Friday, November 27, 2015

Small Business Saturday, plus An Interview with GAL Designer: Gabrielle Danskknits

A quick little bit of a Trappings & Trinkets appetizer this morning before we get to the main in the US, today is known as "Small Business Saturday".  This idea began as a push to get people supporting locally owned and run brick & mortar stores as opposed to the big-box and ecommerce stores they more likely shopped at on "black friday", the big shopping day that follows our Thanksgiving.  But many of us like to lump independent crafters and designers (and really, anyone who is out there creating their own small business) into that group as well, since we are typically individuals who are trying to either support ourselves or contribute to our family's income with the things we produce, often with our own hands.  If you are out supporting a small business today, I thank you!  If you would like to support my small business, I'd like to give you a 50% off code as a thank-you in advance!  Just enter the code SBS2015 at the Ravelry check-out and you can take 50% off of any single pattern you would like!
Gabrielle Danskknit

Ok, on with our show!  This week's interview with a participating Indie Design Gift-along designer is with Gabrielle Danskknit, who goes by "Danskknit" on Ravelry.

Gabrielle is a Canadian designer who shares my love of Grey's Anatomy, and also loves all things outdoors - jogging, swimming, camping, kayaking, oh my!

She also has an enormous brain that has already earned a degree in biomedicine and is now studying medicine.

When Gabrielle is not busy at her university, she likes to relax with her knitting, and since she started writing knitting patterns for publication about 2 1/2 years ago, she's managed to release 58 of them.

Obviously, this woman doesn't do a lot of sleeping....  :)

Pacific Coast © Ravenesque

• How did you become part of the knitting community?
I heard about Ravelry from a friend. I didn't feel like giving my email and waiting for a sign up link so I forgot about it. Then a few months later I rediscovered it. I just enjoyed all the patterns I could discover. Then I start swapping, etc.

• Is there a knitting resource that you would recommend to others (a book, video, pattern, tutorial series, podcast, etc)?
I don't have a favorite one! I just google what I need and then pick the one that looks prettier! I do have many books at home too. I'd say my favorite ones are old and were given to me by my grandmother and her sister.

Colin © Ravenesque

• What motivated you to begin publishing patterns for others to use?
I always felt like something was missing in the patterns I was knitting at the time (mostly French patterns). I wanted to take a little bit of this and a little bit of that, knit in the round, etc. Plus, my gauge was never right. So I started creating things just the way I was imagining them. Then I thought, I might as well share what I do!

• In 3 words, describe your design style.
Easy, texture, vintage

• What is your favorite knitting trick or tip?
I love doing the kitchener stitch grafting!

• What knitting notion can you not live without?
My row counter! 

Bergen Snowflake © Gabrielle Danskknit

• Many of your patterns like “I Nut Squirrels”, “Quadrainbow”, and “Elephant Sanctuary” have a fun, child-like quality, even though they are sized all the way up to adult sizes. How do you decide which designs to size up to adult sizes and which ones to just do for children?
Good one! I think it really depends. Sometimes I feel it's too much trouble for a pattern that looks more childish. Other times, I fear I won't get testers for a size. It can also be because it's too complicated to offer in some sizes, etc.

• Most of your garment patterns are only available in children’s sizes. Will we see adult size sweaters from you at some point, or do you intend to keep your focus on children’s knits?
I think we'll see adult size sweater the day I decide to design one for myself!! So far, my attention span is so short and my time so limited with medical school, I try to work mainly on small items. I do dream of knitting a sweater for me, but not at this moment!
Turnbridge © Inkyarnholic

• Do you have a favorite design (of your own)?
At the moment, it's Tunbridge. It was designed for me, it's made of Malabrigo yarn and I wore it during a road trip to Tunbrdige, Vermont, to see the Wool and Sheep Festival.

• Do you have an under-appreciated design?
I think Bergen Snowflake! It's a pattern I love but I feel like it hasn't gotten as much attention as I thought it deserved. 

• What was your favorite thing that you knit in 2015 that you did not write the pattern for?
A scarf for my boyfriend!

• What is your knitting or designing resolution for 2016?
Make a designing group on Ravelry! Knit and design more things I can wear.

10 Quickie Questions:
Neutrals or Brights? Neutrals
Metal or Bamboo? Meral
Felt-able wool or super wash? superwash
Color work or cables? cables
Solids or tonals? tonals
Fun fur or ruffle yarn? none!
Self-striping or variegated? self-striping
Scarves or shawls? scarves
Garter or Stockinette? garter
Dpns or magic loop? dpns

You can find Gabrielle on Ravelry and on Pinterest!  Thanks so much for the interview, Gabrielle!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

New Release: Strips of Bits

This week's pattern is sponsored by the well over one hundred projects I've made so far out of light-weight yarn. The idea for it came from me looking at all the bits & bobs I had stashed in a couple tupperware boxes in my bedroom...little balls of yarn that aren't enough to really use as any significant part of a future project, but were too pretty to just throw away.  

It's a scrappy project that uses about 15 yards per row (7-8 yds of each color).  So work it from tiny balls of leftovers (like the blue scarf, at right), or mix together bigger quantities of leftovers (like the red scarf, above).  Either way, you'll be happy to free up some space in your leftover-yarn storage, and you'll get a colorful winter accessory out of it!

Strips of Bits is available now on Ravelry as a single pattern.  It is also the 9th project added to the Color Packs & Stash Scraps eBook collection.  If you've already purchased it, you can get this new pattern by clicking the "update available" button next to the eBook icon in your Ravelry library.  And if you haven't yet purchased the collection, you can find that here!

I owe Gloria, the lovely knitter who tested this scarf, a big thank you!  She did a great job with her scarf and contributed a couple suggestions that went above & beyond the realm of tester (but were so fabulous that I incorporated them into the pattern!)  She was the reason the pattern now calls for a specific cast on, and she's also the reason there are two methods of construction to choose from.  Thanks so much, Gloria!

Another big thank you goes to my little model, who helped me with the photos for this pattern, even though she was determined to make it a goofy photo shoot!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

An Interview with GAL Designer: Vicky Chan

Julia © Vicky Chan
I've signed myself up for a couple of the Gift-along KALs!  I'll be making a Turtle Soup hat as a Christmas gift for my daughter, and I have been wanting to make an Alameda cowl because I've never tried mosaic knitting before, and since that pattern was included in the gift-along sale, I thought it was the perfect time to give it a try.  If I'm really nuts, I also have a mittens pattern earmarked and a sweater pattern, although I have to finish the sweater I'm working on now to see if I'll have enough yarn leftover for the gift-along sweater I'd like to make.  Whew!

I thought it would be fun to take a look through the Ravelry thread where participating designers are listed, and choose a few designers who have a pattern portfolio that looks particularly interesting.  I found 5 designers whose patterns I found particularly interesting, and I messaged them all with an interview.  I'm happy to report that all five of them responded, so I get to share their interviews and designs with you here over the next 5 weeks!

The first designer that I asked for an interview is Vicky Chan, glisteningsnow on Ravelry. Based in Ontario, she is the mom of two kids who likes to sew, draw, bake & read. I asked her to send a few photos that I could use along with her interview answers, and I was very happy that she sent a photo of Julia, a floral lace tunic that beautifully mixes knitting & crochet. I also love how it's styled in this photo, over simple leggings, so it almost has the effect of a dress. The way Vicky mixes knitting & crochet was inspiring to me, and all of her designs have a very elegant look to them. I'm sure they're a pleasure to make!

Clair © Vicky Chan
Iris © Vicky Chan

The Interview:

• What motivated you to begin publishing patterns for others to use?
My ultimate enjoyment of the entire process, from design ideas through to the release of the pattern.
• Is there a knitting resource that you would recommend to others (a book, video, pattern, tutorial series, podcast, etc)?

• In 3 words, describe your design style.
Classy, fresh and up-to-date.

• You aren’t afraid to combine knit and crochet in your designs. How do feel those patterns are received by pattern customers compared to your patterns that are made with only knitting or crochet?
Just as good.

• Your patterns are very much focused on lace. Where do you get inspiration for the lace patterns you use? Fashion magazines and Japanese craft mooks.

• Do you have favorite stitch dictionaries or do you tend to experiment and make up your own lace charts for your designs? Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns.

• What is your favorite knitting trick or tip? When my yarn is starting to tangle up, rather than trying to pull it apart, I shake and wiggle the yarn strand to detangle instead.

Irene © Vicky Chan

• What knitting notion can you not live without?
Tapestry needle to weave in ends.

• Do you have a favorite design (of your own)?
Irene. I have crocheted five and still plan to make another one.

• Do you have an under-appreciated design?
The sweater that I have wanted to design for my husband.

• What is your knitting or designing resolution for 2016?
I've never made any New Year's resolutions - I'm too impatient to wait for the New Year.

Angelina © Vicky Chan

10 Quickie Questions: 


Neutrals or Brights? Neutrals
Metal or Bamboo? Metal
Felt-able wool or super wash? Superwash
Color work or cables? Cables
Solids or tonals? Solids

Fun fur or ruffle yarn? Fun fur

Self-striping or variegated? Variegated 

Scarves or shawls? Scarves
Garter or Stockinette? Stockinette
Dpns or magic loop? Magic loop

For more Vicky, take a look at her:
Thanks so much for the interview, Vicky!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

2015 Indie Design Gift-along!

courtesy of Faye Kennington
 How many days are left in the holiday gift-making season?  Whatever the number is, it's never enough!  If you're among the knitters who need a little nudge to start (or finish) your holiday knitting, the Indie Designers of Ravelry have come to your rescue!

The third annual Indie Design Gift-along begins today!

The gift-along consists of a one-week pattern sale that begins tonight at 8pm EST (every participating designer has between 5-20 patterns discounted 25%), and a variety of knit-alongs that run from tonight to the end of the year.  You can find a list of 335 participating designers here, and all the KALs listed on the message board of the Indie Design Gift-along group here.

courtesy of Kimberly Golynskiy
How about a gift-along infographic?

The gift-along is a great chance to stock up on patterns for the coming year.  Look through the participating designer thread and you might come across some designers that you like that you've never noticed before!

The knit-alongs are a lot of fun.  They are divided up by category (Hat KAL, Scarves/Shawls KAL, Sweaters KAL, etc) but people knit all sorts of different patterns, so you get to see a lot of other designs in progress as you work on your own.  And throughout the KALs, moderators run contests and games and give away tons of prizes.  There are a couple thousand free pattern codes to be given away, plus this long, long list of physical prizes that could arrive in your mailbox!

I haven't decided yet exactly what I'll be knitting, but I'll definitely be participating in at least one of the KALs.  Last year I made these Karen Double-Layer Mittens, and had a great time with both the knitting and the following along with the games and with other people's glove / mitten projects!  And now I have beautiful mittens that I wear all winter!

And just to be clear, you can participate in any of the KALs with ANY paid-for (not free) pattern that has been published by ANY of the participating designers.  So this includes any not-free pattern that was published independently, or that was published by a magazine (physical or on-line) or in a book,  (A project made from a pattern published by a free source, such as Knitty is not eligible for prizes.)  Here's a post with the full rules & eligibility for prizes.

As for me, my discounted patterns are shown below.  It's a mix of things, but I focused mostly on smaller projects that I thought would make fun quick-ish gift knits.  But remember, every pattern I have available, except my free pattern, Herriot Hat, are eligible for participating in KALs and winning prizes!

If you decide to participate, let me know in the comments, so I can keep an eye out for you in the KAL threads!  Thanks in advance for helping to make this year's gift-along the best one yet, and a hundred extra thanks if you decide to participate by knitting one of my designs!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

New Release: Wine in the Wool Hat & Cowl Set

It's time for this week's addition to the Color Packs & Stash Scraps collection, and this week it's another 2-for-1 set!

Introducing the "Wine in the Wool" hat & cowl set!

This attractive pair features an easy stripe pattern that alternates solid stripes with textured color transitions.  You'll have a few rows where you are working with 2 strands of color, followed by a few more rows where you only work with 1 strand of yarn.  There's a little bit of alternating knit and purl and a whole lot of stockinette.

"Wine in the Wool" pairs beautifully with the Mad Hatter mini skein packs from Frabjous Fibers.  These mini skein packs are 430 sport-weight yds. of of smooth & soft 100% merino in 5 different colors.  The cowl uses an entire pack and the hat uses about 2/3 of a pack or less, depending on the size you choose to make.  

The samples in these photos were made from the "Mice in the Tea" color pack.  The yarn has a very subtle tonal variation, but it almost reads like a solid, which is great for showing off the textured & alternating colors bits of this stitch pattern!

My local yarn shop started carrying Mad Hatter sometime last year, and I have quite an affinity for it.  My Wonderland Tank pattern was written for the same yarn, and there's actually another pattern that is yet to be released for this collection that uses more Mad Hatter because the folks at Frabjous Fibers were so generous with their support!

Speaking of generous people, I owe a big thank you to MargiBorck & Wolflovertoo.   They both tested the full set, and shared photos of their lovely hats & cowls in their Ravelry project pages!  Another big thank you goes to my friend who did a beautiful job modeling this set, and then told me I didn't need to take her out to lunch as a thank-you.  (But I did need to, and she was also nice enough to let me!)

This is a great simple knit for tv/movie-watching, or for car knitting when you're off on holiday travels.  There is nothing difficult about the knitting itself (just knit, purl, knitting in the round, and being able to alternate colors), but the hat does require you to continue in the established stitch pattern as you work the decreases.  If you're doing the whole set, make the cowl first, that way you'll have lots of time to become familiar with the 2-stitch pattern before you have to figure out how to work it while decreasing.

The instructions in this pattern are written, but it does require you to be able to read a chart.  (Albeit one of the simplest charts you'll even read....each row is just 4 stitches that repeat over & over, and lots of those rows are just "knit".)

The two projects are packaged together in one pdf, so whether you purchase it from the Wine in the Wool Hat pattern page or the Wine in the Wool Cowl pattern page, you'll download the exact same document with instructions for both projects.  Or better yet, maybe it's time to purchase the full Color Packs & Stash Scraps pattern collection and download the first 8 patterns immediately, then look forward to 5 more patterns appearing in your pattern library, one per week until the week of Christmas!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

New Release: Checks and Chains

If you've followed my blog & Facebook & Instagram posts for a while, you probably already know what inspired me to start selling knitting patterns.

We have a home that was built in the 50's.  And although it had great "bones", it was in need of a LOT of improvements & updates when we bought in back in 1998.

Our first big project was gutting & remodeling the kitchen (back when we had no kids and I had summers off from teaching.)  That was followed by a full gut & remodel of both bathrooms (we were anxious to get those finished before our baby was crawling.  We didn't want to experience living in a construction zone with a baby who could crawl under the plastic lead paint-protection tarp and start licking up paint chips!)

But once those two big projects were finished, we got busy.  We had our second child (and had no motivation or money to do more improvements once we had two small kiddos in the house, especially since I had quit working full time so I could be at home with them).  We did some painting projects and managed to buy a little furniture, but we still had windows that were painted shut by the previous owners who apparently had major allergies, we still had carpet that was infused with the smells of 100 unwashed dogs, we still had a family room with a terrible stamped vinyl floor that was supposed to have the look of stone, but was so full of scratches & dents that it wasn't fooling anyone.  By the time our youngest was 7, and my first knitting pattern was starting to experience some popularity, we were ready to get going on more improvements.  I decided to give pattern writing a serious try, with the intention that anything that came of it would go toward home improvements.

And I'm very happy to report that I've had enough success to motivate me to continue with designing!  First, we bought replacement windows that we can now open AND see out of (the old windows had permanent condensation between the two panes of glass that blocked the view outside).  Next on our list was flooring.  The smelly animal carpet is now gone, and we've replaced it with less-smelly carpet in some rooms and wood floors in others.

Then over the last year, I started another project.  It began as a "replace the family room & living room furniture that the cats have destroyed with their scratching" project, but ended up as a total redecorating of both rooms.  The living room is completely done and the family room just needs a tv stand to finish things up.  Here are some photos:

One view of our weird, old living room  I always had trouble
with furniture placement because it's such a big space with
large openings in the walls, plus we have a baby grand piano
that takes up a lot of space...I'm a piano teacher in my "other life" :)

Another view of the "before" version of the living room

And a bright, happy view of our newly redone living room, complete with furniture that the cats haven't destroyed!  I finally hired an interior designer to help me with strategies on where to put furniture....I wish I had done that years ago!  I highly recommend involving an interior designer if you're stuck for ideas.  Mine charged about $50 and spent an hour at my house giving me suggestions.  She would have shopped for me or gone on-line to find specific things to suggest for my home if I wanted to pay for more of her time, but all I really needed was someone who could tell me how to turn this giant room into a place that functioned as both a piano lesson studio AND a family tv area.  I tried for 17 years and you can see in the "before pictures" that I never did quite get it right!

Our family room is tricky because it's a long, narrow room

The point of sharing all these photos is two things.  First, to say thank you for supporting my pattern writing business and helping me to contribute to making a home that my family can be comfortable in!

A new, lighter coat of paint helped make the space feel a little bigger, as did the new mirror over the couch and the big bay window that we put in a few years back thanks to you and other wonderful knitting pattern customers!

Second, to show you exactly what inspired the pattern that I'm releasing this week.

I spend the majority of my work day in my new living room (which, by the way, has contributed so positively to my pattern business over the past 8 months or so.  It's amazing how inspired I felt once I wasn't doing all my design work in my old bright green family room, sitting in a chair that my cats had clawed up (It's difficult to see because of the shadows in the photo with the red furniture, but there are wide strips of fabric sewn around the bottom of the couch & chair to cover up the shredded parts!)

So when I was brainstorming ideas to make for my "Color Packs & Stash Scraps" collection, I put "throw pillow" on the list.  I was hoping I could come up with a fun little pillow that could live on one of our new couches.

The stitch-pattern swatch for this pillow actually started out as a scarf idea.

But as soon as I saw the "Neutrals" color pack of Croissant Sock yarn from the Kim Dyes Yarn Etsy Shop, it coordinated so perfectly with our living room that I decided to use this stitch pattern to make a pillow out of this color pack of yarn.  I still think this stitch pattern would make an adorable scarf though!

The gauge for this pattern is 23 sts x 37 rows = 4" x 4" in stockinette.  But if you're unable to match both the stitch and row gauge for the pattern, there's an entire page in the pattern dedicated to ways you can deal with differences in gauge.  (As a person who rarely matches both the stitch AND the row gauge when I knit other people's patterns, I feel your pain!)  Actually, neither of my testers were able to match both the stitch and row gauge in the pattern (neither tester was working with the recommended yarn though), but they both still came out with beautiful projects, so it can be done!  (Shout out & a big thank you to Linda & Jennee, who were both fantastic test knitters for this pattern!)

I had to laugh at myself when I was trying to photograph this pillow in an eye-catching way.  I realized that I'm so used to photographing garments & accessories being worn by a person, that I've given almost no thought to how to capture home items, and other things that don't really need to be shown with a human in the picture.

I breathed a sigh of relief when my cat hopped up on the couch as I was taking pictures and started to give herself a bath.  A living creature was all I needed to feel like I knew what I was doing!  (And as an awesome bonus, I managed to click just as her tongue was poking out to take another swipe at her paw!)

Before the cat showed up, I was using my current knitting project to try to liven up the photo a bit.

I call this one "Still Life with Two Pillows, a Bird Lamp, and Knitting."

Here's a close up where you can see the details - the basic knitting for this project is super easy...just a series of stripes in various colors of yarn.  Finishing details are vertical columns of stitches that can be done with duplicate stitch or as an applied crochet chain (don't worry, you don't need to have any crochet experience in order to do this!), sewing the two squares together to make a pillow case, then adding applied i-cord around the seams for a professional-looking finishing touch!

If you're nervous about any of these techniques, there are links in the pattern to videos demonstrating applied crochet chain, applied i-cord, grafting an i-cord into a circle, and another link to an illustrated article about different methods of seaming knits.

So if you have a room in your home that could use a little pop of color, or if you want a finished knitting project that you can display in your home, head over to the Checks and Chains Ravelry pattern page to get the individual pattern download, or, for a little bit more, you can get my 13-project "Color Packs & Stash Scraps" eBook.  This is the 6th project that is being added to the collection, so if you buy it now at the discounted price, you can still look forward to patterns for 7 additional projects appearing in your library in the coming weeks.  (The collection will be complete the week of Christmas.)

And make sure to check out the yarn in the Kim Dyes Yarn Etsy Shop.  She has a gorgeous variety of yarn in various weights.  Everything from solid & semisolids to veriegated & gradient color ways, as well as mini-skein color packs in gradients of various colors, bright rainbow mini skeins, and color bundles that have a "fall" or "easter colors" look to them.  Kim has a great eye for color - you won't be disappointed if you give her shop a chance!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

New Release: Ziggy Pop & Odd Harmonics

I had my fingers crossed SO HARD in the days leading up to our road trip this summer.

I had already spoken to the lovely people at Miss Babs about a couple projects I wanted to make with their yarn.  They had responded enthusiastically, and had promised to ship the yarn soon.  And since both projects I had planned would make PERFECT car-knitting projects, I hoped the yarn would show up before we had to leave town.

And it did....just two days before we took off for South Carolina!  I wound up my yarn cakes, printed out the rough drafts to my patterns, and had my projects all ready to go.

But I totally underestimated how long an 18-hour drive each way was....two of my three projects were totally complete by the time we arrived at our destination, and the third project was about half finished.

And we still had many days of laying on the beach (and knitting), car rides on the way to day trips (and knitting), and the entire ride back still to come!

So what's a knitter to do?

As I sat on the beach one afternoon, I decided to take my leftovers from the hat I had completed in the car, and come up with a second hat pattern that would use up the remaining yarn.

And that's the story of how this two-hat pattern set was born!

Ziggy Pop uses simple color work to create a brightly patterned hat.  Yarn is held double throughout the project which gives you a cushy, cozy fabric.

Odd Harmonics features saw-toothed stripes that look more difficult than they are.  This is very much a beginner's pattern - each row uses only 1 color.  The stripe patterning is very flexible.  Adding & subtracting stripes to better match up with the yarn you are trying to use up is very simple, as is modifying how slouchy you want the back of your hat.

If you are making the largest size of both of these patterns from one "Leftie Set", I would recommend making "Ziggy Pop" first since that pattern is more difficult to fudge if you run short on yarn.  If you are making any other sizes, getting 2 hats out of one "Leftie Set" should be very easy.

My sample hats used Miss Babs' "Pewter & Rainbow" Leftie Set, which contains one 400 yd. fingering-weight skein (gray) and 5 mini skeins that are approximately 40 yds each.  Because the yarn is held double, the Ziggy Pop hat uses a little over half the main color and most of each contrast color.  The Odd Harmonics Hat will use less than half the skein of main color, and less than 15 yds of each contrast color.

Odd Harmonics is written for 4 sizes, from baby through Adult M/L.  Ziggy Pop is written for just 2 sizes: the smaller size will fit a small child and the larger size will fit a medium adult.

My husband and son insisted that both hats were good for girls OR for boys, except they said that the Ziggy Pop I made was "a little girlie" because of the pinky-red zig zag.  Strangely enough, they did not have the same objection about Odd Harmonics, even though I used the scraps of the exact same pinky-red yarn for one of the stripes.

Boys are weird.

Since they are sister (or brother) patterns, these two hats come as a set.  You just can't get one pattern without the other.  You can purchase the 2-hat pattern set from either the Ziggy Pop or the Odd Harmonics Ravelry pattern listing pages.  Or, if you still haven't bought the whole Color Packs & Stash Scraps collection, maybe now is the time!  These two hats are the 4th and 5th project to join the eBook, with 8 more to come!  Take a look at the Ravelry eBook listing page here to see the full collection.  And remember, the price inches up each week as another pattern is released, so it'll never be cheaper to purchase than it is right now!