Boston Ivy Sweater, in Interweave Crochet Winter 2016

black and white drawing of young man in sweater with hat on.

Original idea for Boston Ivy.

I’ve been checking Ravelry and Interweave’s Crochet website for the last two weeks, waiting for the most recent issue of Interweave Crochet to come out.  And now, I’m pleased to announce that Interweave Crochet Winter 2016 is on the shelves (or will be in the next few days), and available to purchase.  In this issue is my design, Boston Ivy.  Boston Ivy is a design that’s near and dear to my heart, as it started out as a request for a sweater from my brother, Matthew.

Boston Ivy was originally pitched as an idea based off of my brother, Matthew, and his descriptors for a perfect sweater for him.

He wanted it to be warm.  Not necessarily sweater warm, but more like rugged sweater/jacket to wear outside.  Decoration and cables should be kept to a minimum.  It had to had to have a collar that would go around his neck, and it had to be something he could move and be active in.

At the same time I’d been playing around with a crochet or knitting technique involving using long strips of fabric.  I’d braid the fabric, and then pick up stitches on either side of the braid, making it look like a particularly interesting cable. Boston_Ivy_Sweater_medium While I’d seen the technique done, a little, in crochet lacework, I’d never seen it done on larger pieces.  I also hadn’t seen it done all that much.

I thought this was a great pity that I needed to remedy.

I began pitching the idea to a variety of magazines, with little interest.  Until Interweave Crochet.

Boston Ivy is a sweater for men and women.  It’s sturdy and comfortable, with drop shoulders and a distinctive braided pattern down sleeves and front.

Worked in single crochet thru the back loop, it creates a ribbing that’s warm and stretchy.

And I love it.


Post Mortem: Devil at Crossroads

Sockupied design calls can sometimes be hard if I don’t have a design already burning in the back of my brain.  In the case of Devil at Crossroads, I’d been fooling around on a train ride back from North Carolina.  I’d read about helix knitting on TECHknitting.  Naturally, when I learn something new, I like playing around with it to see how far things can go before they “break.”

The result of this brainstorming was this small little swatch.

So I put together a design proposal for Sockupied.  A little hint here: Sockupied when they give you the spec sheet (the document that tells you how to format your patterns), have a page where there are these little “mini-prompts.”  If you choose to fill them out, they’re meant to be used as inserts or marginalia for the main pattern.  After I finished Totem, I started thinking about the prompts.  One of them asks if you would like to write a mini-article on a technique in your pattern.

I thought, why don’t I write a full article to go with the pattern?

My sub looked like this:

But when I attached it to my email, I mentioned that I’d be willing to write a technique article to go along with the proposal.  Anne, the editor at Sockupied, liked this idea.  They asked for both the pattern and the article.

What are some of my thoughts on this proposal?  Well, I was pretty proud of my new layout for design submissions – the new logo, the boxes with the different color.  My swatch has a rather glaring mistake in the cable – I missed a shift and had to compensate.  I figured that the editor’s could overlook the mistake, which seems to be true.

In the proposal, the cuffs at the top of each sock are a different color.
 In the final piece, I chose to keep the helix stripping going up the entirety of the sock.  I think it was a better choice, simply because I didn’t have to write in the final pattern that each cuff would be a different color.

And on a final note: I didn’t name these socks.  CPAAG, a group on Ravelry, is a wonderful resource for coming up with names.  I’ll be using the benefits of their collective genius for time to come.

Post Mortem: Witchlace

It’s time for another round of Post Mortems!  I have to admit, I’ve dropped the ball with the last two releases – so while I’m away you get a double dose.  Witchlace today, and Devil at Crossroads later this week.

I tried to go back and look and see if I could find the design call for the Knit Picks Collection, but it’s been lost in the email transition, more than likely.  So you’ll have to do with my recolection.

Witchlace was a natural extension of Newport.  In Newport I used side to side shaping to create a ribbed effect.  In Witchlace, I wanted to push the idea  little bit further.  What else could I do with side to side shaping?

I also really wanted to make a yoked cardigan, mostly because I was pretty burnt out on figuring out shoulder shaping when working a design side to side.  I’d been swatching in the round with broomstick crochet for a while.  After I finished with Sunburst, I wanted to do more with broomstick, but I didn’t want to weave in nearly as many ends!

A yoked cardigan seemed like the right answer.  Plus, I love little glimpses of collarbones – that hint of skin is both very feminine and sexy!

At this point, I was still proposing with my old letterhead.  I’m really proud of the sketch here – I think it conveyed very well what I was going for.  I dithered a lot about cutting out her head or not, but I’d really messed up on her face and didn’t want to do the sketch over, so I just cropped it out.  I don’t think it hurts the sub too much.

I’m not sure what I’d write about things I’d do differently or well.  As I mentioned before, I think my “hooks” (the little intros I write that frame the piece) are well done, but I don’t have much proof that they influence the publisher’s choice or not.  I think that the hooks matter a little more in magazines (where I find they are sometimes used) more than design collections like this one.  Shortly after this submission I went to my new letterhead and logo, which I think was a good improvement.

Have a Post Mortem?  Are you talking about your design subs and what you think you did well, or not?  Let me know, I’d love to feature you, or do a writeup!

Post Mortem: Newport

Newport started as a submission titled Whisper.

I knew I wanted to design for Classic Elite Yarns, and had gotten in touch with someone on Ravelry who had designed for them before, asking how I would go about approaching them.  The Ravelry user told me that Classic Elite has a mailing list for designers who want to know about design calls.  The Ravelry user gave me the person to contact, and I went about emailing CEY.  There’d been a design call that had ended a day or two ago, but CEY said if I could pull a proposal off by the end of the week, they would consider it.

The design call featured lots of color blocks, open and airy pieces (makes sense – it is the spring call).  Some of the pictures had a beach in the background, or sailor themed jackets.  You can see some of the slides that were included below:

In about a day I pulled together my design proposal, as you can see below:

Or view above.
Things I Did Well:
  • I followed the design demands.
  • I’ve got a clear schematic, that is actually really well drawn, considering.
  • My sketch approximates colors that Classic Elite actually carries in Classic Silk
  • I’ve got a bio, my contact information, needles needed, how it’s worked up, and a lot of other information that helps them come to an informed decision.
  • Right Place, Right time.  I was late, but I just happened to submit a crochet pattern in the yarn they needed to fill in the CEY Crochet Booklet.  I was late, but somehow, I managed to be the thing they needed right then.  Being in the right place at the right time cannot be discounted.  And the only way to do that is to put yourself forward.  If I’d decided to put myself forward a week later, it would have been too late, I’m sure.

What I could have done better:

  • The Sketch seems rough, which it is.  I was rushed.  Also, I think she looks rather like a boy.  Not a bad thing, but not what I was going for.
  • I wish it was on one page.  One page is about all people have the attention for, luckily my second page is just a visual, and not much reading.  Acceptable.
  • The bio needs to be smaller.  Gosh, that took up so much space that I could have used for other things.
  • The swatch is not blocked very well, and is rather small and long.  I would have liked to have done something wider so it gave a better idea of fabric – but again, time.
Some nitpicky personal things:
  • you’ll notice the sleeves are shaped differently than is said in the sketch.  I figured out the way I imagined was a lot of fabric and didn’t look good.
  • Also, there’s only one sleeve length in the final pattern.  Grading one sleeve length was enough.  Don’t need long sleeves on a spring pattern either.
  • Shaping is done differently than described: I use short rows instead of shaping like the Cap-Sleeve Top by Mary Jane Hall that inspired the pattern.  This, I think, is a good thing.
  • The name changed.  This happens in about 50% of patterns, especially in magazines and cohesive collections like CEY puts out.  They have a theme, and the name will be changed to reflect the theme.  I think Newport is a better name than Whisper anyway.
So what are your thoughts?  What could have been done better?  What do you think worked well?  Are you surprised by anything?  How does the proposal compare to the original?

One last thing: I’m not the only one who is doing Post Mortems.  Check out this post inspired by my last Post Mortem.

Check out the Proposal! Totem

When I first
started designing, one of the most helpful resources I had access to was a
thread on Ravelry (actually, it might have been several) that outlined
successful proposals that designers had sent publishers.  In the spirit of giving to others, I’ve been
wanting to open a series of posts about successful proposals that I have done,
in the hopes that other budding designers can learn from them.
I’m also doing
it in the spirit of a Theatre Traditon (actors and stagehands and practically everyone that has something to do with the stage are big on traditions) which
is called the Post Mortem (debriefing).  Literally
“after death”, it’s a meeting after the run of a play that talks about what has
been done well, what didn’t go well, and what would be changed in the future.  Nobody’s perfect.  There’s always room to improve.
So in that
spirit, this is my proposal for Sockupied Spring 2013.
You can take a look at it here, or it is embedded below.

I actually sent
them two proposals, but one of them I’m sending out to other magazines, so I
can’t show you yet.  But I can show you
the one that got in.
Things that were
done well:

  • Big
    picture of the swatch.  Well photographed
    and in good light.  A must.
  •  Outline
    of inspiration – a fair amount of companies, I’ve found, often use the language
    from my inspiration post that I write on my proposals.  It works for me, so I keep doing it.
  •  I
    meet the design call requirements – I have my contact information, the yarn
    needed, and construction details.  I have
    a brief bio that I always use.
  • I high-lighted that this pattern works well in multicolored and solid yarns.  A lot of companies like patterns that are
    able to do this, and in this case, it made a good fit for the One Sock Two Ways
    feature in Sockupied.
  • It’s
    one page. 

Things that I could have done better:  

  • My
    drawing skills need to improve.  I could have
    made a much better drawing – and this is something I’m working to fix.  On the other hand, as long as the drawing is
    functional and conveys what you want it to convey – don’t stress out about it
    too much.  Companies are hiring a
    designer for their knit or crochet ability – not their drawing ability.
  • I
    could have used a more professional layout. This I’ve already fixed.  I hired someone shortly after I submitted this to create a logo for me, and
    later in the year I’ll be hiring the same person (Knitterella) to do layout
    design for me.   This is the first way
    many editors meet me – it always pays to present yourself well.

Have you submitted any proposals to be published?  What do you think went well?  What could have went better?

In Conversation with Michael

Me: *wanders into the bathroom to brush teeth and see that Peake is playing with the drops coming out of the shower*  “Michael, Peake’s still playing with the yarn droplets, and he’s all wet.”

Michael: Yarn Droplets?

Me (confused): Yarn droplets coming out of the shower.

Michael: Yarn Droplets?

Me: Yarn droplets.

Michael: Don’t you mean water droplets?

Me: *Blinks* Oh, yeah.

My brain just completely switched the word for water for yarn.  To be fair, I’m working on a design that has to do with water right now, and is in a waterish color, and I’d spent the last hour knitting and meditating on the intersection of water and land – yarn and water were kinda already twined in my mind.

But I’m kinda glad that it’s Michael who shares my space.  He has 5 years figuring this stuff out.

Knitting and Crocheting through Hurricane Sandy (Frankenstorm)

my hair got in the way when I was working,
 hence the hairbrush

We interrupt the normally scheduled program to say that there’s a storm outside.  Those on the East Coast have probably noticed.  Even if you aren’t on the east coast, you’ve probably heard about it.  If you live in the US and haven’t heard about Hurricane Sandy… well, I’m in awe of you.  I thought I was the most disconnected person from the news, and even I heard about it a few days ago.

Anyhoo, Michael and I have holed up in the apartment with the cats.  We have plenty of everything, and are now just hoping the power doesn’t go out long enough that the stuff in our freezer thaws.

 I also stayed home from work, which feels much like a snow day did when I was a child: I get an extra day to catch up before I have to go back to real life.  I’ve been using the time to work on design submissions (mostly for Knitpicks, though also for Sockupied), blog posts, and various other things that normally don’t get done until the last moment.

swatches for propopsals –
tiny so I don’t give away too much.

This hurricane reminds me much of a Nor’Easter we had when I was 8? 7? 6?  Somewhere around there.  We had planted a new tree in the front yard at the end of Summer – not the best time to plant, but trees go on sale then, so cheaper.  The wind and snow was blowing such that the snow was going sideways, and we took bets throughout the two days we were holed up as to when the small tree would give up the ghost and go down.

The tree actually did stay up (and as far as I know it’s still beside the house.  But I feel like Michael and I are making bets as to how long the power is going to stay on.  Will it stay on until this evening so when we are done working we can watch M*A*S*H?  Or will it futz out sometime during the night?

It makes me really happy that my hobbies are not technology based.  Technology makes things easier, but it’s not impossible to get by without them.

What are you doing to while away the storm?  Were you able to work from home?  Are you watching from the West Coast?  Let me know.

The Design Process, Part 2, The Sample

The other week, I realized that many people who knit or crochet never give much thought to how they get their patterns.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be talking about the different phases of the design process, and why a pattern might not be as perfect as you wanted it to be.  Last week I talked about the concept.  Today I’ll be talking about the sample, and in the next few weeks you’ll read about the pattern, photography, and layout.

A designer has pitched an idea to a publisher, and signed a contract to create a pattern and sample.  What happens next?

If a designer is lucky, they have a fair amount of time to turn around and create a design, but this isn’t always true.  It takes time for a publisher to choose a yarn to send the designer and for the mail to get it to them.  A designer might also be working on several different designs at once, and have to juggle multiple competing deadlines.  Turnaround time can be anything from 2-8 weeks.

Sample for my Teaching Socks

Wait, you say.  A designer doesn’t always get to choose the yarn?  Normally, a designer gets some say in what yarn they want to use: the weight and fiber content.  However, they don’t always get to choose what color or even necessarily the yarn line they want to use.  While a designer might pitch to a company for a project to be made in a wool worsted weight yarn, the company might change it to a cotton wool blend, if that is the yarn that needs to be highlighted in the issue.  If a designer is working for a magazine, the magazine might have agreements with specific yarn companies to feature their yarn in the magazine.  

Alternatively, if a designer is working for a company, the specific yarn style or color they might want may be in the process of being discontinued or not longer available.  There’s the expectation of a certain amount of flexibility on the part of the designer.

When the designer receives the agreed upon yarn, it then becomes time for them to craft a sample.  The sample is the garment that will be used to publicize the design.  It’s a way for a designer to work the pattern, and figure out if there are any problem areas.  The sample will be used for the photography for the design (like the pictures at Tangled of my Sunburst Shawl), and afterwards, it might be shipped out to yarn stores in a trunk show or displayed at booths at trade shows.  Sometimes, after all this is done, the designer might get back their sample.  Most times however, it remains the property of the publisher.

A variety of methods and processes exist in how a sample gets made.  Some designers write the pattern first, and then use the sample to test out the pattern they have written. 

Sometimes the designer writes the pattern, and then hires someone else to make the sample for him or her.  Some designers aren’t able to write a pattern without making the sample, so make the garment and take careful notes as they go, so they can write the instructions afterwards.

Hopefully, the pattern goes as expected.  It might not.  The designer might find that the yarn they swatched with works out differently than the yarn they were sent.  Perhaps they find that the yarn is too heavy for the construction of their sample, or the stitches don’t like they way the designer expected.  Occasionally the way the garment is made has to be totally re-imagined.

The last part of working the sample is the finishing.  This might involve blocking the individual pieces before putting them together.  It might mean adding buttons, blocking out lace, weaving in ends, adding zippers, lining, or fixing imperfections.

It’s then time to move toward writing the pattern.

The Design Process, Part 1, the Concept

The other day, I was talking to a customer about a pattern from a magazine.  She had come across a line that was particularly confusing in one part of the pattern, and had come into The Yarn Spot seeking help.  We puzzled over it for a couple of minutes and managed to get the pattern sorted out.

“I wish she had explained it better.  You would think that a designer would have more pride in their work,” I remember her saying.

At the time I let the comment stand, because I could understand her frustration. But as a designer, I felt it would be interesting to talk about patterns and their relationship with designers. The design process encompasses much more than just the pattern in the magazine.  It is entirely possible that the designer explained the pattern better in their original draft, but because of space constraints a magazine editor revised it to be shorter, sacrificing clarity.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing about the different aspects of what happens during the design process, and why a pattern might not be as perfect as a designer wanted it to be.  I’ll be discussing the design process by further breaking it down into 5 key phases (though they don’t always come in this order):  the concept, the sample, the pattern, photography, and layout.

Let’s start with The concept.

Approximately 4-9 months before a magazine, booklet, book, or single pattern is scheduled to be published, the publisher sends out a design call.

Depending on the company and the medium, a design call can be many different things.  For a magazine, the editors might have a specific  theme in mind for that issue of the magazine.  For example, Interweave Knits might be doing a spring issue, and they want transitional pieces, pieces that move from winter to spring.  A yarn company might publish booklets to go with their yarn.  Classic Elite Yarn might want something that highlights their Classic Silk yarn.  Someone might want to publish a book all on designs inspired by Sherlock Holmes.  Once a publisher decides on the details of their theme, they put out a press release (most commonly via e-mail or on their website {like here, here or here) talking about the types of designs they want.  

Drawing of Idea

Designers are constantly keeping track of these different design calls.  Not all design calls fit all designers, so most pick and choose which ones they want to work on, and which ones they have the most likely-hood of getting into.


Then, designers dream.  They draw pictures, create swatches, do math and layout schematics.  Finally they come up with an idea that they think it will work.  They put together everything they have done – the drawing, swatches, schematics and submit it to the company.

Designers then wait, work on other projects they have under contract and plan other ideas for design calls.  If their proposal is what the editors are looking for, they are notified with an offer to publish their design.  A contract with the publisher is signed, and the publisher (most often) sends them the yarn to create the sample.

But that’s another post.

September Monthly Pattern Update

Every month I do a pattern update, making note of what’s in the docket, what has been turned in, and what has been published.  Someday someone (probably me) will aggregate all this information and come to some conclusions someday.

Totem (working title) – Sock Pattern
Totem was kinda crazy – I had to do three socks in three weeks.  It’s been turned in to Sockupied in Sep., and you should see the fruits of my efforts in the Spring Issue.

Totoro (working title) – Sock Pattern
Pattern turned into Three Irish Girls, and pattern tester has knitted it.  Final draft turned in Sep.  Should be published sometime in the Winter.

Isis Wings (working title) – Sock Pattern
Pattern turned into Three Irish Girls, and pattern tester has knitted it.  Final draft turned in Sep.  Should be published sometime in the Winter.

Crochet Top (working title) – Crochet Short Sleeved Pullover
Pattern turned into Classic Elite Yarns in August.  Should be published in the Spring.

Crochet Meets in Middle (working title) – Crochet Pullover
All but last pattern done.

Proposals turned in this month: 2 (shameful – I had a lot going on this month though)

Classes Taught: none

Classes Coming Up: none