As a freelance designer, I sign a lot of contracts. It's just part of working with businesses on a project by project basis, and about 99% of the time, those contracts come to me as digital files.

I have a fax machine at home, and I could print out my contract, sign it, fax it to the person who needs it, who probably gets their faxes printed out on more paper and then I could wait to get a copy of the version they signed, and file that away, but honestly, that seems wasteful and unnecessarily labor intensive. I'm also partial to storing files digitally so the paper workflow is not ideal. I have enough unsorted clutter in my house.

As a side note, while I'm posting this as a knitwear design tutorial, it really is just a useful thing to know in general. This skill was invaluable when we were buying a house, and again when we refinanced. If you are applying for jobs, filling out contracts, or signing any file you receive digitally, you can use the methods I'll be covering.

In this post, we'll be covering the creation of a reusable image of your signature. Because I'm not completely out of my gourd, I am going to be using a signature of my nom de rien, Lady Awesome Pants, as opposed to my actual real signature, which someone might want to use for nefarious reasons.

In the following posts, we'll discussing using the image to sign your contract.

If you want to play along with the home game, you can download the signature, a sample Microsoft Word contract and a sample PDF contract by clicking the links. You can also download the unretouched scan of the signatures, here.

For this step, you'll need:

  • pen
  • paper
  • scanner or digital camera
  • Adobe Photoshop or photo editing software of choice*

*I'm using Adobe Photoshop CS5 on a Mac. If you are using a different photo editing software, you may need to refer to your user's manual.

Find yourself a good, medium point, dark (preferably black) ink pen and a clean piece of paper (no lines, no show-through from anything printed on the other side) and write your name and/or initials a bunch of times. Try to do this on a surface that's not too hard, a catalogue under your piece of paper works nicely. Press firmly as you sign. You don't want a light whispy signature, you want something clear and legible.

signature samples
Signature Samples

Once you know you have at least a few examples that you like, get ready to scan your page. I usually scan the whole page. Sometimes, it's not until after you've cleaned up the scan, that you can tell which signature will work best. I like to scan at a high resolution, in grayscale, to ensure I get all the detail I need with no unnecessary noise.

Scanning settings

If you don't have a scanner, you can photograph your signatures with a digital camera, just make sure you do so in good, natural light, on a background that won't show through your paper and that the signatures are in focus.

Depending on your scanner, your digital camera, the lighting, and whether or not you fed your Mogwai after midnight, your digital file may be too dark or too light or otherwise somewhere short of perfection.

Note: If you scanned or photographed your signature in color, convert your file to Grayscale by going to IMAGE | MODE | GRAYSCALE before proceeding.

This raw scan is not living up to its full potential

In Photoshop, go to IMAGE | ADJUST | LEVELS

This will bring up a set of sliders that will allow you to clean up your scan. Bring the black triangle as close to the white triangle as possible. That will make everything on the page either pure white or pure black and remove all shades of gray. Play around with moving them more to the left and more to the right. One direction will make your lines appear thicker, the other will make them thinner.

adjust levels
Adjust Levels

Next we'll convert the mode to Bitmap. Your image must already be grayscale for this option to be available. If it's not grayscale, convert it now. Bitmap files are made up of only black and white pixels, no shades of gray, no color. This is a good format for pixel based logos and line art. Additionally, many programs, like InDesign, Quark and other desktop publishing applications, will view the white pixels in bitmap images as transparent, which can be useful with signatures that are supposed to sit on a line. You'll see how this works in the InDesign portion of this tutorial, to come at a later date.



Convert image to Bitmap
Change Mode to Bitmap

Choose 50% Threshold from the Method drop-down. I like a resolution of about 1200 dpi. I would avoid going below 1000 dpi.

bitmap settings
Settings for conversion to Bitmap

If you adjusted your Levels properly, you won't notice much change in your file. If your signature looks too washed out or too blobby (technical term) after conversation, that means you didn't adjust your Levels slider to be close enough together. Simply undo and adjust your Levels further.

If you are happy with the results, you can crop your image so that you only have your favorite signature visible.

cropped signature

Save your file as a TIFF.

Save as tiff

You might be thinking, "But Marnie, what is this TIFF madness of which you speak? Why can't I save it as a JPEG?"

JPEGs do not support the BITMAP format because JPEGs are always, RGB (color) images. So all that work converting to a bitmap, to make a good quality piece of line art, will be lost. It will still work well enough, but if your image software supports Bitmap and TIFF format, that's the way to go.

That's all there is to it. You now have a lovely file of your own signature, that you can use to sign digital files.

In the next tutorial, we'll talk about using the file to sign Microsoft Word documents and in the third and final installment, we'll use this file in InDesign and talk about adding typed text to PDF forms.

Past the point of no return


For someone who rarely has occasion to wear anything fancier than pajamas and even fewer occasions to wear anything fancier than jean, it might be a little weird to love to sew dresses so much, even if it's a fun polka dot dress with a pink sash.

McCall's 6557_10

But you could always chalk that up to being more into the process than product of one's craft.

There are some peculiarities that are harder to write off, like rushing to your craft room after work, pulling out more pink satin and sewing it up while laughing maniacally, then using your lunch break to take another round of pictures, like this:

Bow Tie07

And possibly this:

Bow Tie08

And of course this:

Bow Tie02

If Leo divorces me and takes Darwin with him, you'll know why. It was worth it, though.

Did you see the new Twist?

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I have two garment patterns in the newest Twist Collective.

The first is Lacewing, a feminine little tee, with a very adjustable neckline. It's worked in Kollage Corntastic and is trimmed with butterfly motifs around the hem and sleeves. I hope this is the sort of garment that people knit and love to wear because it's both flattering and comfortable. There's a bit of waist shaping, but not so much as to be clingy, and strategically placed lace meant to add femininity without being revealing or impractical. The pattern features tutorials for two types of picot cast ons that will be nice and stretchy so the hems form those beautiful scallops.

The second piece is Regent. This is the sort of garment I love both wearing and knitting. It's worked in a Catherine Lowe merino/silk blend, and features deep fluted ruffles around the entire cardigan and has a flattering curved hem. The optional tie can be used to cinch in the waist, but wearing it loose or with a purchased belt, works just as well. While I love ruffles, I always worry that they start to look clownish if one isn't careful. I wanted to make sure that these fell gracefully around the body. I think this is really wearable in a dark neutral shade, but imagine this worked with something a little more shimmery and it's perfect over a summer dress. Work it in a functional 100% wool, and you can wear it around the house in the fall, instead of turning up the heat.

Of course, these are just two of many great new patterns available in the edition. You've got to see some of the gorgeous socks, shawls and many more garments. I know there's no pleasing everyone, but it's hard for me to imagine that anyone couldn't find something they love in the edition. So check out the whole magazine, including all the great articles, here.

As a side note, I've contacted Carol, whose number was randomly chosen in the Kate Atherley book giveaway.

Thanks to everyone who left a comment. It's always reassuring to find out that crafting and cooking failures are pretty universal for people who do either.



If you've ever watched videos of people doing free motion quilting, it always looks so easy and fun. It might be the latter but it's most certainly not the former. I am glad I kept to a not-too-ambitious project for my first go at it.

Quilted Pillows_18

These should fit in nicely in our breakfast nook which is currently upholstered in blue and white fabric against yellow walls, though we plan to change all of that, someday.

Quilted Pillows_14

They are stuffed with polyfil, and backed with medium weight muslin.

Quilted Pillows_09

The fabric is Moda Hometown and a single layer cake will make 9 of these 15" pillow tops or 4, 9 square pillows around 23" wide. You can get even more out of the layer cake if you don't insist on making all the accent squares dark red as I did.

Quilted Pillows_04

If you want to try making these blocks yourself, here's a schematic (you can click through to get to the option to embiggen it)

Quilted Pillows_21

The center row, with the two extra seams, will be an inch narrower than the top and bottom row so you'll have to trim down the block after assembly, to make it square.

Quilted Pillows_08

You have been looking at the pillows, right? I mean, there wasn't anything distracting you in those photos, I hope.

Quilted Pillows_12

It's important to focus on what matters.

I'm stop number four on Kate Atherley's blog tour for her new book, Beyond Knit and Purl. She's kindly agreed to do an interview with me and has offered up a free digital download of her book to one of my readers. If you'd like a chance at winning a copy, leave me a comment telling me about your most epic crafting or cooking disaster. Enter by 5:00AM April 19, 2012 and I'll draw one name at random.

Now on to the interview.


Marnie MacLean [MM]: Hi Kate, thank you so much for taking the time to do an interview with me.

Kate Atherley [KA]: Thrilled to talk to you!

MM: For my readers who may not be familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about yourself?

KA: I'm a teacher, a designer and a tech editor. I was born in the UK, but I live in Toronto. I'm lucky enough to live less than 2 blocks from my local yarn shop, Lettuce Knit. I studied mathematics at University, and worked in the IT industry for 15 years before becoming a full-time knit professional. When I'm not knitting, I can be found with my husband, walking our rescue hound-dog around our neighborhood, and drinking coffee.

Top-Down Triangle Shawl: Spring Leaves by Kate Atherley
Photograph © Kristen Caldwell 

MM: Can you tell us a little about your new book Beyond Knit and Purl and for whom it's intended?

KA: I've been teaching knitting for 10 years, and my most popular class is the Project Class. It's a multi-week workshop and knitters bring whatever they want to work on. Every month I meet knitter who have mastered the basics of working the knit and purl stitch, but are struggling to make the leap to working a pattern. My book is for those knitters, or for knitters who are looking to expand their skills and are seeking a way to learn about socks, lace, cables and colorwork. It's not just for new knitters: it's for any knitter who is looking to better understand the craft, the techniques and the patterns.
Learning to handle needles and yarn doesn't teach you anything about choosing or reading patterns - they are totally different skill sets. My book addresses that side of things. I've tried to capture all those things you need to know to be successful in knitting from a pattern - things that aren't typically written down. I've included a glossary to help understand how patterns are written, I've included an explanation of sizing, how to read a schematic, information on ease and tables of standard ease for different styles. I've got suggestions for specific project types based on skill level. I've got explanations on how to join a new ball of yarn, and lots of advice of choosing and substituting yarn.

MM: In my experience, designing simpler patterns can sometimes be even harder than designing involved patterns, as you really have to think like the knitter instead of running with your own whims. What sorts of goals did you set in designing the patterns in the book and what sorts of hurdles did you face?

KA: The objective was to design patterns that are simple to execute and yet build skills at the same time. Because the book is organized by "skills" - shaping, working in the round, socks, cables, lace and colorwork - I had a framework for the patterns - each pattern includes skills from a previous section, and one or two of the skills taught in that particular chapter.
The key is to remember what it's like to be new - to remember that knitter might not know how to weave in ends yet. I had to question everything about the patterns and the designs - would a knitter understand and know everything they need to know to work it? And if they might not, then it was up to me to teach the skill. For example, I have a top-down one piece baby sweater in the first set of patterns, and although the first version of the pattern had the sleeves worked in the round, I had to remind myself that knitters might not yet know how to do that, so I had to adjust the pattern to allow for the sleeves to be worked flat. And then, of course, I teach mattress stitch so that knitters can be confident about seaming the sleeves.
And I have a built-in test audience: the students in my classes. Many of the projects in my book come directly from these classes, and have been road-tested by knitters of all skill levels. If a pattern isn't successful, my students aren't shy about letting me know!

Classic Cabled Sock by Kate Atherley
Photograph © Kristen Caldwell 

MM: When did you learn to knit and how long did it take to become a passion for you?

KA: My grandmother, Hilda, taught me to knit when I was a young girl - probably 5 or 6. I don't actually remember learning, it's just something I've always done! Although I knitted on and off through my childhood and teens, I didn't take it up seriously until I finished university and had some spare time on my hands. And it became a passion and a serious pursuit for me when I found the first edition Nancy Bush's Folk Socks. I loved the idea of making socks, but because I have pretty small feet I embarked on a journey to learn enough to modify the designs to make them fit.

MM: Was there anyone in particular that helped usher you into designing and teaching?

KA: Folk Socks is what pushed me into designing, although at first I was designing just for myself. I started teaching when the girlfriend of a co-worker opened a yarn shop, and she needed instructors. And I've never looked back! I am very grateful to Lorena for giving me that break!

MM: What has been your most epic knitting disaster?

KA: That's easy: the big green monster. Before I understood anything about gauge or ease or fit, I made a reckless yarn substitution. I worked a pattern for a cropped, slightly loose and boxy turtleneck sweater written for 18sts/4 inches in a bulky lime green mohair at about 14 sts/4 inches. It's still cropped but hilariously wide - about 50 inches around when it should have been 38 or so - and what should have been a turtleneck is a wide and short cowl. But I still have it - and I actually wear it! With a miniskirt, boots and a fitted turtleneck under it, it's a fun outfit for the coldest days of winter. Plus an excellent cautionary tale.

MM: Excluding glaring mistakes and omissions, what is your personal pattern peeve when working from someone else's patterns?

KA: It's a little thing, but I get pretty worked up about SSK. A common "definition" or explanation of SSK is given as "slip, slip, knit". I teach a lot of newer knitters, and if that's the description you give them, things are going to go horribly awry... There are so many ways of messing up SSK, and if we don't give a proper definition, we can't expect knitters to get it right! If I could change one thing about the way the world writes patterns, is that we stop spelling it out as "slip, slip, knit" and give a proper definition: "slip next 2 sts one-by-one as if to knit; insert tip of left needle from left to right into the fronts of these two sts and knit them together".
I'm also very disappointed by patterns for socks and mittens that are "one size fits all". The size of adult hands and feet can vary enormously: I have a US size 6 foot, and one of my best friends wears a size 11. The idea that the same size sock will fit us both comfortably is ridiculous! If we're going to go to the trouble of knitting socks, they should fit well.

MM: Is there anything that you particularly like to see in patterns, that is not necessarily the norm?

KA: The majority of sock and mittens patterns are prescriptive about needle configuration: 4 or 5 double-pointed needles, or magic loop, or 2 circulars. They don't need to be! After all, the basic construction is the same, it shouldn't matter what needles the knitter chooses to work with. We put knitters off if we're prescriptive: if you're only a magic looper, then you'll avoid all those patterns written specifically for DPNs. I love seeing patterns that are written generically, that work with any needle configuration. More options for knitters!

MM: You're going to be on an extended vacation, somewhere cool and isolated, with lots of alone time. What will you bring with you?

KA: My Signature 2.5mm DPNs and a huge collection of wild colors of self-striping sock yarn, and 5000 yds of laceweight and a bunch of Japanese stitch libraries!

MM: Back to your book, which pattern are you most pleased with and why?

KA: I must confess I love the houndstooth socks in the colorwork chapter. They look so much more difficult than they actually are!

MM: Are there any other patterns you'd like to make special note of in this book?

KA: Each chapter has a mini-project, to allow you to practice and build your skills. They're no more than an evening's work, using up scraps of yarn, so you can try something out without making a major commitment of time or money. There's a dishcloth, a lacy bookmark, a catnip-stuffed cat toy, a mini sock ornament, a coffee cup cozy and a phone cozy. These were a hoot to design, and I think they're just as much fun to knit. I also included a top-down one-piece construction baby sweater as it's such a popular type of project - and can be so very daunting to new knitters.

Houndstooth Sock by Kate Atherley
Photograph © Kristen Caldwell 

MM: You got lots of great hints and tips from knitters, peppered throughout the book. Can you tell us a bit about why you talked to the people you did and what you think their input brings to the book?

KA: I talked to my friends, my colleagues and my students - both experts and new knitters. I wanted to capture those little bits of wisdom that don't normally get written done, the advice that you get when hanging around your local yarn shop. It was important to me to talk to new and "average" knitters, as their experiences and advice are most relevant to the readers of my book.

MM: Is there anything else you think people should know about this book?

KA: It's not just for newer knitters - even experienced knitters have told me that they've learned new things and had questions answered. For example, I explain what the big deal is about "twisting the round", and why I never worry about it until after my first round is complete because it can be fixed. Even my editor told me she didn't know that trick!

MM: Thank you again for taking the time to do this interview with me. I think it'll be a great resource for new knitters.

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