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Tops and Toes
As I have mentioned in another post I contributed several designs to a socks and hats book and there is a tour of the designers’ blogs interviewing them. Today 8am (USA 00:00 on 2/24) it is my turn to post an interview for the Blog tour of the latest book I have worked on. The book is called Tops & Toes: A Whimsical Collection to Delight Hat & Sock Knitters and you can find out more from the link on the title. You can see more about the patterns I have designed for the book on my Ravelry pages.

To find out more about the book, the designers who contributed to it and the inspiration behind it follow the blog tour which will visit many of the designers blogs and interview them personally. As you can see, my tour date is 24th Feb, but of course being in the UK, that's today. I have never been part of a blog tour before, its exciting and I enjoyed visiting the first few people on the list.

See my interview at the bottom of this post with the editor Kara Gott.

who by the way, is running a contest on her website to win a free copy of the book.

2/21- Sarah Wilson: www.fashioknitsa.com

2/22- Jennifer Tallapaneni: www.pieknits.com

2/23- Erika Flory: www.itsabouttheknitting.blogspot.com

2/24- Erssie Major: www.erssieknits.com

2/25- - Ann Squire: www.annie-o.typepad.com

2/26- Faina Goberstein: www.fainasknittingmode.blogspot.com

2/27- Celeste Pinhiero: www.2stix.blogspot.com

2/28- Kara Gott Warner: www.sheknitsintheloop.com

3/1- Joanne Seiff: www.joanneseiff.blogspot.com

3/2- Cindy Moore: www.fitterknitter.livejournal.com

3/3- Sean Higgins: www.boyforpele13.blogspot.com

The following is an interview between myself and the editor of Tops & Toes: A Whimsical Collection to Delight Hat & Sock Knitters, Kara Gott.

Kara: Erssie, you designed several projects for Tops & Toes, too many to talk about in depth here but which is your favourite of these?

Erssie: I think the most fun to make were the Itty Bitty Buggy Preemie Caps;

Three little caps for tiny newborn babies in the style of a Bumblebee a Ladybug and a Butterfly.

Kara: What is it about these you enjoyed designing so much?

Erssie: I love to see things in sets with a theme. I often have ideas that start from one basic prototype, and then I am off from the jumping point into designing other knits that match or fit with that theme.

Kara: What inspired you to make such colorful caps in these bright yarns? Normally you see pastels or muted shades for premature babies don’t you?

Erssie: I am well known for including dark shades and even black with my babywear. I did a little survey of premature baby knitwear and along the way was told that in a lot of cultures white or cream is actually a funereal color associated with mourning and so it is distasteful to certain people to dress a small infant whose life is in the balance in those colours. Also, after being dressed in white all the time in hospital when the parents take their infants home, they want something that is uplifting and not institutionalised so they tend to go for the brighter shades of clothing and whimsical themes.

And it is important to know that there are a certain number of babies who are not premature but are just very small but perfectly formed (I was one of those babies at just under 4 pounds!) so these caps can fit those infants straight away. Normally these infants have to wear dolls hats often in scratchy acrylic yarns, so these caps are a wonderful luxurious but thrifty alternative. You can also see bright shades in my other children’s’ design for Tops & Toes, e.g. the Pixie Stocking Cap & Booties.

Kara: What about the brightly coloured yarn for the bug caps, how did you come about choosing this 100% merino? Doesn’t that mean hand wash only?

Erssie: The yarn is Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran a merino yarn which is soft bouncy and totally non- scratchy, and of course the most important thing is that it is super wash so it is machine washable on the wool cycle. Parents, with a newborn that might have health problems, would really appreciate something they can throw in the machine. Debbie Bliss is well known for her knitwear design for kids and she nearly always has a bright but classic palette to choose from. I knew straight away when I saw the beetle coloured ebony yarn, and the rich yellow gold shade that it just had to be a bee hat and the rest of the yarns matched my ideas too.

Kara: We noticed that to get a vertical black stripe you did intarsia in the round; well intarsia is not normally achievable in the round, so how did you get round that Erssie?

Erssie: Ah, well I had thought about carrying yarns but it seemed silly to do that just for spots on the wings when I could be duplicate stitching, and then I thought, if yarns can be stranded over a few stitches forwards then why not strand them backwards? And this is what I did and it works for a few stitches. There is a vertical column of stitches in two of these beanies that separates the ‘wings’ and I just dropped the yarn bobbin when I finished a couple of stitches carried on as normal and then when I reached the other side, where there is no bobbin to pick up, I just picked it up from the other side and stranded it backwards. Not exactly Fair Isle, and not exactly intarsia but really, intarsia is the best way to describe it as it does mean colours are worked in a block.

Kara: Well that was an in depth discussion about your inspiration behind the Itty Bitty Beanie Caps, just briefly though can you let people out there know what other designs you have in Tops & Toes (you can see them dotted around this page).

Erssie: Yes, I also have a woman’s colour stranded hat in an easy Fair Isle pattern called the Three Toned Topper in a soft cashmere/merino blend, and there is the Man’s Racing Stripes Cap & Socks. You chose the colours for the man’s designs Kara and they go wonderfully with denim I think. We all know a man who is terrified of bright colours and always asks for black as its the safest option! However the blues and greys in the self striping yarns you chose match denims and blues and also have a hidden benefit, jojoba oil to treat the feet…now that is unusual Kara. I am totally converted to this sock yarn.

I had these socks made up for my other half, and he had them road tested. He thoroughly recommends this yarn! It survived a whole weekend on the track and camping outdoors in winter. Here he is above on his bike taking a bend wearing the socks shown below. What better recommendation for a pair of men's socks than that? Test knitted for me by Joeli Caparco.

Noblin Knits test knitted the blues/greys pair that feature in Tops & Toes.

Lastly I designed the Pixie Stocking Cap & Booties above, and the idea behind that was to use a sock yarn for a hat with a loose hem that stretches as the child grows. Also, it takes advantage of all the lovely self striping sock yarns out there, and I just loved working with this Colinette Cadenza that you chose for me Kara. I hope the secret little jingle bell hidden inside the hat amused you at the photoshoot, a little musical extra for knitters to put into the project that you can't hear in the book!

Kara: So, do you often write knitting patterns Erssie, what else have you contributed to?

Erssie: I have written knitting and crochet patterns for various websites, magazines and books, (mainly compilations) as well as having a line of single self published patterns. I have always chosen published projects not for the money earned, but for their worth and enjoyment. I have to want to design them or know they are going to be used for a good cause. Since around 2004 when I first had published designs (hats for a children’s charity) I’ve worked for several print knitting magazines, a few print books, several online magazines and websites but of late I have been building up my self published pattern store (available on Ravelry). I have also worked as a tech editor, project manager under a production editor of stitch libraries and I have been designing since I was 4 years old, so that is about ?yrs (I am not about to give away my age here!)

Kara: How do you approach designing? I know designers have many methods to organising their ideas.

Erssie: Due to disability (Behcet's Disease), I like simple classic designs that are achievable by my hands, and I feel if I can do it then the able bodied beginner or intermediate knitter can too. I will pare it down to the very essence to give a flavour of the theme. I have the knowledge and experience to knit and design more complicated projects but I get most enjoyment out of adding tips and tricks to simple designs to make them accessible. That could be using unusual colour, or a simple charted motif, or texture. I really enjoy designing colour work charts for knitting (and crochet) as well, and that normally is done straight onto an Excel sheet.

I tend to get floods of ideas floating around in my head all the time. The drugs I take for my condition can cause a bombardment of thoughts all at once (however, this is what makes me feel creative too so I can’t complain) so when ideas come thick and fast, I keep a very important book around with me, my moleskine design journal.

I jot down ideas (which tend to come in the middle of the night or on a shopping trip) and then ideas that develop into knitwear get sketched as a fully labelled and coloured diagram. Often I submit these diagrams and although they are amusing cartoons, they tell the story more easily than I ever could in words. Not all designs get made, as I am slow at knitting due to hand problems but they lay dormant for future revival. Like the bug hats which I actually designed a while ago, and kept hidden away as I was waiting for the right person who would allow me to do the whole set, rather than just pick one out.

I am interested in patterns; I mean patterns on tiles, motifs on clothing, patterned carpets and wallpaper or carved into stone as well as cultural influences I also collect images of folk art and cultural artefacts all of which give me ideas to jot down in the journal. Strangely, I am not a knitter who normally starts with the yarn. Although swatching is important to me, sometimes I will swatch with no garment idea in mind, just to see what a combination of yarns might do to fit a theme.

Only after sketching patterns or garments do I become involved with actual material choices for swatching and then on to the final project, and perhaps will find a yarn that makes me go off at a tangent, or perhaps has something that adds to the story.

I love themes too. You can see I really ran with a theme of Dia de Los Muertos in the Anticraft Day of the Dead issue and came up with lots of ideas based on Mexican folk art around this festival.

Another example is when I designed a collection of easy to knit slouchy beanies, but decided they were going to have an apple theme. So we have Rubinette, Starr, Pearmain, Pippin which are all old varieties of apple, and it helped me to choose textured patterns and shades appropriate to those apple varieties. Silly really, but I just love a good story and a collection of patterns has to have a thread connecting them.

Kara:And what are your plans for the rest of 2009 Erssie?

Erssie: I am working on a top secret project that came about by co-incidence and a meeting of minds. I have worked many times on designs included in an online magazine the Anticraft and I fit right into their house style. The editor of that magazine, Zabet Stewart and I simultaneously had ideas that merged into a project and we said ‘Let’s do it!’. Knitters will be able to get hold of the item, with us as published co-authors, by the end of 2009. We hope that our idea will run into a series…..I have enough ideas and themes to go for many books! Sorry to be mysterious on content, titles and themes, but I can’t say more than that…..

I am also working on a couple of themed booklets of my own to self publish. Plus I always have personal knitting to do and I am hoping to do more for charitable causes in connection with greyhound or lurcher rescue organisations.

I also want to learn the Adobe CS3 suite, find out more about layout design and photography for web or print and lots more crafting skills with colour. And of course I have my greyhounds to look after, other greyhounds to find a home for and my own health problems to conquer as I have a chronic disease that prevents me from working full-time. However, knitting and designing is therapeutic so I continue the work even in my 'rest' time or in waiting rooms and hospitals and I am never bored.

Happy Valentine's Day

This is my love gift to the knitting community. Five charts for knitting, crochet or other type of stitching all with a Heart theme.

They can be downloaded for FREE from here

Simple Heart
Heart To Go

Hearts For Your Sleeve

My Skully Valentine

My Dark Hearted Valentine

Poor Lily! & Poor Stevie

You have probably heard some awful stories this week about people falling into freezing water, mainly ponds and some poor families who have lost both children and pets to hypothermia. We have a sad tale of our own, but luckily with a happy ending.

Yesterday we were walking around a local fishing lake/pond and giving it a wide berth as it is deep in places and although the ice looks thick, there was a thaw going on at the edges. There was also a fair amount of debris around the edges and a dog might not know what is land and what is water. However, that was not our problem. Around one of the edges the path goes over some banks with a small bridge. The banks are not terribly steep however Lily went too near the edge and lost her footing and slipped into the pond with an almight splash and then floundered around trying to stand on the debris or walk on water (she has never been swimming before).

She was in difficulty as the wool lined coat she was wearing was absorbing a lot of water and she wasn't going anywhere near a bank to be able to get out. We were worried she was going to get hypothermia however without any discussion within seconds Steve had gone to help her and just dived into the water regardless for his own safety. What a hero, he did get water right up to his neck and swam Lily to the bank and hoisted her out.

Then there was soggy walk to the car followed by blasts from the heaters and we were home within a short drive. Steve was fine, Lily got away with a few bruises and scratches. Dizzy was a complete anti-hero, he saw the two of them splashing in the freezing water and though, I'm not having any of that and started to sprint backwards pulling me on his lead. He loves a bit of self preservation and wanted to be as far away from cold water as possible!

Here is little Lillipegs snoozing in her blankets, without a care in the World. She would expect nothing less from her Royal subjects and she already assumed her Daddy was a hero.

New Hat Pattern

On a more positive note, I have finished a bit of knitting I can show to people. I made The Biggie Rib Super Bulky Slouch Beanie in a men's size to fit Steve. This is the ideal yarn for it really and it slouches beautifully but isn't too in your face like the pink version. Many thanks to Noblin Knits who tech checked it for me, and to ButteflySparkle Torya Williams who test knitted one of the sizes.

It is a very simple pattern, but we have worked out some neat decreases so that the K1, p1 Rib doesn't look messy in this super size. It is also very modern shape, and it helps sometimes for someone else to advise where to put the crown on a slouch hat. That is me modelling it from not a very brave position, but I thought I would at least show a partial pic of me seeing as Woolly Wormhead has been so brave with her own pics recently.

You can download it from here for £1.00 using PayPal or other forms of payment