Friday, November 21, 2014

An Interview with...yellowcosmo


Surely


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 yellowcosmo here and here on Ravelry.
Where do you find inspiration? 

Everywhere, during my walks, movies, etc. But quite often my best ideas happen when I just wake up in the morning with a half-asleep brain.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Cables and lace. I think, for now. I can be quite fickle.

How did you determine your size range?
Often it's dictated by the design and pattern repeat. But if there is no restriction based on pattern repeat, I usually start the smallest size around a 30" chest measurement and go in increments of 3" and do about 8-10 sizes.


Ginkgo Shawl

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Sometimes I try. But to be honest, I'm rather lazy to really search them out. I get a bit impatient looking at pattern after pattern. But there are definitely a few designers that I always love to look at and get excited with their new patterns.

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

Even though it makes writing patterns a lot more tedious, I can see the pros and cons. It certainly is a nice way to include knitters who otherwise would not feel comfortable. On the other hand, if a knitter heavily relies on detailed instructions all the time, it does hamper the knitter's development, I think.

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

I'm pretty lucky that I have about 8-10 testers who knit for me more regularly, and few others that do so every now and then when they have the time.

A Fine Tuesday
 
Did you do a formal business plan?
Wow, hmmm... that's a completely foreign concept to me. I can barely plan my day/week as it is.

Do you have a mentor?
Well, not in knitting. But I had a mentor in college when I was studying painting. Patrick was the biggest influence in my creative life and it extended beyond fine art. Studies with him had shaped my creative process, my aesthetics, and my way to form and re-form any idea. All these are deeply connected to what and how I design.

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

Second Chance
 
How are you using social media to grow your business?
I'm a dinosaur. I have a blog, but I don't really think of it as a huge part of my business considering I don't have many followers. It's just a way for me to talk about my knitting.  I recently joined Instagram, but so far there is barely any knitting in it though. I don't have a facebook account. By nature, I'm a private person, so I'm still adjusting to the concept of social media.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, I have been working with an amazing tech editor, Judy, for quite some time. She really taught me a lot about pattern writing. I've begun working with a couple of other wonderful editors too, Ashley and Sashka.


Taking a Chance on Love
 
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
By not thinking about it.

How do you deal with criticism?
Haha, after my MFA graduate program where a good critique day meant no one cried, most criticisms now seem mild in comparison. I generally try to process the constructive part when I'm ready to deal with it, and shrug off the few nonsensical ones. I try to remind myself, "What's my goal, write better patterns? make designs that work better?" etc. If the criticism helps me to work towards that goal, it's all good.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I wish I had an answer for that :) I'd be eating top ramen everyday and living in a tent if I only lived off my design earnings.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Go for it. It's a great time to do it. The amount of creativity in the knitting world is very exciting for someone just starting out. There is so much to inspire a new designer. But know in your heart what your priorities are. Each person is different. You can find advice, but you know what balance works for you the best.

Juno

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Where do Designers come From?


I'm often asked how one goes about getting professional accreditation as a hand knit designer. Unfortunately there is no direct route to attain a degree or certification. Some designers do go the fashion school route, they learn about garment construction but often if knits are included in the program they are machine not hand knits. The focus is generally on manufacturing jobs and the main stream fashion retail world. Sizing targets industry standards and ignores specialized fit requirements. What we do in the hand knitting world is really very narrowly focused. Hand knitters have their own distinct subculture and aesthetic. I've also done a fair bit of machine knitting and depending on the complexity of the machine it can be a very different pursuit and skill set.

My educational background was founded in my personal interest in garment construction and fit. My focus was the wider range of custom garment construction in both fabric and knitting. I've always been intensely interested in fashion and I studied it through magazines, TV, movies and theatre.

I've taken many classes in sewing, couture techniques, tailoring, millinery, pattern drafting and knitting. Some were at the continuing education programs offered by the Board of Education in my city but they offered no accreditation. Most teachers had either run their own garment related business or had worked in the manufacturing end of the business. Some were completely self taught, others had graduated from a fashion program or they had completed an apprentice program. Since I was taking the classes for my own interest and enjoyment and never intended to make this my career it was of no concern to me that I didn't end up with a piece of paper proving my accomplishments. 


I asked a few industry insiders, how did you end up doing following this path?  

Kate Atherley says purely by accident. She was an avid recreational knitter, and a co-worker introduced her to the owner of the Naked Sheep (a local yarn shop), she started teaching at the shop, and developing designs for them, and it went from there. Another introduction to the owners of Needful Yarns got her started on pattern writing and tech editing.  

Fiona Ellis told me she left University and set up a free-lance fashion business. An agent who sold her design concepts to fashion houses introduced her to Trisha Malcolm,of Vogue, who encouraged her to submit to the magazine.  

Glenna C. says personal interest is what drove her. She wrote patterns for the kinds of things she wanted to knit but couldn't find patterns to match. Publishing her own designs was a logical extension of her interests. She has no formal training in the garment or craft-related world. She started with the help of the Vogue Knitting book chapter on designing patterns, and learned as she worked. She has explored different kinds of garment and accessory designs by practicing and building her skill set slowly. She tells me "I have definitely learned a lot in the last few years!"


Monday, November 17, 2014

Fashion Blogs


At a recent event I was asked for some inspirational fashion blogs. I’ve included a list below of the ones I read. You can either add them to your favourites list on your device or use a blog reader. I like Feedly. The advantage to using a reader is it identifies the blogs that have posted new content since you last visited them. It also suggests other blogs in the same category, which is a way of finding new sources.

http://www.insideoutstyleblog.com/
http://www.bridgetteraes.com/
http://advancedstyle.blogspot.ca/
http://www.theviviennefiles.com/
http://youlookfab.com/
http://stylecrone.com/
http://professionality.tumblr.com/
http://into-mind.com/


Friday, November 14, 2014

An Interview with...Cirilia Rose




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 Cirilia here and here on Ravelry.  
She is on Instagram: http://instagram.com/cirilia and Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/cirilia
She blogs for Zealana here: http://zealana.com/keeping-in-touch/



Where do you find inspiration?


Quite literally, everywhere. I annoy my friends and family because I’m unable to walk three feet without noticing an inspiring bit of packaging, or a sweet expression on a child, or something in a shop window or a fascinating tree.


What is your favourite knitting technique?

Anything that reduces fiddly finishing work. I'm not anti-finishing, it's actually one of my favorite things to learn about, but I don't like how bulky seams can ruin the clean lines of a garment, so I prefer to engineer items that minimize this. That means a lot of picking up stitches and working sleeves or lower halves of garments. I also love a three-needle bind-off worked to the outside for a prominent visible ridge. 



How did you determine your size range?


I feel pretty strongly that knitwear shouldn't be "one size fits all." There is a lot that goes into what looks good on different bodies. It's not just bust size, it's ease and silhouette too. I'm not an expert on dressing all kinds of bodies but I try to be inclusive as well. The garments dictate the size ranges in most cases, slouchy pieces will have a smaller range than fitted ones.


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


I do keep an eye on it, because part of my job is to be aware of what is going on in the knitwear world. I feel admiration more often than jealousy but there are times when I wish I had thought of something first--usually a marketing idea, not a knitting one, not a design. I am loving Rosa Pomar’s yarn labels at the moment, and nearly everything Karen Templer of Fringe Association does is genius. For silhouettes, I look to fashion more than anything else and by the time I’ve translated a woven piece into a knit, it’s not a knock-off. 



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


I am actually completely in favor of recruiting new knitters, and I encourage students to attempt projects that are slightly outside their skill level so that it will force improvement. That often means they will need a bit of hand-holding, and that’s okay. That said, I’m a bit old guard in that I had to run to the library to find techniques explained, and it’s all online now, if not in the pattern itself. Jared Flood and I like to joke that we’d love to publish a beautiful pattern photo with a pattern that just says: “Make it look like the photo” because after all that work, writing up the pattern can be a bit of a drag. I guess I’m of two minds on this: designers should aim for clarity, but knitters should do their homework as well.


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


I use sample knitters on occasion but to be honest, I’m much happier to see a design all the way through. My designs change a lot while I’m working on them and usually for the better. Some of my best design details are really just my response to a disaster. All design is problem solving, right? Well, I encounter plenty of problems and it’s fun! It’s less fun to discuss those over email with a confused sample knitter. They’re also incredibly hard to find. Someone who is equal parts talented and inquisitive, who will spot issues but also not get knocked too far off course. he few that I use are total treasures to me and I wish I could pay them triple what I do. 



Did you do a formal business plan?


I don’t, but I do frequently check in with myself to make sure I am happy. I can’t do good work if I’m not. My job is to get other knitters excited about yarn and knitting and if I’m miserable, it shows. I’m working from home now which is great for the way I work (in a sprawling, messy way) but I’m actively working on scheduling my time in a reasonable way. When you love what you do, it can dominate everything before you even realize it.




Do you have a mentor?


Norah Gaughan was highly influential. She’s analytical and curious and logical and her knitting reveals all of that. It’s so imaginative and so sensible at the same time. Her designs are a delight to make and wear and in my mind I’ve made them all. Andra Asars and Kathy Elkins have been invaluable inspirations on the business side of things. Yes, our industry is sparkly and fluffy and pretty but that’s no reason to not treat it like an actual business. When I speak up for myself and stand my ground I know I’m channeling these two.

  


Do you have a business model that you have emulated?


Not really, but I adore Garance DorĂ© who is an illustrator, filmmaker, blogger, photographer, etc. etc. She does whatever moves her and is really good at it, I think because she’s moving from the same place I am, a persistent fascination with beauty.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?


I only have a career because I’ve had a presence online pretty much since the start. Blogging was what got me noticed and social media continues to be an important part of the equation. Before that I wrote a zine, I’ve always had the urge to broadcast and create. I try to keep it organic even when working for companies because I loathe rote, dry posts begging for likes, and I think most people do. 



Do you use a tech editor?


Oh yes! I love tech editors.


How do you maintain your life/work balance?


There is very little separation for me. Now that I’m working at home, I am much happier. My creativity doesn’t fit well into an office setting and I’m much happier working a super long day with random breaks for walks, cooking, reading, creative refueling. Most of the work is so joyous it doesn’t bother me that it can take eons. 



How do you deal with criticism?


That new Taylor Swift song “Shake it Off” sums it up nicely! The hardest part is to keep my inner critic in check, to be honest. I only truly like about 25% of what I make, but in a way that keeps me moving forward.


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


My working model is very different from the usual. I partner with companies and am paid enough to support myself without relying on pattern sales. I don’t think I could handle the volatile marketplace and stay creative, to be honest, so I am happy to work this way. That said, when a yarn doesn’t do as well as I’d hoped I take it pretty hard, but again, that keeps me moving forward. 



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


Be realistic but don’t wait for opportunities to fall into your lap--create your own! The worst you’ll hear is no.




Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wool and Wine and a Wonderful Time



I'm home from a fabulous weekend retreat at the Jackson Falls Inn in Prince Edward county. The event was hosted by the Rosehaven Yarn Shop

The Inn location was delightful. I shared a room with Elizabeth McCarten.



Our dining room and the first classroom.





The second class room.



Proof that I'm a city girl. This is how I think of brussel sprouts.


This is what they look like at a country market. 



Elizabeth was very amused that I had never seen them uncut from the branch before.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Oversize Done Right and Wrong

For all those women with model type figures of over 5' 10'' and very low body weights, being photographed in oversize clothing can read as cute. As for the rest of us not so much, which is why I didn't find any images of more average women in these outfits.

I've collected some images from Pinterest to show the difference between too big and items designed to be oversized.

Note the sleeves that are too long and the sloppy necklines in the first 4 photos. The last photos have areas that fit correctly but are cut very loosely elsewhere.
















Friday, November 7, 2014

An Interview with...Sivia Harding




Rainshadow
 
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 Sivia here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? 
It could be anything... a reflection in a puddle, a flower, a tile on a building. Mostly though, I find it inspiring to look at beautiful things, whether from nature or from something that has been created. I try to keep a detailed design journal for those blessed times when the ideas are coming fast and furious.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Oh that's a hard one!! Hmm, maybe Moebius knitting. I find it calming, fun, endlessly fascinating and yet, there always seems to be more to learn. Never boring!



Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? 
That is a really, really good question. I don't think I am necessarily phobic about others' ideas implanting into my subconscious and turning up in something of mine because I have a pretty unique style, but I do tend to stay away from browsing new patterns on Ravelry. It's too anxiety producing to see the hundreds of new lovely designs coming down the pike every day and it makes me feel slow and inadequate. 



Celeste


How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters? 
I honestly didn't know there is a controversy. I think patterns have changed hugely over the last ten years, because knitters have increased their skill set over the internet, on Ravelry forums and YouTube. I have noticed a certain skill discrepancy between older knitters who aren't as internet savvy and less likely to look up things they are not familiar with, and newer knitters who have seen and done a wider variety of techniques. The newer knitters tend to be much more fearless. As a result, I find myself not needing to explain things to quite the degree that I used to in patterns. From your question, though, it would seem that you are noticing the opposite. Very interesting.

It is a challenge to write patterns that everyone is happy with. It's a hard job to reach knitters at a common level and not be overly simplistic. That's why I love to teach. I think it is much easier to get things across in an engaging way in person.

Also, I find that I write differently for different audiences. I don't think this is necessarily dumbing down, however. For instance, I will condense as much as possible if I am writing for a magazine. In my own patterns and collections, I unapologetically use as much space as I need. I don't know if this answers your question or not. Probably, if I was getting complaints from knitters about my pattern writing, I might be more aware of the issue.


 
Harmonia's Rings Sweater


How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
That number varies with my work flow. I try not to do it all myself, although I do knit everything I design once, either before or alongside whoever I have working with me. I like to have a group of testers all doing it together because they will notice different things between them. I admit that I have a terrible time keeping track of testers I have used, and I forget about them unless we work together consistently. I may be guilty of using certain ones over and over for that reason. It just takes less effort. A good test knitter is hard to find! And they are so essential to the process. 

Did you do a formal business plan?
No. I never have had a formal business plan.

Do you have a mentor?
I have had mentors, although now I probably have more peer support than mentor support.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I am probably way too right-brained for that. There are certainly business methods and business people that I know and admire (and feel extremely lucky in that), but I know myself too well to try to emulate someone who does not process information the same way I do.




Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, absolutely.
 
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
It's very hard in this business! There is not enough time to do everything. I try to take days off, and it's easier to do that when I am away from home. I am learning to stay an extra day when I am traveling if it is possible, and just have fun. At home, I tend to work. 

How do you deal with criticism?
Not very well, I am afraid. Years ago in art school, I came up with the strategy of being unique and having my own style, and just working really hard in order to be more or less above criticism. I am critical of myself and that's hard enough! And yet, it seems to be getting a little easier over time to pick up and go on after an incident.  

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I didn't have to support myself until I had been designing for a few years, which helped take the stress off. Now, I think we all have to be more creative about marketing and special events like retreats and knitalongs to be visible above the sea of designers. There are so many. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Take the time to explore your own style, and don't expect knitters to come and find you.
 
Jo's Pride Hooded Shawl