Category Archives: Design

Of vintage hats, interviews, and voyages

There is so much going on around the studio this week! We are knee deep in planning the 2016 Gift-A-Long, I have sent lots of new patterns to the tech editor, the New England Fiber Festival is next weekend, and I need to take final photos for a number of designs, and for a photo tutorial. But somehow amongst it all I managed to release the first pattern in the Vintage Hat series:

Tasselated Cloche

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I am so in love with this hat – I wear it around the house, and outside now that cooler weather is here. There is a reason that the cloche was the most popular hat shape in the twenties and later – It looks good on every face shape, and flatters everyone who puts it on. Turn up the brim in the front, or in the back, or on the side – each way gives a different look, all of them flattering, framing the face in different ways. And who doesn’t love a tassel?!

Next up, I was thrilled to be the designer interview in the fall 2016 Malabrigo Yarn Newsetter! I really enjoyed talking to them about designing with their gorgeous yarns, and about The Malabrigo Junkies group on Ravelry, where I have been a mod for the last 8 years.

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OK, now on to the fun stuff! One of my very favorite things about having this space is the my ability to use it to talk about some of my very talented friends and fellow designers. Today I want to talk about my friend Talitha Kuomi, who definitely fits the category of very talented.

I love the way Talitha approaches knitting and design, as she approaches so much in her life, as art. Everything she does is filled with creativity. Design is only one of her arts, she is also a songwriter, musician, poet, photographer, and, as anyone who follows her on Instagram can see, art permeates everything that she does.

Not long ago she released a fabulous book, The Voyages of Vivian, made in partnership with Mrs. Crosby’s Yarns. It is so much fun, and so beautiful to look at, that I hardly know where to start talking about it, or what I like best about it!

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The idea is so wonderful and engaging – The book contains a series of letters from Mrs. Crosby to her childhood friend Vivian. These letters encourage Vivian t0 travel the world, visit enticing places, and have adventures, following the clues, a scavenger hunt of sorts, that Mrs. Crosby has put into her letters. If that weren’t fun enough each location we visit as we travel alongside Vivian is accompanied by one of Talitha’s beautiful designs. It’s part knitting pattern collection, part mystery, part travelog with gorgeous photos from exotic locales, and is completely engaging! It’s fun to read, fun to figure out the clues, and fun to armchair travel alongside Vivian. Plus Talitha’s included designs are really fun to knit, and very, very wearable.

It’s hard for me to choose my favorites, as they are all beautiful in Talitha’s unique style. I love all of them, but if I have to choose, my favorites would be:

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talithajauntexcursion:

talithaexcursioncrossing:

talithacrossingand trek:

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See what I mean about wearable?

These stand out to me, but honestly all 8 of the patterns included in this charming eBook are very wearable. And the book is great fun to read.

I hope I have piqued your interest in Talitha and her fabulous designs. You can find her on her web site, on Ravelry, and on Instagram – all are worth investigating!

That’s all for today! We’re busy carving pumpkins and watching scary movies to get in the mood for Halloween. It’s looking autumnal out, and there is the proverbial chill in the air, so there’s lots of tea, and the occasional cookie. Later we’ll decorate the porch, and prepare for the hordes coming tomorrow evening. Until next time keep knitting!

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Of love and friendship and visiting Linda

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One question that I get asked a lot is where the name for my Visiting Linda hat came from. I am always unsure of how to respond, because the hat is a tribute to a dear friend who died far too young, and as such the story doesn’t have a happy ending. But I simply cannot resist the chance to talk about one of the best friends I have ever had, and undoubtedly one of the most fabulous people I have ever known – the magnificent Linda K. Stine.

We first met in the mid-1970’s when, both struggling actors in NYC, we were cast together in an Off-Broadway production of the play Chamber Music by Arthur Kopit. Linda and I met at the first rehearsal in someone’s apartment on the upper west side. She looked so familiar to me, and it wasn’t until about half way through that initial rehearsal that I realized that the reason was that the week before I had seen her on the TV game show The $10,000 Pyramid, where she played brilliantly and won dramatically at the very last second. At that rehearsal I also learned that she was a very talented performer, with a true gift for comedy. She had us all laughing hysterically every time she opened her mouth, and often even when she didn’t say a word.

When that rehearsal broke up it turned out we were walking to the same subway station, and so we walked together, and during that ride on the 2 train a lifelong friendship was born when she reached into her bag, pulled out something wrapped in silver foil, and asked “Do you like chocolate?” On that train ride we learned that we not only shared a passionate love for anything chocolate, but also for reading, and theater, and that our birthdays were 1 day apart (August 14 and August 15 forever more deemed “our birthday”) and that we lived a mere couple of blocks away from each other in Brooklyn Heights. Clearly the friendship was meant to be. How had we not met each other before?

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The only thing we didn’t have in common was our stature – she was 5’9” and I am 4’11”. She immediately dubbed us Mutt and Jeff, after the old comic series, but she said that she didn’t like the negative associations she had with the word mutt, so she said would call me Mütie, and I should call her Jeff. The nicknames stuck, the only nickname in my entire life that did.

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I could write an entire book about the love, laughs, fun and friendship that filled the next 36 years, the movies we saw together, the chocolate and ice cream we ate, the road trips, endless conversations, books, music, boyfriends, bad dates (she set me up on the only blind date I have ever been on –an unmitigated disaster!!),  the performances we applauded each other in, the meals we ate together, the dramas we supported each other through, the dreams we shared, and the plans we made. And through it all we talked, talked, talked, and solved all the problems of the universe. She was such a great friend, always there when you needed company, support, a shoulder to cry on, or someone to celebrate good news with, and a great companion for any activity from antiquing at Brimfield MA to a trip to the lower east side to go clubbing. She made us real popcorn whenever we went to the movies, and always carried emergency chocolate. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding; I wore her grandmother’s cameo as my “something old”.

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She moved from NYC to Colorado in 1988, so our friendship went long distance for the next 20+ years, but it was the kind of friendship that always felt like we had just seen each other the day before. We wrote letters, sent photos, made phone calls, and as time went on switched to long emails.

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She was always thinking of other people, and though I have sadly known a number of people who got cancer I have never known anyone but Linda that told me of their diagnosis with such worry and care about my response “Honey, I have some really bad news, and I don’t want you to be too upset…”

You know where this is going, so I’ll skip over a lot of the next part of the story. She did live a miraculous 18 months after her diagnosis, and she spent it with her loved ones, even traveling to both coasts to see people and visit places she loved. My husband, daughter and I went back to NYC to meet up with her, and we spent an amazing day that I will never forget, walking miles and miles through our old neighborhood, remembering things we had done, sharing our history with my daughter. We sat on stoops and reminisced, looked at old photos she had brought with her to give me, ate ice cream (of course!), and made plans about what we would do the next time we got together, because we both needed that to get through the day. And as we sat down on the 2 train, taking us from where she was staying on the upper west side to our old neighborhood she reached in her bag, pulled out something wrapped in silver foil, and said with a smile and a wink “Do you like chocolate?”

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I needed something to knit on the three and a half hour trip down to New York to “visit Linda”. I had knit a lot of hats for her during her chemo, but I wanted to create something special for her now that her hair had grown back, so with her smiling face in my mind’s eye I cast on and this hat came off my needles. She loved it, and was excited to have a knitting pattern named after her.

I think of her often; every year on our birthday, and on so many other days too  – when I read a good book I wish I could share with her, watch a good movie, hear a good joke, eat ice cream or chocolate, or walk the streets of Brooklyn Heights. I’m grateful for all the years we got to share together, and all the joy she added to my life. I miss her like crazy, but feel her with me always, especially when I wear this hat. I hope that if you make it you too will feel her smile.

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Linda and her husband in 2010

Bits and Pieces…

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Full fledged fall is here in western MA! Woolen accessories have made their appearance, along with duvets and wool blankets on the beds, soup in a pot on the stove, and lots of cups of tea! If you follow me on social media you saw this beautiful photo of a local farm where we went to get our pumpkins, but I love it so much I had to put it here for those of you who hadn’t seen it. It so captures this time of year in the beautiful Pioneer Valley.

At Rhinebeck with good freiends, including my fellow designers Simon Kereit of Owlcat Designs and Jennifer Dassau of Knitting Vortex

At Rhinebeck with good friends, including my fellow designers Simon Kereit of OwlCat Designs and Jennifer Dassau of The Knitting Vortex

Since we last spoke, the once a year fabulousness that is Rhinebeck (aka The NY State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck NY) has happened, and as always a grand time was had by all! I saw good friends, and squeezed an amazing amount of gorgeous yarn, the most swoon-worthy of which jumped into my shopping bags and came home with me – Neighborhood Fiber Co., Tess Designer Yarns, Miss Babs, and Dragonfly Fibers:

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My mind is so filled with new ideas for designs inspired by the new beauties in the studio that I can hardly stand doing anything other than knit and write up new patterns, but there is much to do before I can do that, including finishing those pesky patterns already in the works. Luckily some of this new yarn is for samples of designs almost finished (hence the fact that 2 skeins are already rolled in balls ready to go) so I am in a state of yarny bliss at the moment.

But there is a lot going on these days that is keeping me busy – the most exciting thing being that the 3rd annual Indie Design Gift-A-Long 2015 (aka GAL2015) is coming!!

GAL 728x90_JoinusWhat is the Gift-A-Long? It’s a multi-designer event to help you kick your holiday gift-making into high gear! 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 knit and crochet 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 (last year we had 300 participating designers) will be discounting between 5 – 20 of their patterns 25% for this event. Once you’ve got your Gift-A-Long patterns, we encourage you to join one of the KAL/CALs which run from Thursday, November 19th at 8pm (US-EST) through our New Years Eve party, Thursday, December 31 at midnight (US-EST). All designs by participating designers are eligible for the KAL/CALs  (last year that was over 11,000 patterns). We have games, tons of prizes (literally thousands if you count electronic pattern prizes as well as physical prizes of yarn, kits, project bags, stitch markers, books, and so much more amazing stuff!!!), great conversation, and a LOT of fun. So pull up a chair and come join us in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long group on Ravelry!

So why does this make me busy? I am, along with my fellow designers Lindsay Lewchuck and Simone Kereit, one of the Admins who, along with the best team of mods in the world, put this event together.  So if you are looking to get some holiday knitting or crocheting done in an atmosphere of great fun and camaraderie, along with winning a few prizes come hang out with us!

Lastly, before I go, I wanted to talk a little bit about a new collection of patterns by a friend of mine that I am very excited about! It is the LINEAR Collection by the always brilliant Ruth Garcia-Alcantud, done in collaboration with Malabrigo Yarn (one of my personal favorite yarn companies to work with) as part of their Malabrigo Freelance Pattern Project.

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What a gorgeous collection Ruth has put together! The 3 garments and 2 accessories included in the collection are “based on mathematical concepts and spatial geometric ideas” which as a math nerd I love. But even if you are not a fan of math these designs are absolutely beautiful, interesting to knit, and very, very wearable.

My absolute favorite is Parallel Planes, a beautiful worsted weight swing jacket, loaded with texture and style, that would work well with so much in my wardrobe that I want it in several different colors …

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I also yearn for Lightning Ray, a lace shawl that looks like my idea of a perfect project – easy enough to knit while socializing or watching a movie, but interesting enough to never be boring.

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21704341469_80a19c3a69_zRuth’s patterns are so well written (no surprise since she is a stellar tech editor) and she has also included a number of photo tutorials and other extras in the eBook version, so it’s well worth picking up the entire collection, although the patterns are all available separately as well.

My To-Do list is crazy long, so I’m out of here until the next time! Until then, keep knitting, join us in the Gift-A-Long group on Ravelry, and most of all enjoy this gorgeous fall weather!

Happy knitting and XOXO,

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P.S. – If you want to see another sneak peek from my upcoming Vintage Hat collection (and get a coupon for 25% off one of my patterns) subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here!

 

Competition vs Community plus a great giveaway!

I do a lot of teaching and mentoring of newer designers, something I enjoy a lot and get great satisfaction from doing. I really love watching new designers grow and push themselves to be the best that they can be, and I love sharing with them resources and skills that result in creativity, professional quality, and ultimately satisfaction for them as they translate the ideas in their heads to their needles, their patterns, and ultimately to sales.

But as our field gets more and more full, and the choices presented to knitters and crocheters gets greater and greater, I get a lot of questions about competition. “How do I make my patterns stand out?” is relatively easy to answer – make them the best that they can be, with professional looking photographs, clear and accurate instructions, and most of all create beautiful original designs. But sometimes I get questions from designers that want to support their fellow designers, but are afraid that if they support them by talking to their followers about them that they will lose sales that would have come to them had they not pointed their followers to these other designers. These questions always make me sad, as I don’t see my fellow designers as competition, but rather as community which, by my definition, is the antithesis of competition. To me it’s a source for inspiration and support, and there is no better learning tool that knitting (or at least reading) other designer’s patterns. I only compete with myself, continuously pushing myself to be the best I can be, and I celebrate my friends and students successes right along side my own. Just because someone loves and buys a fellow designers patterns doesn’t mean that they also won’t love and purchase my patterns.

This field is full and the choices vast but so are the customers, and just because we design the same things (be it shawls, cowls, hats, sweaters or whatever) doesn’t mean that our customers are choosing one or the other or choosing one designer and rejecting the other. This mind set can lead to unhappiness, and a loss of community which, if you read my blog regularly you know I value highly in the process of creativity. There is room for us all in the marvelous big pie of knit and crochet design, and we can all have a slice even when sharing the other slices with our peers. I find it impossible to not get excited about other designers work, and when I get excited I want to share that excitement!

So in this blog post I am not talking about my designs but about one of my fellow designers work that I am really excited about.

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One of my fellow designers, the wonderful and very talented Ambah O’Brien has recently released the most gorgeous collection of shawls and wraps inspired by the songs that the Aboriginal peoples of Australia used to map their land, called The Songlines Collection. I get so little time to knit from other designers patterns these days, but I will definitely be making a few from this collection and I can’t wait to knit them and to wear them!

This collection is full of interesting construction and shapes, and the patterns are full of my favorite kind of knitting – meditative enough to knit while talking or watching something , but complex enough to hold my interesting from the first stitch to the last.

A few of my favorites are:

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songlines_wrap_lace_7_brighter_medium2Carinya Wrap

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Alinta Wrap

Oh how I love these two – stripes, texture, color –  totally swoonworthy! I want them both so much that I can’t decide which to make first. So many possible color combinations! And a unique and interesting construction that I am really excited to knit.

And Palana Shawl:

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Look at that interesting construction! I am a sucker for stripes, but also for a unique construction. I love finding different ways to put things together, and this pattern just draws me in. I need to make this shawl!

And those are only 3 of the 5 gorgeous patterns in this collection! And here’s the best part: Ambah has generously given me a copy of this eBook to give away to one lucky reader of my blog and/or newsletter! On October 9th I will randomly choose one winner from all the entries to win a copy of The Songlines Collection eBook. Here’s how you can enter to to be that lucky winner:

1 – If you already subscribe to my newsletter you don’t have to do anything – you are already entered! Every current subscriber to my newsletter gets one entry just for being a subscriber!

2 – Not already a subscriber? You can subscribe to my newsletter by going here, and after you confirm your subscription you will be automatically entered to win.

3 – Not interested in my newsletter, but still want a chance to win? Leave a comment on this post below, and be sure to include either your email address or your Ravelry username in your comment, so that I can get in touch with you if you win. If I don’t have a way to get in touch with you I can’t count your comment as an entry, so be sure to include contact info!

Easy peasy! I’ll randomly select the winner on October 9, 2015 so you have 8 days to enter before I choose a winner. If you win, I’ll be in touch; if you don’t win watch my social media on the 9th and 10th, and I’ll let you know where the next stop on the Ambah O’Brien Songlines Collection eBook giveaway blog tour is, so you can try again to win a copy of this beautiful eBook!

Now, I’m off to look at color combos to start knitting my Alinta Wrap. Or maybe the Carinya Wrap….Decisions, decisions, but such yummy ones!

Happy knitting!

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