Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How to Learn to Understand Ease

Knitters struggle with the concept of ease. Designers struggle with sizing patterns because of ease and it's intangible nature. Most of what I know about my ease preferences has been developed over my experience of knitting and sewing many garments for myself. I like a garment that skims my body without clinging, however as a petite with short arms I do not feel I look my best in designs with large amounts of positive ease.

What is ease?  Ease is the difference between the finished measurement of a garment and the measurement of the body. A garment which is smaller than the body has negative ease. A garment which is larger than the body has positive ease. If a woven fabric garment is too tight it will restrict the wearers movement. Our fabric has stretch which allows garments to have a closer fit without restricting movement. In knitting we often base ease assessments on the bust or chest measurement only. Patterns then make assumptions about the other body measurements in relation to that single point of reference.

Ease preferences change with fashion, age, weight gain or loss, and self confidence. Other than fashion trends, most of these variations are not something a pattern writer can predict.

I've determined my own best measurements by measuring a lot of garments. I've made notes regarding measurements on garments I've purchased and garments I've made for myself. Often the most educational ones were those I didn't like the fit of because they highlight the ways my own body varies from the so called standard sizes. Taking those measurements has taught me what I personally prefer and about how the nature of the fabric impacts ease. Thick, stiff fabrics usually require more ease (think cables in a hard wearing wool) softer fabrics that stretch easily and drape need less ease. 

Here's a stunning garment with lots of ease:
The fullness on the sleeves at the wrists and the folds at the side of the armhole tell me this design has lots of ease. 

How do you know when a hand knit has too little ease? Look for distortions caused by the stretching of the fabric around the circumference of the body.  If the pattern stitches are being pulled out of alignment there isn't enough ease. On cardigans look at the button bands and note if they are gaping over any specific area of the body. Can you clearly see the lines of the body under the sweater? 

Here's a gorgeous garment with negative ease:
Notice there is less in the way of complex stitching and the fabric looks softer, with little folds at the side. If you study the photos on Ravelry you can see short rows at the bust-line. Without the added shaping we would have seen either the front of the sweater pulling up or distortion over the model's bust. Notice the sleeves are very smooth on the arms.

Here's a dress with negative ease:

Here's one with positive ease:

How can you tell if there is too much ease? Too much usually means the garment is standing away from the body or collapsing in on itself. Look closely at the sleeves in the photo above. It isn't wrong to have that much ease in a sleeve but I know that is too much for me. I know many knitters who would be very happy with that amount.

How can you best educate your self about ease? Go to your own closet and start by trying on garments. Look carefully at how each one fits you and if you feel comfortable wearing it. Feel the fabric and assess the thickness, the weight and the drape in a conscious manner. Pay attention especially to the garments that you feel are too tight or too loose. Then start measuring yourself and the garments, making notes about the qualities of the fabric. Pay careful attention every time you wear one of your sweaters and consider what parts should have been smaller and what should be bigger? When you start knitting your next sweater look carefully at the schematic and compare it's detailed measurements to your collected data. Feel your swatch and assess based on the fabric you are creating if this project should have positive or negative ease. Don't just start knitting and hope for the best. No one else cares as much or knows as much about your preferences as you do!

Monday, July 28, 2014

What is Standard Sizing?

Illustration by Jenna Josepher for Racked

There is a great article here comparing retail sizes across 25 mainstream retailers.  The article compares the measurements at waist and hip for a size eight jean at 25 different retailers to find out what an actual size eight should be, and who the worst offenders are when it comes to irregular sizing.

A week ago I bought some new summer tops. I bought them all in the same store. I ended up with a mix of tops labelled as both small and large. I started by taking small and medium sizes into the change room. I had to go back out to the racks to exchange two of the styles for size large and none of the mediums fit me? For comparison, I would normally buy a size 6 petite oxford shirt at Brooks Brothers or a size 6 petite blouse at Ann Taylor.

These differences all reflect so called standard measurements. The standards are specific to specific sources, they are not standards that apply to all bodies. This is why it is so important to compare your measurements to those of any pattern and to make the necessary adjustments for good fit. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

An Interview with...Rililie

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 Rililie here and here on Ravelry. 

Pattern coming soon!

Where do you find inspiration?
Often in the most random places: One funny inspiration-source was for my latest design, which features a fold at the back, similar to the ones on men’s shirts. I was standing in a long line at the fiscal office and was bored to death when I noticed the fold on the shirt of the person in front of me (I couldn’t miss it, since in was directly in my face) and started contemplating how this would look in knitting and that it would be a neat solution to do many increases at once. When I got home I started experimenting and then used the same method also at the bottom for a different kind of hem increase. I am so pleased with this inspiration, that I am thinking of implementing it in more designs (but I can do without standing in long queues though).

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Oh… this is constantly changing! I love experimenting and can swatch for hours to find a solution that works for what I want to produce at the moment. The finding of the day is also my favourite technique - until the next day! 

How did you determine your size range?
I did not design for larger sizes at the beginning but soon many people wrote to me to ask if I could integrate larger sizes and although I have to admit that it doubles the work - since the largest sizes do need a very different approach to get to similar results as the smaller ones - I am very happy that I can offer larger sizes today. 

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I find that influence is inevitable. We are living in a specific time/area/interest group and are going to see, hear and contemplate the same things… So even if one has never seen the other’s work, it could be possible that two people produce a similar subject, just because it happened that they had the same idea, which was influenced by similar factors. But to answer your question, I am never afraid of getting inspired by other designers. On the contrary, I find it gives creativity a good boost to see what others have come up with and to get up and find your own way of expression in response.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
Frankly, I love the “old-style” simple patterns with very basic information and dislike the modern-day patterns where everything is spelled out in detail! Especially while writing up my own patterns this really is an issue for me. I also don’t like the fact that each pattern gets longer and longer because of this. But I have found that the clearer a pattern is written and the more information and visual aids it holds, the fewer emails I get with questions about the instructions. In the long term, the fact that I do nowadays write very detailed and long patterns has cut down a lot of the time I needed to invest in all this type of customer service. This is a very important factor to consider in my opinion, even if the pattern itself needs double the time to produce. So, as a designer I am myself “dumbing down” my patterns, but as a knitter I still prefer the concise short ones.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I prepare my prototype myself and after the pattern has been written up I try to find at least two testers for each size.There are some formidable testers I have had the luck to work with again and again and their feedback on readability of the pattern and fit of the final product is extremely valuable to me.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Well… I did one (or many more than one). I don’t know if one could call it “formal” though. I have a clear idea in my mind for the coming 3 months, a general idea for the coming 6 months and some goals for the next year or so. Everything is adaptable and changeable though and it all depends on many different factors.

Do you have a mentor?
Hmm… no, not in the specific sense. But there are many other designers out there which I admire and follow with great interest.
Do you use a tech editor?
I use two different tech editors. One who gets the pattern in the raw, before it is being tested and another one after the test is completed to take a look with fresh eyes over it. I think that this model works very well to eliminate all kinds of errors and, although it is more expensive, it can give me some assurance that I will not embarrass myself when publishing a pattern! It is remarkable (and quite stressful) how many errors can slip through!

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I don’t really. At this moment (and for the last couple of years) there is no life outside of work. I am happy to take any advice on this matter though, because this is something that needs to change…!

How do you deal with criticism?
If it’s constructive, honest criticism I am very grateful and listen carefully to what the other person has to say.Then I decide if I agree and use the piece of advice or if I disagree and forget about it. I try to wait a little bit before I decide on this, since often the first reaction on criticism can be defensive or egotistical. But after a while, when this first reaction has passed, we start to see if there is something usable and applicable in the criticism we got.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
A little less than a year or so. I think that I was very lucky though.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
The same advice that I would give to someone who wants to pursue any kind of career: 
To love what you do (it must be something you can work on for days without leaving your house and you don’t even noticing it)
To work hard (nothing comes casually - all work, even creative work needs a lot of working hours to start to get somewhere)
To be persistent (it will take time to get to a point where things start to pay off)
To be informed (read everything you can find on the subject matter, take classes, see what others do and try out something similar to see if it works for you)
To stay informed (there is never a point where you know everything about your line of work and tendencies change constantly, especially in the fashion world)
To invest time and energy in all the “other” things related to your main production (like photography, advertising, graphic-design, marketing….)
To always stay helpful and friendly with other people (in the long term this will save your nerves, too)
And to not be afraid to change everything around, if you see that things don’t work out as you thought they would.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Knitters do you Look at the Schematic?

Recently I was looking at Ravelry comments on garments with a silhouette that I was considering for an upcoming project. 

One of the great things about Ravelry is the ability to read the comments of other knitters. Many of the more recent knitters had made a modification to lengthen the back of a specific garment based on the comments about earlier completed projects. 

The comments were:

"but the photo doesn’t show the back which is super short"

"pattern leaflet doesn’t show the back, and if I’d seen it, I would have modified it to make it a little longer"

"it’s crazy short in the back and long in the front"

"I didn’t realize it would be so short in back"

"the back is very short!! Modified pattern for different gauge yarn. Wouldn’t make it again with such a short back"

"I really couldn’t stand the super short back"

It is true there was no photo of the garment back, however there was a detailed schematic that did show each piece. The length of the back was clearly marked. The pattern is a few years old. It is becoming more standard to include multiple photos online, however I think this one was originally a printed version. (The schematic at the top is not the one the comments were on).

I spend a lot of time and effort on the schematics that go with my patterns so I'm a little concerned that many knitters may not be looking at them. I checked with some of my designer friends to hear what they think. I heard a few stories about knitting disasters and complaints about specific patterns that were due to assumptions made by the knitter without looking at the schematic.

Do you look at the schematic and adjust the pattern accordingly?

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Best Loose Cast Off I've Found is:

Coming soon!

The best loose cast off I've found is the Icelandic Cast Off  from Cap Sease's book Cast On, Bind off.

BTW: Here in Canada we often use the term cast off instead of bind off.

I recently used this technique on a triangle scarf which is edged in rib. When I compared to several other cast offs this one allowed the rib to spread the most at the bottom edge. This is a perfect example of why I like to have many techniques in my skill set tool box. Most projects that end in rib would not benefit from a loose cast off but in the case of this top down triangle it worked beautifully! The pattern will be published soon.
Cast off with the Icelandic Cast Off as follows:

* with yarn held at back, insert tip of right needle into first stitch on left needle purlwise and catch the right side of the second stitch. Pull second stitch through first stitch and knit it, slipping both stitches off the needle. Slip the stitch on right needle purlwise to left needle. Repeat from * until all stitches have been cast off. Break yarn and pull tail through final loop to secure.

For a video tutorial of the Icelandic Cast Off go here

Friday, July 18, 2014

An Interview with...Maria Magnusson (Olsson)

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 Maria here and here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in Scandinavian traditional knitwear as well as in vintage clothing. I love looking at old sewing patterns and knitted garments from the 40's-50's. I also find a lot of inspiration looking at what people are wearing. I almost follow people on the street with pretty sweaters, trying to figure out how it's made and what lace pattern it is and so on. For constructional inspiration I often look at sewing patterns. Pinterest is a great source for inspiration and I recommend it to everyone! 

What is your favourite knitting technique? 

Everything seamless. I love to design something where you do not need to bind off or sew a lot. I don’t want to use any techniques that might scare people off. 

How did you determine your size range? 

It depends from pattern to pattern and it depends on if it’s for a submission. If it’s a very fitted garment i often use a more sizes compared to a not so fitted garment. 

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

Oh yes I do! I learn a lot about constructions from other designers and I think it’s important to get new input from others and especially for me who is not a native English speaker, it’s very educational to study the language and expressions. 

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

I always try to write to make everyone understand. I guess that I am both influenced by the American writing style and from my day job where I write technical reports where it’s necessary to be clear and no room for confusion. Scandinavian way of writing is the opposite where the pattern often is written on one page, no pictures and the knitter must know all techniques beforehand. 

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

I often arrange test knits for about 10-12 knitters. Often two knitters in each size. I like to have it knitted before I push the publish button because I want to see what it looks like in all sizes on all bodies. Sometimes I use sample knitters. When I have too much to do and short deadlines, but I usually prefer to have one sample knitted in my own size for myself. 

Did you do a formal business plan? 

No, not really. My goal was to be able to sponsor my own hobby and everything above that is a bonus. My business has developed more the past year but it’s still not time to quit my day job. 

Do you have a mentor? 

I don’t have an official mentor but I have a lot of people around me who I feel more than welcome to ask about anything. There are so many wonderful people in the knitting community! 

Do you have a business model that you have emulated? 


What impact has the Internet had on your business? 

Everything. Without the Internet and without Ravelry I wouldn’t have designed a single pattern and I would definitely not have been able to sell any. I do all of my marketing online and most of my sales. 

Do you use a tech editor? 

Yes I do. She is brilliant! She have taught me so much about how to write a pattern and layout and she have a wonderful British language which I adore. 

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 

I see my day job as work and designing as my life. I don’t have kids and I have a very supportive husband who lets me sit down working on patterns and knit most of the evenings. I don’t know for how long I will be able to work like that but it works now.

How do you deal with criticism? 

It depends but I hardly ever get any critical emails but sometimes people sound harsh when they point out something. When a pattern is new I am almost afraid of opening my inbox to check my emails but when it has cooled down the emails are mostly about support and not complaining about inevitable mistakes. I love being able to ”talk” to the people who knit from my patterns. I get so many wonderful emails that I forget about the other ones. 

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

It depends on how you see it. I can support my hobby and more and that is all I need. I still need my day job to afford other things and maybe to spend a couple of hours along with others. I like what I do for a living. I am a day time designer too but then I design hard steel stuff. 

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

Make sure that you know how much time you want to spend on your business and if you are really able to make a living out of it. Start small and give it time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Favourite Quote on Swatching

This quote came from a Ravelry posting by annieone in April. I love it!

Monday, July 14, 2014

More Tips For Better Button Bands Part 4

There are a few more types of bands that I'd like to review. These forms are being used less frequently, however I feel that knowing as many techniques as possible allows knitters to have more choices.

Double Bands

To use stocking stitch as a double band, pick up and knit the stitches out to the desired depth, work a turning row of purl stitches and then knit either the same number of rows or one more or one less row to fold under and sew in place. It is best to determine the number of rows required on the underside, while working on the garment as the inner section can be knit in a different colour or lighter weight yarn to reduce bulk. Buttonholes need to be worked on both layers and they must line up. To work on inner curved edges, stitches need to be decreased on the outside of the band and then decreased on the inside of the band. Corners will need mitres. This could be a good option for hiding edges when working with multi-yarn projects.

Bias Bands

This type of band works like bias tape does in dressmaking. It wraps around edges to finish them and is sewn into place.It also can work to cover yarn ends. Bias bands are created by decreasing stitches on one side of the band an increasing on the other side.

Separate Bands (Join as You Knit)
Worked vertically, this type of band is joined by knitting the last stitch with a loop or stitch from the edge of the main knitting. Loops can be picked up in advance on a long circular needle or one at a time as they are required. For many knitters the better method is to use a separate strand of yarn and pickup a row of stitches in the same manner as explained in the picked up bands section. Keeping track of required ratios is easier if all of the pickups are done in advance. The ratio will correspond to the row gauge of the band stitch This band can start at the bottom edge of the knitting or be worked on stitches that were held in reserve on a holder after the bottom band was completed.

Separate Bands (Sewn On)

Work a band vertically in a non-curling stitch. Sew the band on, stretching it slightly. Consider leaving spaces in the seam to create buttonholes or work the preferred style of buttonhole in the band. The band should be steam blocked before sewing in the ends to be sure that the results are satisfactory.

Extra tip: experiment with slipping the first stitch on the edge of the garment and on the band edge that will be seamed together. 

Parts 1, 2, 3 and 5 are here.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 5