Our Designers’ Stories - Emily Greene
Here at Making Stories, we are all about transparency. That may sound a little strange, but think about it... isn’t it so much nicer when all the cards are on the table? When nothing is left to interpretation and we can forge ahead together with confidence and respect for each other? We try to bring transparency into every element of Making Stories and that includes sharing our innermost workings with you lovely people because at the end of the day you are as much as part of this as we are here at the MS Headquarters!
In this post, I wanted to share with you how we work with our designers. We are so happy to include the super talented Emily Greene in this group. Emily is a Brooklyn based designer and when not knitting she designs actual buildings! How awesome is that?! Her knitwear designs are heavily influenced by her love of architecture and result in truly beautiful, modern pieces that are a joy to both knit and wear. We have been honored to feature her designs in both STRIPES and BREEZE and I’m so excited to share her latest pullover Citrine which will appear in our next print publication JEWELS!
Before we hear more from Emily though, I would love to tell you a little more about how we work with designers, and of course, that is going to involve the money side of things. I know, we’re not supposed to talk about money! But why?! It’s super important for both us and the designers who are working with us because at the end of the day, as much as we absolutely love our jobs, we also need to pay the bills.
At Making Stories, the compensation structure for designers was carefully developed after thorough market research and, more importantly, a desire to ensure our designers were being fairly paid. There has been much discussion on the topic of fair fibre wage and it was paramount that we contributed to this as respectfully and as mindfully as we could. When I discussed this with Hanna Lisa she had this to say:
“We never asked ourselves whether we could afford the designer rates or not, we rather thought about it this way; we want to make sure the designers are fairly compensated and if that means that our publications are priced higher than the industry standard, that is what is necessary and hopefully it will instigate some change.”
I love this approach because at the end of the day we are a community, and part of being a community is that we have to support and respect each other or we can no longer function. It’s very much a two-way street and we wanted to make sure that we treated all our designers fairly throughout the process, which is why we ask everyone to adhere to a set of standard guidelines. These include keeping to all the set deadlines such as writing and sending the pattern, responding to tech editing, getting the samples delivered safely to Making Stories, respond to tech editing and being available for pattern corrections during the test knitting phase. We also provide a pattern template and standard sizing sheet which must be followed when writing the patterns. This keeps everything consistent and clear across all of the designs. If a designer doesn’t follow our expectations as set out in the pattern guidelines and contract, there is a deduction from their compensation. I know this may sound a little severe, but it’s about keeping things fair. We don’t believe it’s fair to pay the same compensation to someone who is not adhering to the guidelines, often causing additional work, compared to someone who is ensuring their pattern is error free and has followed the guidelines carefully. All of this information is shared with the designers before anything is signed so we can be as open and honest as possible.
When it comes to deciding on payment we also take into account how complex a pattern is as well as how much grading work and sizes are involved. For example, a hat in two sizes isn’t as complicated as a 6 sized sweater, and each would be compensated accordingly. We love working with our talented designers, and to make it as fair as possible, we decided to offer a flat fee for each design and keep the rights to the design for 6 months. After 6 months the rights revert fully back to the designers, at which point they are able to sell them individually if they wish to do so and keep the proceeds from this.
Phew! So I have given you a lot of insight into how we work, but let’s face it, it’s all been from our point of view. This is a blog post about our designers so it only makes sense that you hear from one of them and get the low down from their side! I hand you over to the lovely Emily to share what it is like to be a Making Stories Designer;
Me: How did you start working with Making Stories?
Emily: I stumbled across Hanna Lisa’s Instagram in late 2016 after Brooklyn Tweed reposted one of her photos of her gorgeous gray Ondawa sweater, and then followed along with (and contributed to!) the crowdfunding campaign for WOODS. I loved the concept for Making Stories and was so impressed with how polished and cohesive the visual story was right from the very start, so I was thrilled when they posted an open call for submissions for BREEZE! I put together a few proposals for that submission call, and I was fortunate enough to have two of my designs selected - the Mistral Pullover for BREEZE, and the Cara Wrap for STRIPES.
Me: When you received the call for submissions for JEWELS, did you know you wanted to apply straight away / did you already have something in mind?
Emily: I was definitely interested in submitting some ideas for JEWELS right away; I didn’t have any predetermined ideas in mind, but I loved the direction of the mood board and felt like there were a lot of really evocative images there from which to draw inspiration. My family often teases that I never knit anything with color, so this seemed like a great chance to break out of my usual neutral palette!
Me: Where did you find your inspiration for the pullover in JEWELS?
Emily: As I started sketching ideas for JEWELS, I was really drawn to several photographs included in the mood board of geodes and naturally occurring crystal formations. I wanted to create a piece that would recall the startlingly precise geometry of these natural forms. I love playing with lines in my designs, using them compositionally to draw the eye across the fabric of a garment, and to create prismatic effects through the use of converging and contrasting linework motifs, so I decided to reinterpret the faceted crystalline shapes that had inspired me as richly textured planes of twisted ribbing that meet precisely at sharply defined edges.
Me: How does the designing process work for you?
Emily: Sketches come first! I do lots of sketching to explore ideas about line, shape & silhouette, long before I make any decisions about yarn, stitch patterns or construction. I have to have an idea about what the ‘feel’ of the garment (or hat, or scarf) is before I get into the specifics.
Once I have a sketch (or several) that I like, I start thinking about yarn pairings. I keep a list of yarns I like (or would like to try!) and will pick from that, and will sift through my stash to find something appropriate to swatch with.
Next comes lots of swatching; I usually make a lot of messy swatches at first to try different things out (sort of like sketching with yarn), then I’ll do a second round of swatches in the ‘final’ yarn to determine the gauges for each stitch pattern that I’ll use in my grading.
Then comes grading and drafting; I use a spreadsheet to develop all of the target measurements for each piece in each size, and at the same time, I also digitally draft each piece to scale in Autocad to review overall proportions and to check some measurements that are tricky to calculate accurately (like matching armhole and sleeve cap curves!).
After all my grading is done, I write a first draft of the pattern, trying to make it as complete as possible. This helps enormously with anticipating any issues that are likely to arise during sample and test knitting. It also keeps me away from the terrible habit of knitting a sample first, then discovering while trying to write the pattern that my notes were much less detailed than I’d thought at the time!
Finally, it’s time for the fun part - knitting the sample!
Me: How have you found working with the Making Stories guidelines?
Emily: Working with the Making Stories guidelines has definitely gotten easier with each pattern I’ve contributed! There’ve been a few minor bumps along the way, but I think it’s fair to say there’s been a lot of learning on both sides of the editorial-designer relationship over this last year - just as I’ve been getting more and more familiar with the ins and outs of the MS pattern writing style, I think Verena and Hanna Lisa have been working to improve their guidelines with each publication, and together we’re better able to anticipate questions and issues before they arise.
Me: Do you feel it’s important and helpful to have a contract in place when working with a publication?
Emily: Yes; aside from providing both designers and publishers some degree of recourse in the event that things should go seriously awry, a well-written and thorough contract should explicitly outline exactly what should be expected of and by both parties. I don’t think a contract can ever be too detailed!
Me: You’ve created a few designs for Making Stories publications now. What do you like most about working with us?
Emily: Getting to work with beautiful, sustainably-produced European yarns that are often new-to-me as an American knitter.
Me: Any last thoughts?
Emily: I love working with publications that have a very strong editorial vision; it challenges me as a designer to think of ways to see my work through a different set of eyes and to seek points of overlap between a theme or concept suggested by a publisher and the particular ideas I’m interested in exploring. I also find I am much more creative when working with a few constraints; having a few particular requirements or limitations can sometimes lead you to more inventive solutions to a design problem.
A HUGE thank you to Emily for giving us her time to provide her insight into working with Making Stories. It’s been absolutely fascinating to see the process from her point of view, and I hope you have enjoyed it too. If you would like to see more of Emily’s work check out her Ravelry page!
If you have any questions at all about this topic please do let me know, pop them in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer!