Monday, November 24, 2014

Doing the Math

A couple of weeks ago I ran a web seminar on the topic of Math for Knitters.

Topics I covered included:
  • Yarn shop math: how to make sure you're buying enough yarn for your project.
  • Pattern math: gauge math; repeats and how to deal with numbers-intensive instructions in your project, like "decrease five sts evenly across; and the dreaded 'Reversing Shapings' and 'At the Same Time'.
  • Project math: how to figure out how long it will take you to finish your project, how to figure out if you have enough yarn, how to figure out how long you can make your scarf.
It was recorded, and is available for your listening pleasure at any time.  Find it here, in the Interweave online store.

Math for Knitters Part Two runs Wednesday December 10th at 1pm EST.

In this session, I'll be diving deep into gauge, providing you a good understanding of what it's all about: why it matters, how to check, it, and what to do if you can't match it.

I'll talk about adjusting patterns for gauge: how to do it, and when not to. We'll talk about garment adjustments - how to easily modify a garment to improve the fit.

Although I know that I love the math, not everyone else does, so many of my solutions are about keeping the number-crunching to a minimum.

This session will make you a smarter shopper: I'll help you figure out how to choose patterns that are easiest to modify. And then I'll show you how to make those modifications to get exactly the result you want!

If you love math, this class is for you - I'll empower you to adjust and modify patterns to your needs! And if you don't love math, this class is for you - I'll show you how to avoid it as much as possible, while still making adjustments.

Register here. Again, it will be recorded so if you can't make it live you can listen to it later. And heck, even if you are able to listen to it live, you can listen again and again!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Math for Knitters: On Adjusting for Gauge

The first part of my Math for Knitters webseminar ran today. I think I solved some problems and answered my questions. I hope!

The second part runs next month.

In the second part, I tackle the topic of gauge and pattern adjustments. I know it's a topic of interest to many, and some the questions I got today confirmed that.

In short, the main one seems to be "I don't match gauge, so how can I adjust the pattern?" I find this question absolutely fascinating, on so many levels.

I remember asking it myself. And I've heard it many, many times, from other knitters. In short, the pattern is great, you've got some yarn you want to use, and they don't match.

As I got better at knitting, I figured out I could solve this problem: I could just use my math skills to recalculate the pattern. In essence, this is true. As I got better still, I figured out that it's actually not necessarily the simplest (or best) way to go about it.

I love math. I really do. I do Ken-Ken and Sudoku puzzles for fun. But I know that not everyone does.

Adjusting a pattern for gauge is simple enough for a scarf, but the minute there is shaping it gets significantly more difficult. (Sleeves: tricky. Sleeve caps: nightmarish.) Now, some of us enjoy this. And I definitely want to empower those of you who do enjoy this sort of thing and want to dig deeper.

But. But. Not everyone does want to go there.

I offer better solutions! Solutions that don't require you to become an expert in garment design. Solutions that get you knitting faster, and with a higher chance of success. Without giving too much away, it's all about choosing the right pattern... find a pattern that has solved the difficult problems for you, and then use some easy math to solve the simpler problems that remain.

Come, join my webseminar (details TBA, but it's Wednesday December 10th, 1pm EST) and see. The key to this is understanding which are the difficult problems and which are the easy ones. I share that with you, and I share how to solve those easy problems.

My approach is a little unusual, I know. But hey, remember the story about the American scientists spending millions of dollars to invent a pen that could write in zero gravity? The Russians just used a pencil.

Unusual, yes, but quicker, easier, and just as effective!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

My new cardigan & the lengths I go to to avoid placing buttonholes

I wrote all about it on the Knittyblog.

An out-take from the photoshoot.
Go look!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Math for Knitters Web seminar

Something else I hinted at recently: I'm doing a two-part Web seminar with Interweave on the topic of Math for Knitters.

The first session is next Wednesday, November 12th, at 1pm EST. You can attend live, or listen to a recording at your leisure after the fact. Attendees at the live session will be able to ask questions. (The prerecorded version will be made available for listening a few days after the live session.)

The first session is all about the math needed to successfully work a project:
We’ll equip you with the skills to handle any pattern, from ensuring you have enough yarn to being able to read, follow and decipher the instructions, including such challenges as "increase 12 stitches evenly distributed across the row," and “work decreases every sixth row 5 times, and every fourth row 12 times, and every following alt row.” We’ll also discuss clever tricks such as using a digital kitchen scale to help you use up your yarn stash, and to calculate how long you’ll need to finish up a project.

Rather than turning this into a boring high-school algebra class, I focus on easy tricks and solutions, working through some real-life examples to show you how it all comes together. I'll even give you some ways to avoid the numbers entirely if you don’t feel confident about them.

Math for Knitters part one is all about tools you’ll require to execute a pattern successfully. The second web seminar, to be held in December, will focus on gauge and pattern alterations and adjustments.

For more info, and to register, visit the Interweave store.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Announcing the new book: Pattern Writing for Knit Designers

I've been talking about this obliquely for a while, but it's time to come clean. I've been working on a new book...Pattern Writing for Knit Designers. It's the culmination of my work as a a technical editor and my previous career as a product communications specialist in the technology industry.

The book is a guide to writing knitting patterns: how to translate your great knitting project into a set of instructions that any other knitter can follow.

I feel very strongly about the quality of knitting patterns: good pattern writing matters because we want knitters to keep knitting.

Aimed at emerging designers and knitters creating their own patterns, Pattern Writing for Knit Designers is the comprehensive guide that can help you translate your project into a set of instructions that any knitter can follow.

In my typical no-nonsense (but friendly!) way, I provide concrete guidelines with lots of examples on everything from pattern writing basics (what information needs to be in a knitting pattern), to schematics and charts (what they are, why you need them, and how to create them), to handling multiple sizes, establishing a personal style sheet, and more. The book addresses the details of how to create complete, clear and easy-to-use knitting patterns, for any type of design, and for any level of knitter.

With over ten years of experience as the Managing Technical Editor for, as well as tech editing for Annie Modesitt, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Laura Nelkin, Interweave magazines, Cooperative Press and Potter Craft, I've edited literally thousands of patterns for designers, yarn companies and publishers. I believe that my unique combination of skills and training (a degree in math and training in fashion design), and my 10+ years' experience as a knitting teacher across North America, offer a one-of-a-kind perspective on ways designers can improve their patterns to make knitters love them.

I provide concrete guidelines, with lots of examples, on topics including:
  • what information needs to be included in a knitting pattern
  • how to properly and clearly communicate sizing and measurement information
  • what schematics are, why you need them, and how to create them
  • how to use charts and written instructions to express special pattern stitches like cables and lace
  • stitch nomenclature (especially related to cables), abbreviations, and glossaries -how to handle multiple sizes and versions
  • use of brackets and * to indicate repeats
  • how to establish a personal style sheet 
And much, much more. So much more!

I discuss technical editing and test knitting – explain what they are how, why they’re important, and when they need to be done. I give tips for designers who wish to self-publish, and for those preparing submissions to a publication.
In addition, I provide two key resources: a master template – both in printed and digital form –and a master glossary and abbreviations list.

I'm proud of the book, and I'm very pleased to say that people are already saying great things about it.

This book is AWESOME. - Donna Druchunas

Kate Atherley's marvelous book is essential reading for any designer looking to create patterns that work well and sell well; and intriguing reading for any curious knitter who has ever wondered what goes into the creation of pattern. - Franklin Habit

If you are considering pattern writing, or want to become a knitter who understands how to read patterns more deeply, this book is for you. I certainly wish I had it when I was starting out! - Laura Nelkin

Kate is a fount of knowledge gained  from her years of experience tech editing pattern instructions and  working hands on with knitters of all levels. She is uniquely situated  in our industry, forming a bridge between designer and pattern user.  This book distills all of the information she has researched & is in  her head into a step-by-step check list of what we need to consider  when publishing our work. - Fiona Ellis

It will be available as an e-book December 2014.

Email address (required) 
I promise I will only use your email address once, to let you know when the book is available. Thanks for your interest!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Tempest giveaway winner

Comment #40.

Jlangt64 I will be in touch!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sheep get rained on, you know. On washing wool.

There's an article making the rounds of Twitter this week about superwash wools, and how they are made.

I read it, and learned a few interesting things about how a wool is made superwash. But it was the last line in the article that caught my attention...
What is the most eco-friendly yarn that also is able to be washed without shrinking? Things like slipper socks can get awfully dirty. (Or will I have to just soak them in cold water?)
And my first thought was "here we go again".

Sheep in the rain. Image from The Fairhope Farm blog. 

I hear this so very often: that wool can't be washed without great difficulty, that wool can't be washed without shrinking. That wool shouldn't get wet. That somehow water is bad for wool.

I get it, I do. We've all had a laundry disaster: a beautiful wool sweater, ruined. We've all been told by our mothers that wool things shouldn't go in the washing machine. And from that, so often, we extrapolate the fact that wool is difficult to wash, and it shouldn't get wet, that water is bad for wool.

This belief is leading people very far astray.

In fact, if you don't wash your wool you're asking for trouble. Moths - those pesky eaters of sweaters, ruiners of stashes, breakers of hearts - are attracted to dirty wool. Wool that has oils from your skin and hair on them. That's the stuff that the moths want to eat. If you're not washing your wool, you're asking it to get ruined.

But wool shrinks, you say! Mother told me!

Wool can felt - get denser - when it is washed. But it's not the water that's making that happen. It's agitation. The washing machine is bad for wool not because of the water, but because of the motion. It's motion - the friction, agitation, rubbing - that causes wool to felt.

A temperature shock - a rapid temperature change in water - can also cause felting. That's why a hot wash causes felting, too. You're shocking the wool. You'd be shocked, too, if you had hot water dumped on you.

In fact, water makes wool more beautiful: it evens out your knit fabrics, it causes the fibres to fluff up and bloom, it opens up your lace work and patterning, it gets any pesky overdye and coffee stains and dog hair off.

Just don't shock or agitate it. You can wash it to your heart's content. Just don't machine wash it.

(Some modern washing machines do have hand-wash cycles - they're basically movement-free and apparently very wonderful. My machine is not that clever, sadly.)

It's really not hard:

  • soak your pieces in a sink or tub of lukewarm water for about half an hour.
  • a wool-wash like SOAK is specially devised to not need rinsing out, so all you need to do is pour off the water, or drain the sink. (No rinsing! Really! This is actually true!) 
  • roll them in a towel to squeeze the excess water out
  • and lay them flat to dry

See! Easy! Stress-free! Not special equipment required!And so many benefits.

P.S. This is also the secret to Blocking.

And I have to say, although I love Kat's theory, it's sadly just not true.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Epic Crochet Scarf of Madness and Ends

I can tell you precisely when I lost my mind. It was early summer, when I saw the Spring/Summer 2014issue of the Noro magazine. And this scarf. This amazing crochet scarf, in my favourite colourway of Taiyo sock, #23.

I enjoy crochet, and since I'm less skilled at it, there are fewer urges to adapt and change and design than when knitting... I can just follow a pattern and enjoy the ride.

So I started it. I naturally had a ball of that colour in my stash, and I was looking for a bit of light relief after my epic sock project (more on that later) came to an end,

Over the summer and through the fall I've been working away on the little pieces. Each only took a few minutes, and as they were done I checked off the list, and tried not to think about the finishing.

I finished the final of the 79 pieces this week, and because I had some yarn leftover, So I made a few more.

As I was doing that, I did a bit of math: 82 pieces. Each with two ends. That's 164 ends to weave in. And then there's the yarn for sewing them up.

They're blocking now.

The flowers.

And the leaves.

And I must confess I'm a bit frightened.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"Tempest" - On tech editing a book; giveaway!

One of the joys for me in my technical editing work is the sense of virtually knitting a project. There are only so many hours in a day, only so many knitting hours in a week, only so many projects I can make in my lifetime. I'm very much a process knitter, and I get an awful lot of satisfaction from the technical aspect of knitting: learning new techniques, experimenting with and understanding different constructions, and enjoying a designer's implementation of a design idea. To do a technical edit of a pattern provides all of those experiences, in less time that it would take me to knit it. And it's true, if there's a sample, I have been known to try it on, and have a good fondle of the yarn, and luxuriate in the colours. (The downside is that I don't get to keep the lovely FO at the end, but there have to be some trade-offs...)

Sometimes I am working with a designer, editing individual patterns; sometimes, I am working with a publication, to edit a group of patterns from different designers.

The most fun projects, however, are the big ones: editing a collection of patterns from an individual designer. You know, books!

Working with a designer on a book project allows you to really dig into a designer's vision and design sensibility. Working on a book project allows me to experience and enjoy all the different ways a designer expresses herself.

Over the summer, I had the distinct pleasure of being the technical editor for designer Holli Yeoh, for her just-released book Tempest.

Holli is a wonderful designer, and her design sensibility reflects a remarkable balance: her pieces are beautiful but entirely wearable, interesting in construction and technique, but entirely knittable. It's not easy to do, and Holli is a master of this.

Tempest is a collaboration with Felicia Lo of Sweet Georgia Yarns. All of the projects in the book use Felicia's yarns, and take advantage of her fantastic colour palette. (I've used Sweet Georgia Yarns myself in my books and I adore them.) And just as I enjoyed diving deep with Holli's designs, I know that Holli thoroughly enjoyed diving deep into Felicia's yarns.

Tempest features eleven designs, accessories and garments for women, inspired by the weather and natural surroundings of the west coast of Canada.

Now, Holli and Felicia are in Vancouver, and so were the projects. Tech editing remotely - that is, without the projects in hand that I could examine and measure and explore - adds a degree of challenge to the process. It's often the way I work, and it can be useful to do it this way, in that it allows me to assess and work through the pattern the same way a knitter would - with only instructions and a few pictures to guide me.

The downside is that I don't get to really enjoy (you know, oogle, fondle, try on) the projects in the same way.

Holli and Felicia launched the book at the KnitCity event in Vancouver earlier this month, where I was teaching. Being at the launch party was lovely, and I really enjoyed being able to congratulate them both in person... but the best part of being there? Getting to see the projects in person! I may have even tried a bunch of them on...

To see all the projects, and to learn more, visit the website for the book. The site also hosts tutorials and discussion forums.

You can buy a physical copy of the book online at the Sweet Georgia Shop, or a digital copy from Ravelry.

Holli and Felicia have generously donated a digital copy of the book for me to give away to one of my readers. To win, leave a comment on this post. Please make sure I have a way to contact you - include in the comment either your Ravelry ID or your email address (in a way that the spammers can't get it, write it out with spaces and spell out the at and the dot, e.g. kate dot atherley at gmail dot com).

Deadline for comments is Tuesday Oct 28th, midnight EST.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Math For Knitters: Upcoming classes, what do you want to know?

Let's just say... hypothetically... that I was working on a class to be delivered online (no, not video, something slightly different) on Math For Knitters.

So, let's say that you signed up for this class. What questions would you want answered? What math problems do you run into with your knitting?

Things I plan to cover in the first half of this hypothetical class:
  • metric/imperial conversions - and why they matter!
  • yardage and making yarn substitutions
  • "increase evenly across"
  • "decrease evenly across"
  • 'reversing shapings' and 'at the same time' and how to handle them
  • bonus topics: estimating yarn usage, and why sock knitters love a digital scale
And in the second half of the class, I want to cover these sorts of things:
  • gauge and what it's all about and why it matters; how to check it and what to do if you're off
  • gauge adjustments - why and how and when; and when not to
  • what if you can't match gauge for a garment - easy solutions!
  • garment alterations and adjustments
    • body length and shaping
    • sleeve length and shaping
    • more complex adjustments
What else? What numbers issues do you need help with? Let me know in the comments below.

I promise I'll announce the details of these classes as soon as I can.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

True Story

Have you seen this gorgeous piece from Laura's new book?

It's Noro. Lovely.

It's a ball of Noro that Laura bought at Lettuce Knit when she was visiting a three or four years ago.

Laura stayed overnight with us, since we live near the shop.

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that Dexter is a mischievous dog. Dexter likes to get into things. Dexter likes to steal things. In particular, Dexter seems to really like yarn.

Laura had gone out for a walk, and left the door to our spare room slightly ajar. And she'd left a ball of yarn on the bed.

You can imagine what happened next, I am sure. We manage to wrestle the Noro away from him, untangle it and wipe off most of the slobber.

When Laura was showing me the photos from the book designs, she asked if I recognized the yarn for this particular scarf... Lesson learned: even a good chewing from a bad dog can't diminish the natural beauty of Noro yarns.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Knockout Knits

Laura Nelkin and I first met when I edited a pattern of hers for Knitty.

If you've been published by a magazine, you'll know that the technical editing process is... rigorous. It's not just about the math of a pattern, but it's also about the style sheet. Each publication has its own way of doing things: standard abbreviations, what's capitalized and not, which brackets and where and how.

And I'm picky. You have to be, to be a technical editor.

I know that some designers find the technical editor's attention to detail rather absurd. (In fact, I remember the first time a pattern of mine was edited... I couldn't believe the stuff that I was being asked about, I couldn't believe that the style of brackets could matter quite so much.)

But as Knitty's lead Tech Editor, I care about these details very much. And I ask a lot of questions. I am sure that some designers find the process challenging. I've been told that I'm tough.

Not Laura, though. Laura is a New Yorker. She's just as tough. And she seemed to appreciate my way of doing things.

Not only did my approach not scare her off, it seemed to have the opposite effect. She asked me to tech edit some of her non-Knitty work.

And last year, she emailed to ask if I could set aside "a chunk" of time in my calendar for her. "How big a chunk?"... "Oh, about book-sized."

I will neither confirm nor deny that I squeed with joy for her. Laura is a deeply gifted designer - she creates truly beautiful and original and interesting lace pieces, jewellery and accessories - and I was over the moon to hear she was working on a book.

And that book, Knockout Knits, has just been released. Full of her trademark gorgeous designs, it's a book of accessories for knitters of all levels. There's some lace, some beads, and lots of texture. There's everyday pieces...

little luxuries

and truly special knits.

The approach of the book is fantastic: it delves deep into some specific stitches and techniques - wrapped stitches, lace and beads - providing tutorials and all the guidance you need to work every project. There are projects for all levels of knitter, all levels of challenge, most using only one or two skeins. She begins at the very beginning, and helps knitters build skills as they go.

And at the end, you've got truly beautiful work to be proud of.

I was honoured and thrilled to work with Laura on it, as her technical editor. And I only made her cry once, apparently...

Monday, October 13, 2014

New (Old) Pattern: Northern Lights Socks

A long time ago, in my early days of sock designing experiments, back when I only had two of the Barbara Walker Books, I fell in love with a cable pattern.

And this sock resulted. It's been languishing in the bottom of my sock drawer for some time, the pattern never really properly published.

From my original notes on the design...
These socks were inspired by the winter night sky in the prairies. The cables swoop across the socks like the Northern Lights swoop across the sky, and the yarn colour perfectly captures a cold, sparkling twilight. The Figure 8 Cable was inspired by my first sun dog sighting – a fascinating column of flares in the sky.

Shortly after we moved to Canada, we spent a short time living in Saskatchewan, over a winter. What they say about the sky there is totally true: it really does go on forever, the colors are amazing, and unbelievable things happen. I spent a lot of time looking up. I saw sunshine so bright it hurt and blinding blues like I'd never experienced before. We watched a tornado build and form and cross the city. We were mesmerized by the magic of the Northern Lights. And we saw a sun-dog: a vertical light flares, often like rainbows, caused by the sun reflecting off the ice crystals in the air. The sky has its own personality, in the prairies. The sky is a character in your daily life.

Now I live in downtown Toronto; I don't get to see the sky that often -- too many buildings in the way. So I look at my socks instead.

With some keen support from Keri and the excellent photography of Gillian Martin, I've got my act together. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that more than five years later, the yarn I used is still available: Shelridge Farms Ultra Soft Touch Heather. I love this yarn: it's a substantial fingering weight, with a nice wooly hand, and  a touch of nylon for strength. The colorway, Opal, screamed winter sky to me.

The cable is juicy but not too challenging. As is usual, the pattern is written to be worked on DPNs, Magic Loop or 2 Circulars, as you prefer. Two women's sizes, foot length entirely adjustable. The cable patterns are charted.

Available from Ravelry.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Visit to Burlington, Roti Lunch, a Couple of Classes

Saturday October 18th I'm visiting the lovely shop Spun Fibre Arts in Burlington, Ontario.

There are two classes on the schedule: a three-hour mitten bootcamp. Suitable for even the newest knitters, this classes teaches everything you know to make mittens for your entire family. Experience knitting in the round not required.  Winter is coming, you know...

Mittens are also great for the upcoming gift-giving season...

Speaking of gift-giving, the second class is my Knitting with Wire workshop: design and make your own one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. Suitable for knitters of all levels - even if you only learned to knit last week - this hands-on workshop allows you to play with some new techniques and materials.

I hope to see you there!

Naturally, I will also be having a roti lunch, which is an important part of my trips to Spun.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Did you contact me about not being able to post a comment on my blog?

I can't, for the life of me, find your contact info. Please get in touch? kate at wise hilda knits dot com.

Thank you!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sock Book Giveaway winner

Comment number 47 is from Jennifer in Ohio! Congratulations!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Excellent new sock book: Lara Neel's Sock Architecture

Last year, I was asked to do a technical consult with Lara Neel on her sock book manuscript. I was off on a trip to tape my Craftsy class, so I printed out the draft, found my favourite manuscript-reviewing pen, and packed it into my carry-on luggage.

Now, without bragging, I do think I know a bit about sock knitting. I've been knitting socks for twenty years; I've read a lot of sock knitting books, and I've edited a fair number of sock patterns and books. And it was clear, by the time I got to the third page, that Lara knew a lot more about it than I did!

The book is a fantastic exploration of heel and toe constructions, both top down and toe up. She dives deep into the construction details and the fit for each, providing not only examples of how to use them, but also the math that allows you to adapt them for your own designs.

If you're not feeling mathematically inclined, Lara's designed a range of patterns that use these constructions. There's socks plain and fancy, for all sorts of fits and sock-knitting tastes. Many of the designs have two versions: one toe-up, one top-down. You might just find a new favourite go-to sock pattern....

Along the way, Lara shares an awful lot of wisdom and tips on sock knitting, construction and fit. I love the way she thinks: she understands that sock fit is about more than foot length, or indeed foot circumference, and she approaches each construction as a template that you can apply to your socks, and your own feet.

And the illustrations are generous, detailed, and very helpful. This step-by-step breakdown of the Afterthought Gusset heel construction is worth the price of the book, in my opinion...

Lara is kindly giving away a copy of the book to my readers... to win, leave a comment on this post before Saturday September 27th midnight EST, making sure I know how to get in touch with you. Leave your Ravelry name, or an email address, or some other way to find you.

And if you can't wait, buy the book here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Vogue Knitting Live NYC, January 16-18 2015.

My favourite city in the world, doing my favourite thing in the world, in the month of my birthday. Perfect.

I'm teaching a range of socky classes...
  • DPNs, Magic Loop and 2 Circs: Working in the Round bootcamp
  • Going My Way: Work Socks the Way You want
  • Heels and Toes
  • Introduction to Sock Pattern Design
  • Toe Up Socks 101
  • Socks for Absolute Beginners
Come, join me! Students will get bonus marks for bringing me a black and white cookie as a birthday present... ;-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Free Pattern: The Sick Day Shawl

It's that time of year: colds and flu bugs are starting to go around. The air is full of sneezing and sniffling and coughing.

I caught an early cold last week, and spent a day as the doctor ordered: on the sofa, with several pots of tea and a big box of Kleenex. I planned to luxuriate in some relaxing knitting and TV.

The TV decision was easy: I'm partway through watching MI-5 (a.k.a. Spooks) on Netflix. This is a 10-season English program feature attractive spies and ridiculous international adventures. Perfect.

The bigger question was what knitting? I've been working on a bunch of design projects of late, and I knew I wasn't in the mood to for anything complicated. But equally, with a full day stretching out ahead of me, I also knew I'd have time to really dig into a project. Plain socks seemed too dull.

Ever since I completed Rosetta Tharpe, I've been noodling on the idea of a Half-Pi shawl - a semi-circular shawl using the same basic construction. I'd got the math partially worked out, and so before the decongestant properly kicked in, I did a bit of number crunching and planning. And then I went diving in the stash.

(Because going yarn shopping while contagious with a cold seems impolite.)

I found a couple of skeins of Briggs and Little Regal. This is a great Canadian yarn, a classic heavy worsted, with a decent yardage (250yds per skein) and a nice crisp, wooly hand.

And so the Sick Day Shawl was born. By the end of the first day, I had a full skein knitted up. (Seriously, I did nothing else that day. We had leftovers for dinner, and I didn't have any urgent work obligations.)

Even with just that single skein, I got a good sized shawl...

Over the next couple of days, I spent a bit more time, and dug into the second skein.

And by Friday night, I had converted about 450yds of an abandoned heavy worsted from the bottom of my stash into the Sick Day Shawl.

Ideal for that day at home in front of the TV. Ideal for knitting when you're not up for much of a challenge, but not totally discombobulated with medication. No special yarn requirements: use whatever you've got in the stash. 450yds of anything in the worsted-y aran-y sort of category (a 4 or a 5, if you go that way). Two skeins of Cascade 220. (Who doesn't have 2 skeins of Cascade 220 kicking around?) A skein of Cascade Eco would be great. Double-strand some sock yarn! Do you have a bunch of handspun that needs using up? Use whatever needles you have on hand.

The design is entirely forgiving of messed-up stitch counts. Got the wrong number? Fix it on the following row. And it's flexible, too, for how far you go. Got more time and yarn? Just keep working to make it bigger. Feeling better? Stop sooner.

It's good for you, too: the knitting is interesting enough that you'll stay put on the sofa, resting as you're supposed to.

And next time you're feeling under the weather, you've got something warm and comfy to snuggle with.

Free pattern on Ravelry here. Thanks to Gillian Martin for the outstanding photos.

Pattern will be free until the end of September, but after that I'll be charging for it - I've got to replenish my Kleenex supplies.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Teaching Season Begins

I'm a year-round knitter, but it's true that the majority of events and teaching take place in the fall and winter.

And boy, I'm going to be busy. Can't wait.

Maybe I'm going to be teaching at an event near you? Take a look at my schedule - just to your left!

And remember, if you can't come and take one of my classes in person, I have online classes, too:
Learn to Knit
Magic Socks
Fixing Mistakes
Gapless Gussets
Sizing and Fit

Look a little further down on the left for links.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

On Holding of Hands and Not

This question on Twitter raised my blood pressure a bit today. Mostly in the good way... ;-).

This "debate" comes up reasonably often. The crux of it is this: Older patterns used to be more terse (concise?), and newer ones give more detail. Are we enabling knitters to be lazy/not encouraging thinking for themselves/hampering learning/etc. by giving that extra detail?

For example, you might see in an older pattern an instruction like:
Decrease 1 st each end of every foll alt row 10 times, then every 4th row 12 times.
There's nothing wrong with the first formulation, but it requires a fair bit of knowledge on the pattern of the knitter. What decrease to use, where to place them, and to be comfortable keeping track of the various rows, including knowing what we mean by "foll alt row".

A more "modern" pattern would be more likely to spell it out, e.g.
Next row, decrease (RS): K1, ssk, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. 2 sts decreased.
Follow row (WS): Purl.
Repeat the last 2 rows 9 more times.
Work a decrease row followed by three even rows.
Repeat the last four rows 11 more times.
Both are equally correct, but they are very different.

I tend to tell designers that if they aren't certain a knitter will do it the way they want, or if it matters what decrease is used and where it's placed, then it's better to spell it out.

In my experience, it's mostly designers asking the question. I can see where they are coming from: it's much easier to write a pattern in that concise/terse way, absolutely. And as a designer, you've likely got the skill level to be comfortable with the concise version so you might not understand the need for the more explicit version.

But we're not all designers. We're not all experienced knitters. And we don't all innately know how to read and follow patterns. The traditional, concise pattern format isn't very friendly to newer knitters. Why not give knitters a bit of a helping hand?

I liked this answer to the question:
My answer to Rohn was in two tweets, since I had so much to say:
I've discussed this with Donna Druchunas on a couple of occasions, and she's very much a fan of the more concise style. Her position is that hand-holding can get ridiculous... that it shouldn't get to the point where every pattern is its own tutorial, and every pattern has to explain everything right from casting on. I agree with her on that point! But I do feel that there's room to help - to provide a helping hand for those who are just getting started, or who want it.

My answer is that we should be using some sort of skill level/techniques required/experience level required indicator in the pattern, and use that as a guide to how we write our patterns. If you want to write in the concise way, just tell people up front that you're expecting pattern reading experience! And if you to target your pattern to less experienced knitters, write in a more explicit manner, and then market it as such. Knitters will thank you.

After all, we all need a helping hand at first - let's offer that help to those who want it.

UPDATE: Angela (of the tweet above) has written a terrific blog post on this topic, from the end-user's perspective. Read it.


I wonder if this question wasn't prompted by this tweet of mine, from a little earlier...
This was in response to a great conversation I was having with a designer about how to represent some instructions in her patterns... I asked a question about why she chose to give gauge information over 1 inch, rather than four. Her reply was, in essence, "well, I assume most knitters know you have to check it over more than just one inch".

For her patterns, which are mostly aimed at more experienced knitters, this is probably ok. But my reply to her was simple: consider the experience level of your target knitter. (Although there's a separate discussion here to be had about going with commonly-used form. My biggest issue with specifying gauge over anything other than 4 inches, which is what most patterns and yarns do, is that it can be misread or confuse. If there's a commonly-used form, I like to use it. Makes it easier on everyone, IMHO.)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

By Popular Request: Heirloom Baby Bonnet in Multiple Sizes

Back in 2010, I received a rather charming design commission: to create a pattern from a well-loved baby bonnet.

I did it, sized to match the original bonnet, which was about a 3-month size.

Since then, I've received many requests to grade the pattern to multiple sizes... and this summer, I've finally had a chance to do it. It now has five sizes: 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year and 2 years. If you've already purchased the pattern through Ravelry or Patternfish, you'll receive the new version automatically.

If you bought a physical copy, email me at kate at wisehildaknits dot com.

And if you had been holding off buying it because it didn't have the size you need: now's the time! Ravelry & Patternfish.

I've got a baby shower to attend next weekend: I think I know what I'll be making...

(Thanks to Keri W. for the pictures of her lovely J, who is now somewhat more grown-up, but remains just as cute.)

Perhaps the next chance I get I'll grade this up to adult sizes... I've heard they are forecasting a bad winter... this might be just the thing I need.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Teaching Schedule for Fall/Winter

Most Tuesdays and Thursdays you can find me at Lettuce Knit.
Most Wednesdays and Saturdays (and the odd Sunday) you can find me at The Purple Purl.

September 18-21, Bayview Wildwood Resort, Ontario

October 4-5, Vancouver B.C.
Knit City 2014
Classes are Custom Fit Socks, Pattern Writing, Finishing and the Pi Shawl.

October 18th, Burlington Ontario
Spun Fibre Arts: classes TBA.

November 15 & 16, Waterloo Ontario

December 13, Port Credit, Ontario
Linda's Craftique: classes TBA.

January 16-18, New York, NY
Vogue Knitting Live: classes TBA.

April 16-19, 2015: Loveland, CO
Interweave Yarn Fest: classes TBA.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Introducing: Rosetta Tharpe

I'd like to introduce to you to Rosetta Tharpe.

Ms. Tharpe is not well known, but those who do know her call her the Godmother of Rock & Roll. Born in 1915, she was a gospel performer of great sophistication and skill, but also had rather a way with a guitar.

You can read more about her here.

This shawl is like Ms. Tharpe – classic in origin and inspiration, drawing on simple elements, but coming together in way that’s both elegant and bad-ass at the same time.

It’s based on the Pi shaping: starts at the center with nine stitches, with an increase round to double the stitch count every so often. The edging stitch pattern is flexible: work until you’ve run out of yarn, or the shawl is the size you want, or you just can’t take it anymore and want to wear the thing.

The project requires only basic lace knitting skills, and being worked in the round, there’s none (well, ok, very little) of that pesky purling. The only tricky bit is the start: you begin with a small round, but that’s over quickly.

I used indigodragonfly's amazing Uber MerGoat Sport merino/cashmere/nylon blend for any easy-care, weighty piece that knits up faster (and more spectacularly) than laceweight; and the weight of the yarn gives wonderful drape to the piece. The colorway is "Cumberbacchanal. Of course.

The pattern is available on Ravelry now, and as of Saturday, Kim will be making kits available starting 11am, Saturday August 16th. Order here! There will be two choices of yarn - the Uber MerGoat Sport, if you've got a bit of money saved up, and a more budget-friendly option, SuperBaa DK.

We'll also be hosting a Knit-Along in Kim's Ravelry group.

Never made a Pi shawl? This pattern is a great place to start.

Wear Ms. Tharpe folded over your shoulders like a triangle,

...or fully open for more drama and coverage. The fabric is weighty enough and the piece big enough that it stays very nicely in place.

A million thanks to Gillian Martin for her amazing photography.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Fair Isle Workshop at WEBS

A couple of weeks ago I made a trip on a tiny plane (seriously tiny... 18 seats)...

Tiny plane is tiny.
to Northhampton Massachusetts, to WEBS.

WEBS is a crafter's mecca. It's a giant warehouse-sized yarn shop. They cater to knitters and crocheters and weavers and spinners and they have everything. They cater to projects - and pocketbooks - large and small.

It's about 2 1/2 hours west of Boston, about three hours north of NYC, and absolutely a destination.

And I nearly fell off my chair when they emailed me out of the blue to ask me to go and teach. It turns out that they like my first book - a lot! they recommend it in many of their classes! -  and they wanted to meet me in person.

Of course I went.

Readers, I was so overwhelmed that I utterly failed you on the photos front. I took precisely one photo of the shop, and it's terrible.

Terrible photo is terrible.
However, it should give you a sense of the size of the place. That's just ONE CORNER of the main shop. There's an even larger warehousey area in the back, with sale yarns and all sorts of goodies.

I taught three classes - including my favourite Finishing - and had a fantastic time. The students were smart and fun and engaged and wonderful people.

But I think I had the most fun in the Fair Isle workshop... a full day, all about Fair Isle design and technique, which provides students the tools, skills and techniques to design their own Fair Isle sampler mitts.

I give a little bit of history.

We practice techniques.

And then we play with patterns.

Student Eileen F. designed and finished this one, in record time:

I also had a lovely time in Northampton. I made some new friends, and enjoyed all sorts of foodie fun in a pretty New England college town.

These guys know their stuff.

Delicious, although sadly the promised "Kate the Great" Russian Imperial Stout was unavailable.

And it's close enough to NYC to be able to find these... 
Thanks to Amy & the rest of the WEBS team for taking such good care of me!

I'm looking forward to a possible return visit, next year... Stay tuned...