Friday, July 27, 2012

An Interview with...Deb Hoss

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 Deb here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
All around, really.  My ideas come from people on the street, from stores, catalogs, television. Just the other day I noticed a top worn by a newscaster on tv. For my next design I’m thinking of something for summer based on that.  I also get inspired by pieces that I’ve made before.  One design typically leads me to the next – a sort of continuum.  I make sweaters I want to wear, so there’s added motivation.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Lately I’ve been enjoying the simplicity of the garter stitch.  I had underestimated it before making my Mary Jacket and now I’d like to use it more.

How did you determine your size range?
I started with the sizing guidelines for submitting to Knitty ( and then tweaked the measurements from the sizing table offered by Ysolda ( – thank you Ysolda!  I’ve been offering 7 sizes – XS through 3X.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Oh I look at other designers all the time and start most days with a review of my favorite blogs to see who’s posted their latest design or has something to say.  I really enjoy that.  It makes me feel like part of a community even though I don’t know anyone personally. The influence is inevitable and I think it’s a good thing.  Ideas come from everywhere.  All that matters is how the designer makes the piece his or her own in the end. 

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I hadn’t heard of that.  And I certainly don’t dumb mine down.  But I do try to keep instructions and processes simple.  I think of that as being efficient rather than dumbing down. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
At this point I do it all myself.  While I knit I figure things out and rethink steps, so there’s added value.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, not a formal one.  I’d knit whether I posted patterns online for sale or not, and the financial risk was minimal, so I just went for it.
Well, no real mentor since I don’t know anyone in the business, but there are lots of people I rely on for information, training, –  and inspiration, to circle back to your first question.  Pam Allen, Deborah Newton, Shirley Paden, Nicky Epstein, Kim Hargreaves are among the classics. I learn from some new designers too, such as Cecily Glowik MacDonald and Amy Christoffers.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Without the internet I probably wouldn’t be venturing into this business at all. I’m not one to put a lot of energy into magazine submissions; and the internet along with sites like Ravelry and Patternfish allow designers to have their own storefronts.  It’s ideal.

Do you use a tech editor?
No, I do that myself.  I like the control, and don’t mind the math.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I think that balance is “in the eye of the beholder.”  I knit or write a lot – my husband would say “all the time,” and most people wouldn’t find that balanced.  But it works well for me and I can’t get enough of it.  It works for my artist husband too who spends most of his time in his studio.  We’re a good pair.

How do you deal with criticism?
It’s certainly hard to hear a negative review, but I take responsibility.  Feedback is important and I’d like to know if people feel I’m missing something – in the styling or the writing.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
After 2 years, I’m pleased to be supplementing my income these days with pattern sales.  I’m hopeful that the trend will continue and comfortable with the pace. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Be patient, be careful with calculations, and make stuff you love.  That’s what I do.

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