Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Win Socks for Life? (or at least the yarn to knit them)

I've been asked by the people at to share the news of a contest they are running. I don't know much about this company so I did a quick search on Ravelry. There aren't very many comments but so far all of them are good. 

They're giving away enough yarn to knit a pair of socks every season for the next 25 years (about 100 pairs!). The prize will go to whomever can show how their life will most be changed by winning and what you will do with the prize.  If you don’t want to use all the yarn to make socks? That’s okay, no hard feelings. 

Judges will pick the top five entries and then it goes to a public vote to choose the winner. This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents. 

Contest link:

Entry deadline: Dec 7, 2016. Winner Announced: Dec 14.

Good Luck!

Monday, November 28, 2016

How to Read your Knitting Part 4

I learned to knit when charts were not common. Most of the early knitting charts I used were for colour work not stitch work. When you learn from text, there is a tendency for you to focus on the text instead of the appearance of the work. This stitch is knitted lace, which means it has patterning on both sides. Charting it to North American standards means you have a visual representation of how it looks, but the knitter has to pay attention to wrong side and right side rows and reverse the (usually empty square) for the knit and purl symbols in their head. I find when I'm teaching stitches like this one, that text is more easily used as long as the knitter also figures out how to track where they are by reading their knitting. Here's a stitch pattern to try. The stitch pattern below is a simple 2 row pattern. It repeats over 4 stitches.

Vertical Openwork (multiple of 4)

Row 1 (RS): * K2, yo, ssk; rep from *.

Row 2 (WS): * P2, yo, p2tog; rep from *.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until desired length. 

I've added a garter stitch border around the edge of the sample I'm showing.

I've knit a few rows so you can see the pattern established. On the first few repeats you are completely dependent on the text. Once you complete a few rows start paying attention to how each stitch lines up with those around it.

On the next Row 1, notice the first knit stitch is on top of the p2tog from the previous row. The second knit stitch is made into the yo of the previous row. After working into a yo, you make a yo and finally you make the ssk. If you look at the work you can see the ssk is always made into a visually strong vertical column of twisted stitches.

On the next Row 2, notice the first purl is on top of the ssk from the previous row. The second purl is made into the yo of the previous row. After working into a yo, you make a yo and finally you make the p2tog. If you look at the work you can see the p2tog is always made into a visually strong vertical column of twisted stitches.

The best way to learn this is to practice and while you make each stitch assess the relationship to the stitches around it and think it out more like this:

Row 1 (RS): K3 for the border,* k1, k1 into the yo from the previous row, yo, ssk into the vertical column; rep from *, knit 3 for the border.

Row 2 (WS): K3 for the border, * p1, p1 into the yo from the previous row, yo, p2tog into the vertical column; rep from *, knit 3 for the border.

If you stay focused on the second stitch always being worked into the yo of the previous row, it will be hard to go wrong for more than a few stitches without noticing it. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

An Interview with...Mari Chiba

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 Mari here and here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration?
I love ready to wear, Pinterest, fashion magazines, and in particular Anthropologie. Though I don't think I've ever shopped there, I think they have some beautiful and interesting design ideas! The Blue Columbine Cardigan from Interweave Knits Summer 2015 was based on some open back cardigans I saw on Pinterest...not sure who made it, but it was machine made lace. The Circular Tunic from Knit.Wear Spring/Summer 2014 was inspired by an Anthropologie top that was crochet. I take a lot of inspiration from ready to wear.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I don't think I have one... I love knitting!

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I do! Part of my day job, working with Stitchcraft Marketing, is advising my clients on their upcoming pattern collections. I help with logistics, coordinating, and also discussing what's trending in the market. I obviously try not to design things that look similar to what other designers do, but at the end of the day what sells the best and appeals to most people are variations on a familiar theme. I just try to add my own spin and aesthetic.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I very rarely use sample/test knitters. I do most of it myself. When I first started designing I had a lot more time to knit, and I could churn out a fingering weight sweater in a week or less. Now I have a 1 year old, and as all the parents out there can attest to, I have a LOT less time!

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes! And when people ask me about becoming a designer, I always tell them to become a tech editor instead, or at least first. Tech editors are amazing, and although I've informally edited others patterns for style, I think it's hubris to think one can tech edit their own work.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
This is one I'm still working on. If you have any tips on how to manage a full time job from home, freelance design on the side, and be a good mom I'd be open to hearing them! I did recently hire part time child care, so that's helped a lot, but I still work until 9 or 10 pm most week nights and work at least one half day on the weekend.

How do you deal with criticism?
What criticism?

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I realized pretty early on that one revenue source wasn't going to be a realistic way for me to earn a living in this industry. Through hard work and good luck, I met Leanne Pressly, the owner of Stitchcraft Marketing at TNNA while working in a booth for a yarn company. That was more than 4 years ago. At first I started part time, and was also designing, working in a yarn store, and teaching knitting. I came to a point a couple years ago when I realized that although I love designing, and will probably always write knitting patterns, I really like my day job and the stability it provides. Now I rarely teach, spend less time designing, and spend a lot of time and energy on my career with Stitchcraft.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Get as many different experiences as you can within the industry. I meet a lot of designers who can't understand the yarn company perspective, because they've never walked in their shoes. Or other industry professionals who have no idea how much time and effort it takes to write and grade a pattern. I've worked in a yarn store, sold yarn wholesale, taught knitting to a variety of skill levels, and all of those experiences have helped me get to where I am, doing what I love.

What’s next for you?
This is a tough one, I'm not sure. I hope to eventually write a book, and I started a book proposal just as I got pregnant, and haven't looked at it since. We'll see!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How to Read your Knitting Part 3

The next challenge new knitters face when reading their knitting is seeing the difference between reverse stocking stitch and garter stitch. This one is the often the fault of teachers. Most of us tell the knitters to look for the v or the bump while we teach the difference between knit and purl. We do this because at early learning stages we give the simplest possible explanation. When we get to garter stitch the knitter sees all those bumps and says "AHA those are purls, this must be reverse stocking stitch". They are right, they are seeing purls but now they need to add on a new understanding of how those bumps are laid out. Look carefully at the top and bottom of the photo above. It's edged with garter stitch. Can you see how in garter stitch the stitches show a horizontal alignment? Now look at the photo below and see what happens when I pull the fabric apart. Garter stitch has wider recessed sections between the rows of purl bumps. When I'm swatching garter stitch I check those rows, if they are really obvious it may mean I need to go down in needle size.

Stitch orientation is the other topic I'd like to address here. Different knitting styles exist which don't follow this standard however, almost all written materials assume this stitch mount. If you knit in a different manner it is not wrong, you just need to be aware of it so you can adjust accordingly when it is required. The yarn goes over the needle from the front to the back. The front leg is on the right, the back leg is at the left.

You can see my needle has been inserted ready to knit, notice the back leg is to the left. Here's another angle. 

Here's a close up. 

Sometimes we purposely change the stitch mount to make specific changes to our knitting as part of a stitch pattern. We often create an incorrect stitch mount when we are correcting errors such as picking up a dropped stitch or when we tear back a few rows and replace the stitches on our needle. 

Here's a twisted stitch worked with incorrect orientation. You can identify it by looking at the base of the stitch, you can see the leg crosses at the bottom of the stitch and it doesn't lay smoothing on the plane of the fabric.

Friday, November 18, 2016

An Interview with...Melanie Gibbons

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 Melanie here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I can be inspired by just about anything. Sometimes it's as obviously knitting related as a stitch pattern, sometimes I'm inspired by a garment whether historical or costumes from a movie. Often my inspiration is less obvious. Nature is always inspiring, from patterns and textures to colors. I love fairy tales, myths, and ballets. Certain movies like Moulin Rouge, the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, and some of the Chinese language movies (Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) are so rich visually that you can't help but be inspired. I love colors and sometimes find ideas in colors, whether a single color (I chose my wedding colors based on a stack of dictionaries in the campus bookstore in college – they were an amazing, glowing shade of metallic periwinkle) or color combinations. Most of the time inspiration comes from more than one source and I often don't know where all my inspiration was rooted by the time I finish a design. Not everything translates into knitting or at least I haven't figured out how to take it from inspiration to knitting (yet), but I can still sketch ideas and note my thoughts and feelings. I try to keep notes and sketches because you never know when an idea might be useful. Sometimes just going through older sketches and ideas will trigger something new.

What is your favorite knitting technique?

When I first began designing I was all about lace. I still love lace but I also love cables and other textures. Honestly, I'm kind of having a love affair with stockinette and garter stitch right now. The simplicity of those stitches just appeals to me. I think I've proven to myself that I can knit some crazy and complex projects, but those aren't the pieces I find myself reaching for when I get dressed in the morning. I'm trying to focus on knitting things I'll actually wear.

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

I look at and knit other designers' work all the time. I don't worry about “copying” others' designs because I'm going to make sure my design is my own. If I am inspired by someone else's design but only make a few changes, I'm not going to release a pattern for it. Small modifications are what Ravelry project notes are for. Often, when I look at other designers' work, I see it more as trends (“oh look, there's lots of textural striped shawl patterns coming out right now”) and then I can either use the trend as a jumping off point for my own designs or ignore it and go a different direction.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
That's not something I've really concerned myself with. Maybe it's because most of my designs aren't really for beginners. If I'm using a less common technique then I usually try to explain it with pictures or diagrams, but I don't really explain things that can be looked up in a basic knitting book. Today's knitter has the option of not only some really great books, but also videos, Ravelry, and other online resources that can explain things. I try to write my patterns so that if you've got a basic understanding of knitting, you can knit them. Anything strange, I will explain. I also like to include tips and notes that might be helpful.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself and do you use a tech editor?
I test knit and tech edit everything myself. I tend to design and chart a pattern first, then I knit it and both proofread and “proofknit.” I work with a highlighter and just mark up the chart and directions where ever the design needs correcting or just clarification. The majority of my designs are just one size although I try to include notes on changing sizes on patterns where that's practical (shortening or lengthening shawls for instance).

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I started writing patterns when my son was little and it was always something I did around family life. I definitely do not work eight hour days, five days a week. We started homeschooling him three years ago and while he's old enough that he does the majority of his schoolwork on his own, I'm still available for questions and help if he needs it. This means that I don't really get the uninterrupted blocks of time to brainstorm and design right now like I used to and in the evenings I might be too mentally tired to design. At this point, knitting design is definitely taking a backseat to life, but I'm still coming up with ideas, there are sketches and plans but they'll have to wait until I can really explore them.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I'm probably not the best person to be offering advice, but I guess that would depend on what this “someone” defines as a career. If you're just looking to start writing patterns, I'd say go for it! The Internet, Paypal, and Ravelry (and other selling platforms) make it really easy to write patterns and offer them for sale. On the other hand, this ease of publishing means anyone can do it so you really need to look at the other things available on these platforms and make sure your designs stand out if you're hoping to sell very many of them. Original ideas aren't necessarily enough if your pattern isn't clearly written or the photographs don't show it clearly. If you're looking to make knitting your primary source of income, I'm definitely the wrong person to ask but there are a number of threads on Ravelry that deal with the specific details of designing as a full time career and how realistic this dream is (or is not). I'd recommend doing some research before you quit your day job!

What's next for you?
On the homeschooling front, Caleb will graduate in 2019, so I'm probably not going to have very many new designs between now and then. I do keep getting ideas and inspiration happens everywhere, so while I may not be writing patterns right now, there are seedlings that could grow into patterns in the future. I enjoy designing, but I've found that my creative process requires more alone, quiet time than I get right now. I can accept this because I feel like the choices we've made as a family are important. The knitting designs can just percolate in my head for a bit!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Vacation Time

I've gotten behind in writing posts as my husband and I just got back from a trip to Florida visiting friends. Today I'm off to have lunch with a girlfriend and then I have a guild meeting tonight. Here's a few photos of the resort we were at. Our friends have a condo there and we stayed in the hotel. We did a little touring around that area of Florida, ate a lot of really good food, spent a day at the pool and I think I gained some weight so it's back to normal eating and exercising now. 


Monday, November 14, 2016

What's your Yarn Inconsistency Tolerance Level?

Have you ever seen a label like this? I have.

I had a comment from someone who bought one of my patterns and used the suggested yarn for the pattern. 

It's this pattern:

The yarn is Knitted Fever Painted Desert. The knitter was unhappy with the yarn because she felt it had been spun too unevenly. It's a three ply yarn and when the three strands line up in spots where all three are thinner you get a skinny section and the same happens when it lines up three thicker sections. Generally the strands balance one another out, making these inconsistencies of each single ply less noticeable. It got me thinking about how do knitters decide what's acceptable and what isn't.

I think my range must be pretty wide because I didn't have a problem with this yarn, if anything I was surprised by the comment, but then I also really like Noro yarns too. I've seen a lot of negative commentary on Ravelry about Noro yarns. I like the uneven, imperfect nature of many yarns. To me it makes them feel more natural and reminds me they come from plants and animals. I do think we need to remember all natural fibres have this tendency to vary and spinning techniques play a role here as well. Often thick and thin yarns are created on purpose. Hand spun yarns are also more likely to vary in thickness. Man made fibres are often consistent in thickness as synthetic fibres are extruded polymers. Do recognize this isn't about the price of the yarn or the quality of the yarn. I'm currently working with a gorgeous merino, cashmere and silk blend which is much more uneven than some knitters would be happy with.

So what's a knitter to do? I think the simplest thing to do is to look carefully at your ball of yarn and specifically follow the individuals strands with your eye. You can often see the variations sitting on the outside of the ball. If you prefer a more consistent yarn and you see unevenness that yarn is probably not for you. Remember knitting is all about pleasing yourself.

Friday, November 11, 2016

An Interview with...Christopher Salas

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 Christopher here and  here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration?
I find my inspiration in different ways. If I’m out and about, I may notice a structure or pattern in a building or in a plant and I try to see if I can make it work in a similar look. One time, I saw a plant while watching Jurassic Park or something, and the way the leaves looked on a prehistoric plant, I came up with what is my Athyrium shawl. I might also scroll through Ravelry and see a pattern with a certain technique I like, and I use that in some form for another design. Other times, I’ll just draw shapes, and fill in the canvas.

What is your favorite knitting technique?

I’m starting to enjoy a lot of lace designs lately. I chart out a few different patterns that I’ll swatch at another time to see what I like or how it can be modified. Also, textured stitched outside of regular knit and purl are fascinating to me. One of my favorites is the star stitch, because it’s subtle, but eye catching. Just anything that plays with texture in general.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? A little of both, actually. I’m not afraid to say that I go to a lot of my favorite designers to gather some fresh inspiration (Melanie Berg, is my top favorite, so I always see what she’s released). At the same time, I make my work have my own touch to it, only because I’m worried that some may think I’m copying another designer. Once I feel that a design is something that has already been done, I abandon it completely and restart.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I think that the subject is different from each different designer. Personally, I’ve always written patterns the best I can for the knitter to understand, and if anyone needs help, I feel like I’ve been there. That’s really what any good designer should do: give as clear instructions as they can. At the same time, if I want a design to turn out a particular way, I won’t change it for the sake of difficulty. There are a lot of tough patterns out there. It’s just a matter of the designer to be clear on what should be done, and to offer help if they can.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I don’t necessarily employ test knitters. A lot of the friends I work with knit, and they are always looking forward to what I can design and are usually willing to make a new sample of mine. I will knit the original sample, and hand it off to another to see if anything may be off, unclear, or incorrect.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I had NO CLUE what I was doing from the beginning! When I first discovered you can sell patterns on Ravelry, it wasn’t even a way for me to be well known or anything. I just typed up a pattern in a fairly rough format and uploaded it. I didn’t think of anything from a professional standpoint until me and my friend (who also knits) were talking. The subject came up about my sales numbers, and she suggested, firmly but helpfully, that as it starts taking off, I need to make sure everything was in order. After getting some other tips, I found some good ways to organize, do my own financial summaries, inventory, etc. I still ask for help every now and then, but it’s definitely better than it was in the beginning.

Do you have a mentor?
Not truly a mentor, but some of the people that I always look to and learn from are Francoise Danoy of Aroha Knits for her social media skills, Sarah Abram (Sarah Bear Crafts), who is really good at making connections with other knitters, and Kyle Kunneke, for being a good friend, amazing colorwork knitter, and a person I can go to for help of how to make knitting techniques happen.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really, to be honest.

Do you use a tech editor?
My co-workers, who have knit and designed their own patterns, are great help. I owe them a lot, because they have always had faith in me with designing, and have always been willing to help me with the testing and editing. Sometimes, if a pattern is straightforward and simple, I don’t use a tech editor for anything major other than a quick edit on grammar and such.

How do you maintain your life/work balance? It’s tough. I have a full time job at Jimmy Beans Wool, which I enjoy very much. There are times when they want me to design for them, which in some cases, is a one skein project that would take no time at all (compared to other projects). In my off time from that, I knit, write patterns, make time for photos, and other things related to my business. I still knit when I’m at my parent’s house visiting, when I’m at a coffee shot or relaxing at home. Sometimes, I even go to a local bar near my studio, have a beer and knit. I even do it when I’m with friends sometimes. They’ve gotten used to it, but bug me if I’m ever going to make them anything.

How do you deal with criticism? I am always open to criticism in a constructive sense, especially from anyone who buys my patterns. One of my favorite moments was when someone said that I need to start including more close up photos so that people can see the work better. Now, I make sure that’s what I do. I’ve always taken constructive criticism from others. It comes down to a matter of whether it will work more me, and if it works for the whole group and not for one person’s benefit. Also, I’ve been lucky to not get any flat-out, mean comments or anything like that. If anything, I figure that that’s just ignored.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
At this point, I can’t financially support myself on designing alone, which is why I still work for Jimmy Beans Wool. Luckily, it’s an environment that is related to my passion, which makes it much more enjoyable. But in general, I was able to support myself since I lived in Portland with my friends (I live in Reno now). Even with roommates, I paid bills, had a job, took care of everything, but here in Reno, I am lucky to be stable enough to have my own place, pay for my necessities, and live a way that may not be luxury, but definitely comfortable.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
PRACTICE, and… PRACTICE! My first month of knitting was hell. Every mistake that could be made was made. But I still practiced when I had time. Also, don’t be intimidated by someone who can knit a whole shawl in a week if you are still halfway through a scarf after six weeks. They were at your level also. But they didn’t give up. They wanted to get better. You just have to have that same level of desire. Maybe even a higher level.

What’s next for you?
At the moment, I am working on a collaboration MKAL design for later this winter, and another MKAL for Jimmy Beans Wool to be released next month. After that, I am focusing a bit more on more shawl patterns that I am dying to cast on. One thing I am very excited for is that I will have a design in Vogue Knitting Holiday Magazine, which will be my first time I am in print. Once I knit a sweater I have queued after those, I am going to try my hand at actual garments. Next year, I am going to start networking more directly by attending more things like Stitches West and TNNA in Long Beach. As for designing, I also want to reach out to more publications and do more design submissions. It’s a road that requires a lot of work, but I love it so much. I didn’t think I would ever even learn to knit. Now, I can’t see myself NOT knitting!