Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Initiate Knit Design Challenge (aka, the humble beginnings of my Snowdrop Lace Cowl).

Here's a bit of designer irony:  people often ask me 'where do you get your ideas?'

The answer to that is: usually, at the most inopportune moments, an idea will pop into my head.  It will occur at a time when I have no way to write it down.  In the shower, or half-asleep.  Or maybe when I've got my hands covered in paint (my other hobby).  And my ability to sketch in a hurry leaves a lot to be desired.  My last attempt to sketch a shawl design. . . well, lets just say I opted to hand-write some notes, instead.

It's not about a lack of ideas when it comes to designing.  Quite the opposite -- I've got a long list of pattern ideas I haven't even really swatched for yet!    Instead, it's about the ability to translate those ideas into an actual, functional, pattern, something that someone else can knit, and a pattern that will actually create the thing that you envision in your mind.

Enter: the Initiate Knit Design Challenge:

A background image with a skein of yarn, a small plant, and the hand of someone sketching in a notebook. The foreground is a text overlay: "Join us for the Initiate Knit Design Challenge.  Transform your yarn into designs of your own making."  A small banner at the top of the image reads: "Starts April 3".  A banner at the bottom of the image reads: ""
Run by the wonderful Aroha Knits,  it was this program that gave me the design for my Snowdrop Cable and Lace Cowl.  It was the perfect kick-start to go from rough design idea to finished project.   You don't have to finish the project (and you wouldn't be able to finish most projects in the 10 day span of the challenge, anyway), but it's about getting to a point where the design is solid, and this challenge does that very well!

And, as a bonus, the challenge is free to sign up.  Yep, that's right, it's free.  I'm always amazed that Francoise Danoy (the woman behind Aroha Knits) is willing to run this challenge for free.  This challenge stands on its own, and while she does have other classes that are not free, this challenge is solid even without those courses.

I'm entering again, so I'll see what inspiration is sparked this time!  To sign up, click on the image above, or go to

Well, I hope to see some of you in the challenge!  It starts April 3, so there's still plenty of time to sign up.

See you there!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Toronto Knitter's Guild -- March 2017 Skills Exchange!

 Yes, that's right!

The Toronto Knitter's Guild is hosting their Skills Exchange again, and it should be amazing!  I attended last time they did this (you can see pictures in their Flickr feed), and it was totally worth it, even if I haven't yet finished up the mini-project from one of the classes yet. . . (and oh, look, I should get a picture of that half-finished project!  Whoops!)


Well, anyway, this time around, I'll be there, but I'm not attending, I'm teaching!

That's right, I'm the Sarah Dawn who's teaching the 'pick up and purl' mini-workshop.

Why 'pick up and purl?'  Because it's something that seems to scare off knitters, especially when I mention it in combination with Entrelac.  But it's not that scary, and if I can demistify it for a few people, then I think that's a great thing!

For details, follow the image link to the March 2017 meeting page!

If you're in the Greater Toronto Area, I hope to see you there! 

Monday, 6 March 2017

Sarah Dawn's Designs is a Sponsor for the Aroha Knits Colourwork KAL.

As seems to be usual for me, the title says it all, but let me go into a bit more detail.

I'm one of the sponsors for the Aroha Knits Colourwork KAL, which starts today (wow, it's already March? When did that happen!), and as a prize for the KAL, I've offered up a coupon code for a current or future self-published pattern from my Ravelry Store. 

You can see all of the patterns for the KAL by clicking on the image below.  I'd enter myself, but I still haven't finished the last Aroha Knits KAL, so that just seems like tempting fate a little too much!
Copyright: Aroha Knits

I will, however, be checking in on the KAL over the course of the month, to see the awesomeness that's being created, and I wish you all the best of luck!

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Etsy Shop!

Hello all!

. . . I have an Etsy Shop!

I hadn't originally planned on having one when I first started this business.  But I'm running into a problem I didn't anticipate, and Etsy seems to be the solution to this problem.

See, I knit a lot of my own samples.  It's how I figure out how patterns work and how things go together.  And I have to knit samples in sizes people will wear.  There's no point in my knitting a Large if I have no one to test the Large size and tell me if it actually fits. Test-Knitters take care of some of that (and thank you to my awesome test-knitters, if you're reading!), but I still have to make at least one of the items using my own knitting needles and try it on on a physical person in the same room as me.

So, I've accumulated lots of things.  I'm a knitter -- I already have lots of accessories knit up from all sorts of designers around the web.  There are only so many accessories that I will ever use.  And the same is true for my friends and family.  While I can (and do) knit samples as gifts, how many hats do people actually need? And while I also can (and do) donate some of my samples to charities, I was still left with a question: 

What to do with my extra samples?  Well, selling them seems like a reasonable idea.

Hence, an Etsy shop.

It does two things for me.

One: It allows me to take commissions.  I did a commissioned knitwear piece for someone earlier in Feb, and I discovered I quite enjoyed the process! I'd originally been afraid of commission work, but now I'm realizing it's not as scary as I thought, provided I'm clear about pricing/expectation/etc.

Two: It gives me a space to sell extra samples, or things I knit from my patterns.  I don't object to this idea.  I don't know how much inventory I'll actually have (this is still secondary to the actual pattern design process), but, it's opened an intriguing door for me!

So yeah.  I have an Etsy shop. (Can you tell I'm still adjusting to this idea?)

Right now there's just my one Mitered Drawstring Project Bag Pattern PDF available.  Etsy doesn't have support for free patterns like Ravelry does, so my free patterns won't be on Etsy until and unless that changes.  But, feel free to take a look, ask questions, and if you're interested in a commissioned knitwear piece based on my designs, or want a custom-made commissioned knitwear piece, let me know!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Resource List Update!

Just a quick update this time around:

Instead of  continuing to place my various Fiber Arts Resources in a side link on the main blog page, they're being moved to their own page.

This will also allow for better organization of links, better descriptions; and a way to directly link to them (like I did above!)

So, if you're wondering where new links are going, or, if you are seeing links vanishing from the sidebar, don't worry, they're not gone!

Also, I'm trying to collate as many resources as possible, so if you have something you'd like to add to the list of Fiber Arts Resources, please, send me an e-mail; or post it to the Fiber Arts Resource Thread on Ravelry.  Even if there's already one resource on that topic multiple tutorials are a good thing, since everyone learns a little differently.

I do reserve the right to veto submissions (sadly, there are spammers and such on the internet),  but more resources surrounding the Fiber Arts are always welcome.

This is going to keep me busy for the next little bit, so, until next time!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Snowdrop Lace Cowl Test Knit

I'm back with my next test knit!

This has been a bit in the making, since getting good (or even decent) photos for this has been an exercise in horrible luck and horrible weather, but, I'm finally looking for testers for my Snowdrop Lace Cowl.
A woman wearing a bulky-weight blue cowl loose around her neck.

Image Description:  A lace and cable cowl worked in a bulky-weight pale blue yarn, laying flat on a concrete surface.

This is a bulky-weight cowl, knit in the round using cables and lace.  What I worked the sample up in is Blue Sky Fibers Bulky in "Frost", (using just under three skeins). which was quite an adventure to knit with!  It really does qualify as a 'super-bulky'.  That means, though, that this cowl knits up absurdly quickly, which is nice.  And it's absurdly warm.

So, if I've managed to catch your interest and you're interested in testing, come over to the Ravelry Thread and sign up!  All of my test knitting does take place on Ravelry, so if you'd like to be a test-knitter you do need to be a Ravelry member. (But I'm putting together a blog piece on why Ravelry is awesome, so I do hope that you will become a Ravelry member if you're not already!)

That's it for this update!  Here's hoping everyone stays warm!

Friday, 10 February 2017

After Six Months: My experience in the world of Pattern Designers

Well, I've been 'official' for over six months now.  It's been over six months since I applied for my business number and started honestly making this my job.  

The title's kind of vague this time, but it's the best way I can think of to explain this post today.  It's both about what I've learned and am learning, and what I want to say to you wonderful folks, my readers, creators, and followers.  So here goes.

Also, as I wrote, this post ended up being less of a post and more of a mini-essay, so, it's going to be a longer read.  I won't be offended if you don't get through it, I promise.

- - -

So I spent a lot of 2016 and early 2017 doing research on what it really mean to be in the world of designers.

You know what? There's still no real answer to that question.   So I'm still trying to find my own footing and my own way as one of many people on this fiber-y journey.

However; I have learned a few things that seem to hold true.

1) This is still a business. In 2016, I was witness to some fiber artists who got themselves into trouble by treating commercial design work like a hobby.  Patterns being paid for and released late, things not being edited/tested, or products being shipped late.   They didn't mean any harm, but they weren't thinking as a business owner, they were thinking as a hobbyist who (sadly) got in over their head.

This is now my job. And I've realized I have an obligation to treat it as such.   That would be one of the reasons why I haven't as of yet committed to specific pattern release dates or specific projects, because I'm still learning how long it takes to get a pattern from prototype, through the process of sample knitting, writing, photography, test-knitting and tech-editing.  If you read back through this blog, you may find my estimates of release dates, but those can change as I learn something new, or even as I discover that a yarn I worked with has been discontinued so I have to make a sample again in something else.  And from watching these experiences, it's taught me to try to hold to a much better schedule.  One of my new years goals, is to keep you, my readers, better updated on the process of various patterns.  You've got a question? Ask it! 

2) Fiber People are (generally) generous.  The idea I've heard from more then one designer is that 'we're all in this boat together.'  Is there competition?  Yes. . . but.

Yes, we're technically competitors, in that we are competing for your pattern and class dollars.  But the fiber arts are wide enough that there are different things that each designer can bring to the table.   Most designers are comfortable sharing what they've learned or experienced with other designers to aid them on their journeys, rather then walking solo and trying to best the others in the industry.

One of the questions put to me very early on in my business course was designed to counter the 'well, why should I pay for it? ' attitude that some people have, especially when there is a plethora of free content online.  My business advisor asked me to answer that question.   At first, I was speechless.  I stood there fumbling to come up with an answer.   But then, I stopped and thought 'well, what -do- I bring to the table that no other designer will bring?

I realized that I bring all of my experience as an advocate, community builder, librarian, adminstrator, knitter, crocheter, and so much more.

. . . ok, but, still, what does that mean for you, my reader?

Well, it means that I don't want to just sell patterns and give lessons in knitting.  I want to create a community.  I want to create a place where -anyone- can learn to knit, and that's not just marketing hype and hyperbole.

For my readers and pattern buyers, it means that I'm going to be here even if you think you can't knit, or can't do something, I can help you find resources to do the thing you want to do.  
It also means fostering a truly inclusive community online, where fiber artists of all abilities and skill levels are welcomed.  
It means creating accessible media by making sure my alt-text is functional, that videos I make have closed-captioning and/or transcripts available, and that I do my best to make my material available to everyone.
It means learning to properly size for diverse bodies (and then doing so), and throwing my full support behind those that mod my patterns to make them fit even better.
And those are just the start.

3)  I've realized that this is what I'm supposed to be doing.

Do I have doubts?  Absolutely.  There are days when I sit here and wonder if this will ever pay the bills.

But I can't imagine myself doing anything else, and any other job I take (barring an amazingly awesome job, of course) will be taken out of necessity, to pay those bills.  This is my -career- now.

That's both a terrifying and awesome realization.

But it's something where I can honestly say that I love my job (well, I'm not as fond of the bookkeeping side, but I can't have everything, right?).  It's something where I can honestly say that I can see myself continuing this job for 20, 30 years, and still be enjoying it.   And that's such a rarity in today's society; to me, that has more value the the money (or lack thereof) that I make. To not judge or be judged on my outward appearance of productivity has proven to be one of the best parts of this job.   And that's something I've come to treasure.
In conclusion (I hate that phrase, but I've always been terrible at closing essays and papers!)  I want to bring forward to you all that I'm here.  One of my goals is to be available to help, and accountable for my mistakes (because we all make them).  If you see something that doesn't work, I want to hear it.  If you see something that does work, please, I love positive feedback!  I really do want to create a positive place where absolutely everyone can knit; and can make things that look awesome for them and for their body.

So, if you have ideas on how I can do that, let me know any way you'd like.  E-mail me, post your ideas as comments to the blog, post to Facebook, or post to Ravelry.  I promise I read them.  Even if they're spam. (Actually, I really do love reading comments!  Most people are incredibly awesome  people in the fiber arts community, and I know I'm in a generally good space when I read comments.  And I have to read the spam comments to moderate them, so I do read those too, and usually they're worth a laugh.)

Well, I guess that's it for this post.  I didn't intend quite for this to be a mini-essay, but, that's how it turned out.  Until next time, folks!