Friday, August 31, 2012

Finishing School - Tips for Buttons and Buttonholes on Sweaters

Available here

  1. Pull the hand sewing thread through beeswax before starting to sew a button on; it helps to prevent tangles in the thread during the sewing process.
  2. Do a sample with several possible buttonhole sizes, before going to buy buttons. Be sure to make notes with the details for later reference.
  3. Knit the buttonhole swatch with the same number of stitches or rows that are planned for the garment to accurately assess how the button will look against it
  4. Women are always right. In other words women’s buttonholes go on the right hand side of the garment and men’s go on the left.
  5. When working eyelet buttonholes in rib or seed stitch, place the buttonhole in the purl stitch location.
  6. Use the swatch to test variations, Different yarn constructions may affect the best choice of method. Different knitting styles of knitters can also make one method more suitable than another for the project.
  7. If the number of stitches or rows on either side of the buttonhole is not equal, put the smaller number against the garment edge to increase stability.
  8. Large buttons can be stabilized by sewing a smaller button to the back side of the knitting directly underneath.
  9. If the holes in flat buttons are large enough, the button could be tied to the garment using narrow ribbon, leather strips or cord. This could be done on buttons that must be removed before cleaning.
  10. Use button pins for shank type buttons, that need to be removed before cleaning. Button pins are safety pins that have a bump where the button sits.
  11. Tiny clear plastic snaps can be sewn onto the knitting if there is an unacceptable gaping, or at the top corners of bands for extra support.
  12. To make a very small eyelet buttonhole, skip the yarn over and do a M1 increase on the return row, working into the strand beside the decreased stitch, before the next stitch.
  13. Keep trying new buttonhole methods, knitters invent new versions and old forgotten methods get rediscovered.
  14. A too loose buttonhole can be tightened up with a needle and thread. Use thread that closely matches the yarn colour. Take one or two tiny stitches at the end of the buttonhole to make it smaller. 
  15. Choose buttons that have shanks.This will help to alleviate the problem of the button band being pushed out of alignment at every button. It will also help stop the buttonhole from being stretched out of shape.
  16. Or create a thread shank by placing a double pointed needle between the button and the garment. Use a single stitch to first anchor the double pointed needle and then sew the button in place without breaking the yarn. Remove the double pointed needle and finish by wrapping the thread around the thread from the garment to the button before securing it. The length of the shank should correspond with the thickness of the knitted fabric so that the button will sit on top without crushing the stitches. Choose the double pointed needle to correspond with the thickness of the knitted fabric and to create a shank of an appropriate length.
  17. Create a shank for a button with holes, by using a bead. It's best to choose one that is a good colour match and that has smooth edges that will not break the thread. It also needs to be of a material that will withstand whatever cleaning method is required.
  18. Create the shank with a small clear button under the fashion button. When it is sewn on, make sure the holes line up and sew through both buttons at the same time. Two buttons stacked will create a longer shank.
  19. To decide how many stitches to use while working a one row buttonhole sample swatch, place the button on the knitting and count how many stitches it covers. Subtract one stitch, and try the first sample with that number. Adjust up or down according to the results.
  20. If thread colour can't be matched, the next best choice is a grey thread that disappears when laid across the knitting. Squint slightly to choose between shades of grey.
  21. Vary the size of eyelet buttonholes by working into the back of the yarn over loop instead of the front.
  22. Some knitters find a crochet cast on is neater than a cable cast on method for adding stitches when making multi- stitch buttonholes.
  23. Flat four-hole buttons can be attached in a decorative stitching pattern in an X or square formation, or in parallel rows.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Economics of Knitting - How the Yarn is Chosen

A designers motivation in choosing a  specific yarn for a knitting project isn't always as simple as most knitters would assume. 

Sometimes the creative idea comes first and that drives the yarn choice. At other times the yarn itself suggests the project. 

However this is a business, so here are a few more motivations that may play a role in yarn choice.

If the design is for a yarn company who also sells patterns they only want patterns that will sell their specific yarn. That may mean a fabulous pattern is executed in a less than optimal yarn or that a very expensive yarn is showcased and it may not be possible to find a substitution. When I worked in my LYS the latter situation came up frequently when customers brought in patterns.

If the design is for a yarn shop they want patterns to sell standard yarn weights like DK, worsted or whatever type yarn they have invested capital in. That means a pattern that can be worked in many potential yarns and that can easily work with different budgets. Shops often buy patterns that support the yarn they order at the same time from the distributor.

If the design is for a designer's own pattern line they want to sell the pattern and have less interest in the yarn itself as long as it shows off the design features to their best advantage. After being burned several times by yarn companies discontinuing yarn immediately after I received it, I'm personally much more interested in working with yarns that have easy substitutes so I can sell my patterns.

Are there any other reasons that I've missed? Please feel free to comment.

Monday, August 27, 2012

False Choices in Knitting

 Or this?

Are you limiting your options by making false choices? 

Regular readers know that I'm a psychology geek. I read widely in the discipline and use as much of the information gleaned as possible in my own life. Lately I've been reading about decision making and how false choices play into that process. We like to make complex things simple and a false choice plays into this tendency. Instead of looking at a broad spectrum of choices we narrow the options down as a way of getting to a solution as quickly and efficiently as possible. It's a way of conserving mental energy and and avoiding what psychologists call decision fatigue. Marketers study this in an intense way. Car sales people are said to present the least expensive options of a specific vehicle first to a buyer so that by the time the expensive decisions are to be made fatigue may get them to pick more expensive alternatives on the next option offered. When we purchased our car, after we negotiated the price and what it included, we were moved into a different office with someone else to sign the paperwork. What really happened....there was a high pressure sales pitch on additional options that could have increased the cost by more than 20%.

When two options are presented, they are often two extreme points on the potential spectrum of possibilities. This makes the decision maker think that the options are mutually exclusive. It stops you from considering something different. Will you knit this shawl or that one? Will it be blue or ivory? 

So what's the problem here? False choices create situations where other viable alternatives are not presented, resulting in missed opportunities. In the grand scheme of our lives the choice of a knitting project isn't that important; however understanding this process is critical in making the big  decisions that shape our lives and relationships.

In truth your knitting options are unlimited. You could knit both, one in each colour. Or maybe you should knit a cardigan instead?

Friday, August 24, 2012

An Interview with...Julia Bryant

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 Julia here on Ravelry and her website is here.

Where do you find inspiration?   
In the world around me. Colour and design is everywhere - a piece of fabric, a painting, books, museums, traveling to other countries. Morocco has been a huge influence on my work.

I know you do volunteer work at the Textile Museum of Canada, has that changed your design work in any way? 

I am seeing and learning new things every time there. Looking at story quilts inspired me to include some of my life's personal joys in a recent project.

What is your favourite crochet technique?   
Tunisian crochet of course!  To me it is the perfect medium for the use of colour and design.  Also, adding beads and bobbles provides another wonderful dimension.

Please tell us a little about your focus on Tunisian crochet and how that came about?
It all started with a pattern for an afghan I saw in a Woman.s Day Magazine over 30 years ago.  There was this fabulous stained glass piece that sent me running to my stash and I literally got hooked.  When I had completed the afghan I felt it was too nice to put on my bed so turned it into a poncho that I still have to this day. I then wanted to make more garments in this technique, but found there were not patterns available. I have no training in fashion or design, but over the years learnt more and more, and the learning curve is far from over.  Wall hangings have also become part of my repertoire.
Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? 
I am fascinated by what other people are doing.

How many sample/test crocheters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself? 
I work solo.  Not many people do the inlay colour technique, so I am more or less on my own.

Do you have a mentor?   
No, I have mentored many people and love to teach. 

What impact has the Internet had on your business?  
I have made many connections around the world.  The internet facilitated me arranging craft trips to Morocco. The internet is a constant source of information.

Do you use a tech editor?

How do you maintain your life/work balance?  

Though I am retired I have a full and busy life and my crafts are an essential part of every day.

How do you deal with criticism?  
Haven't really run into much.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?   
I do not support myself with my textile art.  If I did it would take away the pleasure.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in crochet?  
Do not feel I am qualified to answer this, but always follow your passion.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Understanding Ease

Understanding ease is one of the most difficult concepts for garment knitters to truly understand. Knitters often show me gorgeous work and then tell me how very unhappy with the result. When I ask questions, their disappointment most often comes down to the gap between the garment that they imagined and the one they knit.

Often the gap has to do with the knitter's personal ease preference. This preference is a moving target, as we age, gain or loose weight and adapt to changing silhouettes in mainstream fashion, our preferences are constantly shifting. 

Jared has an excellent post here with photos of two different models in the same garment. Each model has slightly different measurements but the one garment fits each model. The slight difference in their measurements moves the garments ease from in the case of the Reine Cardigan from one inch negative ease to two inches of positive ease.

How can you reenact  this helpful experiment for yourself without knitting the same thing twice?  Get out your measuring tape, head down to a store and start trying on the same sweater in three different sizes. Try on, compare and measure one that is smaller than you normally would wear, one that you consider to fit well and and one that is too loose. Don't just measure at the bust-line, check as many measurements as you can. Pay attention to the fact that you will have different ease preference for different parts of your body which means that the best set of measurements may come from all three garments not just one. I like less ease on my sleeves than most patterns include, and I want more around my torso. I hate an overly long sleeve but know many knitters who love a sleeve that is well below their wrist bone. Once you have this information collected it will help you to choose the correct size and recognize what changes you will need to make for the best possible results.

Monday, August 20, 2012

How to Wear a Shrug if You are a Plus Size

Deb Gemmell and I worked on a series of plus size patterns that have now been published. You can see the collection here. During the process we worked on a shrug variation which wasn't included because we weren't happy with the final result. I see a lot of value in examining failures. I believe that failures offer more information for improvement than our successes do. With that in mind here are my thoughts. 

There were two prototypes. I was concerned going in that the first version was using a yarn which was too heavy (worsted). I'm not 100% sure that that was the only problem, but we cut that pattern early on in the process. The garment was a long sleeved version with a wide band that was worked out circularly on the fronts, neck and lower back edges. The band turned back at the neck to create a collar which included short rows to make it longer. It had a deep trumpet cuff on the sleeve. I think we missed out on more lessons that could have been learned from this one by moving on without further serious critiquing at this point.

To create the second version we switched to a fingering weight yarn and used a looser gauge than recommended on the ball band to create a fabric with drape. We switched the band and cuff  stitch pattern to a lace faggot stitch from the previous version that used this ribbed slip stitch. Unfortunately I can't find an online photo of the lace version to link to.

This one looked better on a mannikin but also failed when we moved to a model. I think the failure was in three areas. The first was a mismatch between the models body proportions and the garment proportions. The second was possibly a styling issue. The shrug was a lovely coral shade but the model was wearing a black jersey top underneath with contrasting trousers. That meant two horizontal lines crossed the body. The third possible fail was the drape of the fabric was simply too limp, the collar suffered without structure. The side of the shrug fell straight down instead of staying against the body. The very curvy body shape of the model might have been more flattered by a fabric with a stiffer hand. The success with this version was that the model loved the trumpet cuff and the much longer sleeve does break up the horizontal line on the body that short sleeved shrugs create.

My suggestions for choosing a shrug pattern to knit would therefore include picking one that has sleeves at a different level than the body of the shrug, either longer or shorter. I would also choose yarn in a similar colour to that of the garment the shrug will be worn with. A dress might be better than separates to eliminate an additional horizontal line on the torso.

If you are looking for upper arm coverage only, consider carefully where the sleeve hem is in relationship to the body of the shrug.

Styling matters.The fabric should match the underpinnings in terms of formality. Heavy or light weight knits may look odd paired with contrasting weight fabrics and low colour contrast is very important.

Take a look at this link. You will notice that each shrug is photographed with a same colour under garment. They are worn open to create two vertical lines instead of a horizontal.

This link shows a version that has some of the problems that you should consider avoiding.

I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts. Are there any other tips you could recommend?

Friday, August 17, 2012

An Interview with...Terri Kruse

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 Terri here on Ravelry and her website is here.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in a number of places, pop culture, fashion design, art, and sometimes just everyday life.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
My favorite technique tends to change with my moods. Sometimes it's lace, other times it's cables, right now it's colorwork.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I do look. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to be “influenced” by others. Sometimes, seeing something can spark a completely different idea in you. I will also look to make sure I am not duplicating something that is already out there.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
Hmm, well I don't know. I don't really have an opinion on it from a designing point of view. I mean, I know that patterns have gotten easier to understand, I don't think that is a bad thing. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Currently, I do all the knitting myself. I do have testers that I use and the number varies per project. There may come a time when I won't be able to do all the knitting. I'd actually love to have a sample knitter for sleeves. I'm only joking (sort of). Let's just say sleeves are not my favorite part of sweater knitting!

Did you do a formal business plan?
I haven't until recently. I have been mostly doing this part time to keep myself busy while I home with son. He's off to preschool this year though, so I am attempting to organize myself a bit more.

Do you have a mentor?
Not specifically. I have had some advice from time to time. The Ravelry Designers forum can be a good read for advice or conversation about business related things, as well.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Huge! I wouldn't be doing this if not for the Internet. I sometimes feel a bit like an island. I don't live near an LYS or near a large group of knitters, so to be able to connect with people on the Internet is a huge deal for me. Not to mention, the ease of doing business this way. Everything is faster.
Yes, I do. I think a tech editor is very important.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Well, I know a lot of designers say they don't knit other people's patterns much, but I do. It keeps me from getting too into my own stuff and is a nice break if I need a break. I try to always have at least one “fun” project going. Even if I only get to knit for five minutes a day on something else, I do. I also always try to make time for the family. Everyday we go outside, read books, do activities. I can knit samples almost any time. I use my work time extremely efficiently.

How do you deal with criticism?
If there is a reason for it as there sometimes is, I just try and make it work for me in that I learn from it. Change what needs changing and move on. I don't really let opinions bother me much. If people don't like something because their style is different or whatever, they are entitled to that. It's not a big deal.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I'm so bad at advice. Well, research the industry and decide what it is that you want to get out of being a knitwear designer. Is it money? Is it a flexible schedule? Do you just really really feel the need to make up your own patterns? What is it that you want? Then, plan around that. Oh and never stop learning, when you close your mind to learning, the creative process is stunted.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

One year ago....

One year ago I wrote a post about the factor of fear in my motivation to make some changes in my eating and exercise habits. In my case health issues were the motivation but the extra benefit has been that I have been able to start wearing sweaters that I knit some time ago and was no longer happy with the fit. I also had to create a new master pattern schematic for myself as my measurements changed. The other benefit has been a very definite improvement in my energy levels.

As a result of my efforts I can now report that I am down a significant number of pounds and that I've maintained the loss for a number of months.

More importantly the weight loss resulted in many lessons directly related to my business. I learned how very important it is to clearly articulate your true goal and to reassess everything you do with that goal in mind. We do many things for many reasons and it's surprising how often we don't focus in on our own goal, we just say what we think we are expected to say. As an example, we often hear smokers say why they want to quit, but I've noticed that the ones who fail didn't really impress me with their reasoning. It was obvious that they knew it is socially correct to say they wanted to quit but they were not personally committed to the effort and lacked the motivation that would fuel their effort.

I also noticed how often people go into denial about the relationship between the goal and the actions steps to get there. They seem to enter a stage of magical thinking where the rules of the universe don't apply to them. In my case I find myself being unrealistic about the amount of work I can actually accomplish in a given day. Pattern writing simply takes much longer than I ever thought it would and the knitting time seems to get longer once it becomes part of specific time-line on the road to publication. 

The business axiom is that "you must measure what you want to manage". When I added KnitMeter to my blog I did notice that I started knitting a little longer when ever possible, somehow it becomes a bit of a game with myself to accomplish a little more everyday. I'm only counting knitting project time not swatching time and I now realize that I spend more time on swatches for projects and class samples than I had previously credited myself for. 

Once we establish new habits we need to be diligent about maintaining them. Lately I've started keeping a project list and I've been limiting the number of projects that I work on concurrently. The list labels projects as current or future and I'm starting to add specific time frames. I find that a single project doesn't work for me creatively but with more than three on the go I seem to become far too distracted and accomplish even less. Maybe I'll report in a year how successful I am with this goal.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Knitted Playground

What more can I say...this is truly awesome. You can read more about it here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Beware of Sound Bites!

"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."  Thomas A. Edison

Modern media brings information to us in the form of fast and easily digestible sound bites. I've included a quote above that is one of my favourites. As a sound bite it works very well. It's inspiring and a simple reminder of what is really necessary for success. Sound bites have become a standard in a world dominated by slick media delivery. It's a format we like, simple, concise and easy to remember. However, sound bites have a nasty habit of biting back. They have the propensity to over simplify complex issues, methods and processes into a surefire path to unsuccessful knitting projects.

In many cases the individual offering the soundbite up is giving accurate information to a specific situation that will cause frustration on later projects.

My most despised knitting sound bite is " row gauge doesn't matter".

When I teach my class Band Practice I have to control myself from going into a huge rant on this one. We create a problem because this little nugget is usually offered up to the novice knitter as they knit their first project, usually a scarf, and usually row gauge doesn't matter very much in this case. As they move into more complex projects that either don't depend on fitting a specific body or have intersecting areas of knitting where rows are matched against stitches they hear this again. By the time they start to work on projects that do require a specific row gauge, the sound bite has been internalized and the knitter is convinced that the naysayers are wrong when we emphasize the importance of row gauge. Usually at this time the knitter does not yet have the skill set to make the necessary changes that would accommodate a different row gauge.

Incorrect row gauge creates problems with shaped areas like raglans, sleeve caps and sleeve tapering, A too loose gauge makes the knitting stretch, droop and pill. I've noticed while doing swatches that loose gauges are more likely to shrink after washing. Too tight, the fabric created is stiff and unflattering. Bands on cardigans droop or gather up the edges of the garment. It makes the yarn amount recommendations wildly inaccurate in both directions, either not enough or too much yarn.

I see many row gauge problems when knitters substitute yarns without considering fiber or weight. If you can get the right number of stitches per inch but have too many rows per inch, your yarn is too thin. If you can get the right number of stitches per inch but have too few rows per inch, your yarn is too thick as compared to the yarn in a specific pattern. If this is the case, the problems I've mentioned above are likely to arise. 

The fixes for row gauge include: 

  • changing needle size, 
  • changing needle type, which could be a different material or style, such as straights vs. circulars
  • changing the way you tension your yarn,
  • changing the yarn,
  • recalculating shaped areas of the knitting
  • knitting extra swatches to recalculate stitch numbers for bands.

What knitting sound bite do you hate?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Trick Yourself into Doing Your Best Work

I'm constantly playing little mind games on myself  to improve my own performance. I think of the games as magic tricks. I watch for any consistency in the errors I make as that gives me a target area to focus on for improvement.

We've been editing the plus size top down book and these are my latest two tricks.

The first one is to battle my fast reading style. I took speed reading twice in university and it allows me to read lots of material. Not a good thing when you are looking for errors and discrepancies in the written work. I often read the work out loud to myself to catch any awkward phrasing. I set an online timer for 15 minutes and took a break every time it went off even if it was just to stand up and stretch. It was enough to remind me to relax and go slowly.

The second trick relates to my fear of having errors in the patterns. As with all designers this is a constant worry on my part because it leads to so much knitter frustration. We try for perfection but errors can be introduced in so many ways. I decided that finding an error should be treated like a treasure hunt. It should be a positive outcome not a negative and it worked for me. I give myself a little "good job there" and immediately start looking for the next piece of treasure.

What tricks do you use?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Knitting Tips - The Aesthetics

Knitting has its own mix of classic and trendy pieces that move in and out of both mainstream and knitting fashion. Berets and scarves never go completely out of style, but the details do change over time. Often the silhouette is what makes an item classic vs. trendy. Think slouchy beret vs. standard fit and infinity scarf or neck-warmer vs. the basic rectangle shape.

We spend a lot of time on our projects and want to get a good ratio of time spent knitting to time spent wearing the finished product as well as longer wear-ability for the more expensive yarns. Give some consideration to the long term appeal of the most time consuming projects and/or extravagant yarns to ensure your time is well spent.

Friday, August 3, 2012

An Interview with...Irina Poludnenko

Barcelona 2012

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 Irina here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
Generally, I am most inspired by traveling, architecture, the beauty of yarn, music and beautiful colors.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I love the Fair Isle technique, the modular technique, the slip stitch technique, the cables technique, short rows, and I love to invent my own design techniques and incorporate them in my knitting.

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

I always look at other designers work to ensure that I don't end up with the same design and try to do something totally different.

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

I feel that just as long as it's easy and understandable for the knitter, it doesn't really matter to me.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Paris 2009

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have two great knitters and if it is something more difficult, then I do it myself.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No. I submit designs for magazines and yarn companies and if I get a break, I make designs for my website.       

Lake District, England 2011

Do you have a mentor?


Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

No, I am trying out my own business model.

Do you use a tech editor?
The magazines and companies that I work for use a tech editor but I do not use one for my website.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

It's always difficult but I try to spend as much time with my family as possible and I can knit anywhere, even when I'm with them.

How do you deal with criticism?

I'm open to it and it helps me improve the quality of my work. 

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I was a knitter my whole life, but it became my main financial income when I immigrated to America in 1993. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
To pursue a career in knitting, you have to really love knitting and keep educating yourself every day.