Monday, September 26, 2016

Opinion time - The Question About Which Font To Use?

I just finished reading Kate Atherley's The Beginner's Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns. In one of the Advice from an Expert boxes this information appeared:

Knitter and Graphic Designer Zabet Groznaya says:
When in doubt about fonts, go conservative. Times New Roman, Arial, and Helvetica maybe boring, but they are clean and easy to read.

This was the advice I used when I first started publishing, partially because it was the most common and made the most sense to me.

A few pages later in the book there's a reference to this source:
which says:

"And fi­nally, font choice. The fastest, eas­i­est, and most vis­i­ble im­prove­ment you can make to your ty­pog­ra­phy is to ig­nore the fonts that came free with your com­puter (known as sys­tem fonts) and buy a pro­fes­sional font (like my fonts Eq­uity and Con­course, or oth­ers found in font rec­om­men­da­tions). A pro­fes­sional font gives you the ben­e­fit of a pro­fes­sional de­signer’s skills with­out hav­ing to hire one.
If that’s im­pos­si­ble, you can still make good ty­pog­ra­phy with sys­tem fonts. But choose wisely. And never choose Times New Ro­man or Ar­ial, as those fonts are fa­vored only by the ap­a­thetic and sloppy. Not by ty­pog­ra­phers. Not by you". 

And yes, I've heard this advice many times after I chose the conservative fonts. 

I'm asking because I may update my basic pattern format in the future. Which expert do you agree with? Is the font something most knitters even notice? I consider simple and readable to be the most important factor, but do you?

Friday, September 23, 2016

An Interview with...Beatrice Perron Dahlen

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 Beatrice here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! But mostly from fashion, either ready to wear, classic knits (I adore Shetland Haps and the Lopapeysa) or just "the thing I want to make because I want to wear it". I have really enjoyed working with magazines and yarn companies because their mood boards often bring me an idea that I never would have thought of without the prompt.


What is your favourite knitting technique?

Cables. I adore every kind of cable. Which doesn't always show through in my design work, as I find the patterns of mine that sell best are usually lace.

How did you determine your size range?

I start with the CYC Standard sizes. Sometimes these change through the design process because of how stitch patterns fit into those sizes or because of gauge issues. After designing a lot of sweaters I've also learned a lot about what does and doesn't work, and so I may tweak standard sizing depending on prior experience.

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

We don't live in a bubble, and it is impossible to design something without any influence at all. I went to Art School and this was a huge topic of discussion. All art is influenced by other art in some way and things evolve over time. I do look at other designer's work, but I try to be mindful of not creating something that is already out there. And I try to be respectful of not replicating something that someone else has done. Original ideas are hard, and I think the most inspiring designers (Bristol Ivy for instance) are exceptional at original ideas.

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

Creating a pattern for the right skill level is tricky. To me, my patterns are simple. But for many they are difficult. It depends on every individual's skill set. I think my patterns provide the basic information, but they certainly aren't written to teach. I think we all need to be responsible for our own learning and growth as knitters. Creativity and learning are ultimately an individual journey. While it can be useful to have a teacher, we can also take responsibility for that ourselves. I have learned a tremendous amount through trial and error, ripping back ten times, and swatching. I can't say enough about swatching! I think what holds us back much of the time is fear. It's amazing what you can learn if you let go of the fear of failure and see it all as an experience.

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

I do a lot myself. I do have a handful of sample knitters that I can call when I get into a bind. I definitely used some of these people for my most recent project, which is a book. It helped tremendously, as I had so many pieces to knit. I occasionally run tests, but I just give a shout out, though there are a few folks who have tested for me repeatedly. I've also found the "Free Test Knitters Group" on Ravelry to be very helpful when I really need a pattern tested.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No. But I do take time to reflect on what I want, where it is going, etc. And I try to keep my books accurate. This is evolving and what I want from it is always evolving too.
Do you have a mentor?

So many! Bristol Ivy in particular has been such a mentor. When I first was playing with the idea of designing she sat down with me and let me pick her brain. She's been an amazing cheerleader, and has helped me along tremendously. I live in Maine where there are so, so many talented designers: Bristol Ivy, Carrie Bostick Hoge, Alicia Plummer, Pam Allen, Leila Raabe to name just a few. These women as well as a few others (Kate Davies, Ysolda Teague and Alabama Chanin to name a few) are so inspiring for not only the designs they create, but also for the businesses they have built to support themselves, and in some cases, others! The only thing that inspires me more than a talented handwork designer is a woman who has turned that into a thriving business. Women entrepreneurs rock!

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Not at all. I started very "fly by the seat of your pants" and I'm constantly evaluating which pieces of the design puzzle work financially, and for me personally. It's an ongoing evaluation.

Do you use a tech editor?

Absolutely! My pattern skills have grown immensely because of it. I learned very early on that it is a very different thing to create a hand knit yourself then to write a knitting pattern for it. I owe a lot to my tech editors. They're amazing and I adore them.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Ha! It's a work in progress.

How do you deal with criticism? 

I always welcome constructive criticism. Like I said, I went to Art School. Art work was constantly discussed and deconstructed in detail. I'm not adverse to constructive criticism, I welcome it. Criticism that is just nasty or mean hearted however, I have no patience for. There are valid criticisms (ie. your pattern has an error, the way this is written is confusing, etc.) there are criticisms that are helpful but may be a personal preference (I prefer top down construction) and then there is just plain mean.
As I recently said on Instagram in response to a nasty email: "It takes a tremendous amount of time to create a knitting pattern. It is, in its essence, a creative act. 2. It is difficult to write a pattern that works for every individual and their personal preferences. 3. Even after thorough writing, editing, and testing sometimes errors do occur. We are all humans, not machines. If a pattern is not written to your personal preferences, or if you happen to find an error, that does not give you the right to insult or berate the pattern writer. Let's all remember that there is a human person on the other end of an electronic communication receiving your negativity. And beside the fact that I work really, really hard to create the best knitting patterns I can, for virtually no return, it is hurtful and simply unnecessary to put that kind of ill feeling into the world. This is knitting here. And if we can't even be kind and civil over some wool and needles, how are you we going to solve the bigger problems of the world?"

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

I'm still working on that goal! While I've started to see my sales go up, it takes a lot of time to create a knitting pattern, plus editing costs, paying a model, yarn, etc., etc. Add to that the overhead of program costs, website hosting, etc. While the overhead isn't as much as some businesses, there is overhead. I've seen that it is possible to make money doing this, but I'm not there yet.

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

Give it careful thought. Try a few patterns to see if it's something you like doing. Talk to other designers. And listen to Tara Swiger's podcasts, because they have helped me be thoughtful about my business in countless ways! And find a way to strike a balance so that you don't lose your hobby to work!

What’s next for you?

There is a lot going on for me right now. I am currently working on a book, MAINE Knits that was funded through a Kickstarter campaign. It has designs from 10 different Maine designers, including myself, Carrie Bostick Hoge, Alicia Plummer, Bristol Ivy, Cecily Glowik Mcdonald, Mary Jane Mucklestone, Elizabeth Smith, Leah B. Thibault, Kristen TenDyke, Leila Raabe.

On top of that, I've just started a new job. For the past several years I've been home with my 2 and 4 year olds. Now I'm excited to work outside the home, but this will definitely mean a slow down for my design work. I'm looking forward to the chance to do some reflection on why I do this and how it serves me in my life. And I'm very much looking forward to some personal knitting time!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Knitter's Manifesto

Do you need a knitter's manifesto? A manifesto is a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, such as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization.

Here's a few examples of things I try to remember:

I will always do a swatch.
I will always block that swatch.
I will question every technique I choose to use as to why it is the best possible option. 
I will try a new technique once a month.
I will tear back and correct my errors.

The manifesto at the top is a great one on creativity.

Have you written a manifesto, a personal mission statement, or the like? What did you include? I think these kinds of exercises are very helpful, for gaining greater self-knowledge and identifying personal values.

Monday, September 19, 2016

So many of you have asked...

I've had questions about why I'm teaching less. In my case, one of the issues is, venues always want new classes and I don't show a profit until I teach my classes multiple times. I also have reasons concerning the quality of my teaching for why I want to repeat the classes. I have a post on that topic here. 

I'm currently seeing more consistent pattern sales and my collaboration with Signature yarns is having an impact on my available time.

It's also shockingly time consuming to apply for teaching opportunities. Eventually I realized that the decision to hire wasn't only based on my classes or on my reputation as a teacher. There are many other considerations venues use, social media presence, do they have a book or magazine to promote that you are included in, are you also a vendor, etc.

However, this is the part I haven't want to share in the past. Compensation is very poor and you need to be a very tough negotiator. Unfortunately no one (until now) has shared their rates so I've not really been sure what I should be asking for. Often you are presented with a payment scheme and told that is what everyone is being offered. I was told by someone confidentially that rock star knitters get much higher compensation. If I do manage to negotiate something different I am always sworn to secrecy! I have been asked on numerous occasions to do free work for exposure or to pay very high upfront costs with no guarantee of earnings. After several emails from an event who invited me to come teach and having starting payment negotiations, I emailed the organizer I would come if they guaranteed my out of pocket expenses and he didn't even bother to respond to say no. I know the students and attendees assume we are being appropriately compensated but it's not always the case. Much of the time and effort which goes into developing material and attending an event is not covered by the hourly rate of the actual class time.

If you haven't heard, there's a social media storm out there about teacher rates. They all say it very well so here's the links if you are interested in knowing what's going on.
and on twitter:

and on Facebook:

Friday, September 16, 2016

An Interview with...Irina Anikeeva

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 Irina here and here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration?
Some would say that Southern California where I have lived for the last 5 years, is an unusual place to find the inspiration for knitting design, but I find it here all the time. The wonderful combination of Spanish and Western culture produces lots of beautiful patterns, buildings and folk art. I love spending time in museums when I'm looking for the inspiration for stitch patterns or garment shapes and nature is a source for amazing color combinations. I find the most inspiring thing is the communication with the knitting community. I never feel more inspired than after talking to my knitting friends! Ideas are almost overwhelming me after those conversations!

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I’m not sure if I have a favorite technique. I do love cables, lace and twisted stitch textured stitch patterns. I don’t mind finishing. I find it very soothing to see how the proper finishing makes the look of a garment defined and refined, but I also enjoy making seamless, almost finishing-free designs.

How did you determine your size range?
It usually depends on the pattern, but I like to make a wide range of sizes. Most of my sweaters range from 30’’ to 50’’ bust circumferences. One of the first questions I ask myself when I start working on a new garment design is "will it look nice on different body types?’’ If I have doubts, I change the design accordingly.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love to see other designers’ work! I'm always in awe of their talent and skills. I don’t think it affects the ingenuity of my work. Every designer has their own approach and point of view, and I have my own.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I read somewhere that a nicely written pattern can be a great teaching tool by itself. It does not necessarily mean that every little detail should be explained in full, but every knitter buying a pattern should have a decent explanation of new techniques, nice and clear directions and, probably, a link to an outside source. I can hardly believe it now, but when I started to design knitting patterns about 2.5 years ago, I had never used the short-row technique. Most of the helpful information I’ve learned about this technique was from well written patterns.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I usually write the pattern first and then follow my own directions, working on the sample, so I'm the first test knitter. After that I always call for test knitters, usually through the Ravelry Free Pattern Testers group. I found there are lots of great, attentive and oh so talented testers and now I don’t know how would I work without them.

Do you use a tech editor?
Oh yes, I recently found a great tech editor: I am striving to make the most helpful and error-free patterns and without a tech editor it's almost impossible.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I work at home and it has some perks and difficulties. Of course, I don’t have to commute, dress and put on make-up for work, but it requires lots of self-control and organizational skills to get everything done. 

How do you deal with criticism?
After a career in retail I hoped that I had grows a thick skin! Nevertheless, criticism is a chance to make my work better. Have I overlooked something? Is this an explanation which needs to be clearer? Sometimes one needs to be directed to the opportunity for improvement.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Be prepared to learn a lot of things! When I realized that knitting design is something I am passionate about, I had to learn photography, web design and bookkeeping among other things. Don’t be afraid to act. Sometimes the doors we think are shut, are in fact wide open.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A List of Knitting Calculators

Sometimes we just want to knit something simple and can get intimidated by the math. Have you heard of knitting calculators? Some knitters call them generators. Many wonderful people on the Internet have set these up free for you to use. These are very handy things to know about.

Here's a list of the ones I'm familiar with. If you have some great ones please share in the comments and I'll add them to the list. 

Hat Calculator

Increase Calculator 

Decrease Calculator

Glove Calculator

Random Stripes 

Planned Pooling

Sock Calculator

Raglan Sweater Calculator

Sleeve Increase Calculator 

Yarn Required Calculator

Waist-Shaping Calculator

Monday, September 12, 2016

How to Become a Master Knitter

I get a lot of questions about how to develop the skill set of a master knitter. Step one is just spend a lot of time knitting. However, the next part is where it gets hard. You can't keep knitting the same things in the same ways if you want to increase your skills. 

There are some programs around if you want something formal TKGA has one here:  They are here on Ravelry. 

There is a Canadian program here but from what I can see on the website they may have stalled out at level 2 of 5 in terms of development. I was unable to locate a Ravelry presence for them. 

I think for many knitters the relaxation they get from knitting is the goal and if that's you, it's a great place to be. If you are one of the knitters looking for more challenge you can find it by simply choosing patterns with skills you don't yet have.

You can also take some advice from Joshua Foer who says "experts – those who excel beyond all others in their fields – do it differently." Foer identified four principles that he saw experts using to keep learning:

1. Experts tend to operate outside their comfort zone and study themselves failing.

2. Experts will try to walk in the shoes of someone who's more competent than them.

3. Experts crave and thrive on immediate and constant feedback.

4. Experts treat what they do like a science. They collect data, they analyze data, they create theories, and they test them.