For many years, I knit strictly from patterns. Most of the time I used exactly the yarn the pattern called for, too. I had neither the interest in designing my own, nor the first idea how to start, even if I had. This all worked out well enough until my friend, Patrice, cajoled me into learning how to spin.
Patrice had learned how to spin many years before, but had moved on to other hobbies by the time I met her. One day, to Patrice’s delight, a friend gave her a spinning wheel that she no longer had a use for. I watched with some curiosity as Patrice struggled a bit to re-acquire the muscle memory needed to spin. It all came back to her, and pretty soon she had joined a spinning guild (yes, despite the medieval sound of the name, such things still do exist) and was happily making yarn. I continued to watch warily—it looked hard to do.
The next time my birthday came around, she gave me a beautiful Bosworth hand spindle and a big bag of roving. I thanked her for it, but wondered what in the heck I was going to do with this thing. I would be lying if I said that all went well. It took several tries before I was able to make a pleasing yarn, but by then I was hooked on yet another fibery obsession. Several months later, I bought a spinning wheel and started making lots of yarn of my own.
And therein lay the problem.
I was making all of this beautiful yarn that I wanted to knit with. However, none of the patterns I could find seemed to be just right. Since this yarn was so precious to me, I did not want to knit just anything with it. So I started modifying the not-quite-right patterns, and from there it was a short leap to designing my own simple patterns from scratch. At first, I wrote them just for myself. They consisted of a few scribbled notes on the back of an envelope, or whatever scratch paper was handy. I was lucky if I could decipher it well enough to make a second hat, scarf, or doll just like the first. It takes a lot longer to make yarn than it does to knit with it, so pretty soon I had run through my stash of handspun and was back to using commercial yarns.
By this time, I had discovered Ravelry and noticed that many people were trying their hand at writing knitting patterns. I realized that I already had most of the skills and all of the equipment needed to produce professional patterns from my real job as a consultant designing data collection forms for the pharmaceutical industry. So I started small and opened my Ravelry shop with a couple of patterns for doll clothes. They met with modest success, and I have been slowly adding to them ever since.
Next post: Things get serious…