This boy of ours is 11 years old today - happy birthday Aran!

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To celebrate, I've released a free pattern- 'Aran's Slouch' - and you can find it on the Free Patterns page. Usually members of The Woolly Hat Society get an exclusive period on free patterns yet this one's a little different, and I'd like folks to consider donating to their local kidney charity.

5 years ago Aran was living with chronic kidney disease having gone into renal failure a couple of months earlier on new year’s eve. Bronchial pneumonia hit boxing day 2013, which was preceded by impetigo. A post- strep complication led to acute PSGN (poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis) which was then further complicated by HSP (Henoch-Schonlein purpura). He was off school for months (the risk of infection was too great) and it would be at least another 18mths before he went into remission.

Kidney disease can recur and stay for life (it's not something you're ever entirely clear of), with a possibility of end stage kidney disease, so he continues to have his annual checks. We are mighty chuffed that he continues to be in good health and clear of kidney disease for the last 3.5yrs. Acute PSGN and HSP mostly affect children and the year that Aran had acute PSGN 19,000 people died worldwide from the disease... we were the lucky ones.

It's only really now that I can see just how hard this hit all of us. We were also facing eviction and we somehow all had to get through it and keep buoyant for Aran's sake. We got through it. Yet only a year after going into remission and winning the eviction case Brexit went & threw us back into uncertainty again... this week we should finally see some stability again.

Go and enjoy this pattern on us, wish our boy a happy 11th birthday and keep everything crossed for a successful residency application?

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AuthorWoolly Wormhead
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2018 was a busy year, despite almost 4 months off with my two frozen shoulders. A lot of those patterns were already done and dusted before my left shoulder almost froze solid, and I’m mighty grateful to my past self for being that organised!

 
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11 self published single patterns - Filigree Slouch, Ponderosa, Pebbles (which comes in Beanie and Slouch flavours), Laccio, Rhinebeck Hat, Lifted (MKAL), Juxta, Misura, Shuttered and Wrapped (which had never been available as a single pattern before).

Filigree Beanie is missing from this collage as it had been previously published as a single, even though it was unavailable for a number of years. So I guess that’s technically 12 patterns?

 
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7 free patterns were also published! I started publishing the free patterns exclusively via The Woolly Hat Society and I reckon that’s worked really well, I’ve certainly enjoyed it. I intend to pick it up again once the season starts dying down (late February time?) They’re all available on the Free Patterns page as downloads now, so head over there to find them.

 
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And of course, the Lateralis collection.

This one is still kinda tangled for me, personally. Mostly because it’s a project that had been in the planning stages forever. I’d calculated the construction and maths a long time ago, years, but by the time I was ready to pick it up my shoulders were at their worst and I couldn’t knit. It ended up being released late which had quite the knock on effect on sales, marketing and general reception which added to the tangle.

That aside, I got to work with RiverKnits which was a great experience and I’m really happy with how the Hats turned out. I’m disappointed that they haven’t had their moment and I’m thinking about rephotographing them… this was the first time we’d really focused on a studio shoot, and we learnt an awful lot, but I miss the atmosphere of my natural light shots. The way the environment adds to the mood and story of the photos. We couldn’t manage an outdoor shoot when we took these as it was completely the wrong time of year (another consequence of late production, thank you shoulders) and I can’t help but feel that a re-shoot might give these some extra oomph? I’m probably just making more work for myself but I can’t help being me…

 
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The last pattern published in 2018 is Trittico, which is in Carol feller’s Echoes of Heather and Stone book. A fun sideways design that allowed me to indulge my love of symbolism, and a design that was also done and dusted before shoulder issues fully kicked in.

That all adds up to 25 patterns, which isn’t bad considering the year it was!

I’ve lots planned for this coming year and 2019 already feels off to a better start than 2018. I’ve more time, I can knit and work without too much pain, and ideas are a plenty.

2018 is also the year that big big changes were made backend. Moving the business to Estonia was a huge moving that I just went ahead and did, and that hindsight tells me was bigger than i expected to be. I’ve learnt a lot, and I’ve started writing a lot of it down as so many people have asked me about it. It is without a doubt one of the best things I’ve ever done. The business is now safe out of the UK and away from Brexit; the business is healthier and I have wage slips.

And I think the biz move is in part why this financial year won’t take a hit. I know from experience that whenever life gets in the way, turnover drops. For instance turnover went down 25% the year after Aran was critically ill and we faced eviction. It’s always the financial year after the life event that’s affected, and almost 4 months off with these shoulders earlier in the year would mean this season is when we’d be feeling it. An extra productive 2017 combined with the new accountancy system has helped keep us afloat. I’m not expecting to see much growth on last year but I’m not expecting to see a drop, either. Growth has been the norm for every year except the years where life has got in the way big style, so I’m happy to be keeping afloat. Who knows, the financial year or season isn’t over yet, but traditionally everything starts tailing off pretty quickly after January, so this is when I need to go for the last final push. We shall see.

So that’s my round-up for 2018! Thank you for your continued support and let’s see if 2019 can be better than 2018? Can’t be hard, right?

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AuthorWoolly Wormhead

We’re on for the pre-release of Lateralis to be available from thursday and everything feels back on track! So many things feel more under control somehow this week, so I’m making the most of it.

The pre-release will work like this:

The cover and an accompanying PDF (explaining the schedule etc) will be available immediately, as will the first single pattern. Then the single patterns will be published once a week until the final collection as the eBook will be available. Everyone who buys the pre-release will receive an update notification via email each time a new single pattern is published, and you can use the link in the email to download the latest instalment. It’s been a while since I put an eBook on pre-release but I think most folk are familiar now with how the system works.

Working this way allows me to start earning, which in turn means I can pay the team promptly. It means you can get your hands on the patterns as soon as they’re ready and start knitting them! And it gives me and the team vital extra time to add the polishing details to the eBook. Should be a win, win, yes?

And so the first hat to be published will be Duality. It’s a very striking Hat with a very simple detail that’s highlighted by the construction.

 
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The stripes are created by short rows, allowing the fabric to remain balanced. As I say, the stripes themselves, beyond being short rows, are simple in and of themselves - it’s the construction and placement of the stripes that makes this Hat so striking.

 
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Because there are a lot less short rows to this Hat, and because the colourwork is easier to manage, Duality is a great introduction to the construction and an ideal first Hat to try. It also gives you a sense about how the yarns and colours work, which should help you make the right yarn choices going forward for the other Hats. Most of the Lateralis Hats have a preference to whether a variegated or semi-solid works as the main yarn, but with this one it doesn’t matter - you can swap them around and see what happens!

 
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The theme behind Lateralis is symmetry, reflection; factors or concepts of two. Unlike other sideways Hats, these consist of two sections, two halves, that are head-shaped and meet at the crown. This in turn means that the Hats can be worn in two distinct ways, and we’ve aimed to show that photographically.

 
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Not all of the Hats are worked as two halves - some are worked entirely as one piece, with the two sections becoming noticeably after turning through the crown, and some are worked as not quite halves to allow for special short row trickery at the crown, yet still result in a Hat of two equal pieces. I suspect the way the construction works may not be apparent until they’re knitted, and I promise they’ll surprise you in the best of ways.

 
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I’ve put time aside today to (slowly) build the individual pattern web pages today, so you get an idea of yardage and yarn weight requirements. They all use DK weight yarn, and these have been kindly sponsored by RiverKnits so do go and check out her yarns! She’ll be at Yarndale this coming weekend where you can grab your yarns in person; failing that she’ll have her full stock up after the weekend. (one day I’ll make it to Yarndale…. maybe next year?)

 
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Talking of yarn, do bear in mind that these are graded by gauge - there’s virtually no room to adjust the pattern for different sizes. A couple of sizes are included in the pattern, but also in the pattern will be notes on exactly how many stitches and rows make up the Hat, so you can adjust the gauge for other sizes. This something we can definitely talk about more in my Ravelry group - we’ll set up a thread for each Hat.

That’s me done here for today! Tomorrow I’ll introduce the 2nd Hat, Undulous.

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AuthorWoolly Wormhead

I’ve said previously that we’re trying to work at getting our studio photography perfected so that we can work whatever the weather (usually we’re battling the sunshine, rather than the rain) and slowly but surely, we’re getting there.

For me, the biggest hurdle is lighting. We’re gathering a few lights that pack a lot into a small unit (necessary, given the size of my studio) yet somehow I’m rarely content with the lighting effects we get, even when the various set-ups that Tom puts together work well. I am so much happier working with natural light; I’ll always have a diffuser by my side as the natural light here is invariably too strong, but I loathe using reflectors as they always look so false to me - they make light bounce in ways it wouldn’t necessarily bounce. And if I struggle to use a reflector, you can imagine the state of me trying to give a yay or nay to studio lighting.

Slowly, though, we’re getting there. And the one set up that pleases me is dark and moody (quelle surprise). I don’t even care if there’s a lack of light on the face (I much prefer the presence of shadows to their absence) if the light hits the Hat at the right point. As I’m editing the first photoshoot for the Lateralis collection I can tell you there’s some shots where the face is barely visible but the Hat looks a stunner… shots that many people would say are too dark, and to my mind, that’s the point.

Before the shoot we had Monday afternoon we did a few practice shots with Aran for a future free pattern. When he’s in the mood for getting in front of the camera, he goes for it!

 
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Fun as these are, these shots told us that we needed to change the lighting and make it more dramatic… when Aran wasn’t larking around the regular shots looked too much like school photos and there’s no way I’m putting anything like that out, so more shadows on the face it is then, not less.

I suspect in the long run we’ll be inhibited by the pokiness of my studio (compared to that of a the photography studios we usually get a glimpse of) which in turn inhibits our control of light. I know I’ll also get bored of using the same background too often. But it’s a good exercise, and the next plan is try night photography around the Yard, which, if successful, would mean we may never have to battle the sunlight again.

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AuthorWoolly Wormhead

It's an odd blog title, but it's true all the same. I worry about the sizes of the Hats I make.

 
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I'll try and avoid veering into my usual rant about how one size doesn't fit all, or even most. If it's a gradable pattern, I just think taking this road is lazy when it comes to Hat design. Even my patterns that can't be graded by the stitch count or pattern repeat are still graded by gauge.

There - I've got that out of the way!

Dancette (right, above) is one Hat I always use in my sideways knit classes to demonstrate not only how fun garter stitch can be on it's side, but also how stretchy it is. I haven't found a head yet in one of my classes that it won't go on.

But just because a Hat goes on doesn't mean it fits.

As a knitted fabric stretches widthways, it'll take up in length. It's not rocket science really; garter stitch is daftly yarn thirsty and in turn is daftly stretchy. But even garter stitch will get shorter as it gets wider - it can't magic yarn or stitches out of thin air.

And because I get myself all worked up about this, I spend a lot of time trying to decide which sample size I should make in the pattern. It's especially tricky because I don't usually know who will be modelling, and few of my models will have the same head size.

I usually end up erring on the side of caution, and making a slightly larger size than I expect. If there's a 22in size, that's the one I go for. Because if my model turns out to be smaller, then the Hat's a little big - whilst it won't be ideal for braving the elements, it'll not look too awful in a shoot. But if a Hat is too small for a model then you can bet it'll look pretty crap.

When I was working on Painted Woolly Toppers, I reknit Dancette 3 times. It's a skinny fit beanie so it wants to have a fair amount of negative ease, but not too much. And I spent ages deliberating over differences that really didn't amount to more than half an inch, which in hindsight is unnecessary and I really should have words with myself. But it's a habit I can't seem to break. Yet I must, else I'll pay with my shoulders.

The sample above left is the first design from the new book, and it's folded and compared to Dancette. It's exactly the same size. However, the gauge has actually run smaller than I was expecting and the Arroyo looks very happy at this gauge, so I think I'm going to knit another sample in DK. Because yes, Dancette fits but the new one won't, because stretching out all of those short rows will look a mess; you don't want quite as much negative ease with these kiddies.

But - at least I've only done this once. I can happily knit the rest of the Hats in DK and only worry, say 4 times a day instead of 50, that I'm knitting the right size. (because I will worry right up until the moment that I pop the sample on the model's head)

One day I'll learn to trust myself...

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AuthorWoolly Wormhead