dusktreader knits

January 6, 2012

Bitten by the Design Bug Again

Filed under: Designing, Projects — Tags: , , , , , , — dusktreader @ 7:33 pm

Maybe you remember that when I started this blog, I was excited about designing my own knitting patterns. That was about two years ago, and I spent a few months reading about designing, sketching out ideas, playing with stitch combinations, and learning as much as I could. Then summer came and I let my designs-in-progress lapse. Last year at this time, I started having ideas again, but the urge wasn’t as strong, and then my knitting life got taken over by a mammoth project which I can now reveal was an afghan for my mom’s wedding present. Since I couldn’t blog about it (secrets!), and I was enthralled with the project (I have always wanted to make afghans), I stopped blogging and let my design ideas stew for awhile in the back of my head.

I finished the project in December, and  it was followed by a wave of enthusiasm for smaller projects. I finished the mittens I’d been working on for three years (on and off), made a hat in two days, and started a scarf. And then the ideas started flooding in again.

I have all sorts of ideas, and my main problem last time was picking one and focusing on it. Most of them don’t make it to the detailed sketch phase, where I plan every section. Sometimes I’d get stuck on one detail that wasn’t working right, or sometimes I’d try to swatch and find I’d made things too complicated for myself. I’d have multiple ideas for different things I could do within a project, and be unable to settle on one. This time, I am picking the most straightforward and developed idea that I have, and seeing it through from start (idea, sketch, swatch) to finish (pattern write-up, getting test-knitters, publication). I am going to tweak it until it is just the way I want it, I am going to make sure that other people can understand the pattern I’ve written, and then I am going to publish it as a free download.

And last night, after a few sketches, I managed to make a swatch that I’m pretty happy with:

A swatch of knitted fabric showing a cabled arrow pointing upwards.

It’s a cabled arrow pattern that I want to use as the main design element for a pair of wristwarmers. Fairly straightforward to do, but I searched the Ravelry pattern database and didn’t see anything like it. There’s still a few tweaks I’d like to make. For instance, at the points where three columns of knit stitches converge, I’d like to use a centred double decrease instead of the k3tog that I used here, so it looks more polished. I think I will make the shaft of the arrow a little bit longer by adding more rows. But it’s enough to get me started on knitting the first wristwarmer, which I was up late last night doing. I forced myself to stop so that I could try to get some sleep, but I was too buzzed to fall asleep right away. (What was that I said about knitting before bed again?) I was so happy that it came out the way I wanted I pictured it in my head. This feels like something that I can actually finish.
And when I finish, I have another idea all lined up that I’ve worked up a detailed sketch for. I am excited for that one too, but it’s a little more complicated.

March 8, 2010

New skills

Filed under: Designing — Tags: , , , , , — dusktreader @ 5:54 pm

It turns out that designing knitting patterns, particularly if you want to publish them, requires a whole host of other skills besides knitting. I am better at some of these things than others.

  • Writing. In addition to understanding the abbreviations and grammar used in knitting instructions (k1, p1, *k2tog tbl twice, sl2 pwise, yo p1* rep from * to * anyone?), pattern designers have to be able to write descriptions that sell their patterns. I have experience in communications and outreach in the non-profit field, so this one comes easier to me than some of the other things. Except for thinking of appopriate names for my patterns. That’s the hardest part, for some reason.
  • Sketching. It is one thing to make little sketches of ideas in my notebook that only I have to decipher later. But pattern publishers expect sketches of what the finished object will look like when you are submitting a proposal to them. I have always been envious of people who can represent on paper what they can imagine in their heads. Sketching has been a topic in the designers group on ravelry lately, and someone posted a link to a tutorial series she’s posting on her blog that looks like the kind of step-by-step beginner breakdown I need.
  • Photography. I can point and shoot with my digital camera, turn the flash on and off, and do basic editing on digital photos (cropping, resizing, using the red-eye reduction tool). But I do not really understand ISO and composition escapes me. The boy went over the rule of thirds with me (which I should have remembered from my student film society days) and that seems to be helping already. Sometime this spring I plan to take some photography books out of the library and at least get a better grasp of the settings on my camera and practice better composition. Expect lots of practice pictures of Metadata Futurecat!
  • Self-promotion. There are so many patterns out there, which is great, but if you want people to see your patterns, you have to put some effort into getting the word out. Again, I have experience in web marketing so I’m comfortable doing it, but there is only so much time I’m willing to put into self-promotion. That’s fine: I’m not trying to build a knitting pattern empire here. Maintaining a blog and posting links to my patterns on social networking sites like twitter and ravelry is about as much effort as I’m willing to put in, and only because those things actually enrich my knitting life and online interactions with other knitters.

February 20, 2010

Knitting goals 2010 check in

Filed under: Projects — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — dusktreader @ 11:55 am

So, um, yeah… when I set knitting goals for myself, I mostly treat them as a loose structure for my knitting year, not hard and fast rules. If I get excited about something that’s not on the list I will probably just make it. I find it’s best to just go with the flow rather resist: more knitting gets done in the end. The goals serve as something for me to return to when I don’t know what to knit or am feeling extra ambitious.

Naturally I’ve already tinkered with them. I want to knit a tam. I have avoided knitting them in the past because I just assumed they would look funny on me, but I see them a lot in Halifax and I changed my mind. They look good on all kinds of people, and they especially look good paired with the kind of long coat I have. Tams ahoy.

Also, I need to knit a case for my poor little ipod. When I got it OVER A YEAR AGO I named it “Knit Me A Case” to remind me to DO IT and so far I haven’t. And it would take me, I don’t know, maybe two hours tops, probably less. So I should JUST DO IT.*

The mitten: just need to knit a few more thumb rows.

The thumb in progress.

I have been working toward some of the goals though. Today I finished the hand on the first Deep in the Forest Mitten, and am now on the thumb. I have been working on another scarf in the scarf series, but I can’t say much about that because I am submitting it for publication (!) and it wouldn’t be eligible if I blogged about it (if it doesn’t get published I will of course share it with you). I have been working on the Crazy Cat Cave, and I just need to bind off and knit the i-cord which will be the case for the wire.

I’ve been feeling a little scattered lately. Too many projects on the go, too many that I’m itching to start. I have a bit more time on my hands in the next week or so, so I’m going to use it to get refocused, finish the projects that are just about done, and not start any new ones. It’s normal for this time of year. In January I get so excited to start new things after finishing all my Christmas gifts that I usually get fibre myopia and only knit for the whole month. In February it tapers off a bit. (The mittens above were started toward the end of last January when I was in a similiar transition between OMG KNITTING YAY and HEY MAYBE OTHER THINGS EXIST).


*No sports allusions intended. Stop thinking about sports!

February 9, 2010

February 4, 2010

2010 Knitting Goals: In With the New

Filed under: Projects — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — dusktreader @ 7:07 pm

Part 2 of my knitting goals for the year comes with exciting sub-categories:

I want one! I want one!

  • A cowl. I am a chilly person. We get some chilly weather  here in NS. Haven’t decided what pattern yet.
  • Another hat. I am tired of wearing the same hat every day. I have one on the needles almost done, but I suspect I will also tire of wearing one of 2 hats every day.
  • A smitten. Because I am a dork. And because if the boy forgets his gloves, he shoves his hand into one of my gloves and it stretches them out.
  • Mittens that make iphone browsing in cold weather a bit better. I’ve seen convertible gloves/mittens, and mittens with a little hole for your thumbs to pop out. Not sure which one yet.


  • It’s a secret
  • It’s a secret
  • It’s a secret
  • It’s a secret
  • It’s a secret

Designed by me

  • At least 3 more scarves in the scarf series. I have the ideas in my head, and I’m testing out one now.
  • The crazy cat cave. I’m half-way through test-knitting one. I want to write this one up as a pattern.
  • And a more general goal: keep designing. At this point I have all kinds of ideas floating around in my head. Some I’ll be able to accomplish as soon as I can get yarn to needle. Others will probably take more figuring, learning, sketching, charting, testing, frogging, giving up, going back to. And I’m not sure which designs fall into which category yet. So it’s hard to set a goal that I don’t know if I have the skills to do yet or not. But I’ve just got to keep going.

No…. problem!

January 24, 2010

I haven’t biked since November but…

Filed under: Designing, Projects — Tags: , , , — dusktreader @ 2:55 pm

I finished another project this week, a balaclava for wearing while biking. (I’m kind of a wimp about biking while there’s snow and ice on the road, but I do bike in cold spring and fall weather sometimes.) It’s from the pattern Anti-Freeze, by Jenna Adorno.

Mask with helmet

I didn’t make any customizations other than substituting the yarn to whichever black worsted I had on hand. It’s a pretty briliant pattern: it’s knit from the bottom up, using short row shaping to create the face. Kind of like the short row heel of a sock, if the heel was the back of your head, the toes were your face, and the foot was upside down? You know, like that. I am going to have to explore short rows some more, because I think there’s more things that can be done with them.

In other news, I am working on a pair of cabled armwarmers for my cousin at her request. I picked a cable stitch pattern from the Vogue cable stitch dictionary, and am reminding myself how cables work. I especially like cable stitches featuring isolated columns of knit stiches on a reverse stockingette background, where the columns meander around and intertwine. I want to work on designing my own like that. I may end up making a cabled version in my scarf series next.

January 16, 2010

Experiments in Design: Scarf 2.0

Filed under: Projects — Tags: , , , , , — dusktreader @ 6:14 pm

Here’s my latest finished object, a bow-knot scarf:

Blue and yellow scarf

I used this project to experiment with some design practice.  I plan to make a whole series of mini scarves like this, experimenting with size, shape, stitch pattern, construction and anything else I can vary. At the end, I’ll have gotten to know the pattern inside and out, and have a series of fashionable accessories to keep me warm at work. Win.

(I’m going to get pretty heavy into the technical details here, so if that’s not your thing, feel free to ooh and ah over the photos and move along.)

I wanted something more complicated than a regular rectangular scarf to practice on, and less complicated than a sweater which has more than one piece, needs to fit much more precisely, and would take too long to be really helpful for my learning experience. I started by finding a very basic pattern to use as a jumping off point, and making it without any changes of my own so I’d understand exactly what I was doing when I made my own customizations. This is version 1.0:

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The pattern is all done in garter-stitch and is a simple, quick knit. I then tried to reimagine it as many ways as I could. For my first attempt, the most major change I made was using a different stitch pattern. I’ve substituted stitch patterns before, and for some patterns it can be a really simple change with hardly any reworking necessary. For this one, I had to figure out how to make the increases and decreases while keeping the stitch pattern: you can’t just do it as is or the edges will look uneven due to the extra stitch you’re throwing in there.

What I changed:

  • The stitch pattern: I wanted something in two colours, so I went with a two-colour slip-stitch pattern from my Vogue stitch dictionary. I maintained two stitches at each edge as a selvage stitch in order to accommodate for the increases and decreases at each end of the scarf.
  • Instead of dividing up the stitches and placing half on a stitch holder to make the loop, I decreased the stitches by half, made the first side of the loop, and then picked up the stitches from the base and knit the other side of the loop. The effect is pretty much the same as far as finished product, but I wanted to see which one I liked better. I think I like this way because I don’t mind picking up stitches and this meant less time working with stitches on a stitch holder, which can be awkward.
  • I made the loop shorter, because the ribbed loop on my first scarf stretched quite a bit vertically, became too big, and looked uneven. This stitch pattern probably won’t stretch as much, but I still thought it could be smaller.
  • I realized as I was going that the ribbing was there not just for stretchiness, but also skinniness. The skinny part makes a nice notch for the scarf to hitch on so that the loop doesn’t slide around. So I had to increase the stitches after the loop was made by a few to get a wider body on the scarf and acheive the same effect. No biggie.

What I learned:

  • The stitch pattern is reversible! It didn’t absolutely have to be for this project, since the wrong side isn’t meant to show, but I found wearing the first scarf that it does show at some points. And I just love reversible stitch patterns, and since stitch dictionaries often don’t indicate which stitches are reversible, I love discovering them.
  • This is an interesting pattern, in that you knit it one way (bottom to top) but the stitches will be worn both horizontally and vertically. The ends are worn vertically, the same direction as when you’re knitting. But the part that goes around your neck is worn horizontally, perpendicular to the way it was knit. It’s therefore important to choose a stitch pattern that looks good both ways. This got me thinking about all kinds of stitches that would look good when turned sideways after they were knit. There may be some sideways-knit scarves in my future. This one looks really good sideways:
  • Close-up of blue and yellow scarfI like the crooked vertical lines that travel up, a feature that isn’t as noticeable when viewed as it’s originally knit.

What I would do differently:

  • Find a more camoflauged way to pick up stitches for the loop. I don’t mind the pinched effect, but it doesn’t match the other side since there are no stitches picked up there.
  • Consider using a yarnover as an increase stitch for a more decorative border.
  • Make the loop and corresponding notch on the other side a tad longer: It isn’t long enough and that pulls on the neck, making it bunch a little bit instead of laying flat across my neck. It does stay on better than version 1.0, however.

I think it turned out pretty well, all considered. The two ends are different sizes–somehow my tension changed from one end to the other–so I’ll have to block it.

Version 3.0 will feature a change in the shape of the two ends, and possibly be tied instead using the loop construction.

January 10, 2010

In which knitting is TOO EXCITING to do before bed

Filed under: What I talk about when I talk about knitting — Tags: , , , — dusktreader @ 7:46 pm

I recently realized that I’ve been knitting for about 6 years. After a few false starts, I bought my copy of Debbie Stoller’s Stitch ‘n Bitch at a boxing day sale in December 2003, and from it to learned all the basics of knitting, purling, increasing and decreasing.

The first scarf I ever knit.

This was the first scarf I ever made. Look how proud I am! Photo by my sister Sherri.

I’d originally wanted to learn so that I would have something to do while watching TV. (By the time I did learn, though, I no longer lived in a household with TV.) I soon found that what was supposed to be a relaxing hobby was not one that I could do before bed. Not because I found it frustrating (although sometimes, I did), but because it was just TOO EXCITING. Especially when I was starting a new project and I went from the point between knitting a few cast-on stitches in blind faith to the point where what I had done looked like exactly like the beginning of what was in the pattern. It was going to work! I could see it taking shape before my eyes! TOO EXCITING.

Anyway, I learned not to do it before bed because I always wanted to do just one more row. Which, just as it had with pages of the books I used to beg my mom to let me stay up to read, turned into another and another, and another…

Knitting has done a lot for me in those six years, in addition to the cute, warm accessories. It gave me a different way to exercise my brain for the latter part of my 9-year post-secondary stint. It got me through some of the longest, dryest classes during grad school. When my partner was travelling in Southeast Asia for 4 months last winter, one way I dealt with missing him was by making a picnic blanket for the two of us to have picnics on when he returned in the summer. If I was missing him, I’d knit a bit on our blanket and imagine the picnics we’d be having soon.

The picnic blanket I made last winter

Here's me stitching up the blanket. Confession: I still haven't woven in all the ends. But we have taken it out for a picnic. Photo by my cousin Megan.

I’m proud of all I’ve learned and accomplished in those six years. I don’t know everything, and that’s one of the things I like about knitting: there will always be something new to learn, when I’m ready. And right now I’m ready for my biggest challenge since I learned to knit: designing my own patterns. I’ve been able to make modifications to patterns I’ve been knitting to suit my tastes and needs from the time I looked at the ribbed scarf in Stitch n’ Bitch and decided to make it in elongated chevron stitch instead. But now I want to be able to come up with things all on my own. I want to invent my own stitches. I want to be able to picture something in my head, and translate it onto needles. It’s a process that seems full of both mystery and potential.

When I started knitting, I kept a journal to keep track of all of my projects and everything that I was learning. It was useful for keeping track of my needle sizes and pattern notes. It’s also a record of my early enthusiasm, wonder, and respect for the craft I was learning. I would take a picture of everything I knitted and tape it into the journal. After awhile, I got lazy about keeping up with it. And then I joined Ravelry, which is just about the neatest thing on the Internet and fulfilled most of the functions my journal had. But I miss having a place to record all the other observations and excitement and challenges, something that’s especially useful for me at the beginning of a new challenge like designing.

And so: a blog!

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