Friday, February 17, 2012

An Interview with...Katya Frankel

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. 

Katya's first book, Boys' Knits, is a collection of 16 sweater patterns that boys will love to wear. Her signature style combines classic silhouettes with feature details resulting in some very handsome sweaters. In the past she has published her patterns in Interweave Knits and has designed in a wide range of projects from accessories  to garments for both women and children.

You can find Katya here and here on Ravelry. Katya's patterns are available on Ravelry, at her website and in her upcoming book available for pre-order from the publisher's website at:

Where do you find inspiration?
All around me: literature, photographs, fashion shows, doodling, art, yarn, knitting techniques - it depends what I am working on. I have a binder where I put any visuals that excite me, magazine clippings, descriptions of things that I think would be neat to have or wear. If I work for a publication then I dip into it to check if I have had any ideas that would cross with the submission call. Playing with yarn and seeing where it takes and then working around that inspires me a lot as well.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love any technique that's nifty and can be done along the way. Things like covering up little holes on the sides of the sock heels with crossed stitches, a way to work a fitted sleeve cap seamlessly, button-holes in one row, shaping incorporated into the stitch pattern all get me very excited!

How did you determine your size range?
Often it's determined by the look of the design and stitch pattern combination. But as a rule, I try to work between 30 and 48 inch chest circumference with 2 inch increments where possible. And for children's wear I include sizes to fit 4 to 12 year olds with finished chest measurements of 23-30/32 inch. Saying that, in the Boy's knits most of the sweaters are sized up to size 14 to cover a slightly wider range.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Having made some great friends with a number of knitwear designers, inevitably, I do look at *their* work from time to time. We are being influenced by every single image we see and conversation we have and what not in our life, so yes probably I am being influenced by my peers' works but at the same time we all have quite a distinct direction. It's important to me to be authentic, my work might not excite everybody but it is true to myself.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I have never heard of it.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it  all yourself?
I usually work on everything myself because often I need to work through small nuances of the design, it's shaping or some special techniques, to know whether they all work together and whether each part can be extrapolated up and down across the range of sizes. I did however use a sample knitter for the Boys' collection. We worked closely together on every part of each garment and it was an interesting experience for me. The work plan had to be rearranged completely to what I am used to, all the details had to be thought through before I sent the patterns off to be knit up. In a way it was more difficult, because I felt that I couldn't monitor each step as the sweater grew and there were parts that had to be re knit for one reason or other but on the other hand I enjoyed the rush I got when I finally met with the finished samples.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I don't have an official plan but I have a financial projection for a year ahead and a set of goals that I check twice a year to make sure I am on course.

Do you have a mentor?
I do have a few friends that I can go to if I need help with a decision that I need to make.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Absolutely! Finding a tech editor was the first thing I did when I decided to self publish my first pattern, well before it was written.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I do work from home and do find it difficult to limit my work hours when the two are so intertwined. If I am under a deadline, pressure work takes over my life completely but I still try to keep afternoons for family/children time. I'd really like to reach that point where I don't have to switch my computer on when the children are back from school. :-)

How do you deal with criticism? 

Over the past few years I've developed a thick skin when it comes to criticism. It used to be pretty hard to separate my work from *me* because my work is an interpretation of my feelings and so accepting criticism used to be difficult. I do however realize that I am putting my work out there, and although I'd love it if people liked it, I cannot possibly expect everyone to have the same taste or the same interest in techniques as myself.

Could you tell us a little about your upcoming book?
Boys' Knits is a collection of 16 sweaters for boys with focus on timeless wardrobe classics like: raglans and fitted sleeve sweaters, zippered cardigans and simple vests. I used classic shapes as a canvas to showcase different stitch patterns, design elements or finishing techniques, keeping sweaters simple yet interesting to knit and easy to finish. All patterns in the book are knit in the round from the bottom up and are sized up to fit chest measurements from 23 to 32. There are also step by step instructions with photographs that cover techniques used in the book.

Boy's Knits is being published by Cooperative Press, who is committed to publishing knitting and other craft related books. They were incredibly positive, supportive and relaxed, letting me bring my vision to life from choosing yarns to photography styling.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Stay true to yourself and work hard! And on practical level be prepared to pick up new skills fast and work 10 different jobs in a day, find a fantastic tech editor that understands your needs.

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