Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pattern Writing: Online Class

I'm very happy to announce that I'm running an online class on Pattern Writing.

Delivered through Interweave's Craft University platform, this is a slightly different animal than many online classes. It's not a video class, it's not a lecture class - it's like an old-school distance learning class. The platform's main feature focuses around discussion forums. And the class is all about that: discussions for learning.

This class specifically 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. This is a comprehensive course on writing knitting patterns: You'll bring your designs and your knitting skills, this class will help you take them and turn them into a set of instructions suitable for self-publication or submission to a publication. Together we'll review in detail all of the elements that need to go into a knitting pattern. We'll talk about creating clear and logical pattern instructions. We'll discuss tools that you can use to create the pattern, including software and solution for layout and charting. And we'll talk about the process: technical editing, test knitting and preparing a pattern for sale or submission to a publication.

It's a fully interactive experience: expect lots of discussions and exercises and assignments. Although there's lots of value in the prepared material I will present, students should be prepared to participate in these discussions and do the exercises to get the most from the class. And equally, I expect to answer lots of your questions and participate in the discussions, too! The objective is to help you develop your own pattern writing style and style sheet, and to help you write a pattern or two, too.

If you've read my Pattern Writing book, and want to dig further, or are just beginning and need to get more hands-on guidance, this class is for you. You can work at your own pace and the system is set up to let us all use the discussion boards at any time! I'm looking forward to being able to answer your questions, and help you as you build your pattern writing skills.

It all starts May 30th, and runs until July 12.

Register here.

Given that this is a slightly unusual thing, you might have some questions about it. If you do, let me know by leaving a comment! I'll answer them for you here in the comments.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

On "Difficult" Sock Yarns & How To Use Them.

I do love a good sock yarn. And goodness knows I buy a lot of it. And I tend to go for either something very neutral and very wearable, or something entirely insane.

And those insane sock yarns are fun, but not necessarily good for socks, y'know?

Some of them are too light to be used for socks. (Ever knitted socks with a colourway that has white in it? They look grimy pretty quickly.)

Some of them are too wacky for socks... for example this bundle of fantasticness I picked up recently.

Western Sky Knits' Rainbow Bright.

Sometimes we buy them because we love the name of the colourway, without considering what it actually looks like. (Oh come on, I can't be the only one who has done that...)

And some of them come in skeins a bit too small. (Looking at you, Noro Silk Garden Sock and your 328yds...)

I've been quietly working on a few designs for these "difficult" yarns, scarves and shawls and cowls, and I'm thinking that I'm probably not the only one who has a stash full of them. It's time for a collection, I think? Wooly Wormhead has done this for hats; I think I want to do a similar thing for wraps and neckwarming types of pieces.

So: what are you favourite "difficult" sock yarns? What sorts of colourways do you have in your stash that you need help using up?

Are you a yarn dyer with a yarn that might fit the bill? Drop me a line at kate dot atherley at gmail. Thanks!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Upcoming Webseminar: Garment Sizing & Fit

Next Wednesday, May 27th at 1pm Eastern Time, I'm running another webseminar. This time on the important - and often very puzzling - topic of garment size and fit.

For knitters who make garments, choosing which size to knit can be the most challenging part of the project. After all, if you can’t try it on, how do you know what it’s going to look like? This web seminar is all about making sure your hand-knit garments are the most flattering possible.

Garment fit isn’t just based on a single “bust circumference” number. We’ll show you to understand sizing and fit for all types of garments, and help you analyze the information in the pattern to help you diagnose whether a pattern is going to work well for you. We’ll provide tips for choosing the right pattern to start, and then show you how to ensure that you’re making the best possible size choice.

And we’ll also discuss alterations and tweaks to make a garment look and fit exactly how you want it to. The focus is on easy – math-free or math-light – solutions that are accessible to knitters of all levels. At the end of the presentation, you’ll feel confident choosing a garment pattern that works well for you, no matter what your size, style and fit preferences.

Register now! Only $19.99. You can listen live, or after the fact, at your convenience. If you register before Wednesday morning, you'll get a copy of the presentation, too.

One of the best parts of these sessions for me is the question and answer section at the end. Let me help you figure out how make garments fit as well as possible.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Next extremity: The Hand Size Survey

Waaaaay back.... in the summer of 2011, specifically, I launched a survey to collect foot size data. I got over 500 results, and a book out of it.

Now it's time for hands. Once again, I'm seeking input from knitters, family members of knitters, friends of knitters - and anyone who has a tape measure and a couple of spare minutes.

I want to use the data to develop a better understanding of hand size, to help me better size mitten patterns.

It's quick, I promise! There are two questions about demographics (age-groups and whether you work in metric or imperial) and then six measurements.

(Dear Graphic Designer friends: please refrain from laughing at this image. You know who you are. Thank you.)

Google Form to fill in, please and thank you! Get any many hands as you can, please. Both of your own, and all available family members. Need something to entertain the kids on a rainy day? Get them to take the measurements.

As before, I will compile and publish the data on this blog, and on the Knittyblog. And who knows, there may be a book in it....

Thanks for your help!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Math for Knitters Webseminar Part 2

As promised! Part 2 of my Math for Knitters Webseminar series runs this Wednesday. May 13th at 1pm EDT.

Remember, if you can't attend live, you can always listen to the recording after the fact, on demand. Registration gives you full access for a year (and I will share my presentation, so you don't have to frantically scribble notes).

(If you missed part one, you can listen to the recording here.)

Part two is all about gauge - when it matters, how to check it, how to match it, and what to do if you can't. I'll share with you my "Gauge Alterations Degree of Difficulty Index", and equip you with tools for cope when you just can't get the right gauge with the yarn you want to use.

I'll also cover garment alterations, again focusing on building an understanding of what's easy and what isn't ("The Garment Alterations Degree of Difficulty Index"), and using that knowledge to help you identify exactly the right pattern to buy, to minimize the amount of time doing math. Just because I like doing math doesn't mean I'm going to make you do it.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Interview with Donna Druchunas: Lithuanian Knitting book

Over the last couple of years, I've done a fair bit of work with - and for - designer Donna Druchunas. We first got to know each other through Knitty. She's been a columnist there for a number of years, focusing on knitting styles, techniques and traditions of other cultures.

I love working with Donna. Not only is she a great knitter, a fantastic designer and possessor of enormous amounts of knowledge about historical and regional knitting techniques, but she's also smart and funny and opinionated in a way I adore. I've learned a lot working with her, too: long tail CO over two needles as an alternative (and easier) provisional cast on!!!.

I've been thoroughly enjoying our latest project together: I have been doing the technical editing on her upcoming collaboration with June Hall, "Lithuanian Knitting: Continuing Traditions".

The book tells stories from Donna and June's travels around Lithuania, learning about the local knitting techniques and traditions.

The book also includes over 25 patterns for traditional and modern socks, gloves, mittens, and beaded wrist warmers, all worked with Lithuanian techniques, pattern stitches, and motifs. The techniques used include colorwork, texture stitches, lace, and entrelac. There's also lots of information on the techniques and traditional styles of knitting.

As a technical editor, I've learned tons from the patterns, and was utterly captivated by what Donna has written on special Lithuanian techniques.

Donna's got a pubslush fundraiser set up, essentially as a way to enable presales to fund the printing of the physical book. (Having self-published a book myself last year, I realized that this is a smart thing to do.)

Of course, with my technical editing perspective, I was interested in the technical side of the project, and Donna and I chatted about it.

Q: What technical challenges did you find in recreating/creating patterns for these designs?

A: The hardest thing was leaning the Lithuanian language well enough to read knitting patterns! That takes an extra level of work because knitting terms aren't defined in most dictionaries and sometimes the same words have one meaning in general conversation and another in knitting. For example, in Lithuanian the same word (akis) means eye or stitch, and the word raštai can mean either writing or pattern.

Q: What did you learn as you were building these patterns?

I learned a lot about how different kinds of yarns really change the results of a finished piece. You'd think after so many years of knitting and designing, I would have yarn substitution down pat! But I have several failed project samples in my box to prove that there's always more to learn. Lithuanian wool was very coarse compared to what we are used to today. When I tried to reproduce some of the designs in merino or other soft modern yarns, I was unhappy with the results and had to modify the patterns to suit the yarn. Some of the traditional techniques looked incredibly sloppy in softer yarns and others just didn't work at all. So in the book some of my designs are very close to reproductions of original pieces I saw in museum collections, while others are modern interpretations of Lithuanian styles of knitting.

Q: Where there any things you couldn’t figure out?

Not really. I have friends in Lithuania who are wonderful knitters and at my favorite yarn shop, Mezgimo Zona, I can always go for help! But because I am fluent in knitting, even though my Lithuanian language skills are mediocre at best, I was able to confidently translate knitting instructions. Perhaps I made some mistakes but I won't find out until some knitters in Lithuania read my books and email me! I love being corrected by Lithuanians. When someone in Lithuania corrects my language mistakes, I always feel like they are trying to help me and to understand me. When I was learning German, and a German speak corrected me, I often felt more like they were criticizing my lousy language skills.

When I took a class on making beaded wrist warmers from a Lithuanian teacher, and the class was in Lithuanian, I was able to understand the knitting part of the class. I did miss some interesting historical and cultural information that I learned later, though. I had thought men wore plain or neutral colored wristers, mittens, and gloves. But our teacher had told us in the class that men often wore the most colorful accessories and strutted around like peacocks showing off!

Q: Tell me a bit about the traditional pattern writing style that you find in old Lithuanian knitting books?

Well, most Lithuanian books didn't have pattern so much as basic instructions and models. For example, there would be a section explaining the steps to make a sock, including two or three options for working different heels and toes. Then there would be some photos of different socks, with a paragraph saying how many stitches the designer had cast on, what size needles she had used, and which heel and toe had been used. Sometimes charts are included for colorwork patterns, sometimes not. In other books, there are charts for entire mittens or socks, but no instructions. One thing I found very strange is that all of the mitten and sock charts have pointed tips for the toes and fingers, but the pieces in museums are almost all made with round shaping. Today in the markets, most mittens have the pointed shaping that we're used to seeing on Scandinavian mittens.

Q: Anything really cool about them that you wish we did in modern patterns?

I wish knitters today would learn conceptually how garments are constructed and then trust their knowledge so they weren't so tied to patterns. I learned by knitting from patterns, and I still enjoy knitting from patterns by other designers sometimes to relax, so I understand the need for patterns. But I think most knitters are smarter than they give themselves credit for, and they could easily recognize mistakes in patterns and customize designs to suit their tastes if they just had a little more confidence in what they already know! Buy a copy of Vogue Knitting's encyclopedia or something else similar, and read it from cover to cover several times. And study the patterns and schematics in your favorite books to see what you can learn about the basic shape and form of the types of garments and accessories you like to knit. That's the best advice I could give any knitter who wants to empower herself as a knitter.

More about the book here. You can find Donna on Twitter and Instagram, too.