Collaboration Over Competition

When I started my Facebook group for participants of the Initiate Design Challenge, one of my goals (and fears) for the group was communicating the importance of two things: 1) there is space for everyone, and 2) collaboration over competition

It can be really easy to feel like you’re falling behind, in a group where everyone has the same goal: find the confidence and learn the techniques to publish designs. The green-eyed monster of envy starts to creep out when you notice that a fellow aspiring designer’s pattern has hit number one on Ravelry’s Hot Right Now. You wonder to yourself, “Why can’t I do that? I’m such a failure. I’m not cut out for this”.

This type of thinking is dangerous and a form of self-sabotage. We are our own worst critics.

One of the earliest lessons I had to learn was recognizing that not only was I my own worst critic, but I was LITERALLY my own worst critic, because I was wrong! I can create my own beautiful designs. I overcame a challenge, therefore I am a success and I am definitely cut out for this line of work.

When we have a competitive mindset, we see the pie as limited: when someone takes one piece, that’s one piece less for me. Resources are scarce so I need to get ahead of everyone else, in order to snatch it all up and ultimately push them out of business. This will ensure my prosperity.

 This is a really ugly way of seeing things and I highly encourage and challenge those who are struggling with this to shift your mindset from competition to collaboration.

In a collaborative mindset, we are sharing our knowledge and resources with each other. We encourage and truly support one another’s efforts. It doesn’t mean we should become complacent and stagnant with our own work—no.

We can find other’s efforts and growth inspiring. Use that inspiration to put yourself outside your comfort zone and really challenge yourself to create the best version of yourself.

And if you really want to break the numbers down, the pie is big enough for everyone. There are over 6 million Ravelry users, with about 5,000 at the high traffic levels, daily. Certainly we can see that out of those numbers, there’s an audience and fan base for everyone.


So now fiber bosses, I would love to hear your thoughts! Has this been something you've been struggling with? How are you dealing with it? Are you currently living in a collaborative mindset? Share your thoughts below and I would super appreciate it if you would share this article and spread the good will around.  

Initiate Knit Design: Lessons Learned

Initiate Knit Design kicked off this week, with over 1,000 fiber bosses signed up to participate. Scrolling through the hashtags, I noticed a couple themes that I wanted to address here in this blog post.

1.         Overcoming Fear

Whether it was just participating in the challenge, creating the mood board, or working up the sketch there was always a level of fear present. This is totally normal, but sometimes we (for good reason) try to hide it. Fear is paralyzing and holds us back from taking action or trying new things. I saw so many creative and talented people this week push through their fear and challenge themselves to attempt something new. I cannot say enough how proud I am of each one of you for not letting fear hold you back and just doing it. The first time is the scariest and I hope that if you do find yourself returning to this particular design process, you will think, “Ha! I did it once—I can do it again!”

And I will confess right now, I am scared about hosting this challenge—what if it is not helping anyone? What if it is turning more people off to knitwear design than turning them onto it? I like how fear talks in all-or-nothing terms. K

2.         Learning What Doesn’t Work

This challenge was created to provide clarity and confidence in knitwear design. The process I am guiding you through, over these five days, is just one way of approaching knitwear design. Do I expect everyone to say, “THIS is the way to do it!” or “This totally works for me!”? For some, yes! For others, no! I expect people to look over the steps we went through, the past few days, and assess what played to their strengths and what felt stifling and cumbersome. You may find yourself shifting steps around or adding your own touch to the mix. That is what this challenge is all about: introducing you to a process, a foundation, that you can take and make your own. As one participant put it: “That’s what I love about creativity… You have to show up for it, so it can show up for you!” If you do not take action, you do not know what will or will not work for you.

We still have some days to get through, before the challenge is over, but keep up the good work! I certainly hope this challenge has been illuminating to you, in one way or another!

Ignite magic,

Francoise

Start Conquering Fear and Gaining Self-Confidence TODAY

One common trait I see among aspiring knitwear designers or other beginning fiber entrepreneurs is fear. Fear of no-one liking their work, fear of ridicule, fear of criticism, fear of failing. Whatever that fear, it is strong enough to hold them back from pursuing their dreams of sharing their creative vision with the fiber community.

A few months ago, I was interviewed on the SweetGeorgia Yarn’s podcast. The lovely host, Felicia, asked me a question that really threw me for a loop: “Where do you find your self-confidence and fearlessness?” At the time I really didn’t know how to answer the question, but over the months it stuck with me as I asked myself, “How DID I gain the self-confidence to fearlessly do what I do?”

Then it struck me! The reason why I wasn’t able to pin-point that “aha” moment, when I magically started believing in myself, was because there was no “aha” moment. It was a gradual process that took place over the months I’ve been a designer.

What did I do? The answer lies within the question. I just DID. I took action. When I was first starting out as a knitwear designer, I was super nervous about hitting the “Publish to Ravelry” button. I was scared about people not liking the design; that the design was too complicated to read or hard to follow; that it wasn’t perfect. But I clicked that button anyway and guess what? My fears were just that – fears - not predictions of the future. People loved my work!

I know that my work isn’t perfect. Some mistakes do slip by requiring people to email me for help. But even that isn’t the life-ending experience that I had built it up in my head. I provide quality customer service, in order to make up for the mistakes in my product. So now when I receive an email asking for help, I don’t sweat it.

So if you’re feeling fear and are heavily doubting yourself: take action. By taking action you gain PROOF and examples of putting those fears to rest. I’m now able to click the Publish button on Ravelry without a second thought; it’s almost second nature to me. I’m not scared about going onto Periscope to do live video-streams with my audience. I’m not scared about sharing my work on Instagram. But conquering these fears didn’t happen overnight. It was through consistent and deliberate action over weeks and months that I was able to get to where I am now.

So start taking action today - everyday. Determine what fear is holding you back, and just do it anyway. Even if it’s a series of small steps, doing something is better than nothing! That’s my challenge to you this week.

You’ll be thanking yourself that you did - a week, a month, a year from now.


You don't have to conquer fear alone! Get the chance to work with me with my Spark-Igniter Session, a one-hour one-on-one personalized Skype coaching and mentoring call. During these calls, I am 100% focused on you and your goals, and dedicated to helping YOU overcome your obstacles in your biz. Click here to request a free 15-minute consultation.

Fiber Boss Collective and Podcast

 Graphic made by Chelsea Fitch of KnitFitch.com

Graphic made by Chelsea Fitch of KnitFitch.com

What an amazing week this has been so far. My friend, Chelsea Fitch and I launched a project that we've been working on for the past few weeks, the Fiber Boss podcast and facebook group.

This was a project that we decided to do for fun; Chelsea approached me with the idea of starting a podcast and running a facebook group for entrepreneurs in the fiber industry. 

That said, the podcast was meant to be laid-back, fun and just capturing a conversation between two very passionate entrepreneurs, aka Fiber Bosses. Of course, we talk about our knitting projects, WIPs and FOs alike, but we wanted to add something extra to the podcast so that we wouldn't just be another knitting talk show. So we discussed what our strengths are and what we are knowledgeable about; being a small business owner in the fiber industry. So our podcast is heavily geared towards aspiring, beginning and expert level fiber bosses in the industry: talking about the ups and downs of being independent, tips and lessons on how to run a brand smoothly and staying motivated. The first episode was recorded in January, so naturally we talked about how to set realistic goals that are in line with what YOU want.

 Photo by KnitFitch.com

Photo by KnitFitch.com

A few days ago we launched the first episode and opened the doors to our Facebook Group, the Fiber Boss Collective, and it has completely exceeded our expectations. While this project was just something fun, we did notice the lack of resources and communities for fiber entrepreneurs to come together and collaborate and communicate. However, people have taken to it so much better than we thought, so the Fiber Boss Collective and Podcast will become a major part of Chelsea's and I's business journey.

We are 100+ members strong already, and fiber entrepreneurs of all trades, designers, yarn makers, teachers, etc., are making connections and reaching out for advice on how to take their business to the next level. It's amazing, and we are both overwhelmed with positive emotions.

Have you given the podcast a listen to yet? You can listen to it here and if you are a fiber boss, you can request to join the group here! Chelsea or I will accept your request within the next 24 hours.

Setting Goals for 2016

Having a clear idea of what you want to achieve is crucial in running a small business as it can help keep focused and in a direction you hope to go. For 2015, I set three goals for myself for the entire year which were: 1) Publish at least one pattern a month, 2) Get published in at least one knitting publication, 3) Learn as much as I can about fibers.

I wrote about my 2015 Year in Review in my previous post and gave my three goals for 2016, but in this post, I want to re-visit those goals and share some tips for more effective goal settings that help prevent burn-out and better keep you on track.

First, in addition to setting goals for the entire year, do so for each quarter. This helps with motivation and allows for self-assessments and flexibility. A year is a really long period of time and expecting our motivation, drive and even what we want from our business to remain the same throughout can set us up for failure. 

Next, I use the S.M.A.R.T. system to determine my goals for the quarter. S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

  • Specific (What do you want to achieve in your area of focus?)
  • Meaningful (Why is this goal important to you?)
  • Action Oriented (What steps will you take to achieve it?)
  • Realistic (How do you know that you can achieve this goal?)
  • Timely (By when do you want to achieve this goal?)

This helps me make sure that the goals I have set for myself for each quarter have a higher chance of success (or at least have been completed).

So now that I have those guidelines in place, are my revisited goals for the first quarter of 2016 (January - March).

Publish at least one paid-for pattern each month. My monthly pattern releases are my main source of income. This is a goal I know I'll be able to achieve if I continue my stream-lined process of designing as I did last year. And as an added goal to this, use up the yarn from my stash for these patterns!

Upload one free beta pattern each month. These patterns are done in collaboration with small indie yarn dyers around the world. In addition to the free pattern, I also post a Yarn Cakes and Tea episode review of the yarn. This is to bring exposure and new followers to the yarn maker as well as build my e-mail list.

Launch my Pattern Design and Writing E-Course. The aim of this e-course is to help aspiring designers make the transition from knitting to designing and pattern writing. I believe that I'll be making this e-course evergreen, to help with the monthly income. Realistically, I plan to launch the course in March, and aim to have at least 10 students sign up.

Launch my Shawl Design E-Book. This e-book will be a part of the e-course but will also be sold as a separate single-item. Like the e-course, this will help with the monthly income. A week before launching I'm going to host an IG challenge, "5 Shawls, 5 Days" (stay tuned for that!). I aim to launch the e-book by the end of February.

What are your goals for this first quarter?Are they S.M.A.R.T.?  Share them in the comments below!

5 Things That A Pattern Needs

I spend a good amount of time stalking forums on Ravelry, scoping out what knitters have to say about the patterns they knit.

Selling a product, even knitwear design, is about offering a solution to a problem. And sometimes, that solution can be just as simple as providing information in a written pattern/product description that many designers (even I'm guilty of this) leave out but can make the knitting experience that much better for the knitter. 

1. Gauge (unblocked and blocked)

Oh, am I guilty of this one. Every time I intend to check the measurements of a shawl before I block, I forget to do so. Why is getting the unblocked measurements so important? Because the gauge for shawls unblocked vs blocked can really vary, especially if you're the type who loves to aggressively block shawls and stretch them out. And getting the unblocked measurements is especially crucial when it comes to yardage. Sure, yardage for shawls isn't always important because gauge isn't critical, but if you're designing a one-skein wonder, by putting that limitation on the yardage, you need to get that gauge so people can achieve the same outcome without having to buy an extra skein of yarn (and then it becomes a two-skein almost-wonder).

2. Yardage

I like to list both the amount of skeins used in the sample yarn as well as how many yards were actually used. This really depends on the requirements of the provider of the yarn support, but if they are ok with you adding the yardage, in case a knitter wants to substitute the yarn, then add it in. You can get the yardage by weighing the yarn and calculating from how many grams are left over, how many yards were used. It's pretty simple math. And it's best to include an estimated range of yardage as this can vary from person to person based on gauge, what needle size they use to obtain that gauge, etc. 

3. Inches and CM

Knitting is a world-wide hobby, not just localized to the US so you will have knitters who will be working in the metric system. This is a habit that I'm trying to instill, adding both inches / US needle sizes with cm. Knitters really appreciate that little bit of extra effort to make their knitting experience that more enjoyable. If we can say, "Well, it's just a bit of work for them but its easy work" then, why don't WE do the work for them, if it's so easy? (My answer: because I'm a lazy butt and it's SO EASY. The easier the task, the less likely I'm going to do it). 

But really. Google has a inches to CM converter and you get those numbers in two seconds. And here's a chart for US needle sizes to mm. Click on the image to download the pdf version to print out and hang up on your wall for all eternity. Now, no more excuses!

4. Written and Charted Instructions

The only type of stitch pattern that I don't put written instructions are for stranded colorwork.  But for everything else, lace, cables, textured stitches, I try to incorporate both written and charted instructions. I try to make the least amount of assumptions for those buying my patterns, I can't assume, for example, that they know how to read charts like I do. Some are more comfortable with written instructions. I can't handle written instructions as they all start jumbling together (once I made the transfer to reading charts so I could attempt the more complex stitches) but that doesn't mean the same for someone else.

5. Schematics

I'm definitely working on this one for my shawl patterns. But if you have a garment design, schematics are pretty much essential. Even something simple to highlight the important measurements works better than nothing. It doesn't have to be perfect (and there are people who can produce schematics for you) but it needs to detail the basic shape of the design and the measurements of those areas.

6. BONUS! Stitch Counts

Because five isn't enough, I'm adding a sixth bonus on. Stitch counts! This is my personal biggest problem. It's not that I don't provide stitch counts, it's that I don't give enough. Always include the stitch count on rows or sections where the count changes. But usually my shawl patterns are just repeats of a chart so I give the overall stitch count for the section as it is completed. But sometimes, people want the stitch count for EACH row, as it helps them stay on track. So recently, I've been changing things up by adding a new page to my patterns dedicated to just the stitch counts for every row that was worked for the sample piece. Thankfully I've developed a method for getting those stitch counts fast and easy so it's now no longer a pain in the butt. I'll be sharing that method with you in a future post.


What other pieces of information do you wish designers would add in their patterns to make your knitting experience easier? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!