Monday, February 27, 2012

Busy, Busy Bee, Even When It's Dead

So apparently my shop is on it's slow time.

General consensus has it that you should take your slow times to reevaluate what you are doing, work on new designs, do paperwork, clean your disaster zone (house), etc.

So that is exactly what I am doing. I am making a new design (see my other blog), working on my shop (views are up!) paperwork is done, and my house is still a disaster zone, but with a 15 month old, it's never gonna be pretty! and I'm whooped!!

I think I'm going to work on more shipping options for my .com I've only got the Americas done so far!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

My SupaDupa Shop is Finally Open!

Wow - that was a huge amount of work but I've finally gotten it open. It's not perfect, I've probably missed some good keywords, my pictures still more or less stink and there are probably typos and bad grammar sprinkled all over my listings in both shops but at this point I've looked at them so many times that I think that I have them memorized and no longer see exactly what's on the page. I'm never going to think that it's completely done or perfect so if I keep waiting for that I'll die of old age first. Now I just have to wait for google to crawl me so I can start testing.

Go check it out - the software is great and I love the little slideshow of images. I'll be eternally grateful to anyone that points out a mistake and I'm not proud. Feel free not to criticize my pictures though - it's depressing enough as it is.

Please come see my handmade designer plus size sweaters, sweater coats, capes and shrugs at

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An Early Peek at Spring

It's already early spring here in my part of California and the flowers and trees are already starting to bloom in my garden. Here's a few pictures for those of you still suffering from the winter blues...

Sunday, February 19, 2012


While Karen's been showing up how she designs her sweaters (it's beautiful, BTW Karen), I've been struggling with pattern submission.

I've been making these gloves for some time, and I was ready to write the pattern and sell it too.

One of my goals this year is to get published in a magazine, and when ! got the editorial calendars for a couple of magazines, I realized I had better get a pattern around NOW!

So I did, I was almost finished writing the pattern when my files all deleted from my thumb drive (glad I had them all backed up elsewhere). Then I had to do it again.

When I went to re write the pattern, I modified it, so that it would be a little easier to make. Took out the little bits between the fingers.

I agonized over this pattern for weeks!

I am N.E.R.V.O.U.S.! wondering what I could have done wrong, looking over the pattern again and again.

And I can't even share the photo!!

I think I just need to go write the slouchy hat pattern now.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Backing into a sweater design part VI - All Done

I finally finished it yesterday morning but I had to take a break so that my husband wouldn't starve to death this weekend and I lost the light before I got back to take the pictures. I hauled (OK, he hauled) my mannequin outside this morning and I managed to get sort of mediocre but not terrible pictures before the clouds moved in. As usual I'll have to redo them but they're decent enough to list it for now. Here it is - if you click on the image you can see the other views in my Etsy shop.

Size 1X Sweater from MirabilisFashions

I started out with 21 skeins of yarn totaling over 2500 yards and what I have left could fit in a little sandwich bag. Not bad...

I'm already backing into my next sweater. I have this great cotton left over from the last Irish fisherman sweater that I did and it came in gigantic 3 pound cones of 2200 ypp. I doubled it for the first sweater and I have about 1/4 or less of each cone left but I don't really have any idea of what's left because I don't know how much the cones themselves weigh. I know that I have enough for a shrug but there might be even more so I'm starting with a shrug sized back and front panels, then I'll do the sleeves and after that I'll have a better idea if there is enough there to do a longer cardigan.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Backing into a sweater design part V

I left off on Tuesday when I was about to start the sleeve design. I decided that I wanted a smaller motif on the top of the arms that was similar to the one on the front but with a bit less detail. I worked them in the same way as the front and back by doing the colored bands first so that I knew that they would match and then completed the first one before finishing the second one. Once I seamed those on it was time to take stock of what colors I had left and in what amounts and start the finishing work. I worked the sleeve length to leave room for a two inch or so cuff and then used the 3 yarns that I had the most of to do those. Then I matched that with the ribbing all around the bottom of the sweater.

The final step is the neckline. As I mentioned in an earlier post I had set the back motif pretty low because I didn't think that the yarn would stretch as far as it did and I was concerned that I would have to start cutting in for the armholes sooner than I had hoped for. I don't like how it looks because it's not balanced and it bugs me so I want to get some color on the upper back to even things out. My choices are a longer back collar but to make it long enough to work I would be approaching sailor collar dimensions and that's too weird even for me or I can add a hood and I think that will look a lot better. I started that last night and should be able to finish it today if all goes well. Then all that's left is to check for any unwound ends, block and steam it, take the pictures and list it. I'll post it here as soon as the pictures are done.

Please come see my handmade designer plus size sweaters, sweater coats, capes and shrugs at

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Backing into a sweater design part IV

When I last left off on Sunday I was pretty unhappy with the results that I got on the first motif and was considering ripping it out and starting all over again. Since everyone else that saw it liked it I decided to set it aside for a while and make a simpler motif for the front. I designed that on Sunday and started it that night and finished it yesterday. I love the new one and I think that it fits much better with the lower band so I'm going to make that one the front. Last night I finished the upper chest and shoulders of both and seamed it all together. I still think that the back looks a bit weird but I'm going to leave it alone.

I still have some design issues to figure out. I wasn't sure how much yarn I was going to have or how long I was going to be able to make it so I set the first motif fairly low on the sweater just in case it had to be shorter than I'd hoped and I would have to start the armholes sooner. By the time I reached the front side I knew that I had more than enough yarn to do whatever I wanted to so I set the second motif higher. I could have worked yet another motif on the upper back above the low one but it's already so busy and colorful that I think it would just be too much. I want something to fill up that blank space though and make it look more balanced so I might stick a hood on it. That can be colorful but without a distinct pattern.

Since I have plenty of black left I can make the sweater longer by flipping it upside down and working another band of black from the bottom. Before you start saying "ack - you're going the wrong way and that will leave a big ugly seam" - no it won't unless it's a very fine gauge and you don't keep the tension even or if you forget to work in the right direction compared to your first row. This will be cleanly on a stripe and not the least bit noticeable. An easy way to design something when you don't know how much yarn you have is to make an empire waist, then the sleeves, then make the rest of the bodice as long as you can before running out. (Don't forget to save some for finishing work.)

Next comes the sleeves. I know that I want a lower band on them that matches the lower band on the sweater but I haven't decided what else to do with them. I might want to put something colorful toward the top but I'm not sure what yet. A smaller version of the front motif might look good but then the back one might look even less coherent with the rest of the sweater. It's not even 7 in the morning yet so hopefully the idea will come together in my head before I get there.

Please come see my handmade designer plus size sweaters, sweater coats, capes and shrugs at

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Backing into a sweater design part III

OK I hate it. I really, really hate it. It doesn't look anything like my beautiful picture because the picture has too much detail for the resolution that I can get with DK weight yarn. The color combinations that looked so great on the table didn't work anywhere near as well with the constant color changes. I just hate it. I was about to tear it all out when a friend came over with her 18 year old and the kid went nuts over it so maybe it isn't as awful as I think if you didn't know what it was supposed to look like in the first place. My husband likes it.

I usually work tapestry crochet pieces in the round because then I'm always on the right side and can hide a lot of colors without worrying that they'll show through on the wrong side that no one will see anyway. I can't do that with other shapes. I use tiny hooks and lace weight yarn to get these sorts of detailed results:

When I use hooks and thread that tiny I can get at least 20 stitches into a square inch. Using DK weight I'm lucky to get 8 so trying to work a picture as detailed as the one that I just did is inevitably going to look like something set at much too low a resolution. Oh well, live and learn.

So what's next? Last night I designed a much, much simpler design with larger blocks of color and no tiny details that will get smushed together as a blob. Today I'll work that up and then decide whether the two different ones will look OK on the same sweater and if so then I'll work on some unifying design that can go around the neck and shoulders to tie them together. If I still really hate it I'll rip the complicated side out. I hate it less every time that I look at it as the memory of what I wanted to make fades and I have to remind myself that just because it isn't my taste doesn't mean that someone else won't like it.

This might all sound torturous and wasteful to someone else but if I knew exactly what I wanted to do and then did it by rote I would be bored out of my mind in no time at all.

Please come see my handmade designer plus size sweaters, sweater coats, capes and shrugs at

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Supadupa - Remember that?

(I'm still waiting for yarn so I'll keep going with the sweater design series when it gets here.)

I haven't talked about my new shop on Supadupa for a while but I've been busy working away at it to get it ready to open. I'm determined to put everything that I've learned into practice but it's a huge amount of work. So far this is what I've done:

1) Reshot all of the photos that I took before I got the larger mannequin.
2) Erased all of the backgrounds on every single picture in my shop because they were different shades of off-white and now they're all consistent. I also put borders around the detail shots because they look weird in my new shop without them.
3) Researched all of my SEO all over again to make sure that I hadn't missed anything good the first time around.
4) Rewrote every single title and description in both shops to get rid of duplicate content (this was by far the hardest and most miserable part.)
5) Developed a boilerplate for keyword tags and then updated the tags on every item.

I still have to:
1) Finalize my shop title and description
2) Do all of my section names and section descriptions
3) Rewrite my profile on both sites
4) Fill in all of my shipping details
5) Get Google Analytics hooked up
6) Replace all of my current Etsy titles and descriptions with the new Etsy ones.
7) Go over everything carefully for typos, bad grammar and inconsistent formats.
8) Redirect my URL
9) Watch myself drop off the face of google for months while I get backlinks built.

Hopefully it will pay off with a shop that I'm proud of and that will be attractive to my demographic in a way that Etsy will never be.

Snarky comment of the day:

Etsy is just hilarious sometimes. Now they're offering to act as a payment processor like Paypal. We're talking about a place that hasn't managed to come up with even 9-5 telephone support in over 5 years, that capriciously shuts down people's shops and then says "oops", that can't ever get 2 staff people to come up with the same answer and takes a week to answer a simple email question. Kids barely out of college get to make decisions that greatly affect other people's livelihoods. Wait - let me run and give you control over my money too and let you dole it out or withhold it as you see fit. Then I'll jump off a bridge for good measure.

Please come see my handmade designer plus size sweaters, sweater coats, capes and shrugs at

Monday, February 6, 2012

How I Design Anything

Karen's last 2 posts were fascinating, and parts of her design process reminded me of my own designing process.

Unlike Karen, I do very little OOAK work. Most of my crochet and knit pieces that wind up being one of a kind become so because I either really hated making it, I cannot get any more of that yarn, or I sold it and forgot to take notes on what I did.(in which case, the buyer never learns that the piece is OOAK).

My first consideration when making a new design is what yarn I have. I design from my yarn stash. This entails looking at it until something catches my fancy. Always fun, as there's some awesome fibers in there.

Then I think about how much of that yarn I have. Some of these yarns come in tiny balls, and somehow I usually wind up with just one ball. Most of those yarns can be used for a trim, which necessitates picking out a simple yarn that'll match in fiber content and color.

Yarn "talks" to me, tells me what it wants to be. And sometimes different colors want to be different things. The same yarn that wants to be a shawl in this color,

Irish Cream Shawl

wants to be a baby blanket in another,

baby blanket

and a hat in a third color.

red hand knit pixie hat

I was actually making that blanket in the red when I decided to change to the blue.

Like Karen was typing about in her posts, I know what goes into a certain size item. I know that if I have 100 yards of worsted weight yarn, that I can make a pair of fingerless gloves in the short style, or if I have 150 yards, I can make either of the longer styles. That 240 yards of a size 10 crochet cotton can get me the wedding gloves, or just over 100 yards of the same cotton can make something like the fishnet gloves.

I can get a general idea of what size of an item I can make, then I decide on a basic shape.

Then I put hook or needles to yarn, and begin making that shape a reality.

While I'm designing, I'll try a piece on after every row, a necessity when you like to shape stuff to make it look like it was tailored.

Oftentimes, I'll change a design totally midstream. All of the wrist band /cup cozy designs, for example. They were all supposed to have been fingerless gloves, and I decided to turn them into cup cozies instead. A few of the basic designs did finally make their way into a pair of fingerless gloves, and the rest will eventually.

And if I decide I don't like it, the great thing about yarn is that you can just rip it out and start over!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Backing into a sweater design part II

Yesterday I left off after completing the bottom of the back of the sweater, decided to make it a pullover and then worked the bottom of the front to match the back so that I used up the same amount of each color on each side. Now I have the bands at the bottom done and then I finished up the first skein of black so that I know how many rows I can get out of a skein (a bit more than 12 or about 5" / 1100 stitches. ) That doesn't count any yarn that's laid under a row but it gives me a ballpark figure. That's not a whole lot so I might come up short on black depending on how I use the other colors.

Next comes the mandala. If you really want to learn about mandala design then you should probably go talk to a Buddhist monk because I just grab some graph paper (the online version) and start at the center and make dots in patterns that I like to outline it. There is no deep mystical symbolism going on here - it's just a pretty design. If you don't have graphing software then you can either find a sample of graph paper online or scan one in. Then using Paint or any similar software with a pen gizmo you can color it in, making sure not to color over your outline dots in a way that hides them. (If you're working in the round, skip this and do it in your head like you always do. I have a math and computer science degree and spent a month working with a guy with a doctorate in astrophysics and we still couldn't design round graph paper that lets you increase wherever you want to. It's mind-boggling.) Another thing to remember is that although graph paper is square, single crochet isn't and the stitches are about a third taller than they are wide. Your perfect design is going to be stretched up unless you squash it down a bit beforehand or don't care if it isn't perfectly square.

Next comes the color decisions and this is always a tough one for me. The first pass that I did is beautiful and starts with shades of reds and pinks in the center, moves out to some purples and then has green and blue around the edges. It looks great but it means that I'd be using up to 8 colors in each row and that's a bit much. If I carry all of them along it will be too thick and if I keep cutting them after 2 stitches I'll be wasting more yarn on the ends then what I use on the stitches. Then I worked up a second one in intarsia style where the dots stay the same color and the background is striped. It gives a nice effect too (see the picture below of a vest in my shop) but I'm not as excited about how the result will look. I'm going to have to think about it and since I have to wait for 2 more colors to be delivered next week I have plenty of time. I really want to use those 2 colors so I'll have to sit this aside for a few days and work on my in-between project.

Please come see my handmade designer plus size sweaters, sweater coats, capes and shrugs at

Friday, February 3, 2012

Backing into a sweater design

People who have to put budgets together using OPM (other people's money) often have to do something called backing into a budget. It happens when someone gives you an upper limit like $100,000 and you have to figure out what is the most you can do while still keeping it under $99,999. People who spend their own money decide what they need first and then add up the numbers at the end. My sweater design process frequently resembles backing into the design rather than figuring it all out ahead of time.

I often get asked how I know how much yarn to order or why on earth I would dive into starting a sweater with a few rudimentary gauge measurements but no real plan. I guess that the short version is that I don't exactly know but where is your sense of adventure? I can make a decent guess at how much yarn it's going to take to make a basic sweater using a specific weight yarn and then I have to take into consideration things like cables and tapestry crochet that use up more yarn than straight work would. I almost always have a general idea of what I want to make but after I see the yarns that I've ordered and had a chance to play with them I may change my mind completely. I thought it might be fun to walk through making the sweater that I've just started because it's a great example of a pile of yarn with no firm plans for it.

I knew that I wanted to make something with a lot of color against a black background and I knew that I wanted it to be made from cotton or some other lightweight breathable yarn so that it wouldn't be too warm. Tapestry crochet always adds some thickness because of the additional strands being carried along under the stitch. After checking all of my good wholesale sources and not finding what I wanted I checked to see what was on sale at Knitpicks (which is normally much too expensive.) Luckily for me they had a really nice linen/cotton blend on sale that came in a wide variety of colors. After looking at the balance of what I have in my shop I decided that I needed another 1X and that 2500 yards would probably be plenty. Then I split it in half and chose half in black and the rest in an assortment of colors. Will it be enough given that I don't know what I'm making yet? Probably but if not I can change the design mid-stream or order some more since it's a commercial yarn.

I spent about 15 minutes on samples to decide what size hook to use and to work out the gauge to get me to a 1X. I added a bit because I know that it will tighten up once I start adding colors and have to hide them when I'm not using them. There weren't any decisions about what stitches to use since I always do tapestry work in single crochet.

Now it's time to decide what it's going to look like. My original idea was a sort of patchwork motif but I decided that it would either come out great or look like they had a quilt pinned to their back so I abandoned that one for now. I've had this other vague idea in my head for a while about a black sweater with a colorful band across the bottom and then some really big and difficult mandala as one big motif in the center. I still haven't decided if it's going to be a cardigan or pullover but I don't have to know that in order to start the back piece.

I'd love to pretend that at this point I broke out the graph paper and designed the bottom band but the truth is that I just looked around my house at some pottery, picked a few straightforward geometric designs, started with the purples because they're my favorite colors and dove in. I don't really want the bottom band to be too complex or stylized because the big motif will be the centerpiece. Geometric anything is easy because you can follow the pattern repeats by eye without having to count or check a chart. I measure it every few rows to make sure that my estimate of how much it would shrink when I started the tapestry work was on target. It's not a custom order so it's OK if it comes out too big but I don't want it to be any smaller than a 1X.

The big unknown here is how to balance the design with the amounts of each color so that I don't end up short and unable to make the front and back motifs match. The easiest way around this is to work the front and back sections in tandem with each other so that they stay in color sync. I finished the bottom band for the back last night so today instead of moving on with that I'll stop and work the lower section of the front so that it matches and I've used the same amount of yarn on each side. Now I have to decide if it's going to be a cardigan or pullover because that will determine whether I'm working an identical front or splitting it into 2 panels. Since I already have a shrug, cape and 2 sweater coats in 1X I'll make this one a pullover.

I'll be back with the next steps after I finish the lower front and move on to designing the mandala.

Please come see my handmade designer plus size sweaters, sweater coats, capes and shrugs at