Monday, February 8, 2016

Knot a Problem, Who Knew?

I just came across this group on Ravelry. I immediately and unexpectedly teared up when I started to read about them. Why did I have this reaction? My mother loved untangling yarn. I always thought that was a strange but lovable quirk of hers. My mother died 35 years ago and I have wonderful memories of her. I have one old acrylic sweater that she knit for me. I've never been able to let go of it. I still have the pattern and periodically plan to re-knit it for myself. It's on the someday list.

For those of you not reduced to tears by this group. You should know they have 2889 members so perhaps it's not so quirky after all. They give advice on their pages as how to approach the tangle and you can contact them to help you connect up with someone to untangle your yarn for you.

Friday, February 5, 2016

An Interview with...Heidi Kirrmaier

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 Heidi here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in almost anything I look at, sometimes in unexpected places. I have a tendency see lines and geometric patterns in many things, from buildings, landscapes and artwork, to clothing I see people wearing or in fashion magazines. My designs are often centred around one particular shaping element and I don’t typically add much embellishment beyond what is required to incorporate that element and construct the remainder of garment around it.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Because my designs often involve non-conventional, seamless construction, a provisional cast-on is a very useful technique for me.

How did you determine your size range?
My patterns generally cover a standard range from XS to XXL, with no more than about 3 inches between sizes. Sometimes a design will have inherent increments that dictate the possible sizing. Either way, I try to include about 8 sizes so that the majority of knitters will find a suitable size, minimizing the need for customization. Nevertheless, I do encourage knitters to make adjustments if they feel they need to in order to achieve a fit they prefer.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I think it is important to be aware of what is going on in one’s industry, but I don’t fear being influenced by others’ designs. As it is, I have more ideas than I will ever be able to produce!

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
Every designer has to decide where to strike the balance between how much detail to include in the pattern, and keeping the instructions concise. Ideally every knitter would have the same level of knowledge and skills, but this is not the case, making it difficult to determine the right balance. While I personally do not believe patterns should be expected to repeat instructions for common techniques that can be found elsewhere, if a little extra information can easily be included to provide clarity then I think there’s no reason not to include it. If a special or unusual technique used in the design, then it is reasonable to include the details for that or at least provide a reference or link to find more information about it. In the end though, a pattern is just a pattern and should not be expected to be a comprehensive knitting manual!

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit samples myself, but I always have my patterns test knit by others. There are a variety of knitters who do this for me, most of them volunteers.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I don’t have a formal business plan, primarily because designing is my second occupation. I have a fairly demanding full time job in a completely different industry. This means I have a limited amount of time to dedicate to designing, so I basically create designs as they come to me and take time I need to complete the patterning process. So far, this has generally resulted in releasing a new pattern every few months for the past 5 years or so.

Do you have a mentor?
My evolution into designing happened rather organically via Ravelry. I started by posting projects, many of which I had designed myself. Others took interest and asked if I’d write up the patterns, so I slowly started doing that and my business grew from there. As such, I haven’t had a mentor, but I’ve learned a lot by going through the relatively public process on Ravelry and receiving open feedback from many knitters.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
My business model is quite simple; it amounts to having clarity around what my focus should be, at least for the foreseeable future. There are a lot of different activities that can be undertaken in the field of knitting (for example: retailing, teaching, tech editing, sample knitting, photography, yarn production / dyeing, etc.), each of which requires a somewhat different skill set. For me, I have no doubt that my strengths lie in the technical and aesthetic aspects of design. Given the limited hours I have, it makes most sense for me to focus on the creation of new designs and pattern production.

Do you use a tech editor?
No, I do all the math, and triple (and quadruple!) checking of all the numbers and pattern components myself. For confirmation, I rely on my test knitters to point out if they discover any inconsistencies or errors.

How do you maintain your life/work balance with both a full time job and a part time knitting design business?
Actually, designing itself provides me with balance. My day job involves a lot of responsibilities and can be stressful at times, so I thrive on knowing I get to immerse myself in a very different world to counterbalance that. Both the creative and mathematical aspects of designing energize me, as does being connected with a community of crafters who regularly put a smile on my face when I see their creations. I do take my designing business very seriously though; I work hard to ensure my patterns are of high quality and that I am available to answer questions should the need arise.

How do you deal with criticism?
I take all feedback into consideration. There are many ways of approaching the various elements of designing - including the visual lay-out of a pattern, the pattern writing style, and the actual design - and it is natural that people will have different preferences. I try to accommodate those where I reasonably can, but I know it is not possible to please everyone all the time.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Decide what your strengths are, and focus on those. For example, if you love knitting and think therefore you want to open a yarn shop, you need to realize that this will not mean you will be spending a lot of time knitting, but rather you will be hiring staff, buying inventory, and doing accounting (or hiring staff to do accounting!) You may very well have several skills, but be sure to be deliberate about how to effectively apply them, and recognize you may need help if you start your own business. Be realistic about the time commitment and expenses it will take to be successful. Lastly, once you have a career in knitting, it is no longer a hobby!

What’s next for you?
More good designs and satisfied knitters, I hope!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

All About Swatching

When I'm working on a new design I spend lots of prep time on the swatching process. The photo above is the swatch for a garment. It's the second swatch, I moved down a needle size when I decided the first swatch was a little too loose. I was happy with this one. The yarn is Blue Heron Rayon Metallic. It creates a gorgeous drapey fabric. I initially thought this stitch might not work as I've used rayons in the past which have flattened out too much for a knit-purl textured stitch to work.

This is my info sheet. I use graph paper, you might not be able to see the blue lines. I lay the swatch on it and draw around it. I use a pencil but I darkened it with pens so you can see the lines. I've noted the needle size I used. Next I steamed the swatch which showed no change in size. Then I washed it by hand and laid it flat to dry. I always follow the label instructions since knitters who use the same yarn I used in a pattern will most likely follow the label. My last step was to hang the swatch for 48 hours by standing up my blocking board. When I did this I got 1/2 inch of growth over 6 inches of knitting. When laid flat again the growth disappeared. You can calculate the growth in length for a garment by percentage but I will warn you, my experience tells me the growth percentage increases the larger the piece is. So this information will be an indication but not a firm number. 

.5" / 6" = .084"

If my garment is 15 or 16 inches from hem to underarm the growth will be at minimum.

15" X 1.084" = 16.26"
16" X 1.084" = 17.34"

The way I handle this is to knit the garment about 2-3 inches short of the target number and then hang it for 48 hours to reassess. Once I've checked I'll adjust accordingly. I'll add details in my pattern to help the knitter. My schematic will reflect finished measurements. The pattern instructions will reflect shorter measurements. The pattern notes will list the amount of drop I got so the knitter can adjust according to their preferences and personal row gauge. I also do the same thing with linen, which shrinks so the knitter can adjust during the knitting. The last thing I do when I'm knitting for myself is to decide what is the shortest and longest length acceptable to me because fibre can surprise you and if I set my expectation up for a range of results I am more likely to be happy with the finished product.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Modifying Knitting Patterns and Standard Sizing

Here's an example of how an average woman (me) measures up in comparison to the Craft Yarn Councils Standard measurements. These are the measurements which North American publications prefer designers to use. I'm not saying they have done any thing wrong here. We do need a starting point. These are body measurements not garment measurements. Read on and you will begin to understand why I learned to  modify all the patterns I used when I first started knitting.

Most of us start with the Bust measurement. I'm a Medium.

The next measurement is Centre Back Neck-to-Cuff, I'm not on the chart, I'm less than a X-Small.

Back Waist Length, same problem, I'm not on the chart.

Cross Back (Shoulder to Shoulder), I make it, I'm an X-Small.

Sleeve Length to Underarm, I'm not on the chart again.  

Upper Arm humm, I'm a Large? 

Armhole Depth, I'm not on the chart...again.   

Waist, I'm a Large.

Hips, I'm in between a Small and a Medium.  

How to do you compare? More importantly, do you take the time to compare?

Friday, January 29, 2016

An Interview with...Isabell Kraemer


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 Isabell here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
Just everywhere, but I think I am highly influenced by nature.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love to work seamlessly from the top down, not because I don't like to sew (I am a fully educated dressmaker - means that sewing is a passion, right?), but because I love to see the garments take shape and to be able to adjust on the go.

Audrey Cardigan

How did you determine your size range?
My patterns are usually written for sizes XS to XXL and that's because I can imagine the designs looking good in these sizes. I know that other designers go up in sizes, but to be honest, I don't think that every design is made for ALL sizes. It's the same in reverse...there are quite a lot designs that won't look good on me and my tiny self ;).

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

I do, of course (who doesn't)! You can't go through the world without seeing other designers' work. Sometimes it happens that two (or more) have the same idea at the same time. When this happens I take a closer look and if there are enough differences between the designs I give mine a go, if not I set it aside.


 How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?  
Personally I don't need a helping hand when going through a knitting pattern, but there are some knitters out there who wouldn't be brave enough to go through a pattern that doesn't lend you this helping hand. So, I don't mind writing key numbers and an explaining sentence here and there in my patterns - and the feedback I get is worth all the effort.

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

For the test knits I do secretly (not publicly in my Ravelry group), I have a flock of about 30 testers I can choose from. For the ones I do publicly, I usually use two to four testers per size because I love to see their different interpretations (otherwise I would need one per size). I know this is not quite the purpose of a test knit, but I love when I feel the vivid creativity of them ;). In addition, I have one sample knitter I sometimes need when I (chaotic as I am) get in trouble with deadlines ... but mostly I do all the knitting by myself.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, I haven't. ( ...would be better if I had one, right?)

Do you have a mentor?
Not real mentors, but some lovely designer friends who never get bored by my sometimes silly questions ;).


Criss Cross

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Do you use a tech editor?

Mostly, yes.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
This is the question of my life! As I still work part time at an Arts and Craft store (teaching kids craft classes and helping them as a salesperson), my 'private' time is limited and I try to use this time carefully. But because I absolutely looooooove to knit (and design, of course), my work time often sneaks into my leisure time ;). And as I have the most supportive husband in the world, who does all the shopping, cooking, cleaning and so on, I have enough time left for my 'second life' as a designer ;).

How do you deal with criticism? 

As long as it is constructive, it's good. No one is perfect and I am grateful for every tip and hint to get better.

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

It was about a year or so before I felt that it was possible.

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

Trust yourself!

What’s next for you?  

I'm currently working with Quince, Miss Babs, and some other companies. Aaaaand...I will do some workshops this year (some will laugh at me when they read this...because I still feel that teaching is not MY part of the knitting world ;)).


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

More on Knitter's Graph Paper

Last week I showed you how knitter's graph paper works when planning colour work. Here's how it works for calculating shaping. This is the non-math way of calculating for the math phobic. It also gives you a visual check. 

Here's the sleeve schematic: 

Here's the sleeve instruction: 

This is a real pattern. (As an aside, how do you feel about being told to make two sleeves?) Take note, this is a very simple pattern, four sizes but only two lengths. I've marked in the shaping for all four sizes. The faint smooth red diagonal line is based on the stitch numbers the pattern indicated. On top of that I've overlaid the increase instructions. You can see the instructions follow the line fairly well, however the last straight section varies from seven rows to eighteen rows between sizes. This shaping works well when the sleeve has lots of ease but not so well if it is closer fitting or if you are changing the sleeve length. If you look at your own arm I think most of us would agree the angle of increase is not quite a smooth diagonal. Some of us have arms which are almost the same width from the elbow to the underarm. 

Now that you have read this you have a quick and easy way to recalculate if you need to modify the sleeve.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Fashion Design Techniques: The Basics and Practical Application of Fashion Illustration

Schiffer publishing sent me an English language copy of Fashion Design Techniques: The Basics and Practical Application of Fashion Illustration by Zeshu Takamura to review. It's here on Amazon. 

The author is a Professor of Advanced Fashion Design and Head of the Fashion Illustration Laboratory, Faculty of Fashion Science, at Bunka Gakuen University's Graduate School in Tokyo. He is active in fashion illustration, design, and research at publishers, agencies, and apparel manufacturers. His website is here I put it into google translate so I could look around. Some of the site is in English as well as other languages.  You can see more images from the book there.

The book explains basic principles behind making great design drawings. I think anyone wanting to up their drawing skills could benefit from this book. It explains how to create drawings that clearly represent the shape, material, pattern, color, and other elements of garments. There are four chapters; the first covers the proportions and drawing of the body, the second is about technical drawing, the third is on fashion illustration and the final chapter is about computer drawings in Photoshop and Illustrator. I could see knitting designers who are submitting to magazines or putting together a book proposal would find this book a great resource. It's difficult to put together a good submission without these skills. The book takes you step by step through the process of overlaying a garment drawing on top of a drawing of a body with many tips as to how the body and the garment relate to one another.

If you are working on pattern schematics those are different from technical drawings as they are done in the fashion industry. These drawings look more like the line drawings sewers are used to seeing on pattern envelopes. Schematics are all about measurements and construction of the pieces.