Sunday, January 16, 2011


Even though this is prime knitting season, where nothing feels as good as wool on one's lap, I have not been knitting (or for that matter, quilting) much for the past few weeks. I have been writing. This isn't in a sudden change in career. For a long time, I've been writing my Really Clear patterns--actually, ever since the store opened. But I decided that 2011 was the year to get serious about them.

Now, anyone who has ever taken a class with me knows that I never leave a pattern alone. Unfortunately for me, that includes my own patterns. So as I reformat the patterns, I am also revising them. I am fortunate to have a fantastic editor, Tina Hay, working with me. (She thinks that editing these patterns is "fun," and I would appreciate it if you did not tell her otherwise. I plan to set her to work hemming pants soon, and I'm sure she'll think it's a ball.)

In the fall, I connected with a wonderful photographer, Tamar London, and I had my first photo shoot in December. 


For the past week, I have been revising my top-down mitten pattern. (Tina, another draft is coming your way soon.) Today I ran across photos that I took a long time ago for the cover of the pattern. I thought you would enjoy seeing the before-and-after shots.

Here is the first one I ever took, about 7 years ago:

"Mitten on Notebook Paper."
I knew it wasn't very good. I thought that maybe if I did a little photo editing, I could improve it. What do you think?

"Black and White Mitten on Notebook Paper surrounded by white haze in Pebbled Frame."

Since I knew that the photo wasn't working, I thought that maybe drawing it instead would improve the situation.  
Maybe not so much.

Over the years, I did become a better photographer. Last year, I took this photo of a top-down mitten. It is actually not horrendous. But it still wasn't what I wanted.

"Purple Mitten Floating in Space"

I told Tamar that I wanted photos that looked alive, as if people were wearing and using the knitted items.  I didn't want what I call "sweaters on a stick." 

She came through.

I am thrilled with Tamar's photos.  I'll be showing them to you over time, as I write up the patterns.  

You can also follow what I am doing on Facebook, by becoming a fan of Really Clear Instructions.

But in the meantime, I must get back to work.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Blue Sweater

When I first met Kevin about 12 or 13 years ago, we went to a knitting store near his parents' house.  There was a lot of yarn there.  I told him to pick out yarn that I would use to make him a sweater. He picked out his favorite color of blue, and I set to work.

I was going to make the best sweater known to the planet. It was going to have cables and embellishments, and he would wear it proudly.  I started designing and swatching to make it perfect. 

And then I started my dissertation. The sweater got put on hold.

I graduated.  I picked up the sweater and started working on it. Then Kim and I started our shop. I kept trying to make the sweater, but frankly I didn't have time for the most beautiful and elaborate sweater ever made. I didn't know what to do about this because I wanted the sweater to be glorious! The sweater got put on hold.

Finally, about 2 or 3 years ago (who can keep track of these things?), I got tired of looking at the swatches.  I knew that if I didn't start the sweater, and just make it plain, it would never happen. Besides, I figured something out while I was working at the store: Men do not like fancy, elaborate sweaters anyway. They want boring sweaters. They are guys.
And so I began the sweater in earnest. 

I made it plain stockinette.  The fabric seemed to look best on size 4 needles. So it took a while. The sweater went with me to every show I attended, every movie, and lots of knitting and quilting classes. Many of you got interested in the sweater.

After a few years of dragging around the sweater, I decided that it needed to be finished in 2010. Sometimes it's good to have a goal. Some of you, at my request, even nagged me to finish it (here's lookin' at you, Nancy). I worked to get it done for Kevin's birthday this past December. It was not an easy task.  Two days before the birthday, I was doing the final embroidery on the hem of the sweater.  Elizabeth Zimmermann suggested that the knitter should put her initials and the finished date in the hem of sweaters.  I liked this idea, and kept saying that "2010" was a great year to embroider.

I had looked forward to making that 2010 for years now, but if I wanted to have it done in time for Kevin's birthday, I had no more time; the sweater needed a few days to dry after blocking.

I was sitting there, dejected, when Kim said to me, "Why don't you put ears on it?" 

"What do you mean, ears?" I said.

"You know," she said, "above the initials, like Mickey Mouse ears." 

Kim had unwittingly reminded me about something that I had been planning to do, but had forgotten:  Kevin and I like Disney, and I had wanted a Hidden Mickey in Kevin's sweater.  There was still time in the day to do that rather than 2010. So I got busy, and made a little Hidden Mickey after my initials:

That seemed to suffice. I blocked the sweater, and, with the help of a fan that Kim brought into the shop, it was dry by Kevin's birthday.

To celebrate his birthday, we went to Rey Azteca that night with friends.  I had the wrapped sweater hidden in my bag.  After Kevin opened all his other gifts, like his sheets of duct tape....

and his Mad Scientist book...

I got out the sweater package.  He said he didn't know what it was till he held the package and it smooshed.  Then he wildly ripped into it:

At least that's how I like to tell the story.  We may have had low-light conditions in the restaurant that created camera blur.

Rey Azteca was a little too messy and crowded for trying on sweaters, so that part waited.  But he's been wearing it on cold days.

I was relieved that it fit and looked good. 

Now I do admit that the neckline is a bit wide, but Kevin won't let me fix it.  He claims that it makes getting the sweater over his head easier.  I'm not sure if this is entirely true. I suspect that after over 10 years of watching me work on it, he can't bear to let me continue.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Helmet Liners

The helmet liners are on their way to Afghanistan. Thanks, everyone, for all your help.