Friday, January 29, 2016

An Interview with...Isabell Kraemer


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

You can find Isabell here and here on Ravelry.

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

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

Audrey Cardigan

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Criss Cross

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Do you use a tech editor?

Mostly, yes.

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

How do you deal with criticism? 

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

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

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

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

Trust yourself!

What’s next for you?  

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


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

More on Knitter's Graph Paper

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

Here's the sleeve schematic: 

Here's the sleeve instruction: 

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

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

Monday, January 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

An Interview with...Courtney Spainhower

Cicely Shawl

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 Courtney here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

This is always a tough question to answer because so much of my work is for publication within a collection. The easy answer is that I’m inspired by the information the editor provides in their mood boards. I take liberties with these – and as a designer you have to because “inspiration” is a fine line to walk. I normally think first about the mood the editor is looking for, then take queues from the board in the form of silhouette, fabric textures, and colors.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love texture – knit and purl, ribbing, slipped stitches... I find myself wanting to pack as many textures and techniques as I can into one piece, then reining it in and stripping selectively. I also find myself pushing to use any technique that will make the knitting process easier and more enjoyable. Many times this means searching out ways to knit seamlessly or in one piece so that finishing is kept to a minimum.

How did you determine your size range?
Size ranges are often dictated by the publisher I’m working with. Each magazine or book will have a set range of sizes and they ask that the pattern has a certain number within that range. I try to spread out my sizing to fit as many as possible – even ranging to fit from a 32” bust to a 52” bust.

Gather Pullover

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? 
I have gone back and forth about this over my design career. It’s often helpful to see what is trending with knitters via Ravelry; a quick glance will tell if shawls are dominating or sweaters, but I don’t make a habit of searching out other designers' work. However, if I’m feeling particularly blocked, I’ll flip through my old knitting pattern books or browse collections online. It’s my equivalent to writer’s block when sitting down with a good book is a nice break from the pressure of putting pen to page.

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

I love this question. It’s tricky and there are so many facets.

I remember the struggle of pre-design knitting very well, and so I truly sympathize with those needing support. I am happy to do a bit of hand holding to get someone through a pattern because I think knitting is wonderful (!) and for me, it’s all about an enjoyable process. The downside is: I learned quickly that it’s also an ordeal for someone like me who is raising a family and working to meet publication deadlines to create self-published works.

I simply don’t have enough hours in the day to produce a pattern myself that will have all the extra information that some knitters expect (though I think I provide a generous amount of information). Also, writing patterns is not easy; there is a whole lot of calculating, there is a whole lot of creative energy spent, there is a ton of research that is done, and at the end of the day – it’s not the most lucrative profession.

From a designer standpoint, the tough days are the ones where I’m answering emails asking how to “M1” because with the amount of information at our fingertips, it’s faster for the knitter to enter “M1 knitting” into a search engine. I’m accustomed to having to pack a lot of information into a limited amount of space for magazine work and I omit abbreviation lists and photos. I try to think of those folks that are going to print my pattern out and carry it around in their knitting bag… so, I include the minimum information required. I have many photos on my Ravelry page and on my website; I don’t feel the need to add them to the printable downloads. This makes some people nuts. I also have a downloadable list of abbreviations on my website.

What I have found is that something always comes up, and I’ll never appease the masses. I’m okay with that. I love what I do and I have learned to self-publish pieces that I was particularly inspired to create without the influence of editors and publishers.

Quills Arrow Shawl

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

I have a rotation of about a dozen test knitters, but these folks have lives, so when many of them are unavailable for a deadline, I’ll call for testers. I’ve only used a few sample knitters and that was for my first book. I prefer to do my own sample knitting for any other design work.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Wow – such a great question. No, I didn’t. When I decided to dive into the knitting industry, I had no experience, I had no vision, and I had no plan. All I was armed with was a desire to make money knitting, one way or another. Fortunately, my husband was very supportive and really pushed me to stay on track even if it meant changing directions entirely. My first thought was to knit pieces for sale via Etsy and local retailers. I learned what a hard road that was and thought it made more sense for me to design and write patterns for sale. It seemed logical to do the work once and continue earning revenue for the lifetime of the pattern. I spent almost a year feeling like I was wandering around in the dark.

Do you have a mentor?
I wish I had a mentor. I was never active in any knitting groups, I never took a knitting class, and I never actually immersed myself in the local knitting community. Everything I learned came from books and the internet after my mother-in-law took a knitting class and showed me how to cast-on and knit. She hadn’t gotten to “purl” yet ;)

If anything, I’m the modern knitter cliché, having been most influenced by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I didn’t love her for her patterns though – I loved her for her attitude. She was against fussy knitting, seaming, and was an outcast in the knitting world during her early years trying to break into the industry. I think she and I would have gotten along quite well.

Catena Hat

Do you use a tech editor? 

I have used a tech editor in the past. I have also had unpleasant experiences where patterns were “corrected” incorrectly or debates arose about measurements. This was my personal experience though and I know there are tons of amazing tech editors out there! It was earlier in my career when I really needed the support and it caused me more work and headaches.

I have since turned to my test knitters who are lovely folks and who are happy to knit a pattern and look for typos and mathematical errors. It seems no matter how many eyes/hands are on a pattern, mistakes still make it through and that’s something I try to correct as quickly as possible. This is true for published works also – it’s not the independent designer’s curse.

How do you maintain your life/work balance? Keeping balance is always the struggle. There was a time, not long ago, that I would be so fretful about deadlines I would be up all night working, then run the kids to school, and work a bit more before crashing for a few hours. That sort of schedule isn’t built to last and I have an auto-immune disorder that rears its ugly head when I start to over-extend myself.

Now, I have scheduled times for computer work when the kids are at school and I knit whenever possible while maintaining my insanely early bedtime. If I don’t get to all the emails or finish as much on a pattern as I wanted, I put it to the top of the list and begin again the next day. This used to be so hard for me because I didn’t want to appear lazy or disrespectful, but I had to forgive myself and accept my limitations. The only time I go into serious work mode when the family is home from school/work is if I have a deadline zooming toward me, but that is rare.

Wild Violets Shawl

How do you deal with criticism? 
I come from a fine art background which means I spent a great deal of time in studio classes where critiques were part of the daily schedule. I learned many, many years ago that any criticism about my work is not an attack on me – on my person – but an opinion or observation about something I made. It’s hard in the beginning to see that division and trust it.

Now, any criticisms about my works I take either with a grain of salt, as in 'you and I aren’t really matched in taste or style and that’s okay' or, if someone has very specific issues with my designs, I listen and really take the notes to heart. I will think about those negative remarks as I move forward with my future designs because I want to have pieces available that appeal to a wide audience.

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

Once I got into the rotation of pattern submissions, I was receiving a steady flow of money. It took about two years to really ease into that rotation though. In the beginning it seemed insane to do all that work and have to wait six months or more for payment. My first published piece was a pullover for spring and I was working on it at the tail end of the previous summer. When spring came and I was working on pieces for the following winter, I was happy to have incurred at least some revenue! Now, I have a good system and can work up patterns in a fraction of the time, meaning I can take on more and make more as a result.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
There are many ways to have a career in the knitting world and so, first off you must find your place. As I mentioned previously, I struggled with that exact thing early on and I think we’re all able to lock in our passions, just not always coming from the same direction. There are folks that can knit the same thing dozens of times and sell them for great margins. I go crazy just knitting a second sock or fingerless glove and so knitting the same thing over and over made me bonkers. Others find that dyeing yarn really clicks with them – and those folks can find success rather quickly. Design takes a certain personality I think, and all the fussiness takes the joy of knitting right out of it for many. I know some make extra cash as sample knitters, there are highly respected tech editors, the list goes on and on…

Once you’ve found your sweet spot in the industry, it’s time to start getting to know other folks in the industry, either via social media or attending trade shows/conventions. Being friendly and offering your services can do wonders for your new career. The hard part comes when you start to feel resistance and you must push forward. I think working in any creative industry requires a fair amount of grit!

What’s next for you? 

My first book, Family-Friendly Knits, hit the shelves in November – which would have been a great opportunity for me to take a little time off. Instead, I began working on a proposal for my second book. I’m also working with three yarn companies (Feel Good Yarn Co, Kettle Yarn Co, and Berroco), designing patterns that will be released in 2016.

Little One Yoke Cardigan

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Knitter's Graph Paper

I often forget when I'm teaching that not everyone knows about knitter's graph paper. 

Knitter's graph paper is proportional, rather than providing the same numbers of squares per inch for both stitches and rows. This means if the ratio is 5 stitches per inch and 7 rows per inch, the proportion is reflected in the size of the graph paper boxes. They end up as rectangles rather than squares.

This type of graph paper was used in the past when knitting Intarsia but at the moment picture knitting isn't as popular as it once was. 

I use the graph paper when I'm designing. It's a quick way to lay out angles and curves. In many cases you get a more accurate shaping due to the constant rounding off when working mathematically. You can see lots of examples in my Design-a-long series which starts here.  

You can print this paper off here or just google other sources.

I've included some photos below that came from one of my very early design classes. 

This is what happens when you draw a shape on regular graph paper and knit it, the shape gets squashed down.

This is what happens when you draw a shape on knitter's graph paper and knit it, the shape maintains it's proportions.

Monday, January 18, 2016

More Time with Friends

Cartoon from the Lion Brand Blog head on over for more in their archives

I think the best thing about Christmas (similar to birthdays) is that it becomes a traditional pre-planned period of getting together with friends we haven't seen in a while. It helps to keep those friendships alive and we get to realize how very important they are to us even when we can't fit them in as often as we would like to in our busy lives.

At one of these events I found out a sewing friend has taken up knitting! Yeah! Knitters will rule the world someday!

This means I get to have the fun of sharing knitting with someone who has a fresh approach. That's a great thing for a knitting teacher as it helps me see things from a different perspective and I can fill in the holes which turn up when teaching a technique to someone who may not share my knitting vocabulary. Ms. C has been reading my blog and is already noticing that Ravelry is both a fantastic resource and an awful time suck if you don't stay focused while you are there.   

We had a conversation which seemed very familiar. As a sewer (we met in a Tailoring class) she shares a similar approach to garment making with me. Ms. C had read

Sound Bites that Make me Crazy. But it's too hard to... 
but then she said to me "it seems like patterns are written to make things easy for the knitter, not for the best possible garment." 

Where have I heard that before? 

It's here on Sally Melville's blog post from 2012.

Friday, January 15, 2016

An Interview with...Linda Marveng

Jacket in Cross

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 Linda here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I am influenced by fashion designers but also by architecture and sculptural lines, as well as nature itself. I find inspirations in magazines, books and just by walking around observing. I often look for textures and garment shapes in fashion magazines.

What's your favourite knitting technique?
My favorite knitting technique is cables. The sculptural texture tends to highlight the best qualities of the yarn in my opinion.

How did you determine your size range?
I began designing with a size range going
only from Small to Large, but have since learnt to grade better and have responded to requests from my Ravelry group. My size range is now from Extra Small to 2 Extra Large. I did try yet a larger size but could not find test knitters to test size 3 Extra Large.


Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I do look at other designers’ work just to be updated. I am in awe of the work other designers do. It might lead to a spark of imagination into an unknown territory for me. I think I am influenced by other designs but always true to what I believe is my style. 

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
Scandinavian patterns are in general much shorter than English patterns, and often use terms such as “reverse shaping”, “increase evenly”, “increase every 2 cm”, “pick up and knit evenly around neck line” and so on. So my pattern style has changed a lot, and it is much more detailed. I use abbreviations and do not describe common techniques in detail, such as a provisional cast-on, but will add a video link to my pdf pattern. I do not agree in spelling out all knitting terms and explaining all techniques used in the pattern text, not even for new knitters. I believe all new knitters need to acquire a set of knitting skills, including learning essential abbreviations and a number of different techniques. This is much easier today than before the internet, with all the videos available online.


How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have one brilliant sample knitter I could not work without, and a couple of others I can ask if my next photo shoot is coming up too quickly. I have realized that I cannot knit all the designs myself any more, since most of them are time consuming knits. In addition, I have many devoted test knitters in my Ravelry group.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, I did not have a formal business plan, and my different jobs have changed over the years. My day job is formatting and proof reading knitting and crochet patterns for the Norwegian magazine Familien, as well as translations from the Scandinavian languages or English into Norwegian or the other way around. Both designing and holding workshops are much smaller parts of my job. I also run a business together with my husband who is an architect and a graphic designer. He made my logo, and does all the pattern layouts.


Do you have a mentor?
Yes, in the beginning I had Norwegian designer Iselin Hafseld as my mentor. She used to design hand knits but has switched to machine knitted collections for her brand Tinde. These days I tend to ask designers I know, such as Hanna Maciejewska and Eline Oftedal, or my test knitters, or my tech editor Corrina Ferguson, for advice. There is also a Norwegian designers' group on Facebook that is ever so useful to me.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No, but I do take advice and try to figure out the business model that works best for me.

Tyrol Jacket

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, it did not take me long to realize that I needed a tech editor to double-check my numbers as well as my wording in English - especially since I have gone from writing patterns in a Norwegian style to English, then to the American style. I also learnt after publishing my Norwegian knitting book how essential an excellent tech editor is. I learn from my mistakes, and find relief in knowing that I can just ask my tech editor for advice when I need it.

How do you maintain a life/work balance?
There is no life/work balance for me, but then knitting is such a huge part of my life that I have no reason to complain. I do make sure that I have more focus on my designing at the weekends than during the rest of the week, and take time off with my husband in between my tasks.

Cable Round Sweater

How do you deal with criticism?
I am getting better, and appreciate constructive criticism. My work in different yarn shops has made my skin grow thicker when I receive criticism. I try to respond calmly, explain and give them any additional information such as links to different knitting techniques or other references I find necessary.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
There seem to be very few designers that can live on design alone, unless it is combined with teaching or other jobs. So be prepared to give up all holidays, find an excellent tech editor, start a Ravelry group, and always challenge yourself.

What's next for you?
Next on my agenda is sending out more design submissions to international magazines. I am currently working on my fifth design for Interweave, waiting for yarn for number six, and planning to self publish for the first time early next year.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Alternative Needle Arts for Knitters

This afternoon I'm taking the third and final of a three class beginner Tambour embroidery workshop. Also known as Luneville embroidery, this is the form of embroidery used by the Haute Couture houses. The instructor is Sarah Cownley who completed an apprenticeship in Paris, France and earned a certificate in Professional Couture Embroidery and Beadwork at Lesage (an atelier owned by Chanel).

I find I get a huge creative burst by exploring other mediums beyond knitting. The additional knowledge never hurts either. As a teacher it's very instructive to go back and be a student. Learning the basic stitch is challenging, new muscle memory has to be built after you understand the technique. I practiced everyday between the first and second class and I'm still feeling like I'm wearing thick gloves as I manipulate the needle and try to hold a tiny bead or sequin in place. I'm taking the class with two other knitting teachers and we all observed how teaching new skills is often more a matter of coaching and encouraging students to get past this awkward stage. Sarah has been doing this work for more than six years and must slow it way down to demonstrate the techniques. As always, I realize while watching her, the answer to building skill at any needle art is practice, practice, practice and repeat 1000 times more at minimum.

Here's the tiny little hook we use to chain stitch attaching beads on the underside of the fabric.

You can see more of Sarah's work here

You can also look on Youtube to see the method. 

If you'd like to see more examples check out this Pinterest board

Monday, January 11, 2016

Different Approaches to Choosing Patterns and Yarn

One of the fun things about belonging to a knitting guild is getting to talk to other knitters and hearing how differently they approach the aspects of knitting. At our last meeting Terri commented on a recent post Tips for Using Ravelry when Choosing Patterns and shared some of her tips with me. 

Terri starts with the yarn, she buys what she likes and then goes into Ravelry and searches for patterns which match the parameters of her yarn. She inputs the yarn weight and yardage and then looks for a pattern which appeals to her. She prints off the pattern and stores it with the yarn. Then she's always ready to start something new when one project ends. 

Here's an example of a search for 600 yards of worsted weight yarn. I could further narrow the search to patterns in my library or free patterns, or patterns for children only etc.

I think I'm going to set something up like this for myself. I have on occasion been scrambling around for something to knit because my current knitting is too big, too complex or too early in the design process to be taken to knit night, a guild meeting or while traveling.

Terri's other tip was about choosing some yarn which she normally would have by passed thinking the colours were wrong for her. As she searched through a display of hand dyed skeins she suddenly noticed the plaid cuff of her raincoat coordinated perfectly with a skein of yarn she would have normally passed by as "not her colours". The tip here is, it always pays to be open minded and to keep our eyes open too. What you don't see won't go home with you to become a project which is outside your normal range and could become one of your favourites.

Friday, January 8, 2016

An Interview with...Ashley Knowlton

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 Ashley here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
Fit. As someone who has trouble buying off-the-rack clothes that fit me well, I might obsess a bit over the fit of my knitwear. You'll find waist shaping in all my of sweater patterns, as I (perhaps rather selfishly) fixate on garments that would suit my own body. I plan shapes of garments and patterns that would suit the sort of silhouette I'm looking for.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
It changes depending on my mood and what I'm working on at the time. I usually have multiple projects going so I can switch between cables, lace, and plain stockinette. It also means it takes me three times longer to get anything done...

I find top-down garments difficult to write and grade, though I recognise they are fun to knit and can sometimes be easier to customise. I tend to favour bottom-up seamless garments with short-row set-in sleeves, because I hate sewing and have no patience for it. For accessories, I like clever little techniques that completely change construction and again make things seamless, like in my Stippers pattern.

How did you determine your size range? 
I try to grade as widely as possible, because I know how frustrating it can be to fall in love with something and not have the pattern available in your size.

Rarely, a pattern will refuse to grade up (or, more often, down) as much as I'd like due to pattern constraints--this is especially true with large-scale cable or lace patterns. Usually I'll find a solution, but I prefer to keep the proportions for each size as true to the sample as possible.

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

I'm a tech editor, so I absolutely look at other designers' work! All of us have our own methods, styles, and ways of doing things; I've learned a few new techniques from my clients as I'm sure they've learned from me. But we also have our own preferred methods and our own distinctive aesthetics, so I'm not very worried that my own designs will replicate others', no.

I find myself most inspired by ready-to-wear clothing, especially things with a vintage feel, but by the time I find myself getting around to designing something similar-ish to something I saw in a magazine, it's already three years out of season! You have to move fast in the fashion world, and I am not that quickest of knitters.

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

I am unapologetically a lover of brevity in my patterns--both in my own and in the patterns I edit. I cut out a lot of words because most often I find that more words just gives you more opportunity to confuse a less experienced knitter. I think links to tutorials might be more helpful than longer explanations.

But all in all, it really depends on your target audience. If you're aiming toward beginning knitters with simpler patterns, slowing down and writing things down in length might be what you want to do. I generally target those more experienced, so write in the more abbreviated way as I am accustomed.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I always knit my own samples as I'm a process designer and always change things as I go. I have test knitters I find in a testing group; a few recurring ones, often new ones.

Do you use a tech editor?
Absolutely. Even the best tech editors miss things in their own patterns (sometimes huge, embarrassing, and extremely obvious things--the pattern equivalent of walking around with your skirt stuck in your tights). My primary tech editor is Akshata Dhareshwar and she does lovely work; she is very thorough and very sweet.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I take school holidays off to spend more time with my teacher husband (who I don't often get to see in daylight during term time!). I also only tech edit part-time as my brain can only take numbers for so many hours each day. I balance it out with veg time designing and knitting samples in front of the telly or--my great love--writing fiction.

How do you deal with criticism?
I'm still developing a thick skin. Sometimes (though rarely) criticism can serve no purpose and just be cruel for cruelty's sake, though I think I've not been on the receiving end of this very often, if at all. Usually it is very helpful; I just have to let it sit for a day before I respond and try to fix it, or decide it's a simple difference in opinion and is best off not being changed.

What’s next for you?

More of the same, I imagine! Knitting, editing, and writing, though I haven't released many patterns independently in the past two years and would like to release at least a half-dozen in 2016. But all in all, I've created quite a nice life for myself here with my family and I'm hoping (knock on wood) that it will be stable for a while.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Ravelry's Top Five Knitting Patterns by Project Numbers 2016 Update

Again, not much has changed in the top five list since I wrote about it last year. It was originally written as a follow up to another blogger's post from Dec. 2012. The list is sorted according to projects. You can see the complete list on Ravelry by going to the pattern search page and choosing most projects in the sort box that appears at the top, in the middle of the page.

2012 number 3, 2014 number 2, 2015 number 1, 2016 number 1

2012 number 1, 2014 number 1, 2015 number 2, 2016 number 2

This is the only new one in the top five,

2012 number 2, 2014 number 3, 2015 number 3, 2016 number 4
2015 number 5, 2016 number 5

Last year I wrote: "The surprising thing to me is with 334,859 possibilities in Ravelry the list continues to be so static. The list changes when I choose a different search parameter however I have no historical data for comparison."

The day I wrote this post (Dec 28) we now have 577,508 possibilities. 

The 2015 post is here.

The 2014 post is here

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year Resolutions

A new year feels like a fresh start for many people. We set resolutions and think about goals for the coming months. I often think we fall short of those goals because we choose ones that are too lofty. They appear too far off in the future. For the past couple of years I've shifted my focus from the final goal to attention on tiny little improvements. As knitters we know that small things (stitches) add up to big things (blankets) when given regular attention over long periods of time.

Planing fallacy refers to the phenomenon that people and organizations tend to underestimate the amount of time it takes to reach a given goal. The opposite seems to occur when we look at large tasks or goals and give up before we even start because the end seems to be impossibly far away.

I often hear non-knitters say they don't have the patience to knit but we knitters know knitting helps you to be more patient. This year, if you are thinking about making habit changes which seem overwhelming, try remembering your last knitting project and know according to Things I Learned From Knitting: ...whether I wanted to or not by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee a pair of adult socks takes about 22,000 stitches. When I look back over my knitting career I simply can't imagine the total number of stitches I've created! All those tiny little steps have added up to an amazing number. It makes big projects broken into tiny steps look much more reasonable doesn't it?

Friday, January 1, 2016

An Interview with...Jennie Atkinson

Jennie and the Miss Lavinia cape

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 Jennie herehere on Ravelry, and here on Etsy. 

Where do you find inspiration?

In many places! When I first started designing about 30 years ago I looked at knitting patterns from the 1940s, 50s and 60s for ideas on stitches, shaping and details. Nowadays, when I design for magazines they will usually give you a fashion ‘story’ – generally quite an abstract idea based on the trends seen in the catwalk collections - and that can spark off all sorts of ideas.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Beading! I’ve used beading in my designs in the last few years – especially as I like to use fine yarns – and have recently designed for a Rowan Swarovski collaboration using crystals.

How did you determine your size range?

When I design for magazines, they determine the size range.

Beaded Top from A Handknit Romance

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I think most designers have their own ‘handwriting’, a style based on their preferences for yarn, stitches etc. so even if you gave several designers the same brief they would come up with very different designs. It is useful to see what other designers are doing.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I didn’t realise there was one! But if you mean that patterns give too much information, then I suppose some people might need it. However, I have studied knitting patterns from the 19th and early 20th centuries and they gave hardly any information at all. They relied on the fact that knitters would have knowledge – probably learned at school or from relatives – and would use some initiative, and that sounds like a good idea to me!

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

My own designs I like to do myself. When I design for other companies they often have their own knitters.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I’ve done several over the years! My business has changed many times. I started by making knitted garments to sell to shops, then in my own shop. Then I started designing for the ‘home-knit’ market; then I did my book A Handknit Romance off my own bat; then I started doing knitting fairs in order to sell the books; then I added kits. It’s a good idea to have a plan, but then be flexible enough to alter it if necessary.

Shawl Collar Wrap

Do you have a mentor?
I’ve been seeing a business adviser for the past few months.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really, but I recently heard a talk by a successful knitwear designer and I really like how she runs her business, so it gave me some new ideas. I think it probably is a good idea to study a successful business and pick up ideas, then think of how your business can use those but be different.

Do you use a tech editor? 

I have done.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I really enjoy what I do, so it is difficult to separate the two.

How do you deal with criticism?
I don’t mind constructive criticism – good or bad. I’m my own harshest critic!

Butterfly Dress

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
That’s a difficult one as I have been doing this a long time, and sometimes I have struggled a bit. If this article is about giving advice I would say start with another source of regular income, perhaps a part-time job, and this will allow you to put all your profits back into the business. Then when the business is doing well enough, you can start paying yourself!

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
It depends what sort of career. It’s always helpful to work for someone who has the type of business you would like, to get an insight. Or, if someone wants to work as a freelance designer, sell designs to magazines and yarn companies. I would say just go for it!

What’s next for you?
I am having yet another re-think! I’m still doing freelance design for magazines and yarn companies, but I like the idea of making finished items again, rather than focussing on selling patterns. I have so many ideas for designs and only a few of them ever see the light of day! Basically, I’m a designer, I love designing knitwear and that’s what I want to be doing.