Monday, December 14, 2015

Woolly Wormhead: the View from the Red Pen

The next stop on Woolly's 10 year anniversary blog tour after Susan Crawford's lovely post - this is editors' week!  Introducing ourselves as Heather Murray, tech editor/maths checker, and Liz Marley, test-knitter and copy-editor.  And both fans, obviously...  (And that post title: it turns out that Heather uses a purple ballpoint and Liz uses neon orange fountain-pen ink...)

We're hosting this on Liz's blog, but it's a joint effort, which seems appropriate given what we do.  Being people who like structure, we decided on a few questions and answers...

Q: When did we both meet Woolly?

Heather: If I am remembering correctly I think I met you both at Skip North, in I think 2007. I remember learning how to use Procion dyes with Liz, and teaching Woolly Crochet Provisional Cast-On on a bus trundling round the yarn shops of West Yorkshire. I first started working with Woolly in the middle of 2010 with some individual designs, and then the reprint of Going Straight.

Woolly at the I Knit Weekender in 2009

Liz: I met Woolly at Skip North in 2005, the first "real" one.  Woolly was building a freeform crochet hat, and also a Hex hat; the two impressions I came away with were that she was both extraordinarily talented, and also Not A Morning Person.  Then we kept bumping into each other at shows (I remember one just-about-silent journey from King's Cross to Ally Pally way too early in the morning, both of us clutching caffeine of choice), and I have good memories of the Going Straight launch party in 2007. Thankfully, we stayed in touch when Woolly and the family started spending much of the year in Italy, and it's been a pleasure to have her to stay over the last couple of years when she's taught at the Sheep Shop in Cambridge.

(Thanks, Sarah from the Sheep Shop, for the photo!)

Q: What do we find most interesting about the way Woolly designs?

Heather: I love that each design has its own internal logic, and I love discovering that as I work through the pattern. She is very good at making each section of the Hat flow into the others, so that while each section is interesting and beautiful in its own right, the whole still manages to be more than the sum of the individual parts. Her Hats have a wonderful sculptural quality, while still being very wearable.

Liz: I'm constantly amazed by the way Woolly thinks in 3D.  She seems to know every time exactly what she's trying to achieve, and to be able to picture the whole thing in her head.  I suppose part of it is her art and engineering background, and it's always a beautiful thing to watch!  I also love the crowns - you never get the feeling they're an afterthought.  (This is possibly why I don't actually own any Hats designed by any other designer.)

Tucked. Photo © Woolly Wormhead

Q: What do we each contribute to the editing and production process?

Heather: Mostly I am keeping an eye on the maths when I go through either a single pattern or a book. I check that the tension given combined with the stitch counts will give Hats of the stated sizes, and that each time a stitch count is given for a pattern repeat, or increases or decreases, that it all works out in all of the sizes. I make sure that all of the appropriate information is clearly given so that the knitter can successfully make their Hat in their chosen size.  I also check for consistency in use of abbreviations within the pattern and within the whole book, and within Woolly's body of work.

Liz: I'm part of Woolly's small, friendly, test-knitting pool, and we get to see the designs at the just-written-up stage.  At that point, I try and shut off my brain and knit to exactly what's written in the pattern. If I have the slightest doubt, I don't do what I'd normally do as a knitter and try and fudge things or work things out myself - I flag it up, because if I don't get it, there's the likelihood that someone else won't either.  And then, after Heather's done her tech-editing magic, I copy-edit patterns for the books (and, over the last couple of years, for the Mystery KALs too).  That involves a little bit of spelling/grammar work, but mostly consistency - making sure that the style flows between patterns and between books, and that, for example, type/font styles are consistent across the board, that the Table of Contents has the correct pagination once the final order of patterns has been determined, that nothing's been inadvertently cropped in layout, and so on.

Q: Favourite Woolly pattern from the last decade?

Heather: My favourite Hat to knit has been Quynn  . I have so far knitted 10 of these! 3 each for my nephew and nieces (luckily they are young enough that they aren't reading this so wont realise that they are each getting one for Christmas!), and one for me. Quynn was the only hat one of my nieces would voluntarily wear last winter. My favourite Hat to edit has probably been Asymloche . That was a fun brain puzzle to see how this one worked! Each segment is different and there are short rows and different stitch counts to keep track of. Good fun :-) And another good example of where Woolly has taken what is a rather difficult concept and created a beautiful Hat with a pattern that is easy to follow.

Quynn. Photo © Woolly Wormhead

Liz: Favourite I've kept for myself - last year's MKAL, Sophora; I love this one both for the lovely 7-point pattern on the crown of the beret, and for the folded brim which makes the knitter feel very clever in the completion of it (and keeps your ears really warm).  Favourite I've knitted for someone else - made a Baby I-Cord Beanie for my nephew in November 2007 which he wore from it being way too big, as in this photo, to when it was making ridges in his forehead because it was so much too small!


Q: Favourite Woolly pattern from Painted Woolly Toppers?

Heather: I think this is probably Dancette. I love the way the changes of direction work with the hand painted yarn. And I enjoyed the opportunity to use a bit of Pythagora's Theorem to check the depths of the Hat :-)

Dancette. Photo © Woolly Wormhead

Liz: Knew I shouldn't have let Heather go first! - I test-knitted Dancette and it is so very clever (and I now know what a Dancette is)!  I also love Jetty - the use of dropped-stitch waves on a Hat is really unexpected, and the decreases work so beautifully towards the crown.  Must get that one out and wear it this winter!

Jetty. Photo © Woolly Wormhead

Finally, in celebration of Woolly's 10 years of publishing and blogging, there's a prize on offer at each stage of the Tour - a project bag made by Woolly herself, and a pattern of your choice.  And as it's also my (Liz's) 10th blog anniversary, I've dyed a skein of organic merino in a heavy aran-weight which will also be making its way to the winner!

To enter, please leave a comment below, telling me which of Woolly's Hats is your favourite and why, before midnight (GMT) at the end of next Sunday, December 20.  I'll pick a winner first thing on the Monday morning.


rachaelk said...

Bubbles has to be my favourite, choice of shape,and cables but not too many.Easy but interesting.

Dominique said...

My favourite is Corella. The lace looks intricate, but was not too difficult, and I love cables and lace together. And, the crown shaping is just beautifull, it all comes together and forms another pattern. As Always, a very well written pattern.

allthatkatyknit said...

Erica from the 2013 KAL. Such a flattering hat and one of those WW hats that makes you feel so clever when you complete it. (All down to Woolly Wormhead's clever pattern writing of course!)

Tricia said...

My favourite is Tucked, I love how sculptural it is and I really enjoyed the KAL on Ravelry.

Mary deB said...

I don't believe I have made a Woolly Wormhead hat, but have admired many. Sounds like I would enjoy knitting one, so must get on that soon! I might try that Jetty one!

ellen kirkendall said...

Bambeanies is my go to book for children's hats. I want tucked for myself and will make it soon, since my holiday gifts are finally finished.

Bawlmergirl said...

It would be Strudel from Going Straight - the concept of knitting sideways and the combination of cabling and lacey textures were intriguing. This publication inspired my Woolly Wormhead fandom. (BUT Tucked would come in an awfully close second!)

Jane McAtee said...

I have made several of about ten of her hat patterns, maybe more. I loved Rubbish Mojitos. That is my favorite although it is hard to decide. It is simple and the traveling ridge is gorgeous as it spirals into the crown.. it reminds me of a large shell... Tucked is a close second.

JaneAlive on ravelry.

cyclingsteph said...

Hexed, because it is the only hat that I ever knitted which actually suits me. I went to a Woolly trunk show in Knutsford in 2010, and she picked it from her designs as the one for me. It was fun to make, the colours are I knitted it in are lovely and I have a good photo of me in it so it's my Ravelry avatar.

Mary said...

I love looking at Tucked, both inside and out. It's so sculptural and interesting on the outside, and looks just like uninterrupted garter stitch on the inside. Too bad it hasn't yet been cold enough to wear it!

Joan said...

I love Medici because It is one of the only hats I have ever knit which is flattering on-- I have not been blessed with a head for hats. Also, I knit it out of MadTosh in Tart which was a joy to work with.

Chris said...

Terrible decision! I think Lexi since it combines sideways and bottom to top.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

So interesting reading about the editing and testing process. I don't know that I could make my brain follow step by step - old dog, new tricks... I loved knitting the mkal this year, and am on my second Skelter.

m said...

This has been fun, taking a good look at all the patterns.
I have so many favourites, for different people and different yarns, but I've made a choice.
Nupkin has fun elements, which show off multicoloured yarns so well.

Cozy Knitting said...

I have admired Tucked for quite a while. I don't know if I should just tackle it. Love qUayne for the ear coverage.

Quinn said...

I haven't made it yet, but I want to make a Sideways Pinstripe Beret. Kind of slouchy. Maybe with some reclaimed cashmere in natural and olive green :)
Quinn on rav

Linda Huss said...

Encircle !! Love the fit and the botton.

Heather said...

My favorite now is Risalire.

I haven't knit it yet, but I am amazed by it. I think I might actually be able to wear it. I have a problem of very thick hair, and even if it's down it pushes up the back of the hat and right up, and then it just wants to pop off my head.

This look like the right shape for me! I think I tried it on when she did a workshop in Dublin two years or so ago. I remember she said it was an unpublished design. That was awesome!

Anywho, that is the one I'd say is my fave.