Friday, June 22, 2012

An Interview with...Meghan Jones
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 Meghan here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in so many places; colour is a major inspiration for me and I am attracted to interesting colour combinations and textures. I have a very strong Fine Art background with a BFA in Fibres and Textiles and 3 classes short of a drawing degree. I have also studied painting, photography, ceramics, and did my 4th year studio work on a computerized weaving loom called a compu-dobby. I spend a lot of time looking at art history books and stitch dictionaries and combining what I see there with forms that fit the human body.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I think that Kitchener’s stitch is my favorite technique, I have about 26 second-favorite techniques but for number 1 it has to be kitchener’s. It is so versatile and has saved me knitting time in so many situations, whether I have made a mistake with length and have to absorb stitches or want to join something seamlessly kitchener’s is the way to go. I can always tell if a fellow knitter and I are on the same wavelength if she/he smiles that secret smile when kitchener’s stitch is mentioned instead of the full body shudder that most newer knitters have.
How did you determine your size range?
I am a generously proportioned Super Babe and so I like to make patterns with at least 8 sizes starting with 34 and going up to 62 inches bust circumference. There is nothing more disappointing that finding a great pattern that I would adore knitting and then realizing that the sizing is too small, most of the time by only one size. Since I completely write out the pattern in all sizes with all math computations before knitting the sample I find it easy to up size and actually try to avoid publications which won’t let me up size. I also like the challenge of the extra shaping involved in plus size garments, there are definite rules that should be followed and I think it makes a smarter better pattern.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I am constantly perusing other designer’s work, I see it as an advantage to have a good handle on what is popular, selling and has been done before. I love to read pattern books and see how other designer’s tackle tricky shaping or up-sizing patterning etc. I work really hard at being unique but there is so much knowledge to be gained from knitting another designer’s pattern. The old adage when I went to college was that ‘you can’t create Art in a vacuum” and while the jury is still out on what ‘Art” is or isn’t I still think I should see it all and get inspired with the sheer creativity of it.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I feel like I might have a slightly different perspective on this question than some of the more experienced designer’s out there since I haven’t been around long enough to know the changes that have affected the industry, but I do have an opinion.
I have noticed that there are some seriously simple knits out there, and they do have their own place and time. I am as big a fan of T.V. knitting as the next knitter but I also love patterns riddled with technique and challenging ideas. I try to include new techniques and shaping ideas within my patterns, mostly because I am designing the pattern to specifically utilize the technique as it fascinates me! I try to include definitions and explanations of some of the more obscure techniques, but also assume that the knitter knows the more basic ones. I am not afraid of labeling a pattern experienced and find that it is better to warn a novice that the pattern might be more difficult than they think rather than have a very upset and confused customer that really should just be refunded their money.
I try to have a balance of manageable technique and great design in my patterns. With enough information to make the pattern knittable without referencing an entire bookcase and add extra tutorials on specific techniques if there is room. I design patterns that fascinate me, the fact that others want to knit them too is a bonus.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I do all the sample knitting myself, except for a few cases where my best friend helps me out. I have had test knitters in the past and may use them again in the future but at the moment I am using a great tech editor and copy editor/friend/tester.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Create every day no matter what and still feed my family great food and lots of love. For me designing is a completely selfish personal journey of creative discovery where knitters get to reap the benefits of my obsessive creativity. I work from home after my kids are asleep, I knit while I am at playgroups and soccer practice, and I try not to plan too much. The money I make from the patterns I sell mostly goes to purchasing more yarn to knit and supplies for designing.

Do you have a mentor?
I wouldn’t say that I have one specific Mentor; I have received excellent creative grounding from many wonderful people in my life over the years. My mother is a fabulous knitter and quilter, my Mother-in-Law is a weaver and was my professor for several years, and last but not least my Hubs the Great is the most perfect sounding board for my creative process.
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The Internet is my business, I have a few patterns that I have for sale in my LYS but other than that all my Independent patterns are sold online. I have chosen not to get into hard copy publishing because as a mom to both a 3 and 5 year old I don’t have the time or patience to deal with having patterns printed and keeping track of inventory. I will have plenty of time to do hard copy publishing when they are all grown up and I am no longer cool. I also want this business to grow slowly and sustainably, one thing at a time.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes I have a great tech editor who lives in Texas, she is very patient with me and does a great job.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
My husband and I both work from home and sometimes it can be challenging with both kids and work all in one home. We work really hard at striking a balance with each other, set times for work, and times to play, it helps that sample knitting can follow me anywhere and that the kids go to bed at 7pm.
How do you deal with criticism?
Cry. For a bit at least, then I analyze the problem over and over like a dog with a chew toy and talk about it ad infinitum. Finally some deep breathing, a little macho self promoting bravado and even some swearing pumps me back up and I try to be objective from that moment on.  I do truthfully find criticism to be hard to swallow and I wonder sometimes whether knitters realize that there is a real person behind the designs that they knit and then tear apart with words. I find that the best way to deal with problems in a pattern or criticism is with a big spoonful of honey, it’s hard to be nasty when someone is being so nice.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Knit everything, you will learn so much! Take some technique classes, especially if you can get one with one of the great knitters like Ann Budd, Sally Melville, or Nicky Epstein. And if it isn’t perfect RIP IT OUT, never settle for less than perfect as you may lose time but you will always gain experience.

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