Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why(and How) Did I Start to Write Patterns?

I have asked myself this question over and over and over. It's not a quick nor easily answered question, but here's a stab at answering it.
Anouk Schlüttli
   In the early summer of 2010 I was in the middle of a heavily complicated pregnancy for my third miracle and scanning Ravelry and the greater internet for patterns to knit while on bed rest. I had purchased the fantastic Twisty Trousers pattern by Lynne Sanderson the previous winter and was browsing the FOs(knitter speak for "finished object") for inspiration for my next project when I came across a gorgeous deep violet pair by a knitter named DariasTulip. The cabled longies were gorgeous, but what really caught my eye was the side-buttoned cardigan on the sweet babe in the photo. I began searching high and low using all the techniques and terms in searches trying to find the pattern for such a garment. I came up empty, so after about a month I summoned the courage and emailed Daria herself asking for a reference. She was SO sweet and willing to help. She explained that the garment is an old-old-old traditional Swiss sweater style called a Schlüttli, linked me to THIS PATTERN she used as a guide, and offered to help translate if my German wasn't up to snuff. It was a PDF of a scanned, hand-written document containing just one size. I took a stab at it and ended up with this cute cardigan my oldest loves and STILL tries to squeeze herself into 2.5 years later. I was not 100% pleased with the outcome, but knew I'd made a couple errors because not all German dictionaries contain the knitting terms I was seeking the meaning for that I couldn't figure out in the pattern. I continued to search for other patterns for "Schlüttli," side-button cardigans, etc. I found a couple of German retailers for the garments themselves, but no patterns.
The first Schlüttli from my own notes
   After thoroughly exhausting resources I became confident that there were no other English written knitting patterns of this old-school traditional style garment and that this PDF was the only I could find online in another language as well. I had also taken many notes during the knitting process and found many areas where I would make changes for my own personal preferences. So I knit another, one meant for my tiny one in-utero. I made said changes, like eliminating the panel of knit beneath the front so the front of the sweater would only be one layer instead of two, changed the neckline, the proportions, and the increases, just to name a few. In the end, the only thing resembling the original PDF was the fact that it buttoned on the side along the raglan line, which was truly nothing more than that traditional Swiss style of sweater. I was not thrilled with the proportions with the gauge nor the thickness with the worsted yarn used, so I decided to immediately try again, but with DK weight yarn, a slightly different gauge, and more changes to the design. It was perfect. I started knitting more of these little sweaters as fast as my swollen, pregnant fingers could go. I knit for my tiny one and for every friend and family member who wanted one, taking notes along the way for changes, each size, proportions, etc.
More changes, another try
   I had been selling my knitted wares since 2007, so after I was confident that it was a solid design and my changes and notes were consistently producing proportional and solid goods, I knit one for sale on my shop. The response was ENORMOUS! I was astounded. I knew it was a style I'D never seen before stumbling across Daria's Ravelry projects, but it became obvious that it was not just me. The cardigan and matching hat I'd knit for my shop sold within seconds of stocking. Then my inbox became flooded with requests for customs and the pattern itself. I explained that I had never published a pattern before, linked people to the German PDF Daria had linked me to and explained I'd made a plethora of changes, but that it was a solid start that any experienced knitter could modify to their liking. The word continued to spread and people kept coming back with the same request: I love YOUR pattern. PLEASE publish it!
   So I tried. Clearly I was naive. It took me months of writing, editing, knitting through each and every size to ensure it was exactly what I wanted. Finally, after four months I decided that was as good as I could do. I dispersed my final draft to experienced knitting friends and WAHMs for testing. They loved it. I announced I would be publishing it on my store front on January 1, 2011. Three days before the set publishing date, a high profile knitting WAHM emailed me and begged for a pre-release copy. I gladly obliged, honored that she had even noticed little old me. On publishing day, all 100 copies I sold on my HyenaCart store front sold out immediately. Within days the feedback response was enormously positive. It thrilled me. I put it on Ravelry and the pattern continued to sell. It was amateur, not without typos, but it was a new design that 99% of the knitting community had never seen and they loved it.
The first Gemütlich prototype
   As the next week wore on I took notes on changes people wanted to see. It was clear a new edition would need to be published soon, because my first-timer mistakes were obvious. I also knew I wanted to do something else with the shape, so I did a trial run of a pull-over option of the same style, but with a partial button band. I made my desired changes, wrote up the pattern keeping in mind the suggestions for improvements on my Schlüttli pattern. The testing phase was more thorough this time, done by strangers who would pick out the errors and not spare my feelings.
   In April 2011 I posted a photo of my oldest in one of my many prototypes on my HyenaCart storefront and announced the scheduled publishing date in the summer. Again, the response was huge. People loved it and were looking forward to the pattern.
   As I worked on writing, editing, and test knitting I decided I wanted one other element in the pattern to the pattern using the signature button band to go along with my growing obsession with the hand-crafted buttons by the talented artist Tessa Ann Watte. Thus came the Liebkosung- a sleep sack unlike any I'd seen patterns or products of to compliment the cloth diapering scene I'd been a part of since my first was born.
The first Liebkosung
   After thorough testing, editing, re-testing, and literal thousands of dollars in my own resources (yarn, buttons, work hours, etc) to work out every kink, my Kumfy™ Schlüttli pattern had grown from one page into the 16-page, three pattern(with innumerous directions for customization, different cuff, and embellishment options, etc) Kumfy™ Schlüttli Collection it is now. Each part of my collection has now also been copied by numerous writers, experienced and not, and I have repeatedly come under attack as a copycat, my very character questioned because writers they knew about before me have now written identical patterns and because I am the lesser-known designer it simply MUST be me who is the one copying others. That couldn't be further from the truth. I never claimed to be the original maker of the side-buttoned cardigan- in fact I have ALWAYS credited it as a traditional Swiss design I merely wrote the first(that anyone has been able to find online) English pattern for- and anyone on the cloth diapering community called DiaperSwappers can follow the entire evolution of this process in my posts on the crafting forums as I knit and discussed every bit of it with my fellow knitters there, never intending to write a pattern for it from the very start.
   So that is HOW I wrote my very first pattern, from start to finish, and it is WHY the pattern was even contemplated in the first place. Since then I have followed a similar process of developing something for my very own children, unable to find a pattern for it therefore writing one myself by trial and error for four more original, unique designs. It is stressful, detail-oriented work, and the negatives of being copied, receiving hateful messages from those unaware of a design's origins,receiving emails from others containing links to places on the internet where my name is being lied about and slandered because of the drama embroiled in the knitting community, etc, have often seemed to out-weigh the positives, but in the end I seem to be a glutton for punishment because I keep writing them, enjoying the thrill of seeing others enjoy the patterns, and crying when I am attacked again for nothing I actually did. What can I say? I am a crazy knitter.