Friday, September 27, 2013

30 Day Sweater Challenge - To Seam or not to Seam

Today's post comes from Diana Jimenez, who is a yarn store owner in Southern California. She is working with Craftory Media to promote what is hoped to be the biggest knit-a-long ever. She has included  a free link to the Sweater Planning Guide further on in this post.

Due to my sewing background I tend to make bottom up seamed garments. Last year I worked with Deb Gemmell of Cabin Fever on a top down plus size book. I had done a few garment with this construction in the past and I'm well aware that many designers have long lists with good reasons as to why they don't like seamless garments. My take on it is, all methods of construction have pros and cons. If the knitter feels that the pros outweigh the cons for them then they should make their own choice. I'm in favour of anything that gets knitters making garments and I suspect some of those knitters will move onto alternative constructions as they grow their garment making skill set.

I was given a demo version of the course to play with. I'm working on a top down and reading through their material as I create my own. It's a customized plan with a number of fit and design choices. There are videos included to assist the knitter. From what I've reviewed so far it seems to provide a good basic guide to get a knitter started on understanding the process.

Diana has contributed her thoughts on the issue of seamless sweaters in the paragraphs below. 

To seam, or not to seam: that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The time and taxing of outrageous sleeve caps,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And instead knit raglan To rip: to whip;

No more; and by a seamless knit we end

The heart-ache, and the thousand troubles come

with the choice to seam….

Just kidding, I won’t make you read about why you should try knitting a seamless, top-down raglan sweater in poetic verse. But I would like to take a few minutes to share some of the advantages of knitting a sweater in that particular style.

Knitting an entirely seamless garment from the top-down has many benefits — the most significant being that you can make something that fits perfectly. This type of shoulder construction is very forgiving and easy to adapt and you can change rate of increases to modify the sweater easily to your body. Because the sweater is knit top down it is a popular style for knitters who like to be able to check fit and length as they work. A seamless top-down sweater can easily be “tried on” by slipping it off the needle and onto some waste yarn or long circular needles, this makes it easier to judge the length and adjust accordingly (for example, you could make your sleeves longer or shorter simply by adding or omitting a few rows).

My favorite thing about top-down, seamless raglan sweaters is that they are incredibly versatile! You can knit just about any kind of sweater you like including, crew neck, v-neck, shawl collars, pullovers, cardigans, color-work or texture. An endless array of options come to mind and because of the way it is constructed the arithmetic is very simple if you want to change things up or add extra details.

This type of sweater is that it is ideal for beginners. If you know how to cast on, knit and purl you could certainly tackle a top-down raglan sweater. Conversely, because you can adapt the design and fit of this style of sweater so much, it also keeps more experienced knitters interested and excited.

The last and most obvious reason people love knitting seamless, top-down raglan sweaters is that there is virtually no finishing involved! It is great fun to be able bind off your sweater and be able to put it on immediately (then take it off and block it) without having to spend an extra hour or two seaming your pieces together.

So if you have never knit a sweater or if you’re a sweater knitting veteran I encourage you to grab some needles and try knitting a top-down, seamless raglan sweater!

If you’d like to learn more about preparing to knit your next sweater, download our free Sweater Planning Guide. In this guide we talk about choosing a suitable yarn, how much yarn to buy and how to plan a sweater that you’ll love!

This guest post is a part of the 30 Day Sweater Challenge promo tour. If you’d like a reason to try knitting this style of sweater (or any other style for that matter) we have a great opportunity for you! Join us this October as we help 5,000 knitters around the world knit a sweater they’ll love, in 30 days. To sign up just visit and download your free Sweater Planning Guide. It will help you get started on the right foot! See you in October!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

20 Tips for Knitting Lace

I spent a lot of time this past summer designing and knitting lace, mainly in the form of shawls. I'll be releasing the new designs over the coming months. In no particular order, here are a few of the tips I use to avoid errors in my lace.

  1. Use a marker at every pattern repeat.
  2. When first learning to knit lace choose a small project in a heavier weight yarn. Ultra fine lace weight yarn can be tricky. Start with lace in DK and then move to fingering weights when you are comfortable. Go to lace weight when you feel ready for the challenge, not overwhelmed by the concept.
  3. Practice some of the looser cast ons and cast offs recommended for lace on your swatch so you know the edges won't be too tight on your project. 
  4. Use straight needles when possible if the yarn overs are catching on the cable of a circular needle.
  5. Try needles with different shaped tips, many knitters find that the shape of the tips can impact the difficulty of the knitting. 
  6. Think about your choice of needle materials. Wood and bamboo needles may work better than slippery metal needles on slippery yarns, metal needles team better with sticky yarns.
  7. Start with a solid colour yarn so you can easily see the stitch pattern. Busy hand dyed yarns can obscure more complex stitches and are best left to when you are more comfortable with lace.
  8. Choose smooth yarn to learn lace, fuzzy yarns obscure the stitches.
  9. Use different colours and styles of markers to mark off different sections; for example pattern repeats vs. borders.
  10. Watch for wandering yarn overs beside stitch markers. If  they go astray, it can cause errors in stitch counts.
  11. Be patient, take the time to learn the stitch pattern while you are doing the swatch. 
  12. Choose charted rather than text patterns. You can read why here.
  13. Track what row you are on when you put the work down. You can use a pencil to tick rows off, or a post it note or a magnetic board and ruler.
  14. Make sure you review what the chart symbols mean. See my post for more information here.
  15. Check your work frequently, you can more easily correct errors in the next row than you can many rows later.
  16. Count the number of stitches of each repeat on the wrong side purl back row to catch errors.
  17. Learn where you go wrong habitually and look for that error. I am most likely to accidentally drop yarn overs so I pay attention by looking at the shapes they create in the pattern.
  18. Use a life line. To create a lifeline, finish a row of knitting and then thread a slick yarn such as cotton in a contrasting colour through the line of stitches on the needle. Use a length double that of the width of the work plus enough to tie into a knot so you can still spread the work out fully. If you make a mistake, you can rip back to that row,  replace the stitches back onto your needle, and start that  over. Be sure not to thread the lifeline trough your markers.
  19. Remind yourself that lace knitting is  economical. You can buy a lot of lace weight yarn for not very much money and have the fun of a project that will take you months to complete. That's a lot of knitting fun that ends with a beautiful finished project.
  20. Work out how to splice your yarn before you start the project based on the fibre content. Can you do a felted join with moisture and friction? Will a Russian join work?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Knitter's Fair

I went to the KW Knitter's Fair two weekends ago with my friend and part time knitting assistant Mary Pat. It's an annual event. I think it may be the biggest event specifically for knitters in Ontario. There were over 50 vendors attending this year. We arrived just in time for the 1 PM fashion show and followed the show up with wandering the market floor and catching up with all of our knitting friends. 

Ash Kearns, soon to be published capelet

An amazing shawl pin

We saw Ashley modeling her designs in the fashion show.

Even late in the afternoon the market was still busy I had to wait to get this shot of one of the aisles fairly open so you can see the booths. This is my first attempt using my I phone for photos. I'm not very happy with the quality so I'll need to read up on how to improve or go back to carrying my camera.

Friday, September 20, 2013

An Interview with...Elizabeth Green Musselman
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 Elizabeth here and here on Ravelry.
Where do you find inspiration?
All over the place. My corner of the world (Austin, Texas) is not particularly lush, but it is very saturated in sunshine, which has had an interesting effect on my color palette. (Hellooo, citrus brights and adobe colors!) I'm also inspired by trying to find unusual ways to construct knitwear. Men's and boys' garments can be a little traditional in shape and color, so I try to mix it up by giving the knitter some interesting knitting to do along the way. I like reading history and other non-fiction; I love fantasy and science fiction; I love looking at other designers' work. At interesting shapes and textures around me. Once you start steeping yourself in design, you can't stop being inspired.

Could you tell us a little about your focus on designs for boys and men?
Though I do design some patterns for women, I decided to focus mainly on men's and boys' knitwear for a couple of reasons. First, I have a husband and son who have more adventurous tastes in clothing and color than most guys. So not only do I see that there are paltry few knitting patterns available for older boys and men -- but I also find that there are even fewer designs available for guys whose tastes run beyond JCPenney style. 

Second, there are so many independent designers out there now, I wanted to find a niche -- something unusual that people could identify me with. I would have more individual pattern sales if I designed for women, but on the other hand, I do find that I have an easier time getting yarn companies' and magazines' attention since there aren't many designers who specialize in this area.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
Short rows. I love how they make more accurate shaping -- not to mention unusual constructions -- possible. Short rows make knitting 3-D!

How did you determine your size range?
We all know how infrequently designers for women offer a full range of sizes -- now imagine the situation for larger men. Not to mention teenage boys and petite men. So when I design garments, I try to offer the fullest chest range possible. The only limits are the body measurement information that's available and whether the particular sweater will successfully size all the way up and down. I've heard from a number of male knitters especially who are happy to have some more options available.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I don't know how one doesn't look at other designers' work in the age of the interwebs, and since I work full-time in the knitting industry (as book designer at Cooperative Press, knitwear designer, and teacher), I'm constantly looking at other people's designs. What's more, I like being influenced by other people. I'm just careful to write my own patterns from the ground up.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I'm not sure why one's choice of pattern writing style would be controversial. I write some patterns with a beginner audience in mind. In those, I explain every abbreviation, every unusual technique, and often link to video tutorials that can help. Even when I'm not writing a pattern explicitly with beginners in mind, I like to think about how my pattern might offer a new tidbit of information, even to an experienced knitter. My mom always says that she likes patterns that "give you a class," and I suppose I've adopted her tastes that way.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I don't usually work with sample or test knitters, but that's mainly because I'm too impatient to get my design out to wait for them to finish! I knit quickly, and need to knit the sample myself to make sure everything works -- so I can't see myself employing sample knitters any time soon. But I would like to use test knitters more often. I love seeing garments especially worked up in different sizes!

Did you do a formal business plan?
Oh, gosh, no. That would be so grown up, wouldn't it? 

When I left my job as a history professor about two years ago, I did have a plan about how I was going to make way in the industry as a freelancer. But I knew those plans would change as I went. It's not been easy financially in these early years, but I'm doing work that makes me really happy, so I'll count that as a win.

Do you have a mentor?
I have many! I'm not always good at asking for help when I need it, but I do rely on several people for guidance, including my boss at Cooperative Press, Shannon Okey. She is one of the most creative and forward-thinking people that I know. I've learned a lot about how to survive over the long haul in the fiber business both from her and from Suzanne Middlebrooks, who owns the LYS Hill Country Weavers here in Austin. And whenever I get too caught up in the weight of the world, I try to think more like Sarah Eyre (of Cephalopod Yarns) does. She's my zen hero. 

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Nope, I am totally making it up as I go along.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Without the Internet, I would have no business. Ravelry is such a boon to independent designers. Plus, I spend most of my time working for Cooperative Press, which is based in Cleveland. I'm in Austin, the other assistant editor is in Hawaii, and our publicity manager is in California -- we all work remotely.

Do you use a tech editor?
Oh, that's not even optional. I've been working with the wonderful, UK-based tech editor Joeli Kelly for years. She mainly works for publishers now, but kindly kept me on as an individual client.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I don't know, how do you? Oh, that wasn't the set up for a joke? Hahaha.

Actually, I think I've got a pretty decent balance, all things considered. I work a LOT, but I have very few appointments, per se, so I can tuck in other things as needed. 

And having a child is great for forcing some balance on you. I mean, you can always tell yourself, "I'll do that nice, leisurely thing for myself NEXT week." But a kid wants your attention RIGHT NOW.

How do you deal with criticism?
So admirably. I really should be a poster child for how to handle criticism with grace and wisdom. (Sarcastic snort.)

No, actually, I'm pretty crap at taking criticism. Or, really, I'm crap at taking rejection. Criticism I can handle, so long as it's offered constructively and without malice.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Is it 2015 yet? Let's put it this way: I'd have sold my house and car by now if I were having to support myself entirely. I'm hoping to get there soon.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Think entrepreneurialy. What do you have to offer the industry that is unusual, and how can you parlay those into jobs you can get paid for? From my past experience in graphic design and academia, I have been able to find work designing and editing knitting books; designing logos, pattern templates, and other graphic identity for indie designers and dyers; and teaching classes. Don't just think about what people are already doing, but what's not yet being done that needs doing. And then get out there and let the world know about your mad skills.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Andi Javori's Leah Bracelet

Andi Javori who I interviewed here, has recently published a pattern to raise funds for breast cancer. Breast cancer and ovarian cancer appear on the same genes. Ovarian cancer is prevalent in my family. My sister and I were lucky to get into a hospital study. We had genetic counseling and were tested. We both got the good news that we do not carry the genes. This means our risk drops to that that of the general population which is still one in nine women.  

You can read more about the genes and genetic testing here.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, and occurs in men as well. The way to the prevention, treatment, and cure of this devastating disease is through the funding of research.  

Through the sales of Andi's design, the Leah Twist Hope Bracelet knitting kit, her mission is to help provide research funding and to raise breast cancer awareness, to achieve its prevention and cure in our lifetime.

Andi tells me "Javori Designs will be donating a portion of the proceeds from each Leah Twist Hope Bracelet kit sold, towards breast cancer research. Our goal is to continually help raise research funding, therefore The Leah Twist Hope bracelet kit will be available for purchase throughout the year. We are thankful for the amazingly positive response from the needle arts community, and hope you will join us to help make a difference."

The Leah Twist Bracelet is “knitting with beads” at its easiest. With glistening pink glass beads strung onto luxurious pink yarn, the Leah knits up quickly, to give you a lovely, unique design. It can be easily knit to any length for the perfect fit. Materials included in this kit are pattern, Katia Gatsby yarn, glass beads, toggle clasp, and threader. Includes link to video tutorials. 

The Leah Twist Hope Bracelet kit can be found where fine knitting supplies are sold, or can be purchased directly at If your local knitting shop does not carry this kit, kindly ask them to.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Shoulder Slope - Fitting Part 2

Many knitting patterns include a small amount of shoulder slope shaping in their instructions. It's a very difficult measurement to take accurately on the body. The greater the slope, the more important it becomes to get an accurate measurement because a larger slope impacts the fit of your garments more.  

Take a piece of paper towel. My sample is 11" by 12". Look at my photos below for reference. All lines that will be marked should be kept square. Cut out a neckline with a 3" drop. You can curve this like a crew neckline at the bottom.  Mark in a shoulder seam with a pen. Line that up on your body, flush against the base of your neck with the shoulder seam in position along the top of your shoulder. Mark your shoulder line with a pen. Find your vertical outside shoulder line by locating the knobby little bone behind your shoulder, it's about 2" below where a shoulder/sleeve seam would be. I use my index finger hooked over my shoulder from the front to line up where my shoulder edge should be. Draw a line down and trim away the excess. Put the paper towel back in place aligning the neckline edge, and outside shoulder edge. Push the bottom outside corner up until it is visually square, then pinch the outside edge at the top of your arm and pin out the excess. Take it off and draw a line from the neck edge to the shoulder edge. Pin along this line and check for accuracy. You can now measure your shoulder slope and mark in a line from the outside edge to the neck edge. My slope is 3/4", a little less than average. To get an accurate slope I would multiply my row gauge by my personal slope and then work my shoulder castoffs or short rows accordingly. There will be some rounding depending on row gauge as there always is in knitting. As an example, with a row gauge of 7 rows per inch. 7 x .75 = 5.25, I would work my shoulder shaping over 6 rows. If I had a more sloped shoulder of 1.25 inches with a row gauge of 7 rows per inch. 7 x 1.25 = 8.75, I would work my shoulder shaping over 8 rows. Keep in mind that the wider the neckline of your garment the less important shoulder slope becomes.

Note the pin at the right side.

I've drawn in the shoulder slope in this photo    

Friday, September 13, 2013

An Interview with...Kate Gilbert

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 Kate here and here on Ravelry.

What was the initial inspiration for Twist Collective?
As we say on our about page 
( ), Twist Collective was originally conceived as a publication that brings together the talented work of designers and writers, showcases their work professionally and pays them fairly. I think that last part is really the most important. While knitters and other fiber artists are most certainly not exclusively female, the craft has long been disparagingly labeled as “women’s work” and the people who do it were expected to be happy to receive little or no compensation. 

PDF patterns were rapidly becoming a norm for customers and there was really no better time to start looking at alternatives to print magazines that pay a flat fee regardless of the success of the pattern. By offering royalties, and selling only individual PDF patterns, instead of a print publication, we could better compensate the many individuals that make a good quality product, possible. 

In return, customers only buy the products that interest them, giving the designers and publisher immediate feedback on what they like and what they don’t.

Could you tell us about the steps required in starting an online knitting magazine?
Starting a publication is huge, so huge I’m not sure I would have done it if I had known just how much work it would be. Ignorance is bliss, right? Of course, every magazine is different and how much prep work is needed will depend on the resources you have available, your business model, your available time and how much money you have, but for us, it involved the technical aspects of creating the site (design, hosting, domain, programming, etc), choosing a name for the publication and creating a logo, finding designers for the first edition, planning a schedule, sourcing yarn, hiring photographers and models, getting tech editors, creating PDF pattern and chart templates, planning shoots, doing layouts, contracts, reaching out to advertisers, setting up a system for tracking and paying royalties, and testing testing testing testing everything with the hopes that the launch will be a success. I’m sure there’s more I’ve forgotten. It took us 6 months to get the first edition out and I hardly remember sleeping during that time.

Even with all that prep, the magazine has evolved and improved based on what works and what doesn’t. You have to have a plan but you can’t be so fixed on it that you can’t adapt.
We'd like to know something about your Twist Collective team, how did you find such an amazing group?
This runs the risk of sounding like one of those boring awards show speeches where everyone and their dog groomer is mentioned, so I’ll try to avoid being too dry here, but I’m pretty proud of my team.

I’d have to start by mentioning my mom, Cynthia, who deals with all our advertisers and does most of our customer support. I’m not sure I could run this magazine without her. 

Carly, who does our social media work, has been helping me answer knitting emails since before I started Twist. The voice of our blog, twitter, and facebook, is often her voice and I think she brings a great energy to her role.

Fiona Ellis introduced me to our features editor, Daryl. I know our programmer, Eric, through a college friend, our head tech editor, Sandi, has a reputation for being great. I was thrilled she agreed to join our team. Marnie has been designing with us since the first edition and we quickly became friends. I asked her to join the team a few years ago. 

I’m leaving out so many important people, like Irene, and MJ and Alison and Robin, whose roles are invaluable, not to mention the other tech editors, photographers, models, and people who have pitched in for testing and sample knitting and more.  The amazing thing is, almost everything is done by email and an occasional video chat since the team lives throughout North America. 
Have you had a mentor to advise you?
I worked in publishing before starting Twist so I already had some understanding of magazine publishing. Honestly, I’m not sure there would have been anyone who could have mentored me. There are not that many people who have started successful knitting magazines who have the free time to help someone else start one as well. Instead, I focused on finding an amazing team who was committed to seeing Twist succeed.
Please tell us about your views on compensation for designers.
As I mentioned before, PDF patterns were becoming more and more the norm, in 2008, when we launched. Designers were starting to see the benefit of being able to sell their patterns online and magazines were beginning to test the waters with reissuing older patterns for online PDF sales. 

Publishers have to recoup their initial investment in producing the pattern, but I didn’t think that had to mean that designers should lose the right to ongoing compensation for pattern sales. Under our contract, designers received an agreed upon percentage of every sale of their pattern, even after the exclusivity period. With our relatively short exclusivity period and generous royalty payments, we believe that designers are motivated to come up with and submit great designs and we are motivated to style and edit them to their best advantage, producing great quality patterns for knitters.
What features make a successful design to your way of thinking?
I suppose that anyone who knew the answer to that question would be able to retire early. There’s always a certain risk — both for the designer and publisher — that a design just won’t appeal to customers. We want to give our readers a selection of designs that will appeal to them, without looking like we’re rehashing stuff we’ve already published. 

There are certain things we take into consideration while reviewing proposals: 

Items need to be seasonally appropriate. We’re not going to run a big wooly cabled coat in our Spring/Summer edition nor a light little cotton tee for the winter edition. So a design might be amazing, but if it’s seasonally inappropriate, it may be passed over.

We also try to find garments that are practical. Can someone wear a bra with the item? Is it a style that’s so trendy, it’ll look dated before we publish it? Knitters come in all ages and sizes and we want them all to find projects they’ll love. 

Lastly, there needs to be something special about the item that makes it stand out. Knitting is expensive and time consuming. Each piece needs to have something that makes it worth the investment in time and yarn. 
How would a less well known designer get published in Twist?
Aspiring designers bring a great enthusiasm to their work. We’ve accepted quite a few designs, over the years, from people who have never published a design before or who have only self published patterns.

As a general rule, we encourage new designs to start with accessories. Working under deadline, with assigned yarn introduces challenges that the new designer may not be accustomed to. Adding in the challenge of grading a pattern and knitting to a particular sample size, may be biting off more than he or she can chew. We do look at a designer’s portfolio and read their bio and if we think a design is more ambitious than the designer may realize, we may turn down the design. It can be bad for a new designer to have a pattern be hugely successful but full of problems. That initial reputation can follow them around for a while. Better to start smaller and build up to the more complex designs. 

When it comes to getting noticed during submission review, be sure you read all the instructions for submitting. Sending in your submission in the wrong format or excluding important information may suggest that the designer is not going to follow directions, read the style guide or meet deadline. Treat your interactions with the same professionalism you would bring to any job interview. It costs us and the companies that give us yarn support, a lot of money to accept a design, so we have to make sure we are working with people who take the process seriously and can deliver on what they’ve agreed to, in the time agreed to. 

If you don’t have a lot of experience in designing but you have other related skills, we consider that as well. Are you great with numbers? Have you worked in other areas of the fashion industry? Do you have some impeccably knit original pieces you can show us in your Ravelry notebook? All of those may be a selling point for an aspiring designer.
How many hours a day do you work and how do you keep your life in balance?
I gave up on the idea of work/life balance about 5 years ago, which is why you might see my sister or daughter modeling, my mom answering emails, my father calculating royalties, my neighbors and friends pitching in for testing and modeling and why I’m usually up at the crack of dawn and working until the wee hours, almost every day. 

But I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it. While it’s exhausting work and there are days and weeks where I might question my own sanity, it’s also been hugely rewarding and has allowed me the flexibility to be home when my daughter is home, and get her to all her activities and events.

What do you enjoy most, running Twist or doing your own design work?
While designing patterns has taken a back seat over the last few years, I still love to do it and I can’t imagine ever stopping. But creating the magazine spreads, managing shoots and putting together a cohesive color palette for each season and story, is designing too. As long as I’m designing something, I’m happy.
We've seen many cycles in the knitting industry of the market increasing and then falling again. What are your thoughts on where things might be headed now?
It's funny, having lived in the US, France and Canada, knitting has been perceived as "hot" at all different times, so I take the cycle with a grain of salt. All I can do is keep publishing designs that I feel are interesting and beautiful and hope that the knitters keep coming back to knit them.
Do you think Twist has had the impact on the knitting world that you envisioned?
Twist started at a time of flux in the industry. Back then it was more common for designers to sell all the rights to their pattern and receive a flat fee. I can’t say if Twist played a role in the move towards more royalties and allowing the designer to keep the rights to their pattern, but I hope, minimally, that we added legitimacy to the model. I think it’s a big step towards making it possible for designers to make a living off of their hard work.