Friday, March 4, 2011

An Interview with...Mary K. Hobbs

Photo by Lou Hanson, Pattern available here

Once a week I post  interviews with interesting knitting professionals about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that everyone makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. 

Mary does not have a website but if anyone would like to reach her let me know by PM in Ravelry at knittingrobin and I will pass on her contact info.

You were described to me as a designer, pattern writer, pattern checker and proof reader, is that how you label yourself?

I’ve worn many hats during my working career, clerk/typist, Mom (this is still ongoing!), test knitter, designer, pattern writer, office assistant, police and fire dispatcher, receptionist, then office assistant again. But very recently, I’ve found myself without a day job. Faced with the prospect of  yet another career change, I’ve decided to take my acquired skills and occupy my time with what I really love to do most, let the creative juices flow.……….designing and writing my own patterns, pattern checking for other designers and I’m even test knitting again!

Tell me how you got into the business of tech editing patterns.

I often feel like I backed into this business. Knitting’s been something I’ve enjoyed from very early on, knitting for myself and family. When my sons were young, I answered a classified ad for Test Knitters. I figured it was a way to make a little extra cash and still be an “at home Mom.  My employer then asked me to come into the office and help proof read patterns. Soon I was designing and writing patterns. It was definitely an “on the job” learning experience, developing my skills, over a period of about eleven years, from Test Knitter to Design Coordinator! A few months after leaving that position, I worked as a part time office assistant, for the Knitting Guild of Canada. That was back in 2000. And that was when I was introduced to the owners of Cabin Fever and my part time, freelance design and editing career was born. I’ve done pattern checking and contributed designs to several of the knitting books Cabin Fever has produced, over the last ten years. My connection with them, has now led me to you, Robin and this interview.

Could you please share a little about how the editing process works?

I don’t really know that I have a process. I just start at the beginning of the pattern and check everything about it. I check for the mechanics, the math, the conversions, spelling, grammar, clarity, consistency, even how the written pattern itself looks, including any charts or diagrams, fonts, type size, etc. In working though the pattern, I’m almost knitting it in my head and in all sizes, to make sure it works. If I come across something I have difficulty with, I just pick up my needles and follow the pattern and see what happens. Sometimes I learn something new. Other times a change in wording might be needed and I talk that out with the designer/writer. When I’m working on a pattern I just focus and work through it from beginning to end.

How long have you been in business?

As I’ve said previously, my skills were acquired many years ago, but in the last 10 years or so, on a part time basis, I’ve done freelance design and pattern writing, as well as pattern checking for other designers,. Now, I’ve decided to take the plunge and work at building up my own business.
What is your favorite part of what you do?

I think, as in most things, the end result is the best part. To see that finished piece, a sweater, a shawl, a pattern or pattern book in print………knowing that I’ve had a part in developing it, is very gratifying.  The satisfaction of a job well done! Now the real BONUS is to see your work walking down the street on a total stranger, knowing that you contributed to creative process.
Did you do a formal business plan?

No, I’ve not developed a formal business plan.
Do you have a mentor?

No, not one mentor. I’m fortunate to know several creative individuals, who are very much a part of my new adventure. All have been working their own businesses for several years. All are artists in various fields. Making the transition from being employed, to self employment and the freedom of creativity is new and exciting, intimidating and scary all at once! It’s good to have people around me who understand and are willing to share their insights and experiences.    

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?


Did you take any courses in how to run a business before you went freelance?

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

Ah, the Internet………Robin, that remains to be seen. Up until now, I’ve had little experience with the Internet. My business contacts so far, have been more by word of mouth. Now, here I am, doing an online interview, another first. And I’m being encouraged to build my own website, in the very near future. So time will tell.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?

That’s another lesson, being learned. Previously having a standard work week, with evenings and weekends off, I’m finding it a challenge to settle into a routine, working at home. I expect it will take me a while to get used to the idea and get it working for me efficiently.

How long did it take you to support yourself?

I’m not there yet, but hopeful! These are early days!

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