Where do knitting patterns come from?
You pick up the Winter issue of Interweave Knits, you page through the photos and patterns, examining this cabled sweater, that lacey hat, looking for the telltale details, the overall silhouette, the color, that makes you pause. You scrutinize the pages of the magazine for a design that excites you; that you want to knit.
Where do these designs come from? Well, the projects in Interweave's knitting and crochet magazines all come from freelance independent designers. About 7-9 months before an issue goes to press, the editor puts together a submission call that goes out to designers, and in our case, is posted publicly on the internet for anyone to download. For Interweave Knits, Interweave Knits Gifts, and knit.purl magazines, those submission calls (if any are live at the time) can always be found here. For knitscene magazine, they can be found here. And for Interweave Crochet, here. Below's an example of an Interweave Knits submission call.
Designers then think and sketch and swatch and mull over ideas. They put together submission packets, sometimes including proposals for more than 10 designs! and mail them to our offices. I work from home in a different state, so once the submissions are all tagged and logged in, they are shipped to me. Boxes like this:
I spend hours and hours spreading these submissions around on the floor, making piles, making notes, rubbing swatches between my fingers. I have a lot of respect for the time, effort, and creativity designers have put into this work, and I want to carefully consider each idea. I am honored that they send their original designs to us, and honored that I am asked to serve as the gatekeeper to what gets published and disseminated to knitters. Once I've narrowed my choices down to about 25 designs, I get up off the floor and turn to the computer. We track all submissions through an Access database, and from there I start building the footprint for a magazine issue. I pull out my accepted designs, I add specific notes about the designs, I determine the rate the designer should be paid, their due date, the yarn, the color, the yarn amount, and the "stories" that the designs should fall into. In Knits, we divide collections into 2-4 stories which consist of cohesive themes and palettes. Sometimes the story is as straightforward as "set-in sleeves" and sometimes it's more conceptual, such as "southwestern casual." As I plug in this info and begin negotiating rates with the designers, I usually find 2-6 designs that don't fit so well, or that I can no longer afford! In the end, we generally publish 18-22 designs per issue.
Many many of our beloved contributors publish their designs and patterns independently, through services such as Ravelry, self-published books, and on their own websites. By combining traditional publishing work with independent publishing, as well as teaching and sometimes technical editing, many designers maintain a very busy and, potentially, profitable workload in craft. It is hard work to make a living as an independent designer, but it's work that can be rewarding, creatively challenging, and that connects you to the global community of knitters on a daily basis. And many designers don't do this fulltime; they design alongside other jobs, alongside parenting, alongside school. There are designers who own yarn shops, who dye yarns, who sell finished goods and notions through Etsy. I know designers from so many different backgrounds; a lot in the sciences, actually.
If you've sketched design ideas, worked up your own patterns for yourself, and are in that nascent stage of thought: "can I design knitwear for real?" there are many resources to get you started. The Designers group on Ravelry is a wonderful and lively resource with lots of voices and perspectives. There are books and blogs and classes aplenty. If you're available on January 7 at 1pm EST, we also have a brand new web seminar from veteran indie designer Mary Beth Temple:
If you're not free at that time, you can still access the recorded seminar anytime after that. Check it out and ask Mary Beth your questions; all of our web seminars end with a Q&A session that is open to all attendees. Another fabulous resource for designers is Shirley Paden's comprehensive Knitwear Design Workshop.
In any event, with all these boxes before me, I have some work to do! I am choosing designs for the Fall issue of knit.purl and the annual Gifts issue. I am off to plop down on the floor with my coffee and all of these knitterly dreams.