Monday, November 28, 2011

Skill Levels

I have an ed. psych. background--which has nothing at all to do with counseling. It is all about how people learn skills. I try as much as I can to apply that knowledge when I write my patterns. I have never believed in "dumb" versus "smart." Sure, it might be out there--but who really cares? It doesn't buy you anything as an instructor to think about it.

But there is something else--something that does matter a great deal: People who are at different levels of knowledge need different levels of detail in their explanations. Simply put, as you gain knowledge, you know more.

A little bit of prior knowledge can go a long way--but you have to obtain that prior knowledge from somewhere first. My beginning patterns are designed to give knitters (and someday quilters and crocheters) that base of knowledge. Later, it's more a matter of pressing the Go Button.

This morning, with all of that in mind, I did something I've been meaning to do for a while. I devised a rating scale for my patterns.

Level 0:

You know how to cast on, bind off, knit, and possibly purl. You may have made a garter-stitch scarf or two. It is time for a first “real” project. An example of this would be my Quick-Knit Hat:

There is so much detail in this pattern at Level 0 that I also created the same pattern for Level 2 knitters who don't need to learn how to knit in the round without twisting stitches or how to use double-pointed needles--but who may want a little reminder for how many stitches to cast on for a hat.

Level 1:

You’re getting comfortable knitting and purling and probably knitting in the round. Now it’s time to learn a few new specialized skills, such as cabling, lace, etc. A great example of this is the No-Fail Lace Scarf pattern. It is an 8-page pattern that shows you how to do everything from knit 2 together, to SSK, to undoing your lace mistakes, to blocking.

Level 2:

You’re becoming fairly independent with knitting. You are comfortable with knitting, purling, and perhaps a few basic stitch patterns. You might need an explanation for a technique here and there rather than having the entire pattern being step-by-step.

I have a number of patterns that fit this bill. One of them is Lindsay's Perfect Mitts:

Another is my ruffled shawl:

For these patterns, I do help you out quite a bit, but only with techniques that might not be as familiar to even a knitter who has been at it for a few years.

Level 3:

There's always something to learn, isn't there? You have become a little more patient when you knit. You are comfortable knitting and reading patterns and don’t need much in the way of explanation, although if there is a particularly clever way to do something, it would be fun to learn.

I try to make it so that if my patterns are at this level, the knitter is still not frustrated--but at the same time, these are not the patterns that one should start with. You probably need more experience.

My favorite pattern here, since I am an intarsia freak, is my Diamond Head hat. It is fun to knit and even more fun to wear:

Where are you in these levels? Is there a chance that you are further along than you think? I believe that the real problem is sometimes not a lack of skills, but a lack of confidence--and maybe just a little more patience needed!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

From the Beginning

Over the past year, I have been working hard to get my patterns up to speed--beautifully photographed and carefully (I hope!) edited. I just looked, and I suddenly have 22 patterns up on Ravelry. Over the next few weeks, months, or maybe even for years and years, I'm going to talk about some of them--what I was thinking when I designed them, and what they will do for you, my fearless-knitter friend.

I want to start with one of the first things I designed, probably 10 years ago. It's not a big deal. It's just a simple hat. This hat is great for not only a beginner, but for anyone who wants a quick hat. Thus the name: Quick-Knit Hat.

It started out as a simple rolled-brim hat pattern.

But over the years, knitters started asking for a simple hat that had ribbing at the brim...

....or that was ribbed the entire way up:

Honestly, even with modifications, a simple hat is a simple hat. I decided to combine all of these into one pattern. It is the all-purpose hat.

This is the one pattern I have that comes in 2 versions: learning or more experienced.

The more experienced version just gives the usual--number of stitches to cast on, how much yarn to buy, different sizes, etc.

The learning pattern has a little more. I put in pictures to show beginners how to knit in the round without twisting, how to knit 2 stitches together, how to use double-pointed needles. This is where my patterns are different from most. I like having little tutorials that I think will help knitters. Even if you've already made the hat in a knitting class, having a review of the concepts in the pattern will come in handy when you're trying to make another.

Here, for example, is one of the pictures from the pattern. It shows how to knit 2 stitches together.

Now, if you've been knitting for a long time, you can safely ignore this instruction (or buy the "quick" version of the quick hat). But if you're not taking a class and have never done anything beyond knitting a simple stitch, a picture is helpful. The phrase "knit 2 together" is rather self-explanatory, but when you begin anything, you need a little extra security that you are doing what you're supposed to be doing.

That's what I try to do with all my patterns--help the knitter, and take him or her to the next level. Not every pattern will show you how to knit 2 together, of course. (In fact, this is the only one that does.) But where I think you might need the nudge or the help or the humor in my patterns, I give it to you. It keeps the knitting fun and successful!

Monday, October 24, 2011

A New Start

As most of you who are reading this know, I've been working on my patterns for years, but recently I've started getting them together in earnest. I found a professional photographer who is fantastic: Thank you, Tamar London! And I have a wonderful editor, whom we shall call Anonymous Tina. Thank you, AT! I appreciate both of you more than I can say.

My blog has been quiet because I have had my head down, writing. I hate those blog entries where the writers say that they are working on "secret projects" that they can't show you. I wasn't working on anything that was a secret, but I like to go at my own pace when I write. I didn't want to feel pressure to finish the patterns before their time: "Isn't this cute! You can make it in 2 or 3 or 6 months from now--if I'm done by then!" (I was sure I'd have a bunch of my patterns ready by June. Notice that it's October.)

So I'm going to start by talking about my latest patterns that are available on Ravelry for sale, or through the local yarn/quilting shop that I co-own, Stitch Your Art Out. If you are a Local Yarn Shop owner and would like any of them to sell at your store, please feel free to contact me via Ravelry.

The first pattern I'll talk about is the Little Striped Neck Warmer. Maybe I feel like talking about it first because I'm teaching it tomorrow night. Or maybe it's just because I love this pattern. I was looking for something that would incorporate the stripes that are so popular in shawls at
the moment. And I wanted something fast, something that would make a great little gift. And I've been on kind of a cowl kick lately. So I came up with this:

As you can see, it's great for using up little scraps of worsted-weight yarn (about 75 yards per color, plus a few more yards for the front bands). The thing I love about it is that it hugs the neck. It will keep you warm in the winter but won't get in your way. I made one version that pulls over the neck and another that buttons. Take your pick.

You should know that when I write patterns, I never forget about the poor knitter at the other end. I spent 20 years in the classroom, and instructing runs deep. I always write patterns that have teaching in them, and I try my best to explain the skills.... well, really clearly. These neck warmers have several skills: picking up stitches, 3-needle bind-off (the neck warmer on the right), and buttonholes (the neck warmer on the left).

The pattern explains step-by-step how to do all of these things, with photos. It even explains how to sew on buttons. I'm always amazed at the number of good knitters who don't know how.

If you would like to purchase this pattern, feel free to stop by the store, or go to my page on Ravelry.