Thursday, August 15, 2013

What's in a pattern?

If you have ever had the chance to chat with me about knitting, or patterns specifically, or you've taken a class from me, you know that there are things that I value. Clarity and sizing are big things, as is getting more than what you pay for. Whether or not I go back for more of a designer's patterns hinges big time on those things. I want a pattern that makes sense and fits well, but I also want it to TEACH me something. It doesn't have to be a big thing, it could be as simple as a new way to do something I already know how to do. . .OR I want it to give me options to personalize it and make it mine.

So when I sat down to design a hat pattern, I wanted it to include simple techniques for things like making stripes without having to weave in ends. . .

I wanted it to have teachable moments, different ways to do something that you might already know how to do. So I added in cabling without a cable needle and linked to a video that I recorded myself while wearing my camera around my neck (don't laugh) :) .

I wanted the hat to have varying style options. . .so I added in a way to make it a long and pointy stocking cap or a fitted beanie. (Can you believe how tiny my baby is here? This is in 2011!)

And I wanted people to be able to use yarn on hand, so I wrote basically two separate patterns, one for bulky weight and one for worsted weight, so you can work the pattern that most closely matches your gauge. AND with sizes preemie/newborn to adult mens to choose from, this pattern can be completely customized to become YOUR work of art. . .and hopefully make you glad that you spent the money. 

You can read specifics on the pattern here on Ravelry: Hootin' Owlie Hat by Amy Kenagy

or to purchase the download directly, you can go to the Three Irish Girls page for the Hootin' Owlie

This is a photograph taken by the talented Sharon (Copyrighted by Three Irish Girls) 

Another thing that makes a pattern "worth the money" for me, is having someone else figure out the math. Well, admittedly I love the math, but when I buy a pattern, I want it to be figured out for me.  . . So I've worked hard to do that for this pattern.

While this is linen stitch with a few twists and turns for added fun, getting the pattern to line up as you increase and decrease took some math. So I figured it out and wrote it down. (But not before making Eli model it for me). (AND PS this is inside out. I didn't end up writing the pattern to be reversible, but you could, definitely.)

I also like patterns that use highly variegated yarn but break it up by using texture or stitch patterns.
(This photo is Copyrighted to Three Irish Girls)

Remember how I said I like to do something a bit different? Well in this pattern, rather than doing a typical intarsia twist to switch to the hood/collar edging without causing holes, this has a interesting approach so you don't have to do that.

And you want to personalize it? Yeah. You can do that too. Simply remove the hood and go for the collar option instead!

You can see projects and read the details of the pattern on Ravelry here: Little Stitches Hoodie by Amy Kenagy

Or go to the Three Irish Girls page for the Little Stitches Hoodie to purchase it directly.

There are so many amazing designers out there. I love that I've been allowed to take my ideas and put them out there to share with the knitting community. I hope, whatever you knit, that you are able to find patterns you love that allow you to be an artist and create something that makes you happy. That's what it's all about, right?!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Knitting. . .for fun AND more!

How lucky am I?!?!?! I get to knit and I get to spend time everyday with my craft AND my boys. Like this one. Isn't he cute?

But lately, I've had the chance to test knit several patterns by friends, sample knit for a small independent dyer to show off her yarns, put together a pattern layout for a new design being published by a friend and knit up class samples either in class or for classes at my LYS. And most recently I was given the job of helping and answering questions for those who have signed up for the new yarn club offering at my LYS.

So here's the recent (-ish) rundown.

First I had the pleasure of test knitting the Drizzle hat and The Old Man and the Sea cardigan by Mel Ski from the Single Handed Knits podcast (Rav ID: MSkiKnits). The process is part of what I love. . .and my relational side adores working one on one with designers. Mel makes the process so enjoyable and fun. Both of these patterns are must-haves. They are wearable, well-written, and work for so many sizes.

Drizzle is made to not mash your hair, but would work well on a rainy day. It can be knit as a normal, slouch, or super-slouchy hat. This is the slouchy version out of Three Irish Girls McClellan in the Highgrove colorway.

The Old Man and the Sea should really be knit while you read the Hemingway novel. So many of the details tie in to the story, but that's just the icing on the cake. This cardigan is a simple and quick knit, but has so many lovely details that keep it interesting.

My favorite part of working with Mel and her patterns is the way she ties them in to her life. The details and the way they work in to the pattern and tie them in to her ideas is so creative. You really need to check them out. :)

I also got to do double test knit duty for another friend. The amazing Megan Williams from the Stockinette Zombies Podcast (Rav ID: JustRunKnit). One is her sock pattern that will be released with the next journey on the Traveller Yarn Club from Yarn Vs. Zombies.  (there is one one-month spots left as of this moment if you want to get in on that!!)

I can't tell you the name or the inspiration of these just yet, but will be able to come June 15th, so check my Rav project page if you're interested . . . But here are my lovely socks! These are knit out of Three Irish Girls Adorn in the Bridget colorway. This pattern was my cup of tea. And I loved the process.

You can either make these match or you can make them mirror image socks. Either way, they are deliciously squishy and beautifully textured. These will be exclusive to the club for a year, (I think!) but they are worth adding to your queue to remember later (or jumping on the last one month club spot while you can!!!)

The first project I test knit for her (out of order, I know) is this lovely beauty. This is the Weather the Weather Hat. The patterning is AMAZING. . .and not only that, but it is FREE!!!! TOTALLY worth the process and the yarn to make you or someone you love (or both) one of these guys. Beautiful. The yarn is Three Irish Girls Glenhaven Worsted in the Beijing colorway.

I love Megan's use of geometric shapes and math in her patterns, but even if that's not your thing, these well written patterns will not disappoint or overwhelm. And I know first hand that she is patient and explains herself well if there is a question.

I also did double duty for yet another designer/podcaster - Laura Linneman (Rav ID: lala) from The KnitGirllls Podcast. Laura is a teacher at heart and does a great job explaining her patterns. I must be on a hat kick, since I knit this one. It's called the Walking in Memphis hat. It  has not been released yet, but again, keep an eye on my project page and I will link to the pattern there once it is released. This is knit out of Cakewalk Yarns Play in the Chalkboard colorway.


The other pattern I test knit for Laura is this adorable toe-up afterthought heel pattern for toddler socks called the TTFN Toddler Socks. It is the pattern she uses to teach her class on the subject. It is a free pattern, and easily adjustable to make taller socks. It would also be a great pattern for a sock knitting beginner, so check them out! I LOVE these, and so does my 3 year old!!! These are knit out of Knitpicks Felici Sport in the Too Cool colorway.

Like I said above, I've also been knitting store samples. This first one is the Incarnation Hat by Toby Roxane Barna.  I knit mine out of the lovely Unwind Yarn Company Touring DK in a new to her colorway, Wisp. I wish I could keep it!!! But instead, I get to send it off to the wonderful Dana for her to use in her shop to show how awesome her yarn is (and it really is!). This yarn is fantastic and you should make yourself a sweater out of it, or at least a hat, if you get the chance (and there are sweater quantities in her shop for pre-order!)

I also had the chance to knit these cute little mitts for my local shop, Paradise Fibers. I will be teaching a class on colorwork sometime soon, so these little guys were my class/shop sample. I love how they turned out. They are the Sweet Robin Wrist-ees by Tiny Owl Knits. These are knit out of several colors of Brown Sheep Nature Spun Fingering.

And lastly, I had the chance to help Lisa Dykstra (Rav ID: yenforyarn) do the layout of her pattern One Skein Slant. Lisa is amazing and inspiring and strong. She is battling cancer (again) and yet somehow manages to produce amazing things like this. And her photography and beautifully written pattern made this project a cinch. These photos are hers, and used with permission. Aren't they beautiful? This is definitely on my short list of things to knit next. It is a stunning pattern for both solid and variegated yarns. The cool part about working with Lisa is that it really gave me a chance to solidify in my own mind what I like in a pattern and what attracts me when I am  looking for a pattern. Her beautiful daughter drew your eyes in but the cowl, what you came for, is stand alone beautiful enough to make you want to knit it NOW!!

And now for the most recent addition to my ever growing list of enjoyable jobs - being the go-to person on Ravelry for those participating in the new Paradise Fibers Yarn Club.  This club is awesome. It's $24.95 a month (plus shipping - unless you let them know you want to pick it up in store) It includes a yarn and a pattern. And for a limited time, the first  month is only $1 to let you try it out! There are monthly perks (like a $5 credit if you complete the small project every month and 10% off your yarn purchases for the next 12 months). It is a great way to check out different yarns, participate in a KAL (Knit along) with other people around the country and to build your stash of knits for you or for gifts. I have the first month of yarn in hand and am working through the pattern. It truly is fun and lovely. And there is still time to jump in if you're interested!

So that is just a small fraction of what I've been working on the past few months. It has definitely kept me busy!! Some of these "jobs" meant that I got paid to knit them. Others simply rewarded me with the ability to see a pattern before anyone else. And all of them gave me the chance to work with some of the most amazing friends and designers. I know these people/designers/yarns first hand and I have no problem recommending them . . .so do take a moment to check them out! It's amazing when something I love to do benefits me as much as this has. I got to know them and their process of creativity. It inspired me and encouraged me in my own creativity. I am blessed to have these designers/yarn dyers in my knitting life and I am so thankful for their willingness to benefit the knitting community by contributing their talents/creativity/patterns/artistry to enhance the craft.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Teaching AND Learning. . .

I have had THE BEST TIME teaching classes this past month. Ask my knitting girls and you would find out that ruffle yarn is NOT my favorite. . .but you know what? I've even had fun teaching THAT class and I will be teaching another one on Saturday. I love teaching people how to knit. I love watching them figure out what works for them. And I love being able to share my love of the fiber arts with them. It's tons of fun. I'm really enjoying the opportunity to use my teaching degree AND my love of knitting . . .all packed in to a class on the weekend.

The coolest part, too, is LEARNING while I knit. Whether it's a new way to present an idea, or a way to do something that makes sense to someone else. If you are a knitter yourself, I'm CERTAIN, that you've been told at times that you were doing something wrong. But here's where I tell you to give yourself permission to figure out what works for YOU. Figuring out your knitting preferences goes a long way in helping you pick projects that you will not only love knitting, but that you will use once they are complete. I know for me, I'm not happy with knots in my knitting. I also want the back side to look as nice as the front side. And I know that I have never seen a sweater that's seamed that looks as nice and finished as a sweater that is unseamed and knit instead in one piece. I prefer shorter tips on circular needles, and when paying for tools, while I don't buy the cheapest, I also cannot justify spending $40 on a pair of needles when there are other things out there I love just as much. I know that when knitting, blocking takes care of a ton of issues that arise when I knit, but I ALSO know that my stitches are really even. I have no qualms ever about gifting something that has not been blocked, and even my knitting friends with trained eyes can't usually tell.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because knitting is about me. Well, MY knitting is about ME. If you've ever asked me my opinion on something, you KNOW I will give it to you fifteen different ways. But in the end, YOU are the one that has to be happy with it. And as long as your stitches come off of the needles the right way and you end up with a project you love, you are doing what you should be!

So here are my tips (okay, my opinions).

1) When choosing needles, pick the ones that work for you. Straight needles, double pointed needles, wooden needles, circular needles, metal, pointy, blunt. There are so many choices out there. I, personally, see absolutely no reason to spend $40 on a single pair of needles. For me. I have really even stitches and my Hiya Hiya Sharps interchangeable needles give me perfect stitches and cost a mere fraction of that price. When it comes to money and how much you spend on your tools, as long as you can justify it for YOU and you end up with the tool that does a good job for YOU, then YEAH! Don't let anyone tell you that it is or is not a good choice without hearing their reasons why and then deciding if those reasons mesh with your knowledge of your preferences. Here are why I love my Hiya Hiyas: They have pointy tips, a flexible cable, a smooth join (that also swivels), and they are metal, so my stitches can just fly off of them. But maybe you don't like pointy needles. Or you don't like metal needles. Find ones that work for YOU. I know you can't really see the needle points, but these are one of my fixed sets of Hiya Hiyas (I purchased these from The Loopy Ewe and they JUST stocked more today! Link is over there ---->). The cables are perfect for magic loop and look at the join up there in the upper left. Smooth as can be. (and since we all love to know where the yarn came from, this yarn is the Oh Happy Day colorways from Lollipop Yarns)

2) When choosing yarn, don't let price decide what you buy. Instead, do your homework. I don't mean go into debt to buy really expensive yarn every time. . .but also, it's okay to buy less yarn that costs more than stocking up on really cheap acrylic. I'm not telling you here that acrylic is the devil (even though I don't really like knitting with it myself). But when it comes to yarn, you often get what you pay for. Find a dyer you like on Etsy. Go to your local yarn store and touch and feel what they have available. Check out Ravelry and see what other people have to say about the yarn you are looking at. Don't be afraid to do your homework. If you don't have a good yarn store close to you, check out a place online like The Loopy Ewe (link over there on the right) or Paradise Fibers (who IS my local yarn store!!). While I know that Joann's and Michael's and Hobby Lobby might have yarn, this is NOT what I'm referring to when I say "good yarn store". Ask around. Talk to friends who knit. Read through reviews on Ravelry and search the comments to see what people are saying and what they are making. And know your project well enough to know how much abuse it will take each time it is worn. If I'm knitting socks, I know that I like nylon in there. It helps the wool hold up with wear. I buy a ton of sock yarn from Three Irish Girls. Her Adorn Sock base  (wool/nylon blend) is amazing AND she will dye it to order with any of her available colors.

When I'm knitting a sweater or an object whose purpose is to keep the cold away, I want something warm and squishy. I love Madelinetosh Vintage Yarn. LOVE it. I just finished a hat out of it and I had to get the same yarn to make a sweater.

And I knit the sweater below out of Malabrigo Rios. This is an AWESOME machine washable wool, as well.

3) Know your knitting. What does that mean, you might ask? Are you a loose knitter? A tight knitter? Do your stitches look the same in the round as they do flat? How about your purl stitches? Are your stitches all about the same size, or does it take some blocking to make them match? I tend to be pretty much right in the middle with my gauge. None of the objects in this post have been blocked, and to be honest, I rarely block before wear unless there is something that really needs help. You are seeing my knitting AS IS. My stitches are pretty even, and my knit stitches match my purl stitches pretty well. But even designers have to pick the gauge that they get when they test knit an object, and sometimes that gauge is quite different than I would get if I used those same yarn and needles. . .and you know what? That's okay. Right now, I'm working on a sweater for a mystery Knit Along (KAL) and the pattern called for size 8 needles. I'm knitting it on size 6 needles to get gauge. And I like the fabric and the sweater is turning out lovely on that size for me.  By the way, it's the Hoaloha Sweater, which will be available to the general public mid-March. It's still a work in progress, but it's awesome! (and yes, those are my beloved Hiya Hiya Sharp needles). I will have to block this sweater because the neckline wants to roll.

And no, the color is not that color, REALLY. It's just a bad indoor picture. Sorry.

4) Choose colors you love. Together with yarn you love, colors you love make the finished project that much more enjoyable. . .but they also make the PROCESS that much better too. I chased my winter blues away recently with this project. It's the Whippoorwill that I got to knit with a few friends. While I tend to be drawn to teals and turquoises and grey and brown, this was the perfect color combo for this pattern and I love it. Color has as much to do with the finished outcome as the type of yarn, I think, so choose carefully!

So go and figure out your tools, your yarn, your knitting and your colors. Get those things figured out and I bet you'll be happier with the process AND your finished objects. But like I said in the beginning, don't let ME tell you how to do it. Figure out what works for YOU! And figure that out by asking and looking and learning.

As a reminder, you can see all of these projects and their details on under my username: KnittingAmyK .

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Knit-tle Bit of Everything

Wow! Life happened. And must have gotten away from me with as long as it's been since I updated last. What has the past several months given me? These awesome photographs are from the dear Hannah Stevens, a local friend and former student, who is passionate about her life, her impact, her photography. She took these photos so I could include them in my published patterns (more on that later) and I am unusually happy with how they turned out. If you're like me, you know that photographs of yourself are none too flattering and you usually find yourself behind the camera rather than in front of it.

Like I mentioned, my patterns are in the final stages prior to being published. Again, since they are not released yet, I can't post photos of those projects just yet, but I had the chance to work with a tech editor to make things clear and concise. It was fun to be on that side of a pattern! I really enjoyed the process, though stressful at times, of writing out instructions and then watching them take shape in a way that would allow others a clear understanding of my ideas. I had to whip out three projects in about three weeks and work on the pattern itself, but overall I'm happy with it. In my last communication with the publisher, they are working on the final pattern layouts for all of the patterns from other designers that will be released with mine, so I'm hopeful that they will be available soon. As a teaser, I got to use some great yarn for my projects from Three Irish Girls.

One project was done out of those two colors. That is Elenya Alpaca from Three Irish Girls in Fireside Chat and Guinness.

One project was done out of those two above. Those are Orange You Glad and Everlasting Gobstopper on Springvale Bulky.
And finally one was done out of this. Here's Looking at You Kid on Springvale Bulky. I actually got to do an adult version and a baby version of that last one, since a friend commissioned me to knit a hat for her little girl and that's the yarn she chose.

Three Irish Girls is also sponsoring Knitters For Newtown. Not only did they raise over $10,000 for the families who were directly affected by the tragedy, they are also collecting 8x8 blanket squares to make blankets for each family. The goal is to have the squares in hand by the end of March and the blankets delivered by Mothers Day. It's amazing what the knitting community can do! If you would like to pitch in and knit or crochet a square, please check out the facebook page , join the Ravelry Group, or send them an email (Threeirishgirls AT gmail DOT com) for more details.

I have also taught several classes at my local yarn store, Paradise Fibers. In September, I taught some old friends and some new friends how to knit socks. Over four classes they each were taught the skills and given tips to end up with something like this:

It was really great to be back in the classroom again and sharing my knitting passion with others. In fact, that was the first of many classes. I taught a one day techniques class - how to fix mistakes, which cast-on or bind off to choose, picking up stitches, catching dropped stitches, etc. I taught a ruffled scarf class at Paradise, but through the Corbin Art Center. I taught a beginning hat class this past weekend and used the Be Loving hat pattern to teach knitting in the round. Here it is knit out of Madelinetosh Vintage in the Cove Colorway.

And I now have three more ruffled scarf classes, a beginning knitter class and another sock class coming up in the next couple of months.

That has been so fun to meet new people and pass on my love of something to them. It reminded me of why I went into education to begin with and I hope that people leave with a sense of confidence about their art and skills that they can apply to other projects down the road.

Some of my favorite projects the past few months have been my Owl Sweater (by Kate Davies) done out of Cascade Eco wool.

I also love my Color Affection, done out of Yarn Love Elizabeth Bennett, in Granny Smith, Orchid and Twilight. THAT is a ton of knitting and no purling, but the result is beautiful.

So it's been a full few months. Like I mentioned above, it's amazing what the knitting community can do. And it been fun to track my own accomplishments, but I would be missing out on some of the most important things in my knitting life if I didn't mention the amazing people who are a part of my knitting community on Saturday night. I get to go on Saturdays and lay aside my teacher role and just be with them. (I often end up helping people, but there's no expectation that that's what I'm there for. They recognize that they can ask, but that Saturdays are my time to enjoy, too). These ladies are great. They are funny, fun, full of laughter. . .and most importantly REAL. We share our lives - joys, triumphs, fears, frustrations. They (we) know that we'll get real feedback from each other, and while that isn't always easy to hear, it's more often than not the thing we needed to hear. And not always about knitting, either. Being a part of a group with REAL people reminds me often of how UNreal some people are. It's so refreshing to be a part of a group where love and respect and caring are at the heart of the matter and fully entwined with Truth in the response. While many people think of a group as a way to have THEIR needs met and THEIR agendas pushed forward, this group is so the opposite of that. I've heard complaints too often of members of groups feeling used and abused by others there. I am so glad and so thankful that the weekly members of this group are not like that. I wish I could pick you up and bring you here so you'd have a chance to spend a moment with my girls. We aren't perfect but we love each other anyway. IF you are reading this and you are one of them, THANK YOU! Thanks for accepting me and my imperfections. For encouraging my strengths and challenging my weaknesses. For loving me enough to tell me the truth and trusting me enough to know that's what I want from you. And thanks for the support you provide each week. You guys are the best!!