Friday, April 1, 2016

An Interview with...Nicola Susen


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 Nicola here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
My main impulse is to design sweaters you can knit with any yarn in any size you want. I call it 'maximum freedom'. My brain never stops finding new constructions and how to realize them generally, without thinking in sizes and gauge.

In my search for scarf patterns, everything could be an inspiration. Maybe a leaf or the pattern of wallpaper or a gift wrapping paper. One day I stood in front of a tree and thought about how to do the bark with knits and purls (I still haven't found a solution).

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Stockinette in rounds. It's fast and brainless. Garter stitch is also good for knitting in company.


How did you determine your size range?
Ha! That's the advantage over 'normal' patterns. Maximum freedom is possible with ALL sizes. I don't have to think about it.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
You can not be free of influences. When I have an idea I try to see if the pattern already exists. But it's happened that I had an idea and found a very similar scarf on Ravelry. I saw it 3, 4, 5 days beforehand. Of course in this case, I don't follow the idea.


How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I like it when everything is clear, especially for beginners. And of course I want to help knitters understand my logic and my sometimes freaky constructions.

But of course, a little bit of thinking along is required. I don't put a darning needle on the materials list and I don't write "weave in ends". I think this is clear. There's no knitted piece without that.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
At first I write the pattern exactly like a finished pattern - without knitting it first. Then I knit it and fix any errors right away. Then depending on my evaluation of the level of difficulty I ask between 1 and 4 people to test it.

And finally I have Jeannette, my translator. During translating she knits my pattern in her mind. When she says, “I don't understand this part”, I know there is an error.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No. I've been a freelance graphic designer for more than 12 years. I just do a little bit less graphic design and a little bit more knitting design.

Do you have a mentor?
Not a special one.


Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Do you use a tech editor?
Not a tech editor in the usual sense because I don't have to calculate different sizes.

I have a translator. My English isn't really fluent and my opinion is: When I charge money, it has to be correct and not a German-English mishmash. Of course she proofread this interview. ;-)

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I'm very strict about ending work for the day. No emails after closing time and on weekends. No pattern design on vacation. On vacation I use the chance to knit patterns from other designers.

How do you deal with criticism?
It depends on how it's said. When I get several emails about the same part of a pattern, then I try to improve it. When somebody offends me, I don't answer.


How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I wouldn't be able to answer that. I just reduced my first job in order to be a knitting designer. I love being a graphic designer; I'll never give up this job.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Don't give up your day job! ;-)
Start your knitting career on the side and see how it goes.

What’s next for you?
The Hamburg Wollfest 2016 – I'm part of the organization team. This is our second event and we want it to be as good as the first one.

And as a knitting designer, I will do a cooperation with Wollkenschaf and Orange Sox. I love their color style and I will publish a design with their yarn for the Wollfest in September.

Treppenviertel Socks

1 comment:

  1. I loved getting to know Nicola in this interview. Thank you!