Friday, September 28, 2012

An Interview with...Natalie Servant


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/mirage-3
  
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 Natalie here and here on Ravelry.

Editor's note: Natalie also works in collaboration with a hand dyer (Yvonne) and a jewellery maker (Francine). You can read those interviews here and here.

Where do you find inspiration?
My initial inspirations came from Art Deco and I think that's something I'll keep returning to. I have also taken inspiration from nature and from textures I've seen in garments while shopping. I'm a big fan of certain types of architecture and my husband has been accustomed to me trying to identify a particular bridge or building while watching TV. I take pictures of a paused program or use Google street view to see more of what captured my interest!

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Lace is something that I really love, but I'm not afraid to try other things. I used to hate ribbing but now I find it soothing. I try to figure out how best to represent a design idea I have in knitting so I use whatever technique suits the situation.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I don't always have the time to check out everything new, but I'm not overly worried about being influenced. I know what I like and I've got an internal standard of innovation that I stick to. I like keeping an eye on what is new to see where the trends are leading. I do get jealous moments of "I wish I'd thought of that first!" 


How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I must have missed the memo about this controversy. When I write patterns I try to include enough information so that a determined knitter who hasn't tackled the techniques involved before has a great shot of being successful. Sure, they may have to look some things up, but the basic information is readily available. I love working from charts but because I know other knitters would rather work from written instructions, I include them as well. 

I don't want to bore experienced knitters, but I don't want to exclude or shut out people who are starting out and want to make something that they like.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I get a lot of help from a wonderful set of test knitters. I use at least two for each design and  I make sure that any variations (written vs. charted instructions, yarn weight, sizes, shapes, options) are covered. People interpret instructions in different ways so lots of eyes on a pattern help to catch problem areas.
  
Do you have a mentor?
Yes! When I'd just started out and I was feeling uncharacteristically bold I approached Michelle Miller (aka Fickle Knitter, http://www.fickleknitter.com). She was very active on Ravelry and was putting out a lot of patterns and innovating in her business. She's very graciously allowed me to pick her brain on any number of topics. It's great to have someone to go to with questions that I am not comfortable putting out for all to see.
  

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The Internet is what has made my business possible. I have an engineering degree and my career has been as a software tester. I was working full time when I started designing, giving me a limited amount of design time. With sites like Ravelry and Patternfish, I was able to get started with just one pattern. I couldn't be as successful as I am without the Internet.

These days I'm involved in promoting my business in a number of ways on the Internet, both on pattern sites and through social media. I've been able to reach people worldwide because of our common interest in knitting. 

Do you use a tech editor?
Absolutely. A tech editor is an excellent help to look over the pattern's consistency, math, wording, etc. My test knitters catch many issues, but a tech editor always finds something else that will improve the end result.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
It depends on the day! I've got two kids in primary school. I also do contract work in high tech during the school year. If I've got a knitting deadline, the laundry gets done, but the floors aren't always clean. And I multitask. I knit while I wait for the kids to get out of school or when we're at the park. I've also taken up spinning. Knitting used to be my hobby, and now it's at least partially work. Spinning is my no-pressure hobby, and it's also helped me understand a lot more about yarn and knitting. 

How do you deal with criticism?
It depends on the situation. If there's a problem with a pattern, it's got to be addressed. Sometimes I take a step back before responding to make sure I'm being objective. If it's a matter of personal preference and taste, then that's life. It would be boring if we all felt the same way about everything. If it's something that could be detrimental to my business, then I'd act if it there was a reasonable solution.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I'm not there. I don't know if that's a reasonable goal for me. I love to knit, I enjoy designing, and I think I've got something to share. I'm glad to be in a position where it's not critical that my design work supports me.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Make sure it stays fun. Be professional. Learn as much as you can about everything to do with your business. Meet deadlines. Set expectations for your business and check in regularly to see if you're meeting them.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/childerics-bees

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Two Years Ago......


I did my very first interview two years ago with Fiona Ellis. You can find it here if you missed it. Posted below is her design from a recent Vogue. Gorgeous!

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/23-off-center-top

Monday, September 24, 2012

X rated Knitted Art


My husband reads many of the international on line newspapers. He sends me links to anything he finds that is knitting related. You can find the most recent article here.

The headline is: Fury from shoppers over United Colors of Benetton's knitted sculptures in X-rated 'sex positions. Are you offended?

Friday, September 21, 2012

An Interview with...Ágnes Kutas-Keresztes




http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/berry-yogurt-shawl

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 Ágnes here and here on Ravelry


Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration can come from various sources. Sometimes it is the world around me. To give you an example, with some of my designs, I tried to capture the things that are most typical for a specific season: I have a sweater full of green leaves for Spring, one with grapes for Fall and a vest with the flames of a fireplace for Winter. Each was a great adventure to design. Spring Leaves is a bit special because of the way I decreased the yoke. I had to re-design and re-knit that part several times until I figured out the best way to do it but the end result was well worth it. With Freisa and Firelight, creating the stitch pattern was the most exciting part of the design process. I enjoyed drawing them a lot.

Sometimes, I just want to use a classic stitch pattern I really like. This was how I created my Selene collection; the OXO cable is one of my favourites so I chose to work with it when I started to design some accessories for Winter.

Sometimes, I just sit down in front of the computer and start drawing with my chart editing software. I arrange and rearrange the stitches until I get something I like.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I like working with different techniques; changes make life more interesting. However, I do have a favourite at the moment, I have to confess I am currently addicted to top-down triangular shawls.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/dijon-3


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

I think it is impossible not to look at other designers’ work and it wouldn’t be wise to avoid it. One has to know the world around us, or at least try to get to know it. I’m quite sure it’s impossible to completely separate ourselves from others and their work, we all influence each other in some way or another, although in many cases we aren’t even aware that it is happening. However, by influence I don’t mean that we simply copy what we see, it doesn’t work like that. There are a lot of things we experience day by day, in the knitting world and in the world beyond. When the outside world interacts with our inner world, it often triggers new ideas and although we might have seen some of the building blocks we use already, we are able to create something unique and valuable again and again. The language of knitting is just like any other language. Only we use stitches instead of words. The possibilities of combining those are infinite.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/freisa


How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
My goal is to write patterns that can be easily followed and understood. I have a background in teaching and thus some practice with explaining things. I have never taught knitting but the principle is the same; you have to try and think with the recipient’s mind and you have to be able to describe something in a structured and logical manner. I don’t think it would be a bad thing to prefer clarity instead of letting knitters guess how they should do a certain step. I’ve got a lot of positive feedback so I think I’m on the right track.
I take it very seriously, whether positive or negative. As we write our patterns for others and not for ourselves, feedback is extremely important. Fortunately I haven’t had to deal with much negative criticism so far, but if I read something not entirely positive about one of my patterns, I try not to take it personally but learn from it instead.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/white-tulips


What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Be patient. It takes time to get somewhere but I strongly believe that if you work hard, you will get where you want to. Don’t have just one big goal but set a number of minor ones, too, so that you can see that you are constantly moving instead of being disappointed about “not being there yet.” And to be honest, you won’t be rich with a career in knitting. I believe most designers will share this opinion . However, it is a most rewarding career and I think starting to design was one of the best decisions in my life.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/lavender-honey

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Two Years Ago......

I've been writing about the difficulty of understanding ease since I started this blog. I've linked below to several of my original posts on this complex topic.

This one is about ease charts and what other information you need to take into account when determining ease.


This one is about how limb proportion impacts ease requirements.

http://knittingrobin.blogspot.ca/2009/09/one-thing-no-ease-chart-tells-you.html

Monday, September 17, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

An Interview with...Andi Javori

Andi wearing a one of a kind piece.



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 Andi here and here on Ravelry. All of the patterns are available here.



Where do you find inspiration?
The answer to this is quite simple, the materials. I would often find myself seeking out yarn and craft shops at home, or abroad while on vacation (to the dismay of my husband and two sons), and perusing the shelves for unique yarns and materials. Today there is such a wonderful variety of yarns to choose from. Upon seeing and feeling the materials, most of the time my project ideas will come to me on the spot, then I would later work out design variations at home in my studio. These variations are then further influenced by my experiences, travels, and architecture. That is why you will often find my designs named after cities.

For example, my Verona Necklace kit http://javoridesigns.com/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=38&vmcchk=1&Itemid=38 that is presently featured in the “What’s New” section of Vogue Knitting Magazine’s 30th anniversary issue Fall 2012. That design was inspired by my visit to Verona, Italy, and the city’s architecture and colors.

What is your favorite knitting technique?
I hate to provide you with a boring answer but I really can’t say I have a favorite knitting technique. I always apply a technique that I feel is essential to the design and look I’m going for. I do like to combine yarns with different textures and colors.  I have become known for my knitted jewelry that applies the technique of knitting with beads.


How did you come to focus on hand knit accessory designs for your own business Javori Designs?
For years I knit garments and accessories that over time left me with a desire to seek alternative ways to have a little more fun with it. I started by incorporating different objects such as rings, glass beads, pendants, wire, and chain, into my projects, and that seemed to work best with knitted accessories. I then took it one step further and started experimenting with knitted jewelry. My designs drew attention, which eventually led to international collectors, and the formation of my own knitting pattern and kit company, Javori Designs. With my knitting patterns and kits, I share some of my ideas and techniques so people can create unique knitting projects in their own homes.

Could you tell us a little about your work for the Tahki Stacy Charles yarn company?
My relationship with the Tahki Stacy Charles yarn company initially began when Stacy Charles invited me to design for him.  Since then I have been designing my “specialty” for his pattern books and website, knitted accessories and jewelry. I frequently used their high quality yarns for my knitted jewelry prior to that, so it was a perfect match. Stacy and Diane Friedman demonstrate a high level of professionalism and integrity that is reflected by all of the departments and employees of the company.  It is truly a pleasure to work with them.
Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I have been occasionally reading knitting publications for years and becoming a designer has not prompted me to stop. It is impossible not to look at another designer’s work, it’s everywhere. I admire and appreciate beautiful design. But I never let it influence my own work.
  
If anything, I find looking at other designers’ work hinders my design process because I do not wish to replicate something I have seen.  What I do look for are the newest trends and colors, and I find myself reading fashion publications more than knitting publications for that information. 
   
How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I don’t have a problem with designers wishing to simplify patterns. Knitters of all skill levels should be able to have the ability to find a pattern they are comfortable with. I hear from my colleagues complaints of having to change a design to reduce the number of pages a pattern is written on. That is unfortunately the effects of economics on the freedom of design. Luckily, due to their size, I do not run into that issue often with my accessory patterns.


Did you do a formal business plan?
Yes.  I did have a general outline of the steps I was going to take, and how I was going to try to market my designs.

Do you have a mentor?
My husband, he is a very good businessman but unfortunately not a knitter.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No.
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The Internet had a HUGE impact on my business. I have found the Internet essential for locating material sources for my designs and kits, to the ultimate sale of the products, by the retailers that carry them, and by myself on my website  http://javoridesigns.com/ and http://www.ravelry.com/designers/andi-javori .  I couldn’t imagine functioning without the Internet.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes.  My knitting patterns and kits are sold online, and in yarn shops and online retailers around the country. My name is on it, so I sleep better being 100% sure that my patterns are correctly written.


How do you maintain your life/work balance?
With great difficulty.  My studio is in my home, and my i-Pad travels with me to manage my business, therefore work is always around me.  But I have to admit I do enjoy it, otherwise I wouldn’t be involved in this business. That being said, I try to allocate specific times for work, home, and play. Having 2 sons, 15 and 12, a husband, and a demanding cat…family time is important.

How do you deal with criticism?
I actually entertain all types of opinions. When I create a design, I do like to hear honest opinions and critique.  I try to take criticism constructively, everybody is entitled to their opinion.  In the end, you will never please everybody. Therefore to be a designer you have to have a thick skin.  I am so grateful for all of the positive energy I have received from the people who have knit my patterns and kits over the years, and fortunately that has outweighed the negative.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I have had the fortunate experience of being able to support myself in the first year.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I hate to sound cliché, but you truly have to love what you do to get anywhere in any business, and the same goes for knitwear design.  With the presence of Ravelry, Etsy, etc., anyone can post a pattern and call themselves a  “designer”, so there is a lot of competition.  But in the end, the cream rises to the top. You must be prepared to put in a lot of time and effort, and it is necessary to learn how the industry works. Persistence is key.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/mia-scarf