Friday, December 8, 2017

It's Gift Making and Light Season

Yes, everyone, it is year five of the Indie Designer Gift-a-long! I am absolutely stunned
that we've hit year five, and that I have participated in the last four gift-making paloozas. 

I made several gifts last season, and this year will be no different; however, I am hoping to get a few of my personal works-in-progress (and so, outside of official GAL submissions) done, as well as perhaps a gift or two for my very self.  Below you'll see the beginnings of several projects, including an epic blanket that is part of a blanket throw down with a fellow designer. I am a lot farther along on the four projects shown below, and I'll update the blog in the next few weeks with my progress and (hopefully!) several finished pieces.

However, because we are celebrating five amazing indie designer gifting seasons, I thought I might go back in the archives and reprint a few of my previous interviews with fellow indie designers. 

So, kicking off this mini trip down interview memory lane, I am reaching back to 2014 (the first year I participated in the GAL), and am reprinting my interview with Mindy Wilkes, human being extraordinaire. 

The Artfully Voie de Vie Questionnaire
With Knit Designer Mindy Wilkes

Mindy (on right) with her sister Tracy
at Rhinebeck in 2014.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background before you started to design knit accessories? 

I was a microbiologist for a consumer product testing company for several years.  I have a degree in Biology and went to graduate school for Microbiology. After my son was born, I went back to work part-time for a few months then made the decision to be a stay at home mom full-time.

When was the moment you knew you wanted to become a knit designer? 

After finishing and releasing my first design (which came about only because I couldn't find an existing pattern for what I wanted to make), I was completely hooked on designing.

Please describe your personal knit design philosophy? 

I don't design things I wouldn't like to knit. It's why I haven't done any sweater designs. I'm just not much of a sweater knitter; I like small projects.

What is your greatest knit (or design) memory? 

I think it would be when I received my first acceptance from a magazine. I'm pretty sure I embarrassed the hell out of my husband when I read that e-mail. We were eating lunch out, and when I saw my acceptance e-mail, I was really excited and I may have done a little dance. Maybe. (insert happy face)

If you could have dinner with any three designers, dead or alive, who would they be, and why?

I'm going to cheat and pick 4 designers. My dinner dates would be Heather Zoppetti, Corrina Ferguson, Katherine Vaughan (who is also my tech editor), and Barbara Benson. We're all friends in real life, and I don't get to see them very often, although I did see Heather and Corrina at Rhinebeck back in October.  I'm guessing our next dinner will be at TNNA this coming summer.

Throw or pick? 


It’s your last object to design (or make). What is it, and what fiber do you use? 

A big, epic, extremely difficult lace shawl in a lace weight wool, cashmere, silk blend.

What trait do you most admire in designers? 

The ability to think outside the box. You know when you see a new design and you think it's the cleverest thing out there because the designer did something totally interesting with the construction or with the stitch pattern but it's not at all difficult? That.

Wilkes' latest shawl design, Brunswick, a sister design
to her popular Holden shawl
What trait do you most detest in designers? 

I don't know if detest is the right word, but I have a pet peeve or two. One of my biggest pet peeves is not using a tech editor for whatever reason. I work at a yarn store and I have seen some patterns that have very clearly not been tech edited, and it's so very, very frustrating to try to convince a customer that not all patterns are as confusing, incorrect, etc. It's hard to hear that a customer will never buy a pattern again because of one bad experience with a pattern. 

You are recommending a design gift in response to a friend’s inquiry. Other than your own designs (which, as everyone knows, are quite beautiful – especially your moon shawls collection!), what would you recommend? 

Right now, I'm really enamored with Hilary Smith Callis' shawl-cowl hybrids: Starshower, Luna Viridis, and Adama. I also really like a lot of Melissa Thomson's patterns. It's so hard to choose. There are so many really awesome patterns out there!


I expect that a lot has happened in Mindy's design career since this interview, so I hope (if she reads it), that it will make her smile with fondness. 

All of Mindy's designs, as well as the designs of 310 other indie designers (including yours truly), are eligible to be made during our gift-a-long. So do join me in the Ravelry group with almost 10,000 other makers and get into the holiday light and gifting season, won't you?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

An Open, Gifty Letter to Mason-Dixon Knitting

Dear Ann and Kay:

I am a big fan of Mason-Dixon Knitting, and especially of Kay. While I've not yet met Ann, I have met Kay: at the very first VKLive show in New York City, way back when I was an event volunteer and hadn't yet published my first design, or had any inkling that I would, as an independent designer, be involved in the Indie Designer Gift-a-long. In fact, there were only a handful of conversations that entire long, exhausting New York City weekend that I remember, and Kay's was one of them. She and I had an authentic exchange in which she really listened to my answers to her questions. I have gone on to follow Kay on social media, with continued real exchanges, I am happy to report.

So imagine my surprise when up pops on the MDK site a declaration that an event, which has been occurring for the past five years on Ravelry, is now on (at minimum, in Virginia), according to Ann and Kay. My brow continues to be furrowed: they used "giftalong" in big, bold letters at the head of the post. In the comments, when the first commenter noted that such an event has been taking place for the last five years, Ann's quick response of "What's Ravelry?" complete with wink, as well as her further response that "... intimate, tiny giftalongs ..." were more their thing, can only lead to one conclusion: they are well aware of the Indie Designer Giftalong, and instead of joining in (because that takes a little advance planning, and as Ann has intimated in one of her further comment responses, she might be a little light on the pre-planning stuff), they have decided to ride the Indie Designer Giftalong's coattails.

Now, I firmly believe that there's more to it than just merely sliding along. At least that's what I am telling myself, based on the strength of my previous interactions with Kay. The Indie Designer Giftalong was conceived at this particular time of year as a way to celebrate independent knit and crochet designers not only together as a designer group, but also alongside makers who, let's face it, make things at this time of year (no matter if the gift is early, late, or right on time). Heck, I even started my own event during this past summer as a way to counteract all the contraction happening on both sides of the pond, and I specifically held it in summer (along with a completely new name and a distinct hashtag all its very own) as a way to continue to interact with my fellow indie designers (as well as indie dyers) in an atmosphere that wouldn't compete with the already-well-established holiday event. I further note that Kay was kind enough to give the summer event a mention on MDK, so I know that how today's MDK post looks cannot be the whole story. Really. It cannot.

So, as a fellow (albeit northern) pasty white indie designer chic I would, with the utmost respect and in line with this season of miracles, make one simple request: please reframe just the beginning of today's MDK post so that it doesn't appear the way it looks? Do please make gifts with your followers. Absolutely give away prizes (and hey, I can point you both in the right direction if you'd like to donate some of those MDK Field Guides as prizes in the Indie Designer Giftalong, because I know they would be well-received by any maker). Show compassion for makers who decide at the last minute they want to make gifts. Use an Instagram hashtag with "MDK" at the beginning of giftalong (because, of course, the five-year-strong Indie Designer Giftalong event cannot stop you). Just please honor the above simple request and show that organizing and working on gifts at this time of the year is more than mere competitive sport. 

Because, at the end of the day, don't we have enough competitive sport from a certain big, white, house in D.C.? I believe it's about cooperation, and I sincerely hope you both do, too.

Thank you.

P.S. - I write this open letter in my singular capacity as an independent crochet and knit designer, and not on behalf of the Indie Designer Giftalong. I do note that I am a moderator, as well as a participating indie designer, in that event.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

To Help With Gift Decisions

The link to my sale designs is right here.
We are less than a week into this year's Indie Designer Gift-a-along, and I feel like we are all on overload with all of the amazing design choices. So, to help everyone out, here are some helpful links:

The Ravelry GAL sale bundle is here - all 100+ pages worth!
The 2017 Indie GAL designer bundle is here. One can search by designer name (and that's how the bundle is organized), or one can search by designs.

Here's the majority of the yarn
I'll be using for my blanket
throw-down with Amy van de
Laar. There wasn't enough
room for the purples; I also
have an old blanket WIP that
I'm frogging to get the colors
from it, since they are exactly
what I need for this project.
This is, however, the first year that we are not utilizing category-specific Pinterest boards. There are some (like yours truly) who really do like a visual road map, but something more manageable than hundreds of pages worth of designs. So, I have gone through the entire sale bundle and teased out those designs (mostly) from 2017 that appealed to me, and created a curated Pinterest board of my own right here.

I am now tucking into the making gifts part of this whole thing, and even though I've purchased a few patterns, my shopping cart remains bulging. I'm planning on making and gifting a Fenton Glass Cowl, a Zahar Shawl, and a Chic Mega Cowl. I also want to make a Chic Mega Cowl for myself, time willing. I also picked up the design that I am currently obsessed with, the Rhythmical Lines Cowl. Additionally, I am in a crochet blanket throw-down with Amy van de Laar over at Baroque Purls. We've both picked out designs from the awesome Amanda Perkins, and we're getting all our duckie yarn skeins in a row. I don't know if we'll finish our respective blankets, so stay tuned.

I hope everyone has started in on their gift-making and -giving. I also need to find more time so I can finish decorating my digs for the holiday season.

In addition to other knit and crochet designs, here's my biggest wishes right now: