Friday, July 31, 2015

An Interview with...Tuulia Salmela

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 Tuulia here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
My motivation to knit comes from a very personal need: I knit for myself, items I would love to wear. That is the greatest source of inspiration for me. I also love to play with colors and shapes and combinations. My favorite color is a teal blue, but I find it impossible to stick with one color everyday, so I see my eye seeking for colors and combinations all the time. Sometimes a certain colorway sparks inspiration also for a garment, sometimes I need to create a colorway for a sweater or a cardigan I already have in mind. Inspiration for colors often comes from nature, but inspiration for knitwear designs can come from anywhere.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Anything top down! I loathe sewing seams and I don't really see them as necessary for knitwear, so I try to avoid them as much as possible. I also have a soft spot for stranded techniques, because they provide another way of working with and combining colors.

How did you determine your size range?
I suppose it was a bit of an accident. Early in 2009 and 2010, when I was teaching my TTS (The Tailored Sweater method) classes and came to realize how differently sized my students were. I selected a size range to match most of my students. However, I believe one does not become a knitwear designer overnight but it is a continuous process, and as my skills in scaling and grading and other aspects of pattern writing have improved, the size range in my patterns has also widened at both ends of the range and also in between.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love browsing what others have created! It might influence my designs, but I am not afraid of it, I celebrate it. Firstly, I think two people can be inspired by the same things at the same time - I have had this happen to me with my Deep in the Forest Mittens. That pattern was published at the same time with another, very similar design. I don't see this as a problem, because more patterns provide a larger selection of designs for knitters to choose their favorite. Also, I find great inspiration in seeing what others have created, because it sparks my imagination! For example, there might be a clever way of using colors, or an attractive neckline, or perhaps an interesting sleeve construction. I don't browse the Internet or magazines in order to copy anything, but to see what else is there. Usually my favorites list and my queue on Ravelry tends to grow several pages in each of these browsing sessions :D 

I have noticed so many times, when working on a design of my own, happily knitting away, that something I have seen online or in a magazine has stirred my imagination. I can't pinpoint it to any particular design I have seen, but I am certainly influenced by the works of others. I might take an element, and design a garment around it. As I design all of my garments around The Tailored Sweater method, they become my designs, but one cannot escape the influence of other designers in this age of the Internet, so some ideas might resemble the works of others. Finally, once or twice I have given up an idea simply because I have seen that idea already in a published pattern, and someone else has already done it better than I could have.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I sometimes use 2 or 3 test knitters, sometimes I do everything myself. This depends on the item I'm working on and schedule etc.

Do you have a mentor?
Not officially, no. I am lucky to have friends in the knitting community on whom I can rely on for support and advice on all things knitting.

Do you use a tech editor?
I am lucky enough to have super meticulous test knitters who comb through my patterns with such vigilance that no tech editor has yet been needed.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
As my hobby, knitting, became my work, I decided to take on new activities such as skiing, fishing, camping, etc. I have a very active dog to keep me busy with activities off the couch, and I have noticed I need to stay physically fit to avoid neck and shoulder pains caused by knitting and working on the computer.
I welcome constructive criticism for it gives me a chance to provide better patterns and better yarn for my fellow knitters.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Work hard, really hard. Learn from others, and keep an open mind (and a journal) for ideas and inspiration.

What’s next for you?
Well, there are a few hundred colorways I still need to test and about a dozen notebooks with ideas for knitwear garments - I think I'll work on those for a while!

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