Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Designer Secrets - The Drop of the Fabric

Occasionally I read postings on Ravelry about garments that "grew" after completion. My next pattern is for a scarf that gets longer once it is worn as it is a lengthwise design. I've included a note to warn the knitter about the difference between the flat and the hanging gauge.

I have a shawl that I made from a novelty yarn a few years ago and I wear it as a scarf as well because just turning it and letting it hang... completely changes its gauge. During the last poncho craze I tied two edges together with black satin ribbons and wore it as a poncho. Take a look at the photo at the top of the posting and the one just below for comparison. You wouldn't think a piece of knitting could change that much would you?

Drop is often a problem for many Knitters and the first time they encounter this property of knitted fabric it is an unwelcome surprise. The knitting lengthens due to the hanging weight of the fabric. It also becomes much narrower. On a garment the body inhibits this property to some degree but it means that sleeves can become too long and hems end up in unintended places. Shoulders can narrow on sleeveless tops or pull down being dragged out of placement by the weight of the sleeve. The amount of drop can vary and is due to the stitch pattern, the yarn fiber, the density of the knitting, the size of the garment and the direction of the knitting construction. The drop is more pronounced at the top of a garment than it is at the bottom meaning that the designer may use more than one gauge for the various parts of the design. A cap sleeve could be based on a flat gauge while the body might be based an a hanging swatch with weight added to simulate the weight accumulating over the length of the garment body.

Yarn substitutions of different fibers can create this problem on a pattern that would have had no drop with its original yarn choice. Patterns normally adjust for drop but the specifics are hidden between the details of gauge, the knitting instructions and the finished measurements and can lead to Knitter dissatisfaction with the end product. Samples are rarely knit in every size and that is the only way to be sure how drop will affect each one. Most samples are knit for 34" bust sizes so the adjustments for the larger sizes are done mathematically on a percentage basis. It may mean that the drop will be much greater on larger sizes.

Has this happened to you?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Knitty Yarn Roundtable

Last Thursday I attended my first yarn tasting event at The Purple Purl. It's put on by Knitty and was a great deal of fun. More than 25 Knitters assembled to test and comment on 5 different yarns. We all rotated around the shop from table to table knitting the yarn at each station and then each of us filled out a review with our comments on the yarn. The feedback will be collected and then posted to Knitty. Here's an example of the information they share.

The Purple Purl is in the east end of Toronto and I live in the west so I had not been into the shop before. I had seen them at both the DKC Knitters Frolic and the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitters Fair. The shop is lovely and is a cafe as well so you can have a drink and a snack while you ponder your potential purchases there. The staff is very friendly and relaxed and makes everyone feel welcome. They have a good amount of stock and a number of sample garments are displayed around the store. They also have a sign at the front which proclaims that they are crochet friendly as well.

As we moved around the tables I got to chat with a number of Knitters which of course is always fun to do. Most of the talk was of the G20 conference going on in the city. Our downtown has been heavily impacted by the security arrangements and a few Knitters canceled due to traffic restrictions. I also met Kate Atherley in person who is Fridays interview. Kate and I have had a number of email conversations so I was delighted when she suggested in one that we met for coffee to talk in person a few weeks from now. I didn't know she would be attending the event so it was fun to have a pre-meeting before our coffee date.

At the end of the evening there is a draw and I went home with a copy of The Alchemy of Color Knitting. There were a number of books, knitting accessories and skeins of yarn in the draw so everyone went home with something. I hope to attend this event again in the future as I really enjoyed it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

An Interview with...Shannon Okey

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 Shannon at

Where do you find inspiration?

It sounds cliched, but EVERYWHERE. I'll give you a funny/gross example:">Exploded View was inspired by frog dissections. The thought of 'opening up' the sweater to allow for some really cool user-friendly customizations was appealing, and then I worked out a way to make it function nicely as a pattern. I really love printed fabric, although I don't do a lot of colorwork knitting -- if nothing else, seeing new color combination's helps give me ideas for new ways to juxtapose color and texture.

What is your favorite knitting technique?

I love cables.">Rivulet, my most popular sweater pattern, uses cables for its shaping, which is something I like to do as it's both visually interesting and functionally useful. I have plans for some more extensively cabled design patterns in my design notebook at the moment, it's just a question of when I'll have time to work on them.

How did you determine your size range?

I try to offer the broadest possible size range I can or, barring that, I write my patterns in such a way that they encourage the knitter to think and to do his or her own customizations for a perfect fit. When I was editing [UK-based monthly print knitting magazine] Yarn Forward, our size range was 30-50" on EVERYTHING, and we were making moves towards expanding the range even higher as I left. I'm not a small person, I am firmly on the plus side of the scale right now, so I really do sympathize with the majority of knitters who are in the same boat. I think it's important to offer a broad range of sizes so long as it doesn't have a material impact on the design itself.

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

Of course I do! I think anyone who says otherwise is being disingenuous. Even if you don't sit down and study other handknit designers' patterns, you can't help but be influenced by the designs you see in fashion magazines, on runways, etc. I don't fear being influenced by another designer's work -- I work my own way, I have my own process, and presumably so does everyone else. You can't help but come up with different end results. Similarities are usually the result of a greater overall trend at work; for example, the large number of 'infinity scarf'-type patterns last fall.

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

I don't agree with dumbing down anything for anyone, and especially not knitters! Knitters are clever people. They do, however, consistently underestimate their abilities. I see this again and again when I teach, and it's very frustrating for me. In the larger scheme of things, I think that everyone who is providing patterns to the knitting world -- be they individual designers or large publishing companies or somewhere in between -- they need to acknowledge that publishing the same old thing over and over does no one a favor. My personal joke is that there are too many "50 Easy Projects for Size 50 Needles!" books out there and not enough Teva Durham/Norah Gaughan/etc-level books that challenge knitters and push the medium forward. I want to see less of the former and a lot more of the latter!

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

It varies. I have a few sample knitters who work for me off and on, and I've hired outside firms such as">Fair Trade Knitters when a deadline did not permit doing all the work myself. I do knit a lot of my own samples but I'm actively working on moving away from that so I can increase my output.

Did you do a formal business plan?

I have a business plan but I'm not so sure you'd call it formal! A bank manager would probably fall over reading it. (Though, for the record, my bank manager did let me videotape a promotional video for my new book with $1000 in one dollar bills stacked up next to a garden gnome, so maybe mine's more open-minded than most). I find my accountant to be a very good source of pushes-in-the-right-direction when we do the taxes every year.

Do you have a mentor?

Yes and no. I've had mentors for specific aspects of my business and life as a designer -- for example, I call Jillian Moreno my 'fairy knitmother,' because she really helped me out when I was signing my first book deal contracts. I do, however, have a small private mailing list of other designers to call on when I have questions or problems, and that's been invaluable -- we can help each other out on tough problems, or even just serve as a cheering section for one another as needed. I also find that some of the other designer-focused mailing lists I'm on serve a mentor-like purpose, too, but only the private one will really open up on a public forum when the subject is touchy.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

No. I started full time design work in 2004 when I simultaneously signed 2 book deals at once (Knitgrrl, and Knitgrrl 2). I then went on to write, edit or co-author 10 other books. It's only recently that I've moved towards the single-pattern-sales model that is more common these days. If anything, I've done it the reverse way that one would expect!

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

The internet is and will continue to be a major part of my business. My knitting website split off from my personal one in 2004, and I was blogging about knitting on the personal site even before that. You could say I was an early adopter, technology-wise. Being a part of Knitty at the beginning definitely helped as well. And now, with Ravelry, and my">online teaching website, I find the internet to be an integral part of the way I not only make my living, but also communicate with the knitters who make up my audience.

Do you use a Tech Editor?

Absolutely. I can't imagine NOT using a tech editor. That way lies ruin...

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

This is something at which I am very very bad, if you're looking at it from the outside in. My work IS my life, more or less. I am constantly thinking about it, constantly scribbling down notes to myself or sending an email about something or planning a new project, or... However: I have started a new "no computer on weekends" rule which my boyfriend calls "Shannon's Amish on weekends." This also encourages me to pull out the needles and experiment instead of concentrating on clearing my inbox and any number of other tasks I have to do.

How do you deal with criticism?

That depends on what kind of criticism it is. If it's warranted (there's a problem with a pattern, whatever), then I accept it, make whatever changes or fixes are necessary, and move on. If it's not warranted, I ignore it. "Phantom disagreers" on Ravelry? Not worth worrying about. Complaints about the facilities where a class was held? Unless I'm in charge of that facility or event, it's not something I had control over, so I can't change things -- sorry. I constantly ask myself "is this something that I can fix, or have fixed? is this issue within my control?" If it isn't, then it's not worth spending time on. I don't mind criticism as long as it's something I can reasonably be expected to address. This might sound a little harsh, but seriously -- the more time you spend worrying about the people who don't like you, the less time you have to allocate to the people who do.

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

Funny you should ask. My new book,">The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design just launched at TNNA (The National Needle Arts Association, aka the largest knitting trade association) this month. It's the first-ever book targeted to designers of all experience levels who want to sell their work professionally, whether to magazines, publishers, or direct-to-consumer. It's over 250 pages long, and it includes interviews with more than 30 top designers, editors and professionals in the industry. I decided it was time for someone to write a book for designers that would put them on the right path -- there are plenty of "what NOT to do" examples in the book that are based on personal experience, or stories from other industry people I know, such as magazine editors, yarn company name it. I think one of the most useful sections in the book is the part that asks the reader to really evaluate what it is he or she likes to do and how to make that a part of your design career. Very, very few designers are making a comfortable living selling patterns alone -- many have other sidelines (whether it's teaching, or writing books, or...), and most have more than one of those!

If you want to pursue a career in knitting, it's doable, but you need to be realistic -- it takes a lot of hard work to get to the place you want to be!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Pattern

I've got a new pattern up. You can find it here

Warning - knitting little flowers is highly addictive! Ask me how I know.

I had trouble moving on to my next project after I did these as all the little bits of gorgeous yarns left over from other projects keep calling to me.

There are several options on this pattern as I know some of you prefer to only knit. The chain can be done as I- Cord or as crochet. You can use beads or embroider French Knots for the flower centers.

Have fun and please send me some pictures if any of you make this project.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Designer Secrets - The Hand of the Fabric

The hand of the fabric is a term not generally used by Knitters. It's a definition that generally exists in sewing and clothing manufacturing venues. It is however a nuance of fabric creation that Knitters would benefit by understanding. It refers to the characteristics of the fabric being created. Many of those qualities are determined by the fibers that you are working with. The gauge that the yarn is knit at will also have an impact on "hand" as well as the original spinning method used for the yarn. It has a large impact on whether you will be happy with the end product coming from your efforts. Understanding the qualities of hand will also help you to achieve successful yarn substitutions. A stunning design can be ruined or enhanced by yarn choice. A gorgeous yarn can be wasted when used in a project that fails to showcase its best qualities.

Yarn falls into three categories: protein, vegetable or synthetic. Each one of these categories has specific qualities related to that particular category. The length of the staple fiber also has an impact on the resulting fabric. I'll do some future posts that will focus on individual fibers.

Hand really just means how does the knitted fabric feel. The following are terms that you should become familiar with to begin to educate yourself on the concept of hand. Many of these are intuitive but if you start analyzing your swatches while thinking about these qualities I guarantee that your end results will be improved. What you are aiming for is an overall comparison of performance between all your knitted fabrics in relative terms. Do this after your swatch has been blocked and you have achieved the correct gauge. Take your swatch and think about these qualities. Is it stiff, crunchy or does it drape. Will it stretch out of shape becoming to long? Do you need to compensate and knit the pieces shorter? Is the surface smooth, rough, scratchy or fuzzy? Crush it in your hand. Do wrinkles appear or does it immediately pop back to its original shape? Is the knitting springy? Are the stitches lofty or flat? Is it soft enough to wear against bare skin or will you need to have a garment between the knitting and your body? Did you knit a swatch with a border? If you did compare how the yarn behaved when different stitches were used. What about temperature? Some yarns feel cool to the touch and make great summer projects. What about pilling? Is this a yarn that abrasion will cause pilling under the arms? Is it stretchy or limp? Is the swatch thin or thick? Are the stitches close together or so far apart that you can see the yarn between the column of stitches in stocking stitch?

Do this analysis on all of your projects both on the swatch and on the finished item and think about how you could improve each project. The subtlety of what you are learning will improve all of your future knitting projects. I promise!

Friday, June 18, 2010

An Interview with...Barbara Gregory

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 Barbara here

Where do you find inspiration?
A recent project was inspired by a conversation with another knitter, a pair of earrings, a beaded purse, a photo of a decorated building in India, a knitting shop sample and a two particular balls of yarn. I love color and pattern. Sometimes I have a yarn in colors that I want to use together and will doodle and experiment to find a pattern in which to use them. Other times I start with a concept or pattern idea and then look for yarns and colors that would make them work.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
At the moment it is mosaic knitting. I love how easy it is to work and although it limits the motifs that can be created I am still managing to come up with new ideas.

How did you determine your size range?
Sample garments are ususally requested in a small size so I start with that and then grade the other sizes — maybe one smaller and then progressively larger. Some publications have their own guidelines which may specify a certain range or number of sizes. And there have been times when a deadline has dictated to me “this size you’re working on now — that’s the last one.”
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I have no fear of being influenced by other designers and do browse as many magazines and pattern books as I can. Anything I might take from another designer’s work will be filtered through my own design sensibility. I’m always interested in other designers’ construction and how they might solve certain difficulties.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
Every knitter starts as a beginner, and some are timid about their abilities. There is certainly a need for patterns that are simple, easy, quick to knit. That doesn’t mean that all patterns must be written with a beginner in mind. As I’ve said above, one of the things I love about mosaic knitting is how easy it is. But I’m aware that there are plenty of knitters who look at my designs and think “too hard for me”. Any of my patterns that use this technique include notes explaining the basics and I always chart the patterns fully (as opposed to some mosaic charts which only show RS rows).
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have a friend who has test knit for me informally but I don’t like to write a pattern that I haven’t knit myself.
Do you have a mentor?
I have been given help, support and encouragement by a number of generous and friendly knitters but don’t have one I would single out over the others.
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Oh, it has been huge. I get a lot from the internet: information about yarns, patterns and techniques; comments and feedback on my patterns; news about publications or calls for submission. And of course the internet allows knitters to see my designs and buy my patterns.

Do you use a Tech Editor?
For my self-published patterns I do use a tech editor. Anything published elsewhere would be submitted and then tech edited by their staff.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
It’s something like a crazy quilt of random pieces stitched together to make a whole.
How do you deal with criticism?
Luckily I haven’t had a lot to deal with. If someone discovers an error I would prefer to find out and correct the problem as soon as possible rather than have more knitters encountering the error. In a case where a knitter has a problem understanding a pattern it might indicate things that could be written more clearly, or suggest tips that could be included.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I’ll let you know when I find out.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I don’t give career advice because I don’t presume that I am doing it “right” or that my way of doing things would work for someone else. As for knitting design, my advice would be to keep the well of inspiration full. Ideas come together when you have a lot of input. Try people-watching, window-shopping or gallery-hopping with your eyes (and notebook) open.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New Pattern! The Lady in Waiting Scarf

My latest pattern is up on Patternfish you can find it here

My husband takes my photo's for me and we continue to improve on the results. We started with the orange scarf on the mannequin the way I wear it paired with my orange suede jacket. It looks great that way in real life but in a photo the colours really disappear. They say that photo's don't lie but don't believe that. So much detail is lost in a photo. Even with photoshop and sharpening up the colours you really don't see how gorgeous they really are. On my monitor they look pretty true to the actual yarn but still lack a little of the drama of real life.

Monday, June 14, 2010

How to Become More Creative - Go Fast!

"In art, truth and reality begin when one no longer understands what one is doing or what one knows, and when there remains an energy that is all the stronger for being constrained, controlled and compressed."— Henri Matisse

Or in other words go fast! Get out a sketch pad and start drawing sweaters. Do as may as you can as fast as you can. Don't allow your logical mind to stop and say things like that won't work because..... Just generate as many ideas as you can with out stopping. The theory behind this is that from the brain's perspective extreme speed can unlock creativity. When you force yourself to come up with ideas under time constraints, you're forced to rely on the more intuitive, subconscious parts of your brain. The time pressure can help suppress the logical, rational and critical parts of your brain. It helps you access your subconscious creativity in your right brain and limits your ability for the conscious thought of left brain.

If you get stuck trying this try limiting yourself even more. Try focusing on one technique only and generating ideas around that technique. If you still need prompting try it this way. Set your kitchen timer for ten minutes and sketch fifteen ideas for Fair Isle projects.

Get ready! Get set! Go!

Friday, June 11, 2010

An Interview with...Lindsey Ligett

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

You can find Lindsey Ligett's Waterloo yarns here and they have a Ravelry group here

Where do you find inspiration for your colourways?
Everywhere! I'm always looking for inspiration for colours, whether in nature, travel photographs, or food.
What is your favourite dying technique?
I love to hand paint my colours. Unlike many dyers who steam their hand painted yarns in a microwave or steamer, I set the colour in either a slow cooker or in the oven. I love the convenience of both of these methods--I can leave the yarn cooking while I go about other tasks!
How do you choose the fibers that you work with?
I work with fibers that I find interesting, on the theory that if I enjoy working with them so will my customers. I love to work with Canadian suppliers when possible, but I am still searching for Canadian suppliers of many of the fibers and yarns I sell. One thing I loved about the Knitter's Frolic was the opportunity to meet Canadian farmers who raise their own sheep!
How did you determine what weights of yarn you stock?
I've tried to connect with my customers through Ravelry and Twitter to learn more about what they like to knit with. I've found that most knitters prefer lace or fingering weight yarn when working with hand dyed yarns--probably because of the great value of getting a lot of yardage for the price! I do carry sport and worsted weight yarns for those looking to make other projects as well, though.
How do you come up with names for your yarn?
The names come from as many sources as my inspirations. When I have a large batch of yarns to name, I'll try to pick a theme and think of names associated with that theme. The theme could be something like song titles, a destination, or a season.
Could you give us an idea of how long the process is to dye a batch of yarn and prepare it for sale?
The process of applying the dye usually just takes a few minutes. The yarn then cooks for about an hour, but will spend several hours in the pan until it is cool again and ready to be rinsed. The most time consuming part of the process is drying the yarns and fibers--it depends on the weather, but sometimes takes a few days!
Do you look at other dyers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their yarns?
I love to look at other dyers' work! In fact, I belong to several fiber clubs so I receive hand dyed fibers from other artists every month. What's interesting is how often we come up with similar ideas or themes without discussing it! Of course, even when we're working with similar inspirations the results are usually very different--it's great to see many peoples' interpretation of one idea.
Are you a knitter as well?
I am a knitter, a spinner, and a weaver. There's never enough time for all those great fiber arts hobbies!
Did you do a formal business plan?
I started selling my hand spun & hand dyed yarns as a way to earn a bit of extra money to support my own fiber "habits", so I didn't think of it as a real business at first. I did do some research to make sure I was following all the rules and regulations necessary, but didn't do a plan.
Do you have a mentor?
I don't have a business mentor, but I have lots of dyers I admire, many of whom have been very friendly and happy to share ideas. The dyeing community on Ravelry is also tremendously supportive. Additionally, I have a great supportive local knitting group who are always willing to offer advice and ideas.
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
My business is almost exclusively web-based, and I don't think it could exist without the Internet. Between the networking and advertising opportunities of online communities like Ravelry and the sales platform of sites like Etsy, the fiber world has changed dramatically in the last decade.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I try most days to do my dyeing work during "normal business hours," although I will often dye on the weekends as well. I generally don't work in the evening, although I may sometimes spend time on Twitter or Ravelry chatting about fiber related things. Because my work is so inter-connected to my hobbies, it can be hard to draw the line, but it seems to work well most of the time.
How do you deal with criticism?
The fiber community tends to be such a friendly and supportive place that I haven't had to face too much criticism. I'm sure there are people who aren't interested in my yarns and fibers, but I don't generally hear from them--they just choose to shop elsewhere, I guess!
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I think the best answer to this is a big huge belly laugh! I am lucky that I now make a profit from dyeing, but I certainly am nowhere close to being able to support myself doing this. I am fortunate to be in a position where I can take my time growing my business without needing to depend on it for income.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in hand dying yarns?
The nice thing about dyeing is that you can start on a small scale without a lot of investment, and with venues like Etsy it is very possible to build a following without needing a physical storefront. However, there is a lot of competition out there and it is not easy to turn this in to a financially viable career. I would say anyone interested in it should give it a try, but you should also be careful about quitting your day job before you're ready!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I am the Techno Destroyer!

In the movie Vanilla Sky Tom Cruise shouts out "tech support" when things are going wrong for him. That has become a running joke in my home. When ever I have computer problems I shout "tech support" and my husband kindly rushes to my aid and solves my problem. He calls me the techno destroyer. I'm sure he means that in an affectionate loving way right???

Last Thursday my computer became infected with a virus. If I used a search engine I was hijacked and no links could be accessed. I was taken to random sites and they started popping up when I was doing something completely unrelated. We started running scans and all sorts of nasty Trojans were identified.

Friday we took the laptop to a local repair shop where they attempted to do a clean up and in the end had to totally wipe the drive. I got it back Sunday and we bought two different protection software systems since clearly the one we had wasn't doing enough.I'm switching to Firefox from Internet Explorer as a result of the technicians advice. Now we are starting to reload my software as well. I've been working on paper as a stopgap solution. I don't know what I've lost of the things I'm currently working on yet as I can't access those files until we reload everything. Needless to say this is extremely frustrating. It's amazing, technology frees us in so many ways but when it fails we realize that we are so dependent on it that it's loss hurts. It's also costing me money. I'll be adding that to my Robin Hunter Designs credit/debit worksheet. I really need to knit faster.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Now this is cool!

Go here for more info on this amazing machine. It's an antique sock-knitting machine connected to a windmill. The amount knit depends on how windy it is! How cool is that?

Friday, June 4, 2010

An Interview with ... Tanis Lavallée

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

You can find Tanis yarns here

Where do you find inspiration for your colourways?
Everywhere! Nature, fashion, interior design. New colourways can be inspired by just about anything I see.
How do you choose the fibers that you work with?
I like to work with hardy, practical fibers that you can get a lot of use out of, like superwash merino. It's such a versatile fiber that you can use for so many different projects, and after you've put all the effort into knitting something with it, you can wear it and enjoy it without worrying too much about it being difficult to take care of. But of course, I also like to work with something a bit more luxurious at times, like my mulberry silk yarn, it's a real treat and though it's not practical for every project sometimes you need to feel pampered!
How did you determine what weights of yarn you stock?
I wanted to have a good balance of yarns that would be appropriate for almost every conceivable use. From socks, to baby clothes, to sweaters and mitts, I want there to be something for everyone. Of course, I can always think of something new to add, and I hope that my collection will always grow and evolve.
How do you come up with names for your yarn?
I usually name my colourways whatever word pops into my head first when I look at a finished skein. Thats why most of my colour names are pretty obvious, red is Poppy, blue is Cobalt, nothing too crazy.
Could you give us an idea of how long the process is to dye a batch of yarn and prepare it for sale?
Each batch of yarn begins by winding yarn off of a cone into a skein, then I soak it, apply the dyes in a couple of steps, set it with heat and then let it hang to dry. It usually takes about 48 to 72 hours from start to finish.
Do you look at other dyers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their yarns?
I love looking at other dyers work. I am confident enough in my vision for my collection and my personal dying style that I am not worried about being influenced by other dyers.
Are you a knitter as well?
I am an avid knitter, if I am sitting down, I am knitting! Its why I started dyeing in the first place.
Did you do a formal business plan?
I didn't do a formal business plan. My business started very small and then grew organically from there.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I'm not sure that I do really maintain a life/work balance. I work from home with my fiancé Chris, so we are almost always talking or thinking about work, even if we are not physically working! Luckily we love our work and we work well together, so its always fun!
How do you deal with criticism?
Its not easy to hear criticism, but I just try to remember that I can't please everybody. As long as I am happy and satisfied that I've done my best to put out a quality product I know that I'll sleep well at night. When criticism is constructive then I welcome it! I'm not too proud to take advice from anyone who offers it! How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself? What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in hand dying yarns?
I think that its important to have a vision. You need to know why you want to create hand dyed yarns and how you want to present them to the world. You also need to remember that there is way more to a career in hand dyes then just actually dyeing. You run a business and dealing with customers, invoices, shipping, accounting, ordering etc. are a huge part of the job.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Errata Made Me a Better Knitter

I live in fear!

After tech editing one of my earlier patterns I received an email from my editor that said "The pattern itself was perfect -- no changes." You would think that I would be thrilled to get a note like that....right? Well no, I worried that maybe she missed some thing. Unfortunately I remember all too clearly my early days of knitting when an error in a pattern could be a cause for so much frustration that a project would be tossed aside and discarded for ever. Eventually I started a beautiful lace skirt and top pattern that had an error. Since I was a novice Knitter I assumed the fault was mine and kept tearing back and re-knitting. The stitch pattern was written not charted as charts were far less common when I was first knitting. Back then I was an isolated Knitter, the only other Knitters I knew were related to me and none were especially advanced. I loved the design and I was determined to finish it so I persevered. I wrote the pattern out line by line comparing each one and counting out the stitches until I found one row that was missing (are you ready) one Yo!

I still remember the hours I spent to find and correct this mistake so you would think I would be ready to rant about pattern errors and how totally unacceptable they are. Actually what it taught me was how a tiny little error could completely mess up the pattern and since it was so difficult to find that error how very easy it is to make it in the first place.

One of the criteria designers use when choosing test Knitters is that they need to be very literal interpreters of patterns. If they override the pattern instructions using their knitterly skills they may miss identifying problems for less experienced Knitters. One of my test knitters once asked a question about a wrapped stitch which lead me to check every stitch dictionary that I own. What did I discover? There appeared to be two similar but slightly different instructions that produced a different length of wrapped stitch. It was critical to the result obtained and meant that I worded the pattern differently and hopefully no one else ran into that problem.

The original error made me a better Knitter more independent, more thoughtful, more resourceful. I still don't want ANY errors in my patterns though!

I've posted links to a few other blog that write about this issue below.

Let me know what you think. Do you hate a designer who has an error in their pattern? Do you swear off ever knitting another one of their designs? Or do you forgive them and understand that some errors are inevitable?