Friday, October 16, 2015

An Interview with... Lauren Riker of Girly Knits

Lauren wearing Heart to Heart

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 Girly Knits and Lauren here and here on Ravelry.

Your work has a charming, whimsical quality, where do you find inspiration?
Ha ha, well as the name "Girly Knits" might suggest, I have always had a love for girls' clothing. I remember being really sad when I got too old to shop in the girls department and had to move onto juniors. Girls' clothes are just so much more fun! There's no fear of using color, being silly, and using lots of ruffles and bows. Those things just still make me really happy, so I indulge in my love for all things girly with my designs. I also really love animals (I was one of those kids who didn't like barbies and only wanted to play with stuffed animals), so cute little characters often make their way into my work as well.

Owl in One

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love any technique that makes a design seamless - knitting in the round, kitchener stitch, seamless cast ons, etc. I like the look of seamless knits, and love knitting designs as one piece because it makes finishing so much easier. Plus, you can usually try the piece on as you go to ensure that it's fitting the way you like, which I feel is essential with knitting!

How did you determine your size range?
When I first started, it was really important for me to include junior sizes, as I thought teenagers were the ones who would be knitting my patterns. I was pretty off on that one! As I listened to my audience, I learned that while there were a lot of younger girls knitting my patterns, it was more of a personal style thing, and had less to do with age. I noticed there were a lot of young moms knitting my patterns who wanted girls' sizes (seems obvious right?) so I started including girls' sizes in my patterns. I have also been asked to include extended sizes, so I've since changed my grading so that I can encompass a larger size range. I continue to listen to my audience. It's an evolving process!

Ms. Claus

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I try to look at others' work here and there so that I can keep current with what's out there and what's trending, but for the most part I feel like I have a unique perspective on knitwear, so I'm not that influenced by what others are doing. Usually I want to do the opposite! I do check new ideas I have to make sure they haven't been done, and if they have, make sure I'm doing them in a different way. For me I think I'm most afraid of losing my original voice that I started out with - it can be tempting to just do more of what "sells" because I'm trying to build a business, but I don't want to lose my desire to be a bit unconventional and stretch the limits of what knitting can be.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I personally try to make my patterns as easy as possible to follow for knitters. When I am following instructions, I know I prefer it that way! I suppose it depends on who your target audience is - my patterns are typically beginner to intermediate, and I love catering to people starting out. I know that if they have a good experience following a pattern, they will be more likely to continue. I love building knitters and encouraging them to learn new skills too, so will often create photo and video tutorials to include in the pattern, or links to good ones online. In the end, I'm creating something that I would want.

Pretty Little Knickers

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I currently do it all myself - because of that I spend A LOT of my time knitting. I don't feel like I'm at a place to use sample knitters, as I'm still learning, and usually experimenting with each new design. I also often make decisions about the design as I'm knitting based on how it's turning out, so I feel like it would be hard to hand it off at this point.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I did not - I'm much more of a "go with the flow" type of person. The best things that have happened to me in my business I could not have predicted, like being a contestant on The Fiber Factor, so my strategy has just been to keep creating and putting my work out there and seeing what opportunities come from it. I do, however, love learning about entrepreneurship, and devote pretty much all of my podcast listening and book reading time to that topic.

Do you have a mentor?
I don't!  I really was hoping to find one in the beginning, but I just haven't found someone that I've clicked with yet. I will say though that I was very inspired by Debbie Stoller's books - they got me really excited about knitting and designing, and showed me that there indeed was a large audience of younger knitters who wanted fun fashionable knitwear designs.


She's Electric

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
From the beginning, I wanted to design a business that was online only, with no physical products. I wanted to be able to run it from anywhere in the world, because I love to travel, and in my dream life I'm traveling all of the time. Luckily with self-publishing .pdf's, that's a possibility! People always ask me if I sell finished items, so I keep playing with idea of having my designs produced, but that conflicts with the business model. We'll see what happens!

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Ha ha, well surprisingly my part-time job is what keeps me the most balanced. Having a job seems conducive to a lot of other social things like interacting with co-workers, going out to lunch, and meeting up with friends after work. If it weren't for that, I don't know that I would ever leave my apartment! I do find it really challenging to maintain a balance working from home, so it's something I'm still trying to figure out.  

How do you deal with criticism?
I am really grateful that the knitting community for the most part is really kind - I feel so lucky that I get to work with such supportive and awesome people. I've seen people make fun of my designs on forums, but that doesn't really get to me. I figure it's more about them. If I get an upset e-mail from someone about one of my patterns, I just try to have sympathy and empathize with the fact that they are stuck and frustrated for whatever reason. So I just respond with kindness and do anything I can to help them. One time a woman was stuck knitting the fingers of one of my glove patterns, so I made a YouTube tutorial walking through all of the steps. That video has gone on to have nearly 50,000 views, so I am definitely a fan of listening to my customers' needs!

Sweet Treats

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Not there yet! I still work part time as a fashion designer. I really love my job, and the influence it has on my designs - I design intimate apparel for juniors and girls. It's also nice to not have to stress about the business supporting me. I hope that I can do Girly Knits full time someday, as I feel it's my purpose to do this, so hopefully that will come with time.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
When I told my friends and family that I wanted to pursue a career in knitting, they thought I was crazy. I suppose it was a bit crazy - I actually quit my job initially, but ended up staying on part time which has been a huge blessing. While I can't say that I make a living selling patterns, this is the most rewarding and gratifying work I've ever done. At my job, I design garments that get produced tens of thousands of times and are in stores across the country, but my name isn't on anything and I've never been able to interact with any of those customers. I love that with knitwear design you can talk to people, help them, see their finished projects - to me it is a lot more meaningful.  

Bijou Two Piece Set, Vogue Knitting Winter 2014/15

So many amazing things have come out of starting Girly Knits that I never would have imagined - winning The Fiber Factor and getting to go to Germany, being a guest on Knitting Daily TV, having a feature in Vogue Knitting. So while I haven't made a career of knitting, it's been absolutely worth the pursuit!  If that is what your heart is telling you to do, then go for it.

What’s next for you?
I just finished my new sock collection "Look at Those Legs!" which I had been working on for the past 7 months, so I'm just really excited to finally have those patterns out in the world! Right now I'm having fun thinking about what's next. I keep playing with the idea of doing a book, teaching in a more formal way, or manufacturing my designs. We'll see!

Check Meowt from Look at Those Legs Collection

Here are Lauren's other social media links:

instagram: girlyknits
twitter: girlyknits


  1. Great Interview! I was fortunate to find Girly Knits on the world wide web. Knitting on and off for over thirty years Lauren inspired me to begin knitted again. I believe you can never stop being a girly girl. I would definitely buy Lauren's book. Love all of her amazing collections.

    1. Awww thanks Jeannie! That makes me so happy to hear that :)