Chasing Waves

Chasing WavesDoes one knitting pattern a designer make? I’d hesitate to call myself a designer, but I have published a knitting pattern on Ravelry, Chasing Waves. I released it on Saturday morning and almost fell off my chair when the first sale notification came through in less than an hour. I was glued to my PC for the rest of the day!

Chasing WavesIt took me a little while to figure out what the chiming noise was. It turned out to be the PayPal app on my iPad sending me a notification every time a sale went through. I didn’t even know it did that! I’m thrilled at how much interest there’s been in my pattern; I really wasn’t expecting it. I thought I’d be lucky if half a dozen people bought it.

Designing my own pattern isn’t something I ever thought I’d do. That started to change a few months ago when I took the Design Challenge, organised by Francoise of Aroha Knits. The Challenge takes you through the design process, step by step. The nice thing about it is that it isn’t the design process, it’s just a process. I found it useful to figure out what works for me (stitch libraries and swatching) and what doesn’t (drawing!). While I didn’t go on to develop the idea I had in that first challenge, it did change my perception of what I could do. Having successfully completed the challenge, designing a pattern was no longer something I absolutely couldn’t do.

Hot on the heels of the Design Challenge, I signed up for Designer Bootcamp, run by Joeli of Joeli Creates. Again, not all the process worked for me, but it did make me sit down and focus. One moment I was feeling frustrated because I didn’t believe I’d ever think of anything, the next I was reading an article on Old Shale patterns, thinking to myself, ‘Hang on, if I just did this instead of that, would it…?’ and my pattern was born.

Chasing Waves SwatchMy first swatch was in acrylic 4 ply, because I’m a cheapskate and couldn’t bear to use ‘good’ yarn on something that might be a non-starter. I mainly wanted to see if my idea worked, and if it suited the crescent-shaped shawl I had in mind. I expected to have to do a lot of playing around, especially as Old Shale patterns can vary a lot, but it turned out that the first variant I tried played really nicely with the increase rate of the crescent shape I’d chosen. I’d love to be able to say it was canny thinking on my part, but it was definitely more luck than judgement! Being cheap acrylic, my swatch didn’t block very well, but I was reasonably confident that it would block better in decent yarn.

Yarn by Hand Dyed by KateNext came the fun bit, choosing yarns for my samples. I decided to use a merino/nylon yarn by Hand Dyed by Kate. I’d used this yarn before, for my Spindrift Shawl, and it’s just lovely to knit with. As a bonus, the skeins are a very generous length. I had a rough idea how much shawl I could expect to get from a standard skein, but it was nice to have plenty to play with. At this point, I didn’t have a name for my shawl, but it put me in mind of the sea and gently breaking waves, so I knew I wanted to carry that idea through in the colours. The 2 skeins on the right are ‘Patronus’, and I used those in the large shawl. The blue/purple skein is ‘Water Nymph’, and I used it for the small shawl. The red skein is called ‘Vampire Blood’ and I bought that just because!

Chasing Waves Border DetailThere was three weeks of knitting like a maniac, blocking, spreadsheet jiggery-pokery, more sums and calculations than you can shake a stick at, and even charting, and I finally had all the elements I needed to put a pattern together. At this point, I almost chickened out completely. I’d posted photos of my shawls on Instagram as I’d knitted them, and taken them along to my knitting group, where they’d been admired but would people actually buy my pattern?

As crafters, we’re all familiar with the scenario where people admire your work and tell you you should sell it, then when you tell them how much you’d have to charge, you can see the blood drain from their faces. I know this first-hand because I sell some of what I knit on Etsy, or at least I offer it for sale. I have sold a few pieces, but it’s slow going. If I actually charged for all the time I spend on a piece, I’d never sell anything. As it is, I aim to cover the cost of my yarn, plus a little something for labour. A pattern is different though. In comparison to a finished piece, it’s very affordable. Whether or not you cover the costs of materials for samples, software, and time spent on it depends on how many you sell. Unless you’re very successful, it’s not an easy way to make money, but the overheads are reasonably low. Over time, there’s a more realistic prospect of covering your costs.

In the end, I pulled up my big girl panties and put my pattern forward for testing in one of the groups on Ravelry. In less than 24 hours, I had  seven enthusiastic volunteers and I emailed my pattern out to them. Now, I was sure I’d gone through my pattern with a fine tooth comb and weeded out all the typos, etc, but it’s true what they say about proof-reading your own material. I was embarrassed at how many little errors they picked up before they even cast on! The next four weeks were pure pleasure. If no-one bought my pattern, it wouldn’t matter. I got such a thrill out of seeing their shawls take shape. It was marvelous to see the diverse range of yarns they used, semi-solid and tonal yarns, variegated yarns and even a stripey sock yarn, and all their shawls looked amazing. Even better, they all loved their shawls and had enjoyed working from the pattern. They were all fantastic and had lots of useful suggestions about how to present the information in the best way possible.

Chasing WavesFinally, all the testers were done. Hopefully, all the problems and errors in the pattern had been ironed out. The final hurdle was publishing my pattern on Ravelry. Once you figure out where to start, the Ravelry Help pages are very good at holding your hand through the whole process. I’d got in a tangle initially, because to sell patterns on Ravelry, you have to be a designer on Ravelry, but you can’t be a designer on Ravelry until you’ve uploaded a pattern. It feels a bit chicken and egg, but I finally figured out that you can upload a pattern and become a Ravelry designer, then you do the offering it for sale part. I did have a brain ache by the time I’d finished though!

I’m under no illusions that I’m the next Martina Behm or Joji Locatelli, but, so far, over 70 people have bought my pattern – which is 70 more than I expected! I take my hat off to all the designers who manage to produce patterns on a regular basis. Producing my own pattern has made me realise how much goes into every pattern, and how time consuming each stage is. I have no idea if I have more patterns in me–I hope I do–but for now I’m going to sit back and enjoy watching people knit Chasing Waves.

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I’d apologise for interrupting your regularly scheduled knitting and/or crochet programming, except that I’ve never been much good at keeping to a schedule. However, instead of updating you on the endless flow of shawls and socks falling off my knitting needles, I feel the need to chunter because, frankly, I’m so hopping mad, casting on a sock just isn’t going to cut it.

Firstly, the fact that a referendum was held at all. When I look back at the myriad of broken manifesto promises made by party leaders of all political flavours over the years, why the hell couldn’t this have been one of them? We all know that political parties will promise the electorate practically anything to secure their vote in the run up to a general election. Personally, I gave up expecting manifesto promises to actually be honoured not long after I stopped believing in fairies and Father Christmas.

If David Cameron had bothered to ask my opinion, I would have told him that I believe that an issue like leaving the EU was too important to be decided by a referendum. I believe that such a monumental decision should only be taken by parliament, after a careful examination of all the implications, having considered expert advice (I’m looking at you, Michael Gove), and being fully debated. While I don’t think that Westminster is a haven for reasoned argument or, for that matter, the truth, I do think that the worst of the blatant lies would have been challenged more effectively.

As always seems to be the case these days, the facts don’t seem to matter. What matters is who can run the most effective campaign, who can put the best spin on a story, who can garner the most air time, come up with the most eye-catching headline. If you’re not photogenic, if your presentation isn’t slick and polished, if you don’t/can’t deliver your message in short, snappy soundbites then it doesn’t seem to matter if you stick to the facts and tell the truth.

I’m so glad I turned out to vote on Thursday. I almost didn’t. It seemed inconceivable that the majority of voters would vote to leave the EU. But I was brought up to believe that voting is important, and I felt very strongly that Britain should remain in the EU and I wanted to put my cross in the box and register that.

To say that I was stunned to wake up on Friday to the news that the (small) majority had voted to leave the EU would be an understatement. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Neither the government or the Leave campaign actually seem to have considered the possibility that they would win. We are now in a strange limbo where no-one appears to know what should happen next, especially the people who should know what happens next.

The government asked us one simple question last week and all our collective answer has done is raise a multitude of other questions that no-one can or will answer. All the referendum is, is an opinion poll. It’s not binding in any way. Then there’s that pesky article 50. How do we trigger it? There doesn’t appear to be an easy answer. Is it as simple as the Prime Minister, whoever that turns out to be, making a declaration? Does it require an Act of Parliament? If it does, would the majority of MPs follow the wishes of their constituents and pass an Act to get us out of the EU, or would they follow their own inclinations and keep us in?

The Leave campaign seem to have been labouring under the delusion that they can negotiate to their hearts’ content, then, when they’ve got everything they wanted, trigger the exit clause, only to be told by the EU, No, Non, Nein! Exit clause first, then negotiate, which puts a slightly (very!) different slant on things. It’s a bit tricky really, because the Leave campaign really wants to trade with the EU on favourable terms, just like we do now, but to do that we have to give as much money to the EU as we’ve ever done, we still have agree to free movement of people within the EU, but we have no say in Europe any more. So basically, the same as now but with no representation and no vote or veto.

Aha, but sovereignty! Oh yes, we’ll be able to get rid of all those pesky laws that protect our human rights, our employment and the environment – all of which are better than the protection our own government would give us. Still, maybe when we’re all on slave wages and zero hours contracts with no employment rights at all, maybe people like James Dyson will move their manufacturing back to the UK? Isn’t it nice to have something to look forward to?

With all this, we can still look to the opposition, Labour, to provide some answers, right? Well, maybe we could have done except Jeremy Corbyn has been stabbed in the back so many times since the weekend, it’s a wonder the man can still stand up. I’m even angrier about this than the whole EU fiasco. For almost a week now, I’ve been reading articles about how a large portion of the Leave vote, didn’t really care one way or the other, they’re just so disillusioned with Westminster that they voted to upset the apple cart. And the Shadow Cabinet’s response is to set fire to it.

If they truly disagree with Jeremy Corbyn, that’s their right. I’m all for having the courage of your convictions, but there is a time and a place, and this is not it. It’s a shame they didn’t nail their colours to the mast when he offered them their jobs in the first place. You know all those people disillusioned with Westminster? I’m one of them and I’ve been one of them since I stopped being able to tell New Labour from Conservative, about 5 minutes after Tony Blair won the election in 1997.

After 1997, I stopped voting Labour. I voted once for the Monster Raving Loony Party, and when they didn’t have a candidate, I spoiled my vote. When Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the Labour party, it finally felt like here was a Labour party I could get behind. Corbyn isn’t slick or flashy, neither is he patronising, and I don’t believe he’s lying every time he opens mouth. We keep getting told he’s ‘unelectable’, by precisely those slick politicians peddling their sound bites, that I’m so heartily sick of.

Personally, I think he’s so ‘electable’ I joined the Labour Party this week. If there’s a leadership contest, he’s got my vote and he’ll have it in a general election, even if it means I’ve got to vote for the back-stabbing MP that resigned this week, who currently represents my constituency.

Last, and by no means least, of all the things that have me grinding my teeth this last week. When did the BBC get taken over by the Daily Mail? Their interviewers are just awful, and the negative and aggressive questioning of Jeremy Corbyn at the weekend by Peter Snow left a very sour taste in my mouth.  If you want to put words in someone’s mouth, don’t bother interviewing them, just make it all up like Laura Kuenssberg did in her piece about Corbyn’s office ‘sabotaging’ the remain campaign. I have to assume she made it all up as she hasn’t presented a shred of evidence.

Rainbow Sparkle SocksFinally, if you need cheering up, here are some rainbow, sparkle socks, knitted from Unicorn shit, honest!


Prozac Knitting

Pigeon Toes Socks

Pigeon Toes Socks

Once I discovered how easy they were, sock knitting quickly became my ‘Prozac Knit’. Within a few pairs, I had settled into a vanilla sock formula that I knew off by heart, with no need for a pattern. I occasionally experiment with alternative toes/heels, but keep coming back to this formula. All I need is my row counter and my knitting. I usually do a Fish Lips Kiss Heel to make the toe, knit the foot, make the  FLK heel, knit the leg, and do a twisted rib at the cuff. My biggest problem is that I find it so soothing, I zone out and forget to count my rows! Read the rest of this entry »


Rheinlust Shawl

Rheinlust ShawlA few months ago someone posted a stitch pattern on Tumblr that caught my eye. I instantly fell in love with it and was wondering if there was some way I could work it into a shawl. Lo and behold, just a day or two later, knitting designer, Melanie Berg, posted photos of a new shawl she was about to start pattern testing. I followed the test thread avidly and bought the pattern the same day it was released. This is a big shawl that takes over 200g of 4-ply, but I already had 400g of Oakworth 4 Ply from Eden Cottage Yarns that I’d bought last October. I’d had it in mind to make myself a cardigan, but couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for the idea. Read the rest of this entry »

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User Error

Split MittensChristine, aka Winwick Mum, recently published a free pattern for Split Mittens. I thought these were a great idea and I really wanted to make myself a pair. My only problem was that I had no spare chunky wool and I have put myself on a yarn diet. I was toying with the idea of trying them with aran wool, which I do have, then I remembered I had a couple of balls of Stylecraft Alpaca Chunky, which I bought locally. While I clearly remember buying the wool, I can’t for the life of me remember what I had in mind to make with it!

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Koi Pond SockA plain toe-up sock with a Fish Lips Kiss Heel has very quickly become my ‘Prozac Knit’. I love it, and when I feel stressed, it’s the perfect project; no counting or complicated patterning. All I need is my knitting, a row counter and my template. I have mastered Judy’s Magic Cast On and, for my first pair, cast on my stitches, then increased every other round until I had all the stitches I needed. From the start, I found the FLK Heel easy to work. Read the rest of this entry »

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42 Is The Answer

HitchHikerAccording to Douglas Adams, 42 is the answer to “… the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything”. This simple garter stitch scarf has 42 points, so designer, Martina Behm, called her scarf Hitchhiker. My eye has passed over this pattern many times, (it’s perfect for variegated yarn – we all love them, buy them, then wonder what the hell to make with them!), but I found the idea of making a whole project in garter stitch off-putting. I love the smooth V’s in stocking stitch, I wasn’t so keen on lumpy, bumpy garter stitch. I also have memories of learning to knit as a child – when my tension was all over the place and I was probably using the wrong size needles for the wool – when I used to get really gappy rows of garter stitch; I hated them. How wrong I was! Read the rest of this entry »

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20152015 Has been quite the year and seems to have flown by. I started the year obsessed with crochet, having finally got the hang of it in 2014. In 2015 I started flexing my knitting muscles again and soon got back into it. I’m finding that I like ‘quick knit’ projects like shawls and socks, but prefer crochet for bigger projects, particularly blankets. At the end of 2015 a lot of people on Instagram were compiling a collage of their 9 most-liked photos. I decided to compile 9 projects from 2015 that were particularly meaningful to me in some way. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mandala Style Place MatsI finally sewed in the ends of the place mats I made for my Mum for Christmas. I made these back in September and they have been sitting on my desk waiting to be finished ever since! The pattern is a free pattern by Swedish blogger, Kajsa, on her blog, Stitches and Supper. You can find the pattern here: Mandala Style Place Mats. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dull as Ditchwater SocksHimself requested a pair of socks. I’ve acquired quite a stash of sock yarn (I really don’t know how that happened so quickly), much of it gloriously gaudy. I managed to dig out the one solitary ball of sock yarn I have in muted colours! This was made from a 150g 6-ply Zauberball that I bought from The Sock Yarn Shop. If I’m honest I’m glad he didn’t pick out the orange and red Zauberball; I want that one for myself! For all the colours are a bit drab, this is a lovely yarn to work with. I used a 3 mm circular and it makes up to a thick, squishy fabric. This pair only used 80 g, so I should be able to make myself a pair out of the remaining 70 g. These have been officially christened ‘David’s Dull as Ditchwater Socks’. Read the rest of this entry »

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