Friday, April 18, 2014

An Interview with...Lara Smoot

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world.

You can find Lara here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration everywhere and keep a notebook with me for jotting down ideas.  The wings of a butterfly, the spiral pattern of a shell,  frost patterns on windows,  looking at the way colors flow in a skein of variegated yarn all give me inspiration.  I enjoy reading fashion magazines and get a lot of inspiration from them as well. 

What is your favourite knitting technique? Lace!  I love knitting anything with lace incorporated into it.  I also enjoy colorwork.  My favorite projects are socks and shawls. 

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?  I subscribe to several knitting magazines and always read Knitty when it comes out online. I think that as a designer it is important to stay on top of what is trending and to know what knitters want to knit. While I do enjoy looking at other designs, I strive to create new and unique designs.

How did you determine your size range?  It really depends on the design.  A shawl may offer one or two sizes,  while a sock pattern will have a wider range of sizes.

Could you tell us a little about your Etsy business? My Etsy shop is very similar to my Ravelry Pattern Shop.  I carry a full line of my patterns on both sites.  I will be adding a new line of knitting bags to my Etsy shop at the end of April.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?  I think that patterns need to be presented to knitters in a way that is easy for them to follow and understand. I strive to have clear and concise  directions in all of my patterns.  Knitting should be enjoyable and trying to knit a pattern that is hard to follow can be very frustrating. Many times knitters just give up. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself? I have a group of wonderful test knitters.  I have three test knitters that knit almost everything that I come out with and there are several other test knitters that test knit when time allows.  They all do a fantastic job with testing and I don’t know what I would do without them!  I have one sample knitter and I knit each design that I come out with. 

Did you do a formal business plan?  I do have a business plan.  It is based over five years and includes an intensive marketing campaign.  I worked in social media for a yarn company for several years and my marketing strategy is very similar to the one that I created for them.  It’s good to re-evaluate your business plan every five years or sooner, make changes where you see the need, and go from there.

Do you have a mentor? I feel very lucky to have a few: Anne Hanson, Carrie Sullivan, Kyle Kunnecke, and Tabetha Hedrick. It can be difficult to break into designing and I was fortunate enough to be able to turn to friends when I had a question or needed encouragement.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated? My business model is based on customer relation's and support.  First and foremost I want to be able to provide a high level of service to people who have purchased my patterns.  I love what I do and hope that it shows through in my work.  If someone has a question I make sure that it gets answered in a way they can understand – especially if they are new to knitting.  We were all new to it at one time and I think that sometimes that gets overlooked.

What impact has the Internet had on your business? My entire business is on the Internet.  Ravelry specifically has made it very easy for designers to self publish.  Ravelry has a wonderful advertising program that I have taken full advantage of.  With the addition of Etsy, Facebook and Twitter reaching potential customers is now much easier then it was even just a few years ago. 

Do you use a tech editor? Yes.  I have a wonderful tech editor who does a fantastic job for me.

How do you maintain your life/work balance? I really enjoy what I do and it most of the time it doesn’t feel like work.  I try to stick to a schedule of writing in the morning and early afternoons, and knitting in the afternoon and evenings.  This changes if there is a deadline or we are traveling.  It’s really hard to write patterns while we are on the road.  Knitting is a wonderful craft since it is portable and can be brought most anywhere.  It’s not often that you will see me without it.

How do you deal with criticism? I continually  strive  to improve myself and my patterns.  If a test knitter has a suggestion or has trouble understanding something that I have written, it means that I need to improve what I have done before publishing.  I want my patterns to be clear and easy to follow.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself? I am not there yet, but am certainly striving to be able to do this.  Right now it’s providing a small and steady income and I am doing something that I absolutely love. I am fortunate that my husband is very supportive and encouraged me to take the first step that lead me to designing full time.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting? Take as many classes as you can, attend events like TNNA and Stitches. Get your feet wet by offering to test knit for designers whose work you like.  Make a business plan and know where you want to be next year and five years from now. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.  People are usually willing to offer advice and suggestions.  Most of all don’t ever get discouraged.

No comments:

Post a Comment