Category Archives: Design work

Running a creative business

Running a creative business is almost a misnomer; the act of creating isn’t easily controlled by the logical business side. But yet that what’s I attempt to do on a daily basis. It might explain why I frequently feel conflicted, there is a constant sense of give and take.

When I’m creating my most interesting (to me at least!) work I need to be in my own head space. That means that I can’t have deadlines that give me no freedom, if it isn’t working I need to be able to sit back and think about it. What does work? Is there a different way to look at the problem so that it makes sense? Can I pull out or even re orientate a section so that it changes from just ok to amazing? I need to be able to start a morning feeling that all I need to think about is creation and allow myself the artistic frustration that produces the best work. If you’re under time pressure you will ‘settle’ for good enough rather than reworking. Or if there are so many outside pressures that you just can’t find the right frame of mind. If this happens for several months running it creates such a huge feeling of frustration, like you’re almost getting it right but just not hitting the high notes.

Then you need to flip over to the other side, the business side. The decisions you make are money ones for the most part. How is your time best spent so that you get well paid for your work? What new avenues should you pursue and what old ones should be closed down? It’s very easy to keep walking down the same comfortable paths with blinkers on, denying that anything is changing. It’s sometimes hard to be honest with yourself that you need to change!

Life with 4 boys seems to be getting busier and busier. My work time is being squeezed down very tightly and it would appear that these days I’m the one that suffers most. The business end is being done, the patterns are being posted, newsletters are sent out and future plans are being made. However I’m having such a hard time finding free head space, so much of my mental effort right now is to make sure life runs smoothly, lunches made, children dropped (3 DIFFERENT SCHOOLS!), Suzuki violin class attended, stock pot loaded, dishes washed, kitchen swept, dog walked, and then if I’m lucky 2-3 hours work before…. afternoon bags packed, snacks made, children collected, homework done, dropped to gymnastics/drama/piano then home to cook next dinner, clean more dishes, chase violin/piano practice, homework, bedtime and FINALLY knitting time. It’s both wonderful and terrifying being the mother to so many. With so much to remember it’s not really too surprising that mental space is a rare commodity for me. I think I may be overdoing it these days, constant colds with coughs that I can’t shake :-(

So while life is so good, it is perhaps just a little too hectic these days. My little house of cards would appear to be stacked a little too high I think!

Holiday Time

This year the summer holidays have sneaked up on me. I’m so mentally preoccupied with the book that everything else has just faded into the background. I’m reaching the finish line now though and I’m looking forward to sharing it all with you…sorry it’s going to have to be a year away though :-(

Now that the knitting for the book is finished and I’m on to the editing part I can start thinking about new projects. I’ve got a few pieces that I want to reknit and some that I’m picking up an idea thread from. One of these is from a pattern I designed for Blue Moon Fibers Rockin’ Sock Club last summer, Sagrada. This went through a redesign initially – this was the first version -


I loved the slip stitch garter panels and wide wings of this shawl but it was for a club so it was released with a single skein of yarn. Somehow as I was knitting the shawl felt to me as though it wanted to be bigger. So I’ve started playing around with it and using the design as a starting point for something brand new. I’m having fun with it, especially as I’m getting the chance to use This Is Knit‘s brand new hand dyed yarn Townhouse Yarns. The Grafton 4ply is really soft!

IMG_0912It’s nice to be able to share what I’m working on right now! My knitting list is growing, I’m also going to reknit Penrose Tile in some Dublin Dye Company sock yarn, I’m swatching up my delicious Blue Moon Fibers Targhee Worsted. I think this yarn wants some cables, what do you think? Plus in less than 2 weeks I’m heading off to Unwind in Brighton. I’m really looking forward to this, I get to see Brighton, lots of my knitting pals and teach all in one spot! Almost too much excitement for one weekend….if you’re around I think there are a few spots in my Cable and Short Row classes left still…

Berry Creek

A few months ago a DC yarn store, Looped Yarn Works, approached me to do a design for them. This design was specifically for the Metro Yarn Crawl. Impressively this area boasts an amazing 11 yarn stores, coming from an area where yarn stores are thin on the ground the idea of having enough to do a yarn crawl made me rather envious!

Looped Yarn Works is one of Quince & Co’s flagship stores so they sent me on some lovely Chickadee to do the design in. The resulting pattern that I created was Berry Creek. This pattern was initially exclusive to the store for the duration of the yarn crawl but now I get to release it for everyone else :-) There’s a automatic $1 discount on the pattern until April 21st!

berry creek

I wanted to design a cardigan that was a perfect spring/summer layer. It has been designed with short sleeves, a ribbed lace pattern and smooth a-line side shaping. The ribbed lace flows straight into the ribbed bodice with raglan shoulder shaping and a v-neck. I’ve shown it styled over a longer top (it’s still really cold here in Ireland!) but you could wear it buttoned over a tank for a summer style.

If you like your cardigan with longer sleeves all you’d have to do is start your sleeves separately and then add them instead of casting on your sleeve stitches at the start of the yoke. It wouldn’t be a hard modification to make.

berry creek

So get knitting and let me know on my board what modifications you’re going to make.

Berry Creek

Knitwear Spring 2014

At the end of last summer I began working on a couple of designs for the Spring/Summer issue of Knitwear. This is one of my favorite knitwear titles, they focus on clean lines, interesting constitutions and very wearable contemporary garments. It’s an offshoot of Interweave and has only be around since 2011.
The first design I completed for this issue is the Short Row Vest.

Short Rowo Vest

(c) Interweave

As you can probably see from this vest, I’m still loving short rows. The only limitation to what short rows can do is your imagination :-) This vest starts simply with the back and left front worked in one piece from the bottom up. After that the front left panel is worked from the left side in a series of short row wedges – striping the two colors as you go to create a dramatic effect.

The next design for this issue is the Ruched Yoke Sweater.

Ruched Yoke Sweater

(c) Interweave

This sweater is so nice to wear. The a-line shaping gives it a really nice swing and the deep yoke creates sleeve caps without any additional work. The basic design is fairly simple, but the front pocket detail, ruched yoke circles and standing neck make a great statement piece.

I’m working on a book!

Anyone who knows me personally has heard me talk about my new book for many months. I wanted to do a full length book again, but I was having a very hard time deciding how to publish it! I kept swinging between the merits of self-publishing and going with a publisher.

I have self-published two books before (Scrumptious Knits and Among Stones) but both of these were shorter books which meant less time and money was involved. The new book I want to do will be bigger, a full technique book complete with a big collection of patterns. However the time and money commitment were only one part of the equation. When you put that much into a book you need to spend just as long selling and marketing it. This is what swayed me towards a publisher. Within a few months of publishing a book I want to get stuck into something new. I’m just one person and the sole caretaker for 4 children so realistically it has to be one or the other, I can’t design and market full time. And I can’t stand still long enough to do a substantial book investment justice by myself.

After some work I think I’ve found the perfect publisher for the book, Potter Craft. The quality of the books they produce is fantastic and being a division of Random House there is a considerable marketing team behind them. So last week I took the plunge and the papers were signed! Even though I’ve done this before signing a book contract always fills me with equal parts excitement and fear. It’s the start of an adventure but there’s always some little part of your brain that’s terrified you won’t get everything done in time. I’m going to be on a pretty tight deadline with this, the manuscript (edited!) and photographs are all to be submitted by the 1st of August. So if I seem a little quiet over the next few months perhaps you’ll forgive me :-). However it will be a little after that before you get to see the book – it’s planned for Fall (Autumn) 2015, so be patient.

I’ve been working behind the scenes on this project for several months already, sketching ideas, gathering yarn and knitting some of the samples. I don’t like to be under pressure designing so I started planning early. I want to give a big thank you to all the yarn companies who sent me yarn before I knew how I was going to publish, Cascade Yarns, Malabrigo, Lorna’s Laces, Blue Moon, Fyberspates, Miss Babs, Sweet Georgia, Berroco, Noro, Knitspot, Anzula, Harrivsville Designs, Shibui, Manos, Hedgehog Fibres, O-Wool and Green Mountain Spinnery. Here’s the yarn/sample mountain in all it’s glory, you’ll have to wait to see any more than this though!

yarn pile

Shiny new website!

Come take a look around my shiny new website, it’s been totally updated this week thanks to my oldest son, Caelen. He has been working with me this week for work experience and began by learning the inner workings of wordpress. I’ve been seriously impressed with how hard he’s working, now if I could just figure out how to hang on to him :-)

So what’s new? We updated the theme of the website to begin with which involves a lot of tweaking in order to get it to work correctly. The benefit of this new theme is that it’s now mobile enabled so you can actually read the website without the text folding over on itself. The biggest visual change though is the front page. I’ve now got a one stop shop for you to see all the latest things happening; new patterns, blog posts and tweets. A little less visible is the addition of a ‘contact us’ form. I’m not sure how we managed to omit this before but it’s up now so you have a direct way of contacting me.

To celebrate all this newness, I’m giving you all a 25% discount code to use until Saturday 8th of February. When you checkout on the checkout, click ‘use coupon code’ and add the code ‘NEWWEBSITE’ for your discount. It applies to all my self-published pdfs.

So now that the website is up and running again, I’ve got Caelen working on learning Illustrator maybe I’ll have a design apprentice before I know it!

Sandy Cove

sandy cove
I gave you a little peek at this cardigan last week, but I’m now putting it up for pre-sale with a discount. Plus it’s now got a name – Sandy Cove.

This cardigan was knit from just 2 skeins of Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light. It is such a lightweight yarn that I wanted to create a perfect spring/summer cardigan. Lightweight, but with enough sleeves that it will warm you in a cool breeze. Cropped with a slim style that won’t overwhelm your lightweight outfit. I’ve bought a few cardigans with the same idea but I wanted to knit the perfect version for myself.

This cardigan is knit using one of my favorite techniques, top down with short row set in sleeves. As I had a smaller amount of yarn I wanted to make sure I didn’t run out. For this reason I created a cardigan that was snug fitting, with some negative ease. The body of the cardigan is fitted and it is designed to finish just below your waist. The sleeves are 3/4 length, which I think is a really flattering length. The details I’ve added at the front of the neck and across the top of the back are designed to be simple and delicate to retain the simplicity of the design.

BUT, if you want to make a few changes it’s pretty easy to do.

Don’t like negative ease? Go ahead and knit a bigger size!

Want an longer cardigan? Work some increases after the waist before you work the edge ribbing (just make sure you have extra yarn!)

Short or long sleeves suit you better than 3/4 length? They’re worked top down so knit to your desired length. You’ll only need to add a couple of extra decreases for a longer length and you can check the size by fitting as you go.

If you want some input on any changes you’re making along the way come join the KAL that A Good Yarn is hosting on their ravelry board here. It will be starting on the 10th of February when the full pattern is released. Please join in and I’ll pop in to answer any questions as they come up!

(BTW the yarn used for the pattern was an exclusive colorway ‘Midnight Pass’ that was dyed for A Good Yarn).

SCRUMPTIOUS COLLECTION WINNER! I’m happy to congratulate Anne Marie on winning a copy of this collection. An email is winging it’s way to you :-)

sandy cove sandy cove sandy cove

Thinking about Spring

I know that most of us are dealing with the joys that January weather brings but I’ve been forward planning!

As a knitwear designer you usually knit a season ahead so that you can release patterns when they’re most seasonally appropriate.  A few weeks ago I finished a little cropped cardigan in a bright blue. I love this style cardigan, I usually keep a little one like this tucked into my handbag in the summer so I can stay warm when the weather changes. It’s simple, fitted and easy to throw over most outfits.

Mad tosh cardi

This cardigan was knit in a custom dyed yarn (Midnight Pass color for A Good Yarn, Sarasota) in Madelinetosh Tosh Light. They gave me a couple of skeins last summer to play with and this cardigan is the end result.

mad tosh cardi

I’ll be releasing this pattern in the middle of next month once I’ve finished the layout. Plus hopefully you’ll have enough hint of spring that you’ll want to celebrate with a lightweight knit :-)

Knitting Patterns reinvented

As you can imagine I spend a great deal of time looking at patterns. Sometimes I’m writing them and other times reviewing them.
There are very standard pattern conventions I follow. I use a fairly standard set of abbreviations and contractions and I try to provide a fairly wide range of sizes without so much that the pattern becomes overwhelming to read.
Every time I write for a different publisher I have to rewrite my patterns to suit their convention. With UK magazines cm are dominant and you change your bind offs for cast offs, etc. With US magazines there are kept very tight and often juggle the writing style around to suit their standard. The publisher that got me thinking the most though was Brooklyn Tweed. He removes all contractions, st is always stitch, and the tone is kept conversational.
I think for pattern style I settle somewhere in the middle. I like to be able to take my time and write a few lines to explain what I’m doing so knitters have a ‘roadmap’ in their head as they begin the pattern. However I think most knitters are so comfortable with the basic contractions (st, RS, WS, k, p, st st) that it’s not really necessary for them all to be spelled out. If you print the pattern less is definitely more!
But this is where my question for you knitters comes in.

Do you print the pattern?

Or do you just print part of it?

Do you like everything written in full English or do you think abbreviations are just fine?

Somewhere in my future (hopefully not too far away!) I want to put an knitting pattern app together.

What would you like to see in an app that would make knitting from a pattern easier?

A few ideas:

Only your size show.
Every abbreviation expands into full definition and video if you need it.
Highlight tracking as you read through the pattern.

I’d love to be able to go even one step further and have an app that charts the entire pattern for you, highlighting decrease and increase rows. If it was customised to just your size it would work really easily as you don’t have to see 9 or 10 different charts, just your own.
The volume of work involved in this makes my head ache BUT I think it would be a pretty cool knitters tool!

What do you think? Give my your pattern and app thoughts!

Irish Yarn Club

It’s probably no surprise to any of you that I really enjoy working with Irish yarn companies and dyers. My first experience of this was with Contemporary Irish Knits which was a huge education for me. When I started visiting the mills I knew absolutely nothing about spinning and the Irish yarn industry. While I’m definitely not an expert now I do know more than when I started out :-)

I still try to use yarns produced or dyed here in Ireland fairly often in my designs but I wanted to do something specifically Irish based again so me and Lisa from This is Knit hatched up a plan…

I am working with This Is Knit to create a Yarn Club that combines luscious Irish Hand Dyed yarn with my designs, created exclusively for the club. Over the past few weeks I’ve had little packages arrive from each of the dyers with beautiful yarn and colours. I’m having so much fun swatching, knitting and planning the prefect projects for the yarn. There will be a variety of projects, they’ll all be accessories and several will be sized from small to large so they would suit anyone in the family. That’s all I’m going to give away for now, after all we wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, right?

If you want to join just click here and pick your option, full club (yarn, patterns and shipping) or a pattern only club. The first shipment and pattern will be sent out in January. This Is Knit are sending all the yarn and I will send new patterns via ravelry so you will receive each new one automatically. This also gives you the option of saving it in your ravelry library if you wish.

Please come join us on our adventure, it should be a lot of fun!