Friday, January 20, 2017

An Interview with...Annie Baker

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 Annie here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
My inspiration comes from so many places. I adore cabled wool sweaters, they keep me warm during our long Canadian winters. It is amazing to me how slight variations in stitches can create so many different textural effects. Another source of inspiration is the yarn itself. I have shelves lined with my favourite yarns. Every yarn has it’s own personality, in a sense. It’s own colour, weight, and feel. Many of my designs are inspired by what I think would capture the special qualities of a particular yarn. I am also strongly influenced by what I enjoy knitting and wearing.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I look at other designs, it inspires me to see the creativity and talent of other designers. 

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Cable knitting and knitting in the round. Knitting in the round is especially one of my favourites as I can carry a project with me and have something to work on while waiting for appointments. Another one of my favourite techniques is blocking. Hand knit pieces just become so beautiful after blocking. I consider my blocking the last step of each knitting project.

How do you feel about the so-called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
While I try to include as much detail as possible in my patterns, I think is fair to expect knitters will have an understanding of the most basic techniques. I have several knitting technique manuals on my shelf. Since we don't use every technique regularly, it helps to have a reference/refresher book handy. 

How many sample knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit samples myself. I occasionally use sample knitters to knit up pieces in different colours or sizes. I try to have samples of each design in semi-solid and multi-coloured yarns to show different results.

Do you have a formal business plan?
No, but I should work on one. 

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
My father was in business for himself. He taught me that it is important to listen to your clients, take time to plan your business activities and rely on others for help when needed.

Do you use a tech editor?
Sometimes. When I've been working on a more complex pattern, I will use a tech editor or proof reader.

How do you maintain your work/life balance?
I find helps to have a regular routine. I try to carve out a bit of time everyday to just take some time for myself.

How do you deal with criticism?
I'm not too bothered by criticism. Some criticism helps me grow as a designer and better understand the needs of knitters.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Give it a try! Set aside time to design, knit, write patterns and provide client support.

What's next for you?
I'd like to do more designs that use colour work.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Stitch markers and what you can use them for

Many of my blog posts come from conversations with other knitters. I was surprised to hear someone say they rarely use markers, which got me thinking about all the ways I do. I use a variety of types of markers for various purposes and I use different colours to track different things going on in a project.

  1. I use a bright colour marker as the first marker on the RS of the work and a dull colour as the last marker. this way I know immediately when I pick up my work if I am on a RS or WS row.
  2. To mark the beginning of a round.
  3. To mark pattern repeats in lace, cables or in colour work.
  4. When casting on large numbers of stitches I put a marker after a set number of stitches, then I recount immediately to ensure that section is correct. The final number can then be confirmed for example by counting 8 sections of 25 stitches is 200 stitches in total.
  5. To track the locations of increases or decreases. I also use locking markers on top of the work after working the shaping so I can be sure I did the correct total number.
  6. A locking marker can be used as a stitch holder for a dropped stitch until I work back to that place in the row ready to pick it back up.
  7. A locking marker can also be used as a stitch marker for a split stitch until I work back to that place in the row ready to drop the stitch column down and pick it back up.
  8. A split ring marker can be placed on the needle to remind me I need to pick up a dropped yarnover.
  9. I sometimes tie the yarn tail to a marker after I cast on to avoid working the next row with the tail instead of the working yarn. 
  10. To mark buttonhole placements. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Converting Knitting Patterns to Crochet, is it Possible?

I've been asked if it's possible to convert knitting patterns to crochet on occasion. Often it's a question coming from someone who wants to buy one of my patterns and make the conversion. Oddly, I've had two emails in the last two weeks asking this question about specific patterns. I've had to respond that since I don't crochet, I don't feel comfortable or competent answering this question. After I responded to this morning's query I thought it might be interesting to see what the Internet thinks. 

I started with Ravelry and found this thread right away by searching on convert knit to crochet in all forums. The answers were pretty much what I expected, one poster pointed out that the fabric created would be very different. Another suggested some patterns which looked similar to what the original poster was looking for. 

The Original:

The suggestion:

I did find this website which has some basic directions. When I read through, the person converting is basically redesigning the item using the original item as a pattern template. It does advise looking for a similar fabric type and to know the yarn required will increase. There was also a reference to a book on the topic.

When I clicked over to Amazon, it also suggested two more books on the same topic. Have any of you ever done this?

Friday, January 13, 2017

An Interview with...Joleen Kraft

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 Joleen here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? 
Inspiration is all around me - nature, architecture, vintage clothing, traditional motif books. If I’m stuck for/on an idea, letting go is usually the best approach for me. Something will catch my eye or I’ll see something in the world and, all of sudden, things click into place. 

What is your favourite knitting technique? 
I’m really enjoying cabling again and am working on a new sweater that has a large cabled piece in front.

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

I don’t often look at other designer’s work. I do think it’s important to knit other people’s designs from time to time as a way of learning new techniques and seeing items from a different perspective. I don’t do this as often as I would like since I’m usually too busy working on my own designs, but it’s something I’m hoping to do more of in the coming year.

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

Is there a controversy? As a knitter if I came across something in a pattern I didn't know how to do, I would go online and do my research to figure out how to do it. I suppose I just assume that other knitters are doing the same. When I worked in my LYS, we would often have people come in and ask for help with a detail in a pattern or whatnot, so I did see people trying to challenge themselves. I imagine you hear about the same controversy for most crafts and skills; you’ll always have the dabblers that want the quick and easy projects, but the hardcore knitters are the ones who’ll stick with the craft and challenge themselves to become experts. You can design patterns for people anywhere on this spectrum and still find an audience. Maybe it just comes down to your own personal expectations; is it important that people learn complicated techniques? I can see an argument for both sides. Doing complicated tasks is certainly good for our brains and creates new pathways; so perhaps it’s a question of how can we encourage people to challenge themselves?

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

I am a one-woman knitting machine! At the moment, I do it all myself, though it’d be lovely to have testers in the future and it is something I have been thinking about.

Did you do a formal business plan?  
No. Designing has been growing organically for me. It wasn't something I really formally set out to do.

Do you have a mentor? 

I wish!

Do you have a business model that you have emulated? 


Do you use a tech editor? 

This is another item on my wish list.

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 

Ha! What’s that? When you enjoy something so much, it ceases to become work and can kind of take over your life (and your house)! However, I would be fooling myself to think that knitting always equals non-work time. I do think it’s healthy to take some time off from knitting — not only for the sake of my wrists, but also to let those creative depths replenish themselves.

How do you deal with criticism? 

With kindness.

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

I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting there! I have been able to substantially decrease the time I spend in my other work roles.

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

It’s often said, but I think there’s truth in it: Design pieces that you love.

What’s next for you?

Soon I’ll be the knitting herbalist! I’m almost through my training in herbalism, so I am and will be directing much energy there, but I can’t see ever give up knitting and design.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Social Knitting Inspiration Part 3

I finished the green and ivory stash buster project from this post. 

It made for easy knitting during the Christmas holidays, always a good idea between the cycle of cooking, cleaning, entertaining and staying out late to socialize. It turned out like this: 

I used a combination of garter stitch and 2 x 2 rib. I double stranded the yarns in several combinations and then knit one row of each combo over a 3 row sequence. I also added short rows in the garter section so the bottom is wider. After I added the fringe I weighed the left overs and I had about 40 grams. Mission accomplished on my stash down.

Then I needed something else easy to work on. Of course I had forgotten about the blue project. (Next step, put getting organized on the New Year resolution list.) I started and finished this:

I'd been wanting to try out this construction method for a while and had written out the basic instructions in a notebook I keep for that purpose. (Fortunately, I could find the notebook.) You are only seeing half the shawl because I couldn't fit it in the photo when it was open. Both sides end in that spiral end and it's folded at the centre.

It's all in fingering weight yarns and does that curling thing on the edges when you let them hang free. It happens because there are so many increases made in a very small area. 

After that one, I started swatching for another stash down project. So far I like that one so much it could become a pattern so you may see it sometime in the future. Now I have to go find the bag with the blue and green yarns and put it somewhere accessible so it will be ready when I get back to it. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Blogger Gobbeldy Goop

Hey there! a reader just notified me there's a weird garbled posting on Superwash yarns in Feedly as well as my actual post. Oddly, at the same time I was fighting with Blogger because it kept changing my font and it was doing weird things with some photos. I logged out and went back in and things seem to be better. If you see the garbled post please ignore it. Thanks 


What you Need to Know about Superwash Wool

Some knitters love it others hate it. Superwash wool is a wool yarn which has been altered so that it will not felt when it is washed in a machine. Wool in its natural state has scales on its surface which can only be seen under a microscope. Felting occurs when these scales catch on one another during washing or with abrasion and moisture. 

I'm of the opinion that Superwash is neither good or bad. It's more important to understand it and then decide on a project by project basis if it makes sense for you to use it.

This description comes from Biotechlearn:

"On the outside of the wool fibre is a protective layer of scales called cuticle cells. They overlap like tiles on a roof. The exposed edges of the cells face away from the root end so there’s more friction when you rub the fibre in one direction than the other. This helps wool expel dirt and gives it the ability to felt. Wool felts when fibres are aligned in opposite directions and they become entangled. The scales have a waxy coating chemically bound to the surface. This stops water penetrating the fibre but allows absorption of water vapour. This makes wool water-repellent and resistant to water-based stains."

The Superwash process prevents the scales from binding in one of two ways. Either the fibre is given an acid bath that dissolves the scales or the yarn is coated with a polymer or resin which smooths over the scales and prevents felting. Labels never identify which method was used however, you might be able to feel the difference as you become more familiar with these yarns as the polymer-coated yarn are often described as feeling  slicker than the acid bath version.

Now for some of the negatives. You should know that high heat during washing or drying can damage a Superwash coating. This could eventually lead to felting which is exactly what you are trying to avoid. I recommend tepid to warm water washing on the gentle cycle using a good wool wash product, a short time in the dryer and to finish with flat drying. I have a dryer rack for my machine and I now use it for all of my Superwash projects. This isn't the one I have but it gives you the idea. It sits in the dryer in a way that allows the tumbler to move while it remains stationary.

Also, it is important to know that because the scales of the yarn cannot bind together, Superwash yarns will stretch a little more than non Superwash yarns. This makes proper swatching even more critical to your end results. I've had knitters tell me about their difficulties with Superwash and the one issue I've been able to identify is that they hand wash instead of machine wash and then don't always take the time to roll the knitting into a towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible before handling the work. I often need a second towel when I hand instead of machine wash this yarn. Superwash definitely sucks up more water than untreated wool.

The benefits to be considered are that for knits meant to be gifted, it might make more sense to choose an machine washable yarn. I like to include the ball band washing instructions for the recipient. Keep in mind that non-knitters are often afraid of wool because of the shrinking and simply don't want to hand wash clothing. Some assume that wool is itchy and Superwash is less likely to be itchy since the scales have been treated and smoothed out. Another benefit is that Superwash yarns (especially the polymer-coated ones) create a slightly more dense fabric with more drape and a little more shine. Depending on your project or your garment preferences they may create a project which you might be happier with.