I’m jumping the gun on this one because I literally cannot wait until the pattern publishes on Friday — it’s Junko Okamoto’s latest flash of brilliance, the Bouquet Sweater and scarf (not sure if the latter will be a separate pattern, but I assume). We’ve talked before about my love of The Twigs, and I’m equally smitten with her floral doodle on Papa, but this one is next level. Bouquet features a large-scale flower motif that reminds me of a sort of Weiner Werkstätte way of doing a floral — graphic and abstracted. But it’s also not a standard stranded motif and not embroidered after the fact. I’m eager to see when the pattern drops, but it’s either an incredibly clever use of right-side and wrong-side floats, or a wrapping technique similar to that in L’Arbre Hat? Like I said, I can’t wait to see the pattern and find out.
She’s knitted the sample sweater in a marl and a fairly low-contrast color, downplaying the effect — then flipped the two yarns for the scarf. For a higher-contrast version, just look at this gorgeousness.
Croquis (“crow-KEE”) is French for sketch, but in the garment world it means fashion illustrations, which are traditionally based on an unrealistic “model” who is nine heads tall and very thin.
The idea of a faint croquis template for drawing on top of — for those of us who are not skilled illustrators — is best known in the form of the Fashionary products we sell some of at Fringe, which are popular with design students everywhere. I’ve been a proponent of Fashionary for DIY-ers because having a template to draw on has allowed me to make semi-realistic sketches of garments I’m proposing to make, enabling me to see what sleeve shape I like best, where I’d like a sweater to hit (natural waist? mid hip? crotch?), what shapes work together, and so on. It’s been an incredibly useful tool for me in project selection and wardrobe planning. But think how much more powerful it would be if we could have templates based on our actual human dimensions.
So that’s what I hoped would come true, and it has! And I’m thrilled to talk to Erica about it all—
. . . . .
How did you first get the idea to make a customizable croquis app?
When I first started making my own clothes a few years ago, it was like a floodgate of creativity had opened. I was bursting with so many ideas that it was hard to fall asleep at night. I was also a bit overwhelmed by the infinite design decisions that can go into making each garment. I needed a way to get my ideas out of my head and onto paper, and I needed it to be visual — not just a written list. At the same time, I was recovering from several years of illness and chronic pain issues. Making clothes felt like a thank-you gift to my body for all it had been through. Traditional fashion croquis, at a standard nine or ten head-lengths tall, just didn’t make sense. I found a few realistically-proportioned fashion croquis options, but none that looked like me. I searched for custom croquis apps, but found nothing. I finally ended up making my own sketch templates by tracing over a photo of myself. Every once in a while, I would do another online search to see if anyone had created a custom croquis generator yet. Every time, I was surprised to find nothing. Finally, in January 2017, I decided to do it myself.
And how did you have the know-how to bring that idea to fruition?
I had zero know-how! But I could see and feel so clearly that MyBodyModel was something that needed to exist. My professional background is in nonprofit management and consulting, including a lot of grant writing and collaboration. I’ve always loved the process of starting with the seed of an idea and bringing people together to help it grow into reality. My first steps were finding a local software development company to estimate what it would take, and then connecting with as many makers and designers as possible to see if this was a product that anyone other than me actually wanted. I also took advantage of available free business counseling and trainings, did a lot of research, and got some grant funding to pay for part of the initial development.
It seems like one of the hardest questions must have been “how much do I charge for this?” given that, to my knowledge, there’s never been anything like it. Can you talk a little bit about the pricing model you’ve settled on and how you arrived at it?
There were no “comps” to help figure out the pricing, so that was a bit tricky! I did know from the beginning that I wanted a free-to-preview, pay-to-download pricing model. In my initial focus groups, I gave the option for participants to pre-order and write down the price they would pay for their body model download packages. I used this information when I put together the different backer tiers for the Kickstarter campaign in August 2017. The success of that campaign not only validated that MyBodyModel was a product that people were excited about, but also that our pricing model was on the right track.
Feedback from our Kickstarter backers also helped shape the current credit-based download model. During the campaign, the main questions people had were, “What if my body changes?” and “What if I make garments for clients or loved ones?” We designed the credit-based system so that folks could purchase packages of two or five credits at a discounted cost per credit. We’ve also started offering discounted education pricing for classroom use.
You’ve taken it slowly — and I mean that as a compliment — crowdsourcing funds, hosting a nice long beta period to develop the tools, and now making it publicly available. Has your idea of what you’re doing, or why you’re doing it, changed during that time?
During the Kickstarter campaign, it was clear that people were excited about the idea of MyBodyModel as a practical and creative tool. What I didn’t realize was what a powerful emotional reaction people would have to actually seeing and using their body model templates. I’ve heard from so many customers who say it’s the first time that they’ve ever looked at their body without judgment. When they look at their body outlines, they don’t see flaws — they see possibilities. I think there’s something about seeing the lines and curves of your body as a 2D outline that turns on the artistic and creative parts of your brain, and turns off the judgey mean parts.
What’s one thing that has surprised you the most from the usage and feedback you’ve seen during the testing phase?
Of all the feedback during the testing phases, both alpha and beta, what most surprised me was how often people blamed their own bodies rather than the app itself for any glitches in the croquis rendering! It really helped me understand just how pervasive and far reaching the social construct is of our bodies having something wrong with them. I realized that almost everyone struggles with body image and body acceptance — regardless of size or shape, and regardless of how “normal” or even “perfect” they may look to an outside eye. At the same time, I’ve been delighted to discover that some of the most positive body images are held by people whose bodies don’t match up with commercially defined ideals around what we should or shouldn’t look like. These realizations have made me even more passionate and determined to continue developing MyBodyModel as body-positive design tool — and to make it as accessible as possible.
Do people’s notions of what it is, and is for, line up with what you imagined? Or have people used it in ways you never saw coming?
Initially, MyBodyModel was a product that I wanted for myself. I knew exactly how I would use it, but I needed to learn how others might use it, and how it might fit into their creative processes and planning styles. From our initial focus groups and alpha testing, I learned that we needed to offer formats for drawing on paper as well as digitally. I was surprised to learn how many makers love using analog tools such as notebooks, binders, and bulletin boards. I also learned that we needed different page formats that would be useful during the various stages of the creative process — for example, several croquis on one page for initial exploration of silhouettes, versus one larger croquis with space for project-planning notes.
But of course, since the product release, people have come up with all sorts of creative ways to use their body models! A few of my favorites:
Sharing your body measurements on social media as part of the #sewmysize initiative (such as here, here, and here).
Using a multi-media approach such as creating paper cut-outs to show fabric swatches (or as in the photo below, a color photocopy of a knitting swatch).
I know you must have sunk an incredible amount of time and heart and soul into this. What’s the most rewarding thing so far in seeing it in the world, being used?
It’s hard to put into words how good it feels to have MyBodyModel out in the world.Even more than 6 months after our initial beta release, I still shout out and do a happy dance every time I see someone post a sketch they’ve done using their body model croquis. And I still get teary over many of the DMs and emails that I receive from customers. I think the most rewarding thing is knowing that it’s more than just a fun and useful product — it’s actually transforming the way our customers think about themselves and their bodies. I’ve also loved seeing how many people have been drawing on their templates with children watching and joining in the fun (such as here and here). It makes me so happy to think about the body-positive messages this sends on so many different levels.
And are you focused on the existing product right now and letting the world know about it, or are you already dreaming up what’s next for MyBodyModel?
I’m already working on raising funds and recruiting testers for the next development phase! I have a long wish list and lots of big ideas for the future, but we’re still just getting started. Currently the app is able to render female croquis only; I hope to offer male croquis by this fall, as well as some optional adjustment options. Our R&D budget depends on current sales, and we always prioritize based on customer feedback, so I’m also still very focused on letting the world know about MyBodyModel and our existing product offerings! Thankfully our customers, our testers and our original Kickstarter backers are our biggest champions, so that makes my job a whole lot easier.
. . .
Thanks so much, Erica!
I should note that Erica invited me to try out the app during the testing stage, and I have yet to find time, but I’ll be rectifying that asap!
Hello, February! In knitalong news, today is the start of Black History Month and a BHM make-along — knitting and sewing, and open to everyone “no matter your race, gender, or where you live in the world,” but the challenge is to make something from an African American designer’s pattern. Use hashtag #bhmpatterndesigners and see @naturaldane for more details and suggestions. And we’ve got two weeks left of the #fringeandfriendssteekalong — review those details here.
— Also this month, QuiltCon! I’ve long wanted to attend, and with it coming to Nashville this month, I get to. Anyone else coming?
— On the Slow Fashion front, if you haven’t seen Roe of @brownkids’ In|vested series from the past month, click that link or go click the circle with that label beneath it in her saved stories, and then continue back through the subsequent weeks (marked Convo 1, Convo 2, etc) (photo above right)
This is anecdotal, but I feel like there’s been a significant trend lately toward combining stranded knitting (which is almost always stockinette) with texture in various ways — frequently through the introduction of bobbles. I’m particularly taken with these two hat patterns that take on just a little added texture by virtue of simply purling some or all of the colorwork—
TOP: Hat with Purled XO by Arne and Carlos features a classic motif at jumbo scale with purled colorwork boosting its impact
BOTTOM: Hjarn Hat by Amber Platzer Corcoran is also bulky gauge but with more delicate, three-color motifs (click through for the more colorful samples)
Before I get to this round of Elsewhere links, I want to take a moment to reiterate something I said on Instagram last night regarding the Steekalong and indeed all of the make-alongs I host: Everyone is welcome. The kals and other events are designed to be safe, supportive groups where you can try new things and refine your skills and meet new people. Regardless of your skill level, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age or anything else, I would love for you to participate in any event I organize.
Yuko Shimizu is one of many great designers I’ve learned of this past week as a result of the powerful discussion going on about diversity and the knitting community. If you’ve missed it somehow, there’s a good synopsis-with-links on Ravelry. In addition to hopefully opening eyes and minds to ways we can all do better to make the knitting community (and the world) a more inclusive place, it’s bringing a lot of wonderful and talented people into broader view.
I’m super smitten with these sweaters:
TOP: Sunburst is a fantastic little cropped colorwork sweater with full sleeves and some mohair content giving it an unusual surface texture for such a sweater
After a lifetime of mostly thinking January 1st is irrelevant and spurning the making of resolutions, this year I find myself so awash in thoughts and wishes and goals and reflections that I’m having trouble even beginning to put them into sentences, much less paragraph order. Not to mention I’ve had my hands (and brain) so full these past few weeks with holiday business and the new Fringe Supply Co. website and the launch of the Steekalong (etc, etc) that I haven’t been able to look any of this squarely in the face, or sit still with it, or let it talk back to me. So bear with me as I try to say at least some fraction of what I want to say.
The bottom line will be: I’m different.
I’m older than I was a couple of weeks ago. As in, the dawn of a new decade. And I have an older husband. A couple of years ago, having made it through assorted health scares and setbacks, and having my fun-loving husband back on his feet, I became wide-awake aware of the fact that I’m not going to live forever and I have not seen the world, and neither had he, and we want to see the world. A big part of moving from San Francisco to Nashville is we wanted to see the world. Living there, far from our families, and spending all of our money on the cost of living there, pretty much any travel we were able to do was to see family — and even that was getting harder and more expensive. How were we ever going to see Paris or Istanbul or the Congo? So we moved to where it’s easy enough to see family — just hop in the car — that we could do much more of that, but also save money and spend it on travel. (This was one of many factors, but a big one.)
People who know us would likely describe us as gutsy and adventuresome. We’d been all up and down the west coast hiking backcountry trails and climbing rock walls and whatnot. We’ve both seen most of the U.S. But when it came to international travel, we … well, I guess we just didn’t know how to say yes to that. It seems so daunting. So foreign! And it might have been, twenty years ago, but now with debit cards and iPhones, there’s not a lot of difference between traveling to Paris Texas and Paris France, functionally speaking. Except we didn’t know that because we were too nervous to try it. (Or “too busy” or recovering from surgery or, you know.) It was so much easier to just keep not going. Until one day we decided we didn’t want to find ourselves old or infirm and wishing we’d gone while we could.
So we decided we would go to Paris. Keep it simple, just one city, and I kinda know the language. And if we only ever made it to one place, hey, at least we’d seen Paris! We still thought we didn’t know how, but we decided if we just picked some dates and bought some plane tickets, we’d be forced to figure it out, so that’s what we did. And in April of 2017, we went to Paris. Other than the cost and length of the flights — and ok, the fact that some people couldn’t understand us and vice versa — it was just like traveling to any other big city we’d ever been in. And that was pretty thrilling and emboldening, but like we walked everywhere (took a cab twice) and never left the city. And I kinda know the language. Everywhere else still seemed sort of daunting! But we loved it and we made a pact that we would leave the country at least once a year for as long as we’re able. Which we half-did in 2018.
When I got the chance to tag along to Portugal last June, it wound up being at the expense of Bob leaving the country. (We almost went back to Paris for my big birthday last month, but decided on the desert with loved ones instead.) If you ever have the chance to travel with friends who are really good at it — or this is why people do group tours, I now understand — you should do that. Again, what I learned is it’s not that hard or different, in this day and age. And although the flights can be more expensive than domestic travel, it can be cheaper overall. My elaborate trip to Portugal was a bargain compared to our few days in SF in September. But this time I was with people who simply rented cars and plugged an address into Google Maps, just like at home, and off we went all over the country. What I got to experience there, as I mentioned at the time, left me SO hungry for more.
I want to see the world. And more important, I want to be a person who says yes more.
So far this is a long way of telling you I plan to wear more color. This year’s resolution: Wear color. Be color. Live in color.
I didn’t wear makeup for about twelve years. I simply didn’t want to. I had loved makeup in earlier years, but had started to feel like the only time I looked in the mirror and thought “ahhhh, that’s better” was when I looked up from washing my face. So I just stopped one day (the day I returned from my first backpacking trip, actually), and over time I decided I wouldn’t start again for any reason other than that it felt appealing and fun to me. I wouldn’t succumb to any external pressure to do it — because we are expected to, and you have to explain yourself if you choose not to, which seems really backwards to me. (I have a whole book of thoughts on this subject.) But eventually I did find myself actually wanting to wear a little bit of makeup, and so now I do.
Likewise, I used to wear more color than I do now. I’ve never been an Anna Maltz or a Libby Callaway or even a Meghan Fernandes — to name just a few friends whose facility with color I admire — but there was color. In particular, pink.
Here are three of my favorite outfits of my life:
1. Going off to sleepaway camp for the first time at age 12 or so, and feeling even more pressure about what I wore than any first day of school, I wore a tube top in a hot pink and white awning stripe under pale pink overall shorts with white Keds. 2. Working at JC Penney in high school while there was a trendy co-branded collection with a hot British brand (these were early Madonna days), I bought the hot pink sleeveless cotton mock-neck sweater and — how did I never make this connection before — a long tube skirt in hot pink and white awning stripe. And I had a perfectly matched pair of hot pink flats. 3. Heading to family-friends’ house for Christmas one year when we were all alone in CA, and feeling kind of glum, I wore my security-blanket grey sweatshirt with my raspberry pink chinos and black boots. I called those my happy pants.
I had fun getting dressed when I was in my teens, twenties, even thirties. I was more playful with color and shape — easier because, as we’ve well established, I was constantly refilling and reinventing my closet. Ever since committing to making more of my own clothes (and thus wanting the effort to pay off) and trying to be more mindful of what I’m putting into my closet, I’ve been playing it safe. Partly it’s because I moved across the country with so little and had to reestablish those basic building blocks of a functioning closet — all the more important in a small closet with slow turnover.
Are you still with me? Here’s what all that travel stuff had to do with this: I’m going to India this year.
I’ve wanted to go to India for as long as I can remember. I’ve a lifelong obsession with the literature and history of the continent. Photos of India fill me with longing like no other place. One of my closest friends from that pink-striped tube skirt era (we originally met at JC Penney) is Indian, and her family had offered back then that if I ever wanted to go with them on one of their trips, I could. To a suburban midwestern teenager with a severe anxiety disorder, that was like being offered a seat on a flight to Mars. It was fun to think about, but are you kidding me? I was so young and dumb then that I didn’t even partake of her mother’s Indian cooking. (Talk about regrets!)
In recent years, my wish to go there had intensified. And then there came a point where I decided it just wasn’t meant to be. Bob has no interest, and it’s not like I’m going to go by myself. So when? How? I’d have to content myself with books and movies, and it was sad to think that way. Then about six weeks ago, the opportunity presented itself — a chance to go with a friend who’s been. I talked it over with Bob and we agreed I should do it. And I took a hard gulp and pushed a button. I said yes. And I felt like the top of my head was going to fly off, I was so indescribably excited. Within 48 hours, three of those friends of mine who are so much better travelers than me — but who are all equally humbled at the idea of actually going to India — also said yes. There has hardly been a single day since that I haven’t said in disbelief, either in my head or out loud, I’m going to India.
I’m not sure which is the chicken and which the egg, but I feel color coming on, and it feels very much related. I find myself desperately craving not grey but pink. I want those raspberry chinos back, and to figure out how to make more vibrant color work for me again. If I can go to India, I can do anything — I’m pretty sure. (Honest to god, I was listening to an interview on NPR the other day about the inevitability and nearness of colonizing Mars, and I was like “I’d book a seat for that.” Ha!)
If there’s one thing I truly believe it’s that we never really know what we’re capable of. Deciding to wear pink pants is nothing compared to deciding to go to India. But I think it’s important to listen to ourselves and hear those rumblings. To never box ourselves into our own or anyone else’s narrow definition of who we are. We contain multitudes.
So here’s the other thing I want to say, and I wish I had gotten to it sooner than the end of a remarkably long piece of writing. Last month I was reading this post about self-care on Mason-Dixon — about negative self-talk and specifically about negative body talk. I don’t really do the latter — or haven’t in the past decade or so — but I do have an inner nag. She’s mean and demeaning and she almost never shuts up. I am really not living up to her standards on a daily basis. But what I realized while reading that particular article is that my inner bitch is not just mean; she is specifically a fearmonger. I’ve been through a lot in the last thirty years — divorce, failed business, toxic work situations, foreclosure — all of which I treasure as growth experiences (I wouldn’t be where I am now), but I have a certain amount of PTSD. Since our ability to feed and clothe ourselves right now depends entirely on the continued success of Fringe Supply Co., she’s always taunting me about what will happen when I figure out how to screw it up, which of course she feels certain I’ll do.
I know from living this long that things are good and then they’re not so good and then they’re good again and then they’re bad again … — it’s cyclical, not a straight line through some difficulty to happily every after, as Hollywood would have us believe. So she spends every day lying in wait for the moment when it goes bad next, and reminding me it’s coming. Which makes it hard to just enjoy the good while it’s good, you know?
So once I realized all of that, I punched her in the face. I’ve booked a trip to India. I put our house in order, figuratively speaking. (Still working on the actual piles!) And in 2019, you’ll see me wearing pink pants.
RIP, fearmonger — I’ve got a life to live.
. . . Here’s the too long / didn’t read version of my 2019 Resolutions: -Experiment with wearing more color -Travel to India -Say yes to more things that make my head explode with joy