Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New Pattern - The Ruth Kettering Wrap

I published a new pattern yesterday. It's the Ruth Kettering Wrap. This design came out of two requirements. The first is my ongoing issues with De Quervain's tenosynovitis. It is almost gone however, I'm finding cables and tight gauge knitting aggravates it. The other requirement has been the desire to downsize my stash. 

I've already knit three more versions of this wrap. It was a fabulous TV knitting and carry around project. My husband is still working on the photos of the stash buster versions of this pattern. I'll add them as projects to Ravelry as soon as they are ready. 

It's worked by starting from one narrow point. The stitches increase on one side and decrease at a much slower rate on the opposite edge. This method creates a shallow asymmetrical triangle with one extra-long point to wrap around your neck or pin into place. 

It’s an easy knit, suitable for any knitter who is comfortable working simple shaping. The stripes are worked in a reversible textural stitch. All rows but one in the pattern repeat are worked as all knit stitches. The pattern provides a straightforward three colour version, as well as enough detail to use it as a base for a stash busting version. The picot stitch on all edges allows for easy finishing, providing a place to bury ends when working with multiple colours. 

When using the pattern as a stash buster, multiple yarn weights can be combined. Choose the needle size recommended for the heaviest weight yarn. Striping patterns can be worked randomly to accommodate unequal yardages of different colours. Each stripe requires approximately four times the width of the work. The cast off edge requires approximately seven times the width of the work.


Monday, February 20, 2017


I recently attended LandMade, an event at a small Toronto hotel. 

Here are the details they posted in a local Ravelry group:

“The Upper Canada Fibreshed is bringing farm-fresh yarn, roving and fleece to the urban maker.

LandMade hosts local fibre farmers to the Gladstone Hotel, giving urban knitters, spinners, crocheters, weavers, felters, makers and artists the chance to discover fleeces, rovings and yarns direct from the farm. Eight farms that raise sheep, alpacas and mohair will be available to talk all things fibre, and to provide locally and sustainably raised materials to the natural fibre enthusiast.";

It was a tiny show, with only eight vendors but the turnout was amazing. We arrived about 30 minutes after the start and at that point could barely get through the room it was so crowded. The best comparison I could make is to a farm show. I'm sure the spinners in the room must have been pleased with the amount of fleece and roving they saw. Everything available was in the natural colours. I purchased a skein of the yarn in the photo at the top. I would have liked another one in black but I was standing beside someone who purchased the last two black skeins as I chose mine. The yarn is fabulously soft and silky to the touch. 

I ended up seeing lots of knitters I know, both local and some from the smaller towns surrounding Toronto. The audience was very different from a retail show where you see lots of novice knitters. This type of event works better for those of us less dependent on patterns. The yarn labels tend to be limited in their information. The skein I purchased is labeled as Type: fine, Yardage: 268, Needle size: 2.5 - 3.25. No gauge is listed on the label. If you follow the U.S. Craft Council yarn weight system that would put it as a 1 superfine or 2 fine weight. That's in the fingering to sport range. I think it might be a little off as 103 grams should have more yardage in that weight. However as with all yarns only swatching will answer my questions. I do have some black alpaca in my stash which is a light fingering weight so I'll try some comparison and combination swatching to see if I can put them together.


Friday, February 17, 2017

An Interview with...Jenny Faifel

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 Jenny here and here on Ravelry. She can be found on Instagram as @sweaterfreakknits

Where do you find inspiration?
I find it everywhere but two sources really jump out: fashion mags and shows and my own love for math and geometry. There is a also a huge factor of wearability - first and foremost the knitted garment or accessory has to be wearable. I generally do not design what I wouldn't wear myself.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
I have two! Kitchener grafting and knitting on the bias.
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
We all are influenced by other designers' work. I think in today's knitting community where everyone is out on display, it's hard to not notice what others are doing. But every single designer, myself included, always puts their own layer onto an existing idea and so on so forth. It's all part of the creative process!
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit my own samples and then I generally have 6-10 test knitters depending on the test. I feel that testing is an absolute must because it really gives me the opportunity to see whether my pattern is knittable or not. I do the rest myself!

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, not really. I just knit what I feel like knitting and sometimes it works out!
Do you have a mentor?
I have two close knitting friends that are also designers and we all mentor each other and bounce off ideas. It's actually one of the best part of it all!
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No. I do what feels right, but that doesn't quite qualify as a business model, does it?

Do you use a tech editor?
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Family comes first. I have a 4 year old that is that awesome stage where they learn a ton and that obviously takes priority especially because I have a day job. Knitting is my part time gig - I am a software developer during the day and have no intention of leaving this path for various reasons. I like to have options! I try to approach this endeavor organically where I don't have a strict list of what to do. Because this is a part time gig, I have quite a bit of flexibility as far as how much effort and time I am putting into it at any given time. Some days I will just knit things for myself and some days it's all about design and deadlines. I always have a project with me or sometimes two! That way I am able to complete them faster. But yes, it is a constant struggle to juggle it all but I wouldn't change anything about it - I like being busy!
How do you deal with criticism?
I like constructive criticism rather than serving the purpose of a punching bag for someone who had a bad day. Most people are very nice and understanding, but there is this little percent that just wants to get under your skin. Lucky for me, it hasn't happened much.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I am nowhere near being able to do that but that was never the goal to begin with anyway!
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Review the real reasons you're doing it for, whether it's a side income, being able to fully support yourself or just to be recognized and go from there. Your approach will depend on this. If I wanted to support myself, my path would have been very different!
What’s next for you?
I recently started a podcast called TricitiesKnit with my friend who also knits and designs and it has been a great fun! We run KALs, giveaways, and so on and I love interacting with people who knit! (You can get more info here.)
As far as knitting goes, I am making this a year of a sweater! We are currently running a KnitCity Sweater KAL in our group and anyone can join! KnitCity is our local fiber and yarn fest and we love it!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Hand Knit OOTD

Here's how I decided to wear that stash busting wrap I made over the Christmas holidays. I had planned on wearing it with jeans but the colours are very pale. I wasn't happy with the first outfit I put together, so instead I teamed it with grey jeans, silver accessories and a white shirt. 

Once I decided how to style it I was even happier with the final result. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

An Interview with...Robynn Weldon

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 Robynn here and here on Ravelry. You can find her elsewhere as @woollythinker on Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest.

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! I have far more ideas than time to develop them all – I’m sure this is true for most designers. A design might start from a technique I want to play with, or an evocative word, or just the need to keep my children warm. My most recent designs were for a collaborative collection, Lost in the Woods, with a forest theme. For that I used my usual methods of developing ideas (swatching and experimenting with the yarn or stitches that were intriguing me, thinking about silhouettes), but at the same time thinking of how I could reflect the forest mood in each design. It was a different process for me but very effective!

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Whichever I’ve used most recently! Right now I’d love to be doing more brioche, after my scarf Pravigan, but I’m working on the last Lost in the Woods design – so my mind is full of textural stitches.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Absolutely I do, all the time. I think it’s a mistake to worry about influence; of course I am influenced by others, we all are (design is everywhere!), but that’s a good thing. That’s how fashion works. It would be boring to try to copy someone, but I do want to see what’s in the air, what people are responding to, what triggers my own excitement.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit my own samples, but I use test knitters to get feedback on my patterns. I have an email list of maybe 20 testers, plus I usually (when the design isn’t strictly confidential!) put out a call on Ravelry. Most patterns get tested by 4-5 knitters. I also always use a tech editor (usually Kate Atherley, who literally wrote the book on pattern writing). Besides catching errors, working with a TE has helped me enormously in developing my pattern writing skills.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No. Business plans are fantastic tools but I consider myself to be in an apprenticeship phase. I don’t have much time to work on design – small children! – and don’t expect to earn much at this stage. I set myself creative goals, but not financial ones.

Do you have a mentor?
No – but I do chat a lot (on Ravelry, email etc) with other designers. I’ve formed strong connections with a few in particular, at similar career stages to myself, and those relationships are great for support and problem solving. I’d be too shy to ask a more experienced designer for mentoring, but the Ravelry Designers group is amazingly helpful.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I don’t! Most of my life is taken up with childcare. That’s both life and work I guess; at any rate it doesn’t leave much room for anything else. I get up at 5am to work on designs, and sometimes freelance editing or copy writing work. I have a part-time job that takes up the four mornings a week my toddler is in playgroup. Then afternoons are all about the kids; once they’re in bed, I have an hour or so to knit in front of the TV. There’s never even close to enough time for all the work I have and want to do. It’s exhausting and often frustrating. But it’s a choice. I could just not design, which on paper looks like the easier option! But I need my own projects – focusing entirely on the children (and boring paid work) makes me completely miserable. So although my time is pretty much entirely taken up with work of one kind of another, at least it’s different kinds of work. I’m looking forward to a slightly gentler pace (and more time for creating) as the kids grow.

How do you deal with criticism?
I’m lucky in that I haven’t had much – probably because I’m not well known as a designer. I also haven’t been submitting to magazines (I don’t think I’m ready for the deadline pressure yet), so I haven’t had to cope with rejection of a beloved idea! Any less-positive feedback I get has been more customer support (“why isn’t this working!”), rather than outright complaints or criticism. I’m sure that will change if and when I attract more attention!

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
It hasn’t happened yet (I have fewer than 20 patterns for sale and earn well under €100 most months; my output is slow, thanks to the kids, so that won’t grow fast). I honestly don’t expect to support myself with design alone. I read an interview with Debbie Bliss years ago in which she said it was impossible to make a living from design alone; hence her yarn line. That was before the explosion in self-publishing, but I’m now hearing the same from even the best-known of indie designers: you need more than one string to your bow. So a lot of designers also do teaching, or tech editing, or whatever. I don’t see myself as ever being a full-time designer. Partly for that reason, but also because I crave variety. I do layout and copy editing, and it’s great working with other designers on that, but I’m also keen to find other business opportunities (I used to run an online yarn shop). I really, really love
working in this industry – it’s not just the creative fun, I also love the people involved, and the passion that runs through it. So fingers crossed for a(nother) needlecraft-related business in my future!

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Understand the commercial realities: this is not an easy way to make money. Be flexible, look for as many income streams as possible, and be super professional – build your skills, know your strengths, and remember it’s a people business, so build your relationships. If you’re designing, don’t take shortcuts: using a tech editor and test knitters, and working on great photography, will pay off. Put out the best product you possibly can, right from the start. Spend some time in the Ravelry Designers group, reading through old threads; there’s so much invaluable experience and advice there. And have fun. Because it’s a wonderful industry to be in.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Alice Starmore Tudor Roses

Dover Publishing has sent me a copy of Alice Starmore's book Tudor Roses to review.     

My initial reaction is WOW! 

I was sent the soft cover version. It has fourteen patterns and is described as "the reimagined edition of the groundbreaking classic". The original book was published in 1998. I don't have a copy of that book for comparison but I have read online that some patterns are brand new and some are altered versions from the original book. 

This book has stunning, moody, art photography all done by Jade Starmore (Alice's daughter). Jade also contributed four of her own designs to the book. You can check out her own website here, where she has examples of her work in photography, illustration, fashion styling and textile design. 

All of the designs are inspired by women of the Tudor dynasty which includes the wives of Henry VIII. If you enjoy history you will like reading the written pieces accompanying each design which were penned by the design inspirations themselves.  Each will give you insights into the lives of these famous women. At the back of the book Alice and Jade included a section which describes how they used each women and the history they knew to create their designs.

It's really more than a knitting book in the way it has been presented. If you love the more arty end of the fashion world the book will definitely appeal to you. I suspect some knitters will find the photos to be a little over the top. Some are shot against very dark backgrounds which makes them beautiful but the garments can be a little hard to see at times. Fortunately each pattern includes several photos. 

The garments themselves range from amazing Fair Isles to solid coloured textural pieces. They are generally fitted and many have set in sleeves. 


I'm very taken with Margaret Beaufort and the stunning detail which has gone into this design in the shot below.

Dover has been kind enough to allow me to donate a copy to my knitting guild for their raffle. The proceeds are then donated to charity.