I should get a ghost-writer. I really should. I know blogging is important. I have loads of topics I want to discuss (mostly technical tips but a bit of self-promotion wouldn’t hurt). I read lots of blogs, even the ones that talk about how to blog better. The problem is, I just don’t like writing.
Marshaling my thoughts. Structuring a piece of prose. Committing to a version of reality. These things are anathema to me. I am chatty, unruly and constantly evolving. I want to qualify every statement. I want to flow and not leave a trace. I want to change my mind when faced with opposing evidence. A lot. There’s a lot of stuff out there for me to learn and chances are it’s going to cause some fairly radical alterations. And I don’t understand sub-clauses; or semi-colons.
This is somewhat reflected in the evolution of my pattern writing – an artform in itself and one which I will never have finished learning. In the beginning was the idea and the idea was that I could jack in my well-paid, contributing-to-society, exhausting, frankly terrifying medical job and make a moderate living publishing patterns of the garments I had been ‘designing’ for close to 10 years. By ‘designing’ I meant making up as I went along with a bit of inspiration and very little aforethought and by ‘writing a pattern’ I meant using a Rowan or Knitter Magazine pattern as a template and adding my own maths. Naivety is wonderful armour for those making life-altering decisions and I’m fortunate that I had the funds to support the slow, slow progress that I made from that day to this cos I’m pretty sure I went about the entire process arse-forwards.
If you’re reading this now it’s just possible that you’ve come to my website via Ravelry or Facebook or Twitter, fresh from discovering me in the Spring + Summer 2013 Issue of Knitty. My blanket pattern ‘Easy as Pi(e)‘ is the culmination of all that I have learnt in the last 3 years and, if I was to give in to the heady swell of popularity it seems to have engendered, I could begin to believe that I have done well in my studies*.
The initial idea came from a second life-altering decision made last year: to become responsible for another human being. I started knitting for the impending Beast along side the B12 supplements before we’d even got as far as conception, with one such item being Melissa Dominguez’s OpArt blanket (also in Knitty). I decided that I would like to design a blanket for Beast that similarly used simple techniques to powerful visual effect. Then I thought, ‘Who doesn’t like Geometry and Statistics? Maybe I can get it into Knitty too!’
I finished knitting the sample just as we got our positive test result and submitted the pattern in September for the Winter 2012 Issue. It received an enthusiastic ‘We love it! We want to use it…….but it needs better photography’ so, with the help of BethAnn Photography and the ever model-ready Esme, new pics were taken and it was accepted in January for the current issue. It went through a pain-free tech-editing phase with talented designer in her own right Kate Atherley (aka WiseHilda). Then came the don’t-tell-anyone, thumb twiddling wait.
Except I have been far from thumb-twiddling. As I got bigger it dawned on me that my theorising about preparation for new responsibilities need actually develop into some practical changes. I started to think about the sort of life I’d like to give a child and if I could achieve it with the very modest income that I was currently making. Would I be able to continue publishing post-delivery, juggling constant feeding and nappy washing with designing on a sleep deprived brain? Even with the assistance of my partner, who has also taken a sabbatical from earning to do a PhD and be as available for Beast-rearing as he wants to be, there’s no way I’ll be functioning to the same level that I do now. Most days, including weekends, I am knitting or writing from 9am till midnight with life activities scattered throughout the intervening hours but always accompanied by yarn and needles. I’ve seen other parents in action. They can’t do that.
I started to ramp up my production, taking on more commissions and scheduling long-knit projects for final editing. Not being hampered by frequent hangovers helped (aah, hedonism, I miss you) and I started to get a little traction going with the timely release of a series of Game of Thrones inspired knitting kits.
Then came carpal tunnel (50% of all pregnancies apparently, aren’t we lucky?) and actually knitting for more than a few hours a week became impossible. This turned out to be an advantage, as frankly I indulge myself with the more fun activity of sample knitting (even swatching is better than writing and don’t get me started on accounting). I was forced by an expanding chasm of free time to attend to the more tedious but vitally important business management side of self-employment and pattern after pattern was sent out for tech-editing. Magazines and yarn companies received their projects and the festival season started with Unravel which, at 37/40 and on crutches with SPD, was no small endeavour!
It was a very well attended show and our best turnover to date (I share a stall at festivals with The Undercoverowl, purveyor of fabulous home-sewn fabric accessories for knitters) but it also revealed an unwelcome truth. Over the intervening years I had shifted from that initial cut-and-paste style of pattern writing, littered with errata and clunky, overly wordy explanations of my inspired but generally advance level complexity designs to a more considered design process and subsequently a more succinct writing style. Customer feedback and interaction with a number of professional tech-editors (an invaluable person to any designer) had taken me far up that exponential learning curve but some of the patterns I was still selling were not even close to this new standard and, I began to realise, reflected poorly on my abilities as a designer. That’s not too bad when your pootling along in an amateur manner but what would happen when Knitty came out? What if a lot of people started scrutinising my wares – if I wanted to capitalise on any increased notoriety that came about (and fund the increased financial Beast burden) I had better have something worth selling.
So came about my very own version of nesting. Whilst T finished laying a damp-proof membrane on the ground floor and made space in our spare-bedroom-come-living-room for the home-birth water pool, I began an epic re-edit of all my patterns, creating a new standard template and converting spreadsheet charts (urgh! urgh! urgh! so much time wasted!) to StitchMastery. All patterns published since July 2012 (such as Rose Garden, Humbug Shawl, Mud & Rainbows and Secret Garden amongst others) already meet this standard. My T.A.R.D.I.Socks were converted to StitchMastery charts last year. Zoe and Shepherd Book have been upgraded this week. Leaves in Ice, Pumpkin Patch (including a new lace-weight version), South Kensington Shawl, Lady Heather and River of Blood will follow shortly in that order, before I tackle the non-charted patterns. In most cases this will make very little difference to the actual knitability of the patterns – no additional errata have been found to date (and if you’ve bought a pattern via Ravelry you will receive the update automatically) but there’s a considerable aesthetic improvement and the charts are arguably easier to follow. Of course this could be disrupted at any moment by the arrival of the Beast but as yet it is showing no indication of a timely arrival.
Phew! If you’ve made it to the end of this rambling post (six hours in the writing and editing – you see my point?) – Congratulations! You have earned yourself a 10% discount on any of my upgraded patterns. Just enter the coupon code RAMBLER at the checkout and where it applies 10% will be deducted automatically. This promotion will last for one month on all currently upgraded patterns and will come into affect for one month, as and when each pattern gets upgraded. The Beast thanks you in advance.
Who knows. If I keep at it, maybe I’ll get more succinct when blogging too
*I must stop refreshing Ravelry. I’ve taken a screen-shot of Easy as Pi(e) at No.1 in the ‘Hot Right Now’ list to send my parents but remember ego: patterns can go down as well as up