Friday, January 19, 2018

An Interview with...Ute Nawratil



https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/waiting-for-the-sun

 

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find
Ute here and here on Ravelry.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/fire-in-the-sky


Where do you find inspiration?
It can be nature, it can be something in my surroundings that catches my eye, it can be a song text ... but mostly, I get my inspiration from yarn. I never get tired playing around with different color combinations and textures. I'm usually not an esoteric person, but I guess I'm one of those annoying knitters who will tell you: "I wait until the yarn tells me what it wants to become". On other occasions, I suddenly have a certain picture in my mind out of nowhere. Then I have to face the challenge to find ways to replicate this picture. 

 
What is your favourite knitting technique?
It changes. What I like most, is variation. I get bored when I have to do a sequence of similar things. Also, each technique has its limitations. Mostly, my preferences come and go in waves. For example, last year, there was a period of time when I was very obsessed with mosaic knitting. Right now, it seems I can't think about anything else than the combination of brioche and double knitting. If I had to choose one, I would say I'll always come back to two-color brioche because i never get tired watching the process of interweaving colors.

 
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I had those concerns when I started publishing my designs. I come from an academic background (I taught at universities for many years); therefore an accusation of plagiarism would be the worst for me. But I soon found out that my mind works differently. It never says "I want to knit something like this." Instead it says: " I want to do something I've never done before." And it's nearly impossible to ignore the work of others, anyway. I don't look for it, extensively but, of course, I get to see it in blogs or magazines, on Ravelry and Instagram. By now, I can admire it without fearing that I might imitate it, inadvertently.

 
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I don't have a fixed number of test knitters. I knit each sample myself, at least once. After doing so and writing down the pattern, I call out for test knitters. Or more often they ask me if they can test a certain design. I'm not secretive about my designs; I usually share whatever is on my needles on Instagram, and there is almost always someone who says "I want to try that." I don't consider the test knitters "working for me". It's more like an exchange. If they like a pattern and would have bought it anyway, they get it for free and before publication with the only condition that they have to notify me of any errors. 

 
Did you do a formal business plan?
Who? Me?
Do you have a mentor?
No.
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No. I'm very much not a business person. I'm not even good at marketing. To me, any kind of business plan would involve a calculation like this: I'd have to publish x patterns per year and I'd need at least y buyers for each of them. To get those y buyers, I would have to think about what would please lots of people. This kind of thinking would completely destroy my creativity, and my own fun. I knit the things I like and I'm happy when other knitters like them, too. Knitting is my pleasure space. 

 
Do you use a tech editor?
No. At the point of publishing, each design has been knitted multiple times. I don't see in which way a tech editor could improve it.

 
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I never understood this differentiation. Since work is an integral part of life, I never was able to make that separation. In retrospect, I would say that I always choose jobs that were an interesting challenge. And I dismissed boring ones, even if they would have guaranteed a higher income. So, my recipe for balance is to do what I like, most of the time. Except for household chores which I find really annoying!

 
How do you deal with criticism?
It depends on whether I consider the criticism justified or not. If not, the critics get buried under counter-arguments. If I think they have a point, I'm extremely grateful.
Criticism doesn't seem to be an issue in the knitting community, though. There, it's more about helpful hints. If people don't like a certain pattern, they don't feel the need to trash it. They just ignore it. 

 
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
With knitting? I'll tell you when I get at that point. So far, I have to earn my bread and butter elsewhere. But at least, selling my designs helps to finance my yarn addiction.

 
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Go and ask someone with business skills.
What’s next for you?
I really have no idea. But there's lots of beautiful yarn in my stash. So, inspiration might be just around the corner ...


Friday, January 12, 2018

An Interview with...Anna Johanna

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/snowl-2



Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find
Anna here and here on Ravelry

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere, but mostly in yarn. I like to cuddle all the lovely skeins and let them tell me what they should become.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Probably lace and nowadays brioche as well. Cables are not my cup of tea. I like how they look but they're so laborious to work.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/nuffield


Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I think we can't help being influenced by each others designs. I usually don't look at other designers' work while working on my own design but then afterward I like to check that there isn't anything too similar out there.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I usually knit my own samples but I do have a little army of helpful test knitters that test out all the kinks in the patterns.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/uan-2

Did you do a formal business plan?
No. I wasn't sure initially that my patterns would sell so I just put a few patterns out there to see what would happen.

Do you have a mentor?
No, but I would really like to have one.

Do you use a tech editor?
At this point, I do my own tech editing. I have a background in mathematics and statistics so I like playing with numbers and checking out all the little things in the calculations.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/wrought-iron

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Half the day I spend at work and the other half on knitting. I guess you could call that some sort of balance. It's a difficult question because I don't just knit to design and sell patterns but I knit to make myself happy.



How do you deal with criticism?
I have to admit that in other fields of life, I don't deal too well with criticism. But in designing, usually every comment is really helpful at becoming a better designer. I wish I could adopt the attitude elsewhere as well.


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/soulful-2


How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I'm not there yet. At this point, I'm a researcher for living and a knitwear designer for fun.

What’s next for you?
More designing and a whole lot more marketing. I'm from Finland and most of my sales are to Finland. I need to sort out a marketing plan to get my designs better known in other countries as well.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/aada-3

Monday, January 1, 2018

How to Choose a Sweater Pattern

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-sheila-reilly-cardigan

Happy New Year 2018!

This post as been updated from last year as my sales were the same as last year, accessories sold before Christmas Day and garments started peaking again immediately afterward.


It's the New Year (2017) and gift giving season is over. I can see by my pattern sales that many knitters are now choosing patterns most likely to be knit for themselves. There was an uptick in accessory pattern sales before Christmas and now I see a shift back to garment pattern sales. While my Prudence Crowley vest is still a top seller I'm also seeing sales on the heavily cabled garments. If you are also thinking about a garment project to start your 2017 knitting here's some points to consider.

Is the pattern for a garment shown with gorgeous photos on a tall, skinny model taken in places you would like to visit? This is where our fantasy desires kick in. Resist! Devoting all those knitting hours to a fantasy might not make a lot of sense when reality kicks in at the end. I know I want a wearable garment which works in my real life when I get to the end of the knitting. 

Take a careful look at any pattern you are considering. Is the design something you are very likely to wear? How do you know? I might take a chance on an unusual silhouette when I'm buying something, especially if it's on sale. It's good to stretch our sartorial limits. I like to be open to new styles, colours and shapes. However, if it involves hours of knitting I tend to stick to the tried and true types of garments I already know I wear frequently. 

That leads me to the next thing to think about. How will you wear it?  Does it fit in with your current wardrobe? I rarely knit a project without already knowing what I'm going to wear it with. I'm even happier if I know I can build more than one outfit around a hand knitted piece. As you can imagine I own many hand knits. I also have lots of basic simple wardrobe items which act as background support pieces to what some fashion bloggers call 'Hero" items. Many of these are in neutral colours. I have solid coloured black, grey, white and denim (yes, I think of denim as a neutral) in pants, skirts and tops which allow me to showcase my knits. Last year I added in some burgundy items, including a pair of ankle boots and a bag as new base. It gives me a column of a single colour to layer on top of and works beautifully with other neutrals as well as shades of green. I add in the colours of the knitting with accessories to tie these outfits together. When I finish a project I'm ready to wear it as soon as the finishing is done. What about you?


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-prudence-crowley-vest-2

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Year in Review - 2018

2017 didn't feel very productive as I was living it but as I look back I realize it was in many ways much more productive than I can easily reflect on. I used my blog as a source of information and have to remind myself that I don't blog about everything I knit. I suffer from what author Brene Brown calls "productivity as self worth" so I'm always questioning myself.

There were new patterns:

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-radcliffe-reflection-wrap

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-halesworth-wrap

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-halesworth-wrap

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-halesworth-wrap
https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ruth-kettering-wrap

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ruth-kettering-wrap

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/rosina-nunn-cardigan

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ruth-kettering-wrap

I also managed lots of stashbusting:


No pattern available, read about how to DIY here:http://knittingrobin.blogspot.ca/2017/07/stash-down-results.html
 
No pattern available I didn't even take any notes


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-martine-dubois-crescent-scarf  
 
The photo above has more details on my project page. 


No pattern available


There was also a lot of swatching, frogging, and re-knitting. I have several projects on the go right now. Some will become patterns but most are stash busters. 








There's also one new pattern still at tech editing. Here's a teaser.


So...was your 2017 productive?

Friday, December 22, 2017

An Interview with...Amanda Woeger



Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find
Amanda here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I get knitting inspiration from a variety of sources.  Sometimes it is a nice yarn or color way that gets me thinking. Other times it is shapes and forms I see around me. Sometimes one design just flows into the next with some variation or another. It isn't always easy though, there are times when it is difficult to become inspired, and the design process is long, frustrating and drawn out. I have probably frogged just as much as I have actually knitted! 


What is your favourite knitting technique?

This may sound very strange to some, but I really enjoy playing around with short rows. Why are short rows so great? I enjoy exploring form and shape. Short rows are the tool to work form and shape on a vertical plane of knitted fabric, just as increases and decreases allow for form and shape on a horizontal plane. I use short rows in various ways to make things even more interesting.
Actually, a few years ago, I was someone who absolutely hated short rows. I didn't like how they made my knitting look messy. Then I discovered the shadow wrap method. It is my absolute favorite. I have published a photo tutorial on the shadow wrap method on my blog to help those who may be still afraid of the process.
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have a long list of returning testers, whom I can trust. I also welcome new testers, should they be interested. I know that I would not be able to do what I do, without great testers. I hope that if I do become successful, I would be able to offer some sort of compensation to my testers for their hard work and dedication, even if it is only the yarn for their tests.
When designing something new, I do work a sample in my own size. I can use the model to take photos of my work and to ensure that my pattern is well written.  I usually write a pattern and knit it simultaneously. With a garment I need multiple testers to confirm that the fit is good for each size in the pattern. It would be impossible for me to do this all on my own.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, the business grew organically and started with just one simple pattern in 2012. I didn't know I would come this far, and have no idea where my knitting is taking me. I just know I enjoy the process and want to keep working hard at creating innovative designs and writing great patterns.
Do you have a mentor?
I wouldn't say I have a mentor, but I do admire Joji. She is an independent designer who has made her own name through Ravelry. I respect that and believe that she has put in a lot of hard work to get to where she is now.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not particularly. My business model is to write good patterns and create interesting designs. It is a passion for me first, business is secondary.
Do you use a tech editor?
My testers are my tech editors. I am bilingual and write most of my patterns in both English and German. I have my German versions edited to ensure they are grammatically correct. 

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
This is, at times, difficult for me. I am a mom of 3 kids, so most of my work time is when they are at school. I struggle with not having enough time to dedicate to the business. However, I also wonder if I spend too much time on it, because the reward (pay) is so small. 
Also, I tend to be a fall/winter knitter and designer.  I do know that I should be working harder in the spring and summer to become more successful. Balancing knitting in the summer with other activities (sailing) is a challenge.
How do you deal with criticism?
I love criticism, so long as it is well intended and polite. I find it very helpful to get feedback from testers and knitters. I like to hear what they think of my designs. I realize that I am only human, and do make mistakes. It is great to have people who actually tell you what they think, so that I am able to grow in the process!


How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I am not (yet?) able to support myself. I would be making more money working part time in a fast food restaurant than I would knitting, and the hours would be much better!
Recently I have decided I needed to make a concerted effort to become a more successful designer. The kids are old enough for me to go back to a "real job". Making knitwear design my career would be a dream come true!  I am hoping that through dedication and hard work in the coming months, I will be able to come closer to achieving my goal of being able to support myself, but I also know it will take time.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Be patient and don't give up! Don't expect anything to go viral over night. This happens only for the very lucky few. I have been hoping for this to happen for years, it hasn't. Growth is gradual and building a following over time is essential for a successful career.
What’s next for you?
At the moment, I plan to continue to concentrate on designing great patterns. I have also been in contact with some local independent yarn dyers and will be working together with them. I'm also excited to be exploring the "real" knitting world as opposed to the online "virtual" world. I have been meeting new people and making new friends. I hope to build my circle of real-world knitting friends even further. 

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/dreaming-of-summer


Friday, December 15, 2017

An Interview with...Christiane Burkhard


Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find
Christiane here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
There is not one particular source I find inspiration from for my designs. Nature, people, shapes, colors, architecture, yarn and fashion all offers a lot to get creativity going. That is the beautiful part about designing. One of my newer designs Ayona for example was inspired by the geometrical diamond shape.

 
https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ayona


What is your favourite knitting technique?
There are so many interesting techniques out there that it is hard to choose one favorite. I like to play with modular knitting as well as finding and exploring less known or new ways to achieve the construction I have in mind.


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/farfalla


Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Looking at other designers work is like jumping into a big pool of creativity. There is always something to learn, to admire or just to make sure that the design I am thinking about doesn’t already exist. I especially love designers who found their own style or design voice instead of doing more of the same.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
For now I knit the first sample myself, since it gives me the freedom to change things around as I go in case I want to add another detail or alter.
I work with 4 to 10 test knitters. I usually use some of my regular more experienced ones. In addition, I am also working with some less experienced knitters or testers, since their questions help to find out how user-friendly the patterns are. Let me take this question as an opportunity to thank all the people who test knit. It is very valuable for me as a designer and also for fellow knitters to get an easy to use pattern. 


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/lavena


Did you do a formal business plan?

After moving from the US to Europe this is next on my agenda. It is always important to think about where you want to go and what you would like to achieve - especially if you plan to make designing your profession.

Do you have a mentor?
Unfortunately not. I am a learning-by-doing kind of person although I have a great network of knitters and designers who would give input or advice when needed.


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/morning-breeze-2


Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

When I used to live in the US I worked as an hand dyer and designer to give the business a broader base. (I love dyeing too)

Do you use a tech editor?

Not yet. I just recently have started to look for someone who fits my needs and would like to collaborate with me.


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/break-through

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Keeping a life/work balance is not easy. I have a family and another job. It needs a lot of discipline to balance this.

How do you deal with criticism?
Constructive criticism helps to improve my skills and pattern writing and therefore I am thankful for it. Through the years I have also learned to handle destructive criticism and it doesn’t affect me that much anymore.


https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/zina-2

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Through knitting platforms like Ravelry it became much easier for knitters to make designing their profession. As for any other profession it is important to learn more about what it needs to become a designer. Unfortunately, I met some beautiful knitters who thought as a designer they could now earn money with their hobby, and knit all day long. They later learned that there is much more involved, the hard way. Through the increasing possibilities for knitters to pursue this career also the number of designers increased tremendously during the last few years. Therefore, one of the things I would emphasize is to work towards developing your own style or distinct voice as a designer to avoid doing more of the same and getting lost in the crowd.

What’s next for you?
With moving to Germany, I have to reinvent myself again since the industry is different than in the US. It’s a new challenge I fully embrace. It is important for me not to get stuck in old ways….. One of the things which are on my heart in this process can be summarized with two words “Slow Fashion”. 




https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/patches-child