New blog series: Meet the Pattern
I’m excited to announce my new blog post series, “Meet the Pattern.” This series reveals the stories behind knitting and crochet patterns. “Meet the Pattern” fills the gap in the blogosphere between bland knitting and crochet “pattern round-ups” and “finished object on my oak dinner table” buzz-kills. Each story will differ a little, but the goal is to:
- introduce you to a new pattern
- show you what’s involved in making it
- hear some of the designer’s thoughts
- follow my finished object on its first adventures.
Now, with much fanfare, let’s Meet the Pattern!
Beavers are they key
My aunt, Heidi, was the best person to play with as a kid. We dressed up as Little Bo Peep, danced as she jangled the Peanuts theme tune on the piano keys, and listened to her report about a new movie about a baby and a glammed-out goblin king.
Today my aunt is the patron saint of San Francisco Bay Area beavers. (Well, if I were an animal pope, I’d certainly canonize her immediately.) When a family of beavers moved in to downtown Martinez in 2007, the city tried to remove them. That’s when Heidi swooped in on her white horse, held the willow branch across their path, and cried, “you shall not remove this beaver dam!”
Today Martinez’s beavers are an internationally-recognized model of how keystone species like beavers can unlock the restoration of a whole new ecosystem. Otters, mink, heron, egret, turtles, fish and more all live together in the watershed now!
Here’s Heidi doing what she loves most:
The perfect beaver pattern
Last weekend the sixth annual Martinez Beaver Festival was at its biggest and best! I wanted to commemorate the event with a special beaver just for Heidi. A quick Ravelry search turned up plenty of beavers, but just one lifelike design: Liam’s Beaver, designed by Sara E. Kellner of Rabbit Hole Knits.
Sara says Rabbit Hole Knits is about simple, straightforward patterns that are easy to follow, with just enough challenge to make them fun for everyone. With a great application of the linen stitch and a photo tutorial for a fun new way of making silly little teeth, I’d say that’s a spot-on description of this pattern.
As a designer myself, all kinds of questions pop into my head while I knit or crochet about why they did it this way or that. Instead of a one-sided conversation with the designer in my head, let’s have a conversation while I knit!
Lorna: I’d love to include a little discussion with you about some of the things I’ve wondered while knitting your pattern.
Sara: Fire away!
Lorna: Your patterns stand out to me for their realistic dimensions. As a designer, I spend a lot of time developing perfect curves. What steps do you go through when designing shapes?
Sara: Thank you for saying that my patterns have realistic dimensions. That means a lot to me because don’t think there’s anything more perfect than what can be found in nature. It beats imagination hands down anytime.
Some patterns fall from my needles more easily than others, but each one is born in it’s own way. I feel inspired – sometimes it’s a rush that hits me out of the blue and I know exactly what I need to make and how to do it – and sometimes it’s a slow, pretty painful process of trial and error. There have been many days with nothing to show for it but piles of ripped out yarn on the floor. However, I sensed a long time ago that those days are just as important as the days when I get it right, because that’s when I learn what not to do.
L: You’ve said you love working on DPNs. Why?
S: That’s simple – the connection to the past, which is actually why I started knitting in the first place. (Well, that and I heard it was a good stress reliever.) I feel very close to my family and others who lived before my time. I love the idea of doing the exact same thing with my hands that they did; to create something beautiful and from the heart for someone you love. I don’t think circular needles came around until the beginning of the 20th century. I do realize how strange this sounds and I’m sure there’s someone out there who can tell me that their gg-grandmother used a circular needle in the 1800s! But I just can’t help it – I love the history of knitting and the idea of creating something from simple sticks and string.
L: Your patterns evoke nursery rhymes and children’s tales. Do you have a favorite beaver story?
S: I’m smiling at this question because that’s exactly what I mean for my patterns to evoke — thank you! I don’t have a favorite beaver story, sorry, but I love every furry creature out there, and the scaly ones too. I know there’s a soul inside of each one that deserves our respect.
L: Linen stitch doesn’t crop up often in knitting designs.
S: I knew I needed the beaver’s tail to be dense, hold it’s shape, and look as real as possible – and the linen stitch popped into my mind.
L: Where do you discover new stitches? Do you have any favorite resources?
S: When I get an idea about something I want to make, I try very hard to avoid looking at any similar knitted piece. I would rather mess up and be unique than inadvertently copy someone else’s ideas.
L: Who is Liam?
S: I called the pattern “Liam’s Beaver” in honor of my little grandson, who I am hoping will grow up to love animals too.
L: I always think of the designer when I knit, since I feel I’m doing what their hands and mind once did. It’s almost like stepping into their shoes. So thanks for having the other half of the conversation with me!
S: I tried to do it honestly and from my heart.
Beaver goes to the festival
Of course Heidi loved the beaver, who fit right in with his pals in Martinez. Here are some highlights of the day.
If you’re ever near the birthplace of the Martini, give a shout and we’ll go on a beaver tour together!