Friday, September 19, 2014

An Interview with...Laura Chau

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 Laura here and on Ravelry here. You can find Laura on Ravelry, Twitter and Instagram as cosmicpluto. Laura recently released a new ebook, you can find it here.

Where do you find inspiration?
As many places as possible. Yarns often inspire me, but I also look to architecture, art, mainstream fashion, and nature.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I kind of love just knitting stockinette stitch. Cables are a close second. I also love interesting constructions, whether it be for garments or accessories!

How did you determine your size range?
It’s very important to me to have a large range of sizes for my garments and accessories. I’ve known people on both extremes of the size spectrum, and it’s difficult for everyone to find the right size! I myself have changed sizes quite a bit since I began designing. I try to provide sizes from 28-60” where I’m able - I really don’t think it’s much more work to provide lots of sizes, and you can open up your market by making the sizing as inclusive as possible.As a large-haired person, I also size other accessories like hats - because not everyone has a noggin the size of mine!
Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I think it’s important to know what other people are designing. I usually check Ravelry to make sure an idea hasn’t already been done, before moving forward with a design. Looking at other people’s work is a good way for me to steer my designing in a different direction.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I worked and taught in a yarn shop for many years, so I’ve seen all levels of knitter from absolute beginner to experienced. I think most people appreciate more information in a pattern rather than less, though unnecessary wordiness can be a problem if it hides the important info! Spelling things out is the easiest way to make sure you get your particular method across - but don’t go overboard.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I usually do all my knitting myself. I do have a couple of friends that I call on once in awhile to do some knitting for me, but in general I like to tweak and change things on the needles, which doesn't lend itself to sample knitters.

Did you do a formal business plan?
When I graduated from university, I was working in a yarn shop and designing already. My general plan was to see where it would take me, and get a “real job” if I needed to. I’m very grateful and happy that I’ve been able to make it work for so long, but I don’t really have a formal plan for the future. I prefer to wait and see how things develop organically.

Do you have a mentor?
Not formally, but I have many friends that I look up to! I would say my former boss, Megan Ingman (blog: greatly influenced my trajectory as a designer and maker. She’s always so creative!
Yes, of course. I’ve used the same tech editor for years, I love her and trust her!

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I work a lot, but I try to keep my computery or math-intensive work to business hours. In the evenings I might knit, but I might also do something else like sewing or spinning to change it up.

How do you deal with criticism?
Over the years I think I’ve gotten a bit better at handling it. It’s easy to focus on negative comments, but they can be toxic to your mental health! Thankfully they are few and far between.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Difficult to say. When I began designing, I was in university, living at home with my parents, and also working in a yarn shop. Then after I graduated, I had a short window where I needed to write my book, Teach Yourself Visually Sock Knitting, which I probably wouldn’t have been able to do if I wasn’t living at home. Between working at the shop and designing, I was able to move out on my own a few years later and have been supporting myself ever since.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

More on Stripes and the Science Behind the Fashion Rules

The scientists have worked hard on the issue of stripes and the question do they make us look fat. The answer is, it depends on how you run the experiment. 

The original experiment by German doctor and physicist Hermann von Helmholtz showed that a square made of horizontal stripes appeared to be taller and narrower than an identical square of vertical stripes. 

The modern experiment by Dr Peter Thompson, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of York, England showed participants pairs of drawings. Each pair showed line drawings of identical women, one wearing horizontal stripes, the other wearing vertical ones. Participants judged the women in horizontal stripes as thinner than the one in vertical stripes. Dr Thompson drew the conclusion that horizontal stripes make you look thinner. The theory behind this interpretation was explained, when we view vertical stripes on a waistline, we have to take in the constant contrast of black to white to black, and so on. This  tricks the brain into believing that the area is bigger than it actually is. In the case of horizontal stripes there’s a single unbroken line which simplifies mental processing so there is no confusion for the brain to sort out and no extra visual inches added to the body. It was found that narrow black stripes on a white background were most flattering and the best proportion is about 10 per cent black to 90 per cent white.

The experiment was performed again on 3D objects. Dr Thompson took cylinders and covered them with horizontal or vertical lines and asked people to decide which looked wider. Participants confirmed the previous results from the line drawings.

But here's where it gets really interesting. Val Watham's work overturned the previous experimental result. Val worked with  fashion students, who designed, produced and modeled dresses and shirts for the new experiment. Students produced garments in vertical and horizontal stripes. Participants rated how tall and wide the models looked in each outfit. The results this time confirmed that vertical stripes made the models look taller, while horizontal hoops made them look wider.

The new theory postulates the idea that stripes show the contours of the body underneath. Horizontal stripes may reveal contours more strongly than verticals, making people look wider.

My previous post on stripes is here.

You can read more here:

Monday, September 15, 2014

In the Category of Things that Make me Smile

Crochet shoes from Mayan Levi Ellentuck. She uses ready made shoes and crochets right on them, taking a regular shoe and turning it into a amusing fruit!

You can find them here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Interview with...Anna Sudo

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 Anna here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I don't always get inspired in the same way. Sometimes it starts when I am inspired by something in the world like a texture or pattern I have seen some where in nature. Other times I have been looking through stitch dictionaries and something sparks a new idea for a design. And sometimes I just have two skeins of yarn that look amazing together and I then look for the best way to combine them.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love tubular cast ons and bind offs. I think they add so much polish to a garment.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love to see what other designers are doing. Often times I think to myself I wish I'd though of that and because of that they do have an influence on me. This influence pushes me to think more about the quality of my designs and reminds me to strive to be the best designer that I can be. And I still feel that my designs represent my unique vision. 
How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
In my day job, I am a teacher. One thing I have learned teaching is that everyone has different needs and so I don't really agree that patterns are being "dumbed down". The information is being presented in a different way. I think each designer can choose what they are comfortable with in terms of how they would like to present information and that may mean that their patterns will appeal to some and not others.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have used test knitters in the past. It is always a fun and interesting experience to see how other people interpret or react to your patterns. 
Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, tech editors are an invaluable resource. Their critical eye helps to make your pattern better.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I still have a day job so knitting is still something that falls into the hobby category. I knit as much as I can when I can.

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How do you deal with criticism?
I think it is very important to listen to your critics to see what you can learn from them. Then I decide whether or not what they have said is something that is a valuable for growth or it is something that is more about personal preference.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
It hasn't happened for me yet.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Have fun and keep doing it as long as you feel fulfilled by it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

We're off to the Fair!

This weekend I'll be working at the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter's Fair.

You can find all of the details for this event here.

I'll be working with my good friend Patrick in his booth Signature Yarns.

Patrick and I met working at our LYS about 10 years ago. Working with him was always a great deal of fun as well as incredibly inspiring. He loves fashion, has an amazing colour sense and does fabulous display work. 

Patrick often refers to himself as a "yarn shop brat", he grew up working in his mother's yarn shop which has allowed him to develop a depth of knowledge about yarn that even experienced knitters envy. He later attended fashion school adding more layers to his understanding of garment construction.

Patrick will also be carrying my patterns in the booth. We have matched up yarns for some of my existing designs and will be doing more collaboration on future projects.

Please drop by and say "hello" if you are attending the event.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Martine Dubois Crescent Scarf - New Pattern Release

My latest pattern is a crescent scarf  which is worked bottom up. The edging is unusual but easy to work. The balance of the scarf is garter stitch, making it a simple project to execute. I used a larger needle than the yarn would normally call for, to showcase the edging. The pattern uses a crochet cast on to create an edge that matches the cast off, however any cast on technique may be substituted.

The sample shown used approximately 400 yds (365 m), 100 grams (3.53 ounces) of 100% superwash merino, single ply, fingering weight, hand painted in colour Raspberry Mocha from Yvieknits Yarns. I had some yarn left at the end. The project could be worked with any fingering weight yarn. You may remember I recently interviewed Yvonne of Yvieknits here.

This shape is very versatile. It can be worn in a number of different ways. 

The scarf measures 9 inches (23 cm) long from bottom at centre point to top edge and it is 61 inches (155 cm) wide, measured following curved top edge after blocking.

The name Martine Dubois comes from Agatha Christie's novel, 4:50 from Paddington.

It's here on Ravelry and will be up on Patternfish soon.