Back to square One

Hi all!

I thought you might like a sneak peek at my new sweater…

Ta-daam!

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What’s going on

Not much, actually. I get up in the morning, bring my kid to school, try to squeeze the maximum value per minute out of the 3 hours of hands-free time this gets me, lose time surfing the Web, bring the boy back home at noon, throw together some sort of meal or another, try to do things while entertaining the kid until he falls asleep, see my husband off to or back from work, volunteer at the local library once a week, shop for groceries, do laundry… and knit when the stars align. Pretty uneventful but that’s how life is. Sometimes there’s a surprise: eating out with the extended family or the kid falling ill on a Friday afternoon… And then it’s routine once again. But it’s not the repetitiveness that gets me down: I kind of like my days to be predictable. If I can fit a healthy amount of fun into an ordinary day, I’m totally OK with it.

november-mini

See what I mean? Who needs fancy entertainment if they can have this?

What truly gets on my nerves is that I receive no answer from the knitting magazines, yarn companies and design editors I wrote to what seems like ages ago. Just a word, huh, guys? Something beyond the machine-generated “Thank you for your submission”? Are you that busy? What’s maddening about all this magazine business is that one has to wait for months before an answer comes – and not necessarily a positive one – and that multiple submissions (that is, sending the same pattern to several magazines simultaneously) are strictly discouraged. And in the meantime your patterns and ideas just lie there and you can’t even wear what you’ve knitted – for fear of spoiling the only prototype you have… It’s sooo slow! In a world where one can connect with people instantly and where everyone is on-line 24/7, the knit mag business is somehow managing to stay light years behind – and get away with it.

Which makes me think that it’s maybe time for me to go indie. I believe in my patterns: Liffey has scored 138 projects on Ravelry alone and, as I have discovered, it has been translated into Russian, so you can double, if not triple, the count (the funny part about this unauthorized translation is that I’m myself a Russian speaker, so they could just have asked if had a Russian version of the pattern instead of going the hard way). Anyway, what I’m saying is that my patterns aren’t that bad. In fact, I think they’re getting better all the time (you should see the one I’m working on right now!) and I’m doing my best to make them both knitable and knit-worthy. So… shall I make the leap?

Knit Talk

If you read my blog for the knitting part, you will probably remember that a few weeks ago I promised you a new pattern… No, I didn’t forget! But I did overestimate the degree of its readiness. When you write a knitting pattern, you don’t just sit down and write the instructions (if you have taken notes while knitting, in the first place: otherwise you might have to “deconstruct” the whole project row by row, counting stitches and trying to figure out how on Earth you did it), you have to provide charts and pictures as well. You should style the garment for the pictures and find a model, or, if you’re your own model, you’ll have to find a photographer. Or, if you’re your own model and photographer, you’ll have to figure out how to be both at the same time… I’ve been lucky: I only had to do the model part, while my husband took the pictures. Even more luck: I liked them at once. Actually, I liked them so much that a thought crossed my mind: “And what if…? After all, the pattern is not bad, so why not… I could at least try…” So, I gathered my courage and sent the pattern to a big on-line knitting magazine! You know, THE big on-line knitting magazine… And now I’m trying not to think about it, not to think about it, not to think… Their web-site says it might take two months before they contact you, so you’ll have to wait with me. If it can console you, the pattern – if it’s selected to be published – will be free. And if it’s not selected, I’ll publish it myself – and it’ll be free. Worth waiting, huh?

In the meantime, let me tell you how I write knitting patterns. First of all, I sit down and empty my mind to make place for new ideas. Then I position myself near a source of running water and, humming a random sequence of high and low notes, concentrate all my creative energy on a single point until it starts to shimmer and spin, and then – BANG! – the image of a new garment appears in front of my inner eye…

All right, all right, I’m kidding you! It doesn’t happen like this at all. Most often it’s the yarn that suggests the stitch pattern, so I often begin by pulling out my stash bag and looking through my treasures. Sometimes it’s the other way round: I know exactly what stitch I want to use and dive into my stash to see if I have a matching yarn. Then I swatch. I admit that I don’t always swatch but I force myself to: if the pattern features several sizes or if you want to knit a specific size for a specific person, avoiding this step can entail some very unpleasant consequences… By this time I usually know what I’m going to knit, at least, what kind of garment. Somewhere along the way sketches appear: I might sketch at the very beginning but the design will develop virtually until the last stitch – this is why it never works for me to write the instructions first and then knit the garment. Rather, I’d spend an excruciating amount of time writing down EVERYTHING I DO, AS I DO IT, row after row. Of course, I won’t spell out every pattern repeat, but I still need to count them and note any modifications, like increases and decreases, buttonholes, etc. Knitting and writing simultaneously takes more time than knitting first and writing post-factum, but I wouldn’t trust my memory to keep all the details, especially when I work on a pattern over a long period of time (that is, always). Once the knitting/writing is finished, it’s time to weave in the yarn ends (hate, hate, hate!), wash and block the garment, make myself a cup (two cups) of strong coffee and start (three cups) the dull but crucial job of deciphering my knitting notes (often (always) a complete mess) (five cups) and composing charts (ten cups and counting). After this unhealthy amount of coffee (spiced up by a healthy amount of cursing) the pattern finally takes shape. Now it’s time for taking pictures, which is, probably, the most pleasant part of the job that includes dressing up, putting on make-up and maybe going to nice places that will serve as a background. But if you ask me what I like most about design, what makes me keep doing it in spite of the less “fun” components of the process… Well, it’s the moment when you realize that you’ve made something really cool, something better than your humble initial idea, and can’t help wondering how you ever could do it, the holy-sheep-was-it-really-me-who-made-it? moment. It’s a drug, ladies. And thanks to it, we won’t be all wearing identical jumpsuits any soon, because there’ll always be new knitting patterns out there. Isn’t it just freaking awesome?

Copyright: Iryna Klionava. Quote: Saul Bass (slightly modified, what he originally said is: http://quotesondesign.com/saul-bass-2/

Copyright: Iryna Klionava. Quote: Saul Bass (slightly modified, what he originally said is: http://quotesondesign.com/saul-bass-2/

Why I knit

When I tell strangers about my “little hobby”, eyebrows often fly up… Here is an illustrated answer to all who wonder why people knit their clothes instead of buying them.

First let’s take a look at a selection of items from the Spring-Summer 2015 collection by a big fashion retailer…

Strange Clothes Collage

Copyright: won’t tell to avoid compromising a long-loved retailer… To give them justice, not all of their items are like this.

And now – a couple of samples of handmade knitwear:

Beautiful Knits Collage

Copyrights, left to right: © Interweave Knits, © SoHo Publishing, © Kate Davies Designs

Any other questions?

PS: The patterns shown above are One Way Tee by Debbie O’Neill, Short Sleeve Pullover by Rosemary Drysdale and Epistrophy by Kate Davies.

PPS: One of these days I’ll learn to sew too. Just because…

strange pants