Friday, December 2, 2016

An Interview with...Sidsel J. Høivik

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 Sidsel here and here  on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere. In nature – then mostly colour combinations etc. I find it in architecture, paintings, fashion, magazines, old traditional knitwear, very much in traditional costumes. I find that a lot of fashion can be transformed into knitting.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
For a long time it has been stranded colour work knitting. But I love to combine different techniques in one garment. Which includes adding crochet, embroidery, sewing ribbons, sequins, beads etc. on to my knitting.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I do look at other designers work and I get inspiration. I am not afraid of getting influenced by others as long as I can transform it to be “me”. I try very hard to transform the inspiration I get into my style. The secret is to get inspiration, but not copy anybody. Then I like to give credit to the designer who gave me the inspiration.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I don’t know. I did not use to do that before, but in order to reach more customers and not have to answer a lot of private telephones and e-mails (which I do not have time for) I try to write thoroughly and step by step in order to reach as many as possible. But I do not think my patterns are for “dummies”. They are quite complex, with many details so I feel I have to write everything word by word, step by step. Very many people think my designs are very complicated. They are complex, but not too complicated. I use a lot of different techniques and use many details, but then I try to explain thoroughly in order that most people can understand. And I think they do. At least I have heard many times that people tell me that they thought it was too difficult, but they managed. In that way I kind of feel that I help many people to take their knitting “a step further”.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
It depends. I try to spread the projects between the knitters so they have time to do something for themselves as well. All together I have 7 – 10 quite regular ones. I also knit some models by myself. I do not use test-knitters. I use sample knitters who knit the models that I use for photo. The rest is mathematics. ;-) The sample knitters deliver an unfinished product. I always want to make all the decorations myself. I am never sure what it is going to look like in the end. That develops while I am working on it. I carry my knitting around with me in the house. I look at it in different lights, different angles and usually it takes a few days before I start. Sometimes I leave it on the table with a lot of things on top like ribbons, sequins, buttons, yarn etc. I often have to make the projects “mature/ripe?” in me.
I often publish small teasers in social media, where I show them photos of different choices of buttons, decoration, ribbons etc. where I ask my followers what they prefer.

Did you do a formal business plan?
When I started my business one year ago together with my business partner Tom, we did yes.

Do you have a mentor?
Not really. I wish I had. I know a lot of people in the business and a few of them I am very close and familiar with. I can talk with them if I like, but I would love to have a real mentor.

Do you use a tech editor?
No, I do not. But when I understood that one of my models was going to sell very, very much I had one of my ex-colleagues who is an expert, go through the pattern for me one more time. She made a few changes and we made some improvements, but luckily everything was quite right.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I am not very good at that. I work a lot and since this is also my hobby it’s hard to stop. But I never knit during the day. I make patterns, new designs, draw charts, answer mails, and work mostly on the computer during the day. After a certain hour in the evening I do knitting, embroidery, crochet and things where I can be social and comfy and do not have to use my computer.

How do you deal with criticism?
I think most knitters are very nice and positive and I very seldom get criticism. Most people send me very, very positive and nice messages and mails. If there is some criticism very often that is a misunderstanding and when I have given them the explanation they get very positive and grateful for the answer. Sometimes though I read at social media etc. people complaining about the size of a garment (not necessarily mine). Then I get a little annoyed and sometime I cannot stop myself from answering. I get a little fed up when people complain about the measures of a finished model. They do not read the measures. They see S (M) L etc. and that’s all. And they do not measure the gauge. When they complain about a garment getting much too big or much too little and blaming the designer I cannot keep quiet. Then I may ask them to measure their gauge and tell me how many stitches they have. Then I make the calculation and present it to them like this: OK, your gauge was supposed to be i.e. 24 stitches at 10 cm. Instead you have 20 stitches at 10 cm. That makes a big difference. Your model was supposed to measure i.e. 90 cm around the breast. Your knitwear is 15 cm too big because you did not pay attention to the gauge. This is why it is so important to measure the gauge. Very often they keep quiet and do not answer. But I get a little fed up when people do not pay attention to the gauge and then complain on social media that everything was wrong with a certain pattern because their knitting came out all wrong. ;-)

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
It depends where you live I think. In Norway it’s not easy to make a living of knitting and most people have it as a second job. I did too for many, many years and made designs as a freelancer while my monthly income came from my main job. I used to design models for different yarn producer/suppliers, magazines and sometime I had very much to do and sometimes nothing. So I could not rely on that. Nowadays it’s different. Now you can sell your patterns online to knitters all around the world. So the market is much bigger. There are more choices and you have more possibilities to reach a lot more people. I have never sold my patterns online. I sell yarn kits with all you need included in the kit – yarn, pattern, buttons, beads, sequins, ribbons etc.

What’s next for you?
Next for me is continuing to make a lot of new designs to increase the models in my webshop. I had a little break in the spring and summer because my mother fell very sick and died in August. In that period the sale of my bestseller Morgendis / Morning Mist exploded and I did not have time to do nothing more than packing yarnkits and be with my mother. Now my aim is to make a lot of new bestsellers. ;-) I have many new models going. It’s been 11 months since I started my webshop. The plan was to sell to Norway, and maybe Scandinavia eventually. But very, very soon a group of Dutch knitters were very interested in my kits and we had to find a way to export. So I have my most popular patterns translated to English and we have started to translate them to Dutch as well. Since the interest is so big. I have for a long time received a lot of e-mails and requests from the US and Canada. For my books and for my patterns. So very recently I have started to send my kits all the way to the US and to Canada. It seems to work smoothly and I am very excited to see how this develops. I also have to translate more of my website in English. So I have a lot of projects ahead.

Photo Credits:
All the photos from the books and m
any of the photos in the  web-shop were taken by the gifted photographer Anne Helene Gjelstad.

Additional photos were taken by Gitte Paulsbo

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Win Socks for Life? (or at least the yarn to knit them)

I've been asked by the people at to share the news of a contest they are running. I don't know much about this company so I did a quick search on Ravelry. There aren't very many comments but so far all of them are good. 

They're giving away enough yarn to knit a pair of socks every season for the next 25 years (about 100 pairs!). The prize will go to whomever can show how their life will most be changed by winning and what you will do with the prize.  If you don’t want to use all the yarn to make socks? That’s okay, no hard feelings. 

Judges will pick the top five entries and then it goes to a public vote to choose the winner. This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents. 

Contest link:

Entry deadline: Dec 7, 2016. Winner Announced: Dec 14.

Good Luck!

Monday, November 28, 2016

How to Read your Knitting Part 4

I learned to knit when charts were not common. Most of the early knitting charts I used were for colour work not stitch work. When you learn from text, there is a tendency for you to focus on the text instead of the appearance of the work. This stitch is knitted lace, which means it has patterning on both sides. Charting it to North American standards means you have a visual representation of how it looks, but the knitter has to pay attention to wrong side and right side rows and reverse the (usually empty square) knit and purl symbols in their head. I find when I'm teaching stitches like this one, that text is more easily used as long as the knitter also figures out how to track where they are by reading their knitting. Here's a stitch pattern to try. The stitch pattern below is a simple 2 row pattern. It repeats over 4 stitches.

Vertical Openwork (multiple of 4)

Row 1 (RS): * K2, yo, ssk; rep from *.
Row 2 (WS): * P2, yo, p2tog; rep from *.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until desired length. 

I've added a garter stitch border around the edge of the sample I'm showing.

I've knit a few rows so you can see the pattern established. On the first few repeats you are completely dependent on the text. Once you complete a few rows start paying attention to how each stitch lines up with those around it.

On the next Row 1 notice the first k is on top of the p2tog from the previous row. The second k is made into the yo of the previous row. After working into a yo, you make a yo and finally you make the ssk. If you look at the work you can see the ssk is always made into a visually strong vertical column of twisted stitches.

On the next Row 2 notice the first p is on top of the ssk from the previous row. The second p is made into the yo of the previous row. After working into a yo, you make a yo and finally you make the p2tog. If you look at the work you can see the p2tog is always made into a visually strong vertical column of twisted stitches.

The best way to learn this is to practice and while you make each stitch assess the relationship to the stitches around it and think it out more like this:

Row 1 (RS): K3 for the border,* k1, k1 into the yo from the previous row, yo, ssk into the vertical column; rep from *, knit 3 for the border.
Row 2 (WS): K3 for the border, * p1, p1 into the yo from the previous row, yo, p2tog into the vertical column; rep from *, knit 3 for the border.

If you stay focused on the second stitch always being worked into the yo of the previous row it will be hard to go wrong for more than a few stitches without noticing it. 

I often use a brightly coloured marker on the RS to identify it as such. As the work grows take the time to compare both sides so you can identify which is the RS and which is the WS.

Friday, November 25, 2016

An Interview with...Mari Chiba

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 Mari here and here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration?
I love ready to wear, Pinterest, fashion magazines, and in particular Anthropologie. Though I don't think I've ever shopped there, I think they have some beautiful and interesting design ideas! The Blue Columbine Cardigan from Interweave Knits Summer 2015 was based on some open back cardigans I saw on Pinterest...not sure who made it, but it was machine made lace. The Circular Tunic from Knit.Wear Spring/Summer 2014 was inspired by an Anthropologie top that was crochet. I take a lot of inspiration from ready to wear.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I don't think I have one... I love knitting!

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I do! Part of my day job, working with Stitchcraft Marketing, is advising my clients on their upcoming pattern collections. I help with logistics, coordinating, and also discussing what's trending in the market. I obviously try not to design things that look similar to what other designers do, but at the end of the day what sells the best and appeals to most people are variations on a familiar theme. I just try to add my own spin and aesthetic.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I very rarely use sample/test knitters. I do most of it myself. When I first started designing I had a lot more time to knit, and I could churn out a fingering weight sweater in a week or less. Now I have a 1 year old, and as all the parents out there can attest to, I have a LOT less time!

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes! And when people ask me about becoming a designer, I always tell them to become a tech editor instead, or at least first. Tech editors are amazing, and although I've informally edited others patterns for style, I think it's hubris to think one can tech edit their own work.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
This is one I'm still working on. If you have any tips on how to manage a full time job from home, freelance design on the side, and be a good mom I'd be open to hearing them! I did recently hire part time child care, so that's helped a lot, but I still work until 9 or 10 pm most week nights and work at least one half day on the weekend.

How do you deal with criticism?
What criticism?

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I realized pretty early on that one revenue source wasn't going to be a realistic way for me to earn a living in this industry. Through hard work and good luck, I met Leanne Pressly, the owner of Stitchcraft Marketing at TNNA while working in a booth for a yarn company. That was more than 4 years ago. At first I started part time, and was also designing, working in a yarn store, and teaching knitting. I came to a point a couple years ago when I realized that although I love designing, and will probably always write knitting patterns, I really like my day job and the stability it provides. Now I rarely teach, spend less time designing, and spend a lot of time and energy on my career with Stitchcraft.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Get as many different experiences as you can within the industry. I meet a lot of designers who can't understand the yarn company perspective, because they've never walked in their shoes. Or other industry professionals who have no idea how much time and effort it takes to write and grade a pattern. I've worked in a yarn store, sold yarn wholesale, taught knitting to a variety of skill levels, and all of those experiences have helped me get to where I am, doing what I love.

What’s next for you?
This is a tough one, I'm not sure. I hope to eventually write a book, and I started a book proposal just as I got pregnant, and haven't looked at it since. We'll see!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How to Read your Knitting Part 3

The next challenge new knitters face when reading their knitting is seeing the difference between reverse stocking stitch and garter stitch. This one is the often the fault of teachers. Most of us tell the knitters to look for the v or the bump while we teach the difference between knit and purl. We do this because at early learning stages we give the simplest possible explanation. When we get to garter stitch the knitter sees all those bumps and says "AHA those are purls, this must be reverse stocking stitch". They are right, they are seeing purls but now they need to add on a new understanding of how those bumps are laid out. Look carefully at the top and bottom of the photo above. It's edged with garter stitch. Can you see how in garter stitch the stitches show a horizontal alignment? Now look at the photo below and see what happens when I pull the fabric apart. Garter stitch has wider recessed sections between the rows of purl bumps. When I'm swatching garter stitch I check those rows, if they are really obvious it may mean I need to go down in needle size.

Stitch orientation is the other topic I'd like to address here. Different knitting styles exist which don't follow this standard however, almost all written materials assume this stitch mount. If you knit in a different manner it is not wrong, you just need to be aware of it so you can adjust accordingly when it is required. The yarn goes over the needle from the front to the back. The front leg is on the right, the back leg is at the left.

You can see my needle has been inserted ready to knit, notice the back leg is to the left. Here's another angle. 

Here's a close up. 

Sometimes we purposely change the stitch mount to make specific changes to our knitting as part of a stitch pattern. We often create an incorrect stitch mount when we are correcting errors such as picking up a dropped stitch or when we tear back a few rows and replace the stitches on our needle. 

Here's a twisted stitch worked with incorrect orientation. You can identify it by looking at the base of the stitch, you can see the leg crosses at the bottom of the stitch and it doesn't lay smoothing on the plane of the fabric.

Friday, November 18, 2016

An Interview with...Melanie Gibbons

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 Melanie here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I can be inspired by just about anything. Sometimes it's as obviously knitting related as a stitch pattern, sometimes I'm inspired by a garment whether historical or costumes from a movie. Often my inspiration is less obvious. Nature is always inspiring, from patterns and textures to colors. I love fairy tales, myths, and ballets. Certain movies like Moulin Rouge, the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, and some of the Chinese language movies (Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) are so rich visually that you can't help but be inspired. I love colors and sometimes find ideas in colors, whether a single color (I chose my wedding colors based on a stack of dictionaries in the campus bookstore in college – they were an amazing, glowing shade of metallic periwinkle) or color combinations. Most of the time inspiration comes from more than one source and I often don't know where all my inspiration was rooted by the time I finish a design. Not everything translates into knitting or at least I haven't figured out how to take it from inspiration to knitting (yet), but I can still sketch ideas and note my thoughts and feelings. I try to keep notes and sketches because you never know when an idea might be useful. Sometimes just going through older sketches and ideas will trigger something new.

What is your favorite knitting technique?

When I first began designing I was all about lace. I still love lace but I also love cables and other textures. Honestly, I'm kind of having a love affair with stockinette and garter stitch right now. The simplicity of those stitches just appeals to me. I think I've proven to myself that I can knit some crazy and complex projects, but those aren't the pieces I find myself reaching for when I get dressed in the morning. I'm trying to focus on knitting things I'll actually wear.

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

I look at and knit other designers' work all the time. I don't worry about “copying” others' designs because I'm going to make sure my design is my own. If I am inspired by someone else's design but only make a few changes, I'm not going to release a pattern for it. Small modifications are what Ravelry project notes are for. Often, when I look at other designers' work, I see it more as trends (“oh look, there's lots of textural striped shawl patterns coming out right now”) and then I can either use the trend as a jumping off point for my own designs or ignore it and go a different direction.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
That's not something I've really concerned myself with. Maybe it's because most of my designs aren't really for beginners. If I'm using a less common technique then I usually try to explain it with pictures or diagrams, but I don't really explain things that can be looked up in a basic knitting book. Today's knitter has the option of not only some really great books, but also videos, Ravelry, and other online resources that can explain things. I try to write my patterns so that if you've got a basic understanding of knitting, you can knit them. Anything strange, I will explain. I also like to include tips and notes that might be helpful.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself and do you use a tech editor?
I test knit and tech edit everything myself. I tend to design and chart a pattern first, then I knit it and both proofread and “proofknit.” I work with a highlighter and just mark up the chart and directions where ever the design needs correcting or just clarification. The majority of my designs are just one size although I try to include notes on changing sizes on patterns where that's practical (shortening or lengthening shawls for instance).

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I started writing patterns when my son was little and it was always something I did around family life. I definitely do not work eight hour days, five days a week. We started homeschooling him three years ago and while he's old enough that he does the majority of his schoolwork on his own, I'm still available for questions and help if he needs it. This means that I don't really get the uninterrupted blocks of time to brainstorm and design right now like I used to and in the evenings I might be too mentally tired to design. At this point, knitting design is definitely taking a backseat to life, but I'm still coming up with ideas, there are sketches and plans but they'll have to wait until I can really explore them.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I'm probably not the best person to be offering advice, but I guess that would depend on what this “someone” defines as a career. If you're just looking to start writing patterns, I'd say go for it! The Internet, Paypal, and Ravelry (and other selling platforms) make it really easy to write patterns and offer them for sale. On the other hand, this ease of publishing means anyone can do it so you really need to look at the other things available on these platforms and make sure your designs stand out if you're hoping to sell very many of them. Original ideas aren't necessarily enough if your pattern isn't clearly written or the photographs don't show it clearly. If you're looking to make knitting your primary source of income, I'm definitely the wrong person to ask but there are a number of threads on Ravelry that deal with the specific details of designing as a full time career and how realistic this dream is (or is not). I'd recommend doing some research before you quit your day job!

What's next for you?
On the homeschooling front, Caleb will graduate in 2019, so I'm probably not going to have very many new designs between now and then. I do keep getting ideas and inspiration happens everywhere, so while I may not be writing patterns right now, there are seedlings that could grow into patterns in the future. I enjoy designing, but I've found that my creative process requires more alone, quiet time than I get right now. I can accept this because I feel like the choices we've made as a family are important. The knitting designs can just percolate in my head for a bit!