Monday, October 27, 2014

Garter-Tab Cast-on Tutorial (for Shawl Together!)

I was honored when Cate of Infinite Twist asked me to be part of her Fall Shawl Together! I didn't have any shawls on the docket right now, so I thought I'd share a technique that I remember totally boggling me when I first started shawl knitting- the garter-tab cast-on.

This technique is common in shawl patterns and not hard to execute, but if you haven't seen it done it and are just going off the directions, it can look very weird and "wrong". Don't worry, it's supposed to look that way ;-)

Apologies for wandering off-screen a time or two- I can never seem to keep my hands still. Also I realize I mentioned that the long needle is useful but I didn't really say why- it makes it much easier and more comfortable to pull those stitches on to the cord and then bend around and go back for more. My needle was probably a little longer than it really needed to be, though.

The Fall Shawl-Together is a season-long series of blog posts and other content from a range of knitting designers, all centered around (what else) shawls! If you're into shawl knitting- or even just interested in topics like color selection and yarn substitution- you should definitely check out the other posts, which are all gathered on this page (which'll be updated each week as a new post goes live.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fructose- Pattern #4 of Sweet Tooth

At last, we've come to the end of our mystery ebook journey: Pattern #4, Fructose, is here! 

Fructose features a split brim, knit & purl textures (figured y'all might want a break after all that cabling in the last one) and pi decreases. You can find it on Ravelry here, or:

A huge thank you to those of you who have been along on this whole mystery ebook journey with me! I hope you've enjoyed the patterns :-) It's totally not too late to get in on the Sweet Tooth KAL in my Ravelry group - there are prizes to be won and all you need to do to participate is post at least one WIP or FO picture!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The making of Malabrigo Book 6

I've been working with Malabrigo as their Project/Designer Coordinator for... maybe two and a half (ish) years now. Running the Quickies and Freelance Pattern Project programs have been a lot of fun, but I was SUPER excited to spread my curatorial wings for Book 6. I thought it'd be fun to look back a bit at the process of putting together a book like this (and maybe my process for styling a largish project will come in handy for someone working on their own book or collection- I pretty much did the same thing with Doomsday Knits.) 

I started with a basic color story/concept. We wanted brights and bolds, and to combine them with neutrals (though the brights definitely dominated in the end- it's always interesting to see how these concepts kinda morph over time.) 

These were the palettes that I sent the designers to get their creative motors chuggin':

After perusing awhile, the designers got back to me with some ideas about what they'd like to do, and we narrowed it all down to the projects you see here. (Though several other designs ended up being moved and will show up in other books ;-) ) 

Next was the styling bit. (I was working on this at the same time as I was doing the styling for Doomsday Knits so it was kind of a shopping-crazed few months!) For me, this starts with taking lots of reference photos of the items that I can bring with me while I'm shopping (I actually had to turn these over to the tech editor before the shopping was finished, so it was pretty important to have the photos.) 

These pictures aren't always exactly flattering...

...but that's okay. The most important part is to accurately capture the color and proportions. 

Before I start shopping, I spend some time just doodling, looking at Pinterest, etc, and trying to get some basic ideas for how I want to style each item. The final outfits might not look anything like the sketches (depending on what I can find when I'm shopping) but it helps to have a place to start.

And then the "awful dressing room selfie" stage (I take photos as I try things on, so I can pick the best option out of quite a few without having to re-try anything.)

(I kind of regret that that cat shirt didn't make the cut.) Shopping with someone else's money is about as fun as you think it would be (which is to say, really fun, as long as you like shopping.) It's a bit harrowing when you know you have to get X amount of things out of Y amount of dollars... but I like a challenge. I found what I could in stores (TJ Maxx and Target both did me right) and then filled in the gaps online. It's much easier to find a specific piece that you need online, but there's no guarantee that it'll be cheap, so I try to leave that for the end when I know exactly how much I can afford to splurge. 

And we have outfits!

I no longer had the actual items in my possession, but I wanted to make sure it would all go together, so I had to do some rather embarrassing...improvisation (in retrospect I don't know why I didn't just photoshop them on instead of this mess, haha):

I wasn't able to make it to the photoshoot in Uruguay, so instead I sent the clothes off with new, detailed sketches, so the on-site stylist would know what went where. 

There were, unsurprisingly, some changes made the day of- you never know what's gonna fit when you're buying clothes and shoes for an unknown model half a world away. We got pretty lucky though, I think the only real substitutions were some shoes! Thank god for stretch denim, amiright? (But seriously, pro-tip, have the model bring some of her own stuff just in case. And remember that tall people often have longer feet.)

The Uruguay team took it from there, sourcing great models and a fantastic photographer, and trekking out to a lovely, lonely, windy beach for the shoot :-) They also assigned the names, did the layout, and some little darling decided to put my cowl on the cover which is pretty much blowing my mind. 

You should be able to find Malabrigo Book 6 in Cabo Polonio at LYSes that carry Malabrigo yarn- if they don't have it in stock, they can probably order one for ya ;-) You can also look at all the finished items on Ravelry. Right now, I'm on the styling phase of the next book I'll be doing with Malabrigo (to be shot next year, likely in the US which means I'll be there, woohoo! My inner control-freak is singing.) I don't want to give anything away, but I'll say that it has a more "natural" aesthetic and the styling has been particularly fun so far ;-)*

*Hm, I realize that sentence kind of makes it sound like the models are naked. Sorry to disappoint but that's not it, haha. Interesting concept though. Feel free to take that one ;-P

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Graphic Knits Giveaway Winner

(Oh geez, I'm running late huh? Sorry!!)

We've got a winner for the Graphic Knits giveaway! sayyyys....

sparklerawk!!! C'mon down!!

Thank you to everyone that entered! :-)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

9 Tips for Keeping Your Costs Down as a Knitting Designer

(This one's for the designers, so for everyone else, here's some pretty and thematically-related yarn: )

Stash that green, yo!

I feel like I am always seeing designers bemoan how rarely their patterns actually cover the true costs of their creation. That's not surprising- the hours knitting, the testing, the editing, the photography... it all adds up! While a new business probably shouldn't expect to be profitable right off the bat, there does come a point where something has to give- either you need to take in more money, or hemorrhage out less of it. Since pattern prices are fairly fixed (try asking more than $6 or $7 for something and just see what kind of nasty emails you get!) and increasing your sales is a whole 'nother topic (that you are already putting a lot of effort into, right?) today I wanted to focus on ways to cut your production costs.

1. Bundle
Save up a few patterns to photograph and have edited all at once. Tech editors, photographers, and models often have a minimum rate- for instance a TE might charge you for a minimum of 1 hour even if the edit was quicker than that, or a photographer might have travel costs rolled into her fee. By doing multiple patterns at once, you'll save. Even if you're just doing it yourself, I find it's easier to get into "groove" and batch photograph, type, etc.

2. Shop around
A good photographer, illustrator, or tech editor is definitely worth paying for and you shouldn't just go with the cheapest candidate. That said, there are differences in pricing, service, and turn-around time - try working with a few different folks until you find someone who really clicks. Be aware of exchange rates- a falling dollar might mean that it's pricey for a US designer to work with a UK tech editor (even though the TE is charging a totally fair price.) On the other hand, if your country's currency is the strong one, it might be worth looking cross the border/ocean for your contractors. Shop around for your web services as well- there's a wide range of pricing for things like hosting, domain names (you probably don't need to spend more than $10 a year on a domain name unless you want something very specific and in-demand) mailing list services, etc.

3. DIY...
Technically the only thing you truly need to outsource is testing/tech editing. The rest, you can learn to do yourself if you really want to- it's just a matter of whether you've got more time or more money ;-) We'll assume, for the moment, that you're richer in time. Hit up the library and YouTube and devote some afternoons to learning to shoot great photos or use a graphics program. It might take you a full day to learn to draw schematics in Inkscape... but once you know how to do it it's something you'll never have to outsource again. Photography can be tricky to learn as there are so many variables, but once you've nailed a great, reliable recipe for shooting patterns (e.g. "This wall has great light between 3 and 5 pm on overcast days, and then I'll just need to bump the contrast and saturation up a little in an editing program") you can go back to it over and over. (While, of course, practicing and learning more in the meantime. You might get bored with that wall eventually!) You can even be your own model if you've got a tripod and remote (both fairly cheap.) Need a logo? It could be a complicated graphic.... but it could also be your name written out in an awesome font that you bought from a typeface designer for a few bucks. Maybe stick some lines under it or a circle around it.

4... but know when to Buy
If something is going to take you an insane number of hours to learn, doesn't sound particularly appealing, and especially if it's something you'll only need to buy once... it might be worth it to buy instead. A great example is a blog template- you can get a gorgeous one for $30 or less on etsy, stick your custom logo/picture/links/etc into it, and voila! No need to learn CSS (a little basic html/CSS knowledge is super helpful for tweaking, but for the most part you can Google "How do I do X in blogger/wordpress" and find a very specific walkthrough.) Or maybe you absolutely HAVE to have a graphic logo, in which case... you should probably hire a pro if you haven't had much experience. While a nice text logo looks perfectly profesh, amateur graphics scream "I did this myself and I don't really know what I'm doing!" Likewise, if you really can't seem to get the hang of taking pattern photos... find a photographer. Photos are so very, very important, and while I think most people could learn to do it themselves given time, practice, and half-decent equipment, if you're not there yet, don't settle. (Side note: I will give you a recommendation that I think I have given to literally every designer I've ever done a Brain-Sesh with: read this book.)

5. Beg, Barter or Steal
No, not really the last part. Don't steal things. But bartering? Bartering is great. Maybe your model will model your sweater in exchange for some photographs taken for her outfit blog or her handmade jewelry business. If you're lucky, your children may agree to model in exchange for being fed, housed, clothed, and raised to adulthood. Test knitters are often willing to barter time for patterns or yarn. I wouldn't condone asking someone to work for free, but often there are mutually-beneficial agreements that can be reached. Sometimes friends and family have old computer or camera equipment around collecting dust that they'd sell you for a song or loan you long-term - maybe put the word out on Facebook that you're in the market. Keep an eye on the "free/sale" section of craigslist- often estate sales are liquidating yarn stashes. Make ample use of your local library for education and inspiration- sometimes they even have things besides books to loan out (usually it's stuff like power tools, but hey, worth checking out.) When your parents call you up to pester you about what you'd like for Christmas, maybe you don't actually need new fluffy slippers. Maybe you need a tripod, instead, or a nice gift certificate to your LYS.

6. Shop the Sales
This kind of goes with the last bit, but... don't pay retail for your yarn if you can avoid it. Once you're well-established, of course, you may be able to get yarn support and it will be a non-issue...but until that point, look for sales. If you work at an LYS (or can snag a few hours work a week at one), make good use of that employee discount. Otherwise, keep a sharp eye out for sales on your favorite brands. Subscribe to the newsletters of the big online yarn retailers as well as your local shops, and try to have some money in reserve so you can strike when the opportunity arises. I know some people don't like stashing, but if you wait to buy the exact amount of yarn you need when you need it, you're probably going to have to pay full price. (Just make sure you USE the yarn, don't let your investment languish forever.) Same goes for non-yarn items, of course, and don't forget to make the most of that student discount if you happen to be in school- you can save big moola on computers with that magical little ID card.

7. Start Small
An accessory requires far less yarn, less time, and less of a TE's time than a garment, which means it's much cheaper to make. But due to weird pattern pricing pressures keeping garment patterns priced low (say that ten times fast), the prices between the two aren't that different. People who knit mostly accessories, as opposed to mostly garments, can knit far more of them in a given span of time, and therefore publish more patterns. I haven't actually run the numbers on any of this, but I suspect all these factors might add up to make accessory patterns more profitable than garments on average. At the very least, they are a great place to start since the cost and commitment will be a lot lower. You might not be able to afford to design a sweater in that gorgeous new yarn that everyone is gaga for, but you can probably swing a cowl (and using the gorgeous yarn that everyone is gaga for is often worth the investment- it'll look better in photos and it'll turn up in more "suggested pattern" searches.)

8. Trim the Fat
Take a hard critical look at your design process. Is there anything that could be eliminated? Do you knit an entire sample in "practice" yarn before using the yarn you'll publish with? Maybe you could get by with just a large swatch instead. Are you having to reshoot items because the photos aren't coming out right the first time? Make sure to check photos on the back of your camera and take far more than you need - and learn to zoom in on the screen so you can check that the shots are in focus. Maybe you've got some design flops that could be frogged and the yarn reused? Do you absolutely need both testers and a tech editor, or do you find that having both doesn't decrease the number of errors by very much? Look for things that are leeching your time or money and ruthlessly assassinate them.

9. Use What You Have
Maybe your boyfriend is a total shutterbug who'll take your pictures for free 'cause he just likes lookin' at yer purty face. Maybe your daughter is model-gorgeous and happy to help out in exchange for the snazzy new Facebook profile pics. Maybe your parents will let you live in their basement while you're starting your business, or your friend is cozy with a LYS owner and can get you the hook up on some trunk show action. Perhaps you have a rich aunt who'd think nothing of helping you buy some new equipment, or an ex-photographer stepfather who will long-term-loan you his camera. Point being, if you've got any unfair advantages, use them. All is fair in love and business, and you can bet your ass everyone else is using theirs. Never be ashamed of making the most of anything you've got. And if you don't have an easy breaks? Well, that's a bummer, and its not fair, and you're going to have to work harder... but it's still possible to get where you want to go. Remember that, to an extent, you can make your own advantages- maybe it's time to start cultivating some relationships by reaching out to local yarn shops, or start working your Facebook network to find friends-of-friends who're up for a barter. It can even be as easy as joining a stitch 'n bitch to get valuable knitter feedback on your latest designs.

Well that's what I've got off the top of my head- designers, if you've got any other cost-saving tips you'd be willing to share, please do!

(psst- if you enjoyed this post you might like this ebook, too :-) )

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rocket Pop- Sweet Tooth Pattern #3!

The third pattern in the Sweet Tooth Mystery ebook is here! I call it Rocket Pop, for, um, obvious reasons. Fun colors and undulating cables abound!

For those just tuning in, Sweet Tooth is a collection of 4 hats, all knit in Malabrigo Merino Worsted, and released at 2 week intervals. The price of the collection goes up each time a new hat is released, so the more risk you're willing to take, the better price you get! This is the third hat, so this next fortnight is your last chance to get a discounted price on the whole collection. 

There's also a Knitalong going on - knit as many or as few of the hats as you like, and as long as you post at least one WIP picture in the thread, you're eligible for the fab-u-looussss prizes (which include yarn, copies of Doomsday Knits, and Jen Lucas's rad shawl book. More info here (and you can browse the lovely hats that have been made so far!)

You can find the ebook on Ravelry here!

Of course, Rocket Pop is also available on its own- click here to find it on Rav, or:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review & Giveaway: Graphic Knits

I am extremely pleased to be offered the opportunity to check out Alexis Winslow's newest book, Graphic Knits. I'm a big fan of Alexis's bold-but-wearable aesthetic- all her designs seem to walk that narrow line between "comfortable" and "put together," like something you'd wear to meet friends for coffee on a Saturday afternoon. Fans of her past designs definitely won't be disappointed- this book is loyal to her aesthetic through and through. There's a good balance of the innovative with the wearable and the not-too-troublesome-to-knit. A few of my favorites:

Lazlo is the absolute winner for me- I love the colors, the collar, those wonderful buttoned cuffs. I'd probably skip the pockets simply because I never use sweater pockets, and I think we all know I can't be trusted with white handknits (klutzzzz) so I'd probably sub in a light gray...but overall I think this sweater is pretty much perfection.

I'm not usually the biggest fan of wrap sweaters, but something about Orly is really appealing to me (and it's only partially because the name reminds me of this owl.) I think it has to do with the unusual off-kilter striping pattern and that nice bold outline created by the edging- it doesn't have that "90's ballet sweater" look that some wraps can tend towards.

If the Rockling Cardigan doesn't make you want to snuggle up to the fire with some cocoa and wrap some presents in pretty paper, then I don't know what to tell you. Alexis has somehow captured, in a single cardigan, everything I actually don't hate about winter. It's very classic (which means its extremely practical and wearable), but also a little unusual with the marled, woven-looking stripes.

So those are my top picks, but there's a lot more to love in this book- you can check out all the patterns on Ravelry here!

Some official deets & links:
By Alexis Winslow
Interweave/F+W; $24.99

Wanna check it out for yourself?! 
I've got a copy to give away to one lucky commentor! Just go check out all the projects on Ravelry at the link above, and tell me which is your favorite :-) I'll pick a winner at random one week from today (so Oct 13.)

(Fine print: You must have a non-PO Box US address for the publisher to ship the prize to- so if you're elsewhere you'll need to grab a US-based friend to send it on for ya.)

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