Friday, July 28, 2017

An Interview with...Katherine Matthews

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 Katherine here and here on Ravelry. She is on Instagram as KayMatthews.

Where do you find inspiration?

Anywhere and everywhere! I’m sure most artists and creators are the same way – we soak in inspiration from everything we see or do, or from our environment. Sometimes ideas are sparked, for me, by seeing something in a film or a documentary; sometimes it comes from art or nature. These days, too, I’m especially inspired by Indian films (I review and write about them), and Korean television dramas – especially when it comes to colour choices. And a visit to an art gallery or museum usually results in lots of ideas being noted down in my sketchbook.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I adore lace, and that’s what I knit the most. But I also love the simple elegance of garter stitch. I love Fair-Isle and other stranded colourwork, and I used to knit a lot of it – I’m planning to go back to it, and I’ve got a few designs in the works that will move me in that direction.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?

I tend to look at the work of designers who create things completely differently than I do – things I probably wouldn’t design myself (or maybe wished I had designed), because I love to see how other designers solve problems or explore different ideas. I actually don’t think it’s a bad thing to be influenced by the work of others. One of the most eye-opening moments for me came on a visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. At the time (they’ve since undergone renovations, so no idea if this still exists) they had a gallery devoted to artists and works of art influenced by Van Gogh, or by whom Van Gogh was inspired. So you see artists trying out different styles and techniques. I truly think this is how we grow as creative people, and how we stretch the bounds of what we’re capable of. Of course, we have to own those influences and share how they influence us.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?

Over the years, that’s varied, but generally I worked with one or two at a time. These days, because I’ve scaled back a little bit in order to deal with “life stuff”, I’m doing sample knitting myself, though I think it will be worth it to go back to using others to test/sample knit.

Do you use a tech editor?

Yes. Though I’m pretty thorough in terms of my pattern writing, I still think it’s prudent to take that extra step, and have an experienced editor double check things. For me, if they catch anything, it’s usually small proofreading mistakes, but even that is worth it.

Did you do a formal business plan?

I didn’t, because what I was doing just grew kind of organically. I do think it’s a sensible thing to do – and in fact, I took advantage of a workshop run by my local arts council last year, which was a business planning course for artists. I think my next step will be to implement some of the things I learned there, including trying to more formally plan out my next steps.

Do you have a mentor?

I don’t have a specific mentor; I do have a lot of supportive people around me who have helped when I needed to pick someone’s brains about things. I also find that being connected to my local arts council means that I can tap into information and resources that I might otherwise have overlooked.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

These days, I don’t, because my husband (who also helps with the business) and I are dealing with some of those big life changes that make it hard to find balance. I do think, though, that the secret to keeping some kind of perspective is to have regular routines, to make to-do lists, and to stick with them.

               Photo credit John Meadows, and the model is Jennifer Santos Bettencourt.

How do you deal with criticism?

It depends on the criticism. Valid, thoughtful observations about my work, I’m fine with, even if I don’t agree with them in the end. I’m also fine with the idea that not everything I create is for everybody; those who don’t like it have their reasons, and that’s okay.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?

Learn as much as you can. Learn constantly. Value what you do as work (even if you are having to squeeze it in around a day job while you establish yourself). Set goals, and find the manageable, bite-sized steps to achieve them. Don’t be so excited about getting your work out there that you skip steps – it’s worth taking the time to do your best work, and present it in the best way possible.

What’s next for you?

I have a bunch of designs in sketch and swatch form that I’d really like to take on to completed patterns. As well, I’ve been dyeing my own yarns (I’ll have a table in the micro-market at the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitters’ Guild Fair in September), and my aim is to produce some unique colourways combined with my own designs, whether just to sell at shows, but also with an eye to setting up an online shop and perhaps trying out some clubs. I returned to teaching last year at the Toronto Knitters’ Guild Spring Frolic, and I’d like to do more of that – I’m especially interested in Orenburg lace knitting, and have taught an introduction to that tradition, and I’d love to be able to teach more classes on it, as well as work on designs inspired by it.

             Photo credit John Meadows, and the model is Jennifer Santos Bettencourt.


  1. I´m getting addicted to this interviews, I love it! love to read about how people became designers, Thank you Robin to bring this amazing interview!

  2. Thanks, I have a great deal of fun doing them! I'm always amazed by the variety of the responses to each question.

    1. That´s true and so interesting!
      Have a great day!