“Beginner’s Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns”

NewEd_coverI’m very happy to announce the (re-)launch of my guide to writing knitting patterns.

Driven by my work as a technical editor, I self-published this book in 2014, under the title “Pattern Writing for Knit Designers” expecting to sell a handful of copies to professional knit designers. I was very pleasantly surprised by the demand from designers of all levels, and the feedback on the book was wonderful. I have chosen to work with Interweave Press to distribute the book further beyond the limits of what my local post office can help with…

The book gathers my ten years’ of experience as a technical editor into a guide for designers to help them write instructions that any knitter can follow.

Official shipping date is April 11th, and it’s available in both physical and digital forms from all the usual online sources. We encourage you to support your local yarn shop!


This book is the culmination of my work as a a technical editor and my previous career as a product communications specialist in the technology industry.

The book is a guide to writing knitting patterns: how to translate your great knitting project into a set of instructions that any other knitter can follow.
I provide concrete guidelines, with lots of examples, on topics including:

  • what information needs to be included in a knitting pattern
  • how to properly and clearly communicate sizing and measurement information
  • what schematics are, why you need them, and how to create them
  • how to use charts and written instructions to express special pattern stitches like cables and lace
  • stitch nomenclature (especially related to cables), abbreviations, and glossaries -how to handle multiple sizes and versions
  • use of brackets and * to indicate repeats
  • how to establish a personal style sheet And much, much more. So much more!

I discuss technical editing and test knitting – explain what they are how, why they’re important, and when they need to be done. I give tips for designers who wish to self-publish, and for those preparing submissions to a publication. And although it’s not a guide to layout or photography or grading or design, I give lots of guidance and references to help you.

And I’ve heard from knitters that it’s helped them understand how patterns are written and created, even if they’re not planning to write a pattern themselves. If you’re interested in being a designer, a test knitter, or a technical editor, this book is for you.

And people have said some very nice things about it…

Kay Gardiner of Mason Dixon Knitting reviewed the new version and declared it a “godsend”.

This book is AWESOME. Even if you’re an experienced pattern writer with a successful career, this book will help you catch up with the current trends in writing patterns for today’s younger knitters. – Donna Druchunas

Kate Atherley’s marvelous book is essential reading for any designer looking to create patterns that work well and sell well; and intriguing reading for any curious knitter who has ever wondered what goes into the creation of pattern. – Franklin Habit

If you are considering pattern writing, or want to become a knitter who understands how to read patterns more deeply, this book is for you. I certainly wish I had it when I was starting out! – Laura Nelkin


We have two copies to give away. The usual rules apply: leave a comment below, by midnight EDT Sunday April 10th. If you’ve won something from us in the last year, we ask that you give someone else a chance. Winners will be chosen randomly, and a skill-testing question will apply.

WWW: History Podcasts, Lost Glove, On Not Rinsing

Image from the Sweet Home blog.

An excellent, informative article about handwashing clothes, and an explanation of how those no-rinse wool-washes actually work. The author has a PhD in chemistry, and knows what she’s talking about.


The ‘Missed in History’ podcast archives are a treasure trove of listening delights… I’ve particularly enjoyed the episodes ‘Knitting’s Early History‘ and a two-part episode on the Irish Potato famine (one, two), which discusses knitting’s role in social and economic life.


June 24 & 25th are the dates for this year’s Woolfest British Wool Festival, held in Cumbria. This event, in its 11th year, is a major highlight of the fibre calendar in the U.K. There are animals and vendors and classes and demonstrations — all sorts of fabulous fibrey goodness.


Squeeze away your stress?

Apparently April is ‘Stress Awareness Month’ – not coincidentally because it’s the month in which US and Canadian income tax paperwork is due. Lion Brand and the Craft Yarn Council of America have released knit and crochet patterns for little lemons you can make as stress-balls. They are collecting these items to hand out to stressed New Yorkers on April 18th, the day that taxes are due. Whether you’re stressed about taxes or not, this looks like a fun little project to make a toy or a decorative item!


Friend-of-the-show Kate O’Sullivan has recently relaunched her lovely podcast, ‘A Playful Day. Kate’s a maker of all kinds: a knitter, a baker, and an excellent photographer. In her first episode, she talks about her recently completed project, ‘A Maker’s Year’, and how it’s inspired her work and her personal approach to life. The podcast presents interviews, project ideas, recipes and challenges: in her words, “Think of it as a weekly call to be creative.”


Are you near Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada? Help a knitter find a lost cashmere glove!

Why I Love Teaching

I’m just back from teaching at the Interweave Yarn Fest. I had a blast and couldn’t have asked for better or more enthusiastic students! My friend, fellow teacher, amazing weaver and author, Stephanie Flynn Sokolov captured a photo of me in one of my classes that pretty much sums up why I love teaching.

Happy student, happy teacher!

Happy student, happy teacher!

I get to help spinners spin yarns they want to use and spin yarns they didn’t think they could spin. This photo is from my Big Yarns class and look at that fat yarn my student just finished. Want to see why she’s smiling like that?

Before and after yarn

Before and after yarn

I know it’s blurry, but see that fine line between the green arrow and the point of the scissors? That is her default yarn, 2-ply lace weight. She was sure she couldn’t spin bigger, but poof, we got her there. Happy spinners make happy teachers!

I love my job!

 

Obsession Thursday: Healing

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Possibly the three most dreaded non-life-threatening words to a knitter (or anyone who uses their hands). Certainly not welcome news, when the diagnosis hits.

Mine hit in 1999. Surgery on my right hand happened March 10th. Backstory here.

The lovely Deborah Robson had her surgery last week. A lovely Twitter friend (@lahondaknitter) has hers next week. We’re all getting fixed around here.

I thought I would give those who are on a similar path a little timeline of how it went for me. Images are tiny until clicked, for those who don’t want to see. Nothing is bloody or raw, but there are stitches in some of the images and it is a surgical wound. You’ve been warned.

 

Still totally drugged and painfree. It doesn't last long.

Very stoned.

Day 1: Surgery is easy as pie. Only thing that hurt was having the IVs put in. Am just sedated during the procedure just enough not to care what is happening. Have no idea when they start operating, and only know they’re done when they tell me so. I heard them talking throughout, but I can’t remember much of it.

Feel euphoric until I get home and the nerve block wears off. Take 2 Tylenol 3s every 4 hours for the next 24. Sleep reasonably well with arm and hand resting on pillow at my side.

Hand is in a cast-like splint — rigid on the bottom, bandaged on the top. Completely useless, as expected.

 

I discover a ziplock bag and alligator clip make a reasonably decent waterproofing solution for showering.

I discover a ziplock bag and alligator clip make a reasonably decent showering solution.

Day 2-4: Stop taking Tylenol 3s after day 3. Do nothing for the first two days but sleep and lounge. Hand needs to stay elevated in order not to hurt, so even walking is annoying. Some use a sling to keep the hand up. I hate having a strap behind my neck. So instead I rest, watch Netflix, sleep. Repeat.

Feed myself with pre-assembled pop-in-oven dishes that I’d prepped the week before in ziplock bags or recyclable aluminum dishes. Eat off paper plates. Dictate all text messages and emails instead of typing (this is brilliant). My right elbow and forearm become reasonably helpful tools to keep me from being fully single handed.

Wiggle fingers often, as instructed. When I shower (which I avoid, as it’s exhausting), I cover the splint with a ziploc bag and keep the arm above my head. Feh.

 

Day 5: Cast-splint off! I try not to feel faint looking at my Frankenhand at first. Am healing perfectly. Making a fist feels V weird. Left hand and forearm feel strained and sore from doing all the work. Keep the incision covered with a big rectangular bandaid at all times. Change daily, as it’s awfully hard to keep a bandaid sticking to your palm. Plus it gives me something to do.

 

Frankenhand.

Frankenhand. Purple is surgical marker. Stiches are like fishing line.

Day 6-7: Tweet that left (untouched wrist) hurts more than surgically altered wrist. Fascinating. Return to the keyboard. Hand often sore, occasional electric shocks, especially when putting right arm into sleeve too quickly. Very easy to overdo it.

Wiggle fingers more now, since the cast is off and I have more range of motion.

 

Day 8: Finally able to hook my own bra on the normal way. This is a huge achievement (haha).

Still can’t depress an atomizer, but can (slowly) pull lighter doors open including fridge. Have been driving, steering with my left hand, and shifting from park (etc) with it as well. Clicking my seat belt in to the holder hurts.

 

Day 9-12: Type/mouse too much some days and feel it.

 

Stitches out.

Stitches out.

Day 13: Stitches come out. Tech uses some sort of v pointy poky thing (scalpel? I didn’t look) to help remove them which I am sure will cut me. Of course it doesn’t. Feel woozy, but it settles. Making a fist easy now. Doc says no pushing, pulling, lifting heavy anything for 6 more weeks. No direct pressure on incision. Yes, doctor. My ART therapist works on my left arm and hand, and right forearm. It helps.

I occasionally wake up with my bad hand under my face, numb and hurting from the pressure. Have an idea that might help me stop this till it heals. (Who knew I slept like this?)

 

Day 14: I notice the very topmost layer of skin is pulling away from the incision in the middle. It turns out to be nothing… the underlayers are all healing. Still driving left-handed, but can shift into drive (etc) with right hand. Seat belt can be problematic, but not using it is not an option so I deal. Give up on bandaids. They’re no longer sticking. Scar fully dries and doesn’t look that bad.

In terms of relief of symptoms, am finally free of post-surgical pain enough that I can start to evaluate. Ring finger continues to be numb on R side of finger as it was before surgery. Other fingers not numb. Thumb pain hard to evaluate, since it’s directly attached to one edge (or feels like it) of the ligament that is still healing. Overall, surgical pain or discomfort is worse than any CTS symptoms I’m feeling.

 

Good use for a single sock.

Good use for a single sock.

Day 15: I start applying Scar Fix cream, which feels pretty much like any moisturizer would. But it gives me something to do. Gently rub in circles without pressing on incision. (I get dermatitis from some of the ingredients in Bio-Oil, so I can’t use that.)

I take an old thin cotton sock and cut it into a handwarmer to wear when out. It helps protect the scar from superficial crap, and makes me feel better.

Still can’t depress an atomizer or do much of anything requiring grip, but can press fingers on keyboard, apply makeup, etc. Treated myself to an electric toothbrush, which is very helpful under the circumstances.

 

image

Healing nicely.

Day 2o: Can depress atomizer and squeeze spray bottle, but just a little. Thumb is the most problematic and uncomfortable, still. Wrist occasionally sore. Second and third fingers still lightly numb from internal swelling. Hand (in area that was operated on) is achy. Am not, thankfully, waking up with hand under face any more. Somehow my brain figured that out on its own. I still sleep with a pillow under my whole right arm including hand. I find it comforting.

Incision healing nicely. I apply scar reduction cream at least 2x daily. Not sure it’s doing anything but it feels nicer to keep it moisturized.


So healing is ongoing. I’m not to do any heavy lifting, pushing or pulling for 8 weeks from the surgery. I’m still having to baby it in other ways, and am not frustrated, just hopeful.

Trying the other therapies I did and waiting 16 years from diagnosis to surgery is, I believe, contributing to a slightly delayed healing process. Not the therapies, but just letting it go on so long. In 1999, I’d heard that I’d be out of commission for a full month if I’d had the surgery then (this happened to my ex’s aunt). And so I was spooked for a long time.

Time has passed, procedures have improved and this recovery is nothing like I imagined it would be back then. Live and learn. I’m glad I had it done, and I plan to have the other hand done later this year.

 

 

WWW: Continuing Traditions – Lambs and Buttons and Jabots

Knitting a Soul: A lovely essay, excerpted from the book ‘Zen and the Art of Knitting’, about creativity and learning and the satisfaction that comes from making.


Imaege and pattern (c) Donna Druchunas and Ava Coleman

Love this: Feminist Knitting patterns. In particular, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Jabot is fantastic, an homage to a very strong woman. The jabot is a traditional style of collar, fashionable in the early part of the twentieth century. They were worn to soften the look of a severe jacket or collarless blouse, and that’s exactly how Justice Ginsburg wears hers, with her US Supreme Court robes.


If you want to better know the history of women, get to know their buttons: on a new book, ‘The Button Box’, by writer and teacher Lynn Knight. From the article… the book is ‘part memoir, part conceit for a consideration of politics and culture, though both notions are grounded, metaphorically and actually, in her own personal collection of family buttons. “You couldn’t get something more mundane than a button but they can tell larger stories,” Knight says.’


On the topic of buttons, a profile of “Tender Buttons”, a legendary store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In operation since 1964, the owners have curated a remarkable retail experience, and a one-of-a-kind collection of these tiny and practical works of art. The photo slide show is absolutely wonderful.


It’s lambing season, and the Herdy Shepherd is sharing pictures of the activity on his farm. Perhaps not entirely safe for work or lunchtime viewing: some of the pictures are quite messy, depicting the details of animal births.


West Coasters: what are you doing the weekend of May 13-15? Come join Kate at Vogue Knitting Live in Pasadena, maybe? I’m teaching classes on all sorts of things, including my always popular Socks for Absolute Beginners. (Yes, really. As long as you know how to knit and purl, and have even half an hour’s experience working in the round, I can teach you how to make socks.)


For those versed in the minutiae of computer languages and linguistics, this little video is rather a hoot.

Unloved Fiber – Who Doesn’t Love a Party?

A pile of fiber ready to party!

A pile of fiber ready to party!

I got a lot of great suggestions when I asked about what to do with no longer loved stash fiber, fiber that is compacted or just not your favorite anymore. Lots suggested giving it away or selling it, over dyeing or carding. There were two great suggestion for felted fiber – using it for insulation and making dryer balls.

No one mentioned one of my favorite stash refreshers – a carding party! All you need are a couple of carders and a few friends that have unloved stash. My gang piles everything into the middle of a room, positions the carders around the outside and we take turns making batts.

This is especially great for those odds and ends of fiber that aren’t enough to make something on their own.

Eventually the pile gets separated into colors, and funky add-ins like sparkle or saari silk are kept in their own pile. It is great fun and everyone goes home with a pile of batts.

When I was in college we used to have clothes trading parties. I was thinking of doing something like that for fiber that is more swapable than cardable. Has anyone had a fiber trading party?

 

On Liquid Honey and Craving Color

It’s spring! Apparently. Where I am, it’s still grey and brown, and it’s going to be a few more weeks before we see much in the way of greenery or flowers.

Although the cold and snowy winter days get tiresome, I think this ‘season’ – after the snow but before things start growing – can feel the longest here in the Northeast of North America. It’s just so very drab. You’re still mostly wearing your dark winter clothes, mornings are darker with the shift to Daylight Savings Times, and there’s no colour outdoors, and with all that pre-summer rain, there seems to be less sunshine.

Good friend Denny always says that you shouldn’t knit with grey or brown in March. She’s absolutely right!

Certainly when considering designs for our spring issue, we’re attracted to color! And we loved Amy van de Laar’s Liquid Honey shawl design for its bright sunshiney hue, and also for the fabulous photographs.

Just so beautiful.

(Hint: Want to be a Knitty cover designer? Send us pictures of summer in the depths of winter! :-) )

Amy writes about the design — and the trees and plums she was posing with — on her blog.

This design in very accessible, even to less experienced lace knitters, and is the sort of beautiful but not-too-fussy shawl you’ll reach for every day. As you can see, it looks great with denim, worn very casually, it would cheer up that dark winter coat, and I can also see it worn with a fancy dress at a summer wedding. Follow Amy’s lead and make it in a bright color, one that brings you joy.

WWW: Real Body Models; a Visit to the Wool Scourer’s; Helpful Knitting Cats

From the University of Southampton Knitting Reference Library.

University of Southampton Knitting Reference Library: I’ve written about this amazing collection of vintage knitting books before, but it never fails to bring joy, education, and amusement. It’s worth a scroll, just to admire the beautiful cover artwork of the older knitting books. (Some of the more recent books covers are great, too, but in a totally different way – 1970s and 1980s hairstyles never fail to amuse.)


We’ve seen some of these before, but I enjoyed Mental Floss magazine’s roundup of 10 impressive yarnbombing projects.


image copyright Rachel Atkinson

I was excited to read about the launch of Rachel Atkinson’s Daughter of a Shepherd, a new yarn company out of the UK using fleeces from her father’s flock of Hebridean sheep. I particularly enjoyed the gorgeous photos on this blog post  about one of the key steps in turning fleeces into handknitting yarn: ‘At the Scourer’s‘. More on the project here.


A real person, with real proportions and measurements. Image from the Tracing Real Body Models website.

Fantastic: The ‘Tracing Real Body Models‘ project. Clothing designers often use pre-made illustrations of bodies, known as ‘croquis‘, as the basis for the design sketches. The problem is that these croquis are typically built to fashion model body standards: unrealistically tall and thin. This project aims to produce croquis based on actual people, with actual measurements, taken from photographs.


Also happy-making: #helpfulknittingcats on Instagram.

Kicked off by Ann Shayne, this is all about showing the world how much our cats enjoy participating in our craft. My old cat Nathan used to enjoy batting at the ends of my needles – it’s because of him I gave up working on straights and switched to circulars.


Wool Spinning in Donegal

When I spun today instead of watching Scandal or something on Netflix (how is season two of Daredevil?) I watched this 30 minute film from 1978 about spinning in Donegal Ireland. Have you seen it? There’s a bit about sheep, a chunk about prepping wool and spinning on a great wheel and a bit about natural dyeing, particularly with lichen.

It is fascinating and I’m surprised how much is packed into a half an hour. I will never whine about wanting the newest, shiniest spinning tools again, these women got it all done with tools their mother’s used and just the basic tools at that.

Give it a watch and tell me what was interesting to you!

WWW: Yarn documentary; on Craftivism; Kate classes in Austin, Texas

From the Knits for Life blog.

Monday of this week, March 14th, was celebrated by the numerically inclined as Pi Day. We were reminded of these fantastic ‘knit’ pies that were created for last year’s Pi Day, by the very clever Lorna and Jill of the Knits for Life blog. Even if you don’t remember what Pi is, or have the slightest interest in celebrating mathematics, you can’t help but love these!


Very handsome! The guy isn’t bad, either.

Love this: a History of the Aran Sweater, in nifty interactive timeline format, with bonus picture of actor Steve McQueen sporting a really fabulous example of the form. Joking aside, this is fascinating, and features a lot of images of really great garments. It also quietly debunks a few myths.


A tiny bit of spicy language on this page, but worth a visit: information about upcoming documentary Yarn, which premiered at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas last weekend. In the words of the filmmakers…

The traditional crafts of crochet and knitting have become one of the hottest movements in modern art. We follow a few International artists and knitters as they bring yarn to the streets and into our lives in new ways. Starting in Iceland, this quirky and thought-provoking film takes us on a colourful and global journey as we discover how yarn connects us all.

More info at the film’s website, and you can watch the trailer here.


Speaking of Austin, I’m going there at the beginning of April to teach a weekend’s worth of classes for the Austin Knit and Crochet Guild. Saturday April 9 is all about socks – a full day class on custom fitting, and heels and toes and different ways to make socks and problem solving – Sunday the 10th there are two classes: Fixing Mistakes in Lace, and Fearless Finishing. There are a few spots in the classes open to non-members. More info here… come join me?


Language and politics alert: NSFW or children or those who don’t like swearing. You may or may not agree with everything the author has to say, but I really enjoyed (and had my eyes opened) by this piece by noted Craftivist Cath Janes, about her art and her message.


Exciting news: our fearless and lovely editor is healing well after her Carpal Tunnel surgery last week. She’ll be back at the keyboard and needles in no time.

I’m getting my hand back! #carpaltunnelsurgery #bigbandaid #stitchesunderthere #healingnicely

A photo posted by Amy Singer (@amysinger) on