DMK Podcast, Episode 26: The Design Process

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WATCH NOW: http://www.podcastgarden.com/episode/ep-26-the-design-process_39960

As I’ve been spending more time on my own knitting designs lately, I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the process that goes into creating a pattern. For me, that process is slightly different each time, so I’ll talk about both how wildly things can vary and about the steps that I always visit when I’m designing. The process is both invigorating (really gets the creative juices flowing!) and challenging (grading for different sizes is HARD).

The technique segment in this episode gives you some tips for joining into the round without twisting your stitches.

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DMK Podcast Episode 22: Design on with Confidence

WATCH NOW: http://www.podcastgarden.com/episode/ep-22-design-on-with-confidence_34146

My all-time-favorite knitting hero (perhaps yours, too?), Elizabeth Zimmermann, famously exhorted us to “Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises.” I felt like I needed a little EZ Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder this week, telling me to design on with confidence. We’ll talk about a designing disaster—hopefully finally averted—and a great new book by Kate Atherley that can help you design on with confidence.

Today’s technique segment explains the two most important measurements to pay attention to when choosing a sweater pattern and which size to make.

Mentioned in this episode:

What to do when you have a problem with a knitting pattern

c Meg Kelly 2010

c Meg Kelly 2010

I’ve been contacted twice this week by knitters who were struggling with some aspect of one of my patterns. In both cases, the knitters explained to me very clearly what problem they were having and were extremely pleasant and helpful in their communication with me. As it turned out, in one case the knitter was having problems because her gauge was wildly off, and in the other case the knitter found some legitimate errors in the pattern that I am now working with the yarn company to correct. Both knitters are now on the path to projects they’ll be happy with.

These positive interactions got me thinking that it might be a good idea to post, from a knitting designer’s point of view, some of the ideal ways to get in touch with a designer about a problem you’re having with one of their patterns.

Before you contact the designer, double-check that you’ve not just made a simple error. It happens to all of us (me included!): you’re knitting away happily on a pattern, suddenly the stitch count is off, or the lace pattern isn’t matching up, and you think, “there’s something wrong with this pattern.”

Sure, maybe there is. But before you head off to the computer to email the designer, do double-check your math and look carefully at your knitting and the pattern—it could well be that you just made a mistake in a previous row or missed something in a previous paragraph.

Try to contact the designer directly by email. A good pattern, in my opinion, lists an email address that you can use for pattern support. Barring that, many designers have web pages that list their email address or have contact forms. This is the surest way to reach your target directly. Some designers don’t check their Ravelry messages every day, though this is a good second option if you cannot find an email address.

You can even write a post on the designer’s Ravelry forum (or any relevant forum if they don’t have one). One of my favorite new features on Ravelry is that if you hot-link to a pattern name in a forum post, Ravelry will ask you if you have a question about that pattern. If you say yes, a note pops up in the designer’s user activity feed that someone has a question about one of their patterns.

Start from a position of respect. When you compose your message to the designer, write from the assumption that the designer is neither dumb nor evil. Start from the position that you may have found an error … or, at least, that you’re having a hard time getting the result you’re supposed to get when you follow the instructions as written. Personally, I answer every request for pattern support that I receive, but if you come at me swinging with both fists, my instinct is to go into defensive, not helpful, mode.

Give as many relevant details as you can. Tell the designer what yarn you’re using, where the problem started happening, whether the technique you’re having trouble with is new to you, at what exact point the stitch count went off, or anything else that might help the designer figure out where the problem is. Include a photo of your project if that would help clarify things.

Please share your own advice or responses on this topic in the comments!


Pictured above is one of my favorite patterns that I’ve designed, the Modern Tartan. To date, no errata have been found. 🙂

Super-quick Rasta knits

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I had such fun designing and knitting my 30-Round Rasta Hat with Malabrigo’s super-chunky Rasta yarn—and you all have responded so enthusiastically to my quick-knit pattern—that I thought I’d share a few other great designs worked in this chubby, squishy merino.


Ovate by Tori Gurbisz manages to finagle an elegant shawl out of a super-bulky yarn. And it’s now on sale during the Indie Design Gift-A-Long!

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Four skeins of Rasta will yield this piece of cozy loveliness, the Sentiment shawl by Andrea Rangel.

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I adore this new, romantic hat design from Larissa Brown, the Frost Bonnet. The hat is tied to her remarkable time-travel / Viking fantasy novel, Beautiful Wreck.

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If you need a quick pair of mittens, check out Kate Oates’ Warmest Mittens pattern, which includes sizes from toddler through men’s.

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You can find many other options using Ravelry’s advanced search page. Have fun whipping up some quick knits using super-bulky yarns!

Gift-along with me

Just in time for holiday knitting and sudden cold snaps, I’ve just released a new pattern: the 30-Round Rasta Hat.

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(Podcast fans: you may recognize the gorgeous Dianne from the Suburban Stitcher podcast, who so kindly agreed to model the hat for me at Rhinebeck!)

Yup, not kidding: it really takes only 30 rounds to knit this hat, thanks to the squish-i-lumpcious Malabrigo Rasta yarn. It was really fun for me to see what happened when I scaled this delicate leaf lace pattern up to super-chunk size.

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All you need is 65 yards of a super-bulky wool, and you’ll have a hat in an evening. Perfect for that last-minute gift or that night—like last night here—when the temperature suddenly drops 20 degrees and you’re left wondering why you haven’t knit yourself any new hats yet….

The pattern has been fully test knit and tech edited and includes a link to a dedicated video tutorial that explains how to work the “make 3 below” stitch called for in the pattern. (It’s the kind of thing that’s much easier to show than to describe in words!)

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If you’re gearing up for full-on gift knitting, you should know that there’s a mondo pattern sale and knit-/crochet-along that’s about to begin on Ravelry. About 300 indie designers are each offering up to 20 patterns for 25% discount between 8pm EST on November 13 (this Thursday!) and midnight on November 21.

It’s the second annual Indie Designer Gift-A-Long (GAL), and it’s both a great way to pick up a bunch of patterns for gift knitting/crocheting at a great price, and also a fun make-along with tons of prizes and games. Participating designers are listed here, and each of us has our eligible patterns in a Gift-A-Long bundle. My bundle of 20 patterns includes designs for boys and men (my stock-in-trade), as well as a bunch of great accessory patterns for women as well.

The 30-Round Rasta Hat and the hunting gloves I’ll be releasing in a couple of weeks are unfortunately a little late to join the 2014 GAL party, but I hope you find them useful as you plan your gift knitting nonetheless!

Kung Fu Knits book trailer!

Book trailers—that is, videos that give potential readers a peek inside a book—have become all the rage these days. For my first pattern book, I decided to create a book trailer of my own, especially since it helps me to better explain what this funny pattern collection / comic book hybrid is all about. Hope you enjoy watching it!

And while we’re on the subject of how to get a peek inside Kung Fu Knits, I’ve got a tour of some great reviewers lined up for the next couple of months. On the dates listed below, you can find each of these bloggers / podcasters reviewing my book! There are other reviews on the horizon beyond this list, but this will give you a great start in figuring out whether Kung Fu Knits is right for you.

Kung Fu Knits blog/podcast tour

22 September | Mixed Martial Arts & Crafts blog | http://www.mixedmartialartsandcrafts.com
24 September | Fibretown podcast | http://fibretown.blogspot.com
28 September | Must Stash podcast | http://muststashpodcast.com
29 September | Through the Back Loops blog | http://throughthebackloops.wordpress.com
2 October | Through the Looking Glass blog | http://noirbettie.com/blog/
5 October | The Knitgirllls podcast | http://theknitgirllls.com
10 October | Makewise Designs blog | http://makewisedesigns.com
15 October | Sunset Cat Designs blog | http://www.sunsetcat.com/blog/
17 October | Joeli’s Kitchen podcast | http://www.joeliskitchen.com/the-podcast/
22 October | Slate Falls Press blog | http://www.slatefallspressbooks.com
3 November | Wattsolak blog | http://wattsolak.com
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Available now on Ravelry and Cooperative Press’s website.

What I mean when I say Kung Fu Knits is “for boys”

I’ve spent many years trying to figure out what men and boys want in knitwear. Do they want soft? baggy? close-fitting? neutrally colored? what everyone else is wearing? something different?

When I first dreamed up the idea for Kung Fu Knits, my goal was to try a different approach. If boys are reluctant to wear hand-knit garments, maybe we need to think instead about what they DO want, and knit THAT. My son had been studying kung fu for a little more than a year at that point—he’s now nearly a black belt—so that seemed like a great theme to hang this idea on.

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As I began to work out the designs—a whole kung-fu outfit! oooooh! nunchuks! throwing stars!—it dawned on me that this wasn’t really just a book for boys. Lots of girls I know would love this stuff, too. Heck, would have loved this stuff as a kid. For that matter, not all boys are into kung-fu fighting. I began to talk about the book as a book of kids’ knits rather than boys’ knits.

And that’s when my lovely tech editor, Joeli, intervened. There are so few knits for boys, she said; why try to hedge your bets? Just call it what it is: it’s a book for boys. The girls who are interested will find it anyway. (Or words to that effect.)

She had a point. I knew I didn’t agree with her entirely, but I’ve been thinking about what she said ever since. She’s right that boys need more patterns, and that the whole ethos of this book is going to appeal to more boys than girls.

But, as I say, there are lot of girls who love this kind of stuff, and I was one of them.

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That’s me at age nine, circa 1980, rocking my Dorothy Hamill haircut and my favorite outfit—including my Mork suspenders, which just makes me sad all over again about Robin Williams. (I have no idea what the pin said. And yes, that is a VW van—our neighbors’.)

My point is that this is not the face of a girly girl. All of my friends at this point were boys. I found it so confusing that there were girls in my grade who liked to wear makeup and do cartwheels during recess just to impress boys. Foursquare (the game, not the app) and riding bikes were MUCH more interesting.

You may have noticed from the other photo above that my son doesn’t fall into easy masculine categories either. His hair is even longer now than it was when we did the photo shoot for Kung Fu Knits. And not all of Liam’s tastes run toward smashing and crashing and tearing things up.

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Here he is a few weeks ago about to blend up some strawberry mousse, which he learned how to make during a five-hour cooking class while we were in Italy. Because that and a pasta maker were what he wanted for his tenth birthday.

What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think boys and girls are simple, and I don’t think there are or should be clear boundaries of acceptable behavior or dress for either one. You knit what you want to knit, and you wear what you want to wear. I’m going to call Kung Fu Knits a book of boys’ knits as shorthand, but it’s really a book for any kid who wants adventure.


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Kung Fu Knits is now available for preorder at Cooperative Press and on Ravelry. The book will be released on or before September 15 and is available either as a digital download ($9.95) or in paperback ($15.95), which also comes with the digital download.