Monday, July 15, 2013

How I Became a Pattern Designer

Several people have asked me recently about how long I've been knitting and how I became a designer, so here it is.

I've been actively knitting now for only about 7 years.  I had knit sporadically in the years before, but in 2006 I owned no yarn and had one pair of size 10 straights buried in boxes that had survived multiple moves and probably 12 years untouched.  I was bored and decided I needed a project I could do while hanging out in the garage with my husband while he did motorcycle maintenance.  I went to Michael's and bought a yarn I liked the look of that happened to have a pattern on the wrapper for a stockinette shrug knit cuff-to-cuff.  I bought the recommended needles, went home and fumbled my way through some shadowy memories of the backward loop cast on and the basic knit and purl stitches.  I was proud I could remember how to do it, and began to dream of where I would wear my shrug.

Very quickly (less than a sleeve later) I remembered why I stopped knitting.  Stockinette.  I hated knitting stockinette.  My straight needles could barely hold all the stitches and were heavy.  The back and forth, all knit, all purl, all knit, all purl would have put me to sleep had it not been for the weight lifting exercises the needles suffered me.  Voices in my head rallied me on... "methodical, relaxing, rhythmic, meditative" and I soldiered on looking for the inner serenity.


And then there was a pile of shame.

Okay, not a pile.  One project a pile does not make.  More a lump of shame.

I was frustrated.  I'd spent money and time on this.  I'd dreamt of wearing this beautiful thing I was creating.  But no matter how brilliant the dream or how much I loved that yarn, I hated the project.  Hated.

And so it sat.

Then it occurred to me that maybe, if I did a little project that was entirely different from this project, I would benefit from the break and find joy in the shrug again.  I dove through my craft supplies and found the only pattern I had ever purchased, still in its page protector.  Little baby hat.  Quick, easy, cute.  Didn't matter that there wasn't any baby in my life to knit this for. I bought a circular needle and more yarn.

More lessons were learned.

I learned that when I knit in the round I get addicted and I can't stop, because it just keeps going around and around and around until its done.  I discovered the portability of knitting and started taking projects everywhere I went.  I learned that stiff cables on circular needles SUCK, as do straight needles in general,  and that I preferred to work small projects in the round on double pointed needles (bought some of those too).  I learned about different fibers and how expensive a stash can be.  And I learned that some patterns can be changed and improved on, much like a recipe in cooking.

Hey, now there was something.  I cook.  I went to cooking school.  I understand that cooking really boils down to simple formulas.  Follow the ratios and you'll get a different flavored end product.  I could apply this theory and similar math to my knitting and get different results.

More buying... yarn, needles, a stitch dictionary, and notebooks.  I played with hat and sock patterns.  I knit simple projects to gain an understanding of their structure and construction.  I learned some shaping techniques.  I squealed and jumped around every time I turned a heel or finished a new hat.  I began writing patterns for my designs.  I sought out local knitting groups.  I discovered Ravelry.  And then one day, I posted my first pattern for sale, with much encouragement from my new found knitting friends, and someone bought it!  I was in love and the romance continues.  I design, I teach, I knit and I dream.

Along the way, the lump of shame did become a pile.  There was a Christmas tree hat design that didn't go quite as planned, and a hat that looked like a snowman.  There was a cowl neck sweater that, although lovely on the model in the magazine, made me look like the Michelin Man in peach.  Not my best work.  I dropped them into the pile for later review.  The shrug mocked me.  Nagged me.  Eventually the pile started to bother me.  Mind you, it took a couple years for its voice to gain that kind of volume, but once it did, it had to be addressed.  I got rid of projects I didn't like.  I donated items that just didn't fit right.  And finally, I tore back the shrug.  It was a bittersweet event, tearing out stitches and winding the yarn into balls.  It wouldn't have fit - I'd lost a lot of weight - and the yarn could be reused, but I hadn't fulfilled that dream of wearing it.  There was a mourning period of about year before I could face those balls of yarn.  I made them into socks for my son.  He loved them.

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