Win a Copy of The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design!

Posted on Jul 14, 2010 in Book Reviews & Reading, Business, Interviews | 27 comments

Des Frawley, Athletics Carnival, Brisbane

Des Frawley, Athletics Carnival, Brisbane; by State Library of Queensland, Australia on Flickr

Yesterday I had the pleasure of interviewing author Shannon Okey on Twitter* as part of her blog tour to promote her new book, The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design. We had so much fun, and such a productive conversation, that I forgot to do the giveaway we’d planned. D’oh.

The Giveaway

To enter to win a copy of Shannon’s book, leave a comment on this post either asking a question about professional knit- or crochet design or about self-publishing, giving a professional tip on those topics, or answering one of the previous questions. This way we’ll end up with a wealth of information, all shared by our peers.

The contest will close at 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern time tomorrow, July 15th. After that, I’ll use a random number generator to pick a winner from the comments.

Now, here’s the meat of our discussion on Twitter yesterday:

Twinterview Highlights

(You can also follow the hashtag #knitgrrlguide for the continuing discussion about Shannon’s book.)

book cover@kpwerker (that’s me): What are two things you’ve learned that every designer MUST know?

@knitgrrl (that’s Shannon): 1. 3 Ps: professional+punctual+personality & 2. Reliability is more important than creativity if you want consistent work! (That is, summed up in less than 140 characters, all you need to know to get a good professional reputation, seriously!)

@kpwerker: Would you expand (such as is possible on the Twitter) on why you say reliability is more important than creativity?

@knitgrrl: Reliability makes you an editor’s best asset, their secret weapon. When someone else flakes, they know to call YOU. +work! Example. @bingeknitter is a fab designer who is FAST+GOOD+RELIABLE. Gave her a lot of work @yarnforwardmag as a result.

@kpwerker: As a once-editor, I can vouch for that, for sure. Isn’t creativity/originality/vision also very important?

@knitgrrl: You can’t discount vision/creativity, but it doesn’t matter HOW creative you are if you can’t get the work in on time!

@kpwerker: Since we’re on the topic of working with an editor, @knitgrrl, what’s one thing brand new designers should keep in mind?

@knitgrrl: Hmm. Just ONE? Relax a little. Editors are REALLY busy. Sending a million unnecessary emails = not endearing. However, if you really do need to solve a problem via email, make it short, to the point, and give them options to choose from.

@kpwerker: Before we leave the world of print to get all crazy about the Twitter and other social media, anything else to add @knitgrrl?

@knitgrrl: There’s a false dichotomy between print / “new” media, I think. They can each make use of each other to all our benefits.

@kpwerker: Would you please expand on what you just said, re: print vs. “new” media being a false dichotomy?

@knitgrrl: Seems to me everyone wants to declare print “dead,” or promo new tech at its expense. Both sides have a lot to learn from each other. I miss the often-more-rigorous editing standards of print, for example. Yet new technologies can foster better discussions and informational transmission (look at what we’re doing now!): there have to be ways to take advantage of both. In short, I wish either side would NOT automatically write the other side off as “antiquated” or “sloppy” (or whatever…)

@kpwerker: Ok, let’s spend the last 10 minutes of the “formal” twinterview chatting about… Twitter! And social media… So, @knitgrrl, overall, do you think professional knit/crochet designers and book authors GET social media?

@knitgrrl: Yes and no. We’re a BIG & diverse group, after all. The ones that get it REALLY get it, the ones that don’t, well… I think @Ravelry was a wake-up call to some more established designers; they’re now seeing what a difference soc med makes.

@kpwerker: How should professional (and soon-to-be prof) designers use @ravelry for their business?

@knitgrrl: Well, @Ravelry is INVALUABLE for research — what are knitters actually KNITTING? trends? colors? In real life it doesn’t matter how stunning something is if no one wants to knit it! On the flip side, if you’re doing something totally unlike all the other patterns on there, there’s an equally good chance YOUR stuff will hit the top of the charts & get popular… you can take more chances, you’re not committing to, say, thousands of dollars in ads to promote something that flops. Apart from trendspotting, I think community is key. @Ravelry helps newer designers learn “on the job” from others. There’s almost always someone with more experience out there who will gladly help you if you ask nicely. I love that.

@kpwerker: What about other, non-specifically yarn- or crafts-related social media sites? How should designers approach those?

@knitgrrl: Carefully. I don’t really censor myself on Facebook, for example, and I have a dual-purpose profile there. If you are a more private person, you probably want to do a 2nd “professional” standalone profile for yourself. There are other sites that count as social media to me, such as @Craftster and @Etsy. Your skills get noticed there & help build your following. I’m on @Ravelry more than @Craftster or @Etsy now, but still have a profile/shop…you never know where you’ll get found!

@kpwerker: What’s a giant social media no-no that all designers should avoid?

@knitgrrl: Spamminess. That’s the number one sin to me. I try not to be overly “sales-y” here. I’ll let people know if there’s something new, but I’m not going to shove it down their throats. People tune you out when all you have to say is “BUY MY STUFF.”

Here’s where we opened things up to Q&A from the audience.

@lelah: What is the first step someone should do after designing a pattern if they want to do this professionally, and have been absent from the Rav/Etsy/Craftster/knit blog scene for some time?

@knitgrrl: Post it for sale on Rav AND Etsy. Do a tutorial for any special techniques used on Craftster. Lots of designers I know STILL get email/attention for tutorials they wrote YEARS ago. Contribute to the community and you become trusted friend.

@Joanna__Johnson: so, @knitgrrl, do you think there are certain genres of book that work better for digital books? some for print?

@knitrrl: Digital will be the savior of indie-pub’d full-color books like crafts titles, due to lower production costs but digital can work well for any type of book, really. I’m looking forward to seeing more multimedia includes like video!

@BethToddCreatz: How do you choose which designs to publish and which will never see the light of day?

@knitgrrl: Good one, @BethToddCreatz! I tend to put a lot of designs “on probation” until they behave themselves. This means backlog. It also means “lots of guilt they’re not done yet.” The best designs, for me, have a real life of their own and WANT to be completed. My most popular sweater, Rivulet, was completed start to finish in less than a month. It just FLOWED…I usually take that as a sign that it’s going to work for the knitter on the other end, too.

@StefanieJapel: Q for @knitgrrl, how have distributors responded to your self-published books?

@knitgrrl: Really well, @StefanieJapel! The distro that sells into the most LYSs picked it up at #TNNA as soon as they heard the topic! In addition, my printer is tied into Ingram, which is one of the largest (THE largest?) distributors around, so that helps.

[I asked Shannon if she has tips to share about working with a distributor.] Doing your research = key. LONG before your book is ready you need to be talking to the distributors. Many distributors have salespeople going out to presell titles up to a year in advance. Our (crafty) niche is a different, but you can help your book by getting the word out yourself. If you already sell patterns to LYSs, for example, you can ask them if they’d rather order directly from you or from the distributor. Find out which distro(s) they buy from, and tell them your book is coming out, the stores that already buy from you are interested, and would they like to distribute it, too?

@zigzagstitch: @knitgrrl is it worth it to take a book you’ve pub’d yourself around to local yarn stores? better to go bigger first?

@knitgrrl: Depends on the audience. Is it something specialized? For ex, a group of Portland crafters did a joint book to help drive business to local craft stores. If the content was very Portland-specific, it might not appeal to a nat’l distro. However, if the content isn’t specific like that, I’d like to start an indie craft book trade assoc so we could all benefit from co-op advertising, shared distro, etc!

@kpwerker: Apropos of nothing @knitgrrl, do you think a brand new designer should self-publish their 1st design or submit to a magazine?

@knitgrrl: Magazine=more eyeballs, but be careful about giving up rights to your work. Tradeoff doesn’t have to be brutal. (An anon. lit. agent in the book talks about the digital rights grabs going on in the publishing world right now…I think we designers need to be aware of what’s happened in other fields, such as freelance writers’ court case on digital rights).

@kpwerker: You said the magic word: “rights.” What should new (and established) writers and designers keep in mind?

@knitgrrl: You take a project for 1 of 2 things: money, or publicity. Sometimes you get both, but if it isn’t worth just ONE, don’t! I have taken projects where I wouldn’t have made ANYTHING after paying the sample knitter/etc, but was great PR. However, it was MY CHOICE — anyone touting a project solely for publicity or “exposure” should be immediately suspect. Our hilarious friends @Ravelry got it right: http://bit.ly/a1wgBm.

@BethToddCreatz What about publishing to online mag like Knitty.com, do you think this is good for exposure?

@knitgrrl: I think @knittydotcom has gone above & beyond to prove its ability to create value for our community. 1. They pay their designers, & 2. readership is enormous, 3. they’re highly respected and 4. they aren’t out for quick buck. So, in short: I love @knittydotcom (and my alma mater @yarnforwardmag ’cause designers get all rights back after 6 months!)

@kpwerker: Any designers/writers doing totally awesome things we all should try to emulate, @knitgrrl?

@knitgrrl: Also, @kpwerker artists who inspire: @VendettaBella (my studiomate), @mollycrabapple @CynthVonBuhler etc. (I mention this because my new pattern collection draws inspiration from some art stuff.) @blondechicken @spunkyeclectic @helloyarn @SisterDiane = examples of good business sense + personality. I follow a lot of book industry people on Twitter to keep an eye on what’s next: such as Apple opening up the iBookstore! A good online directory: http://bit.ly/d2l9mk — you can narrow down depending on your interests. Oh, and @InterweaveNews!

@kpwerker: Nearing the end of our chat/twinterview, what are you working on next, @knitgrrl?

@knitgrrl: My new pattern collection, the Fresh Designs books (http://bit.ly/cMUfdD) and a summer read/knitalong (http://bit.ly/9Q7L31).

@Joanna__Johnson: @knitgrrl now that you’ve published your own book, is there anything you would do differently next time?

@knitgrrl: Next time, @Joanna__Johnson, I am not scheduling publication for the week before 2 giant events! That was madness!

@petitepurls: What do you do when you’ve been accepted into a book for publication but your contact person doesn’t reply to questions?

@knitgrrl: Good question, @petitepurls! I have been there! Best advice = do what you think is best and then adjust if told differently.

@kpwerker: Ok, lovelies. It’s time to wrap up. Thank you so much for following along and participating tonight! Shannon Okey/@knitgrrl‘s next stop on her blog tour is this Thursday on @yarnthing‘s blog. You can see the schedule for her whole tour here: http://www.knitgrrl.com/?p=1129


* I don’t know why more authors, designers, and people in general don’t use Twitter as a live interview platform. It’s so easy, and has tremendous potential for audience engagement. If you’re intrigued, drop me a line.

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  • Fibersbytracie

    The tip I've learned the hard way? Sometimes you just have to let work take a back burner and enjoy life. Once that life/work balance is achieved, work flows much easier, and life keeps you happy and content. :)

  • http://bethtoddcreatz.com/ BethToddCreatz

    I have a question:
    What suggestions do you have for those of us still working day jobs and want to make this work?

    Thanks for the great interview, Kim!

  • @AmyCrochetville

    Do you have any tips for the dos and dont's of using Twitter to promote self-published patterns and/or books?

  • http://www.kitchensinkdyeworks.com/ Mercedes

    Tip- Take time to develop your personal style. If your work is all over the map, and built to suit anyone who will write a paycheck, your designs will never be memorable as “you”. At first your path may not be clear, but go with your gut and your own sense of design, and you'll have an “a-ha” moment.

  • http://wordlily.com WordLily

    Twitter is not a sales platform; I'm not interested in following someone who only tweets about their newest thing available for sale. On Twitter, I want interaction, I want give and take. I want the real person, not *just* a sales pitch. (Also: It's OK to tout others.)

  • http://www.monniblog.com Monica (aka monnibo)

    I have the same question as BethToddCreatz: working a full-time day job and still wanting to do creative work too. Do you have any suggestions/recommendations for focusing and achieving creative goals?

  • http://twitter.com/sillylittlelady sillylittlelady

    My Best Tip: Use the Testing Pool on Ravelry to test out your patterns! They always catch my typos and let me know when what I've written isn't in English ;)

  • kristi porter

    I think the truth for most of us is — don't quit your day job! If designing is something that you love, you'll find time to do it. Give up on TV, or get up earlier and do your creative work first (and give your less lucid hours to your employer). Once you get going, you may find ways to make it work (designing, teaching, and maybe working in a yarn shop, repping for yarn companies, editing, doing layout or web design for other creative souls, etc.). The sad truth is that I know almost no designers who are able to support themselves on design work alone, especially when you grapple with issues like health care and saving for retirement. That said, I know lots of people who are very happy in their work. As a wise man once said, “If your work isn't what you love, then something isn't right.”

  • http://www.madebymegs.blogspot.com madebymegs

    I am just learning to knit and I do have a question regarding the use of a knitting machine. Do you recommend the use of them or do you recommend to do it by hand? I would like to start to design my own creations and have toyed with the idea of getting a knitting machine to make the process a lot faster. I have fibromyalgia and find it very tiring on my hands…but I do love the whole process of it!!

  • http://bethtoddcreatz.com/ BethToddCreatz

    Hi Megs,
    Using a knitting machine is different than hand knitting in many ways – it may even be harder on your body than hand knitting is, depending on what kind of machine you use. I sometimes use one of those Incredible Sweater Machines and my back and shoulders hurt if I don't pay attention to how I work.

    Also, if you have a basic machine, like I do, you have to learn different techniques for some basic stitch patterns such as ribbing and garter stitch. Plus, it's more of an investment than hand knitting needles are! You can invest in a 'fancier' machine that almost knits by itself, but just know that you have a whole new set of skills to master with knitting machines.

  • Sdmaple

    I would like to know how does one deal with getting started and keeping flow going during the creative process.

  • http://www.madebymegs.blogspot.com madebymegs

    Thank you for your imput!! I have thought about purchasing one, but I thought it might be more hard on my body…plus, I kind of think it is cheating a bit than regular hand knitting. I will stick to the old hand knitting needles :)

  • http://twitter.com/hizKNITS Stephen

    As a designer with a more-than-full-time day job, I struggle with making time to devote to the creative process, finessing designs and writing. As such, I don't get to work on more than two new designs at once, often at the expense of my knitting other people's work simply for my own pleasure. Do you have any recommendations to nourish the designer in you and balancing it all? What are your self-care and creative endurance-building suggestions?

  • tracey

    I always wondered about test knitters. About how many test knitters should you use?

  • http://oswegocsa.wordpress.com/ Melissa

    I, too, struggle with the not-enough-hours-in-the-day conundrum. My way of dealing with it is to keep a notebook of ideas. I'll make sketches, scribble down fiber ideas (or sometimes even include a snippet of yarn or a label, if it's handy), include color ideas if I think that it's vital for the success of the design (knowing full well that someone else may have a different idea about color). If I have a specific person in mind for that design, I'll also include measurements. My idea notebook has way more in it than I'll ever have time to knit (and I am not one of these gifted people who can actually write a pattern without needles and yarn) but at least with a notebook of ideas, I can use my time more wisely, and give myself lots of opportunities to consider whether something is worth the number of hours it'll take to make.

  • http://www.kristentendyke.com SbutterAMfly

    Just start submitting, or designing for yourself and do as much as you can, when you can. Learn how much you can handle and work with it. I find it's helpful to submit to publications that provide royalties and/or the rights back—Twist Collective does both, and Interweave Press provides options for both.

  • odessa

    How important is developing a brand when you are starting out? Should you have style sheets and logos out the door, or can that stuff develop along with you?

  • http://www.ezisus.blogspot.com Gale Zucker

    Another bit of advice: know your limitations and work with others who are like minded. Be a great knitwear designer but don't try to also be a tech editor, website designer, photographer, layout artist, copyriter…. Great knit design with a mediocre presentations ruins a lot of projects.

  • http://www.byhandathome.com/ kendra

    i've noticed a huge variety of ways designers will indicate repeats and other differing denotations in patterns. is there a standard? is there a resource for finding out? i imagine something like an mla or chicago manual of style for knit/crochet design writers…. thanks!

  • kristi porter

    Hi Kendra,

    You're right, there is no one manual of style! If you are submitting to a specific publication, it's wise to look at what they prefer and do it that way. If in doubt I will ask for a pattern template or style sheet. In the absence of that, I'd probably go with: http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/standards.html. I'd also strongly suggest that you follow CYCA's sizing guidelines unless someone asks for something else. For your own work, I think it's smart to create a generic pattern template and checklist to make sure that all the elements are there including charts, key, schematic, photos, gauge and size info, full materials list, and that all the editing steps have been completed (proofread, tech edited/test knitted, schematic and charts checked against pattern; layout has been checked and test copies printed if you are doing PDF sales.). That way you don't leave something out and your patterns are consistent.

    For new designers, this helps you look professional; if you're designing more and you're juggling several projects, it's easy to forget that you didn't crop the photo like you meant to or that you wanted to change a couple numbers on the schematic.

  • FabewelousKnits

    Ravelry has been a great resource for me- finding test knitters, exposure for patterns, advice from other designers, and inspiration.

  • kristi porter

    I find that I go in phases, or that I need to give myself breaks to simply enjoy knitting for its own sake. Sometimes a mindless scarf over a couple of days does the trick, but other times I will bite off something ambitious. Learning a new technique or understanding an innovative construction always inspires me to try new things with design, so it's absolutely worthwhile to give yourself the time and space to pursue them. Sometimes it makes sense to pay hired hands to knit your designs for you. Obviously it cuts into your bottom line to do so, but it does free you up to do more creative work and more of the knitting you really WANT to do. A good test knitter who communicates well as she works helps me write better patterns too. We always make certain assumptions as we write, and a good test knitter will find ambiguous directions or errors as she knits.

  • Sara Thompson

    I have been knitting for 1 year now and have made many gifts for family and friends – and even several things for myself. I am so addicted to knitting and crocheting that I keep finding this gorgeous yarn and MUST “play” with it. My questions – should I continue giving my creations to family and friends or should I consider selling them. Do you find that people don't want to get “yet another” scarf, shawl or whatever? I do try to find out what colors they would like to have before I give them “yet another” etc. If I decide to sell some of my creations, what would be a good starting place, on line, craft fair, etc. Do I need to have an inventory of items before I start?

    Thanks for any suggestions,

  • Julianna

    How far in advance do you write patterns for the season you intend to release them? For example, when would you write a pattern that you want to release in winter 2010? What are deadlines like for print and online magazines or books?

  • http://bethtoddcreatz.com/ BethToddCreatz

    Start by sketching out any ideas that you have and make notes beside them of what type of stitch pattern, yarn, details, etc. Then you can work on samples to see how they look actually knit or crocheted. Then comes the math, lots and lots of math. :D

    I keep all my sketches in notebooks. As soon as I get a new idea I 'document' it by sketching and notes so I don't forget it, that way if I am busy with other designs I can go back to them later to work on. I also keep sample swatches with the designs.

  • Whitney

    For all of the professionals: Is it a good idea to offer free patterns as a new designer? I know that some designers who've had patterns go “viral” have a great customer base for their next patterns. How many free patterns have you offered before beginning to charge?

  • Mylynedj

    I am planning on designing sweaters and/or knitwear for infants and toddlers. Will the Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design be able to help me with this goal?

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