03 November 2020

Pattern: Arachne in the Pines


Arachne in the Pines
Arachne in the Pines

Arachne in the Pines $6 or Ravelry and Payhip (no account necessary)

I love contrasting something complex (looking) with a simpler pattern, don’t you? This snuggly cowl gives you the opportunity to improve your colorwork by beginning with a simple gingham pattern (that goes on the inside) before graduating to the larger (but truly not harder), traditional Spider in the Boughs pattern from the Selbu knitting tradition of Norway. Cast on provisionally and close up the tube by grafting stitches together for a seamless cowl. Choose a cashmere-blend yarn for maximum snuggle factor.

P.S. This is a great sock yarn stash buster! you could play around with different contrasts for the Spider section or flip it and use one contrast color and different main colors. I’m already thinking about my next one ;)

Note: Both Gingham and Spider colorwork stitch patterns are presented in chart format only.

What you'll love about knitting Arachne in the Pines:

  • Beginning with the gingham inside means you get to practice two-color knitting (stranded colorwork) with the part that will be on the inside
  • The fact that big charts aren't difficult - they are just more knitting
  • Seamless knitting - just go 'round and 'round
  • Practice (and perfect) your grafting skills
What you'll love about wearing Arachne in the Pines:
  • It's just so pretty with that complicated-looking Spider in the Boughs Selbu-inspired pattern
  • It's super snuggly, especially if you choose a cashmere blend yarn
  • You get to show off that winky gingham pattern whenever you like

Finished Measurements
Circumference: 26 inches / 66 cm
Height: 6¾ inches / 17 cm

Yarn: Hampton Artistic Yarns H.A.Y. Snorgle (Fingering weight: 80% SW Merino / 10% cashmere / 10% nylon, 435 yd / 398 m g per 3.5 oz / 100 g skein), 1 skein each
-MC: Cinnamon Rose (approx. 200 yd)
-CC1: First Blush (approx. 155 yd)
-CC2: Conch Shell (approx. 100 yd)
Needle: US3 / 3.25 mm 24-inch / 60 cm circular needle or size needed to achieve gauge plus a second circular needle the same size or smaller for grafting (longer circular needle can be used with Magic Loop technique)
Notions: Waste yarn, stitch marker, tapestry needle

29 stitches x 30 rounds = 4 inches / 10 cm in colorwork pattern in stockinette stitch

Photography: Nicholas Dames
Tech Editing: Laura Cameron
Test Knitting: drypointprinter, K1teach2 , minimoebius, sjwearscardigans

Arachne in the Pines $6 or Ravelry and Payhip (no account necessary)

22 July 2020

The Job of a Knitwear Designer (or Eleventy Billion and Counting)

The job of a knitwear designer is really a lot (a LOT) of jobs rolled into one vague title: Designer. We usually clarify by adding handknitting or knitwear because otherwise people might think we are clothing designers or graphic designers or product designers or interior designers. Except we quite often are all those kinds of designers in designing handknits. 

So, here are all the jobs I (a designer) do when designing. Some designers may outsource some of these (if they can afford it), but most independent designers do most of this or pay another expert to do it. I’m not posting this list to be mean, rather so that non-designers can get an idea of what this job really entails. 

  • Dreamer - ideas have to start somewhere. Magazines, museums, tv shows, existing designs, your own clothes, the color of the sky at sunset, the texture of a rock, etc. - all fodder for designs.
  • Researcher I - has someone else come up with this idea? Spend some time browsing Ravelry to make sure or just forge ahead trusting that your take on the idea will be your own, hence unique (unique enough - there really are only so many ways to make a sweater, after all).
  • Sketch artist/writer - some sort of doodle or description put on paper may happen at some point. Not required but usually done. 
  • Researcher II (Stitch Pattern Expert) - what sort of stitch patterns might be part of this design? It helps to have acquired a large library of stitch dictionaries and/or decide to work exclusively in garter stitch or something. This varies. At some point depending upon the design, you may need to figure out how to make various stitch patterns work together with a given stitch count in coordination with the Swatcher and Mathematician. And then how to get said patterns to work together in other sizes with different stitch counts. 
  • Researcher III (Yarn Specialist) - what yarn do I want to use that will best support my idea: fiber composition, thickness, color(s), availability, put-up (I love a coned yarn or similar large put-up, but then I usually design seamlessly from the bottom up, so the fewer joins and ends, the better. A colorwork designer might decide that a dozen 25g balls of different colors will be the way to go.)
  • Yarn Acquisition Specialist - stash diver/shopper/yarn support relationship expert. In addition to maintaining interpersonal relationships with yarnies and such, must also keep on top of information about base and color availability because lots of knitters, reasonably, would like to use the yarn used for the sample because it's pretty or so that they can get something that looks like the sample or at the very least might be able to help them achieve gauge (and, no, we just can’t tackle gauge yet, friends). N.B. I am not a “use the recommended yarn” knitter because I generally have my own idea and rarely like being told what to do, hence my being a designer. YMMV. Yarn is something of a point of discussion right now, or the privilege of working with exclusive yarns or not publishing patterns in inexpensive yarns. I think there’s more to this issue, like the state of the world. I hope to talk about it more in a separate post about the fiber community. Sometimes you will buy the yarn (hopefully you’ll figure out what that yarn wants to be before it is discontinued). Sometimes you will be given carte blanche from a yarnie (when I say “yarnie” I mean dyer or yarn company or even a yarn shop that has asked you to design a pattern for them) to choose what would work from their stock, which often comes with a contract stating that the yarn in question is listed exclusively in a pattern. Sometimes you will be told what yarn to use (often this happens when designing for a publication because they want to use yarn from their advertisers). 
  • Swatcher - my autocorrect doesn’t believe this is a word, but we all know how critical this role is to the success of a finished knit, often this job needs to be repeated multiple times for a single pattern, sometimes with various yarns and/or needles until it’s just right. This swatch may be a lying liar that lies when we get around to the actual knitting. At least as the designer we can just give you the gauge information from the sample without reknitting the whole thing. Don’t forget to check all your numbers in that case. 
  • Mathematician - from figuring out how many stitches to cast on for the sample to calculating out all the sizes that the pattern might come in, knitwear design involves a lot of number crunching. 
  • Pattern writer - we need a place to start with a description of how we are going to do it and/or a record of how we did it, but that’s just the start on writing jobs...
  • Technical writer - the pattern needs to be written in a particular kind of programming language that is understandable to knitters, moves from ingredients and any shorthand/symbols to beginning/middle/end, and it helps if it’s pithy yet highly informative. Don't scare/insult/overwhelm/be too vague/be too precise.
  • Romance writer - everyone wants to be seduced into making, and these are the folks to do it, except it’s just you at your desk trying to figure out how to describe the thing that you’ve spent so much time with that you can’t even look at it anymore.
  • Advertising/Marketing copywriter - different info and enticements for different spaces where you might display your wares. I’ve collapsed these into one job, but they could be two or more. 
  • Pattern grader - this should probably be it’s own specialized job but usually isn’t. Scale your design up/down so that different sizes can be created with reference to industry standards (such as they are, and by industry I mean “industry” because there isn’t any one professional standard, which has its benefits and drawbacks) plus the art of envisioning a three-dimensional object wrapped around a variety of bodies. This is art, science, math, craft, magic, yet from the outside can seem simple. It is not. 
  • Knitter - must have expertise in knitting, preferably with knowledge of plain knitting, cables, lace, stranded colorwork, intarsia, finishing, and blocking. Additional skills/areas of expertise appreciated.
  • Sample knitter - someone’s got to make the thing, sometimes more than once. Often it’s you, sometimes it’s a sample knitter paid by the yard, sometimes in yarn. Bear in mind that sometimes you will need to make you-sized samples and other times you may need to make samples to be modeled. If the model size is determined in advance, you may only have to knit the smallest size (yay - less yarn and time, so you can move on to another design, which means you will have more patterns to sell, which might garner more sales, but try not to bet the farm on that; boo - people won’t like that the sample is being shown on only a small “perfect” body; this is complicated).
  • Technical editor - often hired out because it’s impossible to thoroughly check your own numbers. Hands down the best money you will spend in service to your design. They mostly check your math, which makes it sound like nothing but is everything, and will also review sense and sometimes grammar. If they can draw schematics, just give them all your money now. 
  • Chart maker - cables, lace, colorwork - all of these need to be conveyed clearly to the end user and usually a visual representation is the most helpful and pithiest (but not always, see below).
  • Stitch pattern writer - not everyone can read a chart due to the way some people process information (not a listed job but being informed about different learning modalities can be extremely helpful), so writing out line-by-line instructions is something to consider.
  • Schematic maker - if the thing you’re designing is more than just a square, you would help your end users out a lot by having a representation of the thing, preferably with measurements, preferably in both imperial and metric. You did remember to express any lengths in the written pattern (and the measurements on the schematics) in both inches and cm, didn’t you? I’ll wait while you go clean that up. 
  • Layout artist - all this information needs to be presented in a readable, pleasing way. This is often hired out as well, though I’m lucky to have trained as a graphic designer (after I earned a B.A. with a major in English and a minor in Ancient Greek - super useful). Usually requires knowledge or expertise in a particular software program and a license ($$$) for said program. Positions and crops photos into the layout, as well. Try to keep in mind paper and ink usage for yourself or the end user. We are all watching our pennies now. (I’m sort of joking and utterly serious. BTW did you know that you don’t really have to print out the first page of my patterns? It’s photos and romance copy so it’s not really necessary for your knitting of my pattern. Ditto for the last page, if it’s one of those ads that show you some of my other designs. I just saved you two pages and a fair bit of ink.)
  • Location scout - photos need to be taken at places.
  • Natural lighting expert - unless you have studio space, your best bet for photos is outdoors, and golden hour is ideal. Dinner then is at 4pm or after sundown. I’ve heard you can wake up before dawn for morning golden hour, but I don’t do that. 
  • Shoot director - visuals need someone with vision to capture the details of your beautiful knit. Can be photographer or dedicated director or you in the sample peering at a postage stamp photo on the back of the camera trying to tell if the stitches are in focus and you’re not making that face. 
  • Photographer (and assistant) - sometimes hired out, sometimes DIY (tripod/obliging flat spot + remote/timer), sometimes provided by a loved one (paid for, but not with money). Captures the knitted item and its mood at the best angles with shots that include in-focus stitches, makes sure knits are smooth and shown in most flattering light. If hired probably includes some photo retouching and years of experience that are invaluable. 
  • Wardrobe - manages clothes for shoots. Task sometimes performed by photographer, model, or shoot director and can include pulling options from own wardrobe, shops with flexible return policies, or borrowing from others. Hold onto any receipts. 
  • Model - often at the beginning when affording a model can be an expense too far, we do it ourselves, if we can bear it (currently helps to be white, cis, het, thin, able, and photogenic, but let’s all work to expand the attributes that make for a successful knitwear model because most of us do not fit into the aforementioned category, and even when maybe in the right light we think we do, it can feel weird, though it can also feel weird to have someone else wearing your thing that is, like, a part of your soul) but can also be a loved one or an obliging fence or a dress form or a floor - clothing is best modeled on an actual body, though.
  • Photo editor - selecting, cropping, color correcting, placing, etc. of photos into layout. These photos are often also used for advertising/marketing purposes so may need to be saved in different sizes and formats.
  • Grammarian -  coincides with various writing jobs but didn’t want to forget it. Do the best you can so that your TE can focus on your numbers. I do not mean that you follow every grammatical rule out there to express yourself, rather that your words are coherent (your customer needs to understand what you’re saying) and in your unique voice. 
  • Spreadsheet expert - mostly for grading but also useful for keeping track of things/tasks and crunching numbers, like Favorites, page views, downloads, and other sales/marketing/accounting jobs (see below).
  • Computer specialist - someone has to turn the layout into a PDF and keep the ol’ computer chip bucket (IDK, I’m getting a little overwhelmed by this list) running.
  • Editor - someone needs to make changes in the layout that were suggested by the TE make it fit on the least number of pages without it being cramped and unusable, and get it ready to be turned into a PDF.
  • Printer/print services coordinator - needed less often these days but sometimes vital if you’re collaborating on a kit or wholesaling to a yarn shop or something.
  • Publisher - it’s all on you, big stuff.
  • Sales expert - we haven’t uploaded that PDF because we need to figure out the different sales channels that are best for this pattern, so now’s the time, and you’re it. Don’t forget to forge relationships with yarnies, LYSOs, the few remaining publications, guilds, festivals, and any other place you can sell your self/stuff. 
  • Ravelry designer - we are working under the impression that you are already a member of Ravelry (and we won’t get into the concerns about NuRav today), but you need to get set up as a designer before you can have a Ravelry shop. They’ve made it a pretty smooth process since my day. You’ll also need to be a ...
  • PayPal user - it’s been so long I don’t at all remember what you need to do with a PayPal account besides have one but eventually you’ll want a business account for which you’ll need to be a ...
  • Business bank account holder - of course you kind of need a business to set that up, so if you’re just getting started, this will be down the line.
  • PDF uploader - simple job that some days makes you want to tear your hair out because technology (btw, have you reduced your PDFs to their most efficient size so customers don’t hate you for making massive downloads?).
  • Database user - fill out all the info on Ravelry to set up the pattern: category, yarn, needles, sizes, description, photos, etc. 
  • LoveCrafts member - if you want to sell your pattern there, do the account setup, database, and PDF jobs again.
  • Etsy vendor - if you want to sell your pattern there, do the account setup, database, and PDF jobs again.
  • Any other vendor - if you want to sell your pattern there, do the account setup, database, and PDF jobs again.
  • Owner of your own domain name - if you want to sell your patterns on your own site. Also research hosting, web design, shopping cart options, and figure out how to make that all work together. 
  • Webmaster/developer - hire out or learn some new skills if you want to have your own website.
  • Technical support/Customer service specialist -  requires kindness, patience, memory of what you were thinking when you wrote that pattern x years ago, the ability to parse what’s being asked, the ability to explain your answer in a way the asker understands. Mind reading abilities preferred. 
  • Accountant - hey, maybe you’ll make a buck or two. Don’t forget the taxman. Don’t forget VATs for other countries. Also, do market pricing research. Please don’t underprice yourself, even if you’re just doing this for fun. Especially if you’re doing this for fun because some people are doing it for a living and your underpricing is shitty. 
  • Supply chain manager - keep the ball rolling; if there are print copies, make sure you don’t run out; find buttons and zippers, more yarn, matching yarn, why is there never a tape measure or scissors where/when you need them?
  • Social media expert - Twitter! Instagram! Facebook! Ravelry groups! Whatever the hell they come up with next! How can your potential customers find you and get to know you? How much do you want your potential customers to know you? This can be a full time job if you’re not careful. 
  • Newsletter publisher - see if you can find a free electronic newsletter setup that works for you and your number of subscribers, otherwise figure out how to pay for it and how to manage the list to make it pay for itself (the more subscribers, the more it costs, so how long before you unsub folks who aren’t making any purchases to keep from moving up to the next tier on what you pay for the newsletter - sounds harsh and it is, but this is the business).
  • Event coordinator - get out there and shake your money maker. It can be lots of fun to do events, and I love meeting knitters out in the world. It’s also work: prepping for a talk or appearance, lugging your samples and patterns, getting there and being there, managing your expectations, the host’s expectations, and the knitting public’s expectations. Don’t forget that not all designers are able-bodied, so sometimes this stuff isn’t feasible at all. And of course these days there aren’t events and stores and guild meetings to go to.
  • Cheerleader - on the long, twisty path from idea to publication sometimes you need your own hype person because we’re all human and riddled with self-doubt and certain that no one will want to pay us anything ever for our work.
  • Podcaster - oy, that’s a whole other thing and not everyone does it. 
  • Owner of computer, camera, lenses, remotes, tripods, lighting, knitting needles, notions, project bags, storage, mannequins, props, clothes for photo shoots, etc. - figure out how to use it, keep it all current and in working order.
  • Test knitter wrangler - I’m not ready doing this any more for a long list of reasons (let’s save this for another day), but suffice it to say that it’s a lot of work.
  • Community leader - whether it’s a handful of Twitter followers, a Ravelry or Facebook group, or a literal horde of excited knitters, once you start publishing patterns, you’re taking on some sort of leadership role and some responsibility. 
  • Community member - more on this next time. 
Final price for that independently-published pattern: $8 (less PayPal and other fees). Insert swear words as needed into the preceding sentence. 56 jobs listed up there. Two of which I always (TE)/sometimes (photographer) hire out, leaving me with 54 jobs. 

That’s what I charge for a sweater pattern these days. It should cost more. That’s pretty much what the market will bear. For that price the customer expects a well-written and -designed pattern that has been tech edited in at least seven sizes with unlimited support. Don’t get me wrong, I stand behind my designs and always want to help a knitter make one of my designs. It is an honor to have you trust me to help you make a sweater that I hope you will enjoy knitting and love wearing. But I do occasionally make a mistake that slips by me and my TE, and if you find it I want to know about and fix it, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Because not every pattern even begins to recoup its expenses. If you create a popular, well-selling pattern, congratulations! I am so happy for you (and a little jelly - we are being honest here). If your pattern doesn’t catch on, that doesn’t mean you didn’t create a great pattern (or, since we are being honest, maybe it wasn’t great - there are so many factors). Then keep going, creating more of your work, talking up your existing work, and so on. 

Some folks feel left out when a designer uses expensive yarn and they can’t. I get it. It sucks. It sucks to fall in love with something and want it to be just like in the picture because you love it, yet there is no way you can afford it at all. Or being so afraid of messing up that using the yarn in the sample would provide some reassurance, but you can’t afford it. Or being made to feel less than by people who can afford the yarn because you can’t (more about this when we discuss the fiber community). We are now/always at the point where we need to fight to make the world a better place so that people can afford the things they need (let’s fix this first, please) and (at least some of) the things they want. In the meantime, I want you to learn about yarn substitution, which is part of the knitter’s job. You want to be the boss of your knitting, right?

Let’s put a pin in what makes the expensive yarn expensive and come back to it another day. It’s an issue worth discussing, but I’d like to wrap up the designer’s job while it’s still light out. 

As noted a few times above I want to talk about the fiber community because there are definitely some things we can ALL work on. Next time. 

So, here’s the thing about yarn vis a vis the designer’s job: in all those jobs that make up the designer’s, one of the ones that gives us joy (besides getting the numbers to click across all sizes) and an actual thing-that-we’ve-made-with-our-hands is the yarn. Figuring out what we want our thing to be in terms of fiber and drape and weight and color. We are playing with yarn and somehow it is our job. It sounds amazing, and it can be. Just don’t forget all the other jobs we have to do. And I hate drawing schematics. 

Happy knitting (and designing)!
xxoo, Kathleen
P.S. Don’t forget to take care of your partner, offspring, other loved ones (family, pets, friends, your community, the world), health, job, home, self. What’s for dinner? No photo shoot today, so we will be there at 7:00. I’m an omnivore, my partner and one kid are pescatarian, another kid is a carnivore, and the other kid is a fruit bat. I love it much of the time, but this job is not for the faint of heart. 

19 July 2020

The Job of a Knitter (or Yarn Substitution for Fun and No Profit)

The job of a Knitter is to take two sticks and some string and turn it into a self-contained object. It is a really fun job with truly endless possibilities. (CW: There may be some swearing because sometimes it’s the mot juste, but I’ll try to control myself; if you have a problem with that, you may be happier not reading further.)

You can use actual pins and the finest filament of thread to make miniature things. You can use telephone poles and “yarn” as thick as a sapling to make giant things. I recommend some strong visual magnification for the former and heavy duty machinery for the latter.

You can make clothes or dolls or clothes for dolls. You can knit a lacy fence or a shawl with the same lace pattern. You can knit fake food and tablecloths to lay it upon. You can knit jewelry or add beads to your knitting to look bejeweled. Scarves, hats, mittens, socks! Wigs and willie warmers! Literal vaginas. Breasts to fill an empty bra cup. Pussy hats that give you cat ears but don’t really look like any kind of puss. Skirts, shorts, dresses, vests. Sweaters!!!

Sweaters are my favorite, so for now I’m going to focus there. For the purposes of this treatise “I” am the designer (any designer really), “you” are the knitter (you are the intersection of your knitting experience, skillset, age, sex, gender, race, nationality, location, creed, political beliefs, size, shape, fiber/color/needle preferences, determination, fortitude, energy and attention levels, etc.—all of this and more make you who you are and affect your knitting adventure), “thing” is the knitted item in question (any knitted item but you and I both know I really mean sweater), and “internet” mostly means Ravelry, even though right now I’m having a hard time blithely recommending Ravelry because the redesign has caused problems for some knitters in terms of vision and accessibility, so please be careful. I’m not going to get into sweater design because that’s a different thing that I’ll probably write about later. 

Knitting a thing is a “choose your own adventure” that goes something like this:
  • Decide you want to knit something. 
  • Decide whether if it’s a particular thing you want to knit or a yarn you want to knit with or a person you want to knit for. If you’re just “I need to be knitting!”, you’ll have to figure that out in the same way (and I. see. you.). Maybe socks or a dishcloth will take the edge off?
  • For the purposes of today’s exercise you decide to knit for yourself that sweater that has caused some ... to do of late. It’s just the thing you’ve been wanting for your wardrobe, and it will push you a little on your skills. You are open minded about the yarn. You may be lucky enough to have something that will work on hand or you may be up for buying something. More on that below. 
  • You check to see if it is written for your size. It is! There is a whole other discussion we can have about what to do when this isn’t the case, but today let’s make it so for the sake of this post. 
  • You look at the yarn called for: weight/thickness (again, look for a future conversation about this because there are lots of different ways knitters/yarnies talk about yarn, and it can be confusing, so I will try to help), fiber composition, yards/meters per ounces/grams. All of these elements go into making a yarn what it is and into making the resultant fabric that you’ll get from all the knitting ahead of you. We aren’t going to get into color because it is very subjective (and fun), but it’s sort of tangential to today’s discussion. You may possess the yarn in question, or not. We will come back to yarn shortly. 
  • You look at the skills necessary to make this sweater. Not every designer includes this information (even I’m guilty of this sometimes, perhaps because I have a lot on my mind or because as a general knitting rule I believe that if you can cast on, knit, purl, and bind off, you can knit just about anything), but it sure helps when we do. Have you got the skills? If not, turn to: YouTube, books from the library (do you know about the Libby app or whatever ebook solution your local library uses - particularly great in these pandemic times), knitters on the internet (including reaching out to folks who have already knit the pattern in question), an internet knitting group (the internet is awesome for finding people who are into the same stuff as you, plus knitting), your in-person knitting group (if you have one and it is safe to gather), your LYS (again, if you have one and it is safe to visit*), the designer (who is of course the expert on the actual pattern though may not always be able to answer the question you have about your skills or what yarn to choose and whose labor you should pay for before you start asking them to work for you, assuming your question isn’t one that should be covered in the pattern description), me (I do not have all the answers but will enthusiastically go into why you probably can do it—you have been warned that I will be enthusiastic about why you should give it a go). 
  • Now you’re pretty sure you’re going to knit this pattern. It has the style you’re looking for, comes in your size, you have the skills to make it, and you think you would like the fabric resulting from the yarn in question (or similar yarn—you may also have a vision of this sweater in a very different yarn, in which case !huzzah, we are now besties! and all this will still apply). Now it is time to figure out the yarn that you are going to use to make YOUR sweater (I don’t even know how to express how excited I am about this part because it is so. much. fun!) with the information we have already gathered. 
  • The yarn specified in the pattern is what was used to make the sample. That’s the second rule of knitwear design: A pattern is a description of how to make the thing shown in the picture. (The first rule of knitwear design is “Don’t be shitty”.) You may love exactly how that sweater looks and want to knit it up in the same yarn. That is a safe bet for getting as close to what the model is wearing as you can. Then you can fork over your money to the yarnie and get on with buying the pattern and making the sweater. But! What if you don’t have the money (or don’t like those colors or are allergic to wool or just don’t want to use the yarn called for)? This is the question du jour, isn’t it. While there are certainly knitters who have the desire and means to just go for an expensive project, lots of us want or need to do something different...
*By safe to visit I mean both in these pandemic times and, unfortunately for some, places that are not welcoming to you. For those of you who have felt unwelcome in a yarn store, I am so sorry. This is a part of a larger, deeper, systemic problem that we all need to work on fixing. There are imperfect (to say the least) yarn stores the world over. Here’s hoping they can learn to do better or that capitalism does its fearsome job. At the same time I am (and I hope you are) working to make the world a better place, including awesome welcoming yarn shops and the means with which to patronize them. 

(And here I am escaping the bullet list...)

First of all let’s all commit to end yarn shaming up and down the economic ladder. It sucks. You don’t know anyone else’s situation, so enjoy the yarn you have and don’t make other people feel badly about the yarn they have (and are hopefully enjoying), whether that yarn was “cheap” or “expensive”. Knitting is never a dirt cheap craft, so we can’t completely escape capitalism, though we can fight it a little by slowly and lovingly making our own favorite clothes. I still remember when it dawned on me, while learning to knit, that I might need to buy a second pair of needles. Like, needle size had not yet become a factor that I, as a knitter, would need to grapple with. Ah, the adorable naïveté of the new knitter. I’ve learned a lot since then. You probably have, too. 

There are ways to find yarn that work within your budget: KnitPicks, thrift stores (straight up yarn for sale or thrifting handmade sweaters and unraveling them), dollar stores, JoAnn’s, Michaels, WalMart, destashing via blogs/Instagram accounts/Ravelry, the sale bins at your LYS, closeouts at WEBS, and even Amazon. Some of those options are more problematic than others. Of course you have to figure out what you’re looking for (bullet point five above). There won’t always be a perfect correlation between the called-for yarn and what you can find, but if it has a similar fiber content and put up (yards/meters per ounce/gram), you can probably get a similar fabric if you can achieve gauge (yikes, we haven’t even delved into that kettle of fish). That may seem brief and glib for yarn substitution, but I want you to discover what works for YOU. 

Yarn substitution may seem mysterious, but it’s just analyzing information. If X yarn has certain characteristics (thickness, composition, length-to-weight ratio) and Y yarn does, too, then subbing X for Y should work well. If I want a sheen to my project that the sample doesn’t have, I might want to look for a yarn that has the same thickness but adds some silk or tencel into the fiber mix. The finished project will probably have some more drape to it from that fiber change, so that’s something to consider, too. These are things to learn from experience, classes (in-person, online, paid, for free), books, research, comparisons with friends, handling swatches at your LYS, and so forth. I would like to lobby hard for experience. This is a hands on craft. You have to decide what you want for your project. I can’t make those decisions for you. 

Please note: there are no “This sweater was made with xx yarn” labels attached to your finished knits (there are also no size labels, see my podcast for more on that). No one should care what yarn you used. They should be dazzled by your finished garment. “You knit that? Wow! I love the color(s) you chose. It fits you so perfectly. It’s so you. Which pattern is that?” If you want to share the fact that you found all the yarn for $20 and have some left over (and you love your handknit masterpiece and are never taking it off), go for it. If you want to share that it’s yarn from a talented indie dyer you just discovered (and cost a fair bit but you think it was worth it this time because you are never taking off this hand stitched masterpiece), go for it, too. Otherwise it’s no one’s business. 

It is no one’s business how much your yarn cost. IT IS NO ONE’S BUSINESS HOW MUCH YOUR YARN COST. And a “fuck you” to mean yarn snobs who look down on knitters for using less-expensive yarn. And another “fuck you” for anyone who goes around shaming people who can afford to buy a very limited edition, high-touch, hand-dyed (and/or handspan) yarn. That stuff costs money for a reason—a lot of skill, time, and effort goes into making yarn like that. Some of us save up a long time to buy it. For the record fancy fill-in-the-blank-for-fiber-or-dye-technique yarn can be wonderful. It can also be not the right yarn for your project. Experience is a great teacher (as are teachers and other knitters). 

I should also point out that I am writing this from an American point of view (in case the swearing didn’t make that clear). Location is one of the reasons I believe asking designers to suggest alternative (i.e., cheaper) yarn substitutions is work that doesn’t benefit anyone. I don’t know your needs and wants and budget and the limitations of your location. What is inexpensive and readily available in one place is almost certainly not elsewhere. Where would it end? Do I need to suggest a yarn sub for each continent? Each country? Do you want the designer to do yarn sub research for you or to design another pattern? I don’t want to dive into all the other jobs we designers have to create any knitting pattern today (‘nother post?) because the important thing about your knitting is that you are the boss. You are making the decisions to create the thing you want, the way you want it. If I tell you what you have to use, frankly that sounds more like my putting a machine to use than you getting to enjoy your knitting. YOU ARE THE BOSS OF YOUR KNITTING. 

If you need help, you will need to ask for help. I am very aware that asking can be really hard for a wiiiide variety of reasons. Some of them are internal and others outside of yourself. Things are astoundingly imperfect here in 2020. There are lots of people working to change the world for the better (some of which may improve or do away with those reasons), but we have far to go. 

I also want to suggest in the most supportive and friendly way possible that it is also ok (and even exciting and definitely educational) to just try things out. Be brave. It is literally sticks and string and sometimes the only way to truly understand something is to do it. If you don’t like the result, you can unravel it. And then you have more yarn to knit! And you’ll have learned some stuff about you as a knitter and your needles as sticks and the yarn in question as string. Or throw it out if it makes you mad. Do keep some of that cotton or acrylic that didn’t work for you (please note: some cotton and acrylic are great), so that you can use it for stitch holders and provisional cast-ons (more on that any time - just ask). 

I also want to address some internalized misogyny that some knitters have. Some of us have been socialized to be afraid of math (there’s math in knitting, moreso knitwear design, but it’s basic and you can do it - I promise). Some of us have been conditioned to believe that handicrafts are women’s work and therefore worth less or even worthless. Some of us have been told that our bodies cannot be flattered by clothes. Some of us have been taught that we aren’t worth anything. Some of us have been conditioned not to try, which means we can’t fail or succeed. All of that is bullshit. All of it. I know that we are all sweater-worthy, that we all deserve to be proud of the work of our hands. Now you know it, too. 

You can always find new things to learn in knitting. It’s one of my favorite parts of the craft. You can knit garter stitch squares for the rest of your life, and that’s ok, too. Every stitch you make is another brick in the path of your knitting journey. Oh, the places we can go!

Yarn substitution is fun. There are so many options it’s making me giddy. Knitting is fun. You are the boss of your knitting. 

Happy knitting!
xxoo, Kathleen

P.S. There are no Knitting Police. If someone self-deputizes, please find the strength to tell them off. Or let me do it. I’ve got a pile of swears I removed from this post just waiting to be used.