Monday, December 30, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

An Interview with Megan Grewal

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/honey-toque


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 Megan here, here on Facebook and here on Ravelry.


Where do you find inspiration?
My children tend to be giving me lots of inspiration!
I love patterns, colours, cables and enjoy incorporating them into knitwear that will be cherished and remain classic in style.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Most definitely, knitting the round. I don’t mind seaming and will do so when necessary, but I really love being able to avoid seams, if possible.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I tend to go through phases. I love looking and seeing what other designers are up to and sometimes I am influenced by their work.

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

 How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I struggle with this issue. When I began knitting from patterns in my teens, patterns were very simple and you would have to use some instinct to proceed. I find pattern writing can be quite a lot of work with having to spell everything out, line by line! I try to use a combo of pithy and written out instructions. This seems to be a decent compromise.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have a group on Ravelry where I run my test knits. They are all volunteering, at this point. When I need a sample knitter, I usually use my daughter.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No.

Do you have a mentor?
No, but I do have quite a few designer friends and we mentor each other.
 
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/willoughby-longies

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really. I do look at other websites, Facebook Groups, Ravelry Groups to see how I can improve.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
I started designing after Ravelry came on the scene, so I mainly work through the internet. I find it very easy and less time consuming than printing patterns and selling them in a shop.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, I have a few that I use regularly.
 
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/etta-tunic

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
My family always comes first. I also work in our family business, so I have to balance things carefully. I want my knitting business to remain enjoyable, so while I want to be a success, I also try to keep it fun and in its place.

How do you deal with criticism?
I respect everyone’s opinions :) I also look into the criticism to see if it something that I need to change or improve on. There is always room for growth!

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I am not there yet!

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Knit LOTS. Other designers patterns are well worth the time to knit. You learn so much that way. Start small, with projects that you have experience in and that you love. The love shows through!

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/vintage-baby-set---cardigan

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Economics of Knitting - Yarn Choice


How do designers choose the yarn that they design with? This is a mystery to knitters, however often there is a clear path to the choice from the designers perspective. It often comes down to the original motivation. Do you want to sell yarn or do you want to sell patterns? To the knitter it doesn't matter, but in the industry, we have yarn companies, distributors, retailers, both brick and mortar and online as well as indie dyers. If the design is commissioned by a yarn seller the focus is often on developing a small project that will sell well at shows and it will target the budget conscious buyer to maximize sales. In this situation. The designer is commissioned by the yarn seller or works directly for them to produce designs for their yarn.

If you want to sell patterns the motivation is very different. Fibre preference can be a factor depending on what a designer wants to work with. The design premise may require features specific to certain yarns. As an example the silhouette may work best with a yarn that creates a fabric with drape or it may need a yarn with good memory. The target customer demographics are also a consideration. Is the design one that knitters will want to make for children or is it one that will appeal to knitters who work mainly with hand dyed yarn? Some designers do work from an idea and then choose yarn that is determined by the inspiration. They may be limited to specific yarns if a colour is not widely available. Other designers are given yarn by companies hoping a well known knitter will publish something with their yarn. The designer then looks for a successful way to utilize that yarn using the amount they were provided with. A designer may have yarn support from a specific company so using their yarn allows the designer to save on the cost of yarn.

Yarn shops may have one of two perspectives on patterns, they want to sell yarn so they want patterns for yarns that they stock. That may mean patterns for specific yarns or it may mean generic patterns in standard yarn weights that are non-specific as to a yarn brand. They may find more sales success with patterns listing yarn requirements only by gauge or weight and not by brand.

Friday, December 20, 2013

An Interview with...Lynette Meek


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/torchon-lace-collar-charts Photo credit Aurora Photography

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.  Lynette was 1st runner-up in the 2011 Vogue Magic of Mohair Competition and has been very prolific since then.


You can find Lynette here and here on Ravelry.



Where do you find inspiration?

In simplest terms – Everywhere.  The world around me is full of colour and texture.  


My hobby is photography.  It used to be knitting.  I purchased a camera to learn to take pictures in order to take better pictures of my knitting.  Now I take pictures of everything.  What I see around me is my bedrock for colour and texture.


As well, I work in my local yarn store; sometimes it is the yarn, or the colour, or a customer’s chance remarks ”What If I do this....” or “Do you have a pattern for.... “ and my brain will be off and running.


I started my adult education in University, training to be a costume designer, and that has definitely carried through to my knitting designs.  I have a particular love of vintage dress designs and embellishment – sometimes I have to stop and let a design be – I can go “overboard”! 


I have just finished a few designs for The Buffalo Wool Company.  They are publishing an E-book called “Cow Girl Up!” that will be available Dec 15th.  Those designs are heavily influenced by my love of old Westerns.


As you can see almost anything can lead to inspiration.


What is your favourite knitting technique?

Lace, Bead knitting and knitting with beads, Lace and beads, did I mention Lace?  LOL!  For fun – I paint my lace garments and shawls after knitting.


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

I am looking at other designer work all the time.  My job is to help knitters find projects; patterns and yarn they will need to create their next knitting success.  I need to be aware of what is going on and what patterns are available, mine or others.

I don’t think that any designer is consciously influenced by another’s designs, what I think we are collectively influenced by is the fashion world; the knitting that we see there, the styles, will reflect the colours and shapes that our customers are going to want.  We try to make those influences work with our individual design styles.



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

I never do it.  There are all kinds of patterns designed for all kinds of interests and skill levels.


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

I haven’t really worked with test knitters until the last year or so.  Most of my designs were started as class projects and went through the classroom setting to work out the bugs.

I am now working with a test knitter who also acts as a tech editor.  We work well together and she knows how to ask the questions or point out the problems within my patterns.


As a designer I mostly “design” on my needles and write out the pattern as it progresses.  If I can “see” the design in my head I can create it.  This year marks the first year where I wrote a pattern and had someone else knit it – a step forward for me.


Did you do a formal business plan?

Knit as much as I can for as long as I can and maybe even get paid for it! Not really, I am doing what I love, Creating and playing with yarn every day.  I am working on the theory that doing what you love is more important than any small financial details.


Do you have a mentor?

Until recently I would have said no.  I have friends who have helped and influenced me – my current employer is a friend and big supporter of my creativity.


This year I started working with the Buffalo Wool Co.  I would say that Ron and Theresa Miskin, the owners, have become both friends and mentors.  They are right in the middle of the whole knitting and yarn “business”.  I have learned a great deal from them.

Turtle Flower Gauntlets from Cow Girl Up



Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

See above.


What impact has the Internet had on your business?

Huge. 


Through the Internet I found out about the Vogue Design Competition – Magic of Mohair – Being the runner up in that competition in 2011, put me on the “map” as far as being a designer.


Until the advent of Ravelry I had only sold my designs at Mad About Ewe Fine Yarns.  Ravelry gave me a new audience.   

Patternfish opened up another audience.


A design competition on Facebook introduced me to Ron and Theresa Miskin. 


The Internet has opened up the world to me and other “small” designers.


Do you use a tech editor?

My students, my test knitter, my co-workers, my boss and I.  We can all read, count and otherwise look for the easy to find technical mistakes.  Some still get missed.  It is not until a knitter, across the continent goes “Huh”?, that you really find the big mistakes. I apologize, but designers are human, we make mistakes, we try not to, but it does happen.  You fix them and go on.


How do you maintain your life/work balance?

My work is knitting.  My life is knitting.  Perfectly balanced!


How do you deal with criticism?

If it valid, I will listen.  If I can change something I will.

If it is griping, I ignore it.  We cannot please everyone all the time, heck, most of the time we can’t even please ourselves!


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

I will let you know when that happens. I do not make enough with my design work to live on.  My daughter quipped the other day;


“Mom, you have made it – you have an employee!”  My reply,  ”Yah right, she only gets paid in yarn!”  Her response, “Well, isn’t that what you get paid with!”  LOL!


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

Knit because you love it.  Making a living has to be secondary.  Knitting could support you at some point, but do not turn what you love into something you hate trying to make it do everything for you!


Lace Waterfall coat. Photo Credit Rose Callahan.

Lace Waterfall coat.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

YarnOver SleepOver 2014


We had so much fun last year we're doing it again! You can find the class list here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

New Pattern - The Barbara Franklin Cardigan


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-barbara-franklin-cardigan

I debuted this pattern at the DKC fashion show last Wednesday. It turned out to be one of those rare designs that matched perfectly with my internal vision. Surprisingly that does not always happen. This design was done following an abandoned project that was so far off my original vision I realized I need to start over again and I'm swatching some alternative ideas right now. 

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-barbara-franklin-cardigan


This cardigan has the side benefit of being created with no buttonholes. You can use a shawl pin to close it instead. Over the holidays I plan to dress it up with a very glitzy brooch instead of the shawl pin.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-barbara-franklin-cardigan


The name Barbara Franklin comes from Agatha Christie's Curtain: Poirot's Last Case. Barbara is described as being wan, beautiful and commanding of attention of anyone nearby.


Friday, December 13, 2013

An Interview with...Luise O'Neill

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ashokan-shawl


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

You can find Luise here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
Literally everywhere – from trees to buildings to flowers to china plates to Celtic ruins to music to stitch patterns – the colours, shapes and sounds get me sketching and then it's off to my stitch dictionaries (my absolute favourites are the ones by Annie Maloney) and the designs flow from there.

My first pattern accepted by Twist Collective – my Kinsol Trestle vest – grew from a picture of the Kinsol Trestle, a wooden railway trestle built in the early 1900s in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. An amazing structure! The longest trestle in the British Commonwealth and one of the highest in the world, when I read its story and about the preservation efforts that were underway to help save this awe-inspiring bridge for hikers and cyclists, design ideas began to flow!




The view of the Kinsol trestle bridge

On the other hand, my Ashokan shawl began with a piece of music – Ashokan Farewell. The first time I heard this hauntingly beautiful piece of music, I knew it had to become a shawl – something that provides comfort. Jay Unger composed this tune in 1982 as friends once again parted and followed their life’s path at the closing of his Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camp; he embodied his feeling of loss in this lament. And so the Ashokan shawl design became an interplay of leaf motifs for the Catskill forests and intertwining cables to denote friendships and the entwining yet diverse paths our lives take.


What is your favourite knitting technique?
Cables – definitely cables, although I have been lured into some lacy designs – not superfine lace, though.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Not often but not because I feel I'll be influenced. From time to time I'll skim through particular design categories on Ravelry – mainly to make sure that an idea I have isn't something that's already out there in profusion. As I do that, though, it makes me wish there were two (or more!) of me so I could knit all the marvellous designs that are out there – it's a wonderful time to be a knitter.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/kinsol-trestle
                                                 Photo credit Marten Ivert
 
How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
This is an interesting topic yet a bit puzzling to me. I really don't like the term "dumbing down" (may be the educator in me) because it implies that a) knitters who do not have an arbitrary skill set (determined by whom?) should not seek skills and techniques within individual patterns as they are endeavouring to learn and b) they should gain these arbitrary skills 'somewhere else'. I can totally understand designers writing patterns for different skill levels (and see the attraction of writing or charting a pattern in one size and leaving it to the knitter to personalize it) but referring to detailed patterns as being "dumbed down" seems dismissive and unkind to me.


How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
LOL – if I were to do it all myself I think I'd have to grow a few more sets of arms! At the moment I have one sample knitter whom I work with closely and he's fantastic! I also have a pool of about 20 absolutely great test / project knitters in my Ravelry group. They are truly wonderful and generous individuals who provide me with invaluable feedback.

 
Did you do a formal business plan?
If we're talking a 5-year financial plan with the bank and marked income milestones, then no. I have done this in the past for other businesses I've run but in this case, since I was funding the whole venture myself, nothing formal like that. I do have a somewhat fluid design calendar where I plan submissions, track my design process, schedule pattern releases, KALs, promotions, etc. but since I find that some designs get very bossy and change the order of things, it's best to be flexible. I am meticulous about record keeping, tracking growth, etc. but my current plan is to 'follow from behind'; the business is growing so I take that as a good sign.


What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Gigantic. My business simply wouldn't exist without the Internet. I sell my self-published patterns exclusively online; while I have a website – www.impeccableknits.ca – my sales are processed via Ravelry (and I sell through Patternfish, Craftsy and Knit Picks). The Internet has given me access to super-talented yarnies that I would otherwise never have had a chance to meet and it's connected me with fabulous online publishers like Twist Collective and Cooperative Press that reach audiences around the world. The thought of someone in New Zealand or India knitting one of my patterns is exciting! And, of course, it gives me the chance to share knitting tips and resources via my website and my Shifting Stitches blog.

A secondary impact, though, is the increased time and knowledge that is required to function in the medium – design and upkeep of a web site, blogging, Twitter, Facebook, participating in social online groups, etc. Some days I'd rather be knitting than trying to figure out why that table border isn't showing up on my webpage – lol.



How do you maintain your life/work balance?
It's kind of a mosaic – work and family life intertwine. Working full-time from home that's just the way it is and when we're out for a walk and I see a fabulous wrought iron fence I can't just say 'no, this is family time – put the camera and notepad away'.  But I do try to keep 'office hours' and only let the knitting (not shop talk) wander into all the other rooms in the house (with varying degrees of success - those stitch dictionaries are hard to train!).
 
How do you deal with criticism?
Being on the receiving end is difficult for anyone, I think. I do try to look at comments objectively and to understand the writer – text can come across as curt or even rude when that is not the intention at all. Often criticisms stem from frustrations and if those can be identified and solved, the writer comes away from the experience a much happier person. However, if for some reason it becomes obvious that there is no resolve on the commenter's part to come to a solution – that it's a rant and nothing will satisfy, then I try not to dwell on it and move on. Knitters who know me and know my patterns will see those types of comments for what they are.

 
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Not there yet. I am very pleased with how the business has grown but do not believe that it will develop to be my primary source of income in the foreseeable future. I would have to take on a lot more, delegate a lot more and develop varied secondary aspects of the design business and I'm not sure I want to go there. I love what I do – I design. I have fans who love what I do – this makes me very happy! And, if for now that means the income has to stay a secondary source, I feel very lucky that that's the way it can be for me.