Friday, November 14, 2014

An Interview with...Cirilia Rose

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 Cirilia here and here on Ravelry.  
She is on Instagram: and Pinterest:
She blogs for Zealana here:

Where do you find inspiration?

Quite literally, everywhere. I annoy my friends and family because I’m unable to walk three feet without noticing an inspiring bit of packaging, or a sweet expression on a child, or something in a shop window or a fascinating tree.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

Anything that reduces fiddly finishing work. I'm not anti-finishing, it's actually one of my favorite things to learn about, but I don't like how bulky seams can ruin the clean lines of a garment, so I prefer to engineer items that minimize this. That means a lot of picking up stitches and working sleeves or lower halves of garments. I also love a three-needle bind-off worked to the outside for a prominent visible ridge. 

How did you determine your size range?

I feel pretty strongly that knitwear shouldn't be "one size fits all." There is a lot that goes into what looks good on different bodies. It's not just bust size, it's ease and silhouette too. I'm not an expert on dressing all kinds of bodies but I try to be inclusive as well. The garments dictate the size ranges in most cases, slouchy pieces will have a smaller range than fitted ones.

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

I do keep an eye on it, because part of my job is to be aware of what is going on in the knitwear world. I feel admiration more often than jealousy but there are times when I wish I had thought of something first--usually a marketing idea, not a knitting one, not a design. I am loving Rosa Pomar’s yarn labels at the moment, and nearly everything Karen Templer of Fringe Association does is genius. For silhouettes, I look to fashion more than anything else and by the time I’ve translated a woven piece into a knit, it’s not a knock-off. 

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

I am actually completely in favor of recruiting new knitters, and I encourage students to attempt projects that are slightly outside their skill level so that it will force improvement. That often means they will need a bit of hand-holding, and that’s okay. That said, I’m a bit old guard in that I had to run to the library to find techniques explained, and it’s all online now, if not in the pattern itself. Jared Flood and I like to joke that we’d love to publish a beautiful pattern photo with a pattern that just says: “Make it look like the photo” because after all that work, writing up the pattern can be a bit of a drag. I guess I’m of two minds on this: designers should aim for clarity, but knitters should do their homework as well.

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

I use sample knitters on occasion but to be honest, I’m much happier to see a design all the way through. My designs change a lot while I’m working on them and usually for the better. Some of my best design details are really just my response to a disaster. All design is problem solving, right? Well, I encounter plenty of problems and it’s fun! It’s less fun to discuss those over email with a confused sample knitter. They’re also incredibly hard to find. Someone who is equal parts talented and inquisitive, who will spot issues but also not get knocked too far off course. he few that I use are total treasures to me and I wish I could pay them triple what I do. 

Did you do a formal business plan?

I don’t, but I do frequently check in with myself to make sure I am happy. I can’t do good work if I’m not. My job is to get other knitters excited about yarn and knitting and if I’m miserable, it shows. I’m working from home now which is great for the way I work (in a sprawling, messy way) but I’m actively working on scheduling my time in a reasonable way. When you love what you do, it can dominate everything before you even realize it.

Do you have a mentor?

Norah Gaughan was highly influential. She’s analytical and curious and logical and her knitting reveals all of that. It’s so imaginative and so sensible at the same time. Her designs are a delight to make and wear and in my mind I’ve made them all. Andra Asars and Kathy Elkins have been invaluable inspirations on the business side of things. Yes, our industry is sparkly and fluffy and pretty but that’s no reason to not treat it like an actual business. When I speak up for myself and stand my ground I know I’m channeling these two.


Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Not really, but I adore Garance Doré who is an illustrator, filmmaker, blogger, photographer, etc. etc. She does whatever moves her and is really good at it, I think because she’s moving from the same place I am, a persistent fascination with beauty.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

I only have a career because I’ve had a presence online pretty much since the start. Blogging was what got me noticed and social media continues to be an important part of the equation. Before that I wrote a zine, I’ve always had the urge to broadcast and create. I try to keep it organic even when working for companies because I loathe rote, dry posts begging for likes, and I think most people do. 

Do you use a tech editor?

Oh yes! I love tech editors.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

There is very little separation for me. Now that I’m working at home, I am much happier. My creativity doesn’t fit well into an office setting and I’m much happier working a super long day with random breaks for walks, cooking, reading, creative refueling. Most of the work is so joyous it doesn’t bother me that it can take eons. 

How do you deal with criticism?

That new Taylor Swift song “Shake it Off” sums it up nicely! The hardest part is to keep my inner critic in check, to be honest. I only truly like about 25% of what I make, but in a way that keeps me moving forward.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?

My working model is very different from the usual. I partner with companies and am paid enough to support myself without relying on pattern sales. I don’t think I could handle the volatile marketplace and stay creative, to be honest, so I am happy to work this way. That said, when a yarn doesn’t do as well as I’d hoped I take it pretty hard, but again, that keeps me moving forward. 

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

Be realistic but don’t wait for opportunities to fall into your lap--create your own! The worst you’ll hear is no.

If you enjoy reading my blog, I'd really appreciate it if you would tell your knitting friends or share links to your favourite posts online with Twitter, Ravelry or Facebook. Word of mouth is really helping to grow my business as knitters respect the views of other members of our community. Thanks!

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