In which I muse about the TNNA experience and uncloak the magnum opus

TNNA was fantastic. Truly an ego-booster, if nothing else. While I’ve grudgingly accepted my popularity as a designer and teacher in my local area, I’ve always subconsciously assumed that my work won’t hold up on the national and international stage.

Wrong, evidently.

A few musings from TNNA:

  • I found out that the easiest way to be approached by TNNA attendees was to be seen knitting either of my WIPs. Shop owners, exhibitors and other designers all gravitated toward them. Perhaps it was the novelty of a man knitting — even at TNNA, most of the men seem to be in the business end of things, not actively knitting — but I’d like to think it was primarily the merit of the pieces themselves.
  • While we were unable to take pre-orders for Extreme Double-Knitting at the event due to unresolved issues about price, we had an outpouring of interest from all corners and I am optimistic that we will have copies for sale by August — and probably digital versions even before then. Shannon is exploring all printing options at the moment.
  • As I traveled around and networked with people, I felt myself coming into my own as a designer, not just a technique guru. One person asked if I could design another double-knit tie for a kit; another asked if I could design something in DK or worsted weight yarn for their magazine; yet another wants me to release a pattern accompanied by a DVD with tutorials on the techniques; and Iris Schreier of ArtYarns lavished praise and yarn on me when I visited to express interest in submitting a hat for an upcoming publication.
  • When attending TNNA as a loner for the first time (yes, I was working a booth, but other than that I had few ways of attracting attention), it’s great to have a friend who’s well-connected pave the way for you by telling everyone she meets about your work. Even better when she works as a social-media specialist for a major publication. Thanks, Kimberly! Also, Cat Bordhi talked me up in one of her workshops, which got several folks to visit me as well.

I don’t want to bore you with an account of my entire TNNA experience, so I’ll just say that Jeni’s Ice Cream rocks (if you didn’t already know), and I look forward to visiting again next year. In the meantime, I’m going to be planning for an August book launch, Rhinebeck and Stitches, and working on workshops for the fall and spring. And of course, I’m going to keep working on new projects — both for my own purposes and as commissioned designs.

Without further ado, here’s the one I’ve been keeping under wraps. It got “outed” by a couple of people blogging about it (I have only one link though) so I figured it’s about time I posted it myself. It’s still a ways from completion, but I’m getting faster — the more I do, the more I can do it without looking at the pattern. I’m starting to be able to separate the faces in my head and error-check them without actually looking at the chart.

To all those who say I'm not playing with a full deck ...

The piece is a scarf called “Fifty-Two Pickup”. In fact, there are two Jokers as well, for a total of 54 playing cards, arranged in a 3×18 grid for about a 6.5-foot-long scarf. The idea is that each distinct card is able to be oriented face-up or face-down; in addition the suits can be oriented right-side-up or upside-down. I recommend that the first 9 repeats (sets of 3 cards) be worked with the suits right-side-up, and the last 9 repeats be worked with the suits upside-down, so that a scarf hanging around a person’s neck will show right-side-up suits (pips) on both ends. Because of this, each card is charted 4 times. Since each chart takes half a standard letter-sized page, there are 212 charts for 53 cards (the Joker is used twice), or a total of 106 chart pages. Add to that the instructions and schematics and the pattern currently stands at 114 pages.

You decide randomly where each card will go, and whether it landed face-up or face-down. There are rigorous ways to do this with dice, but I find the best and quickest way is to actually play 52-pickup — throw a deck of cards in the air and arrange the resulting mess in a grid. A friend’s mathematician father tells me that the chance of any two arrangements being the same is 4.15851e+87 to 1. Therefore, if “thrown” and not followed from my schematic, each scarf done from this pattern will, pending the development of the infinite improbability drive, be completely unique.

A few details: The scarf is done in Regia sock yarn at 7-8 sts/in on US3 needles. I don’t know how many balls of yarn yet, but considering I’m starting repeat 4 and the 3 balls I’m using now are maybe half done — so I’m guessing a total of 3 balls of each color or 9 total. Each card has a single suit “pip” in the middle because I don’t have the resolution to design entire cards and still make this a pattern that someone else might like to knit (i.e. more people are likely to knit a pattern that’s 7-8 sts/in than 12sts/in). Again, I don’t have the resolution (or color) to do full face cards, so I took each card’s emblem or weapon (as seen in a standard Bicycle deck) and charted it in the opposite color from the pip. In the photo you can see the Jack of Clubs has a sort of fat spear; the King of Spades has a sword, and the Queen of Diamonds has a flower. I had another font that looks more like the playing card font, but it doesn’t knit up well — the diagonal lines make it harder to read — so I charted 5×7 block font letters/numbers and they work well enough.

Once this sample is done, I’ll do a photo-shoot and the pattern will be released on Ravelry, probably for $12 or $15.

5 thoughts on “In which I muse about the TNNA experience and uncloak the magnum opus”

  1. I totally should have said hi/introduced myself at some point during the weekend, i’m sorry i didn’t! Your work that was up in the Cooperative Press booth was superb and you should be proud! I’m glad you had a great weekend!

  2. Aha! It’s wonderful! I’ve been waiting patiently to find out what this project is ever since you started asking questions about it on Ravelry. Of course if you hadn’t posted, I’d have just bugged Anna Dalvi to tell me 😉

  3. I am so glad you posted this, I have been trying to describe this scarf to my customers since seeing it at TNNA. It absolutely blew me away and I know it is going to be a sensation when you publish it. One of my customers and good friend, a great knitter and a computer genius (side note: another dude knitter), is practically foaming at the mouth to see this scarf and get his hands on the new book. I feel as if I must to knit this to see if a mere mortal can replicate it 😉

    It is quite an accomplishment and its innovativeness has left me stunned, as well as everyone else I know who got to see it. I have no doubts that your book will be a success and I do hope that we can have a workshop with you in the future.

  4. Alastair, as always your work blows my mind. I can’t wait to see the finished scarf and the finished book!

  5. I’m so glad I got to see this pattern in person. It’s amazing! I’m crazy about your patterns, and can hardly wait for your book to come out. You’re so talented!

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