• 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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Shawl Design with Kirsten Kapur

shawl design

When the email came out from Fibre Space a few months ago with the list of upcoming classes, “Shawl Design with Kirsten Kapur” was the first one my eye lit on. I love shawls. You wouldn’t know it, looking at my project page–sadly devoid of any shawls, although I have knit a shawlette–Mary-Heather Cogar’s Simple Things. I love the pattern (obviously, since I’ve knit not just one, but two of them), but part of what I love about it is that it’s great for showcasing colorful hand-dyed yarns that would obscure intricate lace patterns. So my lace shawl experience is non-existent…

…which would probably make the idea of me taking a shawl design class sort of silly, but I’ve never let a little thing like inexperience stop me. Now that I know about shawlettes (I think part of the reason I’ve never knit a shawl is because of the size and time; I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that I knit children’s items because they’re smaller and quicker), I can see me knitting more, and I’d love to be able to design my own. More than that, I knew I should jump at the chance to expand my design knowledge, even if I never design a shawl pattern to share.

So I signed up right away, thinking there was a good chance the class would fill up quickly…and looking around the room as the class got started today, it looked like it was sold out. I’m sure as much as the class itself, the teacher was a draw. I didn’t recognize the name Kirsten Kapur at first, but she’s the designer behind the great designs at Through The Loops. Her Pembroke Vest in the inaugural issue of Petite Purls is on my to-do list for every male in my family under the age of 8. And this was personally exciting for me because I’ve never taken a class from a well-known designer before.

The shawl design class was a 4-hour class, and I have to say I was surprised when people started cleaning up their gear that 4 hours had already passed…at the same time couldn’t believe that I’d learned so much in just 4 hours. As I told Steve, I left both confident that I could design a lace shawl with multiple stitch patterns and in even more awe of people who do design those intricate patterns. I knew intellectually that a lot of work would have to go into those designs, but now I know that from a bit of experience as well.

Really, the whole experience was wonderful. Kirsten is an awesome teacher: friendly, personable, fun, and very confident in her subject matter. I was really impressed by how she managed to juggle a class full of people with a wide variety of experience; she easily bounced from students having trouble with charting their initial stitch pattern to others who were asking about altering stitch patterns, to others still asking for advice on designs they’d started putting together before the class. And I enjoyed working and chatting with my fellow students, who all seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as I was.

At the end of the 4 hours, I left with the beginnings of a shawl design. It’s nothing intricate or terribly special, but I’m quite proud of it. I learned how to pick out lace patterns–both an initial pattern and then other patterns to coordinate with it, and I learned some tricks on how to modify lace patterns and fit them in. I think my resulting design is going to be cute. Now all I need to do is find the time to finish it…but I’m going to finish it and knit it!

On my needles…

…nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

And this is not the normal state of things for me. I’m a project polygamist normally; I like being able to jump from project to project as the mood moves me. According to my personal Ravelry notebook, I have 13 WIPs, but most of them I haven’t started yet. They’re either projects I’m planning to start shortly or ones I put in my projects before Casey gave us the ability to link stash yarn to the queue (and I don’t want to move them because I’ve already linked blog posts to them).

Of actual WIPs, there’s one project that really needs to be put back in hibernation, the socks I’m knitting for Steve that need frogged (too big) and the sweater I’m knitting from one of my designs that turned out to need adjusting and has been frogged. Oh, and there’s a sweater for Jeffrey, but I need to frog that both because I left it for so long that I need to start it again with a bigger size…if I have enough yarn left from the Great Lexie With Scissors incident of March 2010 (I haven’t gotten up the nerve to really look at what I’ve got left yet).

I think part of my problem is that I’m feeling a bit in limbo. I have 2 design samples I need to knit up, but I haven’t received the yarn yet (I expect it’ll either be waiting for me when I get home from this week-long vacation or coming very shortly). This is for my 2nd design, which I haven’t yet knit in its entirety. I have knit the yoke…4 different times (it took 3 tries to get the increase rate right…and then once I just screwed up the numbers)…but I haven’t needed to knit the entire thing to get the pattern together. So I’m still wondering what these sweaters are going to look like once all knit up. And I’m not sure what the yarn is going to look like. I know the base, because I picked that, but I just made suggestions as to the colors I’d like (since I’m going to be able to keep the sample).

So both mysteries are making it hard for me to settle down to anything else…even though, ironically, one of those “anything elses” was a full sweater from my 2nd design. I’m finding myself strangely reluctant to restart it now that I’ve gotten the pattern fixed…and I think it’s because part of me doesn’t want to see a completed version of my design until I see it in the colors Sharon chose for me.

At any rate, we get home tomorrow (and oh, am I ready to be home!), so maybe my first mystery will be solved…and I can start working on the answer to the second.

A child’s inspiration

The ladies at TAAT Designs recently did an interview with me that is now posted on their blog. Hop on over and check it out!

I was asked in the interview about my inspiration and one of the ones I listed was my children…but I don’t limit myself to my children. I’ve been spending the last several days at my brother’s house, visiting with him, my sis-in-law, my three-year-old niece, and my five-week-old nephew (meeting him was the main reason for our visit). Naturally, I arrived bearing knitted gifts. One of them is the sample for the design I’ve been posting about, so I’m keeping that one under wraps for now; the other is a Mossy Jacket.

I loved the Mossy Jacket pattern the first time I saw it. This was also one of those rare times when I found myself wanting to recreate the original as closely as possible, including the color, but I wanted to do it from my stash if possible. Fortunately, I had several skeins of Three Irish Girls Lindon Merino, which was the right weight and has a slightly textured look, in the colorway Arboretum. The color was a bit different, skewing a bit towards the cooler colors with hints of purple, and with brown instead of copper, but I liked it, especially with the coordinating brown from the trim that Sharon dyed for me (amazingly, a near perfect match done a year later!).

Three Irish Girls Lindon Merino Arboretum (2)3IG Lindon Merino Brown Fantabulosity

The cardigan knit up very quickly, but I arrived at my brother’s house with it sans buttons. I didn’t have any in my stash that were the right color and size, so one morning I took my kids button shopping with me. Joann’s, I’ve found, as a much better button selection than I’d remembered it having, so I found several possibilities I liked, but none that seemed perfect. I had Jeffrey “helping” me, mostly to keep him occupied, but he kept shooting down all of the buttons I picked out. I had a set of blue-green buttons with a bit of a sheen that I thought were perfect, as they went with the main colors of the cardigan, but Jeffrey was strongest in his condemnation of those. Finally, a bit exasperated, I asked him what buttons he wanted. He looked over the buttons thoughtfully for a few moments, and then pulled a set off the hook and handed them to me. “This one,” he said firmly.

I eyed the red-purple buttons–in the same style as the blue-green ones, with a bit of a sheen–dubiously. The sweater was mostly in blues and greens, after all, but I held the buttons up to the sweater to check.

Moss in my Arboretum (5)

Jeffrey had seen what I had not–that the purples in the yarn went all the way from the blue-purples to the red-purples, and this button brought those out. The blue-green buttons were the obvious choice, but the red-purple was the exceptional one.

Moss in my Arboretum (3)

Guess Jeffrey will be my color consultant from now on.