Friday, July 22, 2016

An Interview with...Melissa Schaschwary

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/gideon-2

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 Melissa here and here on Ravelry.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/timber-bay
 
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in all types of places; nature, textile patterns, fashion trends, but most often, I design things that I actually want for myself lol.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I really enjoy learning and using new cast on and bind of methods. It’s incredible, the affect a good start or finish can have on a project.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
The only time I typically look at other design work, is when I have an idea in mind for a new design of my own and am checking to make sure that it hasn’t already been done. As a rule, I do this before casting on any new design work.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I’m not sure I’ve even heard of this controversy.
I try to make my patterns as accessible to as many knitters as possible from the beginner to the experienced. I would think that a clear, well written pattern (or any type of instruction for that matter) shouldn’t have to be dumbed down. 




http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/key-to-comfort


How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit all of my samples myself because I always want to keep the finished piece. I do enlist test knitters (generally 4-5 volunteer testers) because I feel that their feedback is essential…and it’s a great way to meet new knitting friends.

Did you do a formal business plan? 

I did not.

Do you have a mentor? 

YouTube.
 

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/portage-4


Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I don’t.

Do you use a tech editor?   

I do.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
This has been one of the biggest learning curves for me. The face of work vs home life has changed numerous times over the past few years in our home. When I began designing, I had a sleepy newborn and a 5 year old who was away at kindergarten. I had a lot of quiet time for designing and did quite a bit of it back then. These days, however, I home school both girls who are now 10 and 5 and am forever busy with extra curricular activities. Design has become something that I do in my spare time. I have a rule that I don’t touch my yarn, or emails until my kids are in bed. That way they get my undivided focus which is important to me. I’m a mom first, designing has become something that I do in the evenings.

How do you deal with criticism? 

I try to take all criticism as a learning tool to better my product and I try not to take any negativity personally. If someone is unhappy, I always try to do my best to get to the root of the problem and fix it as quickly as I can. I’m not a perfect person (nor will I ever be) and there is always room for growth.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Follow your dreams, believe in yourself and do what you love. If you do those things, I believe anything can be a success.


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-lighthouse-keepers-wife

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Yarn Ply - Part 2

Two Ply yarns are very different from singles even though they are made up of two singles. Essentially they are created by aligning two singles and allowing them to release their twist against one another. They are often referred to as being in balance with one another. This balance avoids the bias problem which can occur with singles. Plying controls the twist and evens out the visible inconsistencies in strand thickness, since the differences are averaged out over the finished yarn.

Most singles are spun with Z-twist, by turning the fibre clockwise. When plying, the yarn strands are turned counterclockwise, so the finished yarn has what's called an S-twist. This can also be done in reverse. 

The amount of twist at each stage can be very different depending on the source fibre and on the result the yarn creator is looking for. No matter what variations are used, the yarn becomes noticeably stronger. For that reason, smoother, weaker than wool fibres benefit from being plied to add strength. 

The twisting of the plies together mean that the strand formation is now more oblong than round. (I searched for an image that would demonstrate this when viewed as a cross section and didn't find anything on line.) When knit, the two ply yarn produces a textured surface, especially when compared with singles. If you don't have any examples in your own knitting, try taking a look at Ravelry photos of projects worked with singles and compare them with projects worked in 2-ply. I don't want to pull any photos for my blog from Ravelry without anyone's permission. My single ply work is textured but you can see one here:

 
I don't have an example of a 2-ply project any more but it's generally considered to be an excellent yarn for lace work, as the shape and opposing twist of the strand holds the fabric open. In heavier weights it has a textured, pebbly, more rustic appearance. You will see what appears to be slightly uneven gauge even with yarns which have a halo, but it is due to the nature of the yarn not the knitter. 

It's difficult for the average knitter to just look at a plied yarn and know what version it is. Take the cut end and untwist to separate the plies.


If you have any spinners in your knitting circle they can be great sources to aid you in understanding the spinning process and can help you to expand your yarn vocabulary.
 
Part 1 is here. If you want more understanding of how spinning and yarn structures work, check out this Craftsy blog post

Monday, July 18, 2016

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Yarn Ply - Part 1




First for clarity, a definition from knitting about.com. "Yarn purchased from yarn stores or from individual yarn makers comes in a lot of different styles and configurations, but there are some basics that usually hold true, including the fact that yarn is typically made up of plies, or should I say at least one "ply." Plies are the individual strands of yarn that are worked together to form a plied yarn. A single strand being sold or worked with on it's own isn't usually called a ply, though, it's known as a single, because calling it a one-ply yarn doesn't make much sense. Multiple plies can be used to create a knitting yarn, and while some countries use the number of plies as a shorthand for the thickness of the yarn (a two-ply would be thinner than an eight-ply, for instance), in most cases the number of plies has nothing to do with the thickness of the finished yarn. You can have a very bulky two-ply yarn or an extremely thin four-ply yarn depending on how the individual singles were produced.To ply yarn, individual singles are spun together with the twist worked in the opposite direction from how the singles were spun. This gives the yarn much more strength, durability and consistency than is seen in a singles yarn."

To further confuse yarn novices we refer to the thickness of yarn as weight and we refer to the weight of the yarn put up. A "put up" is the way in which the yarn is presented for sale, usually skeins or balls.

The ply system of yarn weight (thickness) was typically used in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Again,to confuse things even further there were inconsistencies between countries. I've seen charts like this one from LoveKnitting.com.



Here in Canada we are dominated by the U.S. export market, so in the past we often saw labels using one system or the other depending on where the yarn was sourced. 

Interestingly the U.S. Craft Council has also struggled with a naming system for weights. They started with a 1-5 numbering system which has grown to 0-7. Machine knitters also use a different system based on yardage per pound. This one comes from the use of yarn on cones. 

I'm currently working on a design for release this fall which uses a single ply yarn of 100% wool. Of course, that got me thinking about the design challenges of working with a single.

Yarn is created by taking fibre and twisting it into a continuous thread. Singles can, depending on the length of the source fibre, have problems holding together when knit. Some fibres have short lengths and need more twists per inch to hold them together. Fibres with longer lengths require less twist. More twist leads to biasing when used in simple stocking stitch.You can test this out with a large swatch. The easy fix is to use a textured stitch which incorporates both knit and purl stitches.

Singles also tend to be less consistent because plying can smooth out some of the imperfections which are more easily seen in singles. When knitting with them you'll come across thicker and thinner sections. If the thin spots are of concern you can break the yarn, overlap and rejoin by splicing with moisture and friction by rubbing them together briskly while held between your palms. These yarns can appear soft and puffy. The lack of structure, can result in a yarn which has problems with pilling or shedding. Before knitting, single-ply yarns appear to have a smooth surface.The best description I've come across is to think about the difference between a ponytail (single) and a braid of hair (plied yarn). When knit up, singles tend to produce a cohesive, solid fabric which is now much stronger in nature.

Visually these yarns create stitches which are very smooth in nature. The roundness of the strand avoids the shadows which are created by multiple plies. This is especially apparent in stocking stitch.





This is the one I'm using it's Malabrigo worsted merino.


Since there's very little twist to hold the fibers of a single together avoid tugging too hard on the yarn. Tight knitters or those who put a lot of tension on the yarn may find them harder to work with for this reason. Smoother needles will also help in avoiding snagging the yarn.
Some knitters will get better results with a smaller needle size for added structure to avoid pilling. They do lack some of the strength and durability of plied yarns. Due to less twist to hold the fibers together, singles can separate and grow thin in garment areas that suffer from friction. 

Garments knit from the heavier weight singles tend to feel dense and are often very warm, making for great outdoor sweaters. A common example of a single ply yarn is lopi. Modern knitters will find many yarn weights now available in singles. You can check out my Ravelry search here, it includes yarns categorized from lace to super bulky.

Part 2 is here.


Friday, July 15, 2016

An Interview with...Kirsten Kapur

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/cladonia


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
Kirsten here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I live in New York City, so inspiration is everywhere -- from the fashionable people on the streets, to the architecture, to our wonderful parks, and rivers. I also find inspiration in yarn. I love that magic moment when I see a new yarn know in an instant what I want to do with it -- I think a lot of knitters can relate to that.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love the broad range of techniques that knitters use -- so I can't say I have an absolute favorite. I design a lot of shawls, and love to combine lace and color. I have a background as a textile designer, because of this I think I am drawn to the challenge of "drawing" using different knitting techniques. There is so much potential in the endless combinations of increases and decreases, knits and purls, cables and lace.

How did you determine your size range?
It really depends on what I'm designing. If it's a sweater, I like to include a very broad range of sizes. With shawls it's a little different. Not every shawl design allows itself to be written for a range of sizes. More complex designs can sometimes only be written for one size, while simpler, more repetitive patterns can be done in a much larger range of sizes.


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/seastripes


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

I come from a background in the fashion industry where it was very important to stay on top of trends -- in ready to wear even top designers keep an eye on trends. I think the same thing applies in knitwear design. I try to stay on top of what knitters want by looking at what people are knitting and also at what is happening in the ready to wear market.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I think knitting should be accessible, so I have no problem with it. The more people we help to learn, the larger and stronger our community is. We are lucky to live in a time when there are so many ways to learn online -- YouTube Videos, Craftsy, Creative Bug, Ravelry forums, the list goes on and on.

In my own pattern line, I have designs that range from very simple to quite complex. I like to think my designs offer something for all abilities. I also offer most of my patterns in both charted and written form.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I rarely use sample knitters, because I make a lot of design decisions as I knit the sample. I do have everything test knit. The number of test knitters I use will depend on the pattern and how many sizes or how complex it is.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I've never written anything down, but I've been designing knitting patterns for 10 years now, so I have a pretty clear idea of how I like to structure things.


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/frozen-lake-shawl

Do you have a mentor?
No, but I do have lots of designer and knitting industry friends who I love to chat about business with. These are trusted people who I reach out to when I have a question or concern. I like to think they know they can do the same with me.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No. There are lots of designers who's business minds I really admire. We each have different strengths and weaknesses, so I try to stick to what I know I can do best.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, absolutely.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
When my husband starts nagging me that I work too much, I take a break and go out to dinner with him. Seriously though, this has been a challenge for me. I love what I do so it's hard to put the work down. I have a constant stream of ideas and not enough time to execute them all.


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/julianna-3


How do you deal with criticism?
I had to learn to take criticism and develop a thick skin when I worked in the fashion industry. But if someone is rude or insulting about a design, I still feel it. I try to stay open to constructive criticism though, since that can make me a better designer and pattern writer.

What’s next for you?
I've got a new book coming out in September that I co-authored with photographer Gale Zucker, and fellow designer Mary Lou Egan. It's called Drop Dead Easy Knits. The book is a collection of patterns that you might take with you when you want something interesting to knit, but will be too distracted to focus on a more complicated patterns. The kinds of things you might take to knitting group, a family gathering, on a vacation, that sort of thing. The patterns range from beginner to advanced intermediate, since the idea of what is easy will vary by skill level.

Other than the book, I will continue to publish my independent patterns, and host my two mystery knit-alongs each year -- a pair of socks in January, and a shawl in June.



http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/roma-shawl

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Problem with Experts...



The Problem with Experts...is that they are often expected to answer complex nuanced questions with simple short answers. We drive this by our insistence on listening and responding to sound bites.

Last week in my interview with Nathalie Vasilieva she spoke about this indirectly. It was such an interesting response to the question below that I wanted to draw your attention to it again.

 

Where do you find inspiration?
Another source of inspiration I appreciate is allegedly “stupid” questions asked by allegedly less experienced knitters who apparently don’t know as much “don’t”s as more experienced of us have faced already. In fact that leaves less experienced knitters unsatisfied about some solid knitting axioms the more experienced ones just don’t question anymore. Like, stockinette curls, left-leaning decrease jags, last (or first) stitch of a wide ribbing or a cable is always loose, etc. I see such questions as an opportunity to maybe change something, to the good of the whole knitting community. At least, to try.

Let's all keep asking the dumb questions, they can lead to the biggest breakthroughs of understanding.

 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Monster Pants!!!



KnitHacker alerted me to the existence of Monster pants. I checked it out on Ravelry and boy was I missing out. There are 34 patterns in knit and crochet. If only I had a small child to inflict these on! I can just image how those cute little ones will look back on these photos in their teenage years. It appears that some of the creators may have realized what the reaction could be, so many of the photos don't show the wee one's face. In some cases they are there when you go to the pattern page in the additional photos.

You can see all the patterns here

 

Friday, July 8, 2016

An Interview with...Nathalie Vasilieva

“Meringue”, top-down yoke pullover in allover lace (unpublished)

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 Nathalie
here and here on Ravelry.




Where do you find inspiration?

Frankly, I am not the brightest penny in the jar when it comes to creativity, where by “creativity” I mean an ability to generate fresh ideas. But I can look at the majority of knitted stuff and describe how it’s made in several minutes. (I can do this even to a non-knitted stuff, too!) And then I convert that description into a sock form :)
Another source of inspiration I appreciate is allegedly “stupid” questions asked by allegedly less experienced knitters who apparently don’t know as much “don’t”s as more experienced of us have faced already. In fact that leaves less experienced knitters unsatisfied about some solid knitting axioms the more experienced ones just don’t question anymore. Like, stockinette curls, left-leaning decrease jags, last (or first) stitch of a wide ribbing or a cable is always loose, etc. I see such questions as an opportunity to maybe change something, to the good of the whole knitting community. At least, to try.
Oftentimes I browse through the stitch pattern dictionaries for a particular stitch, and then something unrelated catches my attention and I mark the page to return to it later. In some cases I have to adjust said stitch pattern to my knitting manner (I knit Continental Combined, so, say, massive purling through the back loop on WS isn’t an option), and this may present interesting challenges.
I also sometimes get inspired by music (both songs and instrumentals) and literature, and I’d want to say that yarn whispers to me as well, but the truth is the squishy stuff only knows two words: “BUY ME!” ;) I try to listen to it, though, anyway, and if it doesn’t want to be a certain project, it’s better not to force it.


What is your favourite knitting technique?

Not sure it qualifies as a technique, but I am really passionate about calculating set-in sleeves (based on Priscilla Gibson-Roberts percentages). I also am very fond of integrating shaping with patterning so one grows out of the other naturally emphasizing the overall effect. And I think I will always admire the logic behind traditional Orenburg lace.

“Sock Challenge Cup” contest, http://www.ravelry.com/bundles/sock-challenge-cup, photo courtesy of Anna Hromova


How did you determine your size range?

So far the majority of my patterns have grown out of personal projects tailored to specific individuals, so they come one-sized and are hardly customizable, because usually my designing intent is to get something unique for a person I thought about in the process rather than something universal any knitter could reproduce. I mean, I feel flattered every time someone chooses my patterns, but most of them are designed so you either make them as written or don’t make at all.


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

I’ll tell you a true story. Once upon a time in 2008 I had an idea of making socks with diamond patterning in different techniques using the same self-striping yarn. I browsed through all the resources I could at the times and found some Japanese wristlets utilizing Estonian spiral stitch, which causes the straight stripes to mimic a row of diamonds. That sock, along with its mates in entrelac and Fair-isle, found its way to “Think Outside the SOX” contest in 2009. One of the judges at that contest was Lucy Neatby who, as I discovered much much later, has similar socks with Estonian spiral under her belt, moreover, it’s knit out of the same yarn I used! Imagine my confusion and intimidation when I found out…
Then in August 2013 I’ve published “Exotic Whirlpool” socks, and in December 2013 Jeny Staiman’s “Wraptor” socks were published by Knitty webzine. From explanations on her blog it looks like we came up with our ideas roughly at the same time!
But the most impressive coincidence had happened in 2015, when my “Tradescantia Zebrina” socks were launched for Round 6 of Sock Madness 9, and then Kirsten Hall’s “Far Into the Forest” socks went live for Stage 2 of Tour de Socks. I’ve heard there were some jokes on that among the knitters who participated in both competitions :)
So I see no point in hiding in ivory tower – you still can accidentally catch the wave, so it’s better to be aware of what’s happening around.

“Wrapped in Rainbows” (unpublished)



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

I'm reading Kate Atherley’s “The Beginner’s Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns” at the moment, and she infuses some quotes from real knitters, and there were several that I could honestly attest only as requests for “dumbing down”. I’ve even seen similar lamentations on Ravelry forums coming out from people calling themselves designers! Well, I sort of can understand if one wrote complicated patterns for the whole day, then they probably will be grateful to just follow someone else’s pattern in the evening without deciding on which cast-on to use or how to space the increases or decreases, but maybe they should just choose a different pattern for mindless knitting then? Like, a garter-stitch scarf, or a dishcloth…
For me, knitting is never only about mindlessly forming stitches. I believe a true knitter should understand what happens on their needles every single moment, and such understanding is a great part of knitting pleasure as I see it. If one doesn’t want to understand and only wants a new FO, then maybe they should find a ready-to-use item instead of trying to make it.
What I would love to see in patterns, though, is a brief explanation *why* some manipulation is performed. Most of the times I can decipher a designer’s intent – and adjust accordingly, say, if I prefer a different increase method. But in some cases they describe the next step in so detailed way it totally obscures the goal. (I can freely admit I am guilty in this as well – sometimes I just don’t want to explain why I want the knitters to do the things my way, it’s so much simpler just to tell them to do this and then that…)



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

Usually I knit samples myself and then patternize them, this way I am sure the thing works not only in my head. But then I try to run a test to make sure the thing works for other knitters as well. I have some followers who very kind-heartedly greet my patterns, so I notify them about chances to sneak peek, but my tests are open to everyone.

“Bavarian Gloves” based on a stitch from “Twisted-Stitch Knitting” directory by Maria Erlbacher (unpublished)



Did you do a formal business plan?

I try to publish something every year, 3 patterns being the bare minimum.
Regarding business, I think I am probably the worst kind of an indie designer (from a designer’s point of view) – since I am able to come up with attractive remarkable patterns that I unleash to run for free, thus undercutting the market for those who design for living. But I see it slightly differently. There are several modern sock designers who self-publish outstanding patterns free of charge, like General Hogbuffer and Caoua Coffee, and I am proud to be among them.


Do you have a mentor?

I’d love to have one, though maybe not for knitting but for business-related stuff as I seem to have no business bone in me. I know it sounds contradictory to what I just said about pride and all. See, over here small businesses like selling patterns aren’t very common, but according to our tax rules one should pay obligatory social taxes even without any business activity, let alone profit. Plus don’t forget the current exchange rates aren’t very favorable for Russian ruble now: either my prices in other currencies would be lower than average (so I’d be underselling against international designers), or my prices would be extremely high for local customers thus repelling them (which I find kind of unnatural); and a typical Ravelry price was already considered pretty high even when the exchange rates were more tolerable.
As for knitting, I’d love to have a mentor, say, 20 years ago, even someone who would just direct me to a knitting bible like “Azbuka vyazaniya” (“Knitting ABC”) by Margarita Maksimova that could save me years of trials and errors. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be the one who I am now without those trials and errors, so I don’t regret the ways I’ve gained my experience.

“Nialia”, bi-directional fraternal socks inspired by “Saga of Seven Suns” by Kevin J. Anderson (unpublished)


Do you use a tech editor?
Since my self-published patterns are free, I politely ask my English-speaking knitting friends to check my scribbles, plus I always ask the testers to point out for all the kinks they may encounter.
And when I designed on commission, the publisher provided the TE thing. I actually liked that part of the work most! Tech editors are like fitness trainers for words and they can do miracles to unshaped wall of text, loose and messy, transforming it into a handsome wording anyone would be happy to follow.


How do you maintain your life/work balance?

That’s simple. Since my daily work has nothing to do with knitting, I spend all my free time knitting. Well, also playing video games, sewing, reading, watching anime and movies, etc.

Prototypes for “Smokey Zickzacks”


How do you deal with criticism?
I try to be positive about it even if it’s worded in a hurtful way. (The most hurtful I’ve seen so far was that my pattern was too detailed. That came from a Russian knitter, we don’t like walls of text here.)

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?The only thing I know is that you should design the stuff you love.

“Maple Quilt Socks”