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Newsletter - September 2011
Welcome to Fall, the serious knitting and crochet season in the Northern Hemisphere.
We've received a couple of questions asking that we show yarn quantities on the Patternfish site so customers can be sure to know the right amount before purchasing a pattern. It can be madly disappointing to find that you are 1 skein short!
Yarn quantity information is almost always available on the pattern description page. We've found that some folks haven't discovered that, so here's the information to find what you need to know before buying.
The detail pages, the small photos below and to the right on the Patternfish pattern description page, usually show the yarn quantities for each size, gauge, needle size, project dimensions and often other useful information such as schematics, stitch detail and alternative views. Designers provide this information when they submit a pattern for posting to the site and we encourage them to provide all the information that potential purchasers need to make informed choices. You will see from 2-14 detail pages for each pattern.
If you have any questions or comments about this topic or anything in the newsletter please send them to Gayle at firstname.lastname@example.org and send any other questions about Patternfish to Phil at email@example.com
Prime Minister's Choice
Each month Julia will pick her favorites from our publishers' collections. This month's are from Sirdar.
At age 11, my daughter picked this short-sleeved cardi out for herself. I loved knitting it, and (this is the really magical part) she actually loves wearing it.
I chose this one for men because it's dead easy, gorgeous, and would look great on most men (who would probably be happy to wear it).
There are just too many to choose from for women, but I think if this had been photographed in a lighter colour, it would be a deserved bestseller. Stunning and so fashionable.
I adore ganseys and this easy 4 ply variation on the theme is a classic for babies.
Something that's always bothered me about knit garments, whether purchased or 'made by me', is seeing patterning on the front but nothing but miles of stockinette on the back. Just because we can only easily see the front of ourselves in a mirror is no reason not to have something interesting, even intriguing, going on at the back of our sweaters and cardigans. So I devote the Editor's Choice this month to two designs that are as worthwhile to see both coming and going.
In this issue ...
A Landmark Design
Patternfish’s 9000th design is Robin Melanson's Coin Cable Cardigan from Naturally. Julia says, "Robin Melanson is all about fit and femininity. Gabbiano (the Naturally yarn) is about swift, warm knitting." Both combine for a lush look and feel.
From the Prime Minister's Desk
Part 2 of Julia's story of Patternfish, wherein Julia explains why Patternfish looks and feels the way it does.
I wanted Patternfish to be as classy-looking as I could make it, because both designers and customers deserved it, and I hadn't seen it done before. It was about bloody time that great patterns could be shown in their proper glory to an astute clientele. I wanted people to be able to be proud of shopping at Patternfish-- to be able to show it to their friends as a sort of coffee-table site.
I wanted people to WANT to browse through it for hours, perhaps with a cup of tea or glass of wine, in the same way that they might browse through a Restoration Hardware or Metropolitan Museum of Art catalogue.
All this meant that we couldn't take conventional ads. Ads would distract from the peaceful look and feel of the site and introduce competition amongst retailers, which I didn't want. I wanted the focus to be on the designs and the designers. Retailers have since said to me: "I feel very comfortable sending people to your site because I know they're not going to get poached by another store"---who may offer 30% off, free shipping, or some other inducement or distraction. Some people refer to us as "Switzerland", and I very much like what they mean by that: we have no axes to grind beyond presenting beautiful projects to discerning crafters.
Aside from creating a frenetic look and feel for Patternfish, ads could also have been problematic because once you depend on them as a source of revenue, you have to have someone chasing new ones all the time. We didn't have the bodies to do that, nor did I want to spend my time thinking about that rather than talking to designers and publishers about the benefits of having their designs on Patternfish, posting new patterns to the site, and figuring out ways to make Patternfish more engaging, relevant and functional for our customers and designers.
In the pattern descriptions, I try to write as if I were a yarn store staffer talking directly to the customer, describing features and difficulty levels. (At the beginning, I wrote all the descriptions; in the last couple of months Gayle has been writing some, and independents who also publish elsewhere write their own.) I wanted to outline for our customer just exactly what I would want to know before embarking on a project-- whether there was anything really unusual (purling five stitches through the back loops as one pattern requires - I wouldn't want that to come as a surprise to anybody), whether the pattern had charts or not, schematics, special waist or short row shaping and so on.
As for the photographic representation, I wanted as many photos of the garment as the customer could stand, in detail, with collar or cuffs or front bands highlighted if they were especially impressive. If I'm going to invest 40 - 80 hours in making a piece, I want to have a good idea of how it's going to look when I'm done. The more photos from front and back and sides, the better, the more stitch detail the better (up to a point, but still). Digital downloading is a real advantage to the designer, publisher, and Patternfish because digital storage costs are tiny whereas print costs are enormous. Additionally the customer often gets more information from our site than they would ever have received from printed patterns.
The greatest contributors to the look and feel of the site are of course our publishers and designers. Patternfish began with the loving confidence of a handful of designers; to date we have 350+ publishers and 700+ designers. It's a daily delight to see what new designs have been submitted and which new designers are asking to join us.
Next month, more about how we shaped the site.
Designer of the Month:
Which is your favourite design? Like any good Mom, I don't have a favourite design, or child. I do enjoy knitting the children's patterns for my grandchildren often adding cables and color patterns for fun.
Where have your designs appeared? In the past I sold designs to knitting magazines and to yarn companies, but I no longer have the time to do that. I self-publish about 12 new patterns a year; the designing, proofing, knitting and editing of 12 new patterns a year takes most of my time. My designs have been available on Patternfish as PDF downloads since early 2011.
Do you teach? I do teach occasional classes and enjoy it very much. I love helping knitters learn new things and help them find joy and satisfaction in their work. And knitters are just fun people to spend a day with!
Which designers do you admire? I am a big fan of Elizabeth Zimmerman's designs, and am sad that I never met her. Her common sense approach to knitting made me the designer I am today and changed the way many others knit and design. I also admire Alice Starmore's wonderful fair isle designs; she is an artist with yarn and color. There are many other designers I admire; knitters today are very lucky to have so many choices!
Describe your perfect day. It would be camping at the lake with my children, my grandchildren, my husband and my knitting.
In what ways do you spend your time that would surprise people? I suspect that nothing I do is surprising. I love to work in my garden, go bird watching, kayak on the lake, walk my dogs, play with my grandchildren, travel, and shop but I don't have enough time to do those things as much as I'd like.
Where do you think the knitting world will be in 10 years? I'm sure the ups and downs that we've seen will continue but it will be interesting to see how much further the internet and social media will change the way we knit and buy patterns.
Where do you think you and your business will be in 10 years? Let's see, I am 65 now; I will be 75 then. I hope I will be traveling with my husband, shipping patterns and teaching someone else to write easy, simple patterns that knitters want.
Diane's web site offers detailed instructions on knitting your first top down sweater, from gauge swatch to finished product.
You will find all of Diane's Knitting Pure and Simple patterns here.
Our Newest Designers and Publishers
What is there to say about Dale of Norway except that the designs are breathtaking and as much fun to examine as knit and wear. One of these always gets you the admiring "You made that!" exclamation. The Dale of Norway collection does include some easier projects to ease your way into their method before you delightedly take the plunge.
S. Charles Collezione launches a magnificent pattern line with a fringed cardigan and shell combination that are at once elegant and fun. Not easy to achieve. Only one of the original yarns, Ritratto, is still available, so this is a great opportunity to pull out different colours and textures of stash yarns to create your own original.
Nancy Totten debuts with an easy-to-knit lace scarf knit in two pieces and joined with kitchener stitch. Aptly named the Drummer's Scarf, it's charmingly festooned with 6 'drumsticks'. Try different coloured 'drumsticks' for a child's version. It would be delightful to see more examples of Totten's sense of humour in her designs to come.
Lacie Lynnae begins at Patternfish with her ‘70's inspired Bernadette Lace Blouse. It's pretty, textured, functional, and fun or serious to wear depending on the fit and the neckline you choose.
Heidi Hennessy of Pepperberry Knits debuts with her very wearable Hannah's Newsboy Hat. Hennessy generously offers this fresh and feminine hat in three styles with a choice of three band patterns, so you could create nine different hats from this one pattern.
Collection of the Month
Fall means crisp weather, sunny breezy days and the need for a cozy jacket, hence these lovelies chosen for your viewing and knitting (and crocheting) pleasure.
From the Ambassador's Desk
- Gayle Clow
Reading about how Diane Soucy confined herself to one page for her early patterns brought to mind a familiar quote by a writer apologizing for his letter's length; he hadn't sufficient time to make it shorter. I thought it was Mark Twain; my English teacher husband thought it was Mme. De Sevigny (a celebrated letter writer, I'm told). We searched through books of quotations and found nothing. I searched the internet and found that indeed Mark Twain did write it, but as my husband said, thoughts that stick with us were often expressed earlier by a better writer (apologies to big fans of Mark Twain).
For your interest here are a few that I've found, restricted to the pithy ones.
- Blaise Pascal, (1623-1662)
- Henry David Thoreau
- Mark Twain