Friday, May 6, 2016

An Interview with...Cheryl Niamath

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 Cheryl here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! Nature, architecture, people I know, people I see on the train, pictures in magazines, costumes in movies, characters in books, sometimes even stitch dictionaries!

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I just learned how to do a tubular cast-on and bind-off, and I'm very excited about them, but generally I'd say I get a lot of joy from knitting simple stitches (garter, stockinette, seed).

How did you determine your size range?

It depends. If I'm designing for publication, usually the editor will tell me what sizes she wants. If I'm working on a sweater for self-publication, I try to make it in at least six sizes. Either way, I use CYC standards.

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

I absolutely look at other designers' work--it would be hard not to, and it's inspiring. I think it's good to see what the "competition" is doing, as well. Once I spent a long time designing and knitting a baby blanket that I thought was going to be a huge hit. Turns out I had unknowingly re-created the Mitred Square blanket that had just been published in Mason Dixon Knitting. If I had done a little looking first, I would have saved myself a lot of time!

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
Although I do have some very simple patterns for beginners, I think it's pretty clear that my patterns are meant for people who know how to knit. I provide instructions for any part of my patterns that is new/different/done in a non-standard way (and I try my best to make these instructions as clear and simple as possible), but otherwise assume that people who choose to make my patterns will understand what they're getting into. I include a list of abbreviations and techniques at the beginning of the pattern which should be a very good hint about what to expect when working on the project. I have occasionally received questions from people who are stuck on a basic knitting technique, and in those cases I suggest that the stuck person ask for help at their LYS or look for step-by-step instructions or videos online. Luckily I haven't been asked by any of my publishers to provide how-to-knit instructions along with my patterns because I think that would take skills that I don't have.

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

I do it myself.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No, but I know I should, and if I didn't have another job to support myself I would put more effort into this.

Do you have a mentor?

Not really, but I've learned a lot from Anina Hansen, who owns Urban Yarns [] here in Vancouver. I really admire her passion, knitting skills, and business sense. And I've learned so much from my mother, the composer Linda Niamath, who self-published her own music books before being signed by a major publishing house. She knew her music was worth getting out into the world, and thousands of young piano students have since learned her pieces and been inspired by her work.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes! I think it would be irresponsible to offer patterns that hadn't been edited and checked for accuracy. Especially if I'm asking people to pay for them. They're going to spend money on the pattern and the yarn and invest their time in a project, so it better be correct!

How do you deal with criticism?

There are two kinds of criticism that I receive: constructive and nasty. Constructive criticism ("the stitch count on the sleeve cap seems to be off") is helpful and generally comes from people who want to help me improve my patterns and be a better designer, so it's great and I welcome it. Nasty criticism ("The sleeve cap is stupid! Why would anyone make this?") annoys me because I feel like the critic either deliberately wants to hurt my feelings or is bad at asking for help.

Worse for me than criticism, though, is disinterest. It's hard to stay positive when I spend months working on a design that I think is really cool, get great photos, have it edited, and release it to the world, then sell six or seven copies.

This probably has something to do with my lack of formal business plan, come to think of it.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?

I have the utmost respect and admiration for people who are able to support themselves by designing. I am not one of these people.

What’s next for you?

I have a pattern coming out in the First Fall issue of Knitty. After that, maybe I'll start working on a plan.


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