Jim

One thing about working at home, one loses track of the days, the day, the date. I went on my merry way all day today without realizing what day it was. As it turns out, 24 years ago today (!) I lost my cousin Jim. He was… amazing. In a note given to my aunt upon his death, Jim was described as being at once a good man to have by your side in a fight, the best friend you could ever have, and a poet.

auntginny-asbaby

He was also the older brother I never had, the only son, only child, of my mother’s sister. I was the sister he never had. He, the bother I never had. We were only children of sisters. We shared… everything. I miss him so. My heart still aches, even after all this time.

Jim

Until just before I turned 31 years old, Jim was always three years older, three years smarter, three years more clever. With just two exceptions, he won every game we every played. (I won one normal game of checkers, and one unforgettable game of gin rummy. That’s it. That’s all. It was all fabulous.)

Souders

I’ll never forget when he came home from his second tour in the Europe, drove more than 200 miles up to the town I lived in. Amidst all the traffic I heard his car drive up to the curb in front of my house. He got out of the car about the time I emerged from the house. He ran up the walk as I ran down it. He grabbed me, swung me around in a circle, hugged me close. We laughed.

jimandme1967

Even after all these years I miss you terribly, dear cousin.

People will forget what you said.
People will forget what you did.
People will never forget how you made them feel.
Maya Angelou

Designer interview: Adrienne Ku

This is the third and final interview I’m doing for the GAL2014 event. Adrienne Ku has a nice selection of socks, lace, and colorwork patterns in her catalog. She lives and designs in Illinois, and can be found around the web: Drin on Ravelry (Mushroom Knits designs), her blog, and on Twitter. Please continue to learn a bit about Adrienne. By the way, Adrienne has a nice surprise for you, if you make it all the way to the end of this post. Just saying.

How did you get started designing?

Adrienne: I guess I started designing shortly after learning to knit. I didn’t really look at it as “designing” though, I was simply making it up as I went along. The thought of writing up and publishing my work never even crossed my mind until I joined a local knitting group. A wonderful group of ladies, always supporting each other in any way possible. They encouraged me to put my designs out there and just see what happens. Eventually, I decided to give it a try. I did my research and played around with publishing on Ravelry. I finally published my first real pattern, Simple Skyp Socks and was absolutely blown away by the response. All the positive comments and feedback from people I had never met, complete strangers, it was every encouraging. What really surprised me was how much I enjoyed seeing the projects other people made with my design. That’s still the thing I love most about designing.

What is your usual process on a fiber project, for instance, do you start with a yarn, a cute pattern, a need you’ve noticed, something exciting you saw in a movie you want to copy, or a technique you want to learn—then what do you do next, and then what?

Adrienne: For me it almost always starts with the yarn. First, I think about the characteristics that make that specific yarn special and what type of project the yarn is best suited for. Next, I think about what type of fabric would most highlight that yarn’s special characteristics. At this point, I start to think about the design details. Sometimes the yarn is perfect for a design idea I have in my sketchbook, other times I will flip through my stitch dictionaries looking for something to jump out at me. Next comes the swatching, lots and lots of swatching. Once I am satisfied with the stitch patterns I’ve chosen, I sit down and write the pattern. Finally, it’s time to cast on.

What are some of your favorite materials, including yarns, knitting tools, books…?

Adrienne: Oh my! I have so many favorites, I could go on for days! But the one knitting gadget that I simply would not want to be without would be my darning mushrooms. My love for them borders on obsession! It’s the perfect tool and not just for darning socks, it comes in quite handy when tightening up the stitches after grafting the toe. Over the years my collection has grown considerably and I love each and every one. Some are new but most of them are quite old and show years of use, covered in dings and scratches from darning needles. My favorites are the ones that the handle unscrews from the mushroom cap top to reveal a hidden compartment in the handle to hold your darning needles. Absolutely brilliant! I love my darning mushrooms.

Darning mushrooms

Darning mushrooms

You have some lovely lace designs. Can you tell us what inspires you about working with lace?

Adrienne: That’s so kind of you to say, thank you. I have always been drawn to lace knitting. To be honest, when I was a new knitter I thought stockinette was “hard” and more suited for advanced knitters. The inconsistency in my gauge and every little mistake seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. Lace is so much more forgiving. It allowed me to become more confident in my knitting, I could look at a finished piece and see the beauty in it as a whole rather than only seeing all the little individual mistakes. When I am working on a new lace design I try to make it as accessible as possible to knitters of all skill levels. There are so many simple and lovely lace patterns, lace doesn’t have to be “hard” and more importantly, it doesn’t have to be “hard” to be beautiful. (Ed.: Learning Curve and 20 Days are two of my favorites.)

Learning Curve

Learning Curve

20 Days

20 Days

Will you have any new releases during the GAL 2014
period? If so, please tell us about them.

Adrienne: I will be releasing a new pattern, Alpine Lattice—a matching hat and cowl worked in a simple colorwork pattern (only work with one color per row). This pattern had previously been available exclusively through Signature Needle Arts and will now be available through my Ravelry pattern store as well.

Special offer

Now through December 31, 2014, get 25% off any of Adrienne’s designs in her Ravelry store using the coupon code Mushrooms.

Designer interview: Michelle May

Next up in the GAL2014 event, another interview! This time I am pleased to share an interview with knit and crochet designer Michelle May. Michelle can be found around the web: Shellbot on Ravelry (designs here), and her website. She can also be found on Etsy, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Michelle lives in Guisborough, Cleveland, United Kingdom, and has a wonderfully adorable ravatar. Please read on to meet Michelle.

Michelle May

Michelle May, a self portrait

How did you get started designing?

Michelle: I picked up knitting as a hobby in February 2012, and got it into my head that I wanted to design probably about 2 weeks later. That’s just the sort of person I am, always tinkering with things and making up my own ways of doing things, and my background in graphic design made it an obvious leap to make. After a couple of months I also learned to crochet, and knew that one day I’d like to design for both crafts.

A few design sketches started to appear, but I quickly realised that I had no idea how to actually construct half the things in my head. So my new priority became knitting from various other patterns, studying how they worked, picking things apart, making modifications to every pattern I used.

Finally this May, with my 30th birthday rapidly approaching, the idea for Tessellate hit and I decided to try and publish while still in my 20s. Just so I could say I’d done it!

Tessellate

Tessellate

Tessellate was published on May 29th, two days before my birthday. It was immediately popular and sold far far more copies than I’d ever have expected. Admittedly it was on birthday sale, but still, it made turning 30 a lot less traumatic than it otherwise might have been.

Summer this year was hard. A friend since college (and keen knitter herself) lost her battle with cancer at only 31 and my heart just wasn’t in a crafting place for a while. When my first crochet pattern was published in a magazine in June, it was one of the most exciting things that had ever happened to me and kicked me back into gear designing-wise. Now I’m obsessed, and talk about design ideas far too much to anyone who will listen.

What is your usual process on a fiber project, for instance, do you start with a yarn, a cute pattern, a need you’ve noticed, something exciting you saw in a movie you want to copy, or a technique you want to learn — then what do you do next and then what?

Michelle: Since money and time are both in short supply, I made the probably common decision to design things that I can wear and use myself. So usually a pattern idea will occur because I’m lying in a bubble bath thinking about what to wear to something and think “wouldn’t it be great if I had a nice skinny scarf to go with that outfit?,” or “we’re going on holiday to Iceland, I really need a warm hat,” or similar. This results in a huge list of potential design ideas, and from those I can choose the things that might appeal to other people too. So far, I have to say, that stage of the process has been pretty hit and miss.

Next up, because I am still relatively new to this, comes the “is this physically possible?” stage. So far the answer has been no on two occasions, but those pattern ideas are stockpiled against the day a solution occurs to me. Then comes swatching, settling on/modifying stitch patterns, and attempting (operative word there “attempting”) to write at least most of the pattern without knitting it up. Since I can usually only afford yarn for one sample, I can then knit along with the draft pattern and make any changes as I go rather than knitting it up twice.

What are some of your favorite materials, including yarns, knitting tools, books…?

Michelle: Being in the UK can often mean limited access to nice yarns, as most LYSes here stock nothing but endless pastel acrylics, so along with a lot of UK knitters I’m forced to buy my yarn online without seeing or squidging it beforehand. As a result, yarn purchases have varied in their success!

Thankfully Wool Warehouse (which I highly recommend to any other UK knitters) now stocks a nice range of Cascade yarns, which I’ve been using on a number of designs. As a frugal-by-necessity knitter, my favourite materials are those that don’t cost a ton and provide good quality and I’m happy to say that so far all the Cascade yarns I’ve tried have been great. They even have a handy guide to match their colorways to NFL teams, which I will take advantage of just as soon as personal knitting time becomes available. Go Pack go!

I’m not much of a knitting book collector, to be honest. Not even stitch dictionaries. Instead I prefer to put together my own resources with Pinterest, for example you can see my “lace stitches” board. So I’d vote Pinterest as one of my favourite “knitting tools”, along with the blanket that I’m always curled up in while knitting and also a nice glass of Baileys. Those count, right?

Does anything intimidate you in knitting?

Michelle: No! I made a conscious decision early on in my knitting career not to be intimidated, not to stick to “beginner” patterns, and not to skip knitting pretty things just because they used a new-to-me technique. It’s worked well so far, a month after initially learning to knit I’d already jumped into knitting a lace shawl, Florelei, and while it has a few mistakes, I love it anyway and had a lot of fun knitting it, and isn’t that the whole point?

This “I can do that!” attitude is something I’m keen to share with others, so you’ll often see me pushing people out of their comfort zones and reassuring newbies that yes, they really can knit cables, in my work as moderator of the New Knitters group over on Ravelry.

Actually that emphatic “no!” might not be entirely true. I find people creating project pages from my Ravelry patterns to be extremely intimidating and frankly terrifying. Hopefully this is something that gets easier with time.

As a new designer, what do you find the most challenging aspect of designing?

Michelle: As mentioned above, sometimes I have ideas that are just downright impossible to create (whether in general or just at my current skill level). I’m working on that. There’s also the inevitable feeling of being a phoney whenever I see the other beautiful designs being released, but that’s apparently very common.

Otherwise the most difficult parts for me tend to be more social as I’m a very shy person. Like, lock myself in the bathroom at a birthday party and freak out in tears until they have to call my grandma to come pick me up, that level of shyness. Simply posting about a new pattern on Ravelry, Pinterest etc. usually takes a bit of mental preparation and a few deep breaths. I’ve had no issues with pattern customers so far, but am aware from my other online ventures that dealing with bad feedback can cause me to burst into tears and avoid working on anything else for the rest of the week.

Oh and photography. Everyone hates doing pattern photography, I promise mine will get better with time.

Do you get to do any “selfish knitting”?

Michelle: Hah, I wish! Well technically at least some of my pattern samples count as “selfish knitting”. Today is a chilly one so I’m sat here at my laptop wearing the sample pair for my Inversion Gloves pattern, for example.

Inversion Gloves

Inversion Gloves

I did manage to knit a couple of tops for myself over the summer, but of course holiday season is a little more frantic and I’m currently in the middle of trying to finish off four, yes FOUR, Christmas jumpers for friends.

A couple of patterns magically jumped into my Ravelry cart during the GAL sale so I guess there’s that to look forward to in the new year too.

Will you have any new releases during the GAL 2014 period? If so, please tell us about them.

Michelle: Yes! Well, a re-release at least. My first ever crochet pattern was my Celluloid Beret, the exclusive period with the magazine is now over and I’m working on pulling everything together as a Ravelry download. I’m very excited because it was such a scary experience working with a magazine for the first time, but somehow I made it and seeing my name in print really helped to get me through this summer. Release date is yet to be confirmed, as we need some actual daylight to happen to take new photos!

Celluloid Beret

Celluloid Beret

A new cowl design was also slated for release in late Nov/early Dec. Unfortunately the Christmas knitting is currently taking over my entire life so to avoid piling even more stress on myself I’ll answer that part of the question with a definite “maybe.”

If anyone would like to keep an eye on my new releases, you can get new pattern announcements by signing up to the newsletter in the sidebar of my blog, The Giddy Knitter.

Designer interview: Elizabeth Felgate

Next up in the GAL2014 event, I am pleased to share this delightful interview with knitting designer Elizabeth Felgate. Liz can be found around the web: lizjuk on Ravelry, Elizabeth Felgate Designs on Ravelry, and her blog. She lives in beautiful Bath, Wiltshire, United Kingdom, which explains the wonderful spelling of things like favourite instead of favorite, and colourwork instead of colorwork. If she had her druthers, she’d knit everything in gray, which makes her lovely Verdant Shawl all the more special to people like me who revel in color—besides, it’s a wonderful rich green, which is one of my all time favorites. Please read on to meet Liz.

Verdant Shawl

Verdant Shawl

How did you get started designing?

Liz: I started designing almost as soon as I started knitting because I stumbled across Elizabeth Zimmerman books, and began making her percentage sweaters, which give you the tools to make custom sizes and design elements. My first properly published, paid-for design came about when I made a big and complicated lace shawl for a friend that I designed from scratch. I’d needed to make up all the charts for my own purposes, so I thought why not write it up? And then I just kept going…

When you want to learn something, do you look it up in a book, on U-tube, or seek a real person to teach you?

Liz: All three! Books are the place I turn to browse for pattern stitches or to learn a subject in depth. I find the internet/u-tube invaluable for learning specific techniques. And for the “what do you think of this?” type questions you need a person.

What are some of your favorite materials, including yarns, knitting tools, books…?

Liz: I love my interchangeable circular needles. I do almost everything with them. Yarns are hard—I love them all—and every yarn has its place. That said, I love good rustic pure wool for sweaters and alpaca and silk mixes for lace work. And I absolutely love using the work of independent dyers when I can. When it comes to books my favourites are those that free the knitter by teaching you how to create or adapt designs, teach techniques—something I really try to do in my own designs by offering lots of possible variations and ways to adapt a given design to get people thinking. I’ve already mentioned Elizabeth Zimmerman (I’m a big fan), but I also love books by Ann Budd —everyone should own “The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns” because it gives you basic templates for almost everything you would want to make at multiple sizes and gauges just ready to put your own stamp on. Another one that I refer to constantly is Leslie Ann Bestor’s “Cast On, Bind Off”—it is a brilliant compilation of different ways to start and end knitting.

Does anything intimidate you in knitting?

Liz: There’s nothing I won’t try. I’ll admit to feeling trepidation when I cut my first steek! I suppose I must relish a bit of knitting adrenalin, because I just love inventing new constructions—and that does carry the inherent risk of failure (and I have consigned a few to the frog pond)—but it has produced some of my most popular designs, like the Artisan sweater, which is knit flat but then completely knit together so that there are no seams at all to sew.

Artisan pullover

Artisan pullover

As a relatively new designer, what do you find the most challenging aspect of designing?

Liz: For me it is probably trying to think about each project as part of a portfolio of work rather than just one piece on its own. For example, I would probably happily have knit every one of my designs in grey (for which I have a decided penchant)—but that might well limit my appeal to a wider audience. And in fact there is at least one of my designs that I should not have knit all in grey (the Subtle Hat) because it just cries out to be knit in stripes so that people can appreciate the construction. And of course you have to think about your work in terms not only of your own portfolio, but of the entire portfolio of designs out there. The real challenge is coming up with designs that stand out enough to get you noticed.

The Subtle Hat

The Subtle Hat

Do you get to do any “selfish knitting”?

Liz: I don’t really see any knitting as selfish. I need clothes as much as the next person :).

Will you have any new releases during the GAL 2014 period? If so, please tell us about them.

Liz: I released Candy buttons (a fun hat for children with colourwork “buttons”) just two days before the GAL and I’ve three more coming in December. The first is another hat which is likely to be called “The Brother” and which has been designed to be slightly more interesting to knit and look at than the average man hat (but still a simply enough look that it will be worn)—this will be the first of a series of family themed hats. I’m also releasing a simple tunic sweater for girls in a textured stitch (see gamine tunic in my projects) and the first of series of shawls based on Charlotte Bronte characters. This one is a very large shawl called Caroline Helstone and it has lots of techniques to make it an exciting knit (again photos in my projects).

Huge thanks to Liz for taking the time to talk with us. Be sure to visit her design page on Ravelry, and to participate in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long, so that you have the opportunity to win one of the hundreds of prizes offered, including ten prizes from yours truly.