Monday, October 31, 2011

When Good Sweaters Go Bad

My tailoring classes have changed the way I look at sleeves. Look at the jacket in the photo above. Do you see how smooth the sleeve cap is? Notice how the edges are rounded at the top of the shoulder. The sleeves hang with no folds and curve slightly towards the body. In tailoring there are many things done during construction that create these details. Most of them don't apply to knitting but I still use the tailored appearance as my gold standard when I'm designing a sleeve cap. 

Sweaters in patterns are usually modeled on tall slender people  who really may not be the size that the garment was intended for. Many of the details I'm showing you are not the fault of the designer or the knitter, they are just examples of poor fit, which is the relationship of the garment to the body or the relationship of the garment pieces to one another. Correct fit concepts change over time. These garments would have been considered very fitted in the 80's  

The ripples indicate the cap was for a heavier arm or is too big for the armhole
The sleeve cap is perfect but the armhole is too deep or to shallow creating a little pouf at the underarm

The schematic showed a set in sleeve but the shoulder line is way below the corner of the shoulder. However the neckline is standing away from the models neck and the top of the sleeve looks too loose so, this is just too big.

I'm showing these examples to you purely as an exercise in educating your eye to good fit for your own garments. A tip for figuring out what is wrong with the way a garment fits, is that folds in the garment often point either towards or away from the incorrectly fitted part of the garment.

Friday, October 28, 2011

An Interview with...Tanis Gray

Once a week I post  interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. 

You can find Tanis here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
There's inspiration everywhere! On the street, in the museums, in the stores, in books, magazines or in your own closet. Be observant!
What is your favourite knitting technique?

Fair isle will always be my favorite, but it's followed closely by lace and cabling.

How did you determine your size range?

When I knit for publication you're usually given a size range. For things like hats and mittens it's a pretty general size.

From Knitscene, Summer 2011

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

Of course I look at other people's work! It might trigger something in your mind that you hadn't though of, or inspire you to do better! I think it's silly if you don't look at other work around you. You need to fill your head with as much knowledge as possible.

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

I believe in making simpler patterns for newer knitters (and a lot of people tend to overcomplicate their patterns), but knitters are smart. I don't think anything needs to be dumbed down.

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

I like to do it all myself, but sometimes that just isn't possible. Very occasionally do I use test knitters, but that may increase especially with recently having a baby.

Do you have a mentor?
Not so much in knitting, but my mom is a very talented and well known painter in Boston. She took me to museums and art shows constantly growing up. She taught me about color, design, proportion, composition and using my creativity. I look to her for inspiration every day.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

It's helped! Having a website and people being able to search for me or my designs is wonderful. Ravelry has really changed things, and while I find it a double-edged sword at times, think about finding patterns pre-Ravelry. You'd look in books and have no idea if there was errata, or never be able to see the same garment knit up in 100 different yarns. The internet has connected knitters in a way I never would have imagined when I first started knitting. It's also fantastic to have a site like YouTube to watch a new technique if you're unsure about how to execute it.

Do you use a Tech Editor?

When things are for publication for a book or magazine that I am contributing to, they usually do they tech editing. For my indie designs it depends on the level of complexity. I don't need accessories tech edited, for example, but if I do a garment I will have it tech edited.

Flowered Headband
from Knit.1, Summer 2006

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
It's especially tricky these days with a 5 month old! I spend my day taking care of our son and in the brief periods where he naps, I try and get as much work done as possible. I teach in the evenings, so it's always a challenge to find time to get to everything. I stay up late getting caught up and work a lot on weekends after we put the baby to bed. Somehow we make it work!

How do you deal with criticism?

I don't think you can survive in this world without being able to handle criticism. You'll never be able to please everyone and if you can get past that, it can only make you a better knitter. I try to make designs that I would wear or that I'll learn something new in the process of making them. Once you put yourself out there you start to develop a thick skin. I do find it interesting that some people have negative things to say but when you look at their work they've never designed anything of their own.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
KEEP KNITTING! You learn so much knitting other people's patterns. Take classes and stock up on new techniques, learn about color theory and try new fibers you may be afraid of. It's very difficult to make a living in this field and the arts have always been undervalued. Continue to submit designs even if you get rejected. Many times if you get rejected it's because the design didn't fit in the issue, not necessarily because they didn't like it. We live in such an instant world; food to go, high speed internet, video games, mobile phones... Have patience and practice your craft. If you love it, it'll show in your work.

Pattern available here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Designer Secrets - The Numbers Game

Choosing the size to knit when you have gauge differences and size variations can be a challenge.

Most knitters realize early on in their knitting life that the basic building block of knitting is gauge and that gauge does not always work out in nice even whole numbers. For many years, I knit things mainly for myself, of my own invention and was most concerned with getting good fit on my body. If the fabric I created had a gauge that was not a whole, half number or quarter number, I didn't worry about it. I just went with my gauge what ever it was, and multiplied by the number of inches of knitting required. I would adjust stitch numbers according to my stitch pattern and go with the number closest to my target stitch total. I also always add in selvage stitches, that are not included in my target number, to be as accurate as possible. Gauge swatches are normally worked in 4 inches so they partially guarantee the usual gauge increments. If you seem to have problems with sizing I recommend that you create larger swatches for more accurate numbers. Simply divide the number of stitches in for example 6 inches or 9 inches down to the 1 inch total.

Small differences in gauge can equal large size variations and it is best to be aware of this. Let's say you are aiming for 22 stitches over 4 inches and you get 21.5. Changing needle sizes might get you 22.5 stitches instead of the elusive 22. The former gives you a per inch gauge of 5.375 and the latter gives you 5.625.  On a 40 inch sweater this equates to stitch counts of 215 vs. 225, before you add in seaming stitches. Depending on the ease already accounted for this could change the overall fit considerably but more importantly it could make the garment very different from the one the knitter intended to make. As the sizes are graded up and down, gauge makes a smaller difference on the smaller sizes and a larger difference on the largest sizes. The different gauges could also create a fabric with either more or less drape. Keep in mind that people also do not always measure in whole numbers, only patterns do. We pick our pattern size from a range that is usually in whole numbers and may jump sizes in 2 inch or even larger increments. In a garment with a back and a front created in 2 pieces you will lose 4 stitches to seaming, if your gauge is 4 stitches per inch you just lost an inch of ease sewing it up.

Add to all of this the fact that ease preferences vary widely among knitters and designers. You should also know that ease requirements get larger as fabric gets thicker and as it stretches less.

The possible permutations can make my head spin! Designers have to pick a size, work with the numbers and write the pattern that way because we have to start somewhere. However the knitter does have the option of modifying or just knitting a different size to customize to their own measurements, ease preferences and gauge variations.  

I often helped customers with this when I worked in my LYS. The steps to follow once you have done your gauge swatch are below:

If you have matched gauge exactly:
  1. Measure your own bust.
  2. Measure a garment (with a similar weight fabric to the one you will be creating), that you like the fit of. The difference tells you how much ease you like which is valuable information when choosing which size to knit. Having the numbers for both step 1 and 2 help when choosing between 2 possible options of size.
  3. Check the pattern for the finished measurements, not the sizes, and choose the one closest to your number in step 2. Don't forget that some stitches will be lost in the seams if there are any in the chosen pattern. Do a quick calculation to be sure the stitch numbers match up to your target as well, by multiplying the one inch gauge by the measurement. It is not unusual for patterns to round measurement numbers up or down. As well the differences between imperial and metric conversions can make some small discrepancies.

If you were unable to match gauge exactly:
  1. Follow steps 1 and 2 above.
  2. Use the number that you got when you did your swatch. Multiply that number by the inches that you got in step 2.
  3.  Check the pattern for the stitch numbers of each size,  and choose the one closest to your number in step 2 by looking at the stitch totals (remembering to exclude seam stitches). 
  4. Check lengths on the sizes as well and compare to your own measurements. You may end up knitting one size and using the length measurements from a different size.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Could it be?

Recently I had my copy of Montse Stanley's book, the Reader's Digest Knitter's Handbook, laying open on the table in front of me when I noticed a familiar face. This looks like a very young Kate Moss. I wasn't able to come up with anything to confirm that it is her. The design shown comes from Rowan 10. 

According to Wikipedia "Moss was discovered in 1988 at the age of 14 by Sarah Doukas, the founder of Storm Model Management, at JFK Airport in New York City, after a holiday in the Bahamas. Moss's career began when Corinne Day shot black-and-white photographs of her, styled by Melanie Ward, for British magazine The Face when she was 16". Perhaps that is just a little bit of fashion folklore? The book was published in 1986.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Font Size Question

Font Size vs. Font size 

I recently asked my readers if they like my larger size font.  Three readers commented on the posting, and more emailed me. I'm going to stay with the larger sized Arial font. The reason is that most responders were mixed in their answers, however those with visual challenges were strongly opposed to my reducing the font size.

Friday, October 21, 2011

An Interview with...Jocelyn Grayson

Jocelyn is a different kind of knitting professional. She is an independent industry consultant. She does marketing and event planning for all segments of the needle arts industry. Her professional goal is to help local yarn stores stay in business, and she helps them do that in many different ways. She works with yarn stores, designers and yarn companies on Ravelry and Facebook advertising.  The majority of her focus is on Ravelry - both the local yarn store ads and banner ads, but she has also done print ads for yarn companies that have appeared in magazines.  She has as well arranged  in-store events such as book signings and yarn tastings. Her tag line is: The LYS - Part of your community.  Part of your life.

Jocelyn is wearing Hallett's Ledge from the Fall 201 Twist Collective. The yarn is Harrisville Designs New England Highland.

You can find Jocelyn here on Ravelry. Her Twitter id is: knitventures

Tell me how you got into the business of being a marketing and event planner.
Well, I had been a knitter in the early 90s and then took a long hiatus. I had always worked in a corporate environment (I have an MBA) until the dot com bust, and then had a few years of my own entrepreneurial boom and bust, shall we say. When I got back into knitting in the fall of 2005, I quickly learned that the Internet had changed everything about knitting. An LYS opened nearby in January, 2006, and I went to work there in July.  Since the shop had opened so recently, there was a lot of opportunity to try new things – we brought in many of the top names in the industry (Nancy Bush, Annie Modesitt, Lily Chin, Melissa Leapman, among others) and established the shop as a great place for classes year round.  It was a good fit to apply my business acumen with a shop that needed to make its presence known in what was then a very competitive local marketplace.

How long have you been in business?
I went out on my own in October, 2008, so it’s just about three years now.

Banner ad for Cast Away, you can find the store web site here.

How do you find your clients?
Mostly word of mouth, referrals, Ravelry (where I have both a business account and a personal one), Facebook, Twitter and networking at industry events like TNNA.  Ironically, I don’t have a website.  One thing has lead to another, and I’ve worked with yarn stores, designers and yarn companies.  

What steps do you take in developing a plan for a client?
I mostly work with clients on getting their presence established on Ravelry and Facebook. So, a lot of it is explaining to them what the advertising options are, why they should do it, and how I make it easier for them to keep it going.  I find that most LYSOs are grateful to learn about Ravelry and Facebook, but are even more excited to learn that someone else can handle it for them!

How do you help a yarn shop develop a sense of community with their customers?
I’ve always got suggestions for ways that clients (and even non-clients – I can’t help myself) can communicate better and more frequently with their customers. I really encourage in-store events – book signings, trunk shows, classes for all levels. The online component is important, too.  Shops need to go beyond the newsletter and blog.   With social networking as pervasive as it is, it’s much easier to do this.  The bottom line is that shops have to remind customers why they love to shop there.  It has to be the first place they think of when they want to buy yarn, get help, sit with friends, etc.

What is the biggest lesson your business has taught you?
That a great store with a clear vision can succeed in any economy.  How they do that evolves, but it can be done.

What is your favorite part of what you do as a consultant?
Definitely working with the shop owners and opening their eyes to ways they can improve their business.  I firmly believe that a local yarn store is an integral part of the community, and whatever I can do to help a shop be successful is the reward for me.

Banner ad for A Good Yarn, you can find their web site here.

We've seen many cycles in the yarn industry of the market increasing and then falling again. What are your thoughts on where things might be headed now?
I always tell shops that external factors like their competition (online and brick and mortar) and the economy are just that: external.  That can’t drive what a shop is doing and how successful they are. There’s no question that the last few years have been very challenging for shops.  My own area (SF Bay Area) has seen a tremendous number of shop closures. That said, the shops that have stayed open have done well at carving out their niche and communicating that.  Portland, OR is the perfect example of that.  They probably have the most competitive market in the country, and a few shops have closed. However, a number of shops have opened and been successful because they saw an opportunity in the marketplace (even when they were already 20 or so shops open!), and they set about fulfilling that need.

You are very focused on Ravelry and Facebook, do you have marketing methods that target the customers who have no online presence.
Honestly, I don’t.  I was in a shop a few months back and started chatting with the owner. She was absolutely resolute in her disinterest in even having a website!  I can understand a shop owner who doesn’t have an online presence but wants one (I’m here for them!), but to be completely closed off from the idea is puzzling to me.  As the saying goes, they don’t know what they don’t know.  As a business person, the most frustrating thing is the missed opportunity.  Clearly, a small business owner can’t afford too many of those.

Did you take any courses in how to run a business before you started freelancing?
I’ve taken classes on social networking and search engine optimization at TNNA. I learned a lot from my years of working in the corporate world.  These days, I read hundreds of blogs every week.  I apply what I read about other industries and small businesses and apply them to the needle arts.  And I spend a lot of time in yarn stores, listening to shop owners and talking to them.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
If the Internet didn’t exist, I’d probably be a caterer.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Well, my kids would probably say that I don’t.  I’m definitely an idea person. My husband says that the scariest thing for him is when I say “I was thinking…”  

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Unfortunately, I don’t.  I still have one child at home (a high school freshman), so I mostly work part-time.  If I had time to go to more shows and industry events, I’m sure my workload would be closer to full-time.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in marketing, specifically for the needle arts industry?
Work in a shop.  Having that “boots on the ground” experience is invaluable. Spend a lot of time in shops looking at what is working and what isn’t.  I can’t remember what I had for dinner yesterday, but I’ll remember something I saw in store two years ago and can suggest that to a client.  Make your presence known on Ravelry in the various industry forums (e.g., LYSOs, Nubee Shopowners), Facebook and Twitter.  All those subscribers are all your potential clients. They may not always agree with what you have to say, but they’ll notice you and hopefully appreciate your input.  

This ad done by Jocelyn appeared in Fall 2011 Love of Knitting
Jocelyn had some feedback for me as well. She feels the size of type and font I normally use is too overwhelming.  I had made it larger as a results of comments from readers, so what do you think, is this better for reading than my usual font? I'm open to suggestions. LMK

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pattern Drafting for Hand Knits - Part III

You can find Part I here and Part II here.

One of the best things about creating your own garments is the ability to customize the end result to fit and flatter our own unique shapes. For most of us this takes a certain amount of trial and error to understand where we differ from the standards or the pattern that you have chosen to work with. 

In the image above I've shown you a standard Petite pattern (dotted line) with my customized draft. The front and back is shown separately and in halves because I measure larger across the front. I normally bury extra front stitches in the neckline area of my garments and then I make the armholes and shoulder stitches match. Notice also that my waistline is higher and straighter. My armhole shape changes and is closer to a standard Misses size. My sleeve has a distinct front and back shape. For knitting projects I use an average of the sleeve measurement and depend on the stretch for the sleeve cap. My sleeve is also shorter than the Petite size. For me to get good fit I need adjustments from both Misses and Petite size ranges. 

I suspect that many of you will also require a combination of adjustments to get the best possible fit. When you do this you end up with a more comfortable garment. The second reason to adjust fit is that when the garment fits correctly it no longer draws attention to the areas that vary from the average. My short arms are noticeable when my sleeves hang down past my wrists. However when they end at the correct spot no one notices that I differ from the norm. A large bust is highlighted if a garment pulls across it tightly but with proper fit the wearer is comfortable and the viewers attention is not immediately drawn to that area.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ravelry Research

Patterns available here

At my last knitting gathering we had an interesting conversation about Ravelry and how it is changing perceptions in the knitting world for online knitters vs those who are not online. While many people post photos and details of their projects many others do not and this may be skewing the apparent popularity of certain patterns.

Many designers, shop owners and yarn companies look at Ravelry regularly to see what their potential customer base is interested in. I've often looked at the New and Popular listing and I've noticed that the patterns there have shifted from all free to include purchased patterns as well. I've been on Ravelry since March of 2008 watching this change. I had hoped to see some of my patterns photographed by my customers but to date, even my very best selling patterns have no to very few projects listed. I see a few more numbers listed in the queues but the number is not any where near reflective of the actual sales.

Recently I attended a meeting where yarn shop owners discussed the issue of online pattern sales and I was amazed by how varied their customer bases were with regard to this issue. Some owners estimated that between 50% and 75% of their customers are not on line at all. Others felt that virtually all of their patrons are. Internet penetration in North America seems to be a little above 75% according to some online research I did.

I'm convinced that the future of pattern sales will probably be online but this information does give me something to think about. Having worked in my LYS I know that certain shops attract a certain type of clientele. The staff of the shop has a huge impact on who returns to the shop after a first visit and who progresses from the first project garter scarf to become an accomplished knitter. A sense of community created in the store seems to be a determining factor in it's success. At this point I have no conclusions that I can draw from the above observations for my own business, but I intend to keep watching.

Friday, October 14, 2011

An Interview with...Stephanie Dosen

Once a week I post  interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. 

Pattern available here

You can find Stephanie here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I love to wander flea markets and find vintage trinkets.  The colors, the fabrics and shapes I see, inspire me.  I get inspired by films, the runways, by shapes in nature, forests, oceans, animals, fairy tales and dreamy illustrators like Aurthur Rackham.   

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I definitely love fulling wool.  I have to stop myself from throwing every single thing I make in the boiling water!  Felt just inspires me so much because of the structure and the endless possibilities.  I often get little notes about how scared people are to “felt” things so I’m constantly writing them notes to encourage them to give it a go!  I do remember that feeling too, it’s always an experiment and it totally excites me.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love seeing other’s work!  I love it when I see something that excites me, and then I want to knit it myself so I do!  I still buy a lot of patterns. When I worked at my local yarn shop, the day the Rowan, Rebecca, Vogue, or Interweave magazines came in was like a national holiday!  We all clamored for the boxes and ripped open like Christmas morning. I will never lose that excitement about seeing new things.  I don’t think it has a negative effect on me as a designer because I don’t generally do too many garments, so most of the things I see aren’t something I would be attempting to design anyway.  Of course there is always that moment when I see a design and smack my head and say “AH! Why didn’t I come up with that!”   

How do you feel about the so-called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I have to admit as a pattern writer I have a tendency to want to over-explain things.  I even find myself wanting to explain why I’ve chosen to do something a certain way, over another option.  There is method in all of this madness! I promise! Trust me fair knitter! But over time I have learned to edit and worked on my rhetoric to slim everything down.  I taught for so long that even now when I am writing patterns, I almost hear the customers in my head asking,  "So do they mean 4 repeats AFTER that? or just a total of 4 repeats?"  I always try to answer those little questions.  I like to take the extra time to clarify that doubt before we move on.  It is of course totally crucial to my pattern writing philosophy that I make myself perfectly clear, and know that anyone can sit down and follow my patterns.  And though I feel I am working with the knitter to make sure that they can actually “make the thing in the picture”, I do realize they don’t want to stop to read a story about my cats in the middle of it.   

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
These days I like to have 5 or 6 people test out my patterns before I release them.  I also like to have them tech-edited.  I have heard the argument that a good pattern writer doesn’t really need testers, but I find the questions my testers come up with very interesting.  There will always be someone who looks at the instructions from a different angle, and I really value that input before I release the pattern.  The more reliable the pattern is, the less work and strife there is later for everyone. I know errata are inevitable.  But I think of them like cavities.  I don’t want them, so I brush a little longer.

Do you have a mentor?
I worked at my local yarn shop for several years and so I have lots of heroes.  We had a large shop and an incredibly experienced team of employees.  I thought of them like my mother owls!  They leaned over me and taught me and inspired me constantly for years.  Just sitting here now, I realize how lucky I was to have such an amazing group of women to teach me!  It almost felt like I was a young member of a tribe in a knitting village.  Everyone gave me so much and I’m forever thankful for all of my mentors.  ((Pam, Andrea, Robin, Sue, Deb, Peggy, Joyce, Joelle, Mary Bit, Alice and Morgan)) Thank you!

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Without the Internet I wouldn’t have a business at all.  I don’t have dreams to open a shop, yet I’m taking payments everyday.  It’s a miracle and I thank my lucky stars every single day for Ravelry and Etsy and for the knitting community.  Now we are tied together online and can share our projects with each other and propel the art of knitting.  How many patterns and projects have gone unseen in the past?  Now they are coming out online and we can share them with each other, its like looking through everyone's hope chests, I love it! 

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I must admit that I really don’t.  I moved to England from the States 5 years ago and since then my life has really been about my work, so I really need to work on that!  Wait, did I just say that I need to “work” on that? Yeah, I think I might work too much. 

Pattern available here

How do you deal with criticism?
I had to deal with the idea of criticism in the music business first.  At first, after shows and album releases we would run to the papers, magazines and the net and read all of the reviews.  However, I quickly learned that even if a review is good, the one bad thing someone might say can easily overpower anything else said.  On the Internet, everyone is a critic, and everyone gets criticized for something at some point.  Even if it’s just a picture posted on facebook etc.  I started realizing that all of the things everyone says about me just don’t really matter to my life.  I stopped googling my name and asked my family and record label to stop sending me reviews.  It wasn’t that the reviews were bad, they were mostly good, but I realized that the only person I can please is myself.  And so the reviews, be they good or bad, had to lower in importance for me.  If I have to throw out the bad reviews, then I should really throw out the good reviews too.  So I threw them all out!  I’m too sensitive to read all that stuff and not take it personally anyway.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
From the day I wrote my first pattern to the day I could pay my bills from them was 5 years.  Eternal thanks to Ravelry and Deep South Fibers!

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Don’t stop working for even a minute.  It’s easy to think that the successful designers just “magically succeed” without lots of work, but it isn’t true.  I was able to have a little chat with one of the most amazing and successful young designers, Ysolda, in London a couple years ago and I asked her about her work schedule.  She told me that she works from 10 am to 2 am every day.  I looked at my work schedule in comparison and realized I was working maybe half that much!  I was so inspired by what she said, I gave myself a challenge right then and there to try it out for a year and see what happened.  I put in the work and by the end of the year I looked back over my body of work and felt really proud of what I had accomplished.  Thanks Ysolda! Kiss kiss kiss. 

Pattern available here

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pattern Drafting for Hand Knits - Part II

You can see Part I of this post here.  

The requests that are often made for larger size ranges in hand knitting patterns are totally understandable. Due to better nutrition people have gotten taller than past generations. If you have ever looked at vintage clothing you see very small sizes compared to today. If you go to an event at an old theater there is much less leg room between the seats. We have also have many people who carry more weight today due to the amazing abundance of food in our society. Everyone who knits garments wants to make them fit properly to be comfortable and flattering.

In the image above I've layered a Woman's bust size 44, (black dotted line) a Petite Plus bust size 43, (red line) and a Standard Plus size bust size 43, (black solid line). 

Remember that when you see a little bit more or less width in the pattern, that on the body that amount is doubled as it impacts both the front and back pieces of the garment. Very small differences in the pattern can make very large differences in the perceived fit of a garment. I suspect that those asking for larger sizes don't always recognize that simply increasing the width won't completely resolve the fit issues. One of the most common fitting problems that I am asked to help with is that when the garment is big enough around the torso, the shoulders and neckline are too large.

As I discussed in the last post, in retail clothing this problem is resolved by a variety of size ranges. 

The Woman size range is designed for a more mature figure and garments are often cut with more ease for movement, as well the styles are more mature. The upper back has a curve to accommodate the changing shape due to posture differences as we age. The tummy area may be fuller. We are more likely to see elastic waist pants, longer skirts and jackets as well as short sleeve tops instead of sleeveless garments.  Sizing is meant for a woman who is 5'5"–5'6" (165–168 cm) tall, with an average bust, and an average back.

Woman’s Petites sizes are designed for the shorter woman's figure; about 5'2" to 5'4" (1.57m to 1.63m).  

Plus sizes are cut for a full figured woman with a larger than D-cup bust size.However we all know women who are plus sizes but have a smaller than D cup bust line.

There was in the past a half size range, which has been replaced by petite plus. it was meant for shorter rounder figures of 5'2"–5'3" (157.5–160 cm) tall, with a lower bust, and a shorter back.

Some specific clothing lines within all of these size ranges  target an older age category and have modifications due to the changes in posture that occur as we age. The tummy area may be cut to be fuller and the behind shaped to be little flatter. They also cater to a more casual lifestyle and in some cases are produced with easy care fabrics.

Vogue sewing patterns have also responded to the fit issues of their market with a special range of patterns known as Today's Fit. These patterns are designed for the changing proportions of today’s figure; about 5'5". The waist and hips are slightly larger than Misses’ and the shoulders are narrower.

It's also important to note that every designer and clothing manufacturer has the ability to modify each category in ways that best serve their own customer base.

Friday, October 7, 2011

An Interview with...Holly Priestley

Once a week I post  interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. 

You can find Holly here, here and here on Ravelry. Her patterns are all available from her web site.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere.  I like my items to be functional as well as aesthetically pleasing and fun to wear as well as knit. 

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Just one favorite?  I really like the look of a clean stockinette pattern and many of my designs use them strategically to bring emphasis to lace or cables, color work or even just the yarn itself.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Of course I look at other designers' work, my Pinterest account is my friend and is brimming with all kinds of inspiring color combos and textures.  I'm not afraid of being influenced by their designs at all, I welcome the inspiration and hope that they do the same from me.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
It really depends on the project, for accessories that only have one size I'll usually recruit the help of 3 or 4 testers but for cardigans and other pieces that have multiple variations I'll usually recruit 1 or 2 for each size.  I don't have sample knitters just yet but when I start doing trunk shows I probably will acquire some of those as well. 

Did you do a formal business plan?
I did do a formal business plan but it was a few years back when I was in college and my business has changed a bit.  I think writing the plan was a great experience and helps me to think about the progression, evolution and developments my business is making and has made.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The Internet is a massive part of my business.  It allows me to sell patterns quickly and efficiently to the entire world, all over the United States and Canada, Australia, the UK, Chile, everywhere! I think it would be exponentially more difficult for me to get my designs beyond my hometown or state without the Internet even though this wonderful contraption is teeming with others doing the same.  I really like having the community of LYS but also the OYS (online yarn store), very different and yet very much the same.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
What was that last word?  B-a-l-a-n-c-e?  I'm not sure I know that word, never heard it before...

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I'm still working on that, I do have two part time jobs right now that are paying the major bills and this one is paying minor bills and allowing me to satiate my addiction to yarns and fibers

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Accept that knitting, designing, dyeing, etc are all learning processes.  Bottomless pits.  You can always learn something new and you probably always will!  That's the excitement of it!  Don't put off publishing your own design because you're afraid that there are more experienced knitters/designers out there than you are, just go for it, if nothing else it's a phenomenal learning experience.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pattern Drafting for Hand Knits - Part I

Designers are under a lot of pressure to produce a much larger size range for the patterns that they write. I'm currently working on both a cardigan and a pullover design and I've spent a lot of time comparing various sizing standards. If you give me a set of measurements for an specific individual I can easily draft a garment that will fit well and be comfortable, especially if the intended wearer provided me with some details with regard to their ease preferences. When I try to do this across a large range of sizes that would accommodate many more women it quickly becomes problematic. Additional weight changes body shapes in a different way than the changes that occur due to larger or smaller underlying bone structures. Age also has an impact on body shape due to hormonal changes in women.

In ready to wear this problem is solved by a number of different size ranges that target a more narrow range of body types. Most of us figure out what size range fits us by trial and error when shopping for clothing. Yet knitters are asking that patterns somehow cover all of these size ranges in a single pattern. To do this designers are grading patterns up in unusual ways that don't really work for everyone, but the goal is to provide as many options as possible. Grading a pattern refers to making the incremental size changes from, for example size 2 through to 16.

I'm going to go through each of the current retail ranges and explain what body type is being targeted and what fit assumptions that the pattern graders make. I hope that this will help knitters to understand more clearly why they run into so many fit issues with knitting patterns. I also hope that it will help in your understanding of what modifications you should make to your patterns. While the size ranges have certain heights indicated as their target, there is also an underlying assumption that the smaller sizes are for shorter women and the larger sizes will fit taller women. The size increases are based on bone structure, not weight gain which tends to create different body shapes. Therefore shoulders get wider with each size in a way which does not happen when we gain weight. Another common assumption is that the wearer will have a B cup bra size for the Misses and the Petite sizes. Every designer and clothing manufacturer starts with their own unique set of assumptions about their target customer.

This will be a three part post as there is a lot of info to cover.

The main difference between size ranges is in the body shape that the clothes are cut to fit. A Junior size is cut to fit a young body with fewer curves, smaller bust and less definition between waist and hips. Junior sizes come in odd numbers, from 1 to 15. The styles are often casual, on trend, and suitable more for students, for casual occasions and they focus on a younger wearer. They are for girls 5'4"–5'5" (162.5–165 cm) tall, that have a higher bust and a shorter back.

Misses sizes are fitted to accommodate a more developed figure with a more womanly shape with a few more curves. There is usually an eight to ten inch difference between waist and hips. Misses sizes are sold as even numbers, from 0 to 16. The target wearer is mid-twenties and up. The styles range from casual to formal and include classic office wear. Misses sizes are designed for a well proportioned and developed figure; about 5'5" to 5'6" (1.65m to 1.68m) tall.They have an average bust and an average back.

Petites are cut for a shorter body. It does not mean that the wearer is very thin or has a smaller bone structure. Petite ranges also turn up in junior sizes from 1P to 13P and in misses sizes from 2P to 14P More recently we also have Petite plus sizes, which are 14P to 26P. Petite plus sizes are for women who are short and full figured. Petite sizes in general are for women who are 5'–5'3" (157.5–160 cm) tall, with an average bust and, a shorter back. 

Tall size ranges assume a height of 5'8" to 5'11" and include longer sleeves as well as other proportional length changes. I've not included a tall version in my drawings below, as it is not available in the drafting software package that I use.

In the image above I've layered a Misses (black dotted line) a Petite (red line) and a Junior size (black solid line) all three have a bust measurement of 39. I was able to do this across these three ranges. Some ranges do not line up in the same way with equal bust measurements. Keep in mind I have not addressed waist shaping at all, which varies a lot from Junior to Misses sizes. As well it changes with height and at every size increment.

In knitting patterns it has become standard for lengths to increase at much greater increments than in ready to wear clothing as sizes increase. This is a way of eliminating the need for petite, average and tall size categories.

It is not unusual for one woman to be able to wear items from more than one range. As an example, I'm 5'2", so I generally shop in the petites section, however as I have a straight torso with little waist definition, I often buy casual pants in the juniors section. The tops there generally won't fit my upper body because I have more womanly curves on top.

Next time I'll be covering woman's, half and plus sizes in detail.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Knit to Fit?

Recently a group of us designer types were discussing the fit issues that come up while writing patterns. Glenna made the comment that ready to wear clothing has trained the buying public to accept poor fit. I've been thinking about this ever since she mentioned it and I think she has a valid point. Virtually no one is a standard size. We can get closer if we shop in the appropriate size range (petites for me) but even then I still have to hem things. I often choose styles like 3/4 length sleeves to get around this problem. I also avoid cuff details as they can make it impossible to shorten sleeves. Sometimes I choose trousers knowing that I will only be able to wear them while wearing shoes with heels if I don't want to take the time to re-hem.

Many people don't even think about making changes to their clothing. When watching What Not to Wear, I notice that many of the contributors on the program have never bought clothing intending to have it altered. They either accept the fit as is or don't purchase the item. It comes as a major revelation to them that they can change an item once it has been purchased.

I've always been amazed that some knitters will spend months working on a garment but never take a few minutes to compare their measurement to the schematic details. When I was sewing and taking classes, every instructor I ever had, spent more time on fitting adjustments than on any other skill that they were teaching. Sewers seem to just assume that correct fitting will require changes to the basic pattern but knitters often totally skip this step and give up on making garments after being dissatisfied with the results.

Kate's theory is that some knitters have a disconnect between their knitting and seeing their projects as clothing. Clothes to them are something you buy, not what you knit. Knitting is entertainment, craft, or a hobby. 

It's very interesting to me to try to understand how others see this issue and to work towards developing patterns that fit well and give knitters enough information to make adjustments where they are required. 

What do you think? Do you spend much time assessing patterns for appropriate fit?