The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design, by Shannon Okey, Cooperative Press (June 2010), is a gem of a book (dare I say essential resource – aka – bible?) for all designers – knitwear, crochet and even sewing designers – so much of this information is common sense, learned through years of experience. This no-nonsense practical advice is an amazing resource for all designers who want to be published.
Shannon’s guidelines to being a professional …
✔ be professional in emails, phone calls and all forms of communication.
✔ deadlines are not negotiable.
✔ negotiate in good faith.
✔ Your peers can offer advice, but you are responsible for your own business.
✔ business is business. it is not personal.
✔ Follow through when you commit.
A whole chapter on social media (facebook, twitter, blogs + ravelry), is very useful – its a whole new world out there. “Can you afford NOT to be on Ravelry? As a designer, I cannot think of a more targeted place for you to find potential business, whether it’s by selling pattern downloads, or advertising your work.” and this “Knitters and crafters in general are sociable people. We like to create communities, be they online discussion lists or in-person knit nights. Twitter lets knitters ‘talk’ to their favorite designers, yarn stores and brands.” and about facebook “I put Facebook in the category of “can’t hurt, might help,”” Another chapter on the business side of things – tax and organisation but most interesting in this section is finding additional revenue streams that you might have overlooked (teaching, testing patterns, writing for magazines etc), and how mixing up your revenue streams is a also a great way to increase your exposure and act as a marketing tool. “Five dollars here and there may not seem like much for a pattern that took 50 hours to create, but it adds up quickly! However, there are other methods for earning money as a designer that can both augment your pattern design business and create additional revenue streams that will build up over time into a regular, somewhat predictable source of income.”
Useful information on lawyers, copyright, agents and contracts is essential reading. “I hope you’ll never encounter a situation where a lawyer is needed rather than recommended, but it’s best to be prepared in case you encounter a tricky copyright issue or even something pleasant, such as a contract to design for a magazine or book!”
Then onto the knitty gritty of actually how to write patterns, establishing a format, learning how to create charts, which design software is best, how to create technical illustrations, and sourcing tech editors and test knitters. “One of the most important things to do when you first begin to write patterns is to establish a stylesheet for yourself. In fact, it’s one of the criteria on which you are judged when applying for membership in the Association of Knitwear Designers!.” Selling is always something that designers struggle with – wholesale v’s retail prices, learn about digital editions, and using paypal. “Before you can start creating patterns to sell, you need to know about your potential market(s) and other factors that will influence how you produce your pattern line. “
But what every designer wants is a publishing contract – getting an agent, creating a platform, writing a proposal and lots more. “Unlike the fiction market, the knit-writ- ing sphere is a lot smaller and more open to newcomers. You aren’t always going to end up in a ju- nior sub-editor’s slush pile…in fact, you might end up speaking directly to your future editor at a trade show or other event long before you write your first proposal. But if you have a difficult time with proposals, or find yourself so busy you can’t keep up, having a great agent on your side is an invaluable asset.” Here is some good advice “Publishers are more and more focused on platform and unwilling to take a risk on someone ‘unknown,’ so advances are lower and it’s harder to secure contracts. Understanding the marketplace and working with your agent to create as compelling a proposal as possible is key. Also, the publisher may ask you to jump through some hoops before signing you up. Even if you’ve sold scores of designs to magazines etc, they may still ask you to send them some actual garments, and/or some of the pat- terns. If you really want the book deal, you should do it.””
Along with interviews and plenty of anecdotes, real examples, and lots of links to looks up – I have to put this book in the must have category – if you are a knitwear designer – or want to be – then this book is must for you! Seriously!