Friday, April 24, 2015

An Interview with...Jutta von Hinterm Stein

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 Jutta here, and here is her Ravelry group.

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere - In Architecture, Techniques, Materials, Surfaces, Nature, Fashion, Movies …  – There are so many ideas, that I could preoccupy myself for the next two hundred years … so exciting! Sometimes I wake up during night with the solution of a construction problem or with a new idea - there is always a little pad on my nightstand for notes and scribbles.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
A new technique with every new project! And: mindless stockinette stitch.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
To my opinion, a new design is just a new way to interpret and combine what one has seen somewhere someday. There are so talented designers, so many inspiring ideas! Wouldn’t it be a pity to miss them?

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
When I started knitting, I had a grandma and a yarn store, where I could ask for help. If you order your yarn and pattern online, you are alone. And then a detailed pattern is quite helpful. On the other hand, a pattern for a simple sweater, with 10 or more pages of instructions, might be quite a deterrent.
To me, this is a funny question, as my way was the opposite around. My first patterns were very simple. Similar to 80-ies style German Knitting Magazines, just the most important instructions - expecting the knitter to know what to do (or where to ask). Now my patterns are much, much longer and detailed. Including schematics, row-by-row and stitch-by-stitch instructions, pictures of details, photo tutorials for uncommon techniques, and, and, and … But I will not teach the basics. This is the job of knitting classes – or YouTube.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Usually 1-2 per size and language. My first prototype is knit by myself, sometimes a second one is necessary. Fortunately I have a pool of very helpful and patient test knitters – they all deserve my particular thanks! 

Did you do a formal business plan?
Actually my knitting and designing is not a real business. But I take it very seriously and try to act as professional as possible, spending uncountable hours to bring a new pattern along, responding to any question within a few hours and spending a lot of time in my Ravelry group.

Do you have a mentor?
Not in a common sense. Except if you would accept my husband as a mentor? – Or the many friendly knitters on Ravelry who supported my activities with their nice comments and warm hearts!

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
My little “designing-career” started by chance, when I discovered Ravelry. The positive response to my first project was absolutely unexpected, and a knitter asked if there would be instructions. That’s how my first pattern occurred. - And then so many knitters downloaded this first pattern! That was a real WOW-moment. (In the meantime I learned, that free patterns are always popular, but at that time it inspired me to continue). Much later I started to look around what other designers do. And tried hard to act more professional.

How are you using social media to grow your business?
Oops, that’s my weak point ... I have a Ravelry group that keeps me busy. Up to now I did not find the time for a homepage or any other social media. I know, this is an omission in modern life, but I prefer to spend my time knitting and writing patterns.

Do you use a tech editor?
Not yet, but I have often, very often thought about it! All my patterns are tested by experienced knitters. Of course it might be easier and time-saving to employ a tech editor, but some issues appear only while knitting a piece. It is very helpful to hear the opinion of a knitter working through the pattern.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
If you ask my husband, he would tell you that 110% of my free time is filled with knitting-stuff. Actually it is only 90%.

How do you deal with criticism?
Any feedback is welcome and important to me. It helps to improve.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I really don’t know, how long it will last …

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Do not hurry. Give yourself time to review and rethink what you are doing, and how you are doing it.

What’s next for you?
The release of my Cross Pockets Cardigan is planned for the next few days, and two more cardigans are on the way. This summer’s program is a revision of my older patterns (the ones in “German abstract style”).  And there are so many new ideas that want to be knitted … every moment a new one arising!

1 comment:

  1. A great interview. Especially about the dumbing down. German patterns are notoriously brief, written like shorthand. So it's interesting to read how Jutta finds a middle road...