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 Melissa here on Ravelry and here.
Where do you find inspiration?
Silly as it sounds, everywhere. I love flipping through stitch dictionaries, wandering the mall seeing what's on the shelves, browsing Ravelry to see what's popular. Sometimes it's on something someone is wearing as they walk by me. I never know when the mood will strike.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
My favorites are really the whole family of starting and finishing techniques. I honestly feel it's the fit and finish of a design that makes the difference between a passable design and an amazing design. I'm always looking for new ways to cast on, bind off, and work edge stitches to make designs sing.
It varies. When I publish in traditional media (books, magazines) I simply follow the guidelines set by my editor. When I'm self publishing a lot comes down to me taking a guess at what size range will want to actually knit the design, though I do try to make it as broad as is reasonable.
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I very much look at others work and have no qualms being influenced by what I see. There's a big difference between being influenced and plagiarizing.
I'm of two minds on this one. As Stick Chick Knits (professional designer), I feel part of the job of a successful designer (treating design as a business, not art or a hobby), is to meet the demands of the customer. So if the customers want more detail, lets give it to them. I write my patterns accordingly.
That said, as Mel (hobby knitter), I kind of think it's silly. 50 years ago patterns were much shorter, with less detail, and knitters were forced to either figure out a solution, or go hunting for an answer at the library or from other knitters they knew (a very time consuming process). Now we have the internet at our finger tips, where finding a video to walk you through a technique takes minutes at most, and we want it all spelled out for us in detail. To me it seems it should have been the other way around. When information was hard to find, the patterns should have included more, and now that information is easy to find they should include less.
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have a few test knitters, depending on the type of pattern I'm working on, but I do all my own sample knitting. I often design as I knit; so I'll cast on with a basic idea of where I'm going, but I'll fiddle with the details while I work up the sample.
I've spent a lot of time working with Jennifer Hansen, of Stitch Diva, and consider her my mentor. I feel like she really blazed the trail for turning self-published designs into an actual business. I also love that she puts out designs that she loves, and that are so different from the mainstream.
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
My business wouldn't exist without the Internet. It's how I met everyone I work with in the business, it's how I retail my patterns. I suppose without it I might have had a small hobby selling patterns to my local yarn store, but it would not be an actual business.
Is there a designer out there that doesn't? There is absolutely no way you should ever publish a design without having a tech editor take a look at it. Yes, it costs money, but it's money well spent.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I feel like it's something I'm still trying to sort out, especially when I'm working on a new design. I've got yarn and projects in almost every room of the house. To some extent what I do is try to set up a few rules to keep me honest. The kids come first, no knitting during meals, no knitting in bed. Beyond that it's kind of a juggling act around here.
How do you deal with criticism?
I try to take it as feedback and improve. I also remind myself that taste is a very personal thing, not everyone will love my work and that's fine.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I'm still working on it. Designing is my full time job, and I've been lucky enough to have seen increased revenue over the years, but I'm still not at where I was when I worked as an engineer. My husband and I moved our family from the San Francisco Bay area to Seattle in order to cut expenses to compensate for that.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Don't quit your day job too soon. In hindsight there was a lot I could have done to grow my design business while still working my old job. I was eager to start, so I quit early and the lack of revenue made it tough. Design on evenings and weekends, grow your portfolio. When you've got a solid set of designs under your belt set up a sales plan and then quit.