WIP Wednesday: Making Patterns

Happy WIP Wednesday! Today I am going to talk all about making your own patterns and how to balance the frustration with satisfaction.

Inspiration

Inspiration must come from somewhere. Where you find your inspiration may be different from where I find my inspiration.

One way I get inspired for knitting projects is: seeing a picture of something (usually not a knitted something) and then dreaming about the object again later (usually knitted). Then I think, “is this something that I could feasibly do?”

Another way that inspiration often comes to me is just by looking at yarn. I have gone to the store and just looked at yarn, picked it up, felt it, looked at the sample projects made with it. I just breathe and take it all in. Then I go home empty handed. (Note: empty handed only works at chains like JoAnn Fabrics and Michael’s. Take me to a local yarn store and I will spend all the money in my wallet). I then imagine what projects those yarns could make.

Alternatively, I will look at some yarn in my stash at home and think about how to combine colors and make something new. I think about what naturally occurs in those colors. Most recently, I purchased four skeins of yarn intending to pair black and white and blue and yellow. However, when I received the yarn, I looked at the black and yellow and went, “oh I know what would look EXCELLENT with you.” Note: this is the second time this has happened. Same four colors, same intention (almost). However, this time my ideas were completely different from last time. That’s what happens when you use a different yarn and the shades are slightly different.

I also recently received yarn as a gift. I knew what the final product of these yarns would be, and I knew that I wanted to make my own pattern for them. But until I saw the yarn (purchased online at KnitPicks), I had no idea what that pattern would be. I plopped it down on my desk and just looked at it, and got ideas for each color within minutes. I then did some annoying math to figure out what needles to use, how many stitches wide it should be, and how many rows long. Then, I made my chart. This entire process took maybe 90 minutes. Simple right?

Frustration

Wrong! Nothing is that simple! First of all, I made a chart for a pattern that I intended to use garter stitch to make the pattern pop. The problem with this is, I didn’t label which rows were right side rows and which were wrong side rows, so by row 6 I was already confused. I also neglected to double check that the pattern I intended to make as a mirror image was in fact equal on both sides. Spoiler alert: it was not. I went back and restarted the pattern about five times in one night. I eventually just set it down, took a deep breath, said goodbye, and came back the next day.

When it was time to decide what to do, I realized that I had memory of what I wanted the pattern to be. However, this was resulting in me looking away from the pattern and just knitting. The problem with that was, I wasn’t at all knitting what I thought I was knitting. Additionally, if my chart was a true mirror, it wouldn’t matter from which direction I read the pattern. However, because it wasn’t, this absolutely mattered. Cue more mistakes for which I could not figure out the cause.

Once I sat down and just looked again I realized all of my mistakes. I realized how to make it easier, and I did that. I improved upon what I already had, and made it better. Then, I went to work on another project that I have actually memorized the pattern for, and that was quite relaxing.

Testing your own patterns

It is generally accepted in the knitting world that you should not test your own patterns. I have always understood why; it is the same idea as writing a recipe or any kind of set of instructions. You know what you intended, therefore you will not catch any mistakes. However, it wasn’t until I started using my own pattern that I realized how true this is. I was making mistakes by testing my own pattern. I definitely needed to walk away and try agin later. I needed to give my mind a break in order to start fresh.

I also taught myself with the help of one (just one!) YouTube video the art of continental style knitting. I was working in seed stitch and I hated the way it looked and I needed to do something about it. I noticed over the weekend that I was starting to hold my yarn a little more loosely in my right hand, and that I was holding it closer to the needles than usual. I said to myself, “you might be ready for something new, but don’t you dare try it on this pattern because you will be so angry if you screw up.” Screwing up in this case includes changing the tension, which definitely would have occurred. Anyway, my seed stitch cleaned up very nicely and I am happy to have picked up a new style so quickly. Now I just need to work on my speed!

Finishing the project

Currently, there is nothing on my needles for this project. I will probably start again tonight, but I may also save it for the long weekend. I learned a lot for this project and I cannot imagine going back on any of that by jumping in too quickly- again. Right now, it is all about doing what it takes to make sure that this project is in fact completed. Don’t worry, there will be progress photos on Instagram, perhaps another blog rant, and much knitting love from my friends.

I have a new baby on the way!

Before you get any further: no, I am not pregnant. My new “baby” is a project I am VERY excited about!

A couple of weeks ago I read a quote that said you write because you have something to say, not because you want to. Ever since then I have been trying to figure out what it is that I need to say. The conclusion that I have come to is that I hate keeping secrets. Sometimes secrets can be fun, but most of the time it’s just stressful and feels like a lie, not a secret. So now I’m sure you’re wondering what dirty little secret I am going to share with you today. Well, today’s dirty little secret is that I have taken a couple of steps to start an Etsy business to sell my knits! I have a looooong way to go before I actually start selling, and I don’t know if this is something that will happen in 2017. However, I am actively working to get this going!

I love knitting and I love sharing my knits with other people! For all of my true loves in life out there, before I can start this business I need more supplies! (Don’t tell my boyfriend). But I really do need more needles! I also need more books of patterns because as much as I love and cherish the one that I have, it is NOT the Knitter Almanac and it does NOT have every stitch known to man (and woman). So dad, if you’re still reading, top item on my Christmas list :).

Okay, moving on, although I know that this is what I want to do, I don’t know who my customers will be and what exactly they are looking for. So this is going to take A LOT of work and planning, but I am so excited that I have found a way to spread something I love with more people! The other thing I needed to say today is that if you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I changed my name. My Instagram and my : StartWithGivens. I want to give a little story behind this name change.

First, I felt like my Twitter name needed some growing up. Second, when I formally learned how to solve problems in a classroom setting we were always told, “start with the givens.” The first time I recall hearing it was in Geometry and I thought “hey that’s pretty cool that I get to hear my own name so many times an hour.” Yes, it was self centered. However, now as a person who is moving forward in her professional career as an engineer, I often think about all problems this way. What do I know, and how can I use that to reach a solution? I start with the givens. I changed my name, because I feel like it explains who I am so well. “Brit_gee” and “begivens,” which are usually my first try at a username of course tells you what my name is, but it doesn’t tell you who I am. So, from now on, StartWithGivens and go from there.

This because especially important to me in thinking about me training for a marathon, being an independent coach with Beachbody, and choosing what projects I think people will love if I knit them. I am sure I have missed the mark on all of them thus far, but I don’t quit. I go back to what I know, and start there. I really cannot explain how much it means to me to have a defined starting point, and moving forward. I hope to have the support of anybody this post reaches. Of course, I am always interested in feedback so do not hesitate to voice your thoughts.

Intermezzo Cowl Review

Pattern: Intermezzo Cowl courtesy of Skeinwalker on Ravelry

Yarn: Plymouth Yarn Monte Donegal Sangria (received as a gift)

Needles: Majestic interchangeable needles (Knit Picks) size US 9, 32” circular

Dates worked: March 23 – April 7

Notes: cowl, one color, lace, in the round, elastic bind off, yarn over, decreases

Difficulty: Easy

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First photo as a WIP

This cowl is really easy to knit! The lace pattern is repetitive and easy to pick up. I found that keeping the tension consistent with the lacing was much easier than I had anticipated. Skeinwalker is excellent at writing patterns and if you are a fan of well-written patterns I definitely suggest giving her stuff a long look.

The weight of this yarn made progress very easy to see. I rarely make it up to a size 9 knitting needle, so I felt like this project went by extremely quickly, especially in comparison to other projects I have worked on recently. I am back down to US 4 needles for my next project, which I started right after binding off this cowl and it feels more comfortable, but I also know it will be a longer road.

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Almost done! Taken around the middle of the 3rd repeat for the pattern

Whenever I pick out a new knitting project I try to make sure that I am learning a new skill or practicing a recently acquired skill. For this project, the skill was lace knitting. I am in the process of blocking the project as I write this so I am not sure how wonderful the finished product will look, but I do know that upon binding off I was very thrilled with myself. There were a few mistakes throughout the cowl, but I don’t think I could find them if I tried now. This is a first for me. Normally a knitter knows each and every mistake, and this time I just don’t. I was so happy with how well I was doing the whole time with learning how to lace knit and not making it look like trash that the mistakes never really registered with me.

I would recommend this pattern, it is quick, easy, and produces a beautiful cowl. It is fine for somebody who is new to lace knitting, and the recommended yarn weight is greater than most other lace partterns I have found, which is definitely an advantage. The pattern does include purl stitches, slip-slip-knit stitches, knit two together, yarn over, and knit stitches. There is a lot to practice and learn with this project and I think it is absolutely wonderful! I have included pictures here, but check out my Instagram for updates on all my WIPS and more pictures of my Intermezzo cowl!

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Done, but not being worn. Picture taken before blocking.

Instagram: brit_gee

Ravelry: begivens

Stars and Diamonds Hat Review

Pattern: Stars and Diamonds Hat (Raverly, designer Emily Dormier)

Yarns: Berroco Vintage DK in Dark Blue (2185) and Charcoal (2189)

Needles: US 6 circular, short and US 6 10” DPNs

Notes: Bottom-up, ribbing, two-color, Fair Isle

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Thoughts: Pattern is difficult to get used to for the two-color section, and the provided gauge is for a preteen rather than an adult (See picture below, and pardon my forehead. My lack of a smile was very telling and unflattering so I opted to crop). This is particularly important as Fair Isle patterns cannot be easily stretch. I tried it on two adults of fairly different head sizes and it looked absolutely ridiculous.

What I liked: the pattern is well-written and easy to follow. I definitely would not caution a knitter new to fair isle against this pattern, especially if (s)he has previously knit hats in the round. I also have a feeling this hat would be fine knit flat and seamed as the pattern breaks at an awkward point in the round, it would most likely not be noticeable.

I also liked how the patterned section was laid out in a grid. I could visualize what the hat was going to look like row by row, and that really helped me move forward. I, however, did not like that the sections were not evenly spaced (some were five, some were two, and I believe one was six), and not all of the boxes were the same size. I have a fairly good eye for spacial details and this threw me off quite a bit at the beginning of the pattern.

What I didn’t like: My choice in yarns. You know how some places are well-lit to show off colors? That was the yarn store and not my house. It was hard at times to distinguish which yarn I was picking up, which slowed me down. I really like how the two colors go together, even after I have a finished product, but maybe I need a new knitting venue and/or a new fancy lamp. Maybe I’ll put the lamp on my wishlist. *Scheming face*

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This was the first project that I have ever gotten a gauge this closely on the first try. I have a pretty good idea of how I knit with certain yarn weights so I usually choose the needles closest to the correct gauge, but that does not mean it is always perfect. The one time I do get it pretty perfectly, the finished product doesn’t fit. Definitely not instilling confidence in a novice knitter, and I hate that. If a pattern is easy, I do like it to be characterized properly because I know how disappointing it is to work on something, particularly as a gift, only to find out that it isn’t right.

Summary: I would not recommend this to a friend, unless that friend was good at adjusting gauge. I have not decided if I will be making another one in the right size, I certainly have enough yarn left but I worry about increasing needle size on the warmth of this hat. It’s a shame, because both myself and the intended recipient were very excited about this pattern. I was actually so disappointed about how this turned out that I found I needed a break (24 hours) from knitting. I just couldn’t bear to be disappointed again.

Pinwheel Baby Blanket

Patterns:

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/round-or-pinwheel-baby-blanket

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/seed-stitch-ruffle

Yarn: Bernat Softee Baby in Grey Marl

Needles: Lots- 7″ and 10″ size 6 DPNs, size 6 16″, 47″ circular, size 5 36″ circular

Purpose: Gift for two first-time parents close to my heart.

First things first, this yarn was an absolute nightmare to work with. It kept knotting on itself, and on multiple occasions I got so frustrated that I cut the yarn and tied it back in. Quite frankly, on the aforementioned occasions I am sure it was hopeless to keep trying anyway.

Second, this would not be an honest post if I did not include my mistakes. There was really one one major mistake: to make this pattern easier, I added a stitch marker in each of the 10 sections of the pinwheel. However, at some point, I lost a stitch marker and kept knitting seven more inches of blanket before realizing I had done it. In fact, I was one round shy of binding off when I discovered this issue. I could not in good conscience gift the blanket, so I went back, took it all out, and went back to work. (See featured photo, bottom right).

I should also mention that this blanket was supposed to accompany me to a baby shower two days after I found the mistake. Needless to say, that didn’t happen, but as I was finishing up on my second skein of yarn, I knew  I still had time to work and so I decided to add some edging. I was never a fan of the pictures of the finished product because the ruffles did not look purposeful. However, I knew they were and so it would be okay. But alas! With more time and options, I looked up some edging for this blanket. Lucky for me, the same Ravelry user who posted the blanket also posted edging. The photos looked great, so I added a little. My edging barely hits 1 inch, but I didn’t want a “frilly” blanket. I just wanted something that was obviously purposeful.

I am so excited to gift the blanket, although I am a little sad that we are parting ways. I feel like we went through so much together and it is an old friend leaving me. But, I also have no use for another blanket, seriously, you should see my house. We are absolutely addicted to blankets and our parents keep gifting them to us- and we love each and every one. No freaking joke. Okay, tangent over.

Currently, I’m having a “what’s next” dilemma. I am finishing up a shawl (within the hour unless I decide to start cooking again) for a very late Christmas present. I put the shawl on hold about a month ago to work on the baby blanket, and my best friend was an absolute champion about all of this. She also, has not gotten me my birthday present yet, so we’re pretty even as far as we’re concerned. I am really anxious to learn how to knit clothing items. I just learned how to cable for some baby bibs (which did make it to the baby shower, picture below), and I would love to incorporate those into a project as well. Basically, I just don’t know what I can get excited about after the struggles I just went through with the blanket. I had a fair isle hat planned, but I have the windows open today and that doesn’t seem like my next happiness project. So anyway, if you have anything to send my way hit that contact me button!

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