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Ahhhh, the holidays. I hope you all had a fantastic and festive season. Ours was good, though a little lonely (no family in the area) and a bit on the sickly side (bouts of fifth disease for Kidlette and strep throat/discovering a medication allergy for me – Engineer seems to be mostly immune, thankfully).

But it is a new year, and with the new year come new opportunities. We started a little early on that with a move in November, but hey – it set us up for all kinds of great things to start the year!

One of the things that I resolved to do in November was to take full advantage of the activities and opportunities that our new area offers. We’ve done a pretty good job – joining the local co-op, getting our library cards and attending storytime, visiting various small towns in northwest Washington, and so on. On a personal level, I wanted to really branch out and see what kind of fibery stuff exists in the area.  Luckily, there’s an incredibly active fiber arts scene out here in the Pacific Northwest, and there are knitting programs, presentations, and guilds everywhere you look.

I’m a member of the county knitters’ guild, and will be officially joining the Very Local Guild (not its actual name) next week at their meeting. Last night, the county guild had their first meeting of 2013, and we were incredibly lucky to have three of the Ladies of Mischief as guest speakers. If you haven’t ever heard of the Ladies of Mischief, they are a twelve-woman subgroup of the Capitol Hill-Seattle knitting group called The Knitters of Doom. In October 2012, they released a collection of patterns entitled Needles and Artifice (the link will take you to the Ravelry page that shows all patterns in the collection). To be totally honest, I was not on fire about most of the patterns prior to going to the guild meeting. The book is a collection of steampunk-styled patterns and a novella, and steampunk is not usually One of My Things. However, I decided to go and see what they had to say.

I wish they had been able to be there for several hours. The three Ladies on the panel (Jen, Figgy, and Heidi) were absolutely fantastic. They were not the three Ladies originally scheduled to appear  and, in fact, had only been called to present yesterday afternoon due to family emergencies/unforeseen circumstances for the original panel. They apologized profusely for the lack of presentation, but it didn’t really matter. They spoke for about ninety minutes on how the book was thought up, how they decided on steampunk as a theme, what the design and pattern selection process entailed, what it was like to work as a team of twelve authors/designers, the differences between publishing a Real Book and an e-book, and their hopes about what people will do with their patterns. Then, two of the Ladies modeled the fantastic samples seen in the book. Books were available for purchase, and they very kindly allowed us to try on samples and offered all sorts of advice and tips on how to wear or modify garments for best fit at different sizes.

Having been a competent knitter for several years and a newbie designer for… a couple of years, I really appreciated everything that they had to share, especially their ideas on how to modify the overtly steampunk patterns (the corset cover, for example) into items that would be more useful on an everyday basis (a highly fitted jacket – keep knitting upwards, add a collar and sleeves). It was also highly useful to pick their brains on the things that would be most wearable and flattering across several sizes and body types (the Abundance Vest, the Resilience Top, and the Revolution Shrug) and how to tweak a few of the patterns to be slightly more flattering or better fitted. It was also good to hear about the ups and downs of the design and publishing process. (My decision to self-publish future patterns as e-books or PDF files is a good one.)

It was an incredibly energizing night, to borrow phrasing from my friend Jess, and I found myself wishing that I could just record the whole thing for my knitting friends in other parts of the country. I have a lot to think about, shiny new patterns and a good book to peruse, and several new patterns going straight to my queue! Definitely check out the book if you can. It’s available for $16.95 as an e-book, or for $29.95 as a hard copy/e-book combo, and is well-worth it. Rumor has it that there are some fun and games hidden around the book, too…

A QUICK NOTE: Needles and Artifice is NOT for beginning knitters. There is no spoonfeeding of how to read a pattern or what to do if you don’t get gauge using the exact same needles/yarn or how to read charts. There is even some honest-to-goodness sewing involved (especially for the corset-based designs). It’s still a gorgeous book, but maybe not the best choice if you’re looking for a good project right after your first garter stitch scarf.