Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Almost an FO: How to Submit to a Knitting Magazine, or, Lessons Learned


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I'm getting very close to finishing a new Wildflower Tank, and I'm loving it. there's something so buttery soft yet cool making a summer knit in 100% silk. I'm hoping to wear it on July 20th, when I participate in the TTC Knitalong here in Toronto (I'm on Team Fair Isle)!


What's been very interesting about the process is that I'm knitting it from the pattern in the magazine Interweave Knits Spring 2012, which was pretty different from what I originally submitted. For those of you who have not submitted to a magazine before, let me share with you the key points of what I learned along the way:

Disclaimer: I sent them a schematic and photos based on a finished knit I created, and they accepted it, which is not their customary process. The official process is to submit a swatch, sketch, and details of your prospective design. Then they agree to take it, send you the yarn, you write the pattern, grade(size) it, and send them the sample. So some of the mistakes I made were due to me bucking the system. My first piece of advice is to not buck the system if you are just starting out.

1They finished knit cannot be a stitch different from what you wrote in the pattern. Seriously, not a stitch. I sent them the finished sample, but in knitting it, there were a few things that I thought would improve either the knitting experience or would make for a better fit, and wrote the pattern accordingly. They told me that it wasn't their practice to do this, and they had a tech editor rewrite the entire pattern based on the sample. You read that right- the entire thing.

2. Tech editors are using the spreadsheets for sizing. You might want to learn about this process now, to help yourself out. I took a very useful course on Craftsy about this, and although it is pretty dry stuff, it's extremely valuable.

3. It's not customary to get your sample knit back. So if you're hoping to one day have your  knit back so you can wear it again, be upfront about that in the contract stage. Keep in mind that if they provided the yarn, they might say no. Magazines can have trunk shows, too!

4. Remember that even though the knitting world is big, its's also small. We're all in this together- the magazines are trying to put out the best issue they can, with the best patterns they can get, with the best of intentions. If you don't like the experience, or don't think they photographed your knit in the most flattering way, or whatever, do not complain on the internet. People remember that stuff. I have never criticized Interweave, mainly because I don't think they did anything wrong, it was all me; but I've seen people venting about certain publications on twitter and on their blogs, and it makes me cringe a little. It's funny how we feel like we're having a private moment because we're at home, in our pajamas, doing our own thing; but the internet is a very public space.

A pattern in IK was a huge learning curve for me, and I was so embarrassed by my lack of understanding of the process that I actually haven't submitted to a magazine since (I am convinced the tech editor thought I was a blithering idiot). When I get embarrassed, I hide. But lately I'm thinking more and more about designing, and I think it's time to get back into the saddle.

23 comments:

Bridget said...

These are excellent tips, and it's great that you shared them with all of us.

I haven't really designed anything that is drastically different from a thousand other things out there, but you never know. :-)

Either way, the tank is lovely.

Sarah said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this! I just recently submitted the sample for my first big pattern and the learning curve was definitely there. I feel like it's a very scary process and I'm glad to hear others that feel the same way. Sometimes I worry that I'm the only idiot that can't figure something out or that if I let my guard down, people will think that I'm incompetent and not want to work with me. But I think that everyone goes through these feelings, even experienced designers have issues with their work.

While I was working on this pattern, I spent a huge amount of time doubting myself and worrying what everyone would think of me. I really felt like I had no idea what I was doing (which is normal for me but this time the stakes were high!) and fretting that everyone would know that I was faking it. I've gotten feedback that my sample looks great (crossing my fingers that tech editing isn't a complete mess) so I feel relieved and confident to keep going and keep teaching myself.

But I totally felt like hiding. I was so nervous about what I was doing that I didn't want to ask anyone for advice. Some really great knitters gave me a sounding board and I was so grateful. It really reminded me that despite the pressure, the community is really strong, everyone wants to help each other succeed. I don't think that everyone's going to hate us the way we work it up in our heads.

Definitely don't hide! Keep going! We are all here to support each other!

Phyllis said...

You are certainly not a blithering idiot. You seem to be a very composed and creative young woman. This information is very insightful. Although I never intend to design, I found this interesting. I am very happy to let you designers design. I will simply knit. Thank you for your creativity.

Lauria said...

I work for a yarn company, and we produce 35-45 patterns each season. It's an all consuming process (especially without the staff and support that IK has!).

I think you wrote out some great things for people to know! Knitters get confused when what they're creating doesn't match the visual image.

You should definitely put yourself out there again! You learned a lot of great stuff (and hopefully to ask questions if something comes up). It's hard to expose yourself to criticism, especially when you worked for hours and hours and hours on something. On the flip side, it's really hard not to take any criticism personally when someone criticizes the yarns or patterns we produce. By the time the patterns are published, I've probably spent close to as much time working on the patterns as the designer! It's a very emotional business and I think you're wise to also warn against what you say online!

loveisallyouknit.net said...

Thanks for sharing your experience! Definitely keep designing- you have great patterns.

Christina - a Babys Smile Knits said...

I can only imagine what the learning curve would be like. I am sure there is so much more to it than simply "writing it down". In the end it is a beautiful design and came out with a wealth of information.

Though I will say as a sample knitter I do appreciate a well written and tech edited pattern.

Renee Anne said...

This is one of the main reasons I haven't submitted anything for publication.

Kelli Michel said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences Juile! If I ever foray into submitting designs for publication I will be sure to follow your advice.
I do hope you keep publishing patterns, your creativity keeps me coming back to your blog for inspiration every week!

Erica said...

it is funny to see how changes made to they styling can change the feel of the tank. i remember seeing your photos and loving it, but then not caring for it at all in the magazine where it was modeled with negative ease! it is just personal preference, not that they did anything wrong, but just goes to show what a difference styling can make.

katherinelynn_04 said...

Honestly after having knit a few of your patterns I can say you should go ahead and keep submitting! The worst they can say is no, and you have a lot of lovely ideas. I've thoroughly enjoyed everything I've ever knit from one of your patterns.

Sarah V. said...

This is a totally interesting and informative post! Although I haven't dabbled in designing at all, I'm becoming increasingly fascinated by the behind-the-scenes world of pattern creation, editing, presentation and marketing. Thanks for opening a window in to the designer's experience in all of this! :)

I'm going to check out that Craftsy course too, thanks for sharing!

Nat at Made in Home said...

That is so interesting! Thanks for sharing. You are a great designer, you should definitely try to submit again!

Ashley said...

Very useful information! Thanks for sharing it with us. I've been wanting to try designing more, especially sweaters, but the sizing is what intimidates me more than anything else. I'll definitely look into that craftsy class.

eliza said...

you should definitely keep designing, and submitting! you are so talented, and you have such lovely taste!

i can totally empathize, though, i'm also a bit of a hider. but this is all just a part of the learning curve.

Audry said...

Last year I got my first acceptance into a publication (Twist Collective) and I definitely understand how intimidating it is to work with people who have so much knowledge. But afterwards I felt like my pattern writing had improved so drastically that it was worth feeling rather embarrassed by my newbie-ness. I hope you keep submitting. I've always felt that it is better to have others say no to you than say no for them. Your patterns are quite lovely, so it is worth continuing on.

Niki said...

Definitely do it again.

Tanis said...

Very interesting. Lots to learn from the publishing world! I love the Wildflower tank knit up in Sprout.

Cricket said...

I went through the same process. Being new to the game I also made my mistakes. Upon asking if there was more information out there for me to learn from so I could put my best foot forward I should have ask the magazine. One thing for me to remember no matter how many times they say they are covered up( and they are, they work very hard to put out a beautiful magazine) they would much rather answer the questions you have for you instead of you getting information second hand.

I also have never submitted another design. Hiding seems to be the end results for many. Remember you are human and so are the people putting out the magazine.

stefanie g-r said...

Great advice, thanks for sharing!

lollyknits.com said...

I think it's always really challenging and scary to get your work out there! But I do want to see more from you, so I'm glad you're getting back on the horse :)

Cassy said...

Great tips! I just enrolled for that class.

I felt like a total newbie when submitting to Knitty, and their process was pretty transparent. Everyone I worked with was wonderful. It was humbling when I found mistakes in my pattern and realized how unclear I was being for some parts. They were patient and kind throughout the process.

Evelyn said...

I agree that the knitwear design world is super small and reputations need to be protected! The internet world is huge and moves so quickly ~ I can only imagine how one small comment/critique could be blown out of proportion. Love your advice & notes ~ thanks for sharing so candidly about your missteps and what you think about the process of getting published. Love your WIP!

Susan said...

Thanks for the informative post. I'm just starting to play around with some designs that I may submit to magazines and it's so nice to be able to read about the process (especially from a newbie-designer perspective).