Proof of the Pudding - Or What Do You Do All Day?!

February 2015 024 I knit a lot but probably not as much as people assume. Like most knitters, I knit when I've finished work for the day and I need some downtime. The difference is that my day job involves writing, editing, and designing knitting patterns. The fact that I don't knit during my work day surprises people. Most of my day is spent on the computer answering emails, chasing invoices, entering data into a spreadsheet, and working with various software programmes (chart editors, layout programmes and word processors). Occasionally I head outside for photo shoots or teaching appointments, but mostly my work is desk-based in front of a computer.

Being my own employer, I have had to learn to do a lot of things because if I don't do something, it doesn't get done. This include things like payroll, marketing, customer service, distribution, procurement etc. Just because I am a one-woman business, it doesn't mean I don't have to think about how I do taxes, how I tell people about the things I do, how I can help people with any problems they may encounter, how I get my hard-copy patterns printed, where and when to buy office supplies etc. I have also had to learn how to put together a professional-looking layout and what changes I have to make from getting it ready as a PDF and a hard copy pattern.

September 2014 012

A typical day runs from 9.30am to 5.30pm with breakfast & lunch at the desk. I try to deal with emails/messages at the start and end of every day. I could probably spend every single day just on emails and messages! I look at specific customer support requests - these range from "what do you think of these colours?" to "could you explain what a garter stitch tab cast-on is? I've looked at videos and still do not get it".

I then spend time on the latest pattern I'm designing (I'll talk about design process in a later post). I open up the chart editor and the spreadsheet. Depending upon the complexity of the design, I can spend a fortnight crunching numbers before it is time to start writing a pattern. I spend lunchtime catching up with social media - some people regard it as marketing but I think of social media as a great way to have social interactions with great people without leaving the house. Twitter is a lifeline of joy when you work on your own.

After lunch, I get back to my spreadsheets and my number crunching. I make sure to transfer key numbers from my spreadsheet to a pattern template so I can tell if a pattern makes narrative sense (no need to start talking about neckline numbers when people are still working the bottom rib - even if I need to know the basic neckline numbers at this stage). I double-check the chart in my chart editor and may correct the stitch pattern, so it will work with armhole shaping further up. Spreadsheets are magic, I tell you. I may also be working on other people's patterns as a technical editor.

I dip into social media and check my email to make sure I am not missing any urgent business. A yarn company may have emailed me to let me know they are out of a shade I wanted for a future design, and I have to open up my design proposal to see what I could use instead. A customer may have emailed me about problems buying the pattern and I have to liaise with Ravelry and LoveKnitting to solve the customer's problems. I try to get on top of emails by 4pm.

July 2014 845

After 4pm, I focus more on the "soft side" of my work. I browse Ravelry to check out colour and texture trends. I spend time on Pinterest looking through recent pins (I subscribe to a number of trend forecasters' feeds). I look at dyers' websites to check out new stock and if I can see any colour trends. I also spend the 90 minutes between 4pm and 5.30pm on doodling and playing around with ideas in the chart editor or on paper. I browse RSS feeds via Feedly where I subscribe to a large number of blogs and websites ranging from knitting and fashion to art, design and technology. I don't always get my daily 90 minutes of inspiration because I may be in the middle of a complex project, but I love when I am able to set aside time.

By the time 5.30pm rolls around, my partner is home and we spend some time decompressing over a cup of tea. We get dinner sorted and by 7.30pm I am usually sat in the sofa with my work knitting. And that is another day over and done with. I work like this Monday to Friday but I may teach at a festival or at a LYS Saturday or Sunday, so my day off may fall on a Monday or a Wednesday instead.

This post was written in response to a 'what do you actually do all day long?' request from a couple of readers. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section!

Changes to Pattern-Selling & Ebooks

Due to law changes, 2015 sees a few changes to how customers within the EU can buy my patterns. Please understand that a) these changes are not my decision and b) some of these changes may be temporary as various platforms work out how best to respond to the new laws. Are you in the UK or live outside the EU?

Move on. Nothing will change for you.

Are you in an EU member state other than the UK?

Read on.

Single patterns:

Whether you buy my patterns through my website or via Ravelry, you will now be redirected to LoveKnitting to complete your purchase. Ravelry and LoveKnitting have entered into a partnership to make the law changes easy and transparent for you as a consumer. LoveKnitting will handle the financial transaction while Ravelry will add your new pattern to your library. Important: when you buy a pattern now, you will see the pattern price plus your local VAT rate displayed. LoveKnitting will collect the VAT and hand it over to your local government. If you do not already have a LoveKnitting account, you will need to register with them.

Please note that my previously announced price changes will go into effect in 2015, but I am trying very hard to keep prices as low as I possibly can. Depending upon where you live, the added VAT on top may make it look like a very dramatic price hike but the VAT rate is decided by your local government (who also collects it).


There is currently no way of offering special discounts or promotions via the LoveKnitting/Ravelry integration, so unfortunately any future promotions will not be available to EU citizens outside the UK. I am very sorry.

E-books/pattern collections:

There is currently no way of selling e-books or pattern collections via the LoveKnitting/Ravelry integration. This means you won't be able to buy At Midnight or Doggerland via the LoveKnitting checkout. However, if you want to buy either collection, please get in touch with me using the contact form on this page. There may be a few ways we can work around this issue but I want to discuss them with you on an individual basis.

E-book pricing will be reviewed mid-summer 2015 and currently remains unchanged.

Please note: I view all this as temporary measures as marketplaces adjust to the new laws. I am looking into other distribution options as well, so do keep an eye on this website.

Phew. What a way to end 2014. Thank you so, so much for all your support in 2014. Despite all the upheaval, I hope we'll continue to have all sorts of fun in 2015.


Thinking About The Future

KW_photo00For the past eight years or so, we've enjoyed a surge in quality indie designers offering amazing patterns for us to download. A digital revolution has changed crafting completely: knitters (and crocheters) came out as the winners because we suddenly had all these fantastic designers at our disposal with just one click of a button. From Ysolda Teague & Stephen West to Kate Davies & Gudrun Johnston, many designers started with a single pattern and gradually started growing as designers and businesses. I don't know if you know, but the knitting & crochet community is going through a bit of a sea-change at the minute. Making that same journey is going to be awfully hard in years to come and the real losers are the knitters and crocheters.

It's a dull and technical thing, really. The EU is changing laws about digital sales (in an attempt to stop Big Business from dodging taxes) but the UK is implementing the laws in a way that's very damaging to small sole traders (if you want to learn more, Woolly Wormhead has written extensively about it).

Digital downloads have changed the knitting industry forever but incoming legislation will complicate things immensely. The knitting community I love and treasure so much will now become an bit of a gated community for many aspiring designers. It worries me and saddens me because I am a firm believer in diversity and innovation.

On a tangentially related note,  I found this essay by an American indie rock band interesting. They talk about the realities of going on tour and how they are "making it" rather than "having made it". Sometimes it really hits you hard when you realise how much daily grinding is involved in creatives trying to make a reality of their dreams and talents.

Me? I wrote an article for Wovember about the relationship between sheep, wool and designer. Because that is where I am at and that is what I do.

ETA: I write this from a UK perspective because that is where I live. However, these law changes affect anyone who sells digitally online to EU customers - even designers living in Australia, the US or Easter Island.

Important Announcements

April 2014 879Folks, there are going to be some changes around here. My work/life balance has been seriously dysfunctional for some time and I am feeling the toll. In order to avoid burning out and crashing out of my job, I'm simply going to make some changes to how I offer support. I am very sorry. I love hearing from you guys - I really, really do and I hope you know this - but I also need time to design and write stuff.

These are the main changes:

1. I am going to have set office hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10am and 4pm, I will be at my desk dealing with emails, pattern queries, media requests and all the other stuff.

2. I will no longer be dealing with pattern queries via my Ravelry inbox. Likewise, I won't be able to help with queries on Twitter or Facebook. Please use my email for pattern queries (the email address is on the Ravelry receipt).

3. I am going to encourage you to use my Ravelry group as much as possible because a) the people there are amazing, b) many of them have knitted everything I've designed several times, and c) it's likely that your query has been answered there before. Really, go join the group. It's great!

4. I am working on a FAQ which I hope to have finished in the next few weeks.

5. I cannot offer general knitting help - I only offer help with my own patterns, I am afraid. For general knitting problems, is a fantastic and undervalued resource. Likewise, if you have any technical issues with my patterns, try checking the Ravelry Help pages.

Hopefully these changes will mean a less stressed-out Karie which means a happier Karie which means more Karie-stuff from Karie! (And I'll use pronouns more responsibly too.)

Another change is afoot:

I have been dragging my feet over this, but I have to adjust my pricing come January 1st. I haven't adjusted my prices in years despite rising costs, but I can no longer afford to keep prices where they are now. This means that my £3 patterns will go up to £3.75 - I am trying to keep the ebook collections at the same price as they are now, but I will have to review this decision again come summer. I really do not like passing on costs to customers and I am very sorry about having to do this.

Thank you so, so much for your understanding.

Make It Work: A Chat with A Playful Day & Twitter Hangout Plans

I recently found myself chatting with fellow freelancer, occasional collaborator and good friend A Playful Day. As we were chatting away, we noticed that both of us were being asked a lot of the same questions. What's it like to make your hobby your job? How do you make that happen? Can you help me make that same jump? We are both passionate about making the knitting industry the best it can be and somehow our little chat ended up with us making plans. Plans? Plans. I'll tell you in a minute.  First, let's kick off all this by hearing from someone with .. a not so obvious job - Ms Playful Day.

IMG_4491You are A Playful Day – a podcaster, a blogger, an editor and a professional craft cheerleader among other things. How would you describe what you do? The one question I find the hardest to answer is exactly this! In a nutshell, I freelance within the fibre industry as someone who supports and develops independent businesses. I see my work as very collaborative and strategic, working alongside designers, dyers and other creative types helping them fine tune what they do and communicate to as big an audience in a way that clearly tells their story.

Branding' is a bit of a naughty word in this business – why do you think that is? Possibly because it can be seen as restrictive, false or impersonal. I have found over the last few years that people who have a clear distinction between their product and who they are, tend to find the work life balance easier to maintain and can be much more critical about their success. They seem to get better at interacting with their audience and I think having a strong story that is easy to read is actually really empowering for Creatives as it means they can have clear boundaries and fine tune their inspiration across different projects. It is certainly why I strive hard to work collaboratively because most of all, a person needs to be empowered to determine their own story; I really can’t see that working any other way.

What's a typical working week like? I juggle the needs of my family with what I need to do in order to support designers and dyers. What this usually means is I’m on Skype or my laptop the minute my daughter is sleeping. This industry is full of people trying to grow their business around family needs, their ‘other’ job, health needs and so I’m in good company I’ve found! It means that there isn’t really an average week as I can be locked into a laptop creating press releases one week, then commissioning a new pattern collection or attending an event another week.

As a female entrepreneur in the fibre industry, what has been the most surprising aspects of starting your own business? It’s been surprising how quickly I went from a background figure to someone that springs to mind for an exciting project. Initially I found it hard to introduce my role within the fibre industry. For some people, the idea of employing someone remotely to help shape their business seemed too alien and I was unsure how best to develop what I felt was an important role for independent businesses. However, the last year or so has seen something of a turning point with more willingness to promote good products and greater international collaborations. With it has come a rapid interest in the sort of work I do and projects that I’ve been working on which I’ve found a bit overwhelming. I’m suddenly a bit more visible than I used to be when really I’m happiest in my comfy jeans, plotting a great blog post or feature for someone!

journal 2You are so passionate about fostering relationships and collaborations. Part of that energy was channelled into Unwind Brighton where I finally met you (after all these years!). You were really, really busy behind the scenes but what struck me was that you were still trying to foster relationships and 'make playful things happen'. Where does that passion come from? Unwind was such a moment in time for me because it represented everything about the way I like to work; the standard was so high and everyone really pulled together and collaborated to bring something amazing together.

I just like to see talented people achieve. I really get a kick out of introducing a talented designer and dyer and seeing the end result and knitters going wild over it. I see how happy it makes others to get that feedback from a creative process and I want to do it all over again the next day.  This is an industry that deserves to thrive and be taken seriously as it’s all too often trivialised by the ‘hobby’ label. There’s a lot of people doing truly exciting and interesting things and I love meeting them, hearing their story and then helping it reach an audience. While it’s a hobby we love, business development is a very important thing and getting paid what you are truly worth is crucial.

Finally, you suggested taking that conversation and make it into a broader discussion.

I’d like people to come and visit A Playful Day to see you answering some questions and then we are taking that conversation further, out on to Twitter. Using the hashtag #makeitwork we will host a live chat to talk about how we make our jobs work and how we keep things creative too.


A Playful Day and I have invited some key figures in the knitting industry to join us (and you, most importantly) for a Twitter hangout where we'll ask - and hopefully answer - some of those recurrent questions. You will get to hear from editors, curators, designers, dyers, podcasters .. and many more. More information to come in the next few days over on the playful blog (where you'll also get to hear details about my working life).

Tutorial: Creating a Magazine Submission

Last year I was lucky enough to get a glimpse into how Sarah Hatton curated The Knit Generation for Quail Publishing and Rowan Yarns. I have also recently helped curate a collection for a knitting company and worked closely with a couple of editors on a sub call. So, in light of all that, I thought it might be interesting to show you one of my successful submissions and discuss in detail how I put together a magazine sub. I don't pretend to have all the answers, of course, but hopefully my experience will be of some help. Recently my Tula hat & gloves set made the cover of UK knitting magazine Let's Knit. The set looks like this (photo courtesy of Let's Knit): karie hat #1

Now let's look at my original submission to the magazine.


Let's dissect the sub.


1) I personalised the sub by adding the name of the magazine. Occasionally magazines will give you "stories" or moodboards they want you to use. If that's the case, I will usually add the name of the relevant moodboard to signal that I have thought about my design in a particular context. Let's Knit didn't give me a moodboard to work from, just general guidelines.

2) The name is short, easy to spell and relevant.  I wrote a brief note about the design/design inspiration. I always try to do this in one or two sentences. This brief note should tell the editor(s) exactly what they are looking at.

Next, the details that tell the editors I have thought through the design and who it will appeal to.


3) The section on construction is very important to tech editors. They will look at whether the designer has thought through the actual making of the piece(s). Nobody wants to commission a piece which the designer realises is impossible to make three weeks before deadline.

4) Depending upon the type of swatch and my lead-in sentences (2), I sometimes skip the design elements. However, it is useful to give an actual description of the piece(s) and this will help the editors when writing about the piece in the magazine as they may not have photos of the item handy when they write about them.

5) The yarn suggestion section is often really fun to compile, but I make sure the yarn suggestions are a) available in the country of the publication, b) they are current yarns and c) they are relevant to the actual project (i.e. not just stuff I think it'd be fun to use). My Tula swatch was knitted in Rowan Felted Tweed which has beautiful drape and comes in 29 colours. It is a sportweight which meant I could actually dip into 4ply or light DK when  it came to making substitutions. I selected Jamiesons of Shetland Spindrift (4ply) and Drops Alpaca (sportweight) as possible substitutions - both have beautiful drape and great colour ranges. Let's Knit loved my idea of using Jamiesons - and I loved using it. Note that I am not making any colour suggestions! The editors often work to colour stories and will liaise with me to make sure my design fits into their stories.

6) Difficulty level simply shows that I have considered who might want to knit my design. Tula is charted and is knitted in the round - this coupled with gentle colourwork says that it will not appeal to absolute beginners but may be an aspirational knit for adventurous beginners or intermediate-level knitters. Again, I am also considering the publication and its target audience. Knitters are not a homogeneous bunch nor are magazines!


7) Sketch of fit. I want this to show how the hat sits on the head of the wearer and the shape of the fingerless mitts. I know sketching is hard for some people, but you can trace fashion models (like this tutorial tells you) and there are many free tracing models out there.  The more you practice, the better you will get. Remember: if doesn't matter if your model only has three fingers and she squints if your sketch communicates how a hat fits!


8) However, the swatch is very, very important. The swatch is where the entire story is told, really. My swatch needs to be relatively big (4" by 4" or preferably bigger), blocked, and incorporating all the important elements. Here you can see Tula's one-row cast-on and cast-off in a contrast colour, the 1x1 rib and both colourwork patterns (and how they call back to each other). The photo was taken in daylight near a window (so all details are clear) and I photographed the swatch on a neutral background. Sometimes I take a series of photos of details like beading or a particular stitch pattern and I put them next to the main photo - but only if they are important to the story. tula-crop9a 9) Finally, the bit where I tell editors about me. Quick intro to my background, a paragraph about clients and collaborators, a note about my personal design aesthetic, and finally how the editors can get hold of me including my home address so the editors can send me yarrrrn.The design is way more important than me, so I'm in the margins!

(I know not everybody has a portfolio full of client and collaborators - but I think of the Ravelry project page as an online portfolio (I got my first big break in the knitting industry after someone had seen my project page, actually) and I always check out what people have been knitting. Someone may not have many designs to their names but they may have a project page full of stunning work where they reveal a real sense of colour.)

I spell-check before turning my single A4 page into a PDF (I don't want to write nkitting and nedles - tech editors will worry I cannot format a pattern!). Note that I have chosen to use colours in my layout - I change these colours for every sub I compile so they reflect the colours used in my swatch. Partly it's because I am OCD about colour but also partly because my choice of colour/layout is part of the story I am telling with my sub. You can also see I choose to semi-bold keywords which makes life easier for a busy editor.

And there you have it - the sub I compiled for Tula. I hope this has been useful in showing you just how much information I try to  include and how I try to make the editors' decision-making easier. This is definitely not the only or right way of making a submission - remember you want to be telling your own story in your own voice!

However, if you have any questions, please do ask and I'll compile/answer them in a future post.