Dexter is a stray dog who came into my life recently.Â My hubby and I had had a dog, a lovely yellow lab called Avery, and she died of cancer four years ago.Â We’d been talking about bringing another dog into our family, but the time hadn’t seemed right.
And then three weeks ago, a stray dog appeared in the yard of a dog-owning neighbor.Â The stray was handed over to the joint care of me and my hubby, and another neighbor who had recently lost her own dog.
He had no tags on his collar, and no microchip, so we launched a massive campaign to find his family.Â We posted with the city animal services and the Humane Society; we made him a trending topic on Twitter.Â We put up ads on Craigslist and Kijiji, and posted on Facebook.Â We blogged about him. We made posters and distributed them around the city with the help of friends and family; we toured him through all the local vets, pet shops and groomers.Â And nothing.Â No one knew the little guy, and we had no idea where he had come from, or where he belonged.
After a week of searching, we had a tag made with the name Dexter and our phone number on it, and he moved in with us.Â We’re thrilled to have him living with us, and he seems to be enjoying it. He’s a good dog, and someone had clearly cared for him: he’d been neutered and he was healthy and groomed.Â But someone, somewhere, has lost a beloved family pet.
If he had had a microchip, he could have found his way back to his family.
Happy and safe.
I told Mandy this story, and she told me the story of her cat, Roxy.
Roxy, too, was a lost animal, and Roxy, too, was chip-less. Mandy rescued Roxy from the streets when she was a kitten – she was sick and injured, and likely wouldn’t have survived if Mandy hadn’t taken her in.
We’re glad that these particular lost animals landed with people who could look after them, but as any shelter will tell you, that doesn’t always happen.
I know that Knitty readers are animal lovers.Â The help you’ve offered in the course of the search for Dexter’s family is proof of that.Â And I know that many Knitty readers have pets of their own.
The lesson in this is that if you have pets, please have them chipped.Â A tiny little microchip is injected under the skin of the animal, usually around the shoulder or neck area.Â The microchip has an ID number which is registered in a master database, along with information about the animal and its people – a description of the animal, and contact information for the animal’s owner and vet.Â A vet can do this, or any animal shelter or rescue organization.Â A scanning device can find the chip and instantly access the information about the animal – and any vet will scan a lost animal, free of charge, to see if it has been registered.
It’s quick, inexpensive, and utterly painless for the animal.Â And it means that your lost pet can find its way home to you.
Jillian Moreno got to talk to Shannon — the successful author of more than a dozen books — about the business of knitting.Â 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 Iâ€™ve ever read for a knitting designer. Invaluable if you are starting out or if youâ€™ve been in the business for a while, it concretely makes sense of the â€˜mysteryâ€™ 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 thatâ€™s essential to putting oneâ€™s best designer foot forward, so itâ€™s easy to love! (In fact, I know that Iâ€™m not the only one who has recommended Knittyâ€™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 â€“ look how each issue of the magazine makes sense, how the patterns relate to each other, how thereâ€™s a great mix of pattern types and techniquesâ€¦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 â€“ each time an issue comes out, a handful of Knitty patterns immediately shoot into the stratosphere in terms of the â€œNew and Popularâ€ 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 â€œsell, sell, sellâ€ with little useful or interesting content. How do you keep the balance between authenticity and selling in social media?
S: 90/10. Thatâ€™s how I see itâ€¦ 90 is me, personally and 10 is â€œok, buy my stuff, pleaseâ€ (Maybe even less than 10%!) I try very hard not to post a million â€œI just put out a new X and you should buy itâ€ tweets or Facebook updates, Iâ€™d much rather just be me, talking about the goofy stuff I personally like to talk about when Iâ€™m not discussing business.
So, for example, of the 17 tweets Iâ€™ve posted today, one was â€œI’m not above using my cute dad to sell a few more patterns. http://twitpic.com/2azzqaâ€ — which, technically, is a businessy tweet because Iâ€™m showing off my dadâ€™s photo on the Ravelry featured pattern page wearing my latest design. But notice I didnâ€™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:Â 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 isnâ€™t always possible even for full time designers, and they will tar and feather you if you donâ€™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 â€“ keep it professional, make sure you can meet any deadlines set by magazines or whoever else youâ€™re working with, etc.
J: Once youâ€™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?
Iâ€™d like to just flat-out quote myself from a recent interview with Kim Werker that was held live on Twitter: â€œYou take a project for 1 of 2 things: money, or publicity. Sometimes you get both, but if it isnâ€™t worth just ONE, donâ€™t! I have taken projects where I wouldnâ€™t have made ANYTHING after paying the sample knitter/etc, but was great PR. However, it was MY CHOICE â€” anyone touting a project solely for publicity or â€œexposureâ€ should be immediately suspect. Our hilarious friends @Ravelry got it right.â€
In addition, you should take projects that will challenge you â€“ 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 whatâ€™s already been said about an ongoing project, etc. I am a compulsive list-maker, too. I have a ton of â€œthings going onâ€ textfiles sitting on my desktop that I can pull up and work from, reminderwise. Iâ€™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 itâ€™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 Iâ€™m a very visual person, and it helps me categorize all my ideas. So, for example, Iâ€™m working on a fall/winter pattern collection thatâ€™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 useÂ style.com, Ravelry and other sources to see whatâ€™s out there but when it comes right down to it, itâ€™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: Iâ€™m, to quote my boyfriend, â€œAmish on weekendsâ€ because I turn the computerÂ 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 foodstuffsâ€¦everything butÂ 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 Iâ€™ve ever seen, one of those movies thatâ€™s so awful you canâ€™t turn it off because youâ€™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 Iâ€™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 andâ€¦ In short, donâ€™t be afraid to â€œwasteâ€ 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? â€“ 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 donâ€™t do as well or as quickly. One example â€“ Iâ€™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. Itâ€™s a lot harder for me to write the pattern before I knit the sample, but in order to outsource the knitting, Iâ€™ll have to do it in that order. It takes away some of the serendipity, but serendipity doesnâ€™t always pay the bills. I wish I could just sit and knit all day and make someone else write it all down, but thatâ€™s not how it works at this level.
J: Whatâ€™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. Iâ€™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. Weâ€™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 itâ€™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, JulyÂ August 13th at 5pm EST, and the winner chosen by Shannon, and announced in the WWW post next Wednesday. Good luck!
In my quest to become a more conscious spinner, (I won’t say a better spinner, because I spin just fine, thank you) I’m learning to be aware of what’s going on with my hands, feet and wheel for a certain level of consistency when I want it.
I’d like to be one of those spinners who seem to have a Vulcan mind meld with their wheels. “I’m going to spin a worsted 3-ply that will be a dk weight yarn”, they say, and twist, turn, treadle they do, effortlessly.
My latest observation is that my spinning is influenced dramatically by where I am, who I’m with and others things that are going on around me – the View from My Wheel.
The View from My Wheel on the vacation pictured at left is peaceful solitude. I spun only when I was alone, early in the morning, or when the rest were off swimming or tramping through the woods.
I watched an eagle family who’ve nested on the lake and loons swimming with their chick. My hands moved softly and my feet slowed down, I was able to perfect fat lofty yarn on this vacation, and spin lovely woolen singles.
I couldn’t hurry my spinning. The rushing on this vacation made a mess of my yarn. I couldn’t spin worsted or thick-and-thin yarns. My spinning brain only wanted long, gentle motions. Working in a different style was frustrating and unproductive.
When I went with the spinning that matched the View from My Wheel, it was all smooth sailing and lovely yarn, a feeling of working together with my wheel, not against it. My hands and feet remembered better too, after I got home and spun similar yarn.
Along with all of my regular notes associated with spinning particular yarn, I’m now adding View from My Wheel, because, for me, it makes a difference.
Another great Lanesplitter from Tamara, and details on a mini Lanesplitter KAL at a LYS in Toronto.Â Each of the three knitters has decided to make the fit and finishing slightly different, to see what works best for different body types.
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.
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:
I checkÂ 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.
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.
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.Â 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.
Our lucky July contest winner is comment #642, Sara! (srgonzalez@…) Congratulations, Sara! We’ll be writing you to get your mailing info so you can get your hands on your new KollÃ¡ge square circular needles!
A cancer patient in Wales has raised nearly Â£1 million ($1.5 million USD) for a cancer treatment center research by knitting and selling little Easter chicks. Over 600 knitters have supported the cause with their needles, and thousands have shown their support by buying a chick.Â The chicks are popular with schoolchildren, allowing people of all ages to contribute to the cause.
Interesting discussion on the BrianKnits blog about whether knitting media is reinforcing gender stereotypes with the paucity of images of and designs for male knitters.Â We know and love manymaleknitters, and have published a Man’s Issue, but Brian’s comments are worth reading and discussing.
Just one section of the hundreds of knitters at Toronto's Stitch & Pitch
Toronto’s Stitch & Pitch took place last night at the Rogers Centre [which will always be the SkyDome to us].
The Jays wiped home plate with the Orioles, winning with a brutal final score of 8-2. Sorry, Baltimore.
The Harlot threw out the first pitch, acquitting herself admirably, although we do think she might have felt more comfortable if it had been a ball of yarn.
This year’s event was a huge success, with universally popular door prizes [tons of them!] and great kit bags handed out to each of us as we presented our ticket. Great work, Stitch & Pitch Toronto team!
Stephanie gets escorted to the mound by the Blue Jays' mascot to throw out the first pitch
The Yarn Harlot on the Jumbotron!
Note the petite size of our Stephanie against the immense height of the catcher. Steph, you did us knitters proud.
Man, that's one tall baseball player.
Emily, Jacqueline, Jennifer and Jasmine enjoy the game.
Happy spouse with his knitter
Classic Elite Yarns has just launched their blog. Get a tour of their gorgeous headquarters, catch up on what the team is knitting, and learn more about what they have planned for fall.
A lovely article from the Oregon Live blog about knitting as a shared connection.
I didn’t hit my lofty goal for the Tour de Fleece but I spun a whole lot of yarn: 34 ounces.Â I spun 22 ounces of the dyed-by-my-hand BFL, 4 ounces of fat 2-ply, 4 ounces of Lynne Vogel colored Merino/Bamboo/Silk, and 4 ounces of lofty thick-and-thin. It was enough and I had fun.
I learned that I need a lot of variety in my spinning. There were days at the wheel when I just couldn’t face any more of my blue/purple BFL, that more than lack of time kept me from spinning my dreamed-about 2 pounds of BFL yarn.
I also learned I need a whole lot more practice on my thick-and-thinÂ yarn.
What about you — did you hit yourÂ Tour de Fleece goal? Any tips for thick-and-thin yarn?
KollÃ¡ge 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.
Alice Starmore will be appearing at the upcoming IKnit Weekender in London, September 10 & 11th. This coincides with the republication of her books Aran Knitting and Fisherman’s Sweaters. Many of Ms. Starmore’s classic books, originally published in the 1980s and 1990s, are slated for republication, and they are must-haves in any knitter’s library.Â Fair Isle Knitting appeared last year. Copies of the old editions can be hard to find, and sell for hundreds of dollars, so these republications mean that we can all have copies.
Also in the UK, in August, don’t forget our Amy’s classes at Knit Camp in Stirling, Scotland.
And while we’re talking of classes,Â Stitches Midwest takes place in Chicago, August 19-22nd.Â Expect the usual full slate of classes, shopping and general yarny fun for all.
A group of over 500 grandmothers in South Africa – many of them living in poverty – knitted more than 23,000 hats that were sold to tourists at the World Cup. Video news item from Brisbane Times in Australia.Own a piece of your very own sheep farm! Read about yarn CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture share). Buying a share in a CSA helps support the farm and the flock, and you are repaid with a share of the shearing.
The Daily Mail tells us that crocheted fashions are making a comeback. We’re amused by the callout that says “Crocheted fabric uses a third more yarn than knitted fabric, but only one hooked needle is required to crochet – knitting requires two.” Because using two needles makes it so much harder? Silly mainstream journalists.