Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sewing Knitted Hems in Place

Socks with a picot hem (this version is knit top down but it does show the effect of a hem).

The free pattern is here

I love when my knitting group asks me questions because I'm always astounded at how much I know already and how much more there is to learn when I research the questions. I think that's the reason I've been knitting for so long yet I never gotten bored with the process.

Miss A asked me about how to sew down a hem at the top of a toe up pair of socks. I've done bottom up hems that you close up by knitting the stitches together but I've never done a hem at the top before. I immediately went to my Vogue knitting book (you all have a technical reference book of course and if you don't please get one). There are also some great on-line resources and for this topic please look at Her site is fabulous and her illustrations are amazing.

My Vogue book showed the hem being whip stitched in place but they also had a herringbone stitch variation that I will have to test on a sample. I have a few other quick tips on this topic. I would change to a smaller needle size after completing the turning row (usually one row of purl stitches in a stocking stitch pattern) to be sure the inside hem is slightly smaller than the outside if your project.One, after completing your cast off row keep a long tail to do the sewing with rather than start with another strand of yarn and then having more ends to darn in. I would turn the sock inside out and use hair clips or paper clips to hold the hem in place and lightly steam to flatten the knitting out before starting to sew. I would follow one row of stitches to use to sew into on the body of the sock being careful not to stitch to tightly and I would work into a single loop of each alternate stitch of the cast off row. Does anyone have any more good tips to share?

Monday, December 21, 2009

The International Society of Yarn Snobs

If you are on Ravelry check out this thread about yarn snobbery. There are over 600 postings and close to 5000 views so you know Knitters find this a controversial topic. The original poster (JezebellGray) said "I was at my LYS the other day and with my husband, we were talking about the sock yarn I bought, how it was acrylic, so that I knew his aunt couldn’t felt or shrink them after I’d worked so long to finish them. I got a snotty look from the woman in line ahead of me, and a “Acrylic yarn is for people who craft junk, not knitters.” I was shocked by that attitude and not sure what to say. Has anyone else had an experience where they were made to feel “second class” just because they knit with acrylic?"

We all have different reasons for choosing a yarn to work with and the good news is that we have so much variety now that knitting has become popular again. I come from a family of Knitters and I can tell you without a doubt that if my Mother was still alive she would kill for some of the gorgeous yarns I have been able to knit with.
Care is often a consideration, many of us knit gifts or donations that we know will be machine washed and dried. Allergies can be another concern not every one can comfortable wear natural fibers. Cost can impact your choices, especially right now with the current recession and high unemployment numbers. Sometimes we choose a yarn because we fall in love with a colour instead of a fiber. Not all of us have access to great yarn stores and Internet shopping means we can't decide based on touch if we like a yarn. Some live in climates that determine what fibers we will be most comfortable wearing. Certain projects call for very specific yarns and less experienced Knitters often like to use the yarn a pattern called for to ensure that their results are the same. Some knitters prefer to use Eco-Friendly Yarns for political reasons. Others are anti-wool for animal protection reasons. Still more want to use yarns that are created from recycled materials.

I wonder if some Knitters are concerned with the devaluation of knitting? Is that why people get so judgemental about the materials? Perhaps they feel that only luxury yarns justify their time in the eyes of the non-knitting world? Most people (non fiber types) don't know the difference between synthetic versus natural fibers and some will argue the definition anyway. Rayon fibers are often disputed as they are a natural fiber processed in the manner of a synthetic. So what is this snobbery really about? Knitting with acrylic can't really be so bad can it? Any ideas?

Friday, December 18, 2009

An Interview with....Dorothy Siemens

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. Dorothy gets a special mention because she was kind enough to spend time talking with me last year while I was in the process of making the decision to pursue my own knitting career.

You can find Dorothy here and here on ravelry.

Here is a picture of Dorothy's new design, called Gloriana, not available until January:

Where do you find inspiration?

I like to look through knitting, fashion and home decor magazines. If I'm shopping, I'll check out the fashions to see what's in style or get ideas for shaping. Sometimes I'm inspired by nature, such as with my Fern Glade Shawl. I've been known to pause a TV show to get a quick photo of a garment worn by one of the actresses! All of these ideas and influences percolate in my head, so I often seem to get ideas right out of the blue, but I know that my subconscious has probably been thinking about it for awhile.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
It's probably obvious with my designs - lace, of course!

How did you determine your size range?
I try to provide as wide a range of sizes as possible, but much depends on the pattern or repeats of a particular design. Therefore, even though I use standard sizing charts, my designs will vary in the way they're sized. Shawl and scarf designing is easy as there is only one size necessary for the most part.

Do you look at other designers work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Yes, I do look at other designers' work. I often find it inspirational (or envy-making - why didn't I think of that?). I never use another designer's idea but it can become a spring-board for my own ideas.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I design what I like to knit and wear myself. I consider myself an experienced knitter, so many of my designs reflect that. When I do something simpler, it is because I crave a simple, meditative project for myself. I think it is very important for knitters to challenge themselves with increasingly complex projects, as that is how we learn, and that is how we get to the point where we can tackle those "oh, wow!" projects.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I now knit all my samples myself. I find that I often make changes as I work, so that gives me more control over the project. I don't have so many things going at once that I need to use a sample knitter. Plus, I love knitting the samples myself!

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, I didn't. When I got started, it was as a side-line to my graphic design and illustration business. I went into it thinking that if it brought in a bit of extra money and was fun to do, that was fine. As the business grew, I took steps that made sense at the time. I am still rethinking my business all the time, and find that in this competitive climate, you have to be able to be flexible.

Do you have a mentor?
Not any more. But I would say that people who helped my get started and taught me important things in knitting were Sally Melville, Fiona Ellis and Margaret Stove.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
I would not have this business without the Internet - it is crucial.

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Always, on every pattern. Since I knit all my samples myself and then write up the patterns, it is absolutely necessary to have another set of eyes go through the pattern with a fine-tooth comb. My tech editor makes sure all the measurements work, the math is correct, and the charts are error-free. I rarely publish a pattern with an error, although it can happen. But the likelihood is greatly reduced.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I take care of business on weekdays just like a regular office. I have been in that habit for years because I have been self-employed for so long. I confess though, that evenings are for sample knitting. You can't run a business and do all that knitting in eight hours a day!

How do you deal with criticism?
It's difficult, although it doesn't happen often, thank goodness. I have an artist's ego, which means that even though I am pretty sure of myself, I can be hurt when someone criticizes my design - it is like they are criticizing me! But you just shake it off and move on.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Support myself? Are you joking? Thank goodness my husband makes a decent living! Okay, some years are better than others, and I could just manage to scrape by if I had to, but the truth is, you don't get rich being an independent knitting designer.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
If you are going to be an independent designer like myself, then be prepared to be poor unless you have another source of income, or you work very, very hard. When you make your hobby your work, it becomes just that - work. Fun work, but work nonetheless!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Make it Flatter - Your Bone Structure and What that Means

I watch What Not to Wear (both the American and British version) & as well as Tim Gunn's Guide to Style

I love watching the fashion improvements the experts make and how so many people blossom in ways that are more than just about the clothes. Their self esteem goes up and they are more confident by the end of the process.

I think part of the reason it's so hard to make these improvements by ourselves is that the presenters don't always clearly articulate exactly how they make their determinations of what looks good on different body types. We are all very emotional about our appearance so what we need are objective standards rather than aesthetic determinations. Often I will hear someone say that accessories and the size of prints should be related to our size but I'm never quite sure how to decide what that should be. I'm 5'2" so I worry about overwhelming myself with large accessories, but I often get compliments on the bigger bolder pieces. This weekend I finally figured out why. I'm reading a book called Fabulous Fit by Judith A Rasband and Elizabeth L. G. Liechty. It's for sewers but I'm trying to develop some fitting adjustments for a class I'll teach in the future. They have a great chart on bone sizes as they relate to height which I will share with you. It turns out that while I am petite as determined by my height I have a large bone structure. I hope this helps you to flatter your figure as well.

Petite Height (under 5'4")
Wrist Measurement 5 1/2" or less - Small bone size or frame
Wrist Measurement 5 5/8 - 6" - Medium Bone Size or Frame
Wrist Measurement 6 1/8" or more Large Bone Size or Frame

Height - Medium (5'4" - 5'7")
Wrist Measurement 5 3/4" or less Small Bone Size or Frame
Wrist Measurement 5 7/8" to 6 1/4" Medium Bone Size or Frame
Wrist Measurement 6 3/8" or more Large Bone Size or Frame

Height - Tall (Over 5'7")
Wrist Measurement 6" or less -Small Bone Size or Frame
Wrist Measurement 6 1/8" to 6 1/2" Medium Bone Size or Frame
Wrist Measurement 6 5/8" or more Large Bone Size or Frame

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tech Editors and Why I Need One

A regular reader asked the question about exactly what a Tech Editor does?

I acquired my editor when Julia Grunau of told me I needed one. At that point I didn't really know what I should expect to get from one either. How did I find her you ask? I went to my guild meeting and asked someone if they knew any and was immediately pointed to someone I had chatted to several times in the past. Today as a member of I would use the forums for recommendations to find one.

As to what she does for me? My editor has turned out to be worth her weight in gold. I bounce ideas off her. I ask all sorts of questions that are helping me transition to becoming a professional designer. I have to answer her questions about my patterns which often clarify exactly what I'm trying to express to other Knitters. She keeps me in line with generally accepted pattern writing standards. She also edits a number of other BIG NAME designers so I know that I'm being pushed up to their standards. She helps me determine what level of knitter can knit my design and makes suggestions for making the pattern accessible to more levels of knitting experience. It was my Editor that confirmed to me my name not a company name should be on all of my patterns. We also discuss trends in yarn buying and what people are interested in knitting. She has helped me to figure out my weaknesses (publishing and graphics) and my strengths (my understanding of garment construction and fitting).

When she works on the pattern she corrects my grammar. She makes all of the formatting consistent. She checks all of my numbers for grading and yarn requirements. She recently caught an error on a yarn distributors site on the colour name and number not matching up with the ball band. They fixed the site after I let them know. She has described her process as mentally knitting the pattern and if something doesn't make sense to her she picks up her needles and does a quick sample of that portion. She also has the ability to reverse engineer from a garment or to all the grading if I choose to write only one size. She has also given me many suggestions to improve my patterns so that I can cut down on editing costs, which is money out of her pocket!

She has been very encouraging about my work from our first meeting which is wonderful for me as a "newbie"

Saturday, December 12, 2009

An Interview with Jill Wolcott

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.

Where do you find inspiration?

Like all designers I tend to find inspiration everywhere. I look at fashion a lot and get shape and silhouette from there. As a creative person I find travel, music and art are crucial to keeping the creative juices flowing.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I consider myself a knitting generalist because my favorite technique is always whatever I’m currently or planning. I’m fascinated by counterpanes and by extrapolating a stitch pattern into variations, but I don’t have a special area that I focus on. I do get a bit obsessed, but then I move on.

How did you determine your size range?
When Y2Knit began doing a line of patterns I established our size range of XS to XL; we do some plus sizes but I don’t usually have enough time to write things in more than one size range. I created our sizing chart based on a combination of standard measurements, ready-to-wear sizing, and my observations over many years. I do a medium as my sample. It helps that I’m a medium and I’ve been working in that size about 35 years! I should add that I really try to do designs that work on many figure types—and if someone is being left out of Y2Knit sizing, it is probably the younger knitter.

Do you look at other designers work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I don’t pay too much attention to other knitwear designers. I don’t knit other patterns but I do look at knitting magazines. I’m too involved in my own process!

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

I’m not sure what is meant by “dumbing down” patterns. I know there is a school of thought where the knitter should be able to figure things out for themselves. I tend not to agree with this because it assumes that every knitter has the same body of knowledge, is able to process information the same way, and is looking for the same thing from a pattern. In addition to designing I am also a teacher at a design college and teach knitting classes. There are so many types of learners and knitters that nothing is going to suit everyone. The knitter who needs a pattern just as a guide is probably not my target customer. I want the knitter to know what I did to get the result I did. I don’t think it is fair to say “cast on” when there is a specific cast on which got the pictured result; perhaps it is ego, but I assume that as the “expert” it is reasonable for the knitter to get that information from me. Now they are welcome to do whatever they want, but I’m going to let them know how I did it so they can make an informed choice.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have three to five people who knit for me. Every sample knitter is a bit different, so I try to match projects to knitters. I have one very special sample knitter who I keep working all the time. She is a perfect foil for me and she has allowed me to really grow as a designer by doing the actual execution and leaving me to figure out how.

Did you do a formal business plan?
We (Y2Knit) did a formal business plan—and won a contest with it! It wasn’t exactly what our business ended up being, but we did do a plan. We spend time doing on-going planning every year, but finding time to plan is one of the most challenging parts of being a business owner.

Do you have a mentor?
I don’t have a mentor. I have always done things on my own but got encouragement early on that gave me the courage to go forward. I’m fortunate to have a business partner (my sister, Susan) who does most of the stuff I don’t/won’t do. I am also supported by my spouse who believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I’m not sure that occurred to us! I’m more likely to look at other businesses and say “I don’t want to do that” than to model. I do a lot of reading and thinking about business and marketing in general and specific to Y2Knit and I try to keep an eye out for opportunities and ideas that might translate for Y2Knit.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The biggest impact is that it allows Susan and I to operate as if we were in the same place without having to be. The other huge impact for us is the ability to market. It is also a huge distraction and must be used wisely.

Do you use a Tech Editor?

I do use a tech editor. I’ve used a lot of them because I haven’t always enjoyed working with them—or they with me! I finally asked someone I knew if they’d give it a try and we work really well together. It is someone who has used my patterns and seems to understand how my mind works. We also share a similar sense of humor—that may be the secret.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
What’s that? I totally struggle with it and don’t feel I’m winning. I always say that I’m fortunate that my spouse works so hard or else he’d be offended at how much time I spend working (like he doesn’t notice when things aren’t getting done!). When a hobby becomes a job you have to find other things to do for relaxation. I have to admit that I’m not great at that because knitting uses so much of my time. Even though I don’t knit samples, I am always knitting swatches and trying out new ideas.

How do you deal with criticism?
Depends, if it is constructive I appreciate it. Otherwise, it is easier to take the older I get.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I don’t. I teach part time and Y2Knit does Events, Susan and I wrote and published a book (YNotKnit: step-by-step instructions for Continental knitting), Susan has a yarn shop, I do online classes, etc., so the designing is just a piece of our business.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Only do this if you love it. First, you give up your hobby; second, you work all the time; third, whether or not you are successful isn’t always under your control; and almost no one understands what you really do.

Friday, December 4, 2009

An Interview with....Joanne Yordanou

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 Joanne here

Where do you find inspiration?

I am a very visual person. I can be inspired by a lines in art or a great photograph. I am a complete magazine junkie and can be also inspired by a cuff or neckline off the runway. Also, home décor magazines are a great source for ideas. But my best work is born of the sub-conscience. I wake up with an idea and jot it down before it’s gone.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I love to cable; very rewarding knitting. I also appreciate the easy stitches that give a big bang for the effort, such as slip stitch patterns. I also love to embellish. I will often challenge myself to add a little whimsy to a pattern, especially with children’s patterns, which is always fun.

How did you determine your size range?
I use Standards for sizing. I will offer as many sizes as is “right” for the pattern silhouette and suitable for body types.

Do you look at other designers work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I will always admire other designer’s work and will often think “ I wish I thought of that”. However, it is fairly easy to appreciated a beautiful project and not let it influence your own work. Often times, you are in a completely different head zone for designing, than what you may be admiring. For example, I saw a unique shawl collar pattern a few days ago that I was taken by (again wishing I thought of it). But I am working on an intricate scarf pattern now and working that out of my system, so it is more a case of “hats-off” to the other designer.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I was trained by the Patons Design Studio and the more info you can give a knitter, the better. I don’t want to ever assume the level of knitter, even though we suggest a level for a pattern. Really, if your instructions are informative, an intermediate knitter could do an experienced pattern. The experience knitters among us will easily scan the pattern and filter out what they don’t need. However, I will say that the pattern is simply that – instruction of how to knit the item. It isn’t a learn to knit book.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I always use test knitters as the more eyes on a pattern, the less error. I have many I have used that I met from my days at Patons or from Knitting Guilds I have presented to. I am always looking out for new experienced knitters in my area – just west of Toronto – in case you’re out there!

Did you do a formal business plan?
I do or rather I did when I started out. Now I just know what I need to do from years of experience. The plan changed over the years and I may insert a new idea or direction from time to time. But I highly recommend one to start out. It will maintain your focus.

Do you have a mentor?
Not so much anymore. One of my best editors and knitters lived 2 doors away – Joyce. She was a fantastic knitter and a stickler for details. She taught me to be a stickler too. I don’t assume anymore. I check and recheck, over and over. It is so easy to miss an error or typo. Joyce was for me, a mentor of editing. She passed away recently and I will miss her very much. But she left with me the habit of slowing down to be efficient with review.
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Nope, just mine

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Huge. I have been able to reach knitters all over the world. I get a kick when I hear from a knitter in Germany, Australia or other reaches of the world - some I have never heard of! Since I offer patterns on my web site, I have learned the value of sites like Ravelry and the strong connection of knitters on the www.
Do you use a Tech Editor?
Almost always.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I have a very busy family life. Both of my daughters are athletes and most of my life is spent in gyms. I recently gave up a part-time job to work on my next book. Carving out time for designing and knitting is always a challenge. I loves quiet days when I can devote a whole day to designing. It is even better when I can get 3-4 designs out of a weekend; patterns written. I am often knitting while my husband drives to games or tournaments. The games are too exciting to knit there! During the summer, I am at the cottage and there I have my favorite chair that looks out onto the water. It is my most peaceful knitting!
How do you deal with criticism?
The knitting community is a very friendly one. Once in a blue moon, you will read something or hear something that can produce a gray cloud above your head. But, it is water off a duck’s back. You have to move on from it.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
My husband supported me while I built my own business. I worked for Patons beforehand and then I launched Baa Baa Knits, which is now My husband always “had my back” on slow months. So, I wouldn’t say I ever supported myself. Rather, I contributed to the family.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Think big! Believe you can and don’t take rejection too personally. Celebrate what you can.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

82 Ways to Become a Better Knitter

  2. Knit a larger than 4" swatch.
  3. Take a course.
  4. Buy a technique book.
  5. Find a mentor.
  6. Develop a relationship with your LYS.
  7. Use the Internet for video instructions.
  8. Acquire the right tools (needles and notions).
  9. Try different types of needles.
  10. Get a good light to knit by.
  11. Make knitting friends.
  12. Join a Guild.
  13. Choose an new technique to learn once a week.
  14. Go to retail knitting shows.
  15. Learn to understand ease.
  16. Examine the schematic carefully.
  17. Measure yourself frequently.
  18. Assess your shape and adapt patterns to flatter it.
  19. Join the TKGA Master Knitter Program.
  20. Choose challenging projects on purpose.
  21. Learn to knit backwards.
  22. Learn everything you can about the various fibers.
  23. Read knitting blogs.
  24. Teach someone else how to knit.
  25. Set specific challenges for yourself, as an example learn 6 ways to cast on.
  26. Go to a Knitting Retreat.
  27. Read the classic Knitters like Elizabeth Zimmermann.
  28. Read the contemporary Knitters like Cat Bordi.
  29. Learn how to knit Continental style or English style, which ever is different from your current technique.
  30. Felt something (on purpose).
  31. Learn to knit socks.
  32. Knit something you wouldn't knit for yourself as a gift.
  33. Learn how to do Entrelac.
  34. Read all of the posts on
  35. Learn to knit top down as well as bottom up.
  36. Join Ravelry.
  37. Read the online Knitting magazines (Twist Collective and Knitty).
  38. Swatch for the sake of swatching.
  39. Learn to knit 2 handed Fair Isle.
  40. Take a finishing class.
  41. Learn how to read knitting charts.
  42. Study how colours work.
  43. Knit a moebius.
  44. Learn the vocabulary of Knitting.
  45. Knit socks toe up if you normally knit them toe down.
  46. Knit with beads.
  47. Make sure your sleeves are the right length. Use this handy calculator
  48. Don't change needle mid project.
  49. Buy more than one needle sizer. You will misplace the one you have.
  50. Carry a yardage chart when buying yarn, here's a free one
  51. Always check that the dye lots are the same yourself.
  52. Learn how to substitute yarns.
  53. Learn how to calculate yards to meters or in reverse.
  54. Look at Vintage patterns.
  55. Always check for errata when you start a pattern.
  56. Don't assume the pattern is right look for errors.
  57. Don't assume the pattern is wrong look carefully at your technique.
  58. Look closely at the photograph of the garment, have they pinned it at the back?
  59. Try different methods to increase and decrease.
  60. Try a different medium, sew, embroider, paint or anything else and apply what you learn back to your knitting.
  61. Knit chemo caps or items for the homeless.
  62. Remember that the model in the picture is usually a 34" bust.
  63. Read the technique book, don't wait until you have a problem to fix.
  64. Knit gloves (with fingers).
  65. Get the books about knitting you can't afford out of the library.
  66. Learn to duplicate stitch.
  67. Learn to graft stitches.
  68. Knit sculptural things like a Teddy Bear or another toy.
  69. Learn to cut your knitting (steeks, after thought pockets or heels).
  70. Learn to short row.
  71. Learn more than one type of thumb construction.
  72. If you get frustrated with something put it down and go back to it the next day.
  73. Look at how your purchased garments fit or don't fit you. Those are the areas you will need to adjust when you knit from patterns as well.
  74. Keep a nail file in your knitting bag, you can use it to fix a rough spot on a wooden needle and file a rough nail that is catching on your yarn.
  75. Learn what correct and incorrect stitch orientation means.
  76. Learn to knit Brioche.
  77. Wash your hands before you start knitting especially when working with light coloured yarns.
  78. Learn more than one way to join your yarn.
  79. Know that dye colour may affect gauge. Black is the most noticeable making yarn thicker.
  80. Work on controlling your gauge. It is important for unusual stitches and to avoid tension changes when you are stressed out.
  81. Remember that even a novice Knitter can teach you a technique you have never seen before.
  82. Do a swatch!