Review (Giveaway!): The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design

05 Jul 2010

Yaaay for indie craft publishing! Knitgrrl Shannon Okey has just released a new book in print and digital formats: The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design. I'm honored to be the second stop on the blog tour.

This is a very comprehensive guide to taking your knitting (or crochet) to an income-earning level. There's a whole lot of content here, so forgive me while I retire to a simple bulleted list for a moment. I just want you to have some scope of what the book covers:

  • Social media marketing
  • Alternate streams of income: teaching, freelance writing, test knitting, tech editing, selling products, and others
  • Copyright, contracts, and dealing with infringement
  • Producing patterns for sale
  • Selling: wholesale, retail, and online
  • Publishing: both through publishers and self-publishing
  • Advertising options

Double point knit sock detail
Image by Tie Guy II, via Flickr Creative Commons

One area where the book really shines is in decoding the process of writing patterns for sale. Shannon covers setting up a style sheet for yourself, and she explores various software options, sizing, getting tech editing help, selling wholesale, taking online payments - all presented in a very useful, real-world way. It's clear that Shannon's been doing this for a while, and her expertise can be of tremendous help to a beginner.

Another very strong chapter is Shannon's take on getting a book deal. She's shared (sometimes unvarnished) insights from people in various roles in the publishing industry, and it really helps illuminate the careful stepping that's required these days to bring a mutually-beneficial book deal into being. And she gets into specific detail on magazine article and book publishing as well as self-publishing.

knitted blanket
Image by dutch blue, via Flickr Creative Commons

To wrap things up, Shannon conducted interviews with 32 successful knitwear designers, who are extremely honest about how they manage to make their talent into a vocation.

All in all, this is a book of realism, and that's awesome. The mainstream publishing industry seems to crank out a lot of "How to be a Professional ___" books that offer a more pie-in-the-sky portrayal of what it takes to go pro. You can't blame mainstream publishing - this approach probably sells more books. But making your living, even in something as fun as creating, is still about business. It still has good days and bad, and learning curves that seem daunting, and it deeply changes the way you think about creating.

It's still completely worth doing, mind you. But Shannon's more honest take on the whole thing will help you make much more educated decisions about this future you're seeking.

Summer Fruit - verstrickt - knitted
Image by franziskas garten, via Flickr Creative Commons

Giveaway Time!

Shannon has generously donated a copy of her book for a giveaway here. (I say "generously," because remember, this is a self-published book, and she's fronted all the costs of production and printing.)

If you'd like to enter to win, here's what you do: leave a comment below and tell me what your ideal career as a knitwear (or crochet) designer would look like. Be specific!

I'll draw a winner on Thursday, July 8th at noon PST. Good luck! Oh - And...

Mum's Plastic Knitting
Image by dumbledad, via Flickr Creative Commons

Support Indie Craft Publishing!

If you like this (or for that matter, any other) independently-produced craft book, remember that you play a key role in helping it find its audience. Indie publishers don't have big corporate PR companies at their disposal. So, check out this PDF from Shannon, which lists some ways you can help get the word out.

Other Blog Tour Stops:

Congratulations to Sharon, our winner!


My ideal career would generate the income not only to support myself, but to give back to and participate in the crafty community. It would include travel and teaching as

Yay! I'm so excited, I so want Shannon's new book! Hurray for Shannon!

Right now I'm working my butt off at a retail job, planning and working every freakin' minute once I get home for the goal of being able to kiss that job goodbye so that I can put 100% of my work time into my own crafty business. I yearn to work for myself!

- I will get up early, like I do now, and plan my day which will include: working on new crochet and knitting designs (which I am inspired to create now but don't really have the time to pursue all I would like).

- I will produce awesomely fabulous tutorials and patterns, blog about the processes I go through and share my inspirations. I'm working now on getting my patterns written and for sale.

- I will create more wonderful fiber-y goodies to sell in my online shops, like creative fashionable accessories and jewelry.

- I love teaching others to knit and crochet, and will teach online classes, as well as IRL local classes. I already teach local classes now, by the way!

- I will produce quality patterns, ebooks, and classes for beginner and less experienced knitters and crocheters, as well as intermediate and more advanced.

- I will continue to expand my techy knowledge in producing the absolute best freaking patterns in the world, well up there with Shannon anyway ;D and Sister Diane and Kim and.... I'll make ya'll proud!

- I will continue to study and grow in my skills so that I can always be riding the wave of inspiration.
Thank you, I'll step down off my soap box now! I appreciate this opportunity to put my goals out there and be held accountable, bet you didn't know that's what you were doing, huh? :D

(You guys! You're all making me weepy -- I want to see each and every one of you succeed with what you want to do!)

Yay! I've been looking forward to this book!

My ideal career in design (if I could EVER finish knitting my designs!) would have mornings full of knitting on my porch while sipping tea and afternoons spinning yarn.
(Hey, this is the ideal world, right? One where I don't need to spend hours on the computer?)

This looks like a great book! My ideal career in design would involve my whole family. My husband is always involved in my projects in one way or another, and becoming a mom soon, I'll have a wee model/designer to help me! Agreed with Corvus - true success involves sharing with others. My earring business donates a portion of its proceeds to a local charity, and that will hold true for any crafty business I have. Ooh, and visiting different yarn shops around the country (world? mayhap?) is absolutely a must.

My ideal career as a designer would actually be to bring the worlds of crochet and knitting together more. I have been sketching and swatching for a design that involves crochet and knitting. I would love to create tops especially. If I had my ideal, I would create designs both to sell and to provide free on my website. I would like to start designing and do this in reality, not just in a theoretical world. A lot of this comes from my desire to help people realize that different crafting venues are open to them. A girl I work with this week told me that she is incapable of crocheting, even her grandmother had told her she was hopeless. I immediately offered to bring in a crochet hook and yarn to help her learn if she wanted to. Most people don't realize there are 40 billion ways of learning and they just have to find their way and then the sky is the limit.

Since I'm not a super fast knitter, I would want to design and sell patterns. Ultimately, I would write a book--a book that is more than just a collection of patterns, but one that tells some sort of story as well. I am not a fast enough knitter to sell hand-knitted items. The book sounds really interesting!

In the somewhat-near future, I'd like to be on a blog tour promoting my first book (a project in its infancy) based on the Skew sockitecture, with about a 50/25/25 division of my work time among creative design, teaching, and marketing/publicity/bookkeeping.

Meanwhile, I don't know if I can wait for the giveaway to be announced-- I may have to order Shannon's book immediately.

My ideal career as a knitwear/crochet designer would enable me to quit my day job. That way I could not only make things for my Etsy store, but I would also have plenty of time for writing up patterns, writing proposals, and actually doing my bookkeeping on time.

My ideal career would involve designing knit hats. I love the possibilities of hats, and the fact that one doesn't have to make them in pairs! I am a big fan of stranded knitting, so the designs would probably incorporate lots of colors, and it would be fun to make several model versions of each in a variety of color combinations. I can't see doing this full-time, but it would be a fun counterpoint to my current job.

I think an ideal career as a knitwear designer would allow you to knit/crochet full time with no need for another job. It would be nice to be able to travel and teach as well.

I am so glad that you are on the blog tour, as I was just thinking I needed a new podcast to listen to. :) I am also happy that you mentioned the sacrifices required in indie publishing, and hope that others recognize the monetary investment that Knitgrrl has done in order to bring us this great information!

My ideal knitwear career would involve a book full of beautiful mitten patterns. I love designing mittens.

My ideal career as a knitwear designer would allow me to create awesome patterns without worrying if I would succeed or not. I would be able to bring in extra income for my family, as we are about to hit a hard time in our lives due to my accident and benefits cut off. I would show my kids that even in the hardest of times, being creative will always bring about a positive influence in our lives and can bring about happiness when money is unavailable. Without creativity...we are nothing!!

My ideal career as a knitwear designer would combine the use of an art therapy degree (i'm applying to programs now) and my studio art degree in fibers/textiles which I'm finishing soon. I would love to be able to publish patterns in a conventional sense (i love knitwear books with a cohesive theme and vision) but also reach out to populations who can be greatly helped/affected by the addition of arts and crafts into their lives!

Ooh, juicy stuff!

My ideal knit/crochet design career would most likely be part of a bigger picture (I have too many creative passions to pick just one...). I'd design garments for children and adults, in a wide variety of styles, with lots of clever construction and stranded colourwork.

I'd be very connected with my community, which would fuel my creativity. I'd do a lot of teaching and speaking, as well as blogging and publishing patterns and articles. My income would mainly come from the patterns, although I'd also accept commissions. These would cost eye-watering sums, however, because I know how long handknitting takes, and life is too precious to work for a pittance!

Hey, this sounds pretty sweet - where do I sign up?

I like coming up with new ways of doing old things, so my ideal knitting/crochet job would be to come up with a lot of ground breaking and original techniques, publish them in a best-selling book, and then travelling world-wide teaching the new ideas in person to a whole lot of people!

My ideal knitwear carrier would be pattern sales and book based. I'd like to concentrate on easy projects for new knitters- mostly accessories like hats, booties, scarfs, bags, jewelry and small kids garments.

Thank for the chance to win.

I'm actually in the process of coming up with my business plan now for my dream creative career. In the next four months I plan on developing a new line of crochet and other handmade products and along with that a new blog where I will write about my story, craft heroes, share tutorials, and offer up craft challenges, among other things.

By the beginning of 2011 I want to start an Etsy shop so that I can test the new products, get my feet wet, and start applying to upcoming indie craft fairs so that I can get better acquainted with other makers and interact with customers face to face. I'll start with local shows and then hopefully branch out to larger, further away places.

Eventually, I'd like to get some patterns published or even write a book, but I have no illusions that these things will bring great fame or fortune. If I do write a book it will be about something that is extremely important to me and dear to my heart.

To supplement my financial, creative, and social incomes, I'd like to teach my craft, attend craft conferences (like the Summit of Awesome and the Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs), and continue volunteering (though in a different form from what I'm doing now in Peace Corps).

Once I've planted some roots I'd like to have my own website and explore options for selling through that and also wholesale venues.

My ideal career would be finding and mentoring new male designers of men's knitwear. I like to see unique, edgy, street fashion and I think that has to come from the guys who make if for themselves to wear, with no worries of appealing to mass markets. I believe every knitter should foray into design, and I know that young guys can just leap fearlessly right into it easily with a little encouragement.

This is right up my alley! I already make and sell some knit accessories, but I'm interested in branching out into knit patterns and have no idea where to start. In my ideal world I'd love to design and sell patterns, accessories, and own an alpaca so I could spin my own yarn (though I realize that winning this book is probably not going to help me on the alpaca front).

I would really like to come up with something different. And have people like it. A new stitch or a new way to put a sock or a sweater together or a fresh piece of colorwork....And of course to somehow support myself doing it..Kudos to self-publishers!

My ideal career as a knitwear designer? It will evolve as my idea of what I want to do and what I can do evolves. It will be based on doing things that are fun, innovative and creative and presented that in the highest quality way possible. It will involve a schedule that includes room for all aspects of my life. Sounds like the start of a manifesto...

I'd love to be a test knitter. I enjoy being proficient in technical skills and learning about traditional and unusual garment construction.

I can't wait to read this book! I'm starting my life as a knitwear designer right now and I'm loving it! If I can keep coming up with fun, challenging knitting patterns that knitters are excited about knitting, I'll be good. The process, everything from picking out yarn to blocking my finished piece to perfecting the pattern after the test knitter's notes come back. I want to do this forever.

I'd love to design/make/sell knitwear that is fantastical, creative and bizarre. Almost costume-y, but still wearable. I'd probably aim for a university-age/young adult audience. Ideally I'd make a few reincarnations of each garment for sale, and then sell the final pattern.

Holy moly. I've been coveting this book!
My dream knitwear design career would start out small with designing downloadable patterns for sale on Ravelry or KnitPicks and growing the business from there. I already offer a free pattern to get my name out there and hope to create others very soon to try and make some money. Thankfully, my husband is the breadwinner of the family now so any money made by my designs would just be "icing on the cake" so-to-speak and not required for our mortgage payment! :)
I would also love to get into the test knitting and tech editing world but I would also want to make sure that I don't overcommit myself in any one aspect. I've always wanted to have a "career" all about knitting but my biggest fear is that my beloved hobby would turn into a chore or that there would be so much on my plate that I wouldn't be able to give 100% to any one thing. So my perfect knitting career would probably be "part-time" so that I can really do it right while enjoying some free time for knitting for myself and my family (and also enjoying other hobbies like sewing!).
Thanks for having this giveaway and giving us a peek into the contents of this fantastical book!!!

I would like to design projects for all levels of knitters. Finding products that are both creative and practical and looking for ways to integrate yarn and fiber into our lives in unexpected ways, adding twists to just the same scarves, hats and sweaters. I'd like to continue to have a sense of humor and fun around knitting. Getting people excited to knit and having fun doing it. I have a lot of opportunities to build my technical skills as a knitter but I want to be fearless in creating and making pieces and constantly challenging myself to use my imagination and hands.

In my ideal world, I'd make a living as a designer. I'd be able to use whatever yarns I wanted (Alpaca! Silk! Wool!) but the overall cost of my designs would still be accessible to the average knitter. The exact colors I wanted would always exist in an appropriate fiber (What do you mean: the pink and green I want to use in a baby sweater are not available in superwash?) but the designs would not be dependent upon specific colors (Gee, that would look really dumb in orange!) if my choice doesn't appeal to my clientele.
I'd have all the time I needed to work on my designs, and my deadlines would always be reasonable. I'd design things that people find useful and wearable, in a range of sizes. I'd be able to include pictures/charts and words both, and my instructions would neither be so detailed as to insult the intelligence of those using them, nor so minimal as to mystify most. My patterns would always be flawlessly edited, and tested by at least one person other than me. And I'd have at least pattern including instructions for how to modify set-in shoulders so that they fit perfectly!

My ideal career as a knitwear AND crochet designer would be me, self-publishing my patterns and including a slew of ancillary support on my website in the form of photo and video tutorials, *-a-longs, and discussions about the pattern with people who have actually used it so I can improve as a designer. I would also want to teach classes, host craft nights, and possibly even open #myimaginarycraftstore (slash) gathering space.

I don't suppose you'd count just sitting in the LYS petting all the pretty yarns? Ok then. I'd like to work in the yarn development area. Investigating new fibers, creating exciting blends, colors and textures. Then woking with designers to to come up with patterns that highlight the new yarns' features.