Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Marcia Shawl & The Outlier Toque Part II

If you ask any writer, artist, musician or innovator what question they are most often asked, I believe that the majority of them would respond that people want to know where they get their ideas from. I would also be willing to wager that it is the hardest question for them to answer and they may not honestly know what the sources of their inspiration are. 

My fascination with creativity is born from my own lack of awareness as to where my creative visions originate from. People ask me all the time where I get my ideas, and the majority of time I struggle with a reply. Sometimes I know where the spark initiated but tend to fall into a creative blackout after that. I wake up and have a hat next to me in bed with only hazy memories of how we got there. 

The Outlier Toque began as a nod to writer Malcolm Gladwell, and in particular his book Outliers. There is a previous post that explains this in more detail, but I wanted to explore some of the hypotheses of the book regarding success, our collective societal definition of that concept, and how it could relate to my work as an artist. 

There is a business aspect that needs to be present in order for any creative endeavor to succeed. That is my weakness, and I suspect the shortcoming of many talented artistic individuals. While it is a book on sociology, not business, Outliers prompted me to think about my craft, and my success as a pattern designer, with a new perspective.

I develop a certain fondness for my patterns for various reasons. I want them to succeed. I want the world to appreciate them as much as I do.  The Neely Slouchy Hat is one of those patterns. The Outlier Toque is another one. I am always surprised by which patterns take off and which ones don't. I love the pattern Berkley, but if you crunch the numbers some people may come to the conclusion it is not as successful as some of my other patterns have been. It's bewildering. 

How do you define a pattern's success? 

Neely has had 4,778 unique downloads since it was first published on June 10, 2014. Berkley has had 1,433 in a year. It was published on 10/27/2013. The Outlier Toque had 377 unique downloads in it's first week. 

Is it simply a matter of numbers and formulas or are there other ways to measure the success of an individual pattern?  

Sometimes, like with the Marcia Shawl, a pattern is inspired by a memory, a place, or a person that is dear to me. I develop a fondness for a certain pattern because I adore the person I created it for. The Marcia Shawl was originally created for one of my closest friends who fought a determined, but ultimately unsuccessful battle with breast cancer. It's still difficult to write about, and I have experienced a long internal debate on whether or not to publish this pattern. I want this pattern to do well for her, because so much of her spirit, courage and faith are woven in with every stitch. I hope that this pattern will succeed in providing serenity for others who are facing difficult times. It was designed for that singular purpose. That is a level of success that is not measurable, regardless of the number of downloads it has or doesn't have.  

When I was designing The Outlier Toque I also had a singular purpose, but one that was quite different from the Marcia Shawl. I wanted it to appeal to as many people as possible. My motto when I design is simple but elegant. This design needed to be easy enough for a beginner who has never stitched a hat before, but would also be handy for a more advanced crocheter who is looking for something quick to create. It should be adaptable in length, from a beanie to a super slouchy. I wanted something that would look stunning in a self-striping yarn or just as striking in a solid color. It needed to use one skein of yarn so it would be a great stash buster. This  pattern was created to be a "go to pattern" for holiday gift giving. 

I stitched the original in a sock weight yarn, Noro Kureyon sock, and published it on 1012/14. 

A few days ago I got the idea of experimenting with various yarn weights using the same pattern. I wondered if the yarn called for could make or break a pattern's success. Do knitters and crocheters have a loyalty to a weight of yarn? I tended to use worsted weight yarn exclusively for my designs. 

Why worsted? 

I didn't really have an answer. I have a lot of it in my stash but I have a lot of bulky weight yarns also that I tend not to use when I am designing. The popularity of the Fascination Street Slouchy, stitched in a bulky weight yarn, was the catalyst for my thoughts on different yarn weights. Which led me back to my ever dwindling yarn stash. All roads seem to lead me to those rubbermaid storage containers. 

I love the idea of being able to have one pattern and also have the ability to choose between 4 different types of yarn weights when you stitch that pattern. I have plans to try it with another hat, this time a beret. It's an interesting concept and one I intend on exploring further over the next few weeks in between hockey games. 

I have created a version of the Outlier Slouchy Toque in DK (A very special thanks to my friend Stuart who gave me the gorgeous yarn for the DK version as a gift), worsted and bulky weights in addition to the original in sock weight (The Outlier Toque). 

Success is still an elusive concept for me, but I am learning.

All four patterns are available for free on Ravelry and Craftsy. 


  1. Just like with math problems, I've always needed a nudge in the right direction with craft project ideas. Thank god for Pinterest. It's funny but when I post my projects on Facebook, I get a ton of 'I love its' and 'I want that, how much', but then I go to craft shows and nothing gets bought. It's very discouraging. I'm not looking forward to the Upper Cape one this year. Both days are soooooo long and quite frankly I'd much rather be at home with Russell than sitting there as people admire, but don't buy, what I make. Honestly, I just want to be left alone to make stuff and have someone else do the legwork of selling.

  2. I've been studying slouchy patterns. I'm new to crochet and this will be my first hat. I'm drawn to you as much, or more, by your comments on "Outliers". That book will remain with me forever. As a retired Concert Piano Technician, I can count every one of those 10,000 hours in my joints, my muscles. and my ability to "stick to it till it's done right". In my life, I'll have only time to master piano work, and sort of master parenting...(ask my son). I'd like to have coffee with you to discuss our appreciation for Mr Gladwell. And thanks so much for Fascination Street and for Outlier Touque patterns, and for the gift you've given to me.


  3. Girls fashion and their age are always inversely proportional. You have fantastic stuff on this blog that keep the girls young and beautiful with you fashion tips. Being a fashion artist I really appreciate your efforts and work.
    Love from Royal Lady