Friday, October 8, 2010

An Interview with...Therese Chynoweth

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 see Therese's patterns here and purchase them here and and buy her book here.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find that inspiration comes from a number of places, many of which are familiar to most knitters. When traveling, I sometimes find myself trying to remember the pattern on someones sweater. Or I practically run out of a store to sketch a stitch I found interesting. I'm always pulling pages out of catalogs and magazines when I find interesting photos and illustrations.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
That would be difficult to say as I like several. I guess I would have to say my favorite knitting technique would be just about anything that would result in a seamless, or almost seamless, and well finished garment.

How did you determine your size range?

When designing for yarn companies or publishers, the size range is generally determined by them, though I do suggest a range appropriate for the design when submitting a proposal. Regarding the patterns in my book, I kept in mind how well the yarn and design would work for a variety of sizes and in the yarn I chose.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I'm always looking at what other designers are doing. It's impossible to design in a vacuum, with nothing influencing what I do. The key is making sure I don't directly copy another designer's work and simply use those designs as my own starting point.


How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I'm not sure I would refer to it as a so-called controversy because it is a real problem that so many patterns have been so thoroughly "dumbed down;" I find it sad that many in the industry feel they need to dumb down their patterns to the extent that they have. It's even sadder that many knitters seem to feel they can't knit without these dumbed down patterns – knitters should be rebelling against them.
After all, even though knitting does require a certain amount of intelligence in order to follow written pattern instructions, you certainly don't need a PhD in rocket science to knit. What ever happened to thinking about what you're doing? As a society, we've become too reliant on someone else doing all the work for us, and many have a hard time thinking for themselves. Consequently, it's always someone else's fault when things don't turn out.
If a pattern is clearly written, just about anyone should be able to sit down with needles and yarn and work their way through anything but the most highly complicated patterns. What's the worst that can happen if you don't understand the instructions? You'll get an odd piece of knitting that has to be ripped back. Take classes, learn to pay attention to what you're knitting, and take ownership of how your work turns out. 

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

I've tried to do most of the knitting myself, though it depends on what other work needs to be done; I'm a very tactile person and find I think my way through the whole construction process as I knit and this aids me in writing the pattern. The knitting, however, is very time consuming and while I enjoy it, if I'm knitting all the time I don't have time for other work that will pay the bills. I did use five knitters for the projects in my book, though I did do all the finishing on the pieces. This included all the sewing, cutting, edge trims, and so on for every project. I did knit three of the pieces in the book, and reworked the better part of a fourth design when I wasn't happy with how the idea was turning out.

Did you do a formal business plan?

I never really wanted to be a full-time freelance designer, so guess my business plan was just to tech edit and design until I could get another full-time job. I've just started working as the Knit Technical Editor for Creative Knitting magazine. 

Do you have a mentor?

There have been several people through the years who have, in one way or another, been something like mentors to me. Pam Allen, Ann Budd and Adina Klein have all been very supportive of my work and helped to get me exposure early on. 

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Tech editors are indispensable. Having said that, since I'm not self-publishing patterns, I haven't employed one myself but rely on the tech editors that other yarn companies and publishers use. My publisher Wiley hired the tech editor who worked on my book. 

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

It can be a challenge, and sometimes the work half tends to take over. Part of the key is having other interests and a good network of family and friends who will drag you away from the knitting from time to time helps. 

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

I'd been in the yarn industry for 10 years when I lost my job in 2008, so there were number of people with whom I was able to network, and was able to pull in both tech editing and design work right away. Financially, I did much better than I ever thought I would right off the bat. Without that network, though, I'm not sure what I would have done. 

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

First, it's a very competitive field and really doesn't pay very well. So, if money is important to you, make sure you have another source of income.
Second, make sure to learn how to write a good pattern, and understand how the pieces fit together. Patterns are not as easy to write as you might think, and this is one area where numerous designers fall short. Patterns need to be clear and presented in a logical order. Way too many patterns are less than knit-able. And make sure to use a good tech editor.
Third, design the sorts of things you enjoy knitting—it shows. Don't try to design the equivalent of the "great American novel" each time you sit down. Sometimes I'm a little jealous of some really amazing designs but know that they're really not me, and would probably end up looking contrived if I tried to produce a similar design. But at the same time, try to remain flexible and willing to occasionally stray from your usual work.
Fourth, learn as many knitting techniques as you can; there is no one "right way" to do anything in knitting, and the more you know, the better. The experience will also go a long way in helping you understand how different yarns and fibers behave, and how to pair the right yarn with your idea.


  1. Ms Chynoweth, I am having difficulty understanding one of your patterns - Ingrid Cap and Cowl. I talked to the company where I got the pattern and they said they think some of directions are not correct. I am very excited to continue but according to your pattern Row 5 under directions for cowl is the R side and says to begin row one in wicker which says it is a W side. Could you help me.


    1. Joan

      Therese probably won't see a comment on my blog. This interview was done in 2010 you could try her on Ravelry, her user name is SeeTerryKnit.