Friday, November 16, 2012

An Interview with... Wendy Neal

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 Wendy here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? 
I love to look through stitch dictionaries.  I'm also inspired by other designers' work.  I love coming across a design with a stitch pattern that I recognize, but that is used in a way I never would have imagined.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love knitting lace.  I am not much of a social knitter just because I'm usually wanting to knit something that requires my attention.  I am fascinated by how the stitches work together in intricate laces, but also love finding a stitch pattern that is more simple that it appears.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I am always looking at other designers' work because I find it inspiring.  I do try to make a point of not producing something that looks exactly like something that is already out there.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I'm not terribly familiar with that controversy.  When I write my patterns, I assume basic knowledge, and I try to be concise.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit all samples myself since I design as I go.  I don't have a pool of regular test knitters, but usually use the Free Pattern Testers Forum on Ravelry and end up with 4-6 new testers per design.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, which is a little sad considering my degree is in business.  I had no intentions of becoming a knit designer, so my philosophy is to do what I love - make pretty things, and assist other people in doing the same - and if I make money on the side, then great.

Do you have a mentor?
Not for my business.  I have a personal/spiritual mentor who is like a second mom to me, and she will listen to me talk about knitting and my business whenever I want.  She gives me great advice about all sorts of things.
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
I would not have a business without the Internet, or Ravelry, for that matter. It took me several tries over the years to learn to knit, and it was finally through the help of that I figured it out.  Then once I found Raverly and realized that thousands of normal people could design and write patterns, I thought, "I could do that!"  I previously had a small Internet business where I was crocheting custom boutique-style baby booties and bonnets, but it was short lived because of the time it took and the lack of connection to communities like Ravelry and Etsy.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes.  Only a couple of my designs have not been tech edited and that's only because they've been through the ringer with test knitters.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
It's way out of balance on the side of life.  I knit and design because I love it. But when I'm not feeling the urge to knit or I'm not feeling inspired, I've been known to not do anything crafty for months.  And I try not to feel guilty about that.  The good news is that I usually come out on the other side of those times with tons of ideas, and might knock out a few patterns at once.
Criticism always leaves me with a yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach. Luckily, I have not received much negative criticism.  I try to let the negative stuff roll off my back, and hope to use constructive criticism to improve myself and my work.  If there is something that I need to change or fix, I try to do so quickly.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost 9 years. I am not in this business with the purpose to support myself.  I'm in it because I enjoy it, and because I fell into something that provides a little extra family income on the side.  Were my desire to support myself, I'd foresee that happening maybe in a couple decades... maybe!

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Know yourself and what you're capable of.  Do your best and be professional.  But relax and have fun, too.   

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