a birthday, and octopus cardigan progress

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M made me a birthday cupcake!

Yesterday I celebrated my 36th birthday! I had an incredibly busy day at work, followed by M’s violin lesson and my own orchestra rehearsal, but topped it off with a concert – my husband got tickets to Joshua Bell’s performance with the Eastman Philharmonic and it was wonderful. He played the Bruch violin concerto, which has always been special to me, as it was one of the two concertos (the other was the Mendelssohn) that were on a CD that my first violin teacher gave me when she passed me to my next violin teacher, with the words, “I look forward to hearing you play these!” on the card that was taped to the CD cover. I listened to that CD over and over and over, and thought that would never happen, but it turned out that the Bruch violin concerto was the first (and last) solo piece I played with an orchestra, back when I was in high school. It was really lovely to hear it played last night, and my fingers were dancing along with the music. (I’d sound like garbage on it now, I think…those high school days are now officially at least half a lifetime ago!)

Anyway, besides turning one year older, I’ve also been making progress on M’s Octopus Yoke cardigan, and it was in a state where I could get her to try it on:

Trying on the sweater-in-progress

Always a relief to see that it’s fitting, especially when I’m knitting bottom-up, which makes it harder to tell. She’s excited about the idea of being a cardigan, and she REALLY wants me to put a zipper in it, so I guess that’s what I’ll be doing!

Imagining the future zipper closure.

I need to switch to a smaller cable before the next round of decreases (it barely fits on the needle as-is!) but fewer stitches means faster progress – I think this’ll be finished before the end of April, which means M will be able to wear it for Show and Tell at the final Rochester Knitting Guild meeting of the year. (Maybe I’ll show off my new stripey sweater then, too!)

From the back

After this sweater, I’m not sure what’ll be next on my needles – there are so many possible sweaters I could knit just from what I have in my stash, both other people’s patterns and designs of my own that I want to knit up. We’ll see!

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am i a designer?

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In my last post, I mentioned having complicated thoughts about publishing patterns for the things I’ve designed recently, and since I’m in a very brief window of time in the semester where I don’t actually have any student work that needs feedback (that changes tomorrow!), I’m going to try to think through those thoughts in writing, as is my way. I’m prompted to think about publishing patterns because there’s been interest expressed in a pattern for the sweater I just finished, and I don’t have a good answer for people as to when I’ll be releasing a pattern for it. Maybe this summer? Maybe never?

pockets!

I mean, I’ve knit a lot of things of my own design in the years since my daughter was born, always thinking that I’d maybe publish them…I mean, I literally probably have a full book worth of designs for parents + kids…and I have published precisely zero patterns since then. This isn’t a coincidence; it turns out that having a baby, finishing a Ph.D, and starting a full-time faculty position haven’t left me with much time to devote to pattern-writing! My brain still comes up with design ideas, and I still have the skills to turn those ideas into reality for myself and my daughter, but knitting a bespoke sweater/hat/mitten and writing a pattern so that ANYONE can knit one are very different things.

Should've made the sleeves a bit longer, too!
One of the many options for a “parent-child” knits collection

One big positive change that has been taking place in the knit design world (and also in the sewing pattern design world, I think?) is the push towards more inclusive sizing. This is WONDERFUL! I’m really excited about it. But it’s also something I don’t really know how to do. I mostly design for myself (or my child), and that’s the body I know how to fit. Mine is not exactly a “standard” body; I do have a 34” bust measurement, which is often “sample” size for sweater patterns, but since I’m quite flat-chested, the circumference mostly comes from a big ribcage, so my fit considerations are a bit different than those of someone whose 34” bust comes via a C-cup. My point, though, is that even with my not-quite-model-standard body, I’m still solidly in the “standard” size range, and as problematic as that range is, it is what I am intimately familiar with, and it’s the body I can easily use to model my own designs (which, as I mentioned earlier, are usually designed *for me* in the first place…but since I’m a petite white lady, using myself as the model if I want to create inclusive patterns feels a little problematic). And when it comes to inclusive sizing, maybe this is the perfectionist in me talking, but I really, really don’t want to do it wrong or badly. I’d rather not publish designs at all than publish designs that aren’t size-inclusive, but I also only want to publish size-inclusive patterns if I can do a GOOD job of it. If anyone knows of good resources for learning more about sizing for all bodies, please point me to them!

We never took “real” finished photos of M’s Stripes! Cardigan at the time when I finished it. It’s crazy cold today but she was a good sport about modeling!
Yet another option for a parent-child knits collection

I think another issue I have when I think about whether or not to dip my toes back into the “designer” waters is that I’m not even remotely a natural “entrepreneur”: I’m really, truly, deeply clueless about all of the logistics involved in pattern publishing and promotion. Like, if I wanted to publish a book of parent-child knits (I certainly have enough design ideas to fill one)…how?? How does that actually work? Do I just decide I’m going to do it, or do I reach out to some publishers, or what? And if I just decide I’m going to do it, via self-publishing…how? Or is it better to do individual patterns, rather than a collection? I think I’d be more comfortable collaborating with someone else on a pattern collection than doing one all by my lonesome (this tends to be true of me in many domains; I’m a great research collaborator, for example, but am pretty lousy about getting stuff done as a solo researcher).

Cutie patootie
And another for the parent-child collection

I’ve also never actually sought out yarn support before; the only times I’ve worked with yarns that weren’t from my stash were when I designed for Twist Collective and for Wool People, and that was all handled by People Who Weren’t Me. So I don’t know how that part of things works, either. I’d be happy to design patterns for yarns that are in my stash, as a way of knitting the stash down, but many of those are discontinued. I don’t know much about the pattern sales world, but I do know that patterns that use “popular”, currently-available yarns sell better. I tend to prefer knitting and designing with fairly “basic” woolen-spun yarns, which don’t tend to be as “popular” as the hand-dyed superwash merino sock yarns and such (though it seems there’s a growing “niche” interest in the more basic wool yarns, which makes me happy!)

a girl and her leaf.
I actually wrote a pattern for this hat (and matching mittens) but haven’t done anything with it

Which actually brings me to another piece of things that I have a lot of complicated feelings about, which is the necessity of self-promotion and the tangled relationships between pattern creators and yarn creators and how all of that plays out on social media. I mean, I can be quite the evangelist for things I’m excited about, but I’m not always comfortable with self-promotion and publicity, and I don’t think I have it in me to promote a pattern (or collection) the way that I see others doing. I’m intimidated by that kind of use of social media, and it also feels like a minefield to me. The minefield aspect isn’t inherently bad – I mean, I do want people to be thinking about the ethics of their choice of yarn, and the diversity of their models, and their language, and to be held accountable for all of those things – but I think doing that well (and showing accountability when you fall short) requires an amount of energy and attention devoted to online life that I frankly don’t have, as someone who would always be doing this work alongside being a professor and a parent and a musician…that is, very much part-time.

Doing a pocket quality-control check.
I’ve never actually knit a grown-up sized one of these, but I want to!

But I don’t actually aspire to be a “big name designer” or sell enough patterns to make a living at it, so maybe I’m overthinking things. Maybe I can just write the patterns for the designs I’ve created, in the biggest size range I can do well, publish them via Ravelry, and not worry about whether anyone buys them. But is that worth the time and energy and money I would have to put into creating the patterns?

mama-daughter
Yet another set for the parent-child knits collection

There’s actually something kind of delightful about the fact that in the last few years, my design efforts have been solely focused on myself and my daughter – that is, we have knit garments that are absolutely bespoke, and writing those designs up as patterns would mean inviting others to make the things that I’ve designed for my daughter and for myself.

Octopus Yoke with M as model
I know a few adults who’d like this to be a pattern in their size, too

One part of me thinks that it would be exciting to see other people knitting and wearing a sweater with octopuses around the yoke, or the garter-yoked vests that I’ve made for M, or the bohus-style yoked sweaters, or, or…but another part of me likes that those are OUR sweaters, unique to us. I’ve also considered just expanding my usual practice of posting detailed notes about my design process as I knit things, which adventurous knitters could absolutely use as guidance for their own projects, but I’m not sure how I feel about that; I’m especially concerned about “devaluing” the work that goes into actual pattern writing if I offer things up for free.

I love this sweater!
I am clueless!

So my answer to the “when will a pattern be released?” question is still a solid “I don’t know.”

things i knit for me: stripey pocketed sweater!

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Finished sweater, all blocked!

Ok, yeah, this sweater TOTALLY needs a better name. I’m still not 100% I’m going to write a pattern for this (maybe I’ll write a post about my complicated feelings about trying to publish patterns for my designs). If I do, does anyone want to help me come up with a name?

Project Details:
Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: my own, inspired by a sweater I designed for M
Yarn: De Rerum Natura Ulysse in “Ciel” and “Lagon”
Needles: Size 5 (for stockinette), size 2 (for garter)
Time to Knit: about 3 months (with a LOT of reknitting in the mix)

I was so excited that my sweater had dried after blocking and the sun was still up this evening, so I tried to take some pictures outside. It was, however, INCREDIBLY windy, so it turned out to be pretty tricky to get good photos!

windy evening for photos!

Y’all, I was already pretty madly in love with the De Rerum Natura Ulysse yarn before, but post-blocking? It’s freaking magical. So unbelievably soft and the fabric is almost felt-like in that way that only woolen-spun yarns can create.

This sweater is SO SOFT post-blocking

I tried to take some detail shots of the sweater, but the harsh sunlight and limited options for balancing my camera made it pretty tricky. Here’s my attempt at capturing the split hem:

Odd-angle photo

Eventually, this sweetheart came outside and asked if she could help:

my awesome photo-helper

She got one good photo of the sweater outside before we gave up:

My daughter took this photo

Then we went inside and took more pictures in our usual spot – the glass door leading out to the deck lets in really nice natural light for photos, so though the cluttered table/etc background isn’t the best, it really is a great spot for sweater pictures!

modeling the blocked sweater

I’m just so stupendously happy with how this sweater turned out!

Sweater back.

The fit is just PERFECT and I think I’m going to end up wearing this sweater a lot. I’m already planning to wear it to work tomorrow – my students will be entertained to see me wearing the sweater that they saw me knitting during their peer feedback workshops earlier in the semester!

Yay, sweater!

Next on the docket for finishing: M’s octopus cardigan, which has been waiting for me to join the yoke for over a month!

i did it!!

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I knit all evening, and during church this morning, and during my meeting this afternoon, but look, I finished my sweater!

All done!

I can’t say I enjoyed having to knit FOUR sleeves for this sweater, but I’m really pleased with the fit I got in the end.

Two finished sleeves that are actually the same size!

I also found myself wishing I’d woven in ends as I went, because it took me almost another hour to finish that job after I’d finished the knitting!

So many ends!

I’m not sure why I’m always so surprised when a sweater I designed fits the way I intended it to – that’s what all of the math and measuring is for, after all – but in any case, I’m pretty delighted with how the fit turned out.

From the back.

I still need to block the sweater, of course, but I’m calling it finished for now – just in time to qualify for the Ysolda Sweater KAL deadline of “end of March”! I’m not sure I’ve ever successfully completed a knitalong before, and I of course took it right down to the wire on this one, but I did it!

All done!

I’ll make a new post about it with all of the details once I’ve had a chance to block it and take somewhat nicer photos, ideally outdoors instead of with my camera perched on a shelf in our dining room. It’s overcast and snowing today, but I think we’ll have nice outdoor weather soon enough. Hooray!

sleeve number two (again)

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I finished sleeve number one (again) a couple of days ago, and have been making decent progress on sleeve number two (again):

Knitting sleeve number two (again)

This time, I checked my stitch count THREE TIMES before I started knitting down from the sleeve cap on the second sleeve, so here’s hoping that it’s smooth sailing from here on out! I really want to be finished with this sweater! I was hoping to be finished by the end of the month (because of the Ysolda Sweater KAL) but seeing as that’s tomorrow, well…that’s probably not in the cards. Alas.

Working on sleeve number two (again)

I’m pleased with the way the reknit first sleeve turned out – the contrast garter stitch cuff edged in contrasting i-cord just looks really nice. Of course, it’ll all look much nicer once all the dangling ends are woven in and it’s blocked.

I’m bummed that I almost certainly won’t be able to finish it for the knitalong, but I’ll get my sweater in the end…just gotta keep powering through!

sleeve number two (again)

(Of course, I’ll be finishing it just in time for it to not be sweater-weather anymore – as evidenced by my bare arms, Spring is definitely on its way!)

picking back up where i left off

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I haven’t really had much time at all to knit since getting back from the conference – with a stack of midpoint portfolios to grade, extra workshops to run, a couple of concerts to perform in, and a whole lot of sleep debt, knitting just hasn’t really been in the cards this week. But today, I’m picking back up where I left off…with the first of the two sleeves I have to reknit:

Still working on the first sleeve reknit :(

I really want this sweater to just be FINISHED, and it’s kind of demoralizing to have been so close and then put myself so far back with a stupid mistake. But c’est la vie.

photobomb!
I got a kick out of this M-photobomb!

I realized while I was taking pictures that I never actually mentioned the OTHER project that I knit while I was away at the conference. See, I was pretty sure I’d finish the cowl before it was time to head home, and my hands like to be busy, so I packed an extra skein of sock yarn and my size 2 16″ circulars with plans to knit M a ribbed hat in her favorite colors:

M's hat-in-progress.

This hat kept me company in the hospital (my friend returned to work today, by the way, and it was so good to see her!) and on the drive home. It also ended up being, along with the still-in-progress Octopus Yoke Cardigan, the “Something to Wear” part of M’s Equinox gifts. I mean, they’ll be wearable eventually!

Being silly.
Being silly – a plain 2×2 ribbed tube isn’t that interesting to photograph!

Now that the sweater is a pretty unwieldy size, the hat is my “take along to work in case I need something to keep my hands busy” project. Which means that the sweater will be worked on in the evenings at home. I’m hoping to finish sleeve number 1 tonight, but we’ll see – I’m still pretty darned exhausted, so I may just go to bed early.

Reknitting these sleeves is kinda demoralizing :(

Happy (belated) Equinox, everyone!

made it.

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Sure enough, I was able to finish my yellow Willow Cowl before the end of the CCCC 2019 conference, which meant I could snap a picture of myself wearing it with Pittsburgh’s matching bridges in the background!

Yellow Cowl: complete! (With nicely matching bridge in the background - thanks for having yellow bridges, Pittsburgh!)

My Wednesday workshop presentation went great. Made a bunch of great new connections with the folks in the Cognition & Writing group, and had a blast meeting back up with my fellow language/grammar nerds at the Language, Linguistics, and Writing group. My research group’s Friday presentation went really well, and that’s the day I finished my cowl, too. And then…well, the conference didn’t end the way I’d hoped, and I spent the remaining time helping a dear friend through a medical crisis, dealing with a whole lot of logistical complications that resulted, not eating enough food, getting basically no sleep, and getting a lot more practice speaking Mandarin than I ever expected to. It was definitely not a sure thing that I’d make back home in time to actually wear my cowl for its intended purpose, the ukulele performance at church this morning. But…I made it.

Yellow Cowl, Ukulele, and very very tired lady.
Yellow Cowl, Ukulele, and very very tired lady.

I got home really late last night, and have been so exhausted (both from lack of sleep and stress) today that I’m feeling a bit dazed, but when I woke up this morning, what I most wanted was to go and celebrate the Equinox by making music with my friends, so that’s what I did. I was almost falling over by the end of the second service, but I desperately needed the distraction from the constant worrying about my friend, who is still in the hospital in Pittsburgh.

The yellow cowl served its purpose!

Right now, I’m feeling incredibly grateful. For my colleagues in the writing program here, who are just the most amazing people in the world and I’m so lucky to get to work with them. And for my church, which is also full of amazing people who gave me the hugs and listening ears that I needed today. And we danced around like bees and celebrated the coming of spring and everything is still a mess and I have a crazy amount of work (and sleep, and food) to catch up on but I made it through the day and I’ll make it through tomorrow, too.