Friday, May 31, 2013

An Interview with...Jennette Cross

Guadalupe River Set, photo by Kennedy Berry, property of Hill Country Weavers

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 Jennette here and here on Ravelry

Enchanted Rock Cardigan, photo by Kennedy Berry, property of Hill Country Weavers

Where do you find inspiration?

I'm a romantic at heart, so when I need some inspiration I call up a favorite story or a place I love and create a mood in my mind. I try to design something that fits into the story or the landscape, a coat with cables inspired by the paths I hiked when I was growing up, or a shawl that Valancy Stirling would have worn on her way home to her island from The Blue Castle. When I have a mood fixed in my mind it allows me to build a framework to make decisions that will make the whole piece come together.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I love anything economical. I have a terrible aversion to cutting yarn, so I often work Two-At-A-Time Magic Loop - socks, sleeves, fronts - so that I can work from both ends of one ball. I'd rather have something a bit larger and more unwieldy on the needles than have to knit the same thing twice in a row.

How did you determine your size range?

It's important to me to have patterns that support a variety of sizes. I try to write garments for 7-9 sizes between 28" and 60". I learned to design years ago when I was working in a local yarn store, Lakeside Fibers, in Madison, Wisconsin. I loved helping knitters alter and tweak patterns, and found that I was doing it all the time for women in the larger end of the size range because people just weren't writing patterns for them at the time; many ended at a 46". I'm so pleased that trend has started to change in the last five years. 

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

I haunt Ravelry, but mostly for the forums. I keep half an eye on Hot Right Now, but when I see something I love I'm more likely to queue it to knit myself (as if I'll ever have time for recreational knitting again) than to wish I'd designed it. When I'm coming up with a new pattern I'm very thoughtful about tracking down the source of the inspiration in my brain and making sure that it really is my own idea. With lots of my patterns, one led to the idea for the next, so I don't have to worry in those cases.

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

I knit all of my samples.

Devil's Lake, photo by Jennette Cross

Do you use a tech editor?

Absolutely. I am an incredibly pedantic and meticulous person (about knitting, don't ask the laundry basket about me) and my tech editor still finds things in every pattern. Katherine Vaughn has been editing for me recently and I am delighted with her work. Good tech editors are irreplaceable. 

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Not very well, but for right now I'm okay with that. I work almost all the time, but the job is so varied when you do everything yourself that there's always something different on the horizon. I did start running last fall, and more than anything else that has helped me keep a grip on things. If I can make time to run a couple of times a week things can't be that bad.

How do you deal with criticism?

I went to school for textile art and we used to have to stand at the front of the class while the other students critiqued our work. I haven't run into anything in the knitting world worse than the first Crit for Sculpture 1! 

Mainly though, I listen. If something in a pattern is incorrect or confusing, I correct or clarify. If someone just doesn't like what I do, fortunately for her there are about 36,000 other people on Ravelry designing patterns. I know not everyone is going to like my stuff, and I'm mostly okay with that.

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

Be as professional as possible right from the start. Study up, create a style sheet (a guideline of the way you're going to write your patterns) and stick to it. Some places (like Knitty) post their style guides online so you can see what good guides look like. Knit a lot of patterns from people whose design work you respect and zero in on what you like about their patterns - not just the knitting, but how the actual physical pattern explains things and lays them out. Do not just copy explanation or layout, but take time to come up with your own way. 

There are lots of moving parts to being an independent designer - you're going to need to either be good at photography, get good at photography, or pay someone else to be good at photography. There are lots of tutorials and classes out there to help. You're also going to need a model, unless you are going to be your model. I lucked out and my model is my sister.

If you promise a publisher or yarn company that you'll have something ready by X date, have it ready. Reply to emails in a timely fashion. Do not disappear off the face of the earth.

Find a good tech editor (Ravelry can help you with this) and pay her right from the beginning. If you go over your patterns with a fine tooth comb beforehand and send them with all information completed, most TEs won't need that much time to edit and it'll probably cost between $10 and $35. Most will give you an estimate and if they're going to go over they'll stop and email you first. If you think you can't afford this, wait until you can; it will be worth it in the long run. 

Don't release too many free patterns. They generate tons of support requests and other people won't value your work if you don't. 

Don't be too intimidated. There are lots of resources out there to help and lots of people willing to answer questions. My experience so far has made it clear to me that if you're professional, have good ideas, and place value on building your skill set, people will root for you. There are plenty of knitters out there, and we can always make more.

Valancy's Island, photo by Jennette Cross

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Economics of Knitting - Free Patterns

Free patterns can be a hot button topic in the knitting world. I've written about this topic before and I have a few new miscellaneous thoughts (in no particular order) to add to my original post from here.

There is a difference between experienced and novice knitters. Experienced knitters have a much better understanding of how much work goes into writing a pattern and they are more likely to pay for patterns because they understand the true value. When I was taking tailoring classes, new students would not spend money on quality supplies because they said their skill level did not justify the expense. Unfortunately they were unable to get good results with incorrect materials and would be frustrated with the end product. It was always interesting to see who came back for the next class with the correct materials and how many just abandoned learning to tailor. I suspect that happens with knitting as well.

One of my friends who owns a yarn shop doesn't want her customers using free patterns. She says "she has spent too many hours rewriting bad free patterns" and often reminds her customers "you get what you pay for in this world".

Another says "free patterns seem to attract some of the more demanding knitters who make all sorts of unusual time consuming requests".

Some knitters want to knit what everyone else is knitting (which is often a free pattern). Ravelry has had a big impact on what knitters see and that impacts the popularity of patterns. I have found it interesting that from the beginning of my Ravelry membership to now, currently I see many more paid patterns turning up on the Ravelry Hot Right Now section.

Some knitters choose patterns to meet a completely different set of criteria so free only comes into play when it meets that criteria first.

One of my professional friends wants to get designers to band together and agree to never produce free patterns. As a designer I see that as an interesting suggestion. I'm not sure I can think of any other business that creators give so much of their work away for free. On the other hand I do hear some knitters say they like to try a designer out first on a free pattern before buying from them. However, free patterns are often not tech edited and are very simple, so are you really getting a true comparison?

I've been very surprised by the number of requests I've been getting to provide free pattens. Most often the requests come from event organizers who want them as prizes or to put in goody bags for attendees. At this point I really don't feel ready to give away something that I've put so much effort into, especially while I'm struggling for profitability. I feel that patterns are already very under priced if you take into account the time and expense to produce them. Pricing is done on spec, based on what the market will bear as opposed to costs incurred. Since I publish mainly by PDF downloads it costs me both money and more time to get printing done.

At this point my business is not making a profit  and I've only made donations of door prizes (usually notions not patterns) at events where I was being paid to appear. I'm sure I will be revisiting this as my business (hopefully) becomes profitable. I'm also uncomfortable with making some donations but not others as what criteria do I use to decide who to donate to if I don't accept every request. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Science or Art?

Here on Amazon

As a professional knitter I have frequently discussed tech editing issues with knitters and other designers. The questions are: What should it cover? What is correct? What is common usage? What does experience level mean. How detailed should I be? What are the space considerations? Do I use Canadian or American spellings? What about knitting terminology? Do I bind off or cast off? How do you punctuate text instructions? Is there a colon or not after row numbers? There are many more questions as well.

I've been lucky to work with a variety of tech editors. Two were very experienced, two were just starting out and the others were somewhere in between. I've learned things from all of them. Almost all of them were very clear about what was right and what was wrong. Unfortunately none of them agreed with one another on every topic. I often find myself in the position of having to make a decision on which choice to make. I'm trying to be consistent in my patterns as well as across my patterns. I'm now at the point I don't like to change style or formatting unless I can articulate a clear reason as to why one way is better rather than just different than another.

The Amazon review of the book in the photo above says "The Artful Edit explores the many-faceted and often misunderstood—or simply overlooked—art of editing." A few years ago I would have thought that statement was inaccurate, art, what art? There are rules of grammar aren't there? 

My husband always does a layout review of my patterns after I get them tech edited. He now does a copy edit as well, since we noticed that even good editors miss clear errors in spelling, punctuation and consistency. Sometimes he reverses items back to the way they were before the editor reviewed the pattern. 

We once spent the better part of an hour reading online grammar references while we debated the use of a comma vs. a semi colon. We found sources in favour of each. 

The more I do this, the more convinced I am that editing is more art than science. It's impacted by culture as well as time. Language morphs, it is not static. Pattern writing changes as well. Often when I have a question about how to write something I pull as many as five current sources for comparison. Usually a copy of Vogue, Interweave Knits, Knitters and two hard cover pattern books. I don't think I've found all five to agree except on the most basic of things. For example, knit is always abbreviated as k but is it capitalized or not? Are text stitch instructions treated as sentences? (Almost always). Are stitch multiples indicated in brackets or are they in sentences when listed in a separate stitch pattern section? Are chart legend instructions treated as sentences or not? (Sometimes). Are there abbreviations in the legend or not? Have I made punctuations errors in this post? I could go on and on and ........

Friday, May 24, 2013

An Interview with...Tetiana Otruta

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 Tetiana here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. I can find inspiration in nature, colors, art, architecture, dreams and  everyday life.
Every minute my brain works - how can I convert  the impressions around me into stitch patterns, color combinations, shapes and lines of finished design.
For example, my Seaside collection ( was inspired by seaside living and dreams about the sea. My impressions affect the colors and textures of the finished shawl collection: the depth of the sea and fishes, ripples and small waves in the sunshine, the ropes used on boats.

What is your favorite knitting technique?
Lace, cables, colorwork or other techniques which keep my interest for the knitting process.

You focus on accessory designs almost exclusively could you tell us a little about that ?
I like accessories.  For me the accessories are never too much. This small piece makes everyday clothes new, expresses creativity and creates a personal, unique look every time they are worn.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Yes, I look at other designers' work!  I think it is impossible not to be interested in what other designers are doing. It pushes me to find new ideas. It can be nice to inspire each other and learn from each other.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I've never heard about that. Most of my designs are intermediate or easy level, but it does not mean "too easy to be boring". My goal is combination of simplicity with interesting and original elements without over complication. This is the same approach I prefer for the pattern instructions.  I try to make the patterns easy to follow and to write them in a structured and logical manner.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Knitting is part of the design process. I make swatches and knit my designs by myself. I often modify a pattern while I am knitting it. The original idea and finished design may be totally different. Then my patterns are tested by several people who give me feedback about pattern accuracy, size and meterage / yardage.

Did you do a formal business plan?

Do you have a mentor?
I don't have a person who I call "mentor", but my friends (who love knitting) and my family give me advice, inspiration or provide help and support from time to time. I appreciate them all.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
My business wouldn’t exist and develop without the Internet. It is great invention.

Do you use a tech editor?

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
No balance. I just live. Knitting is part of my life or knitting is my life because I love it.

How do you deal with criticism?
I try to learn from it. But I think it is impossible to please everyone. We are all so different, with different tastes and thoughts. I greatly appreciate everyone who gives positive and constructive criticism.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I do not make enough income to support myself in this business yet. It's a small addition to the family budget. It is only to support my crafting obsession. I'm looking forward to the day when it happens.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Knitting is my hobby. I'm on the way to develop a career in knitting. My slogan is: "Be creative and love what you do, work and learn every minute on the way to the best result."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Importance of Clothing

I'm a big believer in always dressing well and appropriately for whatever you are doing. Lack of interest in grooming is so critical it shows up in mental health assessments from depression to dementia as one of the diagnostic criteria. I've always felt that we tell the world a lot about ourselves by the way we choose to present in terms of clothing and grooming. I don't think is so much about looking attractive as it is about showing others we value ourselves highly enough to put an effort into our appearance.

There's a really interesting article on the topic here. Some of what I found most fascinating in the post is that how we dress can also impact our performance. It can alter our thinking and change our results. Clothing can have an effect on more than just the way others perceive us.

I think I had better change out of my P.J.s and get some work done.

Monday, May 20, 2013

New Pattern The Louise Laxton Shawlette

I've got a new pattern out, You can find it here on Ravelry and here on Patternfish.

The yarn colour is absolutely fabulous but unfortunately does not show up well on any of the monitors I have checked it on. After fiddling in Photoshop to try and true the colour I ended up reading up on the RGB colour model. You can read more here about the colour system. It would appear that the system simply cannot reflect an accurate colour in this case. 

I interviewed the hand dyer (Emily) of this yarn here

Friday, May 17, 2013

An Interview with...Rhichard Devrieze

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 Rhichard here.

Where do you find inspiration for your colourways?
Most of the colour ways come out of my head.  Maybe they are there in the subconsious, but most of them are me playing with colours.  Mood has a lot to do with it and the music that I listen to while in the dye studio.  I must admit that there are certain things that inspire me.  For instance my partners Blue Crowned Mot-Mot that resides in the dye studio during the winter.  His colours are both bright and subdued.  It's an interesting combination with some jewel tones.  I am an avid gardener so this does have an influence on my colour ways too.

What is your favourite dyeing technique?
I'll have to be cryptic and say it's that thing I do.

How do you choose the fibers that you work with?
We kind of choose each other.  It's almost like establishing an interpersonal relationship.  I'm intrigued by something new and then, when I get a positive response, I want to work at the relationship, adding complexity by learning, experimenting, engaging.  And just like long-term relationships, I definitely have fibre favourites too.

How did you determine what weights of yarn you stock?
What's important to me is what's important to the people who work with the colourways that I produce, what excites them, what stimulates them to create what they do.  For me, it's always about maximizing depth of colour, reflections, refractions, emotional impact.  Some yarns 'express' better than others.

How do you come up with names for your yarn?
I'm either thinking of something even before the dyeing process begins, or something comes to mind during the process, but, often, an intended name gets 'bumped' because what the colourway looks like as a hank is quite different from what it looks like in a skein, and then again knitted.  But, most important, I really love what I do, and naming each colourway, and giving it a lyrical description is just my way of endeavouring to engage with the people who will use it.  

A coat woven, in white and black yarn which was then dyed by Rhichard.

Could you give us an idea of how long the process is to dye a batch of yarn and prepare it for sale?
An easy answer, and not an easy answer.  Without going into the specifics and the variables, usually about a week from start to enroute.  Sometimes just a few days.  Particularly if we're sold out and a particular colourway is needed to complete an order.  But, again, because I love experimenting, I prefer not to rush things.  

Do you look at other dyers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their yarns?
Are you kidding?  I love looking at other dyers' products, and love seeing what knitters do!  That's the great thing about people sharing.  But I don't think I'm influenced by other dyer's any more than I would think other dyers are influenced by what I do.  We're each pursuing our separate creative urges.  And perhaps, for me, that's just natural, since I've been rather independent my whole life.

Are you a knitter as well?
I'm what you would have to call a novice among the novices.  My forte is weaving.  And I like stitching.  My problem is that each day only has 24 hours, and I have a family and four French Bulldogs. 

Did you do a formal business plan?
Of course!  And I'm really keen to see it unfold. 

Do you have a mentor?
I do and he unfortunatly died when I was twelve years old.  It was and is my maternal Grandfather.  He was a wonderful dyer who had a blanket weaving business in The Netherlands.  It was very sad to learn from my Mother that he lost the business during the depression.  This is when he took up dyeing in Helmond, Noord-Brabant.  He did what is called Java Batiks.  This is quite an interesting process and we are lucky enough to have a number of them in my Mother's home.  I am lucky enough to have one of his books in my possesion. 

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Yes, and no.  My partner and I are big fans of a marketing expert who has had a programme on CBC-Radio One, in Canada, for a number of years (and my partner and I are big CBC fans).  So there are some key words in our business model.  Affability.  Availability.  Accountability.  Strategic Engagement.  Exceeding Client Expectations.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
We are a focused-internet-based business.  We have a website that is linked to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Ravelry.  So new colourways that get posted on our website automatically get identified.  We're very aware of internet marketing strategies, but we don't pursue those in an aggressive way.  We just really want to be friends with our wholesale accounts and with their customers.  Working hard is great, as long as it's fun.  

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I guess that's where the phrase 'strategic engagement' also applies, even though it's not always that simple.  Having a very patient and supportive life-partner certainly is important, which means that I can attend a respectable number of dog shows each year, and yarn trade shows, knowing that things will be okay if I'm away. 

How do you deal with criticism?
If the criticism is constructive and well-intentioned, I welcome it, of course.  If it's mean-spirited, well, it is what it is, and then it's not really relevant.  And wouldn't it be great if 'critique' was offered, instead of criticism?

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
One can support oneself on very little, if one's aspirations are . . . limited.  Mine aren't.  I don't have aspirations for 'big' but I do for excellence.  But then I think that that's what would be expected, and should be expected.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in hand dying yarns?
Be passionate.  Appreciate.  Welcome.  Care.  Never stop learning.  Laugh.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why Designers Don't Knit for Themselves

Have you ever scanned down a list of knitting event teachers bio photos and noticed that many of them are not wearing hand knit garments? Did you notice next, that the ones who are sporting something hand knit are often showing an accessory? 

Why do you think that happens?

I suspect the main reason is that the samples of the garments they design don't fit. Samples are knit in small sizes to fit tall models. Some publications request the samples to be produced with longer measurements than the pattern is written with. Most of us don't make much money so we move on to the next design before we can knit something for ourselves.

Very few women fit into those small sizes and often for the designer to have a garment to wear in public and properly showcase the design, further pattern customizations are required. In my case, I need more room on the front of a garment, shorter than average sleeves, a narrower shoulder and a shorter armhole depth which then requires sleeve cap changes.

I really enjoyed reading Amy Herzog's post here.

Amy says "Unfortunately, designers don’t actually get much time to knit sweaters for themselves… …and even less time to knit already-released sweaters for themselves." Further down in the post she shares the modifications to the pattern which make the garment flatter her specific shape. 

If I was a fairy godmother I would wave my magic wand and make every knitter understand that modifications are normal and are required. Everyone would pick their patterns and have the necessary knowledge to make the garment fit them. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

An Interview with...Anna Dalvi

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

You can find Anna here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find my inspiration a little here and there.  A lot of the motifs come from nature, and me just mulling over what the colours of the yarn remind me of.  But I also like to design things with roots in folk lore and fairy tales.  I love mythology and have designed numerous items inspired by various stories.
My second book - Ancient Egypt in Lace and Color - is a perfect example of how I like to tie stories to designs. In ancient Egypt, colour had symbolic meaning in art. For example, red was associated with anger, green with death and blue with fertility.  The book contains two shawls in each of the six main colours used in ancient Egyptian art, and each design in the book is accompanied by a story from Egyptian mythology.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I like any kind of knitting where things are happening - lace, cables, colour work…..  I really want the knitting to keep my interest, and the way to do that is to have patterns that keep me on my toes.

Could you tell us a little about your book, Shaping Shawls?
When I started designing lace shawls, each design was an exploration of shapes.  My first lace shawl, Mystic Waters, was a triangular shawl.  When I designed it, I sat down and tried to figure out how to knit a triangle.  I figured that if I started at the bottom point and knit upwards, if I made each row a little longer than the previous row, I would get a triangle.  Once I had designed that, I tried to construct a neck-to-edge triangle (top-down) with a spine - that is a triangular shawl constructed by two triangles. That became Mystic Light.  And so on.  For a couple of years, I kept exploring different shapes. In the end, I decided to write it all down as a book, so that other designers would have a sort of blueprint for how the geometry of lace shawls works. That way, it would be a great reference, and people wouldn't have to do the same exploring that I did.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Given that I spend a fair amount of time networking on Ravelry, etc, of course I look at other work occasionally. Most of what draws my interest are interesting construction and I sometimes look at knit items and try to figure out how they were constructed.  But on the whole, there are endless combinations of knits, purls, increases and decreases, and I think that as designers we should listen to our inner voices and find inspiration there, rather than trying to create something for someone else.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I think there's room for both simple and complex patterns. And simplifying instructions is really not at all the same as "dumbing down" patterns.  I tend to think of it as optimizing patterns - rather you would optimize code as a software designer.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have used some sample knitters in the past, but since I often modify the design as I knit it, I tend to work better if I knit the piece myself.  Plus I also really enjoy the knitting - after all, it's what drew me to this business in the first place - so I would be hesitant to give that up.
I also have several test knitters who knit for me on an ad hoc basis.

Did you do a formal business plan?

Do you have a mentor?
I've been lucky enough to have several friends in the industry.  Overall, it's a friendly place and most everyone is happy to talk about what they do, what works for them and what might not.

What impact has the Internet had on your business? My business would not be possible without the internet. I sell most of my patterns online, to customers all over the world. And I run knitalongs, hosted online.  The knitalongs also draw participants from all over the world and the internet allows us all to share in the progress, share pictures and talk about the design, knitting or just anything at all.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, of course.

How do you maintain your life/work balance? I think this line of work is very good for me at this point in time. The schedule is super flexible, which means that my schedule can work around the kids' schedules, what with school and hockey and everything else.  I can knit anywhere - at home, at the cottage, in the car (if I'm not driving, of course), at their hockey practices, and so on. The actual design work and charting tends to be done in spurts and during more quiet times, so it all works well.

How do you deal with criticism?
I try to learn from it.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself? How much you "need" in order to support yourself is so relative that it's almost impossible to answer.  It certainly helps to have income from a number of different sources (e.g. self publishing, books, knitalongs, teaching, submitting to other publications, etc). But even so, it's hard to get all of that to add up to enough to support a family of five.  
That said, there's great flexibility with this job - it can be done from almost anywhere at almost any time, and is ideal (for me) to combine with a young family.  And a supportive spouse.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
It's a great business to get into in terms of starting small. There is no need for large capital investments, etc. Especially not initially - really, what you need is some yarn and needles. And if you're considering it, you probably already own both. But it's not a very lucrative business for both, so be prepared to do a little of everything.  
I originally started in order to finance my hobby.  I thought it was a great way to make some extra money so that I could splurge on special yarn and fancy needles.  Then it grew into something bigger, because I really enjoy what I do. But it's a long, bumpy road, with unstable and variable income.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Are Men Sweater Worthy?

In an earlier post I did on the sweater curse I went looking for a pattern for a man's sweater that I could use for the top of the post. I was a little surprised to discover how very few there are.

Check out these searches on Ravelry.

Knit sweaters for adult women:  
19,584 matches 

Knit sweaters for adult men:

2,039 matches

I'm not sure why I was so surprised. I've only knit a few myself through my long knitting career. My husband rarely wears sweaters and I guess I thought he was unusual. I have in the past knit them for both my father and father-in-law. I did one for a boyfriend years ago but never did a second as we broke up before I started it. One of my friends just finished a gorgeous sweater for her son.

I think the questions are: are we not knitting for men because they don't wear hand knits, are we not knitting them because there are so few patterns, are we too busy knitting for ourselves and kids, or perhaps we just don't think men are sweater worthy?

What do you think?


Monday, May 6, 2013

I may be going over the edge....

I re-watched Chariots of Fire recently and was quite enjoying all the hand knits and sweaters that the costumers included in the film. There were crowd scenes that included some lovely Fair Isle tams. Hand knit vests were peeking out from under men's jackets. Cable knits were everywhere. They were of the type called Cricket sweaters in the UK but known as Tennis sweaters in the US. If you would like to see some vintage patterns of this type you can look here. If you scan down the page you will see examples from 1930 to 1960.

Unfortunately as I watched, the perfectionist knitter in me got out and completely distracted me from the plot. Good grief! Look at that sloppy neckband in the photo I've included above. That wasn't the only one, I just couldn't find a photo of the next crime against knitting example. Then I was very disturbed by the seed stitch band that was cast off in knit when it would have looked so much better cast off in pattern.

I can't help myself. I may be obsessed with knitting!

Friday, May 3, 2013

An Interview with...Joy Gerhardt

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

You can find Joy here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
My designs are born out of all sorts of things - architecture and landscape, stitch patterns, art... But most of the time, they come from my desire to try a new method of construction or an interesting technique. For instance, one of my first designs was the Interwoven hat, where I wanted to explore the idea of cables that start horizontally and continue seamlessly up the fabric, even when the direction of knitting has changed.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I'm a big fan of Cat Bordhi - and I think her centre-out moebius is one of the most ingenious and fun types of knitting there is. I love watching the fabric grow from the centre of the scarf, cowl, or wrap, and the finished moebius is like an Escher print come to life! In my Garden Path Moebius, I combined a moebius with one of my other favourite design features - ruffles. Ruffles aren't for everybody, and all that increasing can sometimes be a pain to knit, but I find them really charming when used in moderation.
How did you determine your size range?
I'm a larger girl myself, so for garments I find it important to offer a wide range of sizes (my first two garment designs are presently in the works). With the help of Excel and a good set of standard measurements, it's not that much extra effort to grade a design into many sizes both big and small, and I think it adds a lot of value.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I'm not afraid to admit I'm a bit of a Ravelry addict - and I think it's important to watch the trends, both in the knitting world and in fashion overall. I don't worry about being influenced - after all, artists piggybacking off each others' work is how art movements and trends are born. On the one hand they say there's nothing new under the sun, and on the other hand I think people can always add a new spin on an old idea, and that can be a really good thing.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
Many of my designs skew intermediate/advanced because those are the things I like to knit. There's a place in the market for patterns of all levels, from the most basic items for beginners to the most intricate lace or colorwork.
That having been said, one thing I've had to learn is to not try to fit too much into a design. Elegant simplicity is superior to overcomplication. A design with too many elements will feel crowded and no one element will be able to stand out. Similarly, a pattern with too much extra information sometimes just isn't necessary. Sometimes adding extra tutorials and explanatory notes will strengthen a pattern and make it clearer - but sometimes it will just further confuse things, which is something I have struggled with. 

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes - for me, the hardest part of designing and pattern-writing is making sure my instructions are clear. I can come up with an idea, but that doesn't mean I can explain it well! For that reason, I find a tech editor to be invaluable.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I don't use sample knitters but I do try to get my patterns tested if time allows. I feel that tech editing and test knitting complement each other well - the tech editor will check all the numbers and make sure things are consistent and clear, and the testers can uncover other issues through the process of knitting. The way I see it, the more eyes looking over my pattern, the better the final result is going to be.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
If it weren't for the Internet, I wouldn't be designing - heck, if it weren't for the Internet, I might not even be a knitter in the first place! The wealth of resources and community on the web are what fueled my fibre passion, right from the start. The web has also spawned a lot of great online magazines with high production standards and designer-friendly policies. There's a lot of competition these days but I'd say it's a good time to be a knitwear designer.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I have a day job, so it's more like a work/work balance. ;) I don't have as much time to spend on designing as I would like, now that I'm working full-time. I was fortunate enough to have a short period where I was able to work nearly full-time on my designing, which allowed me to build up my portfolio. Now I'm focusing on self-published work, which has the benefit of being much more flexible.

How do you deal with criticism?
I try to take everything as coming from a good place. Feedback from knitters is really important to me, because even after tech editing and test knitting, sometimes errors will slip through. Criticism comes in two forms: Something I can learn from, and something I can't. If I can learn from it, I will - I'll fix the error, or make the instructions clearer, or I'll know something for next time. If I can't learn from it, then it's best not to pay attention to it.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Do things right from the start, to the best of your ability. There is such a wealth of information available now - on Ravelry, on blogs like this one, in classes and books - that a budding designer can read up on everything and really get off to a professional start. I did some things as a newbie designer that in hindsight I wouldn't have done.
We live and learn, and I've learned a lot and I'm sure I still have much more to learn. But I think with the increased competition it is more important than ever to produce a quality product in order to stand out from the crowd. If you can develop your photography and writing skills, get things properly tech edited, and promote yourself effectively right from the start, you're already ahead of a lot of other people.