Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Wonderful, Very Large World of Knitting

Last week I had a Christmas lunch with one of my closest friends. She knows how to knit but hasn't ever pursued it with the passion which I have had since childhood. She is however, fantastically creative. She sews, decorates cakes, has modeled with Fimo and makes handmade greeting cards among many other things I won't list here. All of which she does at a very high level of complexity and detail. Typically she masters her medium and then moves on to a new challenge. After lunch we came home to do our gift exchange. My friend asked to see what I'm currently working on, so I showed her a vest which I just finished, a shawl which is a work in progress and my last published design .

Then she asked me why I haven't gotten bored with knitting? I think she was surprised when I said there is still so much to learn and I immediately named off both a technique and a style of knitting which are on my to do list. 

I've known many knitters who stopped knitting and disappeared from my knitting groups. Some just take a break and come back to it. Those knitters generally run into lifestyle issues which impact their discretionary time but they don't lose the desire to knit. Others find another craft or hobby which they prefer and stick with it instead. If I get the opportunity to ask some of the ones who don't return, they are often unable to give a clear reason for their loss of interest. I'm beginning to wonder if those knitters are like my friend? Once they have mastered the skills they feel it's time to move on to other new skills to be learned? Why does knitting still engage me? Is it because I'm able to see new challenges inside the knitting world? I don't have any answers here but I'm mulling. Feel free to comment if you have any thoughts on this topic.

I'm very grateful for everything knitting has brought to my life!


Monday, December 28, 2015

Six Reasons you are Missing Fabulous Patterns on Ravelry

Do you ever find fabulous patterns on Pinterest which are linked to Ravelry and wonder why you never noticed them on Ravelry?

Here's a few reasons I sometimes miss great designs.


It's amazingly difficult to look past a colour you don't like. This is a gorgeous all over cable design. Look at those fantastic edges. I hate that colour on me it makes me look sick. If you can't see past a colour look at project pages to help train your eye to imagine it in a different colour.

Poor fit

If the sample and the model are mismatched you might miss a great design.

Now go look at this project page, do you like the pattern more now?


Some knitters skip right past patterns photographed on mannequins. Most indie designers can't afford to use professional models. See Poor Fit above as to why using friends is not always an option. For more on Model vs. Mannequin - Which do you Prefer? see this post.

I have a different perspective, when I see something on a model the information I get is how it fits her not how it will fit or flatter me. This was confirmed when a knitter brought me a pattern and asked me to help her fix the shoulders based on the photo. The first step should have been to compare the schematic measurements of her chosen size to her actual size. We are heavily influenced by visuals unfortunately what we see is not always what we really get. Tall skinny models tell you how things look on tall skinny models not how they look on you.


If you are thinking shawl you most likely won't see a gorgeous pullover.

Lack of imagination

Great basic patterns that fit you well can be easy to add additional design details to. Look at the project pages for other ideas. Try to imagine the item knit in a different colour or in your favourite yarn. 

Here's what Twist Collective does to help you imagine the garment in a different colour.

You only Looked at One Photo

Sometimes the primary photo never caught my eye but the second one does.  

Here's an example:

See my post here on Tips for Using Ravelry when Choosing Patterns

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!
It's too late to make for this year but perhaps for next? Designed by Phoeny, check out her page for many other amazing designs.

Form the pattern page:

"Rebecca is a charming old fashion Christmas rabbit. Beautifully detailed using the simple method of picot edging. Standing 12 inches high and carrying a festive Christmas wreath adorned with beads, bow and bell. She is knitted flat using 3mm needles using DK yarn throughout.A wonderful Christmas centerpiece"

Pattern $4.50.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

More on Standard Sizing

If you are a woman and you wear clothing I'm sure you deal with the same frustrations which I do when it comes to clothing sizes. I know of no reliable way to figure out my size other than putting the item on. I'm amazed at the popularity of online shopping, even shops that I buy from on a regular basis require the try on confirmation. Last year I bought two pairs of Gap jeans online after purchasing the first pair from the retail location. I chose colours not available at retail and ordered all of them in the same size only to discover they weren't all the same length even though they were labeled as the same. Recently, I went to buy another pair in an updated style with more stretch and I had to go up two sizes to get a comparable fit. I could do the smaller sizes up but the stretch of the fabric created a muffin top which is not normally an issue for me. 

Here's an article from Time magazine with more background on the history of sizing.  

I did find out something interesting recently though about the so called arbitrary sizing numbers. A pattern maker told me the numbers came from the original grading rulers. A size 10 was drawn on a line that was marked as 10, a 12 was on the 12 line etc. There was a single number per size notation as grades are proportional. We do not make every measurement larger by the same amount, some areas change by an eighth of a inch while others by a quarter, etc. If you've ever looked at a nested sewing pattern you can see this across multiple sizes. We now rarely use those rulers so the origin of the sizing grades has been lost to modern pattern makers. If you look at the images below you can see the changes in sizes are not all done in the same increments.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Knitter's Book Of Knowledge

I'm reading Debbie Bliss's The Knitter's Book Of Knowledge, A Complete Guide to Essential Knitting Techniques. If you are a knitter you are probably aware of Debbie's work. You can check her out on Ravelry here. She is listed as having 1978 published designs.As you would expect a portfolio of that size leads to a lot of knitting knowledge and much of it is in this book.

I'm often asked for recommendations on reference books and I'll be adding this one to my list. It has eleven chapters and can take a knitters all the way from Chapter 1: Yarn and Needles, Chapter Two: First Steps to Chapter Ten: Designing knits and one of my favourite chapters (the final one) Troubleshooting. It's a book that will serve beginners and advanced knitters equally well. It's definitely a resource which will be valuable to any knitter looking to learn and then improve their techniques as they tackle more complex projects.

One of the things knitters struggle with is vocabulary, we go straight to Google and YouTube for information but if you don't know how to ask the question, finding the answer can be challenging. A good book can be really helpful, allowing you to peruse the index or simply flip through. 

I heard Debbie speak at an event here in Toronto a number of years ago. She struck me then as a down to earth sort of person and as someone who is generous with her knowledge and very high skill level. Those personal attributes are clearly reflected in this book right from her introduction to the many detailed explanations of techniques which often include extra tips for a range of skill sets.

The illustrations by Cathy Brear are clear and large enough to be very useful. There are even two handy pages of knitter's ratio graph paper included at the back of the book. 

Debbie's web site is here

Full Disclosure, the publisher sent me a free copy to review. I'm happy to be able to give it a two thumbs up review.

Friday, December 18, 2015

An Interview with...Kelene Kinnersly

Suave Hat

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 Kelene here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I often let the yarn, especially its colour, inspire what I will do with it. Other times I find myself inspired by architecture, flowers.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I tend to have “the technique of the moment.” Right now it’s two handed stranded colour work.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I do. I like to see how other people do things. I also want to make sure I haven’t accidentally done something that has already been done. I try hard to make sure I add a little something you won’t expect in a design. I call it my signature.

Misfits fingerless mitts

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I guess it all depends on who you’re making your patterns for. If it’s an intermediate pattern, dumbing it down would insult the intended knitter and make for a very lengthy pattern. On the other hand, it does mean I need to provide a little more support to help those who might have been better off with a simpler pattern.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you, or do you do it all yourself?
I don’t use sample knitters very often. I knit everything myself for the most part. I have a lovely group of test knitters that like to give my designs a go for me before I release them. I use them to make sure the pattern is understandable and to show other knitters what the design looks like in different colours.

Faintly Laced

Did you do a formal business plan?
Yes and no. At first I just wanted to see if it was something I could do. Each year I sit down, I plan out the upcoming year, and revise /adjust my plans for the future. In doing so, my goals and plans become more specific and business-orientated as time goes on.

Do you have a mentor?
In the beginning, I had this wonderful designer help me out. Oh wait, that was you, Robin. I was so grateful for all your support. Thank you. Recently, I have help from a professional group of designers online. I also have had business development coaching, for when I feel overwhelmed with the whole process. This really keeps me on task.

Do you use a tech editor? 

I always, always use a tech editor.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
You mean there’s more to life then knitting??!! Knitting is my life!! I don’t always do well with this one. But every once in a while I need to take a little break. Although, I never feel like I’m working when I am simply knitting.

How do you deal with criticism?
I try to hear what the person is saying, then decide if it’s helpful. If it is, I try to learn from it. If not, I just try to understand that not everyone will like my work, and that’s okay.

Grand Valley Shawl

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I don’t support myself solely on my Design career at this point; I’m a semi-retired Shiatsu Therapist. Although I’m starting to make a consistent supplementary income and it’s taken me a good couple of years.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Be prepared, it’s more than just knitting. There’s always ongoing professional development.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on putting together some collections, and hopefully I will find another designer that I can collaborate with for this purpose.

Once twice three times a cowl

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tips for Using Ravelry when Choosing Patterns

Ravelry is a fabulous resource to help knitters choose which pattern to knit. It's like having a knitting class and party at the same time, where only enthusiastic knitters are invited. Lately I've been amazed by the finished projects I find on Pinterest which when I link back to Ravelry, I discover a great design that for what ever reason just didn't catch my eye. 

This cardigan by Stefanie Japel is a great example. (I interviewed her here.) A classic shape, clean design lines, seven sizes in the pattern. Aran weight, 100 % Merino wool.

Here's the project pages link: 

There's currently 1157 projects.

Here's my list of things you should look for:

A different colour, I'm continually amazed by the way we just don't see past colours we don't like. 

Yarn substitutions, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Colour patterns (striping, variegated yarns and colour blocking) or stitch patterns (cables and lace) added to the basic design. There was one version with multiple colours, textures and yarns.

Specific fitting or preference issues. The original design has a deep v neckline. I love a deep v if the garment will always be worn over another garment. If I wanted to wear it alone, done up, I'd want a higher neckline. That's an easy modification.

Study the project photos. There are some bands which are too long, some are too short and some are just right. The mix of all three tells me it's the knitters,not the pattern. If all of the bands were too short, I'd know to watch for that problem when I did my band. 

Look at the different lengths of the various projects. I saw everything from cropped to high hip and all the way down to mid thigh. There were different sleeve lengths on some projects. 

Do you spin? There are 7 projects with hand spun yarn. 

I noticed the neckline seemed to have an issue at the top, I searched the word neck in the search inside projects box. I found what the problem was and two methods for fixing it used by the posters. I also would note many projects didn't mention it, so decide for yourself if it would bother you or not.

I saw alternative band treatments, maybe you want a 1x1 sewn on rib instead, The project page included a how to.

Look for photos of the garment on bodies rather than hangers or laid flat. If you find examples with your proportions, even better. You will have a more realistic idea of how the sweater will flatter you. Expectations play a big role in how happy you will be with the end result. I'm convinced some of our dissatisfaction with clothing is due to skinny tall models. I follow quite a few What I Wore style blogs and I'm noticing a really positive effect on my expectations regarding my own appearance. 

What about a mash up of two patterns? I saw some of those too.

Add pockets!

Checkout the great buttons on projects. Figure out if you want buttons that blend or buttons that stand out. Skip the buttons and use a shawl pin instead.

Check out how other knitters style their sweater. You might get some alternative ideas.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Ease: A Visual Aid

Ease looks like this. But it is confusing to garment makers because this is also fit and styling all mashed up with ease.

Image from

Friday, December 11, 2015

An Interview with...Laura Patterson

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
Laura here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? 

A lot of my design ideas come from browsing through my stitch dictionaries. These blend and meld with shapes, colors, patterns, things that I’ve seen online, on TV, and in real life, and coalesce into a (hopefully) viable direction.


What is your favourite knitting technique?

I love knitting both lace and cables, and when I can swing it, both in the same design. Lace shawls of a variety of shapes and sizes, sweaters (mostly bottom up, as I abhor knitting sleeves in the round) mostly with lace or cables. See a trend here? I also love adding beads to my knitting, on occasion maybe too many beads... but they’re so pretty, and such fun.

How did you determine your size range?

Having been quite thin most of my adult life (sure wish I could get back to that), I know how difficult it can be to find knitting patterns for sweaters that are small enough, so I always start there. I never considered a pattern with three to five sizes to be sufficient. Far too many people on both ends of the scale are left out. Most of my sweater patterns therefore have seven or eight sizes, if I can work it around the stitch pattern, to maximize the number of people who can grab the pattern and run with it. Of course, when I started designing I began with single-size shawl and sock patterns, because face it, it’s easier to design something when you don’t have to bother with whether or not it’s going to fit.


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

I peruse other designers’ work regularly. I see trends, shape ideas, and get inspiration from them. I also try to see what to avoid doing for a variety of reasons, the biggest of which is that though I do often find others’ work inspiring, I do not want my designs to resemble their work too closely. 


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

I have started a response to this question a number of times, and tossed every one of them so far... I think the reason for this is that I don’t feel just one way about the issue. The way I see it there are multiple things going on here. Yes, there are a lot of patterns these days that explain every.single.little.thing, and are pages and pages long. 

Personally, not my style, and I can’t knit from something like that. I get too confused, I tend to yell at the pattern, and demand that it
I.need. But not everyone is like me. I can see that this type of pattern can fill a need for less experienced knitters. If these patterns help people learn to knit, hone their skills, to not be afraid of trying something new, then they’re good for those people. I hope, though, that they eventually out-grow the hand-holding, and venture out into the world of designs that do not do that. I knit my first sweaters in the mid 1980s. Back then if 8 buttonholes were to be knit into a band, the designer said something to the effect of, “Space 8 3-stitch buttonholes evenly across the next row,” and left everything else to the knitter to figure out. On the one hand: frustrating! 

On the other hand, I learned how to do it myself, back when there was no Internet to look things up on, no YouTube videos to help a knitter to visualize how to do something, and most of the time I didn’t know anyone else who knit, so books were my only resource. I think, I hope, that in my patterns I’ve found a happy medium, at least for people who either have the skills already, or who don’t mind finding their own YouTube instructional videos. If buttonholes are needed, I tell you how to space them. I’ll even give you my current favorite buttonhole technique. But in the pattern itself, that’s all you’ll get. If you need more help, and don’t have anyone to ask, can’t find it online, or don’t know how to look, then please send me email! If you explain where you’re confused, what doesn’t make sense to you, I’ll do what I can from here to help you out.

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

On rare occasion I will hire a sample knitter, but for the most part I knit everything myself. At least once. I haven’t used test knitters for quite some time, having had a string of bad luck with them, just after my best ones stopped testing. I rely instead on tech editors.

Do you use a tech editor? 

Absolutely. I didn’t have a tech editor when I started out, but began hiring them as soon as I was able. These days I have two tech editors, and I bounce between them depending on who is busier, and what the current project is. Sometimes when a design is more complicated, like Summer’s Lease, I have both of them go over it.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

There’s supposed to be a balance? LOL Generally speaking, when I’m not at my computer I’m knitting, so I look forward to the one day per week that my husband and I usually escape the house to run errands. Working all.the.time has begun to wear on me to the point where I feel like I’m in a bit of a slump. A few months ago I discovered “adult” coloring books, got one for myself, along with some pretty colored pencils, and since then I’ve spent a few minutes coloring every morning after breakfast. It’s a tiny thing, but it seems to be helping my creative juices to flow again.  I think.

How do you deal with criticism? 

I’d like to say that I deal with it professionally, and simply let it roll off my back. I think I usually do. I hope. I know that most knitters are nice people, and that maybe they’re just having a really bad day, and running into a pattern problem when they were trying to relax is the last straw. I understand frustration, so I apologize, sometimes profusely, for their confusion, my error, whatever it is. I try to explain as best I can. It’s harder, though, when I get four or five (or more) email messages within ten minutes, each angrier than the last, each demanding (!) instant response. Especially if these message arrive in, what is for me, the middle of the night. Even then, I understand frustration. What I have the hardest time dealing with is people who call me names, or are simply rude. I hate to admit it, but it does take me longer to respond to the rude people. I always try to respond calmly, and professionally, and frankly, if I’m upset it can take a while to relax enough to be nice in return... sometimes a couple days.

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

Don’t give up your day job. Really. I know it’s disheartening, and that there are a few superstars out there who make it look easy, but in today’s market most designers need income from at least one additional source (tech editing, photography, their own yarn line, teaching, a day job, or a spouse whose income supports the household) in order to make ends meet. I’ve heard plenty of people say that in order to be a designer you need to have a degree in fashion or art, or at least work experience in a field that is at least vaguely related. Hogwash. My schooling was in computer science and business, and I learned how use a spreadsheet program, how to do page layout, and step-by-step instruction-writing on the job. I took photography one semester in high school, and another semester in college. Those are the skills I use on a regular basis. I’m not an artist, can’t draw a model with a sweater on her to save my life, but I wear clothes, and have my own thoughts on what looks good, and what I like to knit. What you need in order to design is a wellspring of ideas, the knitting skills (or learn them) to bring those ideas into reality, and the where-with-all to do the math (or hire it done), and type the whole thing up (or hire it done), so that it makes sense to the knitter.

What’s next for you?

As well as continuing to self-publish patterns, I am trying to get designs into more online magazines, yarn clubs, and so forth.

This post is a milestone for me. It's the 1000 post to appear on How to become a Professional Knitter. I started the blog on Monday June 8 2009. You can read that first post here.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Knitted Knockers

At my last guild meeting we had a short presentation from Nancy Thomson with some very moving stories about the work of this organization.

Please spread the word on this, from the website:

"Knitted Knockers are special handmade breast prosthesis for women who have undergone mastectomies or other procedures to the breast. These soft comfortable lightweight prosthesis are available for FREE. They are knit with love by our wonderful volunteers.  Some women find traditional breast prosthetics too expensive, heavy, sweaty and uncomfortable. Also traditional prosthesis often cannot be worn for weeks after surgery. Knitted knockers on the other hand are soft, comfortable, beautiful and when placed in a regular bra they take the shape and feel of a real breast. Knitted knockers can also be used to fill the gap for breasts that are uneven and easily adapted for those going through reconstruction by simply removing some of the stuffing. Some women prefer to weight their knocker with a pebble to keep them in place.  The knitted knocker can also be used in your prosthetic bra  or camisole as a lightweight choice.

The purpose of this site is to help connect volunteer knitters with Breast cancer survivors to offer FREE knitted knockers."

Patterns available here.  

Facebook link here:

Canadian Ravelry Group here:


Monday, December 7, 2015

Sound Bites that Make me Crazy. But it's too hard to...

I've written before here and here, about the sound bites of knitting that make me crazy.

I had a big advantage in that I was surrounded by knitting and crocheting as a child so this sound bite just never came up. No one told me knitting was hard so I didn't expect it to be.

"But it's too hard to....", WTF?

I've been teaching knitting for so long now I hesitate to tell you the number of years for fear you will think I look like this:

I noticed in the last year I've been told "it's too hard to..." numerous times. It's been said to me by smart, fabulous knitters. It's been said to me by knitters with advanced professional degrees. It's been said to me by knitters who have been knitting longer than I've been teaching classes. They've said it about the simplest steps in knitting.

The most amazing thing to me about this is, we have more knitting information at our fingertips than at any time in history. Patterns are much more detailed. You can find many YouTube videos on any technique you would like to explore. Post a question in a Ravelry forum and a knitter will get great advice and resources to explore. Yet with all of this available info knitting is now too hard?

Theories anyone?