The Helen Pencil Skirt

At long last my latest (and most favorite) pattern has finally been released!


It feels like this one was a long time coming. I believe the idea came to me way back in early spring but the process of bringing the idea to fruition, which you can read about in the Design Series, takes a long time. And now it’s finally here, just in time for fall!


Which is great since the skirt was designed with fall and winter in mind.


The inspiration for this piece is my friend Helen. She is a very stylish woman who always wears skirts and heels, even if it’s to take her two dogs and 3 year-old son to the park. Helen the lady is classy, sexy and curvy. Helen the skirt is, too. It’s the kind of skirt that would look great worn in the office with a fitted blouse, or to the farmers’ market with a simple t-shirt. It’s for the woman who does it all and wants to look good doing it.


You can find the skirt on Ravelry, or on the Knit Picks website where you can make a kit and buy the yarn and pattern at the same time. Couldn’t be easier!

I must again thank Eleanor Dixon for technical editing. And an enormous thank you to Helen Walls for being my muse and model. I asked her if she could bring some coordinating clothes and accessories to the shoot with her and she showed up with the most perfect outfit without having ever seen the skirt in person. And of course she looked amazing! Thanks lady!

Design Process Series, Installment Three – Submissions

Vacation (and summer almost) over, back to the blog. Time for the third installment of the design series, in which I’ll cover the submission process.

I’m certainly not an expert when it comes to this aspect of the business. I have had success and failure, both with the pattern featured in this series in fact. But I’ve answered calls for submission a few times now so I can pass on what I do know.

Typically a company will put out a “Call for Submissions,” in which they detail what they are looking for in terms of color, yarns, themes, etc. If I have something in my “little book of ideas” that seems like it would be a good fit for the Call, I put together a submission.

A submission is basically a one to two page showcase of your idea and how it would come to be. It should include, at minimum, a sketch of the idea, a swatch, suggested yarn(s) and a little blurb about the pertinent details of the design. It’s also helpful to include a schematic showing the dimensions of the piece, a bit about the construction, and short bio of the designer with some examples of previous work.

So what are you  hoping to gain by submitting a proposal to a yarn company, magazine, publisher, etc? Almost always you’ll get yarn support, that is, yarn provided to you at no cost, to knit the sample. Sometimes the company will provide editing, photography, layout and promotion, or any/all of the above. In return for your design and written pattern you may get paid a flat fee, royalties, or sometimes nothing at all, just the promise of “exposure”.  Some deals are better than others and you must really weigh all your options and consider just what it is you’re looking for from the arrangement.

Here is an example of a successful submission (with a few details removed.) One very similar to this was submitted to and rejected by Knit Now magazine. But, not accepting defeat, I modified it slightly to fit the format requested by Knit Picks and resubmitted the idea to them. This time I had success, and you should be seeing the new pattern within the next few weeks.

That’s about it for this phase of the process, next up – Math and Grading!


Design Process Series, Installment Two – Yarn Selection and Swatch

Once I had an idea of how I wanted the skirt to look, I needed to move on to yarn selection. In my head I was picturing something with a bit of halo to it, maybe some mohair. Having never worked with it before I didn’t really know what was out there. As it turns out, mohair is usually mixed with something else like silk, and it’s also generally very fine weight, like lace or cobweb. I wanted something a little more substantial than that since otherwise I would have been knitting forever!

I headed to my favorite local yarn store, The Loop in Kensington. I was able to describe what I was hoping to achieve and within minutes the very knowledgeable Diana had it all figured out for me. I came out of there with two yarns: Schulana Kid-Seta, a 70% mohair, 30% silk 2-ply lace-weight yarn; and Berocco Ultra Alpaca Light, a 50% Alpaca, 50% Wool 3-ply sport-weight yarn. The two yarns held together provided just the right weight, strength and texture that I was looking for. I was able to find two coordinating colours that were just beautiful together.      Schul and Berocco Yarn and Swatch

The next step was to draw up a chart of the diamond pattern and then put together a swatch. I’ve learned in the last year or so of designing that “meaningful” swatches are of the utmost importance when designing. They are not only useful for determining your gauge but also trying out increases, decreases, edgings, etc. My swatch for this pattern included not just the diamond motif, but also the stockinette stitch hem that I was planning on incorporating. I was delighted with how this one turned out.

Schul and Ber SwatchIn the end, after submitting my idea to Knit Picks, I ended up with yarn support from them. I was able to find two yarns of theirs that had almost the same properties of those from my original swatch: Aloft Super Kid Mohair, a 75% Super kid mohair, 25% silk lace-weight yarn; and Andean Treasure, a 100% Baby alpaca sport weight yarn. Once received, I made another, smaller swatch in just the diamond pattern with the new yarn.

Knit Picks yarn and swatchThe two swatches matched stitch and row gauge exactly so I was a very happy camper. The two Knit Picks yarns have a little more contrast between the colours, which I actually like in the end. I find it makes the fabric have a tweed-ish look to it. And oooh, is it ever soft!

both yarns and swatches

Stay tuned for the next post – The Submission Process (Yeah, I know, I said that last time, but I realized after the fact that I needed to talk about swatching first).