Archive for February, 2015

I have decided to do a couple of fasts posts giving the elements of a style sheet for knitters / crocheters who are interested in self-publishing. I do this with this caveat: This is the style I use. Other styles are out there, so look around. The information contained below is not chiseled in granite. These are the things that work for me. Do experiment and find what works for you.

What Info Goes On the First Page

1) Design Title

2) A picture of the garment or object. Recommended size 3 x 4″ (8 x 10) cm. Where you place it is up to you. My strong recommendation is to make the design of all the pages in your pattern as clean and easy to read as possible. Study patterns with layouts you like. Adopt what you like and leave the rest.

3) Your name or your business name.

4) Description of the item. This is the romance part. Include inspiration for the design. A description of construction. Sell the person on why he / should buy this pattern and how it will make life better. Keep the description short. Avoid superlatives.

5) Sizes. For sweaters, I like to list 2 chest sizes. The “To Fit Chest” measurement and the “Finished Chest Measurements”. The “To Fit” measurement tells the crafter the actual chest size without ease. The “Finished” measurement is the size of the sweater after it is seamed and blocked and includes the amount of ease.

6) Yarn. The format for listing yarn is this: Yarn Company Yarn Name (fiber content %; yds [m] / oz [g]) per skein; weight; color. Number of skeins.

7) Needles. US size (mm size) straight, circular or dpns, If necessary, change needle size in order to obtain gauge. When listing circular needles: US size (mm size) circular length in inches (cm). For those outside the US, mm size is listed before US size.

8) Notions. Tapestry or darning needle, types of stitch markers, stitch holders, ribbons, buttons, etc.

9) Difficulty level. Go here for how to assess skill levels.

10) If I have specific construction techniques I want to highlight, I list them under Design Elements. An example of design elements for a sock might be short-row toe, round heel, gusset, provisional cast on, lace, etc.

11) Gauge / Tension. Stitch number and row number = 4″ (10) cm with Needle size used followed by the type of stitch. For example, 36 sts and 15 rows = 4″ (10) cm with US 6 (4 mm) needles over pattern stitch. Outside the US list cm and mm before US measurements.

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What is an in-depth schematic? It contains much more information than a schematic that comes with a pattern. It accounts for every stitch, row, inch, centimeter, rate and amount of increase or decrease that goes into making the garment. A well-made in-depth schematic tells the designer everything he / she needs to know in order to create the garment and does it through numbers, not words. Ultra in-depth schematics even cite the types of seaming stitches used. Here’s an example of an incomplete one I began creating only to abandon it once I decided to measure gauge in the pattern stitch rather than stockinette.

in depth schematic 1

I use inches when I design. They are highlighted in yellow. Stitch counts are highlighted in pink, row counts in orange. Since I’m in the numbers stage of designing I translate the inches into centimeters. This makes it easier when and if I decide to write up the pattern. Missing from this particular schematic is the rate and amount of decreases for the neckline and armhole shaping. Also missing is the stitch pattern information for the body, which includes the stitch multiple plus the number of extra stitches needed to make the stitch pattern and the number of rows needed to complete one pattern.

Why include the stitch multiple on a schematic? It tells me the number of stitches in a set to complete one pattern. A stitch multiple of 4 plus 2 lets me know that I will have less of a headache if I make all my stitch count numbers multiples of 4. A multiple of 4 is simply a number that when divided by four provides what I call a “clean” answer, or a whole number with nothing left over. An example of a multiple of 4 is 12. When 12 is divided by 4 it equals 3. No messy left overs in the form of fractions or decimal points. So what does the plus 2 mean and where does it come in?

Plus two tells me that at the beginning and at the end of the 4 stitches I need to have one additional stitch. For example, if I had a row of 26 sts the first stitch would be one of the plus 2, then I could work 6 sets of 4 sts across the row leaving the very last stitch to count for the second stitch of the plus 2. In reality, I would add a selvedge st to either end for a row count of 28.

Stitch multiples also give me an inkling of how the pattern will look when I start increasing and decreasing. Sometimes where and how often an increase or decrease is performed is affected by the stitch multiple.

I try to work out all the math before I start knitting the garment and include it on my schematic. Doing so prevents nasty little surprises from popping up when I am half way through a project. Well…most of the time it does.

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I am quietly knitting on the new baby sweater pattern that I never planned to make because I had an altogether different baby sweater pattern set to go but the yarn for it never arrived. Quiet knitting for me includes working and ripping and reworking the same 5 inches (13) cm over and over and over. While that may sound frustrating it is not. All kinds of decisions were achieved. The action is like doodling, only in yarn.

I found a stitch pattern that works perfectly with the Bluefaced Leicester yarn. It shows the beauty of this yarn perfectly. The sweater style I want to make has, at its core, the classic silhouette in a center close cardigan. Usually before I take up yarn and needles I make a detailed schematic along with a detailed sketch. While I made the schematic, I didn’t do the sketch. Today, I will back track somewhat and draw the detailed sketch. I am very sure of how I want this to look and the sketch and schematic will help me make the right decisions as I create the garment.

My first big decision was whether to knit the cardigan in one piece up to the armholes and then divide it, or construct it conventionally in pieces. Because of the slipped stitch lace pattern, I opted for conventional construction. I need the structure that seaming the piece will provide both for the lace and the look. I also needed to compensate for the ways the slipped stitch lace pattern pulled the fabric. So I doodled until I found a stitch pattern that visually complimented the lace and counteracted the pulling. At the moment everything is behaving nicely, though I know how things can change when creating.

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Thankfully I don’t make lists. Though if I were to make a top ten list of things I should never do, watching the evening news while not knitting would be in the top 5 of that non-existent list. It only leads me into trouble.

I lost the use of my right hand the other day after the vampires medical staff at my doctor’s office couldn’t find the vein in my arm and decided to use the vein in my hand to draw blood. Any kind of “blood work” excites medical people in the same way that a bar of good chocolate thrills a chocolate lover. Since I only have one arm to offer them, the other on my mastectomy side can’t be used for such things, drawing blood is sometimes an involved procedure. It was like that this time.

I came home and knitted away, thinking nothing of the pain in my right hand. Just before the evening news began, I realized the pain was…well…painful. I put down the needles and in doing so made a big mistake. Rather than being the white noise in the background while knitting, the news became something I was going to literally watch and listen too. Just an aside here, television news is not my main source of information, I have a variety of respectable newspapers and magazines that I read to stay informed of things that annoy me and over which I have no control.

As a former journalist, I am qualified to say that evening news casts now are not the evening news casts of then. I don’t know what to call them now other than some mish-mash of tragedy and comedy devoid of relevant information. But the “story” that lead me into trouble wasn’t a story at all, but a promo clip from a longer interview a child-like reporter did with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If I had been knitting, I would not have heard any of this. But I was not knitting.

The part of the promo clip that got to me was at the end when the child-like reporter looks into the camera and announces that Justice Ginsburg does 20 push-ups a day. Justice Ginsburg is 81 and in questionable health. Really, 20 push ups a day? The child-like reporter smiles into the camera as it is the end of her segment and I am left feeling annoyed. Follow-up questions needed to be asked such as: Do you do 20 consecutive push-ups? Or do you space them out over a 24 hours period and do one or two here, another couple after lunch, then a few more with your wine at night?

After spending a day of interfacing with the medical community and scheduling a battery of uncomfortable tests to see if my cancer has reoccurred or if a different cancer has sprung up in a different area of my body, I have burning questions about those 20 push-ups. I am 59 and I can’t do 20 consecutive push-ups. I can only do 7. And in all truth, what with my mastectomy, push-ups probably are not the best exercise for me to do.

Nevertheless, I have been getting down on the floor each night and doing push-ups. I’m still only at 7, but I hope by next week to increase it to 9. If all my cancer tests come back negative, I should be on target to reach 20 consecutive push-ups by July 1. I will never watch another news show without knitting needles and yarn in hand. These push-ups are killing me.

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Rites of Spring

It’s a balmy 17 F / -8 C degrees out today. It snowed overnight, but today is all sunshine and blue skies. I ran into a neighbor this morning who told me of his experience with his frozen shut garage door. He went into heady details of the angles and lengths he needed to achieve to keep the blow torch melting the icy seal but not singe or set fire to the entire structure. He was very pleased with his accomplishment. I’m sure, however, when his wife finds out it will be the last time he ever sees or touches a blow torch.

No, I am not a blow torch kind of person. The barn door remains immovable and frankly it can stay that way until it thaws. I trudged right past it and into the woods this morning for a walk and some down time. Seventeen degrees with the sun out is quite nice. On my walk, I fell over found a rock, cleaned snow from it’s top and sat down to assess my injury contemplate the view. The river is such a beautiful icy blue color where it is not frozen and while the woods may on first glance appear silently buried in snow, animal tracks tell a different story of life going on.

While I sat there, I was able to watch two bald eagles in the sky doing their aerial mating dance. It’s a phenomenal sight. The way they soar, the speed at which they fly at and around each other, then grab the other’s foot and spiral down in unison in a kind of free fall that I am always sure will end in death, but instead at the last minute they let go and rise up and around again. This dance is a harbinger of Spring.

In fact while I sat there many of the birds are preparing to mate. Bird songs were all around.

I am a few rows short of sanitycompleting the back of a new baby sweater I am knitting. This particular knit has been a hard birth. Finding the right stitch pattern to compliment the yarn and make a unified whole was more difficult than I have ever encountered. I seriously considered giving up designing, I had hit a brick wall. The problem may have been made bigger by the fact that I had a very specific pattern stitch and look in mind when I bought the yarn. But swatching showed this yarn was not going to work with the pattern stitch I’d chosen. So I had to put the entire sweater design I had in mind on hold and come up with something that would compliment the yarn I had in front of me. In truth, I was starting all over from the very conception of the idea. I had to figure out the feeling, use, style, type of fabric, in short I had to dream again when what I really wanted was to knit.

My dilemma with the Postal Service continues. I can’t seem to make them understand that the problem of me not getting my mail doesn’t reside in this post office but somewhere else along the service line. Wherever the mail is amassed before it gets sent to my post office needs to be checked. It’s precisely where the problem was last time, only I had a tracking number. Thankfully, there was no postal delivery yesterday. But today? It will be the same thing all over again. At the moment, my delivery person resents me. I think I’ll go for another walk in the woods when it’s time for the mail to arrive.

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Bring It On

How many ways can I describe the weather outside? Let me try. Freezing, icy, snowing, wintery, frosty, frigid, gelid, inhospitable, and glacial. That about sums it up with a temperature that feels like -20 F / -28 C. Nothing is even thinking of melting.

My favorite pine tree is literally groaning from the cold. I have never heard a pine tree groan until this winter, but that’s how cold it is.

Yarn Rascal can’t go out without his boots, otherwise his feet hurt so bad he just falls where he’s standing. With his boots on, he walks like a cross between a penguin and a bucking horse. His front feet move like a penguin’s, while his back feet buck out like a horse trying to shake off a rider. Not conducive to quickly managing business and scooting back indoors.

Yesterday I had a brief moment smugness. Congratulating myself on having had the foresight of getting everything we could possible need this winter out of the barn and putting it within a fingertip reach. No long treks through hip deep frozen snow this year. I should know better by now. The universe doesn’t like conceitedness.

The Skipper’s truck had a wee bit of a challenge getting started yesterday. To be more precise, I turned the key and nothing happened. Silence. Not even a cough. I took the key out, gazed at the vast frozen tundra of blinding white that lay between me sitting in the truck and the barn where the battery charger resided. When reality, in its initial phase, egregiously deviates from what I want it to be, I have a hard time immediately accepting it. Thus, I reinserted the key in the ignition throwing all my strength behind turning that baby as far as it could go while ramming the gas pedal to the floor saying, “Come on, come on, come on.” Not a sound beyond my own voice and the wind slamming into the vehicle.

I removed the key. Within seconds a gasoline smell seeped into the truck. Not only was the battery dead, but I had flooded the carburetor. I banged my forehead on the steering wheel, saying, “No, no, no.” Not another winter where I have to trudge 98 steps up to the barn in snow above my knees and a biting wind that belongs only in the Arctic region. And, in a strange way, I was right about this. From the truck to the barn was 125 steps. Last year’s 98 was from the kitchen door to the barn.

When I reached the barn, the door which normally lifts so easily was frozen to the ground. A blast of wind slammed stinging little snowflakes into my face and I turned, whereupon I saw my trusty ice breaker standing 98 steps away outside the kitchen door. To get that ice breaker meant a round trip total of 196 steps. At least 100 steps too far.

So I did what any formerly sane, now desperate person would do. I kicked the heck out of that door while trying to lift it at the same time. I pounded on it with my fists, I beat it with a plastic chair from last summer—do you know that plastic, when it gets below a certain temperature, becomes brittle? but I digress—all to no avail. That door was stuck to that ground better than if I had used Gorilla Glue on it.

For now, the battery charger remains in the barn. But they are predicting more snow during which (oh yes!) the temperature will briefly rise. I plan to use this brief rise to my advantage. With ice breaker in hand I will enthusiastically stumble the 98 steps to the barn where I will get that door open and retrieve the battery charger. Bring on the next storm!

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I give up. The postal service lost my mail orders, so now I am only ordering priority mail so I can have a tracking number. I have given up on waiting for the Shalimar Yarns I won. Shalimar says they sent the yarns right out but I have not received them. I have no tracking number for the yarn. Lost. Gone. I need to get on with my knitting life.

So I finally broke down and ordered the Handmaiden Mini Maiden yarn that I originally envisioned for this current baby sweater. The Blue Faced Leicester is a great yarn, but not for the stitch patterns I want for this sweater. However, I did find a stitch pattern that really shows the BFL in all its glory and will design a light baby jacket or a baby blanket in it.

The knit Sweater of the Week is this beauty:

knit of the week

Intarsia, stranded, perhaps duplicate stitch, are just some of the techniques I’d use to recreate this beauty. I’d also have a lot of headache medicine on hand and a psychiatrist on standby 24/7. But it is lovely. Some of the knitwear fashions for 2015 were very involved like this, but most were geometric blocks of color like this one from Prabal Gurung.

prabal gurung

The knitting that accompanied the color blocks was often a p1, ktbl type of texture. The knit stitches making clearly defined lines like this from the Academy of Art runway:

academy of art

Lots of patterns relied on linear lines like this cowl from Brooklyn Tweed:

brooklyn tweed

But my favorite use of color block is this one:


No one did it better this year than Valentino in his menswear collection. I love the way this interacts with the human body form. For me, it recalls the geometrics of the 1920s fashions in a very 21st century way. Ah, Valentino.

Welts, cording, chunky yarns worked into deep textures were seen on almost every runway this year both in sweaters and scarves:

chunky knits

But my absolute favorite use of welts / cords is this sleeve. The pattern is by Cookie A for Brooklyn Tweed.

cookie a brooklyn tweed

Have a great weekend.

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canyonette shawl 003

I kept waiting for the proper light to photograph the Canyonette Shawl I finished, but realized this morning that it had become an exercise in futility. So yes, the light is not perfect, but the shawl is complete.

I really enjoyed knitting it. I loved the ingenuity of the design and it is a pattern I would recommend for gradient yarns. The way it is put together got me thinking of different ways to construct garments. So I have been looking at and analyzing runway knitting fashion for 2015. I will share what I found in Friday’s post.

At the moment, I am designing again. I have a skein of Blue Moon Fiber Arts BFL Fingering yarn. This is the first I’ve worked with 100% Blue Face Leicester. I love the softness. It seems much softer than merino. Unlike merino, however, it doesn’t have spring. With merino fingering I can achieve a decent amount of textured depth between knit and purl stitches. The BFL, on the other hand, flattens out the knit and purl stitches. While this is good for the overall pattern I had in mind for the sweater, knit stitches pulling the fabric this way and that via decreases and increases. It is not good for the border I planned.

For the borders I planned to use seed stitch or moss stitch. Part of the “look” of this design was to have a textured depth of wide borders to contrast the knit pattern of the body. The firmness of a wide seed stitch or moss stitch border would also help control the knit pattern, by preventing it from pulling the front borders of the cardigan into a wavy design. But the yarn flattens the seed stitch and moss stitch into a mess.

So today I am experimenting with stitch patterns that are not normally used in borders but are firm enough to control the pull. I also plan on changing needle size, which means a gauge change, which means the two pages of math I worked out last night need complete redoing. The cardigan will cover 7 sizes: from 3 mos to 6 years. It’s a lot of math. But I have enough Extra Strength Tylenol in the house for the migraine and a large eraser for my pencil. (Did I ever mention that Yarn Rascal loves to eat eraser shavings tainted with lead from the pencil?) I love life.

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No Yarn. No Inspiration.

With the US Post not delivering my mail and the books and yarns I ordered now lost for I have no tracking numbers for them, I am a little ungrounded. The past few weeks I tried, tried, and tried to create a sweater pattern out of yarn I had left over from the Cape Ann Afghan.

cape ann afghan 1

All to no avail. While the yarn colors inspired the afghan, that inspiration did not carry over to a sweater. No matter how long I worked with the yarn everything I came up with left me cold. I don’t think I understood, until now, how important the right color is to my creation process. Its the color that starts me dreaming. Its the color that creates the feeling, that sets the mood.

Today is ice and snow. The roads are not good, so I can’t get to the Post Office. But tomorrow I will. A little face to face chat with whoever is in charge along with a hand written letter of complaint and the taking of names and addresses of those who are in charge up the line of command should send the message that I am seriously angry. I suspect the problem is not in this post office but in the gathering area where the mail resides before it gets sent here. Last time I went through this, that was where the problem was discovered, but of course I had a tracking number then.

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Yes, Yarn Rascal won a Golden Paw Award last night. After a day where every little thing went wrong, I crawled into bed looking forward to some unconscious time. But Yarn Rascal had other ideas. Just after midnight he began running up and down the stairs like a busy beaver. Bump, bump, bump down. Bump, bump, bump up. Scramble down the hall to the open bedroom door, cry while wagging his tail wildly. Dash back down the hall, bump, bump, bump down the stairs. It went on for a while even though I know that if Yarn Rascal is over the rainbow with tail-wagging-crying happiness it’s a sure sign of trouble.

At 1 am I removed small, torn, shredded pieces of paper yarn wrappers from his little mouth. In some sort of weird Hansel and Gretel mode, I followed the trail of chewed paper from the bedroom doorway, down the hall and into the “craft” room where the doors to the yarn vault stood open. All of the skeins that were not in Rubber Maid Lock Top cartons had their wrappers ripped off.

At 3 am I woke again to the sound of a deliriously happy Yarn Rascal in the hallway. I flipped on the hall light. He got the yarn I had been swatching with before going to bed. It was strewn along the hall and down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs was a pile of the yarn with my reading glasses tangled in it. He had a busy, productive and happy evening. He’s also grounded.

This morning I decided to take a picture of the completed shawl. I chose a snow drift and laid it out. It looked wonderful. I raised my camera and viola! up came a strong gust of wind. Before I could snap the picture, the wind picked up the shawl and took it across the pristine snow and ice covered tundra that once was our yard. I trudged through the knee high mess only to have a gale of wind snatch the shawl again before I could grab it. The wind and I played this game for about 5 minutes.

Then I remembered the ice chipper. I have a very heavy all iron one. I stumbled back through the snow to the house to get it. Chipper in hand, I got to within five feet of the shawl, then hurled the chipper like it was a javelin at the shawl. Once pinned to the snow, I retrieved the shawl and pronounced the photography session finished.

Next up, the wipers on my car are frozen solid to the windshield. I think some light tapping with a hammer might do it.

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