moms in the mommyhood - jane richmond

some of us knit & some of us who knit sell & design their work & patterns while some may dream of one day doing just that. i have always been curious about pattern designing, but suffer from a very bad case of "i just can't seem to get this whole freaking math thing figured out" syndrome. i can visualize my end piece but can't get my head around the numbers.

i envy those who can get past that stage and wonder how they do it. i figured i can't be the only one who finds this interesting. when i spotted jane richmond's patterns on ravelry, i couldn't resist writing the gorgeous, creative & talented lady behind "alterknits" and asking her. it seems we both live on the west coast, have little girls and love knitting. this is what followed:

i am a ravelry addict, judging by the fact that you are a volunteer editor you must be as well. how has ravelry affected your sales & designs since you joined?
ravelry is an ideal place to sell my patterns, people are very enthusiastic about them and they give me really great feedback and a big boost of confidence. in return i've made sure to offer some of my patterns for free to ravelry members as my contribution to the community.

did ravelry help play a role in you deciding to sell your own patterns?
ravelry opened up the knitting world for me. before i received my invitation i felt like the only knitter on earth, or at least the craziest! seeing what other people were doing with their knitting and designs is what inspired me to do my own thing.

you currently reside on vancouver island. does living here come into play in your design aesthetic? i noticed your love of cowls and hats.
absolutely. my designs begin with a basic need. if there is a gap in my closet or some wonderful knit i long to be wearing, i start sketching. all of the hats, cowls, scarves, and mittens that were published this winter were designed as christmas gifts; each design is named after the receiver. it just so happens that the things i knit are worn locally so they must be practical garments for island living. west coast casual is very much my style, i like to be comfortable.

most knitters dream of one day selling their handmade goods/patterns. how did you get started and what prompted you to start your etsy shop "alterknits" last year?
i began designing my own patterns simply because i am so picky. when i work from a pattern i like to follow it to the t, i rarely modify anything because i feel it was written that way with good reason. these two traits combined, lead to endless knit garments that didn't measure up. i won't wear something just because i made it by hand, it has to be something i want to wear, would love to wear. and so i began designing to satisfy my own particular taste. as each finished garment would make it's debut as the latest addition to my wardrobe, i would receive compliments and inquiries, this pushed me to self publish.

you say your nerdy love of math played a big role in you deciding to design your own patterns. give us an example of how this comes into play?
my patterns begin with a swatch followed by an elaborate spreadsheet. i spend hours or sometimes days crunching numbers in excel. when my figures have me stumped it doesn't frustrate me, i enjoy the challenge and relish the satisfaction of knowing that everything adds up, nothing was overlooked, and most importantly, my raw numbers translate into a wearable finished garment.

i started knitting when i was a young girl, how old were you when you picked up knitting?
my mother taught me the basics when i was 5 years old on a pair of wooden chopsticks and some scarp yarn. she bought me my first set of needles and i would make these little swatches. i must have lost interest eventually because as a teenager i had to relearn on a pair of metal grilling skewers. i haven't been able to stop since.

what are your favorite needles & wool to work with?
for christmas this year, my mother (also a knitter) bought me a set of nickel plated interchangeable circular needles from Knit Picks, everything else has been collecting dust since then. i'm sure if i had ever had the privilege of knitting with addi turbos our life savings would be gone by now, i am a huge fan of slippery metal needles with zero drag!

as for yarn, i seem to fall in love with whatever ends up on my needles (with the exception of acrylic - i'm not against it, it just isn't nice to work with). i am incredibly passionate and picky about colour, constantly sacrificing my first choice of blend for that perfect colour.

do you spin as well?
i have yet to learn to spin. i have a feeling i would acquire not only a spinning wheel but a farm and a new lifestyle! it's a dangerous prospect.

we all love etsy. have you found having the shop a positive/negative experience?
after spending days on my computer getting my files in order, cleaning up my photographs and composing descriptions for my sale items, i was ready to launch alterknits. within minutes of the shop going live i made my very first sale, i was elated. i love the community feel of etsy, everyone is very supportive. it has been a very positive experience.

what is your favorite/least favorite thing to knit?
i love to knit sweaters and cardigans, nice big projects that i can settle into. they certainly get the most use out of all my finished objects.

my least favorite thing to knit would have to be gloves, i love the end result but aside from the cuff, there isn't enough "down time" in a glove pattern where you can get into a rhythm.

i don't enjoy fair isle knitting (sorry fair isle lovers out there), do you have a technique/style of knitting you dislike?
i don't enjoy fair isle knitting either. i rarely ever use more than one colour in a knitting project and i have yet to publish a pattern that involved more than one colour. it's a personal preference, just thinking about working with more than one ball gives me a headache.

the photography for your projects caught my eye on ravelry. do you do your own photography?
it's funny because i didn't realize i was taking good photos! thank you. i model my designs and take my own photographs simply because it is convenient. i am quite picky about how i want the shots and the garment to look so i like the control it gives me. nice clean photos are so important and i spend an embarrassing amount of time posing, taking pictures, and reviewing to get pictures i am happy with.

the one exception would be the photographs for my design "elsie". my oh-so-talented brother nicholas, was kind enough to stage a photo shoot with my daughter elsie for those fantastic shots.

how do you find balancing being a mom/wife with running the shop? when do you find the time to knit?
running the shop is fairly easy to juggle with the rest of my motherly/wifely duties. shipping orders, responding to customer inquiries, and keeping the shop up to date can normally be accomplished during nap or bed time. designing and launching a pattern is a different story. for these things there is never enough time.

i find myself the most creative at night, what time of day do you find yourself the most creative?
just like people daydream, my mind wanders to patterns and design ALL the time. when a design is "haunting" me at bedtime i often make a sketch and jot down a few notes just to get it out of my head.

what tips/advice would you give other mom's thinking of selling their handmade goods?
i love designing knitwear. it is a constant source of happiness. i feel very lucky that there are people out there who are willing to support me in this endeavour by purchasing my patterns. i only charge what i would be willing to pay for a pattern (considering the outrageous amount we spend on yarn as well as the use the pattern will get). my perspective is more of an artistic one rather than of an entrepreneur. i can't live off of my designing income at the moment, but i don't try to either. if there was that much pressure for my designs to succeed, i don't think it would be enjoyable anymore.

what is your favourite knitting resource?
ravelry is a wealth of information. every day i set aside a half hour for "research". i log onto ravelry and browse my friends activities to see what everyone is in the "mood" to knit, i pour over their latest finds and favourite things, it inspires me. i can discover new designers and follow old favourites. checking out ravelers' modifications to existing patterns always leaves me in awe!

what project have you been dying to knit but haven't started yet?
i have this nagging desire to design the perfect cardigan. something light weight that could be worn under a jacket during the cooler months and over a tee-shirt once the weather warms up.

we all have had to do the dreaded unravel, what is your worst knitting experience?
louisa harding's fitted textured sweater from her book modern classics. the sweater was knit in pieces and then seamed together, so trying it on mid way was not an option. the pattern instructed me to block the pieces with an iron before seaming, after that nothing would fit together properly, i must have ripped out the armhole seams a dozen times.

the end result was very disappointing, the body was ridiculously short on me, yet baggy and unflattering. it sat in my closet for two years before i decided the rowan kid classic deserved better. the yarn was quite fuzzy and stuck to itself constantly while i tried to unravel the garment. after all it had been through, i had to borrow a knitty knotty and make skeins so that i could give the yarn a warm bath to get the kinks out. once dried and wound into balls, this very expensive yarn has new life as the drops cardigan. i can honestly say it was worth it, i wear it every day.

a lot of us start out knitting and then broaden out to learn many other crafts. do you have any other favorites besides knitting?
on occasion i will draw, sketch, or paint but i don't actually do any other crafts other than knitting.

what is an average day in your life like:
8:00 elsie eats breakfast while i check my emails and deliver etsy orders that were made during the night. 9-12:00 play time while mum tidies the kitchen, house work, etc. 12:00 lunch then nap time. 1-3:00 elsie naps while i update alterknits and my ravelry store. if i am in the middle of a design i work intensively on that for the whole 2 hours. if i am between designs i will use the time to do "knitting research" to get inspired and learn new techniques. 3:00 elsie up and with any luck we spend the rest of the afternoon in the yard. 5-6:00 dinner. 6-9:00 play time with dad. 9:00 off to bed for elsie. 9-11:00 more catching up on emails, sending out orders, and working on current design ideas.

you can buy both patterns and finished products of jane richmond's at "alterknits" here or on ravelry here. you can also find jane on ravelry under the username janeyfromcanadia. a big thank you to jane for agreeing to let me ask her my many questions and for being such a sweetheart.

so dust off your needles, find a colour of wool you adore and knit up some west coast cool. if you pop by jane's shop leave her a message - say hi and tell her we sent you! happy knitting & hopefully - one day designing!

are you a mom with a business you would like to see featured here? we would love to hear from you!

***note: alterknits has now moved to a new store! you can find all of jane's patterns and her new ones over at "jane richmond" on etsy. click here for the link.