Friday, April 4, 2014

An Interview with...Nancy Whitman

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 Nancy here and here on Ravelry.

Nancy has also generously offered to let me run a pattern contest. She will donate two individual patterns or one eBook to each of three winners. To win you will need to name your favorite pattern of Nancy's in the comments. I will use a random number generator to choose 3 winners. Contest closes April 16th 8 AM. I'll notify the winners with an announcement on the blog. They will need to get in touch with Nancy via email.

ETA: Contest closed, the winners are Lori, Tobie and TrishD. I'll be notifying them and Nancy as to the results.

Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere and is always changing. Sometimes it’s as straightforward as a stitch dictionary and sometimes it’s inspired by another art form that I translate into knitting. Lately I have been inspired by stained glass – works by others as well as some pieces I made many years ago. You can see this in Eden Prairie, High Street Shawl and my most recently released pattern, Whitman Sampler.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

It’s tough to pick one, but I love any technique that eliminates grafting. On top down socks, I carefully turn the toe inside out and use a three-needle bind off. Talk about dislike, I have never grafted anything! I am also very drawn to mosaic stitches.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?

I don’t typically look at another designer’s work exactly for the reason you say. I was once accused of copying a design from a very popular and prolific designer. The two designs were remarkably alike although constructed quite differently. That was the point at which I almost completely stopped looking at other people’s work. It’s impossible to know if something influences me unconsciously so I take precautions to eliminate the chances as much as I can.

Could you tell us a little about your design focus on accessories?

I have been knitting and designing for more than four decades, spent a lot of time making intricate and complicated sweaters, cardigans and skirts. Now I am really enjoying the faster turnaround time of accessories plus it allows me to focus exclusively on design elements and not more complicated shaping. That being said, I recently started sketching some garment designs so one may be on the way. 

You also run an online yarn shop, how do the two aspects of your business work together?

One complements the other. I always have a broad selection of yarn and colors to pick from when I plan a new design and patterns do sell yarn. Both aspects dovetail nicely.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?

I don’t use the words dumbing down because of the negative connotation. There is a market for all types of patterns because there are knitters who revel in precision details and those who don’t. About 20 years ago, a neighbor asked me to teach her how to quilt. No pun intended, but during the making of her first quilt, she kept cutting corners and it was evident in her work. When I gently suggested she could get a better result if she took more time with this or that, she joyfully replied that doing what I suggested “sounded too much like work!” What I thought of as the proper approach to quilting was miserable for her. I think we are fortunate to have various kinds of patterns, complicated and easy, to appeal to the range of knitters.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?

It really depends on the complexity of the pattern. For Rushmore Hat and Rushmore Cowl, there was one tester, but for See You in September, there were six or seven testers.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No – that sounds too much like work, lol!

Do you have a mentor?


Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

No. I’m a build it and they will come person.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

The Internet makes my business possible both as a designer and as a yarn shop owner.

Do you use a tech editor?

I used a tech editor for Eden Prairie. I learned a lot and have been able to apply it to later patterns. It was a worthwhile experience and I would definitely consider using one again.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

I’m not sure I do. You should probably ask my family that question!

How do you deal with criticism?

I am always polite and respectful even if I think the criticism isn’t. The Internet is a funny place. Too many people seem to think they should always express their opinion and will post things I would like to believe they wouldn’t say face to face. It’s that gratuitous kind of criticism that I don’t like, but I love constructive criticism. It makes me better.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?

Go for it with the understanding that it’s no longer a hobby. Now it’s work.



  1. I would like the gardener shawl. Thanks for the giveaway!

  2. Nancy's work is all so innovative, it's hard to choose a favourite pattern, but I'd have to say, Eden Prairie with the Rushmore Cowl as a close second. Love the pleating!

  3. Nancy's designs are so interesting. My first choice is the Eden Prairie.

    1. You won! Your blogger profile does not have contact info. Please email your email address. My email contact is at the top of the page.

  4. I love the Eden Prairie shawl, with the High Street a close second.

  5. My choice is Eden Prairie with See you in September as fabulous lace! We're so lucky to have Nancy surprising knitters with her designs.

  6. I love the Eden Prairie shawl - so beautiful!

  7. Great interview! My favorite is the Ocean City Shawlette. Thanks for the give-away.

    1. You won! Your blogger profile does not have contact info. Please email me your email address. My contact info is at the top of the page.

  8. Hands down, Eden Prairie is my favorite.

  9. see you in september is brilliant and drapes beautifully!

  10. I've just finished my third Ocean City Shawlette, but I have to say See you in September was both challenging and exciting and gave me insight into Nancy's creative mind....and then there's Green Goddess socks!

    Today my favorite is green goddess socks!

  11. Love the Ocean City Shawlette and so many others like the Stained Glass look of Eden Prairie.
    Wrenknits on Ravelry

  12. Great interview. I love the both Green Goddess socks and the Falling leaves socks.

    Sachimama on Ravelry

  13. See you in September is my favourite!

  14. So far my favorite is Eden Prairie

    carolmcq on Ravelry