Monday, July 31, 2017

Qualities of Fabric - Sheen

Fabrics may be considered to be matte, have sheen or be shiny. Fashion stylists will tell you that shine draws the eye of the viewer and will therefore make an area look larger or at least bring the viewer's attention. Matte fabrics will recede and may make you look a little slimmer. These effects are very subtle. Many of us draw attention to our faces with the sheen of jewellery or silk scarves.

I've collected some detail shots of some of my patterns for you, unfortunately the detail doesn't show as well as I would like. The top row is from left; mohair, bamboo and rayon/sea silk. The bottom row is mixed fibre rayon/wool/mohair, super wash wool and mohair/silk with a metallic thread. You might find it helpful to look through your own clothing comparing wool, cotton, silk and rayon to increase your understanding.

Here's a few fabric photos I pulled off of Pinterest to help demonstrate. 

Sheen, shine and matte.

We see mainly matte yarns and yarns with a little sheen in the knitting world. I did knit a very shiny sweater from lurex yarn  many years ago like this one:

One other think to keep in mind is Imogene of Inside Outside Style  recommends matching our natural sheen with at least one item of the things we wear to create harmony.

Friday, July 28, 2017

An Interview with...Katherine Matthews

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 Katherine here and here on Ravelry. She is on Instagram as KayMatthews.

Where do you find inspiration?

Anywhere and everywhere! I’m sure most artists and creators are the same way – we soak in inspiration from everything we see or do, or from our environment. Sometimes ideas are sparked, for me, by seeing something in a film or a documentary; sometimes it comes from art or nature. These days, too, I’m especially inspired by Indian films (I review and write about them), and Korean television dramas – especially when it comes to colour choices. And a visit to an art gallery or museum usually results in lots of ideas being noted down in my sketchbook.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I adore lace, and that’s what I knit the most. But I also love the simple elegance of garter stitch. I love Fair-Isle and other stranded colourwork, and I used to knit a lot of it – I’m planning to go back to it, and I’ve got a few designs in the works that will move me in that direction.

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

I tend to look at the work of designers who create things completely differently than I do – things I probably wouldn’t design myself (or maybe wished I had designed), because I love to see how other designers solve problems or explore different ideas. I actually don’t think it’s a bad thing to be influenced by the work of others. One of the most eye-opening moments for me came on a visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. At the time (they’ve since undergone renovations, so no idea if this still exists) they had a gallery devoted to artists and works of art influenced by Van Gogh, or by whom Van Gogh was inspired. So you see artists trying out different styles and techniques. I truly think this is how we grow as creative people, and how we stretch the bounds of what we’re capable of. Of course, we have to own those influences and share how they influence us.

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

Over the years, that’s varied, but generally I worked with one or two at a time. These days, because I’ve scaled back a little bit in order to deal with “life stuff”, I’m doing sample knitting myself, though I think it will be worth it to go back to using others to test/sample knit.

Do you use a tech editor?

Yes. Though I’m pretty thorough in terms of my pattern writing, I still think it’s prudent to take that extra step, and have an experienced editor double check things. For me, if they catch anything, it’s usually small proofreading mistakes, but even that is worth it.

Did you do a formal business plan?

I didn’t, because what I was doing just grew kind of organically. I do think it’s a sensible thing to do – and in fact, I took advantage of a workshop run by my local arts council last year, which was a business planning course for artists. I think my next step will be to implement some of the things I learned there, including trying to more formally plan out my next steps.

Do you have a mentor?

I don’t have a specific mentor; I do have a lot of supportive people around me who have helped when I needed to pick someone’s brains about things. I also find that being connected to my local arts council means that I can tap into information and resources that I might otherwise have overlooked.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

These days, I don’t, because my husband (who also helps with the business) and I are dealing with some of those big life changes that make it hard to find balance. I do think, though, that the secret to keeping some kind of perspective is to have regular routines, to make to-do lists, and to stick with them.

               Photo credit John Meadows, and the model is Jennifer Santos Bettencourt.

How do you deal with criticism?

It depends on the criticism. Valid, thoughtful observations about my work, I’m fine with, even if I don’t agree with them in the end. I’m also fine with the idea that not everything I create is for everybody; those who don’t like it have their reasons, and that’s okay.

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

Learn as much as you can. Learn constantly. Value what you do as work (even if you are having to squeeze it in around a day job while you establish yourself). Set goals, and find the manageable, bite-sized steps to achieve them. Don’t be so excited about getting your work out there that you skip steps – it’s worth taking the time to do your best work, and present it in the best way possible.

What’s next for you?

I have a bunch of designs in sketch and swatch form that I’d really like to take on to completed patterns. As well, I’ve been dyeing my own yarns (I’ll have a table in the micro-market at the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitters’ Guild Fair in September), and my aim is to produce some unique colourways combined with my own designs, whether just to sell at shows, but also with an eye to setting up an online shop and perhaps trying out some clubs. I returned to teaching last year at the Toronto Knitters’ Guild Spring Frolic, and I’d like to do more of that – I’m especially interested in Orenburg lace knitting, and have taught an introduction to that tradition, and I’d love to be able to teach more classes on it, as well as work on designs inspired by it.

             Photo credit John Meadows, and the model is Jennifer Santos Bettencourt.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Qualities of Fabric - Weight and Texture

The weight of knitted fabric has an impact on both the knitting and the wearing of our hand knits. You notice the weight when you pick up a completed garment. When you are wearing it gravity will pull the garment down if it's heavy. Usually weight will be related to the thickness of the fabric. However very lofty fibres may be lighter than expected. In some cases we create extra thickness with stitch patterning and texture. It can be a good thing for hiding bumps and curves if that is something you wish to do. Fabrics with drape may feel heavier even when the difference is minor because the garment collapses against the body. Often weight is related to the warmth of a garment. 

I learned about weight early on when I decided to knit a pattern with a cotton yarn instead of the wool suggested by the pattern. There's a reason I'm always telling knitters we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. It was a heavily cabled sweater and ended up being really heavy as well as stretching out to a tunic length. It was however a great lesson in understanding the impact of yarn substitutions.

Texture can come from the yarn itself as well as our stitch patterns. Mohair, boucle as well as thick and thin yarns will add texture even in simple stocking stitch. Texture will add visual weight to the body. In those cases we may be surprised by the lightness of the actual garment. I think garments which look heavy work best when we pair them with other garments made from smoother fabrics or items which fit closer to the body.

Here's an interesting comparison between two of my designs in a similar silhouette and knit/purl stitch combination.

Different yarns, stitch patterns and gauges, same silhouette for on the left Prudence Crowley and on the right Deborah Beresford. 

Prudence is an aran weight single. Deborah Beresford is double stranded fingering weight. I got very different gauges. Deborah weights 127 grams more. When I hold each vest I can tell which is heavier yet Deborah but feels much heavier than that when it's worn. The yarn is a super wash and has more drape to the finished fabric. However when looking at the two garments I don't see any visual weight difference.

The wrap in the photo above is a stash busting pattern. The wool (far left) and alpaca (third from the left) versions feel very light. The sizes vary slightly. Weights from left to right are; 238 grams, 290 grams, 81 grams, 323 grams. Again the holding compared to the wearing weight feels less consistent than the real weight measurement due to the natural drape of the wraps which include silk and rayon fibres. They will slither off of my shoulders making the experience of wearing them quite different. The deep folds of the two heaviest wraps give you a visual hint as to their greater weights and drape.

Compare these two sweaters knit from the same yarn. Can you see how the one on the left falls against the body at the waist. It's because all those little cables make it heavier than the knit/purl stitch of the sweater on the right.

How do you learn about these qualities? You have to pay attention to the fabric you are creating when you knit and compare each one against another. And the bad news you will learn the most when you screw up, at least I did. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Qualities of Fabric - Drape

One of the hardest things to demonstrate to knitters through words is how much drape does a fabric have. Yet it is critical to the results of our knitting projects.  What we are trying to capture is how fluid or stiff the fabric is.  It's is not about the thickness of the fabric, it’s an assessment of the manner in which the fabric moves.  To begin to understand this concept think of the garments in your wardrobe. If you own an Oxford style shirt in a stiff cotton compare it to a silk blouse. Look at how the collar stands on it's own in cotton but falls against the body of the blouse when created out of silk. With knitted fabrics we see similar qualities dependent on fibre, stitch patterning, spinning method and gauge. In some ways I think this is more complicated for knitters because we have such varying results when we create our fabric. When you buy clothing you put it on and the assessment is pretty quick. On the other hand sometimes the fabric qualities change after washing or dry cleaning. This is usually due to fabric finishes. Examples would include Teflon to cut down on staining, or low wrinkle treatments on cotton shirts. 

Take a look at my photo at the top, one sweater is knit in cotton and the other is in rayon. You should be able to tell in this photo which is which. 

Hint, look at how the sleeves hang and at the hems.

I hope this helps your understanding. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

An Interview with...Faye Kennington

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 Faye here on Ravelry.

Pattern to be released in August 2017.

Where do you find inspiration?
Quite often inspiration comes from the natural environment around me. I live on the west coast of Vancouver Island near Pacific Rim National Park and we have an abundance of flora and fauna in the temperate rainforest. The feather motif that I used in Feather Throw came to me after finding an eagle feather on a walk. Many of my colour-work designs feature local animals, too. However, I find inspiration can, and does, come from anywhere.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I guess I'm going to have to go with short rows. Since learning the twinned stitched technique of shadow wrapping, the possibilities seem endless. I have a new hat design almost ready to go that is worked side to side with short row shaping at the crown. 

Pattern to be released August 2017.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I often look at other's work, for a variety of reasons: 1) there is always a new technique or skill I can learn; 2) there's no point in investing the time necessary to produce a design if it is too similar to a good pattern already readily available elsewhere; 3) I love the knitting craft and it would be a shame to miss out on the beautiful things other Designers are putting forward; and, 4) I've gotten to be friendly with many Designers on social media and I enjoy cheering them on.

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

I write my patterns, knit the samples and photograph the finished objects. Then my Technical Editor looks at the pattern and I make adjustments. Then I post a call for Test Knitters on Ravelry. After I incorporate Test Knitter feedback, I publish.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No. I have goals, but designing is my secondary business, so sometimes my goals must take a backseat to my primary business.

Do you have a mentor?
Not really. However, I am a member of a Slack community of Designers where I can bounce ideas off my peers.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?


Do you use a tech editor?

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

I don't!

How do you deal with criticism?
Talk a long walk with a friend and rant. Look for the kernel of truth once I've calmed down.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I live in a rural and remote area and it's not uncommon for people to wear many hats to make ends meet. I have been self-employed for 3 years, but not all my money comes from design. I have been designing since 2010.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I think that if you want a career in knitting, unless you can get a full time job for a yarn company or another third party, you should expect to take on a variety of roles and income streams. For example, you may want to design patterns AND provide technical editing service for peers AND teach at your LYS OR develop a yarn line OR offer photography services, etc. I don't think many people can make a go of it just by designing patterns alone.

Also, it's been said before, but start as you mean to continue. Try very hard to produce a professional quality product from the get-go. It's relatively easy to self-publish a poor quality pattern, but that won't be the legacy you want to look back on in the future.

What’s next for you?
Looking forward to the Indie Design Gift-A-Long, a seasonal gift knitting KAL with a group of independent Designers on Ravelry, I have been working on a series of hat patterns, and a number of stranded colour-work designs including some beautiful Christmas Stockings. If you want to see what I'm working on, please follow me on Instagram at @UkeeKnits.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How to get the Length Right when Knitting Garments

Have you ever discovered while using mattress stitch on your seams that they are not the same length? It's a common problem caused by the practice of measuring our knitting. Often measuring works just fine. Especially if we are careful to lay the work flat and to avoid stretching it. Be sure to measure on a flat surface. It frequently helps if you do a little steam blocking as well before you measure. 

Working with stable yarns like wool usually means more accuracy but what happens with silk-like yarns which drape?

I rarely have this problem but then I really love lots of stitch patterning so I frequently depend on the pattern row repeats to ensure equal lengths on the fronts and back of garments.

The stitch pattern on this cardigan makes it easy to match row counts above the armholes. The body is worked flat in one piece to the armholes eliminating the challenge in that section. 

This is a detail shot from a cardigan knit in pieces.

Can you see how easy it would be to count rows by using the pattern stitch?

Here's a few other tips to use to ensure equal lengths. 

Count pattern features such as cable crosses or lace motifs.

Knit both the pieces of the fronts and the sleeves at the same time. 

Know that many knitters will find that they make one side of a piece longer than the other depending on their individual knitting style.  That means when you measure, be consistent in which side you measure on.

Count the rows in stocking stitch, either as you are knitting or after completion.You can add a marker in while you are knitting or count the V's of the stocking stitch. Look for the red V below.

If stitch patterns make it too difficult to count due to pattern crossings as in the example above use the bars instead.These are the same bars you use when working mattress stitch. Look for my red bars below. Next look beside the cable turn and notice you can still see the bar when the work is pulled apart.

This is from one of my favourite sweaters.

To avoid recounting, place markers at regular intervals during the counting process. 

As always while writing this post I checked a number of my reference books. Many don't mention measuring work in progress at all. (Or a least I couldn't find it on the index reference page). However, the very detailed June Hemmons Hiatt never disappoints, as it is indexed and she is very clear that rows are the way to go for accuracy.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Should you knit your Front Bigger than your Back?

My answer to this question is absolutely yes, if it gives you a better fitting garment. 

It's the difference between what is sometimes referred to as refined fit vs. standard fit or simple fit. In the sewing world refined fit refers to making the front bigger than the back of a garment. Some of us have bigger fronts. If the garment is the same measurement on both front and back the fabric will be stretched horizontally across the torso on the front. It may hang loosely on the back. If the garment is pulled horizontally on the front it cannot stretch vertically to create the extra length needed for a curvy bust line or tummy if the fullness is lower down. Knitting patterns normally have equal sized fronts and backs. Read this old post here on how to change to refined fit.

I knit my own garments this way and years ago I knit a vest for my Dad to accommodate his fuller front and very flat backside. When you don't adjust this way you end up with a garment which fits around the body circumference but has side seams pulled towards the front of the body. They may hang straight but be pulled forward or they may be pulled forward only where the body protrudes appearing to be crooked at the sides even when knit straight. At the same time the shoulders may be too large because the size knit is based on the bust measurement.

Paprika patterns has a great post here on how the shaping changes for a no dart pattern to accommodate a larger bust. Step 7 is essentially what I am doing when I knit for myself. The front is larger in the torso area but the shoulders and armholes are a smaller size.  I'd like you to notice the side seam is slightly extended at the armhole. I do this by casting off some of the extra stitches I added into the front. I get rid of a few more in the neckline making the number of stitches on the shoulders match at the front and back.

Friday, July 14, 2017

An Interview with...Cynthia Levy

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 Cynthia here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from a variety of sources.  The natural landscape of the Northwest Territories provides an endless supply of inspiration.  Precambrian Cable Socks were inspired by the rock of the Canadian shield and Tundra Trails Socks were designed while on a trip to the barren-lands.   I also draw ideas from my library of stitch dictionaries and knitting books.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love all knitting techniques, but my favorite is cables.  There's just something magical about the way that simply reordering stitches can create such intricate textured designs.  I enjoy colourwork and lace but always seem to gravitate back to cables.  Those cute little cable needles, of which I have amassed quite a collection, might also be part of the attraction!

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I don't actively at look at the work of other designers as a source of ideas or inspiration.  I do knit a lot of projects other than my own designs, so I spend a lot of time browsing patterns on Ravelry and elsewhere.  I expect that some concepts or ideas naturally filter into my brain but it's not a conscious effort.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit all each of my own patterns while developing the design, so I'd have to admit that I'm my own primary sample/test knitter.  Most of my patterns are for socks or gloves, so it's easy and efficient to knit the first while working out the design, and to then knit the second as a test of the pattern itself.  I then use test knitters, drawn from my own Ravelry group or from the testing groups on Ravelry, to test each size of the pattern.  Most of my patterns have been tested by at least 5 knitters other than myself.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Work/life balance is not something that I expect to achieve any time soon!  I have a very demanding full-time job and too many other interests and activities to count.  My idea of balance is to try to juggle deadlines as best I can.  I'd love to find a way to manufacture time but I'm not good at slowing down to relax.

How do you deal with criticism?
I try to deal with criticism in a positive fashion by examining the facts and making any necessary corrections or adjustments cheerfully and promptly.  I do wish that knitters would place a bit more faith in designers before questioning pattern instructions.  Mistakes inevitably creep into patterns occasionally, despite rigorous editing and testing, but the designer usually has a valid reason for unusual instructions and knitters should give them a chance before expressing doubt.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I can't imagine ever being able to support myself from by design work!  That's the purpose of my full-time job, which is in a field that will always be more lucrative than knitting or any of my other crafts.  My pattern sales provide enough income to cover the cost of pattern development and that's all I realistically expect.  I design because I enjoy the process and like sharing my patterns with other knitters.

What’s next for you?
Lots more knitting!  I'm looking forward to someday having more time to knit, spin, weave and do all the various things for which I've acquired a stash of equipment and materials.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In the category of this made me smile - Wonder Woman

I couldn't ignore this trend any longer. I keep seeing this shawl so I went looking to see what other Wonder Woman knitting there is. The shawl was just published and already has 140 projects on Ravelry. As always I am impressed by the ingenuity of knitters.

And for a more literal translation take a look at this one, the project pages are not to be missed!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Reminder - My Summer Sale is on until August 31

Special Promotion

From now until August 31 2017, if you post a project page with a photo of any of my patterns shown as a completed project, I’ll give you a promo code for a free pattern. You can choose any of my patterns that are available on Ravelry. Just email or PM me and give me the project page link or the details, your Ravelry name, email etc. I’ll send the promo code to your email. Happy Knitting!

Friday, July 7, 2017

An Interview with...Alexis Adrienne

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 Alexis here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I derive my greatest inspiration from gorgeous natural fibres, like baby alpaca, llama, silk, and Merino wool. When it comes to designing, these yarns sort of "speak to me", and tell me what they want to become.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
The three-needle bind-off. It's such an effortless way to create a neat and tidy join.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I work in a yarn store, so I frequently help knitters execute patterns that aren't my own. I don't mind at all. It helps me stay current with trends in shape, colour etc.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
So far, I've done it all myself, but I design accessories that focus on minimalism--to showcase the natural fibres. If I ever make the leap to garment design, I will definitely use test knitters.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No. Mine is more a "flying by the seat of her pants" kind of plan.

Do you use a tech editor?
No. I've looked into in the past, but it has always been cost-prohibitive, relative to my expected return from pattern sales.

How do you deal with criticism?

Not as well I'd like, to be honest. I'm a sensitive person, and my feelings get hurt easily. My challenge has been to separate the useless, judgmental criticism, from the helpful, constructive type. When I can recognize criticism as constructive, I'm more able to see it as an opportunity to improve, and not take it so personally.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I'll let you know if/when that happens! Knitwear design is still a supplement to my income.

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

Love your work. Because it's a lot of work! Is knitting your true passion? If not, keep searching. If so, commit yourself fully. Get connected, learn new techniques; never stop working and growing. Just be sure to know in your heart whether knitting is your hobby, or your career. It's an important distinction to make.

What’s next for you?

I'm excited to have just launched It's an online resource I created to share my love of knitting, and my belief in the power of "handmade" with the world. It's small now, but as it grows it will contain and increasing number of my designs--offered as free patterns--plus tutorials, interesting features, links to other cool resources, and much more! 

PS: my Instagram handle is now @coldcomfortknits, if you want to "stay in the loop", LOL.