Friday, September 19, 2014

An Interview with...Laura Chau

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 on Ravelry here. You can find Laura on Ravelry, Twitter and Instagram as cosmicpluto. Laura recently released a new ebook, you can find it here.

Where do you find inspiration?
As many places as possible. Yarns often inspire me, but I also look to architecture, art, mainstream fashion, and nature.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I kind of love just knitting stockinette stitch. Cables are a close second. I also love interesting constructions, whether it be for garments or accessories!

How did you determine your size range?
It’s very important to me to have a large range of sizes for my garments and accessories. I’ve known people on both extremes of the size spectrum, and it’s difficult for everyone to find the right size! I myself have changed sizes quite a bit since I began designing. I try to provide sizes from 28-60” where I’m able - I really don’t think it’s much more work to provide lots of sizes, and you can open up your market by making the sizing as inclusive as possible.As a large-haired person, I also size other accessories like hats - because not everyone has a noggin the size of mine!
Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I think it’s important to know what other people are designing. I usually check Ravelry to make sure an idea hasn’t already been done, before moving forward with a design. Looking at other people’s work is a good way for me to steer my designing in a different direction.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I worked and taught in a yarn shop for many years, so I’ve seen all levels of knitter from absolute beginner to experienced. I think most people appreciate more information in a pattern rather than less, though unnecessary wordiness can be a problem if it hides the important info! Spelling things out is the easiest way to make sure you get your particular method across - but don’t go overboard.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I usually do all my knitting myself. I do have a couple of friends that I call on once in awhile to do some knitting for me, but in general I like to tweak and change things on the needles, which doesn't lend itself to sample knitters.

Did you do a formal business plan?
When I graduated from university, I was working in a yarn shop and designing already. My general plan was to see where it would take me, and get a “real job” if I needed to. I’m very grateful and happy that I’ve been able to make it work for so long, but I don’t really have a formal plan for the future. I prefer to wait and see how things develop organically.

Do you have a mentor?
Not formally, but I have many friends that I look up to! I would say my former boss, Megan Ingman (blog: greatly influenced my trajectory as a designer and maker. She’s always so creative!
Yes, of course. I’ve used the same tech editor for years, I love her and trust her!

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I work a lot, but I try to keep my computery or math-intensive work to business hours. In the evenings I might knit, but I might also do something else like sewing or spinning to change it up.

How do you deal with criticism?
Over the years I think I’ve gotten a bit better at handling it. It’s easy to focus on negative comments, but they can be toxic to your mental health! Thankfully they are few and far between.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Difficult to say. When I began designing, I was in university, living at home with my parents, and also working in a yarn shop. Then after I graduated, I had a short window where I needed to write my book, Teach Yourself Visually Sock Knitting, which I probably wouldn’t have been able to do if I wasn’t living at home. Between working at the shop and designing, I was able to move out on my own a few years later and have been supporting myself ever since.

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