Friday, January 8, 2016

An Interview with...Ashley Knowlton

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 Ashley here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
Fit. As someone who has trouble buying off-the-rack clothes that fit me well, I might obsess a bit over the fit of my knitwear. You'll find waist shaping in all my of sweater patterns, as I (perhaps rather selfishly) fixate on garments that would suit my own body. I plan shapes of garments and patterns that would suit the sort of silhouette I'm looking for.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
It changes depending on my mood and what I'm working on at the time. I usually have multiple projects going so I can switch between cables, lace, and plain stockinette. It also means it takes me three times longer to get anything done...

I find top-down garments difficult to write and grade, though I recognise they are fun to knit and can sometimes be easier to customise. I tend to favour bottom-up seamless garments with short-row set-in sleeves, because I hate sewing and have no patience for it. For accessories, I like clever little techniques that completely change construction and again make things seamless, like in my Stippers pattern.

How did you determine your size range? 
I try to grade as widely as possible, because I know how frustrating it can be to fall in love with something and not have the pattern available in your size.

Rarely, a pattern will refuse to grade up (or, more often, down) as much as I'd like due to pattern constraints--this is especially true with large-scale cable or lace patterns. Usually I'll find a solution, but I prefer to keep the proportions for each size as true to the sample as possible.

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

I'm a tech editor, so I absolutely look at other designers' work! All of us have our own methods, styles, and ways of doing things; I've learned a few new techniques from my clients as I'm sure they've learned from me. But we also have our own preferred methods and our own distinctive aesthetics, so I'm not very worried that my own designs will replicate others', no.

I find myself most inspired by ready-to-wear clothing, especially things with a vintage feel, but by the time I find myself getting around to designing something similar-ish to something I saw in a magazine, it's already three years out of season! You have to move fast in the fashion world, and I am not that quickest of knitters.

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

I am unapologetically a lover of brevity in my patterns--both in my own and in the patterns I edit. I cut out a lot of words because most often I find that more words just gives you more opportunity to confuse a less experienced knitter. I think links to tutorials might be more helpful than longer explanations.

But all in all, it really depends on your target audience. If you're aiming toward beginning knitters with simpler patterns, slowing down and writing things down in length might be what you want to do. I generally target those more experienced, so write in the more abbreviated way as I am accustomed.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I always knit my own samples as I'm a process designer and always change things as I go. I have test knitters I find in a testing group; a few recurring ones, often new ones.

Do you use a tech editor?
Absolutely. Even the best tech editors miss things in their own patterns (sometimes huge, embarrassing, and extremely obvious things--the pattern equivalent of walking around with your skirt stuck in your tights). My primary tech editor is Akshata Dhareshwar and she does lovely work; she is very thorough and very sweet.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I take school holidays off to spend more time with my teacher husband (who I don't often get to see in daylight during term time!). I also only tech edit part-time as my brain can only take numbers for so many hours each day. I balance it out with veg time designing and knitting samples in front of the telly or--my great love--writing fiction.

How do you deal with criticism?
I'm still developing a thick skin. Sometimes (though rarely) criticism can serve no purpose and just be cruel for cruelty's sake, though I think I've not been on the receiving end of this very often, if at all. Usually it is very helpful; I just have to let it sit for a day before I respond and try to fix it, or decide it's a simple difference in opinion and is best off not being changed.

What’s next for you?

More of the same, I imagine! Knitting, editing, and writing, though I haven't released many patterns independently in the past two years and would like to release at least a half-dozen in 2016. But all in all, I've created quite a nice life for myself here with my family and I'm hoping (knock on wood) that it will be stable for a while.


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