Monday, August 31, 2015

The Belvedere Wrap


I've released a new pattern in collaboration with Signature Yarns. Kits will be available here on the Signature Yarns site. If you are a local reader they will also be available at the upcoming Knitters Fair.

I did two earlier samples of this pattern and showed them to Patrick as a potential design for our collaboration. We then picked yarns from his line and I did two more versions which take advantage of wider yarn and gauge choices. I'll post my original samples as project pages in Ravelry so you can see the potential for other yarns. If you are local please consider buying yarn from Signature to support our local yarn companies. 

Contrasting garter stitch and simple eyelet lace sections create a mix of colours and textures in this project. It’s an entertaining knit that keeps you interested with easy stitch patterns and shaping worked at the same time. The shawl is worked sideways creating an asymmetrical triangle shape. It’s easy to wear and perfect for wrapping around your neck. Starting from one narrow point, the stitches increase on one edge and decrease on the opposite edge. I especially like the long points on this shape, I really like the way it gives extra weight around the neck holding the wrap secure. I was worried that the larger version was too big for someone of my small size, however the shape of this wrap works equally well in both sizes on me. The blue version is knit completely with fingering weight yarn. The red one, combines Prism Stuff with double stranded fingering yarn. The colours of these yarns are truly fabulous.

The pattern is here on Ravelry and will be on Patternfish and Loveknitting soon. 

Here's more photos:


Friday, August 28, 2015

An Interview with...Jana Huck

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 Jana here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in many things. When you are knitting a lot, it´s just always in the back of your mind, almost everything can lead to knitting idea. Sometimes it´s as simple and obvious as someone wearing an intriguing piece of clothing or accessory, maybe hand-knitted even, and sometimes it´s something as unsuspected as the shape of a leaf on a tree, a colourful berry, or the paper-craft of origami.
Also, the yarn itself can inspire a design idea. When I see a skein of yarn, sometimes I instantly know what it is supposed to be. Then again, the creative process may take time, and while I am working on other projects those completely untouched skeins that are full of so many possibilities will make suggestions and arguments for this and that in my head, and in the end I find just the perfect project for them.
And finally there is the graphic designer M. C. Escher, some of whose symmetry drawings I translated into knitting, of course.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
That´s definitely short rows! They open up whole new territories for the world of knitting, especially for shawl construction and garment shaping, much more than any other technique. Knitting just wouldn't be the same without them.

How did you determine your size range?
I try to cover as many sizes as I can, so most of my patterns have a range from 32 to 54 inches. All calculations are made based on CYC standards. It is important to me that the designs I make look well in every size. Test knits are really helpful in making sure of it.

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! There are many designers whose work I admire a lot. I learn from them what looks good in a design and sometimes what doesn't. Every designer has her or his own unique style, and it is really very much fun to see and study the "essence" of their work. But it´s more than that. Seeing other designers´ work on Ravelry does not only tell me what I like in a design, but also which kind of designs appeal to the general knitter. And while I always make designs that I love myself, I want to make designs that knitters enjoy as well. So of the many ideas in my head I will pick those that both I, and other knitters will appreciate. Sometimes I´ll sneak in a design that I am making just for myself, because I simply cannot resist the temptation. And  some of these "selfish" patterns are very popular, so you never know really.
At the same time, it is important to me to make designs that are different and new. There´s no need to be redundant, life is too short for that. However, you can never totally exclude the possibility that a design that you thought was originally yours already exists. That is why I browse the pattern data base on Ravelry before I start working on a design.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
Writing patterns is a way of communication between a designer and a knitter. I´ll write a pattern in a way so that knitters understand what I mean. I don´t know that this would be "dumbing down" patterns. The knitters I know are smart. My test knitters, for example, help me to ensure that my language is easy to understand . And since we knitters today don´t have to worry about the costs of printing so much anymore, for example you can read the pattern from an electronic device or just print out the pattern you want instead of having to buy a whole magazine or book as you used to, why not take advantage of that freedom and be more elaborate, or add a photo tutorial here and there? And why not listen to knitters who say "I don´t get it, what am I supposed to do?" It´s great that designers now hear back from their customers, we write better patterns for it.
Generally speaking, people like to hold on to the old way of doing things and think that the new advancements are making life too easy and too accommodating. It always happens when there´s a change. Don´t buy into it. Television did not lead to a downfall of society and computers and the Internet don´t dumb people down either. Write patterns the way you like, the way you feel will be best for explaining your design. Too long directions can be confusing and knitters can get lost in them. So find a middle ground, a language that both, you and other knitters, are happy with. Maybe place photo tutorials on an extra page so that they don´t need to be printed out, which saves ink. Again, asking your test knitters is the best way to make sure you've hit the right balance.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
All my patterns are test knitted. There are many test knitters who test knit regularly, others do it only once, or just a few times. So I cannot give a precise number. Also, I announce most of the test knits in my Ravelry-group (janukke Strickdesign), so you don´t have to be on my mailing list to join in.
Occasionally, I will have samples knit for yarn companies if they ask for it.
Yes, I do use a tech editor. I find that this is – other than test knitting – the best way to ensure that the directions are clear and error-free.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
That´s always a challenge when you are working for yourself. There are no fixed business hours. But on the other hand you are free to plan your days as you please, you can take breaks any time you like and schedule your work around your life rather than the other way around. I enjoy that freedom a lot.

How do you deal with criticism?
Knitters overall are very friendly folks. Even if someone spots a mistake in one of my patterns – which happily doesn't happen a lot – it´s usually an amicable exchange. I feel that when I get criticism the intent is almost always to make me aware of an issue. So I appreciate it a lot – I learn from that.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I've read this somewhere and really like it: "Do what you love, and fortune will follow." So don´t be afraid, jump right into it. Talk to other designers, look at their work and learn from them and the amazing community of knitters.  You will find that Ravelry is a great source of information and designers as well as knitters are very ready to help out if you have any questions.
Of course, there´s no guaranty of even a low income right from the start. So plan ahead for that as well. Maybe start the career as a side job and build it up from that. But after taking these security measures, just get started! It´s the best way to find out if writing knitting patterns is for you.

What’s next for you?
So many things. I am working on some commissions by Ito –Fine Yarn from Japan and a few indie-dyers. I have the whole year mapped out, but also left some empty slots so that I can be spontaneous if inspiration hits, which I enjoy immensely. That freedom is one of the huge advantages of being a knitting designer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How to Wear Your Handknit Shawl and not Look like an Old Lady

I've heard this concern from many knitters. They spend a lot of time knitting a stunning shawl and then don't wear it because of the fear of looking like an old lady. 

Here's a few tips to avoid that:

Stop calling it a shawl, it's a scarf. Words are powerful. If the word shawl feels old fashioned to you, pick a different label, scarf, wrap, or whatever name doesn't feel archaic to you.

Think about how you are wearing it on your body.  The Internet has 29,700,000 results when I search "how to wear a scarf".

You can tie it, wrap it, drape it, fold it, pin it. You can wear it at the back, the front or on the side. 

Give some thought to the rest of your outfit. If you want styling ideas look at how items are shown in the knitting magazines.

That issue has 32 patterns and a lace caplet is the one the editor chose for the cover shot. 

Toughen up the rest of your look. I wear my shawls with leather jackets, boyfriend jeans, pencil skirts and motto or high heeled boots.

Or just get over it. Ageism is rampant in our youth obsessed culture. We don't need to buy into it! Try checking out blogs like Advanced Style where you'll see brave, individualistic fashion choices being made. Check out this Instagram challenge on challenging the silly rules of what not to wear after 30. I think we knitters need to show off our amazing work and be proud that we have things to wear that aren't mainstream, boring and available in every mall around the world.


Monday, August 24, 2015

More Three Dimensional Thinking for Knitters

I'm still thinking about fitting for knitters and how I would go about learning this aspect of garment making if I hadn't been a sewer. I looked at Amy Herzog's book Knit to Flatter. It has a short section on modifications. It's twelve pages with plenty of photos and drawings and makes an excellent starting point. 

When I took pattern drafting I had no intention of drafting my own sewing patterns. I took classes to understand how it was done so I could more easily modify patterns. 

There's no reason a knitter couldn't focus on sewing adjustment materials to learn what they need to and apply that back to knitting.

It's a two step process:

1) Understand the flat pattern
2) Add shaping with darts.

Darts for knitters are accomplished with short rows or internal increases and decreases. 

There are lots of free resources that we can use, my library has all sorts of books on fitting. YouTube has an amazing amount of videos available, just search "pattern drafting bodice" view a few of the basic versions and then move on to:

This video explains darts and you can see why shaping is necessary for good fit. 

If you do create a basic "sloper" it could be compared to any pattern schematic if you create a paper mock up. 

Here's a great article from Threads magazine. Their image below gives you the highlights.

Friday, August 21, 2015

An Interview with...Jenise Hope

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 Jenise here, on Pinterest here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
My favorite place to find inspiration is in my own closet - one of the best things about being able to knit is having ability to knit myself a top just like my favorite, but fixing those little details I don't like, or improving the fit.  For instance, adding bust short rows, or shortening it slightly (since I am petite), or making it in a fiber or color I prefer and can't find or afford in stores.  I am actually in in the midst of releasing a collection (2015 sweater collection: of sweaters/tops that are all better versions of the staple items in my personal wardrobe.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Working in the round.  For a silly reason - I hate turning my work around!  I don't know why I feel that I waste so much time and effort in the couple of seconds it takes to turn my work around, but I just hate it.  Besides working in the round, I love Kitchener stitch.  And the more complicated it is (working in pattern stitches, anyone?) the more accomplished I feel when I get it done perfectly!

How did you determine your size range?
Initially, I had a look at the CYC standards, and started working with them.  Going from 28-50 inch bust sizes was 6 sizes, and when I have tried making more than six sizes, it just muddles my brain.  I guess you could say I am stuck in a size rut now :)  Also, I am confident within that range, but I have minimal experience fitting larger or smaller sizes than that and I would rather not offer a badly-fitting size.  As it is, I have adjusted my sizing charts at the upper range here and there.  More weight does not mean longer arms, or broader shoulders, so I have tweaked numbers here and there to fit the shape most women are.  Right now the ladies making my sweaters seem to be primarily in the 34-42 inch bust range, so the range just makes sense to me.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
One of the best places to learn what works, is to evaluate FOs and see how the different factors like the yarn, stitch pattern, style lines, and ease play together to make a more or less successful design.  I simply can't knit all the sweaters, and so I often browse patterns and projects on Ravelry just to see what worked and what didn't, and what different choices do to the overall effect.  Looking at pictures won't do it all, but combined with experience knitting, pictures of other sweaters can do a lot for learning about designing them.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I usually write my patterns with a more experienced knitter in mind, and often use "advanced" techniques like grafting or wrong and right side patterned lace.  So I don't feel a need to write to the lowest possible skill level, and as an advanced knitter myself, I don't like having to skim over instructions on how to purl mixed into a pattern.  If you can't purl, k2tog, cast on, or cast off, those are best left out of the pattern besides a short note.  If the knitter doesn't know how to do it, it is up to them to check their "how to knit" book, or to utilize you-tube, which is likely to teach them much better than my wordy explanation. The one time I think tutorials should be included in a pattern is when an unusual technique is used, like an uncommon cast on, or a confusing form of a stitch that might be confusing for the knitter to look up. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
As much as I would like to do it all myself, my wrists won't allow me, and I love being able to write more patterns than I have time to knit samples too.  At any given time, I am likely to have 1-3 knitters somewhere slowly working on something.  Right now I have a larger than usual group knitting for me, about 7.  There is a second sample of a sweater, a big colorwork blanket, and a bunch of little accessories over a number of ladies.Test knits, when I do them, are more informal and involve 4-12 knitters at a time.  They tend to be more like a KAL in my group.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Ha!  No.  I wrote my first four patterns on a whim, for fun.  It wasn't till I started having good sales that it even occurred to me that it might be a viable business.  I have had the privilege of having the basics of life (food, housing, transportation) covered by my family, and I was free to decide this was a route that might be worth trying, and be free to experiment without worrying about this months rent.  As a result, I put a good year and half into full time design before it started making a decent amount of income, and now with three and a half years of full time work behind me, I am enjoying good sales and income.  It wouldn't have been viable if I needed to pay rent every month - only now am I getting to the point where I could live off my design income if I needed to.

Do you have a mentor?
For design?  Not really.  The only way I survived the first year or two was by reading and reading in the designers groups on Ravelry!  From there I picked up a lot of helpful information, and then my own experiments and charts did the rest.  Design is different for everyone, you really have to experiment to figure out what is going to worth your time.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not intentionally.  I tend to work in fits of "hey, this might be fun!" and see what ends up being the projects that make the money.  It always surprises me what will make the most sales. It took me about a year before I was confident enough to think I could work on a magazine deadline, and by then I was usually making more off my self published designs than most publications pay, so I more or less accidentally ended up following a primarily self-publishing model. 

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Before my marriage, life and work were well melded and blended till you could hardly tell which was what, besides taking Sundays off.  If I'm knitting and having coffee with a friend, is it life or work?  If I'm on vacation with my family, but getting photos of my newest sweater that I'm wearing that day for the website, is that life or work?  Now that I am married, I usually take Saturday and half of Monday off as well, so I can spend some time focused on us and the household. For myself, I would tend towards the workaholic side, and I usually deal with that by making myself prioritize relationships.  If there is an event with friends, I go.  I might bring knitting along, but I have a rule that if the project gets to the point where I can't follow the talk anymore, I put the knitting away till I'm alone and can focus on figuring out the knitting.  I love my work!  It often enough feels like relaxing and fun, so there is a sense where knitting is my life as well as my work.

How do you deal with criticism?
By seriously asking myself if it is true or not.  If it is, change.  If it isn't, move on and forget.  If it is something silly, who cares.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Three years of working full time.  Partly due to the amount of learning that has to happen before you can consistently make acceptable-good designs, partly just learning the ropes of the business side and figuring out what my work is worth.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Keep Learning.  Keep pushing yourself.  Once you make something, be sure to look back at it and evaluate.  Think about what you did wrong, or what could have been done better.  Think about what worked and what didn't.  This process of constant evaluation (and do it when you see other designers work too) builds up that intuitive sense that tells you what will work and what won't when you design your next projects.

What’s next for you?
A publisher of printed books recently contacted me, asking me to write a book/pattern collection for them, so that's the current big project!  Otherwise I still have a couple sweaters left in the 2015 collection, and a number of other projects live on in my mind, waiting till I have time to turn them into a pattern.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Three Dimensional Thinking for Knitters

The way most sewers learn about fitting garments is by carefully examining the item on the body and making adjustments. I mentioned in my last post that sewers often make a test garment before cutting into their expensive fabric. Sometimes we use a plain cheap fabric, some use gingham because you can see the verticals and horizontals so clearly. No hems, outside seam lines or facings are added so the finished lines of the garment can be assessed.

Knitters can do exactly the same thing. Deborah Newton has an article in an old Threads magazine where she demonstrated the process. Fashion Doesn't Stop at 40 Inches Issue 18 1998.

Here's Deborah making mockup out of T-shirt fabric. It's best to start with a knit fabric when doing this.

Here's the pattern schematic created from the fitting. You can see how non-standard the shapes are. 

The article is also available in this book.

Recently a knitting friend sent me a link to this blog post.

I checked the writers "about me" page and see she included seamstress in her description of herself.  I wasn't surprised, creating a paper pattern to understand construction is a "sewerly" thing to do.

Unfortunately the only way to learn to think about garments more three dimensionally is to just do it. I once did a quarter size mock up in fabric to help a friend who couldn't figure out how to seam an unusual shape. We slipped it over a bottle as a stand in for a body. She was very surprised at how quickly it solved the problem and said she had wasted hours trying to figure it out with the pieces laid flat on a table. 

If you want to explore this further try making either a life size paper or fabric mockup of the schematic of a pattern you want to knit using the measurements for the size you have chosen and analyze it in relationship to the intended wearer of the garment.