Monday, April 30, 2012

A Request for my Readers

If you enjoy reading my blog, I'd like you all to know I'm looking for teaching opportunities. If you are attending knitting events, retreats or classes at your local guild and shops please be sure to let the organizers know if you would like to see me at those events. If anyone would like to see a copy of my current class list please email at robinknits(at)gmail(dot)com or you can PM me here on Ravelry.


Friday, April 27, 2012

I think I've made it as a blogger!

I must have crossed an invisible Internet traffic threshold because suddenly I'm getting hit up by all sorts of companies. Some want to put ads on my blog. Some want me to try their products and write about it on my blog. Others are offering me coupon discounts to try their products and asking me to endorse the products if I like them. Still others want me to write for their web sites. I'd love to make some income from my blog as I do spend a lot of time prepping and writing posts but so far none of these offers have been a good fit for me. 

Oddly, the one thing I would like to do is review knitting books because I have very definite ideas about what I like in books. Yet to date, almost no one has sent me a review copy other than two e-books from Cooperative Press. The first I reviewed here and the second is Kate Atherley's book. I  recently interviewed her about the publishing process here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Reaching our Goals

A year ago I set a goal for myself that I was struggling with. I couldn't understand why my efforts weren't being rewarded. I decided I needed to step back, analyze everything I was doing and rethink the process. I started listening to some friends who had the same or similar challenges and I noticed that sometimes they were fooling themselves about why they weren't being successful. They thought that they could somehow cheat the process, of whatever their goal was. I thought about using their excuses/reasons as target areas for me to focus on and fix in my own process. I listened really carefully and made some new rules for myself. They are:

Focus on the goal not the difficulty of getting there.
Find expert help.
Believe in the experts plan. 
Suck it up and do what the experts tells you to do even if you don't want to.
Measure what you want to manage. 
Pick one goal to focus on at a time.
Results occur in direct proportion to efforts but not always on the schedule that you want. Be patient.
Recognize that there are many things in life that you won't like doing but you should do them anyway.
I'm not special, what works for others will work for me.
Don't be too hard on yourself.
Don't be to easy on yourself.

Have I missed any good ones that you use? Please feel free to add them in the comments.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Knitters Concept of Time

Have you noticed that knitters have a different concept of time?  We are typically more patient when waiting for appointments or while traveling from place to place, (as long as we have our knitting with us).

Almost always, the first question from a non knitter is, how long did it take? I think that the longer one knits the less we consider the time component involved in every project. The only exception is when the project has a defined time line like a date for gifting or a publication deadline. Then we go into total denial about how long it will take to knit a given item.

I suspect knitters as compared to the rest of the population, have a better grasp on the concept that tiny actions add up to massive results.They squeeze small amounts of knitting into the little free moments of unoccupied time in their lives and end up with something fantastic!

However the paradox I've just discovered in my theory of a knitters concept of time, turned up when I started an updated list of my stash and suddenly I'm feeling so much little time.

Friday, April 20, 2012

An Interview with...Vera Sanon

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. The second link below is to a site that supports a micro-business project that serves the poorest women in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It is a project that Vera and a partner are hoping to grow. Currently, she is designing patterns for Cascade Yarns as well as her independent designs.

You can find Vera here and here.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find my inspiration from several different sources. I have a son who is a high fashion model who works in New York, Paris, Milan and South Africa. He tends to let me know fun fashion trends within the industry. My Amanda’s Wrap is a result of my conversations with my son, rectangular wraps and ponchos are really hot for Fall 2012.

Sometimes, I see a lace pattern or come across a technique such as the Estonian Braid (lateral braid) and I create a design around the lace or technique. My Bower Cardigan, (picture below) in Knitscene Summer 2012, is designed around a lace stitch and My Ricky for All Seasons (picture below) incorporates the Estonian Braid that I fell in love with.

Other times, I look around the high fashion boutiques or just people watch in Hollywood, where I live. My Favorite Hollywood Vest is an example of my fashion watching in Hollywood.

Also, I look through many fashion magazines from all over the world to keep an eye on trends. My Very Pretty Lace Beret is a result of the current beret fashion trend.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love garments that are constructed from the top-down. I love this technique because the garment can be tried on while it is being knitted and the knitter can make adjustments on-the-go to make a really nice fitting garment.
How did you determine your size range?
I am 6 feet (182 cm) tall and have never been petite. Personally, I wear a size 16/18 or XL. Even as a teenager, knitting, I always had to custom fit my knits since most patterns that I liked were too small for my built. Thus, when I design patterns, I try to design from sizes XS or S up to 4XL or 3XL. I want my knit patterns to fit a variety of sizes. 
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I not only look at other designers’ work, when I just want to knit without having to crunch numbers, etc. I also knit their patterns. Most recently, I knit something from Amy Gunderson, Sarah Wilson (the Sexy Knitter), Stephen West or Jane Richmond because I like their designs.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I learned to knit 40 years ago from my great-grandmother in Germany. In Europe, patterns just give you the minimal amount of information with the assumption that a knitter will know “the rest”. I had the support of my great-grandmother and my mother (who owned a yarn store in Germany) to figure out these skeletal patterns. Other knitters are not so lucky to have that support.
I am a teacher by trade and thus, I love to teach others. In my patterns, I try to teach a techniques or I try to be as detailed in my explanations as possible so that inexperienced knitters can follow along. I also provide a lot of email support to anybody who needs assistance in knitting my patterns.
In my opinion, that is not “dumbing down” a pattern that is giving support to get another knitter to make a pattern that she/he would otherwise not be able to knit.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit all of my samples myself. However, I have an awesome crew of test knitters who live all over the globe, Australia, Thailand, UK, Austria, Germany, Canada, Poland, Russia, aside from the U.S. All together, I have about 16 – 20 regular test knitters.
Did you do a formal business plan?
I do not have a formal business plan, though I try to publish about four patterns per month.
Do you have a mentor?
I have ongoing conversations with other designers. We support and encourage each other, which is something that I really appreciate. Also, I consider the knitters who make my patterns and who contact me, telling me that they love my designs, etc. to be my mentors. I have a group on Ravelry and the encouragement and mentorship from the knitters in my group is incredible. 
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Another designer once mentioned in an interview that residual income from his many patterns is what he strives for. With the Internet, this is very much possible to build a business based on the ongoing pattern sales.
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
I have a design business because of the Internet, or rather because of Ravelry! Personally, I prefer to independently publish patterns and that would be very difficult without the Internet.

Do you use a Tech Editor?
If the pattern is complicated, I will use a tech editor. If a pattern is published through a magazine, the magazine employs a tech editor.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Knitting is my passion! Thus, knitting and designing is not work to me, it is relaxing and fun. My husband is super supportive of my knitting and designing and is probably my biggest fan. My children also know how to knit and to crochet. My youngest two – who are five and six – loom knit. My son and daughter who are 10 and 14, are avid knitters. My daughter who plays college basketball crochets whenever she has a chance. My son who is the fashion model knits as well… So we are a knitting and crocheting family.
Also, in addition to designing, I am the founder and executive director of “Fanm pou Fanm” (Women for Women). We teach crochet to women in Haiti who use crochet to set up small businesses. We also supply the yarn and sell crochet items, such as market bags, in the U.S. and Germany. 100% of the profit goes back to the women. My family and I lived in Haiti and survived the earthquake and resettled in the U.S. but many others did not have that opportunity. So, I am assisting other women in making a living through yarn.
As you can see knitting and crocheting is my life.
How do you deal with criticism?
I try to be receptive to constructive criticism because I can learn from that type of feedback. But, at the same time, each of my designs is like “my baby” and like any mother, we get our feelings hurt if our babies are criticized.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Designing is still my part-time business.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Pursue your dream and treat it like a business.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Are You a Critic or a Cynic

In my path to becoming a professional I've valued the constructive criticism of others. At times I've found it's difficult to get that feedback because people are afraid of hurting my feelings but it's essential so that I can continue to improve. I've realized that there is a big difference between being critical and cynical. Sometimes that has explained why my response has been different based on the source from which it came. One tech editor who helped me to make many improvements to my patterns commented on how well I accepted the information and that she had been worried about sharing her point of view.

"Criticism is doubt informed by curiosity and a deep knowledge of a discipline related to your work. By contrast, cynicism is a form of doubt resulting from ignorance and antiquated ways."
Scott Belsky

His quote comes from a great article here on who we should listen to when we hear criticism.

Dictionary definitions say that "a cynic is a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions and who disbelieves in or minimizes selfless acts or disinterested points of view." and a critic "is a person who judges, evaluates, or analyzes literary or artistic works, dramatic or musical performances, or the like,especially for a newspaper or magazine."

What do you think, have you been aware of the difference or have you responded the same way to all negative comments? 

Monday, April 16, 2012

What Kind of Knitter are You?

Free pattern here

Mary Lou recently said in the comments to one of my posts "Really, what we wear most is simple. What we want to knit is not."

That comment got me thinking about how many of us choose our knitting projects for their challenge. The knitter wants to have an item that is clearly hand crafted by a maker with a skill set that makes the item special. I've also been aware of other knitters who choose projects that look similar to knitted items that are available in retail stores. I know I fall into the first group because my usual reaction to someone asking for a pattern that is like a retail item is, "why when you could make something unique"?

However, I do think that as in all things, balance is the answer. We either need to balance the challenge by choosing a garment project that we can wear and enjoy or perhaps we need to plan the project so that it can be worn with the simplest of our clothing and it can become the star of the outfit. 

So...what kind of knitter are you? Do you want the challenge, do you want a garment you can wear or do you want both? Knowing the answer to this question can only make you happier with whatever choice you make.

Friday, April 13, 2012

An Interview with...Anniken Allis

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 Anniken here and here on Ravelry. Her blog is here.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere. I love watching knitwear that people wear out and about. I’ve been known to follow someone walking down the street to get a closer look at their sweater. I’m also inspired by nature, by magazines, by stitch dictionaries. Sometimes the yarn I’m working with inspires a specific design too.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I like using various techniques but lace is definitely my favourite. The only technique I won’t use is intarsia which I really don’t like. As a teenager/early 20s I knitted several traditional Norwegian ‘fair isle’ sweaters and I love the look of fair isle but I don’t enjoy knitting it quite so much. I’m getting increasingly interested in cables and over the last year I’ve re-discovered garter stitch. Garter stitch is quite often seen as basic and boring but I really like the look of it.

How did you determine your size range?

Most of my garments I design for magazines so I need to provide the sizes the magazines want. Most magazines now want as big a size range as possible which I’m happy to provide although I don’t think all designs necessarily suit all the size ranges requested.

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

I love looking through knitting magazines and read blogs so I definitely look at other designers work. I don’t see anything wrong in being influenced by other designers’ work although I would never copy anyone but sometimes you see a stitch pattern or technique you may want to use or sometimes seeing a design may spark an idea for a design that looks nothing like the original.

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

I’m not sure. I assume that knitters have certain basic skills when they choose to knit a pattern but that’s not always the case. I try to make my patterns as clear and easy to follow as possible. There’s a lot of online resources available these days so my advice to knitters who come across something they’re not sure about is to search online to see if they can find the answer quickly.

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

At the moment I’ve got 3 knitters working for me regularly. I do as much of the knitting as I can myself but when I have several deadlines at the same time I need help. My knitters are fantastic and work very hard. Being a sample knitter is not easy and not everyone can do it. They get the pattern, quite often half written (and it hasn’t been tech edited yet) and without photos of the finished item, so sample knitters need to be able to read between the lines, pick out mistakes, ask questions if they’re unsure of something. I prefer being asked too many questions than not enough. I couldn’t do what I do without my knitters. They’re fantastic.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No I didn’t. I started designing because I didn’t like knitting from patterns. I’d just started a blog and showed off my designs on my blog and readers asked for patterns so I wrote them up. After a while I started approaching magazines. In the beginning I designed mainly socks and lace shawls but after having a few designs published I felt that I had to design garments to be taken seriously. Most of my magazine designs are garments and my self-published designs are mainly lace shawls and accessories. I’m starting to think I probably ought to do a business plan.

Do you have a mentor?

No I didn’t but I have been given advice along the way from designer friends and others in the business. One designer friend in particular introduced me to several editors of British magazines. I think having a mentor is useful when you’re first starting out. It’s difficult to know if the fee you’re being offered is reasonable or which magazines are good to work with and which ones to avoid. Having someone to guide you in those areas would be good.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Not really. I started self-publishing then I spent a couple of years mainly designing for magazines. Now I try to do both. Last year I started selling my patterns through British yarn shops and I’m looking to build on that this year and I’m happy to sell to yarn shops worldwide. I’ve been working through all my patterns to re-do photos, layout etc and I’m slowly getting there but still have several left to do. I’d like to do more self-publishing in the future and I really want to finish my book proposal very soon. It’s been on the back burner for the last 2 years but I’m not getting desperate to do it.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

I wouldn’t be doing what I do without the Internet. With no formal education in design I’m not sure I would be able to get started without the Internet. Having a few patterns published give editors more confidence when you’re first approaching them. My first pattern was published in an online magazine.

Do you use a Tech Editor?

When I first started I relied on test knitters and my magazine designs were tech edited by the magazines but over the years I have realised that even if you’re having your patterns test knitted a tech editor is still important. So yes I do use a tech editor.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

I knit all the time. As long as I enjoy what I’m knitting I don’t mind if it’s weekends or evenings. Working from home means I’m here when my girls get home from school. I try to keep computer work to week days but that doesn’t always work out. This year I’m trying to keep Sundays to non-work knitting so I can knit a bit for myself and my family. So far it’s working fairly well unless I’m close to a deadline.

My family and friends are used to me knitting all the time and I don’t think they mind too much. I do most of my work in the lounge (although I do have a work room) and I think all the knitting paraphernalia annoys my family at times.

I even knit in church services and church meetings. I choose projects that are fairly easy and don’t require any concentration or chart reading. I can knit easily without looking at it for most of the time and our pastor is quite happy with me knitting in church. I find it helps me to concentrate.

How do you deal with criticism?

I’m fairly thick-skinned and try not to take things too personal. You can’t please everyone and not everyone is going to like what I design. I’ve not had any severe criticism so far and most of the feedback I get from knitters is very positive. I think its more difficult to get designs turned down. There are some magazines which I’ve been submitting to several times and keep getting rejected so I’m thinking about giving up on those. Working on design submissions take a long time and some magazines take months to make a decision and get back to you and that can be frustrating. Once I’ve submitted a design I try to forget about it until I hear back.

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

I’m lucky that my husband works full time so my income is not essential but pay for extras mainly. I had been at home with my children for several years after having to give up my office job after a car accident where I sustained a neck injury, and I wouldn’t be able to work in an office so being able to work from a comfy chair in my lounge is the main advantage for me. I think being able to support yourself from just design income is very difficult and I certainly couldn’t. Teaching is much better rate of pay per hour which is why I want to do more of it in the future. It’s also something I love to do.

I also used to self-publish a design and then kind of forget about it. I didn’t put too much effort into promotion. Last year I started to realise that my patterns sales were too low so I made a lot of effort to improve (re-did photography, layout and tech editing) and started promoting my patterns more and sales have been increasing ever since. There’s no point in designing great patterns if knitters don’t know about you. But promotion is difficult and takes a lot of time.

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

Be prepared to work long hours on low pay. Only do it if you love it! If you take into account how long it takes to knit the sample, grade & write up the pattern etc you won’t be making a very good hourly rate. Also, there are a lot of designers now so I think getting noticed and getting published in magazines and books is becoming more difficult. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Matching Silhouette and Fabric takes Experience

When you are creating a garment you need to marry the fabric created with a silhouette that works to compliment, not fight the fabric. How do you best learn to do this you ask? It's a lesson we learn by experience and especially by making mistakes.  A very heavy detailed fabric won’t be flattering or comfortable in a snug, figure hugging shape. A swing shaped over-sized cardigan needs a light flowing fabric or it will hang heavily in folds which we may or may not want. It may make the wearer look heavy by standing away from the body and obscuring your natural contours.

When choosing patterns look carefully at the details and remember you are looking at a photo. You can’t touch the fabric so its properties are a mystery to you. Assess your swatch carefully so that you understand how the fabric relates to the silhouette, especially if you have substituted yarn. The relationship of these two factors is not one that is easily determined in advance. This is why garment makers reuse fabrications and silhouettes that they are familiar with and utilize their past experience with those mediums. To accelerate your understanding of these relationships look at garments in your closet, what other knitters are making and at retail clothing.

“Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.” Fred Brooks

Monday, April 9, 2012

Four Critical Concepts in Understanding Good Fit for Knitters

One - Shoulder Fit is Important to a Flattering Garment
Shoulders are always on the wide side of the range in knitting patterns. The reason for this is that you can wear a sweater with droopy shoulders but narrow ones are not comfortable and they restrict movement. Shoulder seam to armhole placement is absolutely critical to both good fit and flattering garments. Manufacturers frequently make shoulders wider for the same sizing reason which has created a misunderstanding among consumers about correct fit. The outside shoulder seam of your garment should sit on the prominent bony protrusion that is on back of your shoulder, not down on your arm. Lowering this seam results in making your body look wider and your arms look shorter.

Two - Waist Fitting
The back waist measurement is rarely given in knitting patterns. In close fitting garments waist placement is critical to good fit. There are also body types that will want to move the visual waist up or down for figure flattery. In particular long or short waisted bodies may wish to move the waistline to a more proportionally flattering position. Women who have the narrowest part of their torso higher than their waist may also wish to move the waistline up to appear slimmer. Many knit designs that would benefit from waist shaping don’t have it in the pattern because it makes grading very difficult and patterns much longer to write, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t add it on the garment that you are knitting. Be aware that as little as two inches of shaping makes the torso look slimmer.

Three - Sleeve Length is Impacted by Armhole Depth
Sleeve measurements are impacted by the armhole depth. The sleeve sits lower as the armhole gets deeper. Armhole depth has gotten longer over the decades since manufactured clothing became the norm because it means more people can wear the garment. Many pattern makers will tell you that a shorter armhole depth with a narrow sleeve and higher sleeve cap fits better, looks better and allows for fuller range of arm movement on the individual when it is fitted correctly.

Four - You are unique!
Be prepared to adjust and customize every pattern to improve it. Personalize the fit and adapt the pattern to more flattering lines for your shape. Remember the model in the pattern photo likely has a 34 inch bust and probably is taller than you. The garment may have been pinned in ways that you can’t see in the photo. Remember that you are viewing a static photo, not a garment that needs to move with you. Almost everyone can benefit form some customization for both better fit and flattery. Very few real people are the same as the standard sizes that patterns and clothing comes in.

Friday, April 6, 2012

An Interview with...Helene Magnusson

Helene knitting on the top of the new mountain Magni born from the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull (you can't sit too long, it's still hot!)  Photo taken during the Hiking and knitting between Fire and Ice tour

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 Helene here.

Pattern available on Helene's web site

You focus on Icelandic knitting traditions, why does this knitting heritage speak so strongly to you ?
I have a love affair with Iceland that started almost 20 years ago when I first moved to the island. Although I'm a French native, I've always felt home there and found my roots. I studied Fashion and textile design at the Iceland Academy of the Arts so when it comes to design, I consider myself as 100% Icelandic. As a matter of fact, many Icelanders think I'm half Icelandic with French origins! My focus on Icelandic knitting traditions is both a genuine interest I have in knitting, the history of knitting in general and everything Icelandic in particular, and it has quite spontaneously become my specialty. I also enjoy the challenge to frame my work within this particular niche. The Icelandic knitting heritage is very rich and I think the best way to honor traditions is to give them a new life, not just imitate them. I hope this comes through in all the designs published on my website, The Icelandic Knitter, but also in my upcoming book on Icelandic handknits (Voyageurs Press 2012)

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Most people think it's Icelandic intarsia because of my very first knitting book about old Icelandic shoe-inserts and the intarsia tradition unique to Iceland ("Icelandic knitting using rose patterns", Search Press 2009, first published in Icelandic in 2006), but the truth is that what I enjoy most is working with colors and motifs whatever technique is involved.

01 – Autumn 2010 Webzine

How did you determine your size range?
The design usually determines the size range. Some designs will work in little and big sizes, or even really big sizes, some other not. Some designs would need so much alteration to that they look good on both small or big sizes that it would in fact be two different designs with a similar look. I have also started graded according to height, for example coats, dresses or skirts.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Of course, you have to keep yourself up to date. However I think I found my own style a long time ago and my designs are usually recognizable.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
Sorry, I'm not sure what controversy it is...

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I used to knit the prototypes myself but lately I've been using quite many sample knitters. It is a good school as it forced me to be much more rigorous and precise in the design process itself. But if it's a design with a very unusual shape or construction that I'm not completely sure how or even if it will work out, I knit it myself. For example my Flowerpot coat has a very unusual geometric shape: it may look like it's easy but it took many trials to position the arms correctly and cut the shape around the motif in a way that it is flattering to wear.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Sort of but things went a bit out of control with my business growing quickly in directions I wasn't expecting at all, so now I'm working on a new one that involves all the aspects of it.
I have for example created my own yarn label, Love Story, a pure Icelandic fine lace weight wool, probably the softest of the Icelandic wool on the market. I had a pre-launch this winter and it was a huge success with my stock sold out in merely two weeks! I will have some more this spring but the real thing will be next winter when I release my other book about the old Icelandic lace dresses of Aðalbjörg Jónsdóttir. It is to recreate those absolutely stunning dresses that I developed this yarn in the first place.

 Cecile mittens, Helene's modern take on traditional Icelandic cross stitch mittens

Do you have a mentor?
There are a lot of designers, not just in the hand knitting world, I admire but I couldn't call them mentor.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
It is what made it possible in the first place, when I decided to concentrate on hand-knitting back in 2009 and it is what keeps me connected to the knitting world: physically it's fair to say that I'm completely isolated where I live at the moment... But I will be moving back to Iceland next summer after some years spent in continental Europe: I can't wait!

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Of course! Not always for the best unfortunately: I've had a few bad experiences in the past. I'm still on the look out for a tech editor that would be fluent at English, French AND Icelandic! Working with three different languages increases the risk of mistakes being made even after a pattern has been thoroughly edited and tested... it' very stressful...

Helene knitting in a blue lagoon North of Iceland (not THE blue lagoon, far too touristic Helene says!)

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
With three young daughters, it's difficult to go completely over the edge. Without them I would probably have lost my sanity a long time ago! Otherwise mountaineering, hiking in the wild is very important to me. Oh and then knitting! The physical action of knitting is still a relaxing hobby for me (as long as I'm not working on a prototype, then it's all about extra-concentration, over excitement and a fair dose of frogging...).

Theodora knitted doll wearing the peysufot (the traditional Icelandic costume)

How do you deal with criticism?
If it's constructive criticism, very well. It is of course very nice to hear that what you do is great but usually it is the criticism that have made me improved. Then, I have a few designs that I know will bring negative reactions because they are unusual but that I assume completely too.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Although my first knitting book was published in 2006, it is not before 2009 that I embraced the hand knitting world fully. It took about two years to fully support myself and my family.
Before that, I worked as a product designer and a mountain guide.

A group of knitters taking a geothermal bath (during my Magical Icelandic night knitting tour in November: you can see it was snowing...)

Could you tell us a little about the knitting tours you run?
My knitting tours are all about the Icelandic knitting heritage and traditional Icelandic techniques, of course. What a better way to preserve Old traditions than to share them with others in knitting tours? The tours are the promise of an authentic Icelandic knitting and nature experience and I hope I succeed in sharing my passion and knowledge. I would think so since most of my participants either come back or start learning Icelandic or make plans to move!

Knitting is intrinsically part of Icelandic culture, so exploring its culture and breathtaking nature with a knitterly angle is a great way to discover the many faces of the country, a bit away from mass-tourism areas. Some of my most popular tours are my hiking and knitting tours which is something that has never been done before I think - it is a collaboration with Icelandic Mountain Guides: believe it or not, somewhere at the top of a volcano or crossing a glacial river, it can become very clear why Icelandic sheep is so important and how knitting became so popular in Iceland in the 16th century!

I often coordinate my tours with interesting events for knitters happening in Iceland: for example in May, I set up a knitting tour that coincides with the Craft and Design Fair and is a great opportunity to meet in person many Icelandic designers from all over the country. It is also the lambing season in Iceland and it's hard to resist all the cuteness...

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Be aware that your actual knitting time will be seriously reduced...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What is your Style Statement?

I read quite a few fashion blogs and books on style. I recently read Style Statement, written by Danielle LaPorte and Carrie McCarthy. Usually fashion books are a quick read and a visual treat. This one, not so much. It's probably one of the most intellectually based style books I've ever come across. They describe the book as "a lushly illustrated workbook for creating your own personal Style Statement". I was surprised by the amount of serious introspection required to use the book in the way in which it is intended. I ended up taking about 3 weeks to work through the workshops questions as I really needed to mull many of my answers over. Style Statement recommends that you drill down to two words only, the first is 80% of your style and the second is 20%. Their concept is actually larger than fashion, they want the style statement to apply to all aspects of your life, so lets apply it to your knitting.

I often see threads in Ravelry about knitters who are trying to incorporate their knitted garments into their personal style and having difficulty. It may mean that they are knitting the wrong things or just not thinking the project through carefully enough before starting. Sometimes we knit things for the technical challenge and I am not advocating that you should stop doing that. I'm thinking more of the knitter who wants things that they can wear and has had problems figuring out what those projects should be.

I think this is where a style statement can come into play as a useful tool. Many stylists who work with clients have the client think about their vision for themselves. They create an inspiration board or pick a style icon to help narrow and focus the clients choices. It's amazing how quickly you can eliminate choices once you have a basic plan in place that defines where you want to go. It means when you see a pattern that appeals to your aesthetic you ask the question, does it fit in with the overall plan that you have developed for yourself.

Sometimes it’s easier to examine your current style and then establish the style you would aspire to have, as an exercise in establishing your own preferences. Just write down whatever adjectives apply to your current wardrobe. Go through the same process for the style you aspire to, and make a list of  five to ten adjectives for each of them. I like a longer list to work from especially while you are just starting this process.  As an example, would you describe yourself as classic, preppy, artsy, goth or sporty? It helps to ask other lifestyle questions as well. Do you work in a corporate job, are you a full time care giver for family or are you self employed? What items make sense to your lifestyle? What is your figure like? Can you wear almost anything or do you have specific figure concerns that have an impact on the clothing you choose for either camouflage or reasons of flattery? Give some thought to your favorite clothing especially the knitted pieces. Think about  what you like about these items. Why do they make you feel good? What commonalities do they share? Are there similar weights of yarn, silhouettes, or colours? Thinking about these details will help to give your knitting a more focused direction, and save you the frustration  of making a beautiful garment that you just never end up wearing. Your final step is to start assessing your pattern choices with your style statement in mind. You may need to do something as simple as choosing yarn colours that work with your existing wardrobe or it may be a more complex fix of matching the vibe of the garment more closely to your own whether that means choosing a classic cable cardigan or a romantic shawl.

BTW: my style statement turned out to be Refined Bold.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Why Knitting Patterns Don't Always Fit

Many knitters are frustrated by the amount of time they spend on making what turns out to be a poorly fitting garment. They chose the pattern size to knit based on their bust measurement which doesn't always work. The reason for this is that sizes get larger not with the assumption that bigger sizes carry more body fat or a fuller bust line, but with the assumption that the underlying bone structure is larger. This impacts both the plus size woman as well as the woman who is well endowed. Plus sizes in retail don’t just make things bigger they adjust all the other proportions as well at varying rate of increase. Many knit designers are using the Craft Yarn Council measurements as a guideline. You can check their website for further details.

These measurements are limited, for example there are no neckline standards for designers to follow. They also seem to be based on very tall bodies judging by their armhole depth and back waist measurements. I've wondered if perhaps these are model measurements for samples? Stats Canada says the average woman is 5 ft. 3.4 in. Take note that the sizing charts from the council do not include information about height. Knitting patterns in general assume that front and back proportions are exactly the same but they are not on most people. Our upper arms are bigger at the back, our side to side measurements don’t equal one half our total measurement and the most obvious differences are at the bust lines and tummies and hips.

Arms, armholes and torsos don’t get longer as people get wider but patterns do!  The industry expectation is that you lengthen as size increases because sizing assumes a thin body. It’s also easier to wear clothing that is too long rather than items that are too short. Many designers agree that this is wrong but no one has come up with a better alternative. Which is why I think we are struck with the current sizing standards.