Friday, December 15, 2017

An Interview with...Christiane Burkhard


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
Christiane here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
There is not one particular source I find inspiration from for my designs. Nature, people, shapes, colors, architecture, yarn and fashion all offers a lot to get creativity going. That is the beautiful part about designing. One of my newer designs Ayona for example was inspired by the geometrical diamond shape.

 
https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ayona


What is your favourite knitting technique?
There are so many interesting techniques out there that it is hard to choose one favorite. I like to play with modular knitting as well as finding and exploring less known or new ways to achieve the construction I have in mind.


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/farfalla


Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Looking at other designers work is like jumping into a big pool of creativity. There is always something to learn, to admire or just to make sure that the design I am thinking about doesn’t already exist. I especially love designers who found their own style or design voice instead of doing more of the same.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
For now I knit the first sample myself, since it gives me the freedom to change things around as I go in case I want to add another detail or alter.
I work with 4 to 10 test knitters. I usually use some of my regular more experienced ones. In addition, I am also working with some less experienced knitters or testers, since their questions help to find out how user-friendly the patterns are. Let me take this question as an opportunity to thank all the people who test knit. It is very valuable for me as a designer and also for fellow knitters to get an easy to use pattern. 


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/lavena


Did you do a formal business plan?

After moving from the US to Europe this is next on my agenda. It is always important to think about where you want to go and what you would like to achieve - especially if you plan to make designing your profession.

Do you have a mentor?
Unfortunately not. I am a learning-by-doing kind of person although I have a great network of knitters and designers who would give input or advice when needed.


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/morning-breeze-2


Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

When I used to live in the US I worked as an hand dyer and designer to give the business a broader base. (I love dyeing too)

Do you use a tech editor?

Not yet. I just recently have started to look for someone who fits my needs and would like to collaborate with me.


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/break-through

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Keeping a life/work balance is not easy. I have a family and another job. It needs a lot of discipline to balance this.

How do you deal with criticism?
Constructive criticism helps to improve my skills and pattern writing and therefore I am thankful for it. Through the years I have also learned to handle destructive criticism and it doesn’t affect me that much anymore.


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/zina-2

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Through knitting platforms like Ravelry it became much easier for knitters to make designing their profession. As for any other profession it is important to learn more about what it needs to become a designer. Unfortunately, I met some beautiful knitters who thought as a designer they could now earn money with their hobby, and knit all day long. They later learned that there is much more involved, the hard way. Through the increasing possibilities for knitters to pursue this career also the number of designers increased tremendously during the last few years. Therefore, one of the things I would emphasize is to work towards developing your own style or distinct voice as a designer to avoid doing more of the same and getting lost in the crowd.

What’s next for you?
With moving to Germany, I have to reinvent myself again since the industry is different than in the US. It’s a new challenge I fully embrace. It is important for me not to get stuck in old ways….. One of the things which are on my heart in this process can be summarized with two words “Slow Fashion”. 




https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/patches-child




Friday, December 8, 2017

The Great Hand Knit Reorganization of 2017 (an Update)

Here's an update on my hand knit reorganization from last March. Take a look at the photos below. I'm proud to say the shelves and drawers of my armoire (which store the sweaters) still look as beautifully well organized and tidy as they did when I sorted everything out. I always get a little jolt of happiness when I go to the armoire to get a sweater out to wear. I'm also wearing a wider range of things as I can finally see everything at one time. Separating winter garments onto the shelves and summer garments into two of the larger drawers means at this time of year I really only look in one place to choose something to wear. 

Unfortunately, the shawl and accessory sort hasn't been so successful. They are all in one place (good) but I'm using a linen closet in a dark corner (bad) and the shelves are too deep to keep the stacks tidy (bad). I tend to knit those items from very soft and slithery yarns (bad) which makes it even harder to keep the piles neat. I've got everything there sorted by colour which is hard to see because it's dark. Add to that a much wider range of sizing and I think I have two fixable issues. The first is I'm going to add a battery operated light so I can see better. I'm also going to start looking for some shelf organizers. I'll probably wait until the January household sales to start my search. I think spending a little money to tackle this will be worthwhile since the garment reorg was so successful.

Here's my original post on this topic:  

The great hand knit reorganization of 2017 got stalled out a few weeks ago. The combination of not enough space banged up against "I can't get rid of that I spent too many hours knitting it" and "I know I don't wear it any more"!

I kept reminding myself of an organizing rule from an old TV show Clean Sweep. Peter Walsh would tell people they could keep what would fit into a specific space. So I paused and loaded all the questionable knits into laundry baskets while I mulled. It is amazingly hard to let go of garments made with your own hands. 

It did help as I got the shelves and drawers of my armoire looking good. I really didn't want to stuff things back in. 


Wow! that's a lot of knitting, but the stacks mean I can see what I've got.

Here's summer sweaters with the piles graduated so I can see them properly.


I'm still working on the shawls and accessories. You might not get to see a photo when I'm done. That corner of the room is so dark I'm not sure even editing will lighten it up enough.

I finally tossed out some of the things which are not in good enough condition to donate. I had some garments which were in very good shape (thank you, tough hard wearing wool) those ones will go off to donation in the very near future.
  

Friday, December 1, 2017

Understanding Pattern Grading


I'm posting a link to two articles because they answer so many of the questions knitters ask about fit. Kathleen mentions that comments on her site have "led me to believe that I still hadn’t done a decent enough job in explaining the parameters of what grading is or isn’t." I've had that feeling myself when knitters complain about patterns lacking in size ranges and appropriate fit. I frequently point to retail size ranges and how they are treated separately but knitters confuse the concepts of size and proportion. These concepts are very complex. Every teacher I ever had the good fortune to work with, had years of experience with a vast number of various body types. You can read the articles here and here.

BTW http://fashion-incubator.com is a wonderful resource I've been following it since it first started publishing in 2005. 



Friday, November 24, 2017

An Interview with...Alla Saenko


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/altostratus-2

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
Alla here on Ravelry.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/beach-peas-tam

Where do you find inspiration?
My inspiration mostly comes from yarns. If the yarn attracts me in some way, I immediately think what can I knit out of it. I often buy a skein or two just to try the new to me yarn out. Design ideas may come while I am playing with the yarn, trying different stitch patterns and observing how the stitch pattern and the yarn interact, or how two colours look next to each other.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
My most recent favourite knitting techniques are magic loop for knitting in the round, and Italian cast on to start the ribbing in bottom up hats or cowls. Usually I don't bother with fancy techniques, my motto is the simpler the better, but there are a few ones I just cannot live without. 
 
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I had a fear before that seeing the other designers' works will interfere with my own creativity, and for years I've been simply refusing to look at other designs just for the sake of keeping my mind clear. On the other hand, I realized that I cannot isolate myself totally from what is going on around me. You need to know what is trendy and what is popular with other knitters, that you can offer what the average knitter is looking for. By saying this I don't mean a designer needs to copy others to fit in the market, but observing others' works rather helps to stay up to date with hand knitting trends. 
 
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
All my samples I knit by myself since it is necessary for me to check and tune up the pattern before I will hand it to the test knitters or a tech editor. I wish, I had someone close to me to knit a sample, but it has to be someone who can understand and feel my way of thinking while I've been creating a particular design, or at least be able to communicate in real life. If it's a simple design, like a hat or a scarf, I can ask someone to check the pattern for spelling and typos, with more complex shawl designs I would call for test knitters. 

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/turquoise-lagoon
 
Did you do a formal business plan?
I don't have a business plan, as I still consider my designing work as a hobby. Putting myself in a fixed time frame or loading myself with obligations, like achieving a certain set of goals, doesn't give me a freedom to create.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I can say, that my current business model is very simple - to publish patterns and run promotions regularly. It keeps me busy enough at the moment. My current goal is to master pattern writing skills to such a level that I would have more time to invest into the creative and technical sides of the design process. 
 
Do you use a tech editor?
Even the best test knitters cannot replace a tech editor's work. When I feel, my pattern needs professional attention, I use a tech editor's services. 
 
https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/petal-showers-hat

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Maintaining the balance sometimes is not an easy task. I do not consider my designing work as a work, it is rather the most enjoyable and satisfying hobby for me. Whenever I have a spare minute, I would rather spend it knitting or sketching a new design. This is how I relax. 
 
How do you deal with criticism?
Living in Canada I discovered that Canadians are the most polite people in the world, and very generous with giving compliments. When it comes to my main hobby, they make me feel like I am a knitting queen. And while I really appreciate such a kindness, I am longing for healthy constructive criticism. There is always room for improvement. 
 
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Even though it becomes a career to you at some point, it is still an art, and you are an artist who is trying to express yourself through it. Make sure you continue to enjoy the process. First of all you do it for yourself, and when someone else appreciates your work, that's a bonus! Remain true and genuine, and people somehow catch that vibe through your designs.



Friday, November 17, 2017

An Interview with...Aistė Butkevičienė

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/arctic-5



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 Aistė here on Ravelry and on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/aisteb1973/

 


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/blue-blues

Where do you find inspiration?
The first source of my inspiration is my hands. I let them do what they want, making crazy swatches, inventing new techniques, drawing sketches. The next source is my eyes. I watch fashion shows, street-wear, apparel shops. Then I let myself soak in trends, lines, shapes and colours. After that I mix everything and the design pops into my mind. I just need  to knit it quickly before the inspiration fades away.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Maybe it‘s not a technique in the way we normally understand it. It is a combination of techniques which I use to make garments that fit real women's bodies. My design process is split into two parts. The first is to design the garment as I see it. Yarn, stitch pattern, color, silhouette and the finishing techniques. The next part is to make pattern drafts which are taken from tailoring. I add different styles of bust darts, I make the back longer and I lift the back neck, I use a wider front, different shoulder slopes, unsymmetrical armholes and sleeve caps. My knitters are not only knitters, but they have the skills of a tailor at the same time. And of course, all detailed instructions are included in every pattern. The goal is to connect design and the best fit possible into one piece. And that is my favourite technique.


New design coming Jan 2018


Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Sometimes I look and I have my beloved designers. But I hope I do have my own style and I‘m not afraid to be influenced. As I mentioned already, I‘m keen on the tailoring side of knitting and that is completely different.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have a lot. I need about 20-30 knitters to test one sample. I do 7 sizes, so I need 2-3 knitters to test one size. I've done around 15 or 16 testings already, so maybe one hundred in total... My test knitters (I call them Early Birds) are the best in the world. I made a look-book of my last collection, and the last pages of it show how talented and beautiful they are. You can see it here:
https://issuu.com/aisteb1973/docs/merino_hug_winter_solstice

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, I didn't. I just have a schedule of the steps which I need to do and try to follow them. 


New design coming Jan 2018


Do you have a mentor?
I have a forum thread where I've been teaching knitting for  three years. Many talented knitters participate there and we share our experiences. Some of them have taught me a lot. But I do not have a formal mentor. When I was a kid, I had a grandmother. She was a passionate knitter and she instilled me with a passion for knitting.

Do you use a tech editor?
No, I do not. My methods of making patterns is very different and no tech editor would be able to calculate them correctly.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Knitting and designing is my full time hobby. I have a business, but now my husband takes care of 90% of it, so I am almost free to do what I love. 


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/cherrish

How do you deal with criticism?
Criticism sometimes hurts, but it also sometimes works as eye opener. The biggest transformations in my knitting
life happened thanks to constructive criticism.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I‘m not supporting myself yet. I think I need more time and more effort. However looking at it from a different angle I find doing what you love is more valuable.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
If you eat, breathe and sleep knitting, you should try. If knitting is your best friend, if you dream sweaters at night, if you prefer knitting to a party, camping or a trip, you should try. And I recommend that you need to have at least few decades of knitting experience.

What’s next for you?
I published my first collection, Merino Hug. Winter Solstice recently. It consists of 8 patterns, all using merino yarn. All the designs fit a woman's curves and use tailoring patterns. Now I‘m working on my Spring collection, drawing sketches of the upcoming Summer collection and thinking of Fall. That is my plan for the next two years. 



New design coming Jan 2018



Aistė also wanted to share her free lace stitch pattern collection, with the readers of her interview, you can find it here:
https://issuu.com/aisteb1973/docs/lace_undiscovered_eng


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/white-wins

Friday, November 10, 2017

An Interview with...Linda Courtney

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/jo-jos-vest


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
Linda here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? 
I feel incredibly lucky to live in gorgeous Down East Maine. Quite a few of my designs have been directly inspired by my surroundings: Sea Smoke Scarf (and Hat), and Tidal Cove Scarf for example. I'm also inspired by necessity. Jo-Jo's Vest was a special birthday gift for, of course, Jo-Jo! The need for a gift tailored to a friend of mine who loved to knit socks inspired Sock Lover's Socks. I didn't think it would appeal to many other knitters, but it became one of my best selling patterns!

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I'm not sure I have just one favorite. I actually love garter stitch and especially the kind of architecture you can build with it when used modularly. I've used modular garter stitch on several hat patterns like Garter Geometry Hat. One technique I don't work with a lot is lace; for some reason it doesn't interest me as much as shape and texture do.
 
https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/tidal-cove-scarf

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I try to keep up with what other designers are doing through the Designers' Forum on Ravelry. I don't worry about it in terms of thinking I would copy their work. I have my own voice as a designer and it serves me well.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I do the sample knitting by myself as I haven't gotten to the point where I am comfortable enough in my first draft working directions to just hand them over to someone. They usually go through many versions as I knit the sample and realize ways to improve the design, or come across parts that have unexpected issues. Once I have the sample knit, the pattern fully written, and it has been professionally tech edited, then I use test knitters to make sure each size has been knit up before the pattern is released. It is a long process, but the pay back is in how few support questions I receive. The kinks have all been worked out by the time it is out there for purchase.

Did you do a formal business plan?
If you mean something that you could take to the bank, then no. I do have a very loose plan in my head about where I want to take my business. But unexpected life events happen and I am not yet where I had planned to be. I have to keep readjusting the plan in my head.
 
No. I wish I did. I have felt like I am reinventing the wheel a lot of times - trying to figure out how to do things like grading, graphic design, marketing. Over time I have found the designers' forum on Ravelry to be a wealth of information and a good source of sharing helpful resources on all those things.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Again, no. I designed my own model I guess.
 
Absolutely! I would never put out a pattern for sale that was not professionally tech edited. I have one free pattern on Ravelry that is not tech edited, but all my other (for sale) patterns are. Yes, it is expensive, but I feel it is extremely important. I want to build a reputation so knitters can count on any pattern from Knitwise Design being clear and error-free. I have used several different tech editors over time and always had good experiences with them.

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 
Oh gosh, THIS. I have always struggled with this in various ways. I find working from home to be a challenge since there are so many other claims on my time and people tend to not understand that you actually have a job when you work for yourself at home. I no longer have young children at home - they are all grown and lovely young adults. I could not have done this when they were young and admire the very organized designers who can work during nap times! I took care of my mother with Alzheimer's disease for a year in my home and it completely stalled my business. Mom is now nearby in a home, but I still find myself needing to work hard to carve out focused work time for my business. We live in a wonderful spot for vacation visits and hosting family and friends is certainly something I give high priority to, but balancing that with trying to make some time for working during visits is challenging! 
 
I actually haven't had any to deal with in terms of my business. Personally is another matter!

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
To be honest, I could never support myself on my designing alone. Realistically, it is not even one of my goals for the business. I have a set goal for the amount I hope to have the business contribute to our income. I still have a ways to go to meet that goal!

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Get as much education about the field as possible! I envy those countries where you can actually choose knitting design as a course of study. I would also say that completely beyond the skills and knowledge of knitting and design you need just as much study about things like computer software programs, photography, graphic design, running a business, websites, newsletters, writing, and especially marketing. Most of my time working on my business is spent on things other than sitting down with yarn and needles.
 
I just published a sweater pattern - Camp Cardigan- in seven sizes! I would like to be able to release a big project like that again next year, and am in the fun design experimenting stage with that. I have some accessory designs in the pipeline also that I am really excited about. I ran my first KAL this year in my Ravelry group, and definitely plan to do that again. I am also experimenting with more professional photography for my designs and hope to even go back and have the photography on some of my earlier designs re-done. A big focus for me at this point is to try to get my work out there and seen by more knitters. I have recently started a newsletter - News and Notes from Knitwise Design - and I am still on the learning curve for working with that. I also plan to increase my teaching. I am a former high school science teacher and really enjoy teaching, so teaching knitting classes makes a lot of sense as another focus for my business. At some point I also want to re-do my website: knitwisedesign.com . Lots of work, but lots of fun as well!

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/creek-bottom-cardigan


Friday, November 3, 2017

An Interview with...Monie Ebner

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/wolfgangsee


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
Monie here on Ravelry.


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/wolfgangsee


Where do you find inspiration?
Thinking about your question I just realized that most of my ideas come while knitting! The first time I can remember was my “Wolfgangsee” for which the idea came to me while knitting the “Schafberg”. So my hands do their job and my head is already on the next project. It may also be that seeing a yarn skein immediately an idea appears … and then it is swatching time…

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I’m a huge fan of top down knitting for garments and its advantages. And for my shawl designs I like to use slip stitches. They often bring a special touch in the simplest pattern.


Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Of course, I do. No one can go through the social media world without being influenced. Before I start swatching for a new design idea I check if there is already something similar or even the same.  


How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit the sample myself and have about 20 testers, sometimes even more. For me, a test knit is not only to check a pattern for errors. My pattern is the “guideline” and it is always interesting to see what my testers create of it, which colours they choose and sometimes what mods they include.


Did you do a formal business plan?
To my shame, no … as much as I need tidiness in my workplace, this (important) part has been neglected until now.


Do you have a mentor?
Not in that sense, but I have lovely people around me who give me the feedback and the support I sometimes need.


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ischl


Do you use a tech editor?
No. I have a dear friend who has a first glance on a new pattern and amazing test knitters who often have eagle eyes (especially for my strange maths ;).


How do you maintain your life/work balance?
My knitting/designing should be the main part of my daily life and I try to manage anything else around it … but often it is quite the other way round. That’s one of my goals … to handle it better.


How do you deal with criticism?
Criticism isn’t a bad thing. In case it is constructive, it can be very helpful to get feedback about my patterns and how they are interpreted. 


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/mondsee


What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
If you are burning for your ideas, then give it a try.


What’s next for you?
My next project is my Advent MKAL in December that will take place for the third time in my Ravelry group. This event is a wonderful way to finish off this year and I’m really looking forward to it (and I know many others as well :). For the coming months I have many ideas, not only for knit designs, but that’s still in the planning stage.