Friday, December 31, 2010

An Interview with...Katherine Vaughan

Once a week I post  interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world.  

You can find Katherine here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I know everyone says “everywhere” and that's definitely true for me as well. However, I'm particularly interested in shape and texture, so I tend to get excited by seeing patterns and silhouettes in the environment around me. My pattern Barclay was inspired by the contrasting colors of tree trunks in the forest; my blanket Amirah came out of a pairing of a stop sign and Persian carpets. I also habitually thumb through my stitch dictionaries (my faves are the Barbara Walker series, though I think I have about 20 in total). Though it's another cliché, I sometimes pick up a yarn and hear it speaking to me, telling me what it wants to be. I design for specific people, so often I take inspiration from their lives and stated interests. And finally, I often get inspiration from the calls for submission from magazines and books – both for my own submissions and for my self-published patterns.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I don't think I have just one. I like knitting in the round (largely because I dislike seaming). I like cables and lace pretty equally. I tend to avoid colorwork such as intarsia and fair isle, but will do them when the moment is right.

How did you determine your size range?
Much of what I do are accessories and baby blankets, so the sizes for those are pretty set. When possible I cover a large range of head sizes for hats – from preemie to men's XL. I have some friends who are over 6'6”, and their heads are larger than many hat sizes go, so I try to include them. My father is a neonatologist, so I knit a lot of preemie caps, which is the other end of the spectrum. Since most of the sweaters I design are for magazines and books, I go with the size range requested by the editor.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Well, I also work as a technical editor, so that means I HAVE to looks at other people's work. I think it's really important to see how other people interpret our art differently. Often I learn a new technique or discover something really exciting in others' patterns. And then there are the designers that I'm just in total awe of – like Kaffe Fasset – and who have no worry about me copying them!

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I'm not sure I feel any controversy here. I think that there's a realization that writing a clear pattern free of errors and with certain elements (such as photos, diagrams, and abbreviations key) increases the likelihood of success for all knitters, not just the ones who have lower skills. Especially for patterns published online, there is less of a pressure to keep everything short. This means we can actually tell people how many stitches to do between decreases, rather than “decrease 5 times evenly spaced” (my personal pet peeve). We can write out the neckline shaping on each side, rather than the shortcut of “reverse from left.” Why make knitting hard for people? I guess I feel pretty strongly about this, especially since, as a medical librarian, I am a strong proponent of clear language as a means of enhancing health information literacy.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I currently have a wrap out for sample knitting – my first time ever using a sample knitter. I had to do this because I have two conflicting deadlines for magazines, and am not physically capable of doing the knitting for both. Luckily I found a great sample knitter (hi Veronica!) and am confident in her work. I like doing my own sample knitting in general, because I sometimes will alter a design on the fly. Test knitters I definitely use, both to catch any weird language in the pattern and to get a few projects already logged on Ravelry. I always have a tech editor take a look at every pattern before self-publishing.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Nope, though I keep thinking I should. I also should keep better books, incorporate as a business, etc. I do pay my taxes like a good girl, though it's pretty painful when that time rolls around!

Do you have a mentor?
Not really, though I do have designers who have helped me in the past and whom I respect quite a lot. These include Shannon Okey, who as the editor at Yarn Forward published one of my first print patterns, and then who connected me with Kristi Porter (for whom I designed two patterns for her Knitting in the Sun books), and with whom I then worked on some other book projects. It's designers like Shannon who have opened doors for me in sometimes serendipitous ways rather than as formal mentors that I really treasure.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
I would not be a published designer without the Internet. My first three patterns (Reduce Reuse Recycle, Sadz Resama Bega, and Skirtsicle) were published in MagKnits and Black Purl Magazine. Both of these were online magazines that have since gone under. In 2011 I will be moving into wholesaling print self-published patterns, but for the last few years I've sold my self-published line entirely online via Ravelry, Etsy, and Patternfish. Ravelry in particular but also a few Yahoo! groups for self-publishing designers, tech editors, and the PhatFiber indie fiber artist community have introduced me to techniques and worlds not normally open to a librarian in the American South (fewer knitters here, especially in the summer, than in colder climes, sadly).

Do you use a Tech Editor?
I would never release a pattern for general distribution that has not been professionally tech edited, and if I purchase a pattern that has clearly not been edited first, I get cranky about it, think mean things about the designer, and never purchase another pattern from that designer. Does that sound overly harsh? It's true!

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Luckily, knitting is generally still a relaxing thing for me, including the designing part. My children know that something is wrong if I'm not knitting. I carry my knitting and a notebook everywhere, but I'm fully capable of putting it down to play. Since my designing is a part time enterprise (I'm a medical librarian during the day), this is part of my life – as well as my work. This becomes one of the balancing points.

How do you deal with criticism?
There are three kinds of criticism. The easiest one to deal with is the knitter whose skills don't match the pattern's level. I once was ripped apart in a forum by a knitter who hadn't encountered the “ssk” stitch before, and thought it meant “slip 2 then knit the next stitch”. She kept ending up with too many stitches, obviously, and decided that it must be my “atrocious math skills.” Luckily, in that case someone else set her straight. Then there are people who simply don't like something about the pattern. Sometimes there are things I can (and choose to) do about those – sometimes it's just a matter of personal preference. The third kind come from mistakes in my pattern. I love my tech editors, because they help minimize these last ones. Any criticism stemming from an error is fixed immediately, and I publicly thank the person who found the error and send them any pattern they want for free.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I don't support myself on my design and editing income. Someday, maybe, but right now having a full-time faculty position has serious advantages, including sick and vacation leave, health insurance, and retirement savings. However, my designing allows me some financial comfort, which is particularly good in an economy like this one. I took a look at my current levels a few months ago, and came to a conclusion that if I worked full-time at designing, tech editing, and picked up more teaching, I would have to be twice as successful as I am now and work four times as much as I do now to match my faculty salary. Ouch!

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
If you are thinking of becoming a designer simply to make some money, don't. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to become financially successful in this field, and the field is already very crowded with talented designers. However, if you truly have a passion for design coupled with a head for the technical aspects of pattern writing and business management, this is a good job to have. For me, designing is a compulsion, a habit, a necessity. If I could not publish, I would still be designing my own knits. The publishing aspect, the money aspect, justifies some of the time I spend on this but is not the driving purpose for me. Instead, it's the thrill of seeing an idea that I had come out first in the cloth, then on paper, and finally in other people's interpretations of the pattern. I fear that if I lose that excitement that design will simply become a job, and not a passion.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Row Gauge - Ignore it at Your Peril

The typical advice when working a swatch is to focus on stitch gauge and almost ignore row gauge. Beware of this as changing needles sizes can sometimes affect row gauge more than stitch gauge. So perhaps an additional swatch or two is in order if your row gauge is way off. 

If you are working simple shapes it's true you can just knit to the correct measurement as given in your pattern and you can ignore the row gauge. However there are many places that this simply does not work. I've often heard Knitters comment that they were working on something like the Swallowtail Shawl (pictured above), and had to knit extra repeats of one of the 3 pattern stitches to get the correct length. The shape of top down triangles also changes if the row gauge is off varying from a equilateral to an isosceles to a right angled triangle. Another place that row gauge is very important is in the popular top down raglans. The shape of the armhole and bust area is heavily affected by the stitch to row gauge. If you don't get that right there is no way that you will be knitting what the designer originally intended. It could be better or it could be worse depending on your individual body shape. The correct fit of set in sleeves and their proportion to the armhole will also be affected by a row gauge that changes the sleeve cap shape. Even if you have worked to the correct cap depth, the curve of the cap is determined by the cast offs and decreases so a row gauge discrepancy will change its overall shape. 

The final place that row gauge is important is for the horizontal front bands of a cardigan. The stitch pickups are calculated on the length and row count of the front of the garment and since not every size is test knit this is typically done mathematically. Therefore if your row gauge doesn't match neither will the pickups. 

Let me know - are you re-swatching when you get stitch gauge but not row gauge?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Business Plans

Having interviewed many Knitting Professionals I've discovered that it is rare for them to have a business plan. I recently attended an evening session at the library that covered this topic. This one was lead by Sally Wilkie of the Toronto Business Development Centre The viewpoint of the centre is that a business plan will help ensure success when starting a business. They report that only about 46% of small businesses survive past 3 years and that a survey of emerging growth companies felt that having a good business plan and sticking to it was the key success factor for their first year. 

Briefly the business plan spells out details of various parts of your business usually in the areas of  marketing, operations and finance. It should spell out your mission and vision statements, describe the business, mention the legal status (sole owner, partnership, etc.) and include the future plans as well as your key objectives.

If the plan is written for potential investors that will have a big impact on it's format. In my case I don't need investors so I'm viewing this more as a goal setting exercise to keep me on track. I have been doing some market research but there is not a lot of formal data being collected about knitters. Most of what I know is from personal observation and speaking to my peers and knitting friends. 

Lately I've been thinking a lot about pricing strategy and I think that will evolve as I produce more patterns. I'm most interested in doing garments but I'm focusing on accessories right now while I perfect my pattern writing skills as well as mastering software and other new skill sets.

The presenter also talked about developing a customer profile and for the first time her version made sense to me, instead of a single profile she recommended that the plan should describe several potential customers. I know a lot of Knitters but there is no way I could distill them down to a single profile so the concept of thinking about multiple profiles works for me, the young urban Knitter vs. the gift Knitter or the high fashion Knitter. I"ll be working on a few of these because I think that will send me in some new directions. 

The session also included sections on sales plans and forecasting as well as financial planning and a strategic activity plan. Under features of a poor business plan was an item that I suspect all Knitting professionals suffer from. Infatuation with the the work of the business or its product and not the marketing process. Hummm.... well I'm off to do some knitting now.

Here a few sites with some free info for you (just in case).

Here in the U.S. and here's one for Canada

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

The instructions to make this wreath are here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

An Interview with...Diana Troldahl

Once a week I post  interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. 
You can find Diana here, her blog is here and on Ravelry here.

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere, really. I love looking at nature in micro and macrocosm, and sometimes the shapes or textures suggest things. I also get interesting ideas from looking at architecture. I sometimes see a line or fabric pattern of a dress that inspires a new way to put together a garment. I often get different perspectives by reading antique handicraft books like the Weldon's Practical Needlework series and others I find on sites like
What is your favourite knitting technique?
Wow, I've never really thought about it. I keep trying new things and like not being married to any one way of accomplishing a goal. I know how to knit in the round in multiple methods, for example. I probably favor dpns above magic loop for small projects, but know how to do both, as well as a few more techniques.

How did you determine your size range?
Because I am a large woman, I like to have extra options on the large end of the spectrum, but I haven't done a lot of garment designs requiring grading, yet; although there are a few in process for 2011.
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I enjoy seeing other designer's work. I think we can learn a lot from each other. I am confident that my own sense of design is unique and strong enough not to be overly influenced by others, and I gain a great deal from purchasing patterns from designers I admire and seeing how they approach tricky bits of design and instruction.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters? 
I don't think it is possible to write a pattern with too much clarity. My goal when writing instructions is to leave the pattern-user with as few questions as possible, while pointing out areas within the design where the adventurous knitter or crocheter can explore options to make the design their own. When I purchase a pattern, I become quite cross when the designer skips over important information or provides vague or useless instructions. I have no way of knowing the skill level of someone who purchases one of my patterns. Better that an advanced knitter skips over parts they don't need than a less experienced knitter winds up frustrated with a lack of information. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I mostly do it myself, especially because I have a tendency to change the design while making the samples. I do have test knitters and crocheters I have met through Ravelry and elsewhere, and some of my friends have been lovely about pitching in to pattern test for me.
Did you do a formal business plan? 
I have plans, but they tend toward the informal. I deal with chronic health issues and having firm goals can set me up for frustration if I am unable to accomplish them. I prefer to have a list of projected tasks unconnected to a timeline.
Do you have a mentor?
Probably that was my sister-in-law, LynnH of Colorjoy. I tested a few patterns for her as a rank beginner, then began offering editing advice (I am a writer) and she encouraged me to jot down some of my own patterns. She is always there for me if I need advice, and I still occasionally test knit and tech edit a bit for her.
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really. I have grown it organically as opportunities came to my attention.
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Huge. It cannot be over emphasized. Without the Internet, I do not think I would be selling patterns.
Do you use a Tech Editor?
No, although my test knitters often provide great advice. I find I can edit my own patterns fairly well if I let them rest and come to them with fresh eyes as I knit a sample. (I often make two or even more samples of each pattern).
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
That is tough. I have a tendency to over focus on a project until my hands literally will not work. This is not healthy, so I am trying to set time limits on any one activity.
How do you deal with criticism?
Pretty well, I think. I am always grateful when someone takes the time to point out an error or unclear section of instructions in my patterns. I feel gutted that I published something with an error in it, but no one is perfect, and I console myself with that :-} If someone simply does not like something I created, that has more to do with their particular taste than with the worth of my creation.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I am not there, yet. It may never happen. I am happy that I am able to provide some income to the household. I am unable to work and have been denied any form of government support, so anything I can bring in is wonderful. I am grateful I have the skill to do this :-}
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Foster diversity of technique, and also try and place yourself and your patterns in as many different areas of the industry as possible. Teaching, publication in online and print magazines, submitting art installations to exhibitions, blogging, writing reviews of yarn, tools and books as well as self-publishing online in as many different markets as possible. Doing these things can build your reputation and platform to the point you will eventually be able to put together book proposals, and perhaps lead to guest shots on television programs. Start small, but look for opportunities to grow your skills and renown.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rip off or Classic? You Decide

My Feather and Fan Shawl

My other Feather and Fan Shawl

I think Ravelry is making us more aware of the fact that people can come up with similar designs independently. We are now able to see so many of the patterns out there that in the past we did not have access to.

Several times now I've had the experience of working on something that was already out there in a similar version so I moved on to a different idea. In some ways knitting will improve by forcing designers to be more creative. On the other hand those new to knitting are always going to want a feather and fan or sea foam scarf pattern written specifically for the yarn they just purchased. I've also noticed that sometimes when one person assumes that another ripped off an idea from a third party that it's merely because they don't realize that it's a knitting classic (that they just haven't been aware of), and I think those pieces have a place in the pattern publishing world.

I read a heated thread a while ago in Ravelry about a pattern that the original poster felt she had been ripped off for when a similar version was published after hers. To me it looked just like something my mother had knit many versions of and when I flipped through some of her old patterns there it was with a publishing date in the 60's. I had a similar experience when someone hinted that I had done the ripping off but named the wrong source of my inspiration for a silhouette that I had seen before in both hand and machine knitting patterns as well as in woven fabric in a book about a main stream fashion designer. In that case the person hinting simply thought that the first version she had seen was totally original while in fact there were many precedents. 

I just finished reading an article about the American remake of the Swedish movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The writer was furious that Hollywood could think they could make a better version but did admit that a non-subtitled version might be more palatable to American audiences. Which ultimately means that more people get to enjoy the original authors work. Movies and the theater have a long history of remakes, remounts and revivals of previously released work. Copyright is protected and the owners are paid for the use of their work. Unfortunately since I have no idea who originated the feather and fan stitch pattern there is no way to compensate that designer and really it would be like trying to compensate the originator of words or letters in the English language.

Last summer my husband and I toured the Vatican with a guide who is an art history graduate. She showed us many examples of how ideas were borrowed and reinterpreted from one era to another in the art world, often indicating what the improvements and changes were. She also spoke about how students were instructed to copy directly from the great masters as a way of improving their own skills. It's fascinating to see how attitudes to this have changed. I think there is nothing more valuable than original thinking but unless we study past work we have no way to recognize what is truly original and be inspired to a higher level of creativity.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties

I just read an article here, that says this type of party is becoming common. It sounds like fun to me. Is anyone having their own party?

I googled ugly Christmas sweaters and got 399,000 results, that's a lot of ugly sweaters!

Friday, December 17, 2010

An Interview with...Susanna Hansson

Once a week I post  interviews with interesting knitting professionals about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every industry insider makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. Susanna identifies herself as primarily a teacher in the Knitting world.

You can find Susanna here and here on Ravelry.

How long have you been knitting and who taught you?
Like all girls growing up in Sweden in the early 1960s, I learned in the 5th grade.  While we all became proficient technically, none of us enjoyed making those brown garter stitch slippers.  I started knitting seriously in the mid-1980s.

Tell me how you got into teaching knitting classes?
I worked part-time in a yarn shop and enjoyed listening in on the classes.  Then one of the teachers left and I asked if I could take over some of her classes.  I’ve never looked back.

How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been teaching knitting since the early 1990s but when I was a graduate student in the 1980s, I taught introductory Swedish language classes and the training I went through then has certainly helped me with my knitting classes as well.

How do you develop teaching topics and class plans?

How long roughly does it take you to develop your teaching plan, samples and notes per instructional hour?
It took four years to develop the Lapland Hand Garments: the Mittens from Rovaniemi workshop.  I learned the technique in Finland in the summer of 2003 and once I ‘recovered’ from the experience (I kept saying things to myself like “you can’t really knit like this”), it became a matter of doing research here and in Finland; trying to figure out how to present the material; working up samples; deciding what to include, and what not; and then developing the bibliography and class handout.  The workshop debuted at the Madrona Fiber Arts retreat ( in 2007.  If I hadn’t forced the issue by scheduling the class for that event, I might still be doing R&D for it – I sometimes have a hard time letting go. Obviously some of my classes come together in less time but I am not a person who is able to put classes together quickly – it’s simply not how my brain works.  Because of the relatively long time I spend on development and preparation, my goal is always to try and create classes with long shelf lives.

What do you find to be the optimum class size?

It varies with the topic and structure of the class, the venue, and the skill levels of the knitters.  My classes range in size from 8 to 30+.

Do you prefer to work with beginners or advanced students?
I like to work with enthusiastic knitters at all levels.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your students?

I wish I had profound answer for this though I’m not sure there’s one thing I could single out.  I do think classes are learning experiences for everyone in the room including the teacher, or at least they should be.  And I try to be mindful of the fact that everyone in the class has chosen to spend their time and money to be in a room with me which means I have a responsibility to give everyone my very best effort, every time.

Do you belong to any knitting groups?

Yes.  The Seattle Knitters Guild ( had a huge impact on my knitting life for many years after I joined (1989). One Sunday every month, I spend the day with a group of long-time knitting friends.  I probably learn more about knitting in that group than I do anywhere else. Does Ravelry qualify?  I’m a member of a few Ravelry groups, the primary one being the Bohus Stickning group.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Because I essentially sell myself, I don’t think the Internet has made as much of a difference for me as it might for someone who is selling products. What really made my business grow is when I began teaching at the national level, especially at the large Stitches conventions.  Those events generated a level of exposure I never could have created on my own.  People would take a class from me at Stitches and then go home and recommend me to their guild or LYS.  Overall, word of mouth has been more important for me than the Internet. That said I hope my website is a good information tool.  If someone is thinking about hiring me, they can browse the website at their convenience and hopefully get a feel for me and my classes.  And my web based mailing list allows me to communicate directly with people who are interested in my work.

Do you take knitting classes from other instructors?
Absolutely!  I don’t have all that many opportunities but it is always a treat to be a student and, regardless of the topic, I learn things that enrich my own teaching directly or indirectly; as well as me, the private knitter.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in teaching in the knitting world?
If you like being in front of people and also enjoy the alone time developing and preparing for classes (as well as revising your materials continually:), then you may find that teaching knitting can be almost as much fun as knitting itself!  Though I have to admit that teaching has cut into my knitting time – probably in much the same way yarn shop owners find that they have little time knit because there is a shop to manage. I was very fortunate because every experienced knitting teacher I ever approached early on with questions or concerns – and I approached pretty
much everyone whose work I admired – was willing to share their expertise and experience.
Teaching hasn’t made me wealthy financially (I haven’t given up my day job), but it has enriched my life in more ways than I could possibly have imagined.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Evelyn Howard Scarf, and More Secrets Revealed

I've continued working on the design, reached the middle point and started my decreases. I'm loving it, the colour variations are gorgeous and when I lay my gloves against the knitting they look beautiful.

I was innocently knitting away when I  made my first big mistake. Duh, I know better! I didn't do a sample of the final point just before casting off. I got cocky and thought I could wing it at the end working the chart and the knitting together like I did on the first point. So I tore back and tried it a few times eventually getting an acceptable point but not completely symmetrical with the first point. I realized I needed a new mid-point strategy.  I blocked it anyway. I had planned for the point of the triangle to line up with a point in the sawtooth lace but once I got to the end I realized it just wouldn't work because I run out of stitches on the decreases before I get the the right spot to start the final tip of the scarf. Please imagine me banging my forehead on the table in front of me as I type this and repeat to myself that a failure to plan is a plan to fail.

I worked more samples and the corresponding charts are created and I dig through my stash for a fresh skein of sock yarn. Which I then have to swatch to make sure the same needle size will create the same fabric. In the end I'm happy with the fabric even though I get a slightly different gauge.So I started again with Dream in Color's Starry in a Fuchsia colourway called Ruby River. Now I reveal another secret. Yes, I do have gloves to match. I have a thing for coloured gloves. I am a "matchanista", something that only people who have seen me in real life know. 

The exciting conclusion of the Evelyn Howard scarf will be coming soon, as soon as I finish knitting the second sample that is. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Self Promotion and why it's hard for women

I've been reading about marketing lately as I do need to work on plans to get myself more recognized in the knitting world as I grow my pattern portfolio. As I review this material it strikes me how difficult it is for women to market themselves. I catch myself thinking , "Oh, I couldn't do that!" We are typically taught not to promote ourselves in our culture in a way opposite to that of men. I struggle with this as do others. Recently a professional friend with a yarn line apologized  for offering me yarn to work with! I really need yarn support at this point in my designing career and she hesitated to offer it to me... and even worse I didn't  think to ask in the first place. So I wonder why the heck not?

I think is has to do with our society's female style of self effacement, generally accepting recognition is proscribed and we are taught not to show off our special talents.

At my guild I hear designers being criticized for too much self promotion. I've had an ongoing debate with a friend about the professionals in our guild; she feels they should not talk about their business there. I always felt that their presence ups the standard of the guild and gives us all credibility. I think it helps change the general public's view that knitting is something that only little old gray haired ladies do.

This year I agonized about being in the fashion show. I'm not sure I should be in the fashion show because I'm a professional now??? I've been in the show every year except one since I joined the guild. I made the decision to go pro partially based on feedback from members of the guild yet I have the sense I should be excluded now and I can't really articulate exactly why and what's driving my discomfort. I've shown off my knitting every year up until now and always had a lot of fun doing it so why would I stop now?

When I go to social events with my husband other men promote their selves like mad to him. They try to book appointments to see him during business hours and when I asked him if they were annoying him he said to me "of course not, I would do the same thing in their position".

Some time ago a friend was passed over for promotion even though she was more qualified then the colleague who was promoted. She eventually got up the nerve to ask why and was told "because she never said she wanted the job, so no one knew she was interested"

It seems clear that I have to get better at this!

As practice I'm including a picture of one of my own designs in this post and giving the link so you will know where it can be purchased.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Secrets Exposed! The Evelyn Howard Scarf

I meet monthly with a group of Knitting Professionals to socialize, network, support one another and discuss many of the topics that are important to us in the industry. It's been a great experience for me to hear multiple opinions and we get great ideas from each other. Obviously we are a group that feels there is value in promoting one another. We have shared contacts, made introductions, and given one another leads on available work.

I'm not sure why but somehow I developed the idea that I had to keep my projects secret until I published them. We were discussing this at the last meeting and it turns out that I'm not the only one who felt that way. I never analyzed why I felt the need to be so close mouthed about my patterns. I just did it!  I've been convinced by the discussion we had that day that sharing details of my work  is not only not a problem but something my readers would be very interested in. I know from talking with students that some think ideas spring fully realized in the special brains of designers but I can assure that it doesn't work that way. I spend a lot of time swatching, charting, writing and reworking technical details that I feel can be improved upon.

I'm working on a scarf pattern from van der rock yarn that I bought at the Kitchener Waterloo Knitters Fair in September. I chose the colour to go with a pair of purchased yellow leather gloves. The yarn is a sock weight and I wanted to use every little bit of it. Two gorgeous skeins. I decided to use a sideways triangle shape. That meant the design needed to be planned to knit until I almost ran out of the first skein before adding in the second. Yardages can vary slightly from one put up to the next so I planned to transition a little early,  just in case. I knit a sample in garter on a 4mm needle to test gauge and the drape of the fabric and was happy with the first one. One of my goals with my patterns is to try to make each one special in some way, just a little different from the usual version especially with classic type designs. I wanted to make a point to point sideways triangle of garter stitch edged in lace. Most patterns of this type of design have lace edgings only on the bottom edges like this lovely example.

You can get the free pattern for it  here.

I wanted lace on all three sides so that the triangle could be worn with the point at the back with the top straight edge folded over like a collar or with the point at the front and tied at the back so I could tuck it in the open neck of my winter coat and have the edging show at the top against my neck.

I chose a garter based lace edge stitch from one of my stitch dictionaries and cast on my first sample. The first thing I do is learn the stitch pattern well enough to understand it's rhythm so I can figure out how to alter it to suit my needs. Next I flipped the chart, redesigning the edge to be knit in the opposite direction (wrong side), and started that sample. It turned out that I had to create a new transition row to keep the sawtooth yarn overs in the correct alignment. Then I charted and knit at the same time a base triangle point to be the bottom corner of the mini shawl. Finally I was ready to cast on and start knitting. About 4 inches in I realized that I did not like the transition rows where I was working my increases in garter so I added an additional lace column of yarn overs and decreases with the increase on the inside edge and I began testing this on an new scrap yarn sample. On the next sample  I added the column to the opposite edge as well. 

I'm going to post more on this project in a few days once I get to the halfway point of the scarf and I'll include some photo's as well.

In the next exciting episode of Robin's latest design.....LOL!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

14 Reasons Your Gauge Varies

  1. Different needles can change how you knit. The materials they are made from affect "slipablity", the point shape can change how you form your stitches and a 4mm in one manufactures needle may not be exactly the same size as one from a different manufacturer.
  2. Changing from straight to circular needles can change your gauge as you often hold the needles in a slightly different way.
  3. Knitting in the round vs. knitting flat can change your gauge especially in stocking stitch because there are no purl stitches.
  4. Your mood changed because you had a fight with your mother...sister or boyfriend.
  5. You drank a glass of wine or a cocktail.
  6. You are knitting in a different technique and you tense up slightly until you become more practiced and comfortable at it.
  7. Some Knitters make their purl stitches more loosely so a stitch pattern with a lot of purls may need to be worked on smaller needles.
  8. All yarns are not created in the same spinning method even if they are the same weight.So for example one DK yarn may need to worked on a smaller or larger needle to get the correct gauge as compared to another.
  9. Fiber content variations can make you knit a silk vs. wool yarn of the same weight at different gauges.
  10. A large number of stitches on a project can change your gauge from what you got on a  4" swatch.
  11. Knitting becomes more even as it is washed and worn so gauge may change from the original swatch.
  12. The weather can affect gauge, hot humid weather can make the yarn or needles feel different and your hands may perspire or become oily which can impact the manner in which you tension your yarn.
  13. Changing needles sizes can sometimes affect row gauge more than stitch gauge initially and that difference is often ignored by Knitters on the swatch but has consequences on the project in that the knitting shifts as it becomes more even with time, wear and washing.
  14. Spreading your work too far apart along the needles can also cause variations in gauge by creating irregular sized stitches. 
    Remember that you can get gauge in an yarn weight that is inappropriate to your project and create a project that is too stiff for comfort or too loose to stand up to normal wear. Always consider the fabric that you are creating and it's appropriateness for your project.

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    This annoys me!

    I found this posted here . It really annoys me but I think this is a perception about knitting that we are stuck with so I will stop whining now.

    What do you think?

    How Canadians will spend their golden years

    Many call the phase of their lives exciting

    VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) - The first group of Canada's boomers will turn 65 next year, but don't expect them to pull out the knitting needles.  A survey shows they are gearing up and not shifting down.
    Most Canadian boomers disagree with Paul McCartney's song 'When I'm 64.'  They say they won't be knitting by the fire and taking quiet Sunday drives.  The Investors Group poll found about 61 per cent of boomers are looking at retirement as an exciting new stage in their lives.
    While 58 per cent say the lack work means they'll have more time for hobbies and travel.  But about 40 per cent will rely on their spouse for financial support.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    An Interview with...Lorna Miser

    Once a week I post  interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. 

    You can find Lorna here and here on Ravelry. You can find her blog here.

    Where do you find inspiration?
    I like to look at what people are actually wearing, not what “Knitters” are wearing. Just because a design can be accomplished doesn’t mean it doesn’t look like an afghan on a body to a non-knitter. I prefer more wearable garments that make non-knitters say “really? You knit that?!”

    What is your favourite knitting technique?
    I like worsted weight, easy-yet-interesting designs. I am not an engineer, but I do enjoy pretty, wearable garments.

    How did you determine your size range?
    I knit mainly for women and babies. Oh how I love to knit for babies. Perhaps as my grandchildren grow I’ll also start doing more children’s sizes?

    Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
    I don’t really look at other designers. I just don’t have time to look around when there’s so many ideas bursting out of my own head. LOL.

    How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
    I do much of my work myself. Occasionally I get a lot of deadlines at once and hire some knitting help and always use helpers for books. I like to keep my own fingers on the yarn in case a design or math element comes up that I need to address.

    Do you have a mentor?
    I did to get started. My angel’s name was Ida Clendenin. She was almost old enough to be my grandmother yet we felt like sisters where age was of no relevance. She taught me to dye yarn, spin, raise fiber animals, live in the country, love myself, think outside the box, relax, be a bit of a rebel, play with color, kiss llamas, take criticism gracefully, grow old kicking and screaming and love life and God. I am a better person for having Ida.

    How do you maintain your life/work balance?
    My sweetheart works swing shift so I can take mornings slowly, go for a bike ride, do some pattern writing and match, then when he goes to work, I also apply myself to more creative and production work like knitting time. 

    How do you deal with criticism?
    I handle criticism about my work better than I did when I was younger. I know that my style and books is not for everyone. But I’ve learned to separate the “Business Lorna” from the “Personal Lorna”.  Ironically, Facebook has helped with this as I have a personal account and a business page. It helps me keep things in perspective as to who would want or need to know certain information from me.

    How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
    When I had Lorna’s Laces I made a very nice living, in fact, I supported our family of 5 for over a year when I put my husband through Physician’s Assistant school. Later when my marriage was over my now-ex-husband told me I would need to find a “real job”. I was writing my first book and already supporting myself with full time design work. I continue to do so. I believe in myself more than he did I suppose.

    What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
    A career in knitting? I believe designing or teaching are the places to form a career. Find a niche or specialty and become the expert on it. Teach it, write about it, believe in yourself.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Role Models and your Knitting

    Self development guru's often talk about using people who are successful in the way that at you want to be as role models. I think I've done this a lot in my own life by looking at the behavior of others.When I had a job at a large corporation in a huge department of many people performing the same function and all making the same money I was struck by how some struggled from paycheck to paycheck while others seemed to enjoy an apparently different level of abundance in their lives. By asking carefully worded questions I was able to pick up a lot of financial tips (especially the what not to do kind) that I still live by today. 

    When I was trying to lose weight I asked two of my thin friends how they kept  their slim figures as it seemed to be so effortless from my perspective. I got great strategies from both of them and found out that it wasn't effortless. Knowing that is part of the key to searching for your own approach in dealing with these dilemmas in life. 

    I've also been struck by how less successful types will refuse any advice from people who have already accomplished what they themselves want. A unhappy single friend once told myself and and another married friend that we knew nothing about how to achieve a happy relationships because we both already have great husbands. Duh! That really shut the door on us giving any dating advice and she is still unhappily single today. Another told me that I know nothing about how difficult it is to save money because I have private income from my corporate career. Her income is approximately double what I earn yet I still have a larger retirement savings account and the ability to pursue an independent design career.

    Knitting can be a metaphor for life for many of us. Watch your knitting friends and see how they deal with challenges. Do they give up at the first sign of trouble or do they take a course to learn new skills? Do they knit the same garter stitch scarf over and over and complain that they are bored of knitting? Do they explain away the successful projects of others as "well that's easy for you because....or do they ask for advice on how to achieve the same or even better results? Do they keep on trying new methods and refining their skills by practicing? The only way you get better at anything is to challenge yourself on a daily basis and that works for your knitting, your financial management and all other areas of your life.

    Who are your knitting/life skills role models and what could you learn from them?