Testing Times for The Woolly Alliance

Definition of blether

Looking back at the blog over the last couple of months it is obvious (to myself at least) that my posts are rather short and to the point. Which is actually quite odd, because if there was a ‘blethering’ competition between Aurelie and myself, I would undoubtably be the winner!

And so, I racked my brains trying to think of a topic which would be interesting, funny, surprising!

Eventually I decided on a topic that many of you may know very little about but which will probably be a bit of an eye opener! So, on this occasion bear with me and I will try very hard to hold your attention for longer than my usual 2 minutes!

My first even published paper pattern - 1987

My first ever published paper pattern – 1987

A very, very long time ago when I was young, childless and wrinkle free, I embarked very naively on my designing career. I am ashamed to say that in desperation of finding work I may have lied exaggerated about my experience as a pattern writer. (Youth brought a confidence that I no longer possess!) And so I began working as a freelance designer, knitting garments for photography and writing knitting patterns. (On a typewriter!!!!) I was busy, happy and oblivious to the real world of knitting, i.e. the lovely folks that were buying my patterns and knitting them up!

A few years later, I was married, expecting my first child and circumstances meant I chose to stop designing and become a full-time mum. It was the dawn of ‘fleece’ fabric, no one wanted hand knits, and my own children refused to wear them……. so I stopped knitting.

Fast forward a few years…….. I dust the cobwebs off my needles, start to knit again and take on the position of Rowan Design Consultant in John Lewis, Aberdeen. Thanks to Marie Wallin, the opportunity arises to do a little designing. (At this point I seemed to morph into a toy designer?) I do the knitting, pattern writing and send the finished articles off for photography, the patterns are checked for errors and published. Easy! And, very exciting!

However, in my new role in retail, I am for the first time meeting the ‘knitters’. You know, those nice people who buy knitting patterns, yarn, needles and follow the instructions faithfully (Or not, as the case may be!) to produced beautiful pieces of craftwork.  Slowly, I begin to realise that the way things work in the design world is not necessarily the best way for the ‘knitter’. At this point I guess you will be asking, what is she talking about?

Well ladies (and gentlemen), I am talking about ‘Testing’. You may not be aware or have even given any thought to this subject. But, the fact is that for most large companies the testing process is not quite as thorough as you may think. It is usual, for instance, to ‘test knit’ only one size. A size that will fit the model for photography. There may be a second or third test required if something is not quite right, but not always. This means that you could be the first to knit your chosen size! Now, if the pattern is scaled up correctly then 9 times out of 10, there will be no issue. And, to be fair, for companies producing a high volume of new designs with each season I question whether there really is any other way? Financially, even taking into account what we are about to discuss, I am unsure as to how they could proceed and still survive.

At this point I thoroughly encourage you to read this short article:

A Triumph of Web Knitting and Crochet

Regardless, to all of the above, that continued interaction with the ‘knitter’ while working in retail has completely changed how I look at the whole process. I am extremely grateful to those companies who gave me my break back in to designing, but I am afraid that 5 years down the line I have made the decision to concentrate on self-publishing.

Of course, my designer head appreciates the positives of freelancing to a ‘brand’. You have yarn support, which is crucial if money is tight. The audience and pattern distribution is huge! You have instant recognition in an industry with hundreds of hugely talented people. I have also found that being ‘published’ seems to install a certain trust in the ‘knitter’.

The downside however is you have little control and seldom own the copyright of your design. So, no royalties there then!

This realisation has led me to embrace the benefits of small-scale production, of holding your own copyright, knowing your customer and even having the pleasure of getting to know some of them personally.

And how can I do this…..the power of the internet but mostly, the power of Ravelry…

(… to be continued)


This entry was posted in Baby, Child, Community, Design, Knitting, Toddler, Toy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Testing Times for The Woolly Alliance

  1. Bev Hodgkinson says:

    As a new Design Consultant for Rowan – a few years ago now – I used to love getting your phone calls and now keep in touch with you via this media. Good luck with everything xx

    • whippety says:

      Awh! Thank you Bev, You were always on the other end of the phone with a smile…and you usually had that odd ball of Kid Silk Haze in your stockroom too!

  2. Very interesting – especially the link to the piece about Ravelry testers! I am too slow a knitter or crocheter to be a tester but I really appreciate those who do this on my behalf. I look forward to the continuation of your ‘blether’.

  3. Kristy Davenport says:

    I love testing for you buddy great article!

  4. Pingback: Testing times at the Woolly Alliance (Part 2) | The Auld (Woolly) Alliance

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