Monday, July 24, 2017

Qualities of Fabric - Drape

One of the hardest things to demonstrate to knitters through words is how much drape does a fabric have. Yet it is critical to the results of our knitting projects.  What we are trying to capture is how fluid or stiff the fabric is.  It's is not about the thickness of the fabric, it’s an assessment of the manner in which the fabric moves.  To begin to understand this concept think of the garments in your wardrobe. If you own an Oxford style shirt in a stiff cotton compare it to a silk blouse. Look at how the collar stands on it's own in cotton but falls against the body of the blouse when created out of silk. With knitted fabrics we see similar qualities dependent on fibre, stitch patterning, spinning method and gauge. In some ways I think this is more complicated for knitters because we have such varying results when we create our fabric. When you buy clothing you put it on and the assessment is pretty quick. On the other hand sometimes the fabric qualities change after washing or dry cleaning. This is usually due to fabric finishes. Examples would include Teflon to cut down on staining, or low wrinkle treatments on cotton shirts. 

Take a look at my photo at the top, one sweater is knit in cotton and the other is in rayon. You should be able to tell in this photo which is which. 

Hint, look at how the sleeves hang and at the hems.

I hope this helps your understanding. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

An Interview with...Faye Kennington

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 Faye here on Ravelry.

Pattern to be released in August 2017.

Where do you find inspiration?
Quite often inspiration comes from the natural environment around me. I live on the west coast of Vancouver Island near Pacific Rim National Park and we have an abundance of flora and fauna in the temperate rainforest. The feather motif that I used in Feather Throw came to me after finding an eagle feather on a walk. Many of my colour-work designs feature local animals, too. However, I find inspiration can, and does, come from anywhere.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I guess I'm going to have to go with short rows. Since learning the twinned stitched technique of shadow wrapping, the possibilities seem endless. I have a new hat design almost ready to go that is worked side to side with short row shaping at the crown. 

Pattern to be released August 2017.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I often look at other's work, for a variety of reasons: 1) there is always a new technique or skill I can learn; 2) there's no point in investing the time necessary to produce a design if it is too similar to a good pattern already readily available elsewhere; 3) I love the knitting craft and it would be a shame to miss out on the beautiful things other Designers are putting forward; and, 4) I've gotten to be friendly with many Designers on social media and I enjoy cheering them on.

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

I write my patterns, knit the samples and photograph the finished objects. Then my Technical Editor looks at the pattern and I make adjustments. Then I post a call for Test Knitters on Ravelry. After I incorporate Test Knitter feedback, I publish.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No. I have goals, but designing is my secondary business, so sometimes my goals must take a backseat to my primary business.

Do you have a mentor?
Not really. However, I am a member of a Slack community of Designers where I can bounce ideas off my peers.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?


Do you use a tech editor?

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

I don't!

How do you deal with criticism?
Talk a long walk with a friend and rant. Look for the kernel of truth once I've calmed down.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I live in a rural and remote area and it's not uncommon for people to wear many hats to make ends meet. I have been self-employed for 3 years, but not all my money comes from design. I have been designing since 2010.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I think that if you want a career in knitting, unless you can get a full time job for a yarn company or another third party, you should expect to take on a variety of roles and income streams. For example, you may want to design patterns AND provide technical editing service for peers AND teach at your LYS OR develop a yarn line OR offer photography services, etc. I don't think many people can make a go of it just by designing patterns alone.

Also, it's been said before, but start as you mean to continue. Try very hard to produce a professional quality product from the get-go. It's relatively easy to self-publish a poor quality pattern, but that won't be the legacy you want to look back on in the future.

What’s next for you?
Looking forward to the Indie Design Gift-A-Long, a seasonal gift knitting KAL with a group of independent Designers on Ravelry, I have been working on a series of hat patterns, and a number of stranded colour-work designs including some beautiful Christmas Stockings. If you want to see what I'm working on, please follow me on Instagram at @UkeeKnits.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How to get the Length Right when Knitting Garments

Have you ever discovered while using mattress stitch on your seams that they are not the same length? It's a common problem caused by the practice of measuring our knitting. Often measuring works just fine. Especially if we are careful to lay the work flat and to avoid stretching it. Be sure to measure on a flat surface. It frequently helps if you do a little steam blocking as well before you measure. 

Working with stable yarns like wool usually means more accuracy but what happens with silk-like yarns which drape?

I rarely have this problem but then I really love lots of stitch patterning so I frequently depend on the pattern row repeats to ensure equal lengths on the fronts and back of garments.

The stitch pattern on this cardigan makes it easy to match row counts above the armholes. The body is worked flat in one piece to the armholes eliminating the challenge in that section. 

This is a detail shot from a cardigan knit in pieces.

Can you see how easy it would be to count rows by using the pattern stitch?

Here's a few other tips to use to ensure equal lengths. 

Count pattern features such as cable crosses or lace motifs.

Knit both the pieces of the fronts and the sleeves at the same time. 

Know that many knitters will find that they make one side of a piece longer than the other depending on their individual knitting style.  That means when you measure, be consistent in which side you measure on.

Count the rows in stocking stitch, either as you are knitting or after completion.You can add a marker in while you are knitting or count the V's of the stocking stitch. Look for the red V below.

If stitch patterns make it too difficult to count due to pattern crossings as in the example above use the bars instead.These are the same bars you use when working mattress stitch. Look for my red bars below. Next look beside the cable turn and notice you can still see the bar when the work is pulled apart.

This is from one of my favourite sweaters.

To avoid recounting, place markers at regular intervals during the counting process. 

As always while writing this post I checked a number of my reference books. Many don't mention measuring work in progress at all. (Or a least I couldn't find it on the index reference page). However, the very detailed June Hemmons Hiatt never disappoints, as it is indexed and she is very clear that rows are the way to go for accuracy.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Should you knit your Front Bigger than your Back?

My answer to this question is absolutely yes, if it gives you a better fitting garment. 

It's the difference between what is sometimes refereed to as refined fit vs. standard fit or simple fit. In the sewing world refined fit refers to making the front bigger than the back of a garment. Some of us have bigger fronts. If the garment is the same measurement on both front and back the fabric will be stretched horizontally across the torso on the front. It may hang loosely on the back. If the garment is pulled horizontally on the front it cannot stretch vertically to create the extra length needed for a curvy bust line or tummy if the fullness is lower down. Knitting patterns normally have equal sized fronts and backs. Read this old post here on how to change to refined fit.

I knit my own garments this way and years ago I knit a vest for my Dad to accommodate his fuller front and very flat backside. When you don't adjust this way you end up with a garment which fits around the body circumference but has side seams pulled towards the front of the body. They may hang straight but be pulled forward or they may be pulled forward only where the body protrudes appearing to to crooked at the sides even when knit straight. At the same time the shoulders may be too large because the size knit is based on the bust measurement.

Paprika patterns has a great post here on how the shaping changes for a no dart pattern to accommodate a larger bust. Step 7 is essentially what I am doing when I knit for myself. The front is larger in the torso area but the shoulders and armholes are a smaller size.  I'd like you to notice the side seam is slightly extended at the armhole. I do this by casting off some of the extra stitches I added into the front. I get rid of a few more in the neckline making the number of stitches on the shoulders match at the front and back.

Friday, July 14, 2017

An Interview with...Cynthia Levy

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 Cynthia here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from a variety of sources.  The natural landscape of the Northwest Territories provides an endless supply of inspiration.  Precambrian Cable Socks were inspired by the rock of the Canadian shield and Tundra Trails Socks were designed while on a trip to the barren-lands.   I also draw ideas from my library of stitch dictionaries and knitting books.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love all knitting techniques, but my favorite is cables.  There's just something magical about the way that simply reordering stitches can create such intricate textured designs.  I enjoy colourwork and lace but always seem to gravitate back to cables.  Those cute little cable needles, of which I have amassed quite a collection, might also be part of the attraction!

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I don't actively at look at the work of other designers as a source of ideas or inspiration.  I do knit a lot of projects other than my own designs, so I spend a lot of time browsing patterns on Ravelry and elsewhere.  I expect that some concepts or ideas naturally filter into my brain but it's not a conscious effort.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit all each of my own patterns while developing the design, so I'd have to admit that I'm my own primary sample/test knitter.  Most of my patterns are for socks or gloves, so it's easy and efficient to knit the first while working out the design, and to then knit the second as a test of the pattern itself.  I then use test knitters, drawn from my own Ravelry group or from the testing groups on Ravelry, to test each size of the pattern.  Most of my patterns have been tested by at least 5 knitters other than myself.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Work/life balance is not something that I expect to achieve any time soon!  I have a very demanding full-time job and too many other interests and activities to count.  My idea of balance is to try to juggle deadlines as best I can.  I'd love to find a way to manufacture time but I'm not good at slowing down to relax.

How do you deal with criticism?
I try to deal with criticism in a positive fashion by examining the facts and making any necessary corrections or adjustments cheerfully and promptly.  I do wish that knitters would place a bit more faith in designers before questioning pattern instructions.  Mistakes inevitably creep into patterns occasionally, despite rigorous editing and testing, but the designer usually has a valid reason for unusual instructions and knitters should give them a chance before expressing doubt.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I can't imagine ever being able to support myself from by design work!  That's the purpose of my full-time job, which is in a field that will always be more lucrative than knitting or any of my other crafts.  My pattern sales provide enough income to cover the cost of pattern development and that's all I realistically expect.  I design because I enjoy the process and like sharing my patterns with other knitters.

What’s next for you?
Lots more knitting!  I'm looking forward to someday having more time to knit, spin, weave and do all the various things for which I've acquired a stash of equipment and materials.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In the category of this made me smile - Wonder Woman

I couldn't ignore this trend any longer. I keep seeing this shawl so I went looking to see what other Wonder Woman knitting there is. The shawl was just published and already has 140 projects on Ravelry. As always I am impressed by the ingenuity of knitters.

And for a more literal translation take a look at this one, the project pages are not to be missed!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Reminder - My Summer Sale is on until August 31

Special Promotion

From now until August 31 2017, if you post a project page with a photo of any of my patterns shown as a completed project, I’ll give you a promo code for a free pattern. You can choose any of my patterns that are available on Ravelry. Just email or PM me and give me the project page link or the details, your Ravelry name, email etc. I’ll send the promo code to your email. Happy Knitting!

Friday, July 7, 2017

An Interview with...Alexis Adrienne

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 Alexis here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I derive my greatest inspiration from gorgeous natural fibres, like baby alpaca, llama, silk, and Merino wool. When it comes to designing, these yarns sort of "speak to me", and tell me what they want to become.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
The three-needle bind-off. It's such an effortless way to create a neat and tidy join.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I work in a yarn store, so I frequently help knitters execute patterns that aren't my own. I don't mind at all. It helps me stay current with trends in shape, colour etc.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
So far, I've done it all myself, but I design accessories that focus on minimalism--to showcase the natural fibres. If I ever make the leap to garment design, I will definitely use test knitters.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No. Mine is more a "flying by the seat of her pants" kind of plan.

Do you use a tech editor?
No. I've looked into in the past, but it has always been cost-prohibitive, relative to my expected return from pattern sales.

How do you deal with criticism?

Not as well I'd like, to be honest. I'm a sensitive person, and my feelings get hurt easily. My challenge has been to separate the useless, judgmental criticism, from the helpful, constructive type. When I can recognize criticism as constructive, I'm more able to see it as an opportunity to improve, and not take it so personally.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I'll let you know if/when that happens! Knitwear design is still a supplement to my income.

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

Love your work. Because it's a lot of work! Is knitting your true passion? If not, keep searching. If so, commit yourself fully. Get connected, learn new techniques; never stop working and growing. Just be sure to know in your heart whether knitting is your hobby, or your career. It's an important distinction to make.

What’s next for you?

I'm excited to have just launched It's an online resource I created to share my love of knitting, and my belief in the power of "handmade" with the world. It's small now, but as it grows it will contain and increasing number of my designs--offered as free patterns--plus tutorials, interesting features, links to other cool resources, and much more! 

PS: my Instagram handle is now @coldcomfortknits, if you want to "stay in the loop", LOL.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

European versus North American Standards in Knitting

I’ve been knitting so long that I don’t remember learning. I have just always knit. For the longest time the only knitters I knew were related to me. I was in my mid-twenties when I first took a knitting class. It was a design class taught by a machine knitter who had a fashion school background. There was no Internet so we learned new skills by using books, magazines and classes. I was doing a lot of sewing as well and that's when I took pattern drafting training. Back then there wasn't the wonderful online knitting community that we have now. One of the things I was told was that European knitters were much more advanced than North American knitters. The story was they learned more about garment construction in school so they had a better overall understanding. I heard it from someone who did an internship at a UK yarn company. I also heard it from friends who visited Europe and brought home the single size patterns.  These were compared to our three size magazine patterns. If you compare those to modern six to eight size patterns it's pretty astounding how patterns have shifted in the amount of information they provide. Since I've been doing the interview series some of the European designers have mentioned they needed to build their pattern writing skills to be competitive in the North American market due to different standards.

I never really took this commentary seriously because I heard it in the sewing world as well. Many sewers were convinced European pattern fit was superior to North American and there was always talk about Asian garment makers who worked without patterns directly on the fabric. 

I added my patterns to the LoveKnitting site when Ravelry was scrambling to deal with changes in E.U. taxation. I got sales there immediately so now I continue to post all my new patterns there. 

Well surprise, surprise, my pattern sales there show something really interesting. I'm selling way more garments than accessories on their site. (It's in reverse on Ravelry.) When I look at my shawl pattern sales on LoveKnitting my most complicated lace pattern has the highest sales. 

So now I'm struggling to interpret this. Is it just about fashion? Shawls have been very popular here with first the lace craze and then the more colourful and textural versions of late. Is it about skills? Is that why more garment patterns are selling there? Are they really more confident or is it a more adventurous mindset? 

Any thoughts?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Stash-Down Results

Here's another example of the results of my ongoing Stash-Down.

It's been raining so much it Toronto that I struggled to get any photos at all. The sun came out for a few minutes so I started snapping. You can see the light changing fast in these. By the time I turned the mannequin around to do the back it was so dark I'm not bothering to include those shots. 

There won't be a pattern for this one but if you would like to create something like it first read this post for the tips and tricks. 

The sweater is worked top down so I could add in yarn if I needed to. I didn't. I did the sleeves bottom up because by then I realized I had more than enough yarn. In this case all the yarn is red, however the reds vary and I have multiple weights and fibres. Everything from lace to worsted weight as well as cashmere, silk, wool, and rayon to name just a few. The worsted was some Cascade 220 purchased for a hat and scarf and some Knit Picks which came to me by way of another friend's stash down. Some are leftovers from other projects and were of very small amounts. 

Do a swatch to define a gauge when mixing weights together. I used the needle size which I would normally use for a worsted yarn. I did the knit one row in each of three yarns trick and repeat. (Make sure the weights of the three yarns are all different.) Then I changed out yarns a few times. Make a bigger than 4 inch swatch. Block it. Pick a simple top down sweater which matches the gauge. Start knitting. 

Recently one of my friends found out I mix yarn bases and told me I was scaring her. Don't be scared! This works because each yarn is used in one row at a time. You can mix as long as you don't do any large areas in a single weight. If you do, it will revert to it's normal gauge. The fabric will drape. The hand is more like a silk or cashmere blend even though about 70% of what I used is 100% wool. 

I knit the length to about 3/4's of what I wanted before the band and then I put it on my mannequin for about 48 hours.  I had to take it off and do the neckline part way because it was stretching out too much to be sure about the overall length. Once I knit the neckband I got a much more accurate length. The armholes also looked a little sloppy but after I did the neckline I realized the sleeve seams were going to take care of them as well. I did a saddle shoulder which may have added to the stretch there. 

I did all the edges in one of the worsted weight yarns for consistency. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

An Interview with...Mary-Ann Lammers

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 Mary-Ann here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
My inspiration comes mainly from colour and texture. The fluidity of both colour and the knitted fabric is what pulls my mind into the direction of experimenting with something new to me. I was recently attending a horse show in Rome and there was a woman walking past me who was wearing a blouse with such stunning drape that it has inspired me to try to bring it into one of my next designs The colours I will use come from the beauty of a horse that was in the arena, horse and rider as one, as if in flight. Inspiration finds me everywhere.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I have many techniques I enjoy, to narrow it down to just one is not possible for me. I like to think and hope that there are many that have not even been developed yet and want to be open to trying new things all the time. A favourite technique might pigeonhole my creativity and artistic development so I prefer to be attracted to the appeal of something new, something unexplored by me and yet continuing with the techniques I know I already enjoy.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love seeing the new designs when they enter the market and am always curious to see what other designers are designing. I suppose realistically we are all somewhat influenced by what we see whether we are directly aware of it or not. A creative mind is open to many areas of influence, not just visually but with all our senses.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I don't have sample knitters but I am fortunate to have some great test knitters who are very candid and supportive and will offer helpful criticism and suggestions if necessary. I love seeing their colour/yarn choices and value them greatly.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, I didn't have a business plan because I wasn't planning to start a business. It simply began by chance. Having been a published quilt designer for many years, I am naturally drawn to colour and texture. I happened upon a lovely skein of hand dyed yarn in my LYS while knitting with the stitch group there. I took it home and spent many hours trying to tame it to create a pooling effect. I was excited to show it to the group when it was finished. I told them it was so much work to develop a way to pool it that I felt as if I had cracked the DaVinci Code. I decided to call it the DaVinci Cowl and set out to write the pattern and see if people on Ravelry liked it. They did and they do so I designed more. I haven't stopped.

Do you have a mentor?
No, I do not have a mentor but have been fortunate to have been able to speak with other designers and ask opinions on certain things. I belong to some designer groups and they have been wonderfully supportive and honest with their suggestions and advice.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Although I do not have a specific business model I do have enough background in business to be able to go in the proper directions and to be able to handle some of the complexities involved with being a business person. I am also willing to be flexible and try different strategies. The world changes rapidly and what was successful yesterday is not the next day.

Do you use a tech editor?

Yes, absolutely. It is important to have more than your own eyes and expertise looking at your written words.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Somehow I have always intuitively been able to manage the different areas of my life with success (for the most part). That may come from a strong sense of looking after myself as well as others/things/ responsibilities. We cannot do all we wish to do if we don't take care of our own needs as well.There are times where it is not possible to have true balance but in the big picture things will even out. I have been very busy with building my new design business and my pattern portfolio, also networking and expanding with ideas into future areas.

How do you deal with criticism?
I remind myself that all criticism is ultimately going to teach me something in the end. Sometimes the painful criticisms have taught me the most.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I'm not there yet, it has only been a little over one year. It is a self sustaining business already though, so for that I am grateful.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Don't design to fill a niche, design to create one. Start somewhere, don't be afraid and be willing to learn along the way.

What’s next for you?
Whichever design comes off the needles next. Ultimately though?....we'll just have to see where this takes me.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Stash-Down and Stash-Less

I'm still picking away at my stash-down project. It's moving along slowly between my pattern development projects. I haven't got a firm timeline in mind but I have realized that the focus has resulted in a stash-less policy which I didn't specifically put in place. I've not made a single purchase from the yarn vendors who are often at my monthly guild meetings. I've also stopped buying the raffle tickets since the prize is so often yarn. I've been in yarn shops without buying as well. It's funny how one word can have such a big impact on one's strategy. 

At the last guild meeting I sat beside a friend who has been doing both stash-down and stash-less for at least a year. We discussed the problem of all those single skeins we buy from hand dyers which are often not enough for a project. It means buying more to make use of what you have, if there isn't a good companion yarn already in stash.

As you know from a previous post I have two patterns to address the blending of different yarn scenario.

I've just come across a blog series on stash which I would like to share with you. There are 17 extremely insightful posts on the topic here

They are written by Felicia, creator of The Craft Sessions. Her stash includes both yarn and fabric but her journey of discovery applies to all stash or hoarding. I hate to use that word but saying it to myself has had a positive impact on my behaviour. It seems the word stash sounds more innocent to my ears. The series runs from Oct 2014 to Sept 2015 and reflects her changing thinking throughout. I especially liked the post on restrictions and the one on desire. I've read widely in the area of positive psychology. When I first came across the idea that desire is actually a stress it was a light bulb moment for me. Even bigger is accepting that fulfillment of the desire doesn't lead to happiness! Take a look and let me know what you think.

1. Stash Less - A challenge
The original post where I talk about what and why.
2. Stash Less - The details of the challenge
Where I lay down the rules! For me - not for you ;).
3. Stash Less - Why we stash?
The reasons why I (and you??) start stashing.
4. Stash Less - Taking Stock
I took stock of the stash, what was there and how it came about.
5. Stash Less Challenge - Let it go, Let it goooo!
The one where we talk about recycling things that haven't worked.
6. Stash Less - An Update
A post where I talk about the interesting lessons I've learned so far about hoarding and using the things you love.
7. Stash Less - A Realisation
Where I talk about a bit of a shock I had as part of the process and what it means to change a habit.
8. Stash Less - Why Restrictions Rock!
A post about the upsides of Stashing Less - a big shakeup in the creativity department.
9. Stash Less - Selling Discontent
Where we talk about how desire and discontent affect our making and about the journey to move towards slow fashion.
10. Stash Less - A Habitual Practice
Where I looked at how my habits and making have changed since the start of the project and an update on the cash!
11. Stash Less - I May Have Found The Key
I've found out something really interesting about how to reduce my triggers for stashing - the key to freedom from desire?
12. Stash Less - Falling Off The Wagon
How and why I fell.
13. Stash Less - I Got A Gold Star
Where I finally get to the "special" stash.
14. Stash Less - Breaking The Habit
The keys to changing your habits.
15. Stash Less - Creating An Intentional Wardrobe
Details of the journey to "enough".
16. Stash Less - Not Just for the Holidays
About making the choice to continue.
17. Stash Less - Let's Talk about Desire
Talking about how desire influences behaviour.R

Monday, June 26, 2017


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

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.

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.

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.