Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Thoughts: On Being an Independent Designer

The three most important autumn accessories:
knitting, pie, adult hot cocoa
It's a bit of a weird concept: independent designer. I would think that today, the indie designer is in the majority and should just be called designers while in-house designers should be titled something else. I'm not sure. Just an idea.

Anyone with a little bit of skill can be a designer or writer or crafter or artist or whatever. Someone with a lot of skill can be a successful designer or writer or artist or crafter or whatever. I put myself in the "little bit of skill" category (and no, I'm not looking for reassurances or anything). I currently don't have as much time as I would like to devote to the skill. It's a lot of work. But anything worth doing is worth the work. I'm not complaining. And I may have a lot more time in the coming future. That's another story.

As I see it -- and from here on, this is all my theory and conjecture and, mainly, me just writing it out so that I can get my brain around it and will mainly focus on knitting design -- to be a successful designer these days, it's more than just knowing how to do the "thing." At least now, in these days. There's social media and websites and blogs and publishing and packaging and Instagram and Twitter and email and text messages and Etsy and Ravelry and and and and and. In today's "anyone can be a designer" it's almost a popularity contest.

As I've mentioned a few times, I've been participating in the Independent Design Gift-A-Long on Ravelry (today's the last day for 25% off sale patterns but the GAL continues), both as a designer and a knitter. So far, I've been able to "meet" a few more designers and I find that they're wonderful people. Of course, I don't know much about them personally other than their social media or Ravelry presence. But they're mothers and fathers, spouses, full-time employees and stay-at-home parents. They devote everything to knitting design, or it's a hobby with a bit of payback. They're talented graphic designers and writers and photographers.

And if they're like me, every mention of one of their designs, every notification of a pattern sale, every picture of a finished project gives them a little flutter in their gut. Some "yes, that's a good thing" excitement. If you don't design or knit, you know that feeling when you cook dinner for someone and they ooh-ahh-yummmm all over it? It's that kind of feeling. A warm glow. (I mean, for me there's also a bit of dread like "what if there's an error no one caught and this person will think badly of me for the rest of their lives", but I'm a little nutty sometimes.)

So as you're going about your days, think about your independent designers. Mention them when you finish one of their projects. Show off and share their name and designs with your friends. If you need a pattern, consider buying from an independent designer. Browse their Etsy stores or websites where you may find carefully curated products they're proud to offer. Connect with them on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. And I'm going to say it again: buy their patterns, even the $1 "can this person even knit" patterns. It's hard work and a leap of faith to put it out there for the public to judge.

So come say hello to me on Ravelry, show me your current project on Twitter but most importantly, say thank you to your favorite independent designers!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Selfish Gift Knitting

Do you know who doesn't need more knitted anything? Me. Do you know who wants more knitting everything? Me!

This time of year, when the weather turns colder (at least in my neck of the woods), everyone starts thinking about ways to keep warm and that's when a knitter is most popular. At least, most popular amongst non-knitters for knitterly reasons. Whatever - you know what I mean.

Of course I love to knit gifts for family and friends. And really, anyone who asks for something usually gets it eventually. But then there's always the projects you just want to keep for yourself -- the pattern is so pretty or the yarn so perfect that you don't really want to give it away. I've been adding a lot of these types of patterns to my to-knit-when-not-swatching list. I blame this year's Indie Gift Along for enabling my addiction.

Currently on my needles is Collingwood in Beaverslide Dry Goods 2-ply wool. I love this yarn. It's so wool-y! And the color is a perfect bright pink with hints of red. The pattern, by Carolyn Macpherson from The Next Beautiful Thing, is well-written and instructions easy to follow with both charts and written directions if you hate charts. I think it would also really well with some of those kettle-dyed yarns with some color variation because the cables are more textural.

 Texture is super important to me when I'm knitting. I find that I'm very drawn to patterns and projects with interesting textures or combinations of textures. Sure, I love colorwork and stripes and such; they are definitely in my wheelhouse. But texture is the best for me.

I think this is a product of when I re-discovered knitting about 10 years ago. Like a lot of people, I learned to knit when I was a kid. I've told that story many times. But then I got older, school and friends got in the way, knitting mainly fell by the wayside. Sure, I'd pick up needles and yarn once in a while but never really made anything. And then a yarn shop opened in town, a friend asked me to teach her how to knit and I fell back in love with the craft.

Right at the height of the fun fur, crazy, novelty yarn scarf craze. Everyone was combining a plain yarn with a crazy yarn and garter-stitching on big needles all these scarves. Maybe it's because I'm a dude, maybe it's because none of my friends or family wanted a scarf like that, I have still never made a novelty yarn scarf. (I well say, though, novelty yarn is super fun in a project like felted hedgehogs. Go make them NOW!)

Maybe it was a little revolt against  novelty yarn, but I focused mainly on texture -- the art in the stitches. And finding the right combination of yarn and texture is really fun.

Before you think I'm anti-plain knitting let me just say that garter stitch, stockinette and reverse stockinette are all equally important to knitting and are perfectly wonderful textures in their own rights. I would never discount any of them.

I've been browsing the Indie Design Gift-A-Long sale bundle for the past week and I've put together a list of patterns that are going on my to-knit list. Some are heavy texture, some are color and one is even crochet! Gotta show some love to the hookers!

All of these patterns are on sale for 25% off until November 27, 2015 at midnight EST.

copyright Amy van de Laar

Designer: Amy van de Laar

Look at this texture! In worsted weight yarn, this would be simply amazing! It's going so high on my list right!

copyright Dana Gervais

Designer: Dana Gervais

I know, plain green socks, right? Maybe. But look at the opportunity for embellishment and creativity. I haven't done much (any) embroidery and maybe a daisy stitch isn't for me, but I would imagine it's very easy to substitute a lot of other embroidery stitches!

copyright 10 Hours or Less

Designer: 10 Hours or Less

And this is where everything I said about texture-texture-texture goes out the window, but only because I cannot resist chevrons. I also really believe that crochet is perfectly suited to blankets since it's generally a more sturdy fabric and not subject to as much stretching out like a knitted blanket. 

copyright Lee Meredith

Designer: Lee Meredith

First, it's the colors - grey and yellow - that catch my eye. (What was my theory about texture again?) But also the interesting construction with the varied texture being worked in a bias stripe across a rectangle. So maybe this is more texture than color? The grey/yellow combo does mute together somewhat.

copyright Stitch Definition/Jen Lucas

Designer: Jen Lucas

The more patterns I list, the more I believe myself when I say I love texture. I may have to rethink everything. But then again, these mittens, though contrasting colors, are more of an all-over pattern that highlights the smoothness of stockinette and the beauty of the play between knits and purls in the corrugated ribbing.

copyright Fiona Hamilton-MacLaren

Designer: Fiona Hamilton-MacLaren

Here the rustic nature of garter stitch is given a sophisticated turn with the stripes and bias construction. And I truly don't believe anyone can have too many hats. When you wear great hats, people will remember your great hats. So you should definitely have a wide variety to pull from. 
So what's on your needles or your wishlist? I'm always looking for new inspiration. Let me know in the comments or find me on social media!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Return, a Sale and a Hat

Y'know, sometimes a person just has to take a step back, take a breath, take a nap, and then you return to the world and you're rejuvenated and relaxed and ready to take on all challenges. And boy, am I glad that I did.

Let me catch you up since I last posted seven months ago. Seven months! That's almost enough time for a new child to come along. (Don't worry, I don't have any new children.)

I had a few vacations, worked a lot, knitted even more, read several books, designed some more, published a couple patterns and just got back in touch with myself. I cancelled cable television--small victory because I still have internet and Netflix, so I'm not completely crazy--deactivated Facebook, got back in touch with some old friends. There have been furniture purchases and redecorating and, of course, more yarn. More and more yarn.

There is always more yarn.

But one of the biggest reasons I feel ready to come back to regularly blogging is the community of knitters, crocheters, crafters and designers that I've dipped back into on Ravelry. Being a knitting designer isn't really that exciting; it's a lot of hard work. And it can be lonely (oh boo hoo, Steven, pull up your big boy pants). But every year about this time of year, a group of hardworking indie designers get together on Ravelry for a huge gift-along/knit-along/crochet-along extravaganza. This is the third year for the event and I think I've participated each time. I know for certain I did last year. (Come to think of it, maybe last year was the first year I participated.)

I haven't really been able to participate much in the planning--my full-time day job is just too demanding to be able to devote the time to the group--but I'm helping in any other way I can. Well, frankly, that means a lot of Twitter posts and participating in the GAL (that's the nifty abbreviation) group on Ravelry.

The Indie Design Gift-A-Long is a 6 week long KAL/CAL of holiday gifts made from patterns designed by a rather extensive list of independent designers. From Thursday, November 19th at 8:00 pm US EST - Friday, November 27, 2015 at 11:59 pm US EST tons of indie designers will be discounting between 5 - 20 of their patterns 25% for this event. Use coupon code: giftalong2015.So you should totally come and join, too. Starting Thursday, 11/19, there will be a 25% off sale on over 5,000 patterns! Wow! If you can't find something to knit from 5,000 choices, well.... I don't know what. Join the group and get active in the forums. Everyone is super nice. Tell 'em RodeoKnits sent you. There are sales and contests and prizes, both digital and actual, for-real prizes like yarn! (You need more yarn!)

I have 20 patterns in the sale and each will be 25% off. There are a couple new patterns and several of
my old favorites. One of my newest patterns, Whittaker, is a fairly simple stranded colorwork hat that works up quickly, even though it uses a sport weight or fingering weight yarn and US #3 and #4 needles. Hats just seems to work up so much faster than any other projects, no matter the needle size.

For the sample hat, I used two skeins of Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport in Enchanted Forest and Cream. If you haven't used Nature Spun before, I highly recommend it. It's definitely a wool-y yarn, but softer than you'd expect. Because of how light the sport weight is, the hat will be comfortable to wear even on warmer winter days. And two colors means this hat would be perfect for your sports fans. Nature Spun comes in 80 colors, so you'll definitely find two that fit your needs. Any other sport weight, light DK or heavy fingering weight yarns would substitute perfectly. One of my test knitters is using Knit Picks Palette and it's turning out very nicely.

Coming soon: several more stranded colorwork hat patterns and variations, perhaps an earwarmer and matching cowl. Of course, for the cowl, I will need to find some very soft and luxurious yarn for close-to-the-skin wear. And get ready for the premiere of some Rodeo Knits sweaters!