Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why You Should Knit Gifts, or Everyone's So Needy

About this time of year, when the first snow flakes fly in the northern hemisphere, I start to hear "I have to knit presents for..." There are a couple ways to react.

My personal favorite: "I don't knit under obligation to anyone else." I knit things because I want to knit. The finished object isn't as important to me, so generally when I'm done, I can find someone that will take it off my hands.

This removes all the stress from any type of gift giving, including the stress of "will they like it." That's the worst one. It's never the right color, the right size, or the right amount of softness. I warn ya now, you'll even have friends and/or family that will complain about how itchy that cashmere scarf is. And then you never knit for them again.

Another option? Buy them a pair of needles, a skein of yarn and a cheap how-to book and tell 'em it's their own scarf. They just have to figure out how to do it -- the proverbial "teach a man to fish" gift.

That's probably going to make some of your friends not happy.

So I guess the only good option is to break down and knit the gifts. And I bet you need some ideas. Have I got some ideas for you!

Of course, I definitely recommend any of my patterns, but particularly Market Shawl and the duo of cowls Clendenin and Truslow. Market Shawl is the type of pattern you can keep with you and knit a few stitches anywhere you go without having to dig out a pattern and really puzzle over a chart. Clendenin and Truslow and very quick knits and can be made in any color combo for anyone on your gift list. Another favorite for easy knitting and effective use of beautifully dyed skeins of yarn would be South Hills.

I've joined the Indie Designer Gift-A-Long group on Ravelry. From November 1 through November 15, a whole bunch of designer's patterns, including mine, will be available at 25% off with coupon code "giftalong". Go check out the fun at Indie Design Gift-A-Long. If you join the gift-a-long, you'll also be entered into prize drawings and contests. I've donated a couple copies of my ebook The Vandalia Collection.

What are your coping mechanisms for gift knitting?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

3 Steps to Getting Paid to Knit

Pretty color of Plymouth Yarn Taria Tweed
I read a little blog post today somewhere -- to be honest, I was still half-asleep and I clicked on a link in my Twitter stream -- about how to drive more traffic to your blog by having catchy titles and what titles work better. Apparently, numbered steps (don't spell out the number of steps) and DIY/how-to posts are most effective/popular. We'll see.

Step 1: Just Ask --

For several years, I've worked with a company in northern Virginia that dyes beautiful yarns, mostly lace weight and light weight yarns, and knit samples for them. They're a fantastic, talented duo (check out their stuff: Just Our Yarn) and the projects are fun to knit.

I met Diane and Cathy at Stitches East quite a few years ago -- I just checked my email history and it
was in 2008! -- by chance. My friends Jana and Pat had shopped at their booth first and when we stopped for a shopping break and a little snack, Cathy dropped by our table and we all chatted about how they started the business. Just on an off chance, I asked if they were hiring and that's where it started.

Feather River Shawlette
Through Just Our Yarn, and Diane and Cathy, I've knit a lot of lace with and without a lot of beads. It's a way for me to get my lace knitting out there without collecting a lot of lace shawls I don't know what to do with.

Did I get rich knitting samples for Just Our Yarn? Definitely not. But I enjoyed it and got to use really great yarn and neat patterns. And added a little extra yarn money to my budget.

Step 2: Fleece Your Friends and Family

Okay, so, this one isn't that nice. But it's gotta be said. You know that friend that loves everything you knit? Always wants to see your last project? Comments on how pretty the hat/scarf/shawl/sweater you're wearing? And then asks you to knit it for them?

Make them pay.

Sure, I'll knit this same hat for you. I'll pick out the yarn I want to use. I'll name the timetable. I'll charge you $XX.xx amount of money. Is it outrageously expensive? Absolutely. But your time is worth it. Can you do the same thing for the same friend and not charge? Definitely. But why not get some cash for your hard work.

(Okay, so step 2 was really just because I can't figure out a step 2.)

Step 3: Email Me (steven at rodeoknits dot com)

Last post I talked about my knitting team. I want to eventually be able to pay test and sample knitters for their time and abilities, so this isn't an automatic paycheck for knitting.

But, do you want to get on the team? I'd love to have you! Starting now, I'll offer yarn support for combination test and sample knitters, or just plain sample knitters. For test knitters (for now), it's still an on-you type proposition -- I'll provide the pattern and a timeline, you provide the yarn and the know how.

And now the important information --

Test Knitters:

Prerequisites (I love that word): know how to knit, provide your own yarn/tools, provide feedback, meet a deadline, communicate.
What you can expect from me: Existing pattern or, if it's an unreleased pattern, a general idea of the yarn weight and amount, tools, and gauge that will be expected.
What I expect from you: Follow the pattern. Communicate any problems/confusion (or lack of problems/confusion) with instructions. Take pictures and post to Ravelry when the pattern is released.
What you can expect from me in the future: More patterns!

Sample Knitters:

Prerequisites: All of the above, plus test knitted at least two of my patterns. These can be existing patterns (just contact me and I'll send you the patterns you want to test), or be surprised when I have new patterns coming out.
What you can expect from me: I'll send you the yarn for the finished sample.
What I expect from you: Follow the pattern. Finish the sample, including blocking if necessary. Get the sample back to me by the deadline, or communicate if there needs to be some change to the schedule.
What you can expect from me in the future: money (hopefully)
I can't wait to find new knitters to work with. Part of the knitting process I love so much is sharing the experience with other people, especially new knitters that are building confidence. Don't be shy! And keep an eye out for announcements about patterns that need test and sample knitters.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

You're a Star!

Way back since the beginning of time (or a couple of months ago, if you're really keeping track), I started playing around with the Estonian star stitch and trying different variations. One thing led to another, one idea to another and bang, here we are. I hope my obsession is finally over.

Three new patterns!
I have a confession. I'm not a trained designer of anything. I don't think I'm a prodigy or have any incredible talent that must be shared with the world. I'm not inspired by the falling leaves or the change in seasons or how people are interconnected and emotions and blahblahblah. I just like to knit things, I get ideas and sometimes I write those ideas down, mostly because I think they're good ideas and that someone else might like to make them, too.

I was thrilled to learn that two of my cowls were recommended to a group on Ravelry that was having a unisex cowl knit-along. I was following along, though not knitting with the group because I have too many projects already, and loved seeing the finished projects. Interestingly, I offered the two cowls for free through a promotion on Ravelry and, though the promotion was redeemed almost 350 times, only a handful of cowls were posted as finished projects. It's still a milestone moment for me.
Super sneak preview

Sidebar, one other milestone - I sent off a finished project that was accepted to be published in a new book by a big publisher. Now I just wait to see if it was successful or if I have utterly failed. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground in my mind.

As I design more, or rather, write more designs down so that other knitters can have them, I find that I don't have time for every stage, especially the knitting/re-knitting/re-knitting/knitting-again. I have several awesome knitter friends that I know I can ask to knit for me but then I feel like I'm taking advantage, especially if I want to put a deadline on a project.

So here's what my current design process team looks like:
  • Me: of course
  • Tech editor: the awesome Eleanor
  • Test knitters: Jana, Pat, Zen, Sarah, Sarah, Marilyn, Gloria -- all the best knitters I know
  • Sample knitters: see above list of best knitters
  • Pattern lay out and design: me, again, but not my strong suit and should definitely farm this out
The dream team:
  • Everything stays the same but I pay test and sample knitters
Why would I want to pay sample knitters and test knitters? In my opinion, the services provided are two different things, but each equally important. Test knitters work the pattern according to the instructions and give feedback based on knitability and clarity of instructions, keeping the finished object. Sample knitters can do the same thing while also giving me a finished sample of the pattern I can use. A paycheck of some kind would also give an air of professionalism.

Everyone has been awesome so far and I have no bad experiences. I want to reward everyone for what they do for me. So far, the best I've been able to do is give yarn and pattern to a sample knitter and get the project back. That's worked great. I want more.

Ridgeview Infinity Scarf
Wow I got way off track. Estonian star stitch. The more I work with it and the more I see/say it, the more I'm not entirely sure I'm being 100% accurate. (A quick Google search led me to this article, which makes me think I might be okay.)

I have four new patterns -- 4! -- in the works and almost ready for you. Two wide scarves, one infinity scarf and one cowl. I'll be introducing you to them over the coming posts, but first up is Ridgeview Infinity Scarf.

Ridgeview starts with a crochet cast on and is knitted around in one giant circle with balanced sections of Estonian star stitch with an interesting slipped rib variation that gives the scarf alternating body and drape. I used Brooks Farm Surrey, a 50/50 blend of alpaca and wool, and the color is just amazing. I love how the star stitch is highlighted by the flashes of undyed white yarn.

Ridgeview Infinity Scarf is matched with the Ridgeview Cowl, a smaller version that will be knitted up much faster. Both will be available in a couple weeks. I'm very excited by them both and I hope that you'll enjoy them, too.

I'll release the Ridgeview duo as individual patterns and as part of the e-book that will include the two other patterns. More on them.... later!