Category: design

Challenge accepted!

Skillshare: The French Knot

Skillshare is having a June Teach Challenge.

Since the beginning of June, I have been putting together a class I will be launching July 1. In my spare moments, I have been spent crafting, filming, and editing. I decided to teach how to make the French knot pendants as my first class. Of course, the only problem is that… they make such great gifts, I gave them all away! Time to make more — and document the process for the class.

This challenge is proving interesting. I’ve had to conquer my camera-shyness (totally fine for self-portraits, a whole ‘nother story when it’s moving and talking on camera). It’s also forced me to brush up on my video editing skills; I haven’t done any video editing in… ten years?! Luckily in the challenge, the month is broken down into milestones, so that each section of work seems much more achievable. I’m still in the process of making the pendants, and filming/editing where I can, but I’m thinking that it will be able to come together in time. Launching July first!


kira makes a double-knit swatch

Double Knitting Swatch

First attempt at double knitting!

I am designing a new item, and decided it would be best in the reversible nature of double knitting. So… I had to learn double knitting. Yay, learning new things!

This swatch pattern is from the Craftsy course Adventures in Double Knitting.

However, I did not use the cast-on taught in the course. Honestly, I was a bit confused by the cast-on as it was taught, so sought out further instruction online and stumbled upon this cast on I found to be both easier and more attractive! Tutorial by Knit Purl Hunter.

I did the bind-off taught in the course, but I am not in love with it. According to my research, the best way to get that invisible bind-off (to match my cast-on) is to separate the stitches and Kitchener stitch them together. I am intrigued by this tutorial for a knit (not sewn) Kitchener stitch, so I will have to test it out later. There is also the Kitchener Stitch tutorial from Knit Purl Hunter, as well.

I cast-on for the prototype of my new design last night. I tried to replicate the invisible cast-on that I achieved with the swatch, but for various reasons, it did not work out as attractively. I think a combination of factors: for the swatch, I used a larger needle for the CO, and there were less stitches, so they were able to all stay on the needle (as opposed to slipping onto the cable of the circular needle). Since I don’t have any longer needles (I rely pretty much solely on circular interchangeables), I cast on to one of my bamboo Tunisian crochet hooks, allowing the stitches to stay the correct diameter throughout the cast-on process. Results? Worked!

Now to decide if I want to work the prototype (which often turns into the final project) in the Caron Simply Soft that I have laying around, or if I want to order new yarn. Seeing as Simply Soft is still a “commercially available” yarn, it will lend itself to being able to be published, but… it’s not really the best yarn (totally great for learning and some projects, still). Other yarns I am pondering include Knit Picks Mighty Stitch (80% Acrylic/20% Superwash Wool), SW Wool of the Andes (100% Superwash Wool), and Swish (100% Superwash Merino Wool).


p.s. I ordered more yarn.

kira makes uncertain ponderings about blocking… with cats

I’ve been knitting away like a madperson to meet the photoshoot deadline. My friend/photographer is out of town next weekend (even though that would give me the most amount of time to knit). The weekdays are likely out, because I am hoping to do an outdoor shoot and want to work with natural light — and we both work days, when the most light is. So, that leaves this weekend, Saturday-only.

I am theoretically on-track for making this deadline. (I may or may not have called out of work yesterday to knit. To be fair, I also hadn’t been feeling well the day previous, and needed some time, anyway.)

Today, I plan to finish up the last 8 rows and bind off.
Then comes the problem: blocking.

Blocking. With cats.
Cats, who get into everything.

Zaka on Pattern
Example A: Zaka, who is helping me by sitting on my knitting pattern.

Example B: Árnyék, who is likely the cause of the “Someone ate holes in my Mirkwood!” Cat-astrophe.

PorkchopExample C: Porkchop (Ryan’s cat, who has been living with us). He has not given me any reason to be wary of him and my knitting. Yet. He is a cat, after all.

So… yeah.
Not sure how I am going to wet-block and pin out this shawl.

I figure, first plan of attack is to barricade myself in the bedroom (the only room with doors, to keep the cats out (apart from the bathroom, of course)). I have blocking mats, wires and pins. The next step is to take the dampened shawl and pin out on the mats (which… I don’t think I actually have a large enough configuration of mats. Boo. I might have to look into getting more.) Then… what? I think my options are to try to prop up the pinned-shawl-interlocking-mats in the closet, or somehow balance it on top of the wardrobe cubbies (would need to move the shoes). Pretty much anywhere else, the cats have been able to get at or into. There is the possibility of balancing it on top of the laundry baskets on top of the machines in the laundry nook (yay, closet with doors!), but that might be a hassle for getting to the laundry. It should only be for a day or so while it dries completely.

This should be… an interesting challenge.


kira makes more edits to her design

Cyntaf Yarn Ball

So, Cyntaf.

I originally designed it with a certain number of row repeats for Part A of the pattern. The knitting math was lovely and worked out well with the rest of the elements of the shawl. (v01)

Then I decided that the shawl was growing larger more quickly than I expected, so I reduced the number of row repeats, calling for adjusting the rest of the pattern to make it work well together. (v02)

Then I misread how I was keeping track of the sections (Original Set plus the Repeats vs. Total Number of Sections) — whoops! — so I ended up with one more additional section than I was expecting. Okay. Adjusted pattern accordingly. (v03)

Then I was worried that the shawl actually was smaller than I was expecting, so I decided to go with the original number of repeats. Back to First Draft. (v01)

Then… I got nervous about running out of yarn. Reduced Part B row repeats. (v04)

Still nervous — reduced Part A repeats (less than what I had already knit), and ripped out about 30 rows of knitting. Always a bit of a nerve-wracking to take hundreds of stitches off the needles and pull the loose thread and watch it unravel hours of work. Back to v03.

Feeling better about the changes in the pattern vs. the amount of yarn left. Started into second repeat of Part B.

Got nervous again. Rip back Part B-Repeat 2 rows, and adjust pattern again (v05).

Finally, finally feeling in a good spot with the pattern vs. the amount of yarn I have left, and the layout of the design. I probably did have enough for 2 repeats of Part B, but I didn’t want to risk it — it would probably also mean unraveling my gauge swatch to use that yarn, and I still need to block and measure the swatch. Plus, I don’t want anyone making the pattern to have to buy a whole other skein for just a few yards, if they use up yarn at a slightly different rate.

I have 8 more rows, binding off, and then blocking! Phototshoot on Saturday!


kira makes a stack of design swatches

Designing Swatches

Since I can’t show you progress on the shawl, I figured I’d show some of the design process. A stack of swatches (in worsted weight cotton I had laying around — not what I’m actually using!) to test different arrangements/patterns/stitches.

On the plus side, I have realized that shawl is becoming larger more quickly than I was anticipating, so reducing the amount of row repeats, making overall pattern smaller and also theoretically less time to knit. Working on it steadily, hoping to keep on schedule.


kira makes a long ramble: why I don’t (generally) sell my knitting

Featherweight Cardigan Gauge Swatch

While I have this in my head: why I don’t sell my knitting.

This weekend, while talking with a friend, I mentioned about how it is extremely hard to sell knitting (or other craft/art) for what it is actually worth, and therefore I generally don’t sell my work. I gave an estimation as to what my asking price would be for the shawl I’m currently making: at least $300. Which I would be unlikely to get.

But let’s break it down, with this shawl as an example, since I’ve done all the math already.
First there’s the cost of supplies. There’s the consumables: the yarn (2 skeins of Knit Picks Preciosa, 100% Merino Wool) at $29 (including shipping/handling).

What about the tools used? Stitch markers (set of 35 for $4, I’m using 4, so let’s say $0.45; nominal cost, so I’m not going to even include it) and the needles. II’m using a US8 circular needles from a set of addi Click Lace Long Tip Interchangeables, bought for $134 in 2014 (which, btw, is a fantastic investment if you like to knit lace, or are looking for a set of interchangeables with sharp tips), and with the additional purchase of longer cords to accommodate more stitches (like for a shawl) for $34, for a total of $168.

But, wait, you say — you have been using those needles since 2014 and didn’t have to buy them specifically for this project. Okay, sure. But they were an initial cost/investment and these specific needles allow me to knit more quickly than other (cheaper) options. The interchangeable aspect allows me to have the full set on hand for whatever combination of needle tips and cords that I need. Since oftentimes, you have to get a specific size needle depending on the project and yarn required.

Since I’m only using one circular needle, let’s say I didn’t get the full kit. Let’s look up the cost for the single circular needle with the same size cord: US8 w/ 32″ cord is currently on sale, luck day, for $13.60 (regularly $17) and we’ll ignore s/h. We’ll even round down, so we have $29 (yarn) and $13 (needles) for a cost of $42 in supplies.

Now, I have calculated roughly about how long it will take me to knit this shawl: 42.25 hours. This is based on an average speed of 3.35 seconds per stitch (on these specific needles, because speed varies on your tools) and 45,349 stitches total. This total time does not include re-reading instructions, checking stitch count, etc; no breaks, just the amount of time actually stitching, if I am able to keep up pace (not accounting for fatigue, hand cramps, etc).

Let’s use the minimum wage in VA ($7.25/hr) to calculate the least amount of cost for my time, coming out to about $306. This is just the cost of my time, at minimum wage — not accounting for how valuable my time actually is, nor the amount of time it took to learn and hone my skills, which let me work more quickly. (If I were to give myself a more skill-appropriate wage, it obviously would be much higher, still.)

So, we are up to $42 in supplies, and $306 in minimum wage work, for a current total of $348. We’ve already surpassed my rough estimate. But wait! There’s more.
What are we knitting? A shawl. Well, we had to get the pattern from somewhere (and it has to be a pattern that the creator allows items made from it to be sold). The upside: I designed this pattern myself, and therefore grant myself permission to sell the shawl made from the pattern. Yay, me!

The downside to designing the pattern: additional time, skill and costs! I had to research stitch patterns (using my personal resource library of stitch dictionaries, books ranging from $15-$30 each — how many books did I even look at? I don’t know), but let’s disregard that and say I researched at the library or using online stitch dictionaries. There was a lot of graph paper and pencil charting, ultimately leading to the purchase of the knit chart editing software Stitchmastery (about $88), which tremendously sped up the process. How much time did I take to design the pattern, and again, how much is that time worth, based on the skills needed to do this? You know, I have no bloody idea how long it took, nor what rate I would assign myself as a knit-designer. In the development of a good pattern though, I would also enlist the assistance of a Tech Editor and Test Knitters, to ensure the pattern is of good quality and free of mistakes. However, I am attempting to act as my own Tech Editor and Test Knitter, as I am trying to meet a deadline.

So instead, let’s say that I “bought” said pattern for $8 (a totally reasonable price for a knitting pattern of this complexity/skill level). Total up to $356.
Now to list the item on a popular site for selling handcrafted items. Looks like the listing price on Etsy is $0.20 per item, with a selling fee of 3.5%, and to use PayPal, it is $0.30 per transaction and 2.9% of the transaction amount. Additional costs to me, that I would either have to eat or boost the price of the item to account for that. But, that’s also hoping that someone would come across the item and want to purchase it. The market is oversaturated; I would need to stand out somehow.

Well, first would be to get fantastic photos, because shitty photography would kill a sale. This either means hiring (or in my case, bartering a trade with) a photographer (with lights, camera, studio/location, skills, shooting time, postprocessing time, editing software costs) or taking images myself (again, needing tools and the knowledge for making great images, each with their own costs).

There might also be a model to showcase the item, since a styled image with model is more interesting than on a mannequin, which… I don’t have. (But if I did? It would cost, too.) Model costs? Depends. I’m enlisting friends, and well, you can’t put a price on friendship. Lol. Just kidding. Considerations for costs of models are time, effort, styling (hair/makeup/additional wardrobe), and model fees, if applicable.

Other ways to stand out include the possibility of promoted listings (variable costs), sponsored ads (variable costs), offering promotions and discounted sales, and doing a lot of marketing/promoting on social media sites (which requires time, etc).

All of those costs listed above are variable, depending on your item’s list price, promotional skills, and if you can pay off your photographer with cookies. 😛

One of the additional problem with this oversaturated market is the “hobby” sellers — people who consider their work as a hobby, something they do in their spare time, and therefore underprice their items based on what they *think* people would be willing to pay for them. They are, in their minds, competing with big business — where you can easily buy a scarf for less than $10-$15. So, in many cases, the sellers dramatically underprice their items, barely even covering material costs.

But kira, you say. You LIKE to knit. Yes. Yes, I do. But my time is worth something.

Then there are other costs, such as packaging and shipping (possibly eating that cost, if I want to boost sales by offering “free shipping”). General overhead. Bookkeeping, scheduling, responding to customer emails. Etc. The ever-elusive costs of creativity, craftsmanship, and artistry.

So, yeah. I wouldn’t even consider selling that shawl for less than $300, which would still be underselling it. And I don’t really see myself getting that asking price, and I refuse to devalue my work, time, and skills by severely undercharging, especially when that also devalues other artists and crafters as well. So, in general, I don’t sell my knits.

And of further note, I really winds me up when I see other artists and crafters underselling their work as well. Because, if you are undercharging for your time and efforts, it causes the general public to undervalue it as well. People often aren’t able to see all the hidden costs of what goes into making something handmade, and if you price something lower than what it’s worth, then they apply that thought process to how they value other handmade items. Just because something is out of their price range, doesn’t mean that it is priced incorrectly.

[whoa there, long ramble…]


kira makes yet another yarn purchase

I originally played around with the idea of designing a shawl in order to use up some lonely skeins in my stash. However, the yarn has been discontinued and if I want to try to submit the pattern for publication, then I need to use “commercially available” yarn.

So… I should just buy more yarn, right? Haha…

Cyntaf Yarn

The yarn has arrived. Knit Pick Preciosa, in Goldfish.

Now to see if I can knit a worsted weight lace shawl in less than one month. (Since I need to also photograph it before deadline.) The race is on.


kira makes the transition from analogue to digital: knitting charts

I’ve been designing all night and all day, with pencil-smudged graph paper and eraser crumbs scattered all over. (Literally. Designed the night away!)

Finally decided to buy Stitchmastery. After reviewing several different knitting chart editing programs, I selected Stitchmastery. Knitty officially uses Stitchmastery for all their charting needs, so I figured that was a pretty good endorsement.


So far, it’s looking to be a excellent investment, if one is interested in designing knit charts. And since I’ve apparently caught the knit-lace-shawl-designing bug, it’s looking like I’ll be using it a fair amount. It has a lot of great features — one of my favorites is the stitch validation: it tracks how many stitches are consumed and produced by each row and compares it to the previous and following rows. And if they don’t match, the program warns you so that you can double check your chart! It saves so much time from doing that by hand.

Another feature I love is that it automatically generates written instructions based on the charts, including condensing information into repeats. I’m still exploring all the aspects of the program, but it seems to be pretty great so far. Hopefully, it will pay for itself… I have plans in the works! (Unfortunately, can’t say much about them, but fingers crossed.)