There's a guest blog post from Carol Feller today, and you'll find me over on her blog too :)

A few weeks ago I was talking with Woolly about doing a blog swap and we played around with a few ideas that would make good topics for discussion. We settled on refinement and simplicity, which can often be elusive goals!

When I started designing I was so happy initially to convert a vision in my head into a knitted object with written directions that I didn't see beyond that. In fact for quite a while, as I was learning the art of pattern writing I didn't move beyond that as my goal. As I became more comfortable pattern writing I started thinking in more depth about how people read and follow knitted patterns. When you start out you write patterns that you can follow yourself.

 Probys Armwarmers from  Knitting With Rainbows

Probys Armwarmers from Knitting With Rainbows

To start with if you’re a visual learner then you'll probably have lots of charts and perhaps links to videos. The more patterns you write the more you begin to realise what a wide variety of learning styles there are. This is the fun and challenge of pattern writing. How do I put enough information in so that as many knitters as possible can follow without reaching overload? But if you start with just charts you quickly realised that some knitters really dislike charts so written directions became standard to add.

When I'm designing seamless knits there are usually several different sets of increase types for the shoulders. I started in my patterns by just listing the stitch count after every section was complete. However I realised for a newer knitter who wanted to figure out where they made a mistake putting the stitch counts into a chart for each section (front/back, sleeve) means that they can easily see where their stitch count is off before they've gone too far. Every one of the pattern refinements has come from knitters; in person with classes, chatting during KALs or just feedback left online. As a pattern writer you're continually growing and changing which means that you can refine patterns even more as you progress. My goal had changed from just writing an accurate pattern to writing a pattern that gives as many different types of knitters as possible a chance to complete a finished knit.

 details of the  Ravi cardigan  design

details of the Ravi cardigan design

Just like with pattern writing, my actual patterns have also become more streamlined as I learn more. The first time I really consciously pared back a design was with Ravi. I started with visions of lace hem and cuffs as well as the yoke. The cardigan began with the upper yoke worked from side to side. This used short rows in garter stitch at the top with lace at the bottom. When it was finished I put it on the dress form for a day and just looked at it. If felt perfect just the way it was, just enough detail but not too fussy. So I thought about it for a little while and decided to keep the design simple with everything else in garter stitch finishing with a short row hem curve. I was happier with this cardigan than any of the more complex work that had come before and it really got me thinking. When designing after the initial stages I've started getting myself to pull back to the 'essence' of a design. It's not about everything that 'can' go into it but has instead become about how much can be taken out so that I’m left with the most important features.

 Stave Hat from  Knitting With Rainbows

Stave Hat from Knitting With Rainbows

I experienced this again on a bigger scale with the book Knitting With Rainbows. I wanted the beauty of gradient yarn to shine out from the book and take centre stage. This meant that the patterns in the book worked towards this one simple guideline so the yarn was the focus. The only way to do this was to keep the patterns simple enough that each one conveyed a specific idea or way of working with gradient yarn. Then when they're all viewed together it makes a cohesive whole.

 Sundays Well Hat from  Knitting With Rainbows

Sundays Well Hat from Knitting With Rainbows

I hope to still be designing many years from now but I think that for that to happen I need to continue to evolve in how I write my patterns and plan my designs. It's not really possible to stand still you have to keep learning and evolving.

Thank you Carol for sharing this idea - I've enjoyed swapping blog posts for the day!

AuthorWoolly Wormhead

Understandably, my head's been a little distracted these past few days, and jumping from one thought to another, I found myself digging out my lace bobbins yesterday, and going through old photos.

 me, circa 1997/8? making torchon lace

me, circa 1997/8? making torchon lace

On occasion I've mentioned that I've made lace, and it's always been my intention to sit down and talk about it, or more specifically, talk about the bobbins.

 hand-painted commemorative bobbins from my collection

hand-painted commemorative bobbins from my collection

Getting them all out and looking through them yesterday was wonderful. I've counted them all, and I've 152 spangled (i.e. with their beads and ready to use) and a further 22 ish waiting for spangling. That might sound like a lot, but if you want to make any lace with any detail then it really isn't many at all.

Lace bobbins are rather special objects in and of themselves. Mine are all hand-made, and the art of wood turning real comes into itself with these fine, detailed tools. I have so many usual pieces (of course!) but I don't think I got them out yesterday to look at those, I got them out to look at the commemorative bobbins.

Commemorative bobbins are a big part of the bobbin collection. There's way too much history to them and I'll recommend the book 'The Romance of the Lace Pillow' by Thomas Wright for anyone wanting to look further into it. Bobbins would be hand carved or hand painted, or their spangles would have special beads to denote anniversaries or other occasions. They're not only beautiful pieces of craftsmanship, they're also personal tokens, imbeud with memories.

In my collection I've a number of bobbins I'd had hand-painted by Sallie Reason, an artist who sadly passed away a few years ago. I briefly met her once, at a Lace Makers fair at the NEC, but we communicated by letter a lot, as she painted my many requests. Her work was beautiful, and the detail at such fine scale was amazing. I've never known who to get in touch with since she passed away, and I've a mental list of all the memories I'd like painted should I ever find another artist.

 my most precious hand-painted bobbins

my most precious hand-painted bobbins

The gloss finish made these very hard to photograph, but I hope you can see some of the details!

 "thank you for being there", "forever in my thoughts"

"thank you for being there", "forever in my thoughts"

These were the bobbins I wanted to touch when I went looking through them all.

I had these two bobbins commissioned when I lost my cat Twiggy in 2001. She wasn't my first cat, but she was the cat that I've shared more of my life with than any other. She saw me through some of the very worst periods of my life, too.

 Twiggy, 1995 ish

Twiggy, 1995 ish

After going through all my bobbins, I went through all my old photographs. Like any black cat, Twiggy was notoriously hard to photograph.

She came from a rescue centre in Hadleigh, Southend. As every other cat came to the front of their pen to meow for attention, she sat at the back of hers, watching. I didn't see her at first, my then boyfriend did, but I didn't need any persuading that I'd found my cat as soon as I saw her.

She was docile in nature, lap and cuddle friendly, and she went pretty much everywhere with me. She lived with me in at least 5 different homes, and was always by my side as I lived through studying, travelling, and survived emotional abuse, domestic violence and an attempted rape. She saw me go from leaving home to becoming a teacher. And just as I was coming out the other side of it all, I lost her to lymphatic cancer.

I'd never felt so alone. But I knew she must have been ill for some time without my knowing, and had stayed with me as long as she could, until I was better able to cope on my own.

 my favourite photo of Twiggy

my favourite photo of Twiggy

I cried myself to sleep the other night, thinking about her. I wanted to feel the warmth of fond memories but found myself heartbroken as my memories were not as clear as I'd hoped. This is what having a nervous breakdown or two does for you. My memory has never been all that great since the first major breakdown and the sadness at having lost the good memories as well as the bad is almost too much. So I went looking for the memories, and this is where I am now. They're not all with me yet, and I don't know how much I will be able to recover, but it'll be worth all the tears.

We're planning on decorating the stairwell wall in the bus with photos, printed and wall-papered on, and this special lady will be up there with all our other memories. And this couldn't make me happier. After spending time yesterday going through all of these photos, I woke feeling a little lighter today. The relief of not having lost her for good.

This hasn't been the easiest of blog posts to write, and I'm sorry if I've made you cry. Crying is a release, it's good. And as much as I try not to look back in life, sometimes we have to, to remember the good parts amongst the bad.

AuthorWoolly Wormhead
6 CommentsPost a comment

I introduced Howler here on the blog when we adopted him as a stray, and it only seems fitting to say goodbye to him here too.

Howler passed away last night.

 a very recent photo of Howler

a very recent photo of Howler


After a pretty nasty bite a few months ago, we learnt that Howler was both FeLV+ and FIV+, and this combination is always terminal. How long he had we didn't know, but given the environment on the Yard we decided it wasn't the best place for a cat with his needs, and aimed to re-home him once he'd recovered from the infection.

Except he didn't recover from the infection.

He's been on constant antibitiotics for the last 10 weeks or so. Each jab lasted 15 days and towards the end of the dose, he'd start to get scraggy looking again and abscesses would form for no reason, and the next antibiotic jab would clear things up. The vet suggested that the infection from the original bite had spread, and given his lack of immune system, his body couldn't fight it itself. The antibiotics were keeping him alive.

Not that long ago, just before xmas maybe, we really thought we were going to lose him. He was losing weight rapidly, was in terrible condition and so lethargic, yet he picked up with the next dose of antibiotics and we were hopeful that he'd recover enough to get a home he deserved, with no other cats around.

But it seems it was all too much, and he died very quickly after what appeared to be a seizure and one last howl. We're all a bit lost and tearful today; even the Princess seems affected.

He was the friendliest, kindest, most docile thing, and the stupidest too. Where the Princess would chase dogs away, he would try and make friends with them. He just wanted company and to be loved, and we made sure to give him that. He had a spot next to the woodstove and plenty of food nearby, and there was always space on a lap when he wanted it.

I was going to say that I don't cope with these things well, but that's the wrong thing to say. It's what I've learnt to say. But emotions aren't wrong.

There's something about my relationship with cats that tears me up inside, that cuts me so much deeper when I lose a feline friend than any other pain I've endured. My deepest darkest demon that does me the most harm is the one that comes to tell me I could have done more for them, that I didn't do enough. It torments me constantly but especially likes to be present at times like this, when I want to say goodbye with fond memories. Even after years of therapy, years of visits with psychologists and psychiatrists, I still cant actually put into words the fear and guilt that haunts me.

I've been criticised for my grief over the loss of a cat many times before; that it isn't normal, that I should move on; that it's only a cat after all. I learnt that my emotions were abnormal, and it took many years to understand that those were insensitive, almost cruel words muttered by others for reasons I'll never know, and they only served to bury the pain deeper. There's nothing wrong whatsoever about being sensitive. I'm mindful of this with Aran, and will allow him all the time he needs to come to terms with this loss, and will share in his tears and memories. Aran shares my ultra sensitivity, as does Tom, and together we're letting Aran know that grief is normal and is different for everyone, and that it doesn't need guilt as a companion.

 Howler and the Princess

Howler and the Princess


Howler was a content cat. We did everything we could to make him comfortable and keep him well, and he knew he was in a good place. Every cat that ever comes into our care gets the same treatment, and they always will. Howler was special because he shared that love around. His legacy is that he taught a cat-chasing dog that cats rule, and that they can be a dog's friend.

 Howler with Kai

Howler with Kai


I'm very raw today, and we need to bury our friend. I'll be switching off some corners of the internet for a short while.

Goodbye gentle soul. I'm grateful for the chance to get to know you, and to have given you that little bit longer. Much love x

AuthorWoolly Wormhead
25 CommentsPost a comment

As of a few hours ago, the Circled collection is now on pre-sale!

And the first pattern, Circled #1, is also now published.

All four Hats in the collection use 4ply/sock/fingering weight yarns, and they all use the same gauge. Sizing within the patterns is determined by gauge; they're quite complex in themselves, and grading with numbers made the patterns even more complicated. I included two example sizes for you, and you can adjust your gauge to achieve sizes outside of the range given.

So then, what's the Circled collection all about?

Circles! But not just circles. It's a double whammy of concept and technique.

It started with my exploration into methods of showing concentric circles within knitting. I've worked with this idea a few times within a few patterns, but I wanted something more prominent, and less obvious. In vertical knitting isn't not too difficult to add in circular features, as you are knitting in the round and the crown of a Hat is essentially (most of the time, at least) a circle.

But turn things sideways and things get pretty difficult, because of how you finish a sideways Hat. I could've taken a slightly easier route of a 3-needle bind-off or something, but you know that that seam would bug me for eternity! So I set about working on a grafting method that would allow slipped stitches to continuously flow around the surface of the Hat without interruption. I went with slipped stitches as they provide such brilliant definition against garter stitch, and garter stitch is rather kind with the maths and also short rows, and that seemed the best ground fabric to work with.

There is a *lot* of support for these patterns, to help you graft the slipped stitches. I've never seen any method before do this before and it's pretty exciting to be letting this method out into the wild!

To start with, the support tutorials are only available with the single patterns and/or eBook, until after the eBook is fully published. I want to share the methods, but I also want to give the folks buying into this early a little something that isn't available anywhere else.

The patterns are reasonably priced - £3.75/$6 per single pattern, or £7.50/$12 for the eBook. That includes all of the tutorials, all of the extra bits, and all the support via the Ravelry forum (we're already gearing up for the first KAL!). Zabet of Anti-Craft fame is working on the layout and we've got some great ideas brewing, and the collection will be available in print too, for wholesale. The single patterns will be available via Ravelry In-Store sales but will likely not be going into print wholesale, given the level of support the grafting method needs (i.e it doesn't neatly fit onto 4 pages & the cost to print is more than my wholesale rate)

So what of the four Hats and their concept?

 the four Circled Hats, not necessarily in publication order!

the four Circled Hats, not necessarily in publication order!

Circled #1:
This Hat features offset arcs. An arc is a section of the circumference, and in this case, the arcs are two-thirds of the circumference. Each arc is offset by one-third of the circumference, and each arc is at equal spacing from each other, all the way from the centre of the crown. What these arcs create is a maze like pattern throughout the Hats, and it's quite compelling to follow the lines and see where they lead you.

Circled #2:
This Hat features concentric rings in a fibonacci sequence. Starting at the crown, the rings form a 5, 3, 2, 1 sequence ending at the brim. This is possibly the one Hat where the circles, and their grafting, are most prominent. It's also the easiest to knit, as there are no breaks in the lines!

Circled #3:
Here we see negative semi circles. Where one half of the Hat sees line, the other sees space, and on it goes, alternating all the way from the centre of the crown to the brim. It's not quite a Hat of two halves, but I think you get the idea.

Circled #4:
The last piece, and worth the wait. It's a top down corkscrew spiral and it's so very satisfying! I'll kid you not, it's a challenge. Each panel is ever so slightly different from the one before or the one after, so it takes a bit of concentrating. There are also some manoeuvres that may cause you to pause, as you may not see something like this anywhere else. It also makes for a bit of a monster, pattern writing/chart wise, and so the single pattern will only features the written instructions (we're working on space/layout to make sure the 12 charts are included, too)

Each of the Hats features on of your favourite indie yarnies, too. Let me introduce them:

Circled #1: Skeinny Dipping Mericash Sock
Circled #2: Malabrigo Sock
Circled #3: Countess Ablaze Lady Persephone Sock
Circled #4: Townhouse Yarns Clarendon Sock

So how does the pre-sale work?

Once a week, starting today, the next single pattern in the collection will be released. Once all 4 patterns are live, the final eBook will follow.

I've set up a bundle promotion, so that if you by the eBook, either here or on Ravelry, you'll also get the single patterns too. If you buy one of the singles, the system will automatically give you a discount towards buying the eBook at a later date should you so wish (it's based on value, so if you got a single pattern at a sale price, what you paid is the value of the discount). You are advised to stick to the same store (so if you buy once on Ravelry, buy again on Ravelry) to make the most of this feature, but it means that for the price of 2 single patterns, you can have the whole eBook in all it's glory. No excuse really, eh?

I really hope they make you as happy as they do me :)

AuthorTom Paterson
3 CommentsPost a comment

I've been plagued recently by panic attacks again. I even dreamt about having a panic attack last night (caused by my inability to communicate with words in the dream setting) and it wasn't the best way to wake up.

So I'm taking stock, and quietly knitting on swatches that please rather than challenge today.

Trying to get to the bottom of why the panic attacks have been triggered again can be helpful.

I've committed to give a talk next month, and it's taken me a little further out of my comfort zone than I'd normally dare tread. But I used to represent my school in public speaking competitions as a child/teen. I've been the teacher and lecturer that stands in front of groups of people (admittedly, normally <18) and talk as a specialist on my subject. I don't think it's this commitment that's causing the attacks, but I guess it might be a trigger.

What I'm fairly certain of is that it's life events that are causing the panic attacks.

We've lived through years of uncertainty with Aran's health, my health, and the stupidly lengthy legal battle to save our small artistic community. Regular readers know all this, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded. And thanks to Brexit, we have more years of it to face.

We hit the road because we wanted a different life for ourselves, a hopefully better life for Aran; one where we felt we might belong rather than be the outsiders. We've worked hard for this. I work bloody hard to keep us in the black. I don't get any financial support from a partner or family or elsewhere to help me house, clothe and feed our family of 3. And quite honestly I could do with a break from all of it, but I'm not going to get one; that's not a luxury I can be afforded.

It doesn't help that I haven't found it within myself to forgive people for voting to put us in this situation. I'm sure that's not what people were thinking when they voted; I very much doubt anyone thought about us at all. But here we are, facing an unknown future as bartering chips in a stupid political game, and this is what it's doing to me.

I won't apologise for how I feel. Given our uncertain future, my current poor physical health and mental health, being a mixed bag of very strong feelings is perfectly bloody normal. But rather than sit here and "wait and see" as "the worst might not happen" I need to be pro-active in carving out the path we end up follow. We're not sure yet what that means, but we'll work it out.

When I sat down to type this I didn't intend for it to be political. But I'm sat here asking myself, why not? The sheer act of making, of following your own path, are political statements in and of themselves. I've had enough of folk telling me, us, crafters and knitters, to cut the political stuff, to play a neutral game. My answer to that is no: I won't be silenced or compromised any longer.

And now back to my knitting, and planning. I'm starting to feel better already, having exercised my freedom to speak my mind.

AuthorTom Paterson
12 CommentsPost a comment