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Planning Your Knitwear Design Year

Planning your design year

How far out are you planning your releases? My goal (and reader, I am *almost* there) is 12 months. That means that right now, I’m planning what I want to release in fall of 2023, reaching out to dyers, and thinking about how it will all fit together.

A blue skein of yarn, rustic, labeled Mondim; a book, titled "Seasonal Slow Knitting," and a casual arrangement of silk peonies and real yellow coneflowers
It's easiest for me to reflect on summer releases in summer

There are a number of advantages to working ahead. When we first start out, we often find ourselves designing something we’re inspired by in the moment, putting out a test call, and then releasing it a few months later – resulting in a June toque that no one buys.

It can be incredibly discouraging.

When is the perfect time to release?

Although some projects are relatively a-seasonal, most will benefit from careful timing. And we don’t want to be releasing projects for the season in the dead center of the season. Here are some things to watch:

  • Keep an eye on when your favorite designers release patterns. What season are they for?

  • Watch your local fabric store. Makers need to be a few months ahead of the season, so those Halloween prints have been out for a while now. Try to time your seasonal releases accordingly.

  • Pay attention to silhouette, color, fiber type, and styling. All these elements send signals about seasonality.

Why a full year out?

  • Dyers need time. You need time. Testers need time.

  • It’s much easier to think about fall in fall. It can be hard to design for fall in early spring.

  • Yarn is seasonal. If you’re browsing now for yarns to swatch with, those colors and fibers are less likely to be available in a different season.

  • It leaves you some flexibility. Block out your year, leaving a few down weeks you can fill with submission calls or unexpected opportunities.

  • You can time tests better. Especially when you’re new, it can be difficult to get a great testing team for an outerwear coat in July, or a summer tank in February. By bumping that test back to February or March, you’re much more likely to get a highly invested testing team that finishes.

How to get there

Okay, so we agree that June is, in the northern hemisphere, a rough time to push out an aran sweater. So how on earth do you get to be out a full year? It’s not like you can speed up any faster than you already have to pack them in!

  • Change to doing a few season-neutral designs while you work on this. Shawls, housewares, baby garments are a great way to fill your calendar now while you adjust your timing.

  • Consider re-releasing an old pattern with some fresh updates, ideally one that now matches the season. This will keep your release schedule on track while saving you tons of time to work ahead.

  • Back into your desired release date. One week for final tech edit. 12 weeks for testing. 3 weeks for sample knitting. 1 week for writing and grading. Whatever those numbers are for you, pad them a bit. That’s 17 weeks – the earliest I could release something I started TODAY would be mid-November.

Other timing considerations

The winter holiday season is a rough time for garment sales, and a tough time for tests. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I find that testers tend to overestimate their availability from late November through the end of December. Knitters are frantically gift knitting and making accessories.

The tech editor you want to work with may be busy if you don’t give adequate notice. If the last time you booked them was in June and they were able to take you immediately, don’t assume that will be the case in October. Try to book your TE when you cast on your sample (nothing like a deadline, too, amiright?).

Issue your testing call a few weeks before the test starts. Amazing testers are often booked ahead, and in high demand. By giving them time to schedule you in, you have a better chance of getting their attention. You also honor your accessibility values here – it gives knitters time to save for their dream yarn, and it gives testers time to acquire their yarn before the project starts so they have maximum time to knit during the testing period.

Go Further

  • This fall, I'll be offering an intensive experience with Anastasia Williams. If you'd like to zoom out on your business, dream the biggest dream possible, and then know exactly what to do to execute on it, click here to learn more!

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