This is the time of year when several knitting magazines have their deadlines, all within two weeks of each other, and corresponding to several yarn company deadlines, too.
How I Design
When I receive the design packets from the editors, which are meant to give an idea of the thrust of the editorial for the issue in question and to give suggestions (sometimes more forceful than mere suggestions) of what the magazine or yarn company is looking for, I spread them out in front of me on the table.
I look for differences between the packets – I look for certain elements that X magazine wants and Y magazine does not. I look for repeated phrases to give me a handle on any hidden message; design a sweater that features THIS and it will be included… I’ve never been good at hidden messages. I’m the most un-subtle person I know – a regular bull in a yarn shop.
Then I look over my database of 300+ knit designs that I’ve worked up over the past years, 80% of them with swatches, 60% of them with schematics already drawn, and I see if there are items that fit within the criteria of yarn company C or yarn company P. Then I reswatch them.
Then I turn to my collection of fashion magazines and historic fashion sources and I compile my own collection of tearsheets and scanned images that have details, textures and silhouettes that I’d like to mimic in yarn.
THEN I sketch. And erase. And sketch. And swatch.
Sometimes a swatch will lead me to a sketch, sometimes it’s the reverse.
When I’m happy with my sketches, I ink them, then erase the pencil marks. This helps me create firm, cartoony edges that work better when the sketches are electronically manipulated. (I’ve tried sketching on the computer, but it’s never been as successful.)
Then I scan the sketch and swatch.
Then, using photoshop and reducing the size of the swatch images, I isolate the repeating stitch patterns and use them to ‘fill in’ the areas of the sketch which would make the design more sensible to an editor.
And I get something like this.
It does seem like a lot of work – and it is, considering that I have no guarantee that any of my designs will be accepted. I think of it as investing, though, creating a pool of designs that I can draw from for a future date. I have some lovely things that have NEVER been accepted, not because they’re not good, but because they don’t fit the editorial framework at the time they’re submitted. I resubmit stuff quite often, and quite often it’s taken.
One annoyance is that some magazines retain the right to hang onto a design for up to 6 months before they deign to tell the designer if they’ve chosen it. This means that for 6 months I can’t resubmit any of these ‘held’ designs to any other venue. And then at the end of 6 months they may or may not take anything, I may or may not get my original sketch and swatch back, and often I get someone else’s designs back (and can only imagine that my own stuff is off to a different designer…) In this case I’ve started submitting electronically.
I know it cuts down my chances of being accepted (editors like to feel the swatch) but I have to draw the line somewhere – for my own self respect if for nothing else. They play the tune and we dance, but I can choose whether I’ll ruin my best dress and shoes waiting for someone to offer me their hand.
Or I can go dance by myself. I’d rather do this.
To make myself seem like more of a publisher, and on the advice of a great book by Fern Reiss on self-publishing, I listed several potential book titles with Bowker (the entity that assigns ISBN numbers). This makes ModeKnit press look more impressive, as if we have a stock of books just chomping at the bit to be published. And we do. And it worked. On New Years Eve I received a call from a major distributor interested in the publishing of my upcoming book, Men Who Knit And The Dogs Who Love Them
Okay, there’s no book. Yet. Oy. I have sketches, but no sweaters worked up. And I may have to change the title to Knitting For Men (and the dogs who love them, not necessarily in that order…) because I’m running into precious few men who knit. Hey – men who knit – want to be part of a book..?
So my New Years Resolutions are:
1) To write the Men & Dog book
2) To compile Cheaper Than Therapy in late summer
3) To write and compile the Historical Knitting book this spring
4) To pitch a TV show that will be a combination of This Old House and The French Chef but for knitting (NOT cutsy, NOT silly, NOT talking down to the audience, but nuts and bolts knitting and lots of information and good humor)
…And to do it loud and proud, in this blog for all of you to read about, because I feel that transparancy is the birth of excellent design.
On a more personal note, another resolution is for our family to join the local JCC so we can kick start the kids’ Jewish education and I can use their excellent pool several times a week. Gerry wants to use the exercise room, and I can probably teach a few knitting classes there to help us offset the cost of membership (which really isn’t that great!)