Beautiful Knitting

Where Mt.Mom knits, crochets, designs, and seeks Beauty as food for the soul.

Galaxy Tams — Design Process, Part 2

Posted by mtmom on February 3, 2011

Continued from previous post.

I hope you all find this interesting — I didn’t know about much of this before I actually started publishing patterns with a magazine, so I figure it will be new to most of you.

The Yarn.

After the senior editor of Cast On magazine let me know they wanted me to make TWO hats, one in EACH of the 2 yarns I’d suggested as possibilities, and once I had agreed to the proposed fee, she then asked about an alternate choice for the mohair-blend yarn, “Yarn A”.  Another project in the issue would be using the yarn I’d used in my swatch and proposal, and they want to include a broader range.  I went online to yarndex and started hunting for other yarns of similar composition (70% mohair, 30% silk) and gauge (laceweight, but usually knit at DK gauge because of fluffiness).  I chose several yarns that I thought would work, eventhough I hadn’t actually used any of the new options.  The editor contacted the yarn companies, to see who would be interested in supplying yarn to a designer for their upcoming issue.  Berroco agreed for 2 skeins of Ultra Alpaca, and Knit One Crochet Too said they had 2 balls left from open bags, but they were from different dye lots.  We agreed that this would be OK, since I would be double-stranding the yarns and that would blend them (vs get stripes where I changed balls).  Each yarn company mailed their yarns directly to me.  When they arrived, my knitting would begin!

The Pattern-Writing.

While waiting for the yarns to arrive, I started in on the writing.  The general outline of any pattern begins the same:  skill level, title, materials, gauge, special techniques, abbreviations; all these come before the actual instructions and I could get these (all but final gauge numbers) done before even beginning the knitting.  I looked up the Craft Yarn Council’s standards for skill level:  because the hat would use double-pointed and circular needles, and contain 2 simple eyelet patterns, it fell into the “Intermediate” category.  The title came pretty quickly in the process, especially because my DS had spent last summer working at our local observatory:  “Spiral-Armed Galaxy Tam”, or “Galaxy Tam” for short.  The yardage of each brand of yarn I could have found online, but instead I waited to copy this info from the ball bands.

What took longer was writing out directions for the circular cast-on and tubular bind-off.  The magazine always includes a glossary of basic techniques at the back, so I checked a past issue to see if these were already covered.  Kitchener stitch, the final step in the BO was in there, but the directions were for a flat piece.  I had to add extra details into my pattern about beginning and ending the grafting in a round project.  I wrote up a paragraph for the CO and for the BO, and repeatedly read and checked them for accuracy and clarity.

I even began writing up the instructions, because I already knew the basics of what I planned to do.  I went back and forth about including markers, and ended up including them because it shortened the amount of detail I needed to include before I could say, simply, “rep from *” and “continue”.  I think writing the Technique Tips and Designer Notes may be my favorite part.  I can explain and suggest and instruct, beyond just enabling a knitter to reproduce a hat to match the model.

Much of this was edited later, as I went through the knitting and discovered how things actually measured on the needles and then when I came up with a modification to the ribbing that very much pleased me but took some explaining.  I ended up having to use * and ** and even *** for those instructions!

Knitting the Prototypes.

2 tam tops

I began with Yarn B, the alpaca, because I had it in hand first.  I finished the top and then paused to catch up with Yarn A, the mohair-silk, to make very sure that they turned out THE SAME size.  I would have to include different numbers for the 2 yarns in several places in the pattern.  Lots of arithmetic:  2 yarns, in 2 gauges, in 4 sizes each.  I was glad I would have several weeks to do this (about 4 – 5), so I wouldn’t need to rush beyond my ability to keep my wits (and my notes) about me.  As I came to each new section of a hat — switching from increasing to even and then to decreasing, or beginning the ribbing — I would take care to write down or add to my draft EXACTLY what stitches I needed to make:  Should they (p1, k1) or  (k1, p1) at this point?  How did the YO fit into the ribbing rhythm?  How did the even vs odd numbers in the panels of the different hat-sizes affect this?  I have learned that I mustn’t presume I’ll remember later!

I liked knitting both, but think I enjoyed the mohair-silk more.

about halfway done with the pink

When each tam was complete, including tucking in ends, I blocked it over a pair of dinner plates, separated with several washcloths to add depth.

white tam blocking, top view

pink tam blocking, side view

I did lots of measuring, both during the knitting and after blocking, because these numbers were ESSENTIAL to the arithmetical magic that is Pattern Grading, i.e., the figuring of stitch and row counts for the sizes I didn’t actually knit, but that others might want to make.  Oh, the agony over the calculator!  (and I have a math degree)  Predicting other knitters’ results. . . !  What can I tell them that will help them succeed?!

The Parting.

When all the knitting and all the writing (and re-writing, and re-re-writing, etc.) was done, it was time to pack up my “babies” and send them out into the world.  I used lots of tissue paper and a sturdy box, rechecked EVERYTHING, and took several deep breaths.  It was DONE!

I hope you’ve enjoyed journeying along with me!

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