Friday, October 23, 2015

An Interview with ...Christelle Nihoul
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
Christelle here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in colors and "haute couture" fashion. Sometimes in nature or in architecture.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love seamless knitting techniques and all the finishing so I love particular CO's and BO's (especially picot bind off ... to my test knitters dismay!) 

How did you determine your size range?
I'm not a standard size, I'm a plus size so I try to fit all my patterns to every knitter, plus size or not. For children's sizes, I noticed that there are lots of garments for girls, a little bit less for little boys but almost nothing for teen boys, so I try to design garments for teen boys who don't want to wear a men's sweater or cardigan.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I like to look other designers work because I love to buy patterns to knit them (and maybe because I'm a compulsive pattern and yarn buyer !) but I'm not afraid to be influenced. I like to find in their designs what has inspired them.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I'm a French speaking Belgian knitter so the knitting culture is very different to US and English speaking countries (or even Nordic countries). I don't think there is a "dumbing down" here. Seamless knitting and other specific techniques are not well-known here, they exist but few people use them. In the popular magazines, you find knitting designs worked in pieces, not a lot of increase choices and no circular needles being used. With indie designers self-publishing and a new French magazine in which I wrote some articles, there are more English knitting world ideas being presented. I try to suggest new techniques to French speaking knitters but I'm well aware that it could be an obstacle for some knitters who don't want to change their habits.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I don't work with sample knitters, I knit all my prototypes but I work with test knitters. In general, I work with 10-15 test knitters for a pattern (in English and in French), the number depends if the pattern is for a shawl, an accessory or for a garment.

Did you do a formal business plan and do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Because my business plan and model are being changed, I would prefer not sharing any details.

Do you have a mentor?
I don't really have a mentor but some designers are very inspiring for me. As an example, Brooklyn Tweed, who pays particular attention to presentation, photography and quality of the patterns.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, I've been working with my TE for two years now. It was an important step for me to improve the quality of my patterns because I'm not English speaking designer :) (and because calculations drive me crazy sometimes !)

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
It's not easy when you have a little business, three children and a husband who works many hours. At the beginning, you have to work a lot, sometimes too much, during weekends, evenings, and nights to meet the deadlines. But after several months, you can meet your goals and have a little more time to do other things.

How do you deal with criticism?
It's not always easy to deal with criticism but it can also help you to improve your work and to understand the point of view of your customers. The majority of the knitting community is very kind and happy to receive help but sometimes there are people who make less constructive comments and it's important to know this because it's impossible to satisfy this kind of person.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
It's not completely the case now. It's like a part time job salary (and in Europe you have to deal with a lot of taxes).

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Work hard, be resilient and persistent, it will work :)

What’s next for you?
I'm working on a big, new project for the beginning of 2016. More to come during November :)) (don't hesitate to subscribe to my newsletter which is coming soon).

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