Beth’s meditative art
In our fast-paced, technology-driven society, there are still people who knit.
Beth MacDonald Stone is forging a path for Bermudians in the weaving world. You can buy her designs on Ravelry, a yarn and pattern database that's popular with knitters and crocheters around the world.
“The knitting industry is amazing,” said Ms MacDonald Stone, an interior decorator who was taught how to knit by her mother, a lawyer who needed a creative outlet. “I know it sounds crazy, because you think of grandmas knitting, but it's not.
“It's a very young, very cool, very hip community and they really took the internet and rocked it.
“Ravelry is like a communal platform where everyone inputs things. Basically, any pattern that you want is on Ravelry to buy, any yarn you want to know about, all the vendors are there; the designers list their designs and their yarns ... it's incredible.”
Getting to that point however, took her quite a while.
Although taught when she was “very young” she didn't take knitting up seriously until eight years ago.
“I was very anxious after I had my son because you're so stretched,” she said explaining how her energies were also focused on Beth MacDonald Interior Decorating Ltd, the company she runs with her husband Geoff Stone.
“We were doing crazy hours. I was working from four in the morning, ‘til nap time and Geoff was working from nap time on.
“I found that if I sat on the couch and spent time with my husband and knitted, I wouldn't fall asleep. And then, because of my curiosity with design and fashion, it just sort of went off from there and it's completely compulsive now.”
Knitters in Bermuda, and across Europe and the United States, test her patterns before she puts them on Ravelry.
“I also have a very good knitting friend in Newfoundland, that I ask questions and I have tech editors in Virginia. Many of these people I never meet, but we all talk regularly on the internet and we all work on things. It's amazing!
“I've only started publishing designs this year. I was a test knitter for a lot of prominent knitters for a couple years and then I found that the pattern would come in and, I liked their pattern, there was nothing wrong with it, but then I thought I could do a more flattering fit, here and there.
“And the next thing you're finding is that it's looking less and less like someone else's pattern, and more and more like your own.”
She's put five of hers on Ravelry so far. Each takes roughly two months to complete although an Easter-themed design was done faster.
With Bermuda as her muse, coming up with the idea is the easy part, more challenging is working out the fit and the sizing. “A lot of maths are involved, but I'm getting better and better at it,” Ms MacDonald Stone said. “Basically, you design for anyone with a 34-inch bust to about a 62-inch bust and you have to do relevant sizes for what would be the optimal fit, in between.
“I find it fascinating. You can't just blow it up percentage-wise, a well-endowed woman doesn't have a bigger neck than a flat-chested woman.”
A tech editor ensures her calculations make sense and each step of her pattern is clear enough for people to follow. And then the test knitters come in to play. Unlike tech editors, they work for free.
“You try to find test knitters in each of your sizes. For them, it's a really fun way of getting an advance notice of what's coming down the pipe. [Because] they have their own yarn, it's a great way of testing out a design with all sorts of different yarns and most specifically all different sizes.”
There are many designers that do not bother with test knitters, as it means it's that much longer before a pattern can be posted for sale. Ms MacDonald Stone believes that putting in the extra time is worth it.
“Martha Stewart was criticised early in her career, because she was publishing a lot of recipes that weren't really tested and that did a lot of damage to her career. People do post on Ravelry that aren't tech edited and tested, but it's maybe not the smartest thing if you're in it for the long run.
“I'll be honest. This is not something that's going to ever supplement my income in a meaningful way. Some people do make a beautiful living out of it, but it's about one per cent of them — just like the entertainment industry.
“Each of my patterns is $8; I might make $8 a month. But, for mental stimulation and creativity which I then can take into my career, my official way of earning money, it's so great. It just adds that stimulation.”
Thanks to instruction on YouTube and Ravelry, the hobby is open to anyone with an interest. “You can knit the most complicated lace pattern and break it down, with lessons on YouTube and a pattern on Ravelry, and go from there,” Ms MacDonald Stone said.
“It is slow, it's very calming. It's a great thing. With the coronavirus, I still have some design work to do, but not a lot, and my son's home and I'm trying to home school.
“I'm so glad I have this. It's meditative, it's calming and there's a lot of really wonderful social aspects to it online — through FaceTime, through Zoom and YouTube and Instagram Live — so it's kind of the most amazing thing for right now.”
• Visit Ravelry at www.ravelry.com. Follow Beth MacDonald Stone's designs there and on Instagram @bethmacdonaldstone