Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Have you been reading Knitcliks?

Here's their story in their own words:     

"Cathy Carron and Carolyn Noyes, both knitwear designers, met at a Vogue Knitting trunk show in New York in 2008. They frequently emailed and texted each other pictures of interesting knitwear--the runway's latest designs, unusual stitch patterns, color combinations seen on the street, and even their own knit swatches. Lots of it is interesting and isn't being covered by the knitting & craft media - but what to highlight and what to pass over ? How to "separate the wheat from the chaff"?

Hence knitcliks - a daily knitting news platform - Monday thru Friday - was formulated to link to fashion trends, knitting techniques, info on new yarns and patterns, and to the doers 'n' makers in the knitting world - aiming to provide a daily dose of inspiration and information for those who just can't get enough of the magical click-of-the-needles!"

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Illusion of Standard Sizing

Image from:

There’s a great article from the Washington Post here on one of my favorite topics, the illusion of standard sizing. The historical development of arbitrary numerical sizes that weren’t based on any specific measurements create all sorts of issues with both shopping and understanding what appropriate fit means. I now wear a smaller size than I did in my teens when I weighted fifteen pounds less than I do now. I’m glad most knitting patterns are based on finished measurements. I really wish retail would adopt a similar system. It's not a perfect method but it's better than what we have now!

Friday, October 2, 2015

An Interview with...Monique Boonstra

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 Monique here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
Old knitting books, shapes of the shawl-to-be, constructions, stitch patterns or repeats. I work as a mail delivery person ("mailman") and while I’m walking, I think of stitch patterns, repeats and shapes. Or I make a sketch and try to come as close as I can knitting that.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Yes, I do look at other designers. But more often than not to see what has already been done. So I don’t come up with something that has just been designed by someone else. Sometimes I look to see what colours are hot (or not) and see how they have styled it to sell. When I see something I like, I always work hard to give my own interpretation of it. Or give it a twist with shaping. For instance: I had seen the Cockle Shell pattern, but only in a rectangle version. I thought: I could be the first to give it in a triangular version! That meant that it had to be a shawl that needed to be designed bottom-up. Which presented a whole set of challenges and pattern combinations. It’s my best selling pattern so far.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I see myself as a pretty advanced lace knitter. I love open work (patterning on both sides). But that corner of the (lace) knitter market is very small. So, my designs in that section sell only a few copies (10 on average). Technically, for me, it is dumbing down to design something many people can knit. But it’s not as easy as one might think. You have to make sure the pattern gives clear instructions, gives a clean design of which many people will think: “Hey, I can do that!”. With all my designs, I haven’t managed to land one in the Top 20 of Ravelry. On the other hand; with Ravelry being over 5 million users, the number of simple lace patterns is overwhelming. It’s really hard to stand out from the rest with a simple design among hundreds of others, released every day. Potential buyers can be picky. Nowadays, new designers give out pattern for free, temporarily, to make the Top 20. I don’t do that. I’m working hard to develop a design, I have a registered business, I deserve to get paid. No matter how skilled you need to be to knit it.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I am very fortunate to have people wanting to test for my designs when I call out for them. I have the luxury to even have a choice in this. At first I had around five test knitters for one project. Life happens, so some dropped out. For the next design, a rather large project, I have one main test knitter and two additional. That is because I knit the larger size myself and the main test knitter is testing the smaller size, so the additional test knitters have a correct version to work from. In addition to all that: I often have test knitters in two languages; Dutch and English. IN ALL CASES: I knit the design myself. Sometimes more than once. Why deny myself the pleasure of a new project with sometimes a brand new yarn to experiment with?

Did you do a formal business plan?
No. I decided to do only designs, workshops, lectures and sell knitting belts. I don’t have yarns or sell needles. This way, I can keep the business close to myself, I don’t have to outsource anything. I only regret not having done a survey about the customer I intend to reach. On the other hand, my business has been thriving by word of mouth.

Do you have a mentor?
Let me think… Yes and no. When I run into business trouble, I can always ask my dad. My husband keeps my head on my shoulders.
Also my good friend Angelique. She had a web shop and helped out with tips and customer service.  But all knit-decisions I make myself. For better or for worse.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Yes, I think so. When I started knitting lace, I wanted to knit shawls (pretty things) to make people happy with something hand made. Now that I’ve learned to knit finer lace, there is a part of the history that comes with that. I’m trying to pass that on, so that it doesn’t get lost. That wasn’t why I got into this, but it is now. Thanks to knitting, I’ve met a lot of very nice people, I’ve learned how to run a business and pushing myself to get better at it.

Do you use a tech editor?
I don’t make enough to pay a good one. My test knitters help me out with things I have overlooked. Sometimes a (knitter) friend will help with spelling.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Oh… I don’t. When things need to be done, they get done. I am somewhat famous for making the deadline. I’ve missed only one out of 79. I have three teenagers and a husband that is away from home a lot. I am a night person, so knitting gets done in the evenings and nights. Business gets done in the morning, delivering mail in the afternoon, and knitting after dinner. When the children do their hobbies in the weekend, I get more knitting done. Downside; I don’t get out much.

How do you deal with criticism?
Now better than in the beginning. I try to see what they mean, check if it is so and then make notes. When I create a new design, I will make an effort to implement that. I have my own style of describing and designing; I can always improve on my instruction-writing-skills. To be honest, I don’t get criticism that much, anymore.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I can’t support myself with knitting. At first, I had a lot of commissions. I was able to go to Shetland Wool Week from that in 2012. The crisis hit, I had been giving workshops (as many others have) and people can knit their own shawls now. So, income has been transferred to giving workshops and making designs. My record selling pattern has sold 150 copies over the past three years. I average 10 - 12 sold patterns per design. Compared to the amount of work a design takes, that is not enough to support myself as a business.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Make sure you have your client at heart, what do you have to offer that they would like to see and want to wear. I’ve noticed that personality comes into running a business too. It’s the way you present yourself, your designs and your skills. That is makes your designs stand out from the rest. A business ethic is also very important; correspondence (don’t keep the client waiting for an answer to their troubles) and correct administration (on both paper and digital) is crucial. Keep track of what you’ve done and have planned. The cliché is true: keep it close to ‘home’. Do what you know, and know what you do. Believe in yourself, set a goal and work towards that. Reached your goal? Make a new one!

What’s next for you?
Who knows? I’ve been lucky to have made designs for some very kind people, shops and brands. I hope to be able to keep doing that. Lace can be for special occasions but also for every day. I want to tell knitters to invest in good quality material to work with. All that hard work (knitting lace patterns) in a luxury yarn, will make you want to wear it every day. My specialty is Shetland Lace. The finer, the better. I (can) recreate shawls from pictures I took or have seen at the Shetland Museum and Archives website. It’s like reaching through the glass of the Museum (Unst, of course) and touching it, recreating it, wearing it. Now that I’ve learned how to spin, it gets even better! I can spin the yarn for my own design! I truly hope knitters will get interested in the finer lace designs.
With my passion for lace, I hope that knitters will find their way to my design to enjoy making them.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Top Down: Reimagining Set-in Sleeve Design by Elizabeth Doherty

I've been reading Elizabeth Doherty's new book, Top Down: Reimagining Set-in Sleeve Design

I'm very impressed with her explanations on sleeve caps for set-in sleeves. The explanations work for knitting in either direction, however you know by the title, the book focuses on top down versions. 

I teach a class on fitting set-in sleeves properly (Capology) and I will be recommending Elizabeth's book as a resource going forward. I've been limited in the past to referring knitters to books on pattern drafting and I'm aware most students find those resources to be intimidating. The other limitation with pattern drafting sources is they focus on the mechanics while we also need to understand concepts of fit which vary widely, especially in regard to ease allowances. I was not surprised to find in her bio Elizabeth has experience, as I do, in sewing tailored garments.

There are six patterns in the book to allow you to try out the techniques. They are very detailed and include a full page schematic. Each pattern has ten sizes. The book also includes a section on adjusting fit which includes a thorough explanation on armhole depth considerations. This is something I feel is absolutely critical to good fit. In my own case I feel I look frumpy in sweaters with too deep armholes. The puckering created adds extra visual pounds and is very unflattering.

You can go here to see the Look book of all of the designs.

Monday, September 28, 2015

In the Category of Things Which Make Me Smile

Like most knitters I find often find sheep things to be unbearably cute. I just found these on Trendland.

 Designed by Gwyn Lewis for retail display.

Friday, September 25, 2015

An Interview with...Boadicea Binnerts

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 Boadicea here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

I love fashion first and foremost, so I scour the Internet for style inspiration. Pinterest and, paper magazines, the streets. That’s one part, and I think that’s the part that determines shapes and types of garments. Then there’s my tactile part that gets inspire by great yarns, that wants to touch and fondle them and knit something with them (this part just wants to knit, it doesn’t care what it is).

I try to balance out these two parts and turn their combined desires into garments that are knittable and wearable and fit into current fashion, yet remain wearable when fashion moves on. I also have a color hungry part but that’s the problem child of my menagerie. Especially in spring it likes bright, happy colors, but sadly I never wear these in real life. So I try to stick to pale neutrals, or graphic color combinations that fit into my wardrobe. And I give away the colorful sweaters that accidentally happen anyway…

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I’m giving several answers to this. I like a left-handed continental technique for knitting, I like knitting in the round but flat as well. I like contiguous sleeves.

How did you determine your size range?

I went with US standard sizing, because most knitters on Ravelry are from there. I knit my samples in size M, which is right in the middle and so ideal for expanding to bigger and smaller sizes. When I finally found a 2X test knitter, I dared expand to that size because now I’m confident it will fit.

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

I do like to look at other people’s designs. When you’re in fashion you have to know what other designers are doing so you don’t copy or move too far away from the main fashion stream. But I love to look at high end fashion designers and be inspired by their cloth designs for my knitting.

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

I have to admit, I’d love to produce one or two page patterns the way for example, Vogue Knitting does. But I accept that with so many new knitters, who don’t want to take years to learn the shorthand, we have to expand our instructions.

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

So far, I’ve knit almost everything myself, but that does
keep the volume down.. I have a wonderful and loyal group of test knitters that are indispensable for my current process. Because I design and knit on the fly, it can be hard to work back from the finished process and produce a crisp and clear pattern. A quote from test knitter Lubasik about her feelings: “Yes, that is (clean, nearly perfect) what I used to be expecting from the tests…. Until I run into Bo. Brilliant designs, edgy looks and … messy instructions. Her personal style, if you want. My first test with Bo … I promised to myself “never again”! But… I am back again and again. I tried other tests after Bo’s but all the spice was missing. On her tests I feel not like a tester but more like a co-author! So, I accepted her style and am enjoying myself (still cursing sometimes… with love).

Did you do a formal business plan?


Do you have a mentor?


Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

I looked into what other successful indie designers were doing, and tried to emulate their business model.

Do you use a tech editor?

I do, although I’ve gotten better at this part myself as well.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Knitting is a wonderful thing, because you can be quite social while you knit furiously along on the easier parts…But, I make sure to keep plenty of time besides knitting so the inspiration can come (it only arrives when I’m relaxed).

How do you deal with criticism?

If it helps me improve my work or my patterns, I welcome it. If it’s just: ” she makes things that aren’t my taste”, I leave it be.

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

I’m not there yet! I think I need more time to build a stable of designs and a solid customer base.

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

Don’t give up your day job yet! No, seriously, it takes a lot of time and sweat and effort and getting over your failures. You really have to love it. And if you do, I’d advise designing lace shawls. Far more people knit shawls rather than sweaters….:-)

What’s next for you?

The next two years or I’ll continue on what I’ve been doing so far. And after that….I don’t know.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pantone Colours for Spring 2016

Pantone releases a semiannual Fashion Colour Report. It's used by many fashion industry insiders. It's a colour forecasting system which may be more influential rather than predictive as so many companies use the reports when choosing colours for upcoming seasons. Have you ever wandered your local mall and wondered why unrelated stores are all showing items in the same colours? Each colour swatch includes a numbered code so companies can use purchased chips for colour matching in both fabric and print.

From their site:

"Color is critical

In a competitive global marketplace, successful brands leverage color’s poignant power to differentiate and connect. The Pantone Color Institute delivers insights that inform the effective commercial application of color through a range of trend forecast publications, color research and bespoke consultancy. When 80% of human experience is filtered through the eyes, we understand that the choice of color is critical.

Global brands come to us for:

  • Color Palette recommendations
  • Color Trends and Forecasts
  • Custom Color for brand identity
  • Color Management
  • Consumer Color Preference Research
  • Color Messages and Meaning
  • Color Shade Naming
  • Tailored Presentations and Educational Workshops
  • A better understanding of color"
Here's a link to an article about the Spring 2016 colours.

This chart was the Spring 2015 version. If you compare the two you will see some colours shifted only slightly as Toasted Almond became Iced Coffee and Classic Blue morphed to Snorkel Blue. However Lucite Green has been jazzed up to become Green Flash.