Category Archives: The Designing Day

You Talk, I Listen

Thank you to all who helped (almost 750!) with the recent survey about whether the layout of the January 22nd HeartStrings newsletter looked ok or whether it went wonky when received on your end. The fun stuff has been the drawing for the Mardi Gras Bead Ball kit. And also reading all your comments. And I AM reading every one of them. You talk. I listen.

You might be amazed at how much of my Designing Day is filled with activities that are not strictly knitting design. In fact, sometimes it could be days, or even weeks, between times when I get to pick up knitting needles. It goes along with the saying … “There is more to the business of designing than just design“.

For example, the recent journey I undertook to improve the process for producing my HeartStrings newsletters and email announcements has taken on a life of its own. If you recall, I wrote last week about The new look of news from HeartStrings. The response has been overwhelmingly favorable. Of course, I am elated it is being received so well.

But upon getting replies to me that included the original newsletter, I saw that some things might be going wonky and not displaying as intended on the receiving end. For example, some text shifted or spacing was lost. It doesn’t devalue the newsletter itself, but I really want to make it as easy to read and aesthetically pleasing as possible for readers’ enjoyment.

I couldn’t discern why the newsletter layout went wonky for some people and not others. So I decided to ask for help via a short survey. Those who pitched in to help me make the newsletter even better also got a chance to win a Mardi Gras Bead Ball kit.

As stated in the survey, the drawing for the kit was yesterday. Congratulations to Janet in Virginia. When I heard back from Janet with her mailing address, she wrote: “To say I’m shocked is not really enough.  I never win anything.  Thank you so much for this gift!“. I already have the kit packaged and ready to mail to Janet today. She should have it in her hands before the weekend if USPS cooperates.

Mardi Gras Beaded Bead Ball
Mardi Gras Beaded Bead Ball

So that was the fun side of things. Now back to work. There were 742 people who answered some or all of the survey’s 6 quick questions. Of those 742, there were 504 who took the time to write something in the comment field. Either to re-confirm that the newsletter looked great to them (and what they particularly liked), or to explain more fully about what looked wonky on their end, or in some cases to just offer other comments related to the newsletter, or even un-related to the newsletter. That is fine. I really appreciate the time that people take to share and make comments, whether via this survey or writing to me directly.

So I have a lot of data to sift through. And I AM reading every one of those comments. If you offered a suggestion, please know that I am paying attention and will be doing what I can over time to make the newsletter and your association with HeartStrings FiberArts as enjoyable as possible for you.

According to the survey, the new layout for the newsletter looked as intended for 89% of the readers, for 10% it went wonky in some way, and 1% read the plain text version of the newsletter (i.e. unformatted). Unfortunately, with all the multitude of electronic devices and computer software, it’s impossible to test for absolutely every combination. By understanding more about that 10%, though, it will give me more to go on. I don’t fool myself that I can please everyone, but I certainly want to please as many as I can.

If you talk, I promise I will listen.

p.s. If you missed receiving the January 22nd HeartStrings newsletter, you can read it in the online archive.

Taking the art of knitting to new heights

Here’s another exciting thing going on at my HeartStrings studio I want to share with you …

Knitted Lace Edgings

I just launched the, a new membership site that I have envisioned for quite a while and am finally taking the leap. The focus of KnitHeartStrings is to take learning the art of knitting to new heights. Beginners to advanced are all welcome.

If you have been avoiding learning to knit lace because you think it is too hard, I am going to tempt you with darling little projects that will help you get over the hump.

Even if you already know how to knit lace, I think you will find the projects fun (and who knows, you might even pick up a tip or trick along the way). Or use the projects to help teach and encourage someone else.

I will treat KnitHeartStrings members with a little project each month (for free!). I am starting with a series I call Bits of Lace. Because all the projects are lace edgings done on just a few stitches, they are a practical way to explore the structure and techniques of knitted lace. Each project will take just a small amount of materials and time. I hope this will be perfect for the busy lives we all have!

The new KnitHeartStrings site is still pretty barebones. But since there were already several hundreds of knitters on my HeartStrings newsletter list already chomping at the bit to get started, I didn’t see any reason to hold off rolling out the first pattern of the 2012 series for Bits of Lace now. You can read about it here.

So grab this month’s free pattern now from the Free Content page of the website. Not a member yet? Register here to join today to get the Free membership level.

I have lots of other features and content planned to add to the site.  Hope you will join in now to start taking advantage of it all. See you there!

the making of the Mardi Gras Bead Ball kits

Remember when I posted about the Knitting Giant Beads for Mardi Gras last week? Well, that stirred up a lots of interest and appears to have inspired several people to make up their own. It’s always so much fun to hear that people are enjoying the ideas and photos.

I got to thinking about some people who may not have ready access to the supplies. So I decided on a whim to offer a Limited Edition supplies kit to make the beaded balls in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. Some orders have already come in, so I have been scurrying around today catching up on my promise to do these kits.

I made some pretty labels for the clear draw string bags. Wound the purple and green sock yarn from Lornas’ Laces (in the color Funky Stripe). Weighed and packaged the metallic gold beads (the good Japanese beads in the Miyuki brand that is on the top of my list of recommendations).  Weighed the fluffy non-allergenic stuffing. Pant – pant. And now I have a batch of kits ready to send out.

Mardi Gras Bead Ball Kits
Mardi Gras Bead Ball Kits

If you don’t otherwise have a good source to get the supplies (e.g. your local stores or even stash-diving), then consider the Mardi Gras Bead Ball Kits as a way to conveniently get the yarn, beads and stuffing. Kits are available in 2 sizes: the single ball kit (i.e. to make one ball) OR the multi-pack (to make 3 balls, which is a 50% savings over buying a 3rd single ball kit plus a savings on shipping).

There’s been lots more exciting stuff going on at my HeartStrings  studio, so I’ll be back to tell you about that in a day or two. Also, I have a meatless recipe lined up to share with you in a few days. Oh, where does the time go? See you soon. Take care.


Austrian Lace Stirrup Leg Warmers pattern

I am excited to announce that the new Austrian Lace Stirrup Leg Warmers pattern is now available. These dressy over-the-calf stirrup leg warmers (otherwise known around here at the HeartStrings studio as Sock-Not Leggings) omit the bulk of a complete sock since there is no heel or toe.

HeartStrings #A29U Austrian Lace Stirrup Leg Warmers in Tilli Tomas Artisan Sock yarn
HeartStrings #A29U Austrian Lace Stirrup Leg Warmers in Tilli Tomas Artisan Sock yarn, color #089 Mist

This is a “Classics Revisted” pattern republication of my Sock-Not Leggings from (would you believe this?) over 15 years ago. There is new, beautiful photography of samples knit in Tilli Tomas Artisan Sock yarn. And the instructions have been expanded to include both charts and written instructions.

Classics like this live on. And I hope you enjoy seeing and knitting this pattern, as well as the wearing.

My inspiration was to have a classy sock that could be worn with dress shoes. I think you will love these as a practical fashion alternative for warmth and wearability when you want a pretty cover-up.

Stirrup leg warmers fit great with dress shoes
Stirrup leg warmers fit great with dress shoes

Don’t be too intimidated by the seemingly complicated-looking stitch pattern. It actually is quite repetitive and easily ‘read’ after you’ve got a few rounds of the pattern underway.

Some other features that you will appreciate are

  • the way the twisted-ribbing lace patterns decrease in pattern to becomingly conform to the shape of your calf
  • there is a gusset underneath the foot that allows the stirrup to comfortably hug instep and arch
Nicely hugs calf and foot
Becomingly conforms to your calf and foot

One other benefit that is so cutely, well-worded by Julia Grunau, the Prime Minister of Patternfish (where, by the way, is a great source for this pattern and all the other HeartStirngs pattern): “and should last far longer than a conventional sock. Great for fans of invisible darning … you can invisibly darn the invisible heel and toe!”

Can you imagine invisible darning? Love it! Thanks Julia for that laugh.

Knitting giant beads for Mardi Gras

I’ve been obsessed with making even more of the Beaded Stress Balls, but this time using Mardi Gras as the theme. I even worked up some simple variations to produce different geometric patterns on the surface of the balls.

Mardi Gras Bead Balls
Mardi Gras Bead Balls

Probably only people close-by in New Orleans, Louisiana will relate to these. Or those who keep up with Mardi Gras. Each year at Mardi Gras, it seems that everyone is trying to out-do last year’s largest throw-me-somethin’-mista beads of the carnival parades. I won’t be throwing any of these giant beads to anyone, though (I am keeping them!).

I’ve used Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock yarn in color Funky Stripe. It is a purple and green yarn. With the galvanized gold seed beads, I think it carries off the theme of traditional Mardi Gras colors pretty well.

In progress
Completed balls vs. those before being stuffed and closed

If you’d like to knit some of these yourself, I’ve written up the variations to the original instructions at my Ravelry project page. But you will also need the original Beaded Stress Ball pattern to use for the basic instructions. Besides the overall beaded ball in the original instructions, the Ravelry page has guidance for these 3 variations:

  1. Alternating sections beaded and un-beaded
  2. Outer edges of each section beaded and remainder un-beaded
  3. The negative of #2: Interior of each section beaded and the outer edges left un-beaded
The 3 variations
The 3 variations

I love how such simple changes can result in attractive and interesting designs.

Each ball only takes about 25 yards of yarn. So, out of a single skein of yarn, you could make a bunch of balls. Or undoubtedly you probably have some partial skeins/balls in your stash for which this could be a fun use.

I can imagine in my wildest dreams to make an entire giant “beaded” necklace out of hand-knitted beaded balls like this, but I probably should get onto some other knitting now. What do you think?

Happy Mardi Gras
Happy Mardi Gras!