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November 2016
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February 2017

January 2017

Most popular pattern

It is interesting to take a look at the statements from online pattern sales sites to see what (and sometimes if) patterns are selling.

Judging by what I've been looking at today, over Christmas it seems that quite a few people may have received a pair of Hamilton Handwarmers in their presents.

Grey ham 2

I hope they all have cosy hands and that the knitters enjoyed making them.

All about the swatch

Today I'm surrounded by swatches because I'm testing a range of yarns, shapes and stitches for a new commission involving a set of patterns.

It is interesting to see how things come out and sometimes that means deciding a stitch might work better in another of the yarn choices.

I'm now contemplating these and a couple more before the final sketches and submission.

Swatch collage

Book review: Tudor Roses

If you were to look at my knitting book shelves it would be easy to spot that I am a bit of a fan of Alice Starmore.

I have been since my mum bought me a copy of The Celtic Collection for Christmas many moons ago.

Mum had an ulterior motive, she wanted her own Donegal jumper (it was her home county). So among other patterns from the book did make this almost infamous piece of colourwork (long before I learn two handed stranded knitting making it even more of an achievement).

CelticThe Donegal and Armagh sweaters

And I still have my Armagh jumper which is coming up on 25 years old. I was a poor student when I made it but it looked great in poundshop acrylic and is a great reminder of my first goes at "fair isle".

Over the years I have gathered a little collection of Starmore works - some bought new, some second-hand - but there is a notable gap. I don't have a copy of Tudor Roses. Copies of the original tended to be as rare as solid gold hen's teeth, then when Starmore released the updated version in a sumptuous hardback in 2014 I was mid shift to freelancing and couldn't justify buying it. So it has been on my to buy list ever since.

Now the updated version is being released in paperback (Feb 2017) and thanks to Netgalley and Dover Publications I have a review copy in e-book.

The book contains 14 patterns inspired by the women of the Tudor dynasty accompanied by an explanation of their influence.

For a knitter who is interested in history, this is a perfect addition to my collection. Starmore and her daughter Jade have researched each of the 14 Tudor women in terms of their life, knowledge and influence presenting us with a pen portrait and later an explanation of how the research influenced the designs. So we see the plain beginning of Elizabeth Woodvile (a founder of the dynasty) in her simple sweater, the sumptuous colours of Spanish embroidery in Katherine of Aragon's coat and regal colours in the garments of some of the queen's garments. The shaping of the period reflected in many of the sweaters.

Tudor rosesClockwise from top: Elizabeth I, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne Boleyn,
Katherine of Aragon

The photography and styling by Jade Starmore creates "portraits" of each woman, emphasising the art of these pieces.

I can imagine gaining a lot of pleasure from knitting many of these pieces, but there is also much joy in reading the patterns and enjoying the clever use of colour, stitches and construction to create a stunning collection.

This book definitely shows the art and artifice of knitting and what can be achieved by simply looping yarn round needles one stitch at a time.

I will be adding a physical copy of this book to my shelves before long and hope it will inspire me for many years to come.



New Pattern: The ZigZag cardie


Introducing ZigZag, my new cardigan design in Knitting issue 164.

This longish, empire line cardigan is a flattering shape with a lovely drape thanks to the yarn which is Yarn Stories fine merino 4-ply. 

I'd wanted to make something in this yarn since I'd first come across it and especially in this colour combination of dove and french navy. So the Knitting "Winter Blues" issue was the perfect opportunity, especially as I think 4-ply cardigans are very useful layering garments in winter (in particular one as changeable as this).

The graduate stripes keep the interest when knitting and create shape, especially at the back.

Zigzag 5I enjoyed creating this pattern a lot and am thinking of making one for myself in another colourway - perhaps chocolate and burnt sienna or bottle and taupe.

In the meantime I am working on another design in this yarn that I can't reveal yet but again I'm enjoying the colour combinations


For me 2016 was all about risk and reward (and inspiration from a pop hero)

2016 has been seen as a universally bad year and, yes, some of my friends had a dreadful time last year and yes some of my celebrity heroes died but for me it was about positive change and emergence.

On the other hand I had a tough 2015 full of bereavement and health issues for me and others. I ended that year tired, drained and in need of some change in my life.

For someone who is a freelancer, one of the problems of making changes is that the need to earn can take up all the time that you would require to find new ways of living and working. At the beginning of 2016 my working was divided between writing and creating social media content, and tech editing/pattern writing with the odd bit of teaching. Designing was something that happened in my down time (when there was some) and although my head was full of ideas, it was mainly for me because I didn't have the confidence to share my final patterns or put many submission in. Putting myself out there felt risky - especially after 2015.
Des CollageI had published a few patterns by the end of 2015

At the beginning of the year I had one permanent contract for work which on paper accounted for about a bit more than of my time but not necessarily 50+% of my potential income in a month. In reality it tended to take up more time than that which meant I was working well into evenings and weekends and wondering whether I could take on the growing amount of other work I was generating. It also meant I had no time to draw or transcribe pattern motes from the things I was creating - let alone time to experiment or learn.

Sock cardSocks where among the notes needing turned into patterns

And to be honest, it was the least satisfying of everything I was doing. But walking away was a massive risk. That job meant regular income and stability but on the other hand my other work was growing. Yet still I held on. Then I found myself trying to meet one freelance deadline in the lunchbreak from the regular part-time job and that lunchbreak was interrupted because yet more was being added to the role. I stressed, I flailed, I panicked and then I decided to resign from the job.

Big risk number 1!

So then I was able to say yes to the new work I was offered and suddenly had time to work on my design ideas, write up some shawl patterns etc. It also meant I was working entirely from home so I could arrange my working time to suit me, fit in some rehab time from an operation I had had late in 2015 and be creative when inspiration struck. 

Of course this didn't mean i was suddenly publishing patterns and submitting design ideas - I hadn't had that much of a confidence injection - but there was plenty of tech editing and writing to be done. And new work to pitch for.

Then risk number 2 happened! This one I owe to Prince.

One the day that the death of the pop legend was announced I was listening to some his music and doodling a shawl with a purple pencil. 

The next morning by chance I heard that the editor of Knitting might be interested in "weekend knits" accessory patterns with a Prince theme. So the doodle became a sketch, and a submission with yarn choices and I sent it off. By the end of the day I had a commission for my Purple Rain shawlette.

Purple rain K159 aut2016

Once I'd made one submission, it was at least a little bit easier to put in more submissions. I also realised I should have been doing this much earlier - the few patterns I had previous released had received good feedback and I'd actually one two knitting design competitions in 2015. And if you don't submit and share your ideas, how are you ever going to get your designs noticed.

So now I've had a series of items in Knitting with more coming up there and in other places, and the good feedback continues. Though I still feel slightly surprised when I see other people knitting my designs.

Knitting mag 2016ZigZag, Ardmore and Braniel

Despite this I still had lots of finished samples and patterns in various stages of completion so I decided to give myself a little jeopardy and a very definite deadline. 

So for risk number 3, I applied for a stall in the Indie Spotlight section of the new Yarnporium yarn show to sell patterns and introduce myself more widely as a designer. This was as much about publishing patterns and standing up to say I really am a designer as selling on the day and even for someone like me with plenty of experience of craft shows, that was a real challenge. But I did it and you can read more about it here.

Sss collage for blogThe Sea Shore Sky shawls - Salmon Net shawl, Starry Night Shawlette, Waves on
Slate shawlette
, Coolmore Creek, and Low Tide scarf - were among the patterns
completed for Yarnporium

So I will always think of 2016 as a positive year for me. It may have taken a long time but I have achieved something my 10-year-old self really hoped for - I am paid to design clothes.

So going into 2017, my working life now has a three way split: writing and social media. tech editing and pattern writing, and designing. I'm happier, I'm more fulfilled and my belief in following my dreams has been revived. What happens next, who knows?