Friday, April 14, 2017

An Interview with...Sarah Schira &

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 Sarah here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I love using places as my starting point. I have spent most of my life on the prairies, where the vast sweep of land and sky encourage you to look for lines and textures. Sometimes I design explicitly from a place and sometimes a project on the needles starts to remind me of somewhere.

For example, the Travelling Landscapes shawl was a challenge I set myself last summer. I designed and knit a shawl inspired by our travels during a 4 week trip to Europe. It was one of the most exciting things I’ve done.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Cables. Such a simple technique for so much beauty. 

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I’m a “capital K” Knitter above all else! I can’t imagine not indulging in the glorious hobby of pouring over knitting patterns, thinking of colours and textures and how the shapes might work in my wardrobe.
I often consciously turn away from looking at other designs when I’m beginning to work for the first few days. There are other times right at the beginning of some projects when I look at dozens of patterns trying to see how a particular element can play out on different shapes or in different colours.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I don’t currently use sample knitters, but I definitely use test knitters - they’re such a vital part of the process! They catch mistakes, yes, but they also show me where things were confusing or where the layout made things less clear.
The number of varies from project to project: I like a minimum of 2 people for every size and I make sure that there are people knitting from charts and written instructions.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Yes, I do, although maybe not as formal as a small business that needed a bank loan to get started. I spent 15 years homeschooling my two children and now that my youngest is graduating this spring, I would like to earn a living designing and teaching knitting. I’ve been designing sweaters and accessories for us almost since the first months I was a knitter, but I’ve only recently started to share them with others. 

Do you have a mentor?
No, unfortunately. &

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I’ve been paying attention to what my favourite designers who seem to be making a go of it are doing, but I don’t know if that is exactly what you mean. I’m still feeling my way into this in terms of both the design side and the business side.

Do you use a tech editor?
For some projects yes, when I want a second look at the math or charts beyond what the test knitters provide.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
By always prioritizing life. Work serves life - if it isn’t helping me create the life I want to lead, then it’s counter-productive. I definitely set myself up to be swamped occasionally, but I’m learning from that and getting better at anticipating which tasks need more time or shouldn’t be combined with others.
I went through a period in my 20s as a mother of young children where I lost myself. We moved a lot as university students, demands were high, and - other than my husband - support was low. I was overweight, tired, and overwhelmed. Ever since then I’ve tried to prioritize a sustainable balance.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I’m not there yet! I’ve been publishing designs for almost 2 years but I am still homeschooling my son. I’m easing into this as a full time business, and I’m happy with the progress I see but I’m not yet pulling in much of an income.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Be patient - it takes time to build up all the processes and habits that you will need. You’ll need time to sort out how you approach things, and you’ll be doing *a lot* of things. From photographing to finances, from grading sizes to figuring out what your web host should be, there’s a lot to this that isn’t knitting.
Also, on a very practical note: listen to pretty much every podcast that Tara Swiger has put out. It’s called Explore your Enthusiasm. She is a business coach for artists, knitting designers, and other creatives. Her podcasts can really help you sort out your mental approach to the process and help you avoid pitfalls.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on a new collection of accessories. I’m thinking of trying the approach where people can buy the whole collection at a discount and I release the designs over the space of a few months. I know I love the way that anticipation and surprise add awesomeness to life.
I’m also starting to submit to magazines. Now that I feel like I have my bearings, I’d really like to see what that process is like.



  1. How funny! I blogged about knitting one of Sarah's patterns today

    1. Great minds think alike. Thanks for the link!