Friday, May 29, 2015

An Interview with...Lisa Chemery (Frogginette)

Madame Entrechat

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 Lisa here.

Where do you find inspiration? 
I would be poetic to say that nature or architecture, or even particular yarns inspire me, but the truth is that I mostly find inspiration just looking at children around me. What do they like to wear? What will be comfortable/practical? But then of course it has to be fun to knit and stylish, too!

I like to spend time online looking at children's fashion, in particular vintage styles. I'm also sometimes inspired by children's books and illustrations. 

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I am attracted to modular knitting and slightly unconventional construction methods and I love finding stitches that look tricky but are very easy to work.

It's not exactly a technique, but I'm now exploring a more streamlined construction style, trying to use the properties of specific stitches to my advantage when thinking about shaping a garment.

How did you determine your size range? 
I try to give a large range (sizes 3 months to 8 years) so that when people buy one of my patterns, they can hopefully get their money's worth and make several versions as the child grows. This is also why I like offering patterns that are easy to customize or have "options" like pockets/sleeve length etc...

Tiered Coat and Jacket

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I really enjoy looking at other designers' work. I have a pretty definite style by now and a backlog of ideas, so I'm not worried about being influenced.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I think it's important to be aware of your customer base. I try to make my patterns very clear and accessible to new knitters so I do include many helpful tips/stitch counts etc... 
However, I am mindful of the layout of the pattern and make use of footnotes when I feel like an explanation would be helpful to some knitters for instance, but might be cumbersome in the body of the pattern. I also separate the detailed instructions from the heading, so that hopefully a more experienced knitter will be able to skip the details and "get" the general instruction at a glance. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit my samples myself but I get my patterns test-knit in every size. I usually have one to two test-knitters per size for any given design. 

Latte baby coat

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, though I have some idea of what I'd like to accomplish each coming year.

Do you have a mentor?

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

No, but I pay careful attention to what "veterans" of this business have to say.

Do you use a tech editor? 
I do, and she is really essential to me because I can be forgetful and make the silliest mistakes, and it's nice to have another set of eyes (and another brain!) to go over what I wrote and make sure that it actually all makes sense!

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I work from home and have young children so it gets tricky sometimes, but I am fortunate that childcare is affordable and the norm in Germany where I live. So it's a bit easier now to separate my life from my work, and to feel fully engaged in one or the other. When the kids were small, it was a lot harder. I felt like I was always playing catch up and feeling frustrated that I wasn't able to design as much as I wanted to.

How do you deal with criticism?
I haven't gotten much negative feedback, but if I receive an email from a frustrated customer, I try to respond with as much kindness and understanding as I can and usually get a lovely reply.
Summer into Fall
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I released my first pattern in 2008 but have only been pursuing this as a business since early 2012, and my business has been growing steadily ever since. I'm very fortunate that I'm able to support myself doing what I love and I'm eternally grateful to my customers and to Ravelry for making it possible!

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Be patient! Designing, writing and grading patterns is a much longer process than most people realize. Having great ideas is the easy/fun part but then there is a lot of work involved before you can release a good pattern.

The second thing is, if you want to be successful, try to be aware of what people actually want to knit, not just what you want to design ;)

What’s next for you?
Two of my designs will be featured in two upcoming books this year. In terms of self-published patterns, a few more kid designs are in the pipeline. Later this year, I am planning on releasing grown-up versions of my more popular patterns, so stay tuned!

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