Monday, November 30, 2015

On Float Planes, Symmetry, and Great Gift Ideas

Happy Cyber Monday everyone! This is the last big day to get those online savings, so I hope you are filling your cyber carts and getting in on the action.

Over in the Ravelry Indie Gift-a-long 2015, people have been creating a gift frenzy. Really. The threads for things that will be gifted for hands, arms, and heads are officially out of control. We'll be creating gifts right through the end of the year, so don't think you're too late to get in on the yarny gift action.

In order to celebrate the remainder of the gift-giving season, I have the first in a series of interviews with some of my fellow knit and crochet designers. The first is Cynthia Levy, a/k/a Reg Tiger Designs. I had the pleasure of pinning her designs to the gift-a-long Pinterest boards, and I was immediately drawn to find out more since she and her husband get to fly a float plane everywhere. Of course, living in the Northwest Territories of Canada, a float plane (as well as a snow machine named George!) sort of come in handy.

Snow Flurry Mittens designed
by Cynthia Levy
Now while it's true that I don't do socks (sorry Cynthia!), I do make mittens and things for hands, and I was instantly taken with her Snow Flurry Mittens, which I am going to make a little later in December. Cynthia also has some wonderful accessory designs for men, so if you haven't seen them, I hope you'll check them out over on her Ravelry design page. Without further ado, I present:

The Artfully 
Voie de Vie 
Questionnaire with Knitwear Designer 
Cynthia Levy

Can you tell us a little bit about your background before you started to design and knit garments and accessories?

I’m a lawyer in real life, which is reason enough to need a creative outlet!  I grew up in Nova Scotia, went to university in Ontario, taught in Newfoundland, and now live and practice law in the Northwest Territories.  In addition to knitting and designing, my leisure time is over-committed with float-flying, fishing, camping, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, pottery, quilting and gardening.

When was the moment you knew you wanted to become a designer?

I don’t really think there was ever a moment when I woke up and decided to become a designer.  I just started designing my own socks to prove to myself that I could and then I realized that I could share my designs by publishing them on Ravelry and other online platforms.

Please describe your personal design philosophy?

I strive to create designs that are attractive and wearable.  Symmetry and balance are important to me, so I try to ensure that each element of a design flows smoothly into and out of the next element.  I like to create designs that look complicated but can be made by the average knitter exercising moderate care and attention.

What is your greatest knit (or design) memory?

It was very exciting to have my design for Resonator Gauntlets accepted by Knitty.  Seeing the design in print on the Knitty website made me feel like a legitimate designer!

If you could have dinner with any three designers, dead or alive, who would they be, and why?
I’d love to sit down to dinner with my online friend Jennifer Wood of Wood House Knits.  She designs the most amazing cable and lace sweaters with incredible attention to detail and fit.  I’d also love to have dinner with Cookie A and Stephanie Van Der Linden.  They have each authored several fantastic books on sock knitting and construction from which I have learned many useful tips and tricks.
Pit Railway Socks - lovely
cable here!
Throw or Pick?

Throw, except for stranded colorwork, for which I hold one color in each hand and use a technique that completely eliminates floats.

It’s your last object to design (or make). What is it, and what fiber do you use?

I’d design and knit an epic blanket using laceweight qiviut.  It would be a sampler featuring every stitch pattern in my Japanese stitch dictionaries.  Since it’s my last project ever, I’m assuming that cost of yarn is no object, and I want to make something that will keep me knitting for a very long time!

Vertigo Fingerless Gloves
What trait do you most admire in designers?

Most knitting designers are willing to engage in frank and helpful discussion of all sorts of issues related to the fibre industry.  Ravelry has enabled the development of a community of designers that is supportive and knowledgeable and it’s wonderful to be able to access their collective intelligence.

What trait do you most detest in designers?

Some designers who are trying to make a full-time career in the fibre industry have a tendency to disparage those who design on a part-time or hobby basis.  Such designers have strong opinions as to the proper way to develop and publish patterns and allege that other approaches are less than professional.

You are recommending a design gift in response to a friend’s inquiry. Other than your own designs (which are quite lovely!), what would you recommend?

My favorite designs for gift projects are Tree Mittens by Elli Stubenrauch, Comfrey by Sara Gresbach, and Bonaventure Baby Sweater by Nadia Crétin-Léchenne. I’ve made each of these projects multiple times and every recipient has been delighted with their gift. I’d highly recommend any of these patterns.

Friday, November 27, 2015

And Now, The Day After

You're over the turkey (well, ok, but maybe not the sides), so instead of a black Friday, make it a green week end. Do not see the inside of a big box store sales rack today; get out in the fresh air. Take a walk. Deck your halls. Hand craft a gift. Do a happy dance just because. 

Then, support your favorite small businesses on Saturday and do a little online cart emptying on Monday. 

May your days indeed be merry and bright.

UPDATE, late 11/27: The Ravelry gift-a-long 25% savings on designated patterns in my store is now over, but from Saturday, November 28 – the end of Monday, November 30, (PST), everything in my Ravelry store is 25% off, no coupon code needed, to celebrate Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  After Monday, no more sales in 2015, so get to it while the getting is good.

Monday, November 23, 2015

On Gift Making, Discounts and Loyalty

The Dutrieu Necklace design is
currently on sale in my Ravelry store with
the use of coupon code giftalong2015.
So we’re beyond the first full weekend of the Ravelry  2015 gift-a-long, and I cannot keep up with all of the projects. Really. No kidding. If you don’t keep up on reading the threads in each category (or at least in the categories under which your own gift projects are categorized) you’ll come back in 24 hours and see hundreds of posts. We are an extremely chatty bunch. I’ve acquired two patterns so far – the Etheria Cowl and the Snow Flurry Mittens - and I’m about a third of the way done with the lovely cowl, which I plan to gift to a family member. The mittens, however, will be mine, all mine. Stay tuned as I wrestle with my double pointed needles. I am, if nothing else, determined.

Progress on my Etheria cowl, a beautiful design from
Julia Trice, the designer at the helm of Mind of Winter.
Something came up in our gift-a-long planning group last week and it’s something about which I feel rather strongly, so I’m going to discuss it here because hey, to paraphrase the song, it’s my blog, and I’ll discuss it if I want to. In order to receive the 25% discount on my (or any participating designer’s) eligible designs this week through Friday, a purchaser needs to enter the code giftalong2015 in their online shopping cart. This rule is very heavily broadcast prior to the sale week. Nevertheless, many designers (myself included) always receive some sales for the full price of the pattern, absent the discount code. I have (both this year and last year) automatically refunded the discount portion of the sale back to the buyer, under the assumption that they just forgot to enter the code. Of course, not all purchasers forget. Some want to support independent designers and genuinely want to pay full price, so they purposefully omit using the sale code at checkout. When I wrote that I provided the refund, I received a few disagrees on my rationale – that if I were a brick and mortar store, the customer would expect the sale price to be rung up at checkout. Of course, since it’s a code, it can also be likened to a coupon, and if the customer doesn’t have the required coupon, the merchant is under no obligation to provide said discount. It also still leaves the choice with the buyer and takes the guesswork out of the equation on my end – did the person just forget to add the code, or does she/he really want to pay full price?
The Snow Flurry Mittens from Cynthia Levy. She's
allowed kind permission to use her photograph.

For me, however, I've been providing purchasers of my designs the discount automatically and without hesitation or reservation, and here’s why: I love my design small business. Perhaps my family's working class roots are showing here, but I consider it an extreme privilege to own a business that I not only love, but that also provides me with a small income. As a result, that privilege comes with a responsibility. As a customer in other’s businesses, I cannot tell you how many times someone at check-out has provided me with a coupon because I forgot the mailer or flyer at home, and each time I’ve been grateful. It also keeps me coming back as a customer. Why wouldn’t I want to do the same for my customers? I would hope that any lover of my designs choosing to pay full price would, in the face of my honest refund, happily purchase another pattern! I believe that building such a rapport with my customers is part of my responsibility. It's also something I enjoy doing. Of course, it doesn’t mean I’m perfect (no saint here), but I give it my best shot each and every time. I hope those who purchase my designs recognize this and appreciate it.

I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this. Leave me a comment and let me know as a customer whether you’d be grateful for the automatic refund, and if you’re a small business owner/designer, how do you handle this situation?

And for everyone: the Ravelry gift-a-long 25% savings on designated patterns in my store ends this Friday, but then I’ll have one more sale beyond Friday. From Saturday, November 28 – Monday, November 30, I’ll continue having 25% off everything in my Ravelry store, no coupon code needed, to celebrate Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  After Monday, no more sales in 2015. Hey, as I said, I’m a small business owner, not a saint. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

And We're Off To the Gift-a-long Races!

I, along with about 334 other participating designers, hereby announce the 2015 Gift-a-long sale and holiday gift-making open. Woohoo! I have 20 designs on sale (which you can access from my Ravelry design page - just click on the Gift-a-long 2015 bundle photo montage and see all of them) between now and the end of the day (eastern standard time) on Friday, November 27.

However, we'll all be whipping up a handmade gift frenzy between now and the end of the year! Take advantage of the sale by all means, but then stay for the merry gift making. 

If you want to check out the Pinterest boards for the Gift-a-long, here are the links:

And, if you don't want to wade through thousands of pins, but want one designer's targeted curation, feel free to check out my curated 2015 holiday gift designs board. While my participating designs are absolutely pinned to it (!), there are 220 pins, representing a wide swath of all the knit and crochet designs, across most of the categories above, except feet (I don't do socks) and babies (cause I'd want to pin all the cuteness).

I leave you with a nifty visual of some of the statistics that our too-cool-for-stats-school statistician Kimberly put together. It's really pretty awesome to see the entire world getting in on this indie design/hand made gifts galore party.

Make all the things, people.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Crochet as Mending Option

This area rug was, at one point,
about twice as long as it is
Even though slow fashion October is finished, I am still following several new-to-me people on social media, a few who do a fair amount of visible mending on clothing. I can't say I've done all that much visible mending on my clothes (although I have done some), I absolutely mend lots of things around my living space.

I have several area rugs, all of which I love. Some of them I've made, others were bought many, many years ago. Made of woven cotton, the commercially purchased rugs have traveled with me from one living space and state to another. All of them are washable, which make them perfect for my purposes. I love them underfoot, and cannot imagine my home without them.

One such woven cotton rug has really taken a beating. In fact, a few years ago I actually took shears to one end of this rug and chopped off a fair amount that had started to unravel. As you can see below, I took some white kitchen cotton I had on hand at the time, and performed a little quick single crochet Rx to the edge I sheared off:

See that neat single crochet edge? Compliments of my crochet
hook and some worsted weight kitchen cotton.
Most of that edge has remained in tact, but one corner has obstinately started to unravel once more. I didn't want to perform yet another chopping operation (!), so I decided to take a lesson from my visible mending brethren and fix it, to the best of my ability, using yarn I had on hand and my crochet hook. Here's a visual record of my mending effort:

So here is the offending corner in
its unraveled state.
Here are the crochet hooks I brought out for the fix, as well as bits and
bob of cotton in various shades of white and cream, as well as some
cream colored wool/acrylic blend. I decided on the white cotton and
my size I hook. I rejected the cream wool/acrylic - wrong color,
texture and feel for this rug.
The first thing I did was work a row of surface slip stitch up the edge of
the rug, around the loose woven pieces, to create a new edge.
Then I worked another surface slip
stitch row along the inside edge of the
unraveled area to aid in stopping
future unraveling.
I then worked one more row of surface slip stitch between the two
rows on each edge of the unraveling area. I then knotted several
pieces of cotton along the outer edge to actually aid in aesthetics
I then wove in all my ends (at top and bottom of mend area).
Here's a shot of the entire rug,
with the mended corner at top right.
And here's a close-up of the mended
corner. While certainly not perfect, it
actually is not only neat and tidy,
it definitely adds a different character
to the rug.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The GAL Excitement is Building

Hello everyone - we (us indie designers who have volunteered) have begun the Pinterest pinning frenzy! After a minor administrative hiccup on my part (that underscores my need, finally, for glasses), I am off to the races. I cannot wait to reveal the board links as well as my personally curated design board once this pinning portion is all done. The sale gets started next Thursday, and there are some absolutely beautiful designs this year for everyone to make, so get that hand-made-gift-worthy list together, and check it twice ... like ... pronto.

I thought I'd share with everyone another design of mine that's been out there for a while, but which I've recently added to my design store, and just for the GAL. As most everyone knows, I published a book earlier this year, Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace. What I've done is pick out 4 designs from the book and made them available as individual pattern purchases only for the 2015 Indie Gift-a-long. Once the gift-a-long is over at the end of the year, so too will be the ability to purchase these four designs individually.

The back view of the bulky weight
version. Get a load of all that
textural goodness, as well as a
pretty nifty pompom.

One in particular, the Beryl Hat, I've also added a bulky weight version to the pattern, just for the GAL. We love those super quick gift projects, and this hat can be made pretty much in a long evening, or over a weekend if you're super busy. 

My model and I have nicknamed this the gnome hat, and it's totally appropriate. Both versions were made with Berroco Yarns (Abode for the original version, Peruvia Quick for the bulky weight) and just a few skeins of each are needed. I am, admittedly, particularly fond of the bulky weight version, but only because I just recently whipped it up.

Get excited about making all the things!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Let's Get This Indie Party Started

Ok, everyone - the sign-ups are now complete for the 2015 Indie Gift-a-long, and yours truly has made it to the list of participating designers ... along with approximately 279 of my fellow independent knit and crochet designers.

I'm going to kick things off with the first of many individual designs that are new to my shop (although they've been previously published elsewhere) that will be a part of my Gift-a-long offerings. A few of these (like the cowl highlighted today) will also be part of my fall/winter collection, due out in about a month or so. 

With that, I present one of the most wonderful cowls I've ever had the pleasure of making, using all handspun alpaca yarn - it's my shop's version of the La Coeur Cowl. 

Back in mid-summer, I asked my online friend Kathryn at Alpacamundo if she might be willing to provide me with some hand spun alpaca for a cowl I would make for her. I think most people don't realize that many who regularly work with fiber don't always have the time to work designs up for themselves. Since I still get incredible joy from using my hooks and sticks regularly, I thought Kathryn might like something handmade for herself made with her own handspun fiber. 

Kathryn didn't hesitate, and sent me a mix of handspun fibers - some bulky natural-colored alpaca that had been handspun for her and donated from a most beloved, and now former, alpaca in her small flock, Keyla - as well as some darker worsted weight alpaca that she had handspun. To the worsted weight I added some hand spun I had in stash from my other alpaca-loving friend, Andrea over at Wonder Why Farm, and created this colorblocked ode to hand spun alpaca awesomeness.

Look at the wonderful, tweedy effect of the
two worsted weight hand spun fibers held
together in the darker color block.

This cowl design, which is amazingly easy and so quick to work up, came alive in this combination of hand spun fiber. It's rustic yet refined, warm as all get-out, and simply a delight to wear. When my model slipped it on, she instantly said she loved it and wanted one. 

I love the colorblocking. It's going to be difficult to recreate the gorgeousness of the hand spun with commercially made fiber, but I'm going to give it my best effort because my model will be getting one of her very own. It seems the least I can do.

My sincere thank you to Kathryn and her flock of wonderful camelids over at Alpacamundo. I can only hope she might consider giving me some hand spun tibetan mastiff fiber to work with.

Hey, a designer can have a wish list, too. 

Do put the Indie Gift-a-long sale on your calendars - this year it starts on November 19th and runs through the end of the day, November 27th. I'll have 20 different designs in the sale, each at 25% off the regular pattern price. This is the best time to pick up designs for all the gift-worthy people on your holiday list, as well as support independent designers. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

In the Gift-Giving Tradition of the Season

Anyone interested in a holiday gift exchange?
I'm participating in a Secret Sister gift exchange this year (my friend Kristina lured me in!), and I'm looking for a few more ladies to join in with me.  Comment below if you think yo can (and would like to!) buy a $10+ gift and send it off to someone.
No matter where you live, you are welcome to join in. I need 6 (or more) ladies of any age to participate in the secret sister gift exchange. You only have to buy ONE gift valued at $10 (or more) and send it to to one secret sister and receive 6-36 gifts in return.
Let me know if you are interested (via email is also fine) and I can send you the information. Tis the season, and since I'm getting ready for my own Ravelry gift-a-long participation, I thought it would make someones day by sending them a little special something in the mail.

Monday, November 2, 2015

It's November, Everyone

Yes, can you believe it? November. Where did the year go.

The good thing? This is probably my favorite month of the year. There’s a nip in the air (or for us in the Pacific Northwest, a nip and more rain), we get to celebrate my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, and it’s the beginning of the Indie Designer Gift-a-long on Ravelry (go here for my opening blog post from last year).

I will hopefully be a participating designer again this year - sign-ups aren’t until next week, so I need to qualify my participation until then. However, I’ll also be volunteering some time again this year on the Pinterest pinning team and I’m looking forward to it. I really enjoyed this part of the event last year, so I am anticipating the joy of the pinning frenzy again this year.

Additionally, I’ve been working behind the scenes getting my own designing things ready for the GAL. All will be revealed in the next two months so I do hope you’ll sit tight and follow things as they unfold.
Designing still life

I also hope you’ll join us for the Gift-a-long. Identify those on your gift list that are handmade-worthy, visit the Pinterest boards once they go live (and I’ll provide links to them here on the blog), partake in the sale, and then join us as we gift up a storm. Not only will those you care about appreciate your efforts, but you’ll be directly supporting independent knit and crochet designers with your pattern purchases. There will be prizes awarded during the gift-a-long, so your participation could earn you some serious swag … along with ooohs and aaahs on Giftmas.

Won’t you join us?