Friday, December 23, 2016

An Interview with...Leah B. Thibault



http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ezekiel-saw


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 Leah here and here on Ravelry.


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/prairie-wife


Where do you find inspiration?
My inspiration comes from a lot of different places – recent designs have been inspired by the paintings of Harvey Dunn and N.C. Wyeth, modern Americana music, and the way snow trickles down mountains to make rivers. I tend to be more fanciful in my inspiration when it comes to accessories and more character-driven in my garments. I like to think about a type of person or an event and design a sweater around that moment. I’m particularly drawn to rural farm women in the 1930s and 1940s who demonstrated a combination of utility and beauty I admire.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
It depends on what I’m working on! Right now, I’m having a bit of a love affair with using multiple yarn-overs in a row in my lace work, which opens up the fabric in a different way.

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

I definitely enjoy looking at other designers work and wish I had more time to knit it. I feel solid enough in my own design style that I can appreciate others work, but I probably tend to look more at people’s work that isn’t similar to my own. For example, love seeing the traditionally-inspired colorwork from my European peers or the very geometric and structurally-driven work of someone like Bristol Ivy or Olga Buraya-Kefelian. They help to remind me of all the things that knitting can be and help me push the boundaries of my own designs.
 
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ocaso


How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I think that everyone should have access to making, which means a range of patterns for different skill levels. I’m often surprised that my simplest patterns are some of the best-selling ones. As for the language used within the patterns, what can be clear to one person is obtuse to another. I work with several different publishers and they all have different preferences, some of which don’t align with my own.

I try to make my patterns as clear as possible, but I think that trying to teach someone a new technique in a four-page pattern is asking for trouble and that there are better platforms for learning – the local yarn shop being number one, but also the proliferation of online courses and tutorials.

I recently held my first in-person event and the most frequently heard comment I received was variations on ‘Your patterns are beautiful, but I’m not there yet.” I think as designers, it’s easy to forget that a lot of people are still learning and that not everyone is as obsessed with knitting as we are! I’ve started trying to identify the challenging bits of my new patterns and working out tutorials for my blog to help people through it. They’re a ton of work, but people really appreciate it.

I think a good balance is happening in the indie sewing world – where the pattern instructions themselves are not that different from the commercial patterns that have been the same for decades, but that they offer a certain level of “hand-holding” through tutorials or sew-a-longs for those who need them. I sewed my first pair of jeans last year and I don’t know if I would have taken the plunge if the pattern designer hadn’t included tutorials for some tricky bits.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I’ve used one or two sample knitters in the past with various levels of success, but my preference, when deadlines allow, is to knit it myself. I often like to adjust the pattern as I knit it, which you can’t do with sample knitters. Maybe after I get another 50 patterns under my belt, I’ll feel more confident that I can write a whole pattern exactly as I want it from a swatch, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, but as my business grows more complex, it would probably be a good idea.


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/bradac


Do you have a mentor?
No, but I’d love one, if anyone’s offering! I do, however, live in an area with a disproportionately large amount of knitwear designers, so I benefit from bouncing ideas off of them. I also have a great relationship with the owner of my local yarn store (www.yarnonthebrain.com) who offers great encouragement, as well as insight into customers.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
She’s not a knitting designer (though she does have crochet patterns), but I really admire how Alicia Paulson runs her business (www.aliciapaulson.com). I especially appreciate how she works seamlessly between several different crafts. I’ve always been more of a Jane-of-All-Trades kind of person, with a wide range of interests rather than a specialist, so the opportunity to design in several different arenas appeals to me and is the direction I’ve been shifting my business in the past year or so.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes. I use them on every single one of my self-published patterns. I think it’s so important to have a second set of eyes, especially when grading to multiple sizes or using an usual construction technique. A good tech editor will help make your pattern not only accurate, but clearer as well. 


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/honeymaker


How do you maintain your life/work balance?
That’s probably the hardest part. I work a full-time day job and have a 3½ year old child at home, so while I can squeeze knitting in on my carpool days and while watching TV, a lot of my work (photography, layout, editing, etc.) gets done at night when everyone’s gone to bed. I stay up much later than I should sometimes, but I have a hard time relaxing, so it’s a good outlet for that energy. At the same time, occasionally I have to remind myself that it’s okay to take a break. My daughter sometimes asks me to nap with her and it’s a good reminder to slow down and give her a snuggle.

Prior to delving into knitting design, my creative outlet was theatre. I studied it in school, did a number of internships, and it was central to my life for several years until I burned out and doing theatre lost its joy for me. That experience was very informative for me and it’s something I keep in mind as I try to build my business. I take my business (Ms. Cleaver Creations – www.mscleaver.com) and my freelance design work very seriously and I hope that someday it can be my full-time job, but it’s no good to me if I build myself a job that ends up making me miserable, so I try to regularly ask myself what’s working for me and what isn’t – and the day job gives me more flexibility in figuring that out over time.

How do you deal with criticism?
I try to take it with a grain of salt, but not ignore what may be valid criticism. I’ve had people complain that my yarn requirements were off when the pattern clearly stated that the sample used all of X number of skeins and recommended the purchase of an additional skein. I’ve had people complain about the wording of a pattern that was rewritten in the style of the publishing company. There’s really not much I can do about that and I try not to give it much brain space. But if someone contacts me with an error or has issues about fit or construction. I try to listen and make adjustments as possible. All that said, I still get a sick feeling in my stomach the first time I see any piece of criticism – no one likes to be criticized, but I also realize that I’m still learning – and I’m only going to get better over time.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I’ll let you know when I get there!

 
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/eiswasser


What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
1) Making a living by selling one-off patterns alone is very difficult (though not impossible) – if you want to do it full-time, think about how you can build off that platform – is it making books/collections, teaching, doing kits, doing tech editing or photography for other designers, etc.?

2) The creating/designing part you love, is only a small part of a creative business - there are a lot of parts like accounting or marketing that you may find less appealing or an excellent chance to grow your skills.

3) Don’t go it alone. Find a network to support you and if you need help with some of the more business-y aspects – find it! There are many excellent (and free!) resources, like the SBA business counseling services in your community (https://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/wbc) – many of whom have experience with creative business clients.

What’s next for you?
I’m very excited about the coming year. I’ve been knitting pretty far in advance of release deadlines, so there’s a slew of new patterns coming out from me that I’m quite proud of. I’m also going to continue to expand the scope of my business to include more kits and embroidery patterns. But what I’m most excited about is submitting my first book proposal!


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/paper-bird 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas

I accidentally published this too early so if you follow me through a blog aggregator such as Feedly you may have already seen this post before I corrected the date on it. I've got posts written up to Dec 23 so do check in until then.

I'm busy prepping for my Guild's Christmas meeting tonight. The season has somehow gotten away from me this year. Right now I'm still working on my entry for the UGLY Christmas sweater event. However I'm behind in getting things done because I've been having a good time celebrating with friends. I've got a new interview coming up on Friday and then I'm going to disappear for a week. 

With the way the statutory holidays fell this year, my husband will be taking a couple of vacation days and will be home with me until the beginning of Jan. We will be taking it easy, entertaining family and friends, watching lots of movies, eating leftovers and I'll be knitting of course. I'll be back to my regular posting the first week of January.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 19, 2016

How to Read your Knitting Part 8

Our next stitch will be a lace border worked down from the knitting. You often work this type of stitch at the bottom edge of top down shawls. As usual I've added a 3 stitch Garter border.


Lace Edging (pattern multiple of 16)


Row 1 (RS): * Yo, ssk, k2, yo, ssk, k3, k2tog, yo, k2, k2tog, yo, k1; rep from *.
Row 2, 4, 6 and 8 (WS): Purl.
Row 3: * K1, yo, ssk, k3, yo, cdd, yo, k3, k2tog, yo, k2; rep from *.
Row 5: *Yo, ssk, yo, ssk, k7, k2tog, yo, k2tog, yo, k1; rep from * .
Row 7: * K1, (yo, ssk) twice, k5, (k2tog, yo) twice, k2; rep from *.
Row 9: * (Yo, ssk) 3 times, yo, cdd, yo, (k2tog, yo) 3 times, k1; rep from * .
Row 10, 11 and 12: Knit.

Cast off loosely.

Here's what you are going to end up with.
 



Row 1 is critical, I often recheck it once I've finished. I go back to the beginning of the row looking at each stitch as I read out the row to myself. I check the yarn overs are in the correct locations and that the direction of the decreases are correct. Here's a tip to help you remember.


Here's what it looks like with Row 1 done.




Row 3 started.




Row 3 continued, at this point you can already see the cdd is in the centre of the repeat and the ssks are creating a strong line leaning to the left.


 


Row 5, notice here how the centre 7 stitches are worked over the cdd from Row 3, if stitch 4 of 7 isn't on top of the cdd you have gone wrong.



Row 7, notice here how the centre 5 stitches are worked over the cdd from Row 3, if stitch 3 of 5 isn't on top of the cdd you have gone wrong. You should also be watching now for the yos to be aligning beside the ssks or k2togs and both should be creating diagonal lines across the work.

 

Here's the completed but un-blocked finished sample again.

 
 As usual this skill is best learned with yarn and needles in your hands.

Friday, December 16, 2016

An Interview with...Alice Hammer

 
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/wide-forest-cardigan

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 Alice here and here  on Ravelry. 


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/rice-vest
 

Where do you find inspiration?  
Usually, I touch yarn and I see a sweater. I am very fond of fashion history, I’m always reading about that. I love to work with traditional inspired designs but twisted in a way I want to wear nowadays as a 30 years old Parisian.

What is your favourite knitting technique? 

I love to knit with double pointed needles. I love how it feels to have 4 needles in my hand.

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

Sure, I look at it. We have to be together, it is a hard job, we have to support each other. I admire a lot of my colleagues.

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

I feel like I don’t see where the controversy is. People start with large needles and easy patterns and if they feel like it, they improve. People do whatever they want, I don’t know who I am to look at who knits what. 



http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/marble-femme


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

I knit (almost, sometimes I need my mom and grandmother who are my second pairs of hands) all the prototypes but after I have test knitters. I am lucky to work with La Droguerie who provides yarn for my testers.

Did you do a formal business plan? 

I didn’t when I started. As it is now a full time job for me, I need to have a business plan. If I want my company (even if it is a small one person company) to live, I need to work with other people such as illustrator, graphic designer, yarn companies, design agent, accountant… I need to know where I go, it’s not anymore just me knitting on my sofa as I did before.

Do you have a mentor?  

The La Droguerie team helps me a lot.

Do you use a tech editor? 

No calculating is one of my favorite parts of the job! Even if I make mistakes sometimes! I discovered only one month ago that tech editors exist. Maybe in France it is not common. 


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/parisienne-3


How do you maintain your life/work balance? 

It is very hard. I am a single mother and I often feel about to burn out. I work every weekend, I work almost every evening when my son sleeps and I never take real holidays. And I receive too many emails.

How do you deal with criticism? 

I have never had to deal with very nasty criticism. People are kind, even when there is a mistake in a pattern.

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

It is still hard.

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

My answers are my personal viewpoint, I guess everyone has different experiences but I would say that all roads lead to Rome. What I learned from my experience is that you can come from nowhere, have never been an entrepreneur or worked in the knitting community and do something. I would say that the important thing is to wonder what you can offer to people. What is your thing? Sometimes it is hard because you have to give something very intimate from you to your business (I don't know if you understand … hard for me to speak about that in English). I see a lot of people who want to be designer just to be designer. You need to know that you will have to work all the time.

What’s next for you? 

A lot of things! My patterns will soon be available in Japanese which I really look forward to because I am very attached to Japan (my boyfriend is Japanese). I'm starting to design children's patterns. I'll be at a yarn festival in Paris called « Aiguille en fête », it will be my first time with a stand of my own, I am pretty excited because I love to meet other knitters. I love when people come wearing sweaters I designed and I love to talk about knitting and laughing with them! I think one day if I get rich I would love to open a shop. 

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ulysse

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How to Read your Knitting Part 7

Here's another stitch pattern for us to work through. It's a classic stitch pattern which turns up in many stitch dictionaries. I've seen it most often named Seafoam. My swatch has a border of garter stitch. As usual to learn the most from this exercise, it works best if you have the work in your hands.


Seafoam Stripes (10 + 6)

Row 1 (RS):  Using Colour A, k6, * yo, k1, yo twice, k1, yo 3 times, k1, yo twice, k1, yo, k6; rep from *, k3.
Row 2 (WS): Using Colour A, knit to final marker dropping all yarn overs.
Row 3: Using Colour B,  knit to end of row.
Row 4: Using Colour B, knit to end of row.
Row 5: Using Colour A ,  k1, * yo, k1, yo twice, k1, yo 3 times, k1, yo twice, k1, yo, k6; rep from *, end last repeat as k1.
Row 6: Using Colour A, knit to final marker dropping all yarn overs.
Row 7: Using Colour B, knit to final marker.
Row 8: Using Colour B, knit to final marker.

Here I've worked one repeat so you can see the stitch pattern starting. As in the last pattern it's staggered in a brick laying pattern. You can click on the photos to make them larger. I've worked the k6 of Row 1 below.




Here's the first yo, k1.




Next I've done the yo twice, k1, yo 3 times.




Then I've worked Row 1 to the end and I'm on Row 2. The first 6 stitches are knit. Now I'm at the yo which will be dropped from my needle.



The way to know quickly which stitches to drop and which ones to knit? Look for the purl bump in a different colour from the previous row.



It's easier to identify the yo with the extra wraps because they get so large. My most common mistake with this pattern was to accidentally knit the single yo and increase my work by a stitch or two. Once I started reading my knitting by watching for and knitting only into the stitches with the opposite colour purl bump at the bottom I stopped making that mistake.