Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Knitting Tips - The Aesthetics

I follow a few of the fashion bloggers that do regular postings of what they wear. A number of them have mentioned how a photo of themselves in their outfits allows them to see what is most flattering in a way that they don't when looking in the mirror.  I think the problem with a mirror is that we are often too close to it to properly analyze proportions in the way we can in a photo. After all, most viewers see us from much further back. 

Try taking some photographs of yourself in the garments you knit to better understand more about what flatters you so you can improve your next knitting project.  I have also read articles written  by makeup artists who mention what a big problem this can be with some of their clients. They assess their makeup with a magnifying mirror instead of from 18 inches or more away and are overly critical.

One other thing that you need to be aware of is the problem that most of us don't like to see ourselves in photos. The reason for this is that we’ve always seen ourselves as no one else has, in a mirror. This is the image we have of ourselves in our mind. It is actually a mirror image of what everybody else sees and what a camera captures. The negative reaction is said by perceptual psychologists to come from seeing the many small asymmetries that don’t match up with what our brain expects to see, we then dislike the image.  There is a short video talk on this topic here if you would like to know more. It is given by Duncan Davidson who is an author, small-business owner and software developer. He has been the principal photographer for all major TED events since 2009.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Vogue Knitting Live

I'm back from Chicago teaching for Vogue. It was a wonderful event. I had a great time and met so many awesome knitters. They gave me lots of great ideas for upcoming blog posts. One of my classes from Chicago, Gloves 101 will be running twice more in the next month. I plan to do some posts on that topic and may run a KAL in my Ravelry group as well.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Celebrity Fashion Stylists

I watch and read a lot of fashion coverage in the media. Like everyone else, I love make overs! I've been noticing something about the celebrity stylists when they do the real people makeovers. They don't always seem to do the best job. I think that there are a few reasons for this. The first is that they are so used to working with young, tall, slim body types that their skill set isn't as highly developed when faced with a more average body type that perhaps needs to camouflage a specific area.

Generally they have relationships with specific brands, designers or retail organizations so they must limit their choices to items that will support that relationship.

I often see the makeover utilizes poor fitting garments, they wrinkle or strain over certain parts of the wearers body. They occasionally show too much skin either in the form of too short skirts or too much cleavage, appropriate for a starlet but not for an office or social event. The final problem I see is the pushing of trends which don't always flatter the wearer in the best possible way.

What do you think, have you noticed any other ways they fail?

Friday, October 26, 2012

An Interview with...Elizabeth Fallone

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  Elizabeth here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
There are too many places to mention. However I generally have my best ideas when out walking or even daydreaming, I pick a theme and let it take me. My first designs came from someone wanting boys sweaters ranging between 2-8 years of age. I didn’t know exactly what they wanted so I created a collection.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
My favourite techniques tend to change with whatever I am working on or designing. Currently Lace and and Fair Isle are my techniques of choice.

How did you determine your size range?
I try to do at least 4-5 sizes. Without distorting the flow of the pattern .

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, it can help me get my creative process flowing or give me inspiration sometimes. I don’t think they influence my work as each designer has their own style, as I have mine.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I don’t find that patterns are “dumbed down”, everyone learns at different rates and in different ways. It is our job as designers and teachers of a trade to make what we do understandable to those who have the will to learn it.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Every project is very different, as a preference Lace and Cable based patterns need 4 test knitters. To elaborate, I like two test knitters to check all the written words, and the other two to test the charts provided.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I never had a formal business plan as a designer, because I started out designing just for fun, and for myself.

 Do you have a mentor?
As a designer I have never really had a mentor, just the person I envisioned wearing my design. 

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The Internet has really helped with my designing business as it has gotten my name recognized by a bigger audience. It’s amazing to see and use websites like Ravelry, and Patternfish, as they connect the crafting community so thoroughly

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, I think is important to maintain consistency.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

How do you deal with criticism?
Criticism is a something that should be considered as there is much to learn from the opinions of other, especially when it is others that you are catering to.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
My advice to those who are interested in this career is to; keep and open mind, be humble, and know your product, your audience, as well as a bit of math.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How Knitting Makes you Happy

The positive psychology movement often looks at the question "are successful people happy or do happy people become successful?" For more background on the result of one study go here

I've considered this topic a lot while thinking about my knitting career. I think we may be asking the wrong question. Perhaps not being concerned with success at all gets us there faster? 

Research also shows that attacking challenges makes us happy, and we are happy when we accomplish things even if the result is not optimal. This is due to the feelings of accomplishment from the lessons learned. This can happen even during a failed project. 

If you want to be happy, set challenges for yourself. Just in case you didn't go to the link, the evidence indicates that making yourself happy first will make you successful. That means that the unsuccessful projects will lead you to be successful later on.

Oddly though, there were a few surprising drawbacks to being happy found in the study: "cheerful people appeared be worse at problem solving, maybe because they were so relaxed and did not always learn from trial and error. Also because they were more likely to think that everything was always going well, they could also be worse at critical thinking and error checking".

Monday, October 22, 2012

How Experts Behave

I read a really great article on experts here.

Item #4 strikes me as being especially pertinent to knitting. It says:

"Experts treat what they do like a science. They collect data, they analyze data, they create theories, and they test them."

Does this sound like swatching to you?

Friday, October 19, 2012

An Interview with...Elizabeth Fallone Owner of Eliza’s Buttons and Yarn

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 designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find  Elizabeth here and here on Ravelry.

Tell me how you got into the business of running a yarn store?
I have always been passionate about knitting. After working in different yarn shops and teaching in shows over the years I started regularly teaching students out of my home, and hosting a social knit night. I started accumulating yarn as the demand from my students grew for different yarns that weren’t offered in the local yarn shop. Finally I decided to just go for it and open a store front.
How long have you been in business? 
I have just celebrated my 1 year anniversary.
Do you run the store by yourself or do you have employees, if you do how many people work at your shop? 
I run the shop by myself for the most part, however during classes I  have a part time employee that comes in to make sure everyone gets the appropriate attention.
How did you choose the yarns that you carry in your shop?
The yarn in the shop is all the yarn that I would use and recommend. I love knowing what the product feels like as well as how it knits up. Also it’s like a fantastic stash that can be inspiring. 

What have done to create a sense of community in your store? 
We have a sock club that meets the 1st and 3rd Monday of the month, a lace group that meet every Tuesday night, I also host a drop in on Wednesday evenings with tea, coffee, it is a great social time. 

When I was teaching out of my home, we always had a separate knit night. I knew this was an important fixture, so I moved it to the store, it helps with allowing people from various backgrounds open up and find something in common with each other. Also we were running out of space in my basement.

What is your favorite part of what you do running the shop?
My absolute favorite part of running the shop is witnessing the diversity of each knitter and their project choices.

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?
The best part about creating a community in my knitting store is being able to see the new generation of knitters that are popping up. Instead of parents bringing their kids in to learn how to knit, I am witnessing young knitters between 5 - 12 years old bringing in their parents. It’s amazing.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I didn’t have a very firm business plan, but I knew where I wanted to end up and what I want to accomplish.

Do you have a mentor?
I have met so many amazing people over the years that have inspired me. Julie from Ancaster’s Needle Emporium has been so supportive. I admire what she brings to her students and customers alike. 

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I have never really been a follower, so if I had to describe my business model it would be to maintain the atmosphere that I created in my home with the students.  

Did you take any courses in how to run a business before you opened?
Surprisingly yes, the retail promotion course the  I took many years ago has come in handy.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
It has helped to spread the word  a lot faster that there is a new yarn shop in town.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I have recently acquired a puppy so he helps to make me take a break, go for walks, and forces me to have scheduled down time.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
The business is off to an amazing start however I am not totally self sufficient as of yet, but very hopeful.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in running a yarn store? 
Be knowledgeable and passionate about what you’re selling. When dealing with clientele always be honest and know what they want. If there are other shops in the area, be different and embrace that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Fudge Factor Part 3

Part 3 of a series explaining how to convert gauge in knitting patterns.
The adjustment of the sleeve increases and decreases need to be carefully reviewed as the rounding off of fractional numbers in the original source pattern can lead to some odd shaping. Patterns are written to be easily interpreted across multiple sizes, in ways not necessarily consistent when you work with only a single size. When doing the calculations for the decreases of an underarm or a neckline, check your results by validating your numbers on both the individual decrease steps, as well as the sum of the decreases added together. Adjust the decreases accordingly. Sleeve increases can be more easily and accurately calculated using knitters’ graph paper. Knitters’ graph paper accurately reflects stitch and row gauges as rectangles rather than squares in the manner of regular graph paper. A more accurate angle is calculated using this paper, even if the decreases are not evenly spaced, as they are when calculated mathematically. Graphing also offers the option of creating a contoured sleeve shape which more closely aligns with arm shape as opposed to the often used simple straight angle. Round any fractional numbers off to the nearest whole number. End the increases at least an inch before the rows are completed.
To determine the cast on, multiply the cuff measurement by the stitch gauge.
Example: 9 inches x 4.5 stitches per inch = 40.5 stitches.
Adjust this number if a stitch pattern has to be taken into consideration and if adding selvage stitches for seaming.
On a 6 stitch pattern repeat with 2 seaming stitches,
6 stitches x 6 repeats = 36 + 2 selvage stitches = 38.
36 stitches ÷ by gauge = 8 inches
6 stitches x 7 repeats = 42 + 2 selvage stitches = 44.
42 stitches ÷ by gauge = 9.3 inches
Choose the stitch number best for the project.
Calculate the wider top part of the sleeve. 15 inches x 4.5 stitches = 67.5 stitches.
This number should match the first as being either odd or even. In this case the closest even number is 68. The numbers should match, as all increases will be done in pairs.
Using the desired sleeve length measurement, multiply the length by row gauge.
Example: 16 inches x 6 rows = 96.
(Don’t forget to adjust the measurement if there is a band to take into consideration).
The number of stitches to increase is the difference between the top numbers and the bottom: 68 – 38 = 30. Divide the number in half since we will be making an increase at each end of the needle.
The result means we need to increase 15 times.
On the graph paper, draw in a short straight section at the top where no increases will be worked. Draw in the diagonal line and mark in the 15 stair steps increases. Remember the increases are normally worked on right sides only so work in two row increments.
If the garment being converting has picked up bands, you will be able to fudge factor the stitch counts provided.
If you made length adjustments, it is better to use stitch pick up rates. The stitch pickup rate is a stitch for a stitch on horizontals; three stitches for every four rows on vertical edges; one stitch for every cast off step on curves and diagonals. Some diagonals advise a pickup for every row depending on the angle. The closer the angle moves to the horizontal the higher the number of stitches required. 
These ratios assume a standard stitch to row gauge ratio and are approximate. Often knitters work towards stitch gauge and completely ignore row gauge while swatching. This can lead to abnormal ratios and will impact the band results. It is for this reason some references quote the ratio as five stitches for every seven rows or two stitches for every three rows. Some change the ratio according to the stitch gauge and use the two to three ratio for gauges less than four stitches per inch. The ratios are based on stocking stitch. For garter stitch the ratio is one pickup for every ridge (two rows). On rare occasions, a pattern might change the ratio as the band pickups cross over a different main body stitch pattern.

Yarn requirements can be recalculated by comparing your gauge to the original gauge. There are three error factors with this calculation. The first is created by the individual knitter. Since the knitter is unable to swatch with the original yarn there is no way to know if the stitch and row gauge ratio would have matched the gauge of the original yarn. The second error factor comes from the standard industry practice of increasing yarn amounts by 10 to 20% to account for row gauge differences. The third error factor is caused by the yardage being calculated to match the numbers for the skein or ball yardage of the original yarn. Designers always round up in this situation. Use a similar existing pattern for the yarn substitute or a generic yardage chart whenever possible as a comparative verification.
Example 1: Converting to DK (Yarn Weight Number 3) from Worsted weight yarn (Yarn Weight Number 4)
Your Gauge DK: 22 stitches, 28 rows = 4 inches
or 5.5 stitches, 7 rows = 1 square inch
5.5 x 7 = 38.5 stitches/square inch
Original Gauge (the pattern) Worsted: 18 stitches, 24 rows = 4 inches.
or 4.5 stitches, 6 rows = 1 square inch
4.5 x 6 = 27 stitches/square inch
Fudge Factor
38.5 ÷ 27 = 1.42
Your yardage is the unknown number; apply the fudge factor.
The pattern calls for 1600 yards
1600 yards x 1.42 = 2272 yards
Example 2: Converting to Worsted weight yarn (Yarn Weight Number 4) from DK (Yarn Weight Number 3).
Your Gauge in Worsted: 18 stitches, 24 rows = 4 inches.
or 4.5 stitches, 6 rows = 1 square inch
4.5 x 6 = 27 stitches/square inch
Original Gauge (the pattern) DK: 22 stitches, 28 rows = 4 inches.
or 5.5 stitches, 7 rows = 1 square inch
5.5 x 7 = 38.5 stitches/square inch
Fudge Factor
27 ÷ 38.5 = .70
Your yardage is the unknown number; apply the fudge factor.
The pattern calls for 1950 yards
1950 yards x .70 = 1365 yards                              
I would recommend you photocopy your pattern, highlight all the numbers pertinent to your size then go through applying your conversion ratio to each number.
Use the schematic if your pattern has one, as a check for each of your numbers, by multiplying your gauge by the measurements provided.
To be sure the garment will fit the way you envision it, measure a similar sweater which fits well and compare the measurements to those you are about to knit. The amount of ease (the difference between your measurements and the garments measurements) is a very personal choice. There is no guarantee the original pattern included the amount of ease you would have been happy with.
It is often best to stay within the same fiber type when choosing a different yarn. The properties of, for example, cotton versus wool vary greatly, so look carefully at your chosen design when substituting. A heavy cabled garment may work well in wool but is far too heavy in cotton. A straightforward stocking stitch design will usually work in both fibers. Some stitches easily produced in a wool with good elasticity may be difficult to work in inelastic linen or hemp. Some fibers like silk or rayon have drape and will grow in length. Experience is the best teacher in these cases.

 Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 is here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

How to Measure Underarm Depth Accurately

I came up with another method to measure underarm depth accurately. 

The difficulty in getting an true measurement is that you are trying to measure a curve on the body that becomes a straight line on a flat pattern. At the same time it needs to be measured at the outside edge of the shoulder where the sleeve cap meets the armhole. It is difficult to measure on someone else and almost impossible to measure on yourself.

To use this method you need a tank that has straps that go straight up, mine sits right on the bony protrusion at the back of my shoulder that defines where your armhole seam should sit. Avoid tanks with straps that are purposely cut away at the shoulders. Even the straight straps tend to fall in towards the center slightly. You can usually see that they are doing so by the wrinkling that happens just at the underarm. The strap should be at least an inch wide and racer-back styles will not work. The other advantage of a tank is that you can very clearly see where the underarm falls on your body.

Put on your tank and look at it sideways, you can use a one inch ruler held under your arm pit to assess if you have the minimum one inch of ease in the armhole. If you like a greater depth that's fine, the whole point here is to find your personal number for required ease. If it's too deep for you, pin the strap of the tank to pull it up into the correct location. You can see my pin with the yellow glass head in the photo. Take the tank off and lay it flat, my photo shows how you will get the measurement that is appropriate for you. You now have a measurement that you can check on the next pattern you choose to knit. This will help you to assess patterns and make decisions on customizing them for better fit.

I checked two patterns in knitting magazines and looked at garments in my size with set in sleeves. The armhole depth was 1.5 inches too long for me on the first and 2.5 inches  on the second. I am 5' 2", therefore I am not surprised by those numbers. How about you? Do you alter the armhole depth on garments you knit? I wrote about how to do this in a previous post here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

An Interview with...Audrey Knight

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.  Audrey has just published a new book on reversible scarves that includes 31 patterns executed in a variety of techniques. You can see all of them here.

You can find Audrey here and here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration?
My favorite inspiration comes from stitch dictionaries. I’ve been known to wake up in the morning with one or two in my bed, as I’ve fallen asleep dreaming about what to design next! Other times I may be inspired by a particular painting or photos from the fashion industry.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I divide my knitting into two categories, social knitting and solo knitting. I adore knitting with friends; while laughing and chatting I need something simple. During quiet times alone, I love the challenge of intricate cables or lace.

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. I’m in awe of so many clever designs out there. Others’ work prompts me to learn more; I always want to improve.

Could you tell us about your new book, Reversible Scarves: Curing the Wrong Side Blues?
It used to drive me crazy when I made scarves for friends and they invariably wore them with the wrong side facing out. I discovered the joy of reversible patterns, and proceeded to write the book I wish I had on my own shelf.
I wanted lots of diversity, so I include techniques from very simple knit-purl, to cables, to lace, to double knitting. Knitters who have seen my book and trunk show seem delighted when I show them scarves that look complex, but are really very easy to create. For example, I wrote the double-knitting patterns in a way that didn’t require a new technique to be learned; they use just knit, purl and slip stitches. Some of my patterns with ribs on one side and lace on the other are favorites. I wanted the book to appeal to beginning to intermediate knitters, yet also have patterns that appeal to those with more advanced skills. I also want the book to spark the creativity of knitters who want to design their own versions of the scarves. I wrote “Make It Your Own” sidebars for each chapter with hints on designing your own versions or using yarns from your stash for different effects.
I hope that people who buy my book will turn to it many times over the years. With over 30 patterns and variations, knitters should be able to find a pattern that suits everyone they’d like to knit a scarf for, including themselves!

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
The wonderful thing about the explosive popularity of knitting is there is something for everyone. As a designer, I like to keep my target audience in mind. I wrote the patterns in my book with a bit more instruction than absolutely necessary because I want the knitting to be fun and relaxing. Some of my single patterns that are geared toward more advanced skill sets are written more concisely.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
For my book, over a dozen test knitters had their hands in swatching and/or making samples. For my single patterns, I use a core group of four or five. I never send a pattern out there without its being test knitted first. I had an instance recently where one test knitter had no problem at all with one of my patterns, yet the second one came up with excellent questions that I then used to improve the instructions’ clarity. I want to be able to improve on any ambiguous instructions so that the people who so kindly buy my patterns don’t have to waste their time.

Do you have a mentor?
I have a “mentor in life”, who encourages me and also calls me on my wrong-headedness when necessary! Her insights have helped me keep going when I’ve had doubts about my designing. In the knitting world, many people who didn’t even know me took time from busy schedules to encourage me to write my book. Myra Wood sat with me at a Stitches event one year and gave me the straight scoop on how all-consuming writing a book is. Elaine Rowley gave me a large chunk of her time at another Stitches event, encouraging to keep going after I had the basic idea for my book figured out. And Elise Duvekot let me walk with her between classes, answering questions I had about getting published. That these women were knitting goddesses in my eyes, and their generosity with time and advice meant the world to me.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
In my case, Ravelry opened the door to the Internet. It served as a platform to sell my early patterns, and exposed me to fantastic designers and endless possibilities for learning. Online magazines have been a boon as well. I was fortunate enough to have a pattern in, which generated a lot of interest.

Do you use a tech editor?
Absolutely! My tech editors have always caught mistakes, even when I’m sure I’ve turned in the “perfect” pattern. They have suggested better ways to phrase things, or caught errors in my math. I owe it to anyone who sends me money for a pattern to have it tech edited to be the best it can be. I self-publish patterns as the AudKnits line, and I want knitters to have confidence that AudKnits patterns will be a pleasure to make.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I don’t have children, but I do have aging relatives whose care needs a lot of my attention. I’m fortunate to have an understanding husband, since when I’m not overseeing my elders’ care, I’m knitting, designing, or promoting my book. To accommodate my knitting obsession I’ve adopted the saying, “Balance is For Sissies.”

How do you deal with criticism?
Sometimes I bristle, I must admit. But I’m fortunate to have people around me whose criticism is kind and thoughtful, and whose instincts I trust. Eventually I realize they’re right.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I do not make enough income from knitting to cover the expenses of yarn, tech editing, and sample knitting. I’m fortunate to be retired and not have to rely on my knitting income. My hat is off to those who can produce enough top-notch patterns quickly enough to be able to support themselves.