Sunday, July 3, 2011

KAL: Among the Bamboo

Who would have guessed? A knit-along for Among the Bamboo has been started on Ravelry. (And not by me!)

If you're interested in participating, head on over to the Afghans & Blankets group and check out the KAL Paid Pattern thread.

I won't lie. This is kind of exciting. As in - wow! Someone liked my design enough to submit it as an option for a knit-along. And then enough people voted for it, making it the chosen pattern. And then? Well, then a group of knitters like it enough to actually participate. Wow. That's really cool.

Know what else is cool? I'm headed out for a few days of vacation.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Evolution of a Design (part 8): Writing Patterns

I thought I could be better about writing more frequently. I thought I'd have the time to keep up to date on a blog. I really did. And then life happened. Or something like that. And now I'm looking at the date and realizing I'm not actually doing any better at all. Sigh.

In this discussion of creating and publishing a design, we're at the point of writing up the pattern.

When I first designed Among the Bamboo, I had no desire (and, therefore, no plans) to translate the chart into written instructions. I knew that meant there might be some knitters for whom the pattern was inaccessible, and I'm only semi-ashamed to admit that I didn't care. I had an inkling that it might be a lot of work to do the conversion, and I had neither the time nor the inclination to do it. And, truth be told, Knit Picks had already accepted the pattern, knowing it would be charted only. So I figured it simply wasn't necessary.

I offered the pattern on Ravelry first at a low, low price. One of the early knitters sent me a message saying that she knew how to use charts but only knitted from written instructions. She'd already written up her notes and knit the blanket, so she knew they worked. She wondered if I was interested in having them to use in the pattern, so that others could make this super cute blanket.

Isn't that amazing? I mean, truly? She wanted no credit. She wanted nothing in exchange. She said the work was already done, so she didn't need anything - she just thought it might be a nice thing to offer. And it was. A truly nice thing. Sometimes I get to a point when I've decided I don't much like people (don't we all?) -- this knitter offered me a great reminder of why I do actually like people, even when it feels like I don't.

In any case, I took her notes straight to my favorite testing group on Ravelry, and a few key testers helped me work through the notes, clean them up to be suitable for a pattern, and ensure that they led to the intended design. We did that just for the solid-color version, and it was a ton of work. A ton. But, the response was so overwhelming that I realized it isn't actually prudent to offer a charted-only design for these blankets. And that rebirth of faith-in-humanity helped me remember that I should care how accessible the pattern is.

So since then, I've made the conscious decision to do the work of converting a chart to written instructions for each of the afghan patterns. I've even concluded that offering written instructions for the intarsia version as well as the single-color version is the best way to go.

It's hard. Not as in difficult to do, but as in super time consuming. I've been working on the conversion for the snail bit-by-bit. It's slow-going. It takes even longer with these because, remember? They are like two patterns in one! The good news is that about 2/3 of the pattern is the same for both versions. Thank goodness! At this point, I've made it through the colored instructions. So 10 pages and at least as many hours later, I was able to move on to the solid pattern instructions. I think I've got about 3 hours more of work on those. It's a whole lot of counting, a whole lot of flipping back and forth between the Excel file containing the chart and the Word document containing the written instructions, and a whole lot of buggy/crossed eyes. I keep telling myself it's worth it.

And the early returns on the sample knitting suggest it is.

Next up? Casting on for samples...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Knitting on the Web: Knit Happens

I had no idea until a couple days ago that one of the proprietors of my favorite LYS has been co-hosting a weekly online radio show called Knit Happens. 

This week the topic was the scary but oh-so-often-asked-about issue of copyright.

You can read the store's account on their blog at Knit Happens.

Or you can head on over to the Knit Happens archive page. You're looking for Episode 69, but you might find yourself headed down into the rabbit hole of super interesting things to hear. (Nope, I'll never admit that happened to me. Uh uh. Not me. I won't say if it did or not. Okay, it did.)

Evolution of a Design (part 7): The Fabric

When I write up my patterns for baby blankets, I always provide a gauge measurement and then include some statement like, "not necessary to get gauge." Since a blanket isn't a garment, it doesn't require perfect sizing. As a result, if your gauge doesn't match mine and you end up with a blanket that's 33"x32" instead of my 31"x31", that's not a big deal.

So gauge doesn't matter, right?

Well... the way I think about it, that's only sort of true. It's okay to be a little bit off. There won't be any extra-long sleeves or super-tight busts to worry about. In that sense, gauge doesn't matter at all. On the other hand, gauge isn't only about size. It also has a role in the type and drape of fabric you're creating. Obviously, gauge isn't the only factor - yarn type and weight have a significant impact on your fabric. But you could knit up two wildly different swatches using the same yarn but different needle sizes.

So even with a baby blanket, where exact sizing may not be critical, gauge matters.

I suppose there are a number of different points at which a designer could (or should) start thinking about the fabric and what gauge is going to get them there. For things where sizing matters, it makes really good sense to get started on that right away. With this blanket, I didn't even begin to think about it until after I'd already created the chart. That's probably backwards, I know, but it's the way this design started to shape up.

Up to this point, I've been working in worsted weight for the blankets. Of course, my panda blanket has only 137 stitches across, so even in worsted, that's a pretty small blanket. The snail, though, is significantly larger. It's got a cast-on of 325 stitches. (I know! What on earth was I thinking?) It was pretty clear from the get-go that an afghan with that many stitches knit up in a worsted weight yarn has no business calling itself a baby blanket (if I used the same gauge as the panda, the snail would end up at 73" wide). So the decision to go with a lighter weight yarn was an easy one to make.

When I received yarn support from Dream in Color, the decision to go with DK weight was pretty much made for me. Before that I'd been toying with the idea of going even lighter - to fingering weight. I did a quick survey in a couple of groups on Ravelry, asking people what they thought of very light weight baby blankets. The responses were strongly in favor of them, particularly from folks who live in warmer climates. So, since I'd be using the DK from DIC for the intarsia version, I thought it might be nice to try fingering for the solid version.

Once both had arrived, I had to swatch. I know - swatching isn't terribly fun. I don't know many people who like it; I'm certainly not among those who do. So maybe we can call it a necessary evil. Because it's necessary. Even when you're knitting a baby blanket. Guess how I know? Go on - guess! (I won't tell you ... I'm sure you're right.) My younger sister is making the single color sample, and I needed to provide some guidance, so I knit up some stockinette swatches of the fingering weight yarn with a few different needle sizes. One was way too hole-y. One was way too tight, creating a stiff fabric. But one was just right. Good drape, good stitch definition. Perfect. It may be that a different needle size gives her the fabric I'm looking for -

Frankly, it doesn't matter what size needle she uses, as long as she gets gauge. Because you know what getting gauge will ensure? The perfect fabric...

Next up: converting the chart to written word...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Love When My Work Is Appreciated!

In fact, it makes me so giddy with happiness that I'm going to share my good mood with you!

This morning, I woke up to a text message with this photo:

That's the daughter of one of my most favorite college friends. And she's sleeping peacefully under the afghan I made for her. Precious, right? Well ... that blanket just happens to be one of my own designs. It turns out that I get to feeling generous when I'm giddy.

So here's the deal - I'll send a free copy of the Among the Bamboo pattern to anyone who comments on the blog before Saturday midnight. (That's June 25th, Pacific Time, as date stamped by Blogger.) I think it's easiest to gift it to you on Ravelry, so please include your Rav username. If you're not on Rav (why aren't you? You should be!) or don't want to have access to the pattern via your Rav library, then make a note in the comments that you've added your name to the mailing list (up there, in the right hand corner). Then I'll send you a pdf of the pattern ... fair warning, it's a big one, what with all the charts!

And, actually, for everyone who joins the mailing list, I'll even throw in a special surprise bonus.

And, in case you're one of those who thinks intarsia just isn't for you, this pattern is a two-for-one. Check it out! You get instructions for both versions - written for the solid color, and charts for solid and instarsia options.

And honestly, the solid color option is super super easy - made for a beginner. Just knits and purls, with a few yarn overs and knit 2 togethers. If you can count, you can make this blanket!

Of course, if you love this and want to support my design work, don't forget to check out the coordinating bibs, available via Knit Picks IDP.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More Things to Think About

I was sitting down to write the sixth installment of the "Evolution" series, but the truth is that's going to have to wait. I stopped by my Twitter feed (you can follow me, if you like - @adriennepdx). I don't spend a lot of time on the site, but this morning I happened to see a tweet linking me to the blog Dark Matter Knits.

The topic? The lessons designers learn from working in a yarn store.

I've never worked in a yarn store. I work in education - first as a high school teacher, then as a college admissions professional, and now in grant management for college access programs. I am passionate about education and providing access to higher ed, so I don't see myself leaving the field anytime soon. I have had moments, though, when I've thought it would be fun to work in a yarn store. Fun. I mean, really really FUN. I have worked retail, so of course I know that it wouldn't be all fun. But since it's merely a passing whim when it hits, I'm going to go right ahead and keep on deluding myself into believing that there would be no bad moments. No miserable customers. No days of exhaustion. Nope. I'm going to keep right on telling myself that working in a yarn store would be amazing. All the time. Every single moment of every single day.

The problem with this delusion, of course, is that I don't benefit from the lessons one learns while working the store. (Okay, yes, I know there are many more problems with the delusion, but I'm trying to get to my point, and this problem is the most salient to it.)

But Elizabeth's blog post offered a few of those lessons. She makes sense. A lot of it. Some of the things she mentions are things I've already been thinking about. Namely, photography and the need to have it stand out. This is a good reminder for me to seriously consider my photos and to care about that as much as I do the actual finished item.

The other thing I've thought about but not in quite the same way is the yarn substitution question. I've never assumed that someone would use the same yarn I did (even with the designs I have in the Knit Picks IDP that makes it so easy for folks to purchase the exact same yarn, I know that many knitters buy the pattern and then head to their stash, LYS, or big box store to purchase yarn). I've tried, therefore, to offer yardage rather than skein-age. I thought that was enough. Now I'm wondering if maybe I should be providing actual substitutes. And I'm wondering what the best way to select those substitutes is ... when I don't want to knit several samples. And I almost never want to knit several samples of the same thing.

Either way, I'm glad to have something new to ponder. And the evolution of the snail blanket is just going to have to wait another day or two. I figure that's okay. It'll all come with time.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Taking Better Pictures

Photography just isn't my forte. I doubt it ever will be. I'm lucky to have nieces and a sister willing to model designs and a brother who's offered to take photos. I'm absolutely grateful to them for their assistance, even when it's given begrudgingly.

There are some items, though, for which modeling is either not necessary or not practical. Or for which I don't have a willing model. And there might be times when a quick photo tutorial is what's needed, and I don't have access to my brother and his camera at just the right moment. What do I do then?

Well... I have this problem. It's just a little problem - not very big at all. But when I succumb to it, I succumb to it. I can be impulsive in purchases. I can also be too deliberative.
(To illustrate my point, I'll share these two quick facts: one day I thought it might be a good idea to buy a house, the next day I talked to a real estate agent, two days later he started showing me properties, and 2 days after that I'd made an offer on the first house we saw. I considered the notionof buying a house and then had signed off on the deal within one week. One week. Just one measly week and I'd made a huge purchase - the biggest of my life to that point. On the other hand, I had a couch I hated. It wasn't comfortable - even giving me backaches from sitting on it sometimes, it wasn't attractive, and I'd simply had enough. I thought about buying a new couch for months before I actually did it. And by months I mean somewhere in the range of 18-24 of them! For a couch. Years of deliberation for a measly new couch. Which I love by the way.)
Now back to our regularly scheduled program...

This morning I made an impulse buy. I was standing at the bus stop, thinking about how I might be able to photograph the plush toy I'm working on (don't get too excited ... it'll be a long way off before I'm ready to share). And I was thinking about how I don't care for the photos of the nook cozy at all. And I decided I needed to rectify the problem. So I fiddled around on my iPhone until I found this: 

And I ordered it. Right then and there. I really don't know anything about taking pictures. And I don't have a clue as to whether or not this will be a helpful tool. But I'm counting on it to be.

What do you think - good purchase? Bad purchase? Neutral?