Friday, March 10, 2017

An Interview with...Holli Yeoh

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 Holli here and here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration?
My inspiration comes from little moments in my day to day life, stitch dictionaries, street fashion, costumes on TV, nature, fabrics and stitch patterns found in retail shops. The list goes on! I’m always snapping photos with my phone as a visual reference to remind me of ideas I’ve had while I’m out and about. For instance, the frothy waves behind the ferry made me want to recreate them in lace, which ultimately became my Wake design.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Anything to do with knitting! Usually I’m most enamoured with whatever technique I’m exploring in a current design. Right now I’m playing with designing a heel construction for a sock.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I used to be worried that I would be too influenced by other designers’ work but not any more. I’ve found that even if something they’ve done excites and inspires me, by the time I’m finished exploring the idea it has become my own.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I used sample knitters for the first time when I worked on my book, Tempest: a collection of 11 patterns designed by Holli Yeoh for SweetGeorgia Yarns. Our timeline was too tight for me to do all the knitting myself. Giving up that control was one of the most difficult parts of the project! I would have caught problems earlier or made different decisions if I had done the knitting myself. It was also tremendously time consuming. Between sample and test knitters I was communicating with 45 different knitters on that project!
I do use test knitters occasionally for other projects, which I find helpful. Their input helps me produce a better pattern with clear instructions.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I laughed out loud at this one! I’m chagrined to admit that I’m mostly flying by the seat of my pants and having a great time doing it!

Do you use a tech editor?
Most definitely. I love working with tech editors. They have such a great way of massaging what I’m saying by just tweaking a word here and there. I also appreciate the peace of mind they provide that my numbers are correct.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
When my son was small I worked while he slept and later, when he was in school. It was a very part-time endeavour. I really wanted to submit designs to magazines and books, but wasn’t confident I could work with the short timelines. Once my son was more independent (and taking the bus to school!), my time freed up substantially and I have the luxury of devoting as much time to designing as I want. He’s a teenager now and as a family we now focus on creating family time since we all have our solitary pursuits. Oh, and we won’t get into house cleaning. ;-)

How do you deal with criticism?
I don’t think anyone really likes criticism. If it’s valid and constructive I try to learn from it. Sometimes I need to ponder on it before I see its merit and find a way to apply it to what I’m doing. I thank them for reaching out and let them know that I’ve heard them.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Take care of your body! Get in the habit of stretching and taking frequent breaks both from knitting and the computer.
Also, if someone wants to write knitting patterns, read everything you can get your hands on: forums, patterns, technique books. I spent a lot of time reading patterns to determine what I liked and didn’t like about how they were written. From that I was able to pull together my own style sheet for how I wanted my patterns to flow. I listen to what knitters have to say about patterns and their difficulties in following them and try to incorporate their needs into my patterns to avoid their frustrations.
Remember that it took practice to learn to knit and designing and writing patterns also takes practice. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.

What’s next for you?
I’m always working on secret projects for third-party publishers. So far this year already I expect at least nine new releases.

I would really like to work on another collection and enjoyed the collaborative approach when I worked on my book. I’ve have several ideas I’ve been mulling over but I’ve yet to decide on my next direction.

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