Friday, June 29, 2018

An Interview with...Stephanie Lotven

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
Stephanie here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere, but my daughters are really the heart of my inspiration. They love rainbows and unicorns and magic. As I grew up, society gave me the ridiculous idea that I was too old for such silliness. Having kids helped me to tap back into the things I loved as a kid. They brought out my joy. My girls are always helping me find the best, most honest parts of myself.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I love short rows. Every time I work with short rows, I am astounded at their power to change the fit and fun of a garment. I’m really interested in playful shapes, and there is no better way to play with shapes than short rows.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love knitting too much to avoid other designers’ work. There is so much incredible creation happening in the knitting universe. I want to be a part of ALL of it. In fact, I wish I had more time to knit other designer’s patterns. I think I would be doing myself a real disservice if I didn’t see the amazing things my fellow designers are creating.

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

I have one AWESOME sample knitter. Working with a sample knitter was a big move for me. It takes a lot of trust to put a project in someone else’s hands. There are deadlines, and expectations, and, sometimes, irreplaceable yarn. I’m so glad I have a sample knitter, because it has freed up some very valuable time for me. In fact, I’m on the look out for a second sample knitter for the fall.

Did you do a formal business plan?

Definitely not. So much of my journey has been guesswork. When I got started, I just wanted to get a design into the world. I didn’t know a lot about the industry, but I wanted to create something and share it. As my business has grown, I have added all sorts of lovely complications: knit-longs, collaborations, a website, social media, and on and on. My business has grown organically based on what my knitters want and need from me. I feel very lucky to be in an industry that allows for growth and experimentation.

Do you have a mentor?

Over the years, I have had many mentors. While I studied drawing, I spent a great deal of time with Frank Stack. He really molded my sense of color by challenging me to have a fearless palette. Devoney Looser, the renowned Jane Austen scholar, was an incredible mentor as I transitioned out of college and into adulthood. Her strong sense of female empowerment gave me the courage to take big risks and believe that I could achieve them. Now, I draw strength and support from my fellow designers. Each of them has so much to teach, so much to offer.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No, I don’t. Much of my business has been built on aggressive experimentation. I am always working to find a new way of doing things that fits my life, and my style. 

Daisy Lady coming in July

Do you use a tech editor?

Yes! My tech editor is ABSOLUTELY crucial to the development of my patterns. Finding the perfect tech editor was a real gauntlet, but she was absolutely worth the search.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

I wish you could hear me giggling right now. Balance is a constant conversation in our household. Currently, there isn’t much balance in my life. I stay at home during the day with my kiddos, and, when we are together, I like to be completely present. This means that all design work happens after they go to bed. I work hard at what I do, and so I don’t sleep as much as I probably should. I want to be available to my knitters, so I don’t take days off. In the fall, when my girls are both in school, I hope to have a more balanced 

personal/work life.

How do you deal with criticism?

I try to take all criticism seriously AND lightly. I think motherhood has steeled me against unfiltered criticism. The Internet is a place of vocal critics, just like a house full of kiddos. With two young daughters, I have lots of practice hearing about the things I am NOT doing right. When I get negative feedback, I take a breath, respond with patience, and try to solve the problem. Ultimately, I have to remind myself, you can’t make everyone happy all the time.

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

It took me just over 3 years before I felt as if I was making a reasonable profit. Then, another 6-8 months before I felt confident in the consistency of my sales. So much of this business builds over time. You have to give your customers time to trust your patterns as you build your library.

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

Ask questions! When I wasn’t sure how to write a yarn support proposal, I got on the Ravelry forums and asked how to do it until someone answered. When I started thinking about sample knitters, I emailed several designers whose opinion I respected. When I ask questions, I am always astounded by the generosity of the design community. If you don’t know how to do something, just ask.

What’s next for you?

I have lots of new designs on the horizon. I am very invested in sweaters at the moment, so there will certainly be more sweaters this year. I also plan to work on submissions for publications, and website development. There will be lots to keep me busy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

New Pattern - The Inez Horton Top

I've published Inez Horton on Ravelry, Love Knitting and it will be up on Patternfish soon. 

This summer top is created with simple stocking stitch and garter stitch, worked in two different directions. It uses a classic, sport weight, 100% linen yarn. The side body and sleeves are picked up on a circular needle and knitted out from centre body segments. The sample is knit in a slightly looser gauge to encourage extra drape in the fabric. It is shown with no ease at the bust. The hip has 28 cm (11 inches) of ease, making it flatter a variety of figure shapes. The sample is size 94 cm (37 inches) and is shown on a 94 cm (37 inch) mannequin and model. There is very little finishing required on the garment as all outside edges are worked in garter stitch and only the underarm is seamed. Sides are joined with three needle bind off.

I'm a big fan of linen for summer garments, it's cool and the drape is very flattering on the body.


If you would like some extra tips on knitting with linen I have a post here on the topic.

We took some of the photos on the mannequin to give you an idea of how the body underneath a garment impacts the shape. I realized the appearance is changed in a more significant way when I first published Rosina and a reader emailed asking what size was I wearing? I was wearing the sample but it is true things, look different on the same measurement but with a different body shape.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Casting on Without a Knot

I used to start all my cast  on rows with a slip knot. That little knot always irritated me when it came time to do the finishing. Sometimes it gave the corner a slight unevenness, or I had to adjust how I executed my mattress stitch to work around the bump the knot created. Sometimes it was just because I could feel the little hard knot it created. In a bulky yarn it was worse because it was bigger and in lace weight it was occasionally more visible depending on the stitch pattern I was using above the knot.

Set up the same as for long tail cast on.
I now use a simple twist in the yarn. When doing a long tail cast on I make the first stitch as a loop and then carry on in the usual way. When I'm using the cable cast on I make the loop, move the needle to my left hand and then continue working in the same way that I would if it was a slip knot. Once the first stitch is completed it holds the knot-less loop in place. One thing to aware of is when you use this on long tail cast on, the work will be one row shorter on the end without the knot. This is because Long Tail creates a cast on and works the first row at the same time. I've done it many times and the difference disappears after blocking. I always question these details because variations between knitters can create differences in the final results. So as they say your mileage many vary.

Place the needle facing down behind the strand of yarn.

Turn the needle up allowing the yarn to twist around the needle.