Rejection: Tee by Knitscene

Saturday’s mail brought my Padre Island Tee swatch in an envelope from Knitscene.

I’ve had more rejections than acceptances in recent months, so it would be easy to get discouraged, but I know that the competition for these national magazines is intense, and my chances of shining brighter than the well-known designers who are regularly published are practically nil to begin with.

Sometimes I could take or leave some of my designs, but this tee is a good one, so I’m going to keep it in my pocket.

I don’t have pictures of my design, so let’s enjoy this drive-in movie screen my paranoid neighbor erected between our houses.

She’s afraid of my nefarious activities concealed by the backboard.

On the bright side:

  • I can submit the tee for another spring/summer call for submissions.
  • I can knit it in wool and give it long sleeves and turn it into a fall/winter design.
  • I can get a job at the new grocery store coming to town and not worry about any of this ever again.

To Ponder: Paranoia is just another word for ignorance. |Hunter S. Thompson|

A Gift of Yarn and Magazines Part 1: The Magazines

A couple of weeks ago, during my Saturday afternoon volunteer shift at the library, I was able to get in one or two rows of knitting. I can usually knit quite a bit on those shifts because we’re not busy and because I work with a partner who loves to shelve books. But summers in Texas are indistinguishable from the molten core of a volcano and the library is air conditioned, which means more patrons and more checkouts. I can’t remember when I had time to even take my knitting project out of my bag.

But that day, I was knitting when a woman came to the circulation desk to check out books. She said, “Oh, I used to knit, but I don’t any more. And no one in my family knits.”

Bummer, I thought, as I scanned the barcodes on her books.

“I have a bunch of yarn,” she said. “Do you want it?”

My first thought, was OF COURSE I WANT FREE YARN. But then I asked the critical question as non-snobbily as I could: “Is it wool?”

She said it was, and that some of it was cashmere from Italy that she bought without having any plans for. “You know how you go to a yarn store and just pick stuff off the shelves.”

I nodded, thinking, I don’t pick cashmere off the shelves.

I wrote my name on her book receipt and she said she would drop the yarn at the library for me.

Around 10:00 AM on Monday, I got a call from one of the morning shift volunteers.

I was there in 15 minutes.*

When I walked in, Jackie, who had called, smiled at me from behind the circulation desk. Take. me. to. the. yarn. NOW, I started to say, but remembered my manners and first thanked her for letting me know it was there. She held up a stitch dictionary she had been browsing through and assured me that she was just looking at it. “I like to cro—”

“There are books, too?” I asked.

“—chet,” she finished, then nodded.

Manners shmanners. “Where?”

Jackie led me to a two-shelf book cart in the back room near the kitchen. On the top shelf were four dusty file-size clear tubs stuffed with crack yarn.

Treasure chests.

Jackie watched as I opened each tub full of vintage yarn—Unger, Bernat, Del Avo, Indiecita, Lane Borgosesia, Katia, Brunswick—careful not to let any of the skeins leave my sight. I felt like a prisoner guarding my breakfast in the mess hall, ready to defend my haul against Jackie or some other crafting bully who wandered by and thought the yarn was just another donation, there for the taking.

On the second shelf of the book cart was what looked like a foot-tall stack of books and magazines, also vintage, and mostly from the 80s.

In reality, only about 7″ high.

What a collection!

Stitch dictionaries.

Booklets.

Pingouin and Phildar magazines.

Vogue Knitting magazines.

As with some books that came into my possession, these Vogue Knitting covers were so familiar to me, I thought I already owned most of them.† I didn’t, though, and they’ve filled in a lot of gaps in my collection.

Unfortunately, my knitting donor is a smoker. As soon as I can get the smell out of the yarn, I’ll do a post on what’s in the tubs.

Coffee grounds seem to be working to absorb the smell.


*There are other knitters at the library, including the director, whom I’m almost positive would not have exerted eminent domain over my yarn, but I wanted to get it out of their way as soon as I could.

†I did own them at one time, but they had been donated to Goodwill by a dumb college girl who had no idea what she wanted to do with her life, but was sure she would never knit again.

Voilà: Voussoir Hat

Interweave Knits just released their Gifts 2014 issue.

My Voussior Hat is in it!

Voussior Hat1 by Robin Allen - A Texas Girl Knits

I made this.

Voussior Hat2 by Robin Allen - A Texas Girl Knits

She looks like Pippa Middleton, no?

Apparently, the release happened last Friday (8/15), but I didn’t know about it until Sunday afternoon when this Google Alert popped up.

At first I was confused about how anyone knew about my hat when it’s supposed to be top secret until publication, but I clicked the link, and blimey, there she was on Ravelry—and favorited 40 times already!

Among my company in this issue are such influential designers as Veronik Avery, Annie Modesitt, Angela Hahn, and Cathy Carron.

This publication in an international magazine is an answered prayer, and I’m praying for more.

Voussoir Hat by Robin Allen | A Texas Girl Knits

In designing this hat, I was inspired by medieval cathedrals. A voussoir is a wedge-shaped stone used in building a vault or an arch. This hat fulfills my love of symmetry and my desire to create complex-looking designs with simple stitch repeats.

The close-fitting Voussoir Hat uses a combination of knits, purls, and twisted stitches to create a design that looks much more complex than it is.

Finished Size: 19 1/2″ circumference (unstretched) and 7 1/4″ long.

Yarn: Valley Yarns Northfield (70% merino,20% baby alpaca, 10% silk; 124 yd 113 m/1 3/4 oz 50 g): #18 pine green, 2 skeins.

Needles: Size 3 (3.25 mm): 16″ circular (cir) and set of double-pointed (dpn). Adjust needle size if necessary to obtain the correct gauge.

Notions: Markers (m); tapestry needle.

Gauge: 26 sts and 32 rnds = 4″ in charted patt.

Skills: Knitting, knitting through the back loop, purling, decreasing, working in the round, researching techniques you’re unfamiliar with.

Voussior Hat3 by Robin Allen - A Texas Girl Knits

To Ponder: True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new. |Antoine de Saint-Exupery|

Somebody Get Guinness on the Line

The other day, after mostly finishing all the pieces of The Sweater, I laid everything out to see how the sleeves would work with the body, and…they don’t. Not even a little bit.*

I messed up so spectacularly, I set a record that Guinness should know about.

At first I didn’t believe it, so I spent about half an hour trying to figure out how it couldn’t be wrong. That didn’t work, so I tried to figure out how to minimize the damage, hoping I could maybe just redo the sleeve caps, but I can’t because it’s that completely bleeped up.

So after about another half hour of looking at my options, I finally came to terms with the fact that I have to rip hours of work and redo all four pieces from the underarm up. For my non-knitting friends, on the body of a sweater, that area is called the yoke; on a sleeve, it’s called the sleeve cap. Combined, that represents about one-third of the sweater.†

The only way I can salvage the work I’ve done is to knit raglan sleeves, but even that won’t save it completely. From the very start of this design, as I chose the cables and their placement, I was working toward a particular type of sleeve, which means that raglan sleeves will cut into a couple of cables in a way I hadn’t intended or planned for.

Explaining, in writing, how I arrived at this point would give me carpal tunnel syndrome, so you’ll have to imagine your own worst screw up.

And then triple it.

On the bright side:

  • I wanted raglan sleeves in the first place.
  • Redesigning should be easy.
  • Guinness doesn’t have a category for knitwear design flubs.

*You might be wondering why I waited until all four pieces were done before I tested my design. I’m wondering the same thing.

†Remember that this is a heavily cabled sweater, so one-third of the sweater is equivalent to three-fourths of my sanity.

p.s. There are no photos in this post because I’m hoping lots of readers will skip it, thereby minimizing the number of people who think less of me.

To Ponder: Ideas must be put to the test. That’s why we make things, otherwise they would be no more than ideas. There is often a huge difference between an idea and its realization. |Andy Goldsworthy|

The Everlasting Story

I started designing this cowl a year ago, almost to the day that it was published. As happens with a lot of my designs, I had seen a stitch pattern in a dictionary (one of Barbara Walker’s Treasuries) and swatched it up, not knowing what I would do with it.

Cotton beginnings.

The instructions for Barbara Walker’s stitch patterns are always for flat knitting, and I spent many hours trying to convert the pattern to be knit in the round. Some people will tell you that it’s easy—just drop any selvedge or extra stitches (those “plus X” numbers in the stitch count multiples), and reverse the stitches from wrong-side rows on even-numbered rounds.

Those people are wrong. It’s not always that easy. And it’s especially not that easy when you’re designing something that has sides to it, like a sweater, and you want the pattern to be centered properly. (This cowl doesn’t have sides, but the “easy” conversion didn’t work. If I had taken better notes, I could tell you why I had so much trouble, but I didn’t so I can’t. I think it had something to do, in part, with not starting or ending a round with a yarn over.)

I had originally proposed the cowl to Knit Picks in white wool yarn and named it Slalom Cowl because the stitch pattern reminded me of ski tracks on a mountain of snow. But when Knit Picks accepted the pattern, they wrote:

“We had so many to choose from we have opted to do two collections and we would be delighted to include your pattern (Slalom Cowl) as part of the second collection – it will have a different color scheme than the one you saw originally.”

The new color scheme didn’t include white, so I chose a dark pink color. And since we’re not living in Candyland, the name no longer made sense.

I usually take my time naming my designs, but I felt like I had to hurry to choose a new one and quickly came up with Everlasting Cowl.

Because Knit Picks uses test knitters to knit the items for the collections they publish, they let designers choose any color with which to knit their own version. I had proposed the cowl in their Stroll Sock Yarn and requested one of my favorite colors: Firecracker Heather.

My Everlasting Cowl, showing details like a boss.

To quote myself, “I should know by now that Knit Picks almost never publishes garments in exciting colors. The mix of beige, cream, and grey represented by the color putty is what they prefer.”

This time, they knit the sample in Stroll Glimmer Yarn in Kestrel, a dark gray color flecked with blingy bits of silver.

1) The color I love. 2) The color I chose from the available ones. 3) The color Knit Picks chose for the final.

Don’t get me wrong. I love dark and neutral colors, as evidenced by my stash.

Yes, we all know I love brown.

But stitch patterns knit at small gauges show better in lighter, brighter colors. If the knitter who buys the pattern wants to knit her item in black, she can, but she won’t be able to see the design if the designer does, and she probably won’t buy the pattern if she can’t see how it’s going to turn out (mystery KALs aside).

And the strange thing is that mine is the only pattern in the entire published collection that’s not knit in a light, bright color.

KP breaks with their putty tradition.

I do, however, really like the cowl in dark gray, and am thrilled to be part of this collection in any color.

Also, my baby made the back cover of the printed booklet.

!

To Ponder: To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness. |Bertrand Russell|

Counting My Blessings | August 2014

The Lord has blessed me in so many ways—a car to take me places and a house to come home to, central air conditioning, hot water for showers, more clothes than I’ll ever wear, more yarn than I’ll ever knit, a healthy mind and body, a lifestyle that allows me to design knitwear while providing enough money to pay my bills—but none more precious than the sweet people in my life.

1. My friend Angie sent an email that she had something for me. She had already given me two jars of honey from her bees and lots of clothes she no longer wanted, so I had fun imagining what it was. She’s a knitter, so maybe some yarn? She’s also a gardener, so maybe some veggies? And she raises chickens, but I knew she wouldn’t have eggs for me.

It was something even better. I am now making my morning tea in the Poppy Fields Tea Forte tea brewing thing I mentioned in a p.s. in my post about my acceptance by 101 Little One-Skein Wonders.

I love this so much.

2. Once a week, I work a volunteer shift at my library and lately I’ve been working extra hours on cataloging Spanish books for my librarian friend, Angela. I love working with data and doing research, and while Angela thinks she’s doing me a favor, I know it’s the other way around.

3. A woman brings fresh figs to the library to sell to employees and volunteers. She charges only $2 for a bag of about 20 figs, and I buy four bags at a time, if they’re available. Angela has started to buy up all the bags only to give most of them to me as thanks for my help.

4. My house lightly flooded in October 2013 and again in May 2014. (Yes, it rains in Texas.) I told my accountability partner Melinda, whom I’ve emailed every weekday for a couple of years, but met in person only three times. She told her husband—a water flow engineer!—of my troubles, and he came out to my house to assess the situation and gave me advice on how to stop rainwater from pooling behind my house.

The next day, Melinda offered her and Gary’s help with the project. It’s always hard for me to accept help, but I did, and after they went to Home Depot to buy supplies, they both gave up a Saturday on Father’s Day weekend to labor for seven hours digging trenches, cleaning out gutters (a huge deal because I have a fear of heights), laying paving stones at the proper slope (using professional engineering survey equipment that Gary borrowed from his work), and pouring a concrete berm.

A little pool of concrete at the end of the berm was begging for a face, so I grabbed some rocks and…

Say hello to my little friend.

I still can’t believe they did that for me and thanked them so many times that Melinda finally told me to stop it already.

5. My yoga student and friend Kate seems to have read every obscure book I’ve been reading recently and we have great conversations about them before class.

6. My yoga student and friend Q, she of the hat for a trip to Iceland, declared a gift of two skeins of Lettlopi yarn at customs upon her return to the US.

All the way from Iceland.

7. I discovered pickleball at my local rec center. It’s normally $2 to play, but the director of the center lets me play for free because I teach a yoga class there. All the players who have been playing forever are so sweetly patient with my newbieness.

8. My BFF Tina, who has three kids and a demanding career, always makes time to listen to me gush about pickleball.

9. My passion flower vine (a gift from Angie) surprises me once in a while with these blooms.

The botanical equivalent of a sand dollar.

How have you been blessed lately?

To Ponder: An unhurried sense of time is in itself a form of wealth. |Bonnie Friedman|

Submission: Thing to Knitty

Sunday morning I dressed in a long-sleeved denim shirt, skirt, knee-high boots, and a wool cap, and went into my back yard for a photo shoot.

All this for a submission to Knitty for their Winter 2014 issue. It’s the same hybrid design I submitted to Brooklyn Tweed that was rejected a few months ago.

I have a hard-earned black belt in procrastination, but a coolish summer morning in south Texas has a short shelf life, so I had to get it done or suffer 100 consequences.

All month.

Knitty’s deadline for submissions isn’t until September 1st, but my M.O. has been to wait until the last day to submit. (Surprised? Didn’t think so.) But this time I figured I would get my submission in early in case Knitty makes decisions early, and anything that comes in close to the deadline had better be pretty stinkin’ spectacular to change their minds.

About as happy as I look to be draped in wool in August.

I’m 0 for 6 with submissions to Knitty, so please send up good thoughts and prayers that this one is accepted.

I hope.

To Ponder: The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease. |Voltaire|

 

Voilà: Everlasting Cowl

Today, Knit Picks released their Sock Yarn Scarves pattern collection. These are scarves and other neckwarmers made from sock weight yarn, also called fingering weight yarn.

This collection includes my Everlasting Cowl pattern.

I didn’t know this until I saw the booklet, but mine is one of only seven designs.

I feel like part of an exclusive club.

Submission, acceptance, and fulfillment for this cowl happened last year, before I started blogging, but I’ll tell you all about it in an upcoming post.

For now, let’s enjoy these professional photos that Knit Picks provided.

My cowl didn’t make the cover, but it’s the featured design for the collection on the Knit Picks website scrolling marquee. (!)

Better than the cover.

Everlasting Cowl by Robin Allen | A Texas Girl Knits

This combination of a traditional lace pattern with sockweight yarn makes a warm, feminine, lightweight, wearable cowl that won’t take up much room in your coat pocket.

It’s knit seamlessly in the round with no shaping and minimal finishing, so it’s a quick knit for accomplished lace knitters and an easy project for beginners.

Features:

  • Worked seamlessly in the round
  • No shaping
  • Reversible
  • Written and charted instructions
  • Can be knit in any sock or fingering weight yarn

Finished Measurements: 8″ (20 cm) high; 25″ (63.5 cm) circumference.

Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Glimmer Yarn (70% Fine Superwash Merino Wool, 25% Nylon, 5% Stellina; 231 yards/50g): Kestrel 26085, 1 skein.

Needles: US 3 (3.25mm) 24″ or shorter circular needle, or size to obtain gauge.

Notions: Yarn needle, stitch markers.

Gauge: 22 sts and 32 rows = 4″ in Everlasting Lace pattern, blocked and relaxed. (Gauge for this project is approximate.)

Skills: Knitting, purling, decreasing in purl, increasing with yarn overs, working in the round, researching techniques you’re unfamiliar with.

To Ponder: Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid. |Mark Twain|

The Color of Aran

Aran sweaters of the type I’m designing are traditionally knit in natural, cream-colored wool.

Each type of stitch on a traditional Aran sweater is said to have a particular meaning, which symbolizes the life or clan of the person for whom it is knit. For example, cables represent fishermen’s ropes; diamonds represent small fields, and symbolize wealth; honeycombs represent hard work; etc.

Purists believe that cream is the only color they should come in, and while I’m a purist about a lot of things, this is something I care not about. Partly because it’s hard for me not to think of the 1970s when I see a cream cabled sweater, partly because I intensely dislike most of those types of cables, and partly because I chose the stitch patterns for my sweater just because I think they look cool.

Also, in this second decade of the 21st century, anything goes.

Even the Aran Sweater Market located on the Aran Island of Inis Mór sells authentic Aran sweaters in colors other than cream.

I’m knitting my prototype sweater in Valley Yarns Northampton in the Golden Heather colorway, but I ordered a different color for the final version.

It doesn’t look like mud in person.

So, which of these colors did I choose?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reason for this color will be revealed in the fullness of time.

To Ponder: The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. |William James|

 

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 could read him 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 grating, derisive tone of 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.)