Saturday, February 21, 2015

Occupied with Sockupied

All photos (c) Sockupied/Harper Point
When Amy Palmer, Editor of Knitscene and Sockupied, put out a call for people to review the latest issue of Sockupied (Spring 2015), I jumped at the chance. Here was a e-magazine I'd tried out when it debuted in Summer 2010, but hadn't really paid much attention to since. Partly because of the eMag format which I found unwieldy and partly because I have a backlog of sock patterns queued up already.

I was eager to see how things had evolved over the last 5 years.

I remember being amazed when Sockupied debuted 5 years ago. Here was the perfect magazine for me: all about socks; even then I was an avid sock knitter. Conventional knitting magazines, which were great learning resources as I moved from beginner to intermediate knitter, just didn't seem to have enough content geared specifically toward my main love: socks.

Laith Socks, Rachel Coopey

Spoiler Alert!

For those of you with limited time, I'll cut to the chase. I love the new Sockupied format of being PDF only. It saves space on your computer. It's easier to download and start using. The content is very focused. The patterns and photography are beautiful. If Sockupied had been offered in PDF format from the start, I would own more issues of it. I'll definitely be paying more attention to Sockupied from now on.

The Details

Sockupied 2015 is the first time the magazine has been released in PDF only format. I love this new format. It's straight forward. You can email a copy of the PDF to yourself to access on other devices (and as an easy backup method). And it takes up very little disk space on your computer: 3.75 MB. Download the PDF and you're ready to check out the delicious patterns. There's 1 file with all the pattern information you need.

Previously you had to download and install the file onto your hard drive. It's not an onerous task, but it does take up disk space (546MB for one issue I downloaded for the .exe, plus more for the installed magazine).

The eMag format was both interesting and frustrating. Because of my day job, I'm very much at home on a computer. I spend my working hours, along with many leisure hours, glued to a laptop. So it was fun to have something interactive to click through. But from a usability perspective, I didn't always know where to click. Or how to get the pattern for the sock I wanted to knit from the pattern, including how to find it again after I've closed it.

The Magazine

Mill End Sock, MK Nance
One of the first things that struck me, aside from the beautiful photography, was the cozy and 'real' feel of the magazine. This isn't a magazine where the designs might have artistic merit but are clearly not intended for everyday, real wear. I can see myself knitting and wearing every one of these designs. The techniques described sound completely do-able, the finished products cover a range of skill levels, and the yarns used are accessible, affordable and easy to swap out for something in your own stash or LYS.

I love that the table of contents clearly states whether the pattern is toe up or top down - one of the first questions I have about a pattern. Plus, there's a short description of the key highlights of the pattern. This tells us that in  MK Nance's Mill End Sock pattern "Swirling stitches cover the legs" and cable lovers might like Kate Atherley's Washington State Knee socks in which "Simple small cables are worked in a sport weight yarn." This makes it easy to pick out what's unique in each pattern.
Washington State Knee Socks, Kate Atherley

Sockupied's design aesthetic has really streamlined itself too, for the better in my opinion. Sure, it was fun to have lots of things to click in the interactive eMag, but that didn't necessarily improve the content or the reading experience.


Now, the magazine has a laser focus on what it does best - presenting beautiful sock patterns in a beautiful and consumable way. There are 5 patterns, a featured designer interview and an article on how to customize your knee-high socks - the perfect how-to article to answer questions that might be raised by readers when they explore Kate Atherley's knee-high sock pattern.

Another I noticed with much appreciation, is that there are no advertisements in Sockupied. I understand that advertising usually pays for magazine production costs, not subscriptions. But I like this streamlined approach. Sockupied is offering readers what we want: beautiful sock patterns at an affordable and fair price.

The Spring 2015 PDF is $11.99 on the Interweave site. You can also explore the patterns on Ravelry. That's a meager $2.40 per pattern - cheaper than any professional pattern I've seen. Plus, Kate's article on customizing socks is invaluable. Truly, any sock knitter should have the know-how to make their socks custom fit their own foot and leg shape. Factor that great advice into the purchase price and it's a steal at $2/pattern and article.

The featured designer article is a fun little feature too. Although it's just a page long, it's a fun way to learn a bit more about the designer as a person, her key design elements, and offers some handy sock knitting tips. In fact, I'm looking forward to trying out her Kitchener stitch tip on my next pair of socks!

The Patterns

Karner Butterfly Socks, Jennifer Raymond
I won't spend too much time on the details of each pattern. You can check those out for yourself on Ravelry. But what does deserve mention is that editor Amy Palmer has chosen a nice balance of techniques and skill levels. There's something for toe up vs. top down knitters. There's different heel turn techniques. There's something for the adventurous (Karner Butterfly socks, by Jennifer Raymond), which have you knit the leg of the sock around and then pick up stitches for the foot. And they don't shy away from the fact that, hey knee-high socks are a lot of knitting, so here some using sport weight yarn! It's quicker!


Chain Socks, Mone Dräger 
The One Sock Two Ways feature is another nice touch. I personally prefer knitting with solid or semi-solid sock yarn. But we've all been seduced by that colorway which looks great curled up in the skein but when knit up turns into a muddle of colors. One Sock Two Ways shows you how the pattern looks knit up in both a semi-solid and a variegated/hand painted yarn. And Chains Socks
by Mone Dräger looks like a great pattern to use that hand painted skein we all have but don't know what to do with.

Another great thing about the patterns is that they offer multiple sizes. Rachel Coopey's socks come in only 2 sizes. But the rest of the patterns offer from 3 to 6 (6!) sizes to choose from. The instructions are concise and clear. 

My only 'issue' (in quotes because it's more of a personal preference) is that due to the format, the instructions tend to run together in longer paragraphs. I like a bit more white space and visual separation between my instructions. Here's an example of what I mean.

Gusset
Next rnd Sl 1 pwise wyb, k19 (21), pick up and knit
16 sts along side of heel flap, work 32 (36) instep sts
as foll: k1, [p2, k2] 1 (2) time(s), p2, work Chart E over
24 sts, k1, pm, pick up and knit 16 sts along side of
heel flap, k36 (38)—84 (90) sts: 32 (36) instep sts, 52
(54) sole sts. Pm and join in the rnd. Dec rnd Work in
patt to m, sl m, ssk, knit to last 2 sts, k2tog—2 sole sts
dec’d. Next rnd Work even. Rep last 2 rnds 9 (8) more
times—64 (72) sts rem: 32 (36) sts each for instep and
sole.
If I were writing up the pattern (or even just following along), I'd prefer to see it like this:

Gusset
Next rnd Sl 1 pwise wyb, k19 (21), pick up and knit 16 sts along side of heel flap, work 32 (36) instep sts as foll:

Rnd 1: k1, [p2, k2] 1 (2) time(s), p2, work Chart E over 24 sts, k1, pm, pick up and knit 16 sts along side of heel flap, k36 (38)—84 (90) sts: 32 (36) instep sts, 52 (54) sole sts. Pm and join in the rnd.
Dec rnd:  Work in patt to m, sl m, ssk, knit to last 2 sts, k2tog—2 sole sts dec’d.
Next rnd Work even.

Rep last 2 rnds 9 (8) more times—64 (72) sts rem: 32 (36) sts each for instep and sole.

That white space and use of new lines for new rounds add visual cues that help me separate out chunks of information. But, I understand that this is a personal preference and that different magazines have different layout and style requirements. But since this is a PDF, I can easily highlight text using the PDF tools to help me focus on the steps, line by line.

Full disclosure: I was given a review copy of the Sockupied Spring 2015 PDF, but otherwise received no compensation. Amy Palmer, Editor of Sockupied was clear that what I said about it was up to me. She encouraged honest feedback, both good and bad. And frankly, I was going into the review with the opinion that Sockupied had disappointed me after its debut in 2010. But I really like what Amy & team have done and the direction they're taking with the PDF. By focusing on the content and not the bells and whistles of how it's delivered, I think they've really come up with a winner.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I finished things!

Just a drive by blogging to say that I've actually finished several knitted items recently and a couple are darn close to being done.

I'm just waiting for a cowl to finish drying, and then some decent daylight for photos. Then I'll be able to share pictures of what I've been up to, including a couple of FO's from Andi Smith's e-book Synchronicity, which I blogged about recently.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Interview with Eloewien

Spring's Beginning Scarf
For my final Q&A as part of the Indie Design Gift-a-long (which runs until December 31st) I found out more about Laura, a designer who publishes as Dragonwing Arts.




How would you describe your design style? 
I tend to favor more traditionally-inspired lacework, but I’m starting to work on easier patterns for newer knitters.
What prompted you to start designing? 
I really wanted a scarf to match a yarn I had purchased from a local Indie dyer, and I couldn’t find a pattern that fit what I wanted. I wanted something that used different leafy lace patterns. This ended up as my Spring’s Beginning scarf, and my first pattern.
Do you find your design style has evolved over the 7 years you’ve been releasing patterns? 
I’ve realized that my patterns may be too complex for some knitters, so I’m trying to design some simpler patterns that appeal to a wider range knitters.

Jack Frost Scarf 
Who is your knitting audience? Who are your designs targeted at? 
I’m not really sure how to answer this one… But my best guess would be people who enjoy more detailed, charted patterns.
What are your favorite techniques or types of things to knit? 
I love lacework. The more complex, the better I tend to enjoy it.
What is your greatest challenge throughout the design process? 
Coming up with ideas. I got pretty busy for a while and just wasn’t finding inspiration, then I saw an amazing window at the Fine Arts Center they built at Virginia Tech, and I was up and running again. That window happened to inspire a cabled scarf pattern I’m working on now. A picture of the window is up on my website athttp://www.dragonwingarts.com
Braided Cable Cowl
What do you have planned for 2015 design-wise? 
The only two projects I have in the works right now are the cabled scarf and a cabled bag from Cascade Sunseeker yarn that I feel in love with. When Outlander comes back on Starz in the spring, I plan on watching it closely for more ideas. I might try to make a set of mitts I saw on a background character in the current episodes, but I haven’t been able to make the gauge work with any of my current yarns so far. I hope to continue with my Outlander inspired patterns that I’ve been working on recently.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Interview with Christina Werge

Ready to meet another designer who is participating in the Indie Design Gift-a-long? This week I got to know more about Christina Werge from Berlin, Germany. 

Annie, Hitch: Patterns inspired by
the Films of Alfred Hitchock
.
photo (c) Nick Murway
I've been to Germany many times in my younger years to visit family, so it was fun to reconnect - in even the remotest way - with someone actually living in Germany. 

Christina is an accomplished designer who has been published in a number of places, including Knitty, Knit Now, and Clotheshorse. She also has a design in the Cooperative Press book Hitch: Patterns Inspired by the Films of Alfred Hitchcock. You can also find her designs on her website  Herrlichkeiten which also offers tutorials and blog entries.


What I really noticed about Christina is that she has an impressive range of designs, from accessories like shawls, hats and mitts, to sweaters and tank tops.




How would you describe your design style?
My designs always have a twist to them. Sometimes you’ll have to look hard to find the it - a unusual construction or small details. My designs sometimes look more complicated than they are as I always have the knitting process in my mind when designing. If a design looks good, but is a pain to knit, it is not going to be published.
Dome Hat, photo (c) C. Werge
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from a lot of sources. I am a very visual person and love to discover patterns in everyday life and nature. Sometimes this leads very directly to a design like when the cupola of the new synagogue in Berlin on my way to work sparked the idea for the Dome Hat. But more often it’s just a detail that gets my gears working…
Who is your knitting audience? Who are your designs targeted at?
I love to think about my audience as knitters who like to try something new and have fun knitting for themselves and other people. That’s why I have a lot of smaller, giftable things in my portfolio. I believe easy does not have to be boring and love to design for a wide range of skill levels. While I love to design things for everyone, I feel I can best anticipate the challenges of my own figure when it comes down to sweater design. MY sweater patterns are designed to make women look great - if they have curves or not. I always include instructions where to alter the fitting of my sweaters so that every woman can look good in them!
Daphne Tank, photo (c) Christina Werge
What are your favorite techniques or types of things to knit?
Looking at my patterns I’d have to admit that I love slipped and twisted stitches. It’ such an easy thing to knit - or in the case of a slipped stitch to not knit - and they open up a world of possibilities: colour work, cable work, even shaping (like the waist shaping of Daphne) is possible.
You have a sweater pattern, Annie, in the book Hitch: Patterns Inspired by the Films of Alfred Hitchcock from Cooperative Press. How did you come to be involved in the book?
I saw the call for submissions on the Designer board in Ravelry. As I love Hitchcock films I just knew I had to give it a try and submit a design.
Is there a difference in your design process between self-published patterns and designs for publications like Knit Now, Knitty or Hitch?
Yes, there is. While a call for submissions might spark an idea that leads to a self-published design or an idea that was to become a self-pub fits a call for submissions so well, it gets chosen, the process that follows is quite different. When self-publishing, I can/have to chose the yarn myself, my personal deadlines are flexible and I can make changes until the last moment and perhaps just knit another sample. There is a lot of going back and forth involved. With publications that’s different. I write down the pattern first as always, and then I will knit the sample. When working for someone else my sample knitting is the first (and possibly only) test knit there will be. So everything is pretty straightforward. Especially as I have to get a lot of knitting done in little time.
What is your greatest challenge throughout the design process?
Letting go. Accepting a design just won’t work and not trying to start it again and again is definitely not my strength. ;)
What do you have planned for 2015 design-wise?
Dome mitts, photo (c) C. Werge
I have a sweater pattern almost finished and also a great cable heavy design. I didn't have much of time for designing this year and next year looks like it’s going to be similar. So I’m focusing on self-publishing as I can tailor my schedule to my needs.
Elinor Shawlette, photo (c) C. Werge













Sunday, November 23, 2014

Me! Me! Me!

Just a drive-by posting to link to a fun interview that I did with Corley. She had some great questions for me and posted the interview on her blog, Crafted by Corley.

Thanks so much Corley!

Friday, November 21, 2014

An Interview with Michelle Meyer


One of the things I love about Ravelry and in particular, the Indie Design Gift-a-long (GAL) is finding new (and new-to-me) designers. There are so many talented people out there who often get overlooked because they aren't one of the 'big' names (yet).
Michelle Meyer, Indie Designer

Thanks to the GAL, I recently had an opportunity to interview Michelle Meyer, a relatively new designer from Wisconsin, USA. 

I love her Footbridge shawl. Part of what attracts me to it is its simplicity. This would be great travel, TV or waiting room knitting. And because of its simplicity, Footbridge presents a wonderful opportunity to focus on colors. I find Michelle's choice of colors for this shawl to be very striking. And I can also see this as being a great stash busting project, great for using up yarn remnants from other projects.




Footbridge Shawl


How long have you been knitting? 
I was taught to knit when I was young by my adopted Grandmother, however I didn't stick with it. At that time I could only knit, I couldn't even cast on. Then about 4 years ago I was preparing to undergo back surgery. At that time I was wanting to do something that was more portable than the other crafts I was invested in. A friend re-introduced me to knitting, ever since then there hasn't been a day that I haven't knitted.

What are your favorite techniques or types of things to knit? 
I love to knit cables. They add so much dimension to your project. I also love to knit in the round. My favorite things to knit are hats and cowls. I think I like to knit these items so much because of their instant gratification factor.
Juniper






What prompted you to start designing? 
The designing process intrigued me, and always wanting to learn more I found myself gravitating to it. One of my biggest inspirations to design are my two daughters. I also have a very good friend of mine Sara Gresbach of Addiema Designs who been such a wonderful support for me. She is always there to answer my “silly” questions. Knowing some with her experience makes designing less intimidating.

What has been your greatest challenge throughout the design process? 
I think that there are many challenges. One is to make sure I go with my gut and not over analyze or over think my designs. The other one is the challenge of naming my design. Sometimes this process takes longer than the designing process.


Your designs all seem to have a strong connection to nature and your environment. Is this a happy coincidence or on purpose? 
Footbridge
My first design was actually because I wanted something with texture, and also involved a little bit of inspiration from another passion of mine, which was quilting. However the designs after that pretty much have a connection with my love of the outdoors and nature. My husband, and our children love to ride our Motorcycles. Being out in the fresh air and driving the open roads of Wisconsin, bring out a lot of inspiration.

What do you have planned for 2015 design-wise? 
Looking ahead to 2015 design-wise I plan to keep putting out patterns using inspirations of my surrounding. I also plan on putting out more designs that help me step out of my comfort zone, and challenge me more as a designer.

Megara







You can also find Michelle on Facebook at Timeless Knits.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Synchronicity

I am not a lucky person. By that I mean that I never win things. I've entered blog contest, draws, lotteries (we have several great ones here in Ontario where you can win homes, cars, trips - all to support cancer research and local hospitals).

There was even that Stag & Doe (you know, a party for a couple getting married) party where my husband and I bought almost $100 worth of tickets, each holding onto our own set. He won a free makeover by a professional makeup artist (boy, did that get laughs!). I won nothing, nada, zip.

Synchronicity by Andi Smith,
photo (c) Andi Smith
By contrast, I know a couple people who seem to have all the luck and are constantly winning prizes (Hi Geri!).

But last week, I hit the jackpot. No, I didn't win the Lotto. I won the knitting Lotto and won a copy of Andi Smith's new e-book Synchronicity, which was being given away by Natalie Servant on her blog.

And it was perfect synchronicity. I love cables - one look at my patterns and you'll know that. And I've been trying to master the skill of two color knitting. Andi's book puts cables and color work together with beautiful results.

Andi's book contains 7 dazzling projects accompanied by careful explanations of the techniques needed to complete each one. She even includes instructions for sewing in a lining on one of her cowls to beautiful effect.
sevenofnine, Andi Smith, photo (c) Andi Smith
It's no wonder that Andi has created these brilliant designs. Andi is no stranger to designing. Her Ravelry page lists over 50 designs, including ones published magazines, book collections and her own books like Big Foot Knits from Cooperative Press. Andi blogs about her designing at  KnitBrit, slightly unraveled.

So, if it turns out my ration of luck was used up by winning Sychronicity, I'm quite happy with that. This is a wonderful book full of stunning projects.

Now, my only problem is trying to pick which one to start first: Black Bunny, French Quarter or sevenofnine?


French Quarter, Andi Smith
photo (c) Andi Smith
Black Bunny, Andi Smith
photo (c) Andi Smith