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Something that always interests me is the riot of production of crafts that must have happened in the Victorian period.  We are used to seeing the Victorian period through the lens of movies, and it looks so wonderful, but I think that if actually confronted with real Victoriana that many of us would think it was not in the best of taste.

If you don’t believe me, please walk through an antique store and really look at what was in people’s houses.  The thing that comes to my mind is a red and dark wood upright couch and chair set in an antique store close to my house that is really and truly hideous.  Mass production takes some of the variety out of choice in what to have, and crafting puts it back — you can really make anything you want within the limits of your imagination, available supplies, and skill.  Some of the things people come up with may not be as well conceived as others.  Mass production is mediated through professional designers of various sorts.

There is of course no reason for anyone to go around being the crafting police and making people feel bad.  Everyone should get to make anything that makes them happy, but I think there is a reason that William Morris said “Have nothing in your house you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” — It’s because there were so many ugly things in people’s houses — like crochet/beer can hats.

There was such variety in crafting then — embroidery, knitting, crochet, hairpin lace, other laces or various ilks, sewing, rug hooking, patchwork, and many others that don’t immediately come to mind.  All  those women without jobs (though I would hazard that jobs overall may be somewhat overrated), all producing as much as un-idle hands could day in and day out.

Consider for a moment that the Victorian period saw the invention of artificial dyes, perhaps most notably mauve.  It is no wonder that people got a little over excited.

I have been reading and considering the viewpoints of the members of the Crochet Designers’ Group on Ravelry in this discussion thread.  They are discussing ways to help change the mindset of many crocheters who don’t like crocheting garments, but prefer to crochet housewares and other items.  I have been considering the discussion for several days, and while I completely understand how this could be frustrating for designers who would like to design other things, I think we should examine what we define as a successful design.

Specifically, I think we should examine the purpose of publishing fancy garments in fine yarns in magazines: in one of my jobs several years ago I used to manage a craft gift shop. The previous manager had focussed heavily on smaller items as those were what tended to sell, but I found that without the bigger expensive items the cheaper items didn’t sell as well — the big pieces sold the small pieces.

I haunt the local book and yarn stores searching for crafting magazines and books, and I will buy a magazine or a book for the masterpiece project that would take months to complete, and I will read it again and again. I may not make it, in fact I probably won’t, as I have more things to knit and crochet than I fear I will ever finish, but it sold the magazine – is that a failure of the design? Does every pattern written for publication need to be made over and over? There are so many other measures of success: it may improve your reputation, or make a fan, or sell the magazine that will sell yarn and help you get more business in the future, because you made that fabulous thing that people remember. All of these things are important and help your career, and I wouldn’t consider that outcome a failure, even if only two people ever make it.

Those designs are kind of like the wedding dress at the end of a fashion show — not many people are in the market for a wedding dress, but it can be over the top and designed for the most special day in a person’s life (whether the day is in fact the most special day is beside the point — the dress is designed for the most special day — I suspect that most most special days happen when you are naked, or in a hospital gown, or jeans, or pajamas, etc.).  Some designs are like that — they are designed to be masterpieces of the crafter’s art, and they will likely be made less than something more approachable that requires less expense, time, and thought — but that doesn’t mean they are not successes.

Because if winter is coming can spring be far behind?

The winter solstice is the time when light and summer start coming back into the world. The solstice of course happens in midwinter, but, especially in more northern (or southern) climes, the return of the light can seem to take an inordinately long time. Sometimes it makes us feel better to wear clothing that anticipates the season, but it is still too cold to benefit from the convenient resort collections in the stores – for those in that situation I offer the West Wind Gloves.

Knit in a spring like green and twined in vine-like cables these gloves will keep you warm and help you imagine tendrils and vines growing in your garden, and unlike wisteria there is no need to keep an eye on them as they will not overgrow your house or take over disused rooms when you aren’t paying attention.

This pattern is knit on two needles with the gauntlet length version shown in the photos. The pattern also includes an option for a wrist length version.

(please note that this version of this pattern is knit on straight needles, a version knit in the round will be posted soon)

Difficult

Intermediate

Size

One size

Finished measurements

Palm circumference: 7.5 inches[19cm]

Gauntlet length from cuff to end of middle finger: 12 inches[30cm]

Wrist length from cuff to end of middle finger: 8 inches[20cm]

Materials

Brooklyn Handspun Instant Gratification [100% superwash merino wool; 280 yards/256m per approx. 100g skein]; color: Kinda Camo; 1 [2] skeins

1 set US #2/2.75mm straight needles

Cable needle

Stitch markers

Gauge

25 sts/35 rows = 4 inches[10cm] in stockinette stitch

Here is the earthworm scarf with the knitting completed, but the seams not sewn:

I plan to sew it up as I designed it in Debbie New’s labyrinth knitting technique, but I am quite smitten with it as is and kind of wish I could keep it like this.

I have some time now to work on whatever my little heart desires, and my heart has alighted on this scarf, which I haven’t had a chance to work on in several months.

I have swatched with this yarn several times now, and I wasn’t sure exactly how to make the most of it.

I was frustrated with with working the stripes in intarsia and wasn’t really pleased with the results, so I ripped it out and tried again:

I like this so much better. It compliments the texture of the yarn better somehow.


I confess I like to knit gloves the way many knitters seem to like to knit socks — they are so satisfying.

They don’t take too long, they fit in your bag, and of done right they so closely mirror the dimensions and contours of the body — three dimensionality at its finest.

Here is the beginning of my newest creation:

I love knitting gloves on two needles: it is very satisfying and there are no double pointed needles to mess with. I don’t hate dpn, but I find that straight needles are just so much easier to work with. I do think I will write the pattern for both circularly knit and flat knit versions though, so you can all decide for yourselves.

I am making them cabled as that makes them warmer (I am not sure that gloves could ever be too warm here) and hopefully look spiffy. They will also have substantial cuffs that will be able to either under or over the sleeves of your coat.

The yarn is the Instant Gratification from Brooklyn Handspun that I wrote about before.

I plan to write up the pattern in both versions and post it in the next couple months.

Download pattern here: Minimalist funnel neck

This sweater solves my knitting Catch-22: I don’t buy sweaters because this depletes perfectly legitimate yarn resources, and I don’t knit anything ordinary, because why would I want to spend that much time on something that is not fabulous? This means that I never have a plain black cardigan or pullover. This funnel neck pullover solves this paradox, by being a wardrobe basic, while incorporating great yarn and sufficient knitting interest to keep mine.

This sweater is close fitting and an exercise in three dimensional knitting. The whole sweater is knit in one piece from the neck down. I confess one of my parameters was that I wanted a project I could work on without looking, and after the yoke shaping this can be done. The final product is something I would make in more colours and with differing length sleeves and textures, but I am already onto my next eccentric project.

Minimalist funnel neck

Difficulty

intermediate

Size

Finished bust 32 [36, 40, 44]inches (80 [90, 100, 110]cm), shown in size 36 inches (90cm)

Materials

4 (4, 5, 6) skeins Rowan Yorkshire Tweed Aran (100% wool; 175 yd [160m] per 100g), colour#415 Maze

set of US 9 (5.5mm) double-point needles

16″ (40cm) US 9 (5.5mm) circular needle

29″ (74cm) US 9 (5.5 mm) circular needle

Two kinds of stitch markers

Tapestry needle

Gauge

15 sts and 20 rows = 4″ (10cm) in k1, p1 rib, slightly stretched

minimalist funnel neck - back Minimalist funnel neck

As we previously discussed there is a small problem with the placement of the pockets on my coat, so here are instructions to show the way I have dealt with this little problem.

This is what they are like now:

Lyra’s Coat with botched Pockets

lyras-coat-botched-pockets2.jpg

I cut half the threads that make the coat at one side, slightly staggered, so the join won’t show too badly and unwind the cast on edge:

lyras-coat-botched-pockets3.jpg

Then I cut the other half at the other side and unwound those too:

lyras-coat-botched-pockets4.jpg

Finally, I will put the yarn on a tapestry needle and graft the two sides together:lyras-coat-botched-pockets5.jpg

lyras-coat-botched-pockets6.jpg

The unevenness will go out after I “block” it — actually this will be more of a “wash.”

Please don’t stop reading — I really do. Algebra is the only thing that allows me to design knitting the way I want to.

I suppose you can cast on for a scarf or other simple garment and just start knitting, especially if you listen to Debbie New and follow some of her swatchless knitting techniques, but that is not the way I want to work most of the time. I want to knit things that mold to and follow the ins and outs of the human body (maybe also the dog body, I may make a doggy sweater in the not too distant future). I also want my knitting to be convincingly three dimensional.

Don’t tell me only crochet can do that; it will get my hackles up. Just imagine your reaction if I said that all knitters can crochet, but not all crocheters can knit, and you will get some idea of the force of my feelings on this subject. You just can’t get there without math, unless you are a freeform whiz, which I am afraid I cannot claim to be.

I generally start with a gauge swatch and work out my gauge in stitches and rows to 4 inches[10cm]. I then get out the measuring tape and start measuring everything. At this point I don’t think you can measure too many parts of your body to get an idea of how everything will fit together. Then I multiply the number of inches by the gauge per inch. This gives me an idea of how many stitches should be in each part. Then you need to start working out how many stitches difference there are between each section and how much distance there is for the pattern to increase or decrease enough.

Now there needs to be some understanding of how many stitches are needed to make complete repeats of any patterns you are including and to make the increases and decreases work out.

I follow the instructions I remember from grade 11 physics – assign variables to all the values you need to know and write down all the values you do know and just start deriving variables until you get all the variables you need.

To give you an idea of what I mean, here is my spreadsheet with my calculations for Josephine:

josephinesizingchart2.jpg

I confess I knit from a spreadsheet and write everything out in a way others can understand it only later. I use formulated cells in Excel in all my calculations too, because I love algebra, not arithmetic.

I just got these beauties from Milkyrobot:

milkyrobotyarn-2.jpg

I figure you need to cut yarn like this, especially if you are buying it from someone else, as it would just be too expensive otherwise, though I do want one of these really badly.

milkyrobotyarn-1.jpg

I have special plans for one of them (the one is as yet unidentified).

I thought the pink one was more red from the photos, so now I am considering cutting it with grey instead of red (I have also greatly reduced my red yarn stash, but my grey is undiminished).

Glenda will be calling me within the next few weeks when my drop spindle comes in.

August 2017
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