Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Shawls with Garter Stitch Tab Starts

Recently I had a question on how to knit shawls that start from a garter stitch tab.  I've done so many shawls with this technique that I completely forgot how confusing it can be to knitters if it is a new method to them.  The question was via email so to be able to answer quickly I goggled and came up with three different web sites that all have great explanations and pictures as well. You can find them here, here and here.  I've included all three because each one explains the process in a slightly different way and that really helps when the method is new to you. We knitters all have slight variations in our methods and I think it is important to sort out which is best for you. I use the third version (Damp City Knits) with a different provisional cast on. I use waste yarn, I knit two rows in stocking stitch and then change to my project yarn, The reason for waste yarn is that I can then clearly see where I have to pick up the 3 stitches in the project yarn. I love tricksy knitter's photo because of how her added lines give such clarity to understanding how the tab works in relationship to the complete shawl. West Knits has great photos of the steps to create the tab. I hope these will help you if you are new to this technique.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How to Knit Gloves Part 5

Some Final Tips

  • Use self-patterning sock yarn to add colour and pattern to the glove.
  • Choose hand dyed yarns for colour variation in a simple glove.
  • Work a single lace motif from a stitch dictionary on the back of hand. 

  • Do fancy cuffs in a fashion yarn or in a two colour pattern.
  • Work any simple stitch pattern over the back of hand segment. Choose seed, moss or little cables; pick a stitch pattern that can be easily memorized.
  • Create fingerless gloves by stopping short after beginning the fingers and finishing with a few rows of a non-curling stitch like garter, rib or seed stitch.

  • Look at sock patterns for stitch designs with small repeats which will work on gloves as well.
  • Use gloves to sample stitch patterns from stitch dictionaries. 
  • When using leftover yarn from a garment, use the project as inspiration and repeat an element for a co-coordinating glove. 

Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.
Part 3 can be found here.
Part 4 can be found here.

Friday, February 22, 2013

An Interview with Tavy and Assaf of The Yarn Company

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

You can find the web site for the store here

Tell me how you got into the business of running a yarn store?

It was the funniest thing. We got the general email saying that the old owners, Julie and Jordana were leaving the business and that the fate of the store was unclear. Within 45 minutes I had made it from NJ to the store, and into Julie’s Office, to say: I am buying the store - lets shake on it and sign. NO time to think or get cold feet. It must have been burning inside me for a long time. My brother surprised me that evening by telling me he wanted to be my partner. It was too perfect to be true! We have been trying to do something together for a long time. This was also perfect opportunity to bring out his design background (he studied architecture at some point).
How long have you been in business? 
About a year and a half now.
Do you and your brother run the store by yourselves or do you have employees, if you do how many people work at your shop? 
We have the most amazing staff. Period. We have the brilliant Irina Poludnenko whose designs always leave me breathless. She is at the store a few times a week, and also creates the most dazzling house patterns and teaches for us. We are really fortunate To add to the incredible teaching lineup we have Donna Panner of Spin City NY fame, David von Buskirk from the weaving department at FIT, and other incredible teachers. We wanted to create a think tank environment, borrowed from my background in academia. And the staff on the floor? Honestly  the most vibrant and sweet you will every find. 

Tell us a little about how you and your brother make your partnership in the business successful.

We have been wanting to go into business together for a long time. We tried several things that neither of us was terribly passionate about. This one just fell into our laps. It combined our skills beautifully. My brother is a lawyer, a designer, a real creative force, but at the same time, he has a very practical mind. That’s a crazy wonderful combination. Somehow that complements my fuzzy-professor—brain beautifully. We have no other siblings and have always been very close. He is (I hate to say it) a lot younger than I am so we never really had a competitive sibling stage. We were always in different stages of childhood while growing up. I think that helps a lot. We have a lot of respect for each other’s ideas and I believe that empowers us as partners. 

Please tell us about the history of your shop.
So many famous designers and other well known people in the industry have worked at TYC at some point or another. The store has been around for 34 years, and has had various owners. At one point and for a long time, it clearly was the gem of the city, and we hope that our many efforts are steadily working to restore it’s golden status. 

Do you have a mentor? 

No, but several people really helped us incredibly and acted like guardian angels in the industry. One of them was Stacy Charles. He took us under his wing and held our hand and taught us so much. He has helped every step of the way. Trisha Malcolm along with everyone at SoHo Publishing guided us and were always on hand with stellar advice. Jay Opperman at KFI is a wonderful person, and he really helped us as well.  Mickey Landau was there for us all along, and Irina? Well: Irina, Irina, Irina!

In terms of inspiration? Well, our mother and grandmother, are mentoring us in the background daily. They aren’t around anymore, but in our heads they sure are. Boy would they be happy. We grew up with sewing machines and knitting needles everywhere. And Burda! But we also grew up with design in general. On the weekends our mother would take us to the design center, and there were always the newest design mags on the coffee tables.

We were also clearly inspired by the sights and sounds around us. Growing up in SoHo in the 70’s shaped our vision, our sense of color and style, and our imaginations.   

Did you take any courses in how to run a business before you opened?

No, but I have been teaching business at universities for over two decades. My brother was an MBA student and also took some PhD classes in Accounting before going to law school.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

Our web-store presence is huge, all across the world,. We ship all over the globe, daily. Our Facebook fans have gone from zero to 27,000 in 18 months. There are no words for what the Internet has done for us. It has been a real joy, to communicate daily with a worldwide community of knitters, crocheters, spinners, quilters, jewelry makers and other people interested in artisan-ship and fashion. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why is there so much yarn left over?

Knitters often complain to their LYS that a pattern called for way more yarn than was necessary to complete the project. 

Occasionally when I worked in my LYS a customer would facetiously tell me it was because of the yarn industry conspiracy to get you all to buy more yarn.

The short answer as to why this happens is because as a designer if I overestimate yarn requirements some knitters will be annoyed. However, if I underestimate the yarn requirements all the knitters of that pattern will be furious!

The long answer is that knitters may use up more yarn working more than one swatch to determine needle size. They may work to stitch gauge and ignore row gauge. Row gauge differences can heavily impact yardage requirements in either direction. They may modify the garment in length. They may fudge the gauge and knit a different size because they can't get gauge.

Designers vary in the amount that they increase yardage to accommodate knitters. The increase varies from 10 to 20% on average. The other wrinkle is that if the yardage calculates to a tiny little bit over the yardage of a set number of balls we have to go up by one more. If you are substituting yarns you may be dealing with different yardages per ball than the yarn listed in the pattern. Requirements are often quoted in total balls as opposed to yardages which is a less accurate way of listing the materials required. 

We also know that many knitters have so many projects on their knitting list that running back to your LYS for an extra ball or two won't be possible by the time you get around to knitting your project

Monday, February 18, 2013

Two New Patterns

I've been busy and I've released two new patterns this month with two more on the way. The first is Rose Sheldon. It's a pullover that I've been wearing frequently in the cold weather we have been having in Toronto. It's available on both Ravelry and Patternfish.

The name Rose Sheldon, like many of my pattern names, comes from the Agatha Christie mystery "At Bertram's Hotel". It is one of the wonderful Miss Marple series. Rose is a maid employed at the hotel.

The second is Vivien Barnaby, a shawl which was my Christmas knitting project. I like doing shawls as they are such an easily portable project. This one is a top down construction that starts from a three stitch garter tab. The lace is surprisingly easy as there are only four pattern rows needed to make this lovely stitch. I used a wool and silk blend from Handmaiden yarns. The pattern is available on Ravelry and Patternfish.

The name Vivien Barnaby comes from an Agatha Christie book of short stories "The Mysterious Mr. Quin." In Agatha Christie's Autobiography, she claims that Quin and a second recurring character in the stories, Satterthwaite became two of her favourite characters. 

The next two patterns will be an infinity scarf with matching gloves for hand dyed yarns and a classic cardigan in DK weight yarn.

Friday, February 15, 2013

An Interview with...Emily Parson Greene of Sophie's Toes

October 2012 Vogue Knitting Live

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. I met Emily in Chicago at VKL. I went home with some of her gorgeous yarn in Raspberry that will most likely end up as a lace shawl.

You can find Emily here and here on her blog. She has a Ravelry group here and you can see her amazing quilts here.

What is your favourite dyeing technique?

I lay my skeins in a large jelly roll pan (6 at a time) and squirt on the dye with squirty (ketchup) bottles.  I set the dye by steaming them in crockpots.  I have a bank of crockpots set up in my garage and it looks like I’m having a chili cookoff!

How do you choose the fibers types and determine what weights of yarn you stock?

I always determine the fiber and weights of yarn by what I like to knit.  I knit with my yarns constantly.  I like superwash merino sock yarn and other luxury (merino, cashmere, nylon) fingering weight yarns.

Every now and then I find a new base that intrigues me and I try it for a while and see if it is a good seller.  Sometimes, I will keep it around even if it isn’t a great seller, just because I really believe in it and love knitting with it myself.  (I’m looking at you Merino-Silk).

How do you come up with names for your yarn?

People like really fun names.  I’ve noticed at shows that people look at the color and pick up a skein they like, then they look at the name, laugh, and that seals the deal!  One of the first yarns colors I sold was green/gold/brown named “Handsome Park Ranger”.  People loved it and talked about it so much that I realized the importance of a fun or meaningful name. 

Knitting is so personal, and people love to knit with yarns that have meaning.  “Christmas Lights, Farmer’s Market, Summer Vacation” are all examples of names that give the yarn more meaning so the knitter has a true keepsake.  Usually the names come to me pretty easily, if not, I take a poll of my family or my friends at Knit Night.  Somebody always comes through for me with a good idea. 

Could you give us an idea of how long the process is to dye a batch of yarn and prepare it for sale?

I am really organized and efficient when it comes to the dyeing, and I have gotten to the point where I can dye 100+ skeins of yarn in a day (a “day” being the 6 hours that my kids are in school).  Doesn’t that sound impressive?!  Ha!

However, the actual dyeing is just a fraction of the process.  The rinsing, skeining, tagging, listing, selling, packing, shipping take much more time than the dyeing.  And that’s just for Internet sales.  Add more time (preparing, loading, driving, selling, reloading, unpacking) if you are taking it to a yarn show.

Do you look at other dyers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their yarns?

I am very happy with my own “style” and I don’t spend time looking at other dyers’ work in order to be inspired.  

That being said, I am a knitter too.  I do walk the aisles of the yarn shows when I get a chance, and admire other hand dyed and hand spun yarn, especially when it is done with techniques other than my own.  Occasionally something really unique comes home with me for my own personal stash.

Are you a knitter as well?

YES!  I am an avid (my family might say obsessed) knitter.  That’s how I got started down this path in the first place.  I knit a lot of socks and wanted to be able to have any color I wanted.  I was already spoiled in this way with dyeing fabric to have colors that I couldn’t find in stores.  As a quilter, I had learned a decade earlier how to dye fabric. 

The wool yarn uses a different type of dye and a slightly different process than the cotton fabric that I was used to dyeing, but I knew if I could dye fabric it was a pretty small learning curve to switch over to doing yarn also.

Did you do a formal business plan?

Well, not a formal business plan like a person would take to the bank to obtain financing.  But I do have a vision of what I want my business to be like and it is written down for my own reference.  It helps to clarify things.  I evaluate my plan on a regular basis and set yearly goals. Goals like: how much money I would like to make in a year, how many shows I would like to do, how much time I can commit.  It has changed pretty drastically, considering the fact that my youngest was just two and not even in preschool when I started this business.  Now all three of my kids are in school for a full day.  There is a world of difference between dyeing during naps and dyeing six hours a day! 

Do you have a mentor? 

Yes.  I have quilter friends who sell dyed fabric at quilt shows and they have given me lots of advice.  Melody Johnson taught me to dye (fabric) in 1995.  Her partners Laura Wasilowski and Frieda Anderson have given me lots of advice over the past few years about how to set up a booth and do shows.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

My business was based on the Internet from the beginning.  What was life like before the Internet!?

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

This is a hard one.  With three kids ages 8, 11, and 13, we have a very busy family life.  I have learned to be very flexible, because the hours I have for work change constantly.  I now have more time during the day to work, but less time at night (oh, for the days that they went to bed at 7pm!  Now my oldest is up til 10!)  I usually try to limit my work time to the 6 hours that they are in school, but they are old enough to understand that the 2 weeks before I am going to a show that I will be fitting in work after school and evenings.   And on the flip side, sometimes we are busier with family activities -- summer especially -- and I have to let go of some of the work stuff and remember that it’s not worth making myself (and my family) crazy.

As wild as it gets sometimes, I feel very blessed that my life is so full with work and family. I think it is good for my kids to see me work hard and enjoy something that is my own.  And it is especially very rewarding when they show interest in what I do.  (And when they pitch in to help me break down the booth at the end of a show!)

August 2012 Stitches Midwest

How do you deal with criticism?

When I worked as an artist before I started the yarn business, I developed a thick skin.  It wasn’t easy, and it took a long time.  I am the oldest child, a people pleaser!  But eventually you learn that you can’t please everyone all the time. 

I have (rarely—thank goodness) seen things written on the Internet that were less than complimentary about my yarn.  Of course, it stings!  All of that hard work—putting yourself into something that you make and offer up to the world!  First, I try to look at it objectively and determine if there really is something that I need to adjust in terms of my product.  If not—if it is just negative--then I try to shake it off and just remember  a) the thing about not being able to please everyone, and b) some people are just unhappy and/or negative, and there is nothing you can do to change that. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in hand dyeing yarns?

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of advertising, promoting, social media.  I know people who have made things and put them on etsy and wonder where all the customers are.  But you can’t expect people to just stumble upon you, no matter how great your product is.  There is much more to having a real business than making your product.  Listing an item for sale is not the end, there is still more work to be done.  You really have to work to get your pictures and your story in front of people’s eyes. 

When I started I already had a knitting blog and a quilting website.  I was able to direct people to the etsy shop who were already familiar with my work.  I have a friend who sells handbags and she started by promoting her etsy shop to her wide circle of friends on Facebook.  Getting involved in forums helps too.  Ravelry is wonderful!

Monday, February 11, 2013

How to Knit Gloves Part 4

More tips on Knitting gloves

To find the correct spot to pick up stitches on the fingers, look carefully at the knitting, the little V’s are columns of stitches. Pick up in the center of the V’s running up the finger. If the pickup is in the center of an upside down V it is in the wrong location. The next pickup is after two legs of a downward V.

When joining new yarn, leave a long tail, use it to duplicate stitch over any gaps or distorted stitches.

Use the yarn tails to tighten up holes at the base of fingers, by sewing through the purl bumps on the wrong side of the work around the hole.

The chart below gives you rough amounts based on stocking stitch gloves. You can see a larger version by clicking on the chart

Estimated Yarn Requirements

Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.
Part 3 can be found here.
Part 5 can be found here.