Friday, December 11, 2015

An Interview with...Laura Patterson

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
Laura here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? 

A lot of my design ideas come from browsing through my stitch dictionaries. These blend and meld with shapes, colors, patterns, things that I’ve seen online, on TV, and in real life, and coalesce into a (hopefully) viable direction.


What is your favourite knitting technique?

I love knitting both lace and cables, and when I can swing it, both in the same design. Lace shawls of a variety of shapes and sizes, sweaters (mostly bottom up, as I abhor knitting sleeves in the round) mostly with lace or cables. See a trend here? I also love adding beads to my knitting, on occasion maybe too many beads... but they’re so pretty, and such fun.

How did you determine your size range?

Having been quite thin most of my adult life (sure wish I could get back to that), I know how difficult it can be to find knitting patterns for sweaters that are small enough, so I always start there. I never considered a pattern with three to five sizes to be sufficient. Far too many people on both ends of the scale are left out. Most of my sweater patterns therefore have seven or eight sizes, if I can work it around the stitch pattern, to maximize the number of people who can grab the pattern and run with it. Of course, when I started designing I began with single-size shawl and sock patterns, because face it, it’s easier to design something when you don’t have to bother with whether or not it’s going to fit.


Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?

I peruse other designers’ work regularly. I see trends, shape ideas, and get inspiration from them. I also try to see what to avoid doing for a variety of reasons, the biggest of which is that though I do often find others’ work inspiring, I do not want my designs to resemble their work too closely. 


How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters? 

I have started a response to this question a number of times, and tossed every one of them so far... I think the reason for this is that I don’t feel just one way about the issue. The way I see it there are multiple things going on here. Yes, there are a lot of patterns these days that explain every.single.little.thing, and are pages and pages long. 

Personally, not my style, and I can’t knit from something like that. I get too confused, I tend to yell at the pattern, and demand that it
I.need. But not everyone is like me. I can see that this type of pattern can fill a need for less experienced knitters. If these patterns help people learn to knit, hone their skills, to not be afraid of trying something new, then they’re good for those people. I hope, though, that they eventually out-grow the hand-holding, and venture out into the world of designs that do not do that. I knit my first sweaters in the mid 1980s. Back then if 8 buttonholes were to be knit into a band, the designer said something to the effect of, “Space 8 3-stitch buttonholes evenly across the next row,” and left everything else to the knitter to figure out. On the one hand: frustrating! 

On the other hand, I learned how to do it myself, back when there was no Internet to look things up on, no YouTube videos to help a knitter to visualize how to do something, and most of the time I didn’t know anyone else who knit, so books were my only resource. I think, I hope, that in my patterns I’ve found a happy medium, at least for people who either have the skills already, or who don’t mind finding their own YouTube instructional videos. If buttonholes are needed, I tell you how to space them. I’ll even give you my current favorite buttonhole technique. But in the pattern itself, that’s all you’ll get. If you need more help, and don’t have anyone to ask, can’t find it online, or don’t know how to look, then please send me email! If you explain where you’re confused, what doesn’t make sense to you, I’ll do what I can from here to help you out.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?

On rare occasion I will hire a sample knitter, but for the most part I knit everything myself. At least once. I haven’t used test knitters for quite some time, having had a string of bad luck with them, just after my best ones stopped testing. I rely instead on tech editors.

Do you use a tech editor? 

Absolutely. I didn’t have a tech editor when I started out, but began hiring them as soon as I was able. These days I have two tech editors, and I bounce between them depending on who is busier, and what the current project is. Sometimes when a design is more complicated, like Summer’s Lease, I have both of them go over it.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

There’s supposed to be a balance? LOL Generally speaking, when I’m not at my computer I’m knitting, so I look forward to the one day per week that my husband and I usually escape the house to run errands. Working all.the.time has begun to wear on me to the point where I feel like I’m in a bit of a slump. A few months ago I discovered “adult” coloring books, got one for myself, along with some pretty colored pencils, and since then I’ve spent a few minutes coloring every morning after breakfast. It’s a tiny thing, but it seems to be helping my creative juices to flow again.  I think.

How do you deal with criticism? 

I’d like to say that I deal with it professionally, and simply let it roll off my back. I think I usually do. I hope. I know that most knitters are nice people, and that maybe they’re just having a really bad day, and running into a pattern problem when they were trying to relax is the last straw. I understand frustration, so I apologize, sometimes profusely, for their confusion, my error, whatever it is. I try to explain as best I can. It’s harder, though, when I get four or five (or more) email messages within ten minutes, each angrier than the last, each demanding (!) instant response. Especially if these message arrive in, what is for me, the middle of the night. Even then, I understand frustration. What I have the hardest time dealing with is people who call me names, or are simply rude. I hate to admit it, but it does take me longer to respond to the rude people. I always try to respond calmly, and professionally, and frankly, if I’m upset it can take a while to relax enough to be nice in return... sometimes a couple days.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting? 

Don’t give up your day job. Really. I know it’s disheartening, and that there are a few superstars out there who make it look easy, but in today’s market most designers need income from at least one additional source (tech editing, photography, their own yarn line, teaching, a day job, or a spouse whose income supports the household) in order to make ends meet. I’ve heard plenty of people say that in order to be a designer you need to have a degree in fashion or art, or at least work experience in a field that is at least vaguely related. Hogwash. My schooling was in computer science and business, and I learned how use a spreadsheet program, how to do page layout, and step-by-step instruction-writing on the job. I took photography one semester in high school, and another semester in college. Those are the skills I use on a regular basis. I’m not an artist, can’t draw a model with a sweater on her to save my life, but I wear clothes, and have my own thoughts on what looks good, and what I like to knit. What you need in order to design is a wellspring of ideas, the knitting skills (or learn them) to bring those ideas into reality, and the where-with-all to do the math (or hire it done), and type the whole thing up (or hire it done), so that it makes sense to the knitter.

What’s next for you?

As well as continuing to self-publish patterns, I am trying to get designs into more online magazines, yarn clubs, and so forth.

This post is a milestone for me. It's the 1000 post to appear on How to become a Professional Knitter. I started the blog on Monday June 8 2009. You can read that first post here.  


  1. Congratulations with this milestone Robin! I love to read your blog! barbarahknits

    1. Thanks, it's great to know knitters enjoy my blog!

  2. Congratulations on this amazing milestone!!
    I read your blog faithfully even if I don't comment.

    1. Thanks, it is a milestone for me and I almost missed it. Another reader sent me an email with a question about my archives which made me notice I was about to publish post number 1000.

  3. Looks great, Robin! You chose some of my favorites designs to show. Congratulations on the 1000th post!

  4. 1000 posts! That's huge, and your interviews are time consuming. The next step is an ebook, with the best interviews???
    I hope you post a 1000 more ;)