Monday, March 27, 2017

Lessons from the Stashdown

Photo from Learn2Knit

What am I learning from my Stashdown, well sometimes liking and wanting aren't really the same thing. Not every yarn needs to come home with me. It might be better if I leave some yarns which don't work with my overall knitting plan wherever they already happen to be. 

You can never go wrong with good basic yarns.

I should donate more of what I don't want rather than try to force it. I did realize startitis is often a message from your unconscious it's time to let something go.

The thought that someday someone else has to deal with all that yarn if I don't is becoming much more disturbing. 

On the positive side I really do have some lovely yarns to keep me busy for the next while between design projects.

I truly love the design challenge of making something great from what's turning up while I'm sorting through the stash. See my post here on what I've been doing. 

One pattern four ways:

Friday, March 24, 2017

An Interview with Wendy Peterson

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 Wendy here and here on Ravelry.

Where did the idea for come from?
I mentioned to my husband, David, that I had looked for a yarn substitution website, feeling sure that one would exist, and was surprised when I couldn't find what I was looking for. I wanted to be able to look up a yarn and see what was available that was similar to it. He's a computer programmer and knew that I was looking for some way of working from home while our children are young, so he said that we should make a site like that ourselves! I thought we might be biting off more than we could chew, but I was also excited to think that we could provide a useful service for knitters and crocheters. It took longer than we first anticipated, but I was really happy (and scared!) when we put the first beta version of the site live.

How do you go about researching all of the yarns in your database?
I make a lot of swatches! I love swatching a new-to-me yarn and getting a feel for its properties. I haven't tried every yarn in the database - we hold details of over 8000 and even I can't quite bring myself to swatch them all! So I used what I'd learned from the swatches (and many years of knitting) to help David write the program to score how well one yarn matches any other. I provide details to the YarnSub software about a yarn's fiber content, gauge, yarn construction and density, and it does the rest. There are still improvements that I'd like to make, and any mistakes in the data can cause problems too of course. I welcome emails from knitters or crocheters who tell me where a suggested substitute doesn't seem right, so that I can try and fix it.

Please tell us about your husband's role in running the site.
Like I said earlier, he was very involved in making it happen - not only writing the software, but also believing in my ability to pull off the yarn side of things and write articles for the website. He also loves graphic design, so looks after the look-and-feel of YarnSub too.

Do you have plans to monetize YarnSub?
We have affiliate links on YarnSub, so we do make some money from it. Being able to work from home and having flexibility to work around the needs of my two boys feels like a huge privilege at the moment. It's not all plain-sailing, as there are certain times of year - like when manufacturers release the next season's yarns - that there's an avalanche of maintenance to do. And I have to get through a great deal of procrastination before I can write the newsletter!! But generally working on YarnSub is a joy.

What kind of feedback are you getting from knitters who use the site?
Sometimes people ask me to add specific yarns or brands to the site, or tell me about a problem with our yarn data, or ask why a particular yarn isn't showing up as a closer match. The fiber community are a very supportive bunch though, and even people who point out something they don't agree with usually say that they love the site! I do get the odd terse email, but mostly people tell me how useful they find YarnSub and that they're very glad it's there. I'm always pleased to have an opportunity to improve it, and I really appreciate when people take time out of their day to get in touch.

What is your favourite thing about knitting?
It's hard to pick just one thing. I love the fact that I can dream something up in my head and then translate that into an actual thing. I love the connection between the yarn in my hand and the people and animals involved in its production. I love the knitting community and how you can sit down with a knitter and chat non-stop - or just knit, and either is wonderful. I love the never-ending learning opportunities, whether it's picking up a new technique, learning about a new yarn, or finding out what other knitters are up to. I love the fact that I can combine it with watching the TV or travelling on public transport and feel that I'm also doing something productive with my time. But if I were forced to choose just one thing, I think it would be the feeling of calm that settles around me every time I pick up my needles and start knitting. My world is okay when I'm knitting.

What’s next for you?
I am a bit obsessed with shaped intarsia, where you create smooth outlines to an intarsia motif by increasing and decreasing either side of the color change. I'm really keen to release some designs using that technique. And of course I'll continue to work on YarnSub - adding new yarns, writing articles for the newsletter and making improvements wherever we can.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Knitting a Wardrobe that Lasts

Since I've been working on the dual process of reorganizing my hand knits and my ongoing Stashdown, it's naturally led me to thinking more about the topic of knitting a wardrobe that lasts. Lessons were learned from both projects.

Reorganizing has made me value classic designs and silhouettes even more. They give a garment longevity. 

Really good, strong wool passes the test of time with flying colours.

And speaking of colour, it's really important to work with colours you love and colours that work with the rest of your wardrobe. We can love colours which we don't feel comfortable wearing. Choosing them to knit with, leads to owning a wonderful garment which you have to force yourself to wear. Pay attention to that! It's a lesson going forward in choosing patterns and yarns.

I did notice that some of the items which I still liked that aren't being worn are in colours that I lack garments to wear them with. A few of those items are in a holding pattern. Do I donate them or purchase things to wear them with. I'll let this decision alone for a while. Sometimes I find if I decide to decide later, my answer becomes very clear without spending a great deal of time on it. Things get processed in my unconscious in the same way design challenges work themselves out in the background when I stop trying so hard.

The next lesson is, letting go is hard. I did find that leaving the items I was conflicted about in open laundry baskets where I could see them every day helped. It took about ten days of seeing them and I felt much more ready to let them go. 

The Stashdown has had similar lessons which I think I'll address in another post.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Why I'm not Knitting

After finally beating back De Quervain's tenosynovitis  and getting back to more knitting time, I had a bizarre accident. I was out during a windstorm when a blowing plastic bag hit my legs. I tried to turn to let it blow off, not realizing it was wrapped so tightly around me that I just toppled over. 

Mainly I feel grateful that I didn't break my wrist. What you can't see in the photo is that the parts of my arm that aren't black, blue or purple are a yellowish green.  I'm waiting for the swelling and bruising to go down. I did try ten minutes of knitting yesterday but it was very awkward. I'll try again in a few days.

Friday, March 17, 2017

An Interview with...Kelly McClure

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 Kelly here and here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration?

I love to get outside when I'm not knitting. We recently purchased a ten acre homestead and I feel so fortunate to be able to go out for a hike on our trails every single day. The beauty of this place never ceases to overwhelm me! The patterns and elements that I see in nature undeniably end up in my designs.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I have to confess that I LOVE grafting/Kitchener Stitch even though many knitters despise it. I find that I use it often, not just on sock toes, but to complete the top of a hat or to join two ends of a cowl. I get so much pleasure from seeing the "perfect" result.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?

I absolutely check out other designers' work! There is so much wonderful inspiration out there that I would be crazy to ignore it, although I get a special pleasure from coming up with an idea that is 100% original. 

Once I have an idea in mind, I always do a thorough search to make sure that I'm doing my due diligence to ensure that I'm not inadvertently "copying" or creating something similar to another person's idea, even if mine is a free pattern. My aim is to always contribute something brand new to the common tapestry. 

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

It really depends on the pattern. I try to make sure every design is test knit at least once and I'm lucky to have many volunteers. My favourite test knitter is my mom. Even the simplest ideas need another set of eyes. If the pattern is a bit more complicated, I try to have it tech edited as well.

Did you do a formal business plan?

Not originally since I was just selling knits at markets and on Etsy, but once I started designing professionally and dyeing yarn for sale, I did do one...I can't say that I've followed it very closely, though...

Do you have a mentor?

Actually, I don't think I really do, although there are lots of talented and incredible women who have supported me over the years and who currently support me. I'm very lucky to live in a community that loves fibre!

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Not really, but I'm always squirreling away ideas.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

It's very easy to let knitting become a huge part of your identity (and it's so darn popular right now - how are we expected to resist?). I consider myself extremely lucky to be a full-time knitter. My job is not's more like 8 am to 11 pm. But it doesn't always feel like "work" when I'm at home in my pyjamas with Netflix on doing something I love! 

Sometimes it's really hard to tear myself away from a juicy project, but I have a new puppy, Lois, who needs lots of attention and exercise, so she motivates me to put down my needles and go on an adventure.

How do you deal with criticism?

Sometimes it's difficult to receive criticism when you've worked so hard on a pattern and have watched it come together over many months. I'm very stubborn and I'm pretty sure I'm always right. Criticism helps me to consider other perspectives and remember that, in fact, I'm not always right. Luckily, most people in the knitting community are very kind and largely the feedback I get is about minor errors.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?

I often have a part-time job in an unrelated industry and then delve back into knitting full-time. I would say Bohoknits was around part-time for about 4 years before I started designing hats for a professional company (Ambler Apparel) and that made a huge difference for me.

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

Learn all you can and always challenge yourself by learning new techniques. Knitting has experienced a major Renaissance in the last ten years, so take advantage of that. Pay attention to what is going on out there and listen to the pulse of the knitting community. They will never steer you wrong!

What’s next for you?

I am planning to release a new eBook of five or six shawl patterns in the next month or two! I would also like to continue dyeing yarn and fibre, however, my studio is a bit defunct until we renovate the space at our new house.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pom Pom Crazy

I found this on a Spanish blog, it really did make me laugh when I saw it. There's more silliness over there. If you want to check it out just follow the link under the photo.

The blogger also has a Pinterest page.  It focuses on yarn but it includes some really cute pom pom projects as well. Many of them focus on home decor, toys and accessories. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Great Hand Knit Reorganization of 2017

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.