Pillars of Creation (Swatch) Swatch

I’ve been knitting like my life depended on it this week, working on two separate designs. One I’ve just started an alternate size of (above and to the left), and the other I’ve started swatching and am pretty pleased with where it’s going.

A third has popped into my head recently after discovering a yarn that really inspired me, so I sketched a few ideas down so I can tackle it in the future. I have to bang out at least one of these patterns first before I can start in on a third, otherwise nothing will get done.

I’ve been drawing on a lot of inspiration pretty specifically from astronomical images. I’m not an astronomer nor engineer nor astrobiologist nor physicist nor anything even nearing any of those things, but I would describe myself as having a healthy interest in all of the above (non-knitting side note: I’m currently in the planning process of building a full-scale arduino controlled model of Sojourner).

I spend not a small amount of time looking at images taken from various telescopes and cameras that are currently out roving and viewing the galaxy in our stead, since for the most part, we’re all stuck here on Earth.

Not only do I find all the things out there inspirational and awesome. I’m also heavily inspired by the fact that we (as a species) are working our way towards getting out there, clawing our way through the science, trying to figure out for ourselves what is going on.

Imagine what we could accomplish if each national space agency received even half the money put into so-called national defense by their governments?

But I’m getting off on a bit of a tangent. What exactly has been inspiring me these past few weeks, you say?

Pillars of Creation

The Pillars of Creation has been the inspiration behind a pair of socks I’m currently making (the left hand image at the top of this post).

This image is probably one of the best known from the Hubble Space Telescope. It’s a star forming region in the Eagle Nebula, about 6500 light years away. It was first photographed in 1995, then again in 2014 (which is the image above). This region itself is huge – the longest pillar spans approximately 4 light years and, what appear to be, the small protrusions at the top of the pillars, are all larger than our solar system themselves. All that hot gas and dust is in the process of forming stars, which is where the pillars derived their name. Since the location of the nebula is 6500 light years away, the image above actually shows what was happening 6500 years ago.

Curiosity - Sol 1174

This is an image of Mars, taken on Sol 1174 (on Earth that’s November 25, 2015) by the Curiosity rover. To say I’ve spent hours looking at images sent back by Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity is a bit of an understatement. I love these black and white images – so much so that I tweet regularly from @marsinbandw. The shapes and forms on Mars – the juxtaposition of hard and soft, and its dry, cracked features, I find extremely beautiful, and very inspirational. I found a yarn (the one mentioned at the top of this post) that will fit perfectly as a basis for a Red Planet-inspired piece, and with hundreds (seriously) of images saved to my computer of the varying forms and textures of Mars, I’m at no loss for ideas to draw from.

I feel like I have a whole series of astronomical-themed pieces bubbling around in my brain – nebulae and planets, galaxies and moons (Io is particularly amazing) – there’s quite literally, a whole universe out there to draw from. How can one see all these things and not feel wonder and beauty at the sight of them?


Note: the images from this post are courtesy of NASA/JPL. You can see more Hubble photos here and more Curiosity images here. I highly recommend taking an hour to look at the beauty of what’s out there beyond our planet.

New Pattern: Hilton’s Edge

Hilton's Edge Shawl Hilton's Edge Shawl

Hilton’s Edge is named after hilton lace edging, which this pattern prominently features.

It is knit from side to side, starting with a cast on of 30 stitches, increasing up the left hand side, and then decreasing back down after the insertion of the cable motif featured in the centre of the design.

The pattern is fully charted, and includes a schematic.

Yarn: Aran or heavy worsted yarn (550-575 yards)
Needles: US 7 (4.5mm)
Gauge: approx. 16 sts x 24 rows = 4″ by 4″
Techniques used: Cables, lace, increasing, decreasing
Notions: Cable needle

This pattern is offered for free, and can be downloaded from Ravelry here: Hilton’s Edge

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.