Friday, October 2, 2009

An Interview With....Jane Thornley

Once a week I post interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. You can find Jane's site at

Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration finds me on my travels or is gleaned from the natural world. A trip to Italy gave birth to an entire book of patterns (Knitaly) while Morocco inspired the Berber Jacket design. I also enjoy leafing through magazines, primarily fashion-orientated glossies, indulging in colors and shapes. Sometimes designs just seem to manifest from nowhere but, of course, they usually an on-going composite of ideas and impressions.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

Mixing simple stitches with glorious yarns.

How did you determine your size range?

Many of my designs fit all sizes, like wraps, but, since many of my fans are women of substance, I try to offer designs for all shapes.

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

I love looking at other designers work but my approach is usually so different I couldn't begin to duplicate them, even if I tried (which I don't). I'm very non yarnogamous and can no longer stick with a single yarn for a whole project.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?

I don't like the term. As an educator of many years, I know that many people have difficulty reading standard patterns for a number of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with intelligence or ability. People learn and process information differently.When my allergies act up, for instance, there's no way standard knit code makes sense to me. I prefer to offer lots of narrative and visuals along with the knit code to hopefully reach the widest number of people interest in trying my approach.

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

I do it all myself, as test knitters don't fit with what I do. I encourage tangents and explorations so there is no one right way of doing things.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No, I evolved from an administrative position to a creative awakening. Along the way, my skills played a role in how my business evolved and I'm sure it was intuitively strategic but nothing consciously planned.

Do you have a mentor?

Yes, many for all kinds of things but, over all, supportive friends have helped me unfold.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?


What impact has the Internet had on your business?

Huge! The Internet made my business.

Do you use a Tech Editor?

No, see response above. I'm an anomaly.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

My life and my work are now one. After many years jumping hoops and conforming to standards, I have reinvented myself and encourage others to do the same. Acknowledge the rules and then do what feels best is my mantra. I keep a balance between home and travel with both an external and internal life. This works best for me.

How do you deal with criticism?

It surprises me sometimes how competitive the knit design business really is. When I first began, I'd receive the occasional lecture on what did or did not make a 'proper' knitting designer. I recognized the tone as something I'd come across in my other careers where degrees and diplomas and hoops jumped determined career trajectory but I've always believed that many roads exist to an end. I've chosen to follow my own.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?

Knitting design supports my lifestyle of travel and love of yarn and teaching about both but I can't say I make a living from it. The business has evolved over four years.

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

Determine what works for you and don't accept the speed bumps thrown in your path by naysayers. These days, the Internet provides the tools for you to emerge on your own terms.

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