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Newsletter - July 2011
Welcome to the 2nd issue of the Patternfish Newsletter. We are pleased, excited, and gratified by the almost overwhelmingly positive reaction to our first newsletter in June. But enough about us!
Please let us know at if there are any issues you would like addressed, questions you would like answered or you simply want to comment on something you see here. If there's a designer you want to know more about, if you are curious about anything Patternfish, if there's a knitting issue you would like us to explore, ask us. Contact Gayle, Patternfish's Ambassador at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Brickbats are as welcome as bouquets!
If you have questions that are not newsletter related, they are best sent to Phil, our Minister of Technology at email@example.com.
In this issue ...
A Landmark Design
Last year at TNNA (The National Needlearts Association trade show) the Bergere de France people were jubilant over the tremendous success of this Trapeze-Line Jacket; we pleaded to post it on-line as a Patternfish Web Exclusive; they laughed.
But at this year’s TNNA, they allowed themselves to be talked into listing it for sale with us. This required high-level discussions in two languages and the approval of three of the company’s international executives; but in the end they agreed.
Bergere de France clearly speaks the language of great design; we’re delighted to share this outstanding pattern with you.
From the Prime Minister's Desk
Last month we covered the story of Classic Elite Yarns supporting Patternfish from the beginning; this month, we explain how the rest of our original brave band of publishers came on.
When I was a rep for Canadian distributor Kertzer, and an independent rep on my own, I got to know and adore many suppliers who trustingly agreed to list their patterns with us at the outset. These included Naturally (the first big box to arrive for scanning, GREAT excitement, and all the way from New Zealand!), JCA Crafts (Reynolds, Artful Yarns, Unger, JCA Crafts), Lanaknits Designs (hempforknitting), Deb and Lynda Gemmell of Cabin Fever, and the Thomas Ramsden Group (Wendy, Peter Pan, Robin, Twilleys, Waterwheel, and still some of the most vintage patterns we offer).
I of course sold the distributors' products to many stores in the Greater Toronto Area, and met fabulous designers that way. Robyn Gallimore's Red Bird Knits was a discerning customer. Linda Benne came on through Linda's Craftique in Port Credit, ON; Elizabeth Fallone through Tove Gilje's Needles and Knits in Aurora, ON; Robin Hunter (last month's featured designer) through the late lamented Village Yarns of Toronto; and Beverley Ann Finlay's Body-Grafix through the late lamented Yarn Tree in Streetsville, ON. Friends at Toronto's DKC (Downtown Knit Collective) included Denise Powell (Interpretations) and Danny Ouellette. Having repped the marvellous Fleece Artist and Handmaiden yarn resulted in some major stars from the East: Ilga Leja, Perl Grey, and Jane Thornley.
Barbara Gregory had done some freelance work for Kertzer, and agreed to let us publish the few patterns she had rights to on her own. I met Robin Melanson through working at Romni Wools in Toronto. I am ashamed to admit I don't actually remember the first time I met either Maureen Mason-Jamieson or Veronik Avery; in my mind they seem to have just almost always been in our Canadian firmament (young as they are), like elementary particles.
Long before founding Mission Falls and becoming a respected book editor, Mags Kandis was very active in Toronto importing a line of gorgeous natural fibres from Brazil (Valuruguai), and designing for those yarns. I met her, like Melanson, at Romni Wools (a Valuruguai stockist). She was incredulous when I insisted we wanted to publish those patterns, but good-naturedly sent me a box of them anyway. One of the things I love most about Patternfish is being able to see talent evolve over time; Kandis's early work is as distinctive as her more mature designs.
Linda Pratt of Westminster Fibres introduced me to Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton at Handarbeit in Cologne four or five years ago. I will never forget my excitement, nor the struggle it took to explain the Patternfish idea coherently to her, nor her very kind response as she stood up at last and smiled: "Well, I think you're really onto something here, girlie." And she cast her lot with us.
Lastly: I had taken classes with the irreplaceable Sally Melville in the early 90's, and through that and working with Kertzer, landed up helping during the photo shoots for her first two XRX Knitting Experience books (The Knit Stitch and The Purl Stitch). "I think I may have something for you," she said one day, and sent over two amazing garments, identical but for colour. There had not been space to publish this design in the books, but she wanted it out there-- and how we coveted it! I hired a lovely server from my local pub to model (thanks again, Ally), and one afternoon at my house Chancellor Shannon took pictures (yes, the Chancellor can do everything). Melville’s Cross-Over-Rib top in Koigu KPPPM remains one of our all-time best-sellers.
I'm still thrilled with and so grateful to our original lineup. At the time, each one of these publishers took a big chance with us. It's different now, of course; downloads are the way of the future, and Lord knows we have proof of concept. But they trusted us from the first, and we treasure them in return.
Designer of the Month: Laura Patterson
Laura Patterson, the designer behind Fiber Dreams, is a study in contrasts:
Patterson generously suggested launching a new pattern with this newsletter, but choosing one was not easy. She designed, produced and knit 7 shawls and cowls in 5 weeks. She’s astonishingly prolific.
Here’s the choice! Lazy River is a handsome cowl that fits nicely around the neck to keep out the cold but also can be pulled down onto the shoulders to become a capelet (you may need an extra pattern repeat or two for that).
It’s a stretchy little column of knits and purls that split and merge, meander and meet, in a structure that is almost architectural. We asked Laura to design mitts to go with the Lazy River cowl and, speed demon that she is, the fingerless mitts, named Stream, are here. In addition to the individual cowl and mitt patterns, Laura has packaged them together in a pattern appropriately named Confluence.
What inspires you? I’m interested in and inspired by many things—flora, fauna, art, architecture, history… the list goes on and on. Our world is an amazing and inspiring place. The way everything is at our fingertips these days because of the Internet allows me to look into, dabble with and explore bits and pieces of things as they occur to me. It’s fabulous.
Which is your favourite design? If I had to choose one favourite, I think it would be one of my earliest designs, Garden Party. I still love how the knitting starts in the middle with a double column of leaves, and morphs into a triangular shawl.
When did you start knitting and or crocheting and who taught you? My grandmother taught me how to crochet a chain when I was in second grade. I liked it but wanted to do moreso Mom got me a Teach Yourself to Crochet book, my own hook, and a ball of yarn.
From that, I learned to do single and double crochet stitches , basic stuff. I crocheted my first granny square afghan in third grade. About that same time Grandma taught me how to cast on and how to knit—but not how to purl or to bind off. Mom taught me to bind off, but I didn’t learn to purl until I was in my twenties and took a knitting class with some friends. I’ve been knitting off and on ever since.
What’s your design process? My process varies. Sometimes I get a vague idea, test stitch patterns for it, and do a lot of trial and error before ending up with a design that really works for me.
Other times an idea will hit me along side the head, usually while I’m asleep, and I can’t do a thing until I get the idea downloaded from brain to computer. Other times I’ll get my hands on a hank of yarn, and know instantly what it wants to be and how it wants to look.
Once I get a design in hand, I write up simple instructions for knitting it, then set yarn to needle. I expand, modify, alter, correct the written instructions as I knit, constantly adding to and changing the written instructions to match what I’ve done. Sometimes a design will completely morph during this process, from a triangular shawl to a rectangular one, from a cowl to a pair of mitts, sometimes I’ll stop in the middle of something, and start a completely new design with the same or different stitches, working with an idea that occurred to me while knitting. When I follow these impulses I find I’m happiest with the resulting designs.
The idea for my Evening shawl is one that woke me up out of a dead sleep. I found myself sitting bolt upright in bed, knowing exactly what the shawl would look like, what yarn to use, the beads, everything. All I had to do was write it down, and knit it up.
When did you start designing and what was the first design that you created? Which is the first that you sold? For years I tweaked the patterns of just about everything I knit: changed the neckline, added to the length here or inserted a pocket there... Because of this habit, my husband was confident that I could come up with something on my own. It took a fair amount of browbeating, but eventually he talked me into designing a small blanket that he could throw on his lap when he got cold sitting at his desk. I modeled the pattern after a traditional quilt block called pinwheel. I put this first pattern up for sale, and had a few nibbles. It wasn’t enough to encourage me to do more right away, so it was a good six months or so before I worked out my next design.
Which is your customers' favourite design/does this surprise you? It depends on where you look. My all-time most popular design is a simple little cowl that I allowed Classic Elite to publish in their newsletter. Of patterns I’ve published, the Garden Party shawl is a runaway.
If you look at printed patterns, my cowl and fingerless mitt patterns outstrip everything else… until you get to three garter stitch scarves I published within the last year: Spanish Dancer, Anjou, and Mako. These have sold very well.
Where have your designs appeared? I self publish most of my designs, and most of these can be purchased on Patternfish and at a growing list of retail shops. In addition, I’ve done sock patterns for a couple of clubs, shawl and sweater patterns for yarn companies. I have a mitten pattern coming out soon in a small book with mittens from other designers, called Fresh Designs: Mittens.
Do you teach? No. I don’t teach. Yet. I’m still thinking about it. More and more people keep telling me that I should teach… But two main things keep me from it: I’m naturally a very shy person, and the thought of standing in front of a group terrifies me. The other is that I’ve no idea how to teach a class. I’ve taken very few knitting classes in my life, and don’t know what would make them good, bad, helpful, indifferent. I’m working on these issues, so who knows what will happen in the future.
Which designers do you admire? I admire a lot of designers for a variety of reasons. Of course, moguls like Elizabeth Zimmerman and her daughter Meg Swanson top the list, along with every knitter who has actually come up with something new.
The knitters who learned at their grandmother’s knee to make sweaters and intricate lace confections without benefit of written patterns always astound me when I think of them.
Describe your perfect day. My perfect day starts at a reasonable hour of the morning, and includes a few hours or so of working at the computer before lunch, then knitting something that is going well, that I don’t constantly have to rip out throughout the afternoon and evening.
In what ways do you spend your time that would surprise people? In addition to being a voracious reader (especially fantasy and mysteries) I love working Sudoku puzzles, usually scream through every Sunday’s Numbrix puzzle, and enjoy working on crosswords with my husband. I also love gardening, photography, and SCUBA diving, none of which I currently have time for.