Monday, November 29, 2010

A South African Knitting Business

I came across an article  recently about Anna Loubser, a Knitter who is producing finished items for sale. You can find the complete article here and her website is here.

I see a lot of knitted items available at as well as at various craft shows and events and sometimes think (only for an instant) maybe I should test that market as well. To be honest the thought of re-knitting the same item over and over does not appeal to me. I'm always onto the next creation before I can barely finish writing my patterns as it is.

Anna says "I have a group of eight women who’ve been knitting for me for the last two years. When we started, they were hesitant to do the difficult patterns, but now they challenge each other. They work extremely hard and take pride in what they do. We’ve grown together and I’m lucky to have them". 

She is producing a range of toys, home decor items, handbags and accessories. I wasn't able to find any prices so I'm not sure if these items are as expensive as the last knitting product business that I wrote about here. I do find it interesting that this is the second article I've found about this type of product based knitting business in the last month.

Friday, November 26, 2010

An Interview with...Melissa Wehrle

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 Melissa here and here on Ravelry. You can see more of her designs here.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! Photographs, runway shows, shopping the stores, trend books, and nature. Because of the nature of my job, I am constantly surrounded by information and inspiration, knowing how to filter it all out into what is useful is the key.

What is your favorite knitting technique?

Hmm, that's a hard one. I suppose my favorite technique is more of a finishing technique than a knitting technique. I love the tubular cast on and bind off even though they take a little longer and a bit of concentration to work. Both leave such a nice clean edge! I also like 1 row buttonholes a lot.

How did you determine your size range?

I determine my size range on a design by design basis. If it's a no fuss design in a silhouette that looks good on everyone, I do a complete XS - 3X range. Sometimes, as a garment gets larger, the design just doesn't work well proportionally as in smaller sizes. In this case, I do a smaller size range. If a garment has quite a bit of ease or the stitch pattern just doesn't allow a standard size range, my gaps between sizes might be a bit bigger.

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

I do, but not for the purpose of being inspired or doing "research". It's always nice to admire other indie designers and when I have time, knit their patterns!

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

When writing a pattern, I try to make them as complete and easy to understand as possible. I also tend to design slightly more challenging knitting patterns because it is what I like. I am always willing to help a knitter out and direct them to different sources to find information if I can't provide the help they need. Dumbing down knitting patterns is really doing a disservice to knitters. Knitting should be about learning knew things and sometimes that means going through a little bit of a struggle. With some knitters a certain amount of hand holding is needed, but once it "clicks" it makes it all worth it!

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

I have only had one design sample knit for me because I just didn't have the time, other than that, all of my designs are knit by me. It is hard to find sample knitters to trust and the ones I would trust are always too busy! Regarding test knitters, typically I don't test knit my patterns unless they are small projects. There are a few reasons for this. 

1. Since I work in the fashion industry and deal with different shapes and sizes of women on a daily basis, I know what will fit and what won't. 
2. Testing a sweater in 6 sizes can get a bit time consuming. 
3. Unless you provide the yarn to the test knitters, you never know what you are going to get. 
4. Sometimes test knitters will automatically fix problems without ever realizing it. 
5. A good tech editor is worth more than 7 test knitters.

I recently saw a very heated thread on Ravelry about test knitting and that some knitters expected everything in every size to be test knit. Again, a good tech editor is worth it's weight in gold and test knitters just don't catch what a good tech editor will. As long as the tech editor and the designer know what they are doing, excessive test knitting just isn't needed.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No, I'm just kinda flying by the seat of my pants here!

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

My first indie pattern happened because I posted it on my blog and other knitters requested the pattern. Without the Internet, I think it would have been harder for me to build up the confidence to submit to magazines and to get my work out there. Then when Ravelry came on the scene, my business jumped to the next level. A good amount of the visitors on my blog come over from links on Ravelry. When I decided to update my blog and purchase my own domain name, that also gave me a boost and a more professional space to show off my work.

Do you use a Tech Editor?

YES! A good tech editor is a must before releasing any pattern. They catch any math errors and revise any wording that may be confusing. While errata still creeps in occasionally (we're all human), having a tech editor look it over can eliminate a lot of headaches and pattern support in the end. When a knitter purchases your pattern, buys yarn, and invests time knitting it, it is only fair for them to expect a well written, error free (or 99% free) pattern.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Very carefully! I work full-time for a sweater manufacturer in addition to being a hand knit designer. It is very easy for me to get pulled into a never ending world of sweaters. Typically I work a full 8 or 9 hour day and then spend another 5 hours when I get home working on hand knit design.

Working so much easily causes burnout, so on the weekends, I try to stay away from the computer, relax, and enjoy doing as little as I possibly can - although knitting doesn't count!

How do you deal with criticism?

You can never make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time. This is just a fact of life, not only with knitwear design. Constructive criticism is one thing, then there are a select few that can be mean for whatever reason. I just ignore them the best I can.

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

Well, let's just say that I haven't quit my day job! I've made a decent amount from doing hand knit design part time, but I definitely could not live off of it.

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

Make sure that it is something that you really, really, really love. That you love it so much that you are willing to work really hard even when the money isn't really rolling in. It is a lot of hard work to get started doing something on your own, and as with any new business venture, a lot of love, time, and patience needs to be given to be successful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why are Knitters afraid to learn new skills?

I often get the feeling when I'm chatting with less experienced Knitters that they think I have some secret inborn talent that they lack. One told me once that I never seem to make any mistakes. I laughed at that and said "I make lots of mistakes you just never see them because I rip those things back out and either fix the problem or create something new". At the time I was obsessed with garter stitch sideways gloves that I was making with yarn leftovers every time I finished a project. I shared a failure with her, one of the pairs were unwearable because the yarn was too heavy and made what appeared to be clown gloves. We had a good laugh over that pair. 

That's one of the great things about knitting, often our materials are reusable so we can fix some mistakes. I think we all know this doesn't work well with sticky mohair but works great with smoother yarns. When I was first designing I often knit something, analyzed what I could do better, made notes and then ripped back and knit the improved version.

I think that's the secret talent I have. I'm not afraid to make mistakes so that has allowed me to push past my current abilities at every level and continue to improve my techniques while gathering vital knowledge about fit and fabric performance. 

Fear of failure often dominates Knitters. They don't learn more because they don't make mistakes because they don't push themselves to try to make things that they think are beyond their abilities. I'm a big believer in the saying that you learn more from your mistakes than you do from your successes. I think mistakes are inevitable and that while you make fewer mistakes as you gain experience that the unsuccessful projects are the most important things you will ever knit.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Thrill of Ravelry

I've been fortunate to see a few of the garments knit from my patterns. Generally though I don't get to see them because since I started selling through Patternfish many of them sell across North America and in Europe. The first time I saw those sales on Patternfish I have to say it gave me a little thrill. I've heard other designers comment on how rarely they see photo's of their designs completed on Ravelry and even their best selling patterns sometimes are not represented. I suspect that the knitter who photographs their work and posts comments about the design might be a special subgroup in the demographics of knitters.

Recently a member of Ravelry PM'd me to say how much she liked one of my patterns and gave me a link to her photo's. She has given me permission to use her photo's so I've added some of them to my post. What really thrilled me however were her notes about the pattern. You can see them here.

I loved seeing the pattern done in a different colourway, and Cammie chose to knit a flower to use instead of a shawl pin and then adapted that pattern by using the picot cast off of the shawl. It was also great to read comments that confirmed that I had met my goals with this design, it was simple yet enjoyable to knit, used the yarn in a very effective way and elevated the level of a garter stitch project to be just a little more stylish.  

Cammie thanks so much for sharing!

Friday, November 19, 2010

An Interview with...Anne Kuo Lukito

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 Anne here and on Ravelry here.

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! Sometimes something just jumps in my head. Sometimes I hit "designer's block" and nothing comes to me. When I'm in need to find inspiration, I'll look at various things like the leaves on a tree, home improvement magazines, a piece of furniture, current events and fashion magazines. For example, Twister came to me during hurricane season when I was visiting my parents in Texas,  Spectacle was born out of inspiration from mid-century modern furniture design, and I was inspired by insects when I designed Cocoon.

What are your favourite knitting and crocheting techniques?
I can't really crochet. It just never "spoke" to me in the way that knitting does. I don't know if I have a favorite technique, but I do love the magic of it all. I love figuring out techniques that I haven't tried myself without referencing any books or tutorials. I love the magic of Kitchenering in pattern, the many ways you can work a reversible cable and figuring out unique ways to shape a hat or garment while keeping in pattern.

How did you determine your size range?
For garments like sweaters, I generally try my best to offer at least 5-7 sizes. For hats, I try for anywhere between 2 to 6. Sometimes I try to aim for more, but the design of the garment itself can limit the sizing range. Well, at least it limits the ease in which I can write the sizing.


Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
We're all influenced one way or another. Fashion recycles and people often think of similar things independent of one another. I can't honestly say that something I saw last year, while forgotten in my immediate memory, does not influence me on another level. I do get inspired by other designers whether they are designers from the haute couture fashion houses or indie hand knitwear designers. I do make a point though, when I'm in a design mode, not to do pattern searches or look at other knitwear designers' work. If I think of something I that I want to do or am trying to come up with a name for the design, I sometimes conduct pattern searches to make sure that what I've come up with doesn't absolutely replicate something someone else may have done even if the idea came independently.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters and crocheters? 
I don't think that there really is a controversy. I think it just depends on each person preferences and the designer's writing style. Who is the audience one is writing for? The beginner? The more experienced knitter? If a designer's pattern is aimed at the more experienced knitter, it may not be necessary to explain how to turn and work a hem or how to work intarsia. While it may be nice to have some techniques included as part of the pattern instructions, I don't think it's always necessary, and I think that entirely depends on the designer's preferences, layout space, goals, etc.

Using my own patterns as an example, while I try to be as clear and descriptive as possible, I don't include things like Kitchener Stitch instructions. The reason that I choose not to include something like that is because most of my patterns are for more advanced beginners and beyond and the Kitchener Stitch is a technique that can be found in most knitting references and glossaries. However, for things that are less common or more specific, such as working a Kitchener Stitch in pattern in something like Pfeiffer Falls, I include more specific instructions. And for techniques such as sewing a non row-to-row mattress stitch, as in the shirring in the Liberation hats, I try to write photo tutorials on the techniques on my website. 


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

I do most things myself. However, sometimes I do hire sample knitters. I currently have 2 that are more regular go-to sample knitters and and additional 3-5 that I've also used. Good sample knitters are a closely guarded secret by designers! ;) It's in their contracts that I always get dibs if I introduce and refer my sample knitters to other designers! ;)

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Absolutely! I think technical editing is a very essential part of putting out a knitting pattern, whether it's being published by a magazine or by myself. While we're all human and errors can still creep in, technical editors help really refine a pattern in ways that I would not be able to no matter how many times I edit it myself. It's always good to have a separate set of eyes to go over what you write. A newspaper does not go to print without fact checkers and editors reviewing the author's work, and neither should knitting or crochet patterns.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Let me know when you find the answer to that one! When you are working on your own, everything kind of blends in together. I try to stay off my email, Ravelry, Twitter and Facebook for a few days once in a while. Most knitters understand that I'm not at my computer 24-7 and are very respectful of that.

How do you deal with criticism?
Like a grain of salt. Constructive criticism doesn't really doesn't bother me that much. It's how I learn. If it is a mistake of mine, I'll feel really bad that it was there in the first place and fix it. I don't get upset at the person doing the criticizing. I recognize that there are different strokes for different folks. I know that my patterns aren't for everyone for whatever might not be some one's personal style, the techniques used might seem to fussy for the knitter or the type garment just won't look good on the knitter's body type.

That said, it is hard to swallow sometimes if/when someone makes a negative public comment about the pattern when it has nothing to do with the pattern design or pattern-writing (i.e. when someone complains that it doesn't fit at all and that it's poorly calculated when clearly the knitter didn't check or get gauge). It hasn't happened to me in a bad way yet, but when I see those kinds of comments, whether it's about my patterns or about the patterns of my designer friends, I cringe a little bit and hope that other knitters will look carefully and see that it was an operator issue, not with the pattern itself. But in the end, I do brush it off, laugh at it a bit and not really think about it too much after that.

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

Ha! What a funny question. I am certainly not making the big bucks with this design thing. Maybe one day, but it certainly is not happening right now.

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

It's a blessing to do what you love. However, think carefully first about whether you'd want to make your hobby into a career choice. It's fun, but it's also challenging and hard. If you are going in to design, be prepared for rejection (I've got tons!), criticism, wear 100 different hats, and speed knitting on a short deadline (for publications). Also, if you are serious, joining an organization like the Association of Knitwear Designers as an Associate Designer can be a helpful place to start. If accepted, ask for a mentor -- you can ask a mentor questions that you might be afraid to ask, or don't want to ask in a public forum like Ravelry.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Business Courses

I've started going to free business seminars from the library. The first one was called  "7 Common Start Up Mistakes" that small business usually make. It was pretty interesting. The instructor specialized at one time in helping small companies through bankruptcy so he has seen a lot of failures. 

His list of mistakes are:

  1. No Start up Budget
  2. Lack of Business viability.
  3. Underestimating the amount of money required for start up and running your business.
  4. No basic business plan is developed.
  5. No marketing, advertising or PR plan.
  6. Poor management.
  7. Not understanding the difference between profitability and cash flow.

I learned a new term for what's going on in my business. It's called Start Up Losses. The good news was that I have done some things right. I don't have a start up budget but I do have income from another source. I did make a number of purchases of things I need to work before I quit my job and I've adjusted my lifestyle to live on much less money than I was spending when I was still working for someone else full time.  I did test my market a little before I made this my full time career by publishing a few patterns and seeing that they did sell.  I did do research and spoke to other people in my industry. My interviews are an ongoing form of mentor-ship for me as I move forward with this. I'm also very sure that profits (if any) will be small. So I don't see this as a get rich quick scheme, more as an engaging way to spend my time. I'm planning to take another session on developing a business plan so I'll deal with Number 4 later. I doubt that I'll do anything really formal perhaps just some goal setting type plans. Marketing is low on my goals list right now as my main focus is pattern development. I am starting to pursue teaching opportunities and will spend more time on that in 2011. As for poor management I'm so new to this that I have very little to manage other than my time! Cash flow is also not an issue right now but I am thinking about products I might retail or wholesale in the future. I'm thinking about knitting notions or yarn but I think realistically that would be a few years off.

I have noticed with my interviews that planning seems to be very low on the priority list of my interviewees.That tells me that I'm thinking about this kind of thing a little more than the average but I think that falls into the category of the saying "that and 50 cents ($3.99 in today's economy) will get you a cup of coffee". I have also started a small pro-knitters group that meets once a month and it has been a wonderful source of information and support. It has made me realize how all of us are so very isolated in this industry.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Designers - do you take other designers classes?

A friend asked me the question of this post's title privately some time ago.
I hadn't intended to write a blog post on this topic until I was asked the same question again later by someone else. That tells me that this is a topic that people just aren't sure what the correct etiquette should be. I've taken many classes from other designers. All were before I decided to take my chances in the professional Knitting world and launch my own patterns and teaching career. I love both taking and teaching classes, it is the ultimate in fun for me. Personally I would feel honoured if another designer wanted to take one of my classes. However, now that we are talking about this I think if I decide to take another teacher's class maybe I had better ask for permission from the instructor first. What do you think? Has anyone got any good advice to share?

Friday, November 12, 2010

An Interview with...Barbara Selesnick

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 and see a fashion show of her designs by clicking on the Fashion Show  Clips on the right hand side of her home page.

Where do you find inspiration?

That is an easy one… inspiration is everywhere!  As most knitwear designers do, I peek at several of the fashion magazines that come out each season to see where the trends are heading.  Rather than looking at the whole garment, I tend to pick out different features and nuances that catch my eye, and often design around those features. It could be the length of a sleeve or the shape of a collar.  With a company called “Keep It Simple Designs”, I feel that my main objectives are to create garments that are simple to knit and stylish to wear.  Several of my good friends questioned “This Box” I was putting myself in when I started my company, but I have always found it a welcome challenge when creating a pattern.  Parameters can be interesting guidelines, and stretch your imagination and abilities in a creative world.

What are your favorite knitting and crocheting techniques?

I have to admit, I love cables.  I love working with cables and I love designing with cables.  They really make my heart sing!  I am known for having a good collection of cabled shawl patterns out there on the market!  I’m also a big fan of lace knitting on larger needles.  Many of my shawl patterns are on the quick and easy side, with an abundance of yarn-overs throughout the pattern. I’m usually careful to choose lace patterns that are rhythmic in nature, and work on needle sizes much larger than traditional lace.  I have had friends over the years that still have lace projects on smaller needles somewhere in their garage, waiting to see the light of day!  

How did you determine your size range?

Most of my garments are sized for XS-5X, ranging from sizes 30-60.  When I started my company and mapped out my goals, I wanted to include as many knitters in the mix as I could.  I can tell you that sizing is my least favorite thing when I am writing a pattern, but I know that it is a very important part of the process.  We all come in different shapes and sizes, and we all deserve to be comfortable in a project that we have spent countless hours knitting.
Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?

I often look at other designers’ work.  Since my company is shaped around creating relatively simple designs, I want to make sure that I do not inadvertently duplicate something that is out there on the market.  This actually is the most difficult part of the design process for me.  Once I have decided on a particular design, I search the Internet, books, and knitting magazines to try and make sure that I am not infringing on another designers work.  In reality, it is a large world out there, and we all have our own “minds eye” of what we want to create. 

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

Gosh, in a way I sort of specialize in that!  Dumbing down is not a bad thing at all!!  There will always be knitters out there that are willing to spend their whole life knitting a masterpiece.  My hat is off to them, and I admire their work.  On the other hand, I feel I have a special niche in the market of hand knitted garments and accessories for those that are interested in minimal stress, and a high degree of success.  I have had letters from customers telling me that one of my patterns was actually the first one they ever finished!  Keeping things “simple” in my pattern line has led to great success for my customers, as well as for myself!
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself? 

For me, it is a mix of both.  I do knit some of the garments for my line, and others are commissioned out to an array of knitters in my community.
Did you do a formal business plan? 

I can’t say I did.  Actually, I knitted up 8 patterns and sent them off to Bryson Distributing in Eugene Oregon.  Bryson Distributing is the largest distributor in the United States for all things knitting, quilting, and much more.  Most of the implements, patterns, and tools of the trade that are in your local knit & quilt shop are from Bryson Distributing. A week later I received a call from Jim Bryson wanting to order a very large quantity of my designs.  It was the turning point in my career!

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?  

Basically my only business model is to be true to my name.  Every stitch that I make centers around one question: Is this pattern truly simple to knit?  Have I explained it well, kept the techniques simple, and accomplished a beautiful garment in the end?
What impact has the Internet had on your business? 

The Internet has certainly boosted sales, and gotten the “Keep It Simple Designs” name out there for all to see.  I get emails from all over the world requesting patterns, and now have the ability to sell down-loadable patterns to customers worldwide through sites such as Patternfish

How do you maintain your life/work balance?  
I think that is a balancing act for most of us!  Some days I am brilliant… and others I fall short.  My goal is to get up every single day and try to do my personal best.
How do you deal with criticism? 

I use criticism as a learning tool.  There is usually something to glean from a constructive remark.  I have found most people that are creative to be generous by nature.   Compliments are always welcome, but criticism can be a great learning tool for the future. 

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

I do quite well with my patterns, but I also have a day job too.  I have been a Flight Attendant with a major airline for many years.  My flying career has afforded me the ability to see fashion design from many parts of the world.  Traveling has been my best teacher of all!
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting and crocheting? 

I would say that it is not for the faint of heart.  You will be working day and night, 7 days a week at your craft.  For me, my brain sees “design” everywhere I go!  I decided one day that I might as well jump in with both feet and enjoy the ride.  Honestly, no complaints yet! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A British Knitting Business

My husband sent me the link to this article

Beryl Brewis has started a business supplying hand knit scarves to a online and brick and mortar retailer in the UK. She found many of her Knitters by visiting local knitting groups and acknowledges their contribution by having each scarf numbered and signed by the Knitter who made it. The hope is that these scarves will become collector items. It's a unique approach to the possibility of creating a different kind of knitting business. You can find the scarves online here.
Take a careful look at the prices. At £123.50 - £166.00 or $ 194.72 - $261.72 USD I'm not sure how many buyers are out there but I will be very interested to see how well the business does.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hummmm........The Longer my List of Things to Do gets the Less I Accomplish!

An inverse or negative relationship is a mathematical relationship in which one variable, say y, decreases as another, say x, increases. For a linear (straight-line) relation, this can be expressed as y = a-bx, where -b is a constant value less than zero and a is a constant. For example, there is an inverse relationship between education and unemployment — that is, as education increases, the rate of unemployment decreases.
Inverse relationships and their counterpart, direct relationships, are widely used in the physical sciences to describe the relationship between two variables in an equation.

The above information and graph comes to you from Wikipedia. I have been able to prove a clear inverse relationship between my Things to Do list and the amount that I accomplish everyday.  

Forty items on the list equals three items completed. Three items equals fifteen items completed. Even more oddly the inverse relationship moves closer to the vertical with the increase of more household cleaning items being added to the list yet it lessens if more knitting related items are added as long as I don't include the completion of whole projects. I will continue the research and report again later on this amazing phenomenon.

Friday, November 5, 2010

An Interview with...Theresa Belville

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 Theresa here and here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! I'm always on the go, and I carry a little sketch pad with me so that i can jot down ideas whenever the mood strikes.  I just recently went back to college (12 years after graduating the first time!) to work towards a nursing degree, and I find myself doodling ideas during class, inspired by the fabulous style of my (younger) classmates. These young women have fearless fashion sense, and I love seeing how the put seemingly random pieces together into a great, cohesive look. It's reminded me to be more adventurous in my designs!

What is your favourite knitting technique?

Anything seamless! I'd much rather spend my time actually knitting than sewing my knits together; so I strongly lean towards seamless, in-the-round designs.

How did you determine your size range?

For my Little Turtle Knits line, which is focused on baby and children's items, I've developed a size range over time through trial-and-error personal experience (in fitting my own four boys), and in carefully researching ready-to-wear garments.  I've got an excel spreadsheet that I count as one of my most prized possessions; it's been developed over years of collecting size details.  The sale clerk at Baby Gap knows me by name, and laughs when I pull out a tape measure to size the latest season's clothes! I've been working on developing an adult pattern collection, and for that the range is based on Yarn Standard's guidelines along with ASTM measurements (and some more of my handy tape measure mall reconnaissance!)

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

I definitely look at other designers work!  Not from a "how can this inspire me" perspective, but an "as much as I am a knitwear designer, I am also an avid and admiring knitter" viewpoint.  Knitwear designs to me are the ultimate eye candy; I devour knit magazines and the new pattern listings on Ravelry like my husband watches ESPN.  What can I say?  I'm a rabid knitting fan!

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

I didn't realize there was a controversy, lol!? I think there's a place for all sorts of pattern levels, and for every knitter regardless of their experience.  We were all newbie knitters at some point, and in my opinion one of the essential functions of a good knitting pattern is to  help knitters develop their skills.  To that end, I've always aimed to have my patterns be "mini-classes" and clearly illustrate the techniques so that even the most inexperienced knitter can feel comfortable trying something new.

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

I'm a bit of a control freak, so I do all my sample knitting.  I enjoy the entire process, and would feel like something were missing if I were to just write the pattern and then hand it off to someone else to knit.  There's something lovely about taking a design from fledgling idea through to finished garment and pattern.  Also, I'm very much a process knitter, so I'm often working out design issues while I knit.

Did you do a formal business plan?
When I first started Little Turtle Knits, back in the haze of new motherhood, I didn't develop a formal business plan before jumping in (I could barely get a shower at that point!)  But within that first year, I did sit down and develop a plan and goals for my business, and it's now something that I do every year.  I've found that as the seasons in my life change, my business goals also shift; reviewing the business plan yearly has enabled me to keep things fresh and moving in the direction I want to go.

Do you have a mentor?
I've been very blessed to have mentors in several areas of my life, not just as a designer.  I firmly believe that I've benefited tremendously from the mentor relationships I've had; both as the one being mentored and as a mentor.  I've been a member of the Association of Knitwear Designers (AKD) for several years, and I really think one of the best benefits is the mentoring program we have.  This industry can be so tricky; there's so many unwritten rules that can really impact your career!  It's essential to have someone who can shepherd you through it, and help you to avoid making those rookie mistakes that can really hurt you long term.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

I'm a work-at-home mama, so I've followed a very micro-business model, lol!  I strive to be thoughtful in all my interactions, and  to find a healthy balance between my work and my life.  It's so easy when you work at home to allow your work to permeate every moment of your day; it's got to be a conscious choice to step back and close the virtual office door and fully experience my real life!

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

My business started many years ago with a one-page website and a paypal button, so it's safe to say that without the Internet I wouldn't HAVE a business! With the explosion of indie designers offering down-loadable patterns in the past few years, it's hard to believe that when I first started my website the whole idea of getting patterns on the Internet was a novelty - my patterns were Word documents that I emailed out. I was a pioneer, lol!

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Absolutely!  A good tech editor is an essential for any designer who is serious about her work. Sure, I'm confident in my work, but there's no question that a skilled TE can take even a brilliant pattern and make it better.


How do you maintain your life/work balance?

See above, about shutting the virtual door ;)  Honestly, this is something I will struggle with until the day I close my eyes for the last time. Especially now, that I'm balancing life with four active boys (and all the accompanying sports!), design work, and school; finding the balance is so critical.  I start and end every day in prayer, and keep a really detailed schedule in between!  Practically speaking, my google calendar rules my life.  Each member of my family has their own calendar, and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g gets put into the calendars.  You can be sure that I schedule in "me time" and "us time" for the hubster and I; because if that relationship isn't focused and centered, then nothing else is going to be, either!

How do you deal with criticism?

Ideally? I take the constructive parts and let them teach me something, and leave the rest.  Realistically?  I take the constructive parts, and get my feelings hurt by the rest.  I've gotten better at letting go of the hurt feelings quickly without letting them bruise my ego long-term, though, so that's progress!

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Who said anything about supporting myself?! I'm fortunate enough in this season of my life to have a partner who supports our family, which allows me to focus on the more fulfilling parts of my work rather than looking just at financials.  Now, my work does contribute significantly to our household, and it enables us to have many experiences we otherwise wouldn't be able to budget, but anyone looking at knitwear design as a way to support themselves is in for a (sadly) rude awakening.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Find _Your_ Voice.  Never stop learning your craft. Find a mentor you trust.  And don't take yourself too seriously; knitting is supposed to be fun!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Wrap Pattern up on Patternfish

I've just put my latest pattern up on Patternfish.  I originally knit this for myself in black alpaca as a replacement for the inexpensive pashmina that I was wearing often last winter. It seemed ridiculous to me that a Knitter wasn't wearing something a little nicer. It was a great investment of time. I wear it a least once a week either as a wrap or tucked inside my coat as a scarf. 

I realized later that the unique slip stitch pattern was going to look even better in a hand dyed yarn and the  pattern version of the wrap proves that I was right. Last spring I helped out at the Indigo Moon booth at the DKC's Knitters Frolic and this is the yarn I choose that day. I've been wearing this one wrapped around my denim jacket or my blue boiled wool blazer when I need to be a little more dressed up. 

I find the basic rectangular shape very versatile. It can be worn as a wrap with one end tossed back over your shoulder. It can be positioned and secured with a shawl pin or left hanging to cover your arms for warmth. It can also be worn like a scarf tucked inside a coat or tied on the outside with both ends hanging vertically down the front of your torso.

You can find the pattern here.

The photo's below are detail shots of the stitch pattern.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Would you like a cupcake?

Knitted cupcakes! They are so cute. Don't you just love them?

This cute little hat is from Etsy you can find it here.

Hey wait a minute these are knit as well but not from yarn from icing. MMMuuuummmm even better Go here for how to info.


These are from a free pattern on Ravelry that you can find here.  I could go on and on about these patterns as there are lots of them available and many examples on Etsy that you can buy already knit up there are even cupcake stitch markers that you can get here.