Posts tagged design
New Release: Twist It Cabled Cardigan

Despite their importance to my work, republishing old patterns from magazines does tend to be last on my todo list.  Have a huge backlog to republish and despite my best efforts, I just never manage to get to them.

However, when I knew one of my favourite models was back from uni for the summer, I made a point to scheduling a shoot so I could get some of the garments out into the world.  So, last night we headed down to the gorgeous Cardross House for a quick sunset photoshoot of this cardigan plus a couple other garments I have scheduled for re-release. 

Originally published in Simply Crochet Issue 26, Twist It is a super chunky-weight cabled cardigan.  Sized from bust 34-48, its generously sized and is the perfect chunky, curl up by the fire cardi.

The construction is a basic raglan, worked in one piece from the bottom up and then joined with the sleeves which are worked separately.  The yoke is a pretty straight forward and quick decrease to the neck. 

If you need help with the cable, I wrote this cabled crochet tutorial with this pattern in mind. 

The pattern is available on ravelry and


The photos were part of a gorgeous photoshoot at Cardross House last night in beautiful autumn sunshine.  I can't wait to show you the rest of the photos, so here is a wee sneak peek of what else is coming. 

Making It Work As A Designer: Passive Income
making it work as a designer: passive income

I have been working as a full time creative for the last 4 years...however, it has only been in the last 18 months where my income has better reflected that full time status. While of course, as I have built up my business, my fees for projects have gone up and I have been able to take on fewer but better paid design projects. However, like any freelancer, big projects tend to be quite hit and miss and even "high paying" projects are pretty low in comparison to other creative fields. Some months I will have a big project on the go and other months will be dead. This is where passive income really comes into its own.


What is Passive Income?

Passive income is an income received on a regular basis, with little effort required to maintain it. 


Sales from apps, stock images, ebooks, patterns, rent, membership schemes, royalties and affiliate links are all common forms of passive income.  The work of the product is done on the front end and then your involvement is limited after that. 

I am really lucky to work in a field where there is a ready-made platform for selling my work and generating passive income in the form of Ravelry. However, platforms like Etsy, Craftsy, and your own website can also be great sources for passive income. Crochet does tend to be the lower paid cousin of knitting, so I certainly won't be able to retire on my pattern sales, but its still an important part of my business model.

During slow months, passive income is what keeps us in groceries and ensures the basic bills are paid. It also enables me to work on other projects that don't pay at all or as well. Every single £ that comes in is valuable. 


Working Smarter, Not Harder

For me, the biggest lesson has been ensuring I can get as much value out of work as possible.   Designs for magazines aren't usually well paid. However, they have the added benefit of being being open for independent release when the rights revert back after 4-6 months. While I am selective about designing for magazines, I make sure that the designs I do submit will work well as independent releases.

For example, I would have been paid under £200 for my pleated cardigan design. This is pretty standard in UK magazines for garments, with some paying more, some less. Once the rights reverted back to me, the cardigan was released independently.  At the time, the magazine was allowing designers to use pattern photos in indie releases (this isn't common, usually you have to reshoot the photos), making it a very easy release.  

The pattern then needed to be put into my own design template, re-edited and then published on Ravelry, Etsy and Love Knitting. In the time it has been available for individual purchase, it has sold an additional 200 copies at £4.00/ copy, making the design much more valuable to my business with limited effort after laying it out in my own pattern template.

Not all of my pattern sales have been that successful. I have many designs that have only sold a handful of copies (and 1 that hasn't sold any at all!), but independent releases have an added benefit of selling other patterns by boosting traffic to my website, Ravelry or Etsy store.  And you know what, even if they sell 1 copy, that is £3 I didn't have before. 

I also want to add that this is really (and maybe especially) applicable for maker designers.  Making, especially knitting or crocheting, items for sale is A LOT of work.  If you have developed designs yourself, don't be shy about releasing the patterns or kits for them.  In my experience, the markets for patterns and ready made items have very little over lap.  Customers who can't make want finished items.  And customers who can, most likely will want to make it themselves.  Getting patterns written up can be a great way to generate extra income with minimal effort. 


Think Outside the Box

Its easy as a designer to think only about pattern sales, but don't limit yourself.  Think about the other things you are doing that can contribute passively to your business. For example, tutorials can make a great products.  I wrote a series on the blog called How to Design a Hat, which is still available for free. Without a doubt, it is the most viewed section of my website with over 2m page views since the series launched. 

About 6 months after publishing, I packaged up the blog posts, added a few tips for making a specific hat (a requirement of Ravelry's) and launched it for sale.  It sells hundreds of copies every year, even though the content itself it is still available for free. At its higher price point as well, even in slow months, its been a great assest to my business. 

Other designers offer Clubs or Membership services where participants get a new design each month for a small monthly subscription fee. This is a great way to even out income over a year (as long as you can keep up with it). 

Or maybe you have other skills. Setting up ecourses for areas of expertise you have in the field, such as tech editing, photography, layout, or charting can be great ways to build up income. Sidebar advertising is another way to get a small amount of income every month and services like Passionfruit Ads can make this a very easy income stream. Don't forget affiliate links are also a way to earn money (even a small amount) from links on your website and I know a number of the yarn retailers.


Its Still Work Though

One thing I want to say is that while passive income is a great way to add value to your business, its important to remember that it still takes work to get there.  Setting up courses and the like is a lot of work and often there is a financial investment. However, once the work is done, it takes very little additional time to keep it going. 


I'd love to hear if you use passive income to support your business. What works for you? Any challenges I've missed? 

Are you a maker or designer looking for support or advice? Check out our Making it Work as a Designer Facebook Group.

Kind of Like a Song That is Stuck in Your Head.

I have a long list of things I should be working on.  Some new kit designs and a couple of designs for an upcoming project.  They are on THE LIST.



But what I actually can't stop thinking about is a completely different design in a yarn I shouldn't be using, in a craft (knitting) I shouldn't be designing in.  Its something that has been haunting me for weeks.  Occupying precious space in my brain.  

So often, that is how it works.  A design gets into my head like a song, playing over and over.  And like a song stuck in your head, the only way to make it stop is a) find a new song to get stuck or b)listen to your earworm as loud as you can, immersing yourself in it.

I have tried a. Working on various other designs in hope that the design will leave me alone, but I keep getting called back to it.  So, I have no choice, do I?  A weekend of knitting?  Oh, I suppose I could manage that.

Oh and speaking of kits, I need HELP!  Each kit will be coming in a kit bag, but I can't decide which design to use.  I personally prefer just the suitcase, but I am interested to hear other opinions.

A Morning in the Life


Up at 5:15am. I know this, as Ellis practices his new found clock reading skills for my fuzzy brain. The light has to go on of course, so he can read the clock and I mutter under my breath about reading being overrated in children.

With Ellis up, all 3 children and Kevin are awake. (Note to self: must practice inside voices). 

Kevin shepards them downstairs for breakfast (porridge) while I stay in bed and read emails and formulate A PLAN for the day. I secretively read one chapter of my book, wanting to spend my day lost in that world, but the real world finds me in the form of a 19 month old who calls me "DeeDee".

The smallest one and I head downstairs for coffee and left over cheeze-free pizza (me) and porridge (him). I wander ino the office for a morning of work.

First up, pattern emails. I am grateful in my foggy early morning state that there weren't many sales on Etsy in the night.  Each pattern has to be emailed out individually and it's easy to miss one if I am not careful. Then, on to answering emails and tweets from Kat.  It is a very big and exciting day for Capturing Childhood, with our courses and gift certificates going live. A bit of spit and polish is required for the lovely and newly designed site and a few images I had forgotten to send. 

In between all of this, I pick up my new knitwear design.  Realising that I have misjudged the ease of the item, I have added in 2 pattern repeats too many.  Its ripped back and cast on again, then I decide I want to change the stitch pattern ever so slightly and a new swatch is made.  Its better.  Math is re-done and I am ready to cast on.


In the background, I can hear the rabble reaching a fever pitch.  Tonight is the wedding of beloved friends and all 3 are bouncing with excitement.  Kevin does his best to keep the calm and get them dressed, but it is hard to fight the wave of energy that is emminating from the little people.


At 8:30, Kevin and the babies head out to work and nursery, after Kev and I decide our plan of attack for getting everyone dressed and ready this evening. I finish rounding up the big boy to go to school.  As we walk out the door and down the street, he tells everyone about the wedding and his desperate need for a haircut. 

The trip to and from school takes about 25 minutes and as I walk back in the door, Kat phones to talk through the finer details of today.  Work is divided up and I quickly write up my to do list. 

Then, its off to answer emails.  I have a list as long as my arm of people to get back to, all the while watching the weather anxiously.  I am the photographer for today's wedding and rain is not welcome. 

Once emails are done, its back to designing.  I am designing a small collection of kits for Not On The High Street. The designs focus on big and gorgeous yarns for a series of home and personal accessories.  I am currently working with Rowan Cocoon - one of my newly discovered loves. I have been trying to design a cowl for a solid week, but it is simply not flowing. I know it will come to me, but I get frustrated all the same. 

Throughout the morning, a steady stream of parcels arrive.  A few Christmas presents, but mostly supply deliveries and other designers' products for my other job as a photographer.  Days like today are wonderful for their diversity, but frustrating as well. It highlights just how pulled I am in so many different directions, but this is the reality of a small business owner...a necessary evil to keep afloat. 

10:30am and with only an hour to do before I need to start getting ready for the shoot, I take a few photos with the amazing rented Canon 5d mkiii and do a quick edit. Upload, spell check, then press publish...


Inspiration and Originality



Nothing is original.  Every single thing that we make, that I make, has its roots in something else...a picture, a book, a pin on pinterest.  As a designer I take the full breadth of my experience in making and put in into my designs...using them like tools in a toolkit, collected from all of the other designers I have learned from over the years. 




Textile designers can do what they do because they (do I get to say we?) have an ability to think about how something is constructed and then make it. Generally speaking, when designing I stay far away from the internet because I am cautious about "reading" how others made something and getting that idea stuck in my head. In fact, it is much the same for blogging - I tend not to participate in meme's and writting workshops because I struggle to find my own voice amidst other people's words.

Of course, I do make other people's designs and my stance thus far has been quite a simple one: where an item I am selling has elements that have been directly inspired by someone else, I contact them to let them know.  The Herringbone hat and mitts, the Viking hat, the costume wings.  I have had email discussions with all of the designers about how I am using their designs and have had permission to sell. In the case of the Herringbone hat and mitts, a lot of work went into developing and writing the patterns, making the samples and getting to the point of publishing a pattern...but I chickened out at the last minute for putting the patterns for sale as I just felt awkward doing so with someone else's work (even though I had Craig's permission).


Serendipity is another issue...the owllelly warmers were born out of a gift for a young woman who loves owls.  I had made owl cables before and adapted them along with a ribbing that I thought would  fit a range of leg sizes, as having very, ahem, shapely calves, stretchy ribbing is required.  It wasn't until after I made the first pair and drafted the pattern that I saw there were handwarmers on ravelry with the similar stitch pattern. 

Ultimately, I have to take the perspective that these things happen.  Where possible, I think it is key to be open and honest and hold one's hand up, but the reality is that creativity works in mysterious ways and, we are always going to be inspired by others, be it for new crochet designs, blog posts or dinner ideas. 

And that is where this little work in progress comes in (we are calling him Elmer). He appeared in my studio in the late hours of last night after I'd been dreaming about him for several days.


We'd been at a friend's house this weekend and Georgia was captivated with their hobby horses. She isn't interested in much other than destruction, so I do tend to jump on any opportunity.  I decided to make one for her birthday in March and wanted to do a tester for another little boy's birthday next week.  Coincidentally, in my daily dig around pinterest, I stumbled upon a range of hobby horse designs. 

And Elmer was born.  He is entirely my own design, crocheted like a sock, complete with ankle ribbing and heel flap, but is very muchinspired by the beautiful ones I saw here.  Of course, I would like to write up the pattern and share the love of his sweet little face and make many, many to send off to homes all over the world, but I hesitate because I want to respect the work of others. It is always a challenge to find balance...

As he is still in the developmental stages, I am comfortable to wait and see what happens as he and his lady love (her name will be Eustice the Unicorn) develop.



I guess I will leave this discussion with a quote from my friend Robyn who commented on a facebook post of mine when I was venting frustration about this issue:

'The artist Eva Zeisel, who says that the folk tradition in which she works is "her home," nevertheless produces ceramics that were recognized by the Museum of Modern Art as masterpieces of contemporary design.

This is what she says about innovation for its own sake:

"This idea to create something is not my aim. To be different is a negative motive, and no creative thought or created thing grows out of a negative impulse. A negative impulse is always frustrating.

"And to be different means 'not like this' and 'not like that.' And the 'not like'--that's why postmodernism, with the prefix of 'post,' couldn't work. No negative impulse can work, can produce any happy creation. Only a positive one."' 


Ultimately, I have to believe that we are all better for just making...for putting more of ourselves and our visions into the world.

And, of course, Elmer and his lady love will be appearing in their finished forms soon, even if it is just here.


I am also excited to be Parentdish's Blog of the Week!  If you have come through from there, "Hello and Welcome!!"


Sunshine and Showers - Spring 2012

collection title


Herringbone collage copy

Lou-10 copy

Owlelly Warmers

Lou-32 copy

blow welly

Brolly ellis
Picnik collage

There is no such thing as bad weather. Only bad clothing.

6658706467_401a52edf8_o copy

Lou-37 copy
End rainbow




Inspired by the cold changeability that these next few months bring to Scotland.  I've never seen so many rainbows...or so much rain.

These items are now all in my etsy shop, along with all other hats open now for custom orders.  The patterns for the Herringbone and Intrepid Explorer hats and the owl cable welly warmers are also up on etsy.  Mitten pattern, ravelry listings and folksy site to follow.

Thank you all...for your support and encouragement and, well, everything.

Come back tomorrow for a quick tutorial on the rope scarf!!


How To Design a Hat (Part 2: The Math)
how to design a hat lt background
how to design a hat lt background

For the Math-a-phobic, stay back.  There are sime heavy calculations going on below.  There is nothing wrong with making a hat by eyeballing it or going by a pattern.  This is just the way I like to torture blog readers.

No really, this is most useful for people wanting to write their own designs in multiple sizes or those who want to use a more complicated stitch pattern that requires forward planning. For everyday hat making, its a lot of work to go to and as Joxy eloquently said in yesterday's comments, crochet is so versatile, you just need to know how to increase and decrease, then you are sorted. I would add that hats are stretchy and can forgive a number of sins. Now please forgive me for any that may appear below ;)



So, I said yesterday that the method I described was the "easy way".  You basically pick a stitch, crochet a flat circle until it measures close to your diameter and then work even until its the right height.  Its all fine and dandy and pretty no-fool when you are working in simple stitches and in lighter weight wool.

You can run into problems when you are working in more complex designs and bigger wools.  Basically a completed round may not be anywhere near the diameter of a circle you are needing or you may have a stitch pattern that requires a certain number of stitches in a round. This is where maths can play a crucial role.

The example below is using a US Half Double Crochet (UK Half Treble) for ease. With such a straight forward stitch, you probably will be fine with using a 6 or 8 stitch increase for the flat circle to get to the desired number of stitches to reach your hat circumference. You can just use step 1 to formulate that.  However, I go into the further detail for when we look at lace and more complicated stitches in future posts, where increases need to be more precise. 

You need to know:

- your gauge

- your HAT circumference

- your HAT diameter


Head Size

Hat Size

Hat Height

Flat Circle Diameter

0-6 months

13 - 15in

12 -14  inches

4.5 - 5 inches

4 inches

6-12 months

16 - 19 inches

14 – 18 inches

5.5 inches

4.5 inches

1 – 3 Years

18 - 21 inches

17 – 20 inches

6.5 inches

5.5 inches

4+ years

20 – 22 inches

19 – 21 inches

7.5 inches

6 inches


22 inches

20 inches

8.5 inches

6.5 inches


23 inches

21 inches

9.5 inches

6.75 inches

As an example, I am going to do the equations for a 1-3 year hat, with a 17inch hat circumference and a 5.5inch diameter. 


First you need to gauge swatch.  For Cascade 220 and a 5mm hook, my gauge is:

14HDC and 11.5 rows = 4inches

In order to simplify things, its easier to use your 1 inch gauge, based on your normal swatch size, in my case:

3.5 HDCs and 2.9 rows in 1 inch

Armed with this information, I need to figure out how many stitches will make up my circumference and over how many rounds I need to build up those stitches for a nice even crown.

Step 1: Stitches in Hat Circumference

First, lets figure out how many stitches are required for the HAT circumference.

To do this, you need to multiply the hat circumference by the number of stitches in your gauge.  The number you get is the # of stitches around your final circumference will be.


In my example: 17inches x 3.5stitches = 59.5 stitches in circumference

Step 2: Rounds in Hat Diameter

Then, you need to multiply the diameter of the required hat size by the number of rows in your gauge swatch. Then, because when measuring across a flat circle, each round equals two rows, you need to divide this figure by 2. This is the number of rounds that will make up your diameter.


In my example: (5.5 inches x 2.9 rows)/ 2 = 7.97 of rounds in diameter

Step 3: Calculating the Increases

So now you have 2 figures:

the number of stitches that will make up the circumference (59.5)

the number of rounds that will make up the diameter (7.97)

Now, obviously you can't have 0.5 of a stitch or 0.97 of a row.  You'll need to make a judgement on each. Generally speaking, I estimate the rounds to the nearest complete number.  In my example, its obviously 8.

Next, you need to figure out how many stitches to increase in each round, or what number stitches you'll crochet into your first loop and then increase by over the rounds. This is calculated by dividing the stitches in the circumference by the rounds in the diameter.

# of STITCHES in CIRCUMFERENCE/# of ROUNDS in DIAMETER = Stitches to increase per round

In my example: 59.5/ 8 = 7.43 stitches per round.

You'll often come out with an uneven number. This is where you need to make a judgement. You can:

- Leave the remaining stitches out (in my example: I could make 8 rounds of 7 stitches each with a total of 56 stitches, which would change the hat size from 17 inches to 16 inches)

- Add stitches in to make a next full increase round (in my example, I could round it up to 8 stitches over 8 rounds, for a 64 stitch hat circumference, but this would mean about an 18inch hat circumference)

- To get the correct sizing, round down to the nearest number (in my case 7).  Then in an additional round (in my case, round 9) increase evenly by the remaining 'hanging stitches' (in my case 3).

Then you need to work even until the hat height measures your desired size.


There are so many variations to this process, which I can not go into in this kind of format.  However, once you get this basic principle, the possibilities are endless, including sizing up and down for writing a pattern.

For other varieties:

- Slouchy hats tend to have longer heights and a diameter that will fit snugly on the wearers head so it doesn't slip down over their eyes.

- Beret styles are larger circles so the diameter of the circle makes up much of the hat height.  Obviously the bottom few rounds need to be decreased to a good snug fit.

- Hats with pointy tops can be made by alternating each increase rows with rows that do not increase stitches at all. This will form a cone. To measure the diameter, just rely on the stitch count


Notes: Though I write about inches, it will work just find if you measure in centimeters.

Even though this all sounds very complicated, it is actually relatively straight forward to implement once you get the hang of it (she says, with optimism).  However, if it makes no sense to you at all, try drinking a glass of wine, and if that still doesn't work, I accept full responsibility ;)

There is soooo much more I could say about hat design and pattern writing, but I am going to leave it here for now, as this gives a very basic foundation.  I am toying with the idea of putting all of this (and the other important information) in a pdf, but time is limited at the moment.  However, if you have any questions, please ask either in the comments section or on facebook and I will do my best to answer.

How to Design a Hat, Part 1 is here.

The full interactive eBook is available here.

Subscribing in a reader or liking Slugs on the Refrigerator on Facebook are great ways to be alterted to when I post part 3.