Survey

Would you like to win this book-

Would you like to win this gorgeous book by Hilary Grant? I am working on a few ideas on how to improve my self-published patterns and would love to have some input from you to see if I am going in the right direction with my ideas. For this purpose I have created a short survey of 10 questions and would be very grateful if you would take a few minutes to answer them. It will really not take very long and every participant (if you want to) will be entered in the prize draw to win the lovely Knitting from the North book (I ship world wide). You can find the survey here.

The survey is part of my endeavour to improve my whole designing business and how to give you the information you want and need to have a good knitting experience and learn something with each new project. I really want my patterns and blog to be a source of information and inspiration that will allow you to receive all the benefits knitting can give you and for you to be able to create something that is truly yours and fits your style (of knitting). So I hope you have a little more patience with me and this blog. I promise there will be interesting things to come!

 

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First Anniversary

One year ago I published my first two patterns and due to my holiday I nearly missed my first anniversary! I can’t believe it has been a year to be honest. A lot has changed since my first tentative attempts at designing and sharing my ideas on Instagram.

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At the time I was working from home in a job I didn’t enjoy that much but that gave me a lot more time to work on designs, knit and do all the social media and admin stuff in the background. By now I work full-time in an office and have a commute of 3 hours every day. I work for a yarn company now which is great and it means I am finally doing something I am passionate about and interested in but it also means a lot less time for my own designing that I still love dearly.

I have had to adapt how I work quite a bit and struggled for a long time which left me with little creative energy but I think after 6 months in my new job I have finally reached a point where I can still do my own designing. I am not anywhere near having perfected my work schedule and as a result this blog was neglected a bit which I will hope to remedy soon by planning better.

I have also spend more time submitting designs to yarn companies and magazines which has been somewhat successful. I am really looking forward to the designs being published next year.

As I said, I am still figuring things out and would ideally like to dedicate some time to the business side of this to learn how to make this a better endeavour that makes me happy but also makes my customers and readers happy. For now though I am squeezing in knitting, pattern writing and designing whenever I can and hope to do so for a long time to come. I am very grateful for everyone of you readers and hope that you will stay with me in the future.

But for now let me share a few things I learned in this last year. Some of the things are definitely wisdom shared before but I had to learn them for myself to actually take them in which is why I thought it worth mentioning them again.

1. Don’t compare yourself to others

Obviously take their work as inspiration and admire them but don’t compare yourself to others. I made this mistake a lot thinking I am not as talented as this or that person, or that I will never be as successful as them but all it did was to take away my motivation and make me depressed and unsatisfied about my own work. After a while though I realised that their situation is probably a lot different from mine. They might have been doing this for years and their first year probably looked more like mine than what their work looks like now. I don’t do this full-time and of course I might not be able to get as much done as someone who has more time to dedicate themselves to designing or even do this as their full-time job. So, rather compare yourself to yourself. I can clearly see a development in my designs and have gained more confidence in my skills which is amazing motivation to be honest.

2. Plan ahead

I am still not incredibly good at it but I recently acquired a calendar and have been using it ever since. It has definitely taken away some of the pressure to see all my deadlines written down and as a result be able to plan my weeks. This has helped me sleep a lot better! I want to improve my planning skills even more and plan out designs for the next year and topics for blog posts. As I now work full-time planning will be even more important.

3. Accept not everything goes as planned

When I started all this I had certain ideas of where I wanted to go with this and who I thought I was as a designer but I had to learn that some of my ideas just weren’t going to happen they way I thought they would. For example, I never thought of myself as a colour person mainly because I like to wear plain clothes but looking at my designs I had to realise I like working with colours. Accepting that changed my understanding of myself as a designer and who I was designing for. It helped me realise that I was neither a pastel natural colour type like Melody from Mandarine’s or Verena from TheWoolClub but that I also wasn’t a Stephen West or Kaffe Fassett. At the beginning I had always thought of myself in away that was never true and that plans I had made based on that idea will never come true. Realising that helped me get a better idea of myself even though it was disappointing at first to give up these dreams and notions I had of the future.

4. Make sure to have time for friends and family

I don’t think I could have done any of this without the support of friends and family who have given advice, encouragement, posed for photos, purchased patterns and have just generally been very accepting of my work. I am incredibly grateful for my partner who accepts that this is important to me and that it means working when I come home in the evening and at the weekends. This however also means that I had to learn to make time for friends and family. That while they support me, they also have needs and that I have to make sure that when I am with them work will be out of sight and out of my mind. So far I have managed the balance because I need the time away as well but I think being conscious of this is important.

5. Enjoy it

There were times during this last year when I did not enjoy what I was doing. I didn’t feel like knitting and the ideas weren’t really coming or didn’t satisfy me. I still kept going and eventually the creative block passed but that showed me that it is not worth forcing it and that I ever reached a point were I was not enjoying it anymore it might be time to stop. It doesn’t mean to give up when you hit a bump but to make sure that you are enjoying what you are doing and that is has value.

 

Of course, I have learned a few more things but I think these five were the most important lessons for me to learn. I am honestly incredibly excited to see what else I might find out about myself, the way I work and who I am as a creative person. Let the second year begin…

Guest post: Jody Richards of Knotions Magazine

Hi there!

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You guys may not know me. I’m Jody Richards, the creator and editor of Knotions Magazine – an online magazine with free patterns, tutorials and blog posts. We do both knitting and crochet.

I’ve been an avid crafter for as long as I can remember. My mom got me started with embroidery when was 5 years old. Then sewing. Then I taught myself how to crochet and knit (mom didn’t do either).

On the technology side, my Uncle Angelo was an electrical engineer and he bought my first computer for me when I was 7 years old. Given I’m in my 40’s that was very early for a kid but it started me on my love of computers. I ended up majoring in Math and Computer Science in college and I love programming.

After college I got jobs in marketing firms where I had to combine my understanding of technology with the web and users. It turned out I loved that combo!

And I was lucky enough to tech edit for designers like Kate Gilbert, Wendy Bernard, Connie Chang Chinchio and others. So that gave me my start in tech editing and combined with my love of math it was a perfect match!

It’s my love for crafting and technology that got me to found Knotions. It’s the perfect blend of both for me.

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What Have I Learned?

I’ve learned tons with Knotions!

Several of the things apply to most any job and just life in general.

Take the Time to do Things Right

This one is so easy to disregard when you’re busy but it’s been my biggest time saver in the long run. I take the time to set things up the right way so I can easily do the repeated tasks more easily.

Make Corrections Quickly

People rely on Knotions being accurate but (as much as it kills me) there are times when errors creep in. I try to address errors quickly and note them in red as an errata because crafters deserve the best experience.

Make a Schedule

This one is for everyone. Before each issue, I send out a schedule so all the designers know when to expect things. It’s also helpful for me because I have a deadline too.

Don’t Get Distracted

This one is easier said than done! I do Knotions full time and it’s easy for me to get distracted. Ooh – change that thing! Add that thing! Fix that thing! I could go on and on.

Use a System for Tracking To-Do Lists

This one is so helpful for me so I keep track of things! I use Trello and a bit of the Get Things Done (GTD) methodology, but if you have another way the works for you – keep using it!

The thing I use from GTD is the concept of the Inbox. I have a board in Trello called Inbox and I add things to it as they come to mind. This way I just note them down and I don’t get bogged down in scheduling it and “A needs to come before B”, etc.

I’ve become a huge fan of Trello and even think I might use it in my personal life too. We have lots of projects in mind (don’t we all?) and this way we can keep track of them.

Take the Time to Learn

There are times when I know there must be a better way to do something. Now I google and read until I figure it out. It takes longer that first time, but after that I reap the benefits.

Keep Learning

One of the things I was so afraid of when working from home (just by myself) is that I would stop learning. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened. I do a few things to help with this:

Read A Lot and Listen to Podcasts

I subscribe to several newsletters that I make sure I read. I add things to my Trello Inbox as I get ideas so I can keep reading right then. I often listen to my podcasts during the weekend while knitting or crocheting.

Have Conversations with Friends

Some of my best ideas don’t even come from me! I love getting ideas from other people. My husband is a great person to discuss things with because he thinks so differently than I do (but I really respect that!). And several of my friends are the same way. It’s a different way for me to collaborate when I don’t really have any co-workers.

House Walk

This one isn’t a productivity tip, but it’s an important one! I do laps around my first floor every time I get up and I wear a Fitbit to keep track of my steps. It’s SO EASY to just sit for hours and not move and that’s not good for a body.

 

Conclusion

These are the main things I use to keep Knotions flowing. It’s not perfect but it’s pretty good and it fits me. I hope you find something useful from it.

And in the spirit of what I said above – do you have any suggestions for me? I’d love to learn from you all too!

 

Sorry…

I have to apologies for a bit of an absence recently. I don’t want to sound like I am making excuses but I at least want to explain why the blog is not being updated quite as regularly anymore.

I started a full-time job in March this year. I absolutely enjoy my job but it also involves a daily commute of a total of three hours. This takes away a lot of my time and when I started the blog I worked from home and a significant amount of time more to work on this blog and managed my scheduling of posts a lot better.

Additionally, I have been really busy with designing lately and am very excited to say a few of my designs have been accepted by yarn companies and will be published next year. However, that is also taking up a lot of time and leaves me with little to no time to work on blog posts as much as I would like to and that would allow me to produce posts of the quality I want them to be.

I don’t want to abandon the blog but at the moment this is unfortunately what has to be left behind a little. I shall attempt bi-monthly posts and can already tell you I have a super interesting guest post scheduled for the end of this week.

Thank you for you patience and please don’t give up on this blog. It means a lot to me and I would really like to keep sharing my passion for yarn and knitting with you!

Guest post: Lisa Beth Houchins

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Hello Knitters! I am Lisa Beth Houchins at Meanest Mommy Knits. I am a tech editor of knitting patterns, and I provide left-brain help for right-brain people. Thanks to Annika, one of my wonderful clients, for inviting me to be her guest blogger. She suggested that I tell you a little bit about what I do as a tech editor and how I became one.

As a tech editor, I partner with Annika and other designers to help them release the best, most professional pattern possible. We all know how frustrating it is to be knitting a pattern that is riddled with errors. Some typos or minor inconsistencies are one thing, but serious errors can keep you from being able to knit an item correctly. (I’ll never forget the time I was knitting a complicated, cabled sweater and figured out that the pattern chart key had the cables listed wrong. I lost 20+ hours of work. Ugh!) A designer hires a tech editor to make sure her pattern is correct, clear, and consistent. That designer is committed to publishing the best possible pattern for her customers. Think of it as proactive customer service!

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When I tech edit a pattern, I read through the pattern as if I am knitting it, but I don’t actually knit it. (I’m pretty good at visualizing how the pattern will work as I read through it.) Here are some examples of things that I’d check in a typical tech edit:

  • Does the pattern have all the parts it should? Title, measurements, gauge, materials, abbreviations, directions, etc.
  • Do the directions make sense? Would a knitter be able to make what’s in the picture if they follow the directions? Are there other ways to explain things that would provide additional clarity?
  • Is the pattern grammatically correct? Does it have proper punctuation? Are there typos that need to be fixed?
  • Will the sizes work on an actual person?
  • Are the stitch counts and other math correct? (Each pattern gets its own spreadsheet where I check the math.)
  • Does the chart match the written directions?
  • Are all the abbreviations listed in the Abbreviations List? Are the stitches explained correctly?
  • Is the pattern consistent throughout? Are abbreviations used consistently? Is the same style used throughout the pattern?

Basically, I’m looking for things that would make it hard for a knitter to follow the pattern or make the pattern seem less professional than it could be. After I have gone through the pattern, I let the designer know what I’ve found. The designer takes this information into consideration and makes her desired changes before publishing the final draft. The designer has the final say over what changes she makes. She is the boss of her design and pattern!

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I became a tech editor more than a year ago. As a long-time knitter and occasional knitting pattern designer, I knew there was a market for someone to help knitwear designers publish clear, correct patterns. Luckily, I found some online classes that helped me figure out that a tech editing career would be a good fit for me. These classes (plus previous careers in education and in the math/computer field) gave me a solid background and also provided the practice and confidence I needed to get started. I am also about to start The Knitting Guild Association Technical Editor certification process. I’m thrilled to have found a dream job that combines knitting, math, and working with people.

You can follow me on social media or contact me with questions about tech editing:

Ravelry/Instagram/Twitter

Website: https://meanestmommyknits.com

 

Designer of the month – Susanne Ouellet

The designer of this month is the amazing Su. I don’t think I have met anyone with quite so much energy and enthusiasm for what she does than Su. She first caught my attention when she was still travelling through Asia with her stunning landscape photography and conviction that you can knit anywhere including when sitting at a beach. Su was featured on this blog before when she kindly agreed to share some of her experience on knitting while travelling and I am very fortunate that she was also willing to be interviewed as the designer of the month. Especially because she has also recently started a newsletter to help people in the fibre industry with their business skills which I certainly signed up for.

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When did you learn to knit? Did someone teach you or did you teach yourself?

I first learned to knit when I was about 6 or 7. My mother taught me the basic knit stitch, and I happily knit a couple of simple things, like a scarf, but never really got into it until much later, after graduating from university. I was living with my parents at the time and applying for jobs, and felt like I had way too much time on my hands. I ended up finding some of my grandmother’s old knitting books and decided to knit a pair of baby booties for my sister-in-law. It was a bit of a challenging project for not having knit anything much more complicated than a scarf before that, and they each turned out different sizes. Even still, I remember feeling like this whole world of possibilities had just opened up to me at that moment. The things I could knit! I started to look up different patterns, bought some supplies, and started buying yarn on Knit Picks. That was when I got serious with my knitting.

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Why did you start designing? What gave you the idea?

I first thought about designing my own pattern while I was traveling and working on my Wooly Ventures blog. This might sound a bit crazy, but one of the reasons I wanted to start designing was because I felt it was something I just had to do if I wanted to be taken seriously as a knitting blogger. I had already knit up designs of my own in the past, which were mostly hat patterns that I made up as I went along. It was a bit of trial and error, and I had the terrible habit of never writing the instructions down! This obviously didn’t work so well. I then challenged myself further while traveling in Malaysia, and wrote up a pattern for a pair of mittens. I found it incredibly challenging and difficult, and I still did not understand the concept of pattern grading, so the pattern was only offered in one size. I then ended up taking the pattern down from Ravelry, as I felt it should be offered in multiple sizes, but lost my motivation to update it.

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This experience put me off designing for a while, and it wasn’t until this year that I decided to try it again. This time, I hired a tech editor and also enlisted the help of several test knitters and am so glad I did! I found the whole process much easier just by having the support and encouragement of others, rather than designing the whole thing by myself and getting frustrated that it didn’t quite turn out the way I had envisioned. After completing this last hat pattern (which will be published this August), I feel much more motivated to continue with designing knitwear.

Annapurla Hat pattern (to be published in Aug)

What is your favourite yarn and/or fibre to work with? Why?

I’m a bit obsessed with Beaverslide (link: http://beaverslide.com/) wool at the moment, for several reasons.

  • It’s 100% Rambouillet (a French merino) and feels incredible! Soft, but also hardy and durable.
  • I love the natural looking colors.
  • It comes from a small family-owned operation in a tiny town in Montana, and I love knowing that I’m supporting a smaller outfit vs a very large company.

I’m also in love with the feel of alpaca. I would love to knit myself up a beautiful alpaca sweater one day soon!

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English or Continental (or both)? Which way do you knit?

I’m an English style knitter, but I’ve been wanting to learn Continental for the longest time! I can do Continental when I’m knitting Fair Isle, but I need to practice more, otherwise my gauge gets wonky. I’m always in awe when I see others knitting Continental, especially when purling!

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Do you practice any other (fibre) crafts?

I recently started sewing, and I love the practicality of it! It’s motivating me to sew my entire wardrobe (eventually). I am also planning on starting natural dyeing very soon, which I am very excited about! After dyeing, machine knitting and weaving are next on my list of new skills to learn. I’m in love with all things natural fibre, so any type of craft that involves it (embroidery, spinning, weaving, etc.) is something that I would be interested in learning. The only problem is finding the time for all of this, and  the space – I would need a much bigger craft room!

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What does knitting mean to you? Why do you do it?

Knitting means so many things to me. I find it very empowering to have the skillset to create something useful and practical with so little (two needles and some yarn) in an age where so many of us are addicted to our smartphones. It is also my creative outlet – there are just so many stitch patterns out there, along with different yarns, patterns and colours – the combinations are truly endless! I’ve also been drawn in more and more this past year to the ‘slow fashion’ movement, and love knowing exactly where my garments came from. Lastly, knitting is just pure fun! There is nothing more relaxing and therapeutic than listening to an interesting podcast or documentary with a good mindless knitting project.

What do you have planned for the future as a designer? Do you want to make it a fulltime job or is it a hobby for you?

Right now, designing is a hobby for me. I don’t design nearly enough to even consider having it as a full-time job. For the future, I want to continue learning new design skills. I would love to try my hand at designing a sweater pattern, and learn all the aspects of garment shaping along the way. I feel as if it will be a ways down the road until I get to that stage, but for right now, I’m happy with acquiring new skills at my own pace. I don’t want to rush or pressure myself to design more, as I did that once and I found it sucked all the fun out of the actual design process. I’d rather go slow, and enjoy every moment of it.

Hat (still needs to be written out as pattern!)

You recently started a newsletter to support other designers and fibre people to turn what they are doing into a business, what gave you the idea?

I really enjoy the ‘tech and business’ side of my blog. When I first started to consider ways to get subscribers and more people to my website, I was clueless, but after sifting through countless tutorials online I managed to figure out how to bring in consistent traffic to my website! I know that it’s not an easy process, especially if you don’t have a background in blogging or web design, and since it’s something I enjoy doing, I want to help others in the fibre industry grow their business online. Part of it is also because I feel that if I can help others in the fibre industry grow, more and more people will become exposed to knitting and making their own clothes, and the popularity of knitting will increase to the point where it would be strange if you don’t know how to knit. That would be amazing.

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Are there plans to take this further in addition to your designing?

Yes! I have been very busy these past few weeks working on a new business idea. In addition to my newsletter, I am creating an online course with the same theme of teaching creators in the fibre industry on how to use social media to attract more traffic to their website and convert their traffic into long-term customers.

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Why do you think business support tailored to one (wo)men operations in the fibre industry is important?

Many one (wo)men operations in the fibre industry start small and have little business experience, if any. It’s a “learn as you go” process, and it can feel overwhelming when you’re just starting out! When you think of a knitwear designer, for example, you may think that it’s mostly designing knitwear all day, but in order to sell your patterns, you need to be able to market and promote them effectively! There is a lot of information out there related to online businesses and marketing, but it can be hard to find good business information related specifically to knitwear design and other fibre arts. I want to help fill this gap, by providing good business advice tailored to women in the fibre industry.

I also think it’s important because successful one (wo)men businesses are more likely to continue in the long term, and smaller operations gives them the flexibility to build our business from home. By working from home, they not only get to spend more time with their family with greater flexibility, but also contribute to the household income and to society by producing something of value. In turn, this creates a feeling of empowerment, a motivating factor to create even more beautiful things, in a positive feedback cycle.

 

You can see more of Su’s photography on Instagram, or check out her blog and Facebook page.

A visit to Chatsworth House

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I mentioned my love for Jane Austen a few weeks ago in my To knit to post for April. Not only have I read all her books but have also seen most adaptions. For precisely this reason I enthusiastically joined in a recent trip to Chatsworth House that was organised through my work. The appeal of seeing this grand house that functioned as Pemberley in the Pride and Prejudice adaption with Keira Knightly was made even more attractive by the current exhibition they have on display in the house about the Fashion of the house.
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Not only is the house beautiful and full of inspiration but the displayed garments were magnificent. My favourites include the stunning Chinese wallpaper and two of the period dresses (see blow). The exhibition featured a great combination of period pieces and modern pieces by contemporary designers such as Vivienne Westwood.
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The contemporary pieces were beautifully displayed in the grand dining room and featured some interesting garments.
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But before you get to them you work your way through a lot of period pieces which featured some incredibly tiny waistlines that must have been very painful to achieve.

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All the garments were in excellent condition and really allow visitors to see the handiwork of not only the designer but of seamstresses and embroiderers. It really is incredible to see how much detail is paid to achieve the desired effect.
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In addition to grand evening wear the exhibition also included some more casual day and sports wear, like riding outfits, and a collection of rather hilarious jumpers.
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The house and exhibition had a lot to offer so we had lunch before heading to explore the gardens which are huge. Incredibly well maintained they offer grand views of the house and have some fun activities like a maze and various sculptures.
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Chatsworth House is definitely worth a visit!