Friday, December 24, 2010

An Interview with...Diana Troldahl

Once a week I post  interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. 
You can find Diana here, her blog is here and on Ravelry here.

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere, really. I love looking at nature in micro and macrocosm, and sometimes the shapes or textures suggest things. I also get interesting ideas from looking at architecture. I sometimes see a line or fabric pattern of a dress that inspires a new way to put together a garment. I often get different perspectives by reading antique handicraft books like the Weldon's Practical Needlework series and others I find on sites like
What is your favourite knitting technique?
Wow, I've never really thought about it. I keep trying new things and like not being married to any one way of accomplishing a goal. I know how to knit in the round in multiple methods, for example. I probably favor dpns above magic loop for small projects, but know how to do both, as well as a few more techniques.

How did you determine your size range?
Because I am a large woman, I like to have extra options on the large end of the spectrum, but I haven't done a lot of garment designs requiring grading, yet; although there are a few in process for 2011.
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I enjoy seeing other designer's work. I think we can learn a lot from each other. I am confident that my own sense of design is unique and strong enough not to be overly influenced by others, and I gain a great deal from purchasing patterns from designers I admire and seeing how they approach tricky bits of design and instruction.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters? 
I don't think it is possible to write a pattern with too much clarity. My goal when writing instructions is to leave the pattern-user with as few questions as possible, while pointing out areas within the design where the adventurous knitter or crocheter can explore options to make the design their own. When I purchase a pattern, I become quite cross when the designer skips over important information or provides vague or useless instructions. I have no way of knowing the skill level of someone who purchases one of my patterns. Better that an advanced knitter skips over parts they don't need than a less experienced knitter winds up frustrated with a lack of information. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I mostly do it myself, especially because I have a tendency to change the design while making the samples. I do have test knitters and crocheters I have met through Ravelry and elsewhere, and some of my friends have been lovely about pitching in to pattern test for me.
Did you do a formal business plan? 
I have plans, but they tend toward the informal. I deal with chronic health issues and having firm goals can set me up for frustration if I am unable to accomplish them. I prefer to have a list of projected tasks unconnected to a timeline.
Do you have a mentor?
Probably that was my sister-in-law, LynnH of Colorjoy. I tested a few patterns for her as a rank beginner, then began offering editing advice (I am a writer) and she encouraged me to jot down some of my own patterns. She is always there for me if I need advice, and I still occasionally test knit and tech edit a bit for her.
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really. I have grown it organically as opportunities came to my attention.
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Huge. It cannot be over emphasized. Without the Internet, I do not think I would be selling patterns.
Do you use a Tech Editor?
No, although my test knitters often provide great advice. I find I can edit my own patterns fairly well if I let them rest and come to them with fresh eyes as I knit a sample. (I often make two or even more samples of each pattern).
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
That is tough. I have a tendency to over focus on a project until my hands literally will not work. This is not healthy, so I am trying to set time limits on any one activity.
How do you deal with criticism?
Pretty well, I think. I am always grateful when someone takes the time to point out an error or unclear section of instructions in my patterns. I feel gutted that I published something with an error in it, but no one is perfect, and I console myself with that :-} If someone simply does not like something I created, that has more to do with their particular taste than with the worth of my creation.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I am not there, yet. It may never happen. I am happy that I am able to provide some income to the household. I am unable to work and have been denied any form of government support, so anything I can bring in is wonderful. I am grateful I have the skill to do this :-}
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Foster diversity of technique, and also try and place yourself and your patterns in as many different areas of the industry as possible. Teaching, publication in online and print magazines, submitting art installations to exhibitions, blogging, writing reviews of yarn, tools and books as well as self-publishing online in as many different markets as possible. Doing these things can build your reputation and platform to the point you will eventually be able to put together book proposals, and perhaps lead to guest shots on television programs. Start small, but look for opportunities to grow your skills and renown.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this interview. Not only is Diana a wonderful designer, she is also an incredibly kind person. She has offered me tons of helpful advice when it comes to creating and selling knitting patterns -- so glad she got some great recognition on your blog!