part, please.)

In the Western World, the last few generations have had the luxury of automatic clothes washing and drying machines. They have made a huge change in the lives of so many. And we've enjoyed them so very much that it's changed now only how we do our laundry, but how we think about laundry and fabrics and fibers.

To the point where I think we're not aware that it's possible to clean your clothes without them.

I'm a big fan of air-drying my clothes: it saves power, it saves wear-and-tear on my clothes, and in the winter it humidifies the apartment. I take the items out of the washer, hang them on the rack, leave them overnight. The next day, everything goes for a quick ten or fifteen-minute spin in the dryer to soften it all up. Done.

If it's a delicate/hand wash item, I will hand-wash it, roll it in a towel to squeeze most of the moisture out, and then I'll hang it.

If it's a heavy item - like, oh, I don't know, a sweater - I might choose to lay it flat on top of a towel on the flat portion of the rack.

But yeah, everything gets air-dried.

More than once, recently, when discussing methods for handwashing sweaters, I've been asked if the pieces will mildew if you don't put them in the clothes dryer.

I was a little puzzled at first, I'll be honest.

But then I realized... the younger knitters I was talking to had likely never hand-washed anything. They'd likely never air-dried anything.

At the risk of going all 'hippy', air-drying is better for your clothes,  better for the environment, and better for your wallet.

If you don't have a laundry rack, lie a towel on the floor or bed or mattress.  And as long as there's air circulation around the pieces, they will dry very nicely, with no risk of mildew at all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New Pattern: Wavedeck

In all the fuss about the book, I sort of lost track of the fact that I had a new design coming out.

I actually told someone the other day that I hadn't been doing much designing of late. She laughed at me.

Introducing Wavedeck.

I've been playing with the Pi shawl concept for a while, and I published the Rosetta Tharpe Pi shawl this summer. I adore Ms. Rosetta a lot, and I wear her often.

A friend of mine said that she thought it was great, but reckoned that half the knitting was wasted. I asked her to explain. Her reply was simple: you're always folding it in half, aren't you?

She's entirely right. I tend to fold Ms. Rosetta over to wear her. So why not save myself half the time and half the yarn?

Like the Sick Day Shawl, this is a semi-circle, based on the same principle as the Pi Shawl. They're tons of fun to design! But also faster to knit and easier to wear! I've also made it faster by using a heavier than usual yarn: who says lace has to be worked in laceweight?

The lace looks complicated but it's really not. I've used one of my favourite stitch patterns for the edging: the classic Shetland Razor Shell.

The response has been wonderful so far, for which I'm very grateful.

Amy did the photography, and I'm utterly thrilled with how she made the piece (and me) look.

The location choice was a stroke of genius on her part: the Wavedeck at the foot of Simcoe Street, right in Downtown Toronto.

I used to work near here, and it was lovely to enjoy the sights I used to have to ignore while I was suffering through a corporate gig.

It's also not at all obvious that I was freezing cold and my arms were shaking from holding it up for so long. As any knit designer's model knows, it's remarkably difficult to stand still with your arms in the air for any length of time.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Awful photos.

One of the things I talk about in the book is the importance of good photography for your patterns: not just to make the thing seem sexy and attractive, but also as a tool for your knitters to be able to really see and understand the piece.

Back in September I gave one of my favourite photographers, Gillian Martin, a ridiculous assignment. I told her I wanted bad sweater photos.

"What d'ya mean, bad?"

"Something like the photos I take", I said. I'm terrible at photography.

Gillian enlisted her hubby and the lovely Sue Frost, and they had what was clearly a very fun afternoon taking some terrifically bad photographs.

Some of them are too bad to not share, if you see what I mean.

This one's ok, but it is a  little crooked.... 

Is this selling the sweater or the shawl? Neither very well...

Sue is adorable but I can't see much of the sweater... 

Pippin is even more adorable, but ditto.

Speaking of Pippin the cat... 

And because Sue loves her dogs as much as she loves her cats. In the moody darkness.

Nice hedge. Is that a sweater he's wearing?

Ok, I don't think we needed to get in *that* close.

Hi Gillian! I can see you!

I'm grateful to all three - plus Sue's pets - for being good sports about it all. I doubt Gillian will be putting this particular assignment in her portfolio, but I'm a very happy client.

Sunday, December 07, 2014


UPDATE: With encouragement from commenters and the Twitter-verse, I contacted the shop in question. They were responsive and appreciative of the help. Their response: "We want people to keep knitting and not get frustrated." I love this response and they should be commended for that.

Warning: Rant.

The longer I've been teaching knitting, the less patient I've become with bad pattern writing.

Heck, it's why I wrote the book.

Good pattern writing matters because I want knitters to be successful. A bad pattern decreases the knitter's chance of success. And that makes an unhappy knitters. An unhappy knitter is less likely to keep knitting. A knitter who stops knitting won't buy my patterns. Or anyone else's. Or yarn. Or needles. Or books.

I want to keep doing this for a living, so I want knitters to be successful and happy.

So when I see bad patterns I get grumpy.

And I saw a doozy this week.

(Some details have been changed to protect the guilty.)

It was for a hat. Apparently, an adult hat, but it didn't actually say that on the pattern. It was just called "Heidi's Hat".

It didn't have sizing information - either the size of the person to wear the hat, or the size of the hat itself.

It didn't have gauge information, so I couldn't even have worked out what size it was.

And the for the yarn info, it just named a yarn. Didn't tell me the put-up (size of ball/skein) or the yardage or the fiber content, or anything. Some yarns come in different sizes balls, you know... Paton's Canadiana, for example, comes in a few different sizes - 100gm and 85gm balls, depending on whether it's the tweed, solid or variegated variants); some sock yarns come in both 50gm and 100gm balls - Regia and Fortissima, for example. So to tell me that you need 1 ball of Yarn Co's Bulky Weight isn't enough. What if I can find that yarn and I need to substitute? Even if it was sold at a store selling both the yarn the pattern, what if I wanted to make it again, next year?

And without gauge info, how on earth am I to substitute accurately? Or even figure out the right needle size.

Oh yeah, needles. It tells me I need a 16 inch circular, but neglects to mention that I'll need other needes to handle the decrease (even though it mentions that in the instructions themselves).

And then the instructions. Hoo boy.

The CO was ok, and it did remember to tell me to join to work in the round so that was nice.

So you CO 56 sts, and work some ribbing... given as
Twisted Rib: K1 through back loop, P1.  
Continue for 2".

Not brilliantly described, but you could probably muddle through.

But then if offered the following:
Knit 7 stitches, kfb across the row. 

My poor knitting student, who wasn't much more than a beginner, had taken it at face value, and worked as follows: k7, and then kfb across every single stitch of the round.

And then, as she was told, she worked for 5 inches, and tried to do the decreases. Leaving aside that the decrease instructions we just as messy, we figured out that what the instruction should have been was:
(K7, kfb) across the round.

It's only brackets, right? How important could they be? Turns out they are VITAL.

K7, kfb to the end on 56 sts gets you a very funny looking round with 105 stitches, instead of the required 63.

(Oh yeah, and the row/round thing? That's not cool either. But again, you could probably have muddled through.)

And the decrease instructions were equally confusing... Lots of stuff like
K5, k2tog across the row

which again, is absolutely NOT correct. And because there was no stitch count given after any of the decrease instructions, my student had no way of knowing if she was on track or not.

Now, an experienced knitter would probably have done ok with this pattern. But my student wasn't an experienced knitter. She'd said that the woman who sold her this pattern said it was easy to knit. Oh yeah, it's a stockinette hat in the round. It's not difficult to knit that kind of hat if the instructions are good and/or you've made a hat before. But neither of these things were true, in this case.

And yes, you read that right. My poor student had paid money for this pattern.

This is not the way to keep knitters happy.

My poor student couldn't make it work and she was unhappy and just about ready to dump the project. When something goes wrong in pattern we're inclined to blame ourselves. She couldn't make it work, so she assumed she was a bad knitter. She was just about ready to give up knitting entirely.

Now, it is true that many weak patterns are weak because the designers writing the instructions don't have the knowledge or understanding or skills to write a good pattern. I didn't, at first. My early patterns were pretty poor. Knit designers are often born with good design skills, but no-one is born with good pattern writing skills. They're two very different skill sets.

I don't expect that designers are all interested/positioned for/inclined towards learning how to write patterns. That's ok. What would make me happy is just an appreciation that the quality of the instructions matters enormously - heck, our livelihoods depend on it - and an understanding that if you're not sure about it, you should get some help.

The good news (she says pompously), is that I can help. Buy the book.

Seriously, though. I love seeing new designers build their careers. I love all the great stuff that knitters are inventing. I just hate seeing new knitters being scared off the craft because of poor instructions.

For those who are asking, it's an in-store pattern from a newish yarn shop in a Canadian city. Not Toronto. Seems to me that it was written by one of the shop staff. Part of me wants to contact them and offer help, but I don't know if that would be appreciated or not. What do you think? Should I?

Thursday, December 04, 2014

In Which I Am Grateful

I've dedicated the new book to any knitter who has ever knitted from a pattern.

But actually, it's dedicated to me, 10 years ago. Me, when I was just publishing my first designs. This is the book I needed when I was trying to write up those first patterns, to save some myself some serious embarrassments and mistakes... (And to those poor knitters who tried to knit from my early patterns.)

I hope that it will help the next generation of knit designers as they publish their first designs.

There are lots of people to thank for supporting me on the project.

Kim Werker - editor extraordinaire. I'll be honest: I was worried when, after her first editing pass, she said it was in fantastic shape. I thought she hadn't read it closely enough.
Zabet Groznaya - not only is she a great person and a really good graphic designer, but she gets me. With barely any direction she produced a layout concept I adored.
Allison Thistlewood - marketing support. She asked the sensible questions and helped me figure out how to tell the world about it, and how to get it into people's hands.
Krystal London and Anne Blayney - for responding to desperate calls on Twitter for fast-turnaround design support. (The fact that they both regularly post adorable dog pictures on Twitter may or may not be connected.)
Avalon Sandoval for a bit of knitting which is being seen more broadly than I think she expected...
Gillian Martin and Sue Frost for some hilariously terrible photography.

And there are those who helped me with the content itself...

All the knitters who replied to my "tell me what you do and don't like in patterns" survey.

All the designers and experts who endured my questions and let me quote them:
Ruth Garcia-Alcantud, Kara Gott Warner, Elizabeth Green-Musselman, Zabet Groznaya, Nadia Majid, Kim McBrien-Evans, Amy Palmer, Emily Ringelman, Caro Sheridan, Lynne Sosnowski, Jenna Wilson, and Woolly Wormhead; Lorilee Beltman, Anne Berk, Donna Druchunas, Fiona Ellis, Katya Frankel, Deb Gemmell, Julia Grunau, Kate Heppell, Hunter Hammersen, Melissa Leapman, Lucy Neatby, Laura Nelkin, and Lindsay Stephens.

Those who suffered through early drafts:
Cari Angold, Rayna Curtis Fegan, Beth Graham, Janelle Martin, Kim McBrien-Evans, Lynne Sosnowski, Karie Westermann, Keri Williams, and Edna Zuber.

My former and current colleagues at Knitty:
Liz Ashdowne, Ruth Garcia-Alcantud, Ashley
Knowlton, Mandy Moore, Jillian Moreno, and Amy Singer.

Some key contributors deserve special mention: Lynne Sosnowski, for her most excellent contribution to the Selling Online chapter, and Jenna Wilson for setting me right on Copyright.

And then there's the home team: Norman for letting me shrug off housework, meal-making and dog walking duties. Anna at Cafe Unwind for Friday afternoon coffee breaks. And for Dexter, who didn't try to eat or destroy this one.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

New book: Pattern Writing for Knit Designers

I’ve written another book. Yeah, I know! Another one.

This is a bit different. This isn’t a book for knitters – it’s a book for designers.

Announcing “Pattern Writing for Knit Designers” available for purchase as an e-book now , for $25. Buy Now (Paypal link - supports credits cards and PayPal.)

You can also buy through Patternfish here.

Printed copies will be available in the new year; if you buy the digital version first and wish to order a hard copy, I’ll give you a generous credit towards the price.

What’s it all about?

I’ve written the book that I wish existed before I became a knitter. I’ve created the resource that I wish existed before I became a designer. I’ve built the guide that I wish existed every day of my teaching career. I’ve delivered the manual that the designers I edit wish existed.

The goal of Pattern Writing for Knit Designers is to help designers write good knitting patterns.

When I was first learning to knit, I had some really terrible experiences because I was working with poor instructions; I very nearly gave up the craft. When I was first learning to design, I wrote some pretty terrible patterns; I’m sure that some knitters gave up working from my patterns. When I’m teaching, I see knitters struggle with weak instructions all the time. I find myself coaxing knitters off the “I can’t do this, I’m going to give it up” ledge.

Good pattern writing matters because we want knitters to keep knitting.

It’s easy to say that patterns should be good. But how to make that happen?

Designing and pattern writing are very different skills; being good at one doesn’t make you good at the other. Indeed, the skills needed for both rarely go together. The most skilled and creative designers have immensely imaginative minds and are gifted at spatial and free-form thinking; pattern writing requires order and logic and a detail orientation that doesn’t always come naturally to the creative mind. (Me, I definitely tend towards the order, logic and detail orientation. I’ve got a degree in math and spent many years working in documentations and communications in the software industry.)

This book is a guide to make pattern writing easier for all levels and types of designers.

It includes lots of concrete examples and a full downloadable template that you can use as a basis for your patterns. I discuss the big picture and the minutiae, e.g. the proper use of * to indicate repeats, the whys and wherefores of charts, and the full gory details on garment sizing, grading and measurements.

And don’t just take it from me! I’ve surveyed knitters of all levels on what they like to see in knitting patterns, and they are quoted throughout. I’ve spoken to professional photographers and layout experts on how to make your design and pattern look its best. And I’ve interviewed magazine editors to get tips on how to make your submissions and design proposals their best.

Cool stuff in the book!
  • Pattern Structure – what elements should a good pattern have
  • Pattern Elements – a detailed look at each element identified
  • The Actual Knitting Instructions – using knitting conventions and straightforward presentation to make a widely-understood pattern
  • Charts – when and how to make them
  • Grading & garment sizing – resources and guidelines 
  • Formatting and Layout – making a pattern visually user-friendly
  • The Process – how to go from test knitting to a final publication
  • Selling Online – platforms, processes, and good business practices
  • On Copyright – an introduction to these important laws

Monday, November 24, 2014

Doing the Math

A couple of weeks ago I ran a web seminar on the topic of Math for Knitters.

Topics I covered included:
  • Yarn shop math: how to make sure you're buying enough yarn for your project.
  • Pattern math: gauge math; repeats and how to deal with numbers-intensive instructions in your project, like "decrease five sts evenly across; and the dreaded 'Reversing Shapings' and 'At the Same Time'.
  • Project math: how to figure out how long it will take you to finish your project, how to figure out if you have enough yarn, how to figure out how long you can make your scarf.
It was recorded, and is available for your listening pleasure at any time.  Find it here, in the Interweave online store.

Math for Knitters Part Two runs Wednesday December 10th at 1pm EST.

In this session, I'll be diving deep into gauge, providing you a good understanding of what it's all about: why it matters, how to check, it, and what to do if you can't match it.

I'll talk about adjusting patterns for gauge: how to do it, and when not to. We'll talk about garment adjustments - how to easily modify a garment to improve the fit.

Although I know that I love the math, not everyone else does, so many of my solutions are about keeping the number-crunching to a minimum.

This session will make you a smarter shopper: I'll help you figure out how to choose patterns that are easiest to modify. And then I'll show you how to make those modifications to get exactly the result you want!

If you love math, this class is for you - I'll empower you to adjust and modify patterns to your needs! And if you don't love math, this class is for you - I'll show you how to avoid it as much as possible, while still making adjustments.

Register here. Again, it will be recorded so if you can't make it live you can listen to it later. And heck, even if you are able to listen to it live, you can listen again and again!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Math for Knitters: On Adjusting for Gauge

The first part of my Math for Knitters webseminar ran today. I think I solved some problems and answered my questions. I hope!

The second part runs next month.

In the second part, I tackle the topic of gauge and pattern adjustments. I know it's a topic of interest to many, and some the questions I got today confirmed that.

In short, the main one seems to be "I don't match gauge, so how can I adjust the pattern?" I find this question absolutely fascinating, on so many levels.

I remember asking it myself. And I've heard it many, many times, from other knitters. In short, the pattern is great, you've got some yarn you want to use, and they don't match.

As I got better at knitting, I figured out I could solve this problem: I could just use my math skills to recalculate the pattern. In essence, this is true. As I got better still, I figured out that it's actually not necessarily the simplest (or best) way to go about it.

I love math. I really do. I do Ken-Ken and Sudoku puzzles for fun. But I know that not everyone does.

Adjusting a pattern for gauge is simple enough for a scarf, but the minute there is shaping it gets significantly more difficult. (Sleeves: tricky. Sleeve caps: nightmarish.) Now, some of us enjoy this. And I definitely want to empower those of you who do enjoy this sort of thing and want to dig deeper.

But. But. Not everyone does want to go there.

I offer better solutions! Solutions that don't require you to become an expert in garment design. Solutions that get you knitting faster, and with a higher chance of success. Without giving too much away, it's all about choosing the right pattern... find a pattern that has solved the difficult problems for you, and then use some easy math to solve the simpler problems that remain.

Come, join my webseminar (details TBA, but it's Wednesday December 10th, 1pm EST) and see. The key to this is understanding which are the difficult problems and which are the easy ones. I share that with you, and I share how to solve those easy problems.

My approach is a little unusual, I know. But hey, remember the story about the American scientists spending millions of dollars to invent a pen that could write in zero gravity? The Russians just used a pencil.

Unusual, yes, but quicker, easier, and just as effective!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

My new cardigan & the lengths I go to to avoid placing buttonholes

I wrote all about it on the Knittyblog.

An out-take from the photoshoot.
Go look!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Math for Knitters Web seminar

Something else I hinted at recently: I'm doing a two-part Web seminar with Interweave on the topic of Math for Knitters.

The first session is next Wednesday, November 12th, at 1pm EST. You can attend live, or listen to a recording at your leisure after the fact. Attendees at the live session will be able to ask questions. (The prerecorded version will be made available for listening a few days after the live session.)

The first session is all about the math needed to successfully work a project:
We’ll equip you with the skills to handle any pattern, from ensuring you have enough yarn to being able to read, follow and decipher the instructions, including such challenges as "increase 12 stitches evenly distributed across the row," and “work decreases every sixth row 5 times, and every fourth row 12 times, and every following alt row.” We’ll also discuss clever tricks such as using a digital kitchen scale to help you use up your yarn stash, and to calculate how long you’ll need to finish up a project.

Rather than turning this into a boring high-school algebra class, I focus on easy tricks and solutions, working through some real-life examples to show you how it all comes together. I'll even give you some ways to avoid the numbers entirely if you don’t feel confident about them.

Math for Knitters part one is all about tools you’ll require to execute a pattern successfully. The second web seminar, to be held in December, will focus on gauge and pattern alterations and adjustments.

For more info, and to register, visit the Interweave store.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Announcing the new book: Pattern Writing for Knit Designers

I've been talking about this obliquely for a while, but it's time to come clean. I've been working on a new book...Pattern Writing for Knit Designers. It's the culmination of my work as a a technical editor and my previous career as a product communications specialist in the technology industry.

The book is a guide to writing knitting patterns: how to translate your great knitting project into a set of instructions that any other knitter can follow.

I feel very strongly about the quality of knitting patterns: good pattern writing matters because we want knitters to keep knitting.

Aimed at emerging designers and knitters creating their own patterns, Pattern Writing for Knit Designers is the comprehensive guide that can help you translate your project into a set of instructions that any knitter can follow.

In my typical no-nonsense (but friendly!) way, I provide concrete guidelines with lots of examples on everything from pattern writing basics (what information needs to be in a knitting pattern), to schematics and charts (what they are, why you need them, and how to create them), to handling multiple sizes, establishing a personal style sheet, and more. The book addresses the details of how to create complete, clear and easy-to-use knitting patterns, for any type of design, and for any level of knitter.

With over ten years of experience as the Managing Technical Editor for Knitty.com, as well as tech editing for Annie Modesitt, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Laura Nelkin, Interweave magazines, Cooperative Press and Potter Craft, I've edited literally thousands of patterns for designers, yarn companies and publishers. I believe that my unique combination of skills and training (a degree in math and training in fashion design), and my 10+ years' experience as a knitting teacher across North America, offer a one-of-a-kind perspective on ways designers can improve their patterns to make knitters love them.

I provide concrete guidelines, with lots of examples, on topics including:
  • what information needs to be included in a knitting pattern
  • how to properly and clearly communicate sizing and measurement information
  • what schematics are, why you need them, and how to create them
  • how to use charts and written instructions to express special pattern stitches like cables and lace
  • stitch nomenclature (especially related to cables), abbreviations, and glossaries -how to handle multiple sizes and versions
  • use of brackets and * to indicate repeats
  • how to establish a personal style sheet 
And much, much more. So much more!

I discuss technical editing and test knitting – explain what they are how, why they’re important, and when they need to be done. I give tips for designers who wish to self-publish, and for those preparing submissions to a publication.
In addition, I provide two key resources: a master template – both in printed and digital form –and a master glossary and abbreviations list.

I'm proud of the book, and I'm very pleased to say that people are already saying great things about it.

This book is AWESOME. - Donna Druchunas

Kate Atherley's marvelous book is essential reading for any designer looking to create patterns that work well and sell well; and intriguing reading for any curious knitter who has ever wondered what goes into the creation of pattern. - Franklin Habit

If you are considering pattern writing, or want to become a knitter who understands how to read patterns more deeply, this book is for you. I certainly wish I had it when I was starting out! - Laura Nelkin

Kate is a fount of knowledge gained  from her years of experience tech editing pattern instructions and  working hands on with knitters of all levels. She is uniquely situated  in our industry, forming a bridge between designer and pattern user.  This book distills all of the information she has researched & is in  her head into a step-by-step check list of what we need to consider  when publishing our work. - Fiona Ellis

It will be available as an e-book December 2014.

Email address (required) 
I promise I will only use your email address once, to let you know when the book is available. Thanks for your interest!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Tempest giveaway winner

Comment #40.

Jlangt64 I will be in touch!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sheep get rained on, you know. On washing wool.

There's an article making the rounds of Twitter this week about superwash wools, and how they are made.

I read it, and learned a few interesting things about how a wool is made superwash. But it was the last line in the article that caught my attention...
What is the most eco-friendly yarn that also is able to be washed without shrinking? Things like slipper socks can get awfully dirty. (Or will I have to just soak them in cold water?)
And my first thought was "here we go again".

Sheep in the rain. Image from The Fairhope Farm blog. 

I hear this so very often: that wool can't be washed without great difficulty, that wool can't be washed without shrinking. That wool shouldn't get wet. That somehow water is bad for wool.

I get it, I do. We've all had a laundry disaster: a beautiful wool sweater, ruined. We've all been told by our mothers that wool things shouldn't go in the washing machine. And from that, so often, we extrapolate the fact that wool is difficult to wash, and it shouldn't get wet, that water is bad for wool.

This belief is leading people very far astray.

In fact, if you don't wash your wool you're asking for trouble. Moths - those pesky eaters of sweaters, ruiners of stashes, breakers of hearts - are attracted to dirty wool. Wool that has oils from your skin and hair on them. That's the stuff that the moths want to eat. If you're not washing your wool, you're asking it to get ruined.

But wool shrinks, you say! Mother told me!

Wool can felt - get denser - when it is washed. But it's not the water that's making that happen. It's agitation. The washing machine is bad for wool not because of the water, but because of the motion. It's motion - the friction, agitation, rubbing - that causes wool to felt.

A temperature shock - a rapid temperature change in water - can also cause felting. That's why a hot wash causes felting, too. You're shocking the wool. You'd be shocked, too, if you had hot water dumped on you.

In fact, water makes wool more beautiful: it evens out your knit fabrics, it causes the fibres to fluff up and bloom, it opens up your lace work and patterning, it gets any pesky overdye and coffee stains and dog hair off.

Just don't shock or agitate it. You can wash it to your heart's content. Just don't machine wash it.

(Some modern washing machines do have hand-wash cycles - they're basically movement-free and apparently very wonderful. My machine is not that clever, sadly.)

It's really not hard:

  • soak your pieces in a sink or tub of lukewarm water for about half an hour.
  • a wool-wash like SOAK is specially devised to not need rinsing out, so all you need to do is pour off the water, or drain the sink. (No rinsing! Really! This is actually true!) 
  • roll them in a towel to squeeze the excess water out
  • and lay them flat to dry

See! Easy! Stress-free! Not special equipment required!And so many benefits.

P.S. This is also the secret to Blocking.

And I have to say, although I love Kat's theory, it's sadly just not true.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Epic Crochet Scarf of Madness and Ends

I can tell you precisely when I lost my mind. It was early summer, when I saw the Spring/Summer 2014issue of the Noro magazine. And this scarf. This amazing crochet scarf, in my favourite colourway of Taiyo sock, #23.

I enjoy crochet, and since I'm less skilled at it, there are fewer urges to adapt and change and design than when knitting... I can just follow a pattern and enjoy the ride.

So I started it. I naturally had a ball of that colour in my stash, and I was looking for a bit of light relief after my epic sock project (more on that later) came to an end,

Over the summer and through the fall I've been working away on the little pieces. Each only took a few minutes, and as they were done I checked off the list, and tried not to think about the finishing.

I finished the final of the 79 pieces this week, and because I had some yarn leftover, So I made a few more.

As I was doing that, I did a bit of math: 82 pieces. Each with two ends. That's 164 ends to weave in. And then there's the yarn for sewing them up.

They're blocking now.

The flowers.

And the leaves.

And I must confess I'm a bit frightened.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"Tempest" - On tech editing a book; giveaway!

One of the joys for me in my technical editing work is the sense of virtually knitting a project. There are only so many hours in a day, only so many knitting hours in a week, only so many projects I can make in my lifetime. I'm very much a process knitter, and I get an awful lot of satisfaction from the technical aspect of knitting: learning new techniques, experimenting with and understanding different constructions, and enjoying a designer's implementation of a design idea. To do a technical edit of a pattern provides all of those experiences, in less time that it would take me to knit it. And it's true, if there's a sample, I have been known to try it on, and have a good fondle of the yarn, and luxuriate in the colours. (The downside is that I don't get to keep the lovely FO at the end, but there have to be some trade-offs...)

Sometimes I am working with a designer, editing individual patterns; sometimes, I am working with a publication, to edit a group of patterns from different designers.

The most fun projects, however, are the big ones: editing a collection of patterns from an individual designer. You know, books!

Working with a designer on a book project allows you to really dig into a designer's vision and design sensibility. Working on a book project allows me to experience and enjoy all the different ways a designer expresses herself.

Over the summer, I had the distinct pleasure of being the technical editor for designer Holli Yeoh, for her just-released book Tempest.

Holli is a wonderful designer, and her design sensibility reflects a remarkable balance: her pieces are beautiful but entirely wearable, interesting in construction and technique, but entirely knittable. It's not easy to do, and Holli is a master of this.

Tempest is a collaboration with Felicia Lo of Sweet Georgia Yarns. All of the projects in the book use Felicia's yarns, and take advantage of her fantastic colour palette. (I've used Sweet Georgia Yarns myself in my books and I adore them.) And just as I enjoyed diving deep with Holli's designs, I know that Holli thoroughly enjoyed diving deep into Felicia's yarns.

Tempest features eleven designs, accessories and garments for women, inspired by the weather and natural surroundings of the west coast of Canada.

Now, Holli and Felicia are in Vancouver, and so were the projects. Tech editing remotely - that is, without the projects in hand that I could examine and measure and explore - adds a degree of challenge to the process. It's often the way I work, and it can be useful to do it this way, in that it allows me to assess and work through the pattern the same way a knitter would - with only instructions and a few pictures to guide me.

The downside is that I don't get to really enjoy (you know, oogle, fondle, try on) the projects in the same way.

Holli and Felicia launched the book at the KnitCity event in Vancouver earlier this month, where I was teaching. Being at the launch party was lovely, and I really enjoyed being able to congratulate them both in person... but the best part of being there? Getting to see the projects in person! I may have even tried a bunch of them on...

To see all the projects, and to learn more, visit the website for the book. The site also hosts tutorials and discussion forums.

You can buy a physical copy of the book online at the Sweet Georgia Shop, or a digital copy from Ravelry.

Holli and Felicia have generously donated a digital copy of the book for me to give away to one of my readers. To win, leave a comment on this post. Please make sure I have a way to contact you - include in the comment either your Ravelry ID or your email address (in a way that the spammers can't get it, write it out with spaces and spell out the at and the dot, e.g. kate dot atherley at gmail dot com).

Deadline for comments is Tuesday Oct 28th, midnight EST.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Math For Knitters: Upcoming classes, what do you want to know?

Let's just say... hypothetically... that I was working on a class to be delivered online (no, not video, something slightly different) on Math For Knitters.

So, let's say that you signed up for this class. What questions would you want answered? What math problems do you run into with your knitting?

Things I plan to cover in the first half of this hypothetical class:
  • metric/imperial conversions - and why they matter!
  • yardage and making yarn substitutions
  • "increase evenly across"
  • "decrease evenly across"
  • 'reversing shapings' and 'at the same time' and how to handle them
  • bonus topics: estimating yarn usage, and why sock knitters love a digital scale
And in the second half of the class, I want to cover these sorts of things:
  • gauge and what it's all about and why it matters; how to check it and what to do if you're off
  • gauge adjustments - why and how and when; and when not to
  • what if you can't match gauge for a garment - easy solutions!
  • garment alterations and adjustments
    • body length and shaping
    • sleeve length and shaping
    • more complex adjustments
What else? What numbers issues do you need help with? Let me know in the comments below.

I promise I'll announce the details of these classes as soon as I can.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

True Story

Have you seen this gorgeous piece from Laura's new book?

It's Noro. Lovely.

It's a ball of Noro that Laura bought at Lettuce Knit when she was visiting a three or four years ago.

Laura stayed overnight with us, since we live near the shop.

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that Dexter is a mischievous dog. Dexter likes to get into things. Dexter likes to steal things. In particular, Dexter seems to really like yarn.

Laura had gone out for a walk, and left the door to our spare room slightly ajar. And she'd left a ball of yarn on the bed.

You can imagine what happened next, I am sure. We manage to wrestle the Noro away from him, untangle it and wipe off most of the slobber.

When Laura was showing me the photos from the book designs, she asked if I recognized the yarn for this particular scarf... Lesson learned: even a good chewing from a bad dog can't diminish the natural beauty of Noro yarns.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Knockout Knits

Laura Nelkin and I first met when I edited a pattern of hers for Knitty.

If you've been published by a magazine, you'll know that the technical editing process is... rigorous. It's not just about the math of a pattern, but it's also about the style sheet. Each publication has its own way of doing things: standard abbreviations, what's capitalized and not, which brackets and where and how.

And I'm picky. You have to be, to be a technical editor.

I know that some designers find the technical editor's attention to detail rather absurd. (In fact, I remember the first time a pattern of mine was edited... I couldn't believe the stuff that I was being asked about, I couldn't believe that the style of brackets could matter quite so much.)

But as Knitty's lead Tech Editor, I care about these details very much. And I ask a lot of questions. I am sure that some designers find the process challenging. I've been told that I'm tough.

Not Laura, though. Laura is a New Yorker. She's just as tough. And she seemed to appreciate my way of doing things.

Not only did my approach not scare her off, it seemed to have the opposite effect. She asked me to tech edit some of her non-Knitty work.

And last year, she emailed to ask if I could set aside "a chunk" of time in my calendar for her. "How big a chunk?"... "Oh, about book-sized."

I will neither confirm nor deny that I squeed with joy for her. Laura is a deeply gifted designer - she creates truly beautiful and original and interesting lace pieces, jewellery and accessories - and I was over the moon to hear she was working on a book.

And that book, Knockout Knits, has just been released. Full of her trademark gorgeous designs, it's a book of accessories for knitters of all levels. There's some lace, some beads, and lots of texture. There's everyday pieces...

little luxuries

and truly special knits.

The approach of the book is fantastic: it delves deep into some specific stitches and techniques - wrapped stitches, lace and beads - providing tutorials and all the guidance you need to work every project. There are projects for all levels of knitter, all levels of challenge, most using only one or two skeins. She begins at the very beginning, and helps knitters build skills as they go.

And at the end, you've got truly beautiful work to be proud of.

I was honoured and thrilled to work with Laura on it, as her technical editor. And I only made her cry once, apparently...

Monday, October 13, 2014

New (Old) Pattern: Northern Lights Socks

A long time ago, in my early days of sock designing experiments, back when I only had two of the Barbara Walker Books, I fell in love with a cable pattern.

And this sock resulted. It's been languishing in the bottom of my sock drawer for some time, the pattern never really properly published.

From my original notes on the design...
These socks were inspired by the winter night sky in the prairies. The cables swoop across the socks like the Northern Lights swoop across the sky, and the yarn colour perfectly captures a cold, sparkling twilight. The Figure 8 Cable was inspired by my first sun dog sighting – a fascinating column of flares in the sky.

Shortly after we moved to Canada, we spent a short time living in Saskatchewan, over a winter. What they say about the sky there is totally true: it really does go on forever, the colors are amazing, and unbelievable things happen. I spent a lot of time looking up. I saw sunshine so bright it hurt and blinding blues like I'd never experienced before. We watched a tornado build and form and cross the city. We were mesmerized by the magic of the Northern Lights. And we saw a sun-dog: a vertical light flares, often like rainbows, caused by the sun reflecting off the ice crystals in the air. The sky has its own personality, in the prairies. The sky is a character in your daily life.

Now I live in downtown Toronto; I don't get to see the sky that often -- too many buildings in the way. So I look at my socks instead.

With some keen support from Keri and the excellent photography of Gillian Martin, I've got my act together. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that more than five years later, the yarn I used is still available: Shelridge Farms Ultra Soft Touch Heather. I love this yarn: it's a substantial fingering weight, with a nice wooly hand, and  a touch of nylon for strength. The colorway, Opal, screamed winter sky to me.

The cable is juicy but not too challenging. As is usual, the pattern is written to be worked on DPNs, Magic Loop or 2 Circulars, as you prefer. Two women's sizes, foot length entirely adjustable. The cable patterns are charted.

Available from Ravelry.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Visit to Burlington, Roti Lunch, a Couple of Classes

Saturday October 18th I'm visiting the lovely shop Spun Fibre Arts in Burlington, Ontario.

There are two classes on the schedule: a three-hour mitten bootcamp. Suitable for even the newest knitters, this classes teaches everything you know to make mittens for your entire family. Experience knitting in the round not required.  Winter is coming, you know...

Mittens are also great for the upcoming gift-giving season...

Speaking of gift-giving, the second class is my Knitting with Wire workshop: design and make your own one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. Suitable for knitters of all levels - even if you only learned to knit last week - this hands-on workshop allows you to play with some new techniques and materials.

I hope to see you there!

Naturally, I will also be having a roti lunch, which is an important part of my trips to Spun.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Did you contact me about not being able to post a comment on my blog?

I can't, for the life of me, find your contact info. Please get in touch? kate at wise hilda knits dot com.

Thank you!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sock Book Giveaway winner

Comment number 47 is from Jennifer in Ohio! Congratulations!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Excellent new sock book: Lara Neel's Sock Architecture

Last year, I was asked to do a technical consult with Lara Neel on her sock book manuscript. I was off on a trip to tape my Craftsy class, so I printed out the draft, found my favourite manuscript-reviewing pen, and packed it into my carry-on luggage.

Now, without bragging, I do think I know a bit about sock knitting. I've been knitting socks for twenty years; I've read a lot of sock knitting books, and I've edited a fair number of sock patterns and books. And it was clear, by the time I got to the third page, that Lara knew a lot more about it than I did!

The book is a fantastic exploration of heel and toe constructions, both top down and toe up. She dives deep into the construction details and the fit for each, providing not only examples of how to use them, but also the math that allows you to adapt them for your own designs.

If you're not feeling mathematically inclined, Lara's designed a range of patterns that use these constructions. There's socks plain and fancy, for all sorts of fits and sock-knitting tastes. Many of the designs have two versions: one toe-up, one top-down. You might just find a new favourite go-to sock pattern....

Along the way, Lara shares an awful lot of wisdom and tips on sock knitting, construction and fit. I love the way she thinks: she understands that sock fit is about more than foot length, or indeed foot circumference, and she approaches each construction as a template that you can apply to your socks, and your own feet.

And the illustrations are generous, detailed, and very helpful. This step-by-step breakdown of the Afterthought Gusset heel construction is worth the price of the book, in my opinion...

Lara is kindly giving away a copy of the book to my readers... to win, leave a comment on this post before Saturday September 27th midnight EST, making sure I know how to get in touch with you. Leave your Ravelry name, or an email address, or some other way to find you.

And if you can't wait, buy the book here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Vogue Knitting Live NYC, January 16-18 2015.

My favourite city in the world, doing my favourite thing in the world, in the month of my birthday. Perfect.

I'm teaching a range of socky classes...
  • DPNs, Magic Loop and 2 Circs: Working in the Round bootcamp
  • Going My Way: Work Socks the Way You want
  • Heels and Toes
  • Introduction to Sock Pattern Design
  • Toe Up Socks 101
  • Socks for Absolute Beginners
Come, join me! Students will get bonus marks for bringing me a black and white cookie as a birthday present... ;-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Free Pattern: The Sick Day Shawl

It's that time of year: colds and flu bugs are starting to go around. The air is full of sneezing and sniffling and coughing.

I caught an early cold last week, and spent a day as the doctor ordered: on the sofa, with several pots of tea and a big box of Kleenex. I planned to luxuriate in some relaxing knitting and TV.

The TV decision was easy: I'm partway through watching MI-5 (a.k.a. Spooks) on Netflix. This is a 10-season English program feature attractive spies and ridiculous international adventures. Perfect.

The bigger question was what knitting? I've been working on a bunch of design projects of late, and I knew I wasn't in the mood to for anything complicated. But equally, with a full day stretching out ahead of me, I also knew I'd have time to really dig into a project. Plain socks seemed too dull.

Ever since I completed Rosetta Tharpe, I've been noodling on the idea of a Half-Pi shawl - a semi-circular shawl using the same basic construction. I'd got the math partially worked out, and so before the decongestant properly kicked in, I did a bit of number crunching and planning. And then I went diving in the stash.

(Because going yarn shopping while contagious with a cold seems impolite.)

I found a couple of skeins of Briggs and Little Regal. This is a great Canadian yarn, a classic heavy worsted, with a decent yardage (250yds per skein) and a nice crisp, wooly hand.

And so the Sick Day Shawl was born. By the end of the first day, I had a full skein knitted up. (Seriously, I did nothing else that day. We had leftovers for dinner, and I didn't have any urgent work obligations.)

Even with just that single skein, I got a good sized shawl...

Over the next couple of days, I spent a bit more time, and dug into the second skein.

And by Friday night, I had converted about 450yds of an abandoned heavy worsted from the bottom of my stash into the Sick Day Shawl.

Ideal for that day at home in front of the TV. Ideal for knitting when you're not up for much of a challenge, but not totally discombobulated with medication. No special yarn requirements: use whatever you've got in the stash. 450yds of anything in the worsted-y aran-y sort of category (a 4 or a 5, if you go that way). Two skeins of Cascade 220. (Who doesn't have 2 skeins of Cascade 220 kicking around?) A skein of Cascade Eco would be great. Double-strand some sock yarn! Do you have a bunch of handspun that needs using up? Use whatever needles you have on hand.

The design is entirely forgiving of messed-up stitch counts. Got the wrong number? Fix it on the following row. And it's flexible, too, for how far you go. Got more time and yarn? Just keep working to make it bigger. Feeling better? Stop sooner.

It's good for you, too: the knitting is interesting enough that you'll stay put on the sofa, resting as you're supposed to.

And next time you're feeling under the weather, you've got something warm and comfy to snuggle with.

Free pattern on Ravelry here. Thanks to Gillian Martin for the outstanding photos.

Pattern will be free until the end of September, but after that I'll be charging for it - I've got to replenish my Kleenex supplies.