Friday, December 23, 2011

An Interview with..Hunter Hammersen

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 Hunter here and more about her books here and here.

Pattern available in the upcoming book The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet

Where do you find inspiration?
Just about everywhere!  I use the camera on my cell phone to snap pictures of all sorts of crazy things when I'm out and about.  So far I've grabbed snapshots of things like ironwork fences, really hideous upholstery fabric on a hotel sofa, and the tracks my shopping cart left in the snow.  I can't draw at all, so having an easy way to grab pictures is tremendously

For larger projects like the books, I like to work within a theme.  It's easier to have a dinner party if you have a theme, and I'm convinced the same holds true for a knitting collection.  For those, I find myself drawn to historical subjects.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Oh, I more or less like it all!  I'm not quite sure if it counts as a technique exactly, but I find I really prefer working in the round.  For me, it's faster, more even, and easier to manage while I'm working.

How did you determine your size range?
I have really big feet (my mother would say I 'have a firm foundation'). I know first hand how frustrating it is to fall in love with a project and see that it won't fit your needs. So I try to include several sizes for all my socks (and for most of my other projects too). At the same time, I think you can do a lot of fine tuning by adjusting your gauge and yarn choice too.  This works especially well for something like a hat or a mitt where sizing by adding an extra pattern repeat doesn't always work out.  To help people feel confident doing these sorts of adjustments, I've started including information about sizing at a variety of gauges in some of my patterns.  I think it helps knitters make informed decisions about their projects, and the response has been very positive.

I’ve noticed that you work mainly on accessories and specialize in sock designs, could you tell us a little more about your design focus?
I'm kind of a lazy knitter.  The idea of making sweaters or shawls or anything else of that size just makes me feel a bit weak in the knees.  I think that socks and accessories are a much smaller time commitment, but still let the knitter play around with just about any technique imaginable.  It's a better fit for my attention span!

Pattern available in the upcoming book The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I mostly avoid it.  It's too easy to have something sneak into the back of your mind and pop out later.  Though I must confess I do glance at the new issues of a few favorite online magazines when they come out.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I think every pattern is a balancing act between clarity and brevity.  I also think that it is flat out impossible to strike the perfect balance for every knitter in a single pattern...someone will always want something different. With that in mind, I tend to err on the side of assuming knitters are clever folks.  It's my job to be clear enough (and encouraging enough) to give them the confidence they need to tackle the project at hand. That doesn't mean extensive hand holding, but it does mean being careful to be as explicit as possible.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I usually have each pattern tested by at least 3 or 4 people, sometimes more if there are lots of sizes or if the project is complicated.  I've got a dozen or so folks who help me with sample knitting for books, though I make my own samples for individual patterns.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Not at all.  I stumbled into this by accident, and no one was more surprised than me when it turned into a job!

Do you have a mentor?
There are lots of folks I admire, and a few I go to with questions, but no one who I'd call a mentor in a formal sense.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really. So far I'm working on the assumption that if I put out a product I'm really excited about, that others will like it too.  It's worked so far!

Pattern available in The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
I wouldn't even knit, much less design without the Internet!

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Yes, and she's a genius and worth her weight in gold.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I'm not sure I do. Then again, I'm not sure anyone who is doing something they're passionate about really does. It's the trade off for a job you love, and I think it's worth it.

Pattern available  The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet
How do you deal with criticism?
Fairly well I think.  If there's actually something that needs to be changed or corrected (a typo in a pattern for instance), I'm glad to know about it and happy to make the change.  And if it's criticism that I have no intention of acting on (someone who doesn't like the name of a pattern for instance), I just laugh it off.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I've only been designing for a little over two years.  The first year, I broke even.  The second year, I made a profit.  This year, I am actually making enough money that I need to do things like talk to an accountant and a lawyer.  But it's not really at the point where it would pay all of my household's expenses...give me a few more years!

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
The organizational and administrative parts are every bit as important as the creative parts.  Find a way to make them manageable for you, even if they don't come naturally. Mastering them will help you have this be a career, not just a dalliance.

Pattern available here.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful interview. I loved her opinion on shawls and sweaters! it's the exact opposite of mine, but without people like her all our socks would be boring!!