Rejection: Welligkeit Vest by Twist Collective

Several years ago, I went to Las Vegas for Christmas. I usually play craps, but that time I played Texas Hold ‘em. With real live poker players who saw me for what I was: their mortgage payment.

That’s not to say that I didn’t know what I was doing, because I do. And it’s not to say that I didn’t win a few hands, because I did.* But these players lived in Las Vegas and played poker all day, every day.

Watch the movie Rounders for a primer on gambling for a living.

When the same players play together all the time, they come to know the habits of the regular players, and in this one particular weekday game, there was a guy who always raised on the flop. Always.

Unless he and the dealer had developed some sort of supercalifragilistic cheat that the casino had never seen before, the chances were very low that he always had a good hand. The cards just don’t fall that way. (If they did, it would be called winning, not gambling.) So this guy was raising just to raise.†

It’s a way of “buying the pot” by forcing the other players to either call or fold earlier than they would have (because there were still two more cards to be dealt and considered: the turn and the river). Maybe he had a good hand and maybe he didn’t, but no one knew because he played the same way every time. And if he could get everyone to fold, he would get‡ a little money. It was a solid, if annoying strategy.

To keep this guy from raising and buying the pot, all of the other players ahead of him would check, which means they didn’t bet anything, which means there was nothing for him to see and raise. If he wanted to stay in the game, he would have to bet the amount of the big blind, and then the betting went around the table again allowing the other players who had checked to make the bet they wanted to make in the first place so they could see the next card.

Betting goes clockwise around the table, and this guy was sitting to the left of me, so after everyone checked, I would bet, and this guy would raise, and everyone else would fold, and I would lose my bet.

After about four or five hands, I got wise and started checking, too. And this guy would say, “The check’s at the bank,” and he’d toss his chips into the center of the table. Every single time. “The check’s at the bank.” “The check’s at the bank.” I can still hear his annoying, derisive voice. “The check’s at the bank.”

The check’s at the bank.

He wasn’t there to win big or to make a name for himself, but he took a fair amount of my money before I caught on to his game—and probably a lot of other people’s money, too.

In the gambling parlance of our times, these types of low-stakes gamblers are called grinders because they’re just grinding out a living a little at a time. His method wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t popular, but it got the job done. If he played all day, every day, I imagine he earned his mortgage payment in a week or maybe even in a day.

This is how I approach my knitting submissions.

I haven’t yet made a name for myself as a designer, so I knew it was a long shot that my Welligkeit Vest would be accepted by Twist Collective, but I didn’t let my low chance of success deter me from throwing some chips out there and hoping for the best.

The more I play the submitting game, the more acceptances I’ll have, and the more I’ll be saying, “The check’s at the bank.”

*For the Christmas Day poker tournament, which was a couple of days after this story took place, we started with 10 tables of eight players, and I was one of five players at the last table.

†And probably to get attention.

‡I hestitate to say he would win a little money because winning comes from besting another player with skill, not through bravado or bullying. (Also, this would not be considered bluffing because of the way he did it.)

Yarn for The Sweater

If I could afford to always buy 100% merino wool that’s been hand-dyed by Icelandic mermaids using the natural colors of the ocean, I would, but wearing the crown of a yarn snob requires a certain number of zeros in my bank account that I will never see unless the bank makes an error in my favor. (In that case, I would proceed directly to the little yellow crack house in Austin and buy most of the yarn in their front room.)

For now, I buy good yarns on super sale or okay yarns that are a good value.

Cabled sweaters eat yarn like someone else is paying, so I’m knitting The Sweater prototype in Valley Yarns Northampton, a good-value workhorse yarn that comes in skeins of 247 yards and lots of colors.

I used this yarn for my Old Port Pullover by Kristen Tendyke. It’s soft and sturdy, and didn’t change shape during its baptism.

The camera adds 10 lbs, and three cameras are on me.

I’ve mentioned before that I design as I go along, so my process is to knit a prototype to figure things out, write the pattern, then knit the final from the pattern. If it’s a small item, like a hat or fingerless mitts, I can usually knit a prototype and a final version with the final yarn. But that won’t work for a project as big as The Sweater.

I have a lot of skeins of Northampton in my stash, but not enough of one color to knit another sweater, so I had to buy more yarn.

This yarn is a bargain at $5.99/skein, but I rarely pay that much for it. WEBS, the company that supplies Valley Yarns (and pretty much every other commercial yarn on the planet), has a deal-of-the-day that they post on Twitter. I don’t text and I don’t own an iAnything, but I can see public tweets online, and WEBS often makes deals on this yarn line.

I’ve been waiting for-e-ver for Northampton to be WEBS’s deal-of-the-day, and last weekend, it finally went on sale for $4.19/skein.

Why it had to be during the month of July—the month I had to shell out $1K to a shady mechanic and my income was cut almost in half because no fewer than 12 of my there-every-single-class yoga students were gone traveling for most of the month—I don’t know. But if I didn’t buy it then, I would have to pay $14.40 more.

It’s a good thing I did, too. Because a few days later, WEBS tweeted this:

Just because they can, I guess.

I don’t want to have two sweaters exactly the same color, so I chose a different one. Which one of these do you think I ordered?

To Ponder: You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions. |Naguib Mahfouz|

Back to The Sweater

For the past couple of months, the cabled sweater I left off designing has been sitting on the other half of the white loveseat in my office, trying to make eye contact with me. I’ve owned dogs, so I know how to avoid those pleads for attention, lest the dog become excited and insistent. But after a very long intermission that had me swatching and slaving and submitting tee after tank top after vest to knitting magazines, my own eyes had no other place to land.

It feels good to get back to it (in a spiritual “catching up with an interesting friend” sort of way, not a physical “knitting a 100% wool sweater in 100º heat” way).

Red badge of courage.

When I design anything, I take notes as I go, but I also keep a lot of stuff in my head, like decisions I’ve made and the reasons I made them, or decisions I still need to make that I, of course, put off as long as I can. If I go too long without working on something this complex, I lose the plot.

It’s the equivalent of getting halfway through a big novel with lots of characters like The Lord of the Rings* and setting it aside for a couple or three weeks to read a few amateur sleuth mysteries. When you pick it back up again, you don’t remember where you are in the story, so you have to start over from a place that seems familiar, which more often than not is four chapters back, but then you come upon the name Boromir, and is he the brother or the dad, and is Éomer good or bad? Which sends you scanning through earlier chapters for their names.

That’s what happened here, except I’m not sure which cable combination I decided to go with, and there was something having to do with the sleeve decreases that I needed to figure out, and why did I write “I don’t grok that”? Oh yeah, that was a good quote from The Rockford Files.

RIP James Garner.

With as many designs as I’ve worked on over the years, I still haven’t learned the lesson to write down every thought for every design, no matter how insignificant. (Using complete sentences would help, too.)

I actually did that on a project once, and I was so happy I wanted to high-five myself.† I wrote everything down, including notes about design elements I considered and then rejected, and I even explained why I rejected them so I didn’t reconsider them. And I thought, I have lots of paper and many 0.5 pencil leads, so there’s no reason I can’t do this for every design.‡

(I also think that there’s no reason I can’t take my vitamins every day, especially when they’re all meted out in one of those little daily pill keepers, but here we are on Monday, and last week’s Thu/Fri/Sat compartments are not empty.)

Part of the reason I don’t take better notes in the first place is because I’m always sure I’m going to finish one design before I start on another. I believe this even though it never happens. E.V.E.R.

Even when I do take notes, I need a Navajo Code Talker to grok them.

My foolishness optimism can be a good thing, because—and I’m not just saying this—when I come back to something after a long pause, I don’t remember what the issues were, so I just read my knitting and go with what seems right, and everything usually works out.ф

This is not one of the those times.

I well remember what the issues were.

I’ve knit 90% of: both sleeves, the front, and the back, and now it’s time to decide how to do the neck and sleeve caps. Those aren’t much of a challenge in and of themselves, but remember that I’m seriously picky and a) cables must flow into other cables, and b) there is no way I’m allowing the main cable to be chopped off in the middle of a repeat to make way for the neck band, and c) I want to trick out the saddle strip that goes across the shoulder with a repeat of the main cable (although I’m rethinking the saddle shoulder entirely).

After working on The Sweater for a couple of days, I’ve mostly crypted out where I am and where I need to be. And I may have even figured out how to keep the main cable intact to the neckline, but it’s only for the size I’m test knitting. I’ll have to stand on my head to do it for other sizes.

Good thing I do lots of yoga.

*I’ve never read LOTR, but you get the idea. How do I know those character names? Wikipedia, of course.

†Actually, I wanted to high-five Keanu Reeves.

‡It would also talk me down from the momentarily satisfying but long-term imprudent decision to just frog the whole bleetin’ thing and start over.

фJust like if you kept reading LOTR, you’d eventually figure out that Boromir is the older brother and Éomer is good.

To Ponder: There’s no such thing as a creative type. As if creative people can just show up and make stuff up. As if it were that easy. I think people need to be reminded that creativity is a verb, a very time-consuming verb. It’s about taking an idea in your head and transforming that idea into something real. And that’s always going to be a long and difficult process. If you’re doing it right, it’s going to feel a lot like work. |Milton Glaser|

Acceptance: Happy Hat by Little One-Skein Wonders

Yesterday afternoon, after spending the morning listening to different auto mechanics give me convincing but conflicting opinions about the exact same thing, and realizing that the reason my car is vibrating while driving is not even remotely related to the diagnosis another auto shop gave me and charged me $998.16 to fix*, I came home to an email from the editors of 101 Little One-Skein Wonders that my Happy Hat was accepted for publication.




To add to the glory, this is my first acceptance by a book that will be sold in bookstores and, more importantly, on Amazon.

The idea behind these one-skein books is that patterns use only a single skein† or less of yarn, so they’re usually accessories, like hats, scarves, mittens, fingerless mitts, purses, booties, blankies, etc. But the designer gets to choose the skein she uses. Some skeins have less than 50 yards of yarn and some can have more than 450 yards, and you can do lot with that much yarn.

There are several 101 One-Skein books in the series published by Storey Publishing and edited by Judith Durant. The first one has a general mix of patterns and yarns, and then later ones in the series have a specific focus: designer, sock yarn (i.e., fiddley) luxury yarn, (i.e., expensive) and lace. And if anyone is interested, there’s also one for crochet.

(Those are all Ravelry links; click the pic below to see the books on Amazon. )

The company I’ll be keeping.

This Little One-Skein Wonders collection is for babies and toddlers, and their mommies, and while I don’t know anything about any of that, I do know how to make a small hat.

I submitted my pattern way back in February, and they said they would notify everyone by early spring. Seeing as we’re a month into summer in the northern hemisphere, this added a mild shock to the surprise of the acceptance‡.

In the call for submissions, they had asked that you supply an SASE with enough postage to cover the return of your sample if it wasn’t accepted, but I didn’t do that. I told them I didn’t need it returned to me and suggested they donate the hat to a hospital. (Not because I’m altruistic, but because I’m frugal.) Plus, if I decided to self-publish the hat, I would knit it in wool rather than the neon green washable nylon/acrylic blend I used for this submission.

Publications usually email when it’s a yes and return your sample or swatch when it’s a no, so when I first saw the email from them, I figured they made an exception because they, too, were too frugal to spring for return postage.

A taste of Happy.

The best part is that I don’t have to do anything. They wanted you to submit the completed pattern, along with the knitted item for them to photograph, so all the work has been done.

They’re going to get back to me in February with contracts and pattern layout for review.

Let’s hope they photograph it on a baby who is charismatic enough to make the cover.

*You’re welcome, “Christian” Brothers, for my help in earning you another award for profitability from the corporate office. Too bad they don’t issue awards for integrity.

†Yarn also comes in balls and hanks, and those would be acceptable for this collection, but the title One-Ball Wonders can be construed too many other ways and One-Hank Wonders is just silly.

‡There might be one small glitch, however. Remember how I just told you that I combined the stitch pattern for a hat that a book didn’t want with a tank top shape for my proposal to knit.wear? Um, yeah.

p.s. I would have congratulated myself with this, but I need to save up money to get my car fixed properly.

To Ponder: We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself. |Lloyd Alexander|

Submission: Petal Tank to knit.wear

A fairly new magazine called knit.wear put out a call for submissions for their Spring/Summer 2015 issue. This is the sister magazine to Interweave Knits and Knitscene, and while it premiered only three years ago, it acts more like the serious, sophisticated elder sister who’s recently returned from boarding school than the ecstatic baby of the family.

The garments in the first issue struck me as classic and sedate, and just this side of boring. The styling of the items and the starkness of the photos may have contributed to my opinion, but there were a few drapey, shapeless sweaters and more than one asymmetrical cardigan, so I didn’t have many good reasons to subscribe.

Designs for pale, skinny girls.

I kept watching it, hoping that like Verena, it would get better, but I never fell in love with it. I favorited a couple of things in more recent issues, but not enough to justify giving the magazine some shelf space on my magazine bookcase.

Fortunately, feelings and subscriptions are irrelevant when you’re submitting.

I saw this call very close to the deadline and had only the weekend to come up with something, so I combined two rejects: the stitch pattern for a hat that a book didn’t want and the tank top shape I developed for the Adelante Tank. Then I knit up a swatch in some light pink cotton yarn, named it Petal Tank, wrote a proposal for their Ribs & Welts story, then mailed everything to Colorado.

My dislike of cotton yarn has been chomping my hind end lately, and all I had was some ‘I Love this Cotton’ yarn from Hobby Lobby. It’s a nice enough yarn and the swatch looks good, but I’m a little embarrassed to propose it to a national magazine. It’s not a cheap yarn, but it has a cheap reputation (which is not helped by its name).

I’m hoping the editor of knit.wear will be able to ignore the yarn and focus on the design, and then suggest a better yarn when she accepts it.

I think I’m finally done with submissions for a little while and I can get back to designing The Sweater.

To Ponder: Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating. |Simone Weil|

Fulfillment: Holiday Pattern for Knit Picks

I received the yarn from Knit Picks for the holiday thingamabob* they want me to design for them. It’s their 100% acrylic Brava Worsted, and I needed three different colors—white, black, and orange. The white has a subtle iridescent sheen to it and the black is dark, dark, dark, both of them very soft. The orange is kind of strange, though. Rather crispy and squeaky. (Knitters know what I mean, but you non-knitters can imagine the yarn equivalent of a Cheeto.)

Not for the obvious holiday.

I’m a knit-with-wool-or-go-home kind of girl, but this item will be used in such a way that wool is not a good idea†.

I knit the main part of it, then let it sit for a few days while I avoided embroidering certain details that would bring the whole thing to life. My embroidery is about as accomplished as my hand-drawn pictures, which is to say, they belong on a half-blind grandma’s refrigerator. But the deadline‡ for the final pattern was coming up, so I had to do the best I could.

Knit Picks is going to send my pattern to one of their test knitters to work up the sample they’ll use on their website, which is the only reason I submitted something that requires embroidery.

I photographed the embroidered parts, then emailed everything to Knit Picks (a day early, thank you), emphasizing that the photo was only a guide.

The gal who manages the pattern submissions wrote back “he looks great!” I’m pretty sure she’s not a half-blind grandma, so she must be kind-hearted. I wish I had a sister like her.

Anyway, I’m glad that’s over with.

Knit Picks plans to offer these patterns free of charge on their website, and will be releasing them a few at a time starting in September (I think). You’ll hear about it here first.

*The reason I’m referring to this as a thingamabob is because of a television show called Haven. It’s a low-budget, poorly edited, cheesy, lightly sci-fi drama produced by the SyFy Channel that I should despise, but I love (for the first three seasons, anyway). In the As You Were episode in season 1, a lot of main and supporting characters are stranded in a mansion on an island during a thunderstorm (Velveeta, right?), and one of them has been taken over by a “chameleon” that’s offing them one by one, but they don’t know which one because they all look and act like themselves. At one point, all of the characters are in a room sizing each other up, and one says of the main character, Audrey, who had proposed a way to catch this thing, “How do we know she’s not the thingamabob?” Audrey states emphatically, “I am NOT the thingamabob!” That struck me as especially funny during that tense scene, and I started using the word all the time. Now I finally get to use it on my blog.

†Probably the only time I will ever use the phrase, “wool is not a good idea.”

‡A hard deadline is the only reason this master procrastinator gets anything done. That, and my Butt-in-Chair partner, Melinda, which is the subject of another post I’ve been meaning to write.

To Ponder: Many wealthy people are little more than janitors of their possessions. |Frank Lloyd Wright|

Submission: Tee to Knitscene

After Knit Picks rejected the Padre Island Tee I submitted for their Spring 2015 Collection, I revisited my idea to see what else I could do with it.

Sometimes, when I submit only an idea, if I haven’t invested more than a few hours and a little yarn for the swatch, and I’m not crazy about the idea in the first place (which can happen when you’re waltzing to someone else’s fiddle), I’ll let it go. I can’t sleep sometimes for all the design ideas demanding attention, so I don’t feel compelled to see every idea through to the end.

I liked a lot of things about the tee I proposed to Knit Picks—the alternating bands of ribbing and a rather unusual lace, the easy shape, the knit-in-one-piece construction— but I was working within their guidelines and according to their mood board.

Now, without the constraints of “shapeless” and “striped,” I was free to take the idea under my wing and grow it into something new, something more me.

My new version is a solid-colored top that uses the sport weight yarn I reclaimed from another project. And lest you think I magically got better at estimating yarn requirements, here’s how much I had left over:

More like I got lucky.

Around this time, Knitscene put out a call for submissions for their Summer 2015 issue that includes a “geometric” story. From the call:

Bust out your protractor and get angular. Work zig zags, triangles, squares, even rhomboids into the fabric using lace, texture, or colors. Eye-catching but not overbearing.

It just so happens that the lace bands have eye-catching but humble triangle-shaped openwork, so I decided to submit the tee. It doesn’t quite mesh with their mood board, which has a lot of colorwork samples (which I don’t understand for summer garments—colorwork a) is hot because of the double layer of yarn and b) needs the stickiness of wool to look good) but their call does say lace and there is one lace sample.

Plus, as often as not, the final selections that are published in the magazine look loosely like the suggestions on the mood board, so I have a chance.

There wasn’t enough burgundy Knit Picks Shine Sport left over to knit a proper swatch, so I used some blue Knit Picks CotLin DK (from the Adelante tank top). I’m not worried that this isn’t the best yarn for this top (it’s heavy and looks less than beautiful after laundering) because Knitscene will tell me which yarn they want me to use.

I knit a mini-tee, showing the unique construction, and it’s so stinkin’ cute I can’t hardly stand it.

Let’s hope Knitscene feels the same way.

To Ponder: Integrity has no need of rules. |Albert Camus|

Fulfillment: Fingerless Mitts for Knit Picks

After submission and acceptance comes contract fulfillment. Well, actually, free yarn comes after that, and then fulfillment.

I signed and returned the contract for the fingerless mitts, and a week or so later, Knit Picks sent me the Galileo yarn I proposed. The yarn is a 50/50 blend of merino wool and bamboo, but I had never worked with it before, so I wasn’t sure how it would behave with my pattern. (Always a concern.)

I’m happy to say that all such thoughts drifted away as soon as I started working with it.  It’s got a nice hand and a lovely sheen that does a lot of work. I imagine, however, that you would have to be careful with it in certain designs, lest it steal the show (like Troy Garity did in the stylish movie Bandits).

The son of Jane Fonda.

I had proposed the mitts in Abalone, a bright pink color,

Not mother-of-pearl.

but one of the Knit Picks test knitters is going to knit the sample that will appear in the pattern book, so I can work out pattern details in any color I want.

Were this a project where exact fit was critical, I would have requested Abalone because different colors of the same yarn can behave differently (i.e., affect gauge) depending on the dye. Really. Navy blues and blacks are heavier than yellows and pinks, and tweeds are much thinner than their solid-colored brethren.

But exact fit wasn’t an issue, so I chose Gem. It looks teal on screen, but is rather green in the hand.

What I wanted (left) vs what I got.

Not a big deal for this purpose, but it would have been were I designing something that relied on the blue of teal.

Knitting a prototype and writing a pattern, even for something as simple as fingerless mitts with no thumb gusset, takes a lot longer than you think it’s going to, so I got started on it right away. (And by right away, I mean a couple of weeks later—but to a skilled procrastinator, that is right away.)

As I was knitting the first mitt, I kept thinking that it didn’t look right, too open and sloppy, and maybe I needed to go down a needle size. I thought this even though I had already experimented with needle sizes when I swatched multiple times for the submission. But I hadn’t swatched with this particular yarn, so I assumed that was the glitch.

When I finished the mitt, I compared it to my original swatch and realized I hadn’t twisted the stinkin’ knit stitches.

Let’s think about this for a moment.

This is a pattern I designed. I spent 11 hours swatching, after which I finally hit upon the twisted stitch as the one element that nailed the design. (Designers feel like bacon in a moment like that.) I was elated and proud, and considered patting myself on the back with the purchase of a squash blossom necklace. And I even blogged about my accomplishment—on my own blog. It was such an obvious and hard-earned design element that I didn’t have to write it down in my design notes.

And still.

After that smack down, I knit one mitt as intended, taking more notes as I went along (including “knit for Pete’s sake TBL”). I then wrote up the pattern and knit the matching mitt from that, finetuning things here and there.

After I formatted the pattern instructions according to the Knit Picks template, I turned it in—two weeks early—and removed the squash blossom necklace from my shopping cart.

To Ponder: A man ought warily to begin charges which once begun will continue; but in matters that return not, he may be more magnificent. |Francis Bacon|

Pinterest Mashup: Toothpaste

I follow lots of different kinds of pinners on Pinterest. Knitting boards, of course, but also boards for style, design, the comforting images of snow and rain, coffee/tea, modernist architecture, inspirational quotes, The Big Lebowski, and tiny houses.

Every so often, a couple of pins sit close together and editorialize each other.

Today we have some knitting that looks like a tube of toothpaste.