Friday, October 13, 2017

An Interview with...Susanne Visch

 
https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/stellaria-cowl




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
Susanne  here and here on Ravelry.


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/luule

Where do you find inspiration?
As with most things in the fiber world, it depends… Sometimes it’s a specific skein or color of yarn that triggers my creativity. But it can also be a stitch pattern that I encounter, a shape, a new untried technique or desires from family members. My mom has a fondness for the types of lace originating from Estonia. So when she claimed a particular gorgeous blue skein of fingering weight yarn as hers, it wasn’t a big leap to design something just for her, using traditional Estonian stitch patterns with nupps galore.

What is your favorite knitting technique?
While I pride myself for always including at least one new thing (for me) in each of my designs, I think it’s safe to say that lace is an element that can often be found in my work. Perhaps in another 10 years, I will have shifted my focus on, say, knitting cables. But for now lace in all it’s flavors, types and gradations of difficulty continue to excite me.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/pink-monarda

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Influence from others can’t be completely avoided. Nobody operates in a vacuum after all. That said, I don’t go searching for design ideas on Ravelry or Pinterest for example. For me, inspiration doesn’t come from the designs of others. When I get stuck on how to solve a particular difficulty in a design or how to write something down in my pattern efficiently and understandably though, I may look into other patterns to see how things are tackled there. Enabling someone to replicate a design through instructions on paper is really an art on its own.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
There is one lady who has assisted me by knitting the sample a couple of times. Other than that I usually knit my own samples. When we’re talking about testers: I’ve got a spreadsheet full of names from people who have expressed interest in testing for me. Whenever a new test comes up, I post the test information in my Ravelry group and earburn all people whose test preferences match that particular test. There is, however, a “core team of testers” consisting of people who quite regularly test my patterns. They are very important in the process because they often give feedback on making the pattern even better and easier to understand. I feel very blessed that they want to help me like that. 

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/mustard-and-slate

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, I didn’t. Designing crochet and knitwear started out as a hobby for me. And although I formalized being a business after awhile, I won’t be able to pay the bills with it for decades to come. Business plan or not.

Do you have a mentor?
No, I don’t. Though I would appreciate someone from within the fiber world to discuss things with and bounce ideas off each other. I am quite proficient in finding things out and looking for and finding answers, but I guess it’s not the same.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/elena-half-hap

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Sort of... I have seen with the people that are successful in the fiber arts, that they usually have multiple income streams. In other words, that they don’t depend solely on what the patterns bring in. And I do try to follow that example. I’m not that good with people so teaching and giving workshops is off the table for me. I have found, however, that technical editing is a good match for my particular skill set. I’m still researching other types of related activities to add to my business.

Do you use a tech editor?
Absolutely! In my opinion, the review and feedback from a technical editor is really a necessary step in making sure the numbers are correct and crafters can replicate the sample you made for a particular design. For submissions for magazines I may choose not to test the pattern, but technical editing is a step I would never forgo.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
With some trouble! What it makes challenging for me, is that I have another profession than designing for 4 days in the week. That means that in the evenings and the 3 remaining days everything, ranging from family, friends to designing, fights for attention. I somehow make it work, which is a large part only possible because the act of knitting or crochet itself is very relaxing for me.

It does mean, that I only make my own designs. There simply is no time left for making anything else. I do try to make one exception: during the yearly Indie Designer Gift Along in November and December I make a couple of things from other designers. It relaxes the mind not having to think about making the numbers work because someone else already did it for you. Also, I really think it is important to see how other designers deal with certain intricacies in their patterns. Making the pattern as opposed to merely reading it, gives a much deeper understanding of why it’s written down the way it is. It’s a good way to ensure continued growth as a designer.

How do you deal with criticism?
I try to focus on the good intentions that must lay behind any expression of criticism and react to it in that spirit. If someone has taken the time and effort to approach me about something in one of my patterns, I better listen and take any suggestions in consideration. If errors are found in my work I, of course, correct them as soon as possible. It becomes a different cup of tea if there is criticism not on my work but on me as a person. Fortunately, I haven’t really had to deal with that kind of criticism yet.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/heuvel-en-dal

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I’m not there yet, nor do I expect to be able to pay the bills with my designing and related activities sometime in the next ten years. It’s really disheartening to work so hard for so little monetary compensation. For that reason I have decided quite early on, to consider creative satisfaction as the main reward until I can actually support myself with my design and editing activities.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Start as you aim to continue: have your patterns tech edited and tested and pay attention to your photography, make it as good and consistent in style as you can deliver. Also, don’t expect to get rich: work in the fiber world is truly a labor of love, not a get-rich-quick scheme.

What’s next for you?
Finishing this lace design for my mom and then on to the next one. My daughter wants a textured cowl, so I guess that will my next focus!

Friday, October 6, 2017

An Interview with...Jody Long





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
Jody here and here on Ravelry.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/sources/contemporary-cables


Where do you find inspiration?
Living high up in the mountains of Málaga in sunny Spain. I take long inspirational walks along the goat track with my dog ‘Chico’, while looking down on the white washed village and sea views. The ideas just pop in my head and I sketch them as soon as I arrive home. Sometimes I look at fashion forecasting websites along with colour trends.


What is your favourite knitting technique?
There are so many, but my most favourite has to be cables! I love the way they can be traveled and twisted to make a sophisticated sweater to a delicate motif. 
Available Soon

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I always keep an eye on what other designers are doing. Not to copy, simply just to check that after a collection nothing is too similar to theirs. 
Available Soon

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
It would be impossible for me to do all my sample knitting with the workload I have right now. I have just over 20 sample knitters that work to extremely tight deadlines. I have released 7 books alone this year with a publisher with most of the books having 25-30 designs. I have also just been given the chance to design the entire Louisa Harding Spring Summer 2018 collection with Knitting Fever.

Do you use a tech editor?
I always use a tech editor I think this is very important to have the patterns number crunched one last time before a sample is knitted up, this also speeds up the knitting and illuminates any mistakes. Although I have been extremely lucky, I have an amazing pattern writer that works from my drawings, swatches and design specs. She also writes for all the Rowan team of designers, patterns very rarely have mistakes.

Available Soon

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Life? Can someone please tell me what that word means? I love my job and being single and living alone, I tend to work every hour of everyday creating designs.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/fairisle-hot-water-bottle-cover

How do you deal with criticism?
Criticism is a positive thing. I always had a positive attitude towards this as it makes you stronger. Simply take it on the chin then evaluate the design, if it really is OK then ignore it and carry on with your day. I think if you put something out in the public domain you should expect criticism.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/flower-wrap-3

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I started when I was 14 years old designing and selling my makes at craft fairs. I went full-time when I was 18 and started submitting to magazines. Then at the age of 20 I had a long list of celebrity clients and from that day onward money was good enough to leave the nest and start life in my own house away from nagging parents. Today I have feel I’ve had a very successful career so far, with writing over 10 books, 2000 plus published designs and the chance to design shooting socks for HRH the Prince of Wales. 
Available Soon

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I would say go for it, start submitting designs to magazines, that is one of the easiest ways into the market. Magazines do not pay that well so don’t think you can give up your day job that fast. The publicity is amazing and can lead onto more things like it has done for myself. Never use computer software as this tends to lead to more mistakes, learn the old school way of swatching, measuring and number crunching the sizes.

What’s next for you?
I have a very busy schedule right now with flights, meetings and photo shoots. I’m also developing over 160 designs for Diamond Yarns, 20 designs for the Louisa Harding yarn brand, plus a further 6 books are in progress with Tuva Publishing.

Available Soon

Friday, September 29, 2017

An Interview with...Corrine Walcher

 
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/travelling-to-infinity-cowl



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
Corrine here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? 
Kind of everywhere. In nature, sometimes in film and books. My first published design was "Barrel Riders", inspiration taken from a chapter in "The Hobbit" where the Company escapes King Thranduil's halls in barrels.

What is your favourite knitting technique? 
I love designing with cables. 
 
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/sources/beorn-e-book

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? 
I'm not afraid of being influenced, and I appreciate the ingenuity and beauty of other designers. I'm pretty classic in my design and I'm always amazed by new techniques.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself? 
My main sample knitter, Genia, is a god-send. Between the two of us we have a handle on the samples. I also use other sample knitters occasionally, but my working relationship with her is a rare gem.
 
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-doctors-wife

Did you do a formal business plan? 
Not at all. I do what I like.

Do you have a mentor? 
No. I stumbled into design sort of by accident.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No. 

Do you use a tech editor? 
Testers tend to catch any errors. I scale all of my patterns for size myself; I have the math checked by someone who also catches typos. 

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 
It's difficult when your hobby is your work. My eldest is on his own and my younger son is in school, so the hours between drop-off and pick-up are dedicated to work. I don't work full-time by any means! 

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


How do you deal with criticism? 
I haven't really had any, aside from the occasional error knitters find in my patterns. The number one complaint I have is "this doesn't match the size it says it will"; in every case, it has been a matter of the knitter not swatching (and blocking the swatch).

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?  
I am envious of those who can support themselves by knitting design, but those people are few and far between. I'm not sure envious is the right word, as I'm pleased for them. 

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/avenir-cardigan


What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?  
I would not encourage anyone to go into any fiber art looking to get rich. It's a great community and I have the support of many wonderful people. I have fostered working relationships and friendships that I would never have had if it weren't for knitting, and I cherish them.

What’s next for you? 
I don't really know what's next, but isn't that part of the fun?
 
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/danseuse-top

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dear Readers

I seem to be coming to a point of transition. I've been writing this blog since June 8 2009. I started before I left my last job to pursue designing, publishing and teaching. 

In the past it always seemed easy to come up with lots of things to write about, but lately it's been feeling like a bit of a slog. 

I find I'd rather spend my days knitting and writing patterns. I'm not totally ready to completely give it up but I think I'll remove some of the pressure which I've been putting on myself to keep going by no longer sticking to a firm schedule of Monday, Wednesday and Friday posts.  I have quite a few outstanding interview requests out there  and I'll keep sending out more invitations as always, so I'll continue to post those as they arrive in my inbox. I know from the feedback from many of you that you enjoy the interviews. 

I'm going to try posting when I feel like it rather than on a predetermined schedule. I'll see how that goes.

Remember the blog is fully indexed so if you want to refer to my older posts go to the topic index at the top left hand side of the page. 

I may start an email list so if you are interested in that you can send me your details at robinknits@gmail.com

I am over on Instagram as  http://instagram.com/robinknits if you would like to follow me there.

Many thanks for all of your encouragement over the years,
Robin

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Petite Interview Part 2



I really enjoyed doing an interview with Teresa Gregorio of Canary Knits this summer. It's always interesting how someone else's questions help to clarify one's own thinking on a particular topic. I'm going to put some of the interview I did back in July here on my own blog.  There's a lot to digest so this is the second of two posts.  

TG: Another challenge for petite women is that sizing standards assume our bodies are longer than they may actually be; we then have to make any horizontal (and vertical!) modifications in a truncated amount of space, compared to a regular-height knitter. Do you have any tips, advice, or resources you can suggest for petite women (of all ages and weights) with these sorts of issues?

RH: I think the most important thing is to first learn your own preferences and knit accordingly. I made this mistake many times early on. I looked at a great pattern photo, said “I want that” and plunged in without considering the details. If you’ve never worn a dolman sleeve sweater, don’t invest all the knitting time to create it before you know it will make you happy. Look at what is currently in your own closet and what you enjoy wearing. If it’s a silhouette new to you, try on a friends garment or go to a retail store and try the target style on to get a sense of what works.

If you are a petite, chances are you have already purchased clothing from a retailer who targets that segment of the clothing market. Measure those garments (especially the knits) and compare where they fit you and where they don’t. How much ease do you like? Do you prefer tailored styles or loose clothing which flows over the body?

You can continue to use patterns but be aware what you will need to spend time on adjustments. Knitter’s graph paper is your friend. You can print it out in the correct ratio and draw your garment or a specific problem area out.

My series here may be helpful.

Finally, remember you can experiment and make changes to a pattern, there are no knitting police!

TG: What sweater construction would you suggest for a petite person (particularly, one who may have to think about sleeve cap and depth?)

RH: I know many knitters become strong defenders of one form of construction over another. I think every type has its pros and cons. Each construction method can be adjusted to work with a specific body shape. It’s important to understand first what the end goal is in terms of fit and then to secondly address the technical challenges. As an example, often well-endowed petites find top down raglans a challenge because the classic design has an increase rate which makes the armholes too deep by the time the bust is large enough. My fix is to cast on more stitches on the front to increase the size there and I cast on more stitches at the underarm to solve the circumference problem and keep armhole depth appropriate.

TG: Would you suggest any sweater constructions to avoid in particular if you are petite and need to adjust sleeve depth or any other vertical measurements?

RH: No I don’t think we need to avoid any specific construction types, for me it’s more about shapes and silhouettes which are sometimes driven by the construction. I think we need to make sure that things are proportionally correct. I suspect we petites end up suspicious of some silhouettes because we try them on in regular sizes and feel overwhelmed by the extra length and the overly wide necklines and shoulders. Once those issues are resolved I don’t see the problems being specific to construction. 

I do sometimes see problems with the scale of design elements. A very wide cable panel may look different in relation to the overall sweater if it’s been shortened significantly. The rectangle which is the torso of our body does become squarer in nature for shorter women. Certain stitch patterns may not work if the canvas of the body isn’t big enough to carry them. However, I do want to emphasize this should be about pleasing yourself and being comfortable in your clothing not about addressing some perceived figure flaw. I would suggest knitters focus on a specific silhouette and work on several garments in that style and construction before moving on to another one. Each project will be incrementally better and you will learn faster.

TG: I love the discussion you outline in your post here:
“Most hand knitting patterns come in from 3 to about 7 sizes with no variation in length or figure type. There are many reasons for this simplification; several being due to cost, publication space, the difficulty of grading each size individually, the inability to have every size test knit as well as an industry that underpays designers. So what’s a knitter to do? I’m still thinking about this. As a designer I’m considering doing patterns that would target these specific markets but the question is would you buy them?” What would you suggest a petite knitter should do?

RH: My recommendation is the same for all knitters regardless of their fit challenges. If you want to knit garments, take the time to educate yourself on how to make changes to the pattern. Don’t just follow it blindly. One of the best things about making our own clothing is we can get exactly what we want if we are willing to invest in some trial and error experimentation.

TG: What fit resources can you recommend for petite knitters? (Anything! From knitting books/videos/classes/websites to information from crafts other than knitting like sewing manuals etc…)

RH: There are now an amazing number of easily accessible resources to help you through your journey to improve fit. If you don’t like one, just move on, another instructor might work better for you. Keep in mind different makers will have different approaches and they won’t always give you the same exact instructions. You don’t have to become a designer but understanding the processes involved will help you through making the necessary adjustments to an existing pattern. You will find lots of patterning making links on Pinterest and videos on Youtube.

As you know I have many resources on my blog which includes an index here.

I especially like this Peggy Sager explanation of length, circumference and depth as it relates to fit. The first 16 minutes of this video shows the process demonstrated.

Here’s the process for drafting a sleeve cap for woven fabric. Knits are simplified because they are symmetrical.

This site has some wonderful visuals explaining fit and ease.

I can highly recommend Shirley Paden’s book Knitwear Design Workshop: A Comprehensive Guide to Handknits and her Craftsy class Handknit Garment Design. If you are math phobic just ignore the segments on the magic formula and instead plot curves and angles visually on knitter’s graph paper as I show on my blog in the Pattern Drafting posts starting here.

This post is about Deborah Newton’s method for creating a muslin for hand knitting from T-shirt fabric. It’s for plus sizes but the basics still apply to petites.

TG: Do you know of any knitting designers who create patterns specifically for petite folks? (There are a few who do this for sewing, but I’ve yet to find someone who addresses the petite market in knitwear).

RH: I don’t. The most I’ve ever seen in a knitting pattern is in the instruction sections where the pattern will say to x inches or desired length. I do include this in my pattern notes: All length measurements included in the instructions are suggestions only and should be customized to suit the intended wearer.

Friday, September 22, 2017

An Interview with...Taiga Hilliard


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
Taiga here and here on Ravelry.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/marian-shrug

Where do you find inspiration? 

Whenever we go out of town it often gives me new ideas, from all the colors, textures, interesting people, and scenery, depending upon the location. Every time we travel I get a new batch of design ideas once we get home.

What is your favorite knitting technique?
I enjoy lace and cables, but also like simple garter stitch because it is so calming to knit. I do not shrink from a challenge but a little car knitting never hurt anyone (as long as you are not the one driving). 


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ripe-persimmon


Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
It is always good to look and see what is current, but you need to stick with what you personally enjoy, then hope that other knitters will also find joy in knitting what you create. 


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/briar-cowlette


How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have a wonderful group of knitters that do testing for me, they are an essential part of the process; checking the pattern and letting me know of there are any corrections that need to be made to create an accurate finished pattern. 


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/bee-sting


Did you do a formal business plan?
Nope, I just like knitting, designing and putting it out there...

Do you have a mentor?
My sister started to teach me to knit, she is a wonderful knitter, but in the end I learning from YouTube videos along with many, many, failures until progress was made and finally success. 


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/rio-dress


Do you use a tech editor?
I have a small group of super picky (a virtue in a knitter) test knitters that I depend on to catch all the tech mistakes, and they do an amazing job, without them it would be difficult to keep up the pace I have set for myself.

How do you deal with criticism?
It is just a part of the process, in the end you have to stand by your creations even if not everyone is going to like what you created, and that is perfectly okay. I say: “be proud of what you have made, fix the mistakes and move forward”. 


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/yellow-tail


How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I would say about a year. My husband has been super supportive during the growing pains and now actually works along with me in a non-knitting/non-designing role. 


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/mega-cozy


What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Design what you personally like and would wear; there will always be someone who loves it and wants to make it for themselves. 


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/bronze-oxide


What’s next for you?
I plan on continuing to knit, design, and love every minute of it.


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/lizzy-dress