Wednesday, August 31, 2011

You Know What you Know and You Know What you Don't Know

Developing mastery in any given skill takes time. I've noticed that there is a stage when you cross from complete novice to where you know what you know and you know what you don't know. I find this stage to be the most exciting as you have developed a basic skill set and your direction is clear because you know where to point your efforts next. Your vocabulary now allows you to ask the right questions when you take a class or have access to a master Knitter's assistance. I can't tell you how often when a novice Knitter asks for help I spend more time trying to understand what it is they need than I do on solving the problem. When you get to this stage it's as though all the pieces of the puzzle suddenly make sense and you know you can put it all together.  

If you are still at the earlier stage and want to be able take advantage of all possible learning opportunities I would recommend that you work on the knitting lexicon, a good basic book like Vogue Knitting Knitopedia would be a great starting point. You don't have to buy one, libraries have many of these  books and simply learning the language of Knitting will have a big impact on your ability to increase your problem solving. 

When I worked in my LYS  I always noticed that the Knitters who had the most to gain from these references were the most resistant to using them, they just wanted to get on with the knitting because they didn't yet know how much they didn't know.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Make it Flatter - Hem length with Colour, Shape, Pattern, Texture and Shine Considerations


One of the questions that comes up when I teach Proportions for EveryBody is about hem lengths. Often Knitters want to establish a couple of best hem lengths for all of their sweaters. I think this is a good idea in theory but in the real world fashion rules aren't quite so simple. Students often tell me they have followed the fashion pundits rules but the rules just didn't work for them. What I've noticed is that usually when something goes wrong it has to do with colour contrast, garment shape, pattern size, fabric texture or shine versus matte fabrications. All of these topics deserve a post of their own so I'll cover more on each topic separately later.

Recently we have experimented in class with these details to see how they interact. After establishing what we think is a good hem length point for a student in a black on black top and bottom we switch out the top to a high contrast colour of the same length and suddenly the top looks out of balance. If the high contrast top is boxy I pin in the side to establish a waist and wow all of a sudden the top looks to be the right length again. I take out the waist shaping, leave it boxy and fold up the hem 2 inches and it looks good at that length.  So often it is just a little tweak that makes the garment look good on an individual.

A very petite student tells me she has a wrap dress in  a solid colour that she feels great in. She recently bought the same style in a print and does not feel that it looks anywhere near as good. I ask about the print and it turns out to be a high contrast, large, bright motif on a white background. We discuss the fact that as a petite the silhouette may be perfect for her but it sounds like the print is fighting with her small proportions. This one is a harder fix but we talk about wearing the dress with a coordinating colour jacket to cut down on the overall visible amount of the print.

I have a jade green rayon sweater I made a number of years ago. I knew it would stretch in length so I shortened the knitting from my desired length to account for the stretch. It stretched even more! I thought about cutting it off and knitting a new edging down but I just didn't want to put the effort in. So I tried it on with a lot of different things instead of the white linen skirt I originally planned to wear it with. The only way it looks good on me is with slim trousers that are hemmed to wear with high heels. The extra 2 inches of  leg length is just enough to balance the length of the sweater. I also aim for a medium to low contrast in colour with the trousers. After I wore it a few times I realized that if I tucked it a little on one side at the waist band of my pants I could turn the hem into a diagonal line that was more flattering.

So if you hate the sweater you just finished once it is on your body, try changing what you are wearing it with. Look carefully at the proportions, look at the colour contrast of the item you paired it with, think about the textures of the pieces, try a belt for shaping or a higher or lower heel. Don't just give up on it until you have experimented a little.

Friday, August 26, 2011

An Interview with...Veronik Avery

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 Veronik here.

Where do you find inspiration?
It usually begins with a general idea of what the project ought to be and a sketch follows; swatching - sometimes quite a lot of it - follows.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Depends on which day you ask! If I had to choose, it would probably come down to stranded colour and lace.

How did you determine your size range?
The initial sample is sized to fit a 34" bust, generally. The various measurements are extrapolated according to a set of spreadsheet formulas I've devised to follow sizing in ready to wear. Generally, a pattern should fit bust circumferences ranging from 32" to 48".

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Since I publish a magazine containing others' designs in addition to my own, looking at other designers' work is a necessity. Their work probably influences mine indirectly.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I used to use sample knitters, but the knitting process inspires solutions and knitting details that I feel can only be achieved by knitting the samples myself.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I did, but only once I decided to launch a yarn line.

Do you have a mentor?
Yes - Pam Allen.

Do you use a Tech Editor?

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
With great difficulty? Thankfully, I can at least work on my samples while spending time with friends and family but this job doesn't actually allow to me to take too many days off.

How do you deal with criticism?
Depends on where it's coming from. I generally ask for it so consider it helpful input.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I never did as a knitwear designer - the output required in order to do so would have to be quite large. The yarn line should be considered a new venture and I expect that it will turn in a profit by the time it is between 3 and 5 years old, which is average for any type of business.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Think outside the box - designing is just one of the many options available in the industry. Learn about the different positions available and determine what best suits your talents and abilities.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Horror Knitting of Max Alexander

Warning: Scary Knitting Content.

This is a new category for me... Horror Knitting You can find Max here.


Artist Statement:
"I took up knitting while I was studying sculpture at Camberwell College of Arts and I've never looked back. Almost everything I do now is related to yarn in some way. From stop-motion animation to sculpture to jewellery it's all about the knitting. When animating I love bringing my creatures to life, it’s incredibly satisfying to give feelings and emotion to simple pieces of knitting. The characters tend to know what they want to get up to once they get in front of a camera. They are rarely interested in following any plans I have for
them! My knitimations won Best Animation at The National Student Film Festival in 2007 and 2008 as also Best Music Video in 2008.

My sculptural work often feature slightly disturbing undertones. By bringing a dark side to wool I’ve moved into the realm of Horror Knitting. Cuddly blood and gore is rarely scary but often disconcerting. In April 2009 I decided it was time to show my yarn love through jewellery. I made myself a pair of earrings featuring a tiny pair of knitting needles with a little bit of my hand dyed yarn. Then I wanted them in another colour and another and before I knew it I had a whole range of jewellery for the fashionable knitter."

It's hard to believe that the same hands created these cute earrings. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

How to Become a Master Knitter

I see myself as a life time student. Interestingly as I get older I'm even more curious about the world as evidenced by my increasing consumption of documentaries  and non-fiction books. Much of the research about accelerated learning has lately focused on practice. So the tips that follow are for the Knitters who want to grow their skill set at an exponentially faster pace. Don't give up the easy knitting as it has a place in your world as well, it has a relaxing and meditative quality that we all need to keep our sanity in a busy demanding life. However if you start to consciously improve and learn, those improvements will become part of the easy knitting experience.

Set goals, you have to know where you want to go if you expect to get there. What do you want to learn and why? Goal setting should define outcomes as well as the processes involved in reaching them. Do you want to knit a technically perfect piece of lace or do you want to knit the best fitting sweater ever for your unique shape? What skill sets do you need to develop for each outcome?  What classes should you take? Who could you ask for help?

Deliberate Practice  
Do swatches of techniques that are new to you, pay attention to every detail. Concentrate and try variations of the techniques to see what works best with your knitting style and different yarn choices.

Stretch Yourself 
To get better you have to choose to do projects that are a little beyond your current skill level. Ask a more experienced Knitter for their advice on what projects to try. Tell them what you have already done so they can help you incrementally increase the challenges. Knitting the same type of item over and over again takes lots of time but the learning decreases as the amount of time put in increases.

Swatch and repeat
You can't just do something once and expect to learn it all without repeating the skill. Practice, practice, practice as the saying goes.

Be patient
If we believe Malcolm Gladwell  it takes 10,000 hours or 10 years to become a true master of anything.

Review and analyze
Look at your work, learn to love your mistakes for what they can teach you. I guarantee that you learn more from your mistakes than you do from your successes. What would you do differently next time to improve the outcome?

Friday, August 19, 2011

An Interview with...Andrea Jurgrau

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 Andrea here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?  
All around me.  I find inspiration in nature, in architecture, in special places, in mythology…really, I can never tell. Sometimes a place captures my imagination, and a project come out of that, like my Corfu Shawl.  When I travel the scenery, the light and the colors might inspire me.  My Diwali Wrap is very much inspired by color and light.

What is your favourite knitting technique? 
Lace.  I am all about knitting lace.

How did you determine your size range? 
Most of my pieces are “one size” but I often build in potential pattern repeats so that it can be sized up if the knitter chooses.  

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?  
I like to look through all the knitting magazines to see what is getting published.  There are a few lace designers who are doing unique things, and I like to follow their work.  I am not worried about being influenced by someone else’s work.  I don’t like to repeat what has already been done well, and I have so many designs in my head at any given time I almost never knit anything but what I am currently designing.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?  
This is really not on my horizon.  I design because I have to, for me.  That means that as long as I can document the process clearly enough for another good lace knitter to follow me, I am happy.  I also do some work for yarn companies, which I try to keep within the context of their publishing guidelines.  That could mean just a few pages of directions and maybe only modest charts.  I consider that “keeping it simple” rather than “dumbing it down.”  I understand that 8 large charts just might not be in keeping with a yarn company’s pattern printing budget.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself? 
I knit all my own samples, because I like to knit through my charts before I subject anyone else to possible glitches.  I do have several wonderful lace knitters who often test knit for me.  I try to give them a full pattern, as print-ready as possible.  They knit the piece from that and give me feedback on both the directions and the charts, and between them they usually find any errors that slipped by me.

Did you do a formal business plan?  
No.  I have an informal business plan, and it is a little amorphous, but essentially I want to be able to justify the time I spend knitting so that I do not feel guilty when I think I should be cleaning my house…and these days I am able to do that.

Do you have a mentor?  
No.  I am mostly self taught.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated? 

What impact has the Internet had on your business?  
The internet has made my business possible.  Half of my sales are from electronic sales of patterns on the internet.  It has been a wonderful way to connect with people.  I have been hosting two large group projects a year and there are knitters from almost every continent who participate.  It is really wonderful how small the internet has made the knitting world.

Do you use a Tech Editor?  
I have in the past, but right now my test knitters also act as my tech editors.  They  have particularly keen eyes for number and grammar errors and go over the pattern looking for the little mistakes I often make (like miss-numbering chart rows!)

How do you maintain your life/work balance?  
I have a family, an old house, a more than full-time career in health care and I knit.  It is the knitting that keeps the rest of it in balance.

The Diwali Wrap pattern is available from Jade Sapphire Yarn Company
The Corfu Shawl, the Blue Quartet Blanket and Persian Princess patterns are available from Andrea's Ravelry Pattern Shop

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thistle and Broom a Scottish Knitting Business

Thistle and Broom is a company that sells more than just knitted items. I of course am most interested in that portion of the business. Paying Knitters is highly problematic for everyone in the knitting world. It's very labour intensive and can therefore eat up all the profits from a designers or sellers work. I do pretty much all of my own knitting for this reason and I'm sure that is why the free pattern testers group is so popular on Ravelry. It is only one of many such groups. 

Many of the designers I've interviewed do their own knitting or have friends that help them out creating their samples. My conundrum has been that if I pay true value to a sample knitter based on the hours of work required, I'm in the red in real cash dollars on any design that does not prove to be popular. To be honest I'm in the red on my own work as well but that is time not actual dollars out of my pocket. Tech editing requires more up front cash outlay as well. Predicting the popularity of a design in advance is a gamble at best. 

According to their site: "90% of our offerings are priced on the Fair Trade model so that 2/3rds of the retail price goes directly to the artisan."

Wow that's impressive!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Fear Factor and Body Image

In the past I was always motivated to keep my weight under control for reasons of personal vanity. I haven't become any less vain however recently FEAR kicked in!

I'm a few years past menopause. I've slowly gained a little weight since then but the big change has been in how it is distributed....all on my torso. This type of weight pattern is considered to be the most dangerous to an individuals health. I've read that the change in estrogen levels is causing the redistribution of body fat. This has been bothering me for a few months now. My Dad had Mixed Dementia which ultimately lead directly to his death. It was late onset which is less likely to be genetic and more likely to be lifestyle based. He was a poorly managed diabetic, had high blood pressure, rarely exercised, wouldn't follow his diabetic food plan, and I suspect that occasionally he manipulated his insulin to eat things he shouldn't. I could go on and on but you get the picture. The thought of experiencing the same decline that he did is terrifying.

The good thing about fear is that it does motivate you. I've been slowly increasing my daily exercise and cutting back a little on food. I'm using the Canada Food Guide as my basis, as I'm not a big fan of dramatic diets that no one can maintain in the real world. I'm already a pretty healthy eater so this has been more of a dietary tweak as opposed to big changes.

I'm a month into the changes and I'm having some success. My clothes are a little looser and some new better habits have been established.

Many Knitters don't knit for themselves due to body image issues (real or imagined). In my case the problem has been with things that I have already knit. What has surprised me is that my interest in clothing and by extension my knitting has been re-energized. I haven't been wearing some of my summer knits due to the fit issues the weight shift has created but I can see that I'm close to being comfortable enough to enjoy them soon. Yahoo! 

Body image issues are a major threat to the garment Knitter. I'm going to ask all of my readers to try to make peace with their own special shape. Either accept what you have or make realistic changes for improvement. Little changes can made big improvements in how you feel about yourself and to how much you are enjoying your life.

Friday, August 12, 2011

An Interview with...Jean Clement

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 Jean here.

As part of a cross promotion Jean will be posting a conversation with me at about 10 AM on her blog.You can find it here.

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! The colors and details of everyday life – the architecture of buildings – a word or thought, and sometimes the yarn, our world is full of inspiration.

What is your favorite knitting technique?
While I don't really have a favorite technique, I do like exploring the different ways any particular technique can be used. 

How did you determine your size range? 
Generally for my self-published work, the design determines the size range. I think some designs look better in certain size ranges than others might, although sometimes I do get comments from knitters outside the range I've offered saying they think the design would look good in their size too. Designs I do for books, magazines, and other publishers are sized according to their requirements, which I take into consideration before making a submission. 

Do you look at other designers’  work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I do look at other designer's work – I am a knitter after all as well as a designer. I think every designer puts their own vision into their designs so I don't think seeing another designers' work has much of an influence on my own. If I do see another design that is similar to one I've been working on, I will revise mine or just not publish it.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
Well, there are two (or more) sides to every issue – this one included. It's a wonderful thought that every knitter will become skilled enough to work from a pattern that is more outline than detail, or have a family member or knitting group to help them along – but I don't think that is realistic. I think there are many knitters out there who are learning to knit on their own, via the internet, books and patterns that do have more detailed explanations. And there are knitters who can look at the garment photo and knit the project without referring to the instructions. It seems there is a place for patterns of all levels in today's world.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I am my sample knitter. Since I sometimes make design changes as I work it's been easier – although certainly more time consuming – to knit my own samples. I do hope to be at a point one day where I can have sample knitters in order to increase my pattern production, so I'm working on writing first then knitting, without making changes. 

Did you do a formal business plan?
I have an informal one. I know where I want to be with my designing and have an outline for getting there. My plan changes and evolves as ways of reaching my goals change & evolve.

Do you have a mentor?
Not a 'mentor' per se but I do have contacts with other designers who I can turn to with questions and for guidance. 

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No, my business model is my own. Each designer has to decide for themselves what works for them. I think many designers have similar models though – with bits and pieces from others.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Huge –  most of my business is via the internet. The internet has connected knitters in a way we could not have imagined 20 years ago.

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Absolutely! It's far too easy to miss a mistake in one's own work. I am fortunate to have found some excellent editors to work with. Along with checking for errors they will suggest different wording when it will improve a pattern. Having more than one editor to work with also means that if one is busy the pattern can be reviewed by another and stay within the time frame I've set for publishing.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
What balance? Kidding aside, it can be hard to 'balance' life and work when trying to 'grow' a business. Working from home helps – I do accounting for a local hockey organization & my husband's company, along with my design work. I'm an early bird so the hockey group & DH's company get the early hours of the day, with the afternoon reserved for designing. I try to keep evenings open for family – my elder, moderately retarded SIL who lives with us, our 5 dogs and 8 goats and of course my husband. Our son is grown and off on his own but we enjoy it when he comes over to visit. Even with the 'best laid plans' things can get a bit out of whack sometimes but I try to keep an even keel.
How do you deal with criticism?
I try to deal with criticism in positive light – look at the issue from the other person's perspective. If the remark is valid, I will take it to heart and fix whatever needs fixing. If not, I try not to dwell on it.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I have not reached the point where I feel I can say I am supporting myself with my design work. Luckily my husband is doing alright with his business and my design work contributes to the household income (as does my accounting). I am working everyday toward when I can say I am supporting myself with my design work though.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
It's hard work – don't ever forget that. You will spend many more hours on the business & marketing end than you think, more than on actual design/knitting work. Have a goal to be focused on – know what you want to accomplish. Develop a group of people you trust for guidance and questions, or have a mentor. Join organizations that are important for reaching your goals. Don't be afraid to try new ideas, they might work out really well. And most of all remember - The future belongs to those who believe in their dreams.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reno Hell - Working from Home During a Renovation

Working from home is always a challenge of balance and focus. I'm knitting but I'm not getting as much writing done as I planned because this summer my husband decided to book all of his vacation instead of spreading it out over the year. The main reason for this is that we are renovating our bathroom. The first week he was off we spent sourcing all the supplies, making the design decisions and getting a contractor in to get a quote.

We live in a 30 year old building. We're been here 18 years and we have the original bathroom. There is a lot of water damage from a previous flood above us. You know where I'm going with this don't you?


My husband is reeling from the amount of cash this is going to take. This is for a small bathroom 5" by 5" of  floor space outside the tub, add a toilet and vanity and I struggle to find a bath mat to buy that fits into the room. LOL!

Within 3 days of placing our order for fixtures we got a call to say that the vanity is on back order  for at least 6 weeks. AAARRRGGHHHH! This problem cascades down and impacts the wall cabinet, sink, counter top and tap choices, so back we go to choose a new vanity. More money is spent but the good news is that the sales rep felt so bad she added in a few discounts to get us closer to the original number.

Everything was shipped to us the week before the demolition started, except the vanity which is supposed to arrive this week. I'm not sure how noisy this will be, so how much work I can get done this week is yet to be seen. Oh and the waiting period when you live in a condo can be a little problematic as well. Our balcony has boxes of tiles everywhere and my cats are enjoying their perches on the fixture boxes in our living room. The last picture includes my husband amongst the boxes crowding our living room while we checked that everything on the order arrived.

Update: the bathroom has been torn apart, there is dust everywhere and we have the cats gated in the living room with a tall cardboard wall at the doorway. I'm feeling a little stressed out and will escape for a little while to attend my Pro-Knitters meeting.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bottoms Up

I recently did a bottom up shawl and I loved it. There are so many great scalloped edges that work bottom up, I have a million new ideas for designs. I was also amazed by the psychological effect of rows that get shorter. It makes no difference to the overall amount of knitting however the construction means that on every right side row 4 stitches are decreased. That means that the rows get shorter and shorter, so the knitting of each gets quicker.  Somehow my brain is completely fooled by this. I have a circular shawl design in its beginning stages and I've been procrastinating on it because of the way the work gets slower and slower as you move out from the center.  The main disadvantage to bottom up compared to top down is that top down allows you to use up all of your yarn if the stitch pattern is one that accommodates extra rows easily. If you are knitting from a pattern that does not really matter as the designer has already worked out the yardage required.

I have this design on the go, the photos show it unblocked so it is not yet looking it's best. The yarn is Painted Fleece in the colourway Willy Wonka. It's on the blocking board as I'm writing this. I'm just at the stage of rechecking my charts and then off to editing and photography. I'll let you know when the pattern goes up on Patternfish.

Friday, August 5, 2011

An Interview with...Lisa Kay

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 Lisa here.

Where do you find inspiration?
There is always so much to be knitted that I don’t think of needing inspiration. I just need more time. My queue is full. When I started dating my husband, he later told me that in one of his earliest conversations with my mother, with me out of the room, my mom said to him, “She’s always doing something.” He later realized this was a warning.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I do seem to play with color a lot, such as stripes, and I also enjoy cables. Lately, I’ve enjoyed knitting in worsted or aran in easy fabrics that finish quickly. I think it is therapy after Morgana le Fay, which was a lace hoodie in fingering yarn on size 4 needles. I shouldn’t be surprised that not many people have made it. It is a huge commitment.

How did you determine your size range?
I have primarily published in Knitty (well, twice, and submitted several times not published), and I tend to agree with their required range, XS to 3X. I think that going above 3X, a person tends to need a lot customization.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I still knit a lot from other people’s patterns. I wait with baited breath for the big magazines to come out each season, and I pour over them repeatedly. Every once in a while, I go through my old piles of magazines and just flip through each of them again. I also look through Ravelry at popular and new patterns, and I like the “friend’s activity” feature on Ravelry, where it shows what other people are making or have favourited or queued. I think it does influence my design, but I don’t think that is a bad thing. It is not the same thing to say, “influenced” as to say, “copied.” If a person looks at the things I have made from patterns, and the things I have designed, there is some correlation to be found. The hood of the “Undercurrent” hoodie, my latest pattern in Knitty, is a bit of a cross between the Central Park Hoodie hood and the Alexandra Hoodie hood, both Knitscene designs, by Heather Lodinsky and Rosemary (Romi) Hill, respectively. I liked the drape of the Alexandra Hoodie’s hood, and the way the “lapels” looked lying open, and I incorporated that into the shape. At the same time, if one makes a hoodie with no other pattern in mind, it is sure to look a lot like other hoodies out there. How many different ways can a hoodie look?

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I think some things are done by publishers to simplify and/or shorten the instructions. Other publishers refuse this explicitly. Interweave Knits, for example, in their instructions for submission, says that the pattern must match the sample exactly. No changes can be made compared to the sample. Elizabeth Zimmermann wrote that part of her initial inspiration for her newsletter was that she submitted a “top down” pattern which a magazine re-wrote and published as knitted flat, a construction clearly contradicted by the pictures of the sample. Obviously, some changes can go too far.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have used the Ravelry test knitting pool a couple of times, to good result. 

                                                                                         Did you do a formal business plan?
I don’t have a business. I have a hobby. I publish patterns because I enjoy the recognition of having other people knit my designs. The only design that has even paid for the yarn was the sock. I suppose a person could make a tiny bit of profit by getting yarn sponsored. Certainly, magazines will provide yarn, but then you don’t get to keep the sample. I like to knit for myself, and sometimes I publish the pattern. That’s really all there is to it. I don’t consider it a business. Certainly, I’d never “quit my day job.” I do think it would be a lovely “feather in my cap” to publish a book. I have heard that it doesn’t make a lot of money, so that wouldn’t even bring it to a “business” level in my mind. It is more of a badge of honor than a way to make a living, in my own perspective. The “e-book” and downloadable pattern market seems to be a better business model, if a designer can get a following, since the sales are nearly all paid to the designer.

Do you have a mentor?
One of my very good friends, Ellen Lewis, owns a divine yarn shop, Crazy for Ewe, in Leonardtown and La Plata, MD, and she has given me many pieces of advice, and she also taught me to long-tail cast on. I only regret I don’t travel to Maryland often, any more. Whenever I have a design under consideration for publication, Ellen is the one I email about it.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
As I mentioned above, I don’t really consider myself to have a business. I think that the “downloadable” pattern market seems to have great potential. I like that format because it allows knitting to my own schedule and posting on my blog all the while, and then making a pattern available. I don’t like not being able to show progress on my blog, since I have to “go quiet” about what I’m knitting, if it is for Knitty or a magazine submission.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

The Internet is the only reason I’m “out there.” I started my blog as a sort of journaling-my-progress format, showing family and friends, and posting pictures of my son. I got onto Ravelry around the same time and started posting projects, for my own amusement. When I knitted the Central Park Hoodie, I modified the cables and called it a “Viking Version” on my blog (cables inspired by Elsebeth Lavold’s “Viking Patterns for Knitting”), I included the cable substitution instructions in the blog post, and I also added my project to Ravelry. Someone else created a “CPH Viking Version Cables” pattern page that linked to my blog post for the cable instructions. That was my first “designer” entry on Ravelry, and I didn’t even create it myself! I had several folks ask for a more printer-friendly format for the cable instructions, and I made them available in Word through email by request, and then, later, I posted a pdf. So, I was a designer!

Do you use a Tech Editor?

The only time my work has been tech edited is when it is by a publisher, such as Knitty. I do think it is a great idea, and I would use it if I had a “business,” but I am reluctant to pay for services of others for something that I consider a hobby (a hobby which already consumes a sizable yarn budget).

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

It is an interesting question, given that I’m claiming knitting and designing as a hobby. However, I do work a demanding (non-knitting) job, and I have a five-year-old son, and I try to knit whenever I have a spare moment, so it is a highly relevant question to me. My husband is a big part of the answer. Chris gets my son ready in the morning so that I can leave the house early (before they wake up), and he does most of the cooking (because he doesn’t like to eat my cooking), and he takes care of a lot of things that make me able to have a few more “spare moments” to knit. I also have to admit that I am a crazily avid knitter. I carry it with me everywhere, and I knit in the car on the weekend when Chris drives us to errands, and during swim lessons, and while we wait for our food to come at restaurants. Chris has used the word “addicted.” This also harkens back to the, “She’s always doing something,” comment.

How do you deal with criticism?
I tend to want to fix things that are wrong, and so I have to work on saying, “No.” I have requests for helping custom fit patterns, for example, and I simply can’t take on that time obligation or the responsibility for someone else’s fit, particularly over the Internet, sight-unseen. It would be a recipe for unhappiness, anyway. I do take great interest in what people think of my designs, and I read comments on Ravelry forums and blog posts to see what people say. I am disappointed when folks don’t like them, but not everyone likes the same thing. I saw, for example, that folks didn’t like the fact that Undercurrent’s stripes didn’t match under the arms. Well, one could always knit it in one piece to the underarms, but then the color changes would “run out” sooner and not shade up the fronts as well… so it is a trade-off. “Knitter’s choice,” if you will. So, for these comments, I simply think that the commenter should do their own designing. That’s why I do what I do in the first place, to get what I want, how I want it. With the Central Park Hoodie, it was amazingly popular, and I looked at it again and again, and I just didn’t like the appearance of the cables, and so I switched them out. I think other knitters should do the same. If someone is drawn to a certain pattern but doesn’t like a particular detail, change it.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I have no expectation that I could ever support myself with knitting. I don’t mean this to be negative. I know there are people who do. They are the superstars.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Be prepared to travel a lot. Get a book deal and then travel a lot to promote the book, giving talks and classes at every guild in every city that will host you. My local guild has guest teachers, and they always sell a lot of books at those classes. It is also great for name recognition. Submit design proposals to many magazines, often, and be prepared for many refusals. If the design is good, knit your own sample and publish the pattern as a download on Ravelry. Post many initial designs for free, to start your following. Many successful designers started with a lot of free patterns. One of my favorite sock designers, Wendy D. Johnson, had a huge number of free patterns available on her web site, and now she has two wonderful books published. Cookie A, another amazing sock designer, had several free patterns on Knitty and now has two books. Start a web page with a blog, and post to it regularly. Get involved in forums on Ravelry. The Internet touches the whole world, and there is no publisher in the middle as a “gatekeeper.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Knitters and Pain Killers

Like many Knitters I occasionally over do it and take over the counter pain meds to assist with the pain I get with osteoarthritis in my hands and wrists. I'm not keen on taking pills and I am fortunate to be in good health so I do not take any regular medication. I tend to bounce around between aspirin, Tylenol and Ibuprofen as I think everything has some side effects if you stay with it long enough. 

A couple of weeks ago I read about Aleve and the fact that one pill is good for 12 hours so I thought I would give it a try. At first I would have given it a great review as I had no pain in my hands at all. Now in retrospect I realize it had some immediate side effects that I did not identify.
The side effects listed below come from here. I've highlighted all of my negative side effects. As of the date I'm writing this I haven't taken anything in four days and I'm still getting up feeling slightly nauseous after a night of waking up every two hours. I have a friend who takes Aleve for much more serious pain than I have and she has not mentioned experiencing a single side effect. I'm sure that it is a good product for many people but this reminds me that as consumers we must be vigilant about our own health and carefully analyze anything that impacts it on an individual basis.

"No matter how you swallow this medicine, the most common side effects of Naprosyn involve the gastrointestinal tract.

They include nausea, indigestion, heartburn, cramps, gas, constipation, and diarrhea.

 Occasionally these problems can occur without obvious symptoms and lead to a life-threatening crisis due to perforation of the stomach lining.

Older people appear to be more susceptible to this problem and should be monitored carefully. Warning signs include weight loss, persistent indigestion, a feeling of fullness after moderate meals, dark or tarry stools, anemia and unusual fatigue.

Other side effects to watch for include headache, ringing in the ears, rash, itching, difficulty breathing and fluid retention.

Drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, difficulty concentrating, and confusion are possible, so do not drive if you become impaired.

Less common adverse reactions include jitteriness, insomnia, heart palpitations, hair loss, depression, tremor, tiredness, visual disturbances, and sores in the mouth. Report any symptoms to your physician promptly.

Some people become sensitive to sunlight while on Naprosyn
(Aleve), with a severe burn or rash resulting, so use an effective sunscreen, stay covered or avoid the sun." 

ETA: five days after stopping Aleve I had my first night of normal sleep and it took seven days before I woke up with out an upset stomach.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I'm a Knitting Rebel!

I got a good laugh recently when I read that women who do not dye their hair are rebels. I'm going grey and have been for a few years. The decision to not colour my hair has been made for several reasons. One of the main ones is that I don't want to be bothered with the maintenance and I dislike the look of roots that show a different colour. I have also watched a few friends grow colour out and I have seen how painful that stage is unless you are willing to go with a really short haircut at the same time. About 10 years ago my hairdresser made a mistake with a shine treatment I used to get. She switched products and used one with peroxide that left me with a visible growth line. I ended having to do low lights to break up  the stripe effect line and during the patch test discovered I'm allergic to hair colour. Since the low lights were to match my natural colour they were done with out touching my scalp.

I don't make any judgments on people who do colour their hair as I don't really care what other women do. I think that kind of thing is a personal decision. It has been clear to me that this can be a real hot button issue. A friend of mine who started colouring her hair when the first grey hair showed up was so disturbed by my choice that we she had to talk about it almost every time I saw her. I got really annoyed by the discussion by about the tenth conversation and I would try to change the topic but she was persistent. She was adamant that hair colour makes you look younger and was furious when I said that to me people end up looking the same age they just have dyed hair on the same age face. I believe that perceived age is based on a multitude of factors that make up ones appearance not a single attribute. Skin, teeth, weight, posture, health and muscle tone all play a subtle role in how others perceive us.

I guess I've ended up rebelling in other ways too. I don't drive and I've had people get bizarrely worked up over that one as well. I don't have kids...a previous coworker spent a lot of time trying to convince me what a big mistake that was. Even my allergist (who I saw maybe four times in total) had to explain to me what a serious error in choice I was making. I've never owned a house only a condo, clearly a subversive decision. I didn't change my last name either time I got married. Shocking!

Peer pressure is fascinating isn't it? Why do so many people feel that everyone must make the same choices that they do? What a boring world it would be if we were all exactly the same.

My most rebellious behavior you ask? Knitting. I was knitting when it was very uncool. I was still knitting when it became cool and I expect I'll be knitting as long as my hands can hold the needles. I ignored the critics, kept on my own path and I am confident that my decisions are right for me.