Monday, May 22, 2017

Prince Edward County Fibrefest

Signature yarns will be at the Prince Edward County (Ontario, Canada) Fibrefest next weekend. I won't be there but Patrick will be there featuring his new Prism hand dyed Louet Lace Linen. He will also have new shades of Prism Delicato, a lace weight yarn with a gorgeous, soft hand. Both the Prism and Blue Heron yarn collections will be there, they include hand dyed Rayon, Cashmere, Merino and Silk fibres, some of these yarns will be showcased in my Robin Hunter Collection kits. If you are going, check out the Belvedere Wrap in Blue Heron cotton rayon or the organic cotton version. I've seen a number of projects done in both yarns. The wrap looks great and works really well as a summer project.

Here's a few photos of the designs we have collaborated on. To see more photos check out the Ravelry pages linked to the photos and here and here on Signature yarns. Several of the designs are available in more than one yarn base so you can choose which ones you prefer of the various samples. (one in Cotton one in Rayon Metallic)

Torquay shawl for this yarn base, on ravelry as

Festival Details:
Prince Edward County Fibre Fest
I am in booths D12-D14, in the Picton Arena
375 Picton Main Street, Prince Edward County
Adults: $5, Children 12 & Under Free

Friday, May 19, 2017

An Interview with...Shireen Nadir

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 Shireen here and here on Ravelry. Her yarns are available here.

All the photos, with the exception of the one below, are for upcoming designs.
Where do you find inspiration?
For us, everything starts with photography. We are both avid travelers and never leave home without our gear! Our photography and our travels form the base of all our colourways.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love a nice clean selvage. My favourite way to achieve this is to slip the first stitch of every row purl-wise with yarn in front, then move the yarn to the back and k1. I knit the rest of the row as normal, but I always like to have a 2-stitch garter edging so I can use the technique.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love looking at, and knitting the work of other designers! We all inspire each other, and inspiration can come from anywhere. I’ll also look at the big brands and boutiques to see what’s new on the fashion front.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Between myself and our other Blue Brick colleague, Kali, we get all the knitting done in house. She’s a machine! After the initial test knits are done my technical editor, Kathryn, will also go over the pattern to look for errors.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I wish I could say yes, but our plan changes daily. We have been learning as we go on the business front, but being a small business we can afford to be quick and nimble when needed, which I feel is a real advantage. Because of my career in advertising and background in photography, The Blue Brick has also benefited from an in-house marketing team, which really helped us get noticed. 

Do you have a mentor?
I have a muse ;) My husband Tito is the pillar of The Blue Brick. He’s game for all my crazy ideas and always backs me up 100%. He’s also a dyer, a visual artist and a photographer so we’re always bouncing ideas off each other. 

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Does “flying by the seat of your pants” count?

Do you use a tech editor?
Absolutely! We couldn’t get by without her. Sometimes she’ll expand beyond just knitting to offer support and advice about the design, language, or just life. The Blue Brick and it’s extended family are all tight friends, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Badly, but it’s a goal :) Bringing on staff really helped but its a work in progress for sure. We have to look after each other to remember to eat well, sleep well, take down time and look after ourselves. Because we both still have day jobs, that can be a real challenge, especially with a puppy and a high-needs rescue dog in the house!

How do you deal with criticism?
I’ve been in advertising for 15 years, and everyone knows that the ability to take constructive criticism is important, and ultimately leads to a better product 9 out of 10 times. I also know that sometimes you have to own your work and follow your gut instinct, I try to bring a mixture of both these attitudes to our yarns and designs.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
At present we both have full time day jobs and work The Blue Brick in the evenings. It’s hard, but we believe in what we do and have a lot of passion for yarn and design, and it keeps us on the path. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I think the hardest thing for us was pricing. There is a strong tendency to undersell yourself on the market, especially when you’re new, but you have to value your time, or you won’t be able to progress towards doing this as a career, if that’s your goal. Having said that, the best advice I got when I was starting to design was to offer a few patterns for free on Ravelry, so people could get a feel for my work before spending any money. Tech editing is key, even if it’s just another knitter friend who scans for mistakes you may have overlooked. The Internet can be unforgiving, so try to dot all your “i”s and cross all your “t”s before you release anything to the public. 

What’s next for you?
We’ve just released our first book “Ombré Knits” geared toward helping people understand how best to use our ombré yarns, which is what we specialize in. That was huge, and fun, and we’re definitely looking at releasing these collections annually, or bi-annually in the future. The book is visually lovely in addition to being full of patterns and that’s my goal; to create something that is enjoyable to review and browse in addition to just sharing instructions. I also want to bring more of our photography forward into our work, to further enhance that.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

In the category of things which make me

There is an amazing Etsy shop which sells rocks. Not just any rocks, but household items made from felted rocks. Look closely.

Check it out here

Monday, May 15, 2017

Is It Scarfable?

Last week at a knitting event I was showing a knitter one of my designs for Signature Yarns which has been done in two different yarns. I went on to show her how the shape was scarf-able. Yes that was the word I used. I don't think I made it up? I'm pretty sure I read it somewhere but of course I have no idea where. She did have a questioning look on her face but it disappeared as I demonstrated what I meant. 

From this:

 Or this:

To this:

Simply put, it works best with rectangle shaped wraps. Fold the fabric on itself and wear it as a scarf, drop it from the long straight edge around your shoulders and wear it as a wrap or as a poncho with a shawl pin.
Later it popped into my head is scarf-able really a word? 

      According to Merriam Webster when used as a verb:

Definition of scarf

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  scoff 1 scarfed down my sandwich
  3. 2 :  snap transitive transitive 2 scarfed up the best seats
    According to the Urban Dictionary:
    you can say it anyway you want.
    it can have any meaning.
    you just simply take out a random word in a sentence and fill it in with scarf.
    it can mean something good, bad, cool, funny.
    it has multiple meanings.
    -dude your being really mean today.
    -scarf off!

    -Hey that chick is definitely scarfable!

    -scarf! i forgot my keys!

    -you need to get that dam money or i'll scarf you up 

Wow! I really do learn new things from knitting everyday.

Friday, May 12, 2017

An Interview with..Valerie Johnson

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 Valerie here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
All over the place. From magazines, television shows, movies, people at the office. My eyes are always open to new ideas wherever I go.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
I am a lace knitter! Which is hilarious, because when I started knitting, the first few lace projects I tried went horribly wrong, and I swore I’d never knit lace. But I guess I just love the look of it too much – because I kept going back until one project (a feather and fan scarf) and it finally “clicked”.
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I’m always looking at others designers’ work – and I think it’s great to be influenced by them. I have no formal training in design, so I’ve learned new techniques by knitting projects others have designed.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I am mostly a one-woman show, but I have a few knitter friends who will pitch in a test knit if I’m in need.
Did you do a formal business plan?
Not at all. I didn’t really plan to be a “designer” at all. I just shared a few patterns I’d made, and it grew from there. Now I have 49 patterns available on Ravelry (with more in the works). But even now I don’t really consider it a business. I don’t really design for the sake of designing. My designs have almost all been to fill a need in my life (whether a garment I wanted for myself, or a gift for a friend), and I write up the pattern and share it. Whether I offer it for free or for a few dollars just depends on the complexity and how much work I’ve put into it.
Do you have a mentor?
That would be my Mom. She started knitting when she was pregnant with me. She taught me when I was four or five, though I didn’t really take it up until my 20s. She is an amazing knitter – perfect tension; there’s no technique she can’t execute! So when I have a question or problem… she’s always there with the answer.

Do you use a tech editor?
Again – that’s Mom. With almost 40 years of knitting experience under her belt, she’s handy to have look over your patterns. She’s also better with math than I am.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Admittedly, I am very lucky in that respect. I have a day job (I’m a sales writer).  So for me, the knitting/designing falls in the “life” side of that balance. I work mostly from home, and make my own schedule. I have a husband, but we have no kids, and he’s got his own hobbies to keep him occupied. It’s not usually hard to find time to work on my designs. Though I will admit, I probably neglect my housework more than I should… and I have been known to eat cereal for dinner so I can get back to the knitting.
How do you deal with criticism?
When it comes to my knitting, I haven’t had much (that I’ve seen/heard, anyway). But as I mentioned, I’m a writer… and I started my career as a journalist. Criticism is part and parcel of the field, and you don’t last long if you can’t deal with it. The main thing to remember is that no matter what you do (be it journalism or knitting), you’re never going to have everyone love you.  Someone somewhere will always have a differing opinion: Our diversity of thought is our beauty. And sometimes the critics are even right, so you can learn something new. And that’s always a good thing!

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Oh how I wish! As mentioned, I have a day job. I am definitely a part-time designer. My design work mostly supports my knitting habit. I make just enough in pattern sales to keep me in yarn, patterns, needles, and notions – which to me, seems like a pretty good deal.
While I occasionally dream about designing full-time, I think I’d miss my day job too. I consider myself very lucky that I’m able to do both!

What’s next for you? 
I’ve got quite a bit in the works right now, actually.

I recently had to give up my car, so on the few days I do go into the office, I have a long train commute. Perfect for sock knitting though!  So I’m working on a series of sock patterns each named after a station along commute.

I’ve got a cardigan pattern which is mostly complete; I just need to work on the numbers for the additional sizes.

I’ve also recently started a new shrug/shawl design, which I’m very excited about.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I'm waiting for Spring Flowers

I'm getting eager to start my garden, unfortunately we have a frost warning for tonight so I need to wait. I'm a balcony gardener and I can often start planting ahead of the traditional May 24th holiday weekend here in Toronto. I'm looking at knitted flowers instead for the time being.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Toronto Knitters Frolic and Spring Social

Add caption

I didn't get time last weekend to post about these two events. On Saturday I worked in the Signature Yarns booth at the Toronto Knitters Frolic with Patrick and his amazing team of Chris, Caitlin, Janet, Susan, Barbara, Wanda, Jeanette, Dale, Jim and of course me! Jeanette, Wanda, Dale and I had all knit some of the samples in the booth. It was wonderful to be able to have customers speak to the person who had knit the items they were interested in. Jeanette is an amazingly fast knitter and has created the beautiful samples for many of my designs. 

Sunday was the social event. There was a caterer providing an afternoon tea, the amazing art of Debbie New and speeches by Sally Melville and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. The event was hosted by Patrick Amy Singer of Knitty Magazine and Julia Grunau of Patternfish. I thoroughly enjoyed the event.  We ended with a fashion show with garments by Sally Melville, Kim McBrien, Fiona Ellis, Kate Atherley and Universal Yarns as well as yours truly.

There's an flickr page here with photos.