Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hand Knit OOTD

I wore this to my Knits and Clicks photography group last Friday. Nadine took the outdoor photos from my new iPhone which has a portrait feature which makes the background a little blurry. This pattern is done in a cool bamboo yarn which was perfect for the beautiful sunny day we had. The three of us met up for lunch first at a local cafe. Our group includes Ramona of Knit Me Too.

I think the colour is more accurate in the mannequin shot than it is in the outdoor photo. I'm wearing it with white pants, a snakeskin print shoe, an ivory bag and with jewellery I made myself.  When I want it more dressed up I switch to my silver heeled sandals and handbag.  Here's a few more views and details.

Monday, June 19, 2017

How Mainstream Media Fools us about Body Image

I stopped buying fashion magazines a few years ago and switched over to following fashion bloggers instead. It took a couple of years but I recently realized it's had a big impact on how I see my own body and that of other women in a very positive way. I follow a variety of fashion blogs. Some are outfit of the day formats and others are written by stylists or fashion enthusiasts. I follow a couple of petite bloggers as well as the blogs of women in specific age categories. The most important factor here though is none of these women are models. There is a real variety of body shapes from fine boned petites to plus sizes matched up with a love of fashion and the fun it can bring to our lives. I was sitting in the waiting room at the dentist when I picked up a copy of Vogue. As I flipped through the pages I was surprised by how odd the images looked to me. They seemed freakish.  That's when I knew that fashion blogs are a positive influence for me. 

You can find many of them easily through Pinterest. Just search by category followed by the words fashion blogger. Here's what came up for plus size bloggers:

Here's what came up for mature bloggers: 

These photos are from J's Everyday Fashion. I follow this blog because I love how she uses fashion photos as inspiration for her outfits. She's very slender and pretty but not model tall. She looks like a woman I would see on the street or in any office. 

Now compare to the inspiration photo. 

Super thin with extremely long limbs and possibly altered by photoshop?

Friday, June 16, 2017

An Interview with...Nat Raedwulf

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 Nat here and here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration? 

I pull inspiration from nature, the natural rhythms of life, my heritage (as a Scottish / Polish second generation Canadian), from folklore, myths, magic, and from the unceded K’omoks First Nation territory that I live on with my family.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love learning new techniques and combinations so whatever I am currently playing with is usually ‘my favourite’. I really love playing with texture stitches right now as well as exploring old classic stitches made into modern garments.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love looking at other people’s designs and am inspired daily by what other creative people are up to. I am sure I am influenced by other’s designs in a variety of ways, whether I notice an interesting colour combination or combination of stitches. I think it’s fine to find inspiration in other people’s work. That doesn’t mean that I copy them or have no original ideas, but sometimes I will take note of a small detail in one garment, play around with it in my head and turn it into my own. I think fibre arts and design is inherently built upon learning and observing other people’s designs and letting it grow and evolve into something else. There are very few stitches or colour combinations that haven’t been explored but how you put them together or make them your own can be completely unique.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have a core group of test knitters that operate out of my private Facebook group. Not all of them test for me all the time but I usually have at least a few of the same test knitters return for each new test knit. I typically have about ten test knitters for each pattern, give or take and I also have one tech editor. I think having others assess and try your design is key to a successful pattern. I adore my core group of testers and tech editor, Wolf & Faun patterns would not be what they are without them.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Yes and No. I have nothing written out on paper outlining what I am doing but I do make all my decisions mindfully about what my end goals are and if what I’m doing aligns with my core values and long term success of my business. I took 6 months to launch and there was a lot of planning and research that went into the business end of things before I was ready to share it. 

Do you have a mentor?
No but I have a community of other designers and business women that I collaborate with, bounce ideas off and ask questions. Some of them are online and some of them are in my hometown. There is no way I’d be successful and achieve what I have thus far without a lot of community support.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

No but I do try to emulate and move in the direction of my core values and beliefs as well as emulate the philosophy that having a clear and defined brand is important to success. Things like, encouraging nature reverence, slow fashion, social justice and feminism are all a part of who I am and I try to create products and create space for people to think about and have discussions around these things.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

I have had a crazy few years and I am not sure if I would say that it’s been balanced but what I try to always come to is acknowledging that I need to be happy and enjoy what I do in order to do my best work. Thus, I only work on projects and products I am excited about or find value in. I decline opportunities I am not excited about or feel stressed about completing. I am a one woman business and I make boundaries with my audience and customers around when I am and am not available for customer support or social media. I don’t expect myself to respond to every email right away and I don’t expect myself to post on social media regularly. I try to make sure that I keep my work to when my kids are napping or in pre-school so that they get my time when they are around. I have tried hard to keep my weekends free of business related activities. I regularly check in to make sure what I am doing is fun and interesting and gives me something in return for what I am putting into it, whether that be income to support my family, creative expression, satisfying relationships or learning opportunities.

How do you deal with criticism? 

I explore the source of it and ask what they are really trying to communicate to me. If it’s a genuine issue with a product, I focus on that. I recognize I am not infallible and that I can make mistakes, which are important to learn from, there are always rooms for improvement. Often when it’s an issue around pattern support I recognize that it’s often a frustrated knitter who needs help navigating a new technique and being helpful instead of offended often leads to both parties being satisfied. Sometimes my testers are frustrated. I used a particular technique and they suggest easier routes to complete the pattern and I listen, especially if it’s the majority of testers that feel that way. Most of the time when someone offers critique it is an opportunity to learn and grow. I haven’t really experienced any mal-intentional attacks or critiques but if they were to happen I know that there are enough people to believe in me and love what I’m doing to not let one person get to me. You can’t please everyone. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Hmmm, where to start? Some of the major points I have reflected on are:

1. Be willing to invest in yourself and don't try to do it all. Often starting a business we think we will do most of it ourselves now and when we get to a certain point or grow enough we will bring in help or professionals. Unless you have a graphic arts background, hire someone to make your logo. Unless you really want to build a website, ask for help or hire someone to make one. You have to believe your product or service is worth it and worth investing in before anyone else will, so invest in it and invest in yourself. Your time is probably limited as it is, figure out ways to save yourself time and energy so more of that time and energy can go into creating your actual products, designs and services that only you can offer.

2. Give yourself time but start now, don’t wait. It’s OK if it’s just a hobby at first, if it only brings in a little bit of money at first, or if no one seems interested right out the gate. In this world of social media, you need to give people time to know who you are before people know what you have to offer. It took me 6+ months to go from concept to opening my online shop, and years of knitting and designing as a hobby before I built up a big enough base for my pattern releases to be a viable income. If I had been hard on myself and decided I couldn't do it all in a month or two so why do it at all, I would not have my business. Sometimes it takes me 6+ months to release a pattern. That's OK. It's OK to take a long time. I have two very young children at home, a part time job as a special ed teacher and I am in long-term recovery from two auto accidents. Life is busy and crazy and unpredictable. Don't wait for life to be normal or easy, but rather just give yourself permission to go at your own pace and take all the time you need but more importantly, start! Don’t wait or put it off.

3. Reach out and find community to support you. Don't try to do this alone. Facebook, Instagram, Ravelry and locally there are many communities and groups aimed at supporting and collaborating with one another in both the fibre arts industry and as a work at home mom. Don't be afraid to ask questions or reach out to people for advice. This community is very helpful and supportive to each other.

4. Don't hide who you are. Be authentic. When I first started putting myself out there as a knit designer, I constantly kept my personal life and my business separate. I hid who I was and created a rather flat online persona for fear of offending or turning anyone off. It was exhausting and my brand was boring. Eventually I got tired of hiding who I was and started sharing my authentic self with the world. Not only did I attract an audience that really loves who I am and supports me, but my creativity and enthusiasm has increased. Sure the odd person is turned off by me but they were never my audience or client base to begin with, and for every one person turned off by me, 10 more love what I do.

What’s next for you?
I have a few collaborations lined up with some yarn companies I’m really excited about and can’t wait to get started on! Also I am in the process of designing a Wolf & Faun project bag and a few other exciting Wolf & Faun products that I think will be unique and interesting contributions to the fibre arts world. Lots of exciting stuff on the go!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

But knitting is only for old ladies...

I guess it was because we just had WWKIP day. I saw another one of those articles where a journalist starts with "knitting isn't just for old ladies anymore". The knitter being interviewed spent a lot of time explaining the fallacy behind "knitting isn't just for old ladies anymore". Of course I couldn't help myself, I went looking for the interviewee on social media and found, surprise, surprise a woman who is probably in her sixties, maybe seventies. And I'm fine with that. After all I've been knitting for so long that I was a hip
young thing myself when I started. 

I think the reason I got annoyed was the "lady doth protest too much" feel to the article. Last week I got into one of the "you look old if you don't dye your hair conversations"  with someone who is being pressured to dye her absolutely fabulous silver locks. On Sunday I was out with a group of friends from my corporate past and we were talking about the ageism in industry. For me that's the real issue, the ageism behind the knitting comments. 

In mainstream media, aging is depicted in a negative way, some say it's a form of stereotyping. Older individuals aren't valued for their experience. Everything is about trying to look and behave like younger people. Perhaps it's my meditating but I feel like "it is what it is" why agonize about lost youth? I know that what I've gained with age is much more valuable than anything I might have lost and I have a hard time coming up with anything that isn't.

This article in The Economist shows evidence exists that I'm just at the beginning of one of the happiest periods of my life. I plan to knit all the way through it!


Monday, June 12, 2017

I just had my Eight Year Blogiversary

Last Thursday was my eighth year anniversary of writing my blog. It was meant to be a record of the changes I would experience moving into the knitting industry. I went back and read some of the annual posts I wrote and it was very interesting for me. 

I had joined a writing group which didn't work out. The group was completely focused on fiction and spent so much time being really polite to one another that they really failed in providing constructive criticism. A book writing friend told me he went through three groups until he found one which had the constructive criticism part working effectively.

I'm in a photography group for knitters. We are down to only three members but I still get extra practice with them. Last time we met, we spent time looking at styling and sharing designers we each like and why their photos work or don't work.

I'm no longer part of the Pro-knitters group for a long list of reasons however, the group is still running. 

This year I had an amazing number of offers for other work. My wrist sprain meant I couldn't fully commit to any of them. I'm glad I didn't as I'm pretty sure deadline knitting would have been a really big problem. 

I also had an offer to write for someone else. After last fall's social media storm out there about teacher rates. I read carefully and realized I didn't like the contract I was sent during the negotiation so I didn't move forward on the offer. I was also concerned about the time commitment it would have required. That link also discusses why I'm teaching and doing talks less frequently.

The other ironic thing about being offered work writing is that it arrived just as I started thinking about how much time should I spent blogging. My husband is beginning to look towards retiring (no date at this point). I know that will be a period of transition and I expect life to change significantly.  I have posted three times a week almost without fail for eight years. Will I want to continue writing as often? I really don't know so it's something to ponder.

This post got a lot of views on the topic of compensation and also had the advantage of helping me sort out my priorities.

The interviews are still going strong. This year so far I've focused mainly on Canadians who are part of a KAL and I'm fast closing in on 400 posts.

My collaboration with Signature Yarns continues and works well. I get to work with gorgeous yarns and it's a great deal of fun bouncing design ideas off of someone else. 

Here's a few more links to the first post and some of the anniversary posts.

2009 First post -Monday, June 8, 2009   





Friday, June 9, 2017

An Interview with...Moira Engel

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 Moira here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere. I am drawn to textures and usually discover a texture or stitch pattern that I really want to use. Then I decide what would fit best with that “fabric”.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I fall in love with new techniques all the time. While I am using them, they are my favourite. I am fickle and fall for the next newest thing so easily. Fortunately for me, there is an endless supply of new knitting tricks and techniques to try.

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

I admire other designers work all the time. I love it when I see something I haven’t seen before. I am influenced by other designers work in that it inspires me to try new things and stretch beyond my comfort zones.

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

For me, knitting the sample is the reward! After all the planning, sketching, writing and math I feel like I’ve earned it. That is what this is all about for me, getting to knit at the end of the day.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No, I really just try not to spend money that I haven’t earned yet! I am always delighted and astonished when my submissions are accepted. So I just keep walking forward with it.

Do you have a mentor?

That would be my mom! She taught me to knit when I was 9 years old. Since then it was a joy that we could share. My mom and I always had something on our needles and would spend countless hours with coffee and wool.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

I don’t think so?

Do you use a tech editor?

Always! I have a rock star tech editor whom I adore! My early designs were not tech edited and I always lived in fear that there would be a major error. Occasionally, there was! When I discovered that there were people out there who would check and perfect patterns I was hooked. Even if I’m sending in a pattern for publication and it will be tech edited again, I use a tech editor. It just gives me confidence that I’m sending out the best that I possibly can.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

I’m pretty sure that I don’t! It’s all sort of intermingled. Mannequins creep down into my living room and spend time with the family. There are baskets of yarn everywhere. Family members are often models….though I haven’t been able to get my son to shave his legs for sock modeling yet! Making things is a passion in our family, so nobody complains.

How do you deal with criticism?

I am absolutely fine with constructive criticism. After looking at a project for weeks, there are things about it that you won’t notice. I welcome comments and even rejection! It’s how you improve and learn new things.

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

That’s still in the future. It took probably about 5 years until I had what could be classified as an income.

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

Pick projects that give you butterflies and that you feel passionate about. It will show in your work! Remember that you are putting out a product that you hope others will use, so it should be the best that you can manage. Don’t give up! A rejection from one publisher is another publications’ acceptance. Don’t take on more than you can actually produce, be reasonable with your expectations of yourself. Self-publish if you can’t find a home for a piece. The knitting community is very supportive and full of wonderful people. Reach out if you need to and there will be many people who would love to share experience and help when asked. Keep moving forward and things will present themselves as you go…..and yes, get involved in social media.

What’s next for you?

I have no idea! I just keep designing what pops into my head and see what happens next!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Playing with Yarn - Prism Merino Mia Gradient

This is what I get to play with next.

Yes, that is my cat George photo bombing me.

Here's a better picture of him. Isn't he pretty?

Back to the yarn, it's so new it wasn't listed on Ravelry when I checked. You can see more colours here on the Prism site.

There are eight subtle shades ranging from the barest tint to deeply saturated colour in each pack. They  contain eight 2 oz skeins of Merino Mia for a total of1520 yards of fine merino wool. Each skein is 190 yards (174 meters) and knits to 6 - 6 1/2  stitches per inch on 3.25 - 3.5 mm needles. I've started swatching and I'm loving this soft springy yarn.