All things new and bright

The winter holidays are upon us again, and as the days get darker and colder we snuggle up and fill our lives with as much light and joy as it’s possible to soak in. (And a happy Hanukkah, to those who are celebrating tonight!)

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And to those of you who are still gift knitting, hang in there! You’ll totally make it. No panicking – take some deep breaths and solace in the fact that Lauren’s there with you:

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(She’s almost there on the Featherweight gift sweater!)

I’m celebrating two things in particular today. The first is that I finally got around to weaving in those final ends and wore my own CustomFit Featherweight out tonight:

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I love it fiercely – the set-in sleeves help keep this worn-open style anchored on my body, the fabric is wonderful (I used Quince and Co. Tern in “Barnacle”), and I just adore the design. Hannah did such an amazing job of pulling together simple elements to make an incredibly classic piece, with this sweater.

The second celebration is that this site has gotten a much-needed overhaul! If you’re reading via a feed reader or your email, please click on through and poke around. We’ve re-organized things around here to make key posts and design info easier to find, and to be (much) prettier. We’ll be making more additions to the site throughout the next couple of months, too, but I’m already so thrilled with how things are looking.

A new sweater, a new look, light, and warmth. Bring it on, winter!

A Kindness of Knitters

During our closing ceremonies at the make, wear, love retreat this weekend, someone shared a wonderful quote from the wonderful Cat Bordhi: That the word for a collection of knitters is “a kindness”.

I couldn’t agree more, and feel so incredibly lucky to have spent the weekend with such amazing people. I’m looking forward to sharing more of it with you. For the moment I’m still unpacking here, and diving back into the craziness of life with the boys with passion and excitement…

…but I’m pausing as I do so, to smell the last bits of salt air in my clothes, and remember the feeling of being surrounded by a wonderful and warm group who share my passions.

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A kindness, indeed.

Surreal, in two flavors

Squam was every bit as magical as I had imagined.


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It was so glorious, everything felt a little surreal. We breathed deep, and sank into peace, quiet, and the presence of fellow makers. My students were amazing, and the whole weekend was such a lovely island in time.

And then it was back to a totally different extreme. Life got surreal in its frenzy, with the last day of school and all that comes with prepping for a big move and oh my god the movers canceled and let’s hire more and did you get the teacher’s notes and when’s the closing again? and have to pack and have to pack and have to pack and WHERE’S THAT YARN I NEED THAT YARN and oh man the car just died and hey look, another home-all-day-day let’s go to the museum!


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(The boys say hi.)

And there’s a little something else going on, too.

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And through it all, because I don’t want to kill anyone, there’s been knitting.

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So that’s what’s happening here. How about in your neck of the woods?

Holidaze

Christmas is almost upon us, which probably means your needles are frantically flying through your last gift (or three). How are your projects coming? (Hint: If that question makes you groan, you still have plenty of time to give someone CustomFit gift certificates. Even if that someone is yourself!)

Personally, I’m considering giving away my Noanet Peak set instead of keeping it all for myself. There is never much holiday knitting around these parts–a side effect of being busy with designs–and that’s especially true this year. I have been traveling an utterly insane amount (I was away from home for 3/4 of November and early December) and kicking into high gear on the next book at the same time.

So most of my knitting looks like this these days:

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(These will hopefully be sweaters and swatches by the time I’m done with this trip.)

Thankfully, this set of projects is being completed on a different sort of trip. Back in September, when Jackie and I were planning out the fall and finally realizing exactly how crazy and intense the next year was going to be (in the best sort of way), we decided that when the holidays arrived, we would pause. Take a break. Spend time with our families. Remind ourselves what’s really important in this world. (In addition to the cashmere-silk blend, I mean.)

So that’s where we’ll be over the next couple of weeks. With our families, recovering from the insanity of birthing CustomFit and taking a deep breath before the winter/spring work travel starts, immersing ourselves in all that is important in this world. We’re still answering questions as we can (along with Lauren, we are the company at this point, after all)…

…but things might take a little longer than usual. If that winds up being the case for you, we ask for your patience and understanding, as we spend the season snuggling our kids and recharging our families. We can’t wait to share 2014 with you.

Reflections

Thanksgiving is a reflective holiday for me even in a good year, and doubly so as we’re celebrating our first holiday without my father. So like always, I’m knitting. And thinking.

I’m so glad you like Morning Coffee, and I’ve been knitting like a fiend, lining up a bunch more:

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But today, I want to take a few minutes and reflect. I’m in a small island of stillness, right now: The last 6 months are over, the next 6 months likely won’t get crazy for a few weeks yet, even if we’re supremely lucky. 2013 has been intensely surreal, as years go:

  • In March, I was looking ahead to the book release, and wondering if there was any way at all to eventually be able to pursue my passions full-time. Jackie and I first started talking about what that might look like. I thought perhaps, in a year or two, it might work.
  • In April, Knit to Flatterwas released. Nearly 3 years after we’d started the project, Jonathan and I finished the rough implementation of the first CustomFit Elf and I started guesstimating mid-fall as a possible release date for the site.
  • By June, I created a rough set of wireframes to show around at the TNNA summer show. Everyone we showed was enthusiastic, and on the plane ride home Jackie and I talked seriously both about what it would take to get CustomFit live, and whether I might be able to pursue this full-time around January of 2014. I think we both knew, at that point, that managing the rest of the CustomFit release was unlikely to play well with my other career.
  • In July, my father passed away, and like many tragic events it was somewhat crystallizing for me. What am I here for, if not to pursue the things I love? We stepped up our planning and got a temporary team (and the resources!) in place that would carry us through the site’s launch.
  • August and September were this intensely wonderful mad rush. I left my day job. We were able to get a good-sized team of people working on the launch, if not full-time then at least a little every day. The sweaters produced by our amazing beta testers were wonderful. We identified problems, and fixed them, and generally hurled ourselves full-speed to launch.
  • Just six weeks ago, CustomFit went live to everyone. The amazing programmers behind-the-scenes melted away a bit (as expected) to their own day jobs and other projects. We’re now a much smaller, very part-time crew that (a) we can afford and (b) can take care of the few bugs and issues inevitable in any software project of this size.

I packed my fall schedule to the brim with classes, trips, CustomFit LYS trainings, and such. It’s been a whirlwind, and fun, and very unlike my previous job. My whole life looks so different than it did 6 months ago. (Both in the awesome way, and in the terrifying way. We’re far from out of the woods, yet.)

The next 6 months promise to be just as strange.

A quiet, industrious time, as I knit like the wind for the next book, and keep up pattern releases and preparation for the new year and a return to teaching.

Early next year (with luck), a business that’s strong enough to hire a programmer, so that we can go beyond (bare-knuckled) maintenance and create new CustomFit elves, so that everyone’s sweaters are as fantastic as possible. Shows (I’ll be at Vogue Knitting Live NYC and Seattle, and STITCHES West and South), travel, new features on the site, finishing the book, and sweaters, sweaters, sweaters. On the personal crafting front, I have high hopes for sewing and crochet.

I don’t have any idea where I’ll be in 6 months, really. Not just because nobody never truly knows where they’ll be, but also because so much of where I’m going depends on others. I can imagine all kinds of exciting things, and fervently hope that our fledgling little enterprise grows strong enough to allow me to throw myself at them with open arms.

I do know that despite the hardship and the fear and the sadness the last 6 months have held, they’ve also held intense joy, and purpose, and a greater sense of rightness with my world than I’ve ever had before. I’m thankful for that, in the here and now.

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And whatever the outcome, I’ll keep on knitting.

If you’re in the US, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. And I wish all of you some quiet happiness with your needles, the chance to pause with your thoughts, before rushing onward into the season.

CustomFit and Rhinebeck

My Saturday Rhinebeck sweater this year comes to you courtesy of CustomFit, which is now open to everyone. (Please, come! Set up an account and if you’re going to the festival, spend your time dreaming about the yarn you love instead of worrying about what pattern you’ll use to knit it.)

So I wanted to spend a little time today talking about sweaters. And namely some of the surprises I had when knitting my very own CustomFit sweater. WHICH I LOVE.

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Pattern: CustomFit, average fit, V-neck pullover with neck shaping beginning at armhole, long sleeves, low-hip length. 1×1 rib trims.
Yarn: Quince and Co. Owl, in Tawny and (I think) cilantro. Purchased at the incredible Knit Wit.
Size: Mine. Everywhere.

Now, let’s talk about that last part a little bit. Because I’m definitely no stranger to great sweaters.

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I have a closet with ~40 handknit sweaters in “my size”. The funny thing is, I don’t wear them super-often. (It was one of the most shocking things to Jackie, actually, when we started working together more closely.) They look great, but most of my day-to-days? Are about comfort and style mixed, not style over comfort. And I wouldn’t say that very many of my hand knit sweaters are really comfortable. They’re not uncomfortable, exactly, but… well, I knit the samples to fit Ms. Average most of the time. (This means that the sweater in the picture is the exact one you’ll produce if you follow the instructions, which is good!)

So when I wear them, I’m either tugging on the sleeves, or pushing up the body, or pulling down the neck, or something. I fidget with them, when I wear them. They look great as long as I’m mindful of my body, but they’re not the kind of thing I roll around on the floor with the kids in. Does the difference make sense?

And so when I knit my own CustomFit sweater, about a half-dozen things were ever so slightly different than the sweaters I usually wear in the pictures you see.

  • The sleeves are the perfect length. I’m neither pushing them up nor tugging them down.
  • The waist is located at my actual waist, instead of just an inch too low.
  • The neckline is just where I want it.
  • And, of course, the shoulders / bust / waist / hip measurements are perfect.

And when all of those really minor things are together, I’m left with a sweater I want to wear all. the. time.

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It’s kind of revelatory, actually. I never want to take it off! I’m not just proud of this sweater. It doesn’t just look good. It feels good, and I don’t want to take it off.

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Want to see it in person this weekend? I’ll be wearing it on Saturday at Rhinebeck, and we’ll be having some special CustomFit meet-ups at the festival.

  • First, Jackie and I will be all over the festival with CustomFit buttons and postcards; seek us out!
  • I’ll be signing books at the book tent from 12 – 2:30 on both days, with a little mini-talk at 1pm both days.
  • At 3pm both days, we’ll be holding an informal CustomFit meet-up at the hill where the Rav gathering takes place. Bring your CustomFit sweaters, if you’ve got ‘em! Get your picture taken, admire the other sweaters, and we’ll even be doing measurements for those who are interested.

Rhinebeck is the ultimate sweater location, and this year I’ve got my most favorite one ever. And that’s saying something.

Transitions

I have a new job. Or more to the point, I don’t have an old job anymore.

Though I may not have mentioned it often in this space, I’ve never exactly hidden the fact that I have a day job, either. I’ve been working, these past 15 years, as a researcher (first) and then a research manager (for the past 10 years) in computer security. For more than a decade I’ve published papers, designed prototypes and systems, and come up with creative ways to make systems harder to break into, to make it easier to catch the attacks that do succeed.

I’ve been knitting the whole time, of course, and blogging for much of it.

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A few years ago now, I started designing patterns. And then came the classes, and the bookand all the rest. And so for the past few years, I’ve been juggling my knitting business and my other career, because I loved both too passionately to let either one go.

And now there’s this crazy software thing. And suddenly, juggling both careers was just too much, even for me. So I…

…well, let’s get real. First, I denied. And then I pouted. And then there was probably some wailing and gnashing of teeth. Some investigation of cloning machines. (“No!” my husband pleaded. “With two of you, can you even imagine how many side-businesses there would be around here?!”) And eventually, I made a really, incredibly, frustratingly hard decision.

As of a few weeks ago, I’m no longer a computer security researcher. Now, I’m running my own company. And it’s about the thing I’m most passionate about in this entire world (aside from family):

It’s about helping everyone love the clothes they wear. And changing the way we all perceive ourselves. And lots of other big, hairy, and maybe-not-totally-definable things.

This is the boldest thing I’ve ever done, and it may not work, but in this moment I’m having the time of my life.

I miss what I used to do, but only when I stop to breathe, which is not very often. I’m working with an incredibly incredible team. (Hm, please allow me to take this time to drive-by-introduce Jackie and Andromeda and Carrie and Anna and Marleigh and Kat and of course, Jonathan too. You’ll be hearing much more about them. Andromeda recently wrote up her thoughts on this company we’ve built.)

It’s been hard to write this post, because I haven’t really wanted to let the old stuff go. I’ve had an embarrassment of career riches, too many things that I am passionate about and that I love and that help me throw myself into this life head-first and with wild abandon. But the time has come.

I have a new job. It’s one that I love. And it wouldn’t be possible without you.

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So thanks for being here, with me.

Anticipating Fall

What’s that, you say? It’s 90F where you are? You’re at the beach? You’re still languishing in hot summer nights, ice cubes clinking in your glass, a crisp schedule blown to the winds?

(Unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case, you’re thinking “Are you crazy? Bring on the WOOL!”)

Well, most of those are true here too, come to think about it. It’s warm. It’s sunny. The boys and I are chasing each other around, scratching bug bites, stuffing our faces with fresh strawberries, and running outside in the rain. “Bedtime” is more of a loose idea than a strictly-enforced routine here during the summer. And yet…

…and yet…

…my dreams are with fall.

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Is there a better time to be a sweater designer? I don’t think so, and like every year I have a pipeline stuffed full of rich colors, deep textures, fabrics and knits that make you want to curl up in front of a fire with a steaming cuppa.

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(Bijou Basin Bijou Spun Sport.)

Or knits that make you want to slip into your favorite hiking boots, grab your camera, and head off into the woods.

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(Harrisville Highland.)

Knits that make you want to toss them on over your favorite dress and take one last walk along the shore, eat one last dinner in that fabulous place you visit every year. (Even if that place is only in your mind.)

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(Indigodragonfly’s incomparable Merino Silk Sock.)

Fall is the time for sweaters that make you want to pull them on over your favorite jeans,

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dress them up with a scarf and a kick-ass-and-take-names skirt and some fabulous tights,

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wear them snuggling up with your morning coffee, and out walking down a country road under a patchwork of gold and red and orange, and scarfing down hot-from-the-fat cider donuts while you’re choosing your Halloween pumpkins.

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(…I’d better get knitting.)

Resurfacing

Thank you all so much for your kind words and support. It is a difficult time, but it really helped to hear from all of you.

There are a few happenings to share with you, and then it’s onward toward a new normal around here.

  • Do you know about the very cool thing that is A Gathering of Stitches? If not, please do click through and take a look around. I’m very excited to be working with them this fall, and I wanted to point out their fundraising campaign in case some of you hadn’t seen it. I love what they’re doing, and can’t wait to see more.
  • The fabulous Knitmore Girls reviewed Knit to Flatterin their latest episode. Want to listen?
  • Tomorrow’s Fashion Friday will also be a pattern release. Want to see a picture of the setting?

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We shot Nantasket at a nearby lake. The green is my current knitting, and the quilt is something I made with my grandmother when I was in high school.

The pattern makes for great summer knitting, and it will feel so great to release something new and happy to the world.

Thanks again for your warmth and good wishes, and I hope you and yours are all well.

Where I am

First off, it looks like I’m going to be knitting something in deep teal next, which is brilliant because I love both the yarn and the design I have planned for it. The splendid Leigh has won the contest; Leigh, I’ll be contacting you about color choice and sending some very nice sock yarn your way. Thanks everyone who commented, we may have broken a record with that post!

But for the moment, I have nothing knitting-related to share with you.

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My father Alan passed away unexpectedly at home on Friday. I’d been planning to travel to Maine to teach a class and then take him out to dinner for his birthday; instead I postponed my class and spent time making arrangements and saying goodbye.

(Thanks so much for your understanding to the lovely folks at Saco River Yarns, you were wonderful.)

I want to tell you all about him–his ready laughter and jokes, his wonderful cooking, how very much he taught me about being a good parent–but I find that I cannot, right now. Later, I hope.

For now, it feels best to simply try to forge ahead, at least here. To exert some small measure of control over something and continue more or less as I’d planned, on this blog and elsewhere online. I have a design I’m excited to share with you, the CustomFit beta testers are gearing up to begin, I have added some classes to my teaching schedule for the fall and next spring.

I hope you’ll forgive me the drive-by sharing of grief, and then a march onward. It seems to be what I can handle, at least right now. I appreciate, so very much, that you’re all out there. No amount of anything can fill the void left by a loved one, but it is far better not to be alone during these times.