Sunday, January 17, 2010

What I've been up to...

Vintage buttons 1/17/10

Lately I've been trying to figure out a difficult design problem for a new pattern. It's not going that well, and it's frustrating. However, it makes me glad on a daily basis that my 8th grade algebra teacher, Mrs. Rita Gary, took such pains to make sure that I succeeded in her class. Turns out knitting is one of those things that you use algebra for ALL THE TIME. Thank you, Mrs. Gary, wherever you are!

To get my mind off my troubles, there's nothing like a little bit of antique-mall button-box prowling to cheer a girl up. Here's my latest crop of finds, hiding all my aimless pattern-brainstorming scrawls...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Resistance is futile

Wow, so, Myrtle's really taken off! It seems that lots of folks are casting on for Ravelympics and various KALs, and the projects gallery is absolutely blooming with works in progress. It's really gratifying, and quite tantalizing, to see each new picture posted. First of all, the colors just knock me out--despite the fact that my favorite color is gray, I really do love seeing the all luscious greens and oranges and blues that are being used. I can't wait for the first poppy red or marigold yellow to appear.

In case you had an inclination to be that first poppy red, or marigold yellow, or amethyst or peach or periwinkle or chocolate or whatever, you should know that Stacy over at Tempted Yarns has made a special offer--25% off custom dye orders of her Good Grrl fingering weight superwash merino for those who are making a Myrtle. 4 skeins for the price of 3 means you can make a Myrtle in any size, in any color you care to dream up with her, and maybe even have enough left over for a pair of matching socks! Those are some of her colorways above, but check out the Tempted Yarns site for lots more. She's obviously got a great eye for the hues. Me, I'm already eyeing that Blue Steele colorway and I should really stop looking at it NOW because I feel a new project coming on...uh oh. Might be too late.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Testing, 1, 2...

Ever wonder what I sound like? You can have a listen over at the Knit Picks podcast! Kelley from Knit Picks and I chatted a few weeks ago about their new Independent Designers Program, which officially launches today and is, I think, a very good thing for all parties. I'm chuffed as anything to note that among the other featured designers they invited to get the program off the ground is SweaterBabe, who is, like, totally famous and stuff. Squee!

One of the things Kelley and I (OK, mostly me--I'm like one of those Chatty Cathy dolls, just pull the string and I'll keep going until you smash crucial parts with a rock) talked about was the generational difference between knitters who started long ago, and those who are just picking it up now, when there's an Interwebs and Ravelry and whatnot. Kelley and I actually started knitting at the same time--literally decades ago!--but I think that generational difference has less to do with how long you've known how to knit, and more to do with how you knit now.

First of all, how mind-blowing is it that there are people out there who have never experienced knitting without Ravelry? There's a generational difference for you, and a profound one. I remember when I first heard about it from Splityarn, who was still knitting with our gang here in Austin then. Every week after that, the first topic of discussion around the knitting circle was "Where are you on the waitlist?" We didn't even really know what Ravelry was, but we wanted in on it!

Second, how many of you consider yourself well-acquainted with a knitter you may never have even met--someone you've friended on Ravelry, or whose blog you follow, or whose pattern you made after it appeared in Knitty? Lots of hands are going up out there, I can tell...

As I see it, the knitting community has gotten both way bigger AND way closer in the past few years. It seems like there are more people knitting together, in knitting circles and local groups, but also in virtual ways like knitalongs and NaKniSweMo and KIP Days. It also seems like we identify more strongly as people with a common interest--as knitters--now that we have more means of communicating and community-building around that shared interest. By that token, I'm definitely a new-generation knitter: I've known the mechanics for a long time, but now I think of myself as someone who DOES knit, not just someone who CAN knit.

Kelley and I talked about how I'm also a new-generation designer--someone who's benefiting from the fact that you can self-publish online, a pattern here and a pattern there, and thereby connect directly with the Great Knitting Public. It's so much easier for us this way--no long submission processes, no endless publication lead times! We also get instant feedback, most of it positive, which is so profoundly inspiring.

In fact, I say this a lot, but it bears repeating: I wouldn't be putting out patterns at all if it weren't for the knitters in my group, who I see every week, and for every single person who actually takes time out of their day to write a comment or fave a project. That's to say nothing of the people who actually MAKE something from one of my patterns--either just as written, or with their own modifications. It's a genuine treat for me to see how something looks in a different color, or with different choices for fibers and shaping and closures; it's like I get to experience the fun part of designing, the play and the possibility, all over again!

For example, just check out the WIP pics of the first two Myrtles being made by Ravelry users: reanbean and Northknitter are working on their projects in Massachusetts and Sweden, using colors that are totally different from one another and from my own prototypes of this design, but they could not be more delicious to look at. This may be a designer's proprietary pride, but viewed all together, I think they look even more beautiful than any of the individual projects. Thanks, Internet; thanks, Ravelry; thanks, Knitty; and thanks, knitters everywhere.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Everything old is New Year's

Happy 2010, everyone! I rang in the new year with an old friend, who was in town for a gig with his band (well, way OUT of town, as it happens, but here in Texas we just call any destination less than 300 miles away "yonder" and drive to it--carbon footprint, carbon schmootprint!). The resultant hangover notwithstanding, I put the finishing touches on the latest iteration of the Myrtle cardigan, got some pics of it at knitting on Saturday (including this absolutely gorgeous one taken by its recipient, above), and posted the pattern on Ravelry. It's been doing really well and I'm incredibly gratified by all the super-nice comments people have made--it's gotten my year off to a great start!

The funny thing is, although it seems to have struck some sort of sympathetic note with all those Ravelers, there's very little that's actually new about Myrtle. It rather slavishly follows my usual design formula:

1. Discover some yarn you love unreasoningly and realize that you HAVE to make something with it right NOW.

In Myrtle's case, this was a skein of Nantucket Red sock yarn from Cherry Tree Hill that I picked up at our group's swap. I don't even wear this color, normally, but for some reason I grabbed a bunch of coral-y reds that night. Go figure!

2. Ditto for a stitch pattern, usually from a Barbara Walker or Nicky Epstein book.

For Myrtle, this was Dayflower Lace, a really classic motif that's fun to work and easy to memorize. I came across it in a pocket stitch dictionary one of my professors had right around the same time I got the yarn.

3. Combine with a certain amount of alcohol and think of a librarian-y name for it.

A friend's beloved cat, which was named Myrtle, died around the time I was working on this and it just felt right.

4. Pour into a cardigan with 3/4 length sleeves.

Someone remarked to me recently, "You seem to make a lot of cardigans." This is true. I also wear a lot of cardigans. They're simply the best kind of sweater. And 3/4 length sleeves are the best kind of sleeve, because long sleeves are too long and you have to keep pushing them up if you're cooking, or if it's too hot in your office (or in Texas in general, which it almost always is).

4.1. Realize you don't have enough yarn and scramble around until you find more.

I only did this for the very first Myrtle, though. For the next two, I had enough left over to make a pair of matching socks if I wanted to. The green stuff you see above was originally an, um, intense yellow that my good friend Stephanie over at Spinning Colors overdyed for me, and it is even more delicious in person.

5. Attach vintage buttons.

These are some of the ones I picked up in St. Louis in November. Another eye-candy shot here from its new owner shows them off nicely!

6. Write up, release, repeat!

For Myrtle, this turned out to be a particular challenge, because of the lace motif, and because there were a bunch of little things in the prototype I realized I could/should have done differently, but I eventually pulled it off--the different-sized one I worked up purely from my calculations turned out perfectly. I hope to add a few more sizes at the top of the range to this pattern at some point in the future, since I kind of pooped out at 2X/48" bust for this one. Stay tuned, curvy ladies!

I even noticed that I'd made this sweater, like my previous design Decimal, in an orange version and a green version. Spooky, huh? Resolution for 2010: Try something a little different! But still the same, since this seems to be working for me...

(The Myrtle pattern is $5; includes charted and written instructions for lace.)