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!

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?

Potential

I was struck recently by a very strange and disturbing thought. Cue the ominous music… doo-dee-doo-dee…

I was having lunch with one of my colleagues and noticed his hands, which are frail and  – well – old. It dawned on me that these people I work with are the people I will grow old with. It struck me that the likelihood of me having a life-changing event  – such as getting pregnant and going on maternity leave  – was fading fast. (For the record, I’ve no desire to get pregnant but it is a pretty life-changing event!)

(Aside: This is assuming I’m lucky! I could have a life-changing event – such as an illness, either me or a member of my family – if I’m unlucky. That doesn’t bear thinking about, not here anyway.)

In short, the potential for change was disappearing.

I’m in my early forties. Up until now I’d always assumed the world was my oyster and anything imaginable was possible (within the bounds of physics!). To reiterate the warning from the opening sequence of Stingray “Anything could happen in the next 30 minutes”.

Stingray Annual 1993

Stand By For Action!

It’s disconcerting to face-up to the realisation that I know exactly what will happen in the next 30 minutes! Even worse, established daily or weekly routines are likely to remain unchanged for the foreseeable future.

I’ve always said that I wanted to grow old disgracefully. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” and all that. I’m happy to let my hair go grey and let my mood grow cantankerous. Most of all, I want to be healthy enough to enjoy living vibrantly. So growing old doesn’t worry me, other than acquiring some health conditions along the way.

But I don’t want to grow bitter. I want to be able to look back with pride on my achievements. And I do – mostly. I have three wonderful children, who make me so proud and happy as I watch them grow into decent and honourable humans; my husband and I have worked wonders on our home over the past twelve months to make the very fabric as happy as we are; and I have enjoyed a rich and varied career (if we gloss over the past five years).

An aside, in part explanation of my reference to the past five years: Since the collapse of the Irish economy in 2008 I’ve been waiting for the “other shoe to drop” as the phrase goes. The work I do is heavily based on funding from Central Government, who in turn have been in hock to the Troika (The IMF, European Central Bank & the European Commission). Our Department has lumbered along, keeping our roles meaningful by trying to be as indispensable as possible, all while under a cosh of the euphemistically titled “Workforce Planning” i.e. that our Department might be disbanded and the staff reallocated.

As my sister pointed out to me, I have taken up knitting (and crochet, spinning, quilting, you-name-it) over the past five years to the extent that I have (for which read “somewhat obsessively”) because of an inherent need for creativity that was no longer being satisfied in my Architectural career. When I first got back into knitting during 2007 and discovered resources for learning such as Knitty’s Coffeeshop and Ravelry my creative juices exploded!

20131120-232154.jpg

Lacy Cropped Cardigan being re-sized to different gauge

Each new technique I learned led to new design ideas: a striped, felted bag using short-rows; a double-knit vest; a top-down hat with a lace pattern generated using Debbie New’s Cellular Automatoms. I saw everything in terms of knitting or crochet patterns. In the queue for a lunchtime sandwich I could reverse engineer the sweater of the person in front of me. I could then spend the afternoon snatching moments to sketch ideas in my notebook. I was fascinated, enthralled, energised!

Today, that same notebook, which I always keep in my wallet, is so tattered and worn that I have decided it needs to be retired. I went through it and marked all the design ideas. I was surprised to discover how far back they all date from – 2008 to 2010. And absolutely nothing in it after my failed Knitty submission (read it and weep!).

20131120-232140.jpg

Potential Energy

Also today, I read a fabulous post by Elanor King of Catchloops.com all about how she became a designer in a recent publication by CoOperative Press, Hitch. She’s achieving exactly what I hoped would happen for me. But she went out and actively grabbed it for herself. With gumption and obvious design talent, she dared and won. Me? Other than the two months I spent preparing my Knitty submission I haven’t done much more about establishing myself in the knitting milieu than faff about on twitter. Did I imagine I would be randomly discovered and propelled into stardom, like some bus girl working in a dive in Hollywood? Actually,  yes, that would lovely, thanks.

No. Today as I retired my old Moleskine I resolved to release “so much potential in such a small space” (as @Knitterotica put it). There are at least 12 potential patterns in there: a mixture of women’s and men’s sweaters, some hats, some accessories. A collection, if you will. I’m resolving to transform the potential into reality and to publish (either self-publish or through the establish venues) one pattern per month – on average.

Will you cheer me on?

Posted in Pattern. Tags: . 22 Comments »

My Seven for 2011

Peaseblossom

Peaseblossom Tunic

It’s that time again when we look back over the year that was and make plans for the year to come. At the start of 2011 I posted about Going for Seven in 2011 and even came up with a programme for the year. Time to look at how it all panned out, eh?

1. Present a pattern for publishing – DONE! I presented a pattern for a cardigan for my daughter to Knitty. It took an arduous two months of early 2011 but I did it, including all the maths for grading it to fit all sizes from toddler to teenager. Unfortunately, it was rejected and languishes still. I’m unsure of my plans for it. I still believe it’s worthy of publishing. I think I’ll get a few of the sizes test-knit – perhaps make one of the teenager sizes for one of my neices –  and take it from there.

Swirl Shawl

2. Bust my stash – NOT DONE! The year started well with the stash busting. I made my Peaseblossom Top in Fyberstpates Lace, the yarn with the highest yardage in my stash (1010m used out of 1796m). I also used Jojoland Melody Superwash in Teal Whirl, a shawl I made for Viola (744m used out of 1006m). In addition, I de-stashed ALL my cotton from Lidl  – a whopping 1.914 kilometers of  it – by making up Tunisian Crochet dishcloth kits for sale at HandmAid Craft Day in September. However, I have yet to finish my Petal Wrap using Alpaca Lace from Dublin Dye Company and I didn’t touch any other high-yardage yarn in my stash.

Picture

Stash Accumulation from Freckledpast

3. No more USA – NOT DONE! I was very strong this year. Stronger than I have been for many years. So many times this year I inhaled yarn fumes but resisted consuming. Having a steady flow of yarn from the Janel Laidman sock club seems to have helped and though there was some Stash Accumulation it was all (that I can recall) for planned projects. I’m going to stick with this strategy next year: only buy for a known project that I plan cast-on within the month. I was somewhat undone by some of my knitting friends towards the end of the year, however! BionicLaura de-stashed some gorgeous Possum Touch and two skeins of Artesano Alpaca 4ply. As part of Knitmas, Freckledpast de-stashed 4 skeins of chenille, 1 skein of Rosários 4 Loopy and a ball of Donegal Yarns Aran Tweed. Then Averil de-stashed a skein of Regia Galaxy in the Saturn colourway. They are allvery bold! but I love what they de-stashed in my direction. It’s only fair, I have de-stashed in other people’s directions too (see point 2. above!).

4. Spin more – DONE! The Skein-a-month Spin-a-long was quasi-successful. While we didn’t manage to do an actual skein a month, it certainly increased my spinning efforts and out-put. My most productive month was July, during the Tour de France. A complete lull in activity followed in August when I brought the wheel with us camping in France and didn’t take it out one night! Anyway, more importantly, I spun for a specific project and knit it up too – a small hoodie for BionicLaura’s baby girl. I learned a lot from the experience – how fractal spinning helps crazy colourways; check gauge and resize to suit; even when you don’t expect to have yarn left over, you will!

BionicLaura's Funky Bear

5. Quilting – DONE! Thanks to Elana I was hooked up with quilter-extraordinaire Mary Heseltine who lives down the road from Elana. We had an introductory session in March which led to Clarabel & I doing a five month quilting course over the Winter. I am loving it though I’m a little concerned for the new stash of fabric I am accumulating now.

6. Gifts – DONE! and NOT DONE! On the one hand, most of my knitting time in the past year seems to have been gift-knitting. On the other hand, I don’t think I managed a single gift included in my original plan! The gifts I planned for the early part of the year were scuppered by how long it took me to write the pattern (see point 1. above). Then, later in the year, planned gifts were superceded by a completely unforeseen (by me) baby-boom amongst my crafting friends. The baby-knits were fun to do thought they led to some stash accumulation. I’ve decided it’s probably a good idea to keep some baby-suitable yarn always handy in my stash in future.

7. Darn Socks – DONE! I surprised myself and actually darned some socks during the year! This coincided nicely with the Sock Exchange initiative by @futuremenders to get people back to “Make Do & Mend” mentality as part of the Absolut Fringe festival in Dublin. Unfortunately, I still have more socks to mend, however. And soooo much more sock yarn to use!

Muse: Trials and Tribulations

Over the past six weeks I’ve been through the mill.

Not a woolen mill where I was metaphorically transformed from fluffy fleece to workable yarn. No, a stone-mill where the wheat gets sorted from the chaff.

I learned whether I was wheat or chaff!

Trial By Jury

In non-chronological order I had three trials over the past while, the first being applying for a new position where I work. It was an internal competition for a temporary position that would have taken me out of Architecture and into mainstream Administration and Management. That’s essentially what I’m doing these days anyway, there being very little Architecture in the pipeline these days.

I applied at the end of April and didn’t know if I would even get short-listed. I got word that I made the grade two days before the interview. I did my best to prepare but I remember feeling that I was at the very limit of my own intellect and ability in the process. The interview was so-so. They asked some excellent questions – questions that I really wish I had an answer for, questions that brought it home to me that I wasn’t in the right league at all. My immediate feeling on leaving the room was that I wouldn’t have given me the job.

With the benefit of  hind-sight I realise I should have been preparing mini-essays and reading-up from the moment I submitted the application form five weeks earlier. Hopefully there will be a next time and I can make use of this insight.
The process was useful to help me realise also that I’m being held-back – possibly deliberately – by those in my current workplace. I need to tackle this but as yet I haven’t got my head around how to do so.

Knitty-Trial

While I was disappointed that I hadn’t acquitted myself better in the interview I was sanguine about it given the lack of effort and preparation I had given the opportunity. It’s hard to accept defeat or failure when you have given something your all. Which brings me to the sad tale of my Knitty submission. Unfortunately, I received word – in the form of a very nice email with really positive feedback – that my pattern submission was rejected. Amy Singer said she loved the pattern and gave special mention to the photography (which was pretty awesome, thanks to DH) but because they rarely print kids patterns “so it’s extra hard to get through in this category”.

Dejected doesn’t cover how I felt. In a word, I was devastated, irrational as that may seem. I knew they rarely print kids’ patterns but I was audacious / arrogant enough to think that this pattern had something more that would over-come this hurdle. Plus, I deliberately sized the pattern to cover from toddlers to teens.

For now, I’m still licking my wounds. Amy suggested I submit the pattern to Petite Purls but for now I’m sitting on it and wondering how best to give it a debut.  Once bitten, twice shy and all that; I’m unsure I’ll put myself “out there” as a designer again.

Endurance Test

Since I like to focus on the positive rather than the negative I’ve got to give you my tribulation. As many of you know I’ve been donning running shoes (and questionable outfits) and training for the Women’s Mini-Marathon. This is my third year to take part (fourth to sign-up :-0) and my first year to have trained sufficiently. By Race-Day last year the longest I had run continuously was 20minutes. I decided to do a back-to-back of my longest training run so I walked for five minutes, ran for 20, walked for 10 mins, ran for another 20 then walked the rest of the way. My time was sufficiently good that I was allowed to enter as a fast-jogger this year.

This year I started my training earlier and was more diligent about sticking with it. As I came close to the end of the 9-week “Couch To 5K” training programme (C25k) – where I was running 20 to 25 minutes continuously – I found a training schedule on Action Aid’s website for running 10k and I started to adapt the last few weeks of C25k to suit. It mainly meant adding an extra run on a Friday and lengthening my other runs during the week or doing some speed-training called “Fartleks”.

Before the race this year I got chatting with a fellow fast-jogger who has a few London and Dublin Marathons under her belt. She had a similar target time of 75 minutes. I told her of my plan to walk for the first five minutes, run for 60 then walk for the last five as a five-minute walk was the warm-up in my training sessions. As it turned out, when the race started everyone around me took off at a run. If I had tried to walk, I would have either been trampled or caused an accident. Denise, my new “running-mate” cheered me to go for it, that I would be fine. So I did.

To my amazement, I finished the 10k just (literally) under one hour, clocking-in officially at 59minutes 52 seconds. Elated, thrilled, ecstatic don’t fully cover how gob-smackingly amazed I am at having done this. I even wonder did I really run the whole route. Surely I must have missed a kilometer or two?

My sister and my neice (her daughter) were also running and we all finished within 90 seconds of each other. My neice passed me just after 9km and called out to me. I called back (we were both wearing head-phones so we’re pretty sure we were absolutely roaring at each other!) that she shouldn’t wait for me, I’d slow her down. However, I tried to keep her in my sights for the last kilometer. That was the push I needed to get me over the line under 60 minutes.

That the three of us will managed to complete the race in less than 60 minutes this year means we will all be in the “Runners” enclosure at the start of the race next year. Then the *real* competition will start!

So in one case I was found to be chaff, in another I was whole-wheat goodness while the Knitty trial still chaffs (see what I did there?!?)

In all cases, I guess, it’s all grist to my mill.

Stash Flash-back

I can happily report no new acquisitions of stash recently -go me! I was wracking my brains to think what could I blog about for this Stash-Saturday post when it struck me I never fully filled you in about my Rhinebeck purchases last October. (Denial, much?)

One of the high-lights of my weekend was to shake the hand of a designer I greatly admire: Lisa Grossman, a.k.a. The Tsock Tsarina.


More than because I love her designs (though i was acting like a bit of a star-struck groupie) I mainly wanted to introduce myself because she’s a knitting-buddy of Helen Of Troy (OfTroy on Ravelry) who blogs at Golden Apples. Helen is a knitter and blogger that consider as an online friend because she reads my blog and often comments. We’ve never met – and are unlikely to get the chance to – so I felt shaking Tsock Tsarina’s hand was the next best thing to shaking Helen’s.

Anyway, The Tsock Tsarina does the most amazing designs for sock – many quite outrageous; all of them witty – which she sells as kits.


It was tough to chose but I opted for “Poseidon” in the end.


This had a beautiful skein of Jennifer’s Flock Sock in “Thalassa”, a bright blue with tints of green. This had a beautiful skein of Jennifer’s Flock Sock in “Thalassa”, a bright blue with tints of green.

I’m thrilled with the pattern too as it has tutorials on a few techniques that are new to me: Russian Long-stitch, for starters. This is a front-runner for the next pair of socks for me.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Eclectic and Enchanted Soles

Great enabler that my knitting-buddy Bootie is, she pointed me towards these pattern books from Janel Laidman (including, with feigned nonchalance, the link for where I could buy them on The Rustling Leaf Press web-site):

Bootie knows me so well, that she knew I wouldn’t want to resist. I had never heard of Janel Laidman before. I haven’t been able to get enough of her since! The photos of two patterns that I’ve included here just don’t do them justice. If you’re on Ravelry, have a better look at her books here:

The Enchanted Sole

The Eclectic Sole

I bought the books last April but I was too late at that time to sign up for her sock-club. I left my details indicating my interest in her next one. When I got the email alerting me that sign-ups had opened for the next one, I jumped on it straight away – despite the fact I was out at my Christmas Party!

In fact, Janel Laidman has two different clubs running in parallel: “Art & Sole”, which give a sock pattern and a non-sock pattern with each shipment; and “Illuminations – Colourwork Sock Club“. After much hemming and hawing, I went for the Illuminations – Colourwork Sock club rather than the Art & Sole. My main reason is that I’ve only done very limited colourwork socks – only one pair comes to mind, in fact. The colourwork patterns Janel Laidman has in her books are just stunning.

Signing up for the whole year seemed a bit steep for me at the time – what with a lot of our budget being tied up with Christmas presents; so I’ve opted for the pay-as-you-go option. Here’s what I’ve to look forward to:

  • 6 shipments per year, starting January/February 2011
  • Beautiful sock yarns from a different dyer each shipment
  • TWO new and exclusive sock patterns from Janel Laidman each shipment
  • Choice of color family when signing up for the club
  • Instructions and videos specific to colorwork techniques for socks
  • Pattern only option!
  • KAL group
  • surprise goodies and extras!

The first installment should arrive in mid- to late- February. Can’t wait!