Friday, April 3, 2015

An Interview with...Andrea Rangel

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 Andrea here, and here on Ravelry.
Where do you find inspiration?
I get ideas from street fashion and the images I see on Instagram, Pinterest, and my favorite blogs. I’m also always on the lookout for interesting textures and patterns in nature and in constructed spaces. The yarn itself has a big impact on what I make out of it, and I love looking through stitch pattern books. I pretty much always have knitting on the brain, so most things inspire me to design something. 

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I can’t say I have one favourite, but I love the techniques that seem magical - mattress stitch, turning the heel on a sock, duplicate stitch - and the mathematically beautiful ones like lace and cables.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
We’re all standing on the shoulders of giants and owe a whole lot to the designers who came before us, both within the knitting and fashion industries, and more generally, in the design and art worlds. Being aware of the incredible work that has already been done expands my set of ideas. I consume a lot of design through Pinterest, Instagram and blog-reading, and consider it creative development. I also knit from other designers’ patterns as much as I can - it’s a vital part of my professional development. I always have more to learn and love the experience of relaxing with a knitting project I don’t have to think too much about.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit all my samples myself. I love to knit and wouldn’t want to give it up! It’s also a part of my design process - I usually find ways to improve the design as I knit it.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I have a business plan, but I’ve found that my business is constantly changing in ways I didn’t anticipate, so I have to be very flexible and look more at big-picture goals rather than specific targets.

Do you have a mentor?
No, but I do have groups of independent professionals (both in the knitting industry and in other creative industries) whom I check in with regularly. We celebrate our accomplishments together, plan our goals, help each other out, and have really productive discussions. I appreciate them immensely!

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I don’t exactly emulate any business model, but there are brands that I admire greatly. I definitely take time to consider what makes them work so well to see if I can apply any of those principles to my own business. I’m thinking specifically of Brooklyn Tweed, Tolt Yarn and Wool, and Fringe Association.

How are you using social media to grow your business?
I’m really loving Instagram. It’s a medium that works better for me than anything else I’ve tried and I enjoy using it. My work is so visual and posting photos allows me to connect with knitters (and other folks!) around the world. I also blog and use Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and I have a group on Ravelry where I hold knit-alongs, pattern tests, and generally answer pattern questions.

Do you use a tech editor?
I use both a tech editor and a copy editor for all of my independently-published designs. I also very much appreciate the feedback I get from my test knitters. All those eyes and opinions help me to publish accurate, user-friendly patterns.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
My life is pretty much all designing all the time. But I completely love it and wouldn’t trade my lifestyle for anything. I do take time off - I enjoy riding my bike and my husband and I spent a month cycling through the Netherlands last summer. My balance comes from the ability to simply decide when I’m taking time off.

How do you deal with criticism?
I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t received any really mean feedback. Most of what I get are just questions, and I’m usually able to clarify whatever the knitter was having trouble with. I really appreciate when knitters contact me - it’s a great opportunity for me to have a positive interaction and sometimes it gives me an idea for updating a pattern or writing a blog post or tutorial if a lot of knitters have the same question.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Use a tech editor for every single pattern you publish so that you can build your brand right from the start. Knit a lot from patterns and designers you admire to help expand your skills, technical expertise, and familiarity with sizing. And don’t get discouraged if it takes a long time to gain traction. Perseverance does pay off! 

What’s next for you?
A book! I’m working with Interweave to create a book full of woolly sweaters and accessories for women and men. It’s scheduled to be published the summer of 2016.

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