Friday, April 29, 2016

The Glenhost Wrap

I released a new pattern yesterday and there will be another one up by Monday. The first is the Glenhost Wrap

It's another collaboration with Patrick Madden of Signature Yarns

The yarn is Americo's Original Winter Flamme, in Bordeaux and  Petrol Blue which is  69% Superfine Alpaca and 31% wool.  Both colours are dense and saturated. The yarn is textured and slightly hairy.

The wrap is worked starting from one narrow point. The stitches increase on one side and decrease on the opposite edge. This method creates a triangle with long points to wrap around your neck, tie or pin into place. The stripes are worked in a textural stitch to create a reversible fabric. The combination of a blended alpaca and wool yarn knitted at a loose gauge creates a very soft fabric with drape.

Patrick has provided me with lots of great photos for this project.



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Does Price equal Quality?

I got some feedback from a knitter when I published this pattern:

She was very disappointed in my yarn choice. We didn't get a chance for a full discussion but I did leave thinking it was an odd reaction since initially she was very complimentary when she saw the garment. I may have misinterpreted but it appeared my yarn choice just wasn't upscale enough for her tastes. It also seemed a little strange since 100% worsted weight wool seems to me to be one of the very easy substitutes. 

I used Wool of the Andes Superwash however, when I was asked, I forgot to say it was the Superwash so I know that wasn't the reason. I know many knitters don't like Superwash but I do. I like it's softer hand and drape. I've never had a problem with the growth issue I read about on Ravelry. I will say, I do squeeze out most of the moisture with a towel before I handle the garment to avoid stressing and stretching the fabric.

I expect that the yarn snob factor does play into to our yarn choices (mine included) but my experience is that price does not always equal quality. Price is what the market will bear.

So for comparison sake here's a few equivalent yarns and their prices. I've adjusted for put-up size basing everything on 50 gram balls. I used only Superwash in the examples because it is more expensive than non Superwash due to the extra processing. I used prices in US dollars. I found the equivalents on 

Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Superwash $5.10

Classic Elite Yarns Liberty Wool $4.48
Knit One, Crochet Too Ty-Dy Wool $4.50

Ella Rae Classic Superwash $3.14

Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted $5.75

Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Superwash $3.69

When you multiply prices over the cost required for a whole sweater this can be significant and of course the size required has an impact as well. 

I realized when I created this list my own preconceived ideas played into my assumptions. I expected the Rowan to be the most expensive and it is. I thought Brown Sheep was a lower end product, yet it is the second highest price. I have a friend who loves the Ella Rae line and who is very focused on quality so the lowest price on the list was a surprise. I'm realizing that the only way to truly compare is with hands on experimentation. 

The Knit Picks example is fascinating because their business model is unique. From their website:

All the other yarns come from a manufacturer before landing at the online sites where I took prices from. The Knit Picks model skips the intermediate step with yarn which accounts for their lower pricing.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Knitted Bugs

Spring finally seems to be arriving here in Toronto, which has me thinking about gardening, which leads me to bugs. It's amazing how much trouble even a container gardener who is high up, has with bugs. This year I'm trying the waspinator. Last summer I had lots of them visiting and I'll see how this works.

Now on to knitting content with knitted bugs!


Friday, April 22, 2016

An Interview with...Michael Dworjan

The pattern for this shawl will be published in June

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
Michael here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
That's hard to say.  I'm very technique driven so I guess I find most of my inspiration by playing with techniques and then trying to picture how they would work with a garment once I've stumbled upon one I like.  Cables are very different for me, however.  I find designing cables to be kind of like painting - I just have this intuition about how to put them together, to get them to flow, and just let my pen take me on a journey as I sketch.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
Probably double-knitting - you can do so much with it. You can do things with it people can't even imagine: cables that look completely different on each side, contrasting yarn overs, mixing lace with colorwork, having cables just appear out of nowhere and disappear again, and so much more.  I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface of what double-knitting can offer, and I'm extremely eager to start the exploration once more.
How did you determine your size range?
Generally I stick to accessories so it isn't an issue. When I do do sizing I try to be as inclusive as possible but oftentimes the technique or pattern will dictate it. One can only go so small with certain stitch patterns and I'd rather not compromise my design to be more inclusive in my sizing.
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I do look at other designers' work but not for inspiration, more because I enjoy looking at knitwear and find some designs to be quite stunning.  I have no fear that I will be influenced by other designs - my designs tend to come about from me playing with techniques.  I do often utilize stitch dictionaries to fill in or modify my designs, however. They're an invaluable resource.

This cowl will be published some time in the future

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I was unaware that there was a controversy.  I can't say I really "dumb down" my patterns, but then I'm not quite certain what that means in this context.  I do try to think about the difficulty level of a pattern and include instructions in an easier pattern that I might not include in a more advanced pattern, but as far as I know that's common practice.  I also list out the techniques that will be used on the pattern page on Ravelry so that people know what they'll be getting themselves into.  In the future I hope to make some video tutorials of various techniques in order to be even more inclusive with my designs.
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have a friend of mine who's sample knit a pattern before, but usually I do everything myself.  I enjoy utilizing test knitters, however, but don't have a particular set of test knitters I use for every project.
Did you do a formal business plan?
Not yet, but I have some ideas of where I'd like to go with this business in the future.  I keep a journal of design ideas and industry ideas and then look for ways to implement them with my knitting, work, and family schedules.

Do you have a mentor?
I have friends that I sometimes bounce ideas off of or ask for advice.  Sometimes one of them will give me a great idea and then I'll figure out how to implement it.  I guess to answer your question, I don't really feel like I have a mentor so much as really good friends.
Do you use a tech editor?
Technically? Part of my wife's day job is as a technical writer and editor, so I'll often have her look over patterns before I do anything with them.  I also go over my own patterns with a fine tooth comb.  I find test knitters to be the most valuable resource when it comes to tech editing, however.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
It helps that my wife knits and that my entire social circle consists of knitters.  I generally only work on the parts of this business where I have to ignore people when I legitimately have time to myself.  Could I get more done by actually ignoring the people I love? Definitely, but I wouldn't be nearly as happy.

How do you deal with criticism?
I try to take it as it is and evaluate it, see if myself or others find it to be legitimate.  If it is, then I look for ways to change it.  If it isn't then I do my best to ignore it.
What’s next for you?
I have a lot of ideas for designs I'm hoping to pursue. I've spent a lot of my time thus far playing with techniques and feel I've innovated a few, but now I think it's time to take a step back and create more designs with the techniques I've discovered rather than continue to push my boundaries, at least for awhile.  I'm also hoping to play with dyeing yarn in the near future and am looking forward to integrating my designs with colorways I've actually created.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Knitting Tips - Pattern Length

One of the fun things about Knit nights with friends and in yarn shops is that I get to hear what other knitters are thinking. I've heard some very funny comments about pattern length in relationship to how knitters choose what to knit. We tend to have mental short cuts which are often referred to as cognitive biases. I love this stuff, it plays to my interest in psychology and why people make the decisions they do. 

There's an explanation and a gigantic list of examples here on Wikipedia.

One of the ones I've heard often, especially with newer knitters is "length of pattern equals complexity". 

As a pattern writer I know this shortcut has the kernel of truth which starts the bias but unfortunately it just doesn't hold up with the changing world.

The example above falls into the category of a simple one page pattern. It's one size, hasn't got a schematic and the stitch pattern is charted. However, for a knitter who doesn't use charts there would still be a learning curve. No text instructions for a stitch pattern makes the pattern length much shorter. 

Most yarn company patterns are brief as well because there are printing costs for those freebies. They are brief for some other reasons as well. Size ranges are often very limited, there is no technique support and often the pattern is in stocking stitch or garter.

The pattern world has changed with consumer demand and the availability of PDF downloads. Knitters want patterns to write out mirror image shaping, so we do. They want techniques to be explained in the pattern, so we write them out or supply a link to more detailed information. Size ranges of less than six are considered to be substandard. In my own case I have done several patterns where grading meant I wrote separate sections by size to assist the knitter in establishing a stitch pattern. Many of my patterns have both text and charted stitch patterns. 

Here's another simple pattern which is five pages in length.

Look at what you get with this one. Seven sizes, written instructions, and two construction methods. The pattern is five times as long but the complexity appears to be roughly equal.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Update on De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

I'm knitting again but I'm choosing my projects very carefully. I seem to do better with yarns with good elasticity. In retrospect I had been working on a cotton top when the De Quervain's Tenosynovitis kicked in again. I've been doing the massage, stretching and rubber ball exercises that I mentioned in my last post on this topic. I think cables may be out for a while. At the moment I'm working on items with knit-purl texture stitches and I might be forced to try some plain old boring stocking stitch. I'll have to add stripes or something to keep me interested. I tried swatching a bulky yarn on a 10 mm. I was thinking a large needle might be easier but the pain started up by Row 8. If you want to know more about De Quervain's, there's more info on Pinterest here.

Many thanks to all of you who sympathized with my frustration. Since I started knitting again I'm feeling much more normal.

Friday, April 15, 2016

An Interview with...Karie Westermann


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 Karie here and here on Ravelry.


Where do you find inspiration?
I am not someone who goes “There's a tree! I'll make a scarf!” - instead I notice things like the bark having a specific structure or how ice crystals form patterns on leaves. I basically try to keep my eyes open, as you can see the most marvelous things if you really look. For instance I really love a specific pedestrian footpath over the motorway here in Glasgow – its combination of colour and form is fantastic. 

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I have a very soft spot for Estonian lace, though I've never actually designed any. It's the way they play with the concept of 'stitch'. 

How did you determine your size range?
I've worked a lot with third-party publishing and they ask for a large size range, so it's natural for me to think of garments in seven sizes and at least two sizes for accessories. 


Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
There is definitely a clear difference between technical and aesthetic decisions. Because of my working life and my career path, I've spent a lot of time editing or working with other designers. I find it interesting to see how they make technical decisions. Aesthetic decisions? I don't find them nearly as interesting. 

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
At the end of the day my job is to make sure that as many people as possible can follow my patterns. There is a difference between hand-holding (or "dumbing down") and making patterns accessible. Again, it's about understanding who you are as a designer, knowing your audience, and writing clear patterns. I don't tend to write entry level patterns but I admire those who can write them. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I try to knit everything myself. I much prefer that. I've only had a couple of people help me out when I over-committed to deadlines - but it's not something I'm entirely comfortable doing. 

Did you do a formal business plan?
Yep. And I keep adjusting it. 

Do you have a mentor?
Yes, I’ve been mentored. It was an organic situation where I met some people who had been in the industry for a long time and they sat down to ask me some hard questions about some choices I had made. I found our conversations really useful - I thought it’d be me asking them questions but it turned out to be the other way around. I didn’t pay for the mentoring and our conversations grew into lasting friendships. They still ask me hard questions but that’s great - I learn & grow from that. I’ve also helped out some new designers, though I’m not really in a position to mentor anyone.


Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really. I think we all bring something different to the table and it's all about sussing out what makes your business work.

Do you use a tech editor?
Oh heck, yes. I'm always slightly shocked when I hear people don't use one. Editors are like that person who comes in after you've spent the entire day cooking and who'll tell you that you need to add a touch of salt. Tech editors make me both a better designer and a better pattern writer.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I have set office times and I've recently hired admin help. 

How do you deal with criticism?
I think of it as invaluable learning experience. I try to keep getting better at myself and feedback is fantastic. 

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I worked p/t for a yarn company for nearly 5 years before going fully self-employed. I probably could have launched sooner but I learned so much from my p/t job. I was able to support myself by the time I launched full-time. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Work in the knitting industry in various capacities before going for it full-time. I learned so much from doing pattern support for a yarn company, working with buy plans, looking at sales figures, figuring out how to put together collections, and working with absolute pros. Heck, just try working in a yarn shop for a few hours here and there.

What’s next for you?
I'm in the process of some major changes to my business. I'm taking on some staff and I'm working on a pretty big project that's due to launch. It's exciting and a bit scary!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What Knitters can Learn from Sewers

Same measurements, very different figures

Threads magazine has always been a great resource for garment makers.

Knitters struggle with fit partially because they lack the fully detailed information which is available to sewers. There's a great online article here on the Threads site. 

Students often ask me where to find these resources so I'd like to share a few of the highlights and images here, but please do go read the article in it's entirety. The article focuses on armholes, however the bodice fitting details are very helpful for your understanding of fit.

Understanding  the terminology of fit.

"People with identical bust and over-bust measurements often fit into the same size and style pattern differently. The shape of your body depends on where you carry your flesh and dictates the shape of an armhole. A muslin is the testing ground-it's the perfect place to sort out fit issues."

This is important to your understanding. I'm a 37 inch bust but my frame size is often smaller than a 35 inch bust measurements.

"And the only way I know to successfully fit an armhole is to use a muslin."

Measuring off the body is very difficult it gives you a starting point but fitting with a garment is the only way to understand the three dimensional nature of your shape.

"A muslin tells you more than your measurements alone do."

Use your existing garments to figure some of this out. 

"Most patterns are cut too low under the arm."
If it's too big you can still wear it. Too small and you can't.
"Changing your shoulder seam is a judgment call. The seam should lie along the top of the shoulder at a place that balances the body front to back and follows the natural slope of the shoulder. The shoulder point falls on the shoulder seam at the exact place the arm and shoulder come together-at the dent that forms when you lift your arm."
I usually use the small bone which protrudes at the back of the shoulder. This way works too. 

I know most knitters don't want to go through the process of creating a fitting muslin. Understanding these fitting standards and adjustments will help you to use a more critical eye when assessing your garments and the pattern schematics. It's best to develop your knowledge slowly. I made many garments and studied pattern drafting to grow my understanding and you can too!

Monday, April 11, 2016

How to Maintain a Stitch Pattern While Shaping Part 1

I'm not a big fan of pattern difficulty ratings. I feel they are too vague. The only knitters they really work for are the experienced ones. They are the knitters who have the knowledge to understand what descriptions like "Easy: Projects using basic stitches, repetitive stitch patterns, simple color changes, and simple shaping and finishing"  really mean. What I think a basic stitch is and what another knitter thinks it is, varies widely based on their previous knitting experience. I list an experience level in my patterns, but only because it's become a standard to do so and Ravelry and Patternfish make me. 

I've already had a test knitter suggest I up a difficultly rating on a sample she knit for me. I did because I trust her judgement and she is an amazing knitter. I list the skills required in each pattern so knitters can more easily determine if the pattern is one they want to try. Many of my patterns include the skill: maintaining a stitch pattern while working shaping.  

When knitting your first projects, often a scarf, which has no shaping, you continue knitting on the same number of stitches you cast on. Every row of the stitch pattern will begin and end as written in your pattern. Once you are ready to move on to other projects you will increase or decrease stitches to create shaping and patterns will say "while maintaining stitch pattern...". Now you have additional stitches outside of the pattern repeat. With some stitches it is very clear, you can look at your knitting and easily see where you are within the stitch pattern. An example would be cable stitches worked in straight vertical columns. Patterns do try to give specific directions for every detail, but sometimes the best option is to establish a stitch pattern and have the knitter keep it going. Often this is impacted by the size range. The more sizes, the more instructions and pattern pages which would be required to detail every size individually.

It's important to learn to understand your stitch pattern and understand by looking at your knitting what comes next. Most knitters refer to this as reading your knitting. Your first opportunity to do this is on your swatch. When you knit the swatch, pay attention not just to following the stitch instructions but also to how each stitch relates to the ones on either side and below. Chart instructions naturally encourage knitters to understand this relationship, which is why they are so popular. 

As you can see in the above photo, it can get much more complicated. Essentially what you are being asked to do is to think ahead of the knitting and understand how future rows relate to the row you are currently knitting and adding or removing stitches from. I'll be continuing this topic in future, so please check back for more. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

An Interview with...Kessa Tay Anlin


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 Kessa  here and here on Ravelry.

A Giving Heart Fingerless Mitts

Where do you find inspiration?
Sometimes a design element on a stranger’s clothes on the street caught my eye, sometimes one just pops up in my mind. The design element can be a motif, a shape or a feature like a particular cable or keyhole.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I enjoy seamless knits and stockinette stitch. Although seams are useful in some cases, I consider it a major advantage of knitting to be able to seamlessly shape garments to fit.

How did you determine your size range?
As I’m quite petite by standard sizing (one of the main reasons I started to learn to make my own clothes), I make that the starting size. And then I add a few sizes, usually in 2” (bust circumference) increments. I would like to include even more bigger sizes but I find that the seamless knits/style I usually design do not seem to work out as well on bigger sizes.



Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I enjoy checking them out when they come within my radar, because it is a fun way to try something new. I also enjoy a break from designing and being able to knit mindlessly once in a while.


How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I do not think it is a bad thing at all. In my opinion, a good pattern should have sufficient information for a knitter to complete his/her project without needing a knitting encyclopedia, especially when a specific technique is included. For example, there is a whole range of ways to make increases so it will be nice, as a knitter looking to unwind with some knitting, not to have to figure it out by scrutinizing the model or spend an hour researching. Also, the knitting scene is so international these days, I think having a comprehensive and well explained pattern is extremely helpful to those whose native language is different from the one used in the pattern.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have a list of contacts who have expressed interest in testing my designs. I try to take 1 or 2 testers for each size.

Celtic Hill

Do you have a mentor?
I am a self-taught knitter and designer.

Do you use a tech editor?

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
It is a little tricky with a baby in the household, so I have taken a break from designing in the last couple of years.


How do you deal with criticism?
I try to think about it from different perspectives. If I agree with the criticism, I try to improve on it.

What’s next for you?
I hope to return to designing in the near future.