Archives

Just who is writing this thing?

You may have noticed that the KnittyBlog has diversified. It used to be a one-woman blog with Amy mouthing off on whatever she felt like writing about that day. A while ago, Jillian wisely suggested that there are 4 of us who work on Knitty. Each of us has a different background, different likes and dislikes, and different life-based and geographical perspectives. Which is way more interesting than just one person being mouthy.

So we made it so. The KnittyBlog has been brought to you by the Knitty Team since early 2010, and we figure it’s time we officially introduced ourselves. We take turns writing this thing, and you can always tell who the author is by looking up there next to the date of the post.

Amy

Amy is the editor of Knitty. She’s also the publisher and founder of the magazine. In 2002, it came to her in a dream while sitting on the living room couch that she should start an online knitting magazine to feature the knitting talent she’d been seeing on blogs all over the world in one tidy, professional-looking website. The rest is happy history.

She loves ukuleles, rabbits [her babies are 2 mini-rex sisters named Squeeze and Boeing], scooters and shiny things. She’s allergic to wool and sensitive to all animal fibers, so she’s the non-wool knitter in the Knitty crew. She lives in Toronto and can often be found hanging out, having a latte and knitting, at The Purple Purl. She is frequently obsessed with technology and gadgets, and quite likes shoes that don’t hurt.


Jillian

Jillian is the editor of Knittyspin, Knitty’s Ad Manager and Catalyst of the whole shebang. This means she is often the brains behind the exciting new ideas we implement at Knitty, like this blog-writing thing and the recent issue shift to our two-fall publishing schedule. She’s also the reason there is a Knitty — her passion, brain and heart have helped Amy build the magazine and keep it on the grass-roots path we all feel is so important. If you ever meet her, thank her.

Jillian has been a knitter forever, and a spinner almost as long. Spinning is her current passion, and she spends part of almost every day at her wheel. Her hangout is The Spinning Loft in Howell, MI. She likes vintage dresses, Tim Burton, British murder mysteries and listening to her kids sing in the bathtub. She recently welcomed a rescue puppy — Atticus — into her home, and in addition to all the usual puppy training, she is watching him carefully to make sure he doesn’t start teething on her spinning wheels.


Mandy

Mandy is the senior technical editor of Knitty magazine. Mandy has a terrifyingly skilled knitting-focused brain, and prides herself on making Knitty patterns, especially the complex ones, as knittable as possible. She’s also a talented designer, having been published in several magazines [including Knitty, of course].

Mandy paints, makes unique jewelry and is a star at wardrobe remixing — turning humble thrift-shop clothing into super-desirable fashion. She’s also the co-author of the super-cool book Yarn Bombing. Her Vancouver-based hangout is Three Bags Full, and she shares her home with Roxy, the rescue kitty.


Kate

Kate edits Knitty’s sock patterns and all of the patterns in Knittyspin, and has recently taken on the job of keeping us organized as our Editorial Assistant.  She is a mathematician, which comes in handy in all aspects of her knitting work. Kate is a highly regarded knitting teacher in Toronto, and offers her professional services through several Toronto-based shops and beyond.

She is an expert on all things deli, and is a regular at Caplansky’s. She likes double-pointed needles, kitten heels and strong coffee. A puppy recently showed up on Kate’s doorstep, literally: a little abandoned boy with [perhaps] beagle and shepherd in him, Dexter is now officially part of her family.

*Spread the joy!*

I’m a cheap date.

i kees you, new beloved spindle.

I’m also a gear ho. So it wasn’t surprising that, when I recently visited the Chelsea, MI-area spinning guild — The Spinner’s Flock — that I’d be trolling the tables of fiber and goodies for sale to see if anything was there that I couldn’t live without.

There is a lot of wool. Beautiful 9-month-preganant-belly-sized balls of woolly roving, elegant braids of hand-dyed merino/tencel [from my friend, Carla, which is why I remember the URL], and lots of equipment. Obviously the wool stayed put.

On a second pass through the hall, the spindle shown above caught my eye. Ooh, pretty colors! But more interestingly, the top of the shaft doesn’t have a hook — it has an integrated pigtail. I thought it was neat. I gave it the spin-in-the-palm-of-my-hand test [which means nothing likely, but it seemed zippy], and since it was a whopping $14, I bought it.

I took my new prize back to the circle of friends I was spinning with, and attacked my silk roving, expecting nothing much. Within minutes, I realized this thing was a gem. A keeper. Possibly my favorite spindle. And by this time, the vendor had packed up and gone home. I hadn’t taken a business card. No, really — this IS now my favorite spindle. [I have going on 20 spindles, and they all cost more than this one. Oh, the irony!] Light, spins like a full-on dervish [double rainbow!], and the pigtail is sheer genius.

MUST. HAVE. ANOTHER.

Can anyone help me find my holy grail?

look how it makes the pretty with the tussah silk.

love the aqua. if my soul had a color, it would be aqua.

looks heavy, but it's actually very light.

*Spread the joy!*

Attention non-woolly sock knitters!

The day has arrived. Sock Candy, the non-woolly version of Blue Moon’s Socks That Rock, has returned in beautiful hand-painted glory! Says Tina, “We are offering our Sock Candy for a very limited time as a hand paint. It is not our intention to continue to hand paint this yarn. Instead we’re venturing into having it mill dyed in multicolors.”

One last chance to grab the most beautiful hand-painted cotton sock yarn ever!

Sock Candy, hand-painted by Tina. YUM.


[Yup, Singer was made for me. Literally. How flattering, and irresistible, is that? No worries, I placed my order before I posted this. Because I know what you knitters are like. Because I’m one of you. :)]

*Spread the joy!*

Knitting quickie

Something I realized while frogging [to fix the extra repeat of the lace pattern I somehow decided was necessary to insert between vertical columns — aka a real mess] last night…

[Knowing that I almost always choose simple lace with a purl- or knit-back row will help this next  part make more sense.]

When it comes to frogging lace off the needles, which I often do with simple lace, I always frog with the wrong side facing me. This means I’m undoing decreases and increases that I’ve just done, and for some reason, it’s easier for me to keep things tidy and not drop stitches or former yarn overs. It also means that many stitches will get mounted on the needles incorrectly, but that’s super-easy to fix on the next row, which is that right-side row again, now being reknit properly.

Pictures? We don’t need no stinking pictures. We’re knitters.

[Okay, I went looking for pictures, and instead found validation: Pam Allen says the same thing. See point 3.]

*Spread the joy!*

Knitting from Knitty

I don’t choose what to publish based on what I want to knit [especially since I have stupidly annoying restrictions in my knitting due to my wool allergy]. But lately, I have found two Knitty patterns that were just up my alley for right-now knitting:

Annette, knit here in Knit One Crochet Two Babyboo

First to cast on, Annette. Cute, quick to knit, because it’s lacy and it’s not a huge body-coverer. I chose to go a different route, yarnwise, pulling some gorgeous Hempathy from my stash [bought at my LYS, The Purple Purl] in the most amazing deep dark purple (color #12). I’m almost at the 2nd buttonhole [it starts at the hem] and it’s an easy, almost mindless knit. It also uses a surprisingly small amount of yarn, even for a big girl size.

Then, as a result of my spontaneous trip to Ann Arbor, I found myself within reach of Knit A-Round, so Jillian and I went this morning. I came home with this, irresistible when found in colors I never knit [but love] and also half off.

Araucania Lonco Multy, in color 4009 this time.

I recently used this yarn in a different colorway for Annis. It’s for Coquille, of course. I can’t get the colors right in this pic [it was too hot to fiddle with white balance outdoors], but it’s mostly deep yellowy-greens, chocolate and super bright orange. Not exactly like, but a little reminiscent of, the colorway in Knitty. This is to be saved for vacation knitting when I go on the London, Bath, Wales trip this October. I want to finish Annette now.

*Spread the joy!*

Obsessed with linen

layers of breathable wrinkles. be still my heart.

I hate hot, and I don’t do summer well. But about 3 or 4 years ago, Jillian took me to Acme Mercantile before a speaking engagement at the Ann Arbor Public Library, and she introduced me to my new summer love. Flax Designs.

Brenda Dayne, goddess of the Cast-On Podcast, tried to do the same thing with me, calling the style Lagenlook [the German word for “layered look”]. But I kept finding pages like this and never quite got the fever for it that she had.

That’s because I had been looking in the wrong place. Flax Designs are also Lagenlook, but pared down. It’s about layers of linen, sometimes in bold colors, sometimes soft and almost vintagey, like the picture at left.

There are styles upon styles, and years of different cuts and shapes to find for sale online [eBay is great for Flax].

What I love, more than just being able to put on easy, breathable shapes for summer is that the sizing is very friendly, to all body shapes. It starts S, M, L and then moves to 1G [g = generous], 2G and 3G.

Jillian and I stopped into Acme today and they’d just marked down their summer stock. I scored a white tank, my favorite pants [the Floods style] in screaming turquoise and a round-necked jacket in a rich, vibrant peony for layering when the temperature starts to finally go down. Here…take a peek at the crazy-fabulous summer Bold color palette for 2010 [thanks to TenderTreasures.com for the great photo — also a great place to find Flax]:

Like softer colors? There are tons of those. I dare you not to google.

*Spread the joy!*

Bonus: have you met Shannon Okey?

We’re very glad to welcome Shannon Okey to the KnittyBlog on this special edition of What’s What Wednesdays! Shannon has recently published The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design: How to Keep Your Knits About You through her company, Cooperative Press. In addition, Shannon’s a long-time friend of Knitty, having helped us find our tagline when we launched: Little Purls of Wisdom.
Jillian Moreno got to talk to Shannon — the successful author of more than a dozen books — about the business of knitting. Take it away, Eric the Orchestra Leader Jillian!
[ed’s note: Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.]

J: First off, thank you for writing this book! It is the finest resource I’ve ever read for a knitting designer. Invaluable if you are starting out or if you’ve been in the business for a while, it concretely makes sense of the ‘mystery’ and shifting sands of the design business.

We love that you love Knitty. Talk about why Knitty is important to the industry and how best new designers can utilize it.

S: In my opinion, Knitty really raised the expectations bar early on in terms of helping designers who were new to the business to establish a standard format, create really great photos and all the other good stuff that’s essential to putting one’s best designer foot forward, so it’s easy to love! (In fact, I know that I’m not the only one who has recommended Knitty’s style guide for pattern formatting to those who have no idea where to begin!)

New designers can use Knitty as a beautifully-edited example of What To Do in terms of pattern presentation and collection-building – look how each issue of the magazine makes sense, how the patterns relate to each other, how there’s a great mix of pattern types and techniques…and then, in the archives, see how things have changed over time.

J: What benefit do you see Knitty providing to established designers?

S: For established designers, using Knitty + Ravelry is a marketing research exercise in itself – each time an issue comes out, a handful of Knitty patterns immediately shoot into the stratosphere in terms of the “New and Popular” list. What is it about those patterns (and not one of the others) that made people sit up and notice? Are there trends? Is there something you could adapt for your own use when designing your next pattern? It always pays to watch what knitters are choosing to knit if you want to make sure your next pattern will sell well.

J: Lots of blogs and newsletters have recently changed their approach into “sell, sell, sell” with little useful or interesting content. How do you keep the balance between authenticity and selling in social media?

S: 90/10. That’s how I see it… 90 is me, personally and 10 is “ok, buy my stuff, please” (Maybe even less than 10%!) I try very hard not to post a million “I just put out a new X and you should buy it” tweets or Facebook updates, I’d much rather just be me, talking about the goofy stuff I personally like to talk about when I’m not discussing business.

So, for example, of the 17 tweets I’ve posted today, one was “I’m not above using my cute dad to sell a few more patterns. http://twitpic.com/2azzqa” — which, technically, is a businessy tweet because I’m showing off my dad’s photo on the Ravelry featured pattern page wearing my latest design. But notice I didn’t say BUY MY PATTERN JASPER NOW. I pointed out that making my dad be Mr. Male Model is kind of funny. The majority of my tweets today were me moaning about my webhost screwing up my email service, and responding to people who either a) suggested new hosts for me or b) said my dad was adorable.

I personally am much more likely to click through on things that offer me information instead of just a sales pitch. Useful content makes you useful, which in turn leads to trust, which in turn leads to sales. You have to be in it for the long haul.

J: What is the bare minimum for social media for a knitwear designer?

S: Pick one account and stick with it. Better to just be on Twitter or just be on Facebook than do a horrible job of both. (Of course, you could also use one of the services that will update both for you and therefore capture eyeballs in either place.)

J: Not all budding knitwear designers can or want to make it a full-time job. What advice do you have specifically for part-time designers?

S: Establish expectations for your customers. For example, if you can only respond to email after 5:00 p.m., put a disclaimer on your webpage/Ravelry profile/etc. Some customers expect you to get back to them immediately, which isn’t always possible even for full time designers, and they will tar and feather you if you don’t. Then, if anyone gives you grief, you can politely point them to the disclaimer. Most everything else will be the same for a part time designer – keep it professional, make sure you can meet any deadlines set by magazines or whoever else you’re working with, etc.

J: Once you’ve had some success in designing, it seems like opportunities come out of the woodwork. What should a designer keep in mind when choosing a project to take on?

I’d like to just flat-out quote myself from a recent interview with Kim Werker that was held live on Twitter: “You take a project for 1 of 2 things: money, or publicity. Sometimes you get both, but if it isn’t worth just ONE, don’t! I have taken projects where I wouldn’t have made ANYTHING after paying the sample knitter/etc, but was great PR. However, it was MY CHOICE — anyone touting a project solely for publicity or “exposure” should be immediately suspect. Our hilarious friends @Ravelry got it right.”

In addition, you should take projects that will challenge you – why do the same thing 15 times in a row?

J: How do you manage your time with so many projects happening simultaneously?

S: My computer is my backup brain. I never delete emails (well, except spam!), so I can always look up what’s already been said about an ongoing project, etc. I am a compulsive list-maker, too. I have a ton of “things going on” textfiles sitting on my desktop that I can pull up and work from, reminderwise. I’ve been trying to find the perfect project management software but nothing has really fit the bill 100% without costing an arm and a leg, so for now it’s lists upon lists upon lists.

J: With so many outlets for designs, patterns run the risk of looking alike. How do you keep your design ideas fresh?

S: I like themes, because I’m a very visual person, and it helps me categorize all my ideas. So, for example, I’m working on a fall/winter pattern collection that’s inspired by 1920s Vienna, carnivals and one particular artist I like. I started with one particular pattern I wanted to design, figured out what would go with it and provide a broad range of pattern types, and then went backwards from there. I use style.com, Ravelry and other sources to see what’s out there but when it comes right down to it, it’s the circus in my head + what I want to personally knit + what yarn is calling my name.

J: What about burn out? You have 70,000 things going on all the time — do you ever lose sight of the dreamy part? How do you find your way back to being/feeling creative?

S: I’m, to quote my boyfriend, “Amish on weekends” because I turn the computer OFF. I sit around and knit and watch TV and do housework and stare into space and play with the dog and pet the cats and make elaborate, ridiculous foodstuffs…everything but work work. It helps. Some of the ideas for the new collection came about, for example, as the result of watching a terrible, terrible movie about Klimt on Netflix. It was seriously one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, one of those movies that’s so awful you can’t turn it off because you’re worried there might be something even worse to laugh at in the next scene. But it did make me re-examine some of the things I knew about that era, and remember pieces I’d liked at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and start to think hmmmm, these things would go together, and this yarn would work, and and and… In short, don’t be afraid to “waste” time doing something that seems silly because you never know when inspiration will strike.

J: How do you create a design style that is unique to you? – the best examples are Norah Gaughan and Ysolda. Is it even important to have a style?

S: I think so, yes, if only because it helps drive repeat business. If someone likes the way you do X, then it only stands to reason they will like X1, X2 and X3. You have to be careful not to get stuck in a rut, though!

J: What did you learn about your designing self and your business writing this book?

S: I really need to outsource more of the things I don’t do as well or as quickly. One example – I’m a much slower knitter than my test knitters. If I want to keep up, I need to outsource more of the sample knitting, and rework my patternwriting process. It’s a lot harder for me to write the pattern before I knit the sample, but in order to outsource the knitting, I’ll have to do it in that order. It takes away some of the serendipity, but serendipity doesn’t always pay the bills. I wish I could just sit and knit all day and make someone else write it all down, but that’s not how it works at this level.

J: What’s next for you?

S: More books! Cooperative Press is publishing over a dozen books by other people in the next 18 months or so, and I could not be more excited. I’m also co-authoring a book on tech editing with the fabulous Alexandra Virgiel that will fill a major hole in the market for both pro designers and knitters who just want to make their work better. We’re going to keep pushing the envelope with technology in particular, which is exciting and scary all at the same time. (I love technology). I plan to keep teaching online as well, because it’s an amazing way to reach people all over the world without leaving the comfort of my desk!


BONUS CONTEST POST!

Shannon has very generously offered to give one lucky commenter to this post a copy of her new book. PLUS, to get you jump started on your design career: the choice between one of her online classes OR an one-one consultation with the pro herself.

To win, just leave a comment to this post telling Shannon why you want to win this great prize. Comments will be closed Friday, July August 13th at 5pm EST, and the winner chosen by Shannon, and announced in the WWW post next Wednesday. Good luck!

*Spread the joy!*

How DO you pick a new camera?

Some things are fun to buy on impulse. Earrings and shoes, definitely. Technology? No way.

I am not an obsessive researcher when it comes to getting new technology — I mean how many ways can you research which iPod to get…it’s more about picking the color than anything else. But that goes out the window when it’s time to get a new camera.

Lumix FZ20

I bought a Lumix FZ20 [Panasonic camera with Leica lens, very highly reviewed here] in 2005 to shoot things for Knitty. It performed very well, but I found that I was not taking it along as much as I should have because it was big.

So when we went on a trip to Italy in 2006, we bought a little wee Canon digital Elph. And it won, getting used 90% of the time from then onwards, just because it could fit in a pocket.

When I accidentally dropped it and busted the lcd screen, I found a tutorial online that showed how to replace it, and the parts were less than $40 via ebay. Hub fixed it in an hour. That little Canon has had a lot of use in 4 years.

But I wanted the extra features a DSLR-type camera like the Lumix had to offer. So I did what I do when it comes to picking a new camera:

  1. I check DPReview.com. I like how they are so precise about examining every aspect of a camera, including the good and bad. They usually alert me to models of cameras that stand out among the rest, and help me narrow down what it is I really want.
  2. Once I have a favorite or two chosen, I go to [don’t groan] Amazon, and see what the majority of consumers have to say. I know what’s there is not unbiased, and I know there are often reviews planted by the manufacturers of some products. But for cameras, it’s been helpful. If I find an issue that a lot of people mention, further googling can help me determine if it is a real problem or if it’s just inexperienced users that are causing their own problems.

Canon G11

The model that I kept coming back to was the Canon Powershot G11. Powershot, not Elph, meaning it won’t fit in my pocket. But it’s still nowhere near as large as a DSLR, which was my other possiblity.

This camera has a vaguely retro feel about its design which I like a lot, but more importantly, it has features I really wanted. It’s got an exposure compensation dial at the top left. The top right has an ISO dial (to choose how low the light can be where you’re shooting), and everything else was familiarly Canon-esque, which is a good thing. I like how intuitive it is to reach for a feature and find it where you expect it to be. I’ve found Canon to be wonderful that way over the years.

Look! I can see myself in it!

It also had this, which I have wanted forever: the tiltable viewscreen. Ideal for shooting over the heads of others, or avoiding glare on the screen in bright days [which happens a lot]. I also happen to have crappy closeup eyesight, so using a viewfinder isn’t something I like doing. A good lcd screen is my friend.

I’ll be able to fine-tune the white balance when I take Yarn Roundtable shots [the Elph was notorious for shooting purples as blues, no matter what I did, which meant more Photoshop fiddling after the fact] and lots more, as I get used to all the stuff this camera can do.

The Amys (Swenson and Singer) play with the tilty lcd screen at yesterday's Stitch & Pitch in Toronto.

Once I found the one I wanted, I stumbled across Wishabi.ca, a super-handy site for Canadians. It helps you figure out whether it’s cheaper to buy it in Canada or the US today, including exchange, duty and taxes, and will e-mail you when something you’re waiting to buy goes on sale. Super neat.

So why is this an Obsession Thursday post? Because I’ve done nothing but obsess about choosing the right camera for the last 2 weeks. My upcoming trip to Scotland means photo opportunities will be happening constantly. I don’t want to miss a single one.

Yesterday’s quick experiment at the Stitch & Pitch game in Toronto was great fun, and I have the ride over the ocean to finish reading the manual cover to cover.

*Spread the joy!*

You could win! This time: Kolláge square circular needles

Kolláge square circular needles: what a mind-blowing concept

Remember how, in the new issue of Knitty, we announced that we’d be holding contests on the blog from now on? And to watch for a contest post?

This is a contest post! You found it! Can you stand it?

We’re so excited! We love giving stuff away, and this first contest is extra fun, because it’s a set of needles that we just reviewed in our First Fall issue. Scroll down to read the review, with opinions from both a woolly knitter [Jillian] and a non-woolly knitter [Amy]. We both were impressed with the unique feeling of knitting on square needles and how it tidied our stitches.

What’s the prize? A set of 4 Kolláge square circular needles, one in each of their most popular sizes.

How do you win? It’s just too easy. Leave a comment to THIS POST only, making sure your e-mail address is somewhere in the comment. Comments will be accepted until 5pm EST Monday, July 26th.

How do we pick a winner? We’ll choose one of the comments at random after 5 pm EST on Monday and announce the winner on Wednesday in our WWW post.

Thanks to our friends at Kolláge for donating this very cool prize! Good luck to you all!

*Spread the joy!*

When last we met…

the previous sneak peek

Two Mondays ago [Knitting Mondays, to be specific], I hinted about my first knitting project after beginning to recover from treatment for my RSI — the RSI that has prevented me from enjoying knitting for more than a year.

The project was Annis, and I knew I wanted to knit it from the moment it came into the Knitty submission mailbox.

[Do you wonder if I ever knit anything that we don’t publish? I don’t. I think that would be super-tacky. Plus, if I like it well enough to knit it, that’s telling me I should consider publishing it!

Patterns that come in that we aren’t able to publish get archived for our records only, and after about a year, the mailbox gets purged.]

Anyway, Annis. I am not personally fond of bobbling or nupping, so when I saw this gorgeous beaded Annis, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I dove into my stash, found the yarn: Araucania Lonco Multy in color 4010. This was the only yarn I bought in Hawaii, and I was excited to get to use it!

I also went stash diving for beads and, well, wasn’t smart about it. I’d bought some beads a while back at a knitting/needlepoint shop, blindly assuming that, since it was a knitting shop, the beads would fit on yarn. And this Lonco stuff is lovely and quite thin. But it’s not dental floss. And these were seed beads. Nevertheless, I was blinded by the perfect color match and went ahead. The beaded rows were unbearably frustrating, and the result? Well, you tell me if you can see the beads:

there are beads in this picture. can you see them?

What a waste of effort. But it doesn’t matter, because I love the finished shawl. Look:

look at the crazy shape of that shawl. I love it.

another angle of pretty.

At this point, a shout out to the Cocoknits people for their Knitters’ Block sets. As you can see, this shawl is not any conventional geometric shape, but the Knitter’s Block sets allow you to put blocks together in any way you need to. And the carpety layer on the top of each block means the knitted thing doesn’t want to move, even without pins. Damned clever product, these blocks.

p.s. I am now knitting more comfortably than I have in years. Happy? You can’t even imagine.

*Spread the joy!*