When I started designing the idea of self-publishing seemed very intimidating. Not only did I have to come up the design idea and knit it, I also then had to write the pattern, figure out how to get the pattern checked, put it into an acceptable format for people to download and then promote it. It seems very daunting, as all I knew how to do starting out was how to knit and think up ideas! Each of the other skills was slowly learned. Pattern writing, photography, working with an editor and testers are all learned skills. They don’t come instantly and there are many learning curves to climb all at the same time!
The very first pattern I had accepted was Doddy, for Knitty Winter 2007 (I’ve just realised that will be 10 years December next year!!). I was so proud of my first acceptance, just bursting with pride. That didn’t last too long however once I started working with the tech editor. She was very kind and patient but she effectively completely rewrote my pattern. I did not have a clue how to write a pattern! That was a very swift, sharp reality shock for me. This was a job I had to learn.
After that I thought I’d try my hand at self-publishing. The first pattern that I got tested was also a hard lesson. I had testers for every size and I discovered how careful you had to be with pattern directions. When you’ve got a dozen people all busy spotting your mistakes (especially when they’re basic and fairly silly mistakes) it’s hard to not take it personally. But it taught me to take my time and check the pattern several times in different ways so that the end product was as clean as possible and to swallow my pride and accept mistakes. This is always hard but really, really important if you want to keep improving.
At this point I really wanted the experience of publishing in magazines. This involves a different workflow but I think the lessons that you learn from working with a professional magazine are invaluable and really help to perfect pattern writing skills and spot mistakes.
When working with magazines you start by signing up to their mailing lists or watching out for submission calls on ravelry’s designer board. These submission calls take a lot of different formats; some are just inspiration photos and sketches with minimal words, others do the reverse with descriptive paragraphs, and sometimes there are both. I love reading through submission calls even if I don’t have the time to submit, they can be very inspirational and spark off ideas.
The next stage is to put the submission together. This is the stage that I have a hard time getting to at the moment as it takes several days. I start by thinking over the call; what kind of ideas would work? What yarns do I have that would suit? What stitch patterns could fit into it? Next I will start swatching – occasionally an idea works from the start but this is rare!! Usually there are several days of knitting and ripping until something works. It equal parts frustrating and exhilarating; and sometimes it just doesn’t come together and has to be abandoned.
Last year I pulled the idea for Nouri together for Pom-Pom magazine. I was so excited as it was one of those times that the swatch just worked from the start! You can see that when you swatch for a design you try to put all the details in the swatch, how the side pattern works and how the neckline shaping will be done. It can make for funny shaped swatches but nothing beats knitting the details.
For the submission, once I’ve got a swatch that works the next stage is sketching. I use a croquis outline that I draw my garment onto. I’m not a fantastic artist so this means that it looks enough like a human body to convey the idea. I’ll then put notes and details of the garment on the sketch to show how it’s going to be knit.
I’ve recently got an Ipad Pro with an apple pencil and I find that this is very helpful for this stage. It means that I can sketch directly in an electronic format and add colour easily if I want to.
Putting it all Together
The final step is text description. I’ll put a pdf together, which has the sketch, photo of the swatch and a description of the yarn, gauge, swatch and construction details. At this stage you should pay close attention to the details for the submission you’re making. Do they also want a schematic? Do they want suggested sizing? Do they want a single page submission? Attention to detail is important at every stage of the design process but if it’s your first impression when you’re doing a submission. It doesn’t have to be complicated just answer any questions that need answering.
Now for a full submission you go back and do this a couple of more times. Most submissions I make are 2-4 suggested items. As my time is getting tighter these days it’s more often 2 now! The beauty of putting this much work into submissions is that now you’ve got a full design idea ready to go. If the magazine rejects the idea you have the option of either submitting it to another magazine or creating a self-published pattern. Other times I find that I’m not completely in love with an idea but there’s a detail that I want to keep and I end up building a new design around that. As I design more and more I find that I like to take the same starting point for a design but then just bounce off in a new direction.
If you’re new to designing have you tried submitting to magazines? Don’t let the idea of rejection daunt you – just think of it as another great idea that you can go and use yourself – their loss!!
Are you thinking about designing? Let me know your own experiences!