Friday, April 15, 2016

An Interview with...Karie Westermann


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 Karie here and here on Ravelry.


Where do you find inspiration?
I am not someone who goes “There's a tree! I'll make a scarf!” - instead I notice things like the bark having a specific structure or how ice crystals form patterns on leaves. I basically try to keep my eyes open, as you can see the most marvelous things if you really look. For instance I really love a specific pedestrian footpath over the motorway here in Glasgow – its combination of colour and form is fantastic. 

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I have a very soft spot for Estonian lace, though I've never actually designed any. It's the way they play with the concept of 'stitch'. 

How did you determine your size range?
I've worked a lot with third-party publishing and they ask for a large size range, so it's natural for me to think of garments in seven sizes and at least two sizes for accessories. 


Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
There is definitely a clear difference between technical and aesthetic decisions. Because of my working life and my career path, I've spent a lot of time editing or working with other designers. I find it interesting to see how they make technical decisions. Aesthetic decisions? I don't find them nearly as interesting. 

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
At the end of the day my job is to make sure that as many people as possible can follow my patterns. There is a difference between hand-holding (or "dumbing down") and making patterns accessible. Again, it's about understanding who you are as a designer, knowing your audience, and writing clear patterns. I don't tend to write entry level patterns but I admire those who can write them. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I try to knit everything myself. I much prefer that. I've only had a couple of people help me out when I over-committed to deadlines - but it's not something I'm entirely comfortable doing. 

Did you do a formal business plan?
Yep. And I keep adjusting it. 

Do you have a mentor?
Yes, I’ve been mentored. It was an organic situation where I met some people who had been in the industry for a long time and they sat down to ask me some hard questions about some choices I had made. I found our conversations really useful - I thought it’d be me asking them questions but it turned out to be the other way around. I didn’t pay for the mentoring and our conversations grew into lasting friendships. They still ask me hard questions but that’s great - I learn & grow from that. I’ve also helped out some new designers, though I’m not really in a position to mentor anyone.


Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really. I think we all bring something different to the table and it's all about sussing out what makes your business work.

Do you use a tech editor?
Oh heck, yes. I'm always slightly shocked when I hear people don't use one. Editors are like that person who comes in after you've spent the entire day cooking and who'll tell you that you need to add a touch of salt. Tech editors make me both a better designer and a better pattern writer.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I have set office times and I've recently hired admin help. 

How do you deal with criticism?
I think of it as invaluable learning experience. I try to keep getting better at myself and feedback is fantastic. 

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I worked p/t for a yarn company for nearly 5 years before going fully self-employed. I probably could have launched sooner but I learned so much from my p/t job. I was able to support myself by the time I launched full-time. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Work in the knitting industry in various capacities before going for it full-time. I learned so much from doing pattern support for a yarn company, working with buy plans, looking at sales figures, figuring out how to put together collections, and working with absolute pros. Heck, just try working in a yarn shop for a few hours here and there.

What’s next for you?
I'm in the process of some major changes to my business. I'm taking on some staff and I'm working on a pretty big project that's due to launch. It's exciting and a bit scary!


1 comment:

  1. She sounds very similar to me....except much further along in her professional life. I might have to like her a bit :)