Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ugly Christmas Sweaters Updated

My most popular post continues to be the one about Christmas sweater parties. You can read that post here. I suspect many knitters would not want to spend the time it takes to knit one but you can buy them.

Here's an update on the newer sweaters now available.  

You can find them for sale here.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Is Blogging Dead?

The big question about social media for professional knitters is, am I using the right platform?  I'm frequently told that blogging is dead. However there are other opinions on this topic. Here's one I just came across:

"Blogging is here to stay, for businesses and individuals alike. The benefits of getting involved are huge. It’s been reported that blogs can give websites a staggering 434% more indexed pages, and 97% more indexed links, while 82% of marketers who blog see positive ROI for their inbound marketing."  Katrina Pfannkuch


Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. My readership continues to increase the longer I blog. I'm also a dedicated blog reader myself.

Friday, December 12, 2014

An Interview with...Carla Meijsen

Leg Warmers

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find Carla here and here on Ravelry. Her blog is here.

Where do you find inspiration?

I use a lot of different things for inspiration. First of all, traveling, as nothing beats the ‘real experience’. Seeing the authentic knitwear in other countries, made by local knitters, is the best source of inspiration I know. I often travel to the more Nordic countries like the Scandinavian countries, the UK or, best of all, the Baltic states. Estonia is my favourite country. Also I buy a lot of books on knitting, knitting tradition and knitting history from all over the world - old as well as new. I have a nice collection of Dutch knitting books, the oldest dating from around 1850. Also a lot of old knitted items. I love to see how they are made and how the wear shows how they have been used. 

What is your favourite knitting technique? 

Hmm, I have several favourite techniques, but at the moment I’m totally obsessed with twined knitting. I just published a book about this technique. It took me several years to write it and I’m happy that it is finished and that I can hold it in my hands now. Actually I expected that I would not do any twined knitting for a while after finishing, to give it a rest, but to my surprise I just continued knitting in this technique. Also a few other things in different techniques too, just for variation! 

Available here

Please tell us about your recent book, “So Warm! Twined Knitting".

The title is officially: “Lekker Warm! Twijnend Breien – So Warm! Twined Knitting”. It is a bilingual book, all text in Dutch and English. It is the book that I put my heart and soul in, I loved making it so much! As I did a lot of the work myself (helped sometimes by friends) - writing texts, photography, improving images with Photoshop, graphical design, designing, pattern writing, promoting, distributing, etc. (other chores were done by friends or even my husband Jan, like styling models) - it became more and more important to me.

I’m very thorough: I did my best to explain the techniques clearly, and added loads of photos to show how each technique is done. I have a lot of experience teaching knitting classes, which is a good start for giving explanations in the books I write. The book started as a smaller book, but grew and grew to 200 pages, 30 designs, hard cover, big format, so now it weighs 1.2 kg [2.6 lbs]. I’m so proud of it, especially when I see that knitters are really happy with it and are inspired to give twined knitting a go.

Printing and translating are, of course, not done by me. The translation is done by a professional translator who also is a knitter. ;-)  I hope that with my book I contribute to the popularity of twined knitting. It is a great technique with lots of potential to make beautiful things. My designs are based on tradition, but I give them a modern twist. 

How did you determine your size range?

I use charts for all of my designs, combined with written texts for the basic things. Using other needle sizes and maybe even thinner or thicker yarn will make the dimensions of your project smaller or bigger. In the book I give directions on how to do that.

From So Warm!

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?

I’m very interested in the work of other knitters. As I know how my mind works when I’m designing, I’m not afraid of being influenced too much. It is like in art, anyone who can handle the technique can copy a famous painting, but making a unique piece is the hardest. The work of other designers and the reaction of the public to it is interesting, I think. It tells you what people like. Of course it is important to have your own style, but a designer should also consider the taste of the knitters and the influence of the time we live in, especially the influence of fashion on the knitting world. That we look with respect and interest at work of other designers, now or in the past, doesn’t mean we should copy it stitch by stitch!

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?

If you mean, making it easier to knit, I have mixed feelings about it. I do think that simple patterns with spectacular effects (for example the innovative knitting designs of Elizabeth Zimmermann!) are great. Never make something that is easy to do more difficult than is needed. On  the other hand, I hope that knitters don’t lose the ability to do the really difficult and/or time consuming knitting jobs. Hopefully these two approaches can co-exist and will each have their own merits. 

The bottom line for me is that I would rather see someone do simpler knitting work, have pleasure doing it and maybe even someday proceed to doing more difficult work, than see them do nothing at all. Even when doing the simplest shawl on big needles, I think that person is creative. Choosing wool, colours and pattern and actually seeing the project grow in your hands is a creative process. I like more difficult and complicated knitting myself and as I see there is a big group of knitters ready to take on new challenges, I focus on more complicated and traditional knitting designs.

From So Warm!

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?

Lets count,… nine for this book. I do a lot of the knitting myself, checking and often knitting several versions of one design, but after a while you get blind to your own mistakes. You need others to test knit for you. Some of the test knitters are good in checking every symbol on a chart, some are good checking texts. Elsbeth Reits is the quickest - she knit almost all the designs in the book!

Did you do a formal business plan?

No, not at all. My company was just born without me being aware of it. It just grew out of enthusiasm and the drive to do things in the knitting world. Now that the business is growing, I do more planning, but essentially the big plan is in my head.

Do you have a mentor?

Not a official one, but I have some ‘famous’ knitters as my friends and others I ask for advice when needed, which is often. Different knitters are in their own special way examples for me. Just a few examples: Elizabeth Zimmermann – of course ;-) – Annemor Sundbo from Norway for the way she preserves the techniques and traditions of Norwegian knitting, Nancy Marchant for her thorough way of working, and a lot of Estonian knitters for the way they want to share their knitting techniques with others who are interested in it. Well, I could go on for a while….

Do you have a business model that you have emulated? 

See above.

From So Warm!

Do you use a technical support person?

No, I do almost anything myself. As I’m from ICT [IT], and thought about ICT, networks, Internet, etc. for years, I can handle a lot of technical stuff myself. I don’t use official programs for designing, just Excel and graphical software.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Not. I’m almost always knitting, thinking about knitting, organising or going on knitting holidays, or writing about knitting. But, I’m happy with it! When my hobby became more and more a profession, I thought it would not be any fun anymore to knit. Well, that isn’t true - it gets better and better the more you do with it, even when that is officially ‘work’. 

How do you deal with criticism? 

Criticism is free advice!

From So Warm!

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself? 

I will not tell you about my personal situation, but when knitters ask me for advice on how to start their own business, I always make jokes about first finding a rich husband – or wife! ;-)

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?

It may sound like the simplest thing to say, but I always follow my heart. If I don’t like it or don’t like doing it, it will not become a success. Also, one should realise that there are more and more people who want to work in the knitting world, but it is not easy and you have to work hard and you have to put lots of hours of labour into it,… and still you will not get rich. If you don’t mind that, go for it!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

YarnOver SleepOver Retreat

The team met again yesterday. We are working hard to make this event a great weekend for everyone! The website is here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Knitting Books You Should Own

My favourite knitting books are technique books. I usually check at least three if I'm looking for answers to any knitting problem. These are some of my favourites. You will see that they are not always the most current, however they have been proven as great references. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

An Interview with...Ashley Rao

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

Pan Am Jacket

You can find Ashley here and here on Ravelry

Where do you find inspiration?
My designs usually start with an idea for a small detail of the finished work -- a braided racerback (Admiral's Knot Halter), front lapels defined by a bias panel (Tara Jacket), or cables splaying out from a collar (Twelve Cables Pullover).  I mull over the detail for a while until it explodes into an idea for the overall construction of a garment.

Admiral's Knot Halter
What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love cables, and I love ribbing -- both simple techniques that create terrific texture and lend themselves easily to graphic shaping.

How did you determine your size range?
Most of my sizing is built around the Craft Yarn Council's standard body measurements, which is typical in the handknit design world.  While there certainly is no "standard" body type, their metrics are a hugely helpful resource -- it's easy to know your own body type and design for that, but harder to understand what dimensions change most between sizes.  For example, how much deeper should the armholes be for a 48" bust than for a 32" bust?  When I first started designing, I drafted a sample body type for each size that let me visualize how hips and busts and armholes varied across sizes.  I review those drawings each time I start a new pattern.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I try to look at everything -- traditional textiles and contemporary fashion, buildings, drawings, ceramics.  The more you are exposed to, the deeper the toolkit for your own work.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit my samples myself.  I love it, and it is an important opportunity to trouble-shoot unanticipated problems.
Do you use a tech editor?
Absolutely! Tech editors offer, at a minimum, a second pair of eyes on a pattern. At best, a great tech editor can help streamline and simplify the documentation of a design -- creating a significantly more user-friendly pattern.  And eliminating errors that would haunt you forever.

Arrowhead Camisole

Did you do a formal business plan?  A mentor?  Do you have a business model that you have emulated?  
I don't have a mentor or a formal business plan, but I've been reaching out to women whose work I admire and who have established successful, sustainable businesses within the knitting world.  I met with Norah Gaughan to talk about her work with Berroco and subsequent move to independent design.  I'm currently apprenticing with Anna Wallack (owner of the Misha and Puff children's clothing line) to better understand handknits for the retail world.

Googly-Eyed Gator

Later Gator Hat

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Knitting is terrific for portability and multi-tasking -- I can (and do!) knit everywhere.  I sketch constantly.  Computer-based work -- design calculations, documentation, and correspondence -- is reserved for the evenings (after the children are in bed).

How do you deal with criticism?
Handknit designs are most successful when the process of making them is fun and the final result is satisfying -- sometimes that combination is hard to achieve!  I've learned to stay out of KAL forums that feature my work unless someone asks me a specific question -- I'm happy to help, but overhearing knitters' in-process frustrations can be an ego-deflating experience.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting? 
I'm still looking for that advice myself!

Plumage Pullover

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Vat for Knitting Professionals and Consumers

The issues around Vat are starting to bubble. I'm not knowledgeable about the topic so I'm going to post some links to the various sources I'm currently reading. If you know of others please add them to the comments. Most of these links include more links so you can delve into the topic as deeply as you wish.

What does this mean to pattern buyers in Europe...probably higher prices.

Knitty Blog

Ysolda's Blog

Patternfish Ravelry Group

Patternfish Information Page

Summary from Patternfish: Changes to VAT regulations that become effective January 1, 2015 only affect EU to EU sales (plus Switzerland and Norway).  Put simply: if you are selling your patterns using, nothing will change for you. You will have no additional responsibilities or collecting/reporting obligations.

Ravelry Shopkeepers Group

LoveKnitting Blog