Cloudlift Shawl

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Cloudlift1

Inspired by a detail from the well-respected Arts & Crafts design house of Greene & Greene, this shawl features stacks of shaped garter-stitch ‘cloud lifts’, accented by a succession of reverse stockinette welts that move with the shaped fabric. The perfect use for a mini-skein set, these accent welts provide a canvas for playing with color and texture.

 

Cloudlift5

Yarn: Lux Adorna Knits Sport Soft Spun (100% Cashmere) in the following quantities: 2 skeins [230 yds (210m)/50 grams] in MC [shown in Jackalope], and one mini-skein set [45 yards (41m) each] in C1-C8 [shown in Bohemian].

Gauge: 20 sts and 40 rows per 4 inches (10cm) square in garter stitch.

Needles: 3.75mm (US 5) 32-inch (80-cm) circular needle or size needed to obtain gauge.

Notions: Six pin-style markers, tapestry needle to weave in ends.

Finished Size: 65.5 inches (166.5cm) wide at widest point, and 14 inches (35.5cm) tall. See schematic for more details.

Techniques Used: knit and purl, sl1 k2tog psso, k2tog, m3 (with instructions), slipping stitches with yarn in front and back, use of hanging markers.

Pattern is written out with a schematic for finished measurements. Not charted.

Cloudlift7

 

Markers should be hung from the stitch created by the double decrease (sl1 k2tog psso), and moved up to the stitch created by the double decrease on the next RS row.

I used a long-tail cast-on for the first cast-on (see tips for this here: http://www.miriamfelton.com/tips-for-long-cast-ons/) and a cable cast-on for all following welts. You can find a tutorial for the Cable Cast-on here: https://youtu.be/fxckFm02_HA.

Feel free to choose your own progression of the contrast colors. I suggest you tie or tape a snipped piece of each one to the edge of the pattern. You could try going in rainbow order, or maybe a progression of monotone hues from dark to light. I went with a progression from cool to warm that ends with the color of sunshine.

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Lanata Socks

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Lanata1

With strong lines from twisted stitches and textured columns, these beautiful socks feature a cabled clock at the ankle and an innovative short row heel that fits higher insteps easily.

Lanata2

Yarn: 310[350, 390] yards of heavy fingering weight sock yarn. Sample in Dragonfly Fibers Dragon Sock (100% Superwash Merino, 390 yds/4 oz). Shown in “Hidcote Gardens”.

Gauge: 16 sts & 24 rounds = 2 inches (5cm) square in Stockinette in larger needle.

Needles: 2.5mm (US1.5) needle(s) or size needed to obtain gauge. Use your preferred method for small circumference knitting: e.g. double points, magic loop or two-circulars.

Notions: 2 stitch markers (4 if working two socks at a time), tapestry needle to weave in ends, cable needle.

Finished Size: S [M, L] to fit 78, 9 inch (17.75 [20.25, 22.75] cm) foot circumferences. Negative ease is built in to the pattern.

Techniques Used: knit, purl, m1L, m1R, k1tbl, k2tog, ssk, use of markers, small cables including c1 over 1 left/right, c1 over 1 left/right with a purl background, and c1 over 2 left/right.

Charts for each size are given, but translations of the charts are also given.

Lanata4

These socks are knit in the round from the cuff down to the heel. A few stitches are increased at the base of the cuff, then the Shadow Wrap short row heel is worked with right- and wrong-side rows. Two stitches are picked up at the join between heel and instep to ensure a gap-free ankle, and then work is rejoined in the round and the gusset is decreased (also decreasing out the extra stitches needed for the cabled cuff. The foot is worked even until it measures approximately 1.75 [2, 2.25] inches 4.5 [5, 5.75]cm short of total foot length and then the toe is decreased. Live stitches are then grafted together to close the toe using kitchener stitch.

 

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What do Difficulty Ratings in patterns really mean?

Something has been bugging me for years in the fiber arts world.

 

When submitting a pattern to a print or online magazine, or even when submitting classes, I’m often required to give a pattern or class a difficulty rating. But how helpful are these ratings, really? What constitutes a “beginner” pattern? I think we can all agree that a knit and purl stitch, casting on and binding off, and knowing how to increase and decrease are beginner concepts. You can’t really make anything other than a scarf without knowing how to increase and decrease. But what about a m1. What about (k1, yo, k1) into the same stitch? It’s AN increase, but it seems to be more in the realm of intermediate. The distinctions between these rankings (even when you use a non-standard system and give it a breakdown like knitty does) are still pretty subjective.

 

In psychological fields, there’s a phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It basically boils down to people not knowing how much they don’t know. A beginning knitter who feels confident with a few increases and decreases probably doesn’t even realize things like tubular cast-ons, short rows, entrelac, and brioche EXIST to know that they don’t know them. So a beginning knitter might even be able to knit a sweater and count themselves an expert.

 

But a more accomplished knitter with more experience of what is possible might count themselves as Intermediate since they haven’t tackled a steeked, stranded, handspun opus yet.

 

Granted, this is not an in-depth exploration of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. That’s not what this is about. But when considering the under-defined difficulty ratings in this light it makes them much less useful. In an attempt to let you make your own decisions I’ve been including Techniques Used in my pattern descriptions.

screenshot-2017-01-03-13-41-172

My hope was that this will allow makers to assess their own skills and comfort levels. If you are looking for an easy going project and not a challenge, and you know how to do all the things in the techniques used section, you should be good. And if you know how to do most of those things, and you’d like to learn a new skill, then you still might go for it.

 

I’m wondering if this is really enough though. Maybe I need a highlighted area that includes techniques used as well as links to tutorials. What do you think? What information is most relevant to you in regard to difficulty ranking?

M

Liliom Mitts

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liliommitts1

These simple stockinette mitts, accented with reverse stockinette welts, feature an Eastern Thumb style that appears to grow out of the wrist. Subtle arm shaping makes for a great fit, and the DK weight yarn makes it a quick knit.

liliommitts2

Yarn: 170[190, 210] yards (156 [174, 193]m) of DK weight yarn. Shown in Anzula Cricket (80% superwash merino wool/10% cashmere/10% nylon, approx 250 yds (228m)/115 g) in ‘Iris’.

Gauge: 24 stitches & 34 rounds per 4 inches (10cm) square in stockinette after blocking.

Needles: 3.5mm (US 4) needle(s), or size needed to obtain gauge, in your preferred method for small circumference knitting (dpns, two circulars, or magic loop).

Notions: 3 stitch markers (6 if working both mitts at the same time), holders or waste yarn for thumb stitches, tapestry needle to weave in ends.

Finished Size: To fit 6[7, 8] inch (15.25[17.75, 20.25]cm) hand circumference measured around palm above thumb. Negative ease is built in to the pattern.

Techniques Used: knit, purl, k2tog, ssk, m1L & m1R, use of markers.

 

 

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Keeping it Real

screenshot-2016-11-03-11-44-02So hi, I wasn’t ready to talk about it until now, and I’m not really even sure if I’m ready now, but it’s time.

Early this summer I spent 6 weeks going through a regimented withdrawal for a drug I was on for my Fibromyalgia. It worked for a while, then it stopped, so I decided the symptoms weren’t really worth taking it anymore (btw, there’s just been a settlement of a class action suit for withdrawal issues from this drug. It was horrible. They totally deserve the money). It was miserable, but I did it right. Slowly, and with much slack granted to myself. My medical team is amazing and very helpful.

It was done and I was coming back to an equilibrium, just waiting to feel better. Waiting and waiting and waiting. And then I realized that I was crying nearly every day, had no creative drive, and was just FUCKING SAD. Turns out the Cymbalta was treating the depression that frequently comes with Fibromyalgia without me realizing that it was. It’s really hard when your body is full of pain to know whether your pain is causing depression or your depression is causing pain. They feed on each other.

I tried to find a therapist, but we were changing health care providers, so I had to wait. The putting-it-out-there and being rejected trying to find someone made things worse. It’s like applying for jobs. It’s a lot of energy put in with very little return. I had to farm it out to my husband. He stepped up for me and made me an appointment. I love this man.

So I’m in therapy, and I got an urgent appointment with my GP to get on a medication. In the intervening months I had tried all the coping mechanisms I knew to deal with my depression, but I just couldn’t push through it this time. I needed some chemical help for my brain. Things are much better now. Still not 100%. I haven’t gotten back to full-on creative knitting work. But my brain is back to THINKING about it, which is a great relief.

I’m not making any grand sweeping statements about depression, drugs, or anything really. But I think talking about it is really important to end the stigma of mental health issues. We have them. It sucks. It impacts our lives in dramatic ways. It impacts our families.

All during this time I’ve been trying to decide how to pivot this creative work I do. The market has changed. I can’t make a living selling patterns anymore. I need something else. But I still need it to feed me creatively and physically. Maybe I need more teaching, maybe I need to finally start the podcast I’ve been talking about for a year, maybe I need to publish another book. Meanwhile my lack of focus has been channeled into The Construction Papers, and I’m really enjoying how it ties back in to my past Years of Making. Also, I like sending people mail.

M

 

p.s. If you’ve waded through this and would like something a little more uplifting for your day, check out the new episode of Stash Local, where Kim Werker talks about making and giving yourself permission to change your narrative (the story you tell yourself) of who you are.

 

Abbreviations for Construction Papers Patterns

Crochet: 

ch: chain

sc: single crochet – insert hook into stitch, yo, pull through a new loop, yo, pull through 2 loops.

dec: single crochet decrease – insert hook into first stitch, yo, pull through a new loop, insert hook into second stitch, yo, pull through a new loop, pull through 2 loops. (1 stitch decreased)

inc: single crochet increase – work 2 single crochets in the same stitch. (1 stitch increased)

st(s): stitch(es)

sl st: slip stitch – insert hook into stitch, yo, pull up a new loop, pull through 1 loop.

hdc: half double crochet – yo, insert hook into stitch, yo, pull up a new loop, yo, pull through 3 loops.

dc: double crochet – yo, insert hook into stitch, yo, pull up a new loop, yo, pull through 2 loops, yo, pull through last 2 loops.

dc inc: double crochet increase – work 2 double crochets in the same stitch (1 stitch increased)

dc dec: double crochet decrease – yo, insert hook into first stitch, yo, pull up a new loop, yo, pull through 2 loops; yo, insert hook into second stitch, yo, pull up a new loop, yo, pull through remaining 4 loops.

rem: remain(ing)

turning chain: a turning chain can be any number of stitches tall, but will count as one of those stitches. For instance, a dc turning chain is 3 chains tall, and should be counted as a dc. On following rows a stitch is usually worked into the top of the turning chain just like a regular stitch.

 

Knitting:

Passel Shawl

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passelshawl1

Starting with just a few stitches, this asymmetrical triangular shawl grows in size until the full textured panel is revealed, then builds an easy to work mesh lace alongside the panel until the full length is reached. Slipped stitch edges along the garter border give a clean and neat finish to this breezy piece.

passelshawl3

Yarn: 435 yards total of Fingering Weight yarn. Shown in Phydeaux Aegypte (50% Alpaca/25% Linen/25% Silk), 435 yds per 100g) in Linen.

Gauge: 20 sts & 30 rows = 4 inches (10cm) in mesh stitch after blocking.

Needles: 4mm (US6) straight or circular needle for flat knitting or size needed to obtain gauge.

Notions: tapestry needle for weaving in ends, stitch marker.

Finished Size: 58 inches (147.25 cm) across wingspan, 46 inches (116.75 cm) along panel side, 33 inches (83.75 cm) along bind off edge.

Techniques Used: knit, purl, slipped stitches, k2tog, ssk, yarnovers, double yarnovers knit front & back, m1, m3, sl1 k2tog psso, knit through the back loop.

passelshawl2

The bind off used is a knitted lace bind off, which you can view a tutorial for here: https://youtu.be/1o7g1H-V7Ts  Bind off: k2, slip left hand needle into front of both stitches, k2tog through the back loop, k1; repeat from to end.

The row gauge of the side panel is much shorter than the surrounding mesh, if you are winging the length, measure along the mesh side. That side will be the wingspan of the shawl.

 

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Scintilla Hat & Mitts Set

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scintilla1

Speckled, almost pixelated colorwork blends the coordinating colors of a miniskein set into this slouchy hat and matching mitts. With ribbing to ensure a good fit, this set is as much fun to knit as it is to wear.

scintilla3

Yarn: One Lorna’s Laces String Quintet Miniskein set, shown in Violin. 535 yds of Shepherd Sock in 5 colors.

Gauge: 34 sts & 40 rounds = 4 inches (10cm) square in colorwork pattern on larger needles.

Needles: 2.5mm (US1.5) for ribbing, 2.75mm (US2) for the rest, or size needed to obtain gauge. Use your preferred method for small circumference knitting: e.g. double points, magic loop or two-circulars.

Notions: 7 repeat markers, plus a different marker for the beginning of the round, tapestry needle for weaving in ends.

Finished Size: Hat – To fit 19 inch (48.25cm) head. Hat is 11 inches (28cm) long from ribbing to crown. Mitts – 6.5 inches (16.5cm) around to fit hands up to 8 inches (20.25cm) circumference, and are 8 inches (20.25cm) long.

Techniques Used: knit, purl, k2tog, yarnovers, knit front & back, m1, stranded colorwork, reading colorwork charts.

scintilla2

Each String Quintet set contains different colors. Arrange your colors however you’d like, but consider contrast between colors when you do. If you have two similar colors, you might wish to keep them apart.

Check out my tips for colorwork here: http://www.miriamfelton.com/tips-for-colorwork/

Because this set has both colorwork and single-color sections, be sure to spread out your stitches on the needle and keep floats loose enough so that colorwork will block to the same gauge as the single-color sections.

Both Hat and Mitts use an alternating knit/purl long-tail cast on. A tutorial is available here: https://youtu.be/L7MKMlzVNzM The video demonstrates (k2, p2) rib – make sure for this project you cast on in (k1, p1).

The newest color should be kept dominant (see colorwork tips above).

For the hat I let floats go a max of 7 sts without catching, but for the mitts (where fingers could catch in a 7 st float) I caught them every 4 or 5 sts.

If you swatch for this set, I would recommend blocking your swatch with the yarns unbroken. That way you can unravel your swatch to use in the pieces. Yardage may be tight.

 

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Risk vs. Reward: The True Costs of Fiber Teaching

donotworkforfree

WARNING: This is a math-heavy post, if you want the TL:DR version… Teaching contracts have been getting progressively worse for fiber teachers, and I don’t want to work for nothing.

 

This hangs on my wall. I try to use it as a guiding force when I’m up against hard decisions. This is not to say that you always need to work for money. I love working for trade, and sometimes you work without compensation to learn some new skills, or gain practice that you can use in your future portfolio.

 

But some recent business interactions have brought this to the fore. What do you do when you’re not straight up being asked to work for free, but being asked to work for a rate that quite possibly will not even cover your costs let alone pay you a fair wage. I’m not a lucky person. I work hard to try to make my own “luck”. If something can go wrong, it probably will. I’m a misanthrope and a pessimist. I don’t expect people to look out for me. I look out for myself.

 

When I teach at a local yarn store, I charge a tiered fee to help make it easier for smaller shops to still bring in high-quality instruction, even if their class space isn’t large, or they can’t fill a 20 person class. I also find the tiered approach acknowledges how much harder it is to teach a class of 8 than it is a class of 25. My fee structure breaks down to this:

$70/class hour up to 10 students
$75/class hour 10-15 students
$80/class hour 15-20 students
$90/class hour over 20 students

 

So I submitted classes for a big event based on knowledge that their contract had been not unreasonable in the past, and got a teaching contract back that was appalling. A small per-student fee ($25 per student per 3 hour class), and no travel, no lodging, no per diem. My flight to this venue will run about $200, then there’s a shuttle from the nearby airport to the venue, which is $80, a conservative per diem for a place like this is $40 per day. With 3 days of teaching (2 full days and 2 half days, plus arriving a day before to be safe is 4 days. The group hotel rate is $179 pre taxes, so without even going into the number of students I can pull to this event that I’ve never taught at before, I’m already OUT OF POCKET $1156 (without taking hotel taxes into account. If I estimate those, I’m running $1200). To make my low-end standard teaching rate plus expenses, I would need to have an average of 16.4 students in each class. EACH AND EVERY CLASS. That means no wiggle room. No class cancellations, no classes with 14 people in them.

 

I wrote back and suggested that their financial model was untenable. They came back with a lower per-student fee ($22 per student per 3 hour class) and a $500 stipend. If you’re keeping track, for the 6 classes they accepted, with a max # of 26 students for each, that $3 difference per student comes out to just under $500. So they really didn’t give up much on their end. With the new stipend and reduced per student fee, it breaks down to needing 5.3 students per class to COVER COSTS, and 14.8 students to pay me my standard fee. With a contractual minimum of 5 students for a class to run, this means that if all my classes filled with just the minimum I would still be out of pocket. And the way the contract was written, if a class met it’s minimum it couldn’t be cancelled by the instructor. The class had to run. Again… not ok. So theoretically I could be stuck traveling, paying out of pocket for all the non-teaching costs, teaching the classes, and then still end up not getting paid enough to cover the costs.  I could also, theoretically be making twice my standard rate if all my classes fill (26 students is full for the purposes of this venue). But the likelihood of that seems slim.

 

I realize that an event like this carries inherent risk. There’s risk on all sides. The vendors hope that their costs of travel, freight, luggage, and booth fee will be covered in the merch they sell. The organizers pay for the venue, the workers at the event (this is why most events utilize volunteer work), their employees, their legal department, event insurance, and travel for their organizers to get to the venue. I am willing to take a risk that I might not make my ideal rate at a big event where I’m not the only draw. I can’t guarantee that there isn’t an amazing class taught by a super star that conflicts with my best class. That will bring enrollment down. But I draw the line at the possibility of having to PAY to travel somewhere, teach, and go home poorer. This is my job. This is not a charity.

 

So we went back to the negotiations. I got the contract adjusted so that by the cancel date if my enrollments aren’t up to a level of risk that I’m ok with I can walk away, not owe them anything, and dust my hands of the whole affair (aside from the guilt of disappointing the people who signed up for my classes and messing with their class schedules). It sucks. But it’s what I have to do to keep this business running. Some really great teachers didn’t sign the contract, some of them signed it anyway (risk and all), and some of them made their own negotiations. Everyone did what they felt they needed to.

 

There’s been some talk around the fiber community of teachers being seen as Divas for the #FairFiberWage discussions and for the things we require (travel, lodging in a private room, and a per diem or meals covered). Until you’ve done an event like these you have no idea. Your workday goes from the moment you step onto the show floor to the moment you lock yourself in your room and collapse in bed. You’re always ON, people stop you in the hallways and ask you questions. You’ve put an average of 30 hours of work into each class before it’s ready to teach. That’s work you did on spec. You don’t get paid for that. You just hope that you get to teach the class enough times to try to make up some of the cost of that time.

 

With my fibromyalgia issues, I am down for a minimum of a week after one of these weekend events. And I mean DOWN. Like, I need to be horizontal, with only upright breaks to make tea and food, I nap for 3 hours at a time during the first few days for my body to recover. So the fees I’ve come up with are meant to help cover the costs of the pre-teaching time and the post-teaching time. And with teaching, designing, and publishing I still don’t cover half the household costs. It only works because I’m in a partnership where my spouse doesn’t mind carrying the majority of the load. It’s really goddamn hard to make a living in this industry. It’s a struggle every day. I have my fingers in so many pies trying to pay the rent that sometimes it’s overwhelmingly complicated.

 

All I’m saying is…. what we’re asking for isn’t unreasonable. We’re reasonable people. We want to make a living and want to teach something we’re passionate about. None of us are millionaires. Just give it some thought. That’s all I’m asking for.

 

If you want a little more context of what’s going on, check out:

 

 

Mocárabe Cowl

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Mocarabe1

The beautiful tracery of honeycomb cables are accented by patches of eyelets in this gorgeous cowl. Turning the background of a traditional motif into negative space gives this cowl a wonderful juxtaposition of structure and drape.

Mocarabe2

Yarn: Approx 450 yds light worsted weight yarn. Shown in Mrs Crosby Carpet Bag (80% Superwash Merino Wool/20% Silk; Approx. 240 yards/100gm), 2 skeins ‘Sunset Regatta’.

Gauge: 22 sts and 48 rows = 4” in Garter st, after blocking. 32 sts and 34 rnds = 4” in Cable pattern, after blocking.

Needles: 4 mm (US 6) 24 inch (60 cm) circular neelde, or size needed to obtain gauge.

Notions: 4 stitch markers, plus a fth that looks different for the beginning of the round, cable needle if desired, tapestry needle for weaving in ends.

Finished Size: 30 inches (76.25 cm) circumference, 10 inches (25.5 cm) tall, after blocking.

Techniques Used: knit, purl, k2tog, k3tog, sssk, yarnovers, double yarnovers, cables with instructions included: c2over2right, c2over2left, use of markers, knitting in the round.

Mocarabe3

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