Friday, March 30, 2012

Puttin' the "Pro" in "Proposal"

Don't be this guy.

Ok, I promise this post has nothing to do with wedding proposals. We're going to talk about the sort of proposals that knit/crochet designers are always sending to publishers, yarn companies, etc.

As many of you know, I took over the Designer/Project Coordination duties at Malabrigo a few months ago, and in that time I've gotten a LOT of proposals. In the interest of wanting you all the succeed fabulously, I thought I'd put together my little list of tips. Disclaimer: I can only tell you what I find helpful/useful/appealing. It may not apply to every publisher you write to.

1. First thing's first- make sure your portfolio is in shape. If you're asking for non-book yarn support or submitting to something like MFPP where you'll be self-publishing the patterns (an unusual arrangement, but hey) then we are going to look to make sure you have a few self-published patterns under your belt and that they are well-photographed and appealing. Personally, I also like to see that someone seems to understand their way around Ravelry/the blogosphere and has a fairly active presence. After all, we want you to write patterns that are going to succeed and get lots of attention ;-) If you're submitting to something like a book where someone else is handling the photography/editing/etc, these things are less important, but we still want to see that you've done a fair number of designs and know what you're doing.

Please don't apply for yarn support with two badly-photographed designs that have no projects made (or worse, projects made by unhappy people who have found lots of errors! Always test/tech edit your patterns!) That puts us in the awkward position of having to say no, and I hate saying no.

2. Once you've got your best-portfolio-foot-forward, you can start crafting your proposal. Generally there will be two parts- the cover letter, and a pdf.

The cover letter is simply the email you're sending. The exact info you need to include may vary, but always make sure you've got everything the call for submissions asks for. It'll usually look something like this:
To: EdiblePublicationsLLC
Subject: Submission for Hot Dog Knits Book (Always name the call you're responding to, sometimes there are multiple calls going on and it can get confusing!)

Hello! My name is Alex Tinsley and I would like to submit a pattern for your upcoming book. A detailed proposal is attached, but essentially it is a sweater for dogs that looks like a hot dog.

You can see my portfolio of designs here:
And my website and blog here:
I've worked with a variety of publications in the past, including the book "Sweaters for Hamburgers" and the magazine "Food Knits Quarterly."

I really enjoyed your previous book, "Frankenfurter Crochet", and would love to be a part of this new collection!

Thank you!

Keep it nice & short- your pdf will do most of the talking. And always link to your Ravelry portfolio even if you have a lovely one on your website- it just makes it easier to always be looking at a consistent format, plus I can see the projects and comments.

If you're writing to ask for yarn support, the email will look a little different.

To: MagicalYarnsUnlimited
Subject: Possible Yarn Support?

Hello! My name is Alex Tinsley and I'm a designer and a huge fan of your yarns. I have a great idea for a hot dog dog sweater that I think would be absolutely perfect in your Meaty Worsted Weight and wondered if you might be interested in providing yarn support. A proposal with more details is attached. The pattern will be self-published and I am planning to release it around the 4th of July, just in time for the hot dog season.

You can see my portfolio of designs here:
And my website and blog here:
I've worked with a variety of publications in the past, including the book "Sweaters for Hamburgers" and the magazine "Food Knits Quarterly."

Thank you so much for your consideration!"

(I guess the pattern got rejected by the book people. Oh well.)

3. The PDF! Which you will name something useful, like "TinsleySweaterMarch2012"
Things to include in your pdf:

- A sketch (it's ok if it's amateurish, just get the point across. Personally I like to see swatches on some sort of body so that I can get an idea of proportion.)

Aim for slightly better than this.

- A swatch (unless we're talking stockinette or something else really simple)

- Info about what sizes will be available, if there are multiple

- A brief description just in case your sketch is less-than-demonstrative, haha ("A thigh-length women's cardigan with raglan sleeves and subtle waist shaping, with bobble detail down each sleeve..." etc. etc.)

- If this is being sent to a yarn company, list the exact yarn you want to use, in what colors, and what amounts (especially if this is a yarn support request- if it's a book or something, they will have some say in what you use, so just give some specific suggestions.) You can usually find the yardages on the manufacturers website or on Ravelry. Giving us this info up front streamlines the getting-the-yarn-out-to-you-process.

- Some back up choices for yarn color in case we can't provide the first choice for some reason.

- If the request is to a non-yarn-co publisher, they might have their own ideas about what yarns you'll be using, so just describe the qualities you want- "Soft wool, worsted weight, maybe single ply" or "Something drapey like alpaca and/or silk, sport weight"

- YOUR CONTACT INFO. ALL OF IT. Email, phone, physical address. We're probably not going to call you, but the shipping companies like to have your phone number... and if you don't give us your address, that's one more email exchange that has to happen before we can just send the yarn out. Also, stick your website and Rav portfolio in there again too, just in case the PDF gets separated from the email (lots of publishers save the pdfs separately).

So that's pretty much the basics. A few more scattered tips:

- Don't use Papyrus, Comic Sans, or any other eye-searing fonts that everyone hates. Use a simple, readable font. Don't make it super weird colors. And in your actual email? Keep your text looking normal. Either skip the rich text formatting completely, or only use it for stuff like italics. Giant purple novelty fonts make everybody cry.

- Speaking of email, think about what your address says about you. "" looks a lot less professional than "" or "" And with the plethora of free email options out there, there's really no excuse for using a joint, family email account with your husband or wife's name on it for business.

- Do say something in your cover letter. I've gotten some with just the info we specifically asked for:

To: YarnCo
Subject: Submission

Alex Tinsley

(and then an attachment)

That's a wee bit impersonal. There's a human back here, say hello! Introduce yourself. You want the publisher to like you- not just because you want them to accept this proposal, but because "reliable, friendly people who do good work" are the first ones we'll turn to when we have a new project we need people for. And also because friends are nice :-)

- Speaking of those projects, make sure your email address isn't impossible to find! Put it in the "about" or "contact" section of your site, or in your Ravelry designer profile (or regular profile) or...somewhere. Somewhere intuitive. You can write it out like "knitter (at) gmail (dot) com" if you're worried about dodging spam. But we can't contact you if we can't find your contact info! And if there are a lot of candidates being considered, people do get skipped over for stupid convenience reasons like that.

- Another good reason to know the person behind the email: if we've worked together successfully before, or I know you and your work/reputation well, sometimes you can get away without a full proposal. For example, Stephen West has done a lot of work with Malabrigo (though not with me personally) and can generally be trusted to come up with something brilliant, so if he says "I'm going to make a shawl with X color and X color" I'm probably going to just trust him.

- Don't forget to follow-up on yarn support- we really do like to see what you made :-) (And in my case, I'll generally tweet it from the Malabrigo twitter to try and get you some extra traffic.) Also- let us know when the package arrives so we know you got it. That might not be true for every company, but I'm sending the requests to the company in Uruguay so it's a relief to know they've arrived safe & sound.

Errrrmmm I think that's it! A lot of it is common sense, but I know it's handy for new designers to have a guide :-) And like I said, this is just MY take on it, so I can't promise every publisher or yarn company will work that way- I hereby absolve myself of any responsibility!

Any other folks (perhaps from the publishing end of things) want to chime in?

Like this post? You might enjoy my (chock-fulla-designering-tips) ebook!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


It's been a big week for blog posts, eh? And two patterns! Insanity. I actually have a third ready to go but I'll try to wait a few days ;-)



Bandana in the front, cowl in the back! No ends to tie, just slip that puppy on. I picked out this Tilli Tomas Pure & Simple last year as a birthday present and have been waffling about what to do with it - pure silk can be tricky, especially worsted weight (note: "tricky" in Alex-ese means "It's not very good for hats.") I wanted to show it off and also give it enough structure that it won't totally stretch out of shape- this seems to do the trick!


(Dig the crazy rock star hair. It was windy!)


You can check out Bandana-Rama on Ravelry, here.
Or Craftsy, here.

~~~~~~~~Slightly-related Diversion~~~~~~

I had my friend Lee shoot these photos while we were exploring the weird Irish Hills region of Michigan- it's sort of a semi-wasteland of mostly-closed roadside attractions.

The photos were taken in front of these bizarre abandoned look-out towers:


But we also peeked at the abandoned Prehistoric Forest amusement park (so sad I didn't get to go here while it was open):


And don't forget the Train Car of Terror!


That one might still be operational around Halloween, I'm not sure. It's right next to the Depot of the Dead:


And a weird giant faux cowboy town that I didn't get any pictures of. I love roadside attractions, it broke my heart a little that I couldn't go into any of them (naw, we didn't break in, we're chickens. I've heard Prehistoric Forest has some hardcore security going on, too. Plus. You know. Don't break laws, you guys. Or something.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Amazing Technicolor Mal-Scarf!

With bonus: Giant Horse! And Giant Neuron! (Thanks, Meijer Gardens!)


Instead of focusing on showing off the scarf, Travis just kept trying to make the horse eat my head. So. Sorry about that.


I've been saving up my Malabrigo Worsted scraps for years (and other people's, when they were kind enough to give 'em to me) in preparation for a grand, rainbow-y project. And here she is.


I do think there's a little Twist in there too.


Good job, Travis.


"I DISAPPROVE!" <-- Giant Horse


Nooo, Giant Horse, I'm sorry I offended you!




Don't worry, I made it out alive just in time for Travis's Urban-Outfitters-Catalog phase.




Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ruffle Shuffle!


Part old-hollywood-feather-boa-glam, part freaky deep sea creature! Easy to knit, and fun to wear (not to mention warm, what with all that insulation!) BMFA Luscious Single Silk is, well, absolutely luscious, and this pattern will make the most out of one of those ginormous skeins.




Check it out on Ravelry, here
Or Craftsy, here

Friday, March 23, 2012


(Y'know, like "reeemixxxx!!!" Like, the hype-man. On songs. No? Ok.)


So, I sold my original black & white Topographie soon after I made it. And then... I decided I missed it. It looked good on me, darn it. So, I finally made another one.



Yeeeeah I was having a little bit too much fun hamming it up.


That's one of those weird flowers that smells like rotting meat. Not the giant one that only blooms for two days every 8 years or whatever...but still, pretty cool. And terrifying. And really, really smelly. Also, the latin name for that group of flowers is Amorphophallus i.e. "misshappen penis" which is completely amazing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Grand Rapids: Surprisingly Grand

I have no idea why, but I always had sort of a negative mental image of Grand Rapids (second largest city in Michigan, for you out-of-staters.) Turns out it's actually really nice- the east side feels a LOT like Portland, with lots of super cute quirky shops and restaurants and beer.


The rather beautiful Brewery Vivant. I think I overheard someone saying it used to be a funeral home.



The rest of these are from the Meijer Gardens, an odd botanical-sculpture-garden where we did some knitwear photo-shootings.


Scary carnivorous plant!



Trying to look as put-out as that bear.






There'll be some more neato sculptures coming up with the knits ;-) But that's good for now.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Babies are Surprising

The day has finally come: my very first Baby Surprise Jacket (first baby sweater ever, actually) has taken form and headed 'cross the country to its currently-incubating future owner.


It's a little boyish, but I started it before the gender was known and I wanted to tempt fate in favor of a girl (it totes worked)... anyway, her mama's the progressive type ;-)


I did try to femme it up a little bit with shiny buttons.


The yarn is Malabrigo Rios in Azules and Arco Iris (one of the prettiest skeins of AI I've ever seen.) The pattern is, of course, BSJ by Elizabeth Zimmermann.

Monday, March 5, 2012

*Ahem* Me-me-me-me-meme.

I know, I know, memes are kinda silly, but right now I don't have much knitting that I can show you, and darnitall, I like answering questions. Stole this one from Sarah. (If you decide to answer it too, leave a link in the comments so I can check it out ;-) )

1. A Picture of Me

Currently only two types of pictures of me are ever taken: pictures where I'm modeling knits, and cell phone/webcam pictures. I figure you get plenty of the former.

2. 10 Random Facts about Me

  • I drive a blue Mini Cooper but I wish it was a gray Honda Fit
  • I pretty much hate all smells, unless they are food smells. And they have to be real food smells, no fake ones.
  • I've developed a sudden, trendy fondness for nail polish, but I can only use it outside (See: smells.) My nails looked great this summer...not so much in cold weather.
  • I kind of dislike talking about knitting with non-knitters. Explaining what I do makes my skin crawl- I feel like I can see them thinking "Oh, that's her husband supports her" and then immediately trying to come up with something to commission from me. (And then we have to have the awkward "you can't afford me" talk.)
  • I know how to make actual, non-knitted millinery hats, with felt and straw and feathers....if only I could afford the equipment and supplies. (I have a few hat blocks...we're getting there.)
  • I can be a total asshole when it comes to people being stupid, and I seem to grow less tolerant of "lacking common sense or decency" the older I get. (I'm also getting a lot worse at shutting my mouth.)
  • I don't own a (working) tv, but only because Travis doesn't like them and I don't want to pay for cable. I watch tv all day long on Netflix while I'm working ;-)
  • I spend a lot of my time absent-mindedly singing songs to my dogs, replacing key lyrics with their names or the word "dog." "Don't you want me, Ruuupperrt, don't you want me, Ohhhhohohoh." "IF you want my Pog-ay and you think I'm Ru-pert, come on baby, let me knoooww." The dogs spend a lot of time looking confused. (Travis does it too, from the other room I just heard him go "I think it's finnnne, building jumbo dogs.....wait, no, I think it's terrifying.")
  • I used to be really good at hula-hooping. Now I'm only pretty good. I'd love to take a fancy hooping class but I live in the midwest now and they're a bit harder to come by.
  • The first thing I ever designed (besides, say, a garter stitch square) was an acrylic colorwork penis hat for my ex-boyfriend. I'm pretty sure Sarahbear has a photo, because she found it when she dated him later, haha. It is NOT. GOOD.

3. Question Time

1. What was the first album you ever purchased (vinyl, tape, or cd)?

I know that I somehow *obtained* a Joe Duffie tape in fourth grade, and maybe a Shania Twain one- I discovered country music before any other genre, thanks to my Kentucky cousins. At some point I bought Jewel's first album, Natalie Imbruglia's Left of the Middle, and Britney Spears' first album, but I'm not sure which came first. I would still listen to Jewel and Natalie.

2. What was the first accessory you bought with your own money?

I have no idea. Accessory? Probably some sort of cheapo jewelry or something. Probably from Claires.

3. Favourite gift you’ve ever received?

Hmm, that's tough. Probably the kitten I got for Christmas when I was 5...though two years later I had to give it to my grandmother because of allergies, and I've been horribly allergic ever since. She was a sweet kitten, though. Or my engagement ring, if that counts. My parents have given me some awesome gifts- tech gadgets and "free rent" as a wedding present, but I guess those aren't very "sentimental" things so I'm not sure if they'd count, even though I use them every day.

4. The coolest person you’ve ever met?

Cool like, "I think he's cool"- Travis. Cool like, "you might think he's cool"- Dave Eggers. My ex-bf knew him. But he totally ignored me :-P

5. The item in your home with the most sentimental value?

A lot of my sentimental stuff still lives at my parents house, though I have a lot of photographs, blankets made by my grandmother, and a trophy I won in a horse show when I was about 8. Travis has his childhood stuffed dinosaur ;-)

6. The grossest thing in your refrigerator right now?

Nothing too old, except a weird puddle/stain on the bottom. There's some stuff I don't like (pickles) and a foam container labeled "Gooj" which I'm a little wary of.

7. Something you always purchase at the grocery store?

Apple sauce and Late July cookies. They're like oreos but way better.

8. One thing you hope to accomplish this year.

I have a long-suffering knit collection that I'd like to get out...other projects and obligations keep getting in the way, though.

9. Your current favourite song.

That's too hard, I never have a single favorite song. I will tell you that I've been re-listening to the Long Winter's first album, and that I have "Don't you want me, baby" in my head right now, and the last song I purposely put on was that weird Imogen Heap one.

10. What we’d eat together if I showed up on your door step today.

Travis made a big vat of chicken noodle soup the other day, so probably that, followed by some homemade salted caramel ice cream from the Jeni's book. Being married to a chef rocks.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

ACM Follow-up

Just wanted to pop in and say thanks for all the positive response to my post about KAL/ACM. There have been a few interesting developments, but rather than rehash them I'm going to point you to Joyuna's newest post.

Best of luck to all of you waiting to get paid, get refunds, get samples, or get, well, anything. Don't give up :-)

And because I promised yarn and joy......


Upcoming hat (testing opening soon, I just need to get 'er typed up.)


Malabrigo Porn (that's Arroyo in VAA and Glitter, and the new limited-edition Finito in Glitter- it's the same super-softest-top-notch merino as Darla, but fingering weight. Should be hitting stores this spring and there's not much of it, so if you see some, grabgrabgrab!) The color balance is really weird but the yarn is accurate, haha. I'm working on some really exciting stuff with Malabrigo but I can't really tell you about any of it yet... suffice to say, I'm very excited about next year's Freelance Pattern Project line-up (if you're not familiar with the program, it's a monthly ebook collaboration between Malabrigo and an indie designer or two) and we have a new program starting in April that's going to be pretty neat.


My sister's cat with bread on her face.


A baby cow eating an ice cream cone. (I'm pretty sure that they're not supposed to have ice cream, but y'know, I'm also pretty sure he was going to be eaten soon. So I feel ok about it.)


I think he likes it.

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