Friday, October 31, 2014

An Interview with...Hanna Maciejewska


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 Hanna here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! Most people who create things say this, don't they? It is all true! The world is full of colors and shapes. Sometimes it is nature that captures my attention (I am a huge fan of gardening), sometimes architecture. I live close to the ancient town of Torun with its historical buildings and the university, and I love to wander around, feeling history and watching people. However, it is the yarn that stimulates me the most. If a yarn doesn't "talk" to me, I tend not to work with it...

What is your favourite knitting technique?

Definitely cables! Especially the way I can drape them all over a garment and hide and incorporate shaping in cleverly placed cables. But I also like to learn new techniques and new stitches; it always motivates me a lot.

How did you determine your size range?

It depends on the garment. I always try to make my designs available to as many sizes as possible, but not all stitch patterns and garments can be sized the same. Generally, most of my patterns will fit bust circumferences ranging from 28" to 50".


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

It is always part of pre-development research to evaluate the market before I put all my resources into a new design. With globalization of sources of inspiration (Re-pins of inspirational photos and social site quotes gone viral, I'm talking about you!), it is sometimes unavoidable that somebody will have the same idea at the same time and develop similar ideas as I. Just recently, I had thought up a cardigan with a row of buttons down the back and thought I was ever so clever for this idea - until another designer came out with – a cardigan with a row of buttons down the back! I did not publish mine, but moved on to the next idea.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?

While I strive to make the knitting process as pleasant and enjoyable as possible and to write my patterns in a clear and easily understandable way, I never dumb down my designs for the sake of superficial fast success with easier stitches where another stitch combination would bring better results. Comparing the amount of time spent knitting a garment to the the amount of time it will be worn later, I always consider it well worth to go for the more sophisticated way of achieving a goal: If it will improve the fit, or the finishing will just look smarter that way - yes, my patterns will contain that provisional cast-on, stitches knit through the back loop or cables with hidden decreases, and I will explain, often with a photo tutorial, how to work these special stitches. Learning something new with every project is always well worth it!
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?

I would like to do it all by myself, but this is just not possible, or is it? As for testers, it really depends on the project. For accessories, I usually ask for the help of four to five testers while for sweaters with multiple sizes, I usually need one or two testers for each size. As for sample knitters, I'm a hands-on designer and do knit up every design before I grade it and pass it on to test knitters. Very often, useful ideas for improvement will come to my mind while I knit up a design myself.

Did you do a formal business plan?

Yes, I have one. While, of course, designing should be fun, the serious side of a knitting business should not be underestimated - that's why I sketch out promotional ideas, new designs, trends and general business thoughts well in advance in writing. Often, I will ask my family or trusted circle of friends what they think about my business ideas or release plans, and their feedback is always useful. If the business part didn't work out, I wouldn't be able to continue designing!

Do you have a mentor?

Not really... However, there are people who I ask for advice and whom I really trust. I have a few really close friends (online and in my hometown) who are of great help to me!

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

No. I'd rather come up with my own!
What impact has the Internet had on your business?

A huge one indeed! First of all, the Internet has made the knitting world a lot faster and enabled me to keep in touch with knitters around the world almost in real time, making my business possible in the first place. When I joined Ravelry a few years ago, at first, I posted projects just for fun. After a dear friend, who is a talented hand dyer, created a special yarn for me, I wrote and felt encouraged to publish "Colors of Kauai", which was so well received that I decided to write down more of my designs. However, the Internet also has another impact on global business that, as a knitting designer, one should not be ignorant of: Unfortunately, sometimes it will happen that content gets re-published by unauthorized sources from people with dishonorable intentions or who erroneously believe they have the right to redistribute a pattern as they see fit once they have bought it. When I recently had my content removed from a site which had illegally republished one of my patterns shortly after release, I was contacted by unhappy users of that site, lecturing me that by publishing my pattern, I had enabled and literally invited illegal sharing, and had I just knitted in the seclusion of my home without "showing off on the net", nothing could have been stolen. That's like saying: "I just had to steal your bike, why did you have to ride to town on it instead of leaving it at home in your garage!"
Do you use a tech editor?

All my patterns, even the smallest accessories, are thoroughly edited and test knitted in all sizes. I also have most of them translated into other languages before release, which adds an additional security layer to catch any possible errors!

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Thankfully, knitting has the upper seat in the seesaw of my work/family balance! I have a very supportive family who encourage my knitting endeavors and designing escapades, helping with mundane tasks where they can, cheering me on and being happy for me when I accomplish a goal.
How do you deal with criticism?

Of course, one can never make all people happy at the same time - everybody has their preferences, and different people have different tastes and needs. I find it very useful to hear what people have to suggest about my patterns, especially people from all over the world and from different ways of life - it gives me so much valuable insight, and I appreciate the possibility to improve my designs so people will like them even more! One example I have already incorporated and always get positive responses about is he fit of the sleeves in larger sizes - I appreciate all the feedback I've received over time from my tireless test knitters with different body shapes, especially the larger ones, and meanwhile have arrived at grading my garments in such a way that customers are happy with the fit. It would not have been possible without the valuable input of my test knitters!

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?

I am still working on it, and it is in my 5-year plan.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?

Keep knitting! Have fun! Look out for opportunities, and never ever let others put you down!

Wisteria Lane

1 comment: