Friday, October 30, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Christine Redfern Cardigan - New Pattern

I've published another design.The body of this cardigan is worked in one piece to the underarms, then divided for back and fronts.  

The sleeve is a classic set in version. The stitch patterns are written in text and are charted. 

The high shawl collar is a dressmaker style with shaping to encourage it to roll into shape. It is sewn into place. The knit in, garter stitch bands are fastened with a shawl pin. 

Optional waistline shaping has been included in the pattern instructions.

The pattern is here on Ravelry and will be up on Patternfish soon.


Monday, October 26, 2015

How to Cure Band Flip

We've all had it happen, the dreaded band flip. Your cardigan is finished, you put it on to admire and before you button it up, the bands flip back towards the body.  Cruising around Ravelry projects I've seen lots of examples. Recently I got to see a finished version of Sheila Reilly which had the problem. A friend brought me someone else's project looking for a solution. It was knit in the yarn specified with this colour:

The first problem was the band had not yet been blocked. I spend time carefully pinning bands square and steaming them. you can use a steam iron, just don't touch the iron to the knitting. If your iron doesn't produce good steam, use a spray bottle of water as well. If your band is especially difficult, work from the wrong side and use a press cloth on top of the knitting (any clean white cloth will work). With a press cloth in place you can use the weight of your iron on the knitting. Don't move the iron around. Pressing is the process of lifting the iron and setting it down again in the next position. In ironing, the iron is run back and forth over the fabric. Don't move the garment until it is completely dry. Knitters underestimate the value of steam in shaping wool. When making tailored jackets and when making hats steam and heat are used on wool to create shape. 

Check out this post if you would like to see the transformation of a wool felt from this:

to this: 

Sewers and tailors uses a variety of tools for pressing.

The second problem with the band was the cast off edge. It was simply too tight. An easy way to assess this problem is to compare the rib at the bottom to the rib at the cast off edge, are they the same width?  

Here's a sample band off the needles with no blocking:

Here it is pinned square and steam blocked:

Here it is steam blocked and dry: 

The first ten stitches on the right are too tight. You can see how the column of two knit stitches pull in at the top.
The middle ten look pretty good, nice and straight from the bottom edge to the top. 
The last ten on the left look a little loose. 
I decreased using three different needle sizes along the edge, increasing sizes from right to left. You should use whatever size needle allows your ribs to lie straight without pulling in at the top.

Here's the final step. If you use a larger size needle to cast off on the edges where the collar folds over around the neckline you can improve the shape. Do the straight edges for the button bands with a size which keeps the ribs even and then switch to a larger needle for the collar and switch back for the second button band section. In millinery work we use heat and steam to shape hat bands in the same way it's called swirling. Stretch the outer edge only to be longer. 

It looks like this:

 And after steam blocking you get this:

A perfect shape for a shawl collar don't you think?

Now for a test, bonus points for anyone who knows why the bottom edges of my cardigan have a full rib at the bottom edge, but my swatch edges aren't as tidy? 

Friday, October 23, 2015

An Interview with ...Christelle Nihoul
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
Christelle here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in colors and "haute couture" fashion. Sometimes in nature or in architecture.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love seamless knitting techniques and all the finishing so I love particular CO's and BO's (especially picot bind off ... to my test knitters dismay!) 

How did you determine your size range?
I'm not a standard size, I'm a plus size so I try to fit all my patterns to every knitter, plus size or not. For children's sizes, I noticed that there are lots of garments for girls, a little bit less for little boys but almost nothing for teen boys, so I try to design garments for teen boys who don't want to wear a men's sweater or cardigan.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I like to look other designers work because I love to buy patterns to knit them (and maybe because I'm a compulsive pattern and yarn buyer !) but I'm not afraid to be influenced. I like to find in their designs what has inspired them.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I'm a French speaking Belgian knitter so the knitting culture is very different to US and English speaking countries (or even Nordic countries). I don't think there is a "dumbing down" here. Seamless knitting and other specific techniques are not well-known here, they exist but few people use them. In the popular magazines, you find knitting designs worked in pieces, not a lot of increase choices and no circular needles being used. With indie designers self-publishing and a new French magazine in which I wrote some articles, there are more English knitting world ideas being presented. I try to suggest new techniques to French speaking knitters but I'm well aware that it could be an obstacle for some knitters who don't want to change their habits.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I don't work with sample knitters, I knit all my prototypes but I work with test knitters. In general, I work with 10-15 test knitters for a pattern (in English and in French), the number depends if the pattern is for a shawl, an accessory or for a garment.

Did you do a formal business plan and do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Because my business plan and model are being changed, I would prefer not sharing any details.

Do you have a mentor?
I don't really have a mentor but some designers are very inspiring for me. As an example, Brooklyn Tweed, who pays particular attention to presentation, photography and quality of the patterns.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, I've been working with my TE for two years now. It was an important step for me to improve the quality of my patterns because I'm not English speaking designer :) (and because calculations drive me crazy sometimes !)

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
It's not easy when you have a little business, three children and a husband who works many hours. At the beginning, you have to work a lot, sometimes too much, during weekends, evenings, and nights to meet the deadlines. But after several months, you can meet your goals and have a little more time to do other things.

How do you deal with criticism?
It's not always easy to deal with criticism but it can also help you to improve your work and to understand the point of view of your customers. The majority of the knitting community is very kind and happy to receive help but sometimes there are people who make less constructive comments and it's important to know this because it's impossible to satisfy this kind of person.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
It's not completely the case now. It's like a part time job salary (and in Europe you have to deal with a lot of taxes).

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Work hard, be resilient and persistent, it will work :)

What’s next for you?
I'm working on a big, new project for the beginning of 2016. More to come during November :)) (don't hesitate to subscribe to my newsletter which is coming soon).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Shetland's Knitting Heritage is being Lost

Shetland's knitting heritage is being lost in a world where knitting has gained in popularity. Amazing isn't it? The concern is so great there is a crowd-funding site to support projects to teach children to knit.

The whole story is here:

I've coped most of the information in from the site:

"Helping to sustain Shetland's knitting culture

Shetland's wonderful culture of hand-knitting needs nurturing if it is to remain vibrant for future generations. The Brough Lodge Trust has decided to contribute by taking action and this page explains what you can do to help.
ShetlandPeerieMakkers was set up with Brough Lodge Trust, which was originally established to restore the historic Brough Lodge on the island of Fetlar. The Trust’s longterm intention is to offer courses in Shetland’s heritage skills, including textiles. Trustees realised that the restoration was some years away and in the meantime, supporting the current knitting tradition should become a priority.
With the help of experienced volunteer knitters, we want to launch 5 pilot projects to teach hand knitting to Shetland youngsters.
The story so far…
Hand knitting was taught in Shetland’s primary schools but this ended in 2010. Some parents, grandparents and others could pass on their skills; but there is a risk that insufficient numbers of children will learn to knit, and the knowledge and techniques of Shetland knitting will be lost.

In August 2014, we held a public consultation to discuss how this support might be most effective. A "world café" meeting was held in Fetlar. It involved a number of people working in Shetland knitting. Everyone agreed that the need to support Shetland’s hand-knitting tradition is urgent.
A way forward…
A group of local experts was formed to steer the project and ShetlandPeerieMakkers is the result of more than a year’s work. We plan to offer free tuition in Shetland knitting to Shetland youngsters. ‘PeerieMakkers’ means ‘small knitters’ in Shetland dialect.
ShetlandPeerieMakkers is currently a one year pilot project, to provide free lessons to youngsters, initially in five communities. Skilled volunteers want to provide the tuition and that reflects another Shetland tradition: our communities have always shared skills, whether in inshore fishing, spinning or peat cutting. These voluntarily shared skills are evident in community marinas, sailing competitions, and at sociable events.
The five pilots will run for a year, and we’ll apply the lessons we learn to establish a sustainable model for tuition in the longer term. 
Although all our expert volunteers’ time is offered freely, and yarns are sponsored, we’ll need funding for basic costs.  Whilst we hope to receive donations of materials, and spaces to hold knitting groups, we’ll need to buy knitting belts and needles; and, for tutors, there will be travelling expenses within Shetland.

How you can help…
Because Shetland knitting means so much to people in Shetland and around the world, we believe that we should launch an appeal.  We’ll be really grateful for any contribution you can make and, accordingly, we want to thank you with a gift.
In the long term, we hope that money to support hand-knitting – and other aspects of Shetland’s heritage, such as music – will come from commercial classes for adult participants and held in the restored Brough Lodge building; there’s more about our plans on our main website 
But we feel that the risk of losing hand-knitting is too great for us to delay the pilot projects. That’s why we’re pursuing them quite separately from the restoration, and we guarantee that all the money you donate will go directly into ShetlandPeerieMakkers."

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Politics of Knitting and Mothering

I've always been fascinated by what psychologists call "leveling" in psychology. Leveling is when someone has feelings of inferiority or inadequacy, and they try to level themselves with the other people. They either do this by inflating their own ego to the level where they want to be, or they try to criticize another person and bring them down to what they perceive to be their level.

In the knitting world we see this with the crochet haters and yarn snobs if they use these topics to put others down in some way. We knitters hear it from non-knitters who tell us we are wasting our time. Knitting has brought many wonderful things to my life and I'm pretty good at ignoring all the negative commentary since it gives me so much pleasure.

I recently followed a link from Knitcliks to this thought provoking post about knitting. Vanessa says it so much better than I would. I wanted to share her words with you.

From the post:

"And I have realized just how challenging something like this is to our modern perception of what is worthwhile activity for a woman. It is pretty much on par with confessing that one uses doilies for the plate of biscuits, lavender pomade, warms one’s husband’s slippers before he arrives home from the office, and flounces around in an apron and with feather duster all day.

Why is it more shocking for a woman in her late 30s to decide that she wants to knit some stuff for her family than, say, get a tattoo? Why is it considered throwback and retrograde for a woman to embrace doing something really quite simple, meditative, creative and generous?
Vanessa Olorenshaw

While I know knit bashing is often about the speaker rather than the knitter I find it fascinating when knitting becomes an issue of feminism and personal freedom. What do you think?

Friday, October 16, 2015

An Interview with... Lauren Riker of Girly Knits

Lauren wearing Heart to Heart

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 Girly Knits and Lauren here and here on Ravelry.

Your work has a charming, whimsical quality, where do you find inspiration?
Ha ha, well as the name "Girly Knits" might suggest, I have always had a love for girls' clothing. I remember being really sad when I got too old to shop in the girls department and had to move onto juniors. Girls' clothes are just so much more fun! There's no fear of using color, being silly, and using lots of ruffles and bows. Those things just still make me really happy, so I indulge in my love for all things girly with my designs. I also really love animals (I was one of those kids who didn't like barbies and only wanted to play with stuffed animals), so cute little characters often make their way into my work as well.

Owl in One

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love any technique that makes a design seamless - knitting in the round, kitchener stitch, seamless cast ons, etc. I like the look of seamless knits, and love knitting designs as one piece because it makes finishing so much easier. Plus, you can usually try the piece on as you go to ensure that it's fitting the way you like, which I feel is essential with knitting!

How did you determine your size range?
When I first started, it was really important for me to include junior sizes, as I thought teenagers were the ones who would be knitting my patterns. I was pretty off on that one! As I listened to my audience, I learned that while there were a lot of younger girls knitting my patterns, it was more of a personal style thing, and had less to do with age. I noticed there were a lot of young moms knitting my patterns who wanted girls' sizes (seems obvious right?) so I started including girls' sizes in my patterns. I have also been asked to include extended sizes, so I've since changed my grading so that I can encompass a larger size range. I continue to listen to my audience. It's an evolving process!

Ms. Claus

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I try to look at others' work here and there so that I can keep current with what's out there and what's trending, but for the most part I feel like I have a unique perspective on knitwear, so I'm not that influenced by what others are doing. Usually I want to do the opposite! I do check new ideas I have to make sure they haven't been done, and if they have, make sure I'm doing them in a different way. For me I think I'm most afraid of losing my original voice that I started out with - it can be tempting to just do more of what "sells" because I'm trying to build a business, but I don't want to lose my desire to be a bit unconventional and stretch the limits of what knitting can be.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I personally try to make my patterns as easy as possible to follow for knitters. When I am following instructions, I know I prefer it that way! I suppose it depends on who your target audience is - my patterns are typically beginner to intermediate, and I love catering to people starting out. I know that if they have a good experience following a pattern, they will be more likely to continue. I love building knitters and encouraging them to learn new skills too, so will often create photo and video tutorials to include in the pattern, or links to good ones online. In the end, I'm creating something that I would want.

Pretty Little Knickers

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I currently do it all myself - because of that I spend A LOT of my time knitting. I don't feel like I'm at a place to use sample knitters, as I'm still learning, and usually experimenting with each new design. I also often make decisions about the design as I'm knitting based on how it's turning out, so I feel like it would be hard to hand it off at this point.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I did not - I'm much more of a "go with the flow" type of person. The best things that have happened to me in my business I could not have predicted, like being a contestant on The Fiber Factor, so my strategy has just been to keep creating and putting my work out there and seeing what opportunities come from it. I do, however, love learning about entrepreneurship, and devote pretty much all of my podcast listening and book reading time to that topic.

Do you have a mentor?
I don't!  I really was hoping to find one in the beginning, but I just haven't found someone that I've clicked with yet. I will say though that I was very inspired by Debbie Stoller's books - they got me really excited about knitting and designing, and showed me that there indeed was a large audience of younger knitters who wanted fun fashionable knitwear designs.


She's Electric

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
From the beginning, I wanted to design a business that was online only, with no physical products. I wanted to be able to run it from anywhere in the world, because I love to travel, and in my dream life I'm traveling all of the time. Luckily with self-publishing .pdf's, that's a possibility! People always ask me if I sell finished items, so I keep playing with idea of having my designs produced, but that conflicts with the business model. We'll see what happens!

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Ha ha, well surprisingly my part-time job is what keeps me the most balanced. Having a job seems conducive to a lot of other social things like interacting with co-workers, going out to lunch, and meeting up with friends after work. If it weren't for that, I don't know that I would ever leave my apartment! I do find it really challenging to maintain a balance working from home, so it's something I'm still trying to figure out.  

How do you deal with criticism?
I am really grateful that the knitting community for the most part is really kind - I feel so lucky that I get to work with such supportive and awesome people. I've seen people make fun of my designs on forums, but that doesn't really get to me. I figure it's more about them. If I get an upset e-mail from someone about one of my patterns, I just try to have sympathy and empathize with the fact that they are stuck and frustrated for whatever reason. So I just respond with kindness and do anything I can to help them. One time a woman was stuck knitting the fingers of one of my glove patterns, so I made a YouTube tutorial walking through all of the steps. That video has gone on to have nearly 50,000 views, so I am definitely a fan of listening to my customers' needs!

Sweet Treats

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Not there yet! I still work part time as a fashion designer. I really love my job, and the influence it has on my designs - I design intimate apparel for juniors and girls. It's also nice to not have to stress about the business supporting me. I hope that I can do Girly Knits full time someday, as I feel it's my purpose to do this, so hopefully that will come with time.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
When I told my friends and family that I wanted to pursue a career in knitting, they thought I was crazy. I suppose it was a bit crazy - I actually quit my job initially, but ended up staying on part time which has been a huge blessing. While I can't say that I make a living selling patterns, this is the most rewarding and gratifying work I've ever done. At my job, I design garments that get produced tens of thousands of times and are in stores across the country, but my name isn't on anything and I've never been able to interact with any of those customers. I love that with knitwear design you can talk to people, help them, see their finished projects - to me it is a lot more meaningful.  

Bijou Two Piece Set, Vogue Knitting Winter 2014/15

So many amazing things have come out of starting Girly Knits that I never would have imagined - winning The Fiber Factor and getting to go to Germany, being a guest on Knitting Daily TV, having a feature in Vogue Knitting. So while I haven't made a career of knitting, it's been absolutely worth the pursuit!  If that is what your heart is telling you to do, then go for it.

What’s next for you?
I just finished my new sock collection "Look at Those Legs!" which I had been working on for the past 7 months, so I'm just really excited to finally have those patterns out in the world! Right now I'm having fun thinking about what's next. I keep playing with the idea of doing a book, teaching in a more formal way, or manufacturing my designs. We'll see!

Check Meowt from Look at Those Legs Collection

Here are Lauren's other social media links:

instagram: girlyknits
twitter: girlyknits

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hand Knit Intimates - In the Category of Things which Make me Smile

Did you know there are 231 pattern in Ravelry tagged as Intimate Apparel?  These two are both designed by Joan McGowan-Michael

Joan McGowan-Michael seems to have the best record with these items, you can see all of her lingerie designs here

Monday, October 12, 2015

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Yes we do it on a different day than the U.S.

The reasoning...from our local news is:

"The common wisdom seems to be that because we’re so much farther north, our harvest days arrive earlier, and so we give thanks a lot sooner – although it’s hard to be grateful for an earlier winter. Whatever the truth, there’s one fact history can’t deny – Canada has been celebrating the holiday a lot longer than our southern neighbours.

Thanksgiving in Canada actually goes back to 1578 in Newfoundland, when explorer Martin Frobisher held a ceremony of gratitude for surviving the journey from Europe. Americans, led by the Puritans and the Mayflower, didn’t begin their annual tradition until 1621 – 43 years later."

Whatever the reason, I think there is a lot in my life to be grateful for and knitting is one of those many things.  I've included some Thanksgiving themed knitting projects.

Friday, October 9, 2015

An Interview with ... Xandy Peters

Petal Cowl

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 Xandy here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration comes in via two streams: the first is stitch development, and the second is styling and fashion. My stitch development generally starts with a "what if" question. The same thing goes for construction and shaping. It's all about trying as much as possible and getting a few decent things going on. At the same time I like to keep a folder of visuals and fashion sorted by theme and color scheme. Then, when things work, the swatches and the styling cues come together and make a full design.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I'm obsessed with stacks right now. They're interesting to work with because they do crazy things and there's always something new to discover with them. I can't think of any other technique that's really held my attention for as long.

Double Mustard

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

Everyone should look at other people's work to gain perspective. I try to see as much as possible but only follow a handful of people closely. I take classes with other designers to learn more about their design process, but I never worry about losing my own identity from studying with them. Sometimes I learn a few tricks for finishing or a new cast on though.

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

I've never been accused of dumbing down patterns, so I don't know exactly how to answer. There's a place for all levels of difficulty, and I prefer designing intricate things that don't come easy to everyone. I try to switch out some hard stitches for those that are easier to read in a pattern, and provide external videos and articles for the weird stuff, but that's as far as I'll go. Knitters, at least in my experience, are very smart people and can handle a lot of "difficult" techniques when they do not fear failure.

Uzbek Scarf

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

I do all my samples for the most part just because I need to work through things myself a lot of the time. My mother is my main tester, but I'm expanding to use others as my business grows. It's funny because I feel bad sometimes as if I'm forcing her to work for me, but every time she finishes a test she's like "what's next?" or she wants knit it again in another color.

Did you do a formal business plan?

Informally I do have a plan, goals, and do self reviews, but I am waiting to see how my first 3 years develop before really writing a business plan because at this point I'm still learning exactly what areas of knitting I want to be involved with.

Do you have a mentor?

In college I had a feeling that I wanted to do craft or indie design, so I interned for a brand that I found on Etsy called Ruffeo Hearts Li'l Snotty. They really understood the indie fashion world and had a gallery that sold other artists' handmade fashion as well as their stuff. It was most helpful to see people not much older than myself running a craft business and talking about operating costs and marketing and real business issues. At the same time, they taught me the practical skills of how to grade, cut, and sew patterns.


 Do you use a tech editor?

Yes!! It's really important and nobody told me that I needed one until I'd released a few of my first patterns. I wasn't thinking of doing this as a career back then, but those first patterns could have been better.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Because I have an illness, it's not easy or practical for me to work a job with regular hours. Being able to plan my own schedule allows me to get a lot of work done when I feel well and take a break when I need to rest. It also allows me to plan ahead for big events and appointments. I don't think there are many other forms of work that would allow me to have that flexibility and balance.


How do you deal with criticism?

I welcome it and possibly crave it. I miss the critiques that I got in college because I know that some criticism would make a lot of my work better. I try to take the comments people have after the fact and apply them to future designs.

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

The internet is an amazing place to try out self publishing before making a major life change. Go through the whole process once the right way and see if you still like to knit when it's your job. 

What’s next for you?

I'll be teaching some of my patterns (Fox Paws especially) and techniques. Of course, I also have some new experiments in the works.

Fox Paws