Amongst all the new Hat designs we've been photographing, there's been the occasional older design, too. I do like to try and reshoot old designs when I can - different model, different light, different hair or face shape, fresher skills.

 And most recently it's been the turn of Ridgeway.

I've reshot this one a few times but I've never managed to get enough good shots of both Hats. Guess a two-in-one pattern does double the odds of not getting good photos?

Anyways, we've finally cracked it and here's a collage of the (many!) shiny new photos.

 
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To celebrate, there's a 33% discount on the pattern on Ravelry (in $$) and here on my website (in ££). There's no coupon code needed, the discount will apply automatically. 

 The promotion ends midnight GMT on Friday. Enjoy!

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AuthorWoolly Wormhead

Last night I got talking about books and what I've learnt about publication, specifically indie publication, over the last (almost) 12 years. 12 years is a very long time in the digital age. And I thought I'd write some of that down while it was still fresh in my head.

 
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10 years ago I was working on my first book, Going Straight. I'd been experimenting with sideways knit Hats and well, we all know now how much I enjoy this construction method. When it clicked with me 10 years ago, that passion was even stronger and the only natural path was to put it all down in a book. 

Whereas now, one of the biggest challenges an indie designer faces is being seen amongst the crowd, being heard over the noise, back then the challenges we faced were building trust and being taken seriously.

The industry was very different back then for indie knit designers. There were relatively few of us, in the digital arena at least, and it was hard work trying to prove that what we did had the same value as a designer that worked with a yarn company or worked on print. Or even that a digital publication had value when compared to a print publication. It was novel for a designer to publish their own PDF knitting patterns in the pre-Ravelry days and we didn't have the tools or resources that designers have access to now. We carved a path forward and worked bloody hard to get our field established.

The one thing that I never doubted, never even thought about for a second, was that my first book should have a lot of patterns. Books had to be substantial to compete, to be valued. 

Going Straight is my worst selling book. It's also my most pirated, although I don't think those two things are connected. I've come to learn that unless they're all kids Hats, knitters don't really need a book of 20+ Hats. Not from an indie designer at the prices we need to charge, anyway. If it's another book of quick Hats from large publisher who can put it out at comparitively next to nothing then sure. But that's not we do.

I stopped working on large books after Bambeanies, it was a very conscious decision. The amount of work and time and money spent made it all really really exhausting and that stole the enjoyment. Not to mention that I really wasn't earning that much. 

 
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A move to 10 patterns in the the Woolly Toppers series worked well, because 10 isn't 20+ and as a designer I can get behind a theme or concept without the need to pad things out, and as a consumer it's far less overwhelming. The designs will be more refined, more thoughtful, because putting that same energy into fewer designs is of course going to make each design richer.

And in turn, I was able to earn a better wage for my time. My budget would go further and the quality of production naturally goes up. My budgets are never big - I just don't have that much to invest, and it's usually around the £1000/£1250 mark (production costs, no print costs - that covers models, technical and copy editing, illustrators, photoshoot costs, travel, test knitters, yarn costs, and so on) -  and not having to stretch that as far really made a difference.

Lately though, that's changed. 10 designs still feels like a push - I'd get to about 7 or 8 and struggle to finish the collection. And that's not where I want to be.

 
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Circled was the first collection I put out with less than 10 designs and it's been brilliant. I can really explore a theme, get properly engrossed, and make each design count more. And the response from knitters has been positive, too - I've seen far more folk knit all the Circled Hats than I ever saw knit all the Classic Woolly Toppers Hats or Going Straight Hats, and that's not just because there's less of them. From here, it looks like you too appreciate a smaller book, a more cohesive, indepth and at the same time, less overwhelming book. Each design has a stronger connection to the next.

When I published Circled my production costs were covered within less than 24 hours of sales, and that speaks for itself. Although you'd think 4 designs requires a lesser budget than 10 or 20, my frozen shoulder meant that I wasn't able to do the layout work or photography myself, and Circled had the highest budget of all my books. Outsourcing the graphics layout is a huge job, both in cost and trust, but I'm really glad I went that route. Zab is bloody brilliant and I know I'm very lucky to know someone so talented and also on the same page to make this change in process that much smoother.

And this is where my journey has bought me. Less is more. It's pretty simple when you think about it, really.

It's a lot more common now for indie designers to produce publications with fewer, stronger designs but I think for me it's been a harder lesson to learn, because it was ingrained that I had to prove myself to the mainstream publication field way back then. We have our own playground now where indie designers, especially those in the digital arena, can work more freely because we're now much more established within the wider industry than we were; we don't need to compete or prove a point any more.

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AuthorWoolly Wormhead
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... about short rows + colour work....

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For intarsia or fairisle  (stranded) knitting, I wouldn't normally offer a written out version alongside a chart, unless the motif or pattern was small and easily repeated. Writing out fairisle patterns in longhand just makes life harder for everyone.

 But what about when the colourwork is created entirely by short rows?

(intrigued? This is the secret knitting that I've been engrossed in for the last couple of months! I shall reveal more very soon) 

Writing out short rows with lots of turns is tricky enough, but throw in two colours with that and you can easily see how the instructions can get unwiedly and be prone to errors.

I'm approaching the charts for these designs in an unorthodox manner; traditional chart methods don't lend themselves that well to fabrics created from lots of short rows, so I'm developing these as maps - the symbols will not only indicate which colour and which stitch (hello, garter), but also which direction you're knitting in. And I've simplified it, and included stitch counts within the map, to make it even easier to follow.

On this basis, I'd like to know - would you still prefer a written set of instructions alongside the map charts?  Would/does a chart-only set of instructions put you off colourwork?

I'm trying to think of everyone's sanity here! I look forward to your thoughts and feedback :) 

(please do leave a comment here, as I don't check Twitter or Facebook frequently - ta!) 

ETA - let me clarify a few points!

These designs are knit sideways, and they are fully charted already. Sideways designs lend themselves very well to charts, and I'm not at all worried about that aspect. 

However, the fabric is made up *entirely* of short rows - it's the manipulation of fabric that creates the colourwork (the b&w photo at the top hints at this - I'm afraid the work is all still secret and I can't reveal a bigger sample or example) - and it's this large amount of short rows, combined with using two different coloured yarns that I'm concerned about with the written instructions. The instructions cover an entire panel, the chart is a full page by itself.

To the best of my knowledge, something like this has never been done before with Hats, or with something that requires shaping specifically integrated, presented as a pattern. The short rows not only create the fabric, they also shape the form. Did I mention that these designs are entirely short rows? ;)

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AuthorWoolly Wormhead
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We've recently finished this beautiful wall in our garden!

 
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One of the downsides to winning our legal battle is the increased level in tourism. It's not all bad - it's good that people can come and see how we live, see what we do - it's helps us and our lifestyle to become more acceptable within mainstream society.

But with that increased interest comes a lack of privacy. We don't have  boundaries in the traditional sense, no gates or fences, and our plots appear intermingled and organic. These factors lead people to not consider our privacy, because in many minds the lack of visible boundaries equates to everything being open and accessible.

And so we've been getting creative in ways to put that privacy back into place. One problem area for us is the path that runs from the top of the plot down to the bus door - it's a long straight line, visible from the public areas of the Yard - and people are constantly walking down it, seemingly oblivious to all the other indicators that this is a private area. 

 
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With my love of using old tyres and growing hardy succulent plants, we decided to build a tyre wall. A tyre wall would be in keeping with the plot, and wouldn't be as hard or aggressive as a more traditional wall or fence. It would let light through, and I could use the space as a vertical garden, as well as reuse and upcycle a while bunch of tyres destined for disposal.

 
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The best tyres for this job are small motorcycle or moped tyres - their inner circle is smaller, and less see-through. 

These kind of tyres take a bit of hunting, they're not as abundant as car tyres. Once found though, they'll make a much more interesting feature and useful wall than car tyres.

If you're working with tyres that are all the same size, slotting them together so that all the tyres touch and connect is pretty easy. You're more than likely however to have odd-sized tyres, and they take a bit of juggling to get right. I also think odd tyres looks better, too - they're more interesting, visually.

Structurally, those tyres all need to connect - they all have to be bolted together in as many places as possible to ensure the wall is stable - any gaps between tyres is going to cause problems.

Once you've got the layout just right, you'll want to screw them together temporarily to allow the rest of the structure to be built around them.

 
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Maintaining the circular pattern was important to us, and we didn't want to reinforce the structure with metal going right across the tyres. Instead, Tom used steel rods that could be bent around the tyres and connected, to help hold them all in place. Mig welding is required for this bit, but it's an easy project to manage.

The rods are curved so they sit around the tyres, with the structure appearing on both sides of the wall. The rods are then joined with bars to ensure a stronger skeletal structure. 

There are lots of different ways you could do this, and a frame built from scaff would also be a good choice, especially if the tyres are all similar in size. 

 
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Once this part is done and the metal skeleton is all in place, those temporary screws were then replaced with nuts and bolts and small flat pieces of aluminium within the tyres to make those connections rigid, and the tyres less likely to tear. 

From there, the next dilemma was triangulation - the wall is strong but flexible in and off itself, but it needs support vertically against the container it will be connected to. 

Again, this was managed discreetly with steel rods, and I don't think I managed to get a photo of this bit, sorry! Anyone building something like this should already know about triangulation but if they don't, Google is your friend.

In terms of metal choices - these steel rods are flexible and easy to bend, and they will also rust over time and blend in to the general environment. We're lovers of rusty metal; it ages and changes and tells a story all it's own - constantly shiny can get a bit boring ;)

And with the wall securely in place, the next task was planting! 

 
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When it comes to plants, I really wouldn't recommend anything other than succulents (including cacti). They have a very small root structure, store water in their leaves, and *love* the heat and sunshine. The tyres will get hot and most plants wouldn't handle a small, hot root space.

I grow a fair few winter hardy succulents on the plot, and they're something I've grown and collected for many, many years - I know pretty well how they behave.

For instance - quite a few of the moveable planters in our garden are old washing machine drums. Most plants suffer with the heat and dehydration in these metal containers, and die. However all of the cacti and succulents - whether they be the Opuntias, Aloes or Delospermas - thrive. The heat at their roots doesn't bother them. And the lack of root space really isn't a problem, either - the Opuntias in the washing machine drums are a good size!

For our tyre wall I wanted a mix of small bushy succulents and trailers. Most of these I had around the garden already and know their hardiness, but I did buy a couple of Delospermas at the local nursery, as their flowers are beautiful and I fancied some colour amongst that structural greenery.

 
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These plants (known as Ice Plants in their native South Africa) are slightly more tender then most of the Sedums, Echeverias or Crassulas I've planted in the wall - they tend to dislike too much frost or lack of sunshine in the winter. The positioning of the wall however should mean they get sun most of the day, even in winter, and they should be fine. The plants I bought were too big for the tyre space so I split them and have spares, just in case. 

And that's pretty much it, really! I haven't yet got full photos of the wall, as the sun is over exposing everything if I step back to fill the frame, and the shade Tom put up to work under is still up. Until then, here's a section of the wall, in its freshly planted glory. 

 
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I can't wait to see how this wall grows and develops! And before Tom had finished building the wall, it was already serving it's purpose - the line of sight is broken and it's given visitors to the Yard something much more interesting to look at than our garden path. 

Don't forget that if you're on Instagram, the #tyregardenofmutonia tag is the one to check to see more about our garden. Enjoy! 

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AuthorWoolly Wormhead
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We're a week into Indie June (piloted by LoveKnitting) and I wanted to say so much before now but I've been a little engrossed in the final stages of some secret knitting!

As always there's lots I want to say but haven't been able to wrangle it all into something presentable - feel free to go through my Indie Biz tag for older posts. 

So yes, I've been engrossed in secret knitting. But my downtime from social media has produced more than that, and there's been plenty of new designs to photograph.  

 
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These are all new designs that will be coming out later in the year - a tease, I know! I'm wanting to share these photos as Tom took them all, not me, and it's been a slow but positive change to how things happen round here. 

 
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Tom's now the main photographer. My frozen right shoulder is a lot less painful than it was but I'm a long way from getting full movement back. Throw in what feels like the start of a freeze with my left shoulder and it's pretty clear that Tom's going to be primary photographer for the foreseeable future.

 
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This is such an important change to how I run things. Handing over creative control with the photography is something I never thought I'd do, once I'd started doing it myself. It's a *huge* deal.

 
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Tom's always had the skills with photography but it's having the eye for knitwear photography, and being able to continue my style with his flavour, that have taken time to refine. It wasn't easy when we first started working together - two creatives in a relationship is one thing but working together is obviously going to throw up some challenges! But we're through that now, and we work pretty well together I reckon. I'm still styling and directing, and I'm really appreciating an additional perspective on lighting and framing from someone who understands how I see things.

 
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I think as indies we have to be fluid, we have to be able to bend with the changes and take a more organic approach (or at least, that's what I aim for). There are more changes ahead for me as my shoulders continue to be difficult, but they're good changes, simplifying how I work and approach things. I've no choice right now really, so I'll be teaching and travelling less in the future, and taking on fewer commissions and collaborations. Knitting is the lesser evil with my frozen shoulder; anything on the computer is the real culprit and being able to knit then pattern write at my own pace is crucial. 

And in all honesty, I've really enjoyed my social media downtime. I've produced some designs that I'm really chuffed with (wait till you see the secret ones!) and it feels like the drive that I had when I first started is back - it all feels fresh and uncomplicated. Digital sales (of single Hat patterns and eBooks) are still the biggest chunk of my turnover - >90% - and there's no sign of that slowing down.

I'll keep you all up to date as to when these new designs will be released! You can also follow along on Instagram and sign up to my newsletter, if you haven't already. And I'll aim to scribble down some more thoughts in the near future!

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AuthorWoolly Wormhead
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