Friday, May 6, 2011

An Interview with...Vivian Hoxbro

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 Vivian here.

Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere – on a president's tie, on a belt in a train etc. When I have a hard time going to sleep – I construct garments. Sometimes I dream sweaters – that turn out completely different when they are produced. I constantly play with ideas and possibilities.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Definitely domino-knitting – I will never get tired of combining figures in different ways!

How did you determine your size range?


I decide when I design – will this design be flattering for a larger women's size – then I make it big – if not – I only make the design for smaller size – such as Masai.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I look – but I don't buy books with instructions and designs. I have ideas enough for more than one designer – I only need more time. Another life or two would be nice!

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
It depends on who you are writing for. If I would write for beginners – I would need very simple and fun patterns – and explain the small challenges there that are very detailed. But first of all you need to know what you expect that the knitter is able to do. 

It is not only a question of – does the designer want to spend hours explaining everything from scratch? – actually companies and magazines want short instructions – as the pictures are what looks good in a magazine - not a long technical instruction. One of my patterns is 15 pages (letter format) long. Another thing is that an instruction can easily be too long – even so long and detailed that it is difficult to understand. I am hoping for instructions that are digital – so that I can write for example: Use the “knit cast on” and if the knitter does not know what that is – she can click on “knit cast on” and see what I mean. That will make it easier for the designer as well as for the knitter. The experienced knitter will not need all the details and we will all be happy. 

I do not write for beginners. I don't know what the knitter who would knit my design knows – or even what she calls the technique. The terminology is also an issue. Knitting is archaic
and so is the terminology. I can have a name for a technique and when I look it up in a book – there is another name for it. 

When you buy a book or a magazine or an instruction from a yarn company you should have a kind of guarantee – at least there will be someone to ask if you bump your head against the wall or if there are mistakes in the instruction (which there almost always are), but if you download an instruction online – that you don’t pay for – you are on your own.    

Sorry – this answer was almost an article – but this matter interests me a lot as I have always (almost for 30 years) loved and worked on my instructions to make them better and better.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have 3 great knitters who have knitted for me for years – one for more than 20 years. I also have friends who proof-knit an instruction and many knitters who buy my patterns are so kind to tell me if something is wrong. I appreciate it. I do knit a new design myself before I send it to my knitters.

Did you do a formal business plan?
NO – not at all.

Do you have a mentor?

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Of course I have: I was once so lucky that a knitter told me – this is your design, but this woman has it on her website as her own design. I got that one stopped.  Editors note: Vivian speaks and writes English extremely well however I'm guessing that she confused imitated and emulated when answering this question. I decided to leave her response as is, since plagiarism is of great concern to so many designers.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Everything – as it opened the US and Canada for me. 

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Yes my proof-knitters.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I work by the computer most of the day – and knit when it is evening. My kids are grown up, so it does not matter. I do – however – work a lot. I would never ever be able to calculate with a wage by the hour.

How do you deal with criticism?
I don't actually get very much criticism. But when I get it – if it is about an instruction – I am very, very sorry and I correct it right away. If it is about colors, design etc. I don’t care. If I like a design – OK – if some do not like it – they will not buy it and that’s it.

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

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
If she/he can figure out something else – do – if she/he cannot help it – I wish them all the luck in the world. I have actually helped some to get started. Given them advice etc. I like to be a shoulder they can lean on.


  1. Proud to be danish like Vibeke, she make great design.

  2. Hi Susse, you probably mean like Vivian, don't you?