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.

MadelineTosh Sock Yarn in Aura Colorway

MadelineTosh Sock Yarn in Aura Colorway

Sanity arrived in the post on Saturday. My new acquisition of yarnie goodness is MadelineTosh Sock Yarn in the Aura colorway. I’ve started a pair of socks with it for The Skipper. Socks are a comforting and calming knit for me. I find they soothe my soul and calm the rough waters of my life. I am reassured that the universe is not a weight on my shoulders. I do not control all that goes on in it. In fact, I don’t have control over much that happens in life around me. I can only control me, my thoughts, my actions, my responses and that is quite enough, thank you very much.

The “fun”, creative part of the Girl’s 1960s Smock is done. I spent most of Saturday crunching numbers. Knitting math is consuming. Alter one number and a slew of other numbers are effected and need to be altered too. I know there is Excel, but Excel doesn’t give me what I want. I prefer to deal with each size individually. Tinker in specific areas of a size, making sure that in the end, all the parts relate to the whole in the correct proportions for that size. So I use a calculator, pen and paper. In other words, I do it the old way. For me, this is the best way to ensure my numbers are right.

Not only do I deal with the lengths and widths at this point in the design. I also figure the numbers for the amount of stitches and rows for the lengths and widths. The amount of stitches decreased and the rate of those decreases over a set number of rows is also calculated. Increases, and their amount and rate are calculated. Sleeves and sleeve caps are also calculated at this point. As are neck shaping and armhole shaping.

By the time I am done with the knitting math part of a design I know when and where everything happens in the garment. I can knit the garment by just looking at the numbers. All stitches and rows are accounted for and equal their counterparts in inches and centimeters. Pattern numbers and schematic numbers match.

Next, I will tell you how to set up a design range and how to gather the needed measurements.

The Cheshire Cat arrived yesterday. The answer to the design dilemma was always right in front of me on the initial sketch I made. I had, in a moment of hieroglyphical madness, written “. st”. Because I am making lantern sleeves, (I call them blousey sleeves, the fashion industry uses the term lantern), I had channeled my inner anal-ness and documented the sleeves and cuffs in detail, along with all the sizing numbers and math work that goes with it. So “. st” got lost amid all the data. In short, the plan was to use “Dot Stitch” as the body pattern. Knitting will commence this weekend.

In other news, I bought more MadTosh Sock Yarn. I really wanted to start a shawl I’ve been meaning to get to, but I have had this design rolling around in my head for The Skipper’s next pair of socks and while I was perusing MadTosh Sock Yarn on the Web I just happened to see the precise color I had in mind. The design is tentatively titled Ghost Love.

In the gardening news, we have tons of tomatoes on our plants, but few are ripening. The handful that have ripened have end blossom rot. This does not look promising and I may not be able to make my year’s worth of tomato sauce. The lettuce did very well, as did the beans and carrots. The kale is magnificent. The cucumbers are plentiful, the onion and garlic did well. The beets were bountiful. The corn is looking good. It just the tomatoes.

Have a great weekend.

Initial swatch to see how things would look.

Initial swatch to see how things would look.

Designing is a bit like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. The Queen of Hearts is my internal editor. She can hack to pieces an idea before it’s fully formed or kill it after it’s formed. Her main goal is just to do away with it. While the Queen of Hearts is censoring ideas, the White Rabbit constantly whizzes by to remind me that I am running late, taking too much time, the project will never be realized, better to move on to something else. That’s the point when the Mad Hatter enters the melee and time stops along with any progress. I get stuck. Stuck. Stuck. Stuck. At this point, I travel the same path over and over. Passageways that seem to lead somewhere disappointingly circle back to the Pavilion of Stuck. The Cheshire Cat will make an appearance at some point. His grin, charming; his answers enigmatic, yet I will follow them as if I understand.

And that’s where I am ladies and gentlemen. The Queen’s been chopping up ideas right and left. The White Rabbit is on my tail about getting a move on, and here I stand stranded with the Mad Hatter in the Pavilion of Stuck. All this over the yarn I’ve already chosen and the search for the main stitch pattern for the smock.

The yarn I selected is 100% alpaca in a light fingering weight. Cue the song Edelweiss from the movie The Sound of Music that keeps playing in my head, particularly the lyric “Blossoms of snow may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever.” Alpaca is notorious for blooming and growing.

(An aside here. I find it highly disturbing personally, yet very interesting from a scientific psychiatric stand point, that I can remember all the words to a song from a movie I saw once as a kid and didn’t like, and yet it takes me 15 minutes of searching to remember where I just laid my reading glasses.)

I chose the alpaca for it’s blooming and was sure I could tame it’s growing with the proper stitch pattern. So far, I have tried 15 different texture stitch patterns for the body of the garment. All collide with the checkered boarder. Stockinette Stitch works fine, but it will exacerbate the alpaca’s tendency to grow. I tried Linen Stitch and because the weight of the yarn is light it tends to make a fabric that is stiffer and has less drape than I want. Today I am going to try the Half Linen Stitch. After that I am going to wait for the Cheshire Cat with his grin to show up. I will listen carefully to what he says, pretend I understand it and follow it to the best of my ability.

The designer in me wanted to go with the “hot” turquoise, pink, and lime green found in the bedroom picture.

Notice the check pattern peeking out from beneath the coverlet of the bed.

Notice the check pattern peeking out from beneath the coverlet of the bed.

The three color combo said 1960s fun and bold. Alas,the trio was out of my comfort zone of colors I like to work with. I also kept having the urge to switch out the pink for coral. But I knew that changing to coral would update the palette to 2014 colors. I carried an argument around in my head for days over whether the substitution would cancel out the 1960 retro feel of the piece. Did I want the piece to feel truly retro or did I want it to give just a nod and a wink to 1960s? The more I wrestled with it the more the answer eluded me. When that happens I know I have to put it on a shelf and have patience while it works itself out in some behind the scene area in my mind.

Stuck on one thing, I moved on to another. What about the shape, the silhouette of the piece? I had a vague picture of white vinyl go-go boots, A-line shape, bell-bottom sleeves and then I saw this:


No go-go boots. And yes, they are maternity patterns. But they had the details and the silhouettes I wanted for this smock. The details that particularly interested me were the collar and button work on the yellow one. I really fell in love with the button placement on the yellow outfit and the Nehru type collar. The more I looked, the more I loved the idea of a Nehru collar with this silhouette. However, that decision presented some immediate issues.

My design range was babies from 0 to 24 months. But babies from 0 to 9 months don’t have necks. I knew a Nehru collar wasn’t going to work for them. On the other hand, I strongly felt that the Nehru collar was integral to making the silhouette work. That meant the smallest size would start at 1 year. Now I had to start thinking about the piece not as a cute retro baby smock, but as a cute, but not too cutesy retro garment for a child.

I was sketching the smock and watching TV news when the cuff of the TV news person’s jacket caught my eye. The jacket she wore was ho-hum, but the cuff made it zing. Turned back and in a satin checkered fabric, it made the jacket interesting and eye catching. The retro smock appeared as a whole unit in my mind. The main color was turquoise and the checkered detail would be stranded color work alternating the pink and lime green. The checkered detail would be used at the hem, the Nehru collar, the cuffs and the two patch pockets I now wanted on the front.

I researched the use of checks in 1960s clothes and found a treasure trove of pictures and ideas. Yes, there is more than one way to design with checks. See my Pintrest mood board here.

After all was said and done, the rough sketch I came up with was this:

sketch girl's 1960 smock 1

Once I added the patch pockets, the angled button detail wouldn’t work. It’s a feature I will save for another design. But what about all that fabric between the color work borders? Did I really want that to be all Stockinette Stitch? All Stockinette would be relaxing at first, but beyond the first five rows it might drive me mad.

Speaking about the color work borders, did I want all the floats to be exposed on the reverse side of the garment? The hems of a garment get a fair share of abuse. It’s easy to snag a float and pull the stitches out of line. It was time to think about and plan for a folded hem to cover the floats.

In the meantime, I had to find a stitch pattern that created a fabric I liked and that worked with the checkerboard borders. But first I had to come up with stitch counts and measurements.

More on that next time.

the twisted yarn

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The Visible Mending Programme: making and re-making


Writing stuff

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Knitting Yarn and Life

ella gordon

textile maker


Fiber Artist and Introvert making her way through an Extrovert Centered World

knit the hell out

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The Sweaty Knitter, Weaver and Devotee of Other Fiber Arts

Interweaving life with fiber arts! (Photograph by Carly Moskat.)

Knitting to Stay Sane

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random posts about things I am doing or thinking


recording creative ideas, adventures and finds


sharing and learning our creative crochet and knitting ideas and achievements

A Conversation with Moo

A crafter and a puppy named Moo

Crochet Missy

My Crochet Journey


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