Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Are Knitting Patterns being Dumbed Down?

One of my readers recently commented "I regularly read your blog, and you provide a plethora of information, but I feel you need to provide an explanation of why you feel there is a controversy with the "dumbing down of patterns." I personally find beauty in a well executed simple knit as well as the most complex lace shawl. I don't see a controversy."

I agree that simple is often the most beautiful. The question really refers to the specific details of pattern writing as opposed to designing. It's in all of the designer interviews, and originally came from a conversation with a group of designers. The words "dumbing down of patterns" were used at the time. It is the one question that stimulates the most in the way of conversation with the various designers behind the scenes with me. Usually when we discuss the topic it is an off the record conversation. I think the original discussion was due to the frustration designers sometimes feel as patterns frequently turn into lessons instead of just patterns. This is due to techniques having to be explained in detail as knitters have increased the expectation of what a pattern should include. As well, the demand for expanded size ranges adds to the amount of work required for every pattern, while limiting design variations. At the same time, compensation for the work of designers has remained static. Most  designers struggle to earn a living and often, when we do, it is not from design work. It is especially of concern to self publishers as magazines normally include a separate how to section.

Since I've been doing the interview series, I've noticed that the designers who have a strong opinion on this topic are always the ones who have been publishing the longest. They are, therefore, the most aware of the changes that have occurred with the shift in consumer expectations. New designers often don't respond at all which tells me that this is a question that only makes sense if you are aware of the industry’s evolution. The changes also seem to have occurred mainly in North America. European designers rarely have much to say on this topic.

Designers struggle for balance with the amount of technique detail. The usual advice is that techniques beyond the basics must be explained, but there is not always agreement on what is truly basic. Every knitter brings a set of experiences to their knitting and that experience varies widely. As more and more detail is added the pattern becomes longer, more expensive to produce and tech edit. At the same time designers who add a high level of detail are criticized for their lack of conciseness. Some knitters have told me if a pattern has too many pages they won't even consider knitting the project.

When I worked in my LYS the hardest books to sell were technique books; many knitters felt they were an unnecessary expense. Yet designers gobble this type of book up because they want to continually expand their skill sets. As designers, we like to experiment and sometimes we forget that not all knitters want to go down that path. Secondly, designers are focused on finding the best way to accomplish a given outcome and they want to share this knowledge. Check out the prices on The Principles of Knitting: Methods and Techniques of Hand Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt here. (The new edition coming out in Feb 2012 will probably change the high cost of the older edition.)

It is a situation where I find myself thinking of the famous quote you can make some of the people happy all the time, all of the people happy some of the time but you can't make all of the people happy all of the time”. The good news for knitters...designers talk about this because ultimately we are all trying to make sure that every knitter enjoys the process and the end result. We want you to get the same joy that we do from knitting because we are passionate about our vocation!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Design-a-long - The Paper Pattern Part 6 Sleeve Caps

Everyone who goes through the process of drafting sleeve caps will tell you how difficult they can be to alter. There is a tricky three way relationship between the armhole, the sleeve cap and the width of the sleeve. Add to that the varying shapes of women's bodies and the phrase "it's complicated" applies here. I wrote an earlier post on sleeve width and cap relationships, you can read it here so that I don't need to recap (no pun intended), that information.

There is a complicated mathematical formula that you will find in The Knitter's Guide to Sweater Design, which is a great reference book by the way. However, I've realized after teaching knitters how to do this with a different method the process can be greatly simplified. 

I've focused on showing you visually how to work out these details, so this is how I do it. You know the calculations that you used for the underarm shaping and you plotted them on graph paper, so mark that same shaping on a new piece of graph paper.

You can make a decision on the top section of a sleeve cap shape, that is how wide the final cast off section is going to be. Some designers use 25% or more of the stitch number that they used at the top of the sleeve. By that I mean the width at the underarm before the sleeve cap decreases begin. I sometimes start with that number myself. For my own customized patterns I use 2 inches. On a separate piece of knitters graph paper draw that out and then cut it out so you have just that section as I have in my scanned drawing. I use a little piece of tape to secure it while I fiddle with the  measurements. 

You know from measuring your armhole which you plotted out during a previous post, what the final length of the armhole is. The missing information is the section between the initial cast offs and the final cast off. I use my flexible ruler or you can use a measuring tape standing on its edge to connect the two segments. I fiddle the very top segment up or down as required. I then drawn the line in.

It's easier to work on one half of the sleeve cap for this. The measurement for the one half sleeve cap should not be more than 3/4 of an inch longer than the 1/2 armhole depth, (underarm to shoulder). That means the total sleeve cap can't be longer than 1 1/2 inches than the armhole. I like to ease my sleeve cap in. I like the roundness that easing creates at the seam edge. Not all knitters like that look. If you don't, make your sleeve cap as close to the measurement of the armhole as possible. It is important that it not be any smaller or the armhole will be gathered in. The final step is to draw in your stair steps on the graph paper where I have indicated the dotted line. You will notice that I have done a narrow sleeve with a high cap, so don't be influenced by the appearance of mine, plan yours to accommodate your own custom fitting.

Next time, I'll explain how you can use what you've been doing to knit the garment.

Links to the other posts:

Friday, February 24, 2012

An Interview with...Maryna Shevchenko

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

You can find Maryna's online store here.

Tell me how you got into the business of running an online yarn store?
Probably like most owners of a knitting store – knitting’s been my passion since my sister taught me how to knit when I was 7. The freedom of creating my own yarn line was a secret dream of a life time for me and when the opportunity came I simply jumped into it.

How long have you been in business?
Feels like a decade but really the business was registered in September 2010. That means we’ve been working for a year and a half.

Do you run the store by yourself or do you have employees, if you do how many people work at your online shop?
Mostly it’s my husband and me. When needed we hire experts in some specific fields like marketing or web programming.

How did you choose the yarns that you carry?
I love natural fibres and the fact that they usually require special care makes them even more special to me. But still I am a working mom of two and prefer to deal with washing fast and easy, that’s why superwash merino wool was my no.1 yarn choice. Then I added pure wool, lustrous bamboo and some exquisite mink and yak yarns to the line. Generally I listen to our customers, they are usually very generous with ideas, plans and wishes. I just do my best to make some of their wishes come true and bring quality yarn at a very good price.

What is the biggest lesson running this business has taught you?
Listen to your instincts and don’t waste time, every minute of every day counts.

What is your favorite part of what you do running the shop?
I love everything about my job, but the best part is to be able to knit almost anything in almost any color and texture. Recently I even turned to knitting with wire and enjoy it a lot. There are some knitting with wire kits available in our store so you too can give it a try.

We’ve seen many cycles in the yarn industry of the market increasing and then falling again. What are your thoughts on where things might be headed now?
World is so integrated now that we all depend on numerous factors we don’t even know about. One of them is constantly increasing Australian and British wool prices. We cannot fight it and we cannot ignore it but it’s not a reason to get scary and shut knitting business altogether. If the company is friendly and fair, it will keep working. It is especially true for knitting industry, because knitters are happiest and friendliest people on our planet J

Do you have a mentor?
There are many people I admire and learn from but I don’t have a formal mentor.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I did a lot of planning and calculations but I never put it in a form of a multi-paged business plan.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Business model is only a model. You can’t walk somebody else’s path. It’s like a sweater – even if you like the design and have a pattern, for perfect fit you need to adjust length, probably add some shaping here and there. Running a business is making your own sweater.

Did you take any courses in how to run a business before you opened?
I am a trained accountant but more importantly I’ve been a business owner for almost 10 years before starting Knitca. I used to work with educational toys. That’s probably why I like to pack everything in an appealing box.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Working from home helps me be there for my family when they need me.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in running an online yarn store?
Do a lot of planning, make customer service your top priority and don’t get obsessed about money. They say: “Do what you like and money will follow” and it’s absolutely true.

Maryna sent me some samples of three of her yarns that I am interested in using. I did swatches with a cable with each. Her worsted Woolly Warmth is a sturdy 100% wool. It has good stitch definition and would make excellent garments meant to be worn as an outer layer. Her Delight line is a DK, 100% wool. If you are a fan of Zara, which was a very popular yarn when I worked in my LYS you would love it! She also carries Lovely, DK, 100% bamboo. It has a beautiful sheen and good stitch definition as well. I've only knit with 100% bamboo once before, I love the feel of it and this yarn seemed to be a superior version to the one I used in the past with a stronger twist and a little less of a tendency to split while being worked. All three yarns come in a wide range of solid colours. I'm planning to buy all three of these yarns for myself.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Economics of Knitting - The High Cost of Rock Star Knitters

Recently my guild, the DKC ran a focus group  to find out from members what they want from the guild and how to attract more members. In the report from our newsletter I found the points I've listed below, especially interesting.

• More high-profile speakers. While everyone wanted more high profile speakers, the cost is high since it includes travel, maintenance and fees. Sometimes the DKC is fortunate enough to engage a speaker who lives locally or is in Toronto for another purpose, thereby avoiding travel and hotel costs. Suggestions to defray costs were the use of Skype technology and leveraging DKC member “connections” with potential speakers.
• Knitting workshops with high-profile instructors. The group wondered if the DKC should consider organizing an event similar to the Knit East, three days of workshop classes with a marketplace, held in St. Andrews NB in the fall of 2011. There were many high-profile instructors such as Cat Bordhi, Jane Thornley, Lucy Neatby, Veronik Avery and the Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. There seemed to be an appetite among knitters to attend expensive courses as most were sold out. Since this type of event requires considerable planning and financial commitment, it also would require careful consideration.

I realized reading this, just how differently I view the situation from my perspective now that I'm working in the industry as opposed to when I was just a fanatical knitter. I can see the tight spot the guild is in. In the case of speakers the meeting is about 2 hours long and speakers usually get about an hour for their presentation. The guild report did mention the high cost of travel and accommodation expenses to them to bring in a high profile speaker. The other factor to consider from the speaker's perspective is that they also have to take their traveling time into account. It means that a one hour event may take the better part of two days away from their working time.The problem with this is that guilds typically run on a shoe string budget. Speakers are paid a nominal fee that doesn't equal the time actually spent by the speaker. I'm not even accounting for the prep time required to prepare the material for the presentation. I checked with a unnamed insider in an unrelated "not for profit" industry and was told that a speaker at their industry events are paid any where from $3,000 up to $25,000 for a high profile speaker. Occasionally they get a deal on high profile speakers who are promoting a book and the fee goes down to $10,000. I think we all know this is totally out of the guilds ability but I'm giving you the details as a point of comparison.

The knitting workshops are also an interesting topic. Our events, as like most other guild lectures and workshops are below the international knitting events like Vogue Live, but above the local yarn store level in terms of compensation. Working professionals obviously need to carefully review compensation before committing to an event. Some designers will only make appearances at smaller events if they are the sole focus of the event. I know some big name knitters who have that spelled out in their contracts. That means you may see them at the large shows with other designers and teachers but otherwise they are the center of retreats and workshops that they appear at. We currently do not have any single focus workshop events. That means that many of these instructors will never appear at our events.

The DKC pays teachers based on the number of class hours and the number of students attending. This can work out to the advantage or disadvantage of the instructor. Most big name knitters have a flat fee so they are unlikely to commit to the payment format of the guild. The guild wants to be fair and consistent with their payment so it would be difficult for them to change their format for one teacher only.

High profile knitters are also very busy and need to be booked way in advance. Our guild has an amazing and dedicated executive, however they are volunteers with heavy demands being placed on them. I doubt that they have the time to be working on these events so far into the future in the way that international events with full time staff can. The whole industry has issues around the topic of fair compensation. It's difficult to make a living in this business. That means there aren't very many really big name knitters as most need another source of income to follow this path. That means costs are high (in knitting industry terms), on those few established industry leaders. However if you compare to any other industry for speakers and workshops, we are still paying knitters at the very low end of the scale.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Design-a-long - The Paper Pattern Part 5 Sleeves

If you've been following along, we are now ready to draft the sleeves. This time we will work on the part from wrist to armhole. You need the gauge of your yarn, both by stitch and by row. Accurate row gauge is very important here so I always recheck on a piece of knitting larger than my swatch, usually the back of the sweater. I also take the count over a larger number of inches than the standard swatch. I often use 10 inches. You also need 3 arm measurements, your wrist, your upper arm and your arm length. You should be using the measurements with ease not your body measurements.

My tailoring background has lead me to develop high standards for sleeve fit. The tailored sleeve fit is much more contoured in shape than the sleeve we normally use in knitwear. Notice on the classic sewn two piece sleeve in the drawing above how different it looks from most knitted sleeves. Take a look through some of your pattern books and magazines to look at a variety of sleeves and you will see schematics with contoured shapes. Generally though, we see sleeves that run in a smooth diagonal line from wrist to underarm. If you think about how your arm is shaped, a straight diagonal doesn't accurately reflect the increase in width from wrist to underarm. This is your customized pattern so you will choose whichever style you want. 

The standard knitted sleeve is easy to draft from wrist to underarm. Using your knitting graph paper, your gauge and your calculated number of stitches and rows, draw in a line at the bottom for your wrist that is the appropriate number of stitches. Count up to the number of rows required for the length of sleeve you want. Then mark in the width of stitches required for your upper arm and draw in a diagonal line starting about an inch worth of rows below the final length. This can be longer than 1 inch depending on your final increase location but don't make it less than an inch or more than 2 unless your upper arm is very full. The final step is to draw in the stitch increase steps as you did on previous parts of the pattern. The steps may not work out evenly, so you need to decide if you want to fudge the numbers to get an nice simple instruction like increase 1 stitch at each end of your needle every 6 rows or follow your graph pattern. 

A contoured sleeve more accurately follows the shape of your arm. If you want a more contoured sleeve you will need to work from the cuff straight with no increases for 5 - 6 inches. Next  you would work a slow rate of increases for 5 - 6 inches and then the final 3 - 4 inches would have a quicker rate of increase before the final straight section. I draw this in on my graph paper and then work out the actual steps.

I always do a reality check on the length of my sleeve before starting the cap shaping. The finished length of your sleeve is impacted by the depth of your armhole. Measurements don't account for this variation. So if your armhole is a little deeper or shallower it will impact where your sleeve ends up on your arm. I like to join my shoulders, put the garment on and test the sleeve length by holding it lined up with the armhole's bottom edge and checking where it hangs to, on my arm.  Remember, a bent arm needs more length than a straight one so it should allow for that movement and still be acceptable to you.

If you are using minimal ease allowances, you can also do a second reality check for the width measurements by using a tape measure, clipping it with a binder clip or paper clip into a circle of the correct size then moving it up and down on your arm to verify that it will not be too tight.

Now that you are working through all of this detail you can see why designers do all of this mathematically when they are grading multiple sizes. I've chosen show you how to work visually because having a clear visual understanding of what the goal is by doing the drafting teaches you much more.As well I'm focusing on customization not generic pattern writing.

Next time, I'll cover a quick visual way to create the sleeve cap.

Links to the other posts:

Friday, February 17, 2012

An Interview with...Katya Frankel

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. 

Katya's first book, Boys' Knits, is a collection of 16 sweater patterns that boys will love to wear. Her signature style combines classic silhouettes with feature details resulting in some very handsome sweaters. In the past she has published her patterns in Interweave Knits and has designed in a wide range of projects from accessories  to garments for both women and children.

You can find Katya here and here on Ravelry. Katya's patterns are available on Ravelry, at her website and in her upcoming book available for pre-order from the publisher's website at:

Where do you find inspiration?
All around me: literature, photographs, fashion shows, doodling, art, yarn, knitting techniques - it depends what I am working on. I have a binder where I put any visuals that excite me, magazine clippings, descriptions of things that I think would be neat to have or wear. If I work for a publication then I dip into it to check if I have had any ideas that would cross with the submission call. Playing with yarn and seeing where it takes and then working around that inspires me a lot as well.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love any technique that's nifty and can be done along the way. Things like covering up little holes on the sides of the sock heels with crossed stitches, a way to work a fitted sleeve cap seamlessly, button-holes in one row, shaping incorporated into the stitch pattern all get me very excited!

How did you determine your size range?
Often it's determined by the look of the design and stitch pattern combination. But as a rule, I try to work between 30 and 48 inch chest circumference with 2 inch increments where possible. And for children's wear I include sizes to fit 4 to 12 year olds with finished chest measurements of 23-30/32 inch. Saying that, in the Boy's knits most of the sweaters are sized up to size 14 to cover a slightly wider range.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Having made some great friends with a number of knitwear designers, inevitably, I do look at *their* work from time to time. We are being influenced by every single image we see and conversation we have and what not in our life, so yes probably I am being influenced by my peers' works but at the same time we all have quite a distinct direction. It's important to me to be authentic, my work might not excite everybody but it is true to myself.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I have never heard of it.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it  all yourself?
I usually work on everything myself because often I need to work through small nuances of the design, it's shaping or some special techniques, to know whether they all work together and whether each part can be extrapolated up and down across the range of sizes. I did however use a sample knitter for the Boys' collection. We worked closely together on every part of each garment and it was an interesting experience for me. The work plan had to be rearranged completely to what I am used to, all the details had to be thought through before I sent the patterns off to be knit up. In a way it was more difficult, because I felt that I couldn't monitor each step as the sweater grew and there were parts that had to be re knit for one reason or other but on the other hand I enjoyed the rush I got when I finally met with the finished samples.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I don't have an official plan but I have a financial projection for a year ahead and a set of goals that I check twice a year to make sure I am on course.

Do you have a mentor?
I do have a few friends that I can go to if I need help with a decision that I need to make.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Absolutely! Finding a tech editor was the first thing I did when I decided to self publish my first pattern, well before it was written.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I do work from home and do find it difficult to limit my work hours when the two are so intertwined. If I am under a deadline, pressure work takes over my life completely but I still try to keep afternoons for family/children time. I'd really like to reach that point where I don't have to switch my computer on when the children are back from school. :-)

How do you deal with criticism? 

Over the past few years I've developed a thick skin when it comes to criticism. It used to be pretty hard to separate my work from *me* because my work is an interpretation of my feelings and so accepting criticism used to be difficult. I do however realize that I am putting my work out there, and although I'd love it if people liked it, I cannot possibly expect everyone to have the same taste or the same interest in techniques as myself.

Could you tell us a little about your upcoming book?
Boys' Knits is a collection of 16 sweaters for boys with focus on timeless wardrobe classics like: raglans and fitted sleeve sweaters, zippered cardigans and simple vests. I used classic shapes as a canvas to showcase different stitch patterns, design elements or finishing techniques, keeping sweaters simple yet interesting to knit and easy to finish. All patterns in the book are knit in the round from the bottom up and are sized up to fit chest measurements from 23 to 32. There are also step by step instructions with photographs that cover techniques used in the book.

Boy's Knits is being published by Cooperative Press, who is committed to publishing knitting and other craft related books. They were incredibly positive, supportive and relaxed, letting me bring my vision to life from choosing yarns to photography styling.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Stay true to yourself and work hard! And on practical level be prepared to pick up new skills fast and work 10 different jobs in a day, find a fantastic tech editor that understands your needs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New video - How to knit bobbles without turning the work

Tonight, I'll be teaching at the DKC's skills exchange evening. Since most of my readers won't be attending, here's a video presentation on my topic: Knitting bobbles without turning the work. The link is at the bottom of this post. The video includes several techniques for increasing and decreasing the stitches of a bobble. There are two methods for creating bobbles without turning the work, as well as a number of extra tips for successful bobbles.

I also have some exciting news to share from the Patternfish newsletter this month. I have 2 of the top selling patterns. My Prudence Crowley vest is the number 1 vest and Evelyn Howard made it into the top ten in the shawl category. The reason I'm so excited...just look at the other designers represented.  Even better my friend Deb Gemmell of Cabin Fever also is in several categories and she and I are currently collaborating on a plus size collection.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Design-a-long - The Paper Pattern Part 4 Dart Placement

There are a few ways you can introduce a little waist shaping to your garment. Often patterns have you work some decreases below the waist and then some increases above at the side edges. It works well in knitting that has pattern work that would be interrupted by stitch count changes. The drawback is that if too many decreases are worked to close to the hem it can result in a pointy center front. (Ask me how I know that)! This is more of a problem in shorter garments. About 2 inches decrease of total stitches seems to flatter most figures. Remember when you work out your decreases that you have either 2 or 4 darts so you need to divide your number of stitches to decrease by the number of darts to calculate the decreases for each dart. Directions vary due to gauge but normally you work the decreases over several rows, then work even for 1-2 inches and then start the increases. In my case I'm using black yarn which means the detail is not very visible so I'm working a center decrease that removes 2 stitches at a time over 2 right side rows, working straight and then I'm doing increases on either side of the same central stitch to replace the stitches. Like any other dart or in knitting terms, short rows at the bust this shaping will provide extra roundness over the bust area.

Most knitting patterns that have true vertical darts place them in the vicinity of one third to one half of the way between the side seam and center front or back, measuring in from the side seam.This placement is due to the fact that a generic pattern has to accommodate a number of body shapes within a single size. However in a customized pattern, should you choose to use vertical darts you can place them correctly by measuring the bust span. The bust span is the distance between the bust apexes or in other words the summit of the points, often but not always where your nipples are. As always with bust measurements you should take this measurement while wearing a bra. The measurement is what you use for placement of the vertical dart line. If you are putting vertical darts in the back of your garment, you can use the same measurement. Alternatively for even more accurate customization you can take a span measurement from the points of your shoulder blades to place those darts correctly. The closer you get to zero or negative ease the more accurate you need to be with these measurements. If your garment has positive ease and is body skimming or looser you have a wider margin for error that will not negatively impact your results.

Links to the other posts:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Beyond Knit & Purl by Kate Atherley

Kate is a member of the Pro-Knitters group that I started here in Toronto. I also had the benefit of Kate's expertise when she tech edited a pattern I did for the magazine A Needle Pulling Thread.  She spent extra time with me to get it ready for publication. I learned so much from that one session with her that my regular tech editor told me my next pattern was more concise and clear than my earlier ones had been!

Kate has a new book out you can find it here.  As Cooperative press says "This book is not just for beginning knitters. Even those who’ve been knitting for years will have an astonishing number of “ah-ha!” moments inside its pages. As a technical editor and more importantly as a teacher, Kate knows where knitters hit roadblocks and how to overcome them, and she shares her many years of experience in Beyond Knit and Purl."

Kate has answered a few of my new questions below and you can read an interview I did with her here that includes links to her blog and to her Ravelry page. I've read about a third of the book and am giving it an enthusiastic 2 thumbs up. This is exactly the kind of book that helps knitters to fill in the gaps in their knowledge that will ensure knitting success.

You've described publishing a book as being a little like birthing a baby. Can you tell us more about how the process works?
I joked with my friends that it was like having a baby because there was lots of late nights and a fair bit of screaming...  but it was actually relatively painless. It’s a long process, longer than I expected and there are things I simply didn’t know about before I went into it. Writing really is only a small piece of it; it’s a photo-heavy book, and to get good photographs I was happy with took a lot of time.  And layout and editing is complex, particularly because there’s a lot of content in the book, and a lot of pictures tied to instructional content than need to be placed in just the right order.  I have a page that teaches Judy’s Magic Cast on,and it took us a couple of hours just to get the right captions on the right photos, and then get them in the right order.

You are an experienced tech editor as well as a designer. How did that background help you to be published.
Well, I’d like to think that my patterns needed less editing, but I’m not sure about that! Being a tech editor is part of what motivated me to write the book in the first place – a lot of what I do when editing is about helping knitters be successful, and that’s my objective with the book, too.

I know you need a lot of ideas for a book. What’s your process for generating them and how did you choose what went into the book?
The content has been developed and refined over the 10 years I’ve been teaching knitting; the specific projects are each designed to be approachable skill builders for learning knitters, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to test them out in my classes, and to get very candid feedback from knitters in all stages of the learning curve.  Essentially, it was a case of choosing what I had tested and what I was confident would work as learning tools, and what would be approachable and what could be successful for even the newest knitter!  There was one idea I was excited about early on, thinking it was fun and approachable, but then I remembered my own (not good) experience with something very similar and the reasons why I don’t use that particular type of project in my classes, and I realized it wasn’t going to work for this book.  

What are your plans for the future, will there be more books?
I hope so!  People seem to be responding well to the somewhat unusual approach I’ve taken, and if so, there’s lots more good stuff to talk about – I hope to be able to cover short rows, Entrelac, Magic Loop, more advanced lace, at the very least!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Prices are Rising on Knitting Yarn

Last May I wrote about the shortages in cotton availability in this post. The latest issue of YMN addresses the issue of rising costs for both wool and cotton. The bad news is that we can all expect to pay more for our yarn fixes than in the past. Some of the reasons for the increases in price discussed in Yarn Market News include the falling value of the U.S. dollar in the world market. Drought conditions have occurred in many places  throughout the world where cotton is produced. Prices peaked for cotton in March of 2011. Wool reached a 10 year high in June 2011 and has also been impacted by drought conditions in New Zealand and Australia. South Africa suffered a Chinese wool ban due to disease in their sheep populations. The Chinese dominate in the manufacture of textiles and are making it hard for other countries to compete with their low labour costs. Interestingly, a knitting friend observed that even acrylics have recently increased in price as a result of  the fiber shortages in other categories.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Design-a-long - The Paper Pattern Part 3 Necklines and Shoulders

I'm still working on the front pattern, the armhole is done. Next, I do detailed planning for the shoulder and necklines.

Using your measurements you drew in lines for the shoulder on the main schematic. I use a 1 inch drop, however you could be using a straight shoulder or a more angled one depending on your needs. I now redo these sections on knitting graph paper and I use the appropriate numbers of stitches and rows. I'm using sport weight yarn so on this pattern I will be doing a 4 step shoulder. If I was using DK or worsted I would probably end up with a 3 step shoulder. The dotted lines are the ones I drew in as guidance. I next draw in lines that follow the stitches and rows so don't forget that each step goes up two squares; one for the right side row and one for the wrong side row. I normally divide the steps as equally as possible, however this is where a little bit of the art comes in that can't be measured. Go look at yourself in a mirror and later when you get a chance look at the shoulders of others. Take a straight ruler and lay it along your shoulder line, starting at the bony protrusion (if that's where you are setting your sleeve). In my case my shoulder line is relatively straight until close to my neck and then the angle is steeper so I put the shortest step at my neck edge if my steps don't work out equally. If you have two completely different shoulders you can either draw the sides separately or use a shoulder pad to even yourself out. Often poor fit draws the eye of the observer to the difference more when one side fits and the other doesn't. It becomes a balancing act in choosing to fit each shoulder separately or to pad one to more closely match the other. If you have balanced shoulders you are probably wondering why someone would bother to do this? The answer is that if you just ignore it  and the difference is large enough your hem will not hang straight on one side. Most people are not symmetrical and usually the differences are minor but it's nice to know what the fixes are if you need them. 

For the neckline, I go through the same process and mark in my stair step decreases. In this case they turned out to be very even, one decrease every right side row. Sometimes you have to fiddle around and you may have to work in segments, varying the decrease rate to maintain the correct angle. Please do notice that I have a straight bit at the top where the neckline intersects with the shoulder. You want a small section that is knit straight here as it makes for an easier band attachment and looks better on the body. I usually use a little less than an inch for this, however your neckline can be any shape you want. If you are unclear about exact measurements pull something from your closet that you like the neckline of to measure and don't forget that your band width needs to be accounted for. If for example you are doing a jewel neckline with a one inch band you need to draw it in one inch lower and one inch on each side wider.

Links to the other posts:

Friday, February 3, 2012

An Interview with...Tori Gurbisz

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. Tori says that her ultimate goal growing up was to become a fashion designer but she took a more traditional route first after college pursuing another path. Now she balances her time sitting on the couch knitting with running and coaching beginner marathoners.

You can find Tori here and here on Ravelry. You will find all the patterns in the photos here on her website.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere; from mythology, magazines, stitch dictionaries and definitely wandering the streets of Savannah! There is such an eclectic mix here: young art students, elegant Southern ladies, the coast and amazing historical architecture.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
It is hard to choose a favorite, but I would say that lace knitting is definitely at the top of my list.  I love the process, especially blocking out that small rumpled thing into a large and beautiful shawl.

How did you determine your size range?
For garments, I always try to offer at least 7 sizes if possible within the constraints of the design.  My first sweater design, to be featured in the upcoming Fresh Designs: Sweaters from Cooperative Press, was required to be offered from XS to 3X so that size range stuck with me.  I try my best to fit and appeal to as wide a range of knitters as possible.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I do look at other designers' work all the time.  One of my favorite things to do while drinking my morning coffee is look through all of the "Recently Added" patterns on Ravelry.  I think I have definitely been inspired by other designers' work, which I think is a very large part of any fashion related industry.  I also like to make sure that I am not designing something that is exactly like something that is already out there. Since designing is my main job and I am hoping soon it will be my main source of income, it serves no benefit for me to release a pattern that is too similar to something that is already out there because it has less potential to be profitable and might hurt the other designer’s sales (or just upset them, after all they did get there first).

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I didn't know there was a controversy! I try to make my patterns easy to understand and to explain all necessary steps to make the piece in a concise manner. Sometimes I may over-explain, but I do feel it is better to err on the side of too much information than not enough.  The less time I have to spend answering pattern support emails, the more time I can spend designing!

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I always knit all of my samples, as I tend to do a lot of my design work on the needles.  I do use a few knitters for casual pattern tests, though they're volunteers that do it in exchange for free patterns and eBooks (I have caught wind of that particular controversy).

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, I didn't expect my designing to pick up as quickly as it did, I was caught off guard a bit. This year, as part of my New Year's resolution, I did make a very informal plan with my goals and expectations for the coming year.

Do you have a mentor?
No, I learned to knit on my own and never knew any other knitters "in real life" during my formative knitting years.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not particularly, though I am a big fan of self-publishing.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
It has had a huge impact on my business, because without it - it wouldn't exist! Currently, I only do digital sales.  Also, I don't think "knitwear designer" would even be part of my vernacular without the internet and especially Ravelry.

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Yes, for every pattern that I self-publish.  I like to put out as clean a pattern as possible, of course things still slip past us as we're only human, but more eyes on a pattern means less errors. Plus it is not just math errors or typos, I love that my editor (Kate Vanover) can take one of my long-winded, meandering explanations and help me distill it into clear instructions.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I don't, it is horrible! That is part of my informal business plan, to separate work knitting from fun knitting and work internet from fun internet.  Last year I would go through stages of intense designing and then I would be so burnt out, I wouldn't pick up the needles for weeks.  This year I plan on setting aside a certain number of knitting work hours per day to help strike a balance.

How do you deal with criticism?
Deep breaths and a lot of running!  I am fine with constructive criticism given with good intentions, it is the careless comments that you occasionally come across that sting.  I try to take it for what it is worth and not let it affect me in a negative way.  In the beginning there were a few times that I wanted to give up because I was so thin-skinned every less than glowing comment hurt. I realized that I love this too much to stop, so I had to take the good with the bad.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I am getting there, hopefully within the next six months.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Keep at it and be consistent. Treat it as a business if you want to succeed...advertise, promote yourself, blog anything to stay on the radar. Also be true to yourself, do what you love and allow that passion to shine through...they'll notice!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How cute is this?

I just saw this in an ad for a local drugstore. Blush and bronzer with pressed-effects that look like a knitted cable presented in a velvet-finished box with a gold tassel.