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Yarns I’ve Used – 2020

Let’s go chronologically, shall we?

You can click straight through to all their websites by tapping on their names,
and if you’d like to learn more about each pattern just tap the image instead!

Townhouse Yarns Fade St. 4-ply

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Sunny Hat Crochet Version

#AoibheNi #SunnyHat

You want it? You got it!
Here we go, folks.

For those of you keen on the Sunny Hat, but not so keen on the whole “knitting” thing, here’s a version of the headband that’s totally knit-free.
You may proceed with ease.

UK Version:
Tension: 28 sts x 18 rows of BL dc
Remember, the row gauge is the more important of the two measurements.

dc – double crochet
BLdc – Back Loop double crochet
htr – half treble crochet
ss – slip stitch
ch – chain
st(s) – stitch(es)
mm – millimeter

Note: To make a BLdc (Back Loop double crochet) simply work hook through the loop furthest away from you instead of through both loops as usual for a double crochet stitch. This will leave one loop visible. This loop will give the ridged effect you’re looking for.
The effect will really start to show up after a few rows of work

Turning chains do not count as stitches.

Pattern Begins Here:
With yarn held double and a 4 mm hook (or size required to achieve correct tension),
Make 13 chains.
Into 2nd ch from hook, work 1 dc, dc to within 1 ch of end of row, [2 dc] into last ch of row, 1 ch, turn – 13 sts

Hat Band Upward Slope:
Row 1. (Skip this row the first time through. Work it for every subsequent repeat)
1 dc, dc to within 1 st of end of row, [2 dc] into last st of row, 1 ch, turn – 13 sts

Row 2. [2 dc], then work BLdc sts to within 1 st of end of row, 1 dc, 1 ch, turn – 14 sts
3. 1 dc, then work BLdc sts to within 1 st of end of row, [2 dc], 1 ch, turn – 15 sts
Rows 4 – 7. *Work Rows 2 & 3* twice – Row 7 st count 19 sts

Hat Band Downward Slope:

1. dc2tog, BLdc to within 1 st of end of row, 1 dc, 1 ch, turn – 18 sts
2. 1 dc, then work BLdc sts to within 2 sts of end of row, dc2tog, 1 ch, turn – 17 sts
Rows 3 – 6. *Work Rows 1 & 2* twice – Row 6 st count 13 sts
Row 7. dc2tog, then dc to end of row, 1 ch, turn – 12 sts

Work Upward and Downward Slope four more times – 5 points on the hat band.

Last Row: 12 dc.
Do Not Bind Off.

Make 1 ch

Row 1. With yarn still held double, work one htr into the edge of each row made of Hat Band. You should get 7 sts into each slope giving you a final stitch count of 70 sts.
1 ch, turn – 70 sts

From here you can tune back into the pattern itself at Row 2 of Head section (Page 3, right column)

Don’t have the hat yet? Click here!

Knit band (top, in hat) crochet band (lower)

US Version:

Tension: 28 sts x 18 rows of BLsc
Remember, the row gauge is the more important of the two measurements.

sc – single crochet
BLsc – Back Loop single crochet
hdc – half double crochet
ss – slip stitch
ch – chain
st(s) – stitch(es)
mm – millimeter

Note: To make a BLsc (Back Loop single crochet) simply work hook through the loop furthest away from you instead of through both loops as usual for a single crochet stitch. This will leave one loop visible. This loop will give the ridged effect you’re looking for.
The effect will really start to show up after a few rows of work.

Turning chains do not count as stitches.

Pattern Begins Here:
With yarn held double and a 4 mm hook (or size required to achieve correct tension),
Make 13 chains.
Into 2nd ch from hook, work 1 sc, sc to within 1 ch of end of row, [2 sc] into last ch of row, 1 ch, turn – 13 sts

Hat Band Upward Slope:
Row 1. (Skip this row the first time through. Work it for every subsequent repeat)
1 sc, sc to within 1 st of end of row, [2 sc] into last st of row, 1 ch, turn – 13 sts

Row 2. [2 sc], then work BLsc sts to within 1 st of end of row, 1 sc, 1 ch, turn – 14 sts
3. 1 sc, then work BLsc sts to within 1 st of end of row, [2 sc], 1 ch, turn – 15 sts
Rows 4 – 7. *Work Rows 2 & 3* twice – Row 7 st count 19 sts

Hat Band Downward Slope:
1. sc2tog, BLsc to within 1 st of end of row, 1 sc, 1 ch, turn – 18 sts
2. 1 sc, then work BLsc sts to within 2 sts of end of row, sc2tog, 1 ch, turn – 17 sts
Rows 3 – 6. *Work Rows 1 & 2* twice – Row 6 st count 13 sts
Row 7. sc2tog, then sc to end of row, 1 ch, turn – 12 sts

Work Upward and Downward Slope four more times – 5 points on the hat band.

Last Row: 12 sc.
Do Not Bind Off.

Make 1 ch

Row 1. With yarn still held double, work one hdc into the edge of each row made of Hat Band. You should get 7 sts into each slope giving you a final stitch count of 70 sts.
1 ch, turn – 70 sts

From here you can tune back into the pattern itself at Row 2 of Head section
(Page 3, right column)

Don’t have the hat yet? Click here!

Thanks for stopping by!
Aoibhe Ni x

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A note about my pattern-writing style

The very first crochet patterns I learnt to read and understand were ancient, Irish Crochet Lace motif and doily patterns. These patterns I found in books that had seen decades of love and use in my local library.

They had a glorious, free-flowing style to them that added poetry and joy to their instructions; you weren’t just following a prescriptive code to make the shape of a flower, for instance, you were conjuring it with wand in hand!

It seemed logical to me, therefore, to keep with that style when I began to write my own patterns.

Then I saw my first Tunisian crochet pattern (gasp!) but it was presented not in great sheets of fabric worked row after row on a long hook, but in short rows (or layers) of fabric that were termed “linked” stitches by their author.

The patterns I first saw were written like traditional crochet patterns, with stitches like single crochets and treble crochets in abundance, and the linked stitches were essentially the designer’s solution to the perennial problem of the giant, yawning gaps that exist in crochet when you use taller and taller stitches.

Few people would wear a top made of quadruple trebles without something underneath, right?!

These “linked” sticthes meant that Tunisian-style crochet was accessible to those of us with shorter crochet hooks to hand and more traditional crochet sensibilities, too.

I fell head over heels in love with this technique as it added a level of flexibility to Tunisian Crochet that I hadn’t seen before while opening crochet up to a world of techniques enjoyed by knitters.

But that flexibility required a bit of a technique and terminology shift, so when I began to write patterns for Tunisian, I discovered I needed to come up with more efficient ways of explaining the moves involved.

I could have managed with the old terms, folks, but each pattern would have been exceptionally dense and about three times as long!

For those of you familiar with traditionally-written Tunisian crochet patterns, (and those of you totally new to the joy of Tunisian) I offer this guide to help you interpret the techniques you already know and show you how they are presented in my patterns. I do hope you will forgive me for tampering with an age-old craft in this manner.

The main difference between Short-Hook and Long-Hook Tunisian is that SH is built up in a manner much like regular crochet is. It needs some existing crochet fabric to work into once you’ve picked up all the necessary loops on your hook and before you complete the second half of each column.

LH makes its own foundation as it goes by adding a chain at the half way point.

Additionally, LH is best understood as row upon row of fabric made out of individual stitches worked horizontally, but SH is best viewed as rows of vertically-worked columns in a way that will be familiar to regular crocheters.

You can see examples of each below.
My patterns are written using SH terminology, so I will walk you through a swatch of that to help familiarise you with the terms I use.

Short Hook (left) and Long Hook Tunisian (right)

The Short Hook fabric is made using 3 rows of tall, “Linked 4-uple treble” (L4tr) stitches. There are 16 L4tr stitches per row in this piece. Each L4tr is basically a quadruple treble attached on either side to its neighbour so there are no gaps visible.
You can see that each L4tr stitch is quite tall, and has 4 “rungs” down its length. That’s where the “4-uple” comes from. A taller st – say with 6 rungs from top to bottom – would be called a “L6tr”.

The Long Hook fabric is made up of 15 rows of Tunisian Simple Stitches (TSS). There are 14 TSS stitches per row. This fabric looks and acts more like knitted fabric. Each row is quite short (about 1/4 the height of the Short Hook rows) and is made of individual stitches which create a completely seamless fabric.

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An American Wake

The 1840’s saw the first postage stamp, the start of the covered wagon trains to California, the publishing of Jane Eyre, the invention of the telegram and the rubber band.

In Ireland, by the middle of the 1840’s a potato blight called Phytophthora infestans had started to wrap its deadly fingers around the staple crop of the Irish people. Soon after, those dependant on the crop started to starve and perish in droves.

Not long after that, as matters worsened, waves of emigration began from Ireland towards the US. The journey was long – often taking months – expensive, and one way.

To those left at home it was almost akin to losing a family member to death. They were sure they’d not see them again. The only solace to be found was in the funerary tradition familiar to every Irish community; the wake.

Growing up, I had assumed this was something every society did to some extent. It was quite a surprise to discover it isn’t.
It’s a gentle, caring and dark practise whereby the desceased is not left on their own the night prior to their funeral. The community comes together to “Wake” the person, often in their own house with the coffin open and set on the sturdiest table in the best room.
Food is served, drink taken, the room containing the dearly departed is filled with candles and flowers and people mill in and out, embracing, speaking in hushed tones, touching their lost love’s face, praying and speaking of them with kindness and honesty in small groups.
Stories will be told, jokes will be repeated, tea, sandwiches, hankies and biscuits will be liberally handed out. Sometimes, as the night grows longer, music or song might make an appearance; traditional balads or a favoured pop song will be sung with gusto.

It is a cleansing ritual as old as time to us here in Ireland.

But as the island emptied of its eldest sons and daughters in the 19th century, a new form of this tradition emerged; The American Wake.
All the hallmarks of a regular wake were present with one stark exception – the dearly departed was alive and present.

They would be embraced by their community, given little gifts to protect and help them on their journey, they’d be told tales of those who had gone before them to give them courage, they’d be given advice, reminded that they are loved. They’d wrap their arms tightly around their parents and younger siblings, promising all the while to start sending money back for the next eldest’s ticket as soon as they could.

There would be tears, songs, hushed goodbyes, keening and long farewells and as hard as these wakes could be, they no doubt helped everyone involved to get through the pain of separation.

I have family all over the US today, and while their American Wakes would have happened to a less dramtic extent – and before I was born – I do still understand the gulf that that distance can bring to a family. My aunts and uncles “coming home” from America was a thing that’d happen every half decade or so.

As a child I remember how odd it was that my father’s siblings in the US spoke with a New York, Californian, New Jersey and Michigander twang. My American cousins seemed so impossibly cool with their graphic tracksuits, walkmans and cosmetics.

And every time the American contingent flew back across the Atlantic to their proms and cliques and high schools I witnessed and participated in a reduced American Wake. After all, we wouldn’t see them again for years and years. Who knew if we’d ever see them again at all? This could be the last time. Sometimes, it was.

And this feeling is something I’ve been dwelling on lately.

Since Covid-19 forced me into lockdown in February, my nephew has learnt to talk and drink from a cup, my niece is speaking in full, articulate sentences, my family dog has passed away, my mother has been ill. I’m only down the road – an hour’s walk at most – but I may as well be in America for all the contact I have had.

It’s odd to look back on history, half a year since I last touched any of them, and wonder if all this distance would be easier to process if we’d had a wake for me first.

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Sweater Season

As Storm Ellen buffets and blasts the willow tree in my garden and shakes the bejeepers out of the last raspberries that cling to their free-swinging canes, I sit inside my home listening to its ferocious gusts. And my mind turns to knitting.

I know, dear reader, I am more known for the hook than the needle, but as Ireland’s weather patterns shift inexorably from warm rain to cold rain, I find my fingers itching for the simplicity of a knitted jumper once more.

Every year I make one. Just one.
And it simultaneously comforts me to know I’m taking care of Winter-Aoibhe’s cold bones and soothing Autumn-Aoibhe’s frantic need to prepare all the things.

Do you think they’ll miss a few dozen?

I get decidely medieval during weather like this. Suddenly every single fruit on my neighbour’s crabapple tree that overhangs my small veg patch is precious, every boysenberry yet to be picked is ripe with urgency, every germinating winter veg and maturing spring veg seed is a lifeline. Thoughts like “This will see us through the winter” and “I’ll be glad of this in January” pop up time and again as I gather fruit to make wine and jam, and chase a few intrepid spiders off my berry hoard with juice-stained fingers.

This summer’s lettuce left to seed for next year.

Never mind that we have ample supplies of both in the local grocery store, or that they deliver so I needn’t even go out and face the possibility of catching the plague. There is just… something… about putting the labour in to prepare for the weather and darkness to come that strikes me as fundamentally, instintually important.

“I’ll be glad of this in January” is at the front of my mind with every stitch too and I know I won’t be content to face winter 2020 until I have cast on.

I don’t go fancy. I prefer to keep my knitting simple. So, usually I just work a garter stitch band til it fits around my waist, pick up along its selvedge and knit upwards. Raglan decreases are perfect – I can watch TV and barely glance at what my fingers are doing – but a little stranded colourwork is not out of the question, either. Doesn’t it make for a cozier jumper after all? And it’s great if you’re stash busting and haven’t enough of any one colour lying around.

I’ll be glad of these come January!

It’s been my autumn ritual these last 6 or 7 years.
Gather berries, Make wine, Knit jumper. Face the storms.

This year, I get the sense I may need to make more wine than usual, though. And maybe fit in a second jumper along the way.

I’m not the only one prepping for the colder months, I see.
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Translating English into English

“I only speak US”.
I’ve heard time and time again from people at Trunk Shows and yarn events when they come to talk crochet with me. It’s a common refrain across the internet, too; a pattern language is learnt, internalised and ownership of it is established as a crafter learns the crochet “ropes”.

Bilingual crafters like myself end up translating ourselves for the multitudes to be assured of being understood.
I have resorted to explanations like “the little square stitch, you know, the one that is as tall as it is wide” or “The one you don’t yarn over at the beginning for,” to describe a double crochet, for instance (single crochet for USians)

Or “the most common Granny Square stitch”, to describe a treble (double crochet for USians)

– See? I’m doing it again.

And I get it. I absolutely understand why people would hold on to their first language like a badge of honour. I do too. I take it as a sign of my longevity in this industry that I learnt crochet pattern writing in books so old that the UK version of the stitch names was more common. I’m also a sucker for a lost cause.

The popularity of the US version has certainly taken off with the advent of the internet, and the ever-growing number of people teaching that version on YouTube. And cool, sure, OK.

Crochet being such a young craft, it’s not surprising that we haven’t all settled down to using the same words for our stitches yet. Crochet really only began to emerge as a thing in the late Victorian era (late 19th Century), examples of whereas knitting – a far more venerable craft – have been found in Egyptian tombs.

Homogenisation is not a bad word, and eventually we will all begin to speak the same language but it’s myopic to accept it as a given and not work to preserve the past while we still can.

What a pity will it be, after all, when all those ancient patterns are no longer understandable to future generations. What a sad day it will be when the immense wealth of art and creativity our foresisters accumulated is consigned to the dust bin for being unintelligible.

And how disappointing it is that so many designers don’t bother to cater to both languages now when it is so easy to do.
If you “only” speak US, how many opportunities are you missing out on, you know? Why ignore an entire course at a banquet laid out especially for you because you aren’t familiar with the cutlery?

So. Here we go, folks.
Here’s how I translate my patterns from UK to US using the “Find and Replace” tool that’s available in every Word Processor and piece of Layout & Design software out there.

If you use Word, Open Office, Apple Pages, whatever, it’s in there. Find it, then do the following.

First things first: Luckily, slip stitches are universal, so we can ignore them.
They’re ss or sl st to everyone. Phew.

If possible, select “whole word” as an option, so you don’t have to wade through every word with a t and an r next to each other.

Note: if you are the one writing the pattern, be sure you leave spaces like this: [2 dc] in your notation. [2dc] may not register as a thing to find in your programme.
Additionally, be sure to keep an eye on what your programme is doing. Do not hit “Replace All” if that is an option, or you may turn words like “trying” into “dcying” and confuse the life out of everyone.

UK to US (see US to UK below)

Tip: Start with the smallest stitch and work up.

Find: dc Replace with: sc
Find: htr Replace with: hdc
Find: tr Replace with: dc
Find: dtr Replace with: tr
Find: ttr Replace with: dtr
Find: dc2tog Replace with: sc2tog
Find: dc3tog Replace with: sc3tog

In your abbreviations: (this is best done manually)
Find: double Replace with: single
Find: treble Replace with: double
Find: double treble Replace with: treble

US to UK

Tip: Start with the largest stitch and work down.

Luckily, slip stitches are universal, so we can ignore them.
They’re ss of sl st to everyone. Phew.

If possible, select “whole word” as an option, so you don’t have to wade through every word with a d and a c next to each other.

Find: dtr Replace with: ttr
Find: tr Replace with: dtr
Find: dc Replace with: tr
Find: hdc Replace with: htr
Find: sc Replace with: dc

Find: dc2tog Replace with: sc2tog
Find: dc3tog Replace with: sc3tog

In your abbreviations:
Find: treble Replace with: double treble
Find: double Replace with: treble
Find: single Replace with: double

Lastly: Want to translate a pattern you found online or in a pdf?
Select and copy the text, then paste it into your word processor.

No pattern is now beyond your understanding.

Please do bare in mind, though, that translating a pattern doesn’t mean you own that version. Translating is a thing you can do to broaden your personal horizons.
– If you bought that pattern, do not distribute your version.
– If the pattern was free, be sure the designer gives explicit permission to you before you go about distributing their work. Include clear credit and do not sell it. No contact from a designer is a “no”.

Support creative professionals.

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“You’re a what…?”

“And how’s school going?”

“So, what are you doing with yourself?”

“What are you working at these days?”

“How’s the (cue vague knitting-type hand movements) …job?”

This is the procession of questions I have heard every 6 months since I turned seventeen and was diagnosed with an auto-immune illness. Every half year, as sure as the solstice, my doctor will check that my diabetes is behaving itself – she’ll check my weight, take blood, look over my most recent readings, check my injection site for any skin irritation, quiz me on my sick day protocols, tickle my toes to make sure I’m not losing any feeling – and as the notes fly and the food-related questions burble forth, she’ll ask how work is going.

“Work” is something I’ve had to explain frequently over the years as my doctors changed or misplaced my personal details amid a plethora of others they’d be seeing that day. “Work” is something that frequently comes up at family gatherings and parties. “Work” is a question I can barely escape and can rarely explain without caveats and corrections and the gratuitous use of white boards or flip charts or other people’s wine glasses.

You see, crochet design is a baffling concept for anyone outside our crafty, cozy bubble. Usually, I reply “Oh, I am a crochet designer,” when asked, but that invariably leads to confused puppy face – tilting head and all.

Each time I explain that I design crochet patterns and that I write up the instructions; “similar to a cake recipe”, I’ll say, “I take photos, lay out charts, record technique videos on YouTube and then people who want the thing I’ve designed can buy the instructions and make their own”.
It’s not uncommon that visual aids are necessary before the concept becomes clear. Luckily, I usually have a half-finished project to hand.

“What do you do?” is inevitably a question that strangers regret asking me. Whether they like it or not, they end up learning more about crochet along the way than they ever wanted to.

“Crochet is one hook, knitting is two or more needles.”
“Yes, you can crochet socks”
“No I won’t knit you a jumper with my hook” (that’s a topic for another post, isn’t it?)

There have been times that I wish I was just able to say “firefighter” and be done with it if I’m perfectly honest, but I don’t think my 5′ 4″ height would lend much credence to such a claim.

But. Ah, dear people. But.

But. But. But.

Last week, I had occasion to visit my local hospital’s Accident & Emergency department. I’m fine, don’t worry.
“What do you do?” I was asked at reception as I waited to be seen.
“I’m a knit designer,” I replied on a whim.
“oooooooh, that’s amazing. I bet that’s very fulfilling.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather, people. No confusion, no caveats, now white boards necessary. A disappointing dearth of wine glasses, too, for the record.

Now, this may be a fluke, it may be that this one lady was just being polite and had no idea what I was on about. Or, it may be that the very mention of crochet as a viable profession simply short circuits the human mind and leaves many dumbfounded.

I’m not sure. But I sure as hell am going to experiment further.

Ready for your next project? Check these out!

Ard Ri
King Lir

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The cost of a pattern

Here is a list of all the things I needed to learn in order to run a moderately successful* pattern-selling business.

(In no particular order)

Adobe InDesign
Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Illustrator
Etsy backend
Ravelry backend
Crochet/Knitting (obv)
Pattern Writing
Creative Writing
Patreon backend
Photography & Lighting & Set Design
Modelling (assuming you’re doing it yourself, cause that’s cheaper)
– and consequently, make-up, hair, clothing
Ad Lib Public Speaking
Speech Writing
YouTube backend
Public Relations
Crisis Management
Instagram/Facebook/Twitter etc
Self Care
Time Management
Team Leadership
And on top of all that, you have to be creative, original, inspiring, socially conscious and available for questions.

And some people think designers don’t deserve 7 quid for a pattern?
And bare in mind, both PayPal and your selling platform of choice will take a hefty cut of that 7 quid too, and there are taxes and expenses to factor in after everything else.

So, really…? We don’t do enough for the cost of the cheapest bottle of wine in Lidl?

When you buy a pattern, you support a designer and you validate their hard work and long hours. When you steal a pattern or complain that designers don’t bend over backwards to supply multiple samples in multiple yarns, or that they don’t reply to your email within 24 hours, or that you chose a complex pattern as your first forray into a particular craft and now you’re stuck and it’s their fault… you kill morale and break hearts. And a broken heart is rarely creative.

All I’m saying is, there’s a LOT involved.

I mean. We’re in a pandemic right now and stress is already at an all time high.
I’m really feeling it, and I can see others struggle to cope, too.
So, can we please all lay off one-person businesses for a little while, let us recover and regroup after the shock of Raverly’s ignominious decisions, and instead, spend our time and energy focusing on the bigger fish for a change?

And can we please acknowledge how much time, energy and expense it takes to get a pattern ready for sale – that most designers will have discounts throughout the year if the full cost is genuinely too much – and maybe be glad that it ONLY costs the price of a couple fancy cups of coffee?

*ftr, by “moderately successful”, I mean I just about break even most months on average. And I am fruuuugal to a fault, let me tell ya.

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Pattern Testing 101

“You haven’t made it in the industry until someone develops an irrational hatred for you.”

It’s odd that an observation like that would make me feel a lot better as I sat, sharing a pot of tea with the head of a well known yarn brand. We’d met briefly at an event by chance years and years ago. I was a young designer just starting out, she was a business woman used to seeing her name on billions of ball bands, and she’d asked me how I was finding the day-to-day work of crochet design.

I told her almost everyone has been very supportive and enthusiastic.
Almost everyone?”
“Well,” I replied, nervous and unsure how many beans to spill on this nice lady’s beautiful hand-knit jumper, “there was one customer recently who was anything but.”

I told her about a woman who blasted a hole through Ravelry in her haste to post on my forum where she’d offered up a tract about how what I was doing with crochet was “wrong”, how the terms I used were “made up gobbledegook” (isn’t everything?) and how she’d had to personally help dozens of confused people understand my patterns by rewriting them using the “proper” terminology.

As several brave souls came forward to defend my honour and explain the reasoning behind the new terms in my patterns, she chose to roll her eyes and proclaim my defenders “acolytes of Aoibhe”.
Which, frankly, wow. I wish, right?!

And so, this yarn brand head offered up her wisdom.

I still think her observation has an element of truth to it, but I’ve found a gentler, kinder perspective on success since then.

“You haven’t made it in the industry until your colleagues come to your for advise”.

I like that idea better.
So, I’ve decided to answer the most common question I get from fellow designers.

“Do you use a tech editor and if not, what do you do instead?”

OK, so. Here’s the skinny.
I hired several in my early days, thinking that was the thing to do. And before I go any further, I still think editors are great, if you have the capital and you can develop a relationship with a good one who knows and works with your style, not against it.

But early on, I didn’t have a style, I barely had a business frankly. I certainly didn’t have the extra cash to hire a pro to fix something I could do myself. And then I discovered the glorious, gorgeous, witty, brilliant band of makers called “pattern testers”.
Ah, what wonderful folk! What magical woodland creatures!

Here’s what I’ve learnt about pattern testing and editing from these majestic beings:

1. Don’t ask friends to be testers.
Well, not only friends, anyway.
Strangers will give you a way better impression of your pattern than people who love you. Friends will soft ball you, and that’s no use when your pattern goes out in the world. A combo of veterans who can tell you “You used to write that instruction like this… but you’ve changed it and now it makes less sense”, and new people who can be all like “I don’t understand that shorthand and where am I supposed to put that treble at the end of the row?” is what you’re looking for.

2. Be sure your testers know you can take criticism.
Sometimes, designers screw up with their pattern writing big time. Something you think is as clear as a summer’s day can be as murky as fuck to someone outside your brain. And your testers need to know you won’t be missish about their observations.
I make a BIG point about asking my testing teams to rip the pattern apart. I assure them I’ll thank them for every single slip up they point out to me, and then I do exactly that.
“This is wrong”
“Hell, yea! Thanks for spotting that!”
This encourages makers to engage in the process. It’s worth the dent to the ego, folks, because you are left with a much better pattern afterwards. There is no greater gift than honesty, and I make damn sure I show I appreciate it.

It’s also vital that a tester’s confusion isn’t made to seem like their fault. It has got to be clear their confusion is your doing. You wrote the pattern, if they don’t understand, it’s time for a rewrite.

3. Live and breathe your pattern text.
OK, so while the test is happening, you’re editing the text to fix any mistakes and flaws you’ve written in. This is the gift that keeps on giving. I assure you, three years later, when you get a question about a certain row, or a certain set of stitches you used to solve a stitch count problem, you’ll remember it because you spent time discussing it with a tester.
I’ve the worst memory imaginable (just ask my boyfriend… er, what’shisface), but engaging fully in the testing process has meant I have been able to answer very specific questions at yarn festivals and trunk shows.
“How do you start the first fan on Venus?”
“Ooooh, you know, I had a tester ask me that exact thing, so I did up a video. Hang on, I’ll find it for you.”
Boom. You immediately look like a pro.

4. I usually test on Ravelry, but what do I do if I can’t/don’t want to access it anymore?
Ah, ha. OK. Yes. I’m working on that.
My current test is being conducted totally in Googe Docs and Google Sheets. Bare in mind, I’m only two days in, but so far so good. If it works out, I’ll show you all my set up, explain what I did (and what I’d do differently) in a future post.
Comment below if a post like that would interest you.

5. Be sure your testers know going in what to expect.
There’s nothing worse than arriving at a party only to be told on arrival that it’s BYOB, right? Same thing applies with a pattern test. Be sure when you invite people to volunteer that they know your intentions with the end result.
• Timeframe for the test.
• Do they have to use the same yarn as you?
• Do you need info from them like time the project took, exact yardage, etc?
• Do you allow modifications?
• Are you going to need modelled photos? Will you accept photos modelled by the tester’s Suberian Husky. (The answer is always “Yes”)

All these things can be useful early on.

6. Stay present.
I have slipped up on this a LOT in the past.
My depression was a massive cause of prolonged radio silence. I’d leave questions unanswered for way, way too long, and answer them well after a point my info could have been helpful.
It seems hypocritical to expect you to do this when I have spent years doing the opposite, but truly, it is such an important thing to do.
Answer questions swiftly, folks.
Testers will understand if you can’t (as long as you do explain), but everyone will be much happier if you are in regular contact.

Nowadays I’m much stronger (two years of therapy did wonders), so I try to check in with my testers at least once a day when I’ve an active test on the go.

7. Hashtag your test
Oh yes. People will follow your testers progress on social media.
That gives them some well-deserved notoriety and turns a very solitary process into a bit of a party. It also means that people are more likely to volunteer to test a future pattern, too!
“I saw the test for XYZ pattern, and it looked like a lot of fun!”
It is!

It’s also a great way to see how each tester is getting on. Commenting on progress posts does good things both for the poster and for you. Anyone watching knows where to find you, and it shows your testers that you are as hyped about their work as they are.


There are many other smaller tips that I could offer, but the more I write the less time I have left to show my testers some love.
If you’ve any questions about pattern testing, I’m happy to answer them in the comments below, so ask away!

In the meantime, happy designing, folks, and happy testing!

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The Irish Brat

We don’t have bad weather in Ireland, you’re just wearing the wrong clothes.

I do love to joke with visitors to Ireland about their meteorological expectations for my tiny island home in the North Atlantic.

Invariably, a beautifully rendered photo of blue skies filled with happy, puffy clouds, swathes of lush verdant pasture and rugged, bone dry cliff faces will have ingrained themselves in the tourist’s imagination long before they’ve bought their ticket.

How can you tell it’s summer in Ireland? The rain is warmer.

And while nowadays, a traveller to this most green of islands would soon learn the value of a light, water-proof jacket, in times past – the Pre-Gore Tex days – other means of keeping dry were necessary.

Enter, a garment which was once so valuable that it constituted the entirety of some people’s wardrobe; so ubiquitous that the length and colour of it could clue you in to a person’s status; and so quintessentially Irish that it was banned for much of the Tudor era for being intolerably Gaelic.

The Brat (pronounced “Brot”) was a broad, long slab of woollen fabric that was worn like a cape or cloak. It was essential kit in the medieval Irish landscape.

“It is a fit house for an outlaw, a meet (suitable) bed for a rebel,
and an apt cloak for a thief” – Edmund Spenser (16th c.)

Bratanna (plural) were made of thick woven material. Early examples were simply rectangular, and constructed of three thin strips stitched together along their selvedges – a consequence of the narrow looms of the period – while later examples became more tailored, more curved and designed to fit human shoulders more snuggly.

There are samples extant that feature a shaggy mane of loose woollen locks covering one whole side. Presumably the added weight was worth it for the protection against the winter cold that the un-processed, lanolin-filled hairy layer added.

Whatever the shape, texture or colour, this garment had the ability to strike fear into occupying English forces. While Tudor era invaders were often safe enough within the walls of their towns dotted around the island, the wilds of Ireland were filled to the brim with brat-wearing natives who seldom cast a forgiving eye on their unwelcome neighbours.

In a moment of pure propagandist genius, and with the stroke of a quill, Elizabeth I of England simultaneously outlawed brat wearing in English occupied towns and issued her troops in Ireland brats of their very own.

The thing I find most fascinating about the English attitude to the brat at the time is best explained by John R. Zeigler in his journal article “Irish Mantles, English Nationalism”. To paraphrase, Ziegler describes a need to “other” Irish natives in a way that would satisfy the Tudor desire for expansion and conquest. Native Irish people looked similar to native English for the most part and shared many of the same customs, and so the need arose to emphasise and demonise the few nominal differences that would justify the on-going conquest of Ireland.

Language was one such way, and the good old brat – believe it or not – was another.

The brat was held up as evidence of moral decline, in fact.

In winter it is her cloak and safeguard; and also a coverlet for
her lewd exercise (hanky panky).
And when she hath filled her vessel, under it she can hide her burden (pregnancy) and when her bastard is born it serves instead of swaddling clouts (clothes).

– 16th Century English text

I don’t know about you, but I suspect that’s quite a mite more than one can reasonably expect from a glorified duvet.

Over time, the brat became less common and clothing regrettably became more and more homogenised across Europe. No longer could you definitely tell one culture from another with a glance at their silhouette. To me, this seems like a real shame.

Luckily, brat-wearing – of a sort – clung on in the West of Ireland, where English influence both in the past and nowadays is weakest. It was not uncommon even in my childhood to see old women wrapped up in a modern day equivalent. And every decade or so some designer or other attempts to revive the look with a modern twist. But trends come and go, and the brat seems now to be consigned to history.

But, the next time you ward off a chilly morning with a crochet blanket or a knitted shawl, or the next time you decide to treat yourself to a duvet day, think back and imagine how it would feel if that fabric on your back were “a meet bed for a rebel” or a handy “coverlet for your lewd exercise“.

I think you’ll agree that the world is a less colourful place without so singular an item of clothing.