Monday, July 30, 2012

It's up on Patternfish! The Plus Size Project is Done

In the past year Deb and Lyn Gemmell and I spent quite a bit of time together working on this project. It's great to finally see a finished result. You can find it here at Patternfish. There are more photos there for you to look at. 

Deb and I did a massive amount of research on plus size fitting issues before we wrote the basic pattern that the whole collection is built on. You will find lots of detail included on how to go about modifying each garment to customize it to your specific figure.

After consulting and measuring Plus sized women, the following are some of adjustments included to make the sweaters look great and fit beautifully:

• the front is 3-4"/7.5 - 10cm wider than the back,
• there is an option for adjusting the sleeve circumference to make it narrower or wider,
• many, many “Custom Fit” options to shape the body are also included.

The book begins with a Basic Cardigan. For additional detail, add creative borders or add a lace skirt to the basic cardigan for The Lace Frock.
For more knitting challenge and added excitement, patterned panels can be worked along with the top down yoke on the front and back on The Panel Cardigan.

The print version will be available soon. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

An Interview with...Deb Hoss

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 Deb here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
All around, really.  My ideas come from people on the street, from stores, catalogs, television. Just the other day I noticed a top worn by a newscaster on tv. For my next design I’m thinking of something for summer based on that.  I also get inspired by pieces that I’ve made before.  One design typically leads me to the next – a sort of continuum.  I make sweaters I want to wear, so there’s added motivation.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Lately I’ve been enjoying the simplicity of the garter stitch.  I had underestimated it before making my Mary Jacket and now I’d like to use it more.

How did you determine your size range?
I started with the sizing guidelines for submitting to Knitty ( and then tweaked the measurements from the sizing table offered by Ysolda ( – thank you Ysolda!  I’ve been offering 7 sizes – XS through 3X.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Oh I look at other designers all the time and start most days with a review of my favorite blogs to see who’s posted their latest design or has something to say.  I really enjoy that.  It makes me feel like part of a community even though I don’t know anyone personally. The influence is inevitable and I think it’s a good thing.  Ideas come from everywhere.  All that matters is how the designer makes the piece his or her own in the end. 

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I hadn’t heard of that.  And I certainly don’t dumb mine down.  But I do try to keep instructions and processes simple.  I think of that as being efficient rather than dumbing down. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
At this point I do it all myself.  While I knit I figure things out and rethink steps, so there’s added value.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, not a formal one.  I’d knit whether I posted patterns online for sale or not, and the financial risk was minimal, so I just went for it.
Well, no real mentor since I don’t know anyone in the business, but there are lots of people I rely on for information, training, –  and inspiration, to circle back to your first question.  Pam Allen, Deborah Newton, Shirley Paden, Nicky Epstein, Kim Hargreaves are among the classics. I learn from some new designers too, such as Cecily Glowik MacDonald and Amy Christoffers.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Without the internet I probably wouldn’t be venturing into this business at all. I’m not one to put a lot of energy into magazine submissions; and the internet along with sites like Ravelry and Patternfish allow designers to have their own storefronts.  It’s ideal.

Do you use a tech editor?
No, I do that myself.  I like the control, and don’t mind the math.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I think that balance is “in the eye of the beholder.”  I knit or write a lot – my husband would say “all the time,” and most people wouldn’t find that balanced.  But it works well for me and I can’t get enough of it.  It works for my artist husband too who spends most of his time in his studio.  We’re a good pair.

How do you deal with criticism?
It’s certainly hard to hear a negative review, but I take responsibility.  Feedback is important and I’d like to know if people feel I’m missing something – in the styling or the writing.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
After 2 years, I’m pleased to be supplementing my income these days with pattern sales.  I’m hopeful that the trend will continue and comfortable with the pace. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Be patient, be careful with calculations, and make stuff you love.  That’s what I do.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Knitting Tips - The Techniques

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

What to do when you hate part of the knitting process? First focus on the end result and how great it will be, the process is part of the journey but it's not the destination. Second, break whatever it is up into small segments. If you hate sewing in ends, set your kitchen timer for ten minutes and stop when the timer goes off. Do something else for a while and then do ten more minutes of the disliked task. Tell yourself that of course you can do (substitute your despised task here) for just ten minutes and you can!

Monday, July 23, 2012

How to Maximize your Knitting Skill Set

Every February my guild runs mini workshops. Many of our members do not join us that evening. Often I hear them say that they are not interested in attending. I always have wondered why they choose to miss out on learning opportunities. I know that many of the members of the guild are extremely skilled and that if they want to learn a specific technique they can look it up and teach themselves. My question is "how do they know what techniques are available so that they can look them up"?  

The mini workshops and other knitting events are an excellent introduction to skills you may not even be aware of. My workshop is listed as Knitting Bobbles - without turning the work. Due to space considerations there is very little detail as to what each instructor covers in the guild's newsletter. I taught two methods to increase the stitches at the base of the bobble, two methods to work the bobble without turning and two methods to decrease the bobble back to a single stitch. I also shared a technique to create an after thought bobble and my four extra tips for working successful bobbles.

One of the things I love most about knitting is that there is always something new to learn. There are often multiple approaches to any solution. When I'm looking for one, I usually look in at least three different technique books. I also flip through the reference books looking at sections that don't target my problem, but might suggest a brand new approach. If I continued only using the skills I was first taught when I learned to knit I would still only be using one cast on technique. I now use four or five different methods based on the specific project I'm working on and I continue to test new ones on a regular basis. 

To continue to grow your skill set you need to question every technique you normally use and to try new ones to compare results. You need to think about why a specific technique is being used. When you knit from patterns that specify a cast on or a cast off other than the one you normally use, do you wonder why the designer choose that one? No....well you should, it will teach you things that you don't know.

If you really want to maximize your skills you need to be open to all learning opportunities. You never know where something brand new to you is going to pop up that might just revolutionize your knitting.

Friday, July 20, 2012

An Interview with...Liz Marino

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 Liz here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere!  I’m inspired by film, people on the street, architecture – but the thing that gets me the most charged up is activity.  I want to design the garment or project that I would want to own for each specific purpose.  For example, I’ve designed what I think are the “perfect” shoveling mittens (see my Knitter’s Mittens on Ravelry) and some very comfortable driving gloves (Gift Knit Kit Club Gloves).

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Right now I’m on a run of designing cables, so cables would be today’s answer.  Tomorrow it might be colorwork, or edge treatments!  

How did you determine your size range?  
Primarily I design accessories and home accents, so I work in s,m, and l for men, women and children.  Home goods tend to be one size.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I look at all the work I can.  I love to see the way someone else chose to seam a project, or how they used color.  Sometimes I see a technique that serves a design need in a unique way.  Every day I learn something about knitting – sometimes what to do, sometimes what not to do, and sometimes what I aspire to do.  

I don’t worry about undue influence.  I’ve been wearing knitwear, watching people knit, and knitting myself for as long as I can remember.  I assume all of my favorite garments have influenced me over the years, but like decorating my home, all the bits and pieces combine in unique ways in my own designs.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
It’s an important question.  Each knitting pattern should not represent a knitting class.  Simultaneously, if a designer wants their pattern to be used and understood, unusual techniques and treatments require at least a cursory explanation.  Occasionally knitters ask me about techniques they should have learned independent of my pattern, like how to knit in the round when presented with a pattern for a lace sock.  I try to guide folks to instructions, books, and videos that will help them build their skills, but I don’t teach skills step by step in my patterns.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Those familiar with my blog know that my dear friend and amazing assistant, Colleen Croce, knits quite a few of my samples.  At any given time, there are between 2 and 8 folks test and sample knitting for me.  I knit all parts of each project myself, but I don’t necessarily end up with a garment.  For example, on the last sock I designed, I knit the cuff pattern, 2 repeats of lace, and a heel turn.  I did each of these at least 3 times, working toward the combination I saw in my head.  Once I was happy, I passed it on to the test knitter to make sure that the pattern I wrote makes the sock I envisioned.

Did you do a formal business plan?  
I created a career outline.  I decided what I wanted my name to mean to knitters, and went about laying groundwork, designing patterns, writing and teaching classes, creating a Facebook page, creating a blog, and finally presenting my original patterns for sale.  The next step will be publishing a book.

Yes. I like to think I don’t make mistakes, but my tech editor manages to find them just about every time I submit a pattern!  She corrects them, which makes me look good, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 
I try to do one thing at a time.  (I can’t multitask at all!)  I have a supportive husband, which helps enormously. And my goofy dog, Max, insists I take frequent breaks to play with him.  I’ve realized that I don’t have live my whole life in one day.  Everything will wait its turn. 

How do you deal with criticism? 
In general, I appreciate it.  I hate that I need critiques, as my inner perfectionist has a very loud voice.  But when I receive valid criticism, I learn, and I’m glad someone had the guts to say what needed saying.  On the other hand, I know my patterns, blog, and teaching style aren’t right for every knitter.  Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself? 
It felt like forever!  This is definitely not a “get rich quick” scheme.  I would say about 5 years of 30-40 hours per week from deciding that it was my goal.  

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I would encourage them to talk to several people in the industry, and get a sense of what facet works for them.  Figure out if they want to be self-employed or an employee, whether they want to design, teach, write, sell...  Do they want to work for a magazine, yarn shop, manufacturer, or something else?  If they aren’t ready to dive in with both feet, wade in.  This is a great career, and a terrific passionate hobby.  One can become the other over time. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Knitting Tips - The Techniques

When I first learned to knit one of my early projects was a Fair-isle vest with short rowed vest points. No one told me it was too hard for me, so I knit it. It turned out to be a beautiful garment and I wore that vest for many years. It wasn't until I began to socialize with other knitters that I found out the vest I had made was considered to be an advanced project by most.

Have you ever wondered how much your knitting would improve if you stopped worrying about taking on projects that are too hard? In my case I was too inexperienced to know that, so I just did what the pattern told me to and I was successful. Now we have so many more resources to teach us techniques even if we don't have an advanced knitter immediately available to answer our questions. Help is just a few keystrokes away.

"Do hard things" has become one of my life laws because hard and interesting are closely aligned. I've also become very aware of a second alignment with doing hard things. Choosing to take on a challenge and mastering a skill makes me happy, I get a charge out of the accomplishment of setting a goal and meeting it. If it's not 100% successful, I still learn things along the way and I do better the next time. What about you, do you choose to do hard things?

Monday, July 16, 2012

How Well Do You See Colour?

I just read a blog that sent me to a cool little colour hue test. You can find it here.

I've been convinced for a long time that we do not all see colour in the same way. A personal example for me is that I sometimes see purple when someone else will call the same hue blue. At one time I thought this was a semantic issue but when comparing colour during a workshop I realized that when shifting from blue to purple along shade cards I thought the change happened earlier. Perhaps that means I'm more conscious of the red?

I got a 35 on the scale. I'd be curious to hear the results others get. The test also checks for age and gender at the end and gives you a range of scores on what similar testers scored. I think I'll do a little more research to see how this might be affecting my design work.

Friday, July 13, 2012

An Interview with...Deborah Newton

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.  

Deborah is the author of Finishing School: A Master Class. She will be the opening day speaker at  STITCHES East in Hartford in October. She will also be appearing at  Vogue  Live in Chicago in October where she will present a new class in drawing, as well as her finishing classes.

As if all that was not enough to keep her busy, she is writing a regular column for Vogue Knitting about-- what else? -- finishing!

You can find Deborah here and her books here

Where do you find inspiration?
I am primarily a garment-driven designer, with a strong interest in fabric and texture. I tend to want to explore a garment shapes: I am still, after 30 years, interested in the 3-dimensional nature of garments.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
One of my favorite parts of knitting is the finishing process, where all the details of a project come together in a perfect whole. I wrote a book about this and it is called FINISHING SCHOOL, A MASTER CLASS FOR KNITTERS. The book was chosen last year for Amazon’s Top Ten Craft books. I LOVE finishing—and it does include a variety of techniques! I wrote the book in order to share my enthusiasm for the process. Over the years I have learned many ways of doing things well, and easily, and I wanted to present these things as well!

How did you determine your size range?
I feel each garment needs to be considered separately: I do not have one size range that is etched in stone. Also, since I design mostly for magazines and yarn companies, often I have to meet their needs and standards.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I see a lot of knitted work—it is impossible not to when you are in the industry-- but since most of my ideas come from other kinds of non-knitted garments, and my own personal interests, I have no problem with seeing the work of other designers. I try very hard to be imaginative and not necessarily trend-oriented. I call my style “Quirky-Classic”.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I have not heard of this. I have never dumbed-down a pattern in my life: I believe in the innate creatively and curiosity of knitters. Many of my designs are very complicated but I pride myself on writing patterns that are clear and easy to understand.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I work with many knitters at any given time—wonderful knitters-- local and far away-- that I have worked with for decades in most cases. And I also knit samples myself when I am exploring new territory and want to learn with the work in my hands.

Did you do a formal business plan?
My plan is to do the best job I can with each project at hand.

I have always admired the editorial accuracy and creativity of Barbara G. Walker.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I have no model—I just do the work I love and so far it has proven to be a successful way of being a part of the industry.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Easy communication has made my job MUCH easier. Plus I have had the pleasure of meeting and sharing with others in a way that was no possible before the internet—it is more fun!

Do you use a tech editor?
For many years I did all my tech work—it is certainly the best way to learn. But when I wanted to devote myself to designing after mastering the tech end of things, I started working in tandem with a tech editor. Since I do a lot of magazine/print work, I also work with staff tech editors.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I juggle a LOT of work, and put in a lot of hours every day — writing, garment design, fabric development-- but since I tend to crave complexity, it suits me. I try to have a lot going on in my life beyond work. I have a wonderful family, and a dog and cat. I also garden, am a longtime Iyengar yoga student, and I spend a lot of time at my other job, which is a family map business. I keep in touch with a lot of friends. I take a long walk in the city every day. I love being in the ocean. I love the city I live in: Providence, RI. I love to eat!

How do you deal with criticism?
I am grateful for criticism— it shines a light on my work and often makes me think in new ways.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I can’t say I support myself with my design work, even now, after 30 years as a very high-profile freelancer. I crave other kinds of work and I also share a family map business with my brother, who is a cartographer, which helps round out my income:

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I have no real specific business advice since I feel everyone is so different. I like change and diversity in work: I like to juggle a lot of things at once, and I find I get more done that way. Some people like one project at a time, and that suits them. I suggest that people do what they love! Design and knit what interests you! And above all, be precise and dignified—not sloppy or demanding. Meet your deadlines. And be willing to take advice and meet the needs of other people, in addition to pleasing yourself.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Work or clean?

One of the members of our Pro Knitters group recently quit her job to go full time as a designer. She told the group that she was looking forward to having the time to do more things at home like clean and cook proper meals.

We laughed!

I struggle with the issue of getting things done at home every day. Working from home means that when it is untidy it bothers me much more than it did when I was working full time away from home.  It also means that I create much more of the mess as I'm here all day doing things like preparing my meals. 

The amount of knitting paraphernalia seems to build up around my laptop every day. I usually work at the dinning room table. It's a great spot, especially in the summer, as I get to look out at my balcony garden. We live on the 14th floor of a condo that is on the top of a hill that provides a great view.

However, working at the table means that the mess is in my direct line of sight when I move to the couch to knit. It's always calling me back because there is always more work that I could and feel I should be doing right now. Ravelry calls, my blog needs daily work, and the emails need to be answered, I could go on and on! But I have to go now the dryer just finished it's cycle, the bed needs to be made and I haven't showered yet today even though I'm writing this post at 10:40 and I've been up since 5:35.

Monday, July 9, 2012

How to deal with Knitting Wrist Pain

I've been struggling with wrist pain for a month or two. While I was on vacation with my husband recently, I took a seven day knitting break, which is a hard thing for me to do. I find that when my regular routine is broken it is easier to give something up so I decided it would be a good rest period.

After the vacation the pain had decreased noticeably so now I am doing exercises, you can find some here.  I added in some wrist curls with weights after a the pain subsided and the right wrist is now pain free. Some of my reading indicated that the weights can also create more stress so I am being very cautious. I'm using a two pound dumbbell  and I started with ten repetitions and I add in five more each day.

My left wrist was worse but the pain is not increasing so I am also icing it after knitting. I am taking regular breaks when I knit and I'm doing the stretches on every break. After almost a month the right wrist is now pain free. 

How many of you suffer from knitting pain and just keep on knitting?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Am I an Entrepreneur or Wantrepreneur?

I think about the title of this blog a lot. Many of us in the Knitting industry are able to follow our passion because we have other sources of income. I wonder about how that influences my decisions and it's impact on my future. On the other hand I couldn't do this at all, if not for that income.

I want to create something that will be sustainable over time. There is a point in the future that some of my income will disappear and I'd like to be in the position, at minimum, of replacing that income with profits from my knitting work.

I just did this free quiz on a business site. You can find it here.

Guess what? According to the quiz I do have the right personality, I suspect that I already knew that because after all I don't want someone else to tell me I can do this. I want to believe in for myself....and I do!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How to Adjust Shoulder Width for Better Fitting Sweaters

Armhole shaping decreases for garments are normally calculated by subtracting the cross shoulder measurement from the cross back or cross front measurement, dividing that number in half and then plotting a curved underarm. As an aside, the back cross shoulder measurement above the armhole is larger on most people than the cross front one. This is the case even on well endowed figures, partially due to the natural curve of the upper back above the shoulder blades. In my case the difference is one inch bigger at the back. I use the smaller measurement from my front to calculate the armhole and count on ease and the stretch created by the weight of the sleeves to pull the back into the correct position. If I was not working with a knit fabric this would not be an option. If I had a larger difference I would assess if the stretch would be enough by testing the amount of stretch on the lower part of the back once I had knit about six inches or so. It is important to evaluate this as some patterns will distort if they are stretched too far. Another option would be to split the difference and perhaps knit the front a little wider than your real measurement. It's always a situation of matching the individuals shape with the necessary adjustments.

The shaping of the armhole is usually worked over one and one half to three inches of length. Depending on your shape and height this may be too quickly or too slow a rate of decrease. Different designers use different standards as to how they start these cast offs. Some start with an initial cast of one half to one inch and then decrease in multiples two more times before doing single decreases until they get to the right number. If the shoulder measurement is too wide to begin with or you have picked your size based on a fuller than B cup measurement it is likely that this area will fit poorly. The depth of the armhole is generally one to two inches longer than your actual armhole depth measurement. (See my post on sleeve caps here to find out how to measure this accurately). The standard used most often for both patterns and retail, is at the higher end because too long and you can wear it, too short and you can’t.

To customize the fit for yourself take the one half body measurement, subtract the cross shoulder and divide by two. As an example (20 - 14 = 6) divided by 2 = 3. The simplest way to work out the decreasing required is to use knitting graph paper. This is graph paper with rectangles that accurately reflect stitch gauge instead of squares. You can find it here.  Draw in the underarm horizontal line  and the armhole vertical line, and then add a curve on the graph to join them and draw in the decreases working on every other row. You can also cut the shaping out on paper, (If you are using real size knitters graph paper), tuck it under your arm and check the mirror to ensure you are happy with how the curve hugs your underarm. You may need to make the curve start sooner and end higher for your body. I've shown two curves in my sample to give you and idea of how this might work for you. 

The sleeve cap will also need to be adjusted to fit into the new armhole. Refer to this posting for details on how to change the cap.

Monday, July 2, 2012

More on Knit Power

It seems that we knitters have become highly newsworthy. Check these mainstream news stories on the Ravelympics.