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?