Monday, June 26, 2017

#KnitPetiteProject

http://www.ebay.com/itm/name-/162533854793?roken=cUgayN


Teresa (who I interviewed here) is starting a project to focus on the fitting needs of petite knitters. You can check it out here. Her plan is to "demystify the sizing system we live within today, so we can better understand how to fit our knits to our own bodies." I'm currently working on an interview for the project where I'll be answering questions related to petite fitting challenges. I'm 5'2" myself and have had to figure a lot of this stuff out along the way. 

I've been reading through the material she has provided so far and I have already learned something new from her fit survey information. Many clothing items have a bigger difference in the hip to waist ratio than I have. Pattern making systems often use a ten inch difference and mine is generally seven to eight inches. It turns out this is very common with petites. Understanding these differences is key to developing good fit for our own garments. 

I'll let you know when the interview goes up. 

 

Friday, June 23, 2017

An Interview with...Ash Alberg

 
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/peony-21



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 Ash here and here on Ravelry. 



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


Where do you find inspiration?
 

i'm a queer femme and fibre witch who seeks to create beautiful and practical knitwear designs using sustainable methods (working with indie dyers, fair-trade fibre co-operatives, natural dyes, raw local wools - there are so many ways to approach this, and the ways in which they intersect with environmental and social responsibility is incredibly nuanced). my work is almost always inspired by the natural world, and often by the rather broad concepts of remnants, lost stories, and decay. my larger collections usually have a geographic theme connecting the designs. i also find inspiration in the yarns that i use, tarot readings, solstices...pretty much everything has the potential to inspire me if it's rooted in the natural and magic
kal worlds. and i can't imagine a world without pinterest. it's my favourite. i'd be seriously lost without it.


What is your favourite knitting technique?
lace lace lace lace lace! and short rows haha.

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

i definitely keep a pulse on what's happening in design trends - it would be silly of me not to do so. right now, i'm super busy with deadlines, so i don't get to ravelry very often, but i check instagram a few times a day and i'm friends with a lot of designers. i also teach design, so i do my best to stay up to date with the latest publication releases and indie designer superstars to help my students find inspiration and other connections within the industry.

i think that narrowing your focus too much on your own work, or the work of only a few others, does a disservice to your practice and by extension to your audience. i also think it's kind of ridiculous to believe that an artist's work could be influenced by a single source of inspiration. we find inspiration from so many extraordinary and mundane things, all of which find their way into our designs. once you really settle into your style and brand, it doesn't matter how many others are doing similar work - you are attracting your audience (and repelling others) simply by being you. and that's a great thing.

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

i am currently employing a friend to knit two of the samples for my upcoming book. they're smaller designs that i'm not so worried about in terms of gauge and construction, and i trust my friend's abilities implicitly. that being said, these will be the only samples i've had knit by someone else, and i've released about six dozen individual designs so far.

i used to use test knitters, but don't anymore. my tech editor catches all the errors that my test knitters typically catch, and i work at a much faster pace than most knitters, so using test knitters can add an additional 2-6 weeks to a project release. before using my tech editor, i had (and still have) a solid bank of reliable test knitters who i trust, and garments are the one area where i still employ their help because of all the sizes. i do my best to reduce my reliance on others, because time management just for myself is difficult at the best of times. i also really, really, really enjoy the actual knitting in my design process, and would never want to give that up just for the sake of putting out a design. my book is an exception right now - the deadlines are closing in and my sanity is more important ha. 


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


Did you do a formal business plan? 

nope. that being said, i also didn't start making money reliably until i actually started treating my business as a business, and started tracking all my finances. i set larger goals (1-year, 5-year, long-term planning), and then track my progress on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis to see how i'm doing at reaching those larger goals. then i readjust and pivot wherever necessary.

Do you have a mentor?
 

i've always had mentors all the way through my life in every area of my artistic and non-artistic practices. specifically for knitwear design right now, my two main mentors are my business coaches - my personal business coach, hanna lisa haferkamp, who i am very grateful to be working with thanks to her creative boss scholarship; and chelsea fitch, my fibre boss guru and the reason i finally got a hold of my brand after several years of not actually paying attention to it. i took chelsea's fiber boss college course last winter, and it has been the single catalyst for my business getting to the place it's currently at. chelsea's fiber boss collective is also how i met hanna, so i have a lot to be grateful for when it comes to fortuitous connections in this industry.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated? not in design, but i do have a longer-term goal of operating a maker-space and shop that is inspired by a number of businesses i've seen over about a decade at this point. the original plan was to operate a theatre space in a similar business model - the overall feel and politics are still the same, i've just mentally shifted the activities in the space to fit what i do now.

Do you use a tech editor?
 

yes, i learned about tech editors around the time that i started writing my first book, flotsam & jetsam, and i would never consider releasing a pattern without tech editing now. i am forever grateful for my fabulous test knitters who were able to help me in this area before i got to a point of being able to afford a tech editor. honestly, though, even if i knew that a pattern wouldn't sell a single copy, i wouldn't consider releasing it without a tech editor's keen eye checking it over. 

A soon to be published pattern


How do you maintain your life/work balance? 

ummmm, i don't. i'm not even being funny here - i work a 40-hour/week administration job that has absolutely nothing to do with my own business, then i go home and knit new designs, edit patterns, do photo shoots for new products, answer emails...i work an average of 16-18 hours/day on weekdays, and anywhere from 10-18 hours on weekend days, depending on how many chores and/or errands i have to do. luckily for me, i can knit pretty much anywhere, so it's easy enough to be multi-tasking when i'm out at social events, but those don't happen very often. i will say that living with a partner helps to force me out of my studio more often than not. it also encourages me to be more efficient with my time - if i want to spend time with my partner, i need to make sure i focus and deal with my paperwork quickly, then i can go upstairs and knit next to him while he reads or writes academic papers. like i said, i'm good at multi-tasking.

How do you deal with criticism? 

i think the first important point to acknowledge here is that i firmly identify as an emotional creature who feels all the feels all the time. so, with that said, it completely depends on how tired/stressed/sensitive i am when i receive the criticism. if i am exhausted, i can't control the big feels that are always there anyway, so even something that mildly resembles criticism can send me into an overly-analytical spiral, which can easily result in me crying in the shower or into a bowl of ice cream (definitely did that about a month ago).

but i also come from theatre world, where you learn to take criticism on a daily basis because it's how you refine your work to make it better. when i was doing my master's degree, i learned (in not the healthiest ways) how people don't always know, understand, or even care about the difference between constructive criticism, telling you what they want (even if it's not actually relevant), and just being a jerk. i love constructive criticism - it forces me to challenge myself and push myself outside of my comfort zone. any other kind of criticism stings and sticks around to varying degrees, and the question of whether i delete a comment without responding or shoot some sass right back (i am very much a fire sign) tends to depend on how much capacity i have at whatever moment i encounter the criticism. if the criticism is valid and helpful, i take it to heart and work to figure out how to adjust what i'm doing to incorporate solutions to whatever has been brought up. if it's not valid, i do my best to shake it off. i probably dwell on it personally for several years longer than i need to, but as far as my behaviour, i don't change who or what i am just because someone doesn't like me.


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

i don't, not yet at least. i'll have been designing for three years this august, and that's been full-time hours for almost the whole period. until recently, i wasn't even making reliable monthly sales. that's still definitely an inconsistent thing, but i have noticed a significant difference from when i'm releasing new designs every 2-3 weeks versus when i take even one month between releases. no pressure, right?

i'm trusting that with hanna's help, i will learn how to navigate the in-between periods and learn how to manage my time even more effectively. my goal is to be self-sufficient (which means continuing to not share finances with my partner/budget my life as though his money isn't a factor) with my knitwear designs, workshops and teaching, and physical products within 5 years. that means paying all my bills, having a comfortable amount of cushion to buy a new plant without having a cheque bounce, and also having a savings account that i can pay into regularly.

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

do it! but be aware that it is a lot of hard work, and one hit design does not a career make. you have to be resilient, committed, and ready for the long haul. and meanwhile still find the joy in your knitting. there is nothing worse than having a passion turn into a job. you want your passion to continue being your passion, and bring in money while you're at it. also, don't define your success based on someone else's definition. their life is not yours, and vice versa. figure out what success means to you, and plan your goals accordingly.

What’s next for you?

i'm heading to iceland in august! i'll be going with my dear friend, samson learn, to shoot my second book, which is in collaboration with yoth yarns. the book is called Ferðaskór, which translates to travelling shoes. we'll be travelling all over the country, interviewing local fibre folks and shooting the 11 new designs in the landscape that inspired the designs.

i'm also curating the inaugural pattern collection for my local fibre festival, manitoba fibre festival. the flatlands collection will be released on august 1, and it will feature a new design from me, as well as over a dozen other patterns from local emerging and established designers using yarns from our fibreshed. it's incredibly fulfilling for me to be able to foster those professional relationships for others, and it's a lot of fun for me as well! in fact, it's because of curating the group collection that i was able to confirm book #3...more on that at a later date though. let's get through the second one first. 


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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hand Knit OOTD


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-katherine-corrigan-tunic

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-katherine-corrigan-tunic


I wore this to my Knits and Clicks photography group last Friday. Nadine took the outdoor photos from my new iPhone which has a portrait feature which makes the background a little blurry. This pattern is done in a cool bamboo yarn which was perfect for the beautiful sunny day we had. The three of us met up for lunch first at a local cafe. Our group includes Ramona of Knit Me Too.

I think the colour is more accurate in the mannequin shot than it is in the outdoor photo. I'm wearing it with white pants, a snakeskin print shoe, an ivory bag and with jewellery I made myself.  When I want it more dressed up I switch to my silver heeled sandals and handbag.  Here's a few more views and details.








Monday, June 19, 2017

How Mainstream Media Fools us about Body Image

I stopped buying fashion magazines a few years ago and switched over to following fashion bloggers instead. It took a couple of years but I recently realized it's had a big impact on how I see my own body and that of other women in a very positive way. I follow a variety of fashion blogs. Some are outfit of the day formats and others are written by stylists or fashion enthusiasts. I follow a couple of petite bloggers as well as the blogs of women in specific age categories. The most important factor here though is none of these women are models. There is a real variety of body shapes from fine boned petites to plus sizes matched up with a love of fashion and the fun it can bring to our lives. I was sitting in the waiting room at the dentist when I picked up a copy of Vogue. As I flipped through the pages I was surprised by how odd the images looked to me. They seemed freakish.  That's when I knew that fashion blogs are a positive influence for me. 

You can find many of them easily through Pinterest. Just search by category followed by the words fashion blogger. Here's what came up for plus size bloggers:



Here's what came up for mature bloggers: 


These photos are from J's Everyday Fashion. I follow this blog because I love how she uses fashion photos as inspiration for her outfits. She's very slender and pretty but not model tall. She looks like a woman I would see on the street or in any office. 




Now compare to the inspiration photo. 


Super thin with extremely long limbs and possibly altered by photoshop?

Friday, June 16, 2017

An Interview with...Nat Raedwulf


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/clary-sage


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 Nat here and here on Ravelry. 







Where do you find inspiration? 

I pull inspiration from nature, the natural rhythms of life, my heritage (as a Scottish / Polish second generation Canadian), from folklore, myths, magic, and from the unceded K’omoks First Nation territory that I live on with my family.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love learning new techniques and combinations so whatever I am currently playing with is usually ‘my favourite’. I really love playing with texture stitches right now as well as exploring old classic stitches made into modern garments.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love looking at other people’s designs and am inspired daily by what other creative people are up to. I am sure I am influenced by other’s designs in a variety of ways, whether I notice an interesting colour combination or combination of stitches. I think it’s fine to find inspiration in other people’s work. That doesn’t mean that I copy them or have no original ideas, but sometimes I will take note of a small detail in one garment, play around with it in my head and turn it into my own. I think fibre arts and design is inherently built upon learning and observing other people’s designs and letting it grow and evolve into something else. There are very few stitches or colour combinations that haven’t been explored but how you put them together or make them your own can be completely unique.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have a core group of test knitters that operate out of my private Facebook group. Not all of them test for me all the time but I usually have at least a few of the same test knitters return for each new test knit. I typically have about ten test knitters for each pattern, give or take and I also have one tech editor. I think having others assess and try your design is key to a successful pattern. I adore my core group of testers and tech editor, Wolf & Faun patterns would not be what they are without them.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Yes and No. I have nothing written out on paper outlining what I am doing but I do make all my decisions mindfully about what my end goals are and if what I’m doing aligns with my core values and long term success of my business. I took 6 months to launch wolfandfaun.com and there was a lot of planning and research that went into the business end of things before I was ready to share it. 






Do you have a mentor?
No but I have a community of other designers and business women that I collaborate with, bounce ideas off and ask questions. Some of them are online and some of them are in my hometown. There is no way I’d be successful and achieve what I have thus far without a lot of community support.


Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

No but I do try to emulate and move in the direction of my core values and beliefs as well as emulate the philosophy that having a clear and defined brand is important to success. Things like, encouraging nature reverence, slow fashion, social justice and feminism are all a part of who I am and I try to create products and create space for people to think about and have discussions around these things.



How do you maintain your life/work balance?

I have had a crazy few years and I am not sure if I would say that it’s been balanced but what I try to always come to is acknowledging that I need to be happy and enjoy what I do in order to do my best work. Thus, I only work on projects and products I am excited about or find value in. I decline opportunities I am not excited about or feel stressed about completing. I am a one woman business and I make boundaries with my audience and customers around when I am and am not available for customer support or social media. I don’t expect myself to respond to every email right away and I don’t expect myself to post on social media regularly. I try to make sure that I keep my work to when my kids are napping or in pre-school so that they get my time when they are around. I have tried hard to keep my weekends free of business related activities. I regularly check in to make sure what I am doing is fun and interesting and gives me something in return for what I am putting into it, whether that be income to support my family, creative expression, satisfying relationships or learning opportunities.


How do you deal with criticism? 

I explore the source of it and ask what they are really trying to communicate to me. If it’s a genuine issue with a product, I focus on that. I recognize I am not infallible and that I can make mistakes, which are important to learn from, there are always rooms for improvement. Often when it’s an issue around pattern support I recognize that it’s often a frustrated knitter who needs help navigating a new technique and being helpful instead of offended often leads to both parties being satisfied. Sometimes my testers are frustrated. I used a particular technique and they suggest easier routes to complete the pattern and I listen, especially if it’s the majority of testers that feel that way. Most of the time when someone offers critique it is an opportunity to learn and grow. I haven’t really experienced any mal-intentional attacks or critiques but if they were to happen I know that there are enough people to believe in me and love what I’m doing to not let one person get to me. You can’t please everyone. 



What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Hmmm, where to start? Some of the major points I have reflected on are:


1. Be willing to invest in yourself and don't try to do it all. Often starting a business we think we will do most of it ourselves now and when we get to a certain point or grow enough we will bring in help or professionals. Unless you have a graphic arts background, hire someone to make your logo. Unless you really want to build a website, ask for help or hire someone to make one. You have to believe your product or service is worth it and worth investing in before anyone else will, so invest in it and invest in yourself. Your time is probably limited as it is, figure out ways to save yourself time and energy so more of that time and energy can go into creating your actual products, designs and services that only you can offer.


2. Give yourself time but start now, don’t wait. It’s OK if it’s just a hobby at first, if it only brings in a little bit of money at first, or if no one seems interested right out the gate. In this world of social media, you need to give people time to know who you are before people know what you have to offer. It took me 6+ months to go from concept to opening my online shop, and years of knitting and designing as a hobby before I built up a big enough base for my pattern releases to be a viable income. If I had been hard on myself and decided I couldn't do it all in a month or two so why do it at all, I would not have my business. Sometimes it takes me 6+ months to release a pattern. That's OK. It's OK to take a long time. I have two very young children at home, a part time job as a special ed teacher and I am in long-term recovery from two auto accidents. Life is busy and crazy and unpredictable. Don't wait for life to be normal or easy, but rather just give yourself permission to go at your own pace and take all the time you need but more importantly, start! Don’t wait or put it off.


3. Reach out and find community to support you. Don't try to do this alone. Facebook, Instagram, Ravelry and locally there are many communities and groups aimed at supporting and collaborating with one another in both the fibre arts industry and as a work at home mom. Don't be afraid to ask questions or reach out to people for advice. This community is very helpful and supportive to each other.


4. Don't hide who you are. Be authentic. When I first started putting myself out there as a knit designer, I constantly kept my personal life and my business separate. I hid who I was and created a rather flat online persona for fear of offending or turning anyone off. It was exhausting and my brand was boring. Eventually I got tired of hiding who I was and started sharing my authentic self with the world. Not only did I attract an audience that really loves who I am and supports me, but my creativity and enthusiasm has increased. Sure the odd person is turned off by me but they were never my audience or client base to begin with, and for every one person turned off by me, 10 more love what I do.

What’s next for you?
I have a few collaborations lined up with some yarn companies I’m really excited about and can’t wait to get started on! Also I am in the process of designing a Wolf & Faun project bag and a few other exciting Wolf & Faun products that I think will be unique and interesting contributions to the fibre arts world. Lots of exciting stuff on the go! 


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/homestead-7

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

But knitting is only for old ladies...


I guess it was because we just had WWKIP day. I saw another one of those articles where a journalist starts with "knitting isn't just for old ladies anymore". The knitter being interviewed spent a lot of time explaining the fallacy behind "knitting isn't just for old ladies anymore". Of course I couldn't help myself, I went looking for the interviewee on social media and found, surprise, surprise a woman who is probably in her sixties, maybe seventies. And I'm fine with that. After all I've been knitting for so long that I was a hip
young thing myself when I started. 

I think the reason I got annoyed was the "lady doth protest too much" feel to the article. Last week I got into one of the "you look old if you don't dye your hair conversations"  with someone who is being pressured to dye her absolutely fabulous silver locks. On Sunday I was out with a group of friends from my corporate past and we were talking about the ageism in industry. For me that's the real issue, the ageism behind the knitting comments. 

In mainstream media, aging is depicted in a negative way, some say it's a form of stereotyping. Older individuals aren't valued for their experience. Everything is about trying to look and behave like younger people. Perhaps it's my meditating but I feel like "it is what it is" why agonize about lost youth? I know that what I've gained with age is much more valuable than anything I might have lost and I have a hard time coming up with anything that isn't.

This article in The Economist shows evidence exists that I'm just at the beginning of one of the happiest periods of my life. I plan to knit all the way through it!


 






Monday, June 12, 2017

I just had my Eight Year Blogiversary



Last Thursday was my eighth year anniversary of writing my blog. It was meant to be a record of the changes I would experience moving into the knitting industry. I went back and read some of the annual posts I wrote and it was very interesting for me. 

I had joined a writing group which didn't work out. The group was completely focused on fiction and spent so much time being really polite to one another that they really failed in providing constructive criticism. A book writing friend told me he went through three groups until he found one which had the constructive criticism part working effectively.

I'm in a photography group for knitters. We are down to only three members but I still get extra practice with them. Last time we met, we spent time looking at styling and sharing designers we each like and why their photos work or don't work.

I'm no longer part of the Pro-knitters group for a long list of reasons however, the group is still running. 

This year I had an amazing number of offers for other work. My wrist sprain meant I couldn't fully commit to any of them. I'm glad I didn't as I'm pretty sure deadline knitting would have been a really big problem. 

I also had an offer to write for someone else. After last fall's social media storm out there about teacher rates. I read carefully and realized I didn't like the contract I was sent during the negotiation so I didn't move forward on the offer. I was also concerned about the time commitment it would have required. That link also discusses why I'm teaching and doing talks less frequently.

The other ironic thing about being offered work writing is that it arrived just as I started thinking about how much time should I spent blogging. My husband is beginning to look towards retiring (no date at this point). I know that will be a period of transition and I expect life to change significantly.  I have posted three times a week almost without fail for eight years. Will I want to continue writing as often? I really don't know so it's something to ponder.

This post got a lot of views on the topic of compensation and also had the advantage of helping me sort out my priorities.

The interviews are still going strong. This year so far I've focused mainly on Canadians who are part of a KAL and I'm fast closing in on 400 posts.

My collaboration with Signature Yarns continues and works well. I get to work with gorgeous yarns and it's a great deal of fun bouncing design ideas off of someone else. 

Here's a few more links to the first post and some of the anniversary posts.

2009 First post -Monday, June 8, 2009   

2012

2013 

2015

2016