Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Better Together

Hello knitters!

If you've seen the latest issue of knitty, you may have noticed a (beautiful!) sock pattern called River Severn. You may have also noticed there are two designers on the byline: me, and my friend Brenda Dayne. Co-designers? This is not the norm. Designing, iterating, working, writing, and editing a pattern as a 50-50 team was a first for both of us... and man, it was FUN! Why is this kind of collaboration between geeks not more common? Oh my gosh. Everyone should do this!! Brenda and I are looking forward to many more collaborations, the next of which is already in the works.

Let me tell you a little about my friend Brenda. She is a kindred spirit. 💑 I don't say that lightly. True kindred spirits are few and far between, and I'm profoundly grateful for each one. Brenda is articulate, hilarious (often in a delightfully self-deprecating way), compassionate, brilliant, creative, geeky, and curious. If you are not already familiar with her excellent and long-running podcast Cast On, please do check it out. I love listening to her and I love chatting with her. I feel simultaneously completely comfortable and understood by her, and at the same time utterly starstruck with her. She's simply the best.

Now let me tell you how this collaboration came about. It was not exactly planned. Brenda had a lot on her plate and was also re-designing a pattern on short notice. I had some free time and hoped I could reduce some of the stress on my friend. "Hey, can I help? Want me to do some test knitting, or something?"

My role shifted from test knitter to partner when I shared some sketches of twisted stitch designs I'd been exploring. Brenda liked them enough to leverage them for the primary sock design motif. Shortly thereafter, I bought EnvisioKnit (which I highly recommend) and we were passing files back and forth, refining my explorations into a finished design.

The joint iteration process really helped each of us to recognize when we were (inadvertently) operating from within a box, and how to break out of that box. This was the most amazing thing about this collaboration. Every step of the way, one of us noticed and pointed out something that the other didn't see. Once pointed out, the other person was like, OMG, why didn't I see that?

And herein lies the magic of design collaboration. No matter how brilliant a designer you are, you will at some point develop tunnel vision. You need another mind and another set of eyes to give you those crucial reality checks.  Tech editors (like our very own Kate Atherley) are also skilled at playing this role, but if it can happen during earlier, generative phases of the design, that's even better.

So, please check out the pattern. It's available in two different yarn weights (sport, and fingering) and two different directions (cuff down, and toe-up).  Something for everyone!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Provisional Primer: Reloaded

I have been tinkering with provisional sts a lot lately because I've been working on gloves, afterthought heels, and similar forms. I blogged about this topic in 2011, but I do things a little differently now. Below is a photographic guide to my latest methods for picking up provisional sts and working added parts. The main challenges we face with this technique are avoiding holes in the corners where sts are added, and also getting an even stitch count. 

My 2011 provisional primer illustrated that the live loops above and below the provisional waste yarn are offset by 1/2 stitch, and there are noticeable gaps on either side of the live sts on the top row. For this reason, I recommended picking up 1 additional stitch on each side of the live loops on top. This means you will have 1 more stitch on the top row than you will on the bottom row. 

If you want to have the same number of sts on top & bottom, this is a relatively simple tweak. When working the scrap yarn, simply do a k2tog decrease somewhere on the bottom row. In this example, the last 2 sts worked with the scrap yarn, on the far left, are worked together. 

(Alternatively you could work the scrap yarn over all sts and do a k2 on the next round over the scrap yarn, but I find that when done this way it is harder to do the next step.)

Later when you pick up sts, be sure to thread your lifeline through both sts that are worked together in the k2tog.  

When I unpick my scrap yarn, including the sts picked up in the corners on top, I have 12 top sts and 12 bottom sts.  

In my 2011 post, I kinda stopped there. But when I returned to this topic recently, I found that if I simply began working these 24 sts in the round, I'll still have holes in both corners:  

These holes result from excessive slack in the stitches, not gaps between them. So technically they can be closed by redistributing the slack into the other sts on the row. Nevertheless, I decided I needed a more elegant solution that would put less stress on the corner sts. It adds three quick steps to the process.

1. Pick up 2 extra sts on either end in the bottom row. (This means you now have 2 more sts on the bottom than you do on top, but this is temporary.)

2. As you work each of the 4 corner sts, twist them (either way, per your preference). The twist will conceal any small openings. The image below shows one of the top corner sts after being twisted. You will work all 4 in the same way (you may wish to mirror the twist direction but that's up to you). 

3. To correct the stitch count, I like to work 1 round with the 2 extra sts on the bottom, then on the next round I decrease them with a k2tog and ssk. (Note that in several of my recent glove patterns I have instructed knitters to close holes by picking up gap sts and then immediately working them with the next st, but I now prefer working all picked up sts in the first round, then decreasing on the second round.)

Round 1:

Round 2:

At this point if I continue working my 24 sts in the round, my corners are quite tidy. There is a small amount of extra slack in the corners of the top sts, but this will probably self-resolve after the first washing. 

Hopefully this tutorial will help you to work tidy finger and heel joins. Please stay tuned for more upcoming patterns from me that make use of this technique (there's your teaser!)  

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Although this is an older photo of my just-published glove pattern Handspan, it's still my favorite one of this design, because how can you resist this adorable model?  Here is my friend Gerda pictured in 2018 on my 48th birthday in her home city of Tempe AZ, where we met in grad school. I love you, my friend. <3