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And now, design your ads!

It’s one thing to design a piece of knitwear.  You have to think about the type of yarn you want to use, the color(s), the pattern, the size, the story the design tells, the audience who will want to hear it.  You spend countless hours knitting swatches to test how the colors and patterns work together with different types of yarns, you bribe your friends to be test knitters, you write and rewrite the pattern over and over until it is as clear as you can manage and you have fixed all the errors your testers have found.  And after all this, if you desire to publish it on a site like Ravelry, you spend another bit of time figuring out how to create your “store”, how to upload your pattern, create your page and monitor people’s interest in your design.  Whew!  You’re happy for awhile…

Then, just when you think you have a handle on all these things for at least one design, you start thinking about putting that design out there so that more people can see it.  Alrighty then, get ready to blast into the next universe called advertising if you wish to showcase your pattern!  Suddenly, you have to learn how to take the photos, how to use a graphic design program to resize the photos according to the publisher’s requirements, how and where to add text as a layer to the photo (after you have chosen font type, font size, and font color) and last, but not least, what file type to use when saving the photo so that the image isn’t overly skewed.  Granted, you can hire a designer or design team to do this for you, but if your budget is tiny, and you are just starting out, you need to dive headfirst into the ad creation waters. No life vests, people, sink or design!

I know I’ll get better over time with designing my own ads, but here are my first two.  Yes, they are the ones I have published here before, but it has taken me three days and a lot of emails with a helpful Ravelry editor to figure out how to make them small enough and how to add the pattern title.  When I get frustrated, I just think about how these might help sell my patterns so that I can donate all the profits to my favorite animal rescue shelters.  That thought is my life vest.

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Design Challenge

One of the hardest decisions for me is to choose between telling a “color story” and a “stitch pattern story.”  I have been mulling over my next design for awhile now, and I keep drifting back and forth between representing the design by using colors or by using a lace or intarsia pattern.  My inspiration for my next shawl pattern is the following photo of a runway at night.

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The shawl will have a central panel that gives the feel of a runway in either dark blue or purple and the sides will be striped in shades of brown and gold.  I am also thinking of using beads along the edge of the runway to create the runway lights.  It was the beautiful blue runway lights that started my thoughts on this pattern!

Here is an example of an Isager pattern I just finished that uses a stitch pattern story, rather than a color story.  It is so lovely, I admire this designer!  (Her name is Lise Vaaben.)

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Name That Sheep!

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Thanks to my amazing and inspiring friend Laura of Handwerks, I am starting my own study project on different breeds of sheep and the yarn that is produced from them. There are over 77 breeds that Handwerks is familiar with but I am starting with a subset of some of my favorite ones so far. Laura has provided some samples for my project and I plan to use Barbara Walker’s afghan squares book  to start my squares. There will also be a lot of exciting online research about the breeds and I hope to track down more samples of a wide range of yarns.

The yarns in the photos from the top down are:
Textel “Georgia”
Icelandic
British Milk Sheep (one of my favorites!)
Gotland (my very favorite; the most gorgeous silver gray)
Wensleydalet
North Ronaldsey
Masham
CVM (California Variegated Mutant)
Llanwenog
Corriedale
Pitt Island

And this is just the beginning!

Free Pattern Friday + New Store Sample

Free Pattern Friday + New Store Sample.

A beautiful pattern in ombré stripes. The color combinations are lovely and I love the technique they use to move through the colors.

City Stoplights Fingerless Mitts

This pattern is now published on Ravelry!  You can find it there and download it for free until the end of May.  After that, my patterns will have a small charge and all sales will be donated to one or more of my favorite, nonprofit local animal rescue shelters.

I promised to create fingerless mitts to accessorize the City Stoplights shawl and so here is the first one!  I decided to try beading so I chose a motif that reminded me of stoplights and added a few beads in the center and at the edges.  Adding beads with a super teeny tiny crochet hook is quite a challenge but it was also satisfying to see the bead finally settle down into the stitch.  I used size 8/0 Duracoat galvanized beads in a gold color called Champagne.  (Very tempting to drink Champagne while beading, but probably not the best idea…)  Here it is in Handwerks Super Twist sock yarn in color Heirloom Tomato.  It is the same red I used in my Primary Colors City Stoplight shawl:

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Queen of Purple

I tried updating my previous post with a new photo of the City Stoplights shawl, but can’t seem to find the “add photo” button on the edit screen.  So, I will just add it here.  From my friend Lyle, known to some of us as the Queen of Purple, her version of my pattern.  Isn’t it wonderful?  We may not be able to find a purple stoplight anywhere in the world, but at least we can imagine it.  Image

City Stoplights Shawl

I have my final pattern now, after lots of very useful feedback from my wonderful test knitters!  It is amazing how small changes can make your pattern suddenly sound professional.  I also completed a primary colors version of the pattern which is pictured below.  In the first photo the shawl is knitted in Isager yarn; in the second photo, it is knitted in Handwerks Super Twist sock yarn.  I love primary colors, they are so cheerful.  One of my test knitters has finished her version and is in the process of blocking it so photos will come soon.  I am now starting the accompanying fingerless mitts, so stay tuned!  They might even have beads in them…something new to learn how to do.

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Design Time

I haven’t been writing anything for the past year, mainly because I have been focusing on advancing my knitting skills and projects.  I love knitting other people’s patterns, but suddenly, about two months ago, I started visualizing some of my own cool patterns for shawls and sweaters.  So I decided to take the plunge and start creating designs for all the ideas that have been wandering in and out of my brain. I find that walking in these beautiful California hills triggers great creative thoughts!

Here is my first design, available on Ravelry, called the City Stoplights Shawl.  True, there are no stoplights on hiking paths, but I grew up as a city girl and still do a lot of walking around town.  I thought it would be fun to create a simple shawl with stoplight colors but also with a design that could be used with many different color combinations or even gradations of a single color.  Thanks to my spectacular test knitters, I am going to be able to see these versions.  (And you will too, both on my blog and on Ravelry.)

My first version is made from Isager yarn in wonderfully subtle colors, shown in the photo.   My next version, which is almost complete, is made out of Handwerks Super Twist yarn, in bright and springy colors.  Photo coming soon!

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Knitting in the New Year

Knitting.  My passport to sanity!  Color, texture, pattern, fabric: from precious soft cashmere to nubby wool tweed to silky sock yarns and comfortingly warm alpaca, and that is only the beginning.  When I first started knitting many (MANY) years ago, there were relatively few yarn choices in a limited range of colors and hues.  My most exotic creation was a burnt orange ski sweater with an autumn gold lightening bolt down the front and back.  It wasn’t until grad school, almost a decade later, that I finally found the right boyfriend for it; or maybe he was just the bravest.  I knit several sweaters and vests during those years, and while I loved that yarn shop, the choices were limited to wools for the winter and cottons for the summer.

Today, of course, you can choose yarns made from everything from wool to milk curd, to bamboo, soy, corn, silk, wire, ribbon,

Linen Stitch scarf

metallic sequins and more – and in every blend imaginable.  Each of these spectacular creations comes in a range of colors that will stimulate your salivary glands faster than any gastronomic delight.  Solid, variegated, self-striping, self-patterning, heathered; if you can imagine it, most likely you will find it.  And of course, there are scores of addictive websites where you can see it all, including patterns and suggestions and help.  Super stress relief and creative indulgence for the overtaxed 9 to 5 brain!

Aside from the online knitting world, an essential part of this centuries old craft is the existence of the LYS: the Local Yarn Shop.  Here is the heart of the art.  Women (and men and children, too!) who have a wealth of knowledge, experience, and creativity and are willing to share it with you.  The past few years have been hard on these shops and several wonderful places have closed.  While a few have maintained an online existence, the real loss is the human connection and sharing of project successes and failures.  Just tonight, another area shop announced it will close its doors.

Ruffles Galore!

As I left my favorite LYS tonight, where I work the occasional weekend, my coworker and I were discussing our plans for New Year’s Eve.  We both agreed that while there were parties to go to, we could think of nothing better than knitting in the New Year.  And so, to knitters everywhere, Happy New Year!  Let 2012 be filled with color, creativity and comfort!

A Christmas Eve Rescue

Growing up, Christmas Eve was always magical for me.  Not just because of Santa, but because of everything leading up to one of the most anticipated holidays of the year.  The magic was about singing favorite carols, baking (and sharing) scores of cookies, searching for the perfect present for friends and family while enjoying the decorations and heightened holiday spirit, the sound of the Salvation Army bells outside every department store and the excitement of staying up late enough to attend midnight mass in snow-covered churches.

Over the years, much of the magic has been hidden behind day-to-day obligations, never-ending work demands, and the feeling that there just aren’t enough hours in a day to tune out those responsibilities and find the joy and Christmas spirit that was so readily available during my earlier years.  This year, even the Giving Tree at work and the animal shelter donations didn’t quite seem to fill me with the magic of Christmas.  Until Christmas eve…

Sweet Bella!

One of my friends is a police officer and she was working the night shift.  She had just stopped by for a quick exchange of gifts and was back on patrol.  About an hour later she sent a text about a small dog she had just rescued.  The dog, a sweet Shih tzu with the most adorable underbite, had managed to get out of the house, escape through the fence and then fall into the creek running behind the property.  A neighbor heard the dog barking and alerted the police.  My friend climbed down the ravine (in full, 50 lb police gear) waded into the icy water and picked up the shivering and soaked little dog.  A short time later, little “Bella” was safe and dry at the police station, feasting on treats and chew bones from the stash I had given my friend for her yellow lab.

Bell and Bella

The next challenge was what to do with Bella for the rest of the night since the family appeared to be away for the evening.  So, I volunteered to dog sit her for the night.  Enter Christmas Bella!  The sweetest personality with soft curly fur and the biggest brown eyes that even Susan Sarandon would envy.  She instantly got along with my dog and after only a few minutes she was off on a complete investigation of the house – no room or corner went unsniffed!  I have had other dogs visit but this was the most composed and gracious little houseguest that I have ever seen.  She was respectful of my dog’s territory and toys, immediately figured out that Noebell always sits on the far right side of the couch, so she chose the far left, and understood which dishses were now hers for kibble and water.  The two dogs walked beautifully together on their leashes, each one trying to sniff the same leaf at the same time. The ultimate cuddlebug, Bella was content to curl up next to me on the sofa with her chew bone and put her scary adventure behind her.

As it turned out, Bella stayed with me for two days and she was the best Christmas present, even if temporary, that I could have wanted.  Her joy in the simplest of things was a reminder of what is essential in life and her rescue a reminder of how fragile life can be.  Bella is now back home with her family, but she has left behind the Christmas spirit of hope and giving.  Thank you, Bella!