Tag Archives: design

Essex Junction

Ah…. Fall. Sweater dress weather.

Essex Junction hero

This is Essex Junction, my newest pattern – my contribution to the All Aboard! collection released just in time for Rhinebeck. As always, please favorite and queue it on Ravelry.

This one has been a long time coming! It was last february that a bunch of us designers decided to release a collection of sweater dresses. I knew then I wanted something with a color work yoke. I knew by April it was going to be another take on the modified raglan shape I used in Stammel. And I’ve been itching to do some serious corrugated ribbing for about that long too.

essex junction hems

Sourcing the yarn took a bit longer. I knew I wanted worsted or aran weight yarn. I knew I wanted either a variegated yarn, or a whole lot of solid colors. I considered a lot of brands but couldn’t find anything that really fit the bill until I asked twitter. That’s when Laura from The Unique Sheep let me know they dye their gradience sets in heavier weight yarns. Perfect.

This dress uses a semi-solid for the body (the Dove colorway) and a gradience set for the CC’s (Black Daylilly) which means just those two colorways provide all the colors in this dress. If you’re subbing yarns in you’ll need approximately equal amounts of at least four different colors for the chart.

essex junction shoulder

Once I had the yarn in hand the design came quickly and easily. I swatched and researched my little sleeve peeries. Some complicated math came into play to figure out how to make that chart fit the yoke in all sizes. But the knitting went quickly. I don’t remember much frogging at all… In spite of the long sleeves I think you’ll find this a quick knit!

essex junction back

The collection, All Aboard! Features six dresses from six different designers. I love them all and wish I had time to actually knit them all… If you’re a sweater dress person too – consider the collection, it’s an amazing deal!

All Aboard cover

Meet Meristem

My latest pattern was published yesterday in the 7th anniversary edition of Twist Collective. Meristem is a tunic length vest designed with casual elegance in mind. It is a simple, cozy garment perfect for the transition to autumnal weather. The front yoke features a slipped branching cable pattern. You can favorite and queue Meristem on Ravelry. You can also see more pattern details, over at Twist Collective.


(thanks to Crissy Jarvis for the lovely photos!)

The yoke of the vest is knit sideways, with stitches picked up along the bottom edges and knit down for the body. The cables look simple enough, but I went through more than a few swatches to get them figured out! The cable over garter stitch looked so good in my submission swatch, I was sure that with the stitch definition of Valley DK it’d be a breeze. But once I had the yarn in hand I couldn’t get the cables to stand out the way I expected in my first swatch. So I tried twisted stitches (looked lumpy). I slipped the cables on the WS rows (too elongated). I was preparing myself for an awkward email to the editor saying the chosen yarn wouldn’t work – then I tried one more thing. I blocked my swatches.

And you know what? That made the initial swatch (from my very first try) look gorgeous. Lesson relearned yet again. Always block your swatch.

Like many (most) knitters out there I remember when the first issue of Twist was unveiled. I remember because there was nothing else like it at the time. And it was gorgeous. I’ve been lucky to work with Twist on several other occasions (Verbena, Trefoil, and Cambridge Cables) and every time I have loved the experience.

The Twist Collective team includes wonderful photographers, brilliant technical editors, and people behind the scenes making all those pretty PDFs and magazine pages. I hope you’ll take a moment to click through a few ads and support the people who support Twist. And of course please buy a pattern or two ;-)

Verbena

Did you see the newest issue of Twist Collective? More importantly, did you see Verbena?!?

photos © Linus Ouellet

This was supposed to be my first big design after I finished up the book. That was my plan when I sent in the submission. But then, I fell behind (you knew that already) Luckily I have a very good friend who helped out with the knitting (thanks Dana!)

Here’s Verbena again on Ravelry, please favorite, queue, you know the drill! You can buy it there or from Twist Collective’s website.

Verbena

This asymmetric top also has an unusual construction. The skirt is knit first, starting from the point and working a mitered triangle with increases at the center line. Then the front and back are worked flat and joined together.

Verbena

The bodice is worked in the round after picking up stitches, so beside the three needle bind off this is pretty much seamless. It’s a soft summer top with drape and style – and I kinda wish I had one in my own size…

almost

See this?

hope dk

The last yarn I need. Have you heard of Kollage’s Hope DK? I hadn’t until I started asking around – and that surprises me! It’s an organic, american grown, cotton! It has a lovely hand, soft and a bit more shine than a dishcloth cotton. Perfect for a summery garment! And perfect for the design I have in mind for my book.

That pink thing behind it is the last garment blocking. I’m almost there…

Design process: yarn support

Let me be honest: I’m not showing you even close to half of what’s going on here. I’m in a push to get the knitting all wrapped up for this book. The fact that I can squeeze any baby knitting in at all is kinda amazing. So let me talk for a moment about something I’ve done a lot of over the last year: yarn support requests. Hopefully this’ll be helpful if you’re an indie designer (or considering it) and at least interesting even if you’re not (if it’s not interesting go read something else. I don’t care if you skip a post)

What is yarn support? Hopefully it’s a relationship, and a business agreement, that supports BOTH the yarnie and the designer. It can be a lovely, LOVELY thing when it works. But I’ve heard some horror stories from yarn makers I know. And I’ve heard questions from designers who are mystified by the process.

festival yarn

First and foremost remember this is a BUSINESS deal. Even if you’re just designing on the side you should still be keeping track of profits, right?* Well the yarn company is the same way, except it’s probably someone’s full time job. Or several someones. So let’s all try to act professionally, shall we?

From my point of view that means having a plan. Before I go looking for yarn support I want to know exactly what I’m designing. I need to know how I’m going to construct it, what it’ll look like, and this means I have already created a swatch and a sketch. Hopefully you have too. The yarn company would LOVE to know you’ve thought this through. So be prepared to send them the details! I always lay out my yarn support requests just exactly like a submission to a magazine.

Herrick - Doric mitts

That is, quite literally, a jpg of the PDF I sent for my Doric mitts. I fuzzed out the contact info at the bottom… If I feel like the swatch add a lot of info I’ll scan it, or photograph it, and include a picture in the PDF. In this example the stitch pattern is simple, so I left that out.

Writing out a proposal forces me to determine exactly what I’m doing. I’ve got enough of a plan that I don’t have to worry I’ll get half way through construction and hit a snag. I should also have a good idea of how long it’s going to take me to complete the project at this point. Once I have all my thoughts written down, I’m ready to contact a yarn company.

Whenever I want to reach out to a new company I start by finding a general e-mail. If I can find something about yarn support on their website AWESOME. But that often doesn’t happen. So if I’m emailing the yarn(a)yarncompany.com address I’ll start with something like this:

I’m (Name), an independent designer with self-published patterns as well as patterns published through (list a few by 3rd party, if you have them). I am looking for yarn support for an independent design for release through my blog and Ravelry. Could you please let me know to whom I should submit my request? Thank you!

It’s short but still polite. I’m not asking for anything except a proper introduction with someone to whom I can send the juicy details. Note that I’ve already given them enough info to go look me up if they’re curious. But generally, this fits into the limited character contact forms on some websites. And I don’t send any links at this point. It’s a personal preference, but I figure they get a lot of spam at this general contact addresses, I don’t want to be filtered out.

Now comes the waiting. When you hear back be prepared for one of several responses:
No, sorry, we don’t do yarn support.
Yes, please contact helpful.person(a)yarncompany.com
We love indie designers! What are you looking for?!

If they don’t do yarn support accept that and move on. Remember it’s business, not personal. That last one is great, although sometimes I get flummoxed (don’t you want to see my idea first??) but it’s also rare. A lot of companies have been burned by indie “designers” who take yarn and then disappear. Don’t be that person ;-) The middle answer is most common.

Here’s where my carefully laid out proposal comes in. I e-mail my new friend:

Hello! I’m (name), an independent designer with self-published patterns as well as patterns published through several publications. You can see my full portfolio online, here: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/becky-herrick.

I am looking for yarn support for a sweater/hat/shawl pattern which I’m developing for release this winter/spring. Do you provide yarn support for indie designers? Please let me know if this is something you could help me with and if so let me know the requirements of your yarn support program.

Please find attached my proposal for the sweater/hat/shawl. I’d like to knit this design in your (merino, cotton, unicorn hair) yarn in the (shiny name) colorway. Please let me know if there is a problem with this yarn or colorway, or you know of a better option. For these detailed cables/insane lace I need a mostly solid/highly variegated colored yarn in fingering/aran weight. I believe I will need between 300 and 350 yards or 2 skeins. I look forward to hearing back!

Things to note:
1) I gave them a direct link to see all the published work I’ve done so far.
2) I gave a timeline for release.
3) I asked the requirements of their yarn support program.
4) I asked if the yarn I’m eyeing is really best in their mind for my project.

Let’s go through those points:
1) Now that I’m e-mailing a person I want to show them my body of work. I love the Ravelry designer page as a simple portfolio. It’s public and can be viewed even by folks without accounts. It shows both 3rd party and indie designs. And since I’m selling my indie patterns there they might as well see the platform through which I’ll be selling the pattern I hope to knit from their yarn.

2) This is key. It gives them an expected timeline. Whether your turn around will be 1 month or 1 year be up front about it. That way they know what to expect. And if you fall behind? Communicate! I originally planned to publish my Boyden sweater in late fall or winter. But then it took 7 months to pull together. I wasn’t e-mailing my dyer every week. But I did give her a head’s up that I was running behind when January rolled around and the pattern wasn’t close to being released.

3) Did you know yarn support comes with requirements? At the very least you want to be sure you’re not recommending substitute yarns! Some companies can’t afford to give out free yarn; it’s just not in the profit margins. Some companies would like photos of your design to help promote your yarn (good news, this promotes YOU as well) Other companies are happy to let you do most of the promotion. But asking what their requirements rather than making assumptions shows that you understand this isn’t just a handout. It’s a partnership.

4) Several times I’ve reached out for yarn support only to find the colorway or base I’m considering is in danger of being discontinued. Apparently I have bad luck that way… But these are exactly the sorts of things the yarnie will know better than you. They may also have a new yarn they’re about to release that would be even better for your design. Asking their opinion gives them a chance to communicate with you, making sure that the yarn used is not just a good fit, but the best fit.

yarn pile

Now that you’ve opened a dialogue things should move smoothly, just remember to be professional! I always get in touch again to let my new friend know when the yarn safely arrives. Then I get down to work. When the pattern finally goes live I get in touch again to let them know. Sometimes we can work out a give-away or other promotion on the yarn company’s blog. Knitters love a chance to win a free pattern, and I bet that yarnie has a slightly different audience that might like your work!

I hope this helps! If you’d like to read more about yarn support Alex Tinsley has another post on the process behind asking for yarn support. And Ruth over at Rock & Purl has given her own opinions and suggestions as well. And if you have any questions that still aren’t answered feel free to ask them here!

*trust me, the IRS (or whatever your government agency is) expects you to be keeping track of profits.

Iseult’s Dress

My newest pattern became available last friday. Iseult’s Dress is included in the book What (else) Would Madame Defarge Knit? (favorite and queue on Ravelry, as always)

iseult sleeves

That’s right. It’s my first pattern in a BOOK! The e-book version of WeWMDFK is available for download right now through Cooperative Press. You can order the print version now, it’ll be shipped just as soon as it gets back from the printers.

iseult wafting

I love working with Cooperative Press. Their model of publishing gives a percentage of sales to every author in this collection. This means we all have a real reason to hope you love our book. But I think we’d be hoping that anyway. This collection is a true labor of love. Along with designs inspired by classic literature the book includes essays, color photos, and the digital version includes live links and many other treats that just wouldn’t be possible with a standard print book.

iseult cable

The dress itself is one of my favorite designs. This pattern gave me my second opportunity to dress up as a princess for a photo shoot*.

iseult curvacious

But it doesn’t have to be worn with a chemise. It would be just a comfortable with leggings and tall boots. The shetland wool is springy and warm, but still breathable. And the springy factor means you can wear the knitted dress all day without developing saggy-butt.

iseult back view

If you love the design, but don’t want a dress that’s ok too. It’s worked from the top down, so you could simply knit it in sweater length. Likewise the sleeves could easily be made longer or shorter. Just keep trying it on until you’re happy!

iseult backlit

*but not the last opportunity, there’s another one in the works

tease

Here’s a pretty little tease of something in progress:

shetland square tease

This is a design that won’t be out until next December (I KNOW right?! So far away) It starts with a shetland square. What makes it shetland? Well the yarn over edges for increasing and decreasing are something I came across first in shetland lace patterns. Other than that, no reason. This square isn’t just garter stitch though, it’s got a little something special trotting along the center line…

Not a moment too soon

I’ve been steadily working through the winter book designs*. In fact, the designs have been done for awhile, but it’s tricky to get nice photo shoots in the winter time. The light available is so short, and often so cloudy. Snow is pretty, but you don’t really want to be shooting in a blinding snowstorm, I mean I had to photoshop flakes OUT of the Currant shoot. And I wouldn’t have taken an expensive DSLR out in that weather…

But putting a winter shoot off until March is risky. March can be our snowiest month, but with a little twist of fate it’s just as easily our muddiest month, and MUD isn’t very photogenic at all.

So it was with great relief that I got the final (outdoor) winter shoot scheduled for last Saturday. I headed out to the Northeast Kingdom – they always have the best snow. For this photo shoot, specifically for a ski inspired sweater:

nordic outtake
(ah, the blurry outtake – sorry that’s all I can give you for now!)

The shoot went perfectly. But it’s our timing that amazes me. Saturday we did the shoot, Sunday was nice, and the rain started monday evening. It’s been RAINING for 24 hours now. I don’t know what the kingdom looks like but I’m guessing it’s not so pretty anymore. I can tell you the 18-24″ of snowpack in my front yard is GONE. We’ve got a soggy few inches of slush, with peaks of mud and last year’s plants sticking through.

I’m glad we got that skiing shoot done last weekend. Because next weekend it’s gonna be mud season.

*In fact, I’m up to the fun bits now. I’m looking for a few more test knitters. I have three women’s sweaters, three different yarn weights, three different styles. Do you have a sweater sized hole in your knitting right now? Leave me a note!

New mittens!

Yesterday I released my new mittens pattern, meet Pinales:

pinales hold on for dear life

These are the couldn’t-get-any-more-basic wool mittens that get us through the winter here in VT. And by “us” I mean Neil and I each have a pair now!

tree mittens2

I know it’s february and you might be starting to think about spring. But here in VT it is still SOLIDLY winter. As I mentioned it was tears-freezing-on-my-face cold when I took these photos.

And then when I took my mitten off for a few un-modeled shots? That was a really bad idea (poor frozen fingers).

pinales draped

Pinales is latin. It’s the name of the order* that includes all the existing conifers. And now that you’ve had your science lesson for the day – don’t forget to favorite and queue Pinales on Ravelry!

pinales mitts and trees

*Remember Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order? Except these days they’ve started including Domain up above Kingdom. Science is constantly changing – keep up!

Currant hat

Alternate title: My current currant hat – after all, I have two: purple and red!

currant hero

My Currant hat pattern is an old one. Maybe you never noticed it before? Or if you did, it was probably just to cringe at the old flash photography. Well cringe no longer!

currant gazing

I’ve finally gotten some new photos for this pattern. I’ve always loved these hats. They’re simple, fun to knit – and the knit up quickly too! With a button they’re pretty and feminine, without they make perfect men’s hats. What is it about a decorative button that makes something so much more lady-like?

currant side view

These poor hats have languished for years due to bad photography. And what’s worse is I’ve tried several times to get better photos. But always the lighting was off, I made poor style choices*, or the timing on a multi-pattern photo shoot went wonky and the hats never made it in front of the camera at all…

currant moody

Even this photo shoot isn’t perfect, the snow was REALLY dumping down on this day. But it was the only chance I could see for quite a while to get some decent photos. So I’ve decided to run with it. They’re winter hats, it’s a wintry setting – that’s appropriate for them! And it’s not like the snow hides any important details.

Now I have just my two old, free patterns still left in the old layout. Once I get those redone everything will be up to date! It’s only taking me two years to get through my whole back catalog…

*seriously, I apparently thought wearing my hair in a bun and trying to fit it under the hat would look good…