Monday, July 6, 2015

playing with color



I have to say that one of my favorite things about my job is playing with color. When I go to a hardware store, I always have to look at the paint chips. I love seeing all of the colors arranged nicely, and reading the innovative names. The same thing goes for nail polish - one of my favorite polishes is Essie because the names are so clever and the colors are so great.

Now, I get to work with color almost every day for my job. Whether I'm picking colors from a larger color card (like the awesome one featured above) or choosing from a smaller selection to coordinate designers for a box, or simply picking the colors for a project of my own, it's one of my favorite tasks. Sometimes picking out what 2500 people are going to like can be a little mind-bending (that's what coffee is for), but generally it's a good time.

I feel very blessed by the universe today.

Friday, July 3, 2015

swatching


Swatching is growing on me, I have to admit. I love playing around with stitch patterns and swatching delicious yarns like this Pepperberry Cashmere DK. Heidi's colors make the think about all of those great 'sweater stacks' they show in J.Crew catalogs, and it makes me want to call her up and order a sweater lot of some luscious color like cherry red or bright orchid just so that I can knit the simplest, most standard pullover ever.

(These aren't for a sweater, but a scarf/cowl thing I'm designing in cream. The weight was just similar enough to do some swatches and fiddle with stitch counts and orientation.)


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Join me for the Yarnbox Sweater KAL/CAL Event!

Moving from Iowa to Tennessee is a big change -- not just because of the location, but also because of the weather. The big, heavy sweaters that kept me warm in -30 F probably won't be a lot of use to me here where the temperatures barely get lower than 30 F most winter long. The only solution is obviously to cast on for a few light-weight sweaters!



Luckily, we've sent out some beautiful garment-worthy yarns through Yarnbox in the past few months, and I felt like it was the perfect time to start a Lightweight Sweater KAL/CAL for the members in the Ravelry group. I'm going to be copying another Ravelry member's project, which is a combo of Joji Locatelli's Boxy sweater (which I have already made once) and the Cancun Boxy Lace top. I fell in love with this version from Pooki and now just have to have one of my own in gorgeous Shibui Knits Linen. I chose the Sidewalk colorway and can't wait to get started.

This KAL/CAL lasts until October, so there's plenty of time to get going on your project and work on it along with a few other things simultaneously. You can post to the group on Ravelry or tag projects on other social media platforms with #YBSummerSweaterKAL -- I'll be posting my progress to Instagram too!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tour de Fleece 2015

I haven't written on here in a long while! In between my last post and today, I've relocated to Murfreesboro, Tennessee (just outside of Nashville.) It's wonderful to be back in the sunny South and I've been taking full advantage of our apartment complex's beautiful pool in between work hours and working on my new studio area. I have to admit, I miss the studio at my parent's house quite a lot, but it's nice to be with Andrew again.

So, what have I been looking forward to and working on this year? So much! Coming up on the 4th is the Tour de Fleece. If you aren't familiar with this event, it's an annual spinning challenge that takes place at the same time as the Tour de France, the famous world cycling competition. We spin while they spin, rest when they rest, and challenge ourselves on their challenge days. This year, I have some pretty attainable plans (no sweater lots this round!)

For Team MegaSAL (a group themed around the Discworld book series by Terry Pratchett), I'll be spinning these lovely fibers:

Nobby and Vetinari by Southern Cross Fibres, Magrat from Nest, and Ankh-Morpork from Fat Cat Knits

I'm planning some sock yarns for most of them, but the one with beige, green and khaki tones just screams my dad, so I'll be making him something with yarn from those. My challenge is the Ankh-Morpork, which I want to spin to match some Anzula Nebula (a sparkling sock yarn) and make the Purl Bee Pixel Stitch Socks.

The other team I'm working with is Team Hello Yarn, and here's what I'm planning on spinning for that team:

Tinkle & a Glint, Beastie, Winter Stole Color and Pink Treacle, all from Hello Yarn
I think this will be the easiest lot for me to spin, with only the red-based one, Tinkle and a Glint, becoming sock yarn. The others are all destined to be sport or worsted weights.

Are you spinning in the TdF? What team(s) are you participating in and what are you going to be spinning?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

starcroft


Last weekend, I went to the Vogue Knitting Live show in New York. Yarnbox was exhibiting there, and it seemed like a good opportunity to get to the city for some great food, a fun time, and a little work. Kirsten Kapur of Through The Loops was generous enough to share some extra information with me - there would be a pop-up shop in the East Village for Starcroft Fiber the same weekend, so I should stop by on Saturday if I got the chance. 


After some pleading with Michael (my boss and partner for Yarnbox), I escaped the show floor from 3 - 5:30 pm on Saturday and took a cab to Lv8 (elevate), a location that specializes in pop-up shops for small fine art and fiber artists. Starcroft Fiber Mill was a solo show featuring yarns that are spun, dyed, and produced by a family out of Downeast, Maine. The yarn is made using wool from a century-old flock of Coopworth-Romney sheep, and kettle dyed in small batches. Of course, I couldn't resist picking up some for myself, in their Nash Island Fog yarn, the heavier of the two bases. 


I originally intended to get white, since I was unable to settle on a specific colorway, but Kirsten talked me into a sort of dusty, soft gray. My intention is to design a pullover using motifs from two sweaters we've inherited from my Grandmother, who knit them a long time ago. The sweaters in question have long since gotten quite crunchy, having been stored by my uncle in a plastic bag in his Florida attic for about 20 years, so they aren't really wearable (despite our attempts to give them a good bath with Soak.) I plan on mapping out the cable patterns she used and working them together into a piece worthy of her memory.

The yarn itself has a wonderful hand, and having seen several knitted samples of it at the show, I feel confident it will be the perfect choice for a cabled sweater. I think it's important to highlight some of these smaller hand-dyers who are still using methods of production that have history behind them. To read more about Starcroft's mission and their beautiful yarns, check out their website here

Monday, November 24, 2014

Wrap & Turn Tutorial


I have been writing for the Knit Purl blog for awhile, but haven't really posted much about it here. I thought a few of you might be interested in my most recent post about wrap & turn short rows. It's an easy picture tutorial to help 'decipher' what can sometimes be a difficult process.

I believe strongly that any technique makes more sense if you explain to someone why they're doing it and what it accomplishes, rather than just how to do it. I think this is one of the reasons our shop's classes fill up so fast - we explain the why instead of just the how.

Friday, November 7, 2014

battle royale

Loop of London does an amazing job with free patterns on their blog, driving traffic and also promoting new yarns they have in stock. Check out their recent posting here about their Hawick Cowl pattern with Rachel Atkinson. 

I have seen a lot of postings lately about free patterns. Whether or not they should be free, how they should be presented, should there be caveats or ads, should they direct traffic or simply be out there in the universe because we're crafters, and we like to share?

After reading quite a few different points and making some conclusions of my own, I've come to a few realizations and thought I would share them with you.

1. How you share a free pattern matters.

If you are a yarn company, encourage a purchase for your freebies. If you sell to yarn stores, give them the option of giving the pattern away free with the purchase of the recommended yarn. If you sell directly through your website, make it a download with a purchase. If you have discontinued the yarn, recommend a new one, have a sample worked up and re-photograph, or offer it up as a truly free pattern (but with a clickthrough from Ravelry) to download on your site.

If you are a designer, take advantage of your traffic. Whether this means that you just want to see the numbers go up for people reading or you want to sell advertising (that's up to you,) make sure that the pattern is a click-through and not an instant download. People will still get it if it's a good pattern. Look at it as a way to 'vet' your skills as a designer.

If you are a promoter (social media maven, Pinterest addict, Instagrammie or blog poster,) make sure your pattern links direct to the designer's original page, rather than to the Ravelry page. Ravelry rocks! But it doesn't make the designers of free patterns any money inherently, so let's try to give back a little with some page traffic.

Purl Soho drives traffic to their webstore and site through posting many free patterns, all of which are presented withexcellent photography choices and color suggestions. This equals sales! 

2. Mind your manners. 

If you're a crafter (crocheter, knitter) who is reading this, be polite about your access to free patterns. Nothing is more gauche than posting that you'd like this pattern more if it was free, messaging the designer to ask for a free copy, or saying that the price is too high. If it's not meeting your criteria, keep your mouth shut and move on. There are thousands of patterns out there. If you're that much in love with it, buy it!

That said, if you buy a pattern and you feel that it's sub-par, you have a right as a consumer to message the designer and point out what's wrong. But be polite. Nobody likes hate-mail in their inbox, and you're more likely to get flies with honey than vinegar.

3. Presentation

If you're a newbie designer and you think that offering your patterns for free is the only way to get noticed, please think again. As the creative director at Yarnbox, I hire dozens of designers every year, and starting next year, we'll be commissioning patterns (and paying for them, of course) from our designers. While a larger portfolio and assortment of pattern options is a primary concern for me, the photography is what really sells a pattern more than anything else. Designers with bad photography get a polite message from me, typically saying something along the lines of "I can tell you have talent, but your pictures aren't communicating that."

If you can't take a good photograph of your work, nobody is going to buy it until someone else does, and you use that photo (with permission) instead. Expedite this process by taking your own photos well or hiring a photographer. (No, you don't need a model. A clean, tidy dress form against a simple background is lovely, or even a lifestyle shot of your accessory, as evidenced by this lovely photo below.)
A simple dressform sells the Petal Capelet from O-Wool's site, no model required. 


4. Value your Craft

This is a hot spot for me. I feel that knitting has had a major resurgence since 2006 and with the rise of so many talented designers out there, has seen a rise in the quality of patterns available. While there are still 'cheapie' patterns being produced and poorly written patterns being released, I think the knitting market has divided itself into three or four categories of pattern buyers (I'll go into that in #5.)

Crochet, on the other hand, still has a reputation for being something 'less than' knitting. Which is simply not the case. Some companies are working to improve that reputation by releasing crochet patterns that are every bit as beautifully photographed, executed, and written as their knitting counterparts. Other companies are still treating crochet like a 'cheap' craft and slapping crochet on poorly made yarns (fiber type regardless), sloppy stitches and hastily prepared books. Reward the good ones and not the bad ones with your choices. Use your dollars to shop for patterns and designers who are doing it right. This is the only way we'll form a middle tier of crochet designers every bit as strong as the knitting ones. There are a bunch on their way - reward them! (For a list, look at every Yarnbox crochet designer featured thus far and forevermore. I hunt them down every month!)

5. Know & Build Your Market

If you want to produce patterns quickly, never have them tech edited, and always offer them for free, don't get upset when someone asks for your first paid pattern for free. You have consistently produced sub-par quality work, and nobody is going to believe that you can do any better. Set yourself up from the start to be a successful designer by releasing a mix of patterns, paid and free, all executed at the level that you want to be at.

There are, in my opinion, three or four 'categories' of pattern buyers:

Type 1
These folks might be looking for a free pattern or an inexpensive pattern because they want to make things for charity, but usually it's because they think of their time knitting or crocheting as 'craft time' - you know, the same way you might feel about macaroni, glitter and glue pens. They are not interested in esoteric yarn brands, where the wool comes from, or becoming the blue-ribbon winner at next year's state fair. They make to make, they make to have fun, and it's the same as any other hobby to them. That's not a bad thing, but as an independent designer or yarn company, you have to realize that this isn't your market. The companies that provide the yarn they use might be your market, but you won't be selling much to them directly. They mostly shop at big-box stores, whenever possible, or they stop by the fiber festival hoping for a bargain on local goods.

Type 2
These folks might just be getting started, or they have learned the basics and are happy staying around the same level. They'll learn a special stitch here and there for a new project, but aren't too interested in taking in-depth workshops. Quality of yarn is determined by a mixture of cost and touch. If it's not soft, doesn't come in colors that make them happy, and has too high of a price tag, they're probably going to pass. Mostly they make accessories. They will buy a pattern that has a moderate price tag if they feel like they'll enjoy making it! These customers are great for independent pattern designers, but also for yarn companies. Encourage your yarn stores to make samples (or better yet, send them some pretty samples), this will boost your sales. They shop at a mix of yarn stores and big box stores, depending on their personal preferences, possibly with some online shopping and yearly fiber festivals thrown in.

Type 3
They think about taking classes, know some designer names and industry jargon. They can tell you the difference between merino and alpaca and are usually eager to learn more and try new varieties, blends, and hand-dyers. Patterns are purchased because they're special, visually appealing and might increase a skill level. Yarn substitutions are attainable (though they might still need help with gauge sometimes.) As an independent pattern designer, this is your primary customer base. These crafters will look for more work from you if you release a pattern they love. Reward them once by making their purchase worth it, and they'll come back. They almost always shop at yarn stores or online, and the occasional fiber festival. They might subscribe to a club if they love a dyer, or to discover new yarns (hello, Yarnbox customers! We love you!)

Type 4
These folks are usually industry professionals or long-time crafters, and have a formidable stash at home of both yarn, patterns, and pattern books. If you want to catch their attention, show them something special, new, and different. There are a lot of sweater knitters in this group, and many of them appreciate beautiful construction details, advanced techniques, and beautiful yarn choices. Garment yarns and accessory yarns are two different categories for them, and while they might not know about every wool breed, they'll listen to you tell them the nuances. As an independent designer, impress these folks with your skills. Beautifully written patterns that are presented well will sell better - as will lovely photographs, a lifestyle behind your work, and sources provided. If you're using an unusual yarn, hand-spun in the Himalayas by alpacas themselves, share the information, because they like knowing it! They shop at yarn stores, online, and fiber festivals, and always pick the right yarns for the job.

None of these categories are bad. But knowing which one your design work fits into helps you determine where you need to be starting out - and where you should transition to, as you progress.

I am releasing some new patterns this year and have been thinking about these things a lot! I would love to hear your thoughts, too. I don't plan on changing the format of any of my current patterns (although a few are slated for re-releases,) but new patterns will direct here instead of being instant downloads on Ravelry, when offered for free.