Making Waves

I have a new pattern available, and it was a lot of fun to write!  Meet the Making Waves Cardigan:

When I first designed this cardigan, I had never knit with Wollmeise Twin before (see the purple cardi below).  Oh.  My.  Bob.  The color is so saturated, and while the yarn feels a bit stiff in the skein, it softens considerably when knit up!  I’m in love.  Now if I could only be awake at 2:15 am EST when Claudia updates their website!  The grey cardigan above is knit in Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light–I love how this base takes the dye as well.

Anyhow, I’d originally thought that this would be a fairly easy design to knit & to write, and in truth, much of it was not difficult to engineer–it’s a top down raglan, and I’ve done so many top-downs before.  With this pattern, however, I wanted to offer a broader range of sizes, and so the grading of the various sizes was my challenge this time.  For example, bust and upper arm measurements do not increase at the same rate when going from a size 30″ bust to a 50″ bust.  While many patterns in the past recommended that upper arm measurements of a sweater be a certain percentage of the bust, other knitters and designers have found that this guideline just doesn’t work for grading a variety of sizes.  One Raveler decided to take an informal poll of bust & upper arm measurements, and published his data in a post on Ravelry.  I’m not a statistician, but there were enough participants in each size to show a definite trend:  Smaller bust sizes had upper arm measurement that were ~37% of the bust, whereas those with busts measuring over 46″ had upper arms measuring to ~30%.  So, what these meant to my pattern grading is that smaller sizes needed some rows that increased only the sleeves but not the bust, whereas the sizes 46″ and above needed some rows that increased only the bust, but not the sleeves.

The ruching itself took a bit of engineering as well, and I had to play around with the edges of it…Just how much garter stitch needed to be at the lower edge of the fronts to keep it from flaring too much?  Did I need a smaller needle for it or should I use the same size?  How do I get the ruched neckline to form a scoopneck rather than a rounder yoke (ans: by doing extra decreases within the ruching where I wanted the scoopneck to curve).  I had to knit,  rip it out, and reknit a few times to get it just right, but I like to think/hope that I made all the mistakes so that folks who knit my patterns don’t have to:)

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Life, the Universe, and Knitting Patterns

A Raveler began a thread in the Designers Group on Ravelry asking what types of life experiences have influenced or helped inform our work as designers and pattern writers.  I posted a response and thought I’d share & elaborate a bit here.

I worked in basic research settings for years before becoming a SAHM for a while, and am now teaching biology at the college level. The laboratory research I did (in molecular biology) required me to trouble shoot & problem solve on an hourly basis–I had plenty of math to do with the job but also had to constantly think about how to make something easier, more efficient, how to plan out an entire day to maximize the techniques I worked with.  I suppose this is engineering–looking at a process and/or goal, figuring out what your needs are, and making changes based on what works.  I also had to do a fair amount of technical writing–where you say what you mean as succinctly as possible. I’ve used all of these skills when I write a pattern…“What will make things clearer for the knitter? How can I write out the row instructions to make it the easier to follow?” are priorities.

Becoming a teacher has amplified my need (& desire) to imagine what it is like to not already know something. This really informs my writing–While I can assume a few basics like the knit & purl stitches, I can’t assume everything. For example, rather than write an instruction like “increase 45 stitches evenly across the row,” I prefer to write out something to the effect of “(k4, m1) to the last 3 st, k to end of row.” Some knitters may not need me to write it out for them, but a less experienced knitter might.  As an educator, I’ve also become aware of different learning styles:  Some learners are visual, some verbal, some kinesthetic…all to varying degrees.  I was (and still am!) the kid who had to “say it to understand it.”  Somehow, verbalizing a concept solidifies it in my mind.  No wonder I went into teaching.  No wonder I’m also a singer!

There are different style & learning preferences for knitters as well.  For example, some knitters like to follow a chart for an intricate lace pattern whereas others want row-by-row written directions.  To accommodate both, I decided to chart out the lace pattern in Elphaba as well has provide written directions for each row.  I also try to lay out my patterns in such a way so as to keep a reader’s eyes from straying too much or getting lost in the format.  This often means that my patterns take up more pages in a pdf than they would in a magazine format, but I try to put a bit of white space around particularly intense or complex rows to give the knitter’s eyes a break and, hopefully, enable them to follow the directions more easily.

As a kid, high school & college student, I hated writing.  I never felt that I had a story that needed telling, so writing a novel was out.  Writing lab reports only served to confuse me since the results of our in-class experiments never matched the results we were “supposed” to get (I’ve since learned that this is **not** science, folks!), and I could never quite figure out what the lab instructor expected for each section of the report.  This served to put a bad taste in my mouth for writing.  So when a bunch of knitters began sending me private messages that they really, really, really wanted me to write up a particular design I’d made, I thought “This is so not going to happen.  I hate writing.”  But they kept bugging me, and I gave it a try to get them off my back lol.   Oddly enough, once I sat down to the writing, I found that I did indeed have a tale to tell–the “story” was just about how to construct a garment with a couple of sticks and a lot of string.  Now, I’ll crack open my laptop to work on a pattern, and the next thing I know, 3 hours have flown by, and I have this amazing rush of adrenaline & sense of accomplishment.

Finally, I’d be horribly remiss in not pointing out how much being a parent has influenced my life, but as far as writing & knitting go, one anecdote stands out in my mind:  While working on my graduate degree (in education), I had to prepare an essay for a class.  I was frustrated and said out loud “I can’t do this.  I’m just not brilliant.”  My oldest son was about 9 years old at the time, looked up from his pile of Legos and said “You are brilliant, Mom.  You can do anything.”  So, um.  Yeah.  Parenting.  It’s (still) teaching me lots of things–unconditional love, patience–often times with myself:)

I finally have a blog

Some may say that Hades must have frozen over, but it’s not unlike me at all to start a blog.  I’m a Gen-Xer who is as enamored with technology almost as much as the 18-20 year olds that I teach at a local community college.  Today, I think of email, texting, Facebook, Ravelry, and Twitter as things I’ve been waiting for all my life, and I use these site as often as possible.  Excel, Illustrator, and Photoshop figure rather significantly in much of my work, and I can’t imagine being without these programs.  When I was given a smart phone for my birthday a few years ago, I got addicted to being in constant contact at the touch of a button More