Interview with Kristen Fanning (and a giveaway)

I am back with another interview as part of Gift-Along 2014. And this time, we have Kristen Fanning aka texotexere on Ravelry to share her designs and thoughts with us. She designs under the label ‘Knits Who Say Needle’.

 

What inspired you to become a designer?

I was working at my university during a summer break and didn’t have a lot to do, so I ended up knitting a lot of hats. After the first dozen or so, I was having a hard time finding free patterns that I wanted to knit and I made so many hats that summer that buying that many patterns would have put a serious dent in my budget. So I started to design my own patterns, and eventually decided to publish them.

What aspect/phase of knit design do you enjoy the most? And which one do you enjoy the least?

I like the planning phase the best. I can spend hours playing with charts and choosing the best yarn/gauge.

My least favorite part is photographing the finished piece. No one in my immediate family is photogenic, and we would all rather be behind the camera than in front of it.

Do you find time to knit from other designers’ patterns? Who are your favorite designers?

Lately, I usually only use other people’s patterns for toys. I make them when I need a break. Lately, I’ve been on a Stacey Trock kick. I’ve used her owl pattern about half a dozen times. Of course, I couldn’t resist modifying it and ended up making them all a different Peter Pan character.

Which patterns in your store can be made as quick holiday gifts?

All of my accessory patterns are pretty quick knits and most use less than 200 g of yarn. Fairy Glen and Blackberry Leaves are both the result of last year’s Christmas panic knitting. I did did both in less than 2 weeks.

What gifts are you making/knitting for this holiday season?

Right now I’m making some thrummed mittens for my brother and sister-in-law. Other gifts depend on whom I get requests from.

To celebrate the Gift-A-Long, Krsiten would like to offer you the opportunity to win one of her patterns. To enter, have a look through Kristen’s designs and leave a comment about your favorite design of hers. Giveaway ends 5 PM IST Friday, November 28. A random winner will be chosen from the comments.

Photo credit: All photos are copyright “Knits Who Say Needle” and used with permission.

Interview and Giveaway!

Update: This giveaway is now closed. “resident robin” is our winner. Congratulations! Barbara will be contacting the winner soon.

As part of Gift-Along 2014, I am very excited to interview my first featured designer Barbara aka browneyedbabs on Ravelry.

  • What inspired you to become a designer?
    I had learned to knit as a child but didn’t start knitting properly till I was in my mid twenties and people I loved started having babies. I had hardly any spare money so I would make up my own patterns for things to try and recreate products I loved but couldn’t afford – not always successfully! Eventually, I got good enough that I decided to start writing down my patterns and it all went from there.

 

  • What aspect/phase of knit design do you enjoy the most? And which one do you enjoy the least?
    My favourite thing is seeing other people enjoying my patterns, I still get a little thrill when I see someone add photos of their finished toys to Ravelry. The worst bit for me is laying out the pattern and taking the photos. It takes a surprisingly long time to make a pattern fit neatly onto the pages and look pretty.

 

  • Do you find time to knit from other designers’ patterns? Who are your favorite designers?
    I don’t get a lot of time to knit other people’s patterns, that’s one of the best things about the giftalong. Like last year, I’m taking a couple of months off from designing to enjoy knitting without having to think. I’ve just cast on the Keikomi cowl with some special yarn and I’m really enjoying it. I also really love patterns by Hilary Smith Callis I made myself one of her Starshower cowls recently as a reward for getting some patterns designed by the magazine deadlines.

 

  • Which patterns in your store can be made as quick holiday gifts?
    My quickest toy is Katie Kitty Puppet, it’s a simple knit and if you’re really in a hurry you can skip the finishing and gift it with glue on googly eyes and felt shapes for a child to decorate it with. Dreamy Owl is another quick pattern and is great for babies.
  • What gifts are you making/knitting for this holiday season?
    This year I’m making cowls, slippers and hats. Some for me and some for friends and family. I’ve got to keep them secret though so that there is a surprise on Christmas morning!

Thank you so much Barbara for taking time to answer these questions. I hope you had as much fun with this interview as I did.

To celebrate the Gift-A-Long, Barbara would like to offer you the opportunity to win one of her patterns. To enter, have a look through Barbara’s patterns and leave a comment about your favorite design of hers. Giveaway ends midnight IST Saturday, November 22. A random winner will be chosen from the comments.

It is so hard to choose one from her lovely collection. Look how cute Duncan the Donkey is.

Photo credit: All photos are copyright brownyeyedbabs and used with permission.

Crochet illiterate

I have had this project in my to-do queue since ages. It is the popular Inga bag (I know that is not the name of the bag, but I prefer to call it Inga which is easy to type and pronounce) which looks stunning and apparently easy to make. You make a dozen or so granny squares and stitch them up as it says in the pattern. What could be so hard in that, right?

When one of the Ravelry groups announced a Bag KAL, I thought it to be the right time to work on my Inga. I had all the right materials and I started on my very first granny square. After a bazillion attempts and much frogging and recrocheting with a generous amount of cursing, I successfully crocheted my very first granny square.

grannysquare3_medium2It turned out to be too tight (so I was told by a crochet expert, I am sure she knew what she was talking about). For my second granny square, I decided to use a bigger hook. After making the first square, you would think I would have gotten a fair bit of practice and the second would be relatively smoother. Wrong. The second attempt was an utter failure. I had only 11 “sun spokes” the first time around. And the second time miraculously had 13 of them. I needed 12, but always ended up with a number which was definitely not 12. Now, if this was a knitting project, I could have done a k2tog or a kfb to get the right stitch count, but alas crocheting is not same as knitting the last time I checked. I made so many mistakes, I had to cut the yarn at one place because I somehow managed to create a knot while crocheting. I sincerely tried for two whole days and at the end of the second day when I did not have anything looking like a granny square, I finally gave up.

I can tackle complex knitting techniques. Throw at me intarsia, fair isle, purl 3 together through the back loop and I will master it (it might take a while but I will get there), but as soon as you say crochet, my mind closes up. After this incident, I have finally come to the conclusion that my brain doesn’t have the cells required to process crochet. I cannot follow a simple pattern and neither can I read what I have crocheted. So, the verdict is out. I am crochet illiterate.

Random Tuesday

Some random updates from my boring life:

1. The Husband’s Sweater Project is still on. I am at the last few inches of the body and then I will have two sleeves to work on. I had taken this (and only this) project with me on our recent trip to Coorg. Halfway into the vacation, the needle snapped, so I was left with no knitting for the last 2 days. I am blaming it on this incident that the sweater body is still not done. (I know that is a lame excuse, but atleast I have one this time). Considering November is three two and a half months away, I need to pull up my socks and get this sweater done.

2. About the needle that snapped from #1 above? Those were 3.75mm needles. After we got back home, I searched low and high for another pair of 3.75mm needles and I swear I had them, but can’t find them anywhere. After waiting for two days for the needles to miraculously turn up, I gave up. I am now using 3.5mm needles and even though the difference is 0.25mm I have a feeling I am going to regret this later. Blocking should fix this, yes?

3. I am in a constant tug of war between reading and knitting. I know there are enough hours in the day that I can do both, but somehow it never works out. The last knitting project I got done was Texo Shawl, way back in April/May. I haven’t worked solidly on any knitting project after that. Compare that to half a dozen books I read and you will know why. [I read three back to back Flavia de Luce books, Gone Girl (an interesting read), The Giver (can’t wait to watch the movie), in case you are interested.] I am still in my reading mode and I hope I switch to knitting mode soon because …

4. I am waiting for some gorgeous yarn for my next design. A shawl again and I can’t wait to start working on it. Hope the yarn gets here soon and I can switch my knitting mode on.

So, what is up with you lately?

New Pattern: Texo Shawl

This blog post is way too late, but better late than never, eh?

I was on cloud nine the whole of last week. My feet were barely touching the ground. And with good reason. I had a pattern published by Quince. drumroll. At this point in my designing career, this comes as a much needed opportunity to reach a wider audience and also to know how publishing works.

Quince and team (special mention to Jerusha for putting up with my too frequent mails) were so easy and helpful to work with. I was apprehensive since this was the first time I was working with them, but they never made me feel out of place. Jerusha, the lovely lady she is, always replied cheerfully to my emails, even when she had to give me a bad news.

This was also my first time working with Quince yarn and the experience was equally pleasant. Tern is perfect for texture and the color Quince chose for this design shows off the cable texture very well. Photos are gorgeous, as always with Quince.

Photo © Quince and Co.

Texo Shawl is knit using fingering weight yarn and is knit from the top down, starting from a garter stitch tab. The shawl shown in the photo is 60″ deep with 26″ wingspan. It is perfect for chilly summer evenings. A knitter on Ravelry is knitting this as a nursing cover! You can buy a copy of Texo Shawl on Ravelry or on Quince’s website.

Charting Lace in Excel: Tallying Increases and Decreases

I have used Excel to chart lace and cable stitches and have found it very helpful and easy to use. I use the keyboard characters for standard symbols like k2tog, ssk, yarn-over etc. For cables, I sometimes use made up symbols (>>>> means right leaning cable over 4 sts) or rely on free knitting fonts that work with Excel. I chart one repeat of lace and once that is done, tailoring it to suit my needs is very simple with cut, copy and paste. Excel is very helpful in grading too, but that is not what I want to share here.

I was charting a large, complicated (for me) lace for a shawl recently. After the first cut was done, I sat down to swatch it only to realize my stitch count was off somewhere. On some rows, I had extra stitches, while on some, I was falling short. It is easy to manually count decreases and increases when your stitch doesn’t span too many columns, but in my case, I was dealing with a 75 column x 40 rows chart. Even if I did muster the courage to manually count it, I would never be sure I had done it right. I decided to use Excel’s in-built functions for help. I have used basic math functions like SUM, SUBTRACT, ROUND etc for grading, but had never tackled a problem like this before. A little sniffing around gave me COUNTIF.

I am using the above chart as a reference.  You can click on these images to see a larger version. There are too many k2tog, ssk and yos, so manual counting is a bit difficult. I want to tally my decreases and increases for every row. I set up a column which gives me the count of yarnovers. I need to know how many times the character ‘o’ appears in every row. The formula to use is COUNTIF(H3:AJ3, “o”).

This formula counts the number of times ‘o’ appears from celss H3 to AJ3. Similarly, set up formulas to count other characters also.

 

The last column TALLY should subtract the decreases from the increases, i.e. YO-SSK-K2TOG-2*DD. We multiply DD by 2 because double decrease reduces the stitch count by 2. If the cell shows zero, then your stitch count is fine, if not, you need to fix your chart. Copy these formulas on all the rows of the chart and you can verify your stitch count on the all the rows.

Here is my setup. See the number ‘2’ on two rows there? That is the reason my stitch count was off. I deleted the yarnovers at the beginning and end of both rows and now the stitch count is intact.

Here is the new chart with tally being all zeroes.

Happy Feet

I had been away from the blogging world for a while now. Knitting world too! Can you believe it has been more than a month since I held knitting needles? .Twitch. I had to take up a certification exam which is essential for my career and considering how much it costs, I sat myself down for a serious study marathon. The last time I studied like this (as they say burning the midnight oil) was for graduation and that was a good decade ago, so I had to get used to this studying concept all over again. I am glad that is done and dusted and I can get back to my regular routine.

The last time I picked up my knitting needles was when I joined the Sock-Along in our very own SAC group. I had been wanting to make N a pair of socks forever now, so naturally I signed up. There was quite a big group of enthusiastic ladies who cheered one another. I have made a pair of socks earlier, so I knew what I was getting into. I chose a safe pattern (with ribs so that sizing does not become a huge issue) and a well know, tried and tested pattern: Susan Anderson’s Kids Ribbed Socks. (I actually typed that as Ribbed Kids Socks, that’s not the same thing, is it?)

I initially picked the cheerful Knit Picks Felici in Botany (of, I love those colors), but changed my in the last minute for two reasons. One, I wanted to play it safe by using a not-that-precious yarn for my first attempt and save the Felici for the second pair and two, which is more important, I couldn’t find the Felici for the life of me. (While I was knitting the socks, the mystery of the missing Felici was eating me away, so I did end up finding it). So, I chose Plymoth Yarn Sockotta. This was a gift from Rima, an SACer, so it made sense to use it for a SAC Along.

The first sock flew off my needles and to beat the notorious second sock syndrome, I cast on for the second sock as soon as I grafted the toe on the first one. The second one took its own sweet time and waited for me patiently to graft its toe shut, which, you will not believe, took me a whole month to get done. This was the time my studies peaked and every time I saw this poor little sock with its mouth wide open, I felt a pang of guilt, but exam was of higher priority. And finally when I did get it stitched up was on the last day of the Sock-Along. Huh.

So, here is the pair of sock modeled by happy, little feet who were too happy to wear handmade socks. Next up, he wants socks with a Mickey Mouse motif on it.