• The Magpie Knitter…

    ...trying to get from "Oooooh, shiny!" to a design.
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  • Jen Johnson began knitting in 2007 while pregnant with her daughter and does most of her knitting for her daughter and son. When she couldn’t find the patterns she wanted, she added designer to her job titles of Navy wife and mother. Jen loves the inspiration she gets from all the beautiful yarns available, as long as she doesn’t get distracted by—ooh, shiny!
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Ooooooh, shiny!

That’s me.

Only it’s not really shiny things as much as pretty colors…namely, pretty colors on yarn.  I started knitting in August of 2007 while pregnant with my daughter Lexie (in southeast Texas, of all places–not really known for a place where one needs a lot of wool sweaters).  I think I’d only been knitting for 2 days before I got distracted by another yarn and pattern and cast on for a baby sweater while the scarf for my son Jeffrey was still on the needles.  And so it began.

When I couldn’t always find the perfect pattern for the beautiful yarn was in love with, I decided to branch out and design my own.  My early designs were usually single-sized patterns for one of my kids, like the dress for Lexie or fingerless gloves for Jeffrey…and they didn’t always work (let us never speak of the golf ball shaped thumbs on the toddler mittens again).  But whether I ended up with an awesome finished object or an…um…learning experience, I loved the process and getting to see my children in something I designed…and then getting to see other people in something I designed.

Where this is going…

So, when my favorite independent yarn dyer, Sharon of Three Irish Girls, announced a call for design proposal submissions, 2 designs that had been vaguely floating around in my brain coalesced and jumped to the forefront.  The situation couldn’t have been more perfect.  First, I’ve had more “ooooh, shiny!” moments with Sharon’s yarns than with any other I’ve seen.  Second, my children are older now–Jeffrey starts kindergarten in the fall, oh, my!–and I’m ready to branch out from my stay-at-home mom career.  I honestly had never considered becoming a professional knitwear pattern designer…but I couldn’t ignore the signs, even if I wanted to.

I thought and researched and scribbled and erased and swatched and frogged and rethought and jotted and typed and blocked…and finally, sketched.  That last was probably the hardest part.  I, um…have trouble drawing a straight line with a ruler.  I was the despair of every art teacher I ever had when it came to proportions.

Oh, and to complicate matters…Sharon had specifically asked for designs that would showcase her yarns.  Most of her colorways are variegated so I was trying for designs that had more interest than stockinette but would neither be lost in nor compete with the yarn.  And I had to capture that in my sketches too!

Finally, I had my best attempt at each proposal together and emailed them in.  I learned it’s hard to type professional sounded submission emails with your fingers crossed, so I had to compromise with crossed toes.

Note to self: Uncross toes before trying to walk.

Then all I could do was wait.  It helped that several of my friends in the Three Irish Girls group on Ravelry had also submitted design proposals, so we got to wait together.  I wasn’t too nervous–to be honest, I thought my inexperience would work against me and it was unlikely that my very first design proposals would be accepted…until the day Sharon planned to announce her decisions.  Then I was hitting the Send/Receive button on my email client several times an hour…right up until the email was sent out apologizing that due to the number of submissions, decisions would be delayed a day.


As promised, the email arrived the next day.  I steeled myself and opened it.

“Thank you so much for your lovely design submissions…”

Uh oh.  It sounded like the beginning of a polite and kind rejection letter…

“–we are very pleased to offer you the opportunity for publication with Three Irish Girls!”

I had to apologize to the kids for scaring them with my inadvertent shriek.

So, here I am.

And welcome to The Magpie Knitter!  Here, I’ll be working to overcome to my “ooooh, shiny” tendencies to create beautiful designs…and maybe amuse you as I go.  Enjoy!


8 Responses

  1. Good luck with your new career! You’re off to a great start!

  2. You are going to be an amazing designer. Can’t wait to see what u come up with.

  3. Congratulations, and good luck on your new venture!

  4. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer person. I’m not surprised at all given your such a natural — you’ve been changing patterns and designing your own stuff since not long after you started knitting. Congratulations and best of luck!

  5. […] Part I: The Concept and the Yarn Posted on July 30, 2010 by jinniver I mentioned in my very first post that this all started with a call for patterns from Sharon of Three Irish Girls. As soon as I saw […]

  6. […] Posted on August 19, 2010 by jinniver Remember how I commented in my first post that the wait to see if my design proposals had been accepted by Three Irish Girls was made easier […]

  7. […] mentioned in my very first post that this all started with a call for patterns from Sharon of Three Irish Girls. As soon as I saw […]

  8. […] how I commented in my first post that the wait to see if my design proposals had been accepted by Three Irish Girls was made easier […]

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