Excruciatingly Slow Building

A winter pattern in process – a tube cowl with half white on black, half black on white, of nature elements found on Whidbey Island

I had been on a mailing list for over a year for SWATCH Studio, a wonderful online network for knit designers, new and not so new. September, a note popped into my inbox that new members were being accepted for a brief window. I thought there’s no way I can manage this now. But noticing scholarships were available changed my mind, so I applied and graciously was accepted for a year access. I worked ten, 14-hour days to afford the fee, and walked in the door.

I’ve found many folks who are as busy or with more commitments than I managing to do the work and creating gorgeous things. What is absolutely brilliant about it is, everyone is encouraged to commit to 30 minutes a day. That’s it. Because my job relies so heavily on my arms and so does knitting, I end up doing an hour one day, skip the next, but averaging any given week 30 minutes a day in one of the following activities: Reviewing educational masterclasses, going through instructional videos on specific topics of design, tech editing, math, pattern writing, publishing software. One day a week I participate in a Zoom accountability group of three Pacific Northwest designers.

On the one hand, I’m finding myself amazed at how much it is possible to get done by committing to 30 minutes a day on anything. On the other hand, it feels excruciatingly slow with my pace of working seven days a week to pay bills. I have three patterns in the works, but honestly, because there are so many steps to professional pattern writing, at this pace I question whether I will get my first pattern published before next September.

My pattern goals: A light shawl based on a flower/leaf, a capelet based on turkey tail mushroom, and this cowl here by winter 2020, unless I decide to forgo all the steps of setting up my brand format, tech editing and test knitters, and just get it out there post New Year. Probably not a great way to start a second income stream.

Everything I create will be grounded in elements from the natural world around me, and once I get a platform set up, a big part of my mission is to support groups involved in restoration & regeneration of our ecosystem and soil, like global tree-planting groups, organic farm schools, and like-minded programs local to me. When possible, I’m using wool from local to me sources from local animals, like Abundant Earth Fiber’s cinnamon Merino/Targhee in the cowl design.

Today a little daydream of a scenario popped into my mind. Since to meet my current needs requires me to work daily without weekends, and since 30 minutes a day is great but frustratingly slow for absorbing coursework, teaching oneself software, sketching, designing and creating samples, I wondered what it would feel like to have 30 days of my bills magically covered to give me one solid month to devote to getting my infrastructure in place.

Pondering whether it crosses some ethical no-man’s land to do crowdfunding for a month’s living expenses with a clear schedule outline of what you intend to get accomplished with your time. I’ve seen people do such a thing for travel with a purpose, so why not creating with a purpose? I’m considering this.

Vignola – Top wool on steep sale, Oasis from Expression Fiber Arts,
bottom cake from Fidalgo Artisan Yarns Radiant DK as payment for test knitting

Always need to have a piece of on-the-go knitting I can take anywhere, something more mindless than chart work or design. This is my second Vignola, the result of a two-week love affair with mauve that no longer calls me so much. I intend to make this larger than the pattern with a third ball of charcoal gray, since most shawls are expandable and never seem quite large enough to stay on the shoulders for warmth. I’ve given away all but one of the more than 25 shawls I’ve made for this reason, something I’m keeping in mind for design.

I’m not so into Christmas whoo-ha, but this year I decided to create my own little advent calendar out of stash yarn, where I am wrapping tiny bundles of different colors, one for each day from Dec 1-25, with the intention to build a linen stitch blanket with the random colors, knitting one bundle each night. I’m making an identical “calendar” to give someone else as well. Great way to use up yarn available to me in a methodical, joyful way before anything new comes in the door in 2020.

Thanks to Ciasbod Poddar for the idea.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWW-zbcwE2g

Knitting Code

Knitting is code. It’s a thousands years old human craft transforming fiber into fabric. Some of my earliest childhood memories are dreaming in code and texture…I know, I’m an odd duck. A while back, I learned textile mills used punch cards to determine shapes of fabric by 1800, long before our first computers used punch cards. Check out the Jacquard loom.

Weaving, not exactly knitting, but it’s all fabric code

Observing loom punch cards was essential for Ada Lovelace‘s understanding to create the first computer program, solving for Bernoulli numbers and having a programming language named after her, I believe used by air-traffic control even today.

Now this article crosses my path titled, “Physicists are decoding math-y secrets of knitting to make bespoke materials,” and my mind is a little bit more blown by intelligence inherent in knitting. All it takes is a knitting physicist to reduce it to equations. This article relates it to three elements.


It all comes down to three factors: the “bendiness” of the yarn, the length of the yarn, and how many crossing points are in each stitch. 

Ars Technica

But I can see more elements to add to the equation. How many times and how tightly any fiber is plied when spun impacts how the yarn will behave. Whether a knitter throws the yarn or picks the yarn (English versus Continental) will shift the twist in the fiber. Even whether the yarn is pulled from the center of a cake/ball or from outside the ball can impact tension in the fabric, something beautifully described in this Mason Dixon Knitting post, a go-to source to learn about anything and everything knitting.

Everyday Fancy by Fran Jepperson, designer Fidalgo Artisan Yarns

I hope I am not overstepping bounds by posting this photo from their March newsletter, but I had a lot of fun test knitting this beautiful linen garment for Fidalgo Artisan Yarns last summer, and this is my first time seeing it blocked and worn. Thought I’d pass along that the designer is hosting a two-Saturday class (today, right now!) 10:30-12:30, on this Everyday Fancy pattern. Even if you live nowhere near Anacortes, Washington, I highly recommend Fran’s gorgeous and well-written patterns that can be purchased online.

Diversity Learning Curve

There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.

Change always involves a dark night when everything falls apart.

Margaret J. Wheatley
Diversity of hats gifted to shelter in 2016

Because I am white and carry all the systemic privileges (and community isolation) of being white, I am systematically attempting to teach myself about knitters and designers who are not white, in order to break out of my bubble of awareness. Currently I am of limited purchasing power so plans are on hold, but it is my intention to broaden the scope of my future pattern and yarn choices and support folks whose work has up to now escaped my white gaze.

To this end, I want to be yet another blog to share this eye-opening dissertation by Lorna Hamilton-Brown titled, “Myth: Black People Don’t Knit”. What I especially love, along with all the visuals she compiles, is the oral history obtained from elders and colleagues suggesting people in many non-white cultures of the world have been knitting resourcefully using whatever materials available for much longer than is widely appreciated.

Lorna’s contribution to historical understanding inspires me to offer my services as a professional transcriptionist accustomed to listening to a wide range of dialects, should anyone need assistance in capturing recorded oral histories for further work on the topic of piecing (knitting) together the history of knitting from a much broader perspective than white European-American. Just hit me up if you are a historian or researcher or just plain passionate knitter interested in interviewing people, and I will happily transcribe the interviews for you.

I am grateful to Jeanette Sloan in compiling her list of POC designers and crafters. No one single person could make an exhaustive list, but her dedication to offering this to others while living a very full life inspires me.

CarpeYarn.com is a wonderful treasure trove of interviews with Craftivists and ways to support “makers, stores and people worldwide who inspire us.”

All these resources expand my view of intentional use of any craft and give me lots to incubate in contemplating how to best use my own future designs and participate in lifting others alongside myself in some way.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT WITH MY OWN FORM OF DIVERSITY

As a woman only beginning to accept my place in the neurodiverse community with self-diagnosis, I am also interested in using my craft to support organizations specifically researching how autism spectrum presents in women and breaking down barriers to informed diagnosis and support for women.

Part of my knitting obsession and skill I feel is directly related to autism, because for me, it has paralleled periods of heightened anxiety. Since shifts in America since November 2016, for example, my knitting has reached new heights because I have spent more and more time with it. While all humans have some form of self-soothing or stimming and many knitters say they knit to soothe, the need to stim is apparently more exaggerated in autistic people and absolutely essential to mental health. If I can’t move my hands, I notice tension and anxiety slowly rising. Knitting fits the bill perfectly because it allows socially acceptable stimming and even social interaction without eye contact. Food for thought.

It is still not fully clear to me whether fitting my life’s experiences into a convenient self-diagnosis based on strong “yes” on three online autism quizzes (in no way diagnostic) and lots of life review is valid to anyone but myself, but regardless, I hold vision of a day when it is safe for all people to be authentically who they are and make it in this world.

Design Mojo

Morning fog

This week, I experienced a revolutionary creative nudge I needed. (Creative nudge, as opposed to creative fudge where a bunch of creatives swear in frustration and eat chocolate).

I participated in the free 5 Shawls 5 Days challenge, did not complete it in window to qualify for prizes, but also did not give up. I simply tried again the next day. I learned something new from each shape, despite having made a gazillion shawls already.

Francoise of Aroha Knits has developed such an inviting and encouraging system that I’d love to participate in her design workshop at some magical point when I have expendable funds. She says she plans to offer the free shawl challenge twice more this year in addition to a few other challenges, so if you’re interested, there’s plenty of opportunity.

Here’s what’s so revolutionary that I learned from this. You don’t need a lot to be creative. I took this on during a week I did 80 hours of freelance work. I’ve been stressed about bills (my heat requires two large payments per winter) and finally made half of what I need to meet January’s. I even dropped my weekly knitting group the past few weeks, one of my few social events, in order to take on more paid work.

I constantly have design ideas bursting in my mind, some on paper, BUT here comes this little design coach saying, “You can try this for only 30 minutes a day for five days.” For free. Making one tiny exploration sample felt entirely different from following someone else’s pattern. It showed me all I need is 30 minutes to make a prototype of anything.

So late at night after all I could do was done, I worked on a shape, washed the shape, blocked and dried it. Finally, I have proven without a reasonable doubt I don’t need to listen to all those voices in my head telling me, “You don’t have enough space, time or money in your life to design anything. If you focus on this, your life will become unbalanced. Your priority has to be paid work.”

Triangle, experiment with made up as I went lace motif
Crescent – Made up as I went, a bit of stranded colorwork and eyelets, blocking pins created five points at edge
Asymmetrical Triangle – Learned why this shape is not best to attempt a lace motif unless at the widest edge or few-stitch repeat lace. Knit-purl textures a much better fit.
3/4 Square – Eyelet edging worked well here –
this shape gives me so many ideas
Square – Spent most time on this one, three trials to master the first few rows after pinhole cast-on – gave up DPNs. Magic loop worked for me. Now that I have this down, I intend to make the baby blanket promised to my cousin months ago this way.

A few precious moments outside, on Parks & Rec new expanded trails. Thank you, Parks & Rec. Yay!