Monday, April 24, 2017

Toronto Knitters Frolic

If you are local and plan on attending the Toronto Knitters Frolic, I'll be in the Signature Yarns booth for part of the day, come say hello! I'll be at the Sunday Social as well.  

Patrick will have kits with the yarn and pattern collaborations we have worked on together. Here's just one of the featured patterns.
The Glenhost Wrap has been interpreted 3 ways, in Americo Original Winter Flammé, Cardiff Cashmere Classic DK and Prism Petite Madison. They are all lovely!

Friday, April 21, 2017

An Interview with...Willow and Sasha (Knox Mountain Knit Co.)

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 Knox Mountain Knit Co. here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?  
Sasha: I love the outdoors! So I definitely find inspiration in nature and in the beautiful region in which I live, the Okanagan Valley of BC. In fact, that's the whole premise of Knox Mountain Knit Co. We aim to name our patterns after what their inspiration came from. In each pattern, we write a little paragraph about this, so that knitters can have a connection to the pattern and place.

Could you tell us a little about your company name change and how it came about? 
Sasha: We were formerly known as Okanagan Knit Co. Since the company members changed in January 2017 we decided to change our name and start fresh.  

One of our most popular patterns was a hat called 'Knox', with an all-around mountain motif, named after our local Knox Mountain. We chose the name Knox Mountain Knit Co. in honor of that. 

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Sasha: That's like asking a music lover what their favorite song is! How can one choose? But seriously though if I had to choose one, the first that comes to mind is cables.  I've also done a wee bit of colourwork/intarsia/fair-isle and I'm definitely interested learning more about it! Maybe even a pattern one day!

Willow: This changes constantly! I’m always on the lookout for new ways to do old things.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Sasha: Yes! I want to support them as much as I can. I want to knit all the things! I sometimes choose a special pattern and knit it just for me to get my mind off of thinking about new designs 24/7. 

Willow: We also keep an eye on other designers because we don’t want to put out a design that looks like a copy! Sometimes we will come up with a great idea and then check Ravelry and someone else has already done it. Social media also makes it pretty hard to not know what is going on in the knitting world. My Instagram feed is full of amazing designs from other designers!

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

Willow: Usually the process is that one of us will come up with a design and knit it, then the other one of us will knit it and suggest tweaks, then we will send it out for testing. We aim for five-ten testers per design, and have a couple of really lovely knitters who have tested for us on almost every design so far. Testers are such an integral part of the process! They manage to catch things that Sasha and I miss even after knitting the pattern a few times. Sasha ends up knitting most of the samples because she can bang out four shawls in the time it takes me to knit one!

Do you have a mentor?
Sasha: Yes! Taiga Hilliard. I used to do test knitting for her and although we've never met in real life we have become close friends. Test knitting for her has taught me a lot about knitting because it forced me to try new things and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Taiga has given me the best advice and has encouraged me every step of the way! I feel blessed to have a great friend in her.  

I'd also say Willow is my mentor. We bounce ideas off of each other and have no problem saying if we like it or dislike it, or if there is a better way of doing things. We are a great team and don't easily get offended with each other. I look at constructive criticism as feedback not failure!

Willow: I do have a few knitting friends who I turn to for knitting advice often (Sasha included!). It is so helpful to be able to bounce ideas off someone. Sometimes you hit a point where everything just seems like the worst idea ever, but a fresh set of ideas can come up with something brilliant! Every design we do is a compilation, and I think it really makes our designs shine! We put the best of both of us into each one.

Do you use a tech editor?
Sasha: Willow is the tech editor! And she's REALLY good at it! She's highly efficient and makes our PDF’s look gorgeous and professional. She takes really great photos too! She's a Jane of all trades.

Willow: I don't consider myself an actual tech editor, but I am figuring out a lot as we go!

How do you maintain your life/work balance? Sasha: There is NO balance, ha-ha! I think about knitting/designing all day everyday. I think about it when I wake up, when I drink my morning coffee, when I'm driving to the grocery store, when I'm making dinner, when I'm exercising, when I'm watching TV, even when I'm sleeping. I would love to quit my day job and just design and knit all day.

Willow: I haven’t figured this out yet. My day job is my young children, and they take up a lot of my time, but I try to sneak in knitting whenever I can! And then I usually stay up way too late knitting and then regret it in the morning.

How do you deal with criticism?

Sasha: I haven’t come across much. People in the knitting community are quite lovely! But if I did, I tried my best to always be kind. And try to remember not everyone is going to like you and that's OK. We all have different likes and dislikes in life. It's what makes us unique!

Willow: I try to just tell myself that most people really are just trying to help, even if it doesn’t come across that way. That being said, so far, the knitting community has been so great and supportive, and any criticism we have encountered has been fairly mild!

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself? Sasha: I never got into this for the money, but if I make some in the process it means more money for yarn! We are having a lot of fun and enjoying the journey and if we can make a few bucks and great friends along the way then I'm happy.

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

Sasha: Anything is possible! If you think of a concept, write it down and figure out a way to make it happen. I don't consider myself a designer. I'm just a girl who wants to create cool things that I want to wear!

What’s next for you?
Sasha: We are getting very excited for Knit City this year! We've booked a booth (our first one ever) and have an exciting collaboration going with one of our favorite Indie Dyers! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Halesworth Wrap

Patrick of Signature Yarns popped by the other day to show me the second finished sample of The Halesworth Wrap. (Hey, if I can't knit as much as I would like, I can at least drool over someone else's knitting.) This one was knit by another friend of ours, a fellow Village Yarns alumni. It's fantastic but definitely not for the faint of heart when it comes to colour. One of the things we're noticed is that gorgeous colour helps knitters really see a pattern. They may chose different colours when we show them the options but it gets their attention!

If you are interested, the pattern includes links to my blog post series on reading your knitting. I use the three stitch patterns in the wrap as examples for how to understand each stitch pattern. It really helps you to eliminate errors in your knitting when you acquire that skill.

I took a few quick photos to share here. 

The yarn in this version is a cotton rayon blend. It has a little sheen from the rayon and knits up with a crisp hand which makes those stitch patterns really pop. 

Here's the original with a less bold colour combination.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Friday, April 14, 2017

An Interview with...Sarah Schira &

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 Sarah here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I love using places as my starting point. I have spent most of my life on the prairies, where the vast sweep of land and sky encourage you to look for lines and textures. Sometimes I design explicitly from a place and sometimes a project on the needles starts to remind me of somewhere.

For example, the Travelling Landscapes shawl was a challenge I set myself last summer. I designed and knit a shawl inspired by our travels during a 4 week trip to Europe. It was one of the most exciting things I’ve done.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Cables. Such a simple technique for so much beauty. 

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I’m a “capital K” Knitter above all else! I can’t imagine not indulging in the glorious hobby of pouring over knitting patterns, thinking of colours and textures and how the shapes might work in my wardrobe.
I often consciously turn away from looking at other designs when I’m beginning to work for the first few days. There are other times right at the beginning of some projects when I look at dozens of patterns trying to see how a particular element can play out on different shapes or in different colours.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I don’t currently use sample knitters, but I definitely use test knitters - they’re such a vital part of the process! They catch mistakes, yes, but they also show me where things were confusing or where the layout made things less clear.
The number of varies from project to project: I like a minimum of 2 people for every size and I make sure that there are people knitting from charts and written instructions.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Yes, I do, although maybe not as formal as a small business that needed a bank loan to get started. I spent 15 years homeschooling my two children and now that my youngest is graduating this spring, I would like to earn a living designing and teaching knitting. I’ve been designing sweaters and accessories for us almost since the first months I was a knitter, but I’ve only recently started to share them with others. 

Do you have a mentor?
No, unfortunately. &

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I’ve been paying attention to what my favourite designers who seem to be making a go of it are doing, but I don’t know if that is exactly what you mean. I’m still feeling my way into this in terms of both the design side and the business side.

Do you use a tech editor?
For some projects yes, when I want a second look at the math or charts beyond what the test knitters provide.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
By always prioritizing life. Work serves life - if it isn’t helping me create the life I want to lead, then it’s counter-productive. I definitely set myself up to be swamped occasionally, but I’m learning from that and getting better at anticipating which tasks need more time or shouldn’t be combined with others.
I went through a period in my 20s as a mother of young children where I lost myself. We moved a lot as university students, demands were high, and - other than my husband - support was low. I was overweight, tired, and overwhelmed. Ever since then I’ve tried to prioritize a sustainable balance.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I’m not there yet! I’ve been publishing designs for almost 2 years but I am still homeschooling my son. I’m easing into this as a full time business, and I’m happy with the progress I see but I’m not yet pulling in much of an income.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Be patient - it takes time to build up all the processes and habits that you will need. You’ll need time to sort out how you approach things, and you’ll be doing *a lot* of things. From photographing to finances, from grading sizes to figuring out what your web host should be, there’s a lot to this that isn’t knitting.
Also, on a very practical note: listen to pretty much every podcast that Tara Swiger has put out. It’s called Explore your Enthusiasm. She is a business coach for artists, knitting designers, and other creatives. Her podcasts can really help you sort out your mental approach to the process and help you avoid pitfalls.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on a new collection of accessories. I’m thinking of trying the approach where people can buy the whole collection at a discount and I release the designs over the space of a few months. I know I love the way that anticipation and surprise add awesomeness to life.
I’m also starting to submit to magazines. Now that I feel like I have my bearings, I’d really like to see what that process is like.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ergonomics for Knitters

Bag available here

I had some success knitting yesterday. It took three different projects before I figured out what I could knit. After using my heat pack and stretching I started experimenting.

1) I had started a swatch before my wrist sprain and had decided the gauge was too tight. I ripped it out and started again a needle size up. I was really struggling with the movement and my first thought was "uhoh" my gauge may be really messed up on this swatch. Then I remembered when I teach absolute beginners it's often easier if I start by casting on and knitting a few rows for them so they have existing stitches to work from. 

2) I got out a vest which I had put aside recently. I had about four inches of knitting completed. Humm, this was definitely easier. I wasn't feeling awkward, I knit for about 20 minutes and then took a rest. There wasn't any pain but the yarns in that project are sturdy wools, some in that crispy category.

3) While I was resting, I remembered I had another project in which I was working with very soft yarns with a loose gauge on straight needles. Number 1 and 2 are both on circulars. Eureka! I did two more 20 minute sessions of knitting. I don't want to overdo it. 

4) Lessons learned, maybe multiple UFOs aren't as bad as I think they are!  OK, I do have too many but that's a different post topic. Other lessons, try changing the needle style, use softer yarns and looser gauges for easier on the hands and wrists knitting.

Next time I'm going to do a roundup post on various sources of info on knitting ergonomics.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Still not Knitting...

This is how I feel

My wrist sprain is still stopping me from spending much time knitting. Right now 20 minutes seems to be about the maximum. I'm finding it rather frustrating. I'm diligently doing my stretching and exercises, but the real exercise is the exercise of my patience. 

I thought I'd spend some extra time blogging and write some posts for later publication. Guess what? When I'm not knitting, I'm not thinking so much about knitting and for the first time in the seven years I've been blogging I seem to be struggling for topics. Normally the ideas just seem to appear from nowhere so this is a surprise to me. 

I have been reading quite a bit. I've gone back and read a couple of Nevil Shute novels. My Grandmother was very fond of his books and I've read all of the collection in my local library in the past. I've just reread A Town Like Alice and Trustee from the Toolroom.

I've also made some jewellery. I think I'm able to do that since the movements are much less repetitive 

I think my next move will be to spend some time on other knitting blogs and perhaps watch a couple of Craftsy classes for inspiration. 

What do you do if you can't knit?