Welcome, 2017

The Kid and me at Carlsbad Caverns
The Kid and me aboveground at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

It’s a new year, and time for something new here on the Beth Whiteside Design Blog. Throughout 2016 I was the Creative Knitting Magazine update editor. Every three weeks I created a newsletter, keeping readers up-to-date on the latest news from the magazine, Annie’s, and around the industry. Each issue contained a tutorial and link to a pattern using the skills or techniques learned in the tutorial. The January 5th update containing a tutorial on short rows was my last.  It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. And now it is time to bring that energy and knowledge back to my own blog’s content! Here we go!

January 2nd found me driving a new-to-me car from Houston back to San Francisco with my son. We crossed ~2000 miles in four days, making time only for a half day at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. There is no other word but incredible for the miles and miles of caves, with their delicate spires and formations. HIGHLY recommend a visit! After unpacking at home, it was time to get ready for the next big event in my work life.

The National Needlearts Association

If you don’t know of it, The National Needlearts Association is the trade organization for the needlearts. It is a membership organization composed of wholesalers (those folks who make yarn, tools, canvases, and such), retailers (LYSs and other needlearts stores), and service professionals like myself (aka designers, teachers, editors, social media folks, web site designers, etc). Twice a year there is a trade show where we all gather to see new product, network, take business classes, and do all the other things that industry professionals do at business conferences. This year’s winter show was January 19-23 in San Jose, CA. Just down the road from me, so of course I went!

Teaching: Creating Schematics With Illustrator

class_photo_schematicsOn Saturday I taught one of my professional classes, Creating Schematics With Illustrator. Illustrator is an amazing, powerful tool for creating graphics, and it is easy to get lost in all the possibilities. The class is designed to be an introduction to working comfortably in Illustrator, and learning how to use the tools to produce garment schematics. For anyone who took the class, either in San Jose or when it was offered last year, I am offering a 1-hr follow-up Schematics With Illustrator Lab over Skype on Wednesday, February 15th at 6 pm Pacific/9 pm Eastern. Go over your handout again at home, and try copying a schematic from a magazine or book. Then bring problems and questions to screen share. The class will be limited to 5 students, and cost $20.  For more information and to sign up, send me an email or use the Get in touch form.

New Products, Show Floor

In addition to teaching, I participated in a new event at the show, the Industry Services Showcase. I talked to people wandering by about my editing, graphics, and instruction services. Since it was a new event and I’m not sure the word got out about it, traffic was a little light, but I think it was still worth doing.

The area in front of the entrance at each show there is an area showcasing new products. It is always fascinating to see things that will be appearing next at the LYS. I practiced my walking-and-filming skills as I wandered through the displays, if you want to have a look at what’s new yourself.

Here’s a random sample of booths I visited while on the show floor:

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#KnitWithBeth on the Lace Sampler!

poncho-only copyIn other news, if you didn’t catch it in the slideshow above… I’ll be the host of a Knitalong on the Creative Knitting Facebook page on February 3rd and 10th. Through the technological wonder that is Facebook Live, I’ll guide you through making the Lace Sampler, a rectangular poncho with three lace stitch patterns. Feeling adventurous? I’ll help you design your own version, with info and tips on choosing stitch patterns and combining them successfully. Hope to see you online!

That’s it for now. Till next time!


Improving Me Time: Jewelry!

Beading with Wire, Chain and Leather on Craftsy

As you may know, I have a 12-year-old son. A couple of years ago when we were in Joann’s for other reasons he found a kit for making a paracord bracelet. I had a childhood flashback looking at it (summer camp! square knots! MACRAMÉ!), and of course bought it for him. And so began yet another hobby, knotting. It has bled over into my work world as some published magazine patterns for I-cord coasters, free macramé craft patterns, and in several classes (Knotting Nuttiness, Macrame Friendship Bracelets).

The Motivation

So great, right? I have all this leftover cool yarn, and I learned how to tie knots with it (patience is a virtue when tying knots in stretchy yarn instead of firm paracord). But how do I turn fasten all these pretty chains of yarn and knots around my arms or neck??  I learned some of the lingo (findings, jump rings, bead cone), picked up some of the tools (glue, round nose and chain nose pliers, flush cutter), and figured out *a* way to join and attach chain and clasps, but have always thought there must be better ways.

The Class

I looked through the jewelry offerings on Craftsy for something that would cover the basics. There didn’t seem to be a “Basics of Jewelry-making” class, so, having met the delightful Candie Cooper at the Craftsy Instructor Summit in January, I settled on her class Beading with Wire, Chain and Leather.* Hearing her say “one of the keys to being happy is learning something new” made me sure I’d made a good choice.

I learned exactly what I wanted to learn. Lesson 1 started with basics of materials for beading—diameter and # strands of beading wire, crimp beads and tubes—and tools and continued with how to string and crimp. There were great details like how much slack to leave between finding and crimp, and gauge of wire used for different tasks. Lesson 2 continued by teaching how to make simple and wrapped loops, both things I want to practice by making some simple earrings using head pins!

Each lesson built on the one before, yet also I think could be viewed on its own. I used the Notes feature of the Craftsy platform for the first time while watching this class so I could find some of the techniques I really want to try. I’m intrigued with the idea of wrapping wire around large beads, and with making tassels (chain and yarn together!). Perhaps both will get used on the lariat I’m now planning. ;-)

The projects used to demonstrate each skill were simple enough that I felt I could make them, while also being beautiful enough that I wanted to. She showed ways each project could be changed, and displayed alternate versions of projects. I would have liked more closeups of those projects, to better see their construction. I understand there might not have been time for more footage, but a photo montage that I could have paused video on and stared at would have worked!

I love that Candie demonstrated how she sketches, specifically the simple shapes she uses to depict particular findings or chain types. I’m a fan of sketching, but sometimes get hung up on how to represent what I see in my head so seeing this was very helpful. She also said the same thing I say to my own students, and as I make future forays into jewelry making will need to remember for myself: “Be patient with yourself when you’re trying something new.”

My jewelry-making supplies
Stay tuned for results of my first forays!


*Full disclosure: this is an affiliate link. That means if you like what you see after clicking through on it, and you buy the class, I get a tiny bit of financial credit.

*Full disclosure: this is an affiliate link. That means if you like what you see after clicking through on it, and you buy the class, I get a tiny bit of financial credit.SaveSave



Improving Me Time: Photographic Skillz

Basics of Digital Photography on Craftsy

In Friday’s post I passed on some of what I know about knitting and stripes, and committed to passing on multi craft techniques throughout March. I’ve decided I need to participate on the learning side of National Craft Month too, and tasked myself with taking some classes on Craftsy during this relatively deadline-free week. :-> First up: photography.

My Motivation

Years ago I bought a Nikon SLR for a bicycling trip to Ireland, then had to figure out how to use it. I read about exposure, focal length, shutter, depth of field, etc etc and sort of understood what I read. But I didn’t practice, and eventually stopped using the camera. Digital came along, and I picked up a camera again, but really only for documenting vacations.

The need for photos of class projects and product samples is what has really got me interested in photography again. That and the fact that I take a camera with me everywhere in the guise of a phone. I love how my phone’s camera has let me play with composition and share the quirky things I see here in San Francisco on Instagram.  But I want to know more.

The Class: Basics of Digital Photography

When learning, I’m not good at just jumping in or flipping back and forth to what I want to know unless I feel I have a solid foundation. Plus a refresher on the basics felt needed, so I decided to take Rick Allred’s Basics of Digital Photography* class.

Overall, I loved the way the class was organized. The chapters built on each other nicely: light and exposure first, with an explanation of the exposure triangle, with more detail following in lessons on shutter and aperture priorities, ISO settings and exposure compensation. He did a great job explaining why you might shoot in shutter priority mode and choose a fast speed to freeze motion OR a choose a slow speed to create blur and imply motion. Similarly, the aperture priority lesson showed how using a wide aperture (shallow depth of field) blurs a background to draw attention to the subject, and how using a narrow aperture (wider depth of field) keeps several subjects spaced farther apart clearly in focus.

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One of my pet peeves is that manuals often tell you how to do something but not why you’d do it, or which settings might be “average” or “standard.” Rick explained the whys and gave some great rules of thumb (eg with respect to capturing motion and shutter speeds: ~1/125 shutter for walking, ~1/250 for running, ~1/500 for horse/car; and to make a waterfall blur, try 1-2″). Having his example photos up on screen, with the effects of settings changes on the same scene side by side, was invaluable. I’ve always wondered why I’d want to use exposure compensation; now I have the images of the pepper ristra plus and minus a stop in my head!

The final lesson brought all the previous ones together as he walked through the entire process: selecting subject and deciding what is interesting about it, then figuring out camera settings to get the image you want. Awesome.

The class is rated for Beginners, and it is. But not for beginners who know absolutely nothing and are starting from scratch. There were a few references to terms before they were defined (e.g., depth of field and focal plane), though they were eventually explained. I would have liked a more abstract first lesson, meaning more talk about the settings, what they do (image quality and size, metering modes, etc), and what to set them to, and less on the specifics of Canon and Nikon (one uses the camera one has, and mine is a Sony).

But really, these are quibbles. I know I’ll be watching this class a few more times as I practice what I’ve learned. Look for better photos here as I improve!

*Full disclosure: this is an affiliate link. That means if you like what you see after clicking through on it, and you buy the class, I get a tiny bit of financial credit.



The Many Hats of Making a Living

Samples of my work from graphic design classes
Samples of my work from graphic design classes

Making a living in the fiber arts is tough. Everybody’s path is different, but mine seems to involve many different types of work. And it is interesting to see how things I’ve picked up along the way in my life, side explorations, even, are becoming useful.

Back when the discipline of software quality assurance was in its infancy, I worked for a company called Interleaf. It was a special place to work, so much so that people who moved on stayed in touch on a mail list called “Interleft.” One of the ways it changed my life was by exposing me to the world of graphic designers and publishers, to fonts and formatting, leading and layout, to indexing and tables of content and the list of effective pages.

It took a while for me to realize one of the things I loved about that job was creating test documents: trying to think like our users, and arrange elements on a page and within documents.  After moving to California, I took some graphic design classes at various UC extension schools, learning more about typography and principles of graphic design (aside: mash together Robin Williams’ memorable principles acronym and the advertising slogan for milk, and ask yourself: “Got CRAP?” ;-).

Photo of Real World Illustrator 7 by Deke McClelland
Deke McClelland’s book was my first guide to Illustrator’s features.

I also had to learn something about using Adobe Illustrator. It was fun, learning how to make shapes, cut holes in them, size and flip type on a path, and MORE! One of class assignment was to collect our work into a book, and get it bound. Fascinating…

But I never did anything with what I learned. I stayed safely in software for many years… until  the move to Fiber World.

I began working in the industry by teaching at the LYS. That lead to designing small projects for classes. Which lead to designing for publication. Which, because I don’t mind numbers, think spreadsheets are cool, and like thinking about ways to present information on a page (c.f. Interleaf experience), lead to tech editing.

When I started tech editing, my familiarity with Illustrator came in handy: I could draw schematics and charts for patterns.  But because I always want to know EVERYTHING about how tools work, I used my lynda.com subscription (which I got to learn iMovie (to make this video) and WordPress (for this site ;)) to learn MORE. Video being the new book, you see… (nice to come across my former “teacher” Deke McClelland on lynda.com; he’s as good on video as he was in print).

So, circling back around:

Near the end of last year I got a request for proposals from Coats and Clark, looking for projects to showcase their new Sizzle cord (it’s really cool). I came up with some necklaces created using twisting and plying techniques. Other designers used macramé knotting techniques to make colorful friendship bracelets with Sizzle.

And I was asked if I could create illustrations for the techniques. That’s a bit more than an intarsia chart or sweater schematic…

Hemstitch illustration
KLITCH hemstitch illustration

Could I deliver? Could I draw illustrations that were good enough? I’d done some illustrations for my KLITCH class that made me happy (after watching those Illustrator videos on lynda.com, ha ha). But this, this was for someone else. Did I know enough to do it the “right way?”

A very good friend and former colleague once told me, as he saw me hesitating, on the brink of starting something: “Beth, you already know what you need to know. Just do it.”

So I did.

2-ply Z-twist cord illustration

The end result seems to do the trick. I tried to keep it simple, not overcomplicate either the end result or my working process. I hope the illustrations help crafters learn how to knot and twist cord; I learned a lot in creating them.

And now I have another hat I can wear.

Split-Ply Darning illustration