Pattern Writing for Knit Designers: a Q and A with Kate Atherley

I've been wanting to share this book with you for quite a while:
Written by my tech editor (and friend) Kate Atherley, Pattern Writing for Knit Designers, is a definitive guide on understanding ALL the many elements that go into knit pattern writing. In fact, a newer designer (or knitter) sitting down with this book might be overwhelmed by everything Kate deems essential to a well written pattern. But, nothing in this book should be overlooked.... it is entirely useful! Even if you aren't a designer, or aspiring one, the content in this book will help you understand how to read patterns more deeply. I certainly wish I had it as a reference when I was starting out!

There have been  fabulous reviews on Pattern Writing for Knit Designers that I suggest you read. I thought it would be a fun twist to do a Q and A with Kate to talk about how she helped me become a better pattern writer.... a very different thing from being a knitwear designer!
L: Do you remember what the first pattern of mine was that you edited? I believe it was for Knitty..... did you shake your head in dismay at any of my snaffus?
I had to go back and look; it seems like it might have been the Mr. Popper hot water bottle cover. And it looks like although it was pretty far off the style sheet, it was in pretty good shape. It's funny, actually, because that pattern is not at all representative of your work, in that it uses techniques I don't think I've ever seen you use in another pattern... felting! intarsia in the round! And hot water bottle covers? You're rarely that practical or domestic.

Looking back on my notes, I remember it well, actually. The intarsia in the round was pretty challenging to review... I had to get you needles and yarn and actually knit for that one!

In fact, I would say that it set the theme very nicely for our relationship: you do challenging, unusual and interesting things, and I do often have to get out needles and yarn to be able to edit. Some things I can just read through, and knit "in my head", but that's rarely true of your patterns.

I have learned a TON from you about clarity, consistency, and comprehension,what have you learned from me? 

Kate: I think I learn something with every pattern. That first one taught me about intarsia in the round. Would you be appalled to learn that I'd never knitted anything with beads before we started working together? And you've taught me about lace design and all sorts of fantastic constructions. In fact, I have an element in a new design that's loosely inspired by your work - I work a shawl in two directions, at 90-degree angles. And I've learned a lot about how to check through complex charts and how to proofread long and complicated written instructions for charts. (Multiple colors of pens; print them out; post it notes and rulers; and more coffee.)

L: Is there any mistake I consistently make that you have to correct?
Kate: Not any more . We had to have the conversation about SSK and how you defined it, but I've cured you of that particular bad habit.

L: Is there an element to my patterns that you find really effective?
Kate: I adore that you work really hard to include both charts and written instructions. Sometimes it's hard work for both of us, but I know you're making a lot of knitters very happy. Not all knitters love charts, and so often complex lace patterns are only charted. You're going an extra step - one of the reasons your knitters love you.

L: Often times on my charts you comment that you wish I would include stitch counts and I pretty much always choose not to as they confuse "the picture" for me... can you explain more why you think I should? (and I know you wrote a whole chapter on this exact topic!)
Kate: It's partially because it makes life easier to me to check. After all, I need to check the written instructions against the charts (and vice versa) and it's nice to be able to glance at it to know how many stitches there are. That having been said, where there's repeats, it's not possible (or indeed advisable), and I think in many cases (see answer to next question ) your charts are full of tricky repeats and all sorts of things.

L: We've developed a bit of a "game-on" mentality where I try to make your brain hurt with complex patterns to edit... were there any patterns (or projects) of mine in which you wanted to just throw in the towel and tell me to go find another editor? (Sorry to say....I have another one coming down the pike in this vein!)
I may regret saying this, but not so far. Sometimes I have to make more coffee, and you've definitely make me work hard, but I love the challenge. I think it works well between us because we've established a partnership - I'm entirely comfortable telling you if I don't understand something or am just wildly confused, and I'm entirely ok when you tell me that I have it wrong. Because sometimes that does happen! The fact that I work without the samples adds to the challenge, especially when your pattern has an interesting construction. I appreciate your patience when I have to ask questions. But equally, I think the process of the two of us having to think through the construction and how to communicate it, and making sure it makes sense to me without me having my hands on the sample, makes for better patterns!

L: Does how we work together differ from how you work with other  designers? What is unique about it?
Kate: I love that we've developed some fun shorthand... sometimes I can just put ? or a ! in a comment, and you'll know what I mean. And I really enjoy that we can ask questions and collaborate - it's not just about me checking your math, but about a discussion about how to best communicate complex ideas to your knitters. I appreciate that we can have discussions about usability, not just numbers.  Plus you don't mind if I swear in my edit notes. 

Thankyou Kate!  I can't agree more with you... we've developed a fabulous comfortable working relationship that has made us both better at what we do! I hope this gives you all more of an idea of exactly how wonderful Kate and her body of knowledge is.

Time for a giveaway... 

Kate has generously donated  a digital copy of Pattern Writing for Knit Designers to giveaway to one of you!  Just leave a comment below by 11pm (EST) on March 6th, don't forget to leave a way to get in touch with you! I randomly choose a winner next week and announce them in my Ravelry group in the news thread and on Facebook!


Phi For You!

Yeah!  By this time most of this year's M Club members have received their first package and it is time to release the pattern that goes with it so they can get knitting!

Ready for Phi for You?
Here's what the M Club Members received...
Yarn: One AMAZING skein of caterpillargreen yarns, MCN Fingering Shawl Striping in the Phi Colorway (exclusive to the M Club for one year) (see more about this below!)
Notions: Approx. 45 grams Size 6 glass seed beads, and super floss
Extras: All natural lip scrub to exfoliate and moisten your lips!
Goodies: Suckers from Yummy Earth
For the 4th MKAL: A mini skein from Gynx Yarns! (put this in a safe place!)

About the yarn... this might be the most interesting and coolest collaboration I've ever worked on!  I found out about CaterpillarGreen when at Knit Social last year in Vancouver... Stephanie couldn't stop talking about SELF STRIPING SHAWL YARN at dinner, and of course I made her show me the next morning!  Without realizing how coveted this yarn was I asked Cat (Caterpillargreen's dyer/owner) if we could work together on a project and she said YES!
 I designed a top-down Half-Pi Shawl with crescent shaping and then Cat took my spreadsheet and dyed self-striping yarn for it based on the Golden Ratio (Phi). She sent me photos (see below) while we worked on it....there were spreadsheets, and late night e-mails, and a lot of excitement while we worked it out. It was SUPER hard to keep this project secret!
The knitting of Phi for You is relatively simple... I wanted the color to be doing all the work here... there are little touches, like an integrated i-cord edging with elongated stitches so it doesn't get tight, and an intriguing beaded bottom border that makes me feel a little swoony with it's simple elegance...
Phi for You is only available to 2015 M Club members and will be released to the public in March of 2016.... I've got a Mystery KAL coming up (info releases April 1st) that all will be available for all to participate in, whether you are in the M Club or not!


Working Gauge and Nelkin Designs Patterns!

If you've come across my designs before you'll know I can be a stickler for gauge. How to work gauge swatches comes up ALOT when people are ready to dive into a new design of mine and I decided it's time to give you all some rules and guidelines that I follow when working gauge for my patterns!
  1. Cast on at least 6 sts more than called for in the gauge. Use the needle size called for. If you know you knit loosely, then go down a needle size. If you knit tightly, go up!
  2. Knit in stockinette stitch (knit 1 row, purl 1 row) or garter stitch (knit every row) for at least 4 inches. Bind off LOOSELY! The pattern will tell you what stitch to use.
  3. Soak your swatch in warm water for 5 minutes, if not longer. You can use a little wool wash if you want, but it’s not necessary.
  4. Take your swatch out of it’s bath and squeeze out all the water in a towel.
  5. Lay out your swatch flat. I use my ironing board for this as things dry quickly on it and it’s surface can get wet! I smooth out the swatch, but I DO NOT pin it.
  6. Let dry completely. (important... especially with superwash yarns!)
  7. Measure your stitch gauge. You want to do this over multiple inches, making sure you keep away from the edges to get an accurate stitch count. This is why you are casting on 6 more stitches than called for.
    • I always use an ironing board as a work surface and a gauge ruler or measuring tape.
    • With the swatch lying flat, measure the number of stitches over 4" (10cm).
    • Repeat for the row gauge.
    • Remember that stitches run horizontally and rows run vertically.
    • If you have too few stitches per inch (i.e., the gauge is loose), go down a needle size. This will tighten up the gauge by creating more stitches per inch.
    • If you have too many stitches per inch (i.e., the gauge is tight), go up a needle size. This will loosen up the gauge by creating fewer stitches per inch.
    • If a pattern calls for 24 sts/inch, and you get 23.5 or 24.5 sts/4 inches I wouldn’t re-swatch, but if the margin of error is bigger than that… I would!
  8. You can also measure your row gauge BUT in most projects the stitch gauge is more important so it’s not necessary to get too worried about it! I'll let you know in a pattern if row gauge matters more than stitch gauge.
If the gauge called for is in the round, then you can work a flat swatch in the round as follows on double pointed or circular needles:
  1. Work one row. DO NOT TURN WORK. Slide your stitches to the other end of the needle.
  2. Leaving a long float hanging at the back of your work, work another row. Again do not turn your work and slide your stitches to the other end of the needle. What this does is simulate working in the round.
  3. Continue on like this for 4 more inches.... follow directions above from #3.
Marking and Storing
I keep all of my gauge swatches... for "just in case" in an antique milk crate.... it's fun to look through and I always get good ideas when I play in it!
I mark them all so I know what size needle I used for the swatch. I can look up the yarn by searching my projects on Ravelry!  I do this by either, tying knots in the tail for the number of my needle size, or by purling that number of stitches in one of the first few rows. I know some designers who mark their swatches with sets of yarnovers and knit 2 togethers. 
This technique doesn't work well for the smaller needles sizes that have half sizes (like a US 1.5), when this happens you need to tie a note onto your swatch!

A final note: This is how I work gauge in my patterns... gauge technique may differ from designer to designer which is why I wanted to share mine with you. Do you have any other tips or tricks you'd like to include? Or a question? Let's start a gauge dialogue!


Triplex... A New Kit!

Triplex is all about the number three!  It starts with three friends: a designer, a yarnie, and a button maker who decided to join forces and create a kit! I did the designing and knitting, Jill provided me with some incredible yarn, and Jennie made gorgeous buttons to match.
Triplex comes in three different colors: Iris, Pine and Trillium all in Jill's exclusive Mohonk, a 100% Cormo sport weight.
Triplex can be worn in three different ways: If you fold Triplex lengthwise and button it you’ve got a shrug, if you wear it centered at the back and bring the ends over your shoulder and button it you have a “ruana” and if you just wrap it around your body you have a shawl!

And Triplex plays with three knitting techniques: You’ll be expanding your knitting skills by working with elongated stitches, ruching and attached i-cord!.

Three times the fun, that’s what Triplex is!

If you are at Stitches West this weekend you can see kits in person at Jill and Jennie's booth (933, 935 & 937), I wish I could say that you'd see me there too, but I'm home, with a sick kid, a bored dog, and some negative wind chill temps to keep me company.

Luckily, I know not everyone can make it to Stitches West, so I have a limited number of kits available in my Etsy shop!