Friday, February 22, 2019

Stash-Down Results

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

It was raining so much it Toronto the day I finished this, 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 was 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 but unused 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, February 15, 2019

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.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Lessons from the Stashdown

Photo from Learn2Knit

What am I learning from my stash-down, well sometimes liking and wanting aren't really the same thing. Not every yarn needs to come home with me. It might be better if I leave some yarns which don't work with my overall knitting plan wherever they already happen to be. 

You can never go wrong with good basic yarns.

I should donate more of what I don't want rather than try to force it. I did realize startitis is often a message from your unconscious it's time to let something go.

The thought that someday someone else has to deal with all that yarn if I don't is becoming much more disturbing. 

On the positive side I really do have some lovely yarns to keep me busy for the next while between design projects.

I truly love the design challenge of making something great from what's turning up while I'm sorting through the stash. See my post here on what I've been doing. 

One pattern four ways:

Friday, February 1, 2019

New Year's Stash Busting Resolutions

It's February, how many of you have already forgotten about your resolutions? When I google the topic of stash busting I get 190,000 results. Of course they aren't all just this year which just means it's an ongoing battle. 

I'm going to use this month to revisit some posts to highlight stash busting strategies. 

First up, some previous thoughts on stash management.

Tossing the Stash

Sometimes we just can't escape our past. I'm working on a stash down. I'm looking at good yarns but often in small amounts and different weights. I tried to bundle some of them up for donation and then fell into the trap of feeling wasteful. This is where my past comes in. My paternal grandparents came to Canada from Scotland in the late 1920s. My grandmother came from a family who while they weren't wealthy, they were hard working merchants and enjoyed the fruit of their efforts. She was the oldest daughter in a large family and all of the kids worked in the family business at very young ages. She never got over the depression. She was frugal to a fault. She lived with us from the time I was 10 so she had many opportunities to share her concerns about money. It also didn't help when my husband saw some partial balls (too small to donate) in the garbage and started teasing me that maybe I should keep it because someday I might not be able to afford yarn.

Later that day I attended the Fluevog Knit Night.

I had my social knitting project to work on since my current design project isn't very portable. My friend was working on some complex lace and cursing herself for not having something more appropriate for social knitting. My project is relatively small so it won't last much longer. 

I'm on the garter stitch short row section of this pattern:

I'm knitting it in this gorgeous yarn from a trip to Rhinebeck a few years ago. 

I realized this morning while sorting my stash that the yarns I'm not happy about not using could be used for some very simple social knitting projects, either in garter or something equally simple. I started grouping for colour and I wanted to share a super simple trick for combining colours. 

See this, it's Malabrigo Rios in the colour 856 Azules. They already developed a great colour palette that I can use as inspiration. 


Here's a few other yarns in my stash that fall in the same colour range.

The trick...all you do is hold every yarn up against the original multicolored yarn, if it looks good together to your eye put it in the use pile. If it doesn't, it goes elsewhere. I'll probably double up that lace weight. I'm thinking a maybe a cowl or a cape-let mixing the yarns together. I have more yarns than I show in the photo. I'll poke around on Pinterest and Ravelry for some inspiration and see how this goes.


Friday, January 11, 2019

An Interview with...Asja Janeczek

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
Asja here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere. Movies, magazines, street fashion, fashion pictures available online, sometimes it’s the nature that inspires me, the landscape, sometimes it’s the movie and a garment I see there, but it can be a music I listen to, which evokes the images of a design to my mind. But very often it’s a combination of a few that works the best for me. I am more a knitter than a designer, and what I mean here, is that I knit and discover while working on the new construction what I want to do next with it, rather than having a concrete vision of a garment in my mind and to find ways to bring it to life. I very often start knitting having only the raw concept, like for example, I want to make a cardigan, I cast on and I experiment and try different approaches on the way to see what works and what doesn’t. Since this approach to design requires a lot of trials and errors and unfortunately is time consuming, it’s not the most effective way to work, but I enjoy the process very much and I learn a lot along the way. This is probably why most of my sweater designs are so different from each other, because once I crack the code and I understand the construction I get easily bored with it and I want to try something else. For me having a challenge in front of me is the thing that inspires me the most.

But yarn and stitch patterns are somehow a huge part of it too. I recently learned to make swatches, like a lot, and not every swatch I make turns into design, but it’s there waiting for me, ready to inspire me when the time comes. My dear friend once told me that I am more like a musician who plays the piano but doesn’t know how to read the notes. And as funny as it sounds, it’s exactly how it is. I know how to make the purl and knit stitch, and the rest is just enjoying the process and experimenting, a cracking the code.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I don’t have any favourite, as I very often switch between few, but unfortunately I am not a huge fan of cables. I would love to change that in the future and I hope that the 2019 will be a good year to give it a go. I hate to sew the garment, and I doubt it will change in the future, so as long as it’s possible I make the garments seamless.

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

Of course I do, I love to browse the ravelry and take a look at what type of designs are hot right now, and I don’t think we should be afraid of it, as a designers. It clearly shows us the trends in knitting industry that we should somehow follow if we want to succeed, but it is one thing to get an inspiration from a design that already exists, and to treat it as a starting point for your own idea, and totally different is to copy it. I am not afraid of getting influenced by existing designs, because we should get influenced. This is the way we designers challenge each other to make something new. I see a wonderful design that already exists and I make my own piece which is something totally different. There is a thin line in respecting copyrights that shouldn’t ever be crossed, but honestly, it’s getting harder and harder to make something new and fresh nowadays, because the industry is flooded with a variety of patterns, and even if you make a new type of construction, knitters very often choose the designs that they know how to make. So you may end up working very hard to make something completely new, and it may not even get noticed by the wider audience.

Like I said, it’s a thin line between getting influenced and inspired to make a new design, and to make the same piece but in a different way. You have to be cautious, self-aware, observant, but the best way, for me at least, to avoid creating similar items to the ones that already exist, is to work according to my imagination. I often start with the stitch pattern and I experiment. The worst case scenario is that I will come up with a design that will not be popular, but at least it will be mine.

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

I’ve been publishing my patterns since almost 5 years now, with an one year break in between, so there were many test knitters who were there with and for me along the way, but since I started a group on Ravelry there are probably 10 - 15 test knitters I really like to work with and I can rely on. Depending on the design there are between 10 to 20 person involved in one test knit, and there is often more than one pattern that is test knitted at the same time, so the group could be really large, but I discovered throughout the time that the more the merrier, because all the support and suggestions that test knitters bring with them to each test knit it’s absolutely irreplaceable. If I learned anything since I started writing up knitting patterns, and I learned a lot, it’s them who I am most grateful for.

As I already explained, as a knitter explorer I couldn’t really delegate making a sample on anyone, so I don’t have the sample knitter. Anyways, I am sure I wouldn’t enjoy it at all as the knitting itself is the highlight of my work. All samples I’ve ever designed I made on my own. But I imagine I could use a help whenever I crack the code and the most of the intriguing part of making the sample is already done, like the sleeves or collars. Maybe someday…?

Did you do a formal business plan?

Absolutely not. I still have problems with admitting the fact that whenever I knit I work, and even more, I am my own boss now. J But I have to go back a little bit to explain how the knitting has evolved into “work” for me.

I little before I came to live in Germany, I just got married to my husband and I just got my diploma in psychology I studied in Cracow, but I somehow landed in a small village with no perspective for me. And when I started believing that it will change for the better, life has happened and my Mum had a stroke. Unfortunately we lost Her few days later. I was 26 years old at that time and I just began the adult life and it all stopped at once. So I was traveling back and forth between my husband and my family living in Poland for a long time, I couldn’t actually start a life here in Germany living with a one foot stuck in Poland, I had to choose at some point, and it may sound funny and impossible but it was knitting that saved me in that rough time.

I picked up knitting, I already knew the basics so I quickly moved to more advanced projects, but I had to learn how to follow the knitting patterns. I started blogging about things I made, which opened a wonderful opportunity to find and keep in touch with Polish speaking crafters, who soon became my friends. And since I was always rather an explorer, I quickly started making my own things and designing, although I wasn’t aware I was doing it. Realizing that fact lead me to writing patterns soon after. I know that when you want something to happen, you start with a dream, and then goes the plan, and then you follow the steps you’ve planned to achieve your goals, your dreams. But it’s not always the way your life guides you. I have never even imagined I would knit for a living, but I am super grateful that knitting was there for me when I was in a need for something to save me. And that it is still saving me in an everyday struggle. I don’t know whether this knitting business I have will get bigger or not, the knitting will be there for me, and that’s fairly enough.


Do you have a mentor?

I don’t have the mentor who I could speak to, but I have few idols I admire and I get inspiration from.

Do you use a tech editor?

I tried once, but it didn’t end up well for me at least. Since I publish mostly in English, and I am not an English native speaker (I was born and raised in Poland), I gratefully welcome any native English speaker test knitter in my tests and gladly take all suggestions they have for me under consideration. Anything else, like grading the garment pattern, charts or drawings and pictures I do on my own. It has been working very good so far, but I don’t rule out the possibility of hiring tech editor in the future, when I find someone suitable and brave enough to work with me. Remember, each new design of mine means a new algorithm ;)

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
It’s hard. There are times when I feel like I am working even when I sleep. Each time it happens I make a pause, I stop, either by going on a trip, or taking few days off, I try to avoid then all the work related stuff and take good care of myself, because after these very work intense days my creativity just vanishes. In order to be able to create, to design, I focus on me for a short time. It usually helps, but it takes time to heal.

How do you deal with criticism?
My husband is a real blessing in terms of making the criticism more digestible. We talk a lot about opinions that somehow bother me, and either he proves me wrong and I have no other choice than to accept what was written or claimed about my work, or he just makes me laugh about it and shows me how truly this opinion that became somehow so cruel in my head is irrelevant to me and to our life. But of course, a lot depends on the subject of the criticism I am dealing with. If it’s a stating the fact about the mistakes I made, or the garment I designed, it’s hard to argue with it, you have to accept it and take a lesson.

Fortunately for me, those times when I am completely overwhelmed with opinions happen a lot and these are the most supportive compliments I get, and the times when I must deal with a real criticism are only a small percentage of many wonderful, heartwarming and appreciating comments I am super grateful for. The community of knitters are the most kind and supportive people!

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

I am still not there yet. ;)

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
You have to be creative and brave, that’s for sure, and enjoy the process of making and trust your instincts. It’s not always enough to have a good idea though, because you may work hard and leave your heart and the soul in everything you do and it may still not get you where you want to be, but being open minded and looking for opportunities and seeing so called failures as a one step towards your goals, that’s the hardest part.

I have learned that although you may think of yourself as a one person company when you are a knitwear designer, you will thrive when you are part of a larger project. So look for opportunities to team up with someone! I have been designing for a couple of years now, and there are still scary and challenging moments in this job for me, which I made even more terrifying in my head than they really are, but these are my tops of the mountains to conquer. Whatever it is that stops you from making the knitwear design your thing, name it and overcome it. You may end up living your dream, and I guess it is worth it to fight for.

What’s next for you?

I have been enjoying the travel and knitting combo last year a lot, so I guess these are my goals for next months, to travel in order to take part in the knitting events. I will be at EYF in Edinburgh in March, which I am so looking forward to, and I would love to visit Porto in Portugal and take part in Knitting with Friends in June. Those are the pleasures I have in my plans, but I am sure I will be knitting and would love to join up with the yarn companies and make few collaborations too. I am sure I will be knitting a lot. I just can’t imagine my life without it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019


Progress, that's my word for 2019. Every year I choose one word to inspire my year. I put it at the top of my Google task list so I see it everyday. I use it to guide what I'm doing everyday, it informs my decisions and shapes my day to day experience. 

I've lost track of how long I've being choosing a word but it may have started soon after I stopped working full time for other people. Some years the word is a reaction to the previous year's word. The year after Productivity was the year of Fun. A little self correction was happening that year!

It usually takes part of the month of December to choose my word. I add it to my task list with the current word and then try it out. I see where it takes my thinking and mull it over for a while since I'm committing to it for a year and I want to be sure I'll have room to grow with the word.

Last year's word was Enough. The words often shift slightly in focus during the year. Enough was originally about gratitude for everything I have, but as the year developed it added a second component which helped me to be a little easier on myself and the high standards I set. It morphed from about being about things and experiences to being kinder about my self.

This quote was what pushed me to rethink the interpretation.

 “Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.” From the Letters of Flannery O'Connor

Give it a try, one word and the focus it provides can make some interesting shifts in your life.    


Friday, November 30, 2018

Reasons to Say No

I recently found myself in the position of saying no to two opportunities for many complicated reasons. Shortly afterward this great article turned up in my inbox. It was a link from another knitting industry insider. It confirmed that my decisions were correct.

The full article is here:   
by Kevin Daum

I've added in my own comments with each reason.

1.  Say NO! When No One Is Ready
Many people say yes to a boss or customer request when the pieces of the puzzle aren't in place. Great work requires preparation. Great teams require alignment. If your team isn't prepared or aligned, agreeing to take on difficult initiatives is a disaster waiting to happen. Young companies often try to speed forward before their organizational structure or business model is ready. They instead end up burning investor money while killing dreams and reputations. Say No! so you can get everything and everyone on board and ready. Then you can say yes with confidence.

I've had lots of conversations with people who wanted commitment to projects which clearly hadn't been thought through at any level of detail. More than a couple of answers to my questions of "we haven't worked that out yet" are a huge red flag.    

2. Say NO! When It's Not a Fit
Salespeople and entrepreneurs alike tend to see the potential in everything and everybody. But a ton of time is wasted on prospects who are never going to be customers, never going to invest, or never going to be amazing employees. Instead of looking for all the reasons why things will work out, save time by focusing on the reasons they won't. Even if you say No!, you can always revisit the opportunity if compatibility improves.

This happened to me on many occasions. People would ask me about collaborative projects that didn't really work with what I was doing. As an example a printer who wanted to get in on the business of printing patterns and was very confused about the PDF pattern download world. 

3. Say NO! When You're Overloaded
Some people are afraid to say No! even when they have too much on their plates. They think it's necessary to respond positively all the time to avoid disappointing others. Then they let things fall through the cracks, get sick or have a breakdown. In this case, an impossible yes causes far more frustration then just saying No! in the first place. Have a realistic sense of your capacity and don't go past your limit.

I made this mistake once and spent quite a few very late nights trying to live up to my commitment. Lesson well learned.

4.  Say NO! When It's Unrealistic
You can't assume that every request has been thought through in detail. Often people ask for what they want with little or no consideration of what's involved for delivery. I never subscribe to the "customer is always right" theory. As a consultant, I wonder, if they are always right, why would they want to pay me? Be the expert when someone asks for something. If you don't know how it works, do your homework and say yes only when you know it can really happen. Otherwise, keep that "maybe" handy.

I once committed to something, thinking that the request was complete only to discover that every week the expectations had been increased. I met the first ask but tried to pull out of the deal on the next which was even more unrealistic. In the end they wanted the pattern as it was instead of insisting on the additional work. It taught me a lot about establishing complete parameters early on in a project.

5. Say NO! When You Have to Go Backwards
It's hard enough to move steadily toward your goals without having to regain lost ground. When approached with an opportunity that doesn't obviously propel you forward, ask yourself: "Why am I even interested in this?"  You may be surprised to find there is simply no justification for saying yes. When that happens, loudly declare No! and move on to opportunities that better align with your goals.

There's a supposition on the part of those who don't write patterns that all other work (teaching and speaking) is just done to promote pattern sales. It takes me about three weeks of full time hours to write a class or presentation. I see that as separate work not promotional work. I think of my Ravelry ads and social media as promotional. The catch all phrase "you should do it for the exposure" gets loud groans inside the industry because we all hear it so often.
6.  Say NO! When It's Unprofitable
You are in business for many reasons, but nearly everyone--founders and employees alike--is in it to profit. Not all profit is related to money, although young entrepreneurs should take note that consistent monetary profit does help your sustainability and your valuation. Sometimes a transaction can pay off in connections, exposure, learning, satisfaction or, yes, money. But when a transaction does nothing to better the people involved, then the word No! should be used. The key is to make sure everyone in the company can understand, recognize and justify a profitable deal. That requires openness and education, so get to work.

The minute I published my first pattern I started getting requests for freebies. In the beginning I was generous and did things at a financial cost to me. After a few discussions with industry insiders I realized that I was doing a disservice to everyone by artificially reducing margins.  I'm in touch with a number of teacher/designers who have left the industry who all cite free patterns and the undercutting of  payments by newbies trying to get their start in the knitting world. I also had a few pros who were very angry at those of us who did this and didn't hesitate to let me know. 

This goes on for several reasons. First, lack of knowledge on the part of organizers, the knitting world is full of wonderful volunteers and new business owners popping up all the time who don't yet have a handle on the marketplace. Secondly, due to the total stagnation of compensation in the knitting world. Payment is set in the mind of the person making the offer and varies widely between organizations or within them during management changes.  Ten years in and I still receive teaching offers for less than what I got in my first year. My favourite ridiculous offer is the profit sharing scheme with no basic compensation to cover my expenses for travel, food or accommodation. I think in this case the organizer was not low balling teachers she really didn't know what the margins actually are. She seemed convinced we'd all be making a reasonable amount. Finally it's a world of women who play by the rules of a hobby and want to play nice. 

7.  Say NO! When You Can't Meet Expectations
People are often optimistic about how quickly and how well they can get things done. Combine that hopefulness with the desire to please a customer, and you are left over-promising and under-delivering. Save yourself the mea culpa and say No! to what you know you can not do. Be accountable and manage expectations. Whatever you do, don't say yes to get the deal signed if you're assuming that, once the prospects are in the door, they'll have to adapt to your change in quality, timing or price. After they realize what's happened, few will come back to say yes and do business with liars.

I previously worked in two industries which were both highly time pressured. I have a very strong protectionist attitude when it comes to not over committing. It's amazing how hard others will push to get you to commit to their timeline when you're being very clear it can't be done.