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I juggled, rearranged, and creatively avoided all invites to places far and near for the holiday weekend. I twisted myself into a pretzel to be able to stay home and enjoy a quiet, restful, who cares if I’m still in my pjs at noon, weekend. The check engine light is on again in the car reminding me a catalytic converter is waiting to suck a very large sum of money from my bank account with far more efficiency and speed than my Hoover vacuum sucks up dirt. The farthest I wanted to travel this weekend was a quick 35 minute drive to the only pet store in the area that carries the only pet food Yarn Rascal will eat. This is destined not to be.

Admittedly, I sometimes operate for long periods of time in my own little knitting and crocheting universe. Knowledge of the world at large extends only to my 83 year old parents who can get into more trouble than two toddlers, my successful, work driven sister, my two nephews, The Skipper and his family, and The Yarn Rascal. Most days, the parents, The Skipper and The Yarn Rascal are enough to keep me busy from dusk to dawn. I have no time to fritter away keeping tabs on celebrities and their movements. And because of this lack of knowledge I am going to pay big time starting today.

The short of it is Yarn Rascal needs food. I need to get to his food store today. In order to do that I need to drive certain roads that will be closed because a big celebrity is in town for the next two days. The celebrity will be attending a big celebrity wedding that is smack dab in the middle of my getting from here to there. The precise route I need to take is the precise route that will be used to ferry the President of the United States to and from the places he needs to be.

Yes, there may be detours I can take, but I doubt it. The last detours I embarked on landed me in a Leper Colony one time, and the other a ghost town, only the ghosts were real people with guns and their own government. Both were right here in New York State. Neither was the type of place where I felt comfortable rolling down the window and asking for directions. No, detours don’t work out well for me.

So today, as I enlarge my awareness of the universe, I deal with the reality that there is no way I can get there from here. Yarn Rascal will be dining on organic chicken and home-grown garden vegetables all in a light sauce that I will cook up for him. While the First Lady would be proud of the organic goodness of the meal, I just hope my dog will eat it. That’s really all I want today: food my little guy will eat.

Have a great holiday weekend.

Where have all the simple answers gone? Remember when something like a television set was delivered to the house and set up by the store it was bought from? And when the guy doing the set up was asked “how do you turn it on”, the answer was simple “push this button.” Those days are long gone along with service stations pumping gas for me.

Today, if I want to know how something works I thumb through a manual that’s half the thickness of War and Peace in search of a simple answer to my simple question. Or I get redirected to the web when I click on the little ? button. No matter how I word my query I get the same answer: “Search found nothing.”

New smart phone? Try to answer it when it rings. For mine I need to shake it up and down and repeatedly stab the green icon with the telephone receiver pictured on it while reciting “this damn phone” silently in my head because I never know when it will suddenly connect me with the incoming call and I don’t want the first words the person on the other end hears to be me screaming “this damn phone”.

All of this brings me to the birthday card I finally made for The Skipper’s 90 year old mother. I am nowhere near the card making talent whatamiuptotoday displays when she makes her lovely cards. But The Skipper wanted a card that was individually tailored for his mother (who is sharp as a tack) and so we worked on ideas this weekend. The first idea of drawing and painting three individual pictures was thrown out immediately. Even though the pictures would be small and card sized, it would take me weeks to complete and her birthday is this Friday.

I warily eyed my computer. I have all this snazzy software in it that allows me to create almost anything I could ever want, but never use, so maybe this might be the right time to get to know the software better. Could it really be that hard to create a very, very simple card? Oh, yes. Yes, it can.

The petard I hoisted myself on was of my own making. The Skipper’s Mom is extremely fond of Downton Abbey. I wanted the design to recall the late 1800s to early 1900s. The jewel in the crown of the design was a full body picture of the Dowager Countess played by Maggie Smith in complete late 1800s costume with The Skipper’s Mom’s face in the place of Smith’s face. The setting an old-fashioned picture in an album.

All the software manuals were online so each time I had a question–and they were many–it was back to the internet and play How Many Ways Can You Word a Simple Question so the online manual recognizes it and pulls up the relevant information. By Sunday evening I was ready to quit. My brain could no longer think of rephrasing yet again another question. I had gotten to the point where I just wanted to crawl into bed and stay in the fetal position for awhile. I had done everything I could to prepare the two pictures for merger–merging airlines and banks are easier–and the software wasn’t letting me do it. I was so close.

It was Yarn Rascal and his tail that saved the day and the card. When I raised my eyes and hands to the ceiling and yelled “Why, dear God” Yarn Rascal jumped into my lap and in doing so landed on top of my laptop computer. He has this thing where he won’t allow me to be upset. When I am, he jumps into my arms and wags his tail and licks my face until I get over myself and am laughing. This little guy is my angel from above. When I calmed down and realized it’s just a card and cleared Yarn Rascal from sitting on the computer, the pictures had merged. I don’t know how he did it. I just know that he did.

Early this morning, The Skipper mailed the finished card. The whole thing ended up looking pretty neat. I was saved yet again by Yarn Rascal.

What is the difference between sizes and grading? A size is usually based on the chest circumference if it is a sweater. Sizes for babies, with the exception of the 0-3 months to 6 months span, tend to jump up a size every six months. Standard sizes are 3 months, 6 months then it jumps to 12 months, and jumps another 6 to 18 and another 6 to 24.

The grading for sizes is uniform. The information can be found on any knitting or crochet schematic. Grading is the increments you increase a neck width, shoulder width, chest width, sleeve width, sleeve length, armhole depth, length from hem to armhole, total length of garment, waist, and hip from one size to the next size. The increments are usually pretty standard and are given in the schematic.

Read a schematic for a baby outfit and you will see that finished chest sizes for a 6 month old is always 2″ (5) cm larger than the 3 month size. If the sweater is a cardigan 1″ (2.5) cm difference in chest size between the 6 month and 12 month. Between the 12 and 18 month the chest size increases a half inch (1.25) cm. Between the 18 and 24 month size its another half inch (1.25) cm.

Neck widths start at 3 inches (7.5) cm for a 3 month old, increase a half inch (1.25) cm for size 6 months and doesn’t increase again until baby is 24 months when it is another half inch (1.25) cm larger at 4″ (10) cm.

Shoulder widths start at 2 inches (5) cm. The width remains the same for the 6 month size. Then the widths are graded a quarter inch (0.64) cm larger for sizes 12 and 18 months. The 24 month size is the same as the 18 month size 2.5″ (6.5) cm.

The armhole depth is graded in quarter inches (0.64) cm from 3.75″ (9.5) cm to 5″ 12.75) cm for each size.

Body length to underarm is graded 1″ greater (2.5) cm between 3 and 6 months. Then remains steady at a half inch (1.25) cm grade for 6 through 24.

Sleeve length is graded 1″ greater between all sizes.

Body width at shoulder also called the crossback is graded in increments of a half inch (1.25) cm.

Again, all the increments are on the schematic. It is just a matter of subtracting the larger number from the smaller number to see their grading.

Read a lot of schematics and create a grading resource for yourself. Collect enough numbers to make a grading guideline you feel is best for the clothes you are designing.

Finding information on how to grade children’s clothes and adult clothes is done the same way. Research, collect the numbers, find out how they work together and make them your own.

Last thing I said about this topic was to collect 4 or 5 different patterns of the same sweater shape and in the same size range you are interested in knitting or crocheting for. I went through how to divide up a piece of paper to accept the information.

Next step is to look at the schematics and plug in the numbers regarding, chest, length, shoulder width, etc. Once all the numbers are on the paper take a good look at them. Select a size and look at the numbers for neck width, shoulder width, arm hole depth, etc., across the five patterns selected. Do the numbers all agree? The answer is usually no. That’s because each designer, publishing house and magazine has its own set of numbers regarding sizes. It’s also why you can take 5 different jeans into a dressing room, all in your size, and get wildly different fits. A crucial step in being an independent designer for knits and crochet is to collect enough measurement information on the sizes you are interested in designing for and develop your own set of numbers.

I deal mostly with baby sizes from 3 to 24 months. Through research I came up with my own in-house numbers for this design range. I did it by listening to what knitters said about the baby clothes they were making from various designers, magazines and publishers. Ravelry is a great resource for this kind of research. Most of the comments these various knitters made were the same about the 5 specific designers, magazines and publishers I targeted. One was notorious for sizing the clothes too big, another for being too small, sleeves were too long or too small, sweater widths too small or too wide. No matter who the knitter was, or what the garment was, the comments were the same about the specific designer, magazine or publisher.

Next I looked for information on baby measurements. How large is a 3 month old’s chest? For this information I went to the UK Sizing industry. After having read time and again that the Craft Yarn Council’s basic numbers ran too small and the ASTM standards were not the answer either, I dug around the web and came up with the British Standards which seemed to me to make more sense when I considered all the numbers I had collected. I was hoping to find the Goldilocks zone of sizing clothing. But it doesn’t exist. So I created my own in-house numbers that I feel comfortable designing around.

A 3 month old chest can run from 16″ (41) cm to 18″ (46) cm by industry standards. After spending several months measuring 0-3 month olds shopping with their moms in the supermarket—yes it takes a certain amount of desperation to walk up to a woman by the broccoli and quickly explain why I want to measure her child and ask for permission—I found that 17″ (43) cm was what I usually got. So for me, my in-house number for a 3 month old starts at assuming the chest is 17″ (43) cm in circumference.

In my food shopping travels I had a lot of success in finding 6 month olds and 12 month olds and they were measured too. When I researched more, I found that there is not a big difference between 6 and 9 month olds. The 9 month olds either fit the 6 size or they morph right into a 12 month size.

When I looked at the numbers I had collected it was clear to me what were the middle of the road figures. I began devouring schematics like they were great novels. I learned that some sizing differences occur because of the yarn weight. The heavier the yarn the bigger the measurement. If I regularly have an armhole depth of 4″ (10) cm for fingering weight yarns, and I’m working in Aran weight that’s going to become more like 4.25 (11) cm or 4.5 (11.5) cm for a sweater that fits over clothing.

When shopping in clothing stores, I don’t hesitate to go to the children’s section, take out my tape measure and jot down sizing info. I am currently researching sizes 2T to 6 years. The point is there are many ways to collect sizing information if you are really interested in designing. It takes a certain touch of insanity and desperation for information to zip out a tape measure in public, but if you really have the designing bug, only the first two times will make you squirm. After that, you don’t think twice about pulling out a tape measure.

So much is going on around here that I really don’t even know what day it is. Eighteen pounds of tomatoes have been made into sauce. An entire sock was completed for The Skipper, but the foot was too big. Yes, all those teeny twisted and crossed stitches were ripped right out. I am back to a ball of yarn, 5 naked double-pointed needles, and a calculator. I could cry.

On the plus side, the countdown to the first day of college continues. I had a wonderful time with my nephew yesterday. Laughs and fond memories, heart to heart sharing. I like that he is not hesitant to ask me about anything. It’s the kind of open, honest relationship I wanted to build with him and his brother from the moment they were born. It was important to me from the minute I saw their little faces a few hours after birth that they grew up knowing my love for them is unconditional, no strings attached. A problem shared is a problem cut in half. They can talk about anything to me. While my nephew is still understandably nervous, much of the mystery and worry has been abated. He told me the best time of his life was when he was four years old. I told him I thought the best time of his life was yet to be.

None of the knitted items I need to photograph has seen the camera. Today the car is in for service. Tomorrow is doctor time for me and food shopping for the weekend. So there is little hope that they will be photographed in the next 24 hours. I also have to write up two patterns and begin the jottings for two others.

In the meantime, Lucy at Attic24 has her Coastal Blanket up and ready. I’ve been drooling over it since she started it. I think it is perfect for my 83 year old father. So on top of the socks, the girl’s smock, and a tiny shawl I’d like to make for me, the Coastal Blanket is calling to me. Yes, it is crochet, which I think might be a good break from knitting teeny twisted and crossed stitches. The new yarn, the colors, it might just be the project that saves my sanity as Autumn approaches.

Check, Please.

This is migraine headache week for me. Everything is going on all at once and I’d be pressed to get it all done even if I were an octopus.

The socks I knitted for myself are done and need pictures taken. In fact I need to photograph no less than 8 completed knitted items in a professional manner other than toss it on the grass, point the camera and press the button. No, these need appropriate lighting, and background setting. These are time consuming.

The tomatoes have decided to ripen all at once. It takes 30 to make sauce. I have 90+ waiting for me. Sauce making is time consuming. It can’t be done while photographing knitting.

My youngest nephew is to start college in September and he is having some strong negative reactions to the idea. He is high functioning autistic so changes are difficult for him. Very smart. Very creative. Very much doesn’t want to start college. Between now and then, I will be helping him find peace, comfort, and the willingness to give it a try. I’m going to break up going to college for the first time into manageable pieces for him and remind him that these are very much like the manageable pieces we went through when we changed from elementary to middle school, and from middle school to high school. He is my number one concern from now until the first week of college is complete.

I am knitting on The Skipper’s Socks. My own pattern. I had forgotten how time consuming and nerve wracking working twisted stitches on each row in the round can be. Especially when those twisted stitches are crossed and recrossed almost every row. The twisted stitch part takes place over only two sets of 10 stitches, but it feels like it’s more than that. Add to this that they are tiny, tiny stitches on US Size 1 dpns worked in yarn that Yarn Rascal is attracted to, and frankly it’s a disaster movie in the making. Yarn Rascal has an uncanny way of knowing just when to attack look for love by jumping in my lap at the least opportune moment for me. Catching tiny dropped twisted and crossed stitches, seating them correctly on the needles, figuring out which round I’m now working after all the disruption is not a relaxing way of spending time.

I also need to have my computer working in tip-top shape by tomorrow, when it is going to be asked to do a number of computer-like things simultaneously without complaining by a design expert. She is working on designing a logo for my mh designs hand knits and a logo for my slipped stitches blog.

At the same time, I need to take all the current design boards I have on it and print them out so I can create by hand (not by computer, by hand) the card I want for The Skipper’s Mother’s 90th birthday. It means drawing and painting for at least a 36 hour period.

If I have figured all this out right at the end there will be 450+ tomatoes waiting, 7 knitted garments still to be photographed, The Skippers Sock in some sort of disarray with tiny twisted stitches hanging loose, the ball of yarn attached to those loose stitches in Yarn Rascal’s mouth, the computer will have given up it’s ghost, my nephew will be avoiding me at all costs, and the painting for the birthday card will be a cross between Dali and Pollack, two styles of painting that definitely don’t fit what I have in mind.

Check, please?

One thing that grieves me is seeing people search for a simple answer and have it elude them. In their search they often pay lots of money for information they can get for less. Such is the circumstance with people who want to try designing a knit and think they have to spend a ton of money to acquire the keys to the knitting kingdom of design.

The keys, are the “magical” numbers that govern the proportions of each size. If your a knitter or crocheter, chances are you already own those keys. They are inside every professional knitting pattern you have in the form of books or magazines. They are also in the patterns you have from quality online magazines like Twist Collective or Brooklyn Tweed’s Wool People.

Every pattern by every designer, publishing house or yarn company holds a wealth of information. As a designer-to-be, you want to collect and cull that information. To do this all you need is paper and pencil, or your computer.

Let’s say it’s you’ve designed a sweater. The creative part is done, you have your sketch and it’s time to fill in the numbers.

Out of the patterns all your patterns select 4 to 5 that closely resemble your sweater sketch in silhouette, length, neckline, as well as sleeve lengths and shape. Right now you’re collecting information. On your computer or a piece of paper write one sweater size at the top of the page. Working with one size for now, makes it easier to grade the other sizes. Make six columns if you have five samples, five columns if you have 4 samples. At the top of the columns list either the designer’s name, magazine, or whatever will help you identify the source of your samples. On the last column write your name because this is the column that will hold all the numbers you need for your design.

To create a garment, size and grade it correctly, it helps to deconstruct it first. Part of the keys to the design kingdom is knowing all the individual parts and their measurements and then fitting them back into a whole. On the left hand side of the columns you made add another one that says Measurements. Write down the following: Chest width actual, Chest width finished, back width, front width, waist width, hip width, cross back, armhole depth, cast on to beginning of armhole length, shoulder to hem length, neck width, neck depth, shoulder width, sleeve length, wrist width, upper arm width, back of neck to waist length.

How we collect the numbers next time.

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