Friday, July 31, 2015

Custom Socks: The Actual Socks

I spent a lovely time this week setting up the sock projects from the book on Ravelry. It was nice to be able to see them all again, and to be able to make them 'official', y'know?

There's a mix of easy-going and spicy, there's some lace and cables and colourwork. Some are top down, some are toe-up, and some go both ways. I'm open-minded. Knit socks however you want.

The 2015 version of my Basic Ribbed Sock. The pattern offers both top down and toe up versions.
Carpita. Very easy colourwork, I promise!
Harcourt - the pattern offers both top down and toe up versions.
Lindisfarne. Toe up. Yeah, I know, you don't like doing colourwork. I don't care. This one is totally worth it.
Man of Aran. Both top down and toe-up. Go whichever way you want!
Marpleridge. Simple but not boring. A good texture sock; both top down and toe up versions.
Oh, Valencia! Top down, Estonian Lace.
Secrets & Lies. Cables & Lace.  Merino & Cashmere.
Wellesley. Top down and toe up. Cable left and cable right. Go your own way.
Wellington Road. Top down, left and right cables. 
Jarvis. Toe up. Clever lace. 
Fitzcarraldo Knee Sock. Toe up. Maybe a little crazy-making, but very show-offable.

But note that the book isn't just about the patterns. The patterns are only half of it. The rest of the book is about sock fit. More on that in the next blog post...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Vintage Shetland Project; On Cutting a Set-in Sleeve Cap

I've been a fan of Susan Crawford's work for many years. After reading about it, I tracked down an early edition of her legendary first book, A Stitch In Time, and devoured every page, reading it like a novel. Susan isn't just a designer: she's a knitting historian and anthropologist. Her specialty is updating, modernizing, translating, adapting vintage designs for modern knitters.

There are two volumes in the Stitch in Time series, and they are both absolutely wonderful. If you're interested in the history of fashion and knitting, then they are must-haves. Susan takes original vintage designs and creates modern patterns for them, with updated yarn and patterns, while still utterly honouring the original concepts and designs. The first volume covers 1920-1949, and the second book has designs from 1930 to 1959.

But Susan's latest project is even more exciting. The Vintage Shetland project isn't just about patterns: it's about knitted pieces. With the help and support of Carol Christiansen, textile curator at the Shetland Museum, Susan has researched 25 hand-knitted garments and accessories from the 20th Century which are held in the Museum's archives. Susan has studied the pieces in detail, recording their construction stitch for stitch then creating patterns from them. The patterns are all fully modernized, with multiple sizes, detailed  instructions and technical advice and illustrated with beautiful colour photography shot in Shetland.

I'd be keen to see this project published regardless, but I'm even more keen because I'm involved. Susan has enlisted me to be the technical editor on the project, and I'm honoured to be part of it.

I recently had a chance to chat with Susan about some of the technical aspects of this project.

KATE: Did you have patterns for any of the pieces, or were you working only from actual completed samples? Would the knitters have been working from patterns, or not, do you think?

SUSAN: I worked directly from the pieces themselves in all cases, reading each item stitch by stitch, row by row. It was a time consuming process but revealed a lot about each of the items as I studied them. Shetland knitters tended to work from their own hand drawn charts. Many knitters would have had the same charts as each other but as a rule each knitter created their own book of hand drawn motifs to work from. However as the items I have chosen reach the late 1950s/early 1960s I believe there are one or two of the pieces which may potentially have been adapted from commercial patterns.

Many of the garments are ‘variations' on standard stitch patterns. For example there is a beautiful sleeveless evening top in a laceweight wool with delicate beading around the neck which uses a slightly adapted version of the ‘Print of the Wave’ pattern. Another garment uses the ‘Fan and Feather’ stitch pattern as the basis for a very stylish and fashion conscious sweater.

KATE: Did you encounter any techniques or technical solutions that were puzzling? Did anything you find in the techniques or constructions surprise you?

SUSAN: Oh yes, several. From a beret made using a combination of vertical fair isle strips interlinked by horizontal shaped stocking sections to set-in sleeves with apparently no shaping, there were many technical puzzles that I found myself needing to unravel. The ingenuity and lack of conformity to the ‘standards’ we have retrospectively applied to Fair Isle techniques greatly surprised but also delighted me. It was very exciting to be allowed ‘behind the scenes’ of Fair Isle as it was developing and evolving. Many of the pieces used motifs that did not divide into the same number. For example one garment used a 34 stitch main motif, a 16 stitch peerie motif and a 7 stitch peerie motif. It was a real challenge to decide how best to approach this type of problem.

Susan at work; image copyright Susan Crawford.
KATE: What’s the process/what are the challenges in writing a pattern from a sample?

SUSAN: The process all took place at the Shetland Museum archive building a little way outside Lerwick (ed: the capital of Shetland). Gavin (ed: Susan's partner) and I would go and set up for the day with laptop, magnifier, shade cards, notepad, tape measure etc. I would make a brief sketch of the piece, a description and any particular design features, take its overall measurements, then note which colours had been used and cross reference the colours to our single digit alpha-numeric code. Gavin would set up a file on the computer and usually starting bottom right, away we would go... me reading out the code, Gavin recording it on the laptop: Motif A, Row 1: 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 2, centre; Row 2: 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 2, centre. And so it would continue, slowly building a text version of each motif or pattern repeat of the piece, with each item usually taking several hours to complete. Away from the archive this code was then run through Gavin’s ‘Fair Isle Decoder’ programme. This incredible programme written by Gavin, converts our code directly into Fair Isle motifs. This of course is really just the start of the pattern writing process itself. I would now set about ‘rebuilding’ the garment from the measurements, recorded tension and the recreated motifs or stitch patterns. From this I would then set about ‘grading’ the pattern and creating a multi-sized version of each piece. The real challenges came from the non-standard nature of the original pieces. Highly unusual and inventive construction methods often paired with motifs that didn’t work together mathematically often didn’t lend themselves easily to multi-sizing but over a long period of time I gradually with the help of knowledgeable designer friends and amazing tech editors like Kate (ed: I'm blushing!), I began to produce well-crafted, coherent and intelligent patterns for knitters to use.

KATE: Are there any techniques/elements of the construction that you have chosen to update/”modernize”, or are you sticking pretty close to the samples?

SUSAN: My original plan and aim was to recreate the samples as closely to the originals from the museum as possible. It was very important to me that the recreations are as much like the pieces in the archive as they possible can be. ‘Modernizing’ in particular was not something I was looking to do. However, certain pieces had been knitted using very unique and non-transferable methods. What I mean by this is they used methods that didn’t lend themselves to being used in a pattern for other knitters to knit from. An example of this is a sweater from the 1940s which incorporated set-in sleeves and high set puffed sleeve heads. To achieve this, rather than work shaping at either side of the armhole steek, the knitter had knitted straight up to the shoulder line, joined the front and back shoulder stitches and then cut the shape of the set-in armhole that she required and then did the same with the sleeves. Imagine suggesting to anyone trying to knit this beautiful sweater from my book that they should simply cut the shape they think they are going to need out of the sides of their lovingly knitted sweater! (ed: indeed!!!!!!) So on occasions such as this, I have imposed standard construction methods to make the knitting process easier.

Susan has launched a PubSlush fundraiser for the project. Having recently self-published a book, I think something like this is a smart way to launch a book project: it's a way to fund the work and the printing, and gather preorders. This book has required a significant up front investment, too, in terms of travel and time.

If you want to get your hands on a digital or physical copy of the book, or even just one or two of Susan's beautiful patterns, you can do that here.

For the list of stops on the blog tour, visit Susan's blog. She's spoken about many different aspects of the project on different blogs and podcasts. I've thoroughly enjoyed following along.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

First Look at the Sock Book, with Bonus Kittens

News is spreading of the first copies of my book arriving, to those who placed their preorders.

(We're still officially in the pre-order window, so don't forget to drop me a note by email for your pre-order bonus: it's firstname dot lastname at gmail.)

I'll confess to being nervous. I'm happy with it, and pleased to have been able to share my research and knowledge and opinions and ideas... but I don't yet know if what I'm saying makes sense to my readers. Is the information useful? Informative? Is it presented in such a way that it makes sense?

I was very pleased to see my first "review" yesterday, in the form of a "live-tweeting" of a reading of the book, from CountingKat.

In order, both the good and the bad.

I'm happy with this! (Plus bonus kitten pictures.) Thanks for the feedback, Kat. Genuinely appreciate hearing both the pros and the cons. I am not a font geek, that's very true. I clearly need to learn more about.

Somewhat related: have you filled in my hand size survey yet?

This may be considered a small hint about what I'm planning next...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Socks Ed (giggle)

I've got a book coming out. It's about Socks. You might have heard... (Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm at risk of boring you. I refuse to apologize. This is very exciting for me.)

My very good friends at Shall We Knit are throwing me a Launch Party, Saturday August 22nd, and I'm ridiculously excited about it.

Titled (of course) Socks Ed, it's a fully day of feet-related fun. (Oh, not in a Quentin Tarantino sort of way. Don't worry.)

There will be demos & free mini-classes on a wide range of sock and sock-related topics, from me, and the excellent teachers from the Shall We Knit team: Lynne, Jen, Beth...
-how to properly measure your feet
-how to choose a sock size
-tips for hole-free gussets
-Judy's magic cast on
-Hexipuffs (because sock yarn leftovers)
-i-cord and other decorative touches

There's going to be a sock yarn swap, for remnants and orphans.

There will be games and prizes and books to buy - which I will gratefully sign! - and the usual types of Shall We Knit shenanigans.

But wait! There's more! Indigodragonfly's Kim and Ron will be there, getting up to their usual flavour of colourful fun, this time involving mason jars.

I'll say this about Shall We Knit events: I'm never fully sure what to expect, but I know whatever it is, it's going to be an excellent time.

Details here. Join us. You know you want to.

I'm also teaching a couple of sock-related classes the following day: Two Socks Two Circulars. Because Second Sock Syndrome is a very real problem. And Sock Fit Master class: I'll show you how to take your measurements and tweak a sock pattern so it fits perfectly.

Kim and Ron will also be running a full dye workshop that day. So even if you're not a sock knitter (But really, why aren't you a sock knitter? Sock knitting is fun and cool.) there's fun to be had.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Over t'Pond: Bath September 3, London September 5 & 6, Manchester February 28 & 29

I've got a ton of great teaching engagements lined up for this coming knitting season... Needle Emporium's KnitCamp up on a lake north of Toronto, KnitCity 2015 in Vancouver, some local shop visits, a trip to a shop in Western Mass. whose name you might know, and some other stuff which is soon TBA... but there are two in particular I'm very excited about:

First up, the first weekend of September, is the Yarn in the City event, in London. It's part of a larger event, the third annual Yarn in the City London yarn shop crawl. This year in addition to that event, the organizers have added a pop-up marketplace with lots of wonderful vendors, an indie designer showcase, and classes. With me! I'm teaching two half-day sessions, Introduction to Design and Pattern Writing. You can take both, or just one, depending on your interests and level. The classes are selling fast.

The Thursday before that, September 3rd, I'm taking a trip down to Bath to teach at A Yarn Story. I'll be teaching my Math(s) for Knitters class. This class is aimed at knitters who are confident (or getting there) with their needles and yarn, but less confident about dealing with patterns and gauge and all the tricky numbers issues that come up when working on a project. More details and registration here.

The second is closer to home for me. Very close to home, in fact. 11 miles from where I was born.

February 28 and 29th 2016 in Manchester, UK, I'm at the inaugural "Joeli's Kitchen Retreat". I'm teaching Introduction to Design and my Sizing and Fit classes.

More info and registration here. Move fast, as of this morning there were only 8 places left.

I'm very happy to be travelling back to the UK for teaching gigs. After all, it's where I learned to knit, where my knitting history began. My beloved Grannie Hilda lived in the Manchester area her entire 91-year life, and my attachment to that region is strong. (The food and beer are part of it, I'll freely admit. Parkin and Robinson's, please.)

But all that aside, even if the events were in a part of the world I didn't know and love, I'd be just as thrilled to go. I'm going to get  chance to meet so many of my knitting friends and colleagues and family. Through my tech editing work at Knitty, through my Pattern Writing book, through other book and magazine work, I've got to know a lot of people virtually, and I'm hugely excited about meeting them in person.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

You're Gonna Need a Bigger Stash

Stash. Boat. Whatevs.

Cruising through my stitch dictionaries a while back, I tripped over a rather lovely edging pattern, called Shark Tooth.

Never one to miss an opportunity for a ridiculous pop-culture reference, and as a nod to my husband's favourite film, I came up with a plan.

Mostly in jest, I asked Twitter if anyone could suggest yarn the colour and texture of a shark. Indigodragonfly Kim replied, in record time: not only did she have something, but apparently it's a standard part of their line: Sharktreuse.

I was hooked. (See what I did there?)

I had to design something Shark Themed.

Of course I did. A shark-coloured shawl, with the Shark Tooth edging. But that wasn't enough. Oh, no. It needed that certain something... a little extra design flourish. Something to take it beyond the usual. Beyond the normal... beyond, perhaps, the strictly sensible.

Yup. It's a shawl with a bite out of it.

Which resulted in this sort of thing going on chez nous...

Jagged Little Wedge. A Shark Tooth Shawl.

An excellent easy lace project – suitable for knitters with even the most rudimentary lace experience. Lace pattern stitch is both charted and written out, and it's very easily memorized. The optional simple crochet edging adds an extra something. If you want to be a bit more subtle – or aren’t skilled with a crochet hook – just skip it.

Or don't skip it, and wear the piece wrapped snuggly around your neck, tucked into your jacket collar: no-one needs to know it's there but you.

I used one skein of indigdragonfly's Octobaa DK weight - about 250m. The heaver-than-usual yarn means it's a fast project, and has a little more heft and drape than the usual shawlettes.  And a few grams of a blood red for the crochet edging.

And indigdragonfly are helpfully selling yarn and pattern kits, which include one skein of Sharktreuse, and a sufficient quantity of blood red for the edging.

Pattern available for $5 on Ravelry, Patternfish and LoveKnitting.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Come to Camp with Me & Indigodragonfly Kim

I went Camping last year, and I survived. In fact, I liked it so much I'm going to do it again this year.

It's not just any camp, though: it's Needle Emporium Knit Camp. Held this year September 17-20 at Bayview Wildwood resort, just north of Toronto, it's a most wonderful weekend away.

The surroundings are stunningly beautiful. The food and drink are outstanding. You're gathered together with lovely people - friends old and new - and there's games and merriment and a fashion show and fun. It's wonderful.

Oh yeah, and there's knitting. And yarn.

This year, I'm really excited that my partner in teaching will be Kim McBrien Evans of Indigodragonfly.

I'll be teaching Pi Shawl, and Continental Knitting and Yarn Knowledge. Kim is teaching Custom Fit Basics and her amazing Optical Delusion Scarf. And Julie is teaching linen stitch and a really cool class on IKat colour knitting.

There's also a small shopping event, in which you'll see some special Indigodragonfly colourways and kits. And my new sock book. I'll make sure that's there!

Join us!

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

New Pattern: Lemon Difficult

Difficult Difficult Lemon Difficult.

Admit it. You’ve got one in your stash. That skein of one-of-a-kind limited-edition crazy-variegated sock yarn that you just couldn’t resist. The one with all the colours and the fast changes and the overall craziness. The one from the charming little indie dyer at the fiber festival. The one in the sale bin at the yarn shop with the hilarious name? The one you created by accident in a misguided home dyeing experiment?

Yeah, that one. This pattern is for that one.

In my case, it was this one: Western Sky Knits Aspen Sock in Rainbow Bright.

I adore these yarns, but they can be difficult to use. Very difficult. In socks, they create busy stripes that are messy and muddled. They resist lace patterns, and in garter they pool and create strange collisions.

Adding another, solid colour (in my case, black) calms things down a little, and using the crazy colour as the background to a two-colour brioche rib creates spectacular shadow and relief effects.

This pattern creates a slightly asymmetrical triangle shawl that’s smooshy and warm and easy to wear. Depending on how crazy that crazy skein of yarn is, you can create a true statement piece….

Or something that shows off a less bright but still busy colourway in a clever and subtle fashion. See the test knitters' projects on Ravelry to get a sense of how it looks in other combos.

Don’t be intimidated by the brioche: oddly, it’s easier to work in two colours than one, as it’s easier to see what you’re doing. These instructions are detailed enough that even if you’ve never tried it before, you will be able to manage it.  It does require a little attention, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not difficult. This isn’t necessarily TV knitting, but it definitely would go well with a good audiobook or podcast.

I've heard from test knitters that it's detailed enough that even total-brioche-novices can safely tackle it. (Heck, one of my testers informed me that until she started this pattern, she didn't even know how to increase.)

Click on this pic to enlarge and see the fabric up close. I think it's amazingly cool. 
The size is entirely flexible: you work until the piece is the size you want. I used 50gm each of two fingering weight yarns to get a piece 52 inches by about 22 inches, but you could go larger if you wish, with no pattern adjustments at all.

The pattern is available for download now, for $5, from Ravelry, Patternfish and LoveKnitting.

Monday, July 06, 2015

More Book News! Bonus pattern if you preorder the Sock book!



If you have already pre-ordered my sock book, or if you do it in before the end of July, I'm offering a gift with purchase. The preorder link is here. Go on... I'll wait...

Send me an image of your purchase confirmation to kate dot atherley at gmail dot com and I'll send you a copy of the PDF pattern of the Prewitt sock. This pattern was cut from the book because I wrote too many words, but it is, I think, too good to waste.

The Prewitt sock uses a simple and clever slipped stitch pattern to create a distinctive look - manly in these traditional colours - or make it fun in two brights. Sized for both men and women (of course), it's worked top down in classic fingering weight yarn. It uses my favourite band/square/Dutch heel turn, with a tidy picked up gusset and my favourite well-fitted and not-at-all pointy no-graft toe.

(You can learn more about what the heck these things are and why they are important if you buy the book... ;-) )

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Book News! Second Edition of Pattern Writing for Knit Designers coming, with broader distribution and larger print run

I'm thrilled to announce that I'm partnering with a publisher to get my Pattern Writing book distributed more broadly. We're working on a second edition, for early next year. This means that the current edition will shortly be removed from sale.

If you wanted to buy it - a digital copy from Patternfish, WEBS or LoveKnitting, or a physical copy -- do it NOW. Like, now. Like, this weekend.