As always, the pattern is available on Ravelry, and through the link to my pattern gallery and shop on the left.
I just launched my latest sock pattern. It's a stranded colourwork sock with a penguin design on it, which is where the name comes from. I've always been a fan of penguins. OK, they smell, but they're also cute and very entertaining. One of the highlights of a trip to South Africa in 2003 was a trip to Boulders Beach near Cape Town where African penguins nest. You can even swim from adjacent beaches and I was lucky enough to have a pair of penguins swimming very close by. So, it had been in my mind for a while to design a pair of colourwork socks with a penguin motif. I'd sketched a few possible designs and decided to swatch one to see if it "worked" in knitted form. I showed the swatch to my children to see if they could recognise the motif without being told what it was - a test of the success of the design. Instantly my two-year-old cried out "Look, Mummy! Wengwings!" I knew I had my penguin design, and I had a name for the pattern too.
As always, the pattern is available on Ravelry, and through the link to my pattern gallery and shop on the left.
This weekend I didn't get done half as much knitting as I would have liked. It has been the Weekend of the Flat Pack. Yes, so much self-assembly furniture as to justify the capitalisation! Let me explain.
My older son is nearly six and, since he was 2 years old, he has been sleeping in this bed.
Yes, that is a toddler bed. Yes, it is about 4.5 feet long by about 2.5 feet wide. Yes, I said he's almost six. Really, he's long overdue for a "big boy bed".
His bedroom was desperately in need of remodelling and part of the redecoration was to include the dismantling of a very rickety built-in wardrobe which represented the entire storage facility in that room. We decided to go for bed-and-storage together and get him a mid-sleeper. Not as high as a bunk bed but with plenty of room for cupboard space underneath.
It was delivered in six boxes, two containing the bed itself, one with a desk in it, one with a cube storage unit, yet another containing the storage unit doors and the last with a small shelf that acts as a bedside table.
Now I'm usually pretty good at flat-pack. I can put up a cupboard or a chest of drawers pretty quickly and without fuss, and usually without bits left over, which is always promising. Because of the sheer size of this thing, I roped in my Dad, who is a DIY expert.
We did run into a few obstacles. One of the pieces was supposed to contain two sizes of screws, both the same length, and only half a millimetre apart in width. To the naked eye they all looked the same. In what I thought was an inspired move, I put them through my knitting needle gauge! If it can tell me which is a 4.5mm needle and which a 5mm, it could do the same with screws! Unfortunately, all that proved was that I had 16 identical 4.5mm screws instead of half and half. Oh well, they would just have to do!
After about six hours of sorting End Panel 1 from Side Panel 2, trying to tighten screws with alan keys in spaces that only allowed less than a quarter of a turn at a time (tedious!), and giggling every time the instructions directed me to use an 'eccentric screw C' (no idea why they were deemed eccentric!), it is almost finished.
Yes, it looks done, but I did say "almost" for a reason. The bed itself is finished, the cube storage unit is finished (despite Dad managing to put the door on before he put the handle on and then we had to tip the thing up to be able to open the door again!), and the desk is finished. That's quite clever. It pulls out, so he can slide it out to use it, and then it slides back under the bed again out of the way.
No, the only bit not ready yet is the shelf. Those who were paying close attention might remember I mentioned a shelf that acts as a bedside table. Unfortunately, I'm missing a part for that. Well, missing a replacement part. It's quite a basic shelf, a flat surface and two end pieces, but the end pieces are shaped so they need to be the right way around. Sadly, when I came to screw it all together I've got a flat surface and two left-hand ends! I can't finish it as the screw holes have been drilled into the same sides and to try to correct it myself would damage it, so I'm waiting on a replacement coming by post.
In the meantime, I'm going to hang up my screwdriver and my alan key, and get my knitting needles out again! I have a sweater that's been calling my name all weekend and it's about time I paid it some attention.
Exploring new avenues
Up to now, my patterns have primarily been available through Ravelry. I'm sure that will be my main publishing site, for the foreseeable future anyway, but I'm starting to branch out into new selling platforms. I already have my patterns listed on Loveknitting.com mainly because of the VATmess rescue they set up with Ravelry (that's a whole story in itself!).
Allow me to also now introduce my Etsy shop!! It's still early days, and I have patterns I have yet to load up on there, but my plan is for all my patterns to be on there eventually. Incredibly there are knitters who haven't heard of Ravelry and I thought I would experiment with trying to find some different eyes to look at my work.
Thank you for the chance to write
So the prompt for the final Love Your Blog challenge post was Gratitude. The previous prompts were not easy to write about but this has definitely been the hardest and I have thought long and deeply about this subject.
I first found it difficult to know what angle to approach this from because being grateful and giving thanks is so often thought of in a religious context, and I have no religion. If one is not giving thanks to a higher being or some other similar outside influence, it can be hard to explain who or what one is thankful to for the things that one is thankful for.
Sometimes it's obvious to whom one is thankful.
There are small things - for example, today I received a gift of knitting notions, and of course I thanked the gift-giver for her thoughtful and generous present, chosen for me and sent halfway around the world.
There are the bigger things - I am grateful to my parents for raising me as they did, for giving me the opportunities that they have, and for encouraging me in whatever pursuits I chose to take up. I am grateful to my husband for choosing to share his life with me and for the team that our marriage makes us.
There are times when the one who receives our gratitude is unknown, or anonymous, or even a stranger. I will be forever grateful to the surgeon who saved my life when I had life-threatening complications after the birth of my older son. I did meet him, once, the following day. To him I was probably just another patient, another case dragging him out of his bed in the middle of the night, a body on an operating table, and I don't expect to be any more, but I am very glad he did what he did that night. Even more anonymous will be the debt of gratitude I owe to the ten people whose donations of blood were used. I used to give blood myself - the transfusions mean I'm no longer allowed to - and it wasn't something I really thought much about from the donor point of view, but as a recipient, strangers really are one reason I'm still here today.
Then there are the things we can be grateful for that we can't control. Those are the things that a religious person might attribute to faith or prayer.
Again small things - a sunny day for an outdoor celebration, not too much traffic when you're running late and in a hurry, having just enough jam left in the jar for that morning's toast, and bigger things - being born in a country with freedom and democracy, into a family with the means and will to take proper care of me, having the right to a good education to enable me to find a good job and take advantage of all the benefits that go along with gainful employment, having met a good husband and being able to have two beautiful children.
When you don't have a religious target for your gratitude, all you can do is call it luck. Coincidence. Being in the right place at the right time. There's not much point expressing gratitude to that because it didn't choose to help you in the first place. Luck isn't personal, it isn't something you've earned or worked for. The nastiest people can also be very lucky; the kindest and most deserving are sometimes the ones that everything bad seems to fall upon. All you can do is take the chances you get, make the best of what does happen to come your way, and be glad when good luck does befall you, even if there's no one to be grateful to specifically.
Knitting for charity
Different days require different knitting. Some days I want something to get my mind working and to hold my concentration; other days all I want is mindless garter stitch. Today is a mindless garter stitch day. I had an early start, a hectic morning at work, and then an afternoon with the kids, and anyone who says two small boys are relaxing companions is either used to working in the orang-utan house at the zoo or just plain lying!!
When I need something to just make for the satisfaction of getting a finished object off my needles I have two "go-to" projects - dishcloths and charity squares. I reckon I have enough dishcloths for the time being so this evening I will be knitting charity squares.
There are lots of charities that need knitted goods. Some want hats for premature babies. Plenty of animal charities welcome blankets or coats for dogs, cats, even horses. Some food banks and homeless shelters accept knitted goods. Even non-knitters are likely to be familiar with the Innocent smoothie knitted hats for Age UK after seeing bottles wearing miniature knitted creations in the supermarket.
Personally I like to knit for Knit-A-Square. This charity asks for 8" squares to be made into blankets for AIDS orphans in South Africa. You don't need to make the blankets - the charity does that - all they ask for is squares, as few or as many as you can manage. The more eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that there are crocheted squares in the photo as well. Crochet is fine too, as long as it's not too holey because they don't want to let too many draughts through. They also ask for basic garments, hats, vests, simple sweaters, and hand warmers (like fingerless mitts) and patterns can be found on their website that are suitable even for beginners.
One reason why I choose to support this charity is that it doesn't try to provide something that other organisations are already working towards, such as housing, food or healthcare. They are aiming to provide something more human than that - a cuddle in knitted form. We often think of South Africa as a hot country, but it has its winter too, and it gets cold at night, and a child without shelter is vulnerable. A warm blanket, a hat and a woolly vest and sweater gives a child a much better chance in the cold, and hopefully it lets them know someone somewhere cares about them too. Supporting this charity is something I can do to benefit myself - I can use up stash oddments, clear room for more yarn for me, and rest my brain while still knitting - while benefitting children on the other side of the world with a simple square or two that costs me little to nothing but for some time.
Surface mail postage to South Africa is surprisingly good value, and I usually pop in some crayons or coloured pencils, children's underwear (new but removed from its packaging so it is effectively "used" for customs/import purposes), simple knitted hand puppets or toys to go along with my squares and garments.
If you're looking for a charity to knit for, especially if stash busting is your goal or you want a group project for a knitting group, do consider Knit-a-square. They have a Ravelry group here too.
The good, the bad and the ugly
If I had thought last week's APlayfulDay blog challenge prompt was a tricky one, this week's one was worse. The word for this week is "ugly".
What on earth could I write on what is primarily a knitting blog about Ugly. On the whole I tend not to knit ugly things. I design things I want to wear or own myself, and I'm not going to design things I dislike from the start. Similarly, if I'm knitting someone else's pattern, I'm not going to choose something I don't like. Yarn is expensive, and my time is valuable to me, so if something doesn't appeal visually I'm not going to waste hours or cash on knitting it.
Then that got me around to thinking about knitting other people's patterns, and about a subject that comes up quite a lot on designer chat forums which could be described as the ugly side of pattern design. It's about copyright theft, people sharing (or worse, selling) patterns that they don't have the right to share. This post is probably going to be more serious than most, but it's something that makes me (and a lot of other designers) cross and it's hard to know what to do about it, short of putting some information out there and letting the reader make up their own mind on what to do to act in the legally and morally correct way.
Before I go any further, I'm not a lawyer, but I have read some reputable and reliable websites about this, to which I'll provide links as references as I go if you want to read more. Since I live in the UK I am subject to British law so those are the laws I've been reading about.
So, firstly, what is copyright? Basically it is the right of an author of a piece of original work (be that the written word, drawings, photography and other art, audio and/or visual recordings, broadcasts, and the actual page layouts of published works) to control who may or may not copy their original work. In the UK, there is no need to register a piece of work anywhere; copyright is automatically assigned to the author as soon as the work is created. Adding the © symbol is not necessary, although it does make it clear that you as the author understand that the work is yours and that you are making your copyright known.
Secondly, how does copyright apply to knitting patterns? While researching this subject, I was amazed to find that the UK Intellectual Property (IP) Office has a specific online guide to the copyright matters that apply to knitting patterns. The long and short of it is that UK law protects "literary works" as copyrighted documents, and that the written instructions in knitting patterns are "almost certainly" classed as literary works, with the charts, schematics and photographs also being protected as "artistic works". The author of a knitting pattern has the right to dictate whether and how their pattern may be distributed, and most countries have reciprocal agreements that allow copyright holders to enforce their own copyright laws in other countries.
A copyright holder has the right to protect their copyright, and this is where it starts to get messy (not to mention frustrating and potentially expensive) for those unfortunate authors whose copyright is infringed.
There is small-scale copyright infringement. For example, Betty buys a knitting pattern which she takes along to Knit Night where Shirley admires it. The following week, Betty brings along a photocopy of it and gives it to Shirley. Betty does not have the right to copy that pattern unless she is the copyright holder or has express permission from the copyright holder to do so. (The law permits a person to make a copy for personal use as long as that copy is not then passed on or sold, so if you want to photocopy one page out of a book that you own to save you having to take the entire book out with you, that's OK as long as the copy doesn't get distributed.) Betty is likely to "get away" with that because the copyright holder is unlikely to ever find out, but it isn't right. The correct course of action for Betty to take would either be to direct Shirley to where she can buy her own copy, or, if she's feeling generous, to buy a second copy of the pattern to give to Shirley as a gift. If you are Betty, or if you know her, please remind her of those two legal options.
On the other hand, there is large-scale copyright infringement, sometimes large enough to be potentially criminal, and as a small business or hobby designer this is the most frustrating to have to deal with as a very tiny minnow in the ocean of the internet. There are websites (and I'm certainly not going to direct you to those) set up to encourage people to share knitting patterns (and other craft patterns) that they don't have the right to share, in exchange for being able to download other patterns which the website doesn't have the right to be distributing. There are even shops on well-known auction sites openly selling photocopies of copyrighted patterns. Such websites are filled with patterns "shared" by "members", largely (I'd guess probably all) without the author's permission, and from the experience of other designers who have posted their experiences online, it is close to impossible to get patterns removed from them once they're on there. The only recourse designers seem to have is to contact the large internet search engines and get them to remove the links to the pattern pages so that people can't browse to find them.
One could argue that a person who chooses to download an illegal copy from a dodgy website was never going to pay for a legal copy of the pattern in the first place, but to my mind that is no argument. The more "sharing" of illegal IP goes on, the more it is normalised, and the more socially acceptable it becomes. The problem with that is that the more acceptable it becomes, the more it goes on, the fewer people choose to pay for patterns and the fewer designers can afford to keep designing.
If you like a designer's work (especially independent designers), support them by buying their patterns. If they get put out of business, it is the knitters who suffer too.
Here endeth the lecture.
"In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move" - Douglas Adams.
I have to admit, this week's LoveYourBlog prompt was not one that immediately inspired me to write a post. The obvious beginnings for knitting are either "how I learned to knit" or "how I got into designing". As I mentioned in my last LoveYourBlog post, I don't remember learning to knit, and I've talked about how I first started designing before and it's not all that interesting a story anyway.Another beginnings option might be a tutorial for how to cast on. Hmm, relevant yes but not really what I have my blog for. But that last idea led me to what I'm going to talk about here, which is the beginnings of projects.
I have a confession to make (and I probably ought to stand up for this. I'll have to let you imagine that bit but just take it that I'm standing while I type this next bit): My name is Kirsten and I suffer from Startitis!
That confession is something that would likely surprise anyone who knows me in person because I'm a pretty monogamous knitter. I usually have only one or two projects on the go at a time, depending on their size (and therefore portability). If I'm knitting socks, it's likely that's all I'm knitting until the pair is finished. If I'm knitting a sweater or a large shawl, I may have one more smaller project on the needles as well, to work on during my lunch break at work or at the school gates while I wait for my son, but that's it. I've always marvelled at people who need to participate in online challenges to reduce their number of WIPs (works-in-progress), because for me the only thing I need to do to reduce my WIP count is to finish what I'm making, and then my count is zero.
There is a very good reason for this strict control on the number of projects I have on the go at a time. I'm a product knitter with terrible startitis! I knit because I enjoy knitting, but my primary goal is the end product. I want to enjoy making what I'm making but more than that, I want to have that beautiful shawl, those pretty socks, that cosy sweater. Even small things - I want to have enough charity squares to make up a parcel to mail, or a new cloth for the kitchen. It bothers me if I have too many WIPs because I can't see the end of any of them and I need to see visible progress, and luckily it bothers me just enough to keep the urge to start something new under control.
It's the same with my designing. Once I've sketched out a lace chart or written out a table of numbers, I have to force myself to keep going after I've knitted up the sample to carry on and type out the proper version of the pattern, with the list of abbreviations and the materials needed and all the rest of it before I move on to the next one. If I didn't, I'd have a lovely collection of finished sample objects and scrappy bits of graph paper but no actual patterns!
Let me "illustrate with examples" as the exam questions always used to say. This small part of my stash may look like one ball, one cone and three partial skeins of yarn. However, to my eyes it's a lace shawl, a cowl and the start of a sweater. They're all in my head. The sweater is also a collection of numbers and schematics and a few rows of ribbing. So far the shawl and the cowl are just notes but I know what they're going to be. But I must be strict with myself. I have another shawl which is currently pinned to the floor in the spare room (it's blocking, it hasn't misbehaved nor is it trapped under a large piece of furniture) that must become a typed-out pattern before I go any further with any of these three projects.
Fight the startitis! It's largely a hopeless cause but at least I try and I do get stuff done!
Making the grade
Today I took a major leap in my pattern designing career - I started designing my first sweater. It's something I've had an idea for since the end of last year but I hadn't been brave enough to start until now. I bought Craftsy.com's course on Sizing Knitwear Patterns by Faina Goberstein a few months ago and had started watching it, but I have zero experience with Excel, and it scared me! The course itself looked like just what I needed to learn how to grade sized garment patterns so I have been making the time to watch the videos little by little.
I swatched ages ago for this design. This turquoise coloured woolly square has been calling to me from the bookcase, next to my design books and stitch dictionaries, for weeks and weeks. Today I decided to take the plunge! I still can't work Excel (note to self, learn how to!) but I'm handy with a pencil and a calculator, so I printed out the course materials, sat down with the iPad and worked my way through the videos. Of course, not being one to make things easy for myself, I want to work this sweater in the round and the example in the course is for a cardigan knit flat and seamed, but I can get around that.
It has taken me a while, a lot of crossings out and sketches and notes and arrows and a tape measure (!), but I think I have a rough first draft of a pattern for my first women's sweater in different sizes.
I was surprised that, once I got into it, as long as I followed the suggested order in the course, this all makes a lot of sense. It's all just arithmetic and a bit of algebra, and a little bit of geometry. I'm taking building blocks (or stitches) of fixed horizontal distance and fixed vertical distance and using them to build objects of known size. With the right reference materials (standard size charts, and my own self for a real-life guide to where neck lines ought to be relative to armholes and so forth) it's just a case of deciding whether to work top-down or hem-up and then working out how many bricks I need to build the wall.
I had to remember to allow for ease. I'm designing a sweater, not a swimsuit, and while I'm after a relatively close-fitting garment, I still want to be able to breathe while I'm wearing it. Since the amount of ease is really a design decision, that part for me was quite tricky. I'm not used to numbers having that kind of flexibility. One reason why I like maths is that 2+2 is always 4. The notion that I can add 1 more and make it 5 if I want to is not usually how I work!
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, or in the knitting, in this case. So I have cast on! It's going great so far, but since I've only worked the first inch, it would be a sorry reflection on not only my knitting skills but also my A in Maths A-level if I'd already made a pig's ear of things.
Time will tell on this one!
Introducing number 20!
I've reached a design milestone today. I just launched my 20th pattern! Please meet English Country Garden Shawlette! I like scarves and small shawls, but I'm not keen on the way triangular ones form an arrow pointed straight at your bottom when you wear them. The panel of lace leaves on this one softens the shape, making the shape more like a Faroese shape than a true triangle.
The name comes from the pattern elements. The shawlette starts with eyelet flowers, and stems formed from 1-over-1 cables on a stocking stitch background, which flows into a section of English Mesh lace. The shawlette is finished with a border of vertical rows of eyelets which form gentle scallops.
Buy the pattern through Ravelry using the link above, or through my pattern shop through the link on the left.
Hope you like it!
I love to knit, to design patterns and to talk about knitting!