Monday, March 23, 2015

Rainbow Cardigan

Whoopsie! I just found this draft from late last year that I forgot to post! Please read all in retrospect.

Woohoo! I finished the Fundamental Top-Down Women's Cardigan I showed you back in September in this post. I took the past week off to relax and finish up a few personal projects and I was so glad to make this one of them.

This is a crunchy, woolly rustic yarn with veg matter and yummy sheepy aroma and everything. It was also hand-dyed by my friend Shelly of the former Butternut Woolens. Shelly has moved on to other professional pursuits, but I still have lots of her hand-dyed yarn to enjoy. I took this group of six vibrant colors and mapped them out with the rainbow as my color guide and a slip-stitch chain colorwork pattern as my fabric. The sweater is an adaptation of my Figheadh Fundamental Women's Top-Down Cardigan. I chose the crew neck, although I tweaked it a bit. Okay, I made a slight error as I was knitting it, but I like it anyway. It's kinda like a crew-high-V neck.

As the stitch pattern is worked, some of the colors fall to the background (St st) while others are brought to the foreground (the purl chains). I used almost all of the six skeins by edging the sleeves with green, the body hem with green and blue and the front edges and the neck with purple. I had the most purple left over, so I knew it would be safe. I chose garter stitch for all the edges and I picked up all along the front opening and neckline at once. Then I crocheted chain loops that further the chain in the fabric and loop around toggles to close.

I love this cardigan and wear it regularly. It goes with everything! This is just one example of what you can do with a blank template like the Figheadh Fundamental patterns. This one is my favorite so far, though, because I cannot have too many cardigans. It's my favorite garment.

I have another six colors of the Homegrown that are more muted. Now to figure out what they will be. I'll let you know.

I am also updating the Figheadh Fundamental Women's Pullover to improve its sleeve caps, among other things, so it is taking a time out. All the other Fundamentals are active. I hope you'll try them for making hand knits with any yarn in your stash!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Figheadh: A Brief History

Celebrating a full notebook with a Mazurka Tart!
To further our tenth anniversary celebration,
I thought I would just interview myself for this post. What a kick!

Hi, Jen. I'd like to know a few things. May I ask?

Why knitting?
I learned to crochet at about 11 years of age from my maternal grandmother, but I did not learn to knit until college. I wanted to knit to be able to make Aran sweaters. That's why you'll still see more cables in the Figheadh line than anything else.

Why knitting patterns?
Because there's even less money to be made in knitted finished products than selling the patterns, and because I wanted a passive stream of income that I could produce anywhere and that would allow me to knit a lot! This was a big career change for me, coming from being a high school English teacher for eight years. I was ready for a big change!

Why such a funny name?
Because my husband and I were studying Gaelic at the time and I found the word figheadh, meaning "knitting" and "weaving." I liked it and knew no one else would be using it. Why would they? You can't say it! Actually, it's pronounced fee-yugh, with the second syllable sounding "like the sound you would make finding you've accidentally stepped on a slug" (credit goes to our Gaelic teacher). I guess we Pacific North-Westerners understand that reference all too well. There are slugs everywhere here!

How many knitting patterns have you published?
The Figheadh line presently has 101 active patterns and one collection. One pattern is free, one is a class project, one is parked at the moment for maintenance, and we discontinued eight of the earliest patterns. Because this week also marks ten years of knitwear design for me, I have also published 16 knitting and crochet patterns in my Mirth line, 25 freelance patterns in magazines and books by others, one magazine article and one chapter in a book. My Ravelry design page says 151 designs. That's about right.

Organizing pattern samples: 91 Figheadh patterns represented here!

What have you learned in these ten years?
1. That there's an awful lot to learn. That's great--job security!
2. That I have no competition if I am true to myself and listen to inspiration, I have my own vision.
3. To forgive myself of all my silly mistakes. There's been a bunch.
4. To know my limits. I can't do everything, so I shouldn't even try. 
5. To make a plan and be ready to shift the plan.
6. To be open to letting something go. To know the difference between a good idea and one that you love so much you become blinded to its badness.
7. To stay out of debt.
8. To listen to everyone, even the meanies. There may be a nugget in there somewhere that you can use.
9. To take breaks and know when to rest. 
10. That it's good to choose your niche and learn all you can about it.

What's next?
I am so excited about the next ten years and beyond. For Figheadh, we are changing the format of the patterns to make them more accessible on electronic devices and to reflect the way we do business now. The old format was designed for our sales reps to show to yarn shops when we were wholesale-only and printing patterns. Now we have no reps and sell only PDF downloads. Yarn shops are now selling PDF patterns through Ravelry and we love that!

This year we plan to release a scarf/shawl pattern and three Aran cardigans, one for girls, one for  men and one for women. We are also working on two new Fundamental patterns--a blanket and a mitten pattern. The Fundamentals are some of our top sellers, because they include multiple directions for at least four yarn weights and lots of sizes. 
They are pretty much blank templates.

I have a few other wishes, but this is a reasonable amount to expect. 
See #4 above.

I am so grateful to the universe and to my own brain and hands and to all the testers and editors and sample knitters who help us and to all the knitters and crocheters who buy our patterns. Because of all this, I get to make my own path pretty much every day. It's the biggest challenge and the most fun all at the same time.

Here's to another decade and many, many more!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Figheadh is TEN!

Can you believe it?
I can't believe it!

Ten years ago today we officially launched our Web site, and so this is the date we mark to commemorate ten wonderful years of publishing knitting patterns. We could not do it without the knitters who buy our patterns, which are now all PDF download only.

We want to thank you.

From now until Saturday at midnight, you will receive 30% off any and all Figheadh Yarnworks patterns.

For those of you who prefer to shop on Ravelry, here is a direct link to the Figheadh patterns there.


I'll be back in a day or two to do a little look-back and reminisce, among other things.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Skep, Espalier, & Herbage

I'm back to tell you a little more about the other hats in the Homegrown Hat Collection we released in January. Because these three have a more simple story behind each one, they will all fit in one post.
Skep Hat
Our most popular hat in the collection, the Skep Hat, had a very humble beginning.
It was totally inspired by a bath towel.

One day while folding laundry, I finally really saw this towel. You can tell it's well-used, so I have probably folded it one hundred times or more and never really looked at it. To be fair, I had just worked on a design for a magazine that included welts, and I am always ready to see honeycombs--I love them! I especially love the honeycomb cable in all its many versions. These images already fixed in my head allowed me to see the honeycomb edged with little welts here. At the sides of the towel, the honeycomb merges into more welts. That made something click in my head and so I took yarn and needles and tried it out. It rolled off the needles like it was just waiting to be. The Skep Hat was by far the easiest of the five hats to design. 

I love how the honeycomb section plays against the welted one. Contrary to almost everything else, I don't block Skep Hats. I'm afraid I'll mess up this lovely interplay! 
This is Quince & Co Osprey in (what else?) Honey.

Espalier Tam
The Espalier Tam started as a companion to the Harrow Tam, which I designed specifically to showcase Bare Naked Wools Stone Soup Fingering. Knitspot's Anne Hanson generously sent me some of her beautiful yarns to try, and the SSF among them wanted to be that Harrow I told about in the previous post. Once I had designed and knitted up the Harrow Tam, I found that I had exactly enough from the skein to make another one. How cool would it be to give folks two hats to make from the same skein? I wanted to make the second one a bit different, however, so I included less lace and put in an elaborate twist-stitch motif. As I gathered the five hat designs for the Homegrown Hat Collection, I knew this one had to be called Espalier.
Herbage Beanie
The Herbage Beanie seriously started about four years ago as an idea for sport-weight yarn. The result came out a little too fine and I got distracted with other projects. So it waited. When I met Bare Naked Wools' Stone Soup DK, I knew it was time to bring this hat out of hibernation. It's a good thing I didn't work it on up before, because it is perfect for not only the SS DK but also this Marmalade A Verb for Keeping Warm Pioneer. Both yarns are stretchy, squishy goodness that make very warm and comfortable hats.

This picture shows the rib-to-cable transition a little better. The Herbage is a simple marriage of one ribbed cable and one large cable with smaller cables moving inside it. Both cables continue into the crown decrease.

I would love for you to try any and all of the hats in the collection, and I love it when folks buy the whole collection. It's more of a bargain than buying each hat pattern separately--like getting two hats free!

I'll be back soon for some very exciting news! Next week we celebrate an important date!