knit design process

Submission: Garter Scarf to Knit Picks

For various and sundry reasons, I haven’t been knitting or designing much lately, but thanks to gentle prompts by my accountability partner I’ve only mostly been neglecting knitting rather than completely neglecting it.

Part of that neglect has been ignoring all the recent calls for submissions, but on Valentine’s Day, I looked at two calls that Knit Picks put out a few weeks ago. One was for items that take less than 200 grams of yarn, the other for garter stitch items.

Since the deadline was the next day and I wasn’t sure I could come up with one idea, never mind two, and since I’m always all about doing the easiest thing and with garter stitch you knit every row, I started knitting every row.

Garter stitch isn’t the most exciting stitch on the books, and it always manages to scream “new knitter,” but it seems like the knitting world is in love with it all of a sudden.

From the call:

“Celebrate it with garments and accessories in weights from fingering to super bulky and a neutral palette with pops of color. Garter stitch is the main point of interest, and clever, engaging construction is a must! Bonus points for unusual shapes or if the project is knit entirely in garter.”

I found a lot of that to be oxymoronic as it applies to garter stitch, but I gave it a shot.

I tried this and that, which is hard to do when you can’t even purl, and nothing was happening for a couple of hours. But then I added a second color and a little bit of magic, and blimey, I had something that looked like checks on one side and stripes on the other. And it had clever, engaging construction and pops of color, and was knit entirely in garter. And it hardly even looked like garter stitch (read: not ugly).

The next day, Monday, deadline day, I knit up a swatch using colors from the call, wrote up the proposal, and sent ‘er in.

Knit Picks doesn’t drag their feet when it comes to decisions so I’ll get a yay or nay on Friday. Send up some prayers for me, yeah?

To Ponder: When the solution is simple, God is answering. |-Albert Einstein-|

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Voilà: Happy Hat

September is a Happy Month around here. First, a cool front blew some Happy Rain into Texas last week and the weather has allowed the wearing of long sleeves. It’s still spiking into the 90s in the afternoon, but the nights, oh the Happy Nights have been dropping into the 60s. I’ve slept with my Happy Window open, which is just about my idea of heaven.

I made some Happy Decisions for my health and future, resulting in the loss of four Happy Pounds. It took eight Bleepin’ Weeks to shed even an ounce, but it’s finally starting to Happ(y)en.

And my Happy Hat has been released!

©Geneve Hoffman Photography

Is that a stinkin’ cute Happy Baby or what?

I have self-published many designs and have been published in several Knit Picks collections, but this is my first design in a proper book.

The gestation period for this Happy Publication was about the same amount of time a baby takes to come into the world.

An elephant baby, that is.

I began working on it almost two years ago. As with most of my designs, I started with a swatch of a stitch pattern that spoke to me the day my eyes fell on it while browsing through one of my German stitch dictionaries. I didn’t know what it was going to be, but a basic pattern like this one would look great on many types of items.

And then I saw the call for submissions from Storey Publishing and knew that it should be on a hat. Around the same time, I was reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and so this design that looks like little smiles all over the place will forever be linked with the Cheshire Cat.

I submitted my design to Storey in February 2014 and they accepted it in July 2014, and now, 14 months on—after signing contracts, reviewing proofs and finding an error in the chart (theirs), conferring with the editor about their conflation of two sizes into one for the final version of the pattern, getting an initial pub date of August 25th then seeing a different pub date of September 8th, and accommodating their requests to get back to them ASAP about everything—the Happy Book is out.

One-Skein Wonders for Babies: 101 Knitting Projects for Infants & Toddlers edited by Judith Durant is 288 pages packed with ensembles, tops and bottoms, dresses, hats, socks and booties, blankets, toys, and other baby things to knit.

I hope my Happy Hat will be one of yours. It’s on page 151.

To Ponder: An amazing thing happens when you get honest with yourself and start doing what you love, what makes you happy. Your life literally slows down. You stop wishing for the weekend. You stop merely looking forward to special events. You begin to live in each moment and you start feeling like a human being. You just ride the wave that is life, with this feeling of contentment and joy. You move fluidly, steadily, calm and grateful. A veil is lifted, and a whole new perspective is born. |-Unknown-|

 

Design WIP: The Stupid Sleeves Again

Okay, so the sleeves aren’t stupid. I’m the one who’s stupid. Okay, not stupid in general, but I’m math stupid.

But if you want to design a cabled sweater that fits, you have to do the maths. And redo them again and again because even though you triple-checked everything the first time, you came up with numbers that created sleeves that were easy to design instead of numbers that would create sleeves that actually fit the armhole until your spreadsheet looks like this:

And you can’t takes your eyes off these numbers for even a second to take a wee color break on Pinterest or to make a cuppa with extra honey because your glucose levels are low from all the brain energy you’ve used plugging the right digits into the right columns and saying a poem’s worth of words that rhyme with knit because if you do look away, all those numbers and formulas and trains of thought flip over to another channel and the only thing left is that big bottle of Crown Royal that you bought on credit in anticipation of Creative Knitting paying you a handsome sum for your Christmas ornament pattern.

So after three* hours, it’s done.

I have new numbers and a new chart and a new attitude. Sort of.

It’s 66 bleepin’ degrees.

In January.

Gah!

This is ridonculous.

Not sweater weather.


*Well, four hours, because I always spend an hour trying to jimmy a fix even though I know—know—that nothing to do with sweater math is easy.

To Ponder: Sometimes the easiest way to solve a problem is to stop participating in the problem. |-Jonathan Mead-|

Submission: Christmas Ornaments to Creative Knitting, and a Kerfuffle

A couple o’ weeks ago, I submitted a proposal to Creative Knitting magazine for their 60+ Christmas Knit Ornaments issue that’s scheduled for publication in August 2015.

That’s not a magazine I normally buy, mostly because I’m never excited enough about a design to give an issue shelf space in my collection.

Although if that were a strict rule, I would cancel my subscription to Vogue Knitting.

These sweaters are so sedate, VK had to shoot them on city streets just to give them life.

But as I’ve said before, I don’t have to love a magazine to design for it. And this special issue sounded interesting (in spite of all the exclamation points in their call for submissions).

There was, however, a kerfuffle in the Ravelry Designers forum about this call because Creative Knitting buys all rights, meaning they own the pattern forever and you won’t get the rights back after a year or two so you can sell it yourself, which is fairly standard in the industry. Some designers also thought that the pay range of $35–$75 per ornament (depending on complexity) was rather low, especially in light of the unfair rights situation.

Oh brother.

First*, even if you did get the rights back, there are so many free and adorable ornament patterns out there, you would have to be the Yarn Harlot or Jared Flood to get any money for yours.

See? Cute and free.

And unless you’re the Yarn Harlot or Jared Flood, you probably wouldn’t be able to charge more than $1.00 for the pattern. And unless you’re the Yarn Harlot or Jared Flood^, you would be lucky to find 35 people to buy it.

So after you deduct all the fees to Ravelry and PayPal, you won’t even have enough money to buy yourself a small bottle of Crown Royal.

Only on the rocks.

One designer commented on the low compensation, and the editor who had posted the call said it’s because ‘on small items, there is less time spent on creating/designing/pattern writing compared to designing a garment, and only one size is required which means grading the pattern (i.e., doing brain-frying maths for all the sizes) isn’t necessary.’

Well, yes and no. It’s true that grading a pattern requires a lot more time and effort, which takes a lot of time and is therefore worth a lot more money, but writing a pattern for a small item is the same amount of trouble whether it’s a hat, a shawl, or a Christmas ornament—especially if the item has shaping or uses multiple colors or needs to be charted, which are all pretty much givens for an ornament—and Creative Knitting probably pays a lot more money for a hat.

Another complaint was about their contract procedures, but this post is getting too long (and possibly boring for my non-knitting readers), so I won’t go into it except to say that it does kind of suck, but Creative Knitting has been publishing 4–5 magazines a year since 2007, so everyone should stop acting like you have to promise your first-born to them.

So, after two weeks of ignoring daily reminders fired at me by my online calendar, I ignored the good opinions of other knitters, and through the magic of editing, turned some rejected lavender sachets into colorful Christmas ornaments and submitted them in the nick of time.

The way I see it, Creative Knitting needs 60+ patterns for this issue, so I have a decent chance of being accepted, made even better by the fact that at least three designers have no intention of submitting their ideas to these lowballing, rights-hoarding, secretive dirtbags who are going to send them free yarn and a check for the full amount; professionally photograph their ornament; and then publish it in an international magazine.

Pretty much the only thing no one complained about is that they don’t let you know if you’ve been rejected. The way it works is that if you don’t hear from them after 45 days, you just assume they don’t want your pattern.

That sucks.


Plus, I like that they’re calling it a Christmas issue rather than a Holiday issue.

*There is no second.

^And if you’re the Yarn Harlot or Jared Flood, you probably didn’t even read this call for submissions (or this blog post).

Knitty’s pay range is $75–$100 per item and your pattern is available to everyone in the world—including those Russian websites that have no respect for intellectual property—for free until the end of time. And I bet most of those complainers have responded to every single one of their calls for submission with nary a whimper about rights or compensation.

To Ponder: If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise. |-Anais Nin-|

Inspired to Knit: Simple Shawls

The other day at the farmer’s market, a woman who came up to my stand was wearing one of my knitted scarves. She had bought it last year and was looking for something similar. “I just love it,” she said. “I wear it all the time.”

When someone gives me a compliment like that, I think I should be knitting more of whatever it is that earned it. I didn’t recognize it, though, because she had it tucked into her jacket. She took it off to show me, and I was surprised for the second time by that little thing.

It was a prototype shawlette I had knit up to propose to Knit Picks for one of their calls for submission. It had an architectural stair-step design in both the pattern stitch:

and the construction:

And I had knit it in KP’s Comfy Fingering, a cotton/acrylic blend, in Blackberry.

Sounds cool, right?

But Knit Picks didn’t think so, and the design eventually became my Fallingwater Scarf.

I do love fringe.

So, getting back to the surprises. Last year was the first time I had a stand at the farmer’s market, and the prototype thing got scooped up with all the fully formed hats, fingerless mitts, and scarves I could affix a pricetag to.

This beloved scarf wasn’t even a finished object as far as I was concerned. The yarn was too drapey for the sharp angles of the construction, and it wasn’t a full-sized anything. I had stopped knitting when I understood the pattern enough to propose it to KP, so it was really just a big swatch.

The first surprise was that someone bought it, and the second was to hear that the buyer loved it so much she wanted another one.

Now, do you think I came home and started knitting one?

Pshaw.

I got a hankering to knit a shawl for myself, even though I never wear them. I also don’t enjoy knitting them because they’re usually made with laceweight or cobweb weight yarn on needles the girth of bicycle spokes, and have intricate lace designs that are easy to mess up. They have their own subset of knitting techniques, like nupps and garter tab cast-on, advise you to “block aggressively,” and have instructions like this:

540 stitches! 11 times!

Granted, not all shawls are lace, and some are knit on reasonably sized needles. Por ejemplo:

Not a yarn-over in sight.

1. Eyre of Romance Jane Shawl by Kay Meadors

2. #13 Ruffled Edge Wrap by Lisa Daehlin

3. Twisted Edge Shawlette by Cayenne DaBell

4. Citron by Hilary Smith Callis, which is what I cast on.

201 stitches on the needles.

To Ponder: Who begins too much accomplishes little. |-German Proverb-|

Pretend Interview with Pam MacKenzie | Part 2

In May, I posted the first part of my pretend interview with Pam MacKenzie who writes the In Stitches knitting column for MyCentralJersey.com. She had interviewed one of my favorite designers, Angela Hahn, and I looked and looked for the second part, but could never find it.

I figured it never happened, but no…Angela’s name was misspelled as Anglea. Oy.

Here’s the original second part of Pam’s interview with Angela Hahn.

And here are my answers to Pam’s (edited to suit me) questions.

Q: Some designers have said that published designs in magazines are often a collaboration between the designer and the magazine editor. Do you find this to be true in your career? If so, can you describe how one of your designs evolved to meet the needs of a magazine editor?

A: I’ve published only two designs in magazines. My Voussoir Hat in Interweave Knits Gifts 2014 and my Paros Hat in Knitscene Winter 2014.

For my Voussoir Hat, IK gave me a choice of three yarns to use, and I picked Valley Yarns Northfield because WEBS promotes the heck out of every pattern that calls for their house yarn by tweeting, blogging, and podcasting. I figured they’d do the same with my pattern, but they haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Voussior Hat by Robin Allen - A Texas Girl Knits

Waiting for WEBS to discover this gem.

For my Paros Hat, Knitscene told me to use Skacel’s HiKoo yarn in 49 Shades of Gray and Kiwi, and I said okay.

Paros Hat by Robin Allen - A Texas Girl Knits

I wanted a hot pink stripe.

Q: You’ve {will} published a few {one} designs in two a books from Tanis Gray. “101 Little One-Skein WondersCozy Knits” {will have} has mittens and a cowl {a hat} from you, and “Knitting Architecture” has a wonderful tote bag from you. What’s it like to design for a book that will include many designers? For example, do the designers communicate with each other or just with the central editor? Are the deadlines longer than the magazines’ deadlines, or are they about the same?

A: My Happy Hat will be published in 101 Little One-Skein Wonders that will come out in early 2015. This will be my first pattern in a book, and so far, it’s exactly like self-publishing. I worked alone in my studio to create the design, write the pattern, and knit the prototype. And now I’m waiting for the money to roll in. I don’t even know the names of the other designers.

Q: Do you have a favorite design of yours? If a publisher told you they would publish any book you wrote/designed, what would you like to design?

A: I love my Ironheart design that I put on a hat and a pullover.

Ironheart by Robin Allen - A Texas Girl Knits

So many color possibilities.

If that publisher was the same one that published my Poppy Markham: Culinary Cop mystery series, I would tell them to jump head first into a frozen Minnesota lake. If it was another, professional publisher with capable editors, honest accountants, and non-diva publicists, I’d like to publish a book of cable designs. However, they would need to give me a deadline for the year 2020 because my first major cabled sweater design is taking forever.

Q: What’s the most fun thing about being a knitwear designer, and what’s the least favorite thing?

A: My ginormous yarn stash, and my ginormous yarn stash.

Q: Do you have children, and is it difficult to balance your knitting and designing with taking care of them? Or do you find that your knitwear career fits in well with the demands of family life?

A: I don’t have kids, but my knitwear career fits in well with having no demands on my time for most hours of the day.

Q: Do you have any advice for knitters who want to break into the professional knitwear design business?

A: I haven’t really broken into it myself, but I just keep designing and submitting and hoping I hit the right note with an editor.

To Ponder: Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. |-Stephen King-|

Submission: Sweater to Knitscene

Last month, I also submitted a sweater proposal to Knitscene for their Fall 2015 issue.

One of the stories is for Style Icons for which they gave this description:

“Look to your favorite style icons for inspiration for wearable, fashionable pieces. Any icon, any era, we’re looking for designs that would feel at home in the closets of these iconic ladies (or men) while being easy and interesting to knit.”

Their Pinterest inspiration board looked like this:

Ah…Grace, Audrey, Jackie, Bridget—women I’ve pinned on my own style inspiration board.

Which one do you think I based my proposal on?

Following an internet rabbit trail, I took the Which Classic Hollywood Actress Are You? quiz. It will come as no surprise to those of you who know me that I’m not perky Audrey or fierce Bridget.

“Remind me to tell you about the time I looked into the heart of an artichoke.”

Bette was also a knitter.

To Ponder: As you move toward a dream, the dream moves toward you. |Julia Cameron|

If I Had a Hammer

If I had a hammer, I’d arrange all of my illusions about designing the perfect cabled sweater in a circle and smash them one by one.

Let’s take them in order of size.

1. Flow an interesting ribbing into the main design. I actually accomplished that, but there’s a new problem: the cables at the neck don’t flow into the ribbing. Or rather, they could if I worked hard enough, but this design has been on my needles since March—and on my nerves since July—and I simply don’t have it in me. So all the fiddling and charting I’ve already done to make sure this works for all sizes matters not.

It’s breaking my heart to let this go.

Therefore, K2, p2 ribbing is as interesting as it’s going to get.

2. Use a combination of raglan sleeves and saddle shoulder strips to create a feminine silhouette. I did that too, but when I tried to explain it in writing, my brain started to sizzle. And when I thought about doing it for all sizes, there was a cerebral meltdown that I’m still not fully recovered from. So all the ripping and knitting I did to change the sleeve to a raglan matters not.

Therefore, I’m following the lead of Irish knitters everywhere and going with a drop sleeve.

3. Keep the center cable fully intact at the neckline. In other words, knit a full repeat of the cable rather than cutting it off any ol’ where when it’s time to start binding off for the neck. I made it work for the prototype, but the cable has 36 rows, which is incompatible with a full repeat for all the normal sizes of a sweater. What’s even worse is that I knew this would be a problem going in, but I Scarlett O’Haraed the issue, and now Tara is burning.

But lookie here:

These cables look just fine.

The doyenne of crazy complex cable design, Alice Starmore, isn’t bothered by it, so neither will I be.

4. Publish this pattern by the start of the fall/winter knitting planning season, which is around August or September. (Apparently, knitters who don’t live in south Texas experience the type of weather during those months that turns their thoughts to warmth.) This required that a) my design was perfect from the start, and b) I enjoy having what amounts to a wool blanket in my lap while the daily high temperature could dehydrate a watermelon into a fruit rollup in about 11 hours.

Two negatives do not make a positive, and since there’s no such thing as a C-section when birthing a sweater, it will come out when it’s ready.

On the bright side:

  • After writing this post, I’m getting ideas about how I might could rescue two of my illusions from the hammer. (Not #4; it’s October. Plus, if I could go back in time, I can think of other more urgent and profitable things to do.)
  • I made up all these rules for my sweater, so I can change them.
  • Now I know why Irish knitters and influential designers don’t do anything edgy with these types of cabled sweater.

To Ponder: All things are difficult before they are easy.* |Italian Proverb|

*Especially when the difficulties are self-inflicted.

Submission: Kerchief to Interweave Knits

I dashed off another submission this week. This one to Interweave Knits for their Summer 2015 issue.

Magazines published by Interweave Press (Interweave Knits, Knitscene, knit.wear) use the same old-school submission form. You print it out, then hand write your proposal, including any schematics or sketches. Sounds easy enough, right? But look at how much room you have to tell them everything they need to know.

I’m getting good at writing small.

There’s space for four proposed items on the sheet, so you have to be concise. I’ve learned to type out everything first, then copy the info to the form. Still, I usually write all the way across the page, trespassing into one of the other proposal blocks.

It’s hard to describe this item I’m submitting. It’s part kerchief and part something else, so I knit up a mini version of what I’m proposing to help them envision and fall in love with it. I did more work on this swatch than I normally do, and I’m glad I did. I was able to work out some decrease issues that would have baffled me in a few weeks if the editor accepts it.

A couple of weeks ago, I thought of a good name for it, but it happened in the middle of the night. Whether I dreamt it or I came up with it during one of the squillion times I wake up to my mind skimming across the lake of my life, the name was perfect. I don’t, however, recall what it was.

It had something to do with Greek mythology and started with a C, but now, in the bright light of a late summer day, I can think of only two names.

One is Cassandra, who was fated by Apollo to prophesy the truth but no one would believe her (and was also the name of a character in later seasons of the X-Files who suffered the same fate), but even if I were dreaming, I wouldn’t have thought Cassandra was the perfect name for a kerchief.

The second is Cassiopeia, but I wouldn’t inflict five syllables on any knitter.

The constellation.

I even keep a pencil and paper on my nightstand to write down these brilliant nighttime cerebrations, but never pick them up because I always believe my ideas to be so sterling, there’s no chance I’ll forget them.

So, I did what I usually do, which is turn to the thesaurus. I quickly came up with Kermis Kerchief (I do adore alliteration), then packaged up the proposal and popped it over to the post office.

And, dang it, I didn’t take a picture of it. The design was rather involved, so I know I’m going to be sorry—unless I knit another one right away. Do you think I will?

I should hear yay or nay from Interweave Knits in a month or so. Please send up prayers and good thoughts that it’s a yay, okay?

To Ponder: A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. |Winston Churchill|

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|