Radio Silence

I have been taking pictures I just have barely touched my computer in the past few days so they are sitting on my phone unedited and unexamined. I have until Wednesday to finish putting together my yarnbomb and then we’ll be installing it on Thursday so I’ve been frantically knitting crocheting and sewing this thing together. Until I’m finished with it I won’t really have much computer time. When I come back though I’ll have lots of pictures to show you! Stay tuned!

 

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WIP-Cracking Wednesday: Zooming, Bombing, and Sculpting

WARNING: This post contains a ridiculous number of pictures.

Part 1: Zooming

The photo prompt today was “extreme close up,” which is what I frequently seem to do anyway. This time I decided to see just how close I could get.

Staging and lighting: While I was out and about I decided to zoom in on an art installation. It was about 3 pm and partly cloudy. I took the photo about an inch away from the surface of the piece.

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Just for fun, I Instagrammed the full photo of the art piece too. I like it better than the reference photo.

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Anyway, back to the actual challenge photo…

Instagram edits: Lux, Mayfair filter and border

Computer edits: cropped, enhanced, increased definition and sharpness to the max

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

It’s hard to go wrong with something this abstract, but for the Instagram version I went with the filter that gave the biggest range of colors without darkening the photo. For the computer edit I wanted to bring out all the cool bubble shapes in the glass, so that’s why I pumped up the definition and sharpness. They both turned out awesome!

Part 2: Bombing

You may have noticed that for once my challenge photo is not in my house or my backyard. The reason I was lured out of my cave in the first place was because I needed to do a fitting for my yarnbombing. I have a whole section seamed together at this point, and many more pieces pinned together, but I needed to actually put those pieces up on the light pole to see how they all might fit together and how much more I need to do.

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The main section I have seamed together fits on the lower part of the base quite nicely. I just need to smooth out the edges.

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I purposefully did not seam together enough pieces to fit all the way around the pole yet. I needed to figure out where I would stitch up the piece when installation day comes. I think I will stitch it up along the corner to the right of the tentacle.

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So now I just need to add about 7 inches worth of pieces to the other end of this section so it can reach the tentacle corner.

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This strip of swatches should help pull the bottom section in tight around the middle of the base and prevent it from slipping down.

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I had another strip of swatches that I wanted to use for the top of the piece to hold the whole thing up, but it didn’t quite fit around the rounded section I had initially intended it for.

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It fits perfectly above the rounded section though, and it should help hold the piece up even better with that lip in the way!

Part 3: Sculpting

I made a LOT of progress on Ducky this week! I worked on filling in the holes around the left cheek.

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Then I smoothed out the shape of the cheek.

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I filled out the head shape some more and started building the brow ridges.

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Then I attached the brow ridges and filled in the eyeballs. And with that, the sculpting of Ducky’s head was FINISHED!!!

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I started coloring the nose and the brow ridges.

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Ducky is really starting to look like Ducky!

Multiple WIPs Are Cracked and a Confession

Let’s start with the confession just so we can get it out of the way and hopefully you’ll have forgotten about it by the end of this post. Today’s photo prompt was “guilty pleasure.” I could have thought of some BS guilty pleasure to show everyone, but I was just too lazy for lies. I actually photographed something that makes me feel a little bit dirty every time I do it.  So, since that’s what I used for my Instagram photo I guess I have to fess up here on the blog too.

I’m a rubbernecker. There are all kinds of rubberneckers, the most well-known being those who gawk at car-accidents, but I’m a very specific breed of rubbernecker. I LOVE reading drama on the Ravelry forums. People behave badly on the internet all the time, and Ravelry is no exception, so when a throwdown starts in a thread I want to read every juicy second of it. It’s like watching a slap-fight on Jerry Springer. I’m not alone in this. There’s a whole group dedicated to locating drama and poking fun at the sheer spectacle of it, so I took a photo of the group page on my computer screen for the Instagram challenge. I’m not going to link them here for your own good. If you really want to find them you can look them up on Ravelry yourself and then figure out a way to live with your shame.

Staging: This is probably the weirdest photo I’ve ever taken…I just pointed the camera at my computer screen. I did expand the screen so all my bookmarks aren’t visible and zoomed in to the group header so it was easier to see what was going on, but that’s it for staging. Just point and shoot.

Instagram edits: cropped, tilt-shift horizontally, Sierra filter and border

Computer edits: cropped and enhanced

kind of edited with iPhoto

kind of edited with iPhoto

I only did the computer edit for the sake of continuity. There was really nothing to edit. I have no idea what to do with a picture of a computer screen. That being said, I like the Instagram better. The filter and the tilt-shift added some interest to it.

On to the WIPs!

I did some more work on the yarnbombing this week. I have quite a few fragments made at this point and yesterday I started piecing some of them together. Here are just four pieces pinned together and two more fragments waiting to find their neighbors. See how they’re kind of like a puzzle? That’s basically how freeform works.

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Ducky is also inching closer and closer to completion! I finished coloring the upper jaw.

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Then I attached the upper jaw to the head and started using some of the pre-felted pieces to form the cheeks.

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Before I attached the cheeks I decided to work on the nose. I decided to just start slapping random colors on at this point to stretch the wool supply. As long as I use light colors or other shades of green it should all be pretty easy to cover. I put the basic shape of the nose together and then needed to add a bit more around the edge. Once I attached the middle of a long piece of felt to the front of the nose it looked like Ducky had a moustache, so I decided that was the perfect time to pause for a picture.

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Then I attached the cheek shapes and started filling in some of the gaps with green.

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Ducky almost has a face!

WIP-Cracking Wednesday AND Photocalypse!

First the WIP-Cracking

My week was mostly spent working on the yarnbombing. There was some family health drama and I was in need of portable crafting, so no needle felting progress this time.

I’m running with the Welcome to Night Vale theme and have been working in as many references as possible. So far I’ve made the Eye, red dots, a tentacle, a bunch of amorphous shapes and I’ve started sewing suckers onto the tentacle. I made a glow cloud at some point, but then I decided it was neither glowy nor cloudy enough and ripped it out. I may make another attempt at it. We’ll see.

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Photocalypse

Today’s prompt was “shoes” and seeing as I don’t really own any super-cute shoes like everyone else seems to be Instagramming I decided to go a more realistic route. I didn’t want to photograph boring empty shoes though, and it’s kind of hard to take pictures of your own feet so I asked my sister to be my stand-in. She pretty much only wears sandals though, which is fine since I have a very similar pair, but having bare feet in the photo just seemed…boring? odd? I dunno, so I told her to put on some socks. I’m a knitter though, so of course they had to be hand-knit socks. So basically I threw “realism” out the window during the course of staging this photograph because these are not my shoes, or my feet, and I don’t actually wear socks with sandals despite my geographical affiliation. I’m a bad North-westerner I guess.

Staging and lighting: There were two main light sources for this one – the dining room lights to the right and the standing lamp to the left and in front. I had my sister stand on a chair both to bring her closer to the light sources and to avoid doing detailed photography of the cat hair carpet.

light source on the right

light source on the right

light source on the left

light source on the left

location of lamp in relation to chair

location of lamp in relation to chair

For the Instagram I cropped the photo and used the Hudson filter with a border. The unedited photo was very yellow and the Hudson filter added the most blue to counteract that.

On the computer I cropped the image, enhanced it, and increased the blue.

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

It’s still nowhere near true-to-color. Conclusion: the living room lights are way too yellow to be a useful light source. If I want to do living room photography without the benefit of natural light I’ll have to switch out all the bulbs.

 

Photocalypse: How to Make Stuff Up

I’ve been attempting to knit and crochet this entire yarn bomb freeform, which is quite a feat considering how much of a control freak I am. I actually had to read a book in order to learn how to make stuff up as I go along. This is the book I’ve been reading.

Staging and lighting: I put the book on the footrest of my recliner. The lighting here is a bit odd. It’s mostly from the entryway light which is behind and to the left of the foot of the recliner.

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Instagram edits: cropped closer, used tilt-shift vertically and moved it so it didn’t obscure the title and author, used the lux function, Hudson filter, and border

Computer edits: cropped, enhanced, and increased the blue

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

Conclusion: this is a really bad spot for photography. The lighting is just too weird. It’s a wonder how I get so much crafting done in this chair.

A Study in Scraps

I never throw away scrap yarn. Never. Just can’t bring myself to do it. If it’s more than a few inches long I save it – that’s room enough for several stitches at least! I do abhor the thought of hanging on to useless objects though, so I try to find ways to use up those scraps.

So far my strategy has been hexipuffs. I’ve been collecting hexipuffs for a future Beekeeper’s Quilt for almost two years now. Every time I knit something and have a partial skein leftover I knit a hexipuff or two out of it. I acquired a vast array of miniskeins for the express purpose of hexipuffing them. It’s been very satisfying, and has gone a long way towards using up my leftover yarn.

gratuitous puff shot

gratuitous puff shot

However, it hasn’t gone far enough. Each puff takes about 12 yds of yarn to complete. That’s great! But what about lengths of yarn that aren’t quite 12 yds? What do I do with those? Every miniskein I use to knit a hexipuff is longer than 12 yds, but frustratingly not quite 24 yds long. That means I can get a single hexipuff out of each miniskein, and be left with anywhere from 5-10 yds leftover – not an insignificant amount of scrap yarn. I also don’t want to have my finished blanket dominated by a single color, so when I have a partial skein leftover from a project I only knit one or two hexipuffs out of it, even if there is enough left to make 10.

I used to give these leftover bits of yarn to my sister, who would add them to her ever-growing Frankenscarf. It’s just a plain stockinette scarf that she continually and chaotically adds to whenever she comes across some string. She knits it without any regard to gauge, yarn weight, color choice, or stripe size. It’s kind of awesome. Not my aesthetic, but awesome. It is, however, over 23 feet long now, so I don’t think she needs any more of my scraps.

What should I do with them then?

Have you ever seen City of Ember? If you haven’t, you should. It’s a great little sci-fi/fantasy aimed at children, but not so twee that it’s painful for an adult to watch. I loved the story and the adventure of it, but there was another thing that made my crafty heart skip a beat – the costumes! The setting is an underground city that has been isolated for 200 years, so everything in their world is pieced together from recycled bits of long-defunct objects. The clothing is no different. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I still remember being mesmerized by Lina Mayfleet‘s sweaters. They looked like they were knit or woven from threads pulled from a million other fabrics.

pic from Your Props

I loved that concept and thought that it would be a great way to use up leftovers. Maybe on a smaller scale though.

Enter A Study in Scraps: Sock #1. I was updating my queue on Ravelry and came across this gem and had an “a-ha” moment. The pattern photos show how the socks would look with only two different yarns, but I plan to take the “scraps” part of the title VERY seriously. I figure I could come up with two somewhat similar socks if I knit them 2-at-a-time and cut each scrap in half so I can split them up for the two feet. Will they have a lot of ends to weave in? YES. Will it be worth it? Probably.

I gathered up all of my scraps and stuck them in a box with a clear plastic top (another object I had kept, thinking I’d eventually find a use for). Based on my previous sock projects, I should need about 100 g of yarn for a pair of socks. I have 64 g so far, mostly from leftover miniskeins that hadn’t found their way into my sister’s scarf. I can’t wait until I have enough scraps to make these socks. Clearly I need to knit faster.

A Study in Scraps

WIP-Cracking Wednesday: MacGyver Edition

This post contains spoilers for the leethal Adventure Knit-a-long, so if you’re still having fun with your own choose-your-own adventure mystery you may want to look away. (And if you haven’t gotten the pattern yet, now’s your chance to get it before the price raises next week when she’ll be updating the format and adding charts! You’ll get the updated files even if you pay now.)

Ready?

Onward.

So I finished knitting this hat and was ready to block it. It’s supposed to be a slouchy hat, so it’s longer than your average hat. That is, longer than my actual head. The pattern used a bit of stranded knitting too, so it would NEED blocking – stranded knitting tends to pull in the fabric a lot and needs to be blocked so you can see all the stitches you painstakingly knitted. Once I started soaking the hat I realized two things:

1) I haven’t actually knit very many hats before, and the ones I have made didn’t really need much blocking. I just gave them a quick soak and laid them flat or draped them over something.

2) The few hats I have made weren’t nearly this slouchy, so this truly is new blocking territory for me.

The instructions said to smooth the hat around something slightly smaller than your head like a balloon or a foam head. So something vaguely head-shaped. Okay.

I went on a hunt for head-shaped things in the house. I didn’t have any balloons, so that was out. I did have a few head models, but only one of them is even remotely close to my head size. Unfortunately, the hat is way too long to block on the head! The bottom of it just dangled around the neck. Armed with a tape measure, I looked for other options.

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I discovered a trash can in my room that I’ve been using to hold the parts for my light box is exactly the same circumference as my head at the bottom! It starts to flare out at the middle though, so I couldn’t block the hat just on the trash can or the edge would turn out way too loose. I looked for something that could add some height to the trash can. There was a foam ball that was way too small, but it added enough height to make the hat fit on the trash can.

When I put the hat on the foam ball/trash can contraption it still seemed too floppy at the top and I was worried there wouldn’t be enough stretching to even out the stranded knitting. I kept looking. Finally, I came across a decorative pot of my mother’s. It was the right shape, the right size, and by turning it upside down the opening at the top sat really well on the convex bottom of the trash can. The wavy top of the trash can made the whole thing unstable though, so I covered the head model in a towel and put that inside the trash can to stabilize it.

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There! That works, right?

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Once again, my blocking style is make-it-up-as-I-go-along. Whatever works I guess. Now I just need to pick out a button…

WIP-Cracking Wednesday: Knitting Without a Safety Net

I’m living on the edge with this week’s WIP – for the first time ever I am knitting socks without a gauge swatch! They’re not for me, they’re for my boyfriend, who was so pleased with his first pair of handknit socks that he requested another.

I let him pick out the yarn, which many female knitters might cringe at because their male counterparts have a tendency to choose the most boring of colors. I wasn’t worried though. My man is braver than most. He picked this skein.

indigodragonfly Merino Nylon Sock - Roadkill: The Slower Red

indigodragonfly Merino Nylon Sock – Roadkill: The Slower Red

Definitely not boring! In fact, its origins are quite manly. The colorway was inspired by this picture of Joey’s garage in which he fixes up motorcycles and such.

Joey’s Garage – photo by Heather Sebastian

With the yarn decided, all I needed to do was figured out what pattern to use. I decided I would use this project to learn a new technique – knitting two socks at a time. It sounded like sorcery to me, but I love the idea of having both socks match exactly without worrying about my gauge changing between the first sock and the second or that I forgot to write down any modifications I made so I could repeat them.

Since I would be using a new technique I wanted to find a fairly simple pattern, but with highly variegated yarn like that having a little texture in the fabric helps break it up a bit and prevent it from looking like a hot mess.

After quite a bit of browsing I settled on Hermione’s Everyday Socks which uses a few well-placed purls to add some texture to the pattern. All I had to do was size the socks to fit my boyfriend’s feet!

Here’s where I descended into chaos…I cast on for the socks right away without knitting a gauge swatch. Why? Well, since I was trying a new technique I wanted to try it out with a realistic road-test. I figured the cuffs could sort of be my gauge swatch. If they ended up too big or too small I could just frog it and start over, having gained some two-at-a-time knitting experience in the process. I just grabbed some 2.25mm circulars (a pretty standard sock-sized needle) and went for it!

Micah's Everyday Socks CO

Knitting two-at-a-time was pretty awkward for the first 10 rows or so, but once there was a bit of fabric to guide me it was surprisingly easy! It’s really just a form of Magic Looping, the only difference is needing to keep track of two balls of yarn and making sure you knit things in a certain order.

Once I finished the cuff I had boyfriend try them on. They fit!

Micah's Everyday Socks start of leg

I proceeded to the leg. Once I finished the leg I had boyfriend try them on again. They fit his leg!

Micah's Everyday Socks - partway through leg

Then I had him try the leg portion on over his foot since the leg and the foot of the sock are supposed to have the same number of stitches. That was the first sign of trouble – it was too loose for his foot. If I pulled it tight enough to fit his foot the same way his first pair of socks did I would have to lose about 12 sts. That sounds like a lot to me and I don’t remember having that much trouble figuring out how to get his socks to fit the first time, so now I’m starting to worry that the I might have screwed myself over by not having a gauge swatch.

Micah's Everyday Socks - gusset picked up

I already finished the heel and did the gusset decreases up until the point where there are the same number of foot stitches as there were leg stitches. Based on the measurements I made I should continue the gusset decreases until there 12 less foot stitches than leg stitches. My gut is telling me that’s too tight. I think I’m going to put a lifeline in before I continue.

 

WIP-Cracking Wednesday: Pool Party

First let’s start this post with a mini muggle vocabulary lesson. In knitting, “pooling” has absolutely nothing to do with water. Pooling is what happens when you’re knitting with a yarn that has many different colors in it and the same colors start stacking on top of one another making a “pool” of a single color. Usually it’s a complete surprise when this happens. It’s basically a freak of math. Depending on how the rest of the colors are interacting and what the knitter’s intention for the project were this could end up looking either really cool or really crappy.

I have been experimenting with taming this freak of math and pooling my projects intentionally. I learned how to do this by taking a class called “Planned Pooling” taught by Gladys We (wenat on Ravelry – check out her projects page for tons of beautiful examples of planned pooling). Basically it involves laying out your skein of multi-colored yarn, figuring out the length of the color repeats, and then adjusting your knitting gauge until those color repeats stack on top of one another!

I had the perfect yarn to start with – bright colors, easily distinguishable, with decent sized color lengths, and nerdy to boot.

First I made a cowl with a simple seed stitch.

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Then I tried playing with the pooling a bit by making a ribbed hat and accentuating the yellow parts with cables. Pardon the crappy selfie, I haven’t had a chance to do any glamour shots yet.

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The class actually focused more on trying to keep vertical pooling, but I’ve been loving the swirls!

For my next trick, I wanted to see if I could make a smaller circumference project – how about fingerless mitts? That would come with the extra difficulty of having to repeat the process twice in order to get a set.

I decided on a simple 1×1 rib, but added a bit of interest by knitting through the back loop for all the knits – that just makes the ridges look more dramatic. For the thumb opening I thought I could just make a buttonhole and call it good. Unfortunately the buttonhole turned out looking a bit messy. On the side where it was started there’s a weirdly loose strand stretched across the thumb opening.

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The other side looks fine though.

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I’ve never really had an occasion to make a buttonhole before, so I’m not sure if there’s something wrong with my technique, or if I was just following some crappy instructions for a buttonhole. In any case, I’m going to have to figure out how to clean that up. Maybe a crocheted edge around the thumb opening? I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it. Other than that, the first mitt looks pretty good.

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I’m not 100% sold on pairing that stitch pattern with this yarn. I was happier with the painterly quality of the seed stitch and the exaggeration of the cabling on the hat. The ribbing does make it VERY stretchy though, to the point where this could truly be considered a one-size-fits all project. That mitt fit my boyfriend’s man hands, my mother’s miniature hands, and everything in between!

Starting a second mitt to match it was a bit challenging. It took four tries before I could get the cast on to pool even remotely like the first one did. Even several inches into the knitting, one of the yellow swirls is looking way more chaotic than the other and I can’t seem to correct it. Oh well, I guess they’ll just have to be fraternal twins.

Pooled Mitt WIP Mitt the Second

 

I have learned one thing from this experiment though – I don’t like trying to match pairs when I’m pooling. I’m better off sticking with single item projects from now on. My blood pressure will thank me for it.

 

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.