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.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

How to Copy a Sweater to Create a Custom Fit Garment. Part 2

One of my self assigned jobs this summer was to clear out my Blogger draft file. I found this unpublished post at the bottom of the list. Better late than never I suppose?

Part 1 of this topic is here.

Start by laying the target garment flat, smooth out any wrinkles working from the center out. Check to see if the side seams are at the edges or have they rolled under to the back? If they have, it means the front of the garment is larger than the back. You may wish to duplicate this or you can make the front and the back the same which is the common method in knitwear.
If you make the front larger you will need to check carefully to make sure that all edges which will be  joined (shoulders and side seams usually) match. The front shoulders will need to be made narrower. The way to do this is by working extra decreases at the neckline until you have the same number of stitches on the back.

Using graph paper mark off the horizontal width as measured off of the garment. Mark the vertical length at center back. If you are making the front and back the same size they can be shown layered on top of one another. 

Pay attention to where you put pins to indicate more accurate edges and hem finishes.

Don't include the neckband if you will be knitting it as a separate piece. 

Watch out for any stretching of the original garment. It may not lay flat if there has been any strain. An example would be at the elbows or the neckband. 

Pull the sleeve up and out to the side when you measure the armhole depth, there is a corner there which needs to be laid flat to be measured accurately. Or, use my tank trick here.

Remember the rules of ease, the thicker or stiffer your knitted fabric is as compared to the original garment, the more ease required for comfort.

Use a flexible ruler to duplicate curves.

If you need more info on the drafting process I have a series which is part of a Design- A- Long which should help.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Creativity - There are No New Ideas

I see on Ravelry threads that there is a great deal of anger surrounding the topic of protecting intellectual property. I'm not referring to the outright theft of patterns but to the copying of ideas.

I suspect that the sources of these comments do not realize how easily designers can generate ideas. I've been involved in creative pursuits since childhood so I can come up with many ideas very quickly. My real limitation is being in being able to produce them all and my designer friends tell me that they have the same handicap.

While you can use an idea as a jumping off point a designer still needs to put in the development time to make it work and none of this happens quickly in knitting. Patterns take time to write, the knitting has to be done. Afterward there is tech editing, the layout usually needs to be re-worked after the edit is completed and photography must be completed.  Once you put the photos in there may need to be even more changes to the layout.

When I teach my design course I do some creativity exercises. Occasionally students will find themselves stuck so I will work the exercises with them and I notice how those students are amazed by how I use simple strategies to fuel new ideas.

I think that everyone can be creative, yes there is a certain amount of innate talent involved, but ask a few questions and you will discover that the talented people get better with practice as they learn techniques to stimulate ideas. If you study creativity, you quickly realize that it's true that there are very few absolutely new ideas. What is creative is the combination of existing ideas in a new format. It's also not uncommon for us to generate similar ideas. I'm constantly adding things to my notebook which I never move forward on as I see other similar designs popping up in magazines and on knitting websites. So I think it's best not to assume the worst of others when wondering where their ideas came from and the amount of effort that goes into the process. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

An Interview with...Svetlana Gordon

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 Svetlana here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

I don't think I really have to find one: I was drawn to knitting since I was three years old, because I was fascinated by my mother teaching my older sister how to knit. I was just always curious about all kinds of handmade: what else can you do with this or that material? You can do it in crochet, but can you in knitting? Sometimes I receive sweet comments like: "Your designs is a work of art!", but what really drives me is an excitement of an artificer. I can get inspired by really fine yarn - like Malabrigo's - because of the possibilities it provides. 

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I really like flowers and leaves that I'm knitting in short rows. My pupils called it "art-form". I adore that it breaks stereotypes and there are no boundaries: you can knit freely in any direction and get unpredictable results.

Do you look at others designers work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? 
I avoid checking on other designers, because it's very easy to copy something unconsciously, and I certainly wouldn't want to steal other people's ideas. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I guess you can say that I'm doing it all myself since I put my designs on sales right after I've knitted it and written the tutorial. But I have a lot of pupils at my off-line Moscow master-classes, where we constantly check if everything I've invented is okay.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, I didn't. I'm actually no salesperson. My business in handmade began when I tried felting: made things like bags and coats, but didn't know where to put all of them. Then I decided to try and sell it, because why not? And like this I've registered on Livejournal, and on the Russian handmakers web-site later on. It was difficult to promote myself, but I've asked my friends to which I've sold my things first to write comments. Like this my things became popular in Russia. Later on I began to share my written master-classes on Livemaster for free, and one Belgium girl that originated from Russia translated one of my tutorials in French in an act of good will. So I began to sell tutorials internationally. You can see that the opportunities just sort of "clicked".

Do you have a mentor?
Not really, but I've learned from the book of Horst Schulze that knitting doesn't have to go in one particular direction. And I've also learned from Kieran Foley - he's a mathematician and creates new knitting designs, I absolutely love them. 

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No, I don't.

Do you use a tech editor?
No (I don't even know what that is). 

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
My work is practically my life. I invent something even in my sleep sometimes! I like to switch from doing patterns to burning wood, modelling in clay or making decor from time to time. I frequently listen audio-books when I'm working, since most of the process isn't as creative as mechanical. 

How do you deal with criticism?
I don't have it so often that it could become bothersome. I usually correct all the flaws myself when I'm creating a design. But rarely my clients do point some mistakes in my patterns. I don't get self-conscious, just note to myself to be more attentive. I'm actually getting much more frustrated when I have an idea, but just can't put it mathematically. 

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I've got lucky: my first pattern became very popular. I earned enough for a living in the first month. But I walked a long way to get to this point. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Don't offer dull things to people, there are already much more of them then are needed! Don't put any boundaries on yourself beforehand: try and see where it will go. If you fail - you can always retry, but it you succeed - it will be truly unique.

What’s next for you?
I actually dream of writing a book. I also really want to aсquire Hansen spinner and start making yarn for my projects on my own. And I have lots of requests to give master-classes in different countries: I would really love to go and travel the world someday!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Radcliffe Reflection Wrap - New Pattern

I have a new pattern being launched this weekend by Signature Yarns at the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitters' Fair.

It will be up on Ravelry, Patternfish and LoveKnitting soon.

This one is worked from Prism's Gradient pack in Fuchsia.

It's an elegant long crescent wrap. The design includes simple chevrons and lace in a changing palette of colours. A slip stitch pattern borders each section. It is a project easy enough for the beginner lace knitter. The lace section has only two pattern rows and the wrong side rows are purled. The lace section is created using easy short rows (no wraps, worked outside the lace) which gives the piece its crescent shape. The wrap is knitted in one piece starting at the bottom edge. The stitch patterns are written in text only due to the simplicity of each stitch pattern. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Felicia Lo Book Review - Dyeing to Spin & Knit: Techniques & Tips to Make Custom Hand-Dyed Yarns


As soon as I read the introduction of  Felicia's book I knew I was going to really enjoy it. I don't spin, I don't dye yarn but I find colour endlessly fascinating. Her personal colour story, while different from mine, drew me in immediately.

The first section does give us the standard colour wheel terminology but then Felicia spends time explaining how colour affects our moods, our thoughts and the thoughts of others. 

In her own words:
"The book is broken down into four main sections:
Understanding Colour - all about the fundamentals of colour theory, understanding hue, value, and saturation, and how to combine colours and create palettes.
Creating Colour - the process of dyeing with acid dyes on yarn and fibre, going into a wide range of different techniques for applying colour to create one-of-a-kind yarns.
Spinning Colour - we look at how the different characteristics of hand-dyed fibre affect the appearance of handspun yarn and how we can take advantage of those nuances. Spinners can learn to subdue bright or vibrant colourways, or maximize the effect of more subtle hand-dyed colours.
Knitting Colour - we explore how hand-dyed yarns will knit up in different conditions, from the thickness of the yarn to the length of the colour repeats. Knitters can also learn to avoid or enhance the effects of pooling colours in variegated yarns."

The book will teach you the basics of how colour works, how to combine colours, and how to control the results when dyeing for all fibre artists. Spinners will learn how to control intense colourways and to prevent colour muddiness in hand spun yarns. Knitters will learn how to both avoid and maximize the positive effects of colour pooling. However, the strength of this book lies in it's ability to move beyond the technical and into how colour works emotionally.

The back of the book includes 10 patterns all knit with her SweetGeorgia Yarns.

You can see all the patterns here on Ravelry.