Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Knitted Running Shoes

Katie of PrettySneaky makes these great running shoes. I find them to be very amusing. I love to see knitting used in a different way. Do you think wearing them could make me knit faster?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Refining Sleeve Caps for Better Fit

  Low cap                               High cap                                Standard Cap
In my previous post on sleeve caps I mentioned that they can be adjusted to improve fit. Above you see three sleeve and sleeve cap variations. All 3 are from my drafting program and they all fit into a Misses size 10. You will notice that the low cap requires a wider sleeve so that the cap will measure long enough to fit the armhole. In the case of the high cap the sleeve can be narrowed. All these are subtle changes that can improve the fit of your sweaters. My personal preference is the high cap and narrower sleeve. It creates a slimmer proportion and is more flattering to my short arm length. The information I'm sharing with you is to help you to customize for your best personal fit. That may mean that you would be happier with one of the other 2 types. Most patterns currently use the low cap version. So give it some thought and take a look at garments you already own to analyze what cap type is most flattering on your body. The second factor to analyze is how much ease you like on your sleeves. Patterns generally use one of two standards. Sleeve ease is either 50% of the ease number used on the body or it is 1 inch on the lower arm and 2 inches on the upper arm.

Friday, November 25, 2011

An Interview with...Alasdair Post-Quinn

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. Alasdair has a new book out available from Cooperative press
He is a lifelong crafter who lives in Cambridge, MA, with his wife and cat. When he’s not knitting, he enjoys cooking, fixes computers for Brandeis University, listens to esoteric music, audiobooks, and NPR, and tries to spend as much time outdoors as possible.

You can find Alasdair here, here and here. He is on Ravelry here.

You've been working on innovations with double knitting techniques. Could you tell us about how you came to focus on double knitting?
I've always been fascinated with the efficient use of space. I can't say my everyday life is an illustration of that, but it always makes me feel good when I find a better way to organize things. My online handle "fallingblox" predates my knitting life, coming from my obsession with Tetris-like games from an early age. I guess when I taught myself to knit, I was disappointed with the wasted space on the "wrong side". Most knitting is not meant to be framed on a wall; it's three-dimensional and I feel like both sides should be attractive. When I began designing knitted objects, I started with Moebius scarves in reversible knit and purl patterns. It's only natural that when I decided to add another color, I found double-knitting to be the most fitting technique. The irony is that, to this day, I have yet to design a double-knitted Moebius scarf.
How did you develop your new charting method?
I assume you're referring to my two-pattern notation, which allows you to chart both sides of a double-knit fabric in different patterns. It was really just a matter of thinking logically about what I was doing, then laying out the two sides and interlacing them. At the same time I worked out two-pattern double-knitting, a small meme must have been released because two or three other people elsewhere in the world simultaneously worked it out and found their own ways of notating two-pattern charts. However, while others decided to try to squeeze both colors into a single chart element, I took a more literal approach. If you read across a row of one of my two-pattern charts and compare it to the finished row on your needles, you'll find that the colors and stitch types correspond exactly to the pattern -- like any other knitting chart. Essentially what I've done with these charts is to show you literally what you're doing using familiar notation. Because of this, I've heard reports of people with no double-knitting experience successfully knitting one of my two-pattern charts. The other strength of my notation method is that it frees you to design in any number of colors without changing your notation style -- although there are practical limits to how many colors you can double-knit with.
Where do you find inspiration?
Utica. Hah! That's what Gary Larson used to tell people when they asked where he got the ideas for his Far Side comics. 

To be honest, I think there's just something a little unusual about my brain. I find beauty in the oddest places, and I wish I could tell you where the ideas for my work come from. I love geometric interactions and the interplay of colors, and I find those things anywhere I look -- even when I'm not looking. But lately, the techniques have come before the designs. I'll think of a technique and work out a design that fits it well. In the process of adapting the technique to double-knitting, the design may change several times from the original concept.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I've had this issue for a long time. Yes, I'm afraid of being influenced too much by others' work, but in this day and age we can't help it. If you don't look at other people's work, you won't know what's in fashion, and you also won't know what's already been done. If you do look at other people's work, you may never start for fear of being accused of copying someone else's idea. Now I don't care so much about fashion -- I'd like to think most of my designs are outside that limitation. Also, if you start a large double-knit project for something that's fashionable now, it might be out of style by the time you finish it. Hats, scarves, mittens, neckties, baby booties, blankets, etc -- these things don't go out of style, or not as quickly. They're also much easier to finish in a reasonable amount of time. To return to the question, I don't think it's possible to look at everything everyone else is designing and still have time to design yourself. So I don't avert my eyes from the work that people are doing in my knitting groups, or what people are wearing at fiber festivals and similar gatherings, and I stumble across stuff online and on Ravelry, but I don't make a point of researching trends or studying other people's work. 
How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
It depends on the project. For my recent book, it was about half and half -- patterns I knew worked I would send to sample knitters; patterns still in development I would work out myself, then come back to them and check them over, possibly knitting them again. For my first independently-sold pattern, the Falling Blocks hat, I drew from the pool of over 2000 double-knitters in my Ravelry double-knitting group and selected 10 likely folks with varying levels of experience to test the pattern. Many of my patterns are proof-of-concept pieces -- they're designed only to show that something is possible to do -- so I'll be the one knitting the sample. If I have doubt about my notation, I may send it on to further test knitters. 
Did you do a formal business plan?
Not really -- I've been flying by the seat of my pants for the entirety of the book writing period. I've just tried to keep one eye on the goal and one eye on the next several steps so as not to get overwhelmed. It didn't always work, but everything fell together rather than apart in the end. The patterns I'm working on now will go up for sale on Ravelry as a test of how my rising name recognition affects sales of patterns. I may never reach Stephen West levels, but I never expected to. 
Do you have a mentor
In the sense of someone who has nurtured my growth as a knitter from early in my career and who I look up to as a student at the feet of a master? Not really. I'm a self-taught knitter and something of a loner in general. But I think the person who fits most comfortably into that space would be Cat Bordhi. Sure, she's a mentor to many, especially aspiring self-publishing authors, but I feel I would not have come as far as I did as quickly without her help at the Men's Visionary Retreat.
What impact has the Internet had on your business? 
I probably wouldn't have even had a business without the Internet. The Internet allowed me to connect with other people who were doing double-knitting, and without them it would have taken me much longer to realize that the stuff I was doing was actually innovative and hadn't been documented before. I wouldn't have known that people liked my patterns and wanted to knit them too, and I wouldn't have had an easy distribution method. At the same time, the Internet is a big risk for anyone doing business in digital-format books or patterns, since the difficulty in securing them is often more trouble than most want to go to, and there's a large network of piracy out there. But it's a risk you take. I think knitters are fundamentally decent people who would like to see the designers they admire continue their work.  
Do you use a Tech Editor?
As I started working with Cooperative Press, yes, I had a tech editor working on my manuscript. However, I have not released enough patterns outside of the book to require the regular services of a tech editor. I do all my own charts and most of my work is either not sized or sized very simply -- or would require a very specialized tech editor. I have some patterns in the future that will definitely require tech editing, so it's about time I find someone with that specialized skill set.  
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Poorly, my wife would probably say. To be fair, it's not just life and work -- knitting is still not my primary job, so I have to balance my day job, my knitting work, my social life, and my marriage. It hasn't been easy over the past 2 years. I didn't have a good road map for the things I'd need to do for the book, and it seemed deadlines would creep up and pounce at inopportune times, as they do, and I'd have to drop everything and, say, print off my book and proofread it, or knock out a new website, or iron out travel details, etc. The saving grace has been that my wife works 12-8 and I work 9-5, so I have some evenings where I can work without distraction for a few hours without causing offense. My social life has really gone from sparse at best to barely existent, except for knitting-related activities. I expect this will change as I get further from my book's print date. My boss at my day job is a sometime knitter and as such is supportive of my projects, even when they require I take time off from work, as long as my work gets done.
How do you deal with criticism?
I'd like to say I take it in stride because I know everyone's taste is different and I can't please everyone, but I'm a sensitive guy and I'm sure if I start getting lots of criticism I won't take it well. However, I haven't had much yet. When my Four Winds hat first came out in Twist Collective, I had one person write a critical post about it, but when I went to read it I found he had cut down virtually every pattern in that issue. So the best I can say is, I'd take any criticism I get in context. I had the book endorsed by three knitting luminaries I admire greatly and I think it would take a great deal of criticism from random people before I decided to disbelieve the glowing compliments I've gotten from people whose opinions I value more.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I'd have to check with my mother for sure, but probably around 2 years like most other people. Oh wait, did I misunderstand the question?

Actually, as I mentioned before, this is still not my primary job and I'm not sure it ever will be. My patterns take me less and less time to design, but as I get into finer-gauge work, they take more and more time to knit. Even if I start using sample knitters more heavily, I may save myself some time but it will cost me more money. In addition, my work is a niche within a niche -- the majority of knitters will never try my patterns because they're into quicker knits and less into technical challenges. If I ever manage to support myself, it will be like Kaffe Fassett, where I design countless beautiful things and barely ever knit them myself. That doesn't sound fulfilling to me. 
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
As far as I can tell from talking to others who are closer to the path of a full-time knitting career, success in this field requires an eye for the ever-changing fashion of the day and a good feel for shape, design and construction. Like any other field where your success is dependent on the opinions of others -- from graphic design to food service -- be prepared to put some of the things you might really want to design on the back burner while you design things that will actually pay the bills, so to speak. I find that the pattern of mine that most people gravitate to first is Corvus, my first double-knit pattern, simple and elegant, (and free on Ravelry). It's the sort of thing that even a non-double-knitter might say "I could do that" about. It is my hope that it will be a gateway into the more advanced and interesting patterns, but I have to be satisfied if some people knit that and never go further. I could design more elegant simple double-knitting and sell more patterns that way, but I'm happy to keep pushing the boundaries of my chosen technique and releasing patterns that may never sell more than a few hundred copies. For that reason, I am not likely to have a full-time career in knitting anytime soon. But if that's the way you want to go, I wish you the best of luck.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We Need a New Word

I frequently refer to non-knitters when writing blog posts. I've decided we need a new word for that group, something that defines them separately from our sub-culture. I'm thinking of something similar to "muggles", the name J. K. Rowling uses, that refers to a person who lacks any sort of magical ability and was not born into the magical world.  

I think knitting is also a form of magic, especially when observed by non-knitters.

I used a word generator and came up with a few suggestions nontes, knitnos,  noniters, knitnions and noles. 

If you want to play too, the generator is here. Let me know in the comments if you come up with something good. The idea of a special name for "them" tickles my fancy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sleeve Cap Adjustments Due to Height

Height adjustments are made at the lines indicated
Getting the armhole right is one of the most difficult parts of pattern making and modifying existing patterns.

The best way to measure your armhole depth is to take something flexible like a magazine or a thick pad of paper. Hold it under your arm parallel to the floor and bend it around to the front  of your body. Measure from the top of your shoulder down to the straight edge of the item tucked under your arm. Measure at the outside edge since the sleeve cap attaches there. If you are modifying an existing pattern remember that on a sloped shoulder the measurement is longer on the inside edge of the shoulder. Normally the schematic will reflect this. Add 1 - 2 inches to your personal measurement for ease.

The lines on the schematic pictured above show where you would add or remove length to adjust your garment for better fit.
A sleeve cap should fit easily into the armhole without having to be stretched or squeezed to fit. In knitted garments the sleeve cap is symmetrical, however if you are having major fit problems in this area you can consider making the cap fuller on the backside edge by slowing the rate of decrease. Look at the back of most women’s arms and you will see that often it’s much fuller than the front.  

Cap height is shorter than the total armhole depth. It is based roughly on a proportion to bust measurement. For busts up to 30 inches the sleeve cap is 2 inches less than armhole depth for 30 – 48 inch busts it is 3 inches less and over 48 inches it is 4 inches less. 

This info is meant as a starting point only, as cap height can be manipulated for better fit in a number of ways. As an example, when narrowing a sleeve for a closer fit, the cap must become higher to reach the same final cap length to fit into the armhole.

The length of the armhole and the sleeve cap are closely related
The beginning of the sleeve cap starts with cast offs and decreases that match those of the underarm. The next section tapers the sides until you are about 1 inch away from the top edge. The third section casts off stitches quickly at the amount of 1 inch or less worth at each end and the last cast offs should be in the amount of stitches equal to .25 of the upper arm width. The last 2 cast off segments vary in width according to designer, generally the very flat topped sleeve caps create a loose fit. You can use graph paper and plot in the numbers you know and then draw in the rest. Your cap should be a little bigger than the armhole by approximately 1 - 1.5 inches and should be set in smoothly across the top of the shoulder with a little easing on the sides. To measure, chart both the armhole and the sleeve cap on knitters graph paper. You can then use a flexible ruler or a tape measure standing on its side to compare the two. It is surprisingly difficult to do this on a first try. I usually have to fiddle around with the decreasing and shaping to work out the sections between the initial cast offs that match the underarm and the top of the cap which I drawn in according to row count. 

You should know also that designers vary widely on how they create sleeve caps. They also differ on opinions as to the fit of the cap. I like a larger cap eased into the armhole. Some prefer an exact match and still others prefer to stretch the cap to fit.

Friday, November 18, 2011

An Interview with...Jessica L’Heureux

The pattern for the wrist warmers Jessica is wearing is available here.
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 Jessica here and here and here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration?
Usually a design starts with a color. I like to design textures and patterns that represent, in some way, the color I’m working with.  If a particular dye lot reminds me of fire, or a stormy sea, or a leafy vine, I’ll try to reflect that in the stitch pattern or overall shape. Sometimes I’ll design something with a particular person in mind, but again, the color is my jumping off point. That person’s favorite color or a color that makes me think of them will be the very first thing I define about that pattern. From there, I just go with the flow and create around that colored inspiration. Once the design is done and named, I let that initial color demand go and let the pattern speak for itself.

In my teaching, I’m inspired by the “ah ha” moments - those moments when I realize my student has had a breakthrough and I’ve enabled them to do something they couldn’t do before.  Few things are more fulfilling.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Cables, hands down.  I’m not a mindless knitter – you’ll never see me knitting in a dark theater.  I get bored very quickly with stockinette and garter.  I enjoy lace, but the perfectionist in me gets fussy quickly.  Cables run through my knitting mind like water in a river.  They add excitement and visual interest.  I’m forever messing with different cable patterns, taking stock stitches and tweaking them to better represent my design concept.  I’ve literally squashed completed designs and patterns because I wanted more from the cable stitch I incorporated, be it more or less twist, stronger definition, more or less prominence, or better actual flow in the knitting process.  It is important to me that my designs look interesting and intricate, but have easily mastered repeats and offer a kind of a roller coaster experience where the knitter knows this is an action row, this is a rest row, this is a different action row.  Knitting should be fun!

How did you determine your size range?
My designs are generally hats and I’m expanding into wraps and shawls.  Sizing is based on appropriateness. If the design is meant for an adult woman, it will be sized as such.  If I get requests for a child’s version, I’m happy to make one.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I LOVE looking at other designers’ work.  Few things are as inspiring and driving.  Generally I’m not so influenced by their design as their construction.  I’ll see a construction I like and then put my own design on the silhouette or shape that construction technique achieves. 

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I’ve thought a lot about this question ever since the first time the subject was brought to my attention whilst reading your interviews (which I’ve followed for a LONG time now).  When I’m writing my patterns I catch myself thinking “oh, I don’t need to include that… it’s obvious” but then I think about my intended audience, and honestly I think that is the birthplace of this controversy.  It is only a controversy if you aren’t designing to your intended audience.  If your designs are meant for expert knitters and include intricate or complex skills, you should write to the general expectations and skill levels of your expert knitters.  I’m a knitting instructor.  I’m likely to teach my designs.  I want my students to gain confidence.  To build a sense of security in their skill set, to build confidence in my intended audience, I write to their level and tell them what they need to know.  Do I tell them to slide the stitch marker? No – pointing out the bleeding obvious is “dumbing down”.  Do I tell them they may want a stitch marker and where to initially place it? You bet.  Creating a pattern that is clear, concise and will allow anyone with the basic skills of the pattern to complete a project with success should never be considered controversial.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Generally I knit all my tests and samples.  Often during this process I not only make corrections but improvements or changes, which I then test knit again.  I like having my hand directly in the process.  Once I’m fully satisfied, I generally rely on a friend or some of the amazing members of Ravelry to do a final test knit for me.  This enables me to check in with my intended audience and see if my writing and instruction fits their needs.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No.  I detest formal business plans.  I find them too rigid and no where near liquid enough for me.  My business is my dream.  I dream of teaching.  I dream of designing.  I dream of enjoying this art form.  Dreams don’t have formal plans.  If my dream changes tomorrow to a dream of test knitting for others, or tech writing or opening a store, I want to follow my dream, not sit down and hammer out yet another draft of a formal plan.  Sure, I want sales and money, but they are results of doing the things I dream of and doing them well.  A formal business plan isn’t necessary.  Being realistic is about your business is.  My experience has been that providing the best product and the best customer service I can, with reasonable marketing, at a logical price is the best plan for me.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The Internet is everything.  Without it I wouldn’t have a business.  All of my pattern sales are online.  More than 80% of my research is online, and probably 80% of my community is online.  Blogs, websites, online classes, videos, and knitting community sites all feed my creativity.  The only aspect of my business that isn’t directly online is my teaching, and even that gains greatly through online advertising.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Precariously.  Sometimes I’m too focused on my knitting, sometimes my knitting doesn’t exist.  I try to do a little everyday, but as a nagging shoulder injury reminds me, breaks are good too.

How do you deal with criticism?
Through my professional “day-job” in which I do other design work, I tell my clients I am “an entity without feelings” so that my clients feel confident and secure in being openly critical, driving projects to be completed to fit their vision, rather than my own.  My knitting is very different.  It is my personal expression, and not contracted design.  At first I took criticism very personally.  I’ve had to learn to land somewhere in the middle.  Ultimately a criticism is an opinion, and everyone is entitled to their opinion.  Likewise, we are all entitled to agree or disagree with the opinions of others.  Without opinion there isn’t variety.  What appeals to some will not appeal to others.  I use criticism to broaden my vision and approach things from a different vantage point.  I may or may not choose to incorporate what I’ve learned, but I’ve learned none the less. 

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
(Wild laughter!) Yeah, no.  I don’t have expectations that I ever will support myself with my knitting.  Sure, it would be nice, but knitting is my creative outlet and my hobby and my relaxation.  I suspect if I ever work hard enough at it to support myself I will lose these elements. I’ve seen amazing designers get to the point of self-sufficiency and then muck in, stress out and start dolling out rout mediocrity repeating brilliant projects with weak imitations and variations until they either hate what they do or themselves for doing it.  There are many this never happens to, and I’m not suggesting that if that it is your goal you should forget it – hardly!  I will stand behind anyone with a dream.  That simply isn’t my dream.  My goal is to have fun and support my stash, and I’m better than halfway there.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Go for it!  Just because I’m not out to get rich at it doesn’t mean you can’t.  Do what you love and love what you do – it will show in your work and that in itself will draw success to your business.  Oh, and always remember “NO” is simply an acronym for “Next Opportunity”, not a personal assault, opinion or judgment. “NO” only tells you this isn’t the right person, place or thing…keep going and move on to your “Next Opportunity”.    

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Knitted Art - Who Really Does the Knitting?

I'm currently reading Astounding Knits by Lela Nargi. It covers many  artists who work with knitting as a form of expression. What suddenly struck me as I was reading the artist explanations of the work is how many of them rely on other knitters to produce their work. In some cases it is because they work with "found" objects like thrift store sweaters and integrate them into installation work. In others the artist does the the design work and then gets other knitters to do much of the knitting. This is most common in the large scale installation work.

I know other artists like Jeff Koons, have a studio system that involves assistants creating their paintings and sculptures or they out source work to China. When Jeff was interviewed here he said "I used to make all my own sculpture, my paintings, but if I did that it would severely limit the range of projects that I could be involved with. I follow my interests in some way that feels profound to me, those that seem to have a deeper meaning. I feel completely free to do whatever I want to do. But I have to edit my work a lot, because of the process, the amount of time it takes to actually make things, you really have to make the things you want to make, otherwise you’re wasting a lot of energy."

In his comments, while he acknowledges not creating the work personally, it is clear that having others make the pieces has no impact on his ownership of the art work as his. I'm curious, how many of you realized that the artist can be very distant from the actual knitting of the art?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Adjusting Knitting Patterns for Height

Did anyone notice in my recent posts on pattern sizing that while I mentioned target height ranges for retail sizing that knitting patterns never give you height information?

While discussing pattern fitting and the assumptions inherent in each size range, it came to my attention that petites and tall women are adding or subtracting length in the body of a garment (often at the hem). It is rare to find someone who adjusts anywhere else in a pattern.

As height changes from whatever standard a pattern maker is using, it changes proportionally in all areas of the pattern. That means that length should be added or removed not just in the body but in the armhole as well. If the design has waist definition it means that the torso should be changed above that shaping and not just adjusted at the bottom edge. Most pattern makers put 1/3 of the change into the armhole and 2/3 of the change between the waist and the armhole. If you change the length of the armhole the sleeve will require a corresponding alteration. This unfortunately is where it gets complicated. I'll do a post later on adjusting sleeve caps for set in sleeves.

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Interview with...Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton

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 Cornelia here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration all around me... sometimes in architecture, fashion, nature, crafts, sometimes in something that I mis-perceived... everywhere... If a yarn does not inspire me though I generally won't work in it...

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Don't have a favorite technique... I guess whatever helps me to get the results that I want at the time. Like things to flow though...

How did you determine your size range?
I do the sizing of each design separately... every garment's variables are different and I work from these. Some garments can be sized big while others wouldn't work in bigger sizes. Sometimes the construction of the garment forces limitations to sizing... it all depends.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I generally don't look much at other hand knitter's work... Not out of fear, but more out of respect... we pick up things very easily and it is almost impossible not to be influenced by what one sees both in good ways and bad ways... I really try to work from my own creativity as much as possible. I do look quite a bit at designer's of ready-to-wear... I also enjoy looking at the work of artists in other mediums... 

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
Don't know anything about that controversy... I write patterns for people that have a basic understanding of knitting. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I like to design on the needle so my more innovative designs I have to knit myself... at least until I 'know' how I want something to turn out. I have had two people that have helped me with knitting for years. 

Did you do a formal business plan?
No. I am an intuitive type of business person... I still don't do budgets, etc... I have a very good grip on my business though, but not in a conventional number-crunching kind of way. 

Do you have a mentor? 
Not really... there are people though who I speak with and who I ask advice of depending on their area of expertise. My experience is that every person and market are different and everyone has to find their own way in the end.

Montauk Cabled Vest - Pattern available here

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No. And I have found during the course of my career that the 'normal' models applied to businesses do not work in our branch. I have always tried to think creatively and outside of the box which has helped me. Keep things flexible, let your business grow organically, figure out your niche would be my advice...

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
It has had a huge impact on me personally and also on my business... I honestly don't think that I would have been able to stay in the business if computers had not come along!! And the Internet is very helpful as a tool for marketing and communication!

Bohemia Shawl - free pattern here

Do you use a Tech Editor?
I knit my garments and then write the patterns afterward... I then have someone check them.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Have never been able to... love me, love my work!! I have yet to meet a person with a balanced life in this business.... at least not any professionals... it is definitely one of the downsides of the business. The biggest problem is the time-consuming aspect of our work... you really have to have knitting not just as work but as a hobby too.

How do you deal with criticism?
It depends on the source and a lot of other factors... Basically I take it to heart and try 

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I have working for myself for 30 years. Been supporting myself for the past nine years. But my income is not just from designing. The Internet has vastly changed the prospects of making a living for designers but it takes many years to really hone the craft. Recently I was thinking about what specific qualities that people who have been designing hand knits for 30 years have in common. I decided frugality might just be at the top of the list! Another one is tenacity. And having endless curiosity and more ideas than you have time do anything about.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Don't quit your day job! If you can think of anything else you might be happy doing to make a living - do it! Might sound harsh, but it is basically that difficult. If you have to pursue a career in knitting, have a rich husband :-) or a couple of years worth of income in the bank as a buffer. Make sure you like to work alone and that you can deal with the self-discipline and self-motivation required in self-employment.    

Heavens Hand Yarn

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Styles of Learning for Knitters

Have you ever thought about how you learn and how that may be affecting your knitting? It is not news to most of us that we have preferences in how we like to receive new information.

You can take a test here ( to determine your learning style.

Once you know your style you can use that information to improve your learning opportunities. 

These are my results: 

You can see that I am very visual so charts and diagrams work for me but not at all aural so music and rhymes will not help me to learn. I'm high on the physical learning which makes sense as I am a swatcher. I think we know many knitters do not enjoy swatching but most designers do. I also lean towards solitary learning. That one was a surprise to me because I'm very social and extroverted but it is true that I like to sit down alone and work things out by myself. I also love teaching classes, however when I took classes I often worked through the notes again when I was alone. I thought I was doing that to reinforce my learning but after doing the test I think maybe I didn't understand my own motivation for re- reading class notes. I do know I always want good notes as reference from every class I take.

What about you? What's your learning style and how will you use that to improve your knitting?

Monday, November 7, 2011

New Pattern - The Marina Gregg Pullover

Pattern available here.

I've got a new pattern up on Patternfish. This is one that the concept just wouldn't go away. I keep a list of design ideas because I have far more ideas than I can possibly ever execute. This one has been on my list for a while and it kept bubbling up as one I really wanted to knit. The inserts on the side create shaping. I've seen many garments with side panels that do this but only in garments sewn from woven fabric. 

Many jackets use side panels as a way of building in shape in the same manner. The sections are joined where a dart could be placed and the width of the dart is simply eliminated from the pieces to create torso shaping. I may not be done with this concept yet, it's something I would like to explore further.

Friday, November 4, 2011

An Interview with... Judith Durant

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 Judith here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
Like most people who create and make things, I find inspiration absolutely everywhere. In the forest, on the beach, and in the mountains; in museums, on city streets, and in my neighbor's garden; the world is full of colors and shapes, and the ones that move me can spawn an idea. I once designed a necklace with colors I'd never have put together if it weren't for the photograph of an Art Nouveau mural I saw. And the colors and patterns of Zulu bead work was the impetus for the Zulu Inspired Vest pictured here.

From the book Knit One, Bead Too

What is your favourite knitting technique?
All of them. Well, maybe not all, but I love cables, color stranding, lace, knitting with beads; I make socks, scarves, hats, sweaters, pillows…too many things to list! I think this question would be easier to answer in the negative: I don't particularly enjoy intarsia, but I do love what can be done with it. I've managed to complete a couple of intarsia projects, but I find that I'm not happy working with too many strands of yarn that aren’t staying with me from the beginning to the end of a row or round--I always have to stop and untangle the mess I've made. Perhaps I'll give it another go one day, but in the meantime I have plenty of knitting that I love to keep me busy.

How did you determine your size range?
I find that there's a direct correlation between my food and drink intake and my size, and I've been all sizes between 8 and 16 several times in my life. Oh, but I suppose you're asking about the sizes I write patterns for. The range I choose is dependent on the design. When I started teaching from my book Knit One, Bead Too I needed something special to wear, something that could transcend the seasons. I came up with this simple beaded horseshoe lace top. I wear it over white in the summer and over black in the winter.

Beaded Shell, to be published by Kollage Yarns date not available.

The simple T-shirt shape is flattering to almost every figure, so when I sold the design to Kollage Yarns knitted in their absolutely delicious Creamy yarn, I wrote the pattern in 4-inch increments from 34 to 54. The original, shown on the dress form, is 46 inches, and the new version for Kollage measures 34 inches.

Beaded Shell, to be published by Kollage Yarns date not available.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Yes I do look at other designers' work, and I do allow myself to be influenced. If I'd never seen Vivian Høxbro’s work with Domino Knitting, I never would have known to design this great bag or to embark on what may be a 10-year project knitting a mitered queen-size bed cover with 16-inch overhangs! And while I would never promote the idea of copying anyone else's design, it's not a bad thing to learn from what others are doing. I would love to think that something I've done inspired someone else's original design.

This is a project Judith uses for teaching classes.
The Bed Cover, is a personal project from Judith and is not published.

How do you feel about the controversy of the so-called "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
This is an interesting question for me because I've been on many sides of the knitting world. When I was a beginning knitter, patterns were written in a very terse way, and you could find little extra help--it was assumed that if you were following a pattern, you already knew enough to knit it. I had to look for help beyond the pattern, and I was fortunate enough to find the answers with my mother or grandmother; I also managed to figure out a few things for myself. As a pattern writer and editor, I've often groaned aloud about the seemingly excruciating detail I'm required to include with some instructions, feeling as if I have to hold the knitter's hand from beginning to end. However, as a teacher, when a student comes to me with a problem with someone else's pattern and there are no clues readily available in the pattern to help answer the question, it can be frustrating to have to start at the beginning and mentally knit the better part of a sweater to find the answer. As the editor of the One-Skein Wonders series, I personally answer every question that comes in on the patterns in those books. The first four books of the series comprise 404 patterns, and there are two more books currently in the works: 101 Crochet One-Skein Wonders and 101 Lace One-Skein Wonders, bringing the total to 606. With that many patterns to be responsible for, the fewer the questions the better.

While it would be nice to find a better way to way to write patterns, one that helps knitters to understand what it is that they're doing rather than just blithely following the written words, space is often limited. It's also legitimate to take the stand that it's not the job of the designer to teach people how to knit. But if we don't teach them, who will? What a dilemma! I'm currently working on a technique book with Dorothy T. Ratigan that will be published by Krause Books in July 2012 and titled Knitting Know-How: Techniques, Lessons, and Projects for Every Knitter's Library. In it we present those techniques that have worked consistently for us over the years, and explain when and how to use them. Rather than include a list of all the cast-on methods we know, we divide the cast on section into elastic, firm, provisional, circular, and decorative types and include only our favorites, explaining why we'd choose one over another. In a perfect world, all knitters will buy our book and learn most of what they need to know about knitting there. ;--)

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
At the moment I don’t do enough designing that I need test knitters. What you see is what I knit.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I wish I could say yes to this question, but my only business plan was to find a way to get off the commuter rail.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The Internet has helped many designers get more exposure and sell their designs. I'm still a bit of a technical dinosaur, and it's a wonder I have any Internet presence at all. However, I do have a New Year's resolution, and that is to hire someone to create a professional website for me and to start to use more of the social networking tools that are currently available. All of this creates a bit of a problem for me because I'm a very private person by nature. It goes against everything I've been taught and everything I believe to go shouting to the world how great I am. But like many things in life, it will probably be okay if practiced in moderation.

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Everyone needs a technical editor. Since most of my designs have been published in book form, a technical edit is part of the routine. When I edit or project manage the publication of knitting books and patterns, I always use a tech editor. I've designed several projects that I use to teach specific techniques, and I had the instructions tech edited before I used them in class, even though I may have already knitted from them more than once. It is a strange phenomenon in knitting--no matter how many trained eyes look at a set of instructions, some errors sneak past us.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
He drives, I knit. It's true that when work is such a big part of one's life the lines are blurred. My work is a mix of designing, writing, and editing, and for the most part I try to do these things during the day while my husband is off at his job. The knitting that goes along with my projects is usually done in the evenings and on weekends--sometimes I'm knitting for work, other times I'm knitting a personal project. No matter what it is, knitting is always a pleasure for me.

How do you deal with criticism?
I've developed a somewhat thick skin over the years, and it all began while I was in college. As theater students, part of our learning experience was analyzing and giving critiques of others' work. We'd listen to an actor perform a monologue or sit through a costume or set designer’s presentation; when they were finished, we had to say what we thought of what we saw, good or bad. Sometimes it was easier to hear harsh criticism of my work than to tell others to their faces that I thought their work was boring or insincere. But because the critiques were shared among a group of piers, we could usually turn the negatives into a learning experience to be used in the future. These days, anyone can say whatever they want and be heard by a very wide audience on the Internet. What bugs me is that none of these comments are edited, and sometimes they are just plain wrong. I've watched some threads that are downright nasty--to me it's the equivalent of the bullying that goes on in elementary and middle schools. When my work is criticized, I first consider the source. Then I either agree or disagree, learn from it or not. No matter where it comes from, condemnation stings; but I try never to take it personally. I believe in what I'm doing, so I let the sting subside and move on.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Ha! I'm still waiting for that day to arrive. I am very fortunate to have a loving and supportive husband who also has a job--without that I would not have a career in knitting. Some years are better than others, but I often say that what I make in a year wouldn't keep a skunk alive. I do think I could make more money, but it would require more marketing, and this leads back to my personal problem, discussed above in answer to the question of what impact the Internet has had on my work. I do have plans for spiffing up my website and selling more patterns. I'd also like to do more teaching, but this unfortunately takes away weekend time that I want to spend with my husband, riding our motorcycles or getting together with friends. I believe I could support myself with my knitting and editing, but I would need to dedicate more time to it than I currently do.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I would give the same advice that my mother gave me when I wanted to pursue a career in theater. "Don't listen to those who say you can't." If you're lucky enough to have found something you love, let your passion drive you forward.