Friday, February 28, 2014

An Interview with...Laura Aylor

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 Laura here and here on Ravelry.

Stella Luna

Where do you find inspiration?
Initially it was because I wanted to knit something very specific and couldn't find the exact pattern that I wanted. That still happens sometimes, but now I get most of my ideas just because of the way my brain works - I have dumped a LOT of knitting information into it in the past 12-13 years and it's all rolling about in there. Occasionally a couple of ideas will bump into each other and the light bulb goes on :) That being said, sometimes what I sit down to design and the end result bear very little resemblance to each other!

What is your favourite knitting technique? 
Barbara Walker's top-down seamless simultaneous set-in sleeves! And short rows - both for color manipulation and shaping.


Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? 
I spend a lot of time on Ravelry and try to keep up with what's going on in the knit design area especially. I have to keep dumping new input into my brain to keep the ideas coming. I guess you could call it market research! Once I've come up with an idea, I do a lot of searching to make sure it hasn't been done already.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I would say that it's less of a 'dumbing down' and more of a case of not having the space limitations of the past. More and more knitters work from electronic devices rather than paper, or just print out the bits that they need, so saving a word here and a page there is not as critical as it used to be. I do think that every designer has their own pattern-writing style and will appeal to a certain subset of knitters. It's impossible to please everyone.


How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Almost two years ago I started my own Ravelry group mainly to conduct test knits. I feel like test knitters should be compensated with more than a copy of the finished pattern (that they have already knit!) so I run my own tests where I can give away my other patterns and a bit of yarn occasionally as thank yous. I have used a lot of testers - over 150! - but I have a core group of about 20 that test for me often. I knit my own samples - it's an important part of my pattern-writing process.


Did you do a formal business plan?
No, but I do quite a bit of short-term planning, trying to take into account the season, what I want to work on, what ideas I have, what yarns I want to work with, how many designs I want to get out in that time period, what else is going on in my life, etc. I set deadlines for myself - it's way too easy to lose sight of the goals when you have no one to answer to. However, sometimes a brainstorm for something new will shove everything else out of the way - a bit disruptive but so much fun to be able to follow the muse when she show up!

Spiced Cocoa

Do you have a mentor?
Can someone you never met be a mentor? If so, then Barbara Walker hands down! Her Learn-to-Knit Afghan book was my reintroduction to knitting as an adult and her stitch dictionaries and Knitting From the Top book are my go-to references.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I guess it would be to self-publish as many designs as I can while still maintaining quality and my sanity!

Litchfield Shawl

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
I would have no knit design career without it! From my first pattern in Knitty (Editor's note: Lizard Ridge, Fall 2006) to everything since, it has been my only means of reaching customers. I do have some retailers that I have wholesale arrangements with, but they found me because of the internet. If I had to go the old route of distributing paper patterns or depending on magazine submissions, I would not be designing (for others at least).

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, I have a couple of people I work with, but occasionally for timing reasons I have to do it myself. When I TE my own pattern, I do it with some distance between the writing and the editing and follow a very strict checklist that I've come up with. It helps that I have a background in that sort of work. At some point I might start working as a TE myself.

Sleep Hollow

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I'm struggling with that at the moment! I'm enjoying the work so much that it's sometimes difficult to make myself exercise, eat right, relax, and spend time with my poor long-suffering husband. I absolutely love every part of this job and have a hard time tearing myself away.

How do you deal with criticism?
After a moment of heartsickness I put on my big-girl panties and deal with it! I hate disappointing anyone so it's always hard to hear, but I love having the opportunity to make things right, so I'd rather hear than not.

Brier Island

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself? 
The short answer is about 6 years, but only a couple once I made up my mind to stop dabbling and actually work at it. And by 'supporting myself' I mean making enough for ME to live on (very simply!), not my whole family :)

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
First you have to put in your time. Knit a lot of things from a lot of different designers. Read Elizabeth Zimmerman and Barbara Walker and Maggie Righetti. Get to know yarn in all its fibers and weights. Give yourself a solid base to work from. And then if you want to design, do it because you love it - you will probably never make a good hourly wage, but if you love what you're doing, it doesn't matter :)


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