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Newsletter - September 2012
We’re welcoming cooler Fall weather to the Northern Hemisphere with lots of cozy garments including vests and wooly inspiration from the September issue of Vogue fashion magazine. Read, too, about publisher Cabin Fever and the excellent working relationship of the sisters who launched the company.
Prime Minister's Choices
No real overriding theme here, this time, except for how fond I am of all these designs, and how well I think they stand the time test.
With all the interest in Downton Abbey and similar costume dramas, this very easy, very dramatic jacket seems a particular winner right now. The front ruffle-- worked all in one piece from picked-up stitches-- is garter stitch.
And this cardi, too, evokes Edwardian grace without dating itself in the least. Everything's top-down, including the set-in sleeves picked up from the armhole. Not for beginners, but absolutely gorgeous, in an exhaustive size range.
Designer Maddy Laine lives in Montreal (arguably the Paris of North America), and it shows in her work. These are versatile, easy, almost seasonless, very chic pieces for your girl that look amazing in any style of worsted-weight yarn.
Here at Patternfish Towers we've been lucky enough to have been surrounded by births over the last year or two, which of course makes us think of these lovely blanket designs. They're wonderfully reversible, and the pattern itself is a longstanding bestseller in both print and digital formats.
And of course we love Lite-Lopi, and this gorgeous traditional-but-not design for men or women, always perfect for colder weather. Classically wrought in the round, and as always, a superb vehicle for colour.
Because while this is easy to knit and extremely good-looking, it's very much out of the common way-- just the little extra touch of the ties extending into the yoke surprises and delights. And what a way to use up oddments!
I have theories about vests and those, like me, who make them.
- Vest knitters are sometimes bored when it's time to knit the sleeves for a pullover or cardigan. We’ve learned to make vests instead to avoid yet another UFO.
- Vest knitters like to explore new techniques and stitch patterns without always committing to a large canvas.
- Vest knitters like to try out new yarns but aren’t made of money. There’s a lot of expense spared when you spare the sleeves.
- Vest knitters like to be comfortable. This is code for adaptable to conditions: menopause, air conditioning, aging.
My conclusions? Vest knitters are impatient, curious, frugal, sometimes older. Here are some of the favourites from a vest knitter who fits the profile: me. My current project, the Islanders' Vest, is included. It's such a pleasure to knit, I'm almost wishing it were a cardigan! (Be sure to zip down to the bottom of the newsletter for my last minute vest addition.)
In this issue ...
From the Prime Minister's Desk
Last month I wrote about how right now, this minute, we live in the best of all possible eras in the world for knitting and crocheting. Both the traditional large companies and the increasingly influential independents work together to offer a choice of designs and materials never before available in the history of the world.
The only thing that could improve this scenario is the right season. And September, of course, is a culmination month. The month of the year we look forward to the most (if not August). The first crisp in the air. The new yarns and patterns flooding into your LYS or online purveyor of choice (*cough*) to touch and dream over. Kids back at school, so perhaps you get a few extra minutes squeezed in here and there to knit or plan your knitting in. September traditionally offers the first opportunities to wear the newest pieces we've created. Perhaps not full-fledged bulky sweaters yet, but certainly scarves and shawlettes and fingerless mitts and suchlike-- the crocus garments of our favorite time of year.
And just as the cooler season presents us with the gift of new fibre opportunities, so will Patternfish offer you new features in the next few months. First up, Special Guest Star Greg has come up with a unique ringtone for your cell phones which we'll make available free of charge soon. As always, we'll continue to provide you with some of the greatest designs and design talent in the world.
It follows, then, that we're all heading into the greatest season ever in our history. Not only is it Patternfish's fifth fall of existence, but the knitter or crocheter has more resources than ever to brighten their lives in every respect. This is our Golden Age. Let's revel in it as it happens, consciously and gratefully.
A Landmark Design
We featured lacy shawl patterns in August for knitters who wanted a project that wouldn’t be a literal burden in breathlessly hot weather. Just as that newsletter was sent out, Robyn Gallimore’s Bavarian Shawl arrived. It’s a perfect follow-up to the August shawls because Gallimore used four different coordinating yarns to create it. What sock or shawl knitter doesn't have leftover lace or sock weight yarn in tones of our favourite colours?
Here’s what Gallimore had to say about how her Bavarian Shawl came to be: "The stitch pattern is one I have used over and over again - I just love its rhythm. The colours just came together when I was sorting through some of my stash. I noticed that several orphan skeins looked fantastic together. I guess I was on a purple spin and kept finding beautiful ones! The stitch pattern is easy to remember once you get going and makes a not too lacy but nice, open, textural stitch that plays well with hand dyed yarns."
Gallimore’s Red Bird Knits was exclusively a sock design house, but delightfully, shawls are now on the pattern menu.
Publisher and Designers of the Month - Cabin Fever
Sisters Deb and Lynda Gemmell are excellent examples of the synergy and effectiveness that result when partners recognize their individual strengths and inclinations and put them to use to launch and run a business.
Deb and Lynda Gemmell together are Cabin Fever, a business that began in 1997 as a 300 square foot store in Orillia, Ontario. It was so small that if a customer arrived, one of them had to go into another room. If they had 2 customers, they both had to leave. The sisters quickly realized that they were most interested in writing patterns and books, so that’s where they chose to concentrate.
A look through Cabin Fever’s designs reveals patterns that are almost stark in their simplicity. They reflect the sisters’ philosophy: “When you finish casting off you are done. Minimal finishing is our motto. Top down knitting falls into this category. It gives more control to the knitter. Adjustments for length, width, fit and body shaping are all possible and easy to work in this construction."
Cabin Fever’s latest book, Need a Plus Cardigan?, written by Deb Gemmell and Robin Hunter and produced by Lynda Gemmell, exemplifies this philosophy.
The objective of this book was to put body shaping decisions in the hands of knitters, not designers, for a better fitting, personalized cardigan. The designers worked with plus sized women of different shapes to understand the fitting challenges and develop modifications of the patterns so knitters could suit their individual shapes and needs. The designers tested the garments on real women. Deb: “It was fascinating work."
With this newsletter, Cabin Fever is launching The Lace Frock, a design from Need a Plus Cardigan?, to give customers an opportunity to experience one pattern from this plus size approach. DK yarn is used for this individual pattern. The book gives you the options of creating this pretty cardigan in 6 different yarn weights from sports to chunky, adding borders or front and back patterned panels, or making a simple, perfectly fitting cardigan.
Read on to find out more about the Gemmell sisters’ synergy.
What are you passionate about?
Deb: I would like to see more knitters taking a step away from the written pattern. They could be doing a little design work to make each sweater they knit their own original creation. I would also like to see knitters making garments for themselves and wearing them proudly.
Lyn: I like to write patterns that allow the knitter to put their own stamp on the finished piece. To write it in such a way that they know what and why they’re doing something, allowing them to make modifications or personal adjustments. I'm also passionate about pizza.
When did you start knitting?
Deb: I learned to knit at University from a girl in residence. She learned from her German neighbour so I now knit in the Continental method. I had learned the knit stitch and the purl stitch when I decided to quit school for a bit and hitchhike out west. I bought yarn for a sweater in Vancouver and had the sales clerk tell me how to rib. I then knit the whole sweater by going into different bus stations and looking for a woman knitting. I would sit myself down beside her and ask for help with the pattern instructions. I finished my sweater in Sudbury at my grandmother’s house. These women were all excellent and generous teachers.
Lyn: What Deb didn’t say was that she knit that sweater for me and I wore it for years... despite one sleeve being slightly longer than the other and needing to weave in a little cord through the bottom of the sweater as it kind of “wowed" out. We still have that first sweater!
Deb taught me to knit. We decided we’d open our own business together when I came home from working in England and figured if it was going to be a knitting business then I'd better learn how! We’d knit together at our cottage for several years with me taking the project home after the holidays and working on it until I couldn’t go any further, then would continue the next summer.
When did you start designing?
Deb: We started designing when Cindy, from the original Knitting Guild of Canada, came into our very tiny shop and asked for the pattern for a sweater on the wall (we had literally just opened our shop). There was no pattern, I had just knit it up.
She bought yarn for the sweater and insisted that I send her the pattern and she would test knit it. We have been writing our own patterns ever since. We both really enjoy designing.
Lyn: Frankly I didn’t really realize that everyone didn’t do designing. We both designed from the first month of opening our business. It was just something we did!
Tell me how your self publishing began.
Deb:We got into self publishing after we’d been published in several other books and had written a couple of our own books for a big publisher. We’ve always produced our pattern leaflets.
On the whole this went well but we had, and continue to have, pretty strong views on how we like our patterns to be written. Plus we really did know what kind of books we wanted to do so we decided to just do it ourselves.
Lyn had taken book publishing at college so she commuted to Humber College to upgrade her publishing skills and learn all the software that didn’t exist when she was in college. We now self-publish at least one new book a year.
Tell me about how you work together, your different responsibilities, and the relationship.
Lyn:We’re pretty lucky in that we have differing but complementary skills and interests. Being sisters means that we can “assume" a lot knowing each other so well. Mind you, we are sisters... you know how that goes too! However, for the most part, Deb takes the lead in the design element and Lyn takes the lead in running the business. Lyn loves to travel, Deb not so much, so Lyn does most of the travelling to shows and Deb is a natural teacher and is in demand for that.
Which are your favourite designs?
Deb: My favourite is what you might expect, the book I’m currently working on.
Lyn: I enjoy small projects. Going into the office every day and travelling to as many as 8 to 10 shows a year doesn’t leave me with a lot of time for big projects. And I have a short attention span. I have to think that many of our customers face those same time issues.
Customers love our Last Minute Baby for obvious reasons, and Take it From the Top, an infinitely variable and adaptable sweater suitable for most yarns and a perfect project for a first time top down knitter.
How did you come to list your designs on Patternfish?
Julia was our first ever sales rep. She actually was a rep for a yarn distributor and was pretty much the only one that would come and visit us up in Orillia, Ontario – even in the winter! We loved her, especially when she offered to rep our patterns (it was pretty thrilling for us – we felt we’d finally arrived). So we’ve been friends and colleagues for years. It was just a natural move to have our patterns and eBooks with her on Patternfish.
What do you think the next 10 years will bring to your designing/publishing world?
The internet and technology is changing our business dramatically. We had no idea that we’d be selling our patterns and books on-line when we started. It wasn’t even a concept in 1997. It’s almost impossible to imagine what it will be like in another 10 years. We’ve always had more ideas and things we’d like to do than time to do them, so hopefully we’ll continue to grow as designers and business owners and embrace all the new avenues that the future will bring.
Find all the Cabin Fever patterns by Deb Gemmell, Lyn Gemmell, as well as friends who design under their label.
Our Newest Designers and Publishers
We welcomed five new designers in August.
Kangath Knits’ Ruth Roland debuts at Patternfish with her feminine Summer Party Series that includes a shrug, bag, and top. Both top and shrug are knit top down for minimal finishing and are sized for children to 5X.
The Little Cupcakes line at Patternfish launches with “A snuggly zig zag lace knit baby blanket with garter stitch edging for a neat finish" from designer Lisa Craig. For everyday use, we love baby blankets that have warmth and substance like this Twisty Lace Baby Blanket.
Designer Anne Podlesak of Wooly Wonka Fibers finds inspiration in the past. Her fascination with the images and stories from the Titanic lead to her Molly Brown socks, where you’ll find charts called the Ballroom Chart, the Grand Staircase Chart and the Grand Staircase Toe. Fun!
Karin Crelling of Dyeforsocks1965 begins at Patternfish with her Baby Elephant Walk fingerless gloves dedicated to her daughter, who loves elephants. Varying the colour choice will give you feminine or masculine, elegant or fun elephants dancing after one another around your hand and wrist.
Daniel Yuhas of Super Fun Knits begins at Patternfish with this super fun baby blanket called Ruffled Anenome, a classic pinwheel knitting pattern enhanced with lace and a generous fringe.
Collection of the Month
Knitted garments in the September Vogue fashion magazine, which incidentally weighs in at 4 pounds, 4 ounces, are the inspiration for our September Collection. The ones that caught my eye are a bulky knit, turtle necked, raglan sleeved sweater for women, a men’s pullover with fair isle patterning on the chest and biceps, bulky-knit wrist warmers, and a close fitting, drapey sleeveless cowl-necked sweater.
Here are some similar designs from our pages.
From the Ambassador's Desk
- Gayle Clow
In my capacity as newsletter editor, I make personal selections each month. This month I chose vests, my favourite garment after cardigans. The newsletter was pretty much put to bed when this Cardigan and Waistcoat pattern arrived from Sirdar and I just had to add it. I love the geometry for visual interest, the back of the neck coverage for comfort, the chunky yarn for speed, and the unusual construction and schematic to keep me interested. I love all of it. It will be my next vest.