The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

Questionable Inspiration March 31, 2011

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 8:30 pm

Last night I spilled a whole can’s worth of coconut milk in the oven.  Don’t ask.  Anyway, it took a lot of cleaning to even get it to the stage where I felt comfortable using the “self-clean” cycle on it.  And even then there was a ton of smoke!  I even had to remove the floor of the over to get at the worst of it, and like most things, getting the floor out was the easy part.  Getting it back in was much more annoying.  Ever notice that screwdrivers disappear when you need them and then when you find one, it’s the wrong kind?  What a morning.


When magazine and websites need designs, they put out a “call for submissions.”  This usually includes information like what the compensation is (how much they’ll pay for a design), how copyright is dealt with, who does the photography, and yarn support (if they’ll supply the yarn), etc.  Most important, though, is the information about what they want.  Some publications have a theme or themes in mind or certain fibers or yarns they want patterns for.  Sometimes they’re looking for types of patterns like sweaters or accessories or quick knits.  You get the idea.  Most often there are themes, which can range from “bulky and colorful” to “traditional with a modern flair” to “art deco.”  Obviously, as a designer, you pick and choose the themes you like or have ideas for.


I saw this in a call today:  “Bohemian meets Greek Goddess in this romantic theme with a 70’s vibe.”


I have absolutely no idea what that would look like.


Sketches and Swatches March 18, 2011

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 11:49 pm

  I’ve been knee-deep in designs the last few weeks.  Or maybe waist-deep, since I’m sitting down a lot.  It’s that time of year when everybody is accepting submissions for their summer or fall issues.  I don’t submit designs to every publication, because I don’t control the space-time continuum (yet). 


Sometimes a design will pop into my head, fully formed.  Those designs have a 50/50 chance of actually working out the way I intend or crashing to the ground in a flaming pile of rubble, never to be seen again, as they refuse to live up to my original vision.  Cabobble and Danu both happened this way.  You’ll never hear about the piles of rubble, though.


Most of the time, I start with a vague idea of what I would like, such as a colorwork glove using greens and neutrals, and work to find the rest of the design.  Chances are this design will end up nothing like my first idea, but it usually works out in the end.  The Wintergreen Gloves and Java were more in this vein.


Other times, I will struggle and struggle to force a design onto my needles.  Nothing seems to come together.  Some people say that I’m too demanding during this process, that most of what I throw out is very good, but if I don’t like it then what’s the point of keeping it?  I’d have to finish the whole project and the work of writing up the pattern, and who wants to do that if they don’t really believe in the project?  The Crystalline Socks and Emily’s Scarf fit the bill here.


Most publications ask that you submit a sketch and a swatch.  The sketch shows what the finished product will look like and the swatch shows the fabric and stitch pattern.  I used to wait until I had a design completed- or at least one whole sock or glove- before I submitted it anywhere.  Partially I was nervous about my drawing skill in the sketch department, but I was told that the quality of the sketch is less important than the information it shows.  More paralyzing, though, was the worry that if I submitted an idea instead of a finished product, then I would end up perpetually stuck in situation three up there.  I tend to change designs as I knit them; a little different gusset, a change in the toe.  I’d be struggling to put the finishing touches on a design with a hard deadline- a sure path to a struggling pattern.


I’ve come to like the sketch-and-swatch approach now though.  I know a lot more about knitting now and don’t change as much through the project as I used to.  So now, I knit the swatch and if it looks even close to being a struggle, I move on to another idea.  Even if that means that I have to abandon a publication because I don’t like the “theme” of their issue or the yarn I’d have to use.  There are plenty of other places to go and things to do!  I design as much of the project as I can before I send the swatch off.  I’m usually pretty confident that it’ll work out.


Anyway, this is all a long-winded way of saying that I sent off two swatches to Tangled for their summer issue and heard back from them today.  They liked both designs, but could only use one.  So, this summer’s issue will have a lovely twisted-stitch sock from me in it, and the other design will be tucked away for later (likely the next time I have designer’s block!)


The coolest part of this, though?  Tangled will have a booth at the Sock Summit this year and will be selling my pattern there as well as online.  Man, I can’t wait for July!


Java January 16, 2011

Filed under: patterns — Cailyn @ 9:53 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I can’t tell you how happy I am.  After many tries, I finally made it into Knitty with my socks, Java!



I hinted at these socks back in March of 2010.  They were designed during one of my “ribbing periods.”  That’s a (short) length of time where I am obsessed with ribbing.  I think that it’s the bee’s knees.  I think that ribbing is misunderstood.  I think that it will change the face of knitting as we know it.  This usually passes when I remember that, in general, I don’t enjoy actually knitting ribbing.  But, often after a complicated project, I crave the predictability of a ribbed pattern.  Lucky for these socks, the ribbing period coincided with a desire to design men’s socks.  I thought to myself, “What’s more classic than a ribbed dress sock?”


Java Socks 01  IMG_2351


Then the other, bitter part of me said (in a voice like Tim Gunn), “Classic means it’s been done to death.”

With that less-than-helpful advice in my head, I tried to find a balance between interesting and “classic.”  When I was first dating Lowell, he described his criteria for clothes to me.  He told me that colors and bold patterns mattered less than the close-up textures- the small details that weren’t obvious from a distance.  I thought about that idea while I worked on these socks.  I wanted to stick with the spirit of a plain dress sock but to play around with the details.  So these socks have a little caffeinated wiggle every other rib.  From a distance the wiggles look like regular k2 ribs, but the texture is great up close.  Fun to knit, too.  And the gusset isn’t just patterned- the decreases aren’t normal either.  Also, I kept the pattern going down the toes because, well, why not?  Plain toes are no fun!




Java Socks in NC 2010-11-28 014 (1024x768)  Java Socks in NC 2010-11-28 036 (1024x768)


I had plenty of fun knitting Java, which is good, because I knit it twice!  Which I suppose is really four times, since there are two socks in each pair.  The men’s pair is made with String Theory Blue Stocking.  I loved working with that yarn.  It has great stitch definition (always a priority for me) and is still soft and lofty.  They’re modeled by Lowell in our kitchen, who was a really good sport about the photo shoot.  The women’s pair is made with Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock which is always a great sock yarn.  The women’s size is modeled by my sister Katie and taken at 3 Cups in Chapel Hill, NC.  They were really nice to let us photograph there (and they only gave us a few funny looks).  Good coffee, too!


Java Socks in NC 2010-11-28 003 (800x1024)


I am over the moon about this.  I think Java is a great pattern and I hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I did.


Java Socks in NC 2010-11-28 012 (1024x768)  Java Socks in NC 2010-11-28 017 (1024x768) 


Java Socks 05  IMG_2366


If you’ve just hopped over from Knitty and haven’t been here before, welcome!  Check out the blue menu (top right) for illustrated lists of projects, tutorials, and patterns; the green sidebars have tags and archives, etc.  Enjoy!


Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go drool over the rest of this issue!


A Therapeutic Excerpt June 7, 2010

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 3:16 pm
Tags: ,

Hi.  I’m Cailyn Meyer and I used to have a blog.


Used to?


Well, I think I still have one.  But I haven’t gone near it or fed it or walked it in weeks.


Luckily, blogs don’t eat very often.  They’re like snakes, you only have to feed them a rabbit once in a while.  Did you feed it a small rodent recently?


I can’t remember.  Maybe?  But, but the walking!  I’ve left it all alone for weeks with no walks or toys.


Blogs don’t need any walking at all.  In fact, they’re like snakes in that way too.  You don’t walk a snake, do you?


I guess not.  Not usually, anyway.  Maybe for a really athletic snake.  Do they make snake leashes?  How else would you keep it from slithering into the street?


I think we’re getting off topic here.  What made you neglect your snake- er, blog in the first place?


Well, I got really busy getting ready for this trip to the East Coast.  I mean, I told Bloggy about it beforehand, it knew I was going.  I just didn’t have time to feed it or play with it before I left.  Time really went by fast, with the planning and then I had some designs to submit and then I had to find an outfit…


Bloggy is… your blog?  You named it Bloggy?


Er… yes?


O-kay.  There’s no judgment here.  Next time, look up a name generator on Google or something, though.  You were saying that you shamelessly forgot about your blog while getting ready for this trip…?


I didn’t forget!  I kept meaning to take care of it.  I was going to do something big, like post a video tutorial or maybe a small pattern.  Bloggy really likes when I do things like that.  But other things kept coming up, like laundry or groceries or finding shoes to match my new dress.  I had a dentist appointment too, that took up some time.  And I told myself that I could take care of Bloggy remotely, from my sister’s place, but then I didn’t take my laptop with me.


That was a stupid idea.  Why didn’t you take it?


It’s heavy.


Hmm.  Lazy.  So you ran off to the East Coast, leaving your blog alone and with no new content to keep it occupied while you were gone?  Have you been thinking about another blog?


No!  No, I love my blog.  I just… Sometimes it’s hard, you know?  Sitting down to write something and looking at that blank white screen, so judgmental…  I could be doing something else, like working on a pattern or making a snack…


Trouble with commitment, I see.  And when you got back from the East Coast, what then?  How long have you been back?


About two weeks.


Two weeks?  Goodness. You are a terrible person.  Why didn’t you do something as soon as you got home?


There’s a yarn company that wants some themed designs and I thought I had a really good idea.  But when I got back in town, there was an email saying they didn’t need any more gloves.  So I moved on to my back-up idea, only I didn’t think it fit the theme very well, so I spent a lot of time researching the theme.  But then I thought maybe my idea was too on the nose for the theme and so I tried to go in a different direction… but then the idea seemed so stupid that I couldn’t believe I was working on it or that anyone would ever like it.  But I had spent so much time knitting it that I felt stupid abandoning it…


What did you do?


I worked on it for another few days, then abandoned it.  It just wasn’t coming together right… no one would have made it and it was stupid.  I feel guilty for not finishing it.  Maybe it’s not stupid.  But I can’t work on it anymore, I’ll go crazy.  So I started to work on my back-up idea to my back-up but I couldn’t find the right textured stitch for that and so I had to spend two days looking through all my stitch dictionaries for an idea…


It took two days?  How many do you have?


Um… I’ve lost count.


Clear case of addiction.  Go on.


Anyway, I was so frustrated that this wasn’t working out either that I tried my fourth idea, but that’s trouble too and I’m so frustrated that I don’t want to look at any yarn or pick up my needles at all!  I don’t even want to post pictures of the yarns and fibers I bought on my trip!!  I can’t think straight; I can’t stop trying to figure out these designs but I hate them all and I want to do something else!  But how can I not design something for this theme?  I like this theme a lot.


Ma’am.  I have to ask.  Are you knitting snake porn?


Of course not!


Then I am going to prescribe you some Bothofat, which increases the flow of morals to your brain so that you won’t neglect your blog, as well as some Sinoquaki for the overwhelming signs of addictive behavior.  Now, that may cause some hyper-nausea so take one tablet of Sequlink in the mornings.  And take two drops of iDzi at any signs of writer’s block; it acts much faster than Bothofat in acute cases.  Anything else?

So… I should take Bloggy for a walk today?


(sigh) No.  It’s raining.  Here, have some Renfloxdyne.  It should help with the stupid.


Missing March 22, 2010

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 2:22 pm

MISSING: Mental Process


Full Name: Creativity Angus McGee

Age: Eternal

Height: Renaissance

Weight: None


(picture taken 10/09)


Appears swirly and could be psychedelic.  May be wearing any and all colors.  Last seen two weeks ago after fight with brain, saying it was going for a walk.  May be in the company of artists, musicians, or hamsters.


If anyone has seen this mental process, please contact this blog.  Reward: blog content.


Thank you.


Design Process March 18, 2010

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 12:45 pm
Tags: ,

I made it!  I finished up the sock pattern marathon Monday afternoon.  These socks are now in the Witness Protection Program:




Now there’s nothing left to do but wait to hear back from Knitty.


With that finished, it’s time to move on to the next project.  But I don’t know what that is.  For the first time in a long time, I don’t have a design idea waiting in the wings, desperate for its time to shine.  Oh, I have UFOs (unfinished objects), certainly.  Who doesn’t?  I guess I could work on them.  If I wanted to.  None of the UFOs are things that I plan on publishing through the blog or elsewhere.  (They’re things like felted slippers and such.)  It’s hard to consider yourself a “designer” if you’re not actively designing.  Which means-


It’s time to go through my “New Design Questionnaire!”

1) Lace, cables, knit/purl, or color work?  (This narrows down which stitch dictionaries to look in.)

2) Which yarn would work best for this?  (It’s surprising just how often this yarn is not in my substantial stash.)

3) Should this design be simple or complex? (I don’t know why I ask this, I always choose complex.)

4) Will this design have an unusual construction? (Like an afterthought sole or a hat made with short rows.)

5) Will this design be a sock, hat, gloves, etc? (You’d think this question would be at the beginning, but no.  Often I come up with an idea, then find the best finished object that it’s suited to.)


After carefully considering the answers to the above questions, I will then proceed to throw them out one at a time as “ugly” or “too fiddly” or “not possible under the current laws of physics.”  And then I will end up with something completely different than what I started with. 


That’s how Crystalline


and Glass Slippers

glass slippers


among others (like the blurred socks above) were created.


I guess I’d better go get out the lace stitch dictionaries so that I can design a cabled sock…


The First Sock May 11, 2009

Filed under: Knitting Projects — Cailyn @ 10:00 am
Tags: , ,

I was doing a bit of a stash reorganizing (there was Palette mixed in with my superwash!) and I ran across an old project.  Actually, it was the first pair of socks that I ever designed from the ground up.  Even though they were top-down.  Er, right.


I knit these shortly after I learned how to knit two socks at once on one long circular.  In fact, these might have been the first socks I knit with that method.  I believe these were also the last self-designed socks to be done that way, as well.  I had checked out a stitch dictionary from the library and I loved this thick, rich cable.  I had knit a few socks from patterns and I had noticed one thing: they all had the same stitch pattern on the leg as on the foot.  I wanted to design a sock that had a completely different pattern on the leg than on the foot.  I still want to do that, but now I’m a little more conscious of how things really flow together.


000_0058  102_4456   000_0049


Top-down, short row heel, mostly standard toe.  Yarn is Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in Baltic Sea, done on a size 1 (2.25mm) 42 inch circular needle.



I was (and am) obsessed with finding ways to make the ribbing at the top of the sock flow into the leg of the sock.  This obsession is usually the cause of much hair-pulling and cursing the immutable laws of counting, since the stitch pattern rarely matches up nicely with the ribbing.  These socks were no exception.



The heel on these socks is a little funky.  It’s a short row heel, because it was a new technique to me at the time.  But I liked the look of a heel flap so I used Heel Stitch (sl 1, k1 across) on the first half of the heel.  I didn’t know then that Heel Stitch compresses vertically and is not as long as the same amount of knitting in stockinette stitch.  This led to a very ill-fitting heel.



I particularly like the toe of this sock.  The first few decreases are part of the cable design, which is why the toe appears to be too short.  You can’t tell in the finished product, but the cable in the center of the motif actually ends in a point as well.


All in all, not a terrible attempt at sock design.  I didn’t look at them and immediately want to throw them away.  I still love that cable up the foot.  I’m not crazy about the cables on the leg; I remember they were a compromise at the time.  Their main problem is that they don’t really fit, largely because of the heel.  In the pictures of the sock on my foot, you can see the stitches straining pretty hard.  If only they fit, I might actually like them!