knitwear design

Voilà: Hermosa Tee

Snow and freezing temps are still high on the list of things to think about for most people, but for knitters, it’s time to start thinking about spring and summer projects.

How about my new Hermosa Tee?

Hermosa Tee by Robin Allen | A Texas Girl Knits

©Louet North America

If you care to remember, I’ve had this design knocking on submission doors for quite a while. When so many doors are slammed, it’s easy to get discouraged and think, “It’s not them, it’s me.” And when that happens, I’ll sometimes set aside a design, and I’ll sometimes never pick it back up. Not even to self-publish it.

Hermosa Tee by Robin Allen | A Texas Girl Knits

©Louet North America

But this time, I knew it was them, not me, and I kept submitting one more time.*

Then last year, the yarn company Louet North America opened their door.

And today, the little tee that I never gave up on (er, sorry Winston…on which I never gave up), is one of 12 patterns in Louet’s Spring 2016 Collection.

Hermosa Tee by Robin Allen | A Texas Girl Knits

©Louet North America

The pattern calls for Louet’s Euroflax linen sport weight yarn, but you could use any sport weight yarn in any fiber.


*It’s always them.

To Ponder: Success in any endeavor does not happen by accident. Rather, it’s the result of deliberate decisions, conscious effort, and immense persistence…all directed at specific goals. |-Gary Ryan Blair-|

Designer Crush: Irina Poludnenko

One of my most favoritist designers is Irina Poludnenko. She’s been around the knitwear design world for about 20 years, before the interwebs and Ravelry, so I caught her in Vogue Knitting.

A few years ago I knit* her #07 Slant Rib Pullover from Fall 2002 (which I believe is one of the best issues they’ve ever published).

Rina—which is what I would call her if we toasted each other at the VK Christmas party in NYC—is now an in-house designer for the yarn company Tahki Stacy Charles, and while her designs for them are rather fabulous, she’s been swinging for the bleachers since the beginning.

My love for her is infinite, but I’ve chosen a few stand-outs from her extraordinary body of work.

Diagonal Slit Pullover

She took a mid-century funnel neck pullover and went Jetsons with the ridges and rips. (And is that Joan Severance?)

Cabled Pullover

All. Those. Cables.

Two-Button Jacket

An homage to Pop Art that uses a mosaic(!) technique to create a fitted(!), shawl collar(!) cardigan.

Allover Cabled Cardigan

A deep, deep, deep v-neck cabled pullover with a ribbed hem to hold it all together. (+1 for the magazine’s styling of this design. The belt closes the deal.)

Alyce Cardigan

The upside-down horseshoe cables on the peplum and bell sleeves that flow into waist shaping with XO cables that flow into ribbing that flow into plaited cables on the yoke and fitted sleeves. And the horseshoe placket that easily accommodates the buttons.

Natalie Tank

Unusual construction of a standard tank top that looks like a weatherman’s map of a cold front moving SE from the PNW.

Sundance Cardigan

A Nehru silhouette knit side-to-side with a zipper and semi-circle waist detail that forms a full circle when you sew everything together. It would be a great design without the circles, but that little detail… See? That’s why Rina rocks. And the colors.

Parma Ridge Poncho

A poncho that uses two yarn weights to create texture. And sleeves! My absolute favorite design by her that I’ve never knit for the simple reason that I haven’t ponied up $6 for the pattern.

Ethel Mesh Stripe Pullover

I’ve been working on a similar design that has been submitted and rejected several times because I’m not Irina Poludnenko. Or more probably because—aha—I continued the lace pattern too far into the yoke. Also, mine has a better name than Ethel. (-1 for the magazine styling. Really? A collared shirt?)

Rosslyn Cowl

If you can get past the Shrek colored yarn and obvious lack of blocking, this is a brilliant execution of multiple complex knitting and shaping techniques.

Geghard Cabled Pullover

Cables that look like cousins, and without a heavy reliance on filler stitches.

Victoria Top

First, the colors. And b) elongated entrelac in garter stitch.

A lot of Rina’s designs don’t have many projects on Ravelry, and I think it’s because she’s on an elevated plane. She’s one of those people whose designs you knit because they’re interesting or they’re going to develop your skills, and with the price of yarn these days knitters tend to knit wardrobe staples.

She mostly lets her designs speak for her, but if you’re interested in more about her or are curious about what she looks like when she travels to Europe with her family, you can read a rather serious interview she did in 2012 with another knitter named Robin.


*I didn’t put this project on Ravelry because the armscyes were too tight. My knitting hubris, however, prevented me from trying on the sweater before I blocked the whole thing, and when I finally admitted defeat and tried to unpiece it, I had done such a good job of weaving in my ends** that I couldn’t find the place to start unravelling***.

**Knitting hubris indeed.

***I can’t go Gordian on this because I’m out of yarn and need to tink to save every centimeter of yarn.

To Ponder: Your circumstances aren’t holding you back, your decisions are. |-John Assaraf-|

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-|

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-|

Decision: City Cowl by Knit Picks

A month or so ago, Knit Picks put out call for submissions for accessories patterns for certain of their yarn lines. One of them is one of my favorites—Andean Treasure.

As with my Snowman Draft Stopper, they’re going to offer these patterns for free, hoping, of course, to sell the yarn the pattern calls for.

They don’t pay as much for these free patterns as they do for their regular collections, but they do pay something. And they usually want easy/beginner-type patterns, so designing, knitting, and writing the pattern usually go pretty quickly. In fact, for this design, I just knit the whole thing and sent them a photo of the finished cowl.

I like a lot of things about designing for Knit Picks, especially how quickly they get back to you with a decision—usually within a week, and they stick to that deadline whether it’s an acceptance or a rejection. For this call, submissions were due by November 2nd and they said they would decide by November 7th. That’s five blessed days compared to nine bleepin’ weeks.

Except I didn’t hear anything on Friday. I figured they didn’t want my cowl, but was hoping they were just behind on their emails. Happily, it was the latter.

KNIT PICKS WANTS MY CITY COWL!

 

 

The contract has been signed and returned to them, and my hard-working mailman, Charles, will be delivering two skeins of Andean Treasure in Embers Heather very soon.

I do love a good red.

To Ponder: It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. |Krishnamurti|

Submission: Scarf to Interweave Knits

Last month, two days before the deadline, I submitted a proposal for a scarf to Interweave Knits for their Gifts 2015 issue.

The “Lifelines” story for that issue is described thusly:

“Show us lace in crunchy, wooly, luscious textures and fibers. Oversized scarves and shawls are modern wearables in studio neutrals and heavier gauges. Mix in cables and textured patterns; add edgings and bobbles and I-cord trims.”

The stitch pattern on the tee I submitted to Knit Picks and then to Knitscene is a mix of lace and ribbing, which is close enough.

So I knit up a swatch in the yarn I used for my Irene Adler pillow.

Irene Adler Pillow by A Texas Girl Knits

Red is not a “studio neutral” (or maybe it is; I have no idea what that means), but the American Lamb is a bulky yarn and fits the “oversized” and “heavier gauge” suggestions.

Plus, IK will tell you what yarn and color they want you to use if they accept the pattern, so I don’t think it matters that much. The knitter knits the final version that will be photographed for the magazine, so I think they’re mostly interested in seeing your knitting and finishing skills.

I got into their Gifts 2014 issue with my Voussoir Hat, so please send up prayers that I repeat that success.

To Ponder: As to conforming outwardly and living your own life inwardly, I do not think much of that. |Henry David Thoreau|

p.s. I know that all of these submission posts sound the same, but if any of you are interested in designing (or writing or painting or drawing or any other creative endeavor for which you hope to earn money), know that it’s not all Skittles and check deposits. It’s 99% this kind of unglamorous stuff.

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: Pillow to Knitscene

Every time I knit bulky wool on big needles, my hands hurt for two or three days. And every time my hands hurt for two or three days, I swear I’m never knitting bulky wool on big needles again.

But do you think I listen to myself?

Last week, I mailed my submission to Knitscene for their Accessories 2015 issue.

It’s for a pillow knit in bulky wool on big needles.

Using yarn left over from my Very Blackberry Pullover.

Time heals all wounds, you know.

On another note, I’m starting to list some vintage items for sale in my Etsy shop. I’ve added a Vintage on Etsy page to my blog where you can see them.

To Ponder:  I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes. If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made to fit? If you have any enterprise before you, try it in your old clothes. All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be. Perhaps we should never procure a new suit, however ragged or dirty the old, until we have so conducted, so enterprised or sailed in some way, that we feel like new men in the old, and that to retain it would be like keeping new wine in old bottles. |Henry David Thoreau|

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|