Thursday, July 26, 2012

Designing, Why It's Called Work

A few months ago, I sketched out an idea for a garment on a paper towel (no joke!) and I've had it tucked in a notebook all this time. I've looked at it a few times in those months, but moved on.

Yesterday, I was reviewing the next editorial calendar. I took a few hours to absorb the information -- theme, colors, the adjectives they used to describe the "look" they were after. That is a chaotic phase for me; drawing out a sketch, then jumping to the computer to search for images (not necessarily crochet or knit images), pulling out a stitch dictionary, back to the sketch pad. I feel disjointed and awkward during that time, and yes, a little like Marty chasing his tail.

Then I hit on an idea. I shouted "Eureka!" The sketch on the paper towel had found its time.

I knew exactly what I wanted to work on. Anxiety receded. Excitement set in.

Work -- Phase 1 
I began to swatch. Swatching tells me a few things: how the stitch pattern will play out, gauge, how color changes will affect the overall look, and shaping.  This phase is fun, but can be intense (concentration is needed).

I swatched until I had the color work done, and then it was time to work on the shaping for armholes and neckline -- a bigger challenge, given the stitch pattern I had chosen.

I slept on it.

Work -- Phase 2 

This morning I've done a lot of staring, wheels turning trying to get some traction on the problem. Again, I had the idea and continued to work on that swatch, developing the idea and the shaping. I was pleased as punch!

Work -- Phase 3 

Next, I've pinned the swatch to my dress form (Rebecca). She's wearing it pretty well, but now I can see more issues. Color changes need to be modified, armhole shaping can be refined and the idea needs to be placed in a different spot.

Now What? 

So . . . I'm not done yet.

Why am I going to all this trouble to work out details if I haven't sold the piece yet? Wouldn't a sketch be enough?

Yes, well . . .  maybe.

The issues that are left to be resolved involve design elements. Those design elements are opportunities to set my design apart from the other hundred or so that will cross that editor's desk. What makes my piece special, interesting, or something that will give the reader of the magazine a chance to learn something new?

Remember, the proposal is a selling tool. It's an opportunity to SHOW the editor something great, not just tell her.

Happy Stitchin'!

Friday, July 20, 2012


I got a note back from an editor about one of my submissions . . . a rejection, but this editor had some information as to why the design didn't work. In addition, she said "If you'd like to re-submit, I'd be happy to look at it."

Well, yahoo! Of course I'd like to re-submit! I've been busy swatching up something else in record time because there are still deadlines to be met.  Will the editor buy this new idea? I don't know.  But if I DON'T re-submit, I know I won't make a sale.

The same thing happened to me a few years ago, when I was a VERY new designer. "We are under directions not to buy any more ponchos, but if it was on something else . . ."  I didn't take the hint and I didn't re-submit my idea "on something else". I know that was a lost opportunity.

Rejections come for all kinds of reasons--some I can control and some I can't. So, when one comes, I have to look at what I can DO about it, and move on.

Moving on means getting out the next editorial calendar or call for submissions and working on ideas; more swatching and sketching.

Keep on keeping on.

Happy Stitchin'

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Developing Ideas

I'm still swatching and sketching for proposals. Most of the time that process is exhilarating, but yesterday was discouraging.

I woke up with ideas dancing in my head. I grabbed for the sketchpad and captured them before they danced away. Then I started to swatch, and that was the 1st discouraging part. The images in my head were so clear, but nothing that I tried with yarn and hook came close to them.

In and of itself, that is discouraging, but then 2 little heads popped around the doorframe and wanted to eat (gee whiz, I fed them yesterday!?). And during lunch, they had smiles and expectant looks on their faces when they asked "Mama, what are we going to do today?".  They've been good; they've been patient with my work, but gosh-darn-it, the ideas were begging to be born. The 2nd discouraging part.

Next comes the balancing act, the dilema of any person who works at home. Work hours aren't well defined, at least not in the summer when there is no school. I find that the stitching of a project is more easily scheduled around children and housekeeping. I've usually worked out details and counts before I start so the actual stitching is just execution.

But design requires thinking, pondering, stitching, ripping, stitching some more. And there is an urgency about it; I'm driven until I have that design nailed. Stopping before it has been born is frustrating, and I fear that I'll lose it.

Yesterday, I stopped. It was raining and the car is in the shop. The girls needed . . . me. So, we watched some episodes of Factory Made on the Science channel and had a good time learning.

Ahh, but today is another day.  I'm off to hunt for that design  . . .

Happy Stitchin'

Friday, July 13, 2012


In my last post, I talked about coming up with ideas, and then putting those ideas into a format that can be a tool for selling the designs. Now I'm going to expand on those ideas.

This week, I've been working on some ideas for a yarn company. The owners were looking for small projects -- items that could be made somewhat quickly and with 1 to 2 skeins of their yarn.  With that information bubbling in my head, I thought of 2 items that would work well with those parameters.  I got out my sketch pad, and made a few sketches, then set to work with hook and yarn.

For these projects, I stitched the entire piece -- they were small, and a shape I was having fun with, and I wanted to work out any bugs in the ideas before I started working with the yarn the owners had given me.

I don't always stitch the entire project first. I usually play around with a stitch pattern, and/or color work and when I feel comfortable with the results, I go on to the next step, which is to turn these two pieces into something that can be put into a proposal. And that can be challenging.

The swatch needs to encompass all of the important details--shaping, color changes, edging, stitch patterns--AND be small enough to fit into a file folder.  Here is a picture of the swatch included in my proposal for the Sand, Sea and Sky Table Runner that was published in the June 2011 issue of Crochet World.

This one wasn't too difficult, but the pieces that I'm working on now are worked in the round. I'm going to submit this proposal electronically, which means that I'll scan or take a picture of the item/swatch.

In addition to the swatch, I always include a paragraph that gives details about the construction, the yarn, and anything special that relates to the piece. This is my chance to tell the buyer what makes my design worth their attention AND why their readers or customers will find this design appealing. Maybe it's a 1-skein project, maybe it's a great texture or interesting colors, or maybe it's an unusual construction (the Red Twig Knee Socks in the Winter 2011 issue of Interweave Crochet). But this is my opportunity and I don't want to squander it.

Here is the proposal for the Broomstick Lace Cardigan that was published in the March 2011 issue of Crochet! magazine.

Putting together the proposal requires a different kind of creativity.  And, I admit, I agonize over this process.  Maybe I take it too seriously. But, I'm not just trying to sell the design, I'm selling myself as well.  With each proposal, I want to say "I can do a jam up good job for you. Please hire ME" and that means that my proposal needs to be as good as my finished project.

So . . . that's what I'm doing this weekend. How about you?

Stitching' I hope.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Crochet is a Business

Crochet is a business . . .  What makes it a business? What makes me a professional?

The Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) defines a professional as a person who is deriving income from crochet. 

I learned to crochet when my 2nd lovely came home from China in 2004. I sat down with a book, a hook and a ball of yarn one night after they had gone to bed. Two hours later, I had it! My technique was poor, but I had a rectangle of crocheted fabric.

The session that night ignited a passion; I found I crocheted everyday and when I wasn't crocheting, I was reading about crochet. My first love was throw rugs, and soon all of my friends had a rug and rugs adorned every room in my home.

I had always loved going to arts and crafts fairs, so the next logical step for me was to set up a booth and sell my rugs. I knew that I needed to design my own rugs (copyright laws prohibit making and selling items from another designers work), so I started coming up with original designs for rugs.

I had a great time and I made some sales, but certainly not what I'd hoped for. It seemed that folks loved my work and they loved my designs, but they wanted to make the items themselves, rather than buy from me. I was rich on praise and compliments.

Which steered me toward the idea of selling my designs to someone who would publish them. I submitted 2 designs and they were rejected, just as I expected. But I kept submitting and eventually an editor bought one of my designs. I was ecstatic!

My business shifted from selling products at fairs to creating designs for publication.

Back to my original questions . . . what makes it a business, what makes me a professional?

For Patsy Harbor Designs to be a going concern, a real and viable business, I must . . . keep on keepin' on. 

First, I have to treat it as a business, and that means that I have to manage my time so that I am productive toward growing my business. I have to swatch and sketch, even if I don't feel like it today. I have to keep up to date on the yarn market (what's in and what's out). I have to be aware of styles and trends, as well as new techniques.

Second, I have to submit my ideas . . . consistently, timely, and in a professional manner. I'll write more on putting together a proposal later, but that proposal (or submission) has to be done well. It has to showcase my idea in a sample of the finished item. It doesn't have to be a complete model, but the swatch needs to be big enough for the editor to see the characteristics of the fabric as well as any details (shaping, edging). The proposal has to include some discussion of the techniques used, the method or direction that the item is worked . . .

Basically, the proposal is a selling tool, and that requires me to wear a different hat than the one I wear when I'm designing.

Third, that lucky day comes when the editor contacts me to buy the design. Yippee! Then I must put on my stitching hat (while keeping up with the designing and submission process). The yarn comes to my door and I work on the model.

Fourth, I've got to finish the model (with my highest quality of work) by a DEADLINE.

Fifth, I've got to write a pattern that is accurate, that is clear (so everyone can follow it), and that is concise (so it doesn't take up too much space).

Being a professional means I have to WORK, not just play with a hobby. Being a professional means that I might work while I'm watching TV, but I'm not just sitting around watching TV while my business grows on its own.

I love designing. I love being to able to make money while doing something that I'm passionate about.

I love that crochet is a business.

Happy Stitching!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Professional Development Day @ Chain Link 2012

Most of my local friends and my family don't crochet or knit. They dutifully ask how the conference was "Oh, you went to that crochet thing." They nod their heads when I describe the classes and the shopping -- even the fashion show. But I always get blank looks when I mention Professional Development Day (PDD). The implication being that "how can you possibly be a professional" (that's something my grandmother did) or "how much could there be to learn about crochet".

The truth is that crochet and knit are my business, and when you think along those lines, there is a whole lot to learn about running a crochet and/or knit business.

This year, the program centered on a New Professional who had "help" from a series of experts on topics that ranged from, submitting proposals, an editor's critique of those proposals, working with contract crocheters (those who can stitch a sample or model for you), working with tech editors (those who review your pattern for accuracy and clarity), to self-publishing issues.

The professionals in the room also ranged from designers (like me) to contract crocheters and tech editors and those who teach at the local and national level. Many of the speakers wore more than one hat -- there were those who were teachers and designers; and designers who published in magazines and books as well as self-published. 

While this was my 3rd PDD, I still found information that was new to me, or relevant to me as my career has grown.

As with any other business owner, I take time to set goals for my business; to think about the direction that I want to grow my business, as well as how to market my designs and myself.

Tomorrow, I'll talk a little about what makes me a professional . . . .

Happy Stitching!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Nifty Gadget

One of the fun things about the conference is the shopping. Lots of vendors set up booths; it's like having many LYS + all in one place. I visited the Seabury Organizers booth and came away with this cute crochet hook caddy. It has a matching carrying case, which is quite convenient when on the go. I can tuck my caddy into the carrying case, along with scissors, markers, and tape measure.

They also carry caddies for knitting needles as well as project bags and embroidery thread holders.

Happy Stitching!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Chain Link 2012

I attended Chain Link 2012 (a/k/a The Knit & Crochet Show) in Manchester, NH last week. As with the 2 previous conferences I've attended, it gave me a much needed boost. There's not much that can compare with being surrounded by stitchers who share the same love of learning and creating.

Even before I arrived in Manchester, I connected with Vashti Braha on the 2nd leg of my flight. We were seated across the aisle from each other. Although we had only met briefly in 2008, we chatted like old friends. She was teaching 4 classes at the conference and shared swatches from her classes. She was very excited about the often-overlooked slip stitch, and after seeing swatches for her classes on Slip Stitch, I could see why.

Vashti publishes a newletter every week or so, and you can check out her website to subscribe.

I shared a room with April Garwood (Banana Moon Studio), as I did last year. April made it to Manchester in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. She arrived at the hotel in the midst of a power outage (around 2 AM).  The front desk was unable to tell her what room we were in, so they were escorting her to a room they knew to be empty when she remembered to call me.  While numbers are my "thing" when woken from a dead sleep, I rattled off a room # that didn't exist! She did arrive and we chatted until 4 AM!

Needless to say, we were quite tired on Wednesday for Professional Development Day.

More on PDD coming up . . .

Happy Stitching!