Bonus!

Amy’s coming to the UK!

It's almost time!

This trip has been in the works since before Sock Summit ’09 — aka more than a year. And finally, it’s almost here!

It’s the brainchild of my friend, Craftlit host, Heather Ordover. I almost fell off my chair when she asked if I would be her co-host! It’s extra-exciting for me, because this trip also coincides with hub’s and my 20th anniversary and he’s coming with me. Yes, twenty years. Insane. [There are rumors we were married in the womb. I will neither confirm nor deny.]

Anyway, I’m not posting this to brag about the trip. I’m excited because our brilliant [and super-professional] tour organizer, Dianne, has given us two opportunities to have meetups with UK readers and listeners while we’re there!

London:
@ I Knit London, Sunday, October 3 from 3-4pm

Cardiff:
@ Rummer Tavern, Wednesday, Oct 6, from 7-9pm

If you can make it, please do! I’ll have Knitty shwag with me, and both Heather and I are really excited to meet all of you!

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. :)]

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!

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!

A plaid August for me

E-mails have been flying back and forth across the Atlantic for a little while, and the result I can now share with you:

I’m going to UK Knit Camp this August in Stirling, Scotland.

I am so excited about this, I can’t even stand it. Have you looked at the website? A world of teachers are participating, many of whom  have never been to the UK to teach before. It’s only fair. North America has had an abundance of  super-cool knitting events, including (of course) Sock Summit, Stitches events, Knitters’ Connection, and tons more. So now the other side of the ocean gets a chance, and I’m so thrilled that I get to be a part of it!

I’m teaching three classes during the week, two of them brand new!

Here are the details:

Wednesday morning: Easy non-wool socks
This brand-new class is all about knitting socks without wool. As a bonus, Jo (head honcho of Knit Camp) has arranged to bring in a whole bunch of non-wool sock yarns not usually available in the UK for you to purchase, if you need to.

In this class, you’ll learn my super-easy toe-up sock recipe which I designed specifically to work with the characteristics of non-wool sock yarns.  It features an easy gusset and a heel flap built with my tweaked Japanese short-row technique, all 100% maths free.  Knit one, and you might just want this to be your sock recipe for life.  The pattern gives you lots of room to improvise, should you want to add texture, colourwork or lace to the foot and/or leg.

And if you want to use this pattern with wool yarn after the class, I won’t be bothered one bit.

Tuscany Shawl: Image © Interweave Press

Thursday morning: Tuscany lace shawl –>
This class will introduce you to the joys of knitting lace the easy way.  Our project will be the Tuscany Shawl, from my book No Sheep for You. Knit in a smooth worsted-weight silk yarn, it feels amazing against the skin, and most importantly, it looks way harder to knit than it actually is.

We’ll learn all the tricks that make knitting lace a pleasure, including how to read the landscape of your lace, and the easy way to block your finished shawl.

If you’ve wanted to knit lace but don’t like charts, or are just a little shy of the whole process, this is the class for you.

Friday morning: Making the next Monkey, Greenjeans or Mrs Beeton
In this class, I’ll share some of Knitty’s secrets with you.  I’ll talk about what makes a pattern stand out among the hundreds submitted to Knitty every year, what makes a good pattern, pattern-writing techniques that make a difference, what makes a pattern go viral, the five things you can do to ensure that you have the best possible chance of getting published, and the five things you can do that will blow it for you.

Please bring along any patterns you are considering submitting for publication, along with a knitted sample.  I promise to be gentle as I share my feedback with you — there is no meanness in my class! I got to evaluate lots of sock patterns at Sock Summit last year, and everyone — even those not submitting at the time — told me they got a lot out of the class.


I’m also going to be speaking at the Clapo-tea (can you stand the cuteness?). I’ve been asked to join the Luminary Panel (really? me? eee!), and the fashion show will be full of Knitty garments and accessories.

Because Jo and I just met at the Toronto Knitter’s Frolic and decided to make this happen in rather short notice, my classes have just been added to the website, which means they’re wide open right now. It’d make my day (month!) if they’d fill up quickly.

I hope to meet you on the other side of the ocean this August!