New Pattern Release: Muireann

She’s finally here! The top-down girls’ cardigan you’ve been waiting for. Or, at least, the pattern I’ve been taking ages to release to you.

I wrote this pattern in 2011 and it’s been in the back of my mind since then to get it into shape for general release. I had it test-knit over the summer and that was helpful in highlighting a number of issues. But it was really only when I recently started making time for design work every morning that I was able to give the pattern the focus it needed to re-write it.

Introducing Muireann

Introducing Muireann

Introducing Muireann

Muireann is a top-down girls’ cardigan with ribbed bodice and feather-and-fan lace swing that started with the buttons! My daughter fell in love with beautiful ceramic buttons in the shape of dolphins. Blue-variegated yarn was quickly purchased and a sea-themed jacket was promised.

The girls’ name Muireann (pronounced Mwih-RhaN) is derived from the Irish words for “muir” which means ‘sea’; and “fionn” meaning ‘white’ or ‘fair’. True to its name, the combination of the color-changes and the shaping of this jacket re-create a “fair sea” for the dolphins.

The colour-changes of the yarn on the bodice are like the play of sunlight on a deep, blue sea. When the structured ribbing reaches the empire line the change of gauge to ridged feather stitch allows the fabric to flare. The ridged feather stitch pattern is textured enough to allow the variegations of the yarn to shine. As a bonus, the waves formed by the stitch pattern are like the waves breaking on our local beach.

2011.03.30 - Muireann - lace

“The ridged feather stitch pattern is … like the waves breaking on our local beach. “

Muireann is graded for all sizes from 2 years old to 16 and is worked from the top-down using Barbara Walker’s method for simultaneously set-in sleeves as follows:

  1. After a provisional cast-on, the back is worked until it is one-sixth of the armhole circumference.
  2. Then each front is worked from the cast-on stitches to the same length as the back.
  3. Stitches are picked up for the sleeves and the fronts, back and sleeve-caps are worked simultaneously, with paired increases forming the sleeves.
  4. Just before the sleeves are divided away from the body, stitches are added to the body and the sleeves for the underarm shaping.
It started with the buttons!

It started with the buttons!

Thank you to all of my awesome test-knitters especially Maritere and Myjoha who posted great pictures on their Ravelry Project pages.

You can download Muireann from my Ravelry store. ETA: [For those of you who just want to put it in your queue or library, for now, (hint! hint!) here’s the link to the pattern page on Ravelry.] I’ve laid out the pages with the photographs grouped so that the pattern falls over the central four pages – to minimise printing. By way of introducing myself to you all as a designer, Muireann will be free until Jan 2015. I hope you enjoy spending time with Muireann!

Making Time

I’ve often posted about time-management before. Whenever I’ve posted recently, my focus has been about trying to find time to progress my knitwear design ideas. I thought it might be useful if I posted about how I’ve recently managed to incorporate knitwear design into my day. It was nothing short of making time.

Where ideas germinate...

Where ideas germinate…

One of the things I’ve figured out is time. Over the years I’ve tried different a approaches to getting tasks done such as Flylady, HabitHacker or Pomodoro Technique. Each to them advocates setting a timer for a specific length of time and working on it until the timer goes off.

Flylady’s motto is “you can do anything in 15 minutes”. When your 15 minutes are up you take a 15 minute break. Habit Hacker recommends two 11 minute sessions – one to pull something apart and the next to put it all back together again – with an eight-minute break afterwards.

Both of these shorter time periods are ideal for tackling chores about the house. If I was trying to get stuck into a longer task in work I used Pomodoro Technique. The time period for this technique, a Pomodoro, is 25 minutes long with 5 minute interval breaks. After four Pomodoros (i.e. two hours) you’re meant to take a longer break of 20 minutes.

After trying all of these strategies I’ve eventually progressed to a personal system of time-keeping, based on 12-minute time slots. I do what I call a brain dump and list out – in no particular order – all the tasks that are vying for attention in my head. Then I’ll assess the list to prioritise the tasks in terms of how important and/or urgent they are.

Finally, I assess the prioritised tasks for how long I think each will take – in multiples of 12 minutes. In this way, I can quickly assess how many tasks I can get done in a given time. If I only have an hour but I have five high priority tasks I know I can only spend on average 12 minutes on each. Or perhaps I’ll allow 48 minutes for something that requires more focus then I’ll take a break by doing something else for 12 minutes. This is currently how I organise my workday.

Adopting this method was very helpful in figuring out how my daily morning routine could be adapted to incorporate some time for knitting design. I determined a logical sequence for my morning routine tasks from when I got up until I left for work. By dividing the time into 12 minute slots, and assigning each slot activities from this sequence, I automatically became more focused on where my time was going. In turn this meant that by getting up only a little earlier I was able to fit in a 48 minute session for me to focus on designing.

Excerpt from my bullet journal

For Time it is a precious thing…

Rather than have timers going off constantly throughout the morning I have a mental timetable of what I should be doing at specific times. As a result my morning routine looks like this:

6:00 get up, use bathroom
6:12 load the washing machine from previously sorted clothes baskets
6:24 have breakfast
6:36 knitting design session begins
7:24 buffer slot: make a cup of tea / wake any kids not yet up
7:36 ablutions, dress for work
8:00 fold the laundry hanging to dry; hang the load just washed
8:24 cajole the kids to get their shoes and coats on for school
8:36 drive to work to start my full-time job.

I’ve been doing this for the past six weeks and it’s being working really well for me. It’s only thanks to this focus on time that I’m now able to sit down and knit design swatches and figure out details of the designs that have been buzzing around my head for years! As a result, I was able to send a design submission to Knitscene three weeks ago and I’m about to send a different design submission to another print magazine in the morning.

If I hadn’t taken the time to get to grips with time I would never have found time to make time.

Do you think this approach would work for you? If you have time-management tips and tricks to share I’d love to hear them.

Annus Horribilis

annus horribilis /anəs hɒˈriːbɪlɪs/noun
1. a year of disaster or misfortune.

If you’ve read my earlier posts from this year you’ll know I’ve seriously struggled to have anything to show for all my fibre-crafting efforts. The rest of the year hasn’t shown much improvement.

Last time I posted I was heading off on a 10 week adventure of parental leave from work with a box full of yarn and a head full of pattern ideas.

Picture of design box of yarn

Travelling companions

The first pattern I wanted to write was a hat I had knit for myself years ago. I had called it “Whirling Dervish” – those of you that know my name in real-life (and especially if you’ve seen my dance moves!) might have a smirk creeping over your face right now at this play on words. I thought this pattern would make a great start considering I had taken the rare precaution of making notes as I knit it. “Low-hanging fruit” is the catch-phrase du jour in my workplace these days.
But oh dear, my notes…

Chart notes for Whirling Dervish Hat

Looks like some of my decreases are plotting their escape!

I made the original had in a softly-plied, bulky alpaca yarn that I can’t recall any details of, and never uploaded to Ravelry. I also managed to lose the hat before taking any pictures of it! Anyway, I decided my skein of handspun, Eyjafjallajokull, could be a suitable substitute.

The Whirling Dervish pattern was so-named because it started with a whirlpool cast-on. My handspun didn’t like that idea very much!

Swatch for Whirling Dervish in Eyjafjallajokull

Ideal for a nipple-hat – just not the look I wanted

I quickly abandoned the Whirling Dervish design and decided Judy’s Magic Cast-on would be more appropriate using this yarn. Soon a pattern for a fedora-style hat emerged. I got side-tracked into making and designing a felted version and am considering short-row shaping on the crown for a truer fedora look. So there are potentially three hat patterns brewing but no written pattern yet to show for these experiments.

I moved on from there to designing and making a t-shirt from three skeins of Handmaiden Fine Yarn Silken that I had in my stash. Three skeins equated to 750 meters, which I thought would be ample for a short-sleeved sweater. After I completed the back I was worried that I would run out of yarn. I considered a back-up plan of using a contrasting colour on the sleeves if I did.

As I progressed up the front it was a touch-and-go race against yarn. Then, just before I started the armhole shaping, I did a cross-check on my stitch-count and discovered that I had cast-on 10 stitches too few! All that I had knit on the front had to be ripped out. What’s more, I was absolutely certain I would not have enough yarn. Yet another project went on the back-burner!

My next effort was to attempt to progress a design for a matching hat and mitten set in Dublin Dye Company’s Swing Sock yarn. Unfortunately, this coincided with us getting keys to our new house and then my MIL coming to visit so I was never able to give it the head-space it demanded. It smolders still…

After we returned back to Ireland (still with my box containing only yarn and no finished objects or written patterns) I ordered additional skeins of HandMaiden Silken. The ball on the left is the original yarn; on the right is the more recent dyelot. Can’t I catch a break? Le sigh!

Picture of Handmaiden Silken

Same colourway, different dyelots

So, dear reader, am I exaggerating by calling this year Annus Horribilus? It certainly hasn’t been all that productive or successful despite my efforts. However, as my dear knit-night buddy @Midweshterner pointed out to me (and I’m paraphrasing, because she put it more eloquently) the reason I’m not succeeding is because I’m trying such experimental things.

Recently, I came across the Helsinki Bus Station Theory in relation to creativity and design. The gist of it is: too often we bail too soon on a project that’s failing. Or we prevent ourselves gaining experience and confidence by focussing only on success. Rather than decide the bus we’re on isn’t going anywhere or taking us in the wrong direction we should try to stay on the bus and enjoy the journey of discovery. The final destination is more likely to be where we will really feel comfortable. So I’ve tried to stay on the bus. And I’ve tried to put in the time.

And recently things have started to turn the corner. In the past month I have:

  • sent off a design submission to Knitscene
  • finished the Silken t-shirt – photographed it and am in the process of writing up the pattern
  • spun most of the yarn needed for a sweater (another sweater design in progress)
  • started swatching for two new garment designs

I’m hopeful that as I “Stay on the fucking bus.” I’ll soon have something tangible produced from all this potential.

Tell me, dear reader: What have you triumphed with because you persevered?

Taking Charge

Time-management guru, Alison Mitchell, has a wonderful exercise in her book “Time Management for Manic Mums” to demonstrate her “Wine Bottle Theory of Time Management”. You get a jug and try to fill it with apples, blueberries, caster sugar and wine.

  • The apples represent the urgent and important tasks, the things you have to do or you’ll get bitten in the ass like going to work, paying bills or feeding kids.
  • The blueberries represent important tasks but there’s no urgency – doing them will save you time in the long run like setting up a system for making sure bills get paid on time. For me, following through on publishing patterns is in this category.
  • Then the caster sugar represents tasks that are important to, or urgent for, someone else – in my case that’s housework. I do it because I know it makes DH happy when it’s kept on top of, but it would be low on my priority list otherwise.
  • And then there’s a bottle of wine – ah… wine! It represents all the things I’d rather be doing like crafting, twitter, Ravelry – than the important things I should be doing.

You get the idea: if we fill our jug / day with wine or caster sugar first we’ll struggle to get the important apples and blueberries in there. If you put the apples in first the smaller items of lesser importance will fill in around the gaps.

Case in point: this morning, instead of washing the floors as I’d planned, I played with an Excel spreadsheet of my stash that I’d exported from Ravelry. Naturally, the floors did not get washed at all as my “wine” task took over my time.

Playing with my stash spreadsheet is a favourite game of mine as I try to plan my next knitting / crochet project based on maximising how much stash I’ll use up. With almost 74 kilometers of yarn to work through it’s an understandable obsession.

This week is my first of 10 weeks of parental leave (hence all the blogging action!). For six of those 10 weeks, we will be living in the south of France so I was developing my knitting plan around working with cotton and linen to cope with the heat. In fact I bought a new project’s worth of linen with this plan in mind when I was at La Droguerie in Paris last week. This is the logic that has me struggling with 74km of yarn!

20140703-162401.jpg

Haul from La Droguerie, Paris

However, rather than a stash-dive being my usual exercise in choosing “wine” over “caster sugar” this morning it turned into an “apple” moment as a realisation dawned on me…

You may have noticed the “current status” of my two design ideas in my last post was “stewing”. If you recall my previous blog-post “Potential” I had challenged myself to publish an average of one pattern per month for the next year. I wrote that in November 2013. So where are the seven or so new patterns designed by me?

Sadly, still in my head!

And here’s the why: I’ve been busy! The wrong kind of busy – I’ve been filling my jug/time with going to work; looking after the kids and house; knitting or crocheting; working through stash… or teachers’ presents… or items to enter in the local horticultural show. I’ve allowed myself to be so “Busy” with busy-ness of everyday things I’ve avoided the the business of being a designer: knuckling down, swatching and sketching, pattern-writing and testing.

Rather than fill my 10-week-carafe with delicious French wine and come back from France with three new cotton or linen sweaters and several dishcloths, I’m taking charge of my pitcher to pick some juicy “blueberries” from my stash to swatch with instead:

20140703-174612.jpg

It’s all in my head…

Who’s in charge here?

I blogged before about my WIPs rising up against me to thwart my crafting prowess. If you think I’m being over-the-top and melodramatic you might be right but it was fairly disconcerting to fall foul of no less than seven projects at once.

Now there’s been some time to lick and heal wounds I thought I should do a round-up of how (or… if) I beat back the tide:

  • 1. Gloves for teacher “B” – I progressed these to the point of joining the fingers together and starting the palms. However, I tried to do this without looking at the pattern and messed it up entirely. It wouldn’t have been much to rip back and redo but I’d really lost interest in pursuing the project as an appropriate present for this teacher. Current Status: RIPPED!
  • 2. Design Idea #1 – previously ripped out. Current Status: STEWING
  • 3. Slouchy Beret for teacher “C” – I abandoned the project in this yarn but not the pattern. I made another Phoenix in a solid grey and was delighted when I found a fabulous button at The Constant Knitter to finish it off. Like the Phoenix of its name, this gift rose triumphantly from ashes of defeat. Current Status: FINISHED AND GIVEN AWAY!
20140703-155434.jpg

Slouchy Phoenix for Teacher “C”

  • 4. Design Idea #2 – previously abandoned but not yet ripped out. Current Status: STEWING
  • 5. Baby quilt – I’ve been warned not to rip out the seams already made. I think this can be rescued with some sashing. Current Status: HIBERNATING
  • 6. Mint green Pizelle – previously abandoned but not yet ripped out. Current Status: RIPPED!
  • 7. Raspberry Beret for teacher “D” – I ripped it out and started again. Current Status: FINISHED AND GIVEN AWAY!
20140703-161016.jpg

Raspberry Beret

  • CONCLUSION: of seven troublesome WIPs the final score is FO = 1; Ripped = 3 and Hibernating = 3
    20140703-160917.jpg

    Status: stable

    Speaking of presents for teachers, in the end, Teacher “B” got a scarf in Tunisian Crochet and Teacher “E” got socks.

    20140703-160934.jpg

    Tunisian Scarf for Teacher “B”

    20140703-152143.jpg

    Faux Fair-isle socks for Teacher “E”

    Unfortunately, I spent so much time on failed hat and gloves I ran out of time to make a present for Teacher “A”. Knit-night buddy Watermemory came to my rescue and sold me one of her felted bags. She’ll be launching them on her etsy shop shortly so stay tuned!

     

Killing off a Curse

My last post was fermenting for about a month before I finally finished it off and exposed my WIP trauma to the world. I can report that while a few FOs have wended their torturous way (Raspberry Beret and a different Phoenix), a few WIPs still languish (the gloves and the quilt top).

My lucky number Eight project, mentioned at the end of my last post, was a radical choice and very taunting of the crafting gods. The back story was that I had a wedding to go to and you may recall how much I loathe clothes shopping for myself so I went to a Personal Shopper and picked up this dress:

2014-03-14 16.06.56

Swit-swoo!

And this coat to go with it (Spring weddings not being known for their balmy weather)

2014-03-14 16.10.24

Bit-a-bling!

Of course it needed a shawl and, as luck would have it, I had just the yarn in my stash.

DH gone mad!

Noro Silk Garden Sock

The Crafting Gods were smiling upon me, obviously. So, naturally, nothing would do me but to taunt them and pick a shawl pattern by a designer I’d previously flagged technical-editing issues to. Others in my knitting circle have also run into difficulties on some of her patterns (mainly from the same book) so there’s a bit of a standing joke amongst us of the “Curse of Kirsten”. Selecting this pattern could potentially result in me running a gauntlet, crafting style, as my fellow crafters do their best to disguise their “we told you so” looks and “why do you do these things to yourself” comments.

Or could I possibly break the Curse? Yes, you know me by now: I’m arrogant enough to imagine that’s exactly what I’ll do.

The pattern was a lot of fun and played nicely with the self-striping yarn (though, admitedly, it would be better in a solid or semi-solid).

2014-03-15 11.11.08

It goes up and down not around and around

I got a funky 70s-esque shawl out of it. And a lot of compliments at the wedding.

The Crafting Gods had to get my hubris in check by making sure I ran out of yarn. And though they kept me guessing until the last stitch of the row, there was thankfully enough to get a few rows of the edging complete.

2014-03-24 23.48.30

Cutting it fine!

And the Curse? Sadly, the pattern did have small technical-editing issues. Significant enough that it might confuse a crochter but not anything that couldn’t be got over with a liberal dose of common sense. I can’t say the Curse won’t rue another day. My guess is this designer has got so popular and in demand she is unable to give as much time to cross-checking the technical-editing of her patterns (or has possibly outsourced some of the design work?). It’s sad but it puts me off purchasing any of her other publications or patterns.

But at least my lucky number Eight was lucky after all!

ETA by popular request (yeah, I look like I’m about to start a reel – that’s accidental! – or possibly ingrained!):

The Ensemble!

The Ensemble!

When Mojo is a Mo’fo’!

Seven!

No less than seven WIPs have turned bad on me lately.

Count ‘em: SEVEN !

ONE…
I started gloves for DD’s teacher. The pattern (from my library) is I-chord gloves by Meg Swanson. The yarn (from my stash) is Textiles A Mano Caricia in Nightfall. The pattern is written for worsted weight. The yarn is fingering weight. Ergo, the project needs maths.

The maths is not really the problem. The measurements for the maths is the problem. The model for the measurement i.e. my husband, specifically his hands, has been travelling a lot lately.

So this project languishes.

TWO…
I decided, while I was waiting, I should get on with one of my design ideas. So I cast-on an experiment. It went like many experiments do… in cartoons: it made odd jolting movements before juddering to a halt.

It has been ripped out and is no more.

THREE…
I met one of MCs new teachers and immediately decided she was a slouchy beret kind of gal. So I started Phoenix (from my library) in LuLu’s Yarns BFL Sock (from my stash).

I thought the Tunisian Crochet / linked crochet stitches would play nicely in the mottled yarn. I swatched some of the band and the eyelet pattern and concluded I was sadly mistaken.

Phoenix in Phlames!

This Phoenix smoulders and has not risen from the ashes of my defeat

FOUR…

In desperation at being thwarted by four WIPs at once I decided to fall back to socks. However, rather than go with just vanilla socks to get my mojo back, I had to try another experimental idea and cast-on the socks in a weird way.

That prototype crashed rather spectacularly. It’s so bad it will be a challenge even to rip it out!

FIVE…
Meanwhile, I’ve been working on a quilt top for a blanket for a baby grandchild of a friend of my mothers. The blocks for the quilt top demand a bit of accuracy around the depth of seam. My sewing machine didn’t feel like complying so I’d completed 90% of the blocks by fudging it. I’ve just found the instruction booklet for my sewing machine and figured out how to set the 1/4″ seam.

Now I’m wondering should I rip out the other blocks and redo them with the correct seam allowance. Or fudge the last six blocks and fudge sewing the blocks together. It’s hard to know which would be more challenging to do. It’s pretty depressing that WIPs in knitting, crochet AND sewing are ALL conspiring against me :-(

SIX…
Having worked into a dead-end on all the things I need to make it was time to retrace some steps and get back on track. I decided the slouchy beret was the easiest to tackle. A new pattern – Pizzelle Beret by Linda Permann (from my library) would also be a great slouchy beret. But it had to be in a solid yarn. I decided on Textiles A Mano Caricia in Sea Glass – green which I had got with Nightfall (above) when I was in Janel Laidman’s Illuminations Sock Club. They were intended to be used together in colourwork sock patterns so it made sense (to me) that if I was using one skein for a pair of gloves for one teacher I should use the other skein for a present for another teacher. Perfectly logical, no?

And then I got all illogical. The more I worked on the pattern the more the yarn – despite being luxurious, with 10% cashmere – began to remind me of Baby acrylic double-knitting yarn that I *used* to have in my stash yonks ago. I got so illogical, I had to stop working on the pattern even though I was really enjoying it.

Pizzelle in Textiles A Mano Caricia "Seaglass" colourway

I’m prejudiced against this colour

SEVEN…
Since there was nothing wrong with the pattern I decided to poll a few other colour options on twitter.

Alternative colour options

I opted for the Raspberry colour (bottom left) because someone suggested “Raspberry Beret”

After making good progress I realised I had somehow managed to set up SEVEN repeats rather than the six required in the pattern. There was no redeeming this and the whole hat had to be ripped back to the start.

So there you have it: I’m being thwarted by no less than seven WIPs at once!

What’s my answer? Why, Start another WIP, of course! Lucky number EIGHT, eh?

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