Friday, September 29, 2017

An Interview with...Corrine Walcher

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
Corrine here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? 
Kind of everywhere. In nature, sometimes in film and books. My first published design was "Barrel Riders", inspiration taken from a chapter in "The Hobbit" where the Company escapes King Thranduil's halls in barrels.

What is your favourite knitting technique? 
I love designing with cables.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? 
I'm not afraid of being influenced, and I appreciate the ingenuity and beauty of other designers. I'm pretty classic in my design and I'm always amazed by new techniques.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself? 
My main sample knitter, Genia, is a god-send. Between the two of us we have a handle on the samples. I also use other sample knitters occasionally, but my working relationship with her is a rare gem.

Did you do a formal business plan? 
Not at all. I do what I like.

Do you have a mentor? 
No. I stumbled into design sort of by accident.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Do you use a tech editor? 
Testers tend to catch any errors. I scale all of my patterns for size myself; I have the math checked by someone who also catches typos. 

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 
It's difficult when your hobby is your work. My eldest is on his own and my younger son is in school, so the hours between drop-off and pick-up are dedicated to work. I don't work full-time by any means!

How do you deal with criticism? 
I haven't really had any, aside from the occasional error knitters find in my patterns. The number one complaint I have is "this doesn't match the size it says it will"; in every case, it has been a matter of the knitter not swatching (and blocking the swatch).

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?  
I am envious of those who can support themselves by knitting design, but those people are few and far between. I'm not sure envious is the right word, as I'm pleased for them.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?  
I would not encourage anyone to go into any fiber art looking to get rich. It's a great community and I have the support of many wonderful people. I have fostered working relationships and friendships that I would never have had if it weren't for knitting, and I cherish them.

What’s next for you? 
I don't really know what's next, but isn't that part of the fun?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dear Readers

I seem to be coming to a point of transition. I've been writing this blog since June 8 2009. I started before I left my last job to pursue designing, publishing and teaching. 

In the past it always seemed easy to come up with lots of things to write about, but lately it's been feeling like a bit of a slog. 

I find I'd rather spend my days knitting and writing patterns. I'm not totally ready to completely give it up but I think I'll remove some of the pressure which I've been putting on myself to keep going by no longer sticking to a firm schedule of Monday, Wednesday and Friday posts.  I have quite a few outstanding interview requests out there  and I'll keep sending out more invitations as always, so I'll continue to post those as they arrive in my inbox. I know from the feedback from many of you that you enjoy the interviews. 

I'm going to try posting when I feel like it rather than on a predetermined schedule. I'll see how that goes.

Remember the blog is fully indexed so if you want to refer to my older posts go to the topic index at the top left hand side of the page. 

I may start an email list so if you are interested in that you can send me your details at

I am over on Instagram as if you would like to follow me there.

Many thanks for all of your encouragement over the years,

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Petite Interview Part 2

I really enjoyed doing an interview with Teresa Gregorio of Canary Knits this summer. It's always interesting how someone else's questions help to clarify one's own thinking on a particular topic. I'm going to put some of the interview I did back in July here on my own blog.  There's a lot to digest so this is the second of two posts.  

TG: Another challenge for petite women is that sizing standards assume our bodies are longer than they may actually be; we then have to make any horizontal (and vertical!) modifications in a truncated amount of space, compared to a regular-height knitter. Do you have any tips, advice, or resources you can suggest for petite women (of all ages and weights) with these sorts of issues?

RH: I think the most important thing is to first learn your own preferences and knit accordingly. I made this mistake many times early on. I looked at a great pattern photo, said “I want that” and plunged in without considering the details. If you’ve never worn a dolman sleeve sweater, don’t invest all the knitting time to create it before you know it will make you happy. Look at what is currently in your own closet and what you enjoy wearing. If it’s a silhouette new to you, try on a friends garment or go to a retail store and try the target style on to get a sense of what works.

If you are a petite, chances are you have already purchased clothing from a retailer who targets that segment of the clothing market. Measure those garments (especially the knits) and compare where they fit you and where they don’t. How much ease do you like? Do you prefer tailored styles or loose clothing which flows over the body?

You can continue to use patterns but be aware what you will need to spend time on adjustments. Knitter’s graph paper is your friend. You can print it out in the correct ratio and draw your garment or a specific problem area out.

My series here may be helpful.

Finally, remember you can experiment and make changes to a pattern, there are no knitting police!

TG: What sweater construction would you suggest for a petite person (particularly, one who may have to think about sleeve cap and depth?)

RH: I know many knitters become strong defenders of one form of construction over another. I think every type has its pros and cons. Each construction method can be adjusted to work with a specific body shape. It’s important to understand first what the end goal is in terms of fit and then to secondly address the technical challenges. As an example, often well-endowed petites find top down raglans a challenge because the classic design has an increase rate which makes the armholes too deep by the time the bust is large enough. My fix is to cast on more stitches on the front to increase the size there and I cast on more stitches at the underarm to solve the circumference problem and keep armhole depth appropriate.

TG: Would you suggest any sweater constructions to avoid in particular if you are petite and need to adjust sleeve depth or any other vertical measurements?

RH: No I don’t think we need to avoid any specific construction types, for me it’s more about shapes and silhouettes which are sometimes driven by the construction. I think we need to make sure that things are proportionally correct. I suspect we petites end up suspicious of some silhouettes because we try them on in regular sizes and feel overwhelmed by the extra length and the overly wide necklines and shoulders. Once those issues are resolved I don’t see the problems being specific to construction. 

I do sometimes see problems with the scale of design elements. A very wide cable panel may look different in relation to the overall sweater if it’s been shortened significantly. The rectangle which is the torso of our body does become squarer in nature for shorter women. Certain stitch patterns may not work if the canvas of the body isn’t big enough to carry them. However, I do want to emphasize this should be about pleasing yourself and being comfortable in your clothing not about addressing some perceived figure flaw. I would suggest knitters focus on a specific silhouette and work on several garments in that style and construction before moving on to another one. Each project will be incrementally better and you will learn faster.

TG: I love the discussion you outline in your post here:
“Most hand knitting patterns come in from 3 to about 7 sizes with no variation in length or figure type. There are many reasons for this simplification; several being due to cost, publication space, the difficulty of grading each size individually, the inability to have every size test knit as well as an industry that underpays designers. So what’s a knitter to do? I’m still thinking about this. As a designer I’m considering doing patterns that would target these specific markets but the question is would you buy them?” What would you suggest a petite knitter should do?

RH: My recommendation is the same for all knitters regardless of their fit challenges. If you want to knit garments, take the time to educate yourself on how to make changes to the pattern. Don’t just follow it blindly. One of the best things about making our own clothing is we can get exactly what we want if we are willing to invest in some trial and error experimentation.

TG: What fit resources can you recommend for petite knitters? (Anything! From knitting books/videos/classes/websites to information from crafts other than knitting like sewing manuals etc…)

RH: There are now an amazing number of easily accessible resources to help you through your journey to improve fit. If you don’t like one, just move on, another instructor might work better for you. Keep in mind different makers will have different approaches and they won’t always give you the same exact instructions. You don’t have to become a designer but understanding the processes involved will help you through making the necessary adjustments to an existing pattern. You will find lots of patterning making links on Pinterest and videos on Youtube.

As you know I have many resources on my blog which includes an index here.

I especially like this Peggy Sager explanation of length, circumference and depth as it relates to fit. The first 16 minutes of this video shows the process demonstrated.

Here’s the process for drafting a sleeve cap for woven fabric. Knits are simplified because they are symmetrical.

This site has some wonderful visuals explaining fit and ease.

I can highly recommend Shirley Paden’s book Knitwear Design Workshop: A Comprehensive Guide to Handknits and her Craftsy class Handknit Garment Design. If you are math phobic just ignore the segments on the magic formula and instead plot curves and angles visually on knitter’s graph paper as I show on my blog in the Pattern Drafting posts starting here.

This post is about Deborah Newton’s method for creating a muslin for hand knitting from T-shirt fabric. It’s for plus sizes but the basics still apply to petites.

TG: Do you know of any knitting designers who create patterns specifically for petite folks? (There are a few who do this for sewing, but I’ve yet to find someone who addresses the petite market in knitwear).

RH: I don’t. The most I’ve ever seen in a knitting pattern is in the instruction sections where the pattern will say to x inches or desired length. I do include this in my pattern notes: All length measurements included in the instructions are suggestions only and should be customized to suit the intended wearer.

Friday, September 22, 2017

An Interview with...Taiga Hilliard

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
Taiga here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? 

Whenever we go out of town it often gives me new ideas, from all the colors, textures, interesting people, and scenery, depending upon the location. Every time we travel I get a new batch of design ideas once we get home.

What is your favorite knitting technique?
I enjoy lace and cables, but also like simple garter stitch because it is so calming to knit. I do not shrink from a challenge but a little car knitting never hurt anyone (as long as you are not the one driving).

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
It is always good to look and see what is current, but you need to stick with what you personally enjoy, then hope that other knitters will also find joy in knitting what you create.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have a wonderful group of knitters that do testing for me, they are an essential part of the process; checking the pattern and letting me know of there are any corrections that need to be made to create an accurate finished pattern.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Nope, I just like knitting, designing and putting it out there...

Do you have a mentor?
My sister started to teach me to knit, she is a wonderful knitter, but in the end I learning from YouTube videos along with many, many, failures until progress was made and finally success.

Do you use a tech editor?
I have a small group of super picky (a virtue in a knitter) test knitters that I depend on to catch all the tech mistakes, and they do an amazing job, without them it would be difficult to keep up the pace I have set for myself.

How do you deal with criticism?
It is just a part of the process, in the end you have to stand by your creations even if not everyone is going to like what you created, and that is perfectly okay. I say: “be proud of what you have made, fix the mistakes and move forward”.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I would say about a year. My husband has been super supportive during the growing pains and now actually works along with me in a non-knitting/non-designing role.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Design what you personally like and would wear; there will always be someone who loves it and wants to make it for themselves.

What’s next for you?
I plan on continuing to knit, design, and love every minute of it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Petite Interview Part 1

I really enjoyed doing an interview with Teresa Gregorio of Canary Knits this summer. It's always interesting how someone else's questions help to clarify one's own thinking on a particular topic. I'm going to put some of the interview I did back in July here on my own blog.  There's a lot to digest so I'll do it as two posts. 

TG: Much of the advice I’ve found for selecting a size to fit your frame is to pick the bust circumference that matches your torso (upper bust) measurement. This advice intends to give the knitter something that will fit their shoulders, which is very important in a sweater. Many #KnitPetiteProject survey respondents stressed that they “always have to shorten the sleeve cap/depth” for their sweaters.

RH: Before I answer the questions below I’d like to mention that my background is in custom clothing, not from a fashion school where the focus is on industrial garment making for the retail market. Consequently my knowledge and approach is very different from many other designers. I’ve taken pattern drafting classes where the goal was to create a pattern for a specific individual with a more couture style approach. I’ve been a student in tailoring classes with an emphasis on proper fit specifically targeting women. Those classes used Italian tailoring methods adapted from traditional menswear techniques. I’ve also done dressmaking with a custom clothier where we produced samples of specific techniques not used in the retail market and we were expected to produce garments using challenging fabrics. The consequence of a custom clothing education means I think more about the body and its relationship to the garment. I think of the flat pattern shape as a starting point to achieve correct fit and expect to make small incremental steps after the pattern is created to accommodate the process of moving from a flat pattern to a three dimensional body.

TG: As sleeve cap math is very involved, how should a petite person proceed in choosing a size to fit their shoulders?

RH: Many people have told me sleeve caps are difficult, but I think the old adage “it’s easy when you know how” applies here. Knitting takes advantage of the simplification of the sleeve and the sleeve cap being reduced to a one piece symmetrical style due to the stretch of the fabric. It’s very different from the two piece fitted and curved sleeve shape for woven fabrics. That sleeve has a cap which differs at the front and back to accommodate the shape of the upper arm. Knitters are creating both the fabric and the shaping at the same time. This is what gets them into trouble. In the sewing world no one considers this to be a difficult task because they work with a real size pattern which has a line in the sleeve cap to fold out extra length and a corresponding line on the torso to make the same adjustment. 

Having a full scale visual really helps when developing the mental representations required to make alterations. When I teach knitters to do this, I teach it visually by using real size knitter’s graph paper in the same gauge that they are getting on their swatch. It’s a two-step process for the knitter. First get the flat pattern right and then transfer the information into stitches and rows. The knitter doesn’t have a way of choosing a pattern size to fix this. They need to learn how to do it once and then transfer that knowledge for alteration to every pattern they knit, knowing they will have to adjust the sleeve cap for length. In my case, I know my preferred armhole depth for a set in sleeve is 6.5 inches. Armed with that knowledge I can look at the schematic for my size, compare and adjust accordingly. I explain the process on my blog here. Once a knitter develops a set of key garment measurements this becomes much easier. BTW I have come across knitters who catch onto these concepts very easily without a sewing or pattern drafting background.

TG: Is taking the torso measurement the best approach, as it is for regular sizes?

RH: I agree with this advice as it’s certainly a better starting point than the full bust measurement where cup size comes into play. Having said that, it is only a starting point. Most patterns will still be too long in length even if the shoulder width is correct. Where I think this is failing for knitters is in the understanding of relationships of the parts of the body. The phrase “standard sizing” seems to have taken on a different definition than the one which I learned to understand in my custom garment background. It appears that knitters today think standard sizing is hard data which equals real life body sizing. My understanding of standard sizing is that it is the sizing of a specific retailer, designer, or pattern company. The relationships of the measurements are based on a specific fit model who could be very different than you. 

Bodies vary in size and shape much more than is commonly recognized by novice garment makers. Pattern alterations are three dimensional in nature but we are fooled by the flat pattern making system in our early learning stages. Knitters are even more challenged because they don’t work with full size individual pattern pieces. The final confusion comes from that single schematic which does not reflect the actual proportions of all of the sizes. It’s normally based on the smallest size and would change in significant ways proportionally if you drew the largest size to scale.
For a sample comparison of real world sizing (me) to the Craft council standards please see this post.

TG: Is there any special information or instructions you can recommend a petite knitter should consider in addition to this?

RH: I think knitters need to spend time looking carefully at the schematic provided. I’ve often had questions which make it clear they look at the photo and ignore the details provided on the schematic. I’ve worked with knitters in my classes who are totally focused on body measurements before they understand the concepts behind ease and how it is impacted by the hand of the fabric you are creating. To get around this, as you are building knowledge, it really helps to start measuring garments instead of your body. You can even use one which doesn’t fit the way you want by pinning it and using the resulting measurements. 

When you finish a garment which doesn’t live up to your expectations don’t just move onto the next one and hope for the best. Use pins to mark where it should be different and start taking notes. What weight yarn did you use? Does the fabric drape or is it stiff. Most importantly measure it. What length would you prefer? How deep is the sleeve cap and should it be shortened? Where should you make waist shaping decreases and increases. Keep in mind you will learn the most from trial and error. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from moving forward.

Monday, September 18, 2017

What is Popular or Hyped isn't always Good

I spent some goofing off time over our staycation poking around on Pinterest. I checked out the boards of a few of my knitting friends and I did some searches on various combinations of words for knitting. I was very surprised to see some absolutely amazing pins that came from Ravelry, that I'd never seen before. In some cases they were project photos. The patterns were those with great bones and knit with a yarn which brought out the best view of the pattern. I've already experienced the difference in interest in my patterns based on photos vs. in real life. Typically simpler, often single colour designs are much more appreciated IRL.

I went back to Ravelry and played around with the pattern browser (pictured above) sorting to see how it impacts results when I switched up the sort parameters and in many cases the answer is not very much. I even tried going to the last page of every sort just to see how that worked, in a couple of cases I saw some really nice things on the last few pages of the sort and I wondered why they were so far down in the list.

It made me think of our discovery with Rotten Tomatoes a few years ago. My husband and I would look at the top rated movies when choosing things to watch.  He would also read critic's lists with titles like The 10 best Movies of (name a year) That you Never Saw. We would check them out to discover they had very mixed reviews. After we started watching them,  it became apparent they were often the movies we liked best. They were appealing because they pushed back in interesting ways and were different from the highly hyped potato chip type movies which seem to get the most attention and the biggest ad budgets. I often found I was still thinking about them later.

I've come to the conclusion that what is popular or hyped isn't always the best of what's out there. It's just getting the most attention. It really pays off to look deeper.  


Friday, September 15, 2017

An Interview with...Kalurah Hudson

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
Kalurah here and here on Ravelry. She's here on
Instagram: kalurah and here on Youtube channel: WhiletheyPlay

Where do you find inspiration? 

I find the most inspiration from film and television. Just ask my husband. If a character is wearing a hat or scarf, he’ll say, “You’re just staring at those stitches aren’t you?"

What is your favourite knitting technique? 

I came into knitting already knowing how to crochet, so I found that Continental style knitting was just intuitive. The movements are similar and the yarn is held in the same hand.

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

I love looking at other designer’s work. I think we all soak in and observe inspiration from other artists. It’s the beauty of art. Inspiration in what is around you.

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

I knit my samples myself but I have a Ravelry group full of wildly talented testers. They play a tremendous role in the design process.

Did you do a formal business plan? 

Never. I started out wanting to make some extra money when my two youngest were at home with me. I never dreamed that my hobby would evolve into a small business that helps support my husband and family.

Do you have a mentor?  

I’ve found that my biggest Mentor is my wonderful husband of 17 years. He’s been there from day one, supporting me and holding my hand through the fears and the triumphs.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated? 

I find that this industry tends to fluctuate according to trends, so I try my best to keep an eye out for what the cool kids are into. Without losing sight of my own personal aesthetic. So, I guess my business model is to give my audience what they crave but without losing myself in the process.

Do you use a tech editor? 

I rely on my test-knitters, some of which have tech-editing skills. They are a life saver!

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Family comes first. Always. I feel blessed to have a job where I can fit my workload into my life. And not the other way around.

How do you deal with criticism?

I take it deeply personal at first. And then I have my Mentor to turn to. My husband is a calming influence for me and reminds me that you can’t please everyone and to just take a deep breath and move on.

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

If we’re talking about financially, it took quite a while. My business was more of a hobby that I enjoyed while my kids were young and turned into something that I was forced to throw myself into. In 2014, my husband lost his job of 12 years with an insurance company. So, in order to offset some of that loss, I worked hard on building up my brand, working with more yarn companies, creating more designs and getting my name out there. In the end, it took another year and a half from when I first started. And I don’t regret a single day of it. That whole experience helped me grow. Both emotionally and in my business. But as far as supporting myself emotionally, I truly thank my husband for that. He is my support system, in my business and in life.

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

Do it! Just do it. Believe in yourself. If you love it, just put it out there. But don’t expect instant gratification. It takes work but that work is so worth it in the end.

What’s next for you? 

I am currently working with three different yarn companies on collaborations and design contracts. But my biggest dream is to write and publish a book about my journey, chock full of brand new designs.