The League of Extraordinary Knitters

There’s been some very interesting chatter going on in the Designers group on Ravelry. It started off with someone asking if there were any active professional organizations for designers. There was once – the Association of Knitwear Designers – but it doesn’t exist anymore. The conversation that followed was fascinating. For those of you with Ravelry access and any interest in the knitting industry I would strongly encourage you to read the whole thread. Yes, all 17 (and counting) pages of it. I promise it will be worth your time. If you really want a quick and dirty peek at what’s happening there was a great summary in post 187 on page 8 that you could start with.

For those of you who don’t have Ravelry access, I will attempt to summarize/paraphrase/comment on the conversation and provide some context wherever I can. There isn’t an easy way to provide annotations on WordPress and I don’t want to call out particular people into the more public space of my blog by quoting them, so wherever I’m paraphrasing a particular post I will provide a link to it. If you don’t have Ravelry and see a link at the end of a sentence or paragraph, that just means it’s not my original thought, ok? I also feel the need to repeat that as always in this blog, and especially in this conversation, the word “knit” and all of its derivatives should be understood to include crochet as well. This is not a knit-specific conversation at all!

Here goes.

There is a need for some sort of professional organization/union/guild/thingy in the knitwear design industry. Why? Well, there are many problems that an organization like that could help address.

Fair Compensation

Designers earn peanuts compared to other creative professions. This is especially apparent in the traditional publishing world where magazines pay the same rate for designs today as they did in the 1980s. Publishers also tend to want to retain all rights to the designs, not allowing the designer to profit from their own work beyond the initial submission (post 15). Add to this the problem that there is no public resource to tell us what “fair pay” would be in this industry. No one wants to publicize what they are paid for their work for fear of appearing “unprofessional,” or worse – retribution from publishers (post 34). This is not just a paranoid fantasy either. A Cooperative Press author is working on a book right now that is described as “like Writer’s Market, but for fiber people.” Unfortunately there has been some trouble getting responses from publishers about even the simplest information (post 70). It appears publishers are resistant to allow any sort of discussion of their practices, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they secretly blacklisted any designers who openly discuss their experiences. Thankfully it is now relatively easy to self-publish knitting patterns, though that comes with its own pitfalls.

Isolation/Mentorship

Many people talked about feeling isolated in their profession. As a designer you don’t really have an office you can go to and be able to talk about work problems with your peers. For the most part you have to find people to talk to online. It can be difficult to form a trusting relationship with other designers online when you’re starting your contacts list from scratch. It would be nice to have an organization of peers to voice professional concerns with.

It would also be great to have some sort of mentorship program to help fledgling designers learn the ropes of the business – apparently that was one of the most successful aspects of the now defunct Association of Knitwear Designers that many would like to see repeated. You see, there isn’t any formal training for designing knitting patterns. You could get a degree in fashion design, but that barely scratches the surface of the body of knowledge required for knitwear design. Fashion school can teach you how to make a nice-looking garment, but the rest of it – learning how to hand-knit the garment and being able to communicate the instructions for repeating the process in the highly technical language of knitting – is pretty much self-taught (post 174). Usually the job of a designer doesn’t end there. Once you’ve made a pattern you still have to photograph the sample, apply some graphic design skills to make a pleasing layout for the pattern, then you have to figure out a way to sell it, either by pitching it to a publisher or by publishing it on your own. Some of those things can be hired out, but most designers perform some or all of those steps on their own. And we haven’t even gotten into the nitty-gritty of running a business like marketing and bookkeeping. The point is, knitwear designers utilize A LOT of skills in their work, and not all of those are skills that can be gained through schooling. I would kill to have a mentor who had been working in this business for a while guide me through some of the hurdles that I know are coming in my future career path, and help point out some of the potholes that I haven’t seen yet.

Quality Control/Professionalism

Then there’s the problem of free patterns clogging up the market. I mean, there isn’t anything wrong with having free patterns available and I think they’re a very valuable resource for newer knitters and a great way for designers to get some exposure, but there are just SO MANY of them. It can make it difficult to get the consumers to understand why they should pay for a pattern when they can just find another one for free. As was pointed out in the thread if we change pricing to better reflect what it costs to produce a pattern, you tend to get a lot of pushback from a knitters who have come to expect cheap or free patterns. Some will question whether your work is worth paying for (post 18). Well the short answer is “YES”. The long answer is “probably, as long as a well written pattern.”

Currently, the standards of both free and paid patterns are all over the place (post 95). Another thing that a professional organization could help with is to ensure certain standards of quality are met. That way you could be sure that any patterns from designers who are members of said organization are clearly written, tech edited, test knitted, professionally photographed, etc. (post 30). Why should knitters care about standards of quality in knitting patterns? Well, lets consider exactly what kind of service designers are providing.

For knitters, a knitting pattern is a form of entertainment. A well written error-free pattern with clear photographs provides more entertainment that a poorly written pattern full of mistakes and crappy photos. Many serious knitters are willing to pay for a more entertaining knitting experience. To put this into perspective, there are more knitters than there are golfers. Sure, there are free courses that golfers can use, but the paid courses are more challenging and more fun, so any serious golfer is going to be willing to shell out some cash in order to fully enjoy their sport (post 100). The same should be true for knitters.

Right now knitters really don’t have a reliable way if telling if patterns are well-written and error-free before they download them and start trying to work through it. If there was a professional organization of designers and the patterns produced by those designers were identified in some way, then at least knitters would know exactly what standard of work to expect before they invest their time and money into a project!

Legal Aid

This is not the first time the idea of a designers’ union has circulated, but usually it seems to come up during discussions about copyright. As always, I really do not want to get into copyright debate here, but one thing is certain: There is A LOT of misinformation circulating about the subject and there seems to be very little case law out there to clarify things. The reason for that is probably because copyright disputes in the knitting industry rarely seem to go to court, probably due to a lack of funds to hire lawyers. A professional organization might be able to provide two things to help out here:

  1. They might be able to contact some REAL copyright lawyers and find out some actual FACTS about copyright laws and how they apply within the knitting industry. Hopefully once armed with these facts there could be some sort of awareness campaign to spread this factual information around instead of just letting a bunch of armchair lawyers start flame wars all over the internet like they have been for years (post 420).
  2. Perhaps there could be some sort of legal aid fund so if a copyright dispute (or any other legal dispute really) comes up with one of the members they’ll actually have the ability to fight back instead of just having to grit their teeth and take it if they can’t afford a lawyer.

At this point those of you who have some knowledge of the knitting industry may be yelling at the computer screen “But what about The National Needle Arts Association (TNNA for short)? That’s a really big organization that helps shape the entire needle arts industry! Doesn’t that organization help designers with this stuff?” Apparently not. Many of the posters in the thread are members of TNNA and chimed in to detail how TNNA really doesn’t serve the interests of designers. In fact, it was stated that when TNNA reps are faced with issues raised by designers they tend to either ignore them or get really defensive (post 19). I don’t personally have any knowledge about TNNA’s responsiveness to designers’ concerns, but knowing that a member of the Board of Directors didn’t see a problem with hijacking someone else’s pattern to use for his own profit, this assessment is not exactly surprising. It seems their main purpose is to serve wholesalers, and designers really aren’t a big player in that arena.

Lastly, all this talk about a designers’ organizations is fantastic, but there are similar needs in some of the other knitting professions, such as tech editors, test knitters, and sample knitters (post 304). Since these professions all work directly with and are dependent on the patronage of designers it makes some sense for them to have some sort of representation in whatever happens, but until things get organized it’s hard to tell exactly where they would fit in.

That’s a long list of some very complex problems, and even if a professional organization does manifest it is likely not going to be able to address all of them. It’s possible that more than one organization would be needed, or maybe some of these things could be solved without the help of a guild/union/thingamabob.

ACTION!

Lest you think the whole thread was just a big whine-fest, let me get to the best part! As a result of this discussion, there are some plans coming together to address these problems!

For starters, there was a suggestion that starting up a designers’ conference could be very useful. That way designers could congregate, voice their concerns, and start plotting further action (post 19). Shannon Okey has some expertise in this area and seemed pretty willing to explore the idea of using her resources to start an “alternative trade show” for designers (post 37). Many people also suggested that a Google+ hangout would be a great way to hash out some of these ideas. This is where I start feeling a bit tech inadequate – I really don’t know what Google+ is. I mean, I’ve heard of it in passing, but I have no what it does or how it works or anything. I guess I should look into that, ’cause apparently it’s a tool that people are actually using to communicate with one another. There are probably quite a few other social media sites I should learn to get more comfortable with using too (tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, I’m looking at you).

Rohn Strong reported that he has been in contact with a labor attorney and is working towards starting an international knitwear designers union (post 49). The “international” part of that is especially important because the knitting industry is VERY international. Just check out some of the more popular designers on Ravelry and look at where they live. Designers are everywhere.

Amy Shelton is working on an anonymous Industry Compensation Survey and is collecting ideas for the types of questions to ask in this thread.

There are efforts in the works on a couple of fronts to help clear up some of the contradictory or just plain ridiculous information floating around about copyright laws as they apply to knitting patterns. Shannon Okey is working on arranging a conference call with an art/crafts copyright lawyer (post 148), and Amy Shelton has a private Facebook group compiling a list questions to ask a copyright lawyer (post 162).

There are currently two threads up in the Designers group organizing meetups at this summer’s TNNA trade show in Columbus: a general thread, and Sunday lunch thread. I can’t guarantee that a designer’s union/guild/thingy would be a topic of conversation at these gatherings, but it certainly wouldn’t be out-of-place. I wouldn’t be surprised if these ideas gain some serious momentum immediately following the TNNA trade show!

None of this is going to be easy, but just because something is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It’s not like things like this have never been done before. Other creative professionals such as actors, writers, and graphic designers have been able to affect change in their industries through unions or other types of organizations, so why shouldn’t knitwear designers do the same (post 169)?

So, things are happening. A League of Extraordinary Knitters is assembling. Change is coming.

 

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WIP-Cracking Wednesday: Testing

This week I am test knitting a design by Linda Choo! She is April’s Artist in Residence at Shall We Knit and has created a lovely lace shawl design using indigodragonfly MCN Sock or indigodragonfly Linen Silk. The pattern is called “Hemlock Reflections.” If you want to know more about what Linda has been up to during her residency, you can read about all over Ravelry: there’s a thread in the indigodragonfly group, another one in Linda’s fan group, and Linda set up a project page describing the program.

As a test knitter I will be knitting the pattern exactly as written and reporting any hiccups in the pattern. If the instructions are confusing or if the stitch counts aren’t working out the way they’re supposed to the test knitters will be able to pick up on that and the designer can correct the pattern before it is published. It’s like proof-reading, but with yarn.

I am knitting the two color version of the pattern with indigodragonfly MCN Sock. The blue is called “Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey, Spacey-Wacey Stuff (Doctor Who)” and the dark purple-black is called “My Boyfriend Had a Bicentennial (Buffy).” I love mixing fandoms with yarn!

Timey-Wimey and Bicentennial

I cast on last night and am already through the first section. Did I mention it has BEADS?

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I am so glad to be able to help prepare lovely pattern for publication, and I’m always thrilled to be knitting with MCN Sock! Seriously, this yarn is heaven.

Urban Craft Uprising! (Part 2)

And the Urban Craft Uprising vendor love-fest continues…

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More narwhals were sighted at the Bread and Badger booth! I have bought several of their etched pint glasses as presents in the past – including one with a honey badger for my mom – and every time I see them again they’ve come up with something even more awesome!

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Fable and Fury is another UCU regular that I was thrilled to see again. I’m always fascinated to see what gothy-geek silhouettes they’ve come up with.

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The biohazard symbol necklace is one that I don’t remember seeing before, otherwise I’m sure I would own one already!IMG_9447

I bought the red thistle necklace one year as a birthday present for my mom, and it’s still one of her go-to pieces!

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The highlight of Fable and Fury for me though is always their portrait necklaces. They have so many icons – David Bowie, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Jimi Hendrix, Frankenstein’s Monster…

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But my absolute favorite, and the very first thing I ever bought from them, is the H.P. Lovecraft silhouette – complete with tentacles. It’s my stealth-geek necklace! So few people I run into know who Lovecraft is, let alone what he looks like, so if I’m wearing this necklace and someone squees in delight I KNOW I’m about to meet someone cool!

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Okay, I have a confession to make. I have a bit of a fetus phobia. Even babies who have escaped the womb tend to creep me out. I’m a monster, I know. I tried to pass by Kniffin Pottery with my eyes closed, but I just couldn’t look away. The pottery is disturbing, yet fascinating. Maybe having my fruit hanging out in a bowl propped up by baby arms could be some sort of exposure therapy for me…

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After the shock of the fetus pottery, the Bella Sisters were a comforting retreat into loveliness. They are also UCU regulars, and every time I see them there’s another gorgeous coat (or two, or five) that makes me cry on the inside because I know I can’t afford to take it home with me. Except that one time I DID take a coat home with me! And I loved it and squeezed it and called it George.

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More yarn was to be had at Yarnarchy! There were a variety of beautiful skeins on the walls, some hand-spun, some hand-dyed, and the owner was there busily spinning more! She also had some hats and fingerless mitts for sale made from her wonderful yarns!

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I was weirdly drawn to the light lavender pair of mitts…it’s not usually my color, but the yarn just called to me.

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Ugly Baby is the best booth to hang out in for a laugh. Their shower art is just the right mix of weird, absurd, and sometimes vulgar to keep me entertained for quite a while! Even the concept is a bit absurd…art for your shower? But why? BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME, THAT’S WHY.

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What better way to start your day than staring at brightly colored toys embedded in glittery rubber? Look, there’s even a unicorn!

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The toys are great, but the messages spelled out in letter beads are what makes these genius.

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Every time I see this booth I have a new favorite piece – this time it’s Hell Bunny.

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I was thrilled to run into Heidi Kunkel, one of the authors of Needles and Artifice! That’s another book on my wish list from Cooperative Press. It’s a collection of steam-punk inspired patterns from The Ladies of Mischief.

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Heidi designed the Incandescent Cowl, Mountain Lily Scarf, and Warm & Tingley Headscarf and Mitts, and had a wall full of them for sale!

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She’s multi-talented too – aside from being a knitwear designer she’s also an accomplished potter.

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She had all kinds of beautiful pieces for sale – from yarn bowls to mugs, and everything in between!

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This is another great gift idea for the knitters in your life: go to Heidi’s Pottery and order a yarn bowl!

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There were also bowls made from wood at Salad Days. At first I was drawn in by the beautiful maple grains…

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but as I got closer, there was a surprise element that made these bowls even more special.

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Some of them have designs carved into them and then inlayed with crushed turquoise!

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The turquoise even fills in any knot-holes in the wood, making those potential imperfections into a wonderful design element.

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I ran my hand over the inlays and they are completely flush with the carvings and holes, so the bowls are totally smooth inside and out.

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This bowl was my favorite with its dramatic slashes of turquoise traveling up the sides and over the lip.

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To order, email them at oregonwoodenbowls@aol.com or call (503)359-1000.

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Moulton Garden Bon Bons are seeds disguised as delicious truffles! It reawakened my intermittent desire to grow an herb garden and always have fresh herbs and vegetables at my disposal. Then I remembered that I have killed not one, not two, but three air plants – quite possibly the most idiot-proof greenery on the planet – and perhaps I should leave those poor unsuspecting seeds to someone who isn’t wanted for first-degree plant murder in two states.

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Sage and Sea Farms was back for a second round at UCU offering delicious sipping vinegars. I had never heard of sipping vinegars before seeing this booth at the summer show. It’s a delicious concoction of fruit, a bit of cane sugar, and vinegar that you mix with water (or sparkling water if you like it bubbly). It sounds weird to drink something vinegar-based, and it sort of is, but it’s really tasty! It’s got just enough sugar in it to bring out the fruit flavors, but it’s nowhere near as sweet as the usual sparkling drinks you can get at the store. I can see this as a fabulous alternative for those times when you’re craving something flavorful to drink but don’t want to reach for something packed full of sugar.

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I especially enjoyed the Apple Pear Ginger flavor, which had just enough ginger to give it a bite, but not so much that it overwhelmed the other fruit flavors.

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Last but not least was Smitten Artisan Truffles. This booth was really hard to photograph because the whole time it was PACKED. These are hands-down the sexiest truffles I’ve ever had! The Vanilla Carmel + Tahitian Vanilla Bean Sea Salt are my favorite with the gooey caramel, the vanilla bean-infused chocolate center, and the perfectly layered grains of salt encased in a milk chocolate shell (there I go with the salted caramel obsession again). They have other great flavors as well, like a bourbon caramel which tasted a lot like the vanilla caramels had a run-in with a pirate and had beautiful truffle babies. There was also a Passion Fruit Habanero flavor which was the most intriguing taste profile I have ever encountered! As if the truffles weren’t perfect enough, the samples were even served by handsome young men.

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I straight up ordered my boyfriend to buy me a box for my birthday and he complied. They were gone by the end of the night – my birthday isn’t until next Sunday…oops. I could say so much more about these truffles, but it’s starting to get a little upsetting to describe them when I’m all out. I really hope they’re back for the next show, and I hope I have some cash then, because I will be buying ALL THE TRUFFLES.

Urban Craft Uprising!

Yesterday I made my bi-annual trip to Urban Craft Uprising! Usually I end up coming home with bags full of goodies, but since I’m dead-broke this year I was content to just marvel at all of the glorious hand-made things. This time I came armed with my camera, and I have LOTS to show you. So much that I can’t possibly fit it all in one post. Let me introduce you to some of my favorite vendors from the Winter show.

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Our first stop was Craftwich Creations with beautiful hand-carved crochet hooks making me wonder if those pointy sticks are all they’re cracked up to be.

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I bought a gorgeous shawl pin here at the last show, and it’s now my favorite! (Some people may call them hair sticks, but those people clearly don’t have enough shawls).

KuKuRuZa Gourmet Popcorn

KuKuRuZa Gourmet Popcorn simultaneously exploited my addiction to popcorn AND salted caramel by offering tastings of their Hawaiian Salted Caramel Popcorn. Holy crap, it was delicious! The popcorn was thoroughly coated with the caramel so it had a satisfying crunch, and the balance between sweet and salty was absolutely perfect! They also had a Tuxedo flavor – caramel corn covered in white and dark chocolate – which in this household is known as “crack.” I avoided tasting that one out of consideration for the vendor. I’m really not kidding about being dead-broke and I cannot guarantee the safety of anyone standing between me and a bag of crack.

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The first geekery of the day was provided by Polymath Design Lab and their wonderful collection of scientific adornments. What self-respecting lab rat wouldn’t want a test tube necklace?

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There were cufflinks for the male geeks.

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There was even a Cthulhu.

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A variety of geeky Christmas ornaments were available as well. My favorite was the chromosome.

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Circle Couture 2

UCU always has at least one booth featuring breath-taking fashions, and this time Circle Couture was the one.

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LOOK AT THE PRETTY.

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Back in tasty-land, I came across Afternoon to Remember Fine Teas and Gifts. You know it’s a good sign when the tasting tray is nearly empty. The Creme Brule Tea Cookies (middle tray) were so heavenly! The cookies themselves weren’t for sale, they were there to entice people to buy their cookbooks. The Creme Brule cookie recipe is in Drop by for Tea, by Amy Lawrence.

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For the French enthusiasts among us, I apologize for the appearance of the words “creme brule” in the blog. I can’t for the life of me figure out how to add the appropriate accent marks in WordPress, and without those the extra “e” looks really weird. It’s not just you, it’s bothering me too.

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My first narwhal sighting of the day was at Cellar Door Mercantile, where they had shirts and cards featuring my favorite animal!

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They had really cool non-narwhal illustrations too!

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Almeda Pottery was absolutely mind-blowing.

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These are the teeniest tiniest vases I have ever seen!

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I mean seriously, look at how small and skinny those are! And the glazing jobs on them are gorgeous!

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HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?! (Pro tip: there are process videos in the link provided above…I still don’t believe it though).

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In case your brain still can’t process the scale of these things, here’s an adult human hand for reference. Rumor has it you can buy some of this miniature pottery at the Seattle Art Museum gift shop.

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This was one of my favorite booths from the last show and I’m so glad Careful It Bites was back for another round.

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I would have killed for one of these as a kid. Hell, I’d STILL kill for one. Who wouldn’t want a severed Sasquatch head?

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This booth is all about the details…bloody fur still sticking to the shears, fresh from the Sasquatch beheading.

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Other monster parts can be found poking out from under the tables. Best. Booth. Ever.

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For your cooking pleasure, Beautiful Briny Sea was back again with more delicious salts! I LOVE these salts and have been spreading them throughout as many kitchens as possible. At home we have three flavors so far: Chorizo, Truffle, and Magic Unicorn.

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While all are delicious, Magic Unicorn is probably my favorite. It seriously goes with EVERYTHING.

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Yarny contact was finally made with Victory Garden Yarn! I had a fabulous time talking with Anna about her crocheted creations. Here she is modeling her super-cozy Wisteria Wrap, which she had available in a variety of bold colors.

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Her booth was piled high with giant color-blocked and striped cowls.

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This sky-blue and orange one really caught my eye, and it was SO SOFT. I was shocked to find out it was an acrylic/wool blend! I know intellectually that there are good acrylics out there that don’t feel like plastic, but it’s rare for me to actually find one! This whole booth made me want to find some super-bulky yarn to cast-on with…

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For more yarny goodness I went to the UCU regulars, Spincycle Yarns.

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I’ve had my eye on their Natural Novelty Yarn for a while now because I am just itching to knit Purlieu. I was waiting for the right color to come along though, and of course the second my wallet is empty, there it is. They came out with a new color called “Fever Dreams” that is the most beautiful purple with tufts of blue and cloud gray in it. Someday, Fever Dreams…someday.

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Finally, I ran into Moxie/Hi-Fiber Needle Felting Kits, which is where I got my needle felting kit that I used to make my test pony in The Art of Stabbing Oneself.

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As usual, there were lots of super cute needle-felted things on display.

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There were even some with lights!

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I spent some time watching Moxie work (without stabbing herself at all, I noticed). She gave me some tips on how to build up a design – in this case a simple ball. She didn’t poke the ball nearly as vigorously as I did, which probably added to the lack of blood-letting. I will try to be less violent next time and see how that goes.

I’ll have many more vendors to show you tomorrow! There are just too many craft artists I’m excited about to fit into this one post!

If you want to help support a developing craft artist, there are still 5 days left to contribute to my Knotty Narwhal Indiegogo campaign! There are many cool perks you can claim in exchange for your donation, including my own needle-felted art! (I promise not to bleed on them).

The One Pen to Rule Them All

I WANT THIS TO BE REAL. Please, please let this be real! This would be SO useful for designing! The next step in the design process for a Fair Isle project I’m working on is to find colored pencil equivalents for all of the yarn colors I want to use in the design so I can start testing color patterns. With this pen all I would have to do is point it at the yarn I want to use and start drawing. It’s the One Pen to Rule Them All. This post said it was still just a concept, but that was 3 years ago…perhaps it’s closer to being a reality now?

 

Colour chat

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The idea is that you can use this pen to point at any object in the world, the pen then ‘extracts’ the colour, and then is able to write in that colour using a mixture of RGB inks that it contains.

Unfortunately, it’s just a concept, designed by Jinsu Park.

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As far as I know there are no practical implementations of this interesting idea. One could make a strong argument that the pen should use CMY (or even red, yellow and blue) primaries since RGB primaries would result in a tiny colour gamut and wouldn’t allow the pen to reproduce any real colours at all. See http://colourware.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/what-is-a-colour-primary/

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Sketchbook

Like any self-respecting artist, I have a sketchbook. Since my chosen medium doesn’t involve paper I don’t draw in it as often as other types of artists do, but I do use it to collect ideas and inspirations as they come to me. I’ve been catching up on Downton Abbey, so this is what the latest page in my sketchbook looks like:

I want to get into a habit of sketching more regularly. Do you have a sketchbook? How often do you use it? Where do you tend to find inspiration for your art?

 

Knit Fit: Day Two

After a good night’s rest at my aunt and uncle’s house, I returned to Knit Fit for my second class, Beginner Pattern Writing with Jen Hagen. I was pleased to see several of the same students from the Self Publishing class – clearly a group of people on a mission.

Jen was a wealth of information! She took us through the whole process of writing up a pattern. In addition to highlighting all of the different types of writing involved in patterns, she took us through every part of a pattern and detailed the importance of standardizing your terms, what types of measurements should be included, and even how to put together a schematic. Again, I left the class with pages full of notes that will be invaluable when I go to set my first design on paper. Jen made what could have potentially be a somewhat dry subject into a very engaging class with her enthusiasm and warm nature. The whole class bonded so well that we’re staying in touch to offer each other pattern writing support and encouragement! We’re all fairly local, so there may be some meet-ups in the future.

One big happy knitter family

After class I got to enjoy one of the great traditions of knitting conventions – meeting a Ravelry friend in person for the first time! This time I had lunch with Destiny (AKA neneni) and her mother Joan. We met on Ravelry through our mutual love for indigodragonfly yarn. I had a delicious (though very messy) salmon sandwich while we chatted about knitting, yarn, and our lives in general as if we’d known each other for years. They had taken the morning class on steeking and I got to see Destiny’s swatch from the class. I’m still pretty wary of taking scissors to my knitting, but even the results of her first steeking experience looked very well done and not the least bit prone to unraveling, so maybe…

After eating we went back into the marketplace and perused the yarn selections again (it’s always so much more fun with a friend) before they had to head out to their afternoon class.

My favorite part about going to these things is being surrounded by people who are just as excited about yarn as I am and getting to geek out with people who GET IT. Even at such a small convention I feel like I came away with lots of new friends!

 

Knit Fit: Day One

Last weekend I trekked to Ballard, WA to attend the very first Knit Fit! This is the third knitting convention I’ve been to, the others being the Sock Summit in Portland, OR and Knit City in Vancouver, BC. Knit Fit seemed smaller than Knit City, but it was very cozy feeling. The main hall was filled with knitters and spinners, milling about the registration tables, winding yarn from swifts, chatting with friends, and partaking in delicious sandwiches offered by Wild Wheat Bakery.

I arrived a bit early for my first class, so I had some time to poke around the marketplace. It was the perfect size for me, not so large as to be overwhelming, but big enough so I felt like I could spend hours in there without getting the least bit bored.

Foreground is The Fiber Gallery booth, in the background is Goody Golly Miss Olli! and the hanks of handspun hanging on racks are from Spincycle Yarns.

I found some Chibi darning needles to replace some of those that were lost in Vancouver (now I can weave in the ends on all of those nearly finished projects that have been piling up!). Mostly I just enjoyed fondling all the pretty yarn and fiber the vendors had to offer.

The Textiles a Mano booth was very nicely decorated!

Pepperberry Knits also looked rather fetching with their hanging hanks of novelty yarns.

I even found the perfect skein to fill a color gap in a gradient project I was working on.

That’s Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Rogue (one of a kind color) bridging the gap between a medium toned teal and a very dark green in my Aranami Shawl.

I managed to wrest myself from the siren song of the marketplace just in time to make it to my first class, Self-Publishing Your Own Knitting Patterns taught by Lee Meredith.

Not just an excellent teacher, but a fabulous designer too. I mean, LOOK AT THAT SHAWL! Rav link here: Junction

I was blown away by this class! Lee managed to get through so much useful information in only 3 hours, I swear she must have bent the space-time continuum to make it work. The handout alone would have been worth the price of admission. It was a small class and we were able to ask Lee lots of questions about the many nuances involved in self publishing, from the more technical aspects of building a PDF file, to the types of experiences she had had using different platforms to sell and market her work. I came away from her class with pages and pages of notes. The process of self-publishing has been completely demystified for me now! I now have all of the information I felt like I was missing after reading The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design. It’s still a great book to start with, but it really only gives a general overview of what it’s like to be a designer. If you’re considering publishing your own knitting designs and ever have the opportunity to take Lee’s class DO IT! It’s like an expansion pack for the book! You know, the kind that adds all sorts of cool elements to the game that the developers really should have included in the first place…

In Which Technology Hates Me

I know I promised to blog about Knit Fit today, and believe me, I really want to. Unfortunately technology has conspired against me. I took some awesome photos while I was there and I’m still struggling a bit trying to figure out how get them onto my sister’s computer and formatted and edited properly. It was so much easier on my computer…

In addition to that, our DVR box is on the fritz and will be replaced tomorrow morning, so I have to watch all of the shows we have recorded TONIGHT or they are gone forever.

In the meantime I will try to entertain you all with a new blogging trick my friend Jessica taught me. On the sidebar right underneath the calendar I now have a Blogroll! This is where you will find useful or interesting links (not all of them are blogs). It’s small so far but I will slowly add to it as other links come to mind.

Jessica just started her own blog called Jessica’s Yarn Tales, and her first post was today, so go check her out! She already has a blogroll set up ’cause she’s smart like that.

At Ars Poetica you can find handcrafted candles made from natural and sustainable materials and beautiful hand drawn cards. A college friend of mine started this business very recently, and in the Poet’s Corner she has blogged about the grueling process of setting up a small home business.

Another artist friend of mine is Peppermint Monster AKA Sarah. She is a wickedly fabulous artist/illustrator who just released a Sueussian, nudity-filled comic called Star Power. You can buy it in her Etsy shop (and I highly recommend you do).

If you want to know what is going on in the knitting world, just look to the Yarn Harlot. She has her finger on the pulse of knitting culture, and when she speaks, fiber fanatics listen.

Last but not least is the Craft Emergency Relief Fund which provides emergency assistance to professional craft artists. They also provide emergency preparedness information for artists. In the wake of Sandy I’m sure there are many people out there whose studios have been badly damaged putting their livelihoods at stake. They have set up a special emergency response page specifically dealing with Sandy aftermath here.

Plenty can go wrong even without the help of a hurricane, as Judith MacKenzie-McCuin can attest. Her spinning studio at The Rainforest Arts Center in Forks, WA  burned to the ground. Friends of Judith have set up a site, Rebuild Judith’s Studio, where you can donate money or materials to help this international artist and teacher return to her craft. I know the loss of my computer has pretty much leveled my ability to pursue my business, I can only imagine what it would be like to lose EVERYTHING.

Hopefully I can get the photo situation sorted out tonight so I can share my Knit Fit experiences with you tomorrow!

Victory Lap

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted, but I’ve been very busy knitting. A lot. And then once the knitting was over I had a mountain of chores and other errands to catch up on since I really didn’t do anything else but knit for 17 days straight. In my last post I outlined my completely insane goals for the Ravellenic Games and I am happy to report that I finished ALL of them! Completely finished too, as in blocked, sewn up, photographed and everything. After the dust settled I ended up with 10 medals and pile of beautiful handknits to enjoy! Meet the Highly Improbable Ravellenic Projects of DOOM:

Curse the Bunnies

Pattern: Whippoorwill (size small), by Carina Spencer

Yarn: indigodragonfly Merino Sock in Bunnies, Bunnies, It Must Be Bunnies! (purple) and Curse Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal! (green)

Toorie

Pattern: Toorie (small gauge), by Carina Spencer

Yarn: indigodragonfly Merino Silk DK in Edward Discovers That Woodchippers Make Excellent Juicers

Bored Now.

Pattern: Zuzu’s Petals (small gauge), by Carina Spencer

Yarn: indigodragonfly MCN Sport in Bored Now. (Evil Willow)

Elsewhere, As in Far Far Away

Pattern: Faraway, So Close (small size), by Carina Spencer

Yarn: indigodragonfly MCS Worsted in Don’t You Have An Elsewhere To Be? (Cordelia)

Hello Sweetie

Pattern: Dovetail Cowl (size small), by Carina Spencer

Yarn: indigodragonfly MCS Worsted in River Song

Damsels With Batteries

Pattern: Regina, by Carina Spencer

Yarn: indigodragonfly DK Polwarth Silk in A Thin Line Between Love and Batteries (purple) and Young Helpless Damsels in Damp Climates (green)

Barmaids Are Tasty

Pattern: Corseted Mitts (small/medium gauge), by Carina Spencer

Yarn: indigodragonfly MCN Worsted in Who’s a Guy Gotta Kill to Get a Drink Around Here? (Angelus)

So, you can see now why I was too busy to write. I still can’t believe I got them all done on time. I was only planning on getting them knitted by the deadline, I never dreamed I would have the time to block them and all that jazz. What I didn’t count on was that my knitting speed would more than double within the first 6 days, so by day 13 I found myself with nothing on the needles! I learned some interesting things during the process of cranking out these projects:

  • Carina Spencer designs are relatively quick! The longest (Whippoorwill) took 20 hours to knit and the quickest (Corseted Mitts) took a mere 8 hours.
  • I really can’t burn out on knitting. I figured if anything would get me to want a break from knitting, this would do it, but once I bound off the last project I got a little panicked and had to find another project to work on while these were blocking.
  • The playhouse is not a suitable long-term blocking space solution. I live in a small cat-filled house and fur/claw free floor space is hard to come by, so I cleared out the old playhouse in the backyard to do the blocking in. Apparently it’s humid in there even with the windows open because when I went to check on the projects after a full day in there they were still as wet as when I left them. With the help of my mother and sister I had to carefully transfer them to my bedroom and put them on my bed in front of the fan to finish blocking. Then I had nowhere to sleep….
  • As long as I take lots of stretch breaks I can knit for a very long time without breaking myself.  I spent a total of 92 hours knitting in 17 days. I had some trouble with my thumbs getting tired, but that didn’t start up until I started slacking on stretching, and I recovered fairly quickly. I don’t anticipate having to knit like that ALL the time, but it’s good to know how far I can push myself if I’m up against a tight deadline.

Now that I’ve seen how quickly these projects knit up (and how much fun they are!), the idea of knitting more of these to sell sounds much more appealing. The next step in the licensing process is to set up a business. I could apply for a license to knit Carina’s designs now, but I don’t want to pay for months when I have no way of selling things if it takes a while to get a shop set up. That makes sense right? Before I get too ahead of myself I need to learn the basics of running a business, so I’ve started reading Small Time Operator and making a to-do list.

Now we’re getting somewhere…