Friday, February 16, 2018

Dior at the ROM

If you are a local reader I highly recommend you make a trip to the ROM for the Dior show.

It was fantastic!  The show was set up so a garment maker geek like me could get a really good look at the construction techniques for the garments which were made from 1947 - 57.

There were tablets included with the displays which showed detailed photos of the insides of the garments displaying the construction techniques used.

I was able to see the details of:

silk organza under-linings,

padded hips, supported with canvas,

bodices edged with silk from the waist down for tidy tucking in to skirts,

skirts with hook and eye attachments to exchange bodices from daytime to nighttime styling,

sleeves supported by canvas ,

shirt overlays which also functioned as capes,

corsets to support gowns,

feather sequins,

a one seam skirt which I'm still trying to figure out,

beautiful embroideries (did I mention I took a class in Tambour embroidery and I learned how to use a Luneville hook) 

Photo from

I did notice in the videos of fashion shows that often the models couldn't walk normally in many of the garments because the bottoms were so narrow. 

Here's a photo of Shopia Loren in one of the dresses.

While none of this relates directly to knitting I did find it got me thinking about garment construction in the way I did back when I was sewing. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Tips for Working with Linen

I've been working swatches with linen in preparation for some summertime knitting so a post on linen may be timely for other knitters. I have some of the Louet sport weight, you can find it here. I've used it before, the first garment I made from Euroflax was much loved and I wore it so often that it was truly worn out when I finally stopped wearing it. 

Linen can be a little hard on the hands during the knitting due to it's lack of elasticity. It's a wonderful summertime knit fabric though, it's both cooler and lighter than cotton. My experience has been that the fabric gets better with age. Washing and drying improves it. It gets softer the longer you have it. The sheen can increase over time. It's version of in-elasticity and the light weight of the fibre means garments don't stretch, unlike cotton. 

You may need to use a smaller needle due to it's nature. Make sure you do a large swatch and block in the same way you intend to on the finished garment. Check for shrinkage and adjust while knitting the garment if necessary. If you air dry and find the fabric feels crunchy, pop it into a warm dryer for a few minutes and it will soften up. Be prepared for the drape of the fabric to increase the more you wear, wash and dry a linen garment. You should choose designs with more ease than you would when working with wool of the same weight.

I prefer to use linen for garments with seams for two reasons. First it can occasionally have a tendency to bias in stocking stitch. Secondly it needs longer strands for seaming because it is a smooth yarn which moves more than wool and I prefer to bury my ends in a seam. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

New Pattern - The Amelia Viner Vest

I've published this one on Ravelry, Love Knitting and it will be up on Patternfish soon. 

It's worked bottom up in a single piece to the underarms, then divided to work to the shoulders. The Kimono style front band is knit separately and sewn into place. The vest features a faux cable stitch pattern on the front band and on the sides for added interest. It is shown with 9 cm (3.5 inches) of positive ease at the bust and 25.5 cm (10 inches) at the hem, which makes this a flattering pattern for both slim and curvier figures. The armholes and bottom edges are worked in a 3x3 rib. The armhole bands are picked up and knit outwards. Most of the vest is worked in stocking stitch with armhole and neckline shaping done at the same time, making the project suitable for the intermediate knitter. Crochet cast on is used in the sample for consistency in appearance on all finished edges at the joins of the front band. However, you may use your preferred cast on.

I'm almost back to normal knitting after my earlier wrist problems. However I'm finding that some projects cause much less discomfort. The stocking stitch in this vest was easy knitting for me and the faux cable didn't create the strain regular cable crosses do. I'm starting to work on summer projects and I may continue exploring more stocking stitch in my designs than I have in the past.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Great Hand Knit Reorganization of 2017-8 (an Update)

In the last post on this topic I wrote:

"Unfortunately, the shawl and accessory sort hasn't been so successful. They are all in one place (good) but I'm using a linen closet in a dark corner (bad) and the shelves are too deep to keep the stacks tidy (bad). I tend to knit those items from very soft and slithery yarns (bad) which makes it even harder to keep the piles neat. I've got everything there sorted by colour which is hard to see because it's dark. Add to that a much wider range of sizing and I think I have two fixable issues. The first is I'm going to add a battery operated light so I can see better. I'm also going to start looking for some shelf organizers. I'll probably wait until the January household sales to start my search. I think spending a little money to tackle this will be worthwhile since the garment reorg was so successful." 

I searched everywhere for clear storage boxes which turned out to be either very expensive, even on sale, or just the wrong size to maximize my space. Instead I ended up with white fabric collapsible boxes. They turned out to be great. They fill up almost the whole space and I placed them facing forward so all items are visible and it's really easy to get an item in and out with out disturbing too many others. 

I'm also using the space on top of the boxes and in some cases beside or in between the boxes. This works especially well for some very large shawls. I've sorted everything by colour which makes finding specific things very fast. I bought small lighting strips which have rechargeable batteries. You can see the light flare from one in the bottom left of the photo above. 

You can see one of the strips on the left above. This is a bit of a fail. The lights are motion sensitive and when I open the door two or three always turn on immediately, however sometimes one or two of the four take longer to come on and occasionally I have to tap a light to get it to come on. Overall, considering the almost total lack of natural light in this space it's still a big improvement from the original challenges of the space. I took the two photos at night without a flash on my camaera so I'm pretty happy with the results.

Friday, January 19, 2018

An Interview with...Ute Nawratil


Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find
Ute here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
It can be nature, it can be something in my surroundings that catches my eye, it can be a song text ... but mostly, I get my inspiration from yarn. I never get tired playing around with different color combinations and textures. I'm usually not an esoteric person, but I guess I'm one of those annoying knitters who will tell you: "I wait until the yarn tells me what it wants to become". On other occasions, I suddenly have a certain picture in my mind out of nowhere. Then I have to face the challenge to find ways to replicate this picture. 

What is your favourite knitting technique?
It changes. What I like most, is variation. I get bored when I have to do a sequence of similar things. Also, each technique has its limitations. Mostly, my preferences come and go in waves. For example, last year, there was a period of time when I was very obsessed with mosaic knitting. Right now, it seems I can't think about anything else than the combination of brioche and double knitting. If I had to choose one, I would say I'll always come back to two-color brioche because i never get tired watching the process of interweaving colors.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I had those concerns when I started publishing my designs. I come from an academic background (I taught at universities for many years); therefore an accusation of plagiarism would be the worst for me. But I soon found out that my mind works differently. It never says "I want to knit something like this." Instead it says: " I want to do something I've never done before." And it's nearly impossible to ignore the work of others, anyway. I don't look for it, extensively but, of course, I get to see it in blogs or magazines, on Ravelry and Instagram. By now, I can admire it without fearing that I might imitate it, inadvertently.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I don't have a fixed number of test knitters. I knit each sample myself, at least once. After doing so and writing down the pattern, I call out for test knitters. Or more often they ask me if they can test a certain design. I'm not secretive about my designs; I usually share whatever is on my needles on Instagram, and there is almost always someone who says "I want to try that." I don't consider the test knitters "working for me". It's more like an exchange. If they like a pattern and would have bought it anyway, they get it for free and before publication with the only condition that they have to notify me of any errors. 

Did you do a formal business plan?
Who? Me?
Do you have a mentor?
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No. I'm very much not a business person. I'm not even good at marketing. To me, any kind of business plan would involve a calculation like this: I'd have to publish x patterns per year and I'd need at least y buyers for each of them. To get those y buyers, I would have to think about what would please lots of people. This kind of thinking would completely destroy my creativity, and my own fun. I knit the things I like and I'm happy when other knitters like them, too. Knitting is my pleasure space. 

Do you use a tech editor?
No. At the point of publishing, each design has been knitted multiple times. I don't see in which way a tech editor could improve it.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I never understood this differentiation. Since work is an integral part of life, I never was able to make that separation. In retrospect, I would say that I always choose jobs that were an interesting challenge. And I dismissed boring ones, even if they would have guaranteed a higher income. So, my recipe for balance is to do what I like, most of the time. Except for household chores which I find really annoying!

How do you deal with criticism?
It depends on whether I consider the criticism justified or not. If not, the critics get buried under counter-arguments. If I think they have a point, I'm extremely grateful.
Criticism doesn't seem to be an issue in the knitting community, though. There, it's more about helpful hints. If people don't like a certain pattern, they don't feel the need to trash it. They just ignore it. 

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
With knitting? I'll tell you when I get at that point. So far, I have to earn my bread and butter elsewhere. But at least, selling my designs helps to finance my yarn addiction.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Go and ask someone with business skills.
What’s next for you?
I really have no idea. But there's lots of beautiful yarn in my stash. So, inspiration might be just around the corner ...

Friday, January 12, 2018

An Interview with...Anna Johanna

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find
Anna here and here on Ravelry

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere, but mostly in yarn. I like to cuddle all the lovely skeins and let them tell me what they should become.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Probably lace and nowadays brioche as well. Cables are not my cup of tea. I like how they look but they're so laborious to work.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I think we can't help being influenced by each others designs. I usually don't look at other designers' work while working on my own design but then afterward I like to check that there isn't anything too similar out there.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I usually knit my own samples but I do have a little army of helpful test knitters that test out all the kinks in the patterns.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No. I wasn't sure initially that my patterns would sell so I just put a few patterns out there to see what would happen.

Do you have a mentor?
No, but I would really like to have one.

Do you use a tech editor?
At this point, I do my own tech editing. I have a background in mathematics and statistics so I like playing with numbers and checking out all the little things in the calculations.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Half the day I spend at work and the other half on knitting. I guess you could call that some sort of balance. It's a difficult question because I don't just knit to design and sell patterns but I knit to make myself happy.

How do you deal with criticism?
I have to admit that in other fields of life, I don't deal too well with criticism. But in designing, usually every comment is really helpful at becoming a better designer. I wish I could adopt the attitude elsewhere as well.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I'm not there yet. At this point, I'm a researcher for living and a knitwear designer for fun.

What’s next for you?
More designing and a whole lot more marketing. I'm from Finland and most of my sales are to Finland. I need to sort out a marketing plan to get my designs better known in other countries as well.

Monday, January 1, 2018

How to Choose a Sweater Pattern

Happy New Year 2018!

This post as been updated from last year as my sales were the same as last year, accessories sold before Christmas Day and garments started peaking again immediately afterward.

It's the New Year (2017) and gift giving season is over. I can see by my pattern sales that many knitters are now choosing patterns most likely to be knit for themselves. There was an uptick in accessory pattern sales before Christmas and now I see a shift back to garment pattern sales. While my Prudence Crowley vest is still a top seller I'm also seeing sales on the heavily cabled garments. If you are also thinking about a garment project to start your 2017 knitting here's some points to consider.

Is the pattern for a garment shown with gorgeous photos on a tall, skinny model taken in places you would like to visit? This is where our fantasy desires kick in. Resist! Devoting all those knitting hours to a fantasy might not make a lot of sense when reality kicks in at the end. I know I want a wearable garment which works in my real life when I get to the end of the knitting. 

Take a careful look at any pattern you are considering. Is the design something you are very likely to wear? How do you know? I might take a chance on an unusual silhouette when I'm buying something, especially if it's on sale. It's good to stretch our sartorial limits. I like to be open to new styles, colours and shapes. However, if it involves hours of knitting I tend to stick to the tried and true types of garments I already know I wear frequently. 

That leads me to the next thing to think about. How will you wear it?  Does it fit in with your current wardrobe? I rarely knit a project without already knowing what I'm going to wear it with. I'm even happier if I know I can build more than one outfit around a hand knitted piece. As you can imagine I own many hand knits. I also have lots of basic simple wardrobe items which act as background support pieces to what some fashion bloggers call 'Hero" items. Many of these are in neutral colours. I have solid coloured black, grey, white and denim (yes, I think of denim as a neutral) in pants, skirts and tops which allow me to showcase my knits. Last year I added in some burgundy items, including a pair of ankle boots and a bag as new base. It gives me a column of a single colour to layer on top of and works beautifully with other neutrals as well as shades of green. I add in the colours of the knitting with accessories to tie these outfits together. When I finish a project I'm ready to wear it as soon as the finishing is done. What about you?