Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Should you Take a Private Knitting Class? Part 2

Recently I did a one on one private session with someone who took a workshop with me a few years ago.

My partner on the road to knitting perfection told me she came to me for two reasons. The first was she likes the way my garments fit me. The second reason, she had noticed while we are very different sizes our proportions share some similar features. I'm short, she's tall, I'm busty so is she, I don't have a defined waistline neither does she. However I have short arms and she has average arms, she also has a long neck, mine is average. 

We started by working through my class: Perfect Proportions for EveryBody, I haven't taught that one in a while and it's interesting working with one person. I was very aware of the change in dynamics, when I work with a group, the participants are involved with the assessment. It is very affirming when a group of women do this together. We all make the mistake of focusing on our negatives, the group almost always disagrees, because they don't have the same emotional history.

Mrs. X has a high power corporate job and spends most of her day in tailored suits. Her knitting career has included a lot of sweaters for her two sons. She started knitting similar garments for herself.

Lessons learned: 

Sweaters that look good on tall skinny boys with broad shoulders don't work on Mom. Boxy shapes make bodies look boxy. Guy sweaters hang off the shoulders, women have more bumps.

Your base size can be different from your bust size. That's what the upper chest measurement is all about. Mine is four inches different from my bust. Mrs. X has a five inch difference. We went through a few pattern schematics and discovered her chest and shoulder measurement match garment sizes two or three smaller than what she has been knitting. No wonder she has been unhappy with the results. Read here for more details.

Refined fit vs. Standard fit. In the sewing world refined fit refers to making the front bigger than the back of a garment. Some of us have bigger fronts. If the garment is the same measurement on both front and back the fabric will be stretched horizontally across the torso on the front. It may hang loosely on the back. If the garment is pulled horizontally on the front it cannot stretch vertically to create the extra length needed for a curvy bust line. Knitting patterns normally have equal sized fronts and backs. Read here on how to change this.

Be realistic about sleeve fit. Knitting patterns create very different sleeve shapes as compared to patterns for woven fabrics.

Typical Sleeve (knitting)

Two Piece Sleeve (sewing pattern)
The front and the back of the sleeve have different shapes, the sleeve hangs with a curve towards the front of the body. Mrs. X is used to the sleeves of suits with the latter form of construction. Just in case you are wondering, you can knit a two piece sleeve. The easiest way is to use real size knitter's graph paper and a sewing pattern. I just don't know any knitters who would. 

Final lesson, we all prefer different amounts of ease. I'm a small person, I don't like a lot of ease. Our tall Mrs. X brought along lots of garments she already owns. We took lots of measurements. We pinned the garments that were too big to be smaller and measured them. We measured things she likes, we guesstimated how much bigger some of the items she felt were too small should have been. We marked hems, we measured cross shoulders and we assessed neckline and armhole depths. Mrs. X is now working on a starting point basic schematic and she promised to take good notes on yarn weights and the drape of the fabric to help expand her knowledge. Her first garment will have more ease than I would add for myself, but she will be happy with the results of her sweater. 

Part 1 is here.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Should you Take a Private Knitting Class?

Every once in a while I get booked to teach a private class. I've done a couple by Skype but more often they have been with people who live close to me. We meet up either at my home or at a coffee shop. They have all been interesting learning experiences for me and hopefully for the students as well. 

Why would someone book a private class? A few have been with knitters who were planning to publish patterns and were looking for recommendations for learning tools and resources or they wanted to learn specific things about pattern drafting and grading. One booked me because she took an earlier class but was overwhelmed by the volume of information. She came with very detailed questions that she sent to me in advance. I was able to pull together samples, examples and practice problems for her to work through. I get the opportunity to work through my technical process with someone else which is a form of learning for me as well.

I've also done a class for a knitter who was intimidated because she took a technique workshop which was filled with very advanced knitters. She had basic questions which didn't get asked due to her embarrassment. Remember knitters, there are no stupid questions, however not everyone is at the same mile marker in their journey as you are. I had a good time working with her because she got every technique I showed her instantaneously. All she really needed was some one on one demonstration and encouragement.

I recently did another private class on garment choice and pattern adjustments. I'll write about the lessons we learned together soon.

Part 2 is here.

Friday, April 25, 2014

An Interview with... Susan Sarabasha

Susan wearing Windswept, baby Julia is wearing a hand spun sweater from Susan's fiber
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 Susan here and here on Ravelry.

Susan teaching spinning at the Southern Adirondack Fiber Fest.

Where do you find inspiration?
Usually I find inspiration in nature - flowers and natural themes are my favorites. Clematis Vine came from my garden.  Tamarack and Spruce from a trip to the Adirondacks and Rainforest from this long cold winter when I need to see GREEN in a place that didn't get snow.   

Sometimes I have colors in mind that need a name. Other times I see something that by itself inspires a colorway.   For Sherbert and Ernie I dyed up some yarn and then took it to my Knitting Group. It contains sherbet colors of watermelon, lime, cantaloupe, banana and mango but I thought that too bland a name. One of the women came up with the final title which I love. I even designed a dish of sherbet with the characters faces on the scoops as an ad.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Right now it's I-cords but I also go on fair isle binges and then lace binges.  So I guess it just depends on when you ask.

How did you determine your size range?
Size range for patterns is usually determined by the magazine or website where I want to get the pattern published and its submission guidelines.  At the very least I do S,M and L.  A hat I'm working on right now is being sized in 15",17", 19" and 21" as I think it will work for all ages.
Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Oh I do look.  Sometimes I get inspired by a grouping, other times I just see what colors and styles are trending.  This winter I designed two cowls as it seemed that was all my knitting group wanted to work on.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I'm very mixed on this subject.  If you look at patterns from 40 - 50 years ago they assumed the knitter knew quite a bit and to my best knowledge there were a lot of knitters then so the 'pithy' directions didn't stop them. Today's knitter wants more explanation than that.  My best test knitter, who passed last summer, was an expert knitter, yet she wanted me to do more explaining.  So I try to include at least an abbreviation section and list the main stitch techniques needed and add more explanation to the 'easy' patterns which I expect more beginners to be using.

Could you tell us about the book proposal that you are currently working on? 
Sure.  I'm working on a book, whose title right now is I-cord Mania.  It includes patterns using I-cord cast-on, bind-off, edging and my own Internal I-cord.  I'm not a writer, so I have been procrastinating by designing more patterns for the book.  In the long run that's a good thing but in the short, it doesn't get my proposal out there.  However, I'm now very close.  I have the intro written and a chapter on making a swatch using the methods.  I've started a Technique section and am putting the pics together.  I have about 8 patterns ready to go which, hopefully will be enough to get this accepted by a publisher.

You are known for having "un-vented" an internal I-cord which has been featured in a number of your patterns. Could you tell us the story behind the un-invention?
Some of you may know of a sewing technique / feature called a welt. You’ve most often seen it on western style shirts separating one section from another.  Usually it’s made by folding the ends of two parts of the garment over and together, then sewing them down making a nice delineation between two sections.

While thinking up Verve for Knitter’s magazine (K109, 2012), I imagined such a nice delineation between the sections without binding off and picking up stitches to make that thick line.  Boing!  I-cord.   So I searched and searched EZ’ books and then on the internet, finding I-cord cast on, bind-off, applied cording and edging but, alas no I-cord that did not have at least one side free. I thought about this for a while and then placed the instructions for cast-on (adding stitches) and bind-off (removing stitches) side by side.  “Hmmmnnn,” I said to myself, “How can I do both at once but still maintain the same number of stitches?” I worked each looking at how they formed.  AHA!  Put them together! That idea produced more than several false starts and frogged samples. However I made myself take exacting notes, which got themselves crossed out, erased and replaced. I fiddled and faddled but eventually my brain did figure out how to make my very own UNvention – the Internal I-cord.  It worked great for flat knitting but the skirt is knit in the round.  So there ensued more trial and error samples that, of course, led eventually to a fairly simple solution, which can be seen and knit in several projects in my proposed book.

You teach a number of classes related to knitting on the topics of spinning, spindling and dyeing, how has this affected your growth as a designer?
Knowing how yarn is made has made a big difference in my designing.  I'm known as a micron snob. :^)  Over the years I've become intimately acquainted with many kinds of wools from many kinds of sheep plus luxury fibers.  My favorites are Blue Face Leicester, silk, and cashmere, alpaca and angora blends. The down side is that I know that if a label only says wool that it's probably milled from the wool pool which is a mix of meat, milk and wool sheep fleece which makes it a harsher fabric than if only good quality low micron fleece was used.  As a result I only dye fiber and yarns that I consider 'next to skin' soft.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Sadly, my very best, fastest and most accurate test knitter passed away last summer and I haven't found anyone who meets those standards again yet.  I have one person who edits for me but the better test knitters nearby are slower than I would like so I wind up test knitting for myself which is not ideal.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Sadly, or not, no.  I don't know how to do one.  I do have goals but they are fluid and can change as the times change. Over the years I find I have gone from concentrating solely on dyeing to more pattern making and kits.

Do you have a mentor?
I had a mentor when I started my business and he was invaluable. I learned so much from him, such as not rushing a customer, not walking around behind a customer being ready to help but by just saying,"Let me know if you have any questions." and by watching their faces as I did when I taught middle school.  I can see the questions forming so make myself available.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?  
I designed and edit my own website which takes a bit of time but is more responsive to whatever is going on. My business is split between internet sales and Fiber Fairs. June, July, Sept and Oct are Fair months and the rest of the year I rely on my newsletters and advertising.

Do you use a tech editor?
No, but I sure would like to meet one and work with that person.  I think my patterns would be oh so much better if I did.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
When I started Spinning Bunny I was still teaching middle school, knitting through meetings and dyeing at night.  After a while I noticed that my teaching was burning out and that the part time, fledgling Spinning Bunny had increased to over 20 hours a week on top of the average 50 hours teaching week. I took a long hard look at what I wanted to do, what made me happiest and leaped.

How do you deal with criticism?
I try to be mature about it but am just too soft inside I think.  However when the criticism is given with love and meant well, within a few hours or days I see what can be changed and do it willingly.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Alas I am still working that one out.  I have a pension that pays my regular bills.  Until a couple of years ago, when the bottom fell out of the economy, Spinning Bunny was doing better and better each year and I was able to pay myself.  Fiber Fairs are still excellent but internet sales have dropped. More recently I have had to put money into the business.  Hobby crafting is a place the average person can pull back on when money gets tight.  We all have a large stash we can use.  I am hopeful we will pull through this to the other side.
I also can't see how anyone can make a living just selling patterns.  We need to also teach workshops to get our names out there and create a demand.  I see a book as another way to do that.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
The old adage of 'Don't quit your day job'.  BUT if it's something you love and you are seeing good feedback then slowly build it up.  One day you'll realize it has grown enough to support you and then you can jump in with both feet.  Networking with other knitters and designers is important too as is maintaining a connection with your local knitting and spinning community.
             Sherbert and Ernie Socks in Bare Bones Pattern

Monday, April 21, 2014

How to Seam a Set in Sleeve Cap on a Knitted Garment

Full disclosure: I have a sewing/tailoring/pattern drafting background. The education I received in garment construction means I may see things differently than some other sweater designers.  It doesn't mean that I'm right or they are wrong, it just means different designers have different approaches that will create slightly different results in fit and appearance. In general, those individuals with slim upper arms, don't need sleeve cap ease as much as those with a fuller upper arm do. 

Setting in sleeves is often viewed as one of the most challenging parts of seaming a garment.This is because the shape of the sleeve cap and the armhole are not an exact match. The height of the cap is normally shorter than the armhole depth but it's total measurement may be equal or greater in length to the armhole. For a more in depth explanation of sleeve cap and arm width relationships you can read my post here.

If you are working from a pattern it has predetermined that measurement relationship. Keep in mind that row gauge discrepancies will also have an impact here.

I design my garments with the extra length (usually about 1inch) and ease the sleeve cap into the armhole opening.

I seam the sleeves and the side seams of the garment first. I start to join the armhole and the sleeve cap by stitching at the underarm and I mattress stitch evenly across the sleeve and the armhole in the sections where the cast offs were worked. Each stitch is of the same length. Then I join the centre of the top of the sleeve cap at the shoulder seam.  I use mattress stitch and seam evenly for a half inch on either side of the shoulder seam. Next I give the work a tug, aligning the two pieces and make note of how much longer the sleeve cap is. I use mattress stitch to seam from the armhole to the sleeve first taking a stitch on each side that is the same length. Then I begin to alternate making the stitches on the armhole side slightly smaller than those on  the sleeve cap side. I make a guesstimate at the ratio of row to row numbers. If I run out of one side or the other before I'm finished with the sleeve cap I pull out the stitches and adjust the ratio between one and two row stitches on the armhole side.  The goal is to ease the sleeve cap in without any gathering or bunching. Make note of the ratio for the other half of the sleeve and the second sleeve.

If the pattern you are working with was designed with no ease you will be able to seam without easing and all your stitches can be the same length.

Friday, April 18, 2014

An Interview with...Lara Smoot

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 Lara here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration everywhere and keep a notebook with me for jotting down ideas.  The wings of a butterfly, the spiral pattern of a shell,  frost patterns on windows,  looking at the way colors flow in a skein of variegated yarn all give me inspiration.  I enjoy reading fashion magazines and get a lot of inspiration from them as well. 

What is your favourite knitting technique? Lace!  I love knitting anything with lace incorporated into it.  I also enjoy colorwork.  My favorite projects are socks and shawls. 

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?  I subscribe to several knitting magazines and always read Knitty when it comes out online. I think that as a designer it is important to stay on top of what is trending and to know what knitters want to knit. While I do enjoy looking at other designs, I strive to create new and unique designs.

How did you determine your size range?  It really depends on the design.  A shawl may offer one or two sizes,  while a sock pattern will have a wider range of sizes.

Could you tell us a little about your Etsy business? My Etsy shop is very similar to my Ravelry Pattern Shop.  I carry a full line of my patterns on both sites.  I will be adding a new line of knitting bags to my Etsy shop at the end of April.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?  I think that patterns need to be presented to knitters in a way that is easy for them to follow and understand. I strive to have clear and concise  directions in all of my patterns.  Knitting should be enjoyable and trying to knit a pattern that is hard to follow can be very frustrating. Many times knitters just give up. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself? I have a group of wonderful test knitters.  I have three test knitters that knit almost everything that I come out with and there are several other test knitters that test knit when time allows.  They all do a fantastic job with testing and I don’t know what I would do without them!  I have one sample knitter and I knit each design that I come out with. 

Did you do a formal business plan?  I do have a business plan.  It is based over five years and includes an intensive marketing campaign.  I worked in social media for a yarn company for several years and my marketing strategy is very similar to the one that I created for them.  It’s good to re-evaluate your business plan every five years or sooner, make changes where you see the need, and go from there.

Do you have a mentor? I feel very lucky to have a few: Anne Hanson, Carrie Sullivan, Kyle Kunnecke, and Tabetha Hedrick. It can be difficult to break into designing and I was fortunate enough to be able to turn to friends when I had a question or needed encouragement.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated? My business model is based on customer relation's and support.  First and foremost I want to be able to provide a high level of service to people who have purchased my patterns.  I love what I do and hope that it shows through in my work.  If someone has a question I make sure that it gets answered in a way they can understand – especially if they are new to knitting.  We were all new to it at one time and I think that sometimes that gets overlooked.

What impact has the Internet had on your business? My entire business is on the Internet.  Ravelry specifically has made it very easy for designers to self publish.  Ravelry has a wonderful advertising program that I have taken full advantage of.  With the addition of Etsy, Facebook and Twitter reaching potential customers is now much easier then it was even just a few years ago. 

Do you use a tech editor? Yes.  I have a wonderful tech editor who does a fantastic job for me.

How do you maintain your life/work balance? I really enjoy what I do and it most of the time it doesn’t feel like work.  I try to stick to a schedule of writing in the morning and early afternoons, and knitting in the afternoon and evenings.  This changes if there is a deadline or we are traveling.  It’s really hard to write patterns while we are on the road.  Knitting is a wonderful craft since it is portable and can be brought most anywhere.  It’s not often that you will see me without it.

How do you deal with criticism? I continually  strive  to improve myself and my patterns.  If a test knitter has a suggestion or has trouble understanding something that I have written, it means that I need to improve what I have done before publishing.  I want my patterns to be clear and easy to follow.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself? I am not there yet, but am certainly striving to be able to do this.  Right now it’s providing a small and steady income and I am doing something that I absolutely love. I am fortunate that my husband is very supportive and encouraged me to take the first step that lead me to designing full time.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting? Take as many classes as you can, attend events like TNNA and Stitches. Get your feet wet by offering to test knit for designers whose work you like.  Make a business plan and know where you want to be next year and five years from now. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.  People are usually willing to offer advice and suggestions.  Most of all don’t ever get discouraged.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Contest Winners Nancy Whitman Patterns

TrishD,  Tobie and Lori are the winners of the Nancy Whitman pattern contest. 

Tobie and Lori please email me. (Email address is at the top of this page).


Monday, April 14, 2014

My Husband Doesn't get Knitting Humour

One of the things I follow on Pinterest is knitting humour. Many of these items make me laugh out loud. Laughing leads to my husband wanting to share the joke. My husband is very interested in my knitting. He does the photos for my patterns, he checks for layout improvements, he does a little copy editing after the tech edit and he is working on a new logo for Robin Hunter Designs. But he just doesn't get the humour. All I get is a blank face when I share these items. Thank goodness I have lots of knitting friends!

Friday, April 11, 2014

An Interview with...Megan Goodacre

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 Megan here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration is a funny thing for me, it tends to wander. Right now, I'm loving the period wardrobe in Bletchley Circle, a post WW2 mystery TV series. I don't know who designed the wardrobe, but the number of hand knits on the show is astounding. I think there's an old-fashioned part of me that likes sweaters to be a little vintage. The Arbois cardigan, for example, was partly inspired by an illustration by E H Shepard. There's something distinctly Christopher-Robinish about the collar. 

And I love browsing the web for the latest couture; the fashion industry is fascinating to me. The pressure that fashion designers are under to produce hundreds of fresh designs every season is baffling. I love anything layered, tailored, vintage, or simplified.

Sometimes, I look for inspiration in geometric patterns; I like the idea of using a single visual element as simply as possible and turning it into a piece. 

How did you determine your size range?

Knitting patterns tend to have a wide range, from, say, a 30 to a 60 inch bust. I have mixed feeling about this range. I like the idea of all-inclusive patterns, but I'm not sure it's always appropriate. Growing up, I sewed much more than I knit. With sewing, you learn to tailor to fit yourself. Commercial sewing patterns are designed to be altered, with instructions and markings ("lengthen or shorten here", "place darts here", etc) and the experienced seamstress (or seamster, if that's the masculine version of the word) is always perfecting their fit. On the other hand, we tend to treat knitting patterns more literally. There's so much to think about—gauge, stitch counts, dimensions, yarn—that it's easy to get to the end of a sweater after following it to the letter but without having tried it on, only to discover that it doesn't fit! Or maybe it fits, but doesn't flatter. 

I size my sweater patterns following the American publishing convention, to fit about a 32 to 54 bust. But I think anyone knitting a sweater should customize their patterns to flatter your shape. Measure something you own that you love. Then use the written pattern as a foundation and work it to fit.

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

I love looking at what other designers are doing! We're all re-interpreting the same basic things: sweaters, scarves, shawls, hats. I enjoy seeing how other designers are coming up with new combinations. And when I have a sketch, I want to make sure that it hasn't already been done. When everyone is using the same ingredients, it's inevitable that coincidental repeats happen, but I avoid it if I can. 

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

Hmm, that's a tricky one. 

Compare today's patterns to patterns of 20 (or 30 or 50) years ago. Now, they're written more plainly, with a lot more detail. Explanations are provided for everything but the basics. The technical skill required is often high, with short rows, provisional cast ons, complex lace and cables, steeks… And knitters are producing incredible works. These are no boxy hand knits; these are exquisitely crafted garments. I don't think this would be happening without designers' putting a lot of work into instruction and pattern support (whether through blogs, or KALs, or discussion groups).

On the other hand, this demand for instruction puts a lot of pressure on the independent designer. A lot more time has to go into the pattern before and after publishing, and testing gets more complex. And most designers are working on tight budgets with small revenues. 20 years ago, if I didn't understand something in a Rowan pattern for example, I didn't have the option to email the designer for help. 

Ideally, I would like to see the technical and design aspects separated. Technical instruction could go in blogs, books, workshops. And the design could be left in the pattern. Remember what a revolution the Kaffe Fassett designs were, and how successfully they attracted knitters? That was all about visually exciting design; the technical aspects were very simple. 

I try to manage the issue by putting tutorials in my blog. Then I can include a link to the tutorial within the pattern. For example, I have a hat pattern in the works that uses stranded colour knitting. Some of the testers felt that the pattern should include information about colour dominance. But I prefer to make this optional (I don't think colour dominance matters unless you're very particular about the finished product) so I wrote an article about it on my site. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?

I have a couple of really great sample knitters who I use sometimes. It depends on the project and the budget. And my mom has knit a few samples for me, which is incredibly helpful. (She knit Cultivar, for example). Ideally, I'd like to work with sample knitters on everything, but just don't have the budget for that. Working with a sample knitter lets me do things that I like the look of, but don't have the stamina for. I'm a pretty lazy knitter, so need sample knitters to do the hard work for me. Boiseau for example, has been really popular, but I would have lost patience halfway through it! Luckily, I had a sample knitter for that one.

I often turn to Ravelry for test knitters, and have worked with many very helpful volunteers. They don't just test the pattern, they get involved with the finer points and usability of the pattern, like a focus group. It's great.

Did you do a formal business plan?

The first year was really about finding out more about the audience. Finding out what people are looking for (or not) and where the potential revenue is. Now that the site is up and running, I have a loose plan and projections for the different parts of the business. The business runs on individual pattern sales, royalties, freelance commissions, ad revenue, and notebook sales. And of course, it's hard to plan for unexpected work, like being asked to write the Idiot's Guide! That was a real bonus for me!

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
And I've been a web developer/designer for about 15 years, so am very aware of changes that have happened in the last decade. The idea of selling virtual, digital goods, wouldn't be possible without the Internet. My mom ran a small home business pre-internet, so I grew up with cottage industry. The "cottage" in small crafts business probably doesn't exist so much anymore, but a lot of other aspects are the same. And the Internet allows the crafts person to reach a much bigger market than they could through crafts fairs or traditional retail.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?

Well, "support" is a relative term. I could probably support myself, but not a mortgage and a family. I couldn't do this without another income-earner in the family. But I can say I was making enough to support myself in the third year. 

(I still augment my knitting design business with graphic design, you can see some of my work here:

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?

Career in knitting? I won't sugarcoat it: there is little career to be made from making things by hand, especially with something as time-consuming as knitting. It's a cold truth that is better to face before starting. There are exceptions of course, and there is some livelihood to be made, but it's getting harder.

Career in design? That's where the potential is. But if you're doing this for a living, or a partial living, be prepared to be business-minded. Creativity and craft are only part of the picture.

My advice:
Face the hard truths before, not after. It's such a drag, I know, but ask yourself, how much do I want to get paid an hour. Ask yourself, do I want (someday) to do this for a living? Then, take those numbers, and do the math. How many patterns would you have to sell every month to meet your goals? How many designs would you have to sell to magazines every year? 

Then, if you've done the math and girded your loins, figure out what your niche will be. Or as I like to say, figure out what your racket is. And then investigate. You might think your niche will be classic knits for men. But you'll find that there's not a big enough market there. Or, you might want to write nothing but cardigan patterns. There's a big market there, but lots of competition.  

Once you've figured out what you want to do, start building your aesthetic and your personal brand. It's helpful to sit and write a 100 word description of the designer you are (or want to be). It helps you to focus on what you're all about. 

And finally, don't go it alone if you don't have to! Reach out to other people in the industry for advice, yarn support, and freelance work! I couldn't have done the Idiot's Guide without Knit Picks; they generously provided all the yarn for the book.