mind the gap!

I’m often asked why so many of my bootie patterns have you knit the Outer Cuff inside out. There are several reasons …

Firstly, I’m lazy *and* I much prefer to knit instead of purl. If the majority of the Outer Cuff of a given pattern is worked in knit rounds, then I’m highly likely to have you turn the bootie inside out to work the entirety of the cuff.

Secondly, because the Outer Cuff, when it’s finished, is typically turned down over the Inner (ribbed) Cuff in most of my patterns. If you work the entire Inner and Outer Cuff with the bootie right side out, you’re working on the wrong side of the Outer Cuff and any colour changes are a little more awkward to achieve (at least for me they are!). Take my Fair Isle Booties pattern for example … you’d have to do all the stranded colourwork with the yarn carried in front of the work (on the purl, or wrong, side).

Thirdly, and this is related to my second reason, above, some of my patterns have you pick up stitches worked earlier to create extra layers or welts to create the quirky design. These would be even more awkward to work on the wrong side of the work. My Mushroom Booties pattern is a perfect example of this.

There are a couple of drawbacks to working the cuff inside out. One is that it can be hard to visualize exactly what you’re doing – ask me how many times I’ve worked something the wrong way around while designing! Another is that turning your bootie inside out when it’s worked in the round means that the first round you work after turning it through is effectively worked flat; your working yarn is still attached to the last stitch of the last round which has now instantly become the first stitch of your next round. This can cause a tiny little gap which is ordinarily hidden when the Outer Cuff is completed and folded down over the Inner Cuff.

If this little gap bothers you, there’s a quick and easy trick to fix it! At the end of the final round of the Instep section, just slip and wrap the first stitch of the next round, then slip it back. Then turn your bootie inside out to work the Inner and Outer Cuff sections and your tiny gap is gone! Here are a few pictures from a wip (this is my Cappuccino Booties pattern):

Instep finished, bootie is still right way out, with working yarn at the back.
Slip the 1st stitch of the next round and wrap it by bringing the working yarn in front of it, then around to the back.
Slip the wrapped stitch back to the front needle.
Turn the bootie inside out to work the Inner Cuff. You can see the working yarn coming from where it’s been wrapped around that stitch (previously the 1st stitch of the next round, now, effectively, the last stitch of the previous round after turning the work inside out).

No more gap!

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jogging along

No, not running. That’s not a thing I do. At all. If I can help it.

I’m talking about the dreaded “jog” or “stair step” when working stripes in the round. If you don’t employ any one of a number of strategies, your colour changes from one stripe to the next will look something like this:

Back view of a green and black striped knitted baby bootie, showing how the stripes don't meet up, on a gray cloth surface.
Not too pretty is it?

This is my newest pattern design that I’m working on – Crayon Booties. Lots and lots of tiny stripes in both garter stitch (on the sides of the feet) and stockinette stitch (on the cuff). Which also means lots and lots of yarn tails – another issue, but one that can be dealt with in tandem with reducing the jog – see below!

I’ve tried many different methods for achieving jogless stripes in the round and I’ve had varying degrees of success. There’s the “knit below” method – see this video from VeryPink Knits for a great demonstration. Like many people, I really like this technique, but, as she explains, as part of the process the beginning of round (BOR) effectively shifts to the left by one stitch every time you do it. For a deep dive into jogless stripes, the TechKnitter covers the “slip the 1st stitch of the 2nd round of your new colour” method, among other tips and tricks. This technique also shifts the BOR one stitch to the left. Then there’s the “yo jogless jog” technique, which is a fairly new one to me, but it’s now the one I prefer, especially for booties where there’s a definite “center back” and I don’t want the BOR to shift between rounds. This video, from Roxanne Richardson, covers this “yo” method, as well as the “knit below” method.

What I actually do is utilize the yo method from above for reducing the jogs in combination with this technique, as demonstrated by heyBrownBerry, for “knitting in” both the beginning and ending tails of yarn (incidentally, in this video, she does the “slip stitch” method when changing colours in stripes). Anchoring the beginning tail during the last round of your “old” colour means that the yo in the “new” colour is much easier to do. Plus, you’ve already dealt with one of those pesky tails! When you are ready to start a new stripe in a repeat colour, as in my Crayon Booties, your “new” colour is already neatly anchored at the end of the previous round you worked in it. If you do both these things in tandem, you will have woven in *all* your tails and reduced the jog as you work the stripes. Win, win!

Back view of a pink and black striped knitted baby bootie, showing how the stripes mostly meet up, on a gray tile surface.
Not perfect, by any means, but much better!

It looks like I could do a little more to even out the tension when transitioning from one colour to the next (I’m looking right at you, little one-round high pink stripe in the middle!), but overall, I think it’s much improved from the green bootie pictured above. It worked surprisingly well in the garter stitch stripes on the foot.

I’ll be testing the Crayon Booties very soon, and I hope to release the pattern by the middle of May!

Two pairs of knitted baby booties made to look like crayons sit on a partially colored coloring sheet with a box of crayons and some loose crayons nearby.
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blinded by the …

… eyestrain brought about by working 2- and 3-stitch cables on US 1 needles (2.25mm) in black fingering weight yarn. Yep, tiny, tiny, black cables on tiny, tiny needles. Am I crazy?

Well, yes, probably. But I really wanted the cuffs on my newest design, Taxi! Booties, to look like little car tires/tyres (tomayto/tomahto all over again). The only way to achieve that was by suffering for my art and working out just which little cables, in which sequence, gave me the look I wanted.

A pair of yellow, black and white knitted booties with a cabled cuff made to look like a car tire sit sole to sole on a gray tile floor.
I think it was worth the eyestrain, don’t you?

The solution? An OttLite, of course! These wonderful daylight bright, adjustable lamps make all the difference when you need to *really* see what you’re doing. Mine is a floor model with dual shade and a USB charging station. I must admit, I don’t often use the charger, but the little iPad/tablet stand is handy for keeping my pattern notes. Mine looks a lot like this one:

White Ottlite dual shade floor lamp

It also doubles as an excellent reading light. I keep mine right next to a comfy Ikea Poang chair and I can plonk myself down anytime for some knitting or reading. They’re not cheap, but I think one of these is a worthwhile investment no matter what kind of crafting you do!

Taxi Booties will be published on April 22nd, 2021. Watch my social media feeds for details!

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going sideways …

I’ve made and designed quite a few things where you work an edging sideways onto live stitches. Sometimes it’s as simple as an attached i-cord edging, other times it’s a bit more of a challenge.

A pair of orange, pink, and yellow knitted baby booties sit on a weathered deck in front of a glass of pink lemonade.

For my Sunny Day Booties pattern, I really wanted the effect of the narrow stripes of bright, contrasting colours, but I had absolutely no desire to achieve those stripes with colourwork. It seemed like it would be much easier to knit the outer cuff of the bootie sideways, joining it to the live stitches at the top of the inner cuff as it’s worked.

Of course, to finish it off neatly and (hopefully!) invisibly, grafting is required. So, that means a provisional cast-on. There are a lot of different methods of casting on provisionally, like the crochet chain method, the needle & hook method (which is really just the crochet chain method worked directly on to your knitting needle), using Judy’s Magic Cast-On (JMCO) as a provisional cast-on, the long tail provisional cast-on, and this one, which I really like for the easy way you can retrieve your provisionally cast-on stitches.

Here’s how I do it in my Sunny Day Booties pattern …

Here’s the bootie with the Inner Cuff finished in the main colour (MC: yellow). I’ll use the MC tail as my waste yarn and use it and my first contrast colour (CC1: pink) to provisionally cast on (PCO) the stitches I need for the Outer Cuff. I’ll use the last method I linked to above. I’m working the PCO onto the needle with the MC tail attached.

Here, I’ve completed my provisional cast-on. The MC Inner Cuff stitches are on the right and the CC1 provisional stitches are to the left of those. Don’t forget to use the MC tail as your waste yarn to save on ends to weave in! When you work this PCO, your working yarn – the one you want to continue using, in this case the CC1, will form the stitches on the needle, and your waste yarn will run neatly through the bottom of them.

I’ve turned the needle around and I have my CC1 PCO ready to work row 1 of the Outer Cuff, with the MC Inner Cuff sts also on the needle. I work my booties using the magic loop method, so you can see half the Inner cuff sts on one needle and the other half on the other (the cable is out of shot here, to the left).

Here, I’ve worked row 1 of the Outer Cuff in CC1 and CC2 (turquoise). The Outer Cuff will be joined to the Inner Cuff by working together 1 Inner Cuff stitch and one Outer Cuff stitch in a decrease at the end of every even-numbered (right side) row. You can see the nice straight line of the MC waste yarn sitting under the CC1 PCO stitches.

When it comes time to undo your PCO, just gently ease the waste yarn out of the PCO sts. I like to use a much smaller diameter double-pointed needle to do this, then I transfer them to my working needle. You may have to realign some of the stitches as you transfer them over. Then you’re ready to graft your live stitches from the last row of the Outer Cuff together with the PCO stitches. Grafting, (commonly known as Kitchener stitch), is a method of joining two sets of stitches together so that the join is invisible (it looks just like another row of knitting). It’s most commonly used to finish the toes in socks knitted from the cuff down.

The finished booties have a nifty little striped cuff, with the stripes going sideways (perpendicular) to the rest of the bootie.

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Sketches & swatches & prototypes, oh my!

See these swatches and single mis-matched booties? They don’t look like much, do they? The good thing about designing mostly booties is that I can actually knit a whole bootie as a “swatch.” Usually, though, I start with some sketches and my coloured pencils, then I start creating tiny swatches that represent a section of the cuff (if that’s the part of the bootie that makes up a new design element). After that, I work my way up to a whole bootie.

For most patterns, even if I have a specific yarn in mind, I usually start with some kind of “workhorse” yarn from stash. I have a *lot* of Dale Baby Ull, so I often start swatching with that. Sometimes I frog my swatches to start over, sometimes I just bind them off then start the next one. I don’t really want to keep knitting, ripping back, and frogging with the yarn that I’ve bought specifically for a pattern concept, so it’s easier to use something I don’t find too “precious.” I typically make a fresh page of notes for each swatch. That way I can refer back to the earlier versions to check changes & adjustments. Most of the rest of the design process happens digitally. I use Google Sheets to track and grade bootie directions, dimensions, and sizes.

With this pattern and the first swatch, I realized that I really wanted 2-row stripes, not 4. The next few were much closer to what I had in mind, but still needed a few little tweaks. The first single bootie showed me that the i-cord edge I was using wasn’t going to work at all. The second single bootie was almost there, it just needed a tiny adjustment to the beginning and ending rows of the Outer Cuff section.

The idea for these booties came from looking at logos and colours when I was working with a graphic designer on a new logo for shake your booties! It also stemmed from feeling like a gloomy, wet winter after a *really* hard year might never end. They are a little ray of sunshine! The final booties will be knitted in three colours of Mountain Sock by Teton Yarn Company. I ordered half a dozen mini-skeins for this pattern, but, unfortunately, they are in some kind of USPS black hole somewhere between the west coast and me. 😦 If they’re not here by the end of this week, I’ll knit up a pair in the yarn I have so that I can get testing started. I want to release the pattern on March 20th, so I don’t have long.

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So, sew, part 1

I have a love/hate relationship with sewing. I learned as a child, on my mother’s Singer Featherweight, and quite enjoyed messing around making doll’s clothes. At school, sewing was mandatory in in 1st and 2nd form (year/grade 7 & 8) at Canterbury Girls’ High School (now CGSC). Our teacher, Mrs. DeTarsinszky (sp?), was, um, let’s just say, demanding. Because they weren’t perfectly straight, I ripped out the seams on the nightgown I made in 2nd form so many times that when I finally wore it, the material shredded away to nothing all along the seam lines. We worked on old Singers, both treadle and knee-lever types. I’m pretty sure I’m still traumatized by trying to sew smoothly on the knee-lever machines. The treadles were a little less daunting.

When my kids were little, I bought a cheapish Kenmore machine and made some curtains for the house and a few bits of costumes here and there and did some mending. That machine now resides with my daughter, and I’ve been happily not sewing for quite a few years. But recently, I’ve been thinking that I’d like to have a machine again. For one thing, I *hate* the roman blinds in the kitchen of the house we bought. I’d love to make some to replace them and use some fabric I’ve found on etsy with Australian flora.

So …. recently, I started idly looking at Craigslist from time to time. There were plenty of treadle machines in the Atlanta area, but most were a little pricier than my budget would allow. Last week, I found a listing for a Singer 66 in an art deco-ish cabinet local to us at a good price. Yesterday we went for drive and ended up buying it from a nice lady who has 21 sewing machines and is out of space. It’s currently in quarantine in the garage for a few days.

A slightly battered, wooden, art deco style sewing machine cabinet sits on a concrete garage floor.

The cabinet is a little rough on the top and around the edges but is sound. Mr. Booties will be doing some work on it in the coming weeks to tidy it up a bit for me. I think it’s a knock-off of the original Singer desk model cabinet in the ad image below. The trim is a little different (and doesn’t look like it replaced any other original trim). Every other picture I can find on Google image search matches this one:

An old magazine advertisement for the Singer Deluxe Desk Model No. 42 wooden art deco-style sewing machine cabinet.

The machine is in working order (the seller gave me a demo) and looks pretty clean. It probably needs a new power supply as the cord is alarmingly frayed and I’d like to get a new foot pedal for it too. That will all have to wait until it’s out of the cabinet temporarily and we can assess just what it needs.

A vintage Singer sewing machine is in the dropped-down position, on its side, inside a wooden cabinet.

It came with a huge amount of accessories. I’ll post about them in part two!

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Promoting your pattern

So, you’ve taken the plunge and you’ve started designing patterns. Well done!

You’ve had your first pattern tech edited and tested, and you’ve published it . Now what?

There are a multitude of ways to promote your new pattern. Here are just some of the ones I use:

  • Ravelry:
  • Facebook:
    • Addicted to Knitting group: Promotion of your own business allowed on Mondays with the heading #selfpromomonday. Posts about sales, giveaways, yarn swaps or requests are not allowed.
    • Knit & Chat group: #selfpromosaturday. This one can get a little tricky to post to correctly – send me a message and I can outline the correct way to do it so that the admins will approve your post.
    • Set up your own page and promote your patterns. You can then share these posts to your personal account if you want.
  • Instagram: If you don’t have an IG account, I highly recommend you set one up! You can then link your IG account to push your posts directly to your Facebook page.
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Just “trust the pattern”

How many times have you had someone tell you to just “trust the pattern” about a particularly tricky or counter-intuitive section of a pattern you’re making? I know I’ve struggled with quite a few patterns that other people have breezed through (I’m looking at you Hitofude, for one) because I just couldn’t visualize what was supposed to (magically?) be happening.

Several of my patterns have directions for knitting the cuff with the bootie turned inside out. This is typically because they have an outside cuff which folds over an inner, ribbed cuff, and it’s easier to knit the cuff inside out, than purl it right way out. (Unless of course, you’re someone who prefers purling to knitting!)

When you’re doing this working in the round, the first step after turning the bootie inside out can be a bit confusing – especially the first time you do it! Here’s what it looks like when I do it:

I’ve just finished the last round of the instep and my yarn is at the back needle. Ordinarily, I’d start knitting into that front needle with the yarn from the back.

The bootie is now inside out so the yarn is hanging from the front needle instead.

Now I’ll knit into those stitches on the front needle. Because the yarn is at the front, and not being carried around from the back, there will be a slight gap at the beginning of this round. It will be hidden later by the outside cuff.

I hope this helps anyone who’s stuck on this bit of any of my patterns!

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Bootie Instep Tricks!

On most of my recent patterns, the booties are started like a toe-up sock and knitted in the round. I knit them using the magic loop method. When you get to the instep, you’re knitting most of it flat, and it can be very awkward to do with the way the stitches are normally divided (half and half from the back & front center) in magic loop. Here’s what I do:

  • Work in magic loop up to the instep section, as you normally would.
  • Check ahead in the pattern to the last row/rnd of the instep section and note the first direction – it will be to knit X amount of stitches before doing a k2tog.
  • *Before* you start the first row of the instep, slide a stitch marker onto the right-hand (working) needle tip (or leave your beginning-of-round/end-of-round marker in place, if you’re using one):

  • Knit the number of stitches from the last row/rnd of the instep section that you noted in the second step:

  • Pull first the right-hand needle tip, then the left-hand needle tip, out – all your stitches are on the cable with your marker at center back:

  • Count off the same number of stitches to the left of the stitch marker and pull out a section of cable – you’ve effectively re-divided your stitches with the instep stitches on one section of cable and the remainder (the back of the sole & foot) on the other section:

  • Continue with that first row of the instep and work the instep rows back and forth on these stitches up until the 3rd last row of the instep section; you’ll have 1 stitch left either side of your 8 or 10 center (usually) instep stitches on one section of cable:

  • Start working that 3rd last row, but stop halfway through the instep stitches and, once again, pull first the right-hand needle tip, then the left-hand needle tip, out – all your stitches are on the cable with your marker at center back:

  • Pull the cable out at the center back, where your marker is – you’ve re-divided your stitches back to the original half & half division:

  • Finish working your bootie.

I hope this helps with one of the fiddlier bits of making my booties! Let me know if you’d like to see more photo tutorials?

 

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Style sheets for designers?

What is a style sheet? It’s an explicit guide to exactly how you want to write and format your pattern. I use one when I’m writing my own patterns and if you have one, it makes pattern writing easier for you and saves time for me as your tech editor (thus costing you less!). If you don’t have one, and would like one, that’s a service I offer.

You might already have a pattern template and be wondering why you need a style sheet and what’s the difference anyway? I like to think of the template as the guide to making your patterns look consistent and the style sheet as the guide to making your patterns consistently easy to read. Consistency across your patterns is important, both for you as the designer and for your customers. First-time customers will appreciate a well-written, edited, and laid out pattern. Repeat customers will become familiar with your pattern style and will find it easier to knit your patterns. With a style sheet, both you and your tech editor will easily be able to ensure that everything you need is included in the pattern and that the layout is consistent with your style.

What’s in a style sheet? All that you need to write a complete and consistent pattern! There’s a lot to include in a knitting pattern and it needs to be as easily comprehended as possible by your customers. You’ll need most or all of the following components in your pattern, and possibly more:

  • Title, image, romance
  • Notes (including construction, techniques, etc.)
  • Materials needed (needles, yarn, notions, etc.)
  • Gauge
  • Sizing information
  • Abbreviations used throughout
  • Pattern directions
  • Charts and/or schematics 
  • Contact information

Your style sheet will outline how and where you put all that pattern information.

When it comes to phrasing directions in your patterns, style sheets are invaluable. For example, my style sheet includes guidelines like:

  • Instruction repeated until a specific number of sts: use β€œ*…; rpt from * to last X sts,” (followed by instructions for last X sts)
  • Measurements: use inches (to the quarter inch) & centimeters (to the half centimeter)
  • Written instructions for charts should end on same row/rnd number as chart (even if using β€œRow 2 and all WS rows: …” -> write out the last WS row instructions)
  • Notes re techniques: β€œWork rows 1-15[17,17,-,-] from Instep Chart 1 on p. x then row 16[18,18,-,-] below; or work entirely from written directions below:”

A style sheet also includes includes information about your pattern template, i.e. exactly how to format your knitting pattern. Are your patterns formatted into two columns a page? Do you use page numbers? Is your list of abbreviations at the beginning or end of your pattern? These are all elements that your style sheet will help you keep consistent from pattern to pattern. In my style sheet, I also spell out specifications for fonts used, colours, sizes, and heading styles. Armed with my comprehensive style sheet, I can easily check off each stage of a new pattern to ensure that I’m being completely consistent.

As a tech editor, I can work with you to develop a good style sheet that helps you write the clearest patterns and maintain a consistent style. If you check your new pattern against your style sheet before tech editing, you can save yourself some money! Please be in touch if you’d like to know more or have questions and, in the meantime, happy knitting and designing!

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