Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Top Down: Reimagining Set-in Sleeve Design by Elizabeth Doherty

I've been reading Elizabeth Doherty's new book, Top Down: Reimagining Set-in Sleeve Design

I'm very impressed with her explanations on sleeve caps for set-in sleeves. The explanations work for knitting in either direction, however you know by the title, the book focuses on top down versions. 

I teach a class on fitting set-in sleeves properly (Capology) and I will be recommending Elizabeth's book as a resource going forward. I've been limited in the past to referring knitters to books on pattern drafting and I'm aware most students find those resources to be intimidating. The other limitation with pattern drafting sources is they focus on the mechanics while we also need to understand concepts of fit which vary widely, especially in regard to ease allowances. I was not surprised to find in her bio Elizabeth has experience, as I do, in sewing tailored garments.

There are six patterns in the book to allow you to try out the techniques. They are very detailed and include a full page schematic. Each pattern has ten sizes. The book also includes a section on adjusting fit which includes a thorough explanation on armhole depth considerations. This is something I feel is absolutely critical to good fit. In my own case I feel I look frumpy in sweaters with too deep armholes. The puckering created adds extra visual pounds and is very unflattering.

You can go here to see the Look book of all of the designs.

Monday, September 28, 2015

In the Category of Things Which Make Me Smile

Like most knitters I find often find sheep things to be unbearably cute. I just found these on Trendland.

 Designed by Gwyn Lewis for retail display.

Friday, September 25, 2015

An Interview with...Boadicea Binnerts

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 Boadicea here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

I love fashion first and foremost, so I scour the Internet for style inspiration. Pinterest and, paper magazines, the streets. That’s one part, and I think that’s the part that determines shapes and types of garments. Then there’s my tactile part that gets inspire by great yarns, that wants to touch and fondle them and knit something with them (this part just wants to knit, it doesn’t care what it is).

I try to balance out these two parts and turn their combined desires into garments that are knittable and wearable and fit into current fashion, yet remain wearable when fashion moves on. I also have a color hungry part but that’s the problem child of my menagerie. Especially in spring it likes bright, happy colors, but sadly I never wear these in real life. So I try to stick to pale neutrals, or graphic color combinations that fit into my wardrobe. And I give away the colorful sweaters that accidentally happen anyway…

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I’m giving several answers to this. I like a left-handed continental technique for knitting, I like knitting in the round but flat as well. I like contiguous sleeves.

How did you determine your size range?

I went with US standard sizing, because most knitters on Ravelry are from there. I knit my samples in size M, which is right in the middle and so ideal for expanding to bigger and smaller sizes. When I finally found a 2X test knitter, I dared expand to that size because now I’m confident it will fit.

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

I do like to look at other people’s designs. When you’re in fashion you have to know what other designers are doing so you don’t copy or move too far away from the main fashion stream. But I love to look at high end fashion designers and be inspired by their cloth designs for my knitting.

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

I have to admit, I’d love to produce one or two page patterns the way for example, Vogue Knitting does. But I accept that with so many new knitters, who don’t want to take years to learn the shorthand, we have to expand our instructions.

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

So far, I’ve knit almost everything myself, but that does
keep the volume down.. I have a wonderful and loyal group of test knitters that are indispensable for my current process. Because I design and knit on the fly, it can be hard to work back from the finished process and produce a crisp and clear pattern. A quote from test knitter Lubasik about her feelings: “Yes, that is (clean, nearly perfect) what I used to be expecting from the tests…. Until I run into Bo. Brilliant designs, edgy looks and … messy instructions. Her personal style, if you want. My first test with Bo … I promised to myself “never again”! But… I am back again and again. I tried other tests after Bo’s but all the spice was missing. On her tests I feel not like a tester but more like a co-author! So, I accepted her style and am enjoying myself (still cursing sometimes… with love).

Did you do a formal business plan?


Do you have a mentor?


Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

I looked into what other successful indie designers were doing, and tried to emulate their business model.

Do you use a tech editor?

I do, although I’ve gotten better at this part myself as well.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Knitting is a wonderful thing, because you can be quite social while you knit furiously along on the easier parts…But, I make sure to keep plenty of time besides knitting so the inspiration can come (it only arrives when I’m relaxed).

How do you deal with criticism?

If it helps me improve my work or my patterns, I welcome it. If it’s just: ” she makes things that aren’t my taste”, I leave it be.

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

I’m not there yet! I think I need more time to build a stable of designs and a solid customer base.

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

Don’t give up your day job yet! No, seriously, it takes a lot of time and sweat and effort and getting over your failures. You really have to love it. And if you do, I’d advise designing lace shawls. Far more people knit shawls rather than sweaters….:-)

What’s next for you?

The next two years or I’ll continue on what I’ve been doing so far. And after that….I don’t know.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pantone Colours for Spring 2016

Pantone releases a semiannual Fashion Colour Report. It's used by many fashion industry insiders. It's a colour forecasting system which may be more influential rather than predictive as so many companies use the reports when choosing colours for upcoming seasons. Have you ever wandered your local mall and wondered why unrelated stores are all showing items in the same colours? Each colour swatch includes a numbered code so companies can use purchased chips for colour matching in both fabric and print.

From their site:

"Color is critical

In a competitive global marketplace, successful brands leverage color’s poignant power to differentiate and connect. The Pantone Color Institute delivers insights that inform the effective commercial application of color through a range of trend forecast publications, color research and bespoke consultancy. When 80% of human experience is filtered through the eyes, we understand that the choice of color is critical.

Global brands come to us for:

  • Color Palette recommendations
  • Color Trends and Forecasts
  • Custom Color for brand identity
  • Color Management
  • Consumer Color Preference Research
  • Color Messages and Meaning
  • Color Shade Naming
  • Tailored Presentations and Educational Workshops
  • A better understanding of color"
Here's a link to an article about the Spring 2016 colours.

This chart was the Spring 2015 version. If you compare the two you will see some colours shifted only slightly as Toasted Almond became Iced Coffee and Classic Blue morphed to Snorkel Blue. However Lucite Green has been jazzed up to become Green Flash. 


Monday, September 21, 2015

Fashion Bloggers

I did a post on a few of the Fashion blogs I follow here. In that post I focused on the blogs of stylists as I feel I've learned a lot by following them. 

I also follow a number of other fashion blogs which give advice but also post lots of photos of what they are wearing. Recently one of them responded to a nasty Internet troll who had made extremely ugly comments. The post is here.
The post where the comments are is here.

I was very angry about the mean spirited nature of the comments and very proud of the bloggers response. It made me realize that following these bloggers has had a slow, long term effect on my outlook. Seeing real women, with real bodies, instead of skinny fashion models on a regular basis as when I read fashion magazines has made me kinder about both my own and other women's figures. They revel in having fun with fashion and take joy sharing what they wearing. I'm so thankful for the positive impact they are having on me. I hope it works for you too.

Here's a list for you to check out:


Friday, September 18, 2015

An Interview with...Tammy Eigeman Thompson

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 Tammy here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

From my surroundings, I live in Montana near Glacier National Park.  I am surrounded by beauty; it is hard not to be inspired.  I also draw inspiration from clothing from the 1700 and 1800 hundreds

What is your favorite knitting technique?

I think my favorite technique would have to be steeking.  If I can steek something and continue to work in the round I’ll do it, I love working in the round.

How did you determine your size range?

Size range usually depends on the style of the garment as well as the motif that I use in the sweater.

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

I look at everything.  I watch runway fashion shows on You Tube to see what trends are current.  Are fashion styles going long or short, loose or tight fitting? I don’t think that their designs influence what I am doing, rather, they give me an idea what way fashion is going, what colors are popular, etc.

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

Knitters are all at different skill levels, but if we over simplify a pattern, it just becomes confusing.  I believe the best thing for a new knitter to invest in would be the Readers Digest, Knitter’s Handbook, or the Vogue Knitting hand book all excellent resources. 

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

I do everything myself.  When I start a new project I start with needles, yarn and a notebook.  The idea usually goes through many changes and modifications before it becomes a finished project. It would be very difficult for me to employ a sample knitter for this reason.  It is really the process of design, and seeing it manifested that I enjoy the most.

Do you have a mentor?

Not really, I have many people that I admire in the field but no real mentor.

Do you use a tech editor?

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Knitting is my life and I do little else.  My day starts at 4:00 am in the morning when I take care of computer work.  At 5:00 am I go to the gym for about an hour.  I come home and walk for an hour to get the ideas flowing.  The rest of the day is taken up with knitting and running my yarn store. I enjoy my day that way.

How do you deal with criticism?

Constructive criticism can be beneficial and I will take it into consideration. If I think a change needs to be made I will make it.  As for mean spirited criticism, I ignore it; it is not worth my consideration.

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

Perseverance, you have to have a real love of your craft or it is not going to work for you. 

What’s next for you?

I am looking to do a children’s collection of knitwear. 

Also, I will continue to do the square of the month a knit along that is on my website and Ravelry.  I give a free pattern of a different cable square away every month for twelve months.  At the end of the year the knitter has enough squares to create a throw.  I do take the patterns down after that time frame and sell all the squares in their entirety as a sampler afghan.

Right now I am very inspired with Fair Isle and color stranding, so look for more pattern in that style.  Cable designs will not be left out.  I am also working on cable sweater designs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Patricia Lane Pullover - New Pattern

I've been busy and I've got a new pattern to release. It's called Patricia Lane. It's a pullover with a cable and lace panel off set from the centre. The stitch pattern is charted and written so knitters can use their preferred format. The ribbed border is integrated with the body stitch pattern. All sections are worked bottom up. The sleeve is a set in style. The neckband stitches are picked up and worked in the round. 

It will be available on both Ravelry and Patternfish. I'm looking forward to wearing this one once the cool weather comes. There are six sizes: measuring at bust 34.5 (37, 39.5, 42.5, 45, 47.5) inches 87.5 (94, 100.5, 108, 114.5, 120.5) cm. Patricia Lane is knit with Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Superwash in colour Fjord Heather 26316. It's a beautiful, soft, blueish green colourway with a grey undertone.  I hope you like it. If you do I'd really appreciate it if you would favourite it Ravelry. User activity moves patterns up in the ranking so more knitters see my designs.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Summertime Leaves and Autumn Arrives

I work everyday at my dining room table. We have a spare bedroom which I initially set up as my working space but I can't look out the window there. 

This is what I look out at while I'm working. 

I'm a balcony gardener and it's almost time to put the garden to bed. I've already emptied many of my pots of the annuals. The sweet potato vine flourished this summer as you can see in my photos.

I've added in Garden Mums for colour and I'll probably get to refresh them once more before winter.

I may switch to burgundy Mums for the next few weeks once the yellow ones are done. 

When I started working from home I realized exposure to light has an impact on my mood. On days I don't go out I make a point of sitting outside in the afternoon I can knit in the spring and fall but I read in the summer when it gets too warm to knit. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

An Interview with...Sue McCain

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 Sue here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
Pretty much anywhere, from the person sitting in front of me at church, to something I see on TV, to someone I pass on the street. Stitch patterns also speak to me. I love browsing through stitch dictionaries with no specific project in mind. I often find a stitch that I just love first, and then build a sweater around it.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I think that would be cables, though I also enjoy lace and mosaic knitting. My mother taught me to knit, and my third sweater was an allover cable and bobble sweater. I had been so intimidated by cables, but when she showed me how easy it was, I was hooked. I'm always looking for interesting cable patterns.

How did you determine your size range?
I'm 6' tall, so I understand the difficulty of finding clothes to fit. I started knitting in the first place because I was tired of sweaters with sleeves that weren't long enough. It made sense to me to just make my own sweaters. In addition, at the time I started my first pattern line, I was a plus size, so combine that with my height, and every sweater I knit had to be reworked to fit me.

From the start, I couldn't see limiting my size range to 3 or 4 sizes, thereby leaving out an entire segment of the knitting population. From just a business standpoint, you're missing out on a lot of potential sales. I've heard someone say that their sweater would only look good on sizes up to large or extra-large. Shouldn't it be up to the knitter to decide what they want to wear? If you're a 6x and want to wear a halter top and tutu, that's up to you. Plus sizes seemed to me to be an under-served part of the market, as are very small sizes. So I now typically work with a range of 11 sizes, covering women's bust measurements from 24-66".

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
As a professional knitting technical editor, I'm looking at other designer's work every day. I'm periodically sent a collection of 30 samples for editing, and it's always like Christmas opening up the boxes to see what the designers have created. The best part is the many stitch patterns and construction methods that they use.

While I'm editing, I occasionally make note of a technique that appeals to me, for potential use in future designs. My patterns aren't usually complicated in terms of construction, but you never know when something might come in handy, or what new world might open up. As an example, I was the editor on Wendy Bernard's Custom Knits books, and it was from her that I learned about top-down set-in-sleeve sweater construction. I was so intrigued by it that I decided to launch Basix, which is a line of all top-down set-in-sleeve patterns.
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have one sample knitter that I work with. I've known her for years and appreciate not only her great knitting skills, but also the fact that she can pick up on errors and inconsistencies before the pattern is even formally written up. That's a huge help for me. That said, I knit the last few samples myself, since I wasn't entirely sure of some of the elements, and I wanted to be able to work them out on the needles. For the Boulder Top-Down Hoodie, I think I reworked the hood 4 times from the bottom up until I was pleased with the result. Sometimes you just gotta play with the design yourself.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I did at the very beginning, and oddly enough, I'm not making the millions I'd projected. Seriously, though, I did make a plan, but once I got up and running, it's been mostly a question of evolving as the industry changes.
Do you have a mentor?
Not really. I talked with a few knitting industry professionals early on, but then just did what made sense to me at the time. Since I've been in the business for a while now, I've developed friendships with other designers. Sometimes we'll have long conversations about what's going on for me and for them. It's usually about what we've noticed in our sales, what we've tried, what works, what doesn't. It's so very easy to become isolated since I work from home in a niche industry – it's not like there's a knitwear designers guild in my area. So when designers have the opportunity to get together, the focus of the conversation is almost always about how to improve sales.

Do you use a tech editor?
Absolutely. As a professional tech editor, I believe in the importance of having someone go through my pattern and check for errors, inconsistencies, clarity, etc. It's really hard to read your own work without reading what it's supposed to say rather than what it actually says.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
What balance? I think that's a battle that a lot of small business owners have, especially those with a home office where work is always beckoning. I definitely need to work at it more, because I need more down time to recharge.

How do you deal with criticism?
Respectful constructive criticism is helpful - I'm interested to hear if a knitter finds that a pattern I've written is unclear or has an error, because I want to make sure that my patterns are the best that they can be.

On the other hand, we've all seen instances where a person is just cranky for whatever reason (bad day at work, frustrating relationship), and you happen to be the unlucky one who is the recipient of their wrath. Fortunately such incidents have been few and far between, and I've tried to handle them with grace and respect. Then when I'm done, I whine to my dog about it – Rory always takes my side no matter what. It's all about perspective. I'm not perfect and sadly never will be in this life. I will make mistakes, as everyone else does. So I own up to them and rectify them to the best of my ability, then move on.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Because I combine pattern sales and technical editing, I've been blessed to be able to support myself almost since I started in 2003.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Don't quit your day job. No, really. Unless you can get a job working for someone within the industry, consider your knitting career to be a part-time side gig until you get to the point where it supports you. That way there's less financial pressure, so you can have fun with it and explore what you want to do, rather than worrying about paying the bills. That can take the fun out of anything you love.
What’s next for you?
Work. LOTS of work. I've got a few ideas for some ebooks, and there are always swatches waiting to be turned into patterns.  And maybe this year I'll take a vacation (famous last words). In Scotland. And I'll find a way to make my knitting career pay for the vacation. 
​Maybe I'll launch a line of knitted kilt patterns.​

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

How to Create a Self Education Plan for Knitters

This is a follow up to my post on Formal Educations in Hand Knitting Design. It is possible to create your own study plan. I made a point early on in my learning curve to either choose projects that required a specific skill which I did not currently have or to learn new skills on swatches. I had taken a class in couturier sewing skills that was a focused techniques based class in creating samples rather than a specific project.  It was definitely the fastest route to learning in a compressed time period. The charts below are in no way intended to list every possible skill which master knitters have but they do create a staring point if you want to expand your knowledge. Click on the charts to make them larger.








Monday, September 7, 2015

There's a New Girl in Town

I've recently purchased a new mannequin for photographing my knitting. My previous one (the black one) was showing signs of wear. It was an inexpensive retail display torso. The finial had become very loose and would topple off whenever I moved her. The jersey covering has a couple of pulls, but more importantly she was listing to one side.  In the photo there are a couple of coasters under one leg to straighten her out. I spent quite a bit of time researching alternative choices. I was willing to spend more on a replacement but I wanted a much better quality piece, something that would last longer. After careful consideration I made the decision to go with a dressmakers or tailor's mannequin instead of choosing another retail display piece. She's perhaps a little plain but more closely imitates a real body. One of the things that bothered me before, was showing shawls on the display piece which had no arms. Even though her bust size was correct in that it is the same as mine, the shawls looked bigger than they do when worn on a real body. She also had an unnaturally tiny waist and hips. A dressmakers form solves these problems. 

She has removable arms and a much more realistic size and shape. She's slim but not so unrealistically tiny. She is also easily adjusted up and down by foot pedal. She has a cast iron base, with wheels and is surprisingly heavy. 

I was aiming for something as close to my size as possible so my samples would be shown to their best advantage. I did have one little surprise after checking measurements and comparing to my own, I picked what I thought was the best size. It turns out that while I do not have thin arms, I do have small arms. When I put the first garment on her the sleeves were snugger than I expected. The chart I used to order her didn't include an arm measurement. 

The torso, neckline and shoulders are very close to my size but not exactly my shape. I think I'll be deciding whether to use the arms based on each project. 

We just did photography for two upcoming garment patterns and I went with no arms for one and used them for the second based how how they each individually looked. I haven't published those patterns yet and hope to have the first one done soon.