Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Submissions and submission

One of the fun-ish things about being a knitwear designer is the submission of patterns/samples to yarn companies and publishing outlets.  Once you release your pattern to one of these, you have to wait for the submit-ee to get back to you before you publish it or submit it anywhere else.  (Rules are rules.) And no matter when the pattern was requested, (or manuscript, for that matter) the submit-ees seem to take their sweet time about letting you know how they're going to use your work and when they plan to pay you for it.  When they like your work, it's great.  When it's not for them, it's heartbreaking.

I have submissions out to several outlets including print and yarn companies, and at this point am amazed at how much knitting and designing I've done this year that I can't show anybody because of all the exclusivity rules.  (Even a Ravelry post is out of the question.)

All of this comes to mind because I made yet another submission yesterday, and to my surprise, was not greeted by an email about its acceptance first thing this morning.  (Patience is a virtue I do not possess.)  In fact,  I didn't receive any word at all. That's standard.  They'll talk to me when they're good and ready.  However, I don't have to like waiting.

I'm trying to be mellow about this.  Every time I add to the list of projects out in the world waiting to be accepted or rejected, it gets a little harder.  I'm aiming to be peaceful and accept what comes.  But seriously, I'd rather be accepting acceptances.

Monday, September 26, 2011

More Adirondack Fiber Festival

As I was finishing setting up in my classroom at the Washington County Fairgrounds on Sunday, I was told by Festival personnel that my class had been cancelled.  The students who had signed up pulled out.  They blamed the economy; folks want to save their dollars to shop instead of take a class.  I get it.  I had a free day at a fiber fair, and no obligations to be anywhere else.  I could stay and enjoy the festival. 
Into the Whirled Sock Yarn
Enjoy I did.   There were 120 vendors, and I visited every single one.  Into the Whirled, shown at right and below, is a dyeworks run by the magnificent Cris.  She and I chatted about environmental friendliness, color, and the many uses of sock yarn, and I was fascinated.  Dreamy colors and great personality come together in her entire line.  The two skeins that came home with me will soon be mittens.

Into the Whirled booth at the fair

Next, I met Jill Draper.  Yep, the Jill Draper.  We were chatting at her booth, and all of a sudden I said, "You're Jill Draper!  I love you!"  Her mother, sitting and spinning quietly, burst out with a belly laugh like Santa Claus.  "Well, I love her, too."  Jill showed me some of her recent designs, and we chatted about festivals we've worked, classes we like, and of course, yarn.  I picked up some cerulean blue angora/silk, and I can't wait to make it into a cozy cowl for the upcoming chilly season.  I thought I'd give it to my daughter, but I just might keep it for myself!

I also was lucky enough to meet Jennifer, intrepid owner of Holiday Yarns.  Jennifer is like a caffeinated version of the knitter I want to be when I grow up.  I love her spunk, her joyful colorways, and the fact that she has a little bit of an edge to her.  After chatting a bit, we decided to collaborate on a menswear pattern with her "Super Sheep" yarn. It's DK weight sock yarn, and it's very "shproingy".  It's got great loft, which makes for toasty toes.  I'm so excited!  And check out her new "Bacon" colorway.  Delicious and no animals are harmed because it's all wool.

Julia, from Dirty Water Dyeworks
Across the aisle I met the owner of Dirty Water Dyeworks, Stephanie.  Her yarns have a wonderful watery quality to their coloring which lends itself to designs in subtle jacquard and damask styles.  Well, at least in my head it does.  I chose Julia, a 50/50 merino tencel blend in a sock weight.  Sock yarn is great for colorwork, as it allows for more stitches per inch, and therefore more complex designs.  As I went to check out, Stephanie said some very nice things about my idea, and gave me the yarn as a gift.  (I know!  How cool is that?)  The design is feeling a little French Provincial in my head right now.  I can't wait to start swatching.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Moments From The Southern Adirondak Fiber Festival

These gorgeous buttons are made of porcelain by Melissa Jean Designs.  Not only are they beautiful, Melissa is a sweetheart herself.  I was lucky enough to meet her, her husband, and her daughters.  Their angora bunny was with them, who is tentatively named Sweetie Helga. Many surprises awaited in her booth, but I'll save them for later.  You can find her website here.

To the right is Stephen Willette, a master woodworker who makes beautful knitting needles, crochet hooks, buttons, and knitting tools out of hardwoods.  What's even cooler is that he makes them on site right in front of you!  His wife, Linda, is right there with him to manage sales and explain some of the details of how to use the tools. Sadly, they only took cash, and by the time I got there I only had plastic left.  Oh well.  I'll be sure to have cash the next time I see them!

Crochet has never been my friend.  I love it, and I'm impressed as hell by people who can do it well,  but I am definitely not one of them.  The fabulous headwear above was crocheted by Cal Patch, who is one of the most charming women I've ever met.  She designs clothes, she crochets, she spins, she teaches, she has a great dog, and she has a warm and open way about her.  I would love to take a class from her.  If anyone can teach me to crochet, I think she can!  A link to her site is here.

The entire area of Washington County, NY is spectacularly beautiful.  This is a shot of the main street in Salem, just east of Greenwich. The scent of the apples in the orchard as I drove along, and the fog off the's a little bit of northeastern heaven.   There's so much more, and I'll share it in chunks over the next few days.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Class Prep

1. Make hotel reservations.

2. Write pages of class notes for students.

3.  Buy stuff for posters and visual aids for students.

4.  Make posters and visual aids for students.

5.  Edit pages of class notes for students.

6.  Send all notes to printer for copying.

7.  Pack all the tools students might forget so I can loan it to students so their class runs smoothly.

8.  Select and pack samples of finished work to display at class, and use as teaching aids.

9.  Select and pack yarns, tools, displays, markers and display pads for teaching class.

10.  Pick up class notes from printer.

11.  Pack for trip.

12.  Kiss family goodbye and go get gas.

13. Hit the road!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Famous Sweaters

Charlie Brown
There are several emails and Facebook updates going around with what the authors believe are the most famous sweaters of all time.  I don't particularly agree with their findings, so I thought I'd list my own "famous sweater" listing.

Charlie Brown's yellow sweater

Bert and Ernie
Bert from Sesame Street - love those vertical stripes

Ernie from Sesame Street - ditto those horizontal stripes

All the sweaters in "Zion" in the Matrix movies.  Those perfectly over-worn dropped stitch wonders are fabulous! (Designed and produced by Suss Cousins)

Ward Cleaver's endless array of gray cardigans (They really were gray, right?  Not just because of the B&W tv?)

Matrix Sweater
Tiny hand stitched Coraline sweaters throughout the movie.  (Althea Crome, designer and knitter, is a wonder!)

The Weasley sweater, which will be requested by children forever as they read the Harry Potter series.

LLBean Sweater
The Doug Funnie sweater from the Nickelodeon series "Doug"
Doug Funnie

Cameron Diaz's cabled shawl collared confection in "The Holiday"

The Navy LLBean sweater with the white flecks
Wallace's green vest in the Wallace and Gromit movies.  Let's face it - making a believable sweater out of clay a zillion times for every scene is a feat in itself, and with the sideways knit, it's a real fashion statement.

These are some of my faves.  There are so many!  Whenever I see a tv program or a move with knitwear in it, I focus in like a laser.  Share your favorites with me.  I'd like to know what sweaters you'll never forget, and which ones you love.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Miniatures Make Sense

One day as I sat at the LYS knitting a mini sock, a friend of mine and truly accomplished knitter said, "Why do you knit minis?  I could never be bothered wasting my time with that."  It wasn't as harsh as it might have sounded.  (We love her because she's never judgemental!)  She just truly didn't see the point. 

I had to give it some thought.  I started knitting minis because I thought they were adorable, and I gave them as gifts.  As I knit more of them, I realized that they include all the same skills as their full-sized counterparts.  In some cases, they even have the same number of stitches!  The blue hat on the left of the photo has about 2/3 as many stitches as a full sized hat, and it's made of a sportweight yarn on US 2s.  The red hat on the right has the same number as its "big brother", and was made from a full sized pattern with sport weight cashmere on US 1s.  Casting on 64 stitches for hat too small for Barbie made me think twice, but I love the finished project.

Then came the interesting part.  I realized that with DK and worsted yarns and needles in US 4-6, there would be far fewer stitches than the big projects, but all the same skills.  The brown mitten with the vertical stripes has the original full-sized stitch count, and took about the same amount of time.  The blueish mitten with the horizontal stripes was knit in a heavy worsted, and took about 90 minutes.  It has 1/3 as many stitches as the full-sized, but still uses the same decreases and striping skills as the big one would.  Aha!  I was on to something.

Now I teach folks to make socks by making minis first, with worsted yarns and size US 5 needles.  All the skills are there, but with far fewer stitches.  Knitting a mini won't use up much yarn, and turning the heel only takes a few rounds.  Ditto with teaching mittens, and many other techniques.  As you can see above, even stranded colorwork can be done in minis, and more quickly than a regular project. Every knitting skill can be practiced or refreshed by making a mini.

Last night, I knit up a mini sock (the one in the center bottom of the photo) to refresh a particular kind of decrease I like to use after the heel turn.  Now with my skill refreshed, I'll launch into my socks.  I have one more miniature to tie to a gift or use as holiday decor. 

Why do I knit minis?  To refresh and teach skills, to make cute little finished projects, to get a sense of how certain yarns behave in certain techniques, and to trade with other knitters at conferences and festivals.  I knit them to enjoy the last scraps of a favorite yarn after the main project is through.  I knit them because they delight me!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Little Love

Comfort Dolls are adorable!  This free pattern is my new favorite.  They're easy to make, and totally customizable to the recipient.  Make a doll who looks like someone they know, admire, or even like themselves!   (There are better pictures on the website.) 

Some ideas:  give them to kids as holiday or birthday gifts, charities, a cubicle-based office worker who needs a reason to smile, guest room decor, or as a voodoo toy for a recently divorced loved one.  They make ideal boyfriends/girlfriends: cute, loves to cuddle, and won't run around or argue.  The possibilities are endless!  Just personalize as you wish, and let your imagination run wild!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I have four knitting festivals/conferences to teach in on the next three weekends.  There's so much to look forward to!  In the meantime, I just got my son home from the hospital after five weeks in critical care, and I've just gone back to my day job now that I'm home from his bedside.  I'm finishing design samples for two different yarn manufacturers, and my kids are in the throes of the back-to-school madness.  (I was interrupted twice by my kids in the two minutes of writing this!)

Knit Kitchen Rug Pattern
In the midst of it all, I received a visit from the "yarn fairy".  A friend of a friend passed on a big bag of rug yarn.  I've never worked with rug yarn, and I'm excited about all the ideas that started flowing as soon as I saw it!  But when do I have time to play with it? 

Knitting is such a refuge for me.  It's the calm in the storm of my life.  Unfortunately, I really have to focus on the storm right now!  I love having all the madness being good news for a change.  I'm just going to need a lot of coffee, a little help, and a lot of luck!

If you'd like to start experimenting with rug yarn, you might want to start with the pattern above.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Winter Olympic Hat Pattern

It's a chilly morning here in Buffalo, NY.  Of course, it's to be expected, but since I missed almost 6 weeks of summer with my son at the Cleveland Clinic, in my head it's still the beginning of August!

Well, the son is home.  There's lots of medical attention in his future, but we're back in Buffalo as our home base.  And so, as I went out on the porch with my morning coffee today, I realized that it's time to start knitting fall and winter things so they'll be finished by the time the snow flies.  This is definitely a mixed blessing.  I love winter knits, but still miss the idea of summer evenings on the porch knitting up tees and shawls and other warm weather wear.

I sorted through some of my favorite winter patterns, and it cheered me up entirely.  So much cool stuff, so little time!  Take this hat.  It's a version of the Ralph Lauren-designed US Winter Olympic Team 2010 hat, designed by Helena Bristow ( and shared free of charge.  It's so much fun!  There is plenty of detail, including little American flags on the band, reindeer and pine trees on the main, and mountains and snowflakes on the top.  It's challenging enough to be interesting without being obnoxiously fussy.  You have to be a Ravelry member to get this pattern, and if you're not already a member this is an excellent reason to join.  (Ravelry is also FREE!)  Goodbye until next March, spring and summer knits.  I'll be okay after all.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Freebie Friday - Boy's Hoodie

It's been awhile since we posted a pattern specifically for little boys, so we thought we should make up for that today.  The Boy's Hooded Tank, knit in Rowan Classic Cotton Denim, is adorable, timely, and really cute.  (They now recommend Belle Organic Aran.)  The handwarmer pocket really makes it!

This sweater can be made in any number of yarns, making it versatile across the seasons.  The original denim colored Cotton would be a great option for spring!  And an alpaca blend would make a deliciously toasty sweater.   Just remember to match the gauge on the labels when substituting yarns, and knit a swatch before tackling the whole garment to confirm your gauge is dead-on.  I'll completely understand if you want to make several in different colors;  if I were a kid this would quickly become my favorite sweater!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Eat Your Yarn

Yep, it's an entirely edible cake!
I love watching the cooking shows on television, and am impressed and amazed at the cakes in particular.  I'm a humble, home made cake girl with no special baking talent or skill.  I look at the things they show on Cake Boss and some of the Cupcakes and Just Desserts and think it must be heartbreaking to the chefs to see their creations end up in someone's tummy.

I've never seen the cake art form combined with the knitting arts, though, so the blog post below came as a big surprise. 

Crafty Cakes  is a post on the Cakewrecks blog, which usually celebrates the funny downside of cakemaking.  They took a sharp turn and celebrated these beauties and many more in an article about crafting cakes around favorite crafts. 

The yarn, basket and scissors are all edible.  Amazing!
I find myself wondering if I'll ever see one of these masterpieces in person.  How do they do it?  How do they taste?  What do they cost?  (I'm not sure I want to know!)

I'll be baking a few birthday cakes this year for my family and friends, and I'll be happy if they come out of the pans without sticking or breaking, and if they allow me to ice them without them falling apart.  But in my head, I'll be dreaming of these, and hoping that on MY  birthday....

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Take a look! A Zoetrope!

This post is an homage to other knitting bloggers, who create a rich and diverse knitting community on the internet.  They allow knitters from small towns to connect with city knitters, international knitters to see what the locals are up to, and for those with truly unusual points of view to share their ideas with mainstream knitters. 

This blog, the Mrs. Cleaver Chronicles,, is one of those unique viewpoints. 

What's a Zoetrope or Zoopraxiscope, the thing this hat celebrates?  It's the photography cousin of a cartoon flip book.  It's a device that shows a series of photos projected through a rotating glass disc to imitate motion.  The viewer looked at the image through a small slit to focus the eye on a specific visual range.  It was a direct forerunner of the movies we see today.  The first images made for a zoopraxiscope were those of a running horse.

The pattern is available on the blog page and on Ravelry.  LOVE IT!  I'm always impressed at the things that inspire knitters to create.  I would never have made this connection, but I'm thrilled that Mrs. Cleaver did.  My inner nerd rejoices!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Try something new!

Hi folks, Colleen here again.  This weekend has been full of new things in my life.  I took the kids on an overnight trip by myself for the first time.  We stayed at a different hotel chain and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the room.  We ate at 2 new restaurants, both of which were fantastic.  I took my first Bikram Yoga class (you may know it as "hot yoga").  After each of these experiences, I found myself thinking that I was glad I tried it and I would definitely do it again.  Well, except maybe the part about sharing the hotel bed with my 4-year-old... that just left me with some new bruises and bags under my eyes.

A couple of years ago, our favorite blogstress took me on a new knitting journey.  One week at knitting group she informed me that the following week I was going to try cabling for the first time.  I was a bit surprised, it seemed so tricky.  But she was the "Knit Doctor", far be it from me to ignore her advice.

One week later, I found myself sitting next to her at the yarn shop with some scrap yarn and a borrowed cable needle in my hand.  She calmly walked me through the process of creating a small swatch which included my first three perfect little cable twists.  After binding off the last stitch, I looked up at her.  With a hushed voice, she looked me right in the eyes and said, "Now you can do ANYTHING!" 

Since that day, I have found myself in all sorts of new knitting situations.  Whenever the going gets tough, I think back to that statement.  I can fix a dropped stitch.  I can follow the pattern that doesn't seem to make sense.  I can do stranded colorwork.  I can do ANYTHING.  And you can too!  What is that thing you've always wanted to try?  Why haven't you tried it?  Why don't you try it now?  You just might discover something new that you love.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Knitting Without Yarn

You may be all yarned out.  Yarn is wonderful, and varied, but sometimes you want to go out on a limb and try something wild.  What else have you tried?  Kitchen string?  Tall grasses?

If you want to make your own, Knitting with your old T-shirts is a good start. Grab a few old t-shirts of similar materials (all cotton, or the same blend of cotton poly) and consider your project.  Small projects (like a Coffee Cup Cozy) will take one shirt or less, larger ones will take more.  If you want all your t-shirt yarn to approximately match, either bleach all your t's together, or dye all of them in the same dye color.  Unless they were all the same color and material to start with, they will vary in their finished colors, but look more unified.  Now, follow the instructions in this video to make your yarn.

This technique works well with bedsheets and blue jeans, too!  For sheets and jeans, don't cut in spirals, just in straight lines.  Fun!

Tiny gloves, miniature AND wire!
Too conventional for your mood? No problem.  You can always knit with wire. To learn to knit with wire, you'll want to start with thin wire, in the 32 or 34 gauge area.  Craft stores and hardware stores sell wire in different materials, colors, and yardage to get you started.  Coated electrical wires behave like wire, but look like rubber!  Kinda cool.

Making the famous Meindertsma Hexagons rug
Thinner wire will make an open and pliable fabric like a wire mesh.  This can be used as an insert on decor items, like pillows, or as the entire fabric if you wish.  Increases and casting on go very well in a backwards-loop technique, and decreases go well knitting or purling 2 together.  Dropped stitches do not work as a style element, as wire resists letting the stitch drop.  Lace work comes out stunning.

Not enough?  Go miniature with separated embroidery floss and straight pins.  Go big with rope.  (Make your own needles with dowels from the hardware store, or go online.) Go modern with fishing line and monofilament.  Go stone age with twine!  Blend different fibers into the same piece for amazing textural contrasts and beautiful affects.  Knitting with non-yarns isn't just fun, it can be gorgeous!
Simple rug

Back to School... finally!

Colleen here again.  Today is the first day back to preschool for my little guy, and he was SO excited this morning.  I guess I would be too, if I got to go spend my morning playing with friends.  His sister still has a few days left before the bus comes to whisk her off to first grade. 

Don't get me wrong, I love my kids.  I love them like it's going out of style.  But I have really been looking forward to this time of year.  This summer has been a whirlwind of trying to get everything done as fast as possible so we have time to play, watch a movie, swim in the pool, go to the playground...  The chores get finished, and then before I know it it's dinner/ bath/ bedtime and both kids are tired, sweaty and cranky.  I suppose that's what summer vacation is all about.

Back to school time is a totally different story.  I will start having a few blissful hours to myself without hearing a mother's least favorite sentence ("Mom, I'm bored.")  Maybe I will actually have some time during the day to get in a little bit of knitting while the coffee is still in my system and my eyelids aren't being propped open by toothpicks.  This was in fact my plan for the first few days that both kids will be in school.  Spend a little time getting the chores done, and then park on the couch until the bus shows up bringing the little guy home. 

So can someone please tell me how I ended up volunteering to work at the school book fair on the first day of school?????