• 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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Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh…

That was the stress of the last month or so draining out of me, if you were wondering.

Two days ago, my last design sample finished blocking, so I was able to take the pictures of it on Lexie (and no, I can’t share those either, sorry!) and then pack up all three samples and ship them off. I had no idea how tensed I was about the whole thing until my shoulders came down from where they’d taken up residence around my ears.

I’m no stranger to deadlines. In college and grad school, there were always deadlines for my assignments. The Navy lives for deadlines (although we called them by the much fancier name of Plans of Actions and Milestones (POAMs). And then once I was retired from the Navy, I worked as a contractor for the military with even more deadlines. But I’ve never knit to a deadline before. The closest I’ve come is knitting for expected babies…but you can always fudge those deadlines a little bit.

And not only was I knitting to a deadline, I was designing as I went. It would have been easier to knit to someone else’s completed and tested pattern in a given time frame, but I was doing the designing and testing and I knit. I mean, I had the patterns pretty well roughed out, but I had to make changes and improvements as I went. In the end, I finished with plenty of time before the deadline to mail the samples out, but I was still on the stressed side so I sent them express when priority would have done as well. I must have even looked stressed, because although I didn’t say anything about making a deadline, the clerk at the post office ran outside with my package and flagged down the express driver just before he left to make sure my box was on board.

Yesterday I took a much bigger step towards relaxation: I got a massage. I have a friend who is a massage therapist, Jessica LaGarde of Peace at Hand, and I’ve actually been talking with her for a bit about my wrists. I’m well aware of the dangers of overuse injuries in the wrists, and since my job now involves mostly knitting and typing–2 activities that can lead to carpal tunnel or other overuse injuries–I want to make sure I’m not finding myself forced to take a long hiatus to heal. I wanted to focus on prevention, and I knew Jessica was the person to talk to. She partners with The Yarn Spot, an LYS I frequent in Wheaton, MD, to teach classes on physical wellness for handcrafters, and I’ve taken one of them. She also give seated massage at The Yarn Spot and I’ve seen how takes careful note of what her client tells her regarding how they feel and adjusts her massage accordingly. So Jessica was clearly my best choice (and yours too, if you’re in the DC area, I promise).

We’d already been talking a bit about things I could do to treat the pain I was feeling in my wrists and the numbness I was developing in my hands, and I was already feeling better by the time I arrived for my appointment yesterday. My left wrist was pain free and had sensation back in my right hand, although my right wrist was sore and my left hand numb. Jessica and I talked a bit more about what was feeling and doing, and then she gave me a very firm neck, shoulder, arm, and hand massage. It was wonderful. There were times I flinched a bit when Jessica found some unexpectedly tender knots, but I left with most of them worked out. And even better, I left with a pain free right wrist, full sensation in my left hand, and information on where I’ve been tensing up and how to counteract that.

The stress (and tension) isn’t completely gone–I may have mailed out the samples but I have to finish the patterns. But that’s going to be the easiest part of this whole endeavor. So I’ll be fine…

…as long as I don’t start thinking about all the other work I’ve got ahead of me. Oh, my neck…

My yarn is holding me hostage – send help!

I really should be in bed. It’s 11:20pm (or 2320, as my husband and I usually say; old habits die hard for this Sailor). I haven’t had a good night’s sleep for 2 nights because my daughter’s been sick–between the itchy rash and the high fever, she’s been miserable at night and the best solution has been to “sleep” downstairs with her so at least my husband can get some sleep. Tonight seems like it might be the night she turns the corner; there was some fussiness about an hour after she went to bed, but that was 3 hours ago, and nothing since.

So why am I not in bed? My wise husband has been for over an hour (we didn’t use the best solution last night, so he didn’t get much more sleep than I did) and I’m exhausted too.

Well, it’s the yarn’s fault. I’d like to put out an APB on this:

3IG Glenhaven Cashmerino Pansies

It’s Three Irish Girls Glenhaven CashMerino (the base isn’t available via her website, but is carried by retailers). Does the colorway look familiar? It’s the Pansies from The Yarn Spot I talked about earlier (2nd from the right in the line-up photo). Glenhaven CashMerino is a 80/10/10 merino/cashmere/nylon blend and it is so soft. I love knitting with this yarn–and it’s not easy to give it up to someone else.

But I knew when I bought it that this yarn was for my daughter, and when I brought it home, Lexie enthusiastically seconded the idea (in fact, I had a hard time getting the yarn back from her; I think she intended to sleep with it). I tucked the yarn away with the plan to knit something for her in the future.

Apparently, the future is today. I didn’t intend for it to be, but I’ve been itching to start knitting up one of the other designs I’m working on. It’s also a design from Three Irish Girls, and I wrote it up for Springvale Super Merino Worsted. But the problem is that I haven’t yet received the sample yarn for it, and I don’t have any Springvale on hand that isn’t earmarked for something else. But Glenhaven is also a worsted weight…and it’s earmarked for a sweater for Lexie…and the design is called “Lexie’s Lacy Cardigan” since my little girl was my inspiration.

So, I did some swatching today to determine needle size–I needed to go up a size from what I used with the Springvale–and figured I might as well cast on while I’m waiting for the sample yarn. Along the way, I did a few recalcuations on the number of starting stitches, and I had to do that for all the sizes. I figured that was enough work for one night, as it was late already…but the yarn had other ideas. I swear, it won’t let me out of my chair! I’m tired but it won’t let me stop knitting. HELP!!

The Birth of a Design, Part I: The Concept and the Yarn

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 the announcement, I knew I wanted to do children’s patterns. I do most of my knitting for kids, either my two or my niece (and now my nephew). And I knew I wanted one of the designs to work well for boys.

I’ve found that if you want to knit for a baby or toddler boy, you’ve got a fair number of nice options. If you want to knit for a teenaged or adult male, you’ve got some pretty good options. But if you want to knit for a boy in between those extremes…not so much, it seems. Certainly not much that isn’t a) plain stockinette or b) cabled; the big addition seems to be some sort of colorwork, but not much interest due to stitch patterns that aren’t cables.

I also really wanted to do something with the Three Irish Girls’ Lindon Merino. When I got my first club shipment of that yarn base, I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. It’s a minimally processed yarn, so to me it felt a bit rough in the skein.  And looking at the pattern ideas tab on the Lindon Merino page on Ravelry, the majority of the patterns are shorties, longies, or skirties (short, long, and skirted soakers). I really didn’t have need for any of those for my kids, so I tucked the yarn away to figure something out later.

In the meantime, I’d gotten a few more skeins of the Lindon through the club, and as I really liked the colorways, I wanted to find something to do with them. Then I learned that I was going to have a nephew…and I found the Mossy Jacket. I loved the pattern and I loved the colors the designer used, and I happened to have some Lindon in a colorway with blues, greens, and purples…as well as some brown, so I was able to get Sharon to custom dye me some semi-solid brown for the trim. As I knit up the jacket, I discovered something: I loved the feel of Lindon as it knit up. It was amazing how much it softened with handling.

The second part of my decision to use Lindon came from a visit to The Yarn Spot. One thing Sharon has done is dye up custom colorways for several of her retailers that are available only at that store, and at The Yarn Spot the colorway is Pansies:

3IG Pansies

Pansies are my all-time favorite flower, and my favorite pansy is the yellow and purple one. So as soon as Victoria from The Yarn Spot posted to the Ravelry Three Irish Girls group that she was getting this yarn, I made plans to get me some. I loved seeing how the same colorway looked on all the different bases Victoria was carrying, so I picked up some Wexford Merino Silk (far right) for me, some Glenhaven Cashmerino (second from right) for my daughter, some Springvale Super Merino (second from left) that my son has claimed…and some Lindon Merino (far left) with no idea what I was going to with it.

But it was really pretty. Yes–it was an “ooooooh, shiny!” moment.

3IG Lindon Merino Pansies

Before I even left the store, the yarn spoke to me. (Yes, yarn talks to me. Yes, my husband thinks that’s weird. That’s just ’cause he can’t hear the yarn. I think it talks at a frequency that falls outside a non-knitter’s or -crocheter’s range of hearing. No, I don’t talk back to my yarn. Yarn doesn’t have ears. Sheesh.) And it told me that it wanted to be part of my design proposal. (Yes, I do what my yarn tells me to do. Otherwise, it doesn’t let me sleep at night.)

So, here were my design inspirations and goals:

  • a sweater (cardigan, by preference) suitable for boys yet with interesting stitch texture
  • Lindon Merino, starting with the Pansies colorway

That last would have a big influence on my next decision point.