Friday, August 2, 2013

An Interview with...Cheryl Beckerich
Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world.

You can find Cheryl here and here on Ravelry

Where do you find inspiration? 
For me, inspiration comes from almost anything from sitting out on the deck looking at the wildlife to watching the fashion choices of high school and college students, to couture fashions, to everyday life.  Once I was sitting in church and realized that I wasn’t paying attention to what was happening but rather was looking at sleeve styles of the people around me! 

What is your favorite knitting technique? 
Boy, that is a tough one.  I guess I have to choose two techniques.  I love to work cables and traveling stitches.  I think it is just great to be able to glance at a chart and know what to do next by reading my knitting!  I also like what I call” easy lace.”  Lace patterns that are maybe 6-12 stitches wide that repeat every 4-12 rows.  Beyond that I have a harder time memorizing.  Again, I like the fact that you can “read” your knitting or on a chart. 

These kinds of patterns seem to amaze the non knitting world because they may look more difficult than they really are.  I like them because I just find them very relaxing.

How did you determine your size range? 
I like to grade to as many sizes as I can, keeping in mind that not all designs are going to work on all sizes of people.  So if the integrity of the design is compromised after size XL, I won’t grade the design for larger sizes.  I have not ever designed specifically for plus sizes, but I do think that is a valid niche.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? 
I don’t know how you can totally avoid looking at other designer’s work, but I try to not spend a lot of time perusing other patterns.  However, other designers’ can provide inspiration too.  I just try to own my own work.  Sometimes you may see interesting techniques within a design, that you may use in a totally different way. Knitting has been around for such a long time, that it is a challenge to come up with something totally new. There are, however, and infinite number of ways to combine all of the features of a garment.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters? 
I think there are plenty of patterns for all skill levels.  Not all knitters are close to a place or a person that can teach them to knit, and if we can help that process by putting extra information in our patterns, I certainly don’t have a problem with that. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself? 
I knit all my samples myself, but I have 4 or 5 test knitters that I work with frequently.

Did you do a formal business plan? 
This is embarrassing, but no, I do not have a formal business plan written down on paper.  I have not had the luxury of working full time at designing, but I do have goals of how many designs I would like to sell to magazines and yarn companies and how much I would like to self publish.

Do you have a mentor? 
Back when AKD was in existence, Melissa Wehrle was my mentor. She was great and always willing  to answer my questions about the knitwear publishing world.  We both got busy and are not often in touch.  I must say that every designer that I have met has been more than willing to give advice and guidance.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated? 
Not really, though I do pay attention to the ways that others market themselves.  I always feel like there is more than one right way to do anything. I am exclusively selling my patterns online as pdf downloads.  My schedule just doesn’t work with printing and shipping.

What impact has the Internet had on your business? 
I would not have a business without the Internet.  Ravelry started shortly after I started designing for pay, then Patternfish not long after that.  Online outlets and communities keep the self published part of my business going.

Do you use a tech editor? 
Definitely!  A good tech editor is always worth the money.  As long as you take a good hard look at your pattern prior to sending it to a tech editor, the cost is really minimal and it keeps you from looking like a dummy.

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 
I have to set aside time for designing, pattern writing and marketing and time for spending with the family.  I can knit the models while doing things like watching movies with my family, watching a ball game, or riding in the car, so that helps with my time management.

How do you deal with criticism? 
I try and learn from the constructive criticism, and dismiss it when it is unreasonable or mean.  Luckily, I have not had many instances that is unreasonable or mean.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself? 
I wish I was there, but unfortunately, I am not there yet!  The reality is that I don’t have the luxury of not working while I also pursue a design business because I have to help support my family.   That limits the amount of time that I can spend pitching ideas and money on marketing.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting? 
My advice is to start young before you have a family to support!  If I had it to do all over again, I would pursue jobs with magazines or yarn companies to open the door to my designs.  If you do that while you are on your own, you have much more flexibility to move to where the jobs are.


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