At the beginning of May, I achieved a long-held ambition. ‘Twas a fairly minor thing, compared to world peace, or even convincing the cat to use her litter tray instead of a laundry basket, but an ambition nonetheless.
I published a Selbuvotter-style pattern.
Selbuvotter are traditional mittens (votter) from the Selbu region of Norway. Typically, they are worked in fine yarn in black and white, although red is sometimes used as well, and feature very intricate patterns on a distinctive pointed mitten. The simplicity of the materials belies the stunning range of ornamentation possible even if one sticks rigidly to the traditional techniques, but there is immense fun (may be NSFWODS¹) to be had by breaking the rules too. The overall effect reminds me of Gothic stained-glass windows – particularly with a variegated or hand-painted yarn as background – but this is just my opinion. Selbustrikke (Selbu knitting style) is unusually well-documented for a knitting tradition ~cough~Aran~cough~, and so I shall just leave you to read this synopsis (link to pdf from Selbu Bygdemuseum) for yourselves rather than risk introducing any mythology to the tale…
Ever since I happened upon Selbustrikke, I’ve had a longing to create something as intricate as these lovely patterns, but inspiration failed to
strikke strike. I didn’t want to simply stick a pin in a stitch dictionary, I wanted something that had its own story. Last year, I learned of the death of Val Doonican, a singer who was the first in a long line of genial Irish chat-show hosts beloved of the British viewing public. Val was famed for his huge collection of knitted sweaters, or jumpers as they are known here unless you’re a blow-in from foreign parts, and allegedly never wore the same one twice. While noodling through his obituaries and listening to his back catalogue on Youtube, I came across a photo of him in a navy-on-white jumper with some complex colourwork (see photo in the submission outline below), and, as is my way these days, I opened up a Stitchmastery chart and attempted to recreate as much of the pattern as I could make out. Then I just saved it and forgot it.
Fast forward a few months, and Kate Heppell at Knit Now magazine put out a Designer Challenge call. These are short turnaround calls for patterns for specific yarns, typically with only a few days or a weekend to submit a proposal, so there’s usually not enough time to put together a full submission with sketches, swatches, photography, etc. I’ve nailed a few of these calls myself and find the pressure wonderfully concentrates the mind. The ideal pattern for these calls is short and straightforward, so grading for 15 sizes, fully charted lace, and complex shaping are out. It helps to have a design already kicking about in your catalogue, and a plug-in shape REALLY helps. For this, the Selbu style is perfect: I already had the colourwork design as a Stichmastery chart, all I had to do was fit it into the votter shape…
And here is what I sent off:
Note the phrase “usual format” – that’s the plug-in. Many Selbu patterns are single-size, as the colourwork is often non-repeating: the charts depict the whole mitten. Extra sizes mean separate charts for each size!
Newbie designers should take heart that the submission itself is not lovely, and I missed a misspelling, for which I have no excuse. The self-flagellation continues. It’s not terribly detailed either – no need to write an essay. Being prepared to compromise on changes is good too: Knit Now went with two shades of green instead of the white and aubergine I suggested. I’m rarely wedded to the colours in a submission – I expect people to choose their own anyway – but the greens worked beautifully, and fit nicely with the Irish inspiration.
Knit Picks Palette is a fab choice for this kind of detailed colourwork, too: 150 (150!!) colours, a very pleasing price point and UK availability. It’s not unlike JC Rennie’s Unique Shetland, which I used to make my Shadow Pets Hat and Mitts. I’d also recommend Palette for colourwork baby garments generally: you’d get the same level of detail in a baby jumper as in an adult version.
I have another pattern out next month, and a further four in various stages of the pipeline – including one which is an object lesson in not being wedded to colour schemes – or pretty much anything else either! And that this is far from being a disastrous sell-out of one’s oeuvre…
1: Not Safe For Work Or Delicate Sensibilities
I am fizzing about this being published!
It’s pretty amazing, an honour, really, to be selected as one of the designers in a launch issue, or re-launch in this case. But when it’s a publication like Knotions, it’s a bit special: Knotions is the webzine that offered a platform for Magknits patterns, after that site vanished overnight, along with designers’ fees. Extra karmic brownie points for that, Knotions.
Then, there’s the other designers. WoollyWormhead is in it too! and she is the goddess of all things hatty! and my hat is right beside hers on Ravelry! I’d also mention Elizabeth Helmich, except I hate her because she stole all the best names, and because the gorgeousness that is Jane of the Wood sneers at me from my favourites, saying things like “Not yet, fat girl!*” and “Lace? With those sausage fingers?” I may have to have a go at Sidhe’s Beret, though. Okay, I’ve already selected the yarn. Then, there’s Louise Tilbrook, who has a way with socks that is magical. Honeycomb Cables is particularly mesmerising, shifting shape according to the viewing angle. And finally, Jody Richards managed to produce the cabley City Creek Mitts as well as organising the re-launch, and doing the tech editing and layout for the patterns! Wow! Why am I in this issue again?
Finally, and no less excitingly, it is my beautiful niece and god-daughter’s professional debut** as a model! She has a quirky, fresh-faced beauty** that shows the set to perfection. She performed beautifully, climbing up walls and rickety gates for shots despite being afraid of heights, and never once whined or sulked or demanded cocaine. What more could you ask for?
* – The size range actually goes above my size. But I am also a lazy fatty who who would rather knit smaller garments…
** – Meaning I paid her in actual money, not just hot chocolate and the hat and mitts.
*** – Just like her aunt.
It’s the Mighty Offspring’s 10th birthday tomorrow, which means it’s about 10 years since I got back into crafting seriously!
I outlined my route back in this post back in 2007. It wasn’t quite where I’ve fetched up, designing hand-knitting patterns!
Instead, it was needs-must crafting for my suddenly-budget wedding after my research career went up in smoke. Strapped for cash, I crocheted wire and bead motifs into invitations and jewellery.
I had no real intention of continuing – I’m not a jewellery wearer at the best of times – but I never did put the hooks away again. I kept on playing with the wire, buying bits and pieces, reading up on the subject on the internet.
Of course, even then, there was a lot more about yarn-related crochet (and knitting) on the internet than about wire crochet, so naturally I found myself looking at that too. I found, and was entranced by items like Rachel Seeley Merrill’s Daisy Crochet Skirt, Marnie MacLean’s Gothic Lace cardi∗, and 302 Calories (actually, that whole issue of Knitty should be required reading – go look). I discovered Garnstudio’s DROPS patterns, Knitting Daily (Sandi Wiseheart’s Bust Dart series probably taught me to design), and the Yarn Harlot.
Then, on some blog or other, I saw a mention of a new website called Ravelry – and down the rabbit hole I went…
∗- still in my queue, still too fat – maybe for my 50th birthday??