Friday, October 31, 2014

An Interview with...Hanna Maciejewska


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 Hanna here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! Most people who create things say this, don't they? It is all true! The world is full of colors and shapes. Sometimes it is nature that captures my attention (I am a huge fan of gardening), sometimes architecture. I live close to the ancient town of Torun with its historical buildings and the university, and I love to wander around, feeling history and watching people. However, it is the yarn that stimulates me the most. If a yarn doesn't "talk" to me, I tend not to work with it...

What is your favourite knitting technique?

Definitely cables! Especially the way I can drape them all over a garment and hide and incorporate shaping in cleverly placed cables. But I also like to learn new techniques and new stitches; it always motivates me a lot.

How did you determine your size range?

It depends on the garment. I always try to make my designs available to as many sizes as possible, but not all stitch patterns and garments can be sized the same. Generally, most of my patterns will fit bust circumferences ranging from 28" to 50".


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

It is always part of pre-development research to evaluate the market before I put all my resources into a new design. With globalization of sources of inspiration (Re-pins of inspirational photos and social site quotes gone viral, I'm talking about you!), it is sometimes unavoidable that somebody will have the same idea at the same time and develop similar ideas as I. Just recently, I had thought up a cardigan with a row of buttons down the back and thought I was ever so clever for this idea - until another designer came out with – a cardigan with a row of buttons down the back! I did not publish mine, but moved on to the next idea.

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

While I strive to make the knitting process as pleasant and enjoyable as possible and to write my patterns in a clear and easily understandable way, I never dumb down my designs for the sake of superficial fast success with easier stitches where another stitch combination would bring better results. Comparing the amount of time spent knitting a garment to the the amount of time it will be worn later, I always consider it well worth to go for the more sophisticated way of achieving a goal: If it will improve the fit, or the finishing will just look smarter that way - yes, my patterns will contain that provisional cast-on, stitches knit through the back loop or cables with hidden decreases, and I will explain, often with a photo tutorial, how to work these special stitches. Learning something new with every project is always well worth it!
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?

I would like to do it all by myself, but this is just not possible, or is it? As for testers, it really depends on the project. For accessories, I usually ask for the help of four to five testers while for sweaters with multiple sizes, I usually need one or two testers for each size. As for sample knitters, I'm a hands-on designer and do knit up every design before I grade it and pass it on to test knitters. Very often, useful ideas for improvement will come to my mind while I knit up a design myself.

Did you do a formal business plan?

Yes, I have one. While, of course, designing should be fun, the serious side of a knitting business should not be underestimated - that's why I sketch out promotional ideas, new designs, trends and general business thoughts well in advance in writing. Often, I will ask my family or trusted circle of friends what they think about my business ideas or release plans, and their feedback is always useful. If the business part didn't work out, I wouldn't be able to continue designing!

Do you have a mentor?

Not really... However, there are people who I ask for advice and whom I really trust. I have a few really close friends (online and in my hometown) who are of great help to me!

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

No. I'd rather come up with my own!
What impact has the Internet had on your business?

A huge one indeed! First of all, the Internet has made the knitting world a lot faster and enabled me to keep in touch with knitters around the world almost in real time, making my business possible in the first place. When I joined Ravelry a few years ago, at first, I posted projects just for fun. After a dear friend, who is a talented hand dyer, created a special yarn for me, I wrote and felt encouraged to publish "Colors of Kauai", which was so well received that I decided to write down more of my designs. However, the Internet also has another impact on global business that, as a knitting designer, one should not be ignorant of: Unfortunately, sometimes it will happen that content gets re-published by unauthorized sources from people with dishonorable intentions or who erroneously believe they have the right to redistribute a pattern as they see fit once they have bought it. When I recently had my content removed from a site which had illegally republished one of my patterns shortly after release, I was contacted by unhappy users of that site, lecturing me that by publishing my pattern, I had enabled and literally invited illegal sharing, and had I just knitted in the seclusion of my home without "showing off on the net", nothing could have been stolen. That's like saying: "I just had to steal your bike, why did you have to ride to town on it instead of leaving it at home in your garage!"
Do you use a tech editor?

All my patterns, even the smallest accessories, are thoroughly edited and test knitted in all sizes. I also have most of them translated into other languages before release, which adds an additional security layer to catch any possible errors!

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Thankfully, knitting has the upper seat in the seesaw of my work/family balance! I have a very supportive family who encourage my knitting endeavors and designing escapades, helping with mundane tasks where they can, cheering me on and being happy for me when I accomplish a goal.
How do you deal with criticism?

Of course, one can never make all people happy at the same time - everybody has their preferences, and different people have different tastes and needs. I find it very useful to hear what people have to suggest about my patterns, especially people from all over the world and from different ways of life - it gives me so much valuable insight, and I appreciate the possibility to improve my designs so people will like them even more! One example I have already incorporated and always get positive responses about is he fit of the sleeves in larger sizes - I appreciate all the feedback I've received over time from my tireless test knitters with different body shapes, especially the larger ones, and meanwhile have arrived at grading my garments in such a way that customers are happy with the fit. It would not have been possible without the valuable input of my test knitters!

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

I am still working on it, and it is in my 5-year plan.

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

Keep knitting! Have fun! Look out for opportunities, and never ever let others put you down!

Wisteria Lane

Monday, October 27, 2014

Is your Bone Structure Small Meduim or Large?

The information below comes from the book Fabulous Fit by Judith A Rasband and Elizabeth L. G. Liechty. It's meant for sewers not knitters but covers some interesting details knitters don't usually think about. It turns out that while I am petite as determined by my height, I have a medium bone structure. The fashion rule is to choose items in alignment with your bone structure. Once you know what your frame size is you can pick clothing and accessories appropriate to your size. As a medium framed petite I prefer medium scale items. In the past I was often given little delicate pieces of jewellery as gifts. I never understood before I found this chart why I didn't like it on me. Does this information help you?

If you are carrying extra weight subtract 1/8"  for every 30 extra pounds for a more accurate assessment.

Petite Height (under 5'4")
Wrist Measurement 5 1/2" or less - Small bone size or frame
Wrist Measurement 5 5/8 - 6" - Medium Bone Size or Frame
Wrist Measurement 6 1/8" or more Large Bone Size or Frame

Height - Medium (5'4" - 5'7")
Wrist Measurement 5 3/4" or less Small Bone Size or Frame
Wrist Measurement 5 7/8" to 6 1/4" Medium Bone Size or Frame
Wrist Measurement 6 3/8" or more Large Bone Size or Frame

Height - Tall (Over 5'7")
Wrist Measurement 6" or less -Small Bone Size or Frame
Wrist Measurement 6 1/8" to 6 1/2" Medium Bone Size or Frame
Wrist Measurement 6 5/8" or more Large Bone Size or Frame

Friday, October 24, 2014

An Interview with....Mary Annarella

Girl on Fire

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 Mary on Ravelry here and her patterns are here too.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in a variety of places: Sometimes in nature or a place, sometimes simply out of a desire to add a particular garment to my wardrobe. For years, I envied how knitters wore their beautiful lace shawls.  I love knitting shawls but somehow find myself "shawl challenged".  When I try to wrap them over my shoulders, they just never sit quite right on me, lol.  So, I did a series of designs (Elphaba, Daydream Believer, Iolanthe, and Sleepy Jean) that incorporate various elements of shawl design...and I get to wear a shawl as part of a sweater.
Another set of designs (my Quabbin Series) was inspired by four central Massachusetts towns that were flooded back in the 1930s to make way for a reservoir that serves the Boston area.  These designs were inspired by the sense of place and history of each of these former towns. The Quabbin Series includes: Prescott CardiganPrescott DK Cardigan, Steel RailA Hat for Dana, and Swift River Cardigan.

Sleepy Jean Cardigan

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I'm crazy about top-down construction!  My latest favorite is Barbara Walker's method of working a sweater from the top-down with a simultaneous set-in sleeve.  It requires picking up just a handful of stitches for the top of the sleeve cap, and then working increases to give a really beautiful set-in sleeve.

How did you determine your size range?
I began following an industry standard that was recommended by Interweave when I published a design with them a few years ago.  I begin with a 29" bust and work up sizes in 3" increments through a 50" bust.

Daydream Believer

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I occasionally get nervous that I'll publish something that someone else has already done, so I check as best I can.  I don't mind re-interpreting the wheel, but I'd rather not publish a re-invention of it.   Otherwise, I spend enough time chatting with knitters on Ravelry that it would be tough for me to not see what else is out there.  Plus, I enjoy watching trends to see what folks like to wear and enjoy knitting--it's fun to put my own spin on trend and see what I can come up with.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I'm not sure that patterns are being particularly dumbed-down, per se.  I think it's more that the digital format has allowed designers and writers to include all the details they want without the constraint of having to keep a pattern to a certain number of pages and font size.  Photo tutorials, suggestions for how to choose a size, explanations for an unusual increase or cable...they all take up a lot of space.  With a digital format, I can take up the space needed to try to anticipate knitters' questions and needs as they work through one of my patterns.  The more clear a pattern is, the more likely that, say, a new knitter will stick with it and create a garment that they are happy with and enjoyed knitting.

Simplicity Cardigan

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit nearly all of my own designs and samples, but I've run several test knits that have been enjoyable and fun. Test knits have taught me a lot about what works well for many knitters as they follow a pattern.
Did you do a formal business plan?
I've been mostly making this up as I go, and my plan is generally: Get inspired, write, knit, photograph, edit, publish.  Rinse and repeat.  I try to work in a few trunk shows, and have plans for selling on my own site (once I set one up) in addition to Ravelry.

The way you wear your Hat

Do you have a mentor?
Not formally, but I do have a few friends that I can bounce ideas off of.
Do you use a tech editor?
Absolutely yes!  It's tough to edit one's own writing, so I find working with a tech editor essential to my process.  I've worked with the same TE for a few years, and I trust her wholeheartedly.


How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Not terribly well at times!  I'm a bit of a work-a-holic when it comes to knitting and designing, and since I also teach at a college part time, there's always something to do--if it's not pattern grading, it's exam and quiz grading!  I absolutely love designing, knitting, and writing patterns, so it's easier to have plenty of energy for it.  
Like a lot of knitters, I bring a project bag and wip with me most places I go (you never know--what if I had a flat tire, and had to wait for AAA without my knitting??), but I do try to put things away for an hour or so each day for some down time.  Otherwise, I exercise and sing daily--both are like meditation for me, and make me feel happy.  Always good for life balance! I'm also at a point in my life where my kids are older (both in college!) and working in this way is easier for me to do than when they were little.

Swift River Cardigan

How do you deal with criticism?
I want my patterns to be as clear as possible, so I think it's important to listen to constructive criticism, especially if a handful of knitters all have the same suggestion.  Thankfully, I've never really felt criticized, only supported.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I'm getting there, and things have really been taking off lately!
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Go for it!  Design what you love, do excellent work, and put it where people can see it.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

OMG! Rhinebeck

I was there WOW!

If you are one of my local readers the best way I can describe Rhinebeck is to say imagine all of these shows were held on the same day at the same venue.

The Knitter's Frolic
The Wine and Food Show
The One of a Kind Show
The Royal Winter Fair
The Woodstock Fleece Festival
The Kitchener Waterloo Knitter's Fair

We (Elizabeth McCarten and I) stayed at the very charming Beekman Arms in the village of Rhinebeck. The village feels a bit like Niagara on the Lake. Lots of good restaurants and lovely little shops.

We walked to the show and went in the back way with hundreds of other attendees. 

Many people drive and the parking goes on forever all around the venue. I'm told there are lengthy waits to get out of the parking lots at the end of the day.

People line up to get in, to use the ladies room, to get food and to buy yarn. 

The buildings are crowded.

There are sheep.

There are Angora rabbits.

Fortunately there are lots of open spaces outside to walk around with even more vendors.

You can see a few of the barns here.

It was a lovely drive through New York state to get there. Gorgeous fall colours, mountains and beautiful vista's to be enjoyed by me, the passenger when crossing bridges over the various waterways. Elizabeth and I had a wonderful time so many thanks to her for inviting me along!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Custom Fit - If you think you can, you’re right!

I recently taught my Cardigan Queen class. It's an all day class. We usually spend the first half on technical skills, mainly bands and buttonholes since both are critical for cardigans. That half always goes well. The students are being challenged with new skills and embrace the learning enthusiastically. I recommend this class for knitters who already have basic knitting skills and those who are ready to advance.

I spend the second half working on custom fit techniques. Many students take the class specifically for that knowledge. It's always a challenging part of the class because every student requires different adjustments. Some students jump right in and take the information provided to make plans to deal with their specific figure challenges. Others have a deep fear of going off pattern. As a teacher it's very interesting to watch who is successful and who isn't. It's not dependent on actual skills or even intellect. I know immediately which students will go off pattern on their next garment. I know because they say it, not always directly but with their attitude and body language. If they start holding their hands above the table and their suppiles in a "hands off" gesture I know they aren't ready to go off pattern yet. Sometimes I see the "tell" while they are saying yes I've answered all of their questions. Fortunately, I rarely see this problem. Most knitters take classes and recognize even when they are not yet ready to add a new skill they will be soon. If you are struggling with adding in new skills and concepts please remember: It’s all about mind set. If you think you can, you’re right, if you think you can’t, you’re right!

Friday, October 17, 2014

An Interview with...Denise Twum

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.

Denise told me she was introduced to knitting by her supervisor while working at her college’s science library in 2006. Knitting kept her company as she traveled to five countries for a year of independent research, and she’s been addicted ever since. You will most likely find her watching a lengthy Bollywood movie or Korean drama while knitting. She's been published in Interweave Knits, Knitscene Accessories, Tangled online magazine, and in a pattern collection booklet exclusive to Joann's stores.

You can find Denise here and here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration?
I’m inspired by a lot of different things. Sometimes it’s the colors of the yarn I have in my stash, or the color combination of an outfit I see someone wearing. In the spring I’m always looking at flowers to check out the different color combinations that pop up, and see if I can replicate that in a pattern. I love texture, so anything that has a textural design that could potentially be knit inspires me.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
At the moment, it’s knitting a two-color fisherman rib stitch. I just read about it in the most recent Interweave Knits magazine, and I just had to try it out. I already have a free infinity scarf pattern that uses fisherman rib, so I’ve been making that same pattern but with the two colors, and I love it. In general, I love cabling, garter stitch, knitting in the round, and I think the Kitchener Stitch is the best invention ever!

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I definitely look at other designers’ work all the time. I’m always blown away by how creative some designers are, and how they are able to churn out so many refreshing patterns. I started designing by taking a very popular pattern by Cheryl Niamath, “Wisp” and seeing if I could replicate the look of her design using slightly different stitches. That gave me the confidence to actually start coming up with my own ideas for patterns. I’m only afraid that I’ll be influenced by other designs if I’m submitting a design for publication. During that process, I try my best not to look at other designs for inspiration. Otherwise, I’m always checking out other knitting designs.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I actually didn’t know there was a controversy, so I had to do a quick Google search in order to answer this properly. I think knitting and a lot of other handicrafts were not mainstream for a while, unlike in the days when those skills were passed down in families. As such, those of us who are now picking up the craft may need more hand holding than expected. I come from a country with a very hot climate all year round, so knitting was not even an option until I moved to the US. People like me need more explanations because we don’t have the background already. I’m not sure it’s a dumbing down per se, and I can see how it might frustrate designers who have been in the field longer. That said, there are so many resources out there for anyone who wants to learn how to knit that, designers should not feel the need to explain every single detail. I’m a big fan of linking to a helpful online resource or post which often does a better job of explaining techniques than I could eg. Woolly Wormhead’s tutorials on 1X1 and 2x1 cable cast ons.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I don’t have a formal sample/test knitter program in place, but there are two people I’ve worked with and floated the idea by. I haven’t been designing as much recently, so I haven’t had much work to give them. Once I do, I’ll probably start with those two.
Did you do a formal business plan?
I didn’t. I probably should…

Do you have a mentor?
Not formally, but I do reach out to designers I admire via email, Facebook and on Ravelry, such as Donna Druchanas and Joji Locatelli (to name a few).

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No not really.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The internet has been fundamental to my business, as it’s enabled me to quickly start up an online shop, submit designs, conduct research, email publishers, editors and collaborators, and also improve my knitting and business skills through online classes. It’s been amazing.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes I do, before I publish a pattern for sale. I don’t when publishing free patterns.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Knitting IS how I maintain my life/work balance. :) I get such calm, peace and focus from working on a knitting project, or building out a part of my business.

How do you deal with criticism?
It can be really hard to accept the criticism, especially when you feel you’ve poured yourself into a pattern. I let it marinate for a while, and try to find out what I can take from it, especially if it’s constructive. Other times, I just let it go and keep working on other designs, because letting that negativity get to me could be detrimental to my creative process.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I’m still working on that. :)

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Take the plunge, but make sure you have a plan and a back-up plan. Reach out to people you admire already in the business. They are often more than happy to help with advice and tips. You won’t know what you can do until you actually take that first step.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Custom Fitting - Why it's Important

Mary Pat and I at YarnOver Sleepover

In a recent post that included some pictures of me in my customized sweater I said: "The sweater I'm wearing was customized to fit me. If you look at the schematic from my drafting program you will notice I don't have much of a waistline. I have very short arms. My armhole depth is shorter than the average. Did you notice any of those things before I pointed them out? Probably not and other people won't notice how you differ either."

In the photo above I'm wearing Rose Sheldon.  This sweater was also customized to my unique measurements. The one critical concept I want to make clear is that when you customize fit the differences from the average are hidden. By not wearing a too long sleeve I do not draw attention to my short arms. By knitting a larger front than back I avoid any straining of the fabric and I keep my side seams sitting in the correct position on my body. Shortening the armhole depth eliminates unflattering bulk in that area. Using a deeper rib that ends higher on my torso creates the illusion of a waistline. So where do you differ from the pattern and what should you change on the next sweater you knit?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's Thanksgiving Day in Canada. We celebrate a little earlier than our American friends to the south. We are busy eating turkey, stuffing and all the extra's today. I've never knit a turkey but here's some inspiration if you want to. There are 62 possibilities in Ravelry, 211 if you add in the crochet versions.