Friday, May 11, 2012

An Interview with....Lorilee Beltman

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 Lorilee here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration for designing just comes from wondering (usually while falling asleep) and fiddling around with needles and yarn in the morning. Stitch dictionaries are also inspiring, as is generally being engaged in my surroundings enough to notice things that are pleasing. 

What is your favourite knitting technique?
There is one technique that stands out as having changed my knitting, as it allows me to execute some dimensional designs seamlessly. Because the lights went on for me when I learned it, I try to force Judy Becker's Magic Cast On on any knitter willing to learn.

The teacher in me also wants every knitter to learn magic loop knitting, Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind off, and more than a few ways to cast on.

My favorite knitting style for me is continental, although I love to watch people who throw with their left hand, or Victorian knitters who hold their needles like pencils. I love to see variations that get the job done. 

How did you determine your size range?
To date most of my published patterns have been for accessories made in the sizes determined by whomever has hired me to submit the pattern. 

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Certainly I enjoy looking at other designers work, but I feel strongly about only putting something out there if it looks different from things currently available. There are designers who do stunning things with cables or color or lace, for instance. I am interested in looking, but rarely knit them, as I'd rather look into something I am personally curious about. I'd love to have many designers' works magically appear in my closet, but I don't feel the need to knit them. 

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
What is this controversy of which you speak? You may have to dumb down the question for me to understand. 

Bloggers note: for more background on this question see my post here.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I am new to this and do it myself, but I would be happy to change this going forward.  

Did you do a formal business plan?
When I had a shop, absolutely. Now? No, just goals and schedules on calendars.  

Do you have a mentor?
I have absorbed thrilling bits of knitting knowledge from many people. When I teach I like to remind people that everything I know, I learned, usually the hard way. No single person stands out, which could be due to the fact that I find a lot to admire in many people.

What's the most important thing you have learned?
The most important thing I have learned in my life is something I experience in the knitting community. Time and time again I have found that any person is worth getting to know if you just take the time with them to find out what you share or what you find interesting in them. I have observed knitters who would perhaps not even notice each other in passing on the street sit and knit together and form friendships despite great differences. It has been a real eye-opener for me. This knowledge also keeps me from idolizing or elevating one person over another.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
I consider myself a teacher first, designer second. Social media is useful for spreading the word about upcoming events and newly-released designs.  

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
To decide what is most important to get done in any day, then do that, is often challenging in any job. Knitting is no different, except working from home has its extra challenges.

How do you deal with criticism?
Anyone who criticizes me is an idiot. Okay- I am totally kidding! I shouldn't joke around like that with people who don't know me. Like many people, I accept it when I ask for it, but unsolicited criticism isn't usually productive for me. On balance, most of my feedback is very encouraging.

This does remind me of a specific example of criticism that does bug me. On Youtube there is a CraftSanity video of me giving a continental knitting tutorial. I get "love" mail regularly regarding the tips in that video, which at this moment has about 800,000 views. Not too shabby. What I have stopped responding to are the comments from people who, in response to my five seconds of throwing, get super critical of my throwing technique, or feel like I am dissing throwing. Anyone who takes a class from me will attest to me not saying that my way is the best way, just the best for me. And, yes, I am a crap thrower, which is why the tutorial is not titled "English Style Knitting." 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting? 
Don't think you know everything, ever. But don't let missing knowledge prevent you from giving it a shot. Everything you need to know you can learn if you pursue it with great curiosity.

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