Monday, November 29, 2010

Add a Necktie!

You can easily add some class to your neckwarmer by adding a tie.  This is the Wizard Warmers pattern  neckwarmer, made in Gryffindor house colors, with a garter stitch necktie tied round and secured with a Windsor knot.

The great thing about this tie is that once you get it around your neck and tied, it's stretchy enough to just pull it off and on over your head without untying the Windsor knot.

Here's how to make the tie:

1. Use size US 4 or 5 (3.5 or 3.75mm) and sportweight yarn, to get a gauge of about 20 st x 35 rows=3.5" x 3.5" (9mm x 9mm) for a garter stitch--all knit--flat swatch.

2. Cable cast-on 6 sts.

3. Work rows in garter stitch until the tie length, unstretched, equals your neck circumference plus 22" (56cm).  The tie will be about 1" (2.5cm) wide.

4. Bind off and work-in ends.

5. For a good-looking knot, use a full Windsor knot.  Four-in-hand gives a knot that's too small.

Windsor knot-tying instructions can be found here.

For more FO posts on other blogs, check here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

FO Friday: Hogwarts Neckwarmers

It's FO Friday, and I've been cooking all day. So tonight, after a late Thanksgiving dinner, I'm getting off my feet and posting this group of neckwarmers I made in Hogwarts house colors. They were made during the test of the Wizard Warmers pattern, one in each size.

For more FO Friday posts on other blogs, check here.

A Small Feast

We're having our vegetarian Thanksgiving meal for three people today. In case anyone wants to follow my cooking progress, I'll post notes on the menu below throughout the day.

Sparkling Apple Cider - in the fridge
Homemade Bread - baked and sliced, butter softening
Pumpkin Soup - simmering
Holiday Nut Loaf - baking
Sage Gravy - ready!
Maple-Pecan Fried Slaw - done
Cranberry Sauce (whole) - cooked & cooling
Cranberry Sauce (jellied for Michael) - in the fridge
Pumpkin Pie w/ whipped cream - cooling

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WIP Wednesday: A Necktie

It's Work-In-Progress Wednesday again! This is a necktie I'm making as an add-on to the neckwarmer in the Wizard Warmers pattern. It just got published on Ravelry.

The plan is to add a tie to the Gryffindor neckwarmer... hope it works out. This one is knitted with the linen stitch, and I don't know which side, bumpy or smooth, will look best.

For more WIP Wednesday posts on other blogs, check here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Erssie's Interview, Part 4

This is the fourth and final installment in Erssie Major's Designer of the Month interview series. You can see the first part here, and link to the second and third parts.

Do you have any advice for knitters or crocheters who are new to designing patterns?
I would advise newbies writing patterns for the first time to try to do the following things:

1. Invest a lot of time into researching other patterns and styles available in books, magazines, and independent patterns from other designers. Look at some of the indie designers and try and decide what you love or like, what you don’t like, and what is not acceptable to you.

2. Look at the Yarn Standards website for guidelines in your style of abbreviations and try to stick to one style, with a set of standard abbreviations. Try and keep this consistent across all your patterns.

3. Cut out the personal chat in your patterns. Its nice to have a personal style, but chatting in the middle of a set of instructions is really distracting. I would advise any lengthy explanation to go into pattern notes and to keep the pattern to the bare bones of the instructions in accepted abbreviations. Too many newbies are used to writing patterns for a blog and making a lot of comments on each point. Remember, people want to save their printer ink and they may make this design more than once, so a lot of irrelevant chat is really off-putting. If it is relevant chat, then putting it into pattern notes on its own page, means a knitter can read it once if necessary but may not need to print it out.

4. Get the designs test-knitted. Getting stuff test-knitted is only helpful if you analyse the results. Try and define what it is you are testing. Some new designers hear they must test-knit, get volunteers to make the stuff, but then never review the feedback or results. This is not really useful to making your pattern accurate. If a tester comes back and says ‘everything was fine, it was all correct, and ok thanks I enjoyed it’ I would question this because it is very unusual for a pattern to be instantly perfect. There should be some criticism or one or two mistakes on a first draft.

5. In addition to test-knitting, invest in a good tech editor. They will make sure that your pattern is current, uses accepted abbreviations, is graded accurately into different sizes, and will look for every single formatting, punctuation, or typing mistake. They will also help bring better ways of expressing things, less confusion, and will help you to be consistent. Without a tech editor a pattern writer can often start to drift in style and be inconsistent. Test knitters, especially volunteers, cannot be expected to have this level of professionalism over every aspect of the pattern. Normally my tech editor is the very last person to make changes to the pattern, I approve these changes and the pattern goes live. Listen to feedback without feeling hurt or defensive. I get patterns back all the time, that have lots of red marks and criticism and I use it wisely, this is not the time to get upset and personal about it.

6. Try to be kind to customers... not that they are always right, but it does not help to get into a wrangle with the one customer who found your pattern confusing if that person goes on a forum and spreads the word as to how unhelpful you are. Customers will contact you all the time, asking for help and guidance, and not all will be appreciative.

7. Don’t expect to give up the day job anytime soon, and expect, if you want a career purely in the fiber arts, to have to teach, run an LYS, dye, spin, or have your own yarn brand in addition to designing. Unless every pattern you release goes totally viral, you are unlikely to live on pattern sales alone to begin with. What can happen if your popularity spirals after a viral pattern, is you find that offers come your way to be included in books, or even to have a solo book.

8. Talking of books, it helps to increase your kudos and for knitters to trust your patterns, if you do get a design published about once every one or two months in a well known book or magazine, or on a website, e.g. Knitty. It does not mean you have to go down that route for everything but it will help traffic come your way for independent designs if you submit to print or online publications.

Here are more of my favorite patterns by Erssie:

Christmas Pudding Baby Hat

Chukchi: Crochet Mukluks

Cafe Racer Newborn Baby Set

You can keep up with Erssie's new designs by visiting her website, Erssie Knits.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wizard Warmers

Striped and cuffed, this set of armwarmers, legwarmers, and a neckwarmer is a men's version of the knitted Witch Warmers pattern. The armwarmers have French cuffs and easy-to-make cuff links. The buttoned neckwarmer opens with a wingtip effect at the top, and the legwarmers feature front and back extensions for a spats-look. They're fast and fun to make: no seaming or blocking.

U.S. knitting terms

Neckwarmer: Men's X-Small (Small, Medium, Large)
Armwarmers: Men's one size
Legwarmers: Men's one size

Skill Level  Intermediate

Yarn  434 yds /397m
for complete set

Plymouth Encore DK wool blend
2 skeins #217 black: main color (MC)
1 skein #678 gray: contrast color (CC)
Photo shows discontinued Lion Brand Wool-Ease sportweight, #152 Oxford Gray and #153 Black.

Substitute Yarns: any wool, wool blend, or acrylic sportweight / DK yarn that knits to pattern gauge

Additional Materials
US 5 /3.75mm circ. needle, 40" /102cm cable
4 shank buttons, 3/4" /2cm for armwarmer
2 buttons, 1/2" /1.5cm for neckwarmer
1 large-eyed needle, size 18

Gauge 20 st x 17 rows = 2.75" x 2.75" /7cm x 7cm in K1P1 rib (unstretched flat swatch)

3 Schematic Diagrams: Armwarmer, Legwarmer, Neckwarmer

The Wizard Warmers pattern is available for purchase as a download here and on Ravelry. $3.00 USD

I owe a debt of gratitude to the brilliant Swedish knitter and crocheter, Absinthia, who improved the buttonhole on this pattern.

You can find tips and variations for this pattern in the following posts:
Add a Necktie!
Slytherin Neckwarmer
Swatch Wars
I Love Cable Cast-On
Cast-Ons: Keeping Count
Black Attack: Working with Dark Yarn
Magic Loop Rocks!
Straightening and Joining in the Round
Preventing Ladders
Preventing Uneven Ribs and Moss
Adding a Color in the Round
Quick and Dirty Striping in the Round
Exquisite Striping in the Round

Monday, November 15, 2010

Erssie's Interview, Part 3

This is the third part of Erssie Major's Designer of the Month interview. You can see the first part here, and the second part here. Check back next Monday for the last part of the interview.

Do you have a type of project that you lean towards for pattern design?
I choose accessories, so make small things. This does not mean I am not capable of designing a sweater but I am very slow at knitting due to the hand disability and my hat would probably take the same time to knit as anybody else’s sweater. I love the feeling of achievement when a project is finished, and its so addictive, that it does put me off making bigger pieces. I compromise though, so for example my pagan throw, magickal blanket is being released square by square with a magical symbol on each one.

How do you conceptualize your designs?
I keep a design journal. This goes with me anywhere and any ideas however stupid or insane go into this journal. In the back I keep a running idea for books or pattern titles, but in the main pages I sketch anything that comes to mind. I also collect images in computer folders to inspire me… so I have a Pagan one, which has folders for everything in different subheadings and I have an African folder, an Egyptian folder, etc. I don’t generally put photos in my design journal, they would go into my computer folders but if I was inspired to make something along those lines, then I would sketch my interpretation of it.
I also do lots of those spider/brainstorm diagrams too… so if there is a vague theme I can examine every angle of it, and I do not always submit one idea to a client I submit a selection expecting at least one to hit home, and then am sometimes shocked and overworked when a client accepts about 5 off the list!

Where do you do your best design work?
Truthfully, in the past my best design work is never for myself and always for other people. I am trying to change that though. The thing is, I cannot keep a good idea secret and cannot help submitting it somewhere. I want to keep those ideas for myself, but I have a problem in that my design journal gets full but only about 10% of ideas ever get made… this means I have a store of ideas so if a book wants a theme on say African bold textiles and I have something in my design journal, half of me knows it could stay in there for years before I get round to it but if I submit it to a magazine or book and it gets accepted, then it gets bumped up the priority list and puts pressure on me to make it. One of my designer friends did comment objectively, and said, I would do much better if I kept the ideas I give away to myself and release my own pattern.

Here are more of my favorite patterns by Erssie:

Belladonna Sleeves

Solstice Sun Motif
Throw or Square

You can keep up with Erssie's new designs by visiting her website, Erssie Knits.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Erssie's Interview, Part 2

The Designer of the Month for November is Erssie Major. This is the second part of her interview. You can see the first part here and the third part here. Check back on the next two Mondays of the month for the rest of the interview.

What is your weapon of choice?
I have invested in a set of laminated wooden needles with interchangeable needle heads and cords. I also got an artisan to custom design a case for the set and this is my weapon of choice. Wood because I just get a better feel and less static from it and interchangeable because I never go on holiday or travels without a full set of needles…its easier than trying to plan which projects you might attempt when the inspiration hits. When it comes to hooks, I have a set of clover hooks with a soft pad which is essential for me as I have a hand disability. I would recommend these to anybody who has trouble gripping. It does not matter what size the hook is with these needles the flat handle is always the same which greatly helps with smaller hooks.

Are there types of stitches that you use a lot, and why?
Double Crochet UK (Single Crochet US). I use this stitch a lot through the back loops only because I love to make use of my charting and colour work skills and like the closeness and woven type texture of tapestry crochet. When it comes to knitting, I use stocking stitch a lot but with colour work motifs. I use lace the least. I find that although I can design endless colour work stitch patterns that are totally unique, when it comes to lace it is difficult to totally invent a stitch…if you try, you find that someone else has discovered that before. All you can do with lace really to be unique is to use combinations of stitches that others have used. Although I occasionally do this I prefer Fair Isle and Intarsia knitting any day to put my stamp on something.

What is your favorite color / pattern combination?
I love to see my own method of cast on, passed down in my family, against a ribbed edge of a hat in the round….it always looks so neat and proper! People often think my stuff has been machines as it looks like no other type of cast on......its a secret though!
When it comes to colour, sometimes I like the minimal shade but massive contrast e.g. Charcoal and White, or Navy and White for traditional Fair Isle of a Norwegian kind. At other times I love a riot of colours for a Day of the Dead type them, candy colours against a black background. If I am making things for me to wear, I like to choose blues and purples and occasionally a deep bright scarlet.

What’s your favorite fiber to work with when designing?
Wool. There is nothing like it. You can totally abuse it and it still washes out beautifully.
Alpaca is a close second, but loses points for its stink when it gets wet in the rain.

Part 3 of Erssie's interview is here.

Here are more of my favorite patterns by Erssie:

Dizzy Lily
(Snood for a Hound)

Little Pink Skulls
Newborn Baby Set

You can keep up with Erssie's new designs by visiting her website, Erssie Knits.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Designer of the Month: Erssie Major!

Tomorrow is Dia de los Muertos, and what better time could there be to feature Erssie Major as Designer of the Month? Based in the UK, Erssie is a well-known knit and crochet designer, whose work often includes skeletons and skulls. Some of her patterns were created to celebrate the Day of the Dead.  (see below)

Erssie Major

Erssie's designs are sometimes goth and sometimes folkloric--all with her unmistakeable style. She has a way with color and pattern that only an artist could accomplish. She designs knit patterns, and has recently added crochet patterns to her site.  And if that weren't enough, she is prolific in her creation of marvelously designed stitch charts, which can be found here.

Here are some Dia de los Muertos patterns by Erssie:

Las Calacas Danzantes
(The Dancing Skeletons)

(Skull Chart)

Los Pequeños Relojes de Arena
(The Little Hourglasses)

The Samhain Collection:
Skull & Ghost Charts E-book

Erssie has kindly answered some interview questions for us, and she did such a great job of it, that I'm going to publish them as a series. Every Monday this month, there will be another installment. Here's the first:

How did you get started designing patterns?
I started making my own toys and clothes for my action figure doll (a boy’s one) when I was very young. I was the only kid to have an action figure soldier that had a crochet dressing gown, felt slippers and duvet for his camp bed.

What is your design preference: knit or crochet?
I don’t actually have a preference for knit or crochet and really I don’t like to limit crafts by dividing them into technique categories because I think it limits the design. I feel the same way about categorizing within knit or crochet, e.g. lace v. colour work, texture v. smooth, etc. I prefer to just use whatever is needed to make the piece work at that point.
I understand though that it is necessary in pattern designing to divide the craft because that is what the customers expect and not everybody has a range of textiles techniques. However, when I am given a free rein I just like to use the technique that best suits my purpose. For example, if I want a fabric with fantastic drape and a smooth surface I pick up the needles, but if I was working on a sculptural piece that needed to be freeform or have shape in any dimension, then I would pick up the hook. I am happy to mix my media and flit between the two.

Who or what was your earliest inspiration that started you on your way to being the designer you are today?
The grandmother I never met, was an inspiration to me. My mother could knit well but she used to tell me stories of how my grandmother was good but also really speedy. She grew up in a kids home in the early 1900’s and being the eldest girl in a family of 13 kids (my great granny had 16 kids but 3 died) she was allotted the family knitting in the home. Often she had ridiculous deadlines and she learned to knit, in the dark, under the bedclothes at night. The punishment for not completing was to be locked in a dark cupboard with no light visible, and creepy crawlies, and her closest friend there died of heart failure whilst on one of these punishments. When I think of some of the setbacks I have, I just think of her, and I wonder how on earth she still managed to enjoy knitting for the whole of her life.

Part 2 of Erssie's interview is here.

You can keep up with Erssie's new designs by visiting her website, Erssie Knits.