Following Directions

It can’t all just be making up my own patterns all the time, damnit.

One thing I’m acutely aware of is burnout. Quick and epic burnout, like a star going supernova. Because I have a habit of getting really excited about a new creative pursuit, and then quickly getting tunnel vision and I forget about everything else. While focus is great, that focus, in the past, has led to the eventual aforementioned burnout. And I’d really prefer to avoid that with designing, because I really, really like doing it.

Geology Shawl

So, I took this week to knit myself something from somebody else’s pattern, the Geology Shawl from Verybusymonkey, which has been sitting in my queue for far too long. I love Verybusymonkey’s designs, and after a few months now of working exclusively on things I’ve been designing, it was really nice not to have to worry about figuring things out, but instead, just follow directions.

Speaking of following directions, I’ve been working to sort of create my own stitch library (by sort of, I mean have been, and it’s got a ton of stitches in it now).

I’ve been mostly working on translating stitches from other languages to English, because (shocking), that’s what I speak. Some of the stitches from other countries, while largely the same, are (get this), like reading a different language, and hours of scouring the web for obscure translations for languages I don’t speak has been an interesting experience to say the least.

The past few months have been exclusively dedicated to translating, but now I’m really itching to properly knit swatches of them. So, I’ll be posting these – picture of the swatch, plus my charts – of these stitch patterns.

They won’t all be translated from other languages, some of them will just be something that strikes my fancy at the moment. But I’m pretty keyed up to start a long-term semi-fluid project like this, because I think it’ll give me a nice break between actually designing, plus the opportunity to learn a few new things along the way.

Can’t Talk, Must Knit

You know, it’s amazing how something can seem to hard and then all of a sudden it’s like flood gates open.

I wanted to design for years. YEARS.

But whenever I sat down and tried to do something it was like getting blood from a stone – nothing would come out. I had somewhat resigned myself to never designing, which annoyed the hell out of me, because I’m stubborn and don’t like to not accomplish something I set my mind to. But it just seemed like there was nothing that both worked and I liked that could come out.

Then, in March last year my sister wanted a shawl for her birthday, and after what seemed like million years, I finally had designed my first pattern.

Apparently, all I needed was to get over that initial hump, and Heather June was not an easy hump to get over. Since then I’ve learned (from the more experienced designers out there) that there are things to try and avoid designing on your first attempt – almost all of which I did (crazy math, and making stitch counts that don’t want to fit together blend, being the most frustrating). But, maybe that’s exactly what I needed (and also why it took four months to complete), because after Heather June, I feel like I’m up for anything, which is an extremely liberating.

Now the problem is, I don’t have the physical ability to knit as fast as I seem to be designing.

I have three patterns on the go right now – one on the brink of completion (Hilton’s Edge), another in the process of being tested, another one that’s 50% charted, and then I have at least three more ideas that I’m just itching to start charting and knitting.

I’m taking a bit of a scattershot approach because I’m excited, but I think I need to step back and take it more one at a time, otherwise I’ll just get nothing done.

And then I have this:

Hearthside Fibres - Caribbean colourway

Larry and Lael of Hearthside Fibres made this insane (insane = good) colourway, appropriately titled ‘Caribbean’, in their Champagne Lace which is 80% merino and 20% silk. It is wonderful, and I’m designing something special just for it.

So there’s another thing I have goings-on for as well.

The problem that is now arising is of course, there’s only so fast my fingers can work. I love the process of knitting and creating the thing.

It’s not so much that I want to have something completed so that I can wear it (in actuality, I give a lot away), but I am absolutely hooked on the satisfaction of creating that item. The satisfaction of having it begin as only a nebulous idea, working through the construction of it, and then finally having a finished thing that I can say “yes, I really created this”.

That’s really what I’ve discovered about creating patterns, it’s not having finished project for me. It’s the satisfaction of having a tangible idea in my hands, but knowing that it all started with only a vague notion in my head.

A New Year Starts

I’m not generally one to care much for New Years (or New Years Eve). When I was a teenager and into my early 20’s it was one of my favourite nights of the year, but these days I find myself much more content to sit it out at home and watch some movies. It’s a pretty arbitrary date to decide to celebrate in my books, but then again, what is life without a little celebration? But I find myself a little pooped after the Christmas holiday (now that’s my time for food, family and friends!), so sitting it out at home on New Years seems to always be preferred.

In 2013 we rung in the New Year with Birdemic. Last year it was Troll 2. We didn’t keep with the theme of notoriously bad movies this year, but we did sit down and watch Good Will Hunting, not even realizing when the clock had struck 12.

I’ve really never been one for New Years resolutions either – I say if you want to make some changes in your life, there’s no time like the present, and some arbitrary date won’t somehow make you stick to them any more resolutely. I’m all for good intentions, but intentions don’t mean squat without action.

Having said all that, goals are something different. A new year’s resolution seems like something that you could have done at any time but are probably put off because it sucks. A goal can also be set at any time, but this year the designing goals I wanted to set so happened to fall right around New Years. Combine that with the annual goal thread on the Ravelry Budding Designers group, and it seemed like a perfect time to actually set out some goals for myself in the upcoming months. Knitting and designing-wise that is.

The most important one that I jotted down, however, was the last one on my list of six things:

Most important: have fun. If anything stops feeling fun, take a forced break, other resolutions be damned. More than anything else, I want this to remain something I wholeheartedly enjoy doing, and I don’t want designing to become a slog.

I don’t design anything to make money. I wanted to start designing about a year ago, but struggled with getting the inspiration for a first pattern. I just couldn’t make anything stick.

Then, I agreed to design a pattern for my sister’s graduation present, and after getting over that hump I found I had tons of ideas, I just wasn’t aware yet how to actually tap into them.

I’ve been knitting for years, and that accumulated knowledge and experience finally coalesced to something I could practically use to design my own garments. And it was fun. And extremely satisfying.

I set a few other goals for myself, but the one I quoted above is the most important. I don’t plan on designing for a living (in fact, my husband and I own and operate a separate business having nothing to do with knitting), but I do plan on designing for fun, and if ever it starts to not feel fun, it starts to feel like I have to design something and there’s surmounting pressure from it, I’ll be taking a break so I can come back and have fun again.

As an aside, one of my other goals was to keep a semi-regular schedule for this blog, but again, only for the funs. I’ve been a blogger since before that was actually the word for it (seriously), and after a several year break and starting to miss it (a few years ago it started to feel like work, hence the extended break) I decided this was the way to jump back in.

It Begins

In 2015, after 15 years of knitting, I decided it was time to start designing my own patterns. I’d been playing around with the idea for a few years, but I had never sat down and actually tried. I viewed it as the last big knitting challenge I had to surmount.

So in January 2015 I purchased a copy of Envisoknit, and sat down and started toying around.

After a few months of trying a few patterns and failing abysmally, my sister came to me and asked for a knitted shawl as her graduation gift. Turned out, that was exactly the kick start I needed to get designing, and my first pattern, Heather June, was completed in June 2015. It took me another few months, but in October of 2015 I finally finished writing up the pattern, and published it for the world to take and knit themselves.

In a two weeks, 1000 people had downloaded my first ever pattern, and I was floored. I imagined that maybe I’d get 50 downloads at most. Not 1000.

The comments I received on it were overwhelming, and not being one to generally get choked up, I found myself almost speechless at the response I was getting.

I’ve officially been bit by the designing bug now – I love the challenge of, essentially, coming up with something completely new out of nothing but a pair of tiny sticks and one long piece of string.

As of this post I have one other pattern almost at completion, and scraps of papers littered around my desk with the beginnings of other designs. Turns out, I absolutely love doing this, even when the math isn’t going my way.