Friday, May 20, 2016

An Interview with...Sara Gresbach

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 Sara
here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

I generally find inspiration for my designs in the world around me, just my everyday life. Sometimes it’s a place, or a feeling, or a song that brings me joy. Sometimes it’s the people I love that inspire me to create, and sometimes it’s just a fantastic texture found browsing a stitch dictionary that I just have to make.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
One of my favorite techniques is cabling without a cable needle. I love how intuitive it is and how quickly it changes the texture of a fabric with out a lot of fuss.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love to browse new designs on Ravelry, and I still knit other designers’ patterns quite often. I find I learn something new with every project. Sometimes it’s exploring new techniques to accomplish something I really want to design, and sometimes I just want the ease of following someone else’s instructions. I have a tendency to feel a bit burned-out when the only knitting I’m doing is design-related, so adding in other peoples’ designs helps to keep my sanity level regular.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I don’t have a really strong opinion about this, but in general, I try to add links and helpful tips into my patterns wherever I feel it will head-off the need for a knitter to contact me with questions. I’m always happy to provide pattern support for my designs, but it removes the step of knitters needing to contact me if I can provide them with the info I think they might need to make something work. It’s more empowering, and time-efficient, if someone can figure it out on their own.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I do all of my sample knitting myself, which can be daunting when things just aren’t flying off the needles as quickly as I’d like. I utilize test knitters on a volunteer basis and have a great group of knitters, including my sweet mom, who often work up my designs to perfect the finished pattern for me.

Did you do a formal business plan?

“Sanctuary” to be published around May 15th.

Do you have a mentor?
I have been lucky enough to surround myself with lots of seasoned knitters. My mom taught me to knit and it’s something we have continued to share and encourage each other with. We often turn to each other for help and advice. I attend a knitting group at my LYS, Main Street Yarn Shop, and the owner, as well as a great group of other knitters, are a constant source of support and laughter. I would be lost with out them.

Do you use a tech editor?
Absolutely! I would be a mess with out her attention to detail. Just when I think I’ve got something really polished, she helps to make it just a tad more shiny for me.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I used to be a lot harder on myself and get really stressed out about designing. I’ve taken a more relaxed approach in the past couple years, and I think it’s actually allowed me to be more productive. I have learned not to push the process. There are days when the process comes easily and inspiration just flows, and days when it doesn’t. If I feel like I’m forcing anything too much, I step back and take a break, because I know my work isn’t as good when it’s forced. I also used to feel rushed to get something started if I felt inspired, which often led to frogging and re-working things. I’ve learned that letting an idea ruminate and bounce around in my head for a while, sometimes a long while, really allows me to develop it. By doing this, I am usually able to start a project when it’s the right time to start it, and I am more prepared because I have taken more time to think it through from several angles.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I’m still working on that! I’m a mom who works from home. When I quit my job as an Occupational Therapist, I had no intention of starting any type of career from home. I just wanted to be with my kids and be more available to my family. I look at my designing business as something that has allowed me to be at home with my kids and be there for my family in a way I couldn’t have if I’d continued full time employment. And it helps to support my knitting addiction, so everyone wins!  &

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
If it’s a true passion for you, then I would say, jump in and give it a try. It’s not for everyone, and it definitely has it’s highs and lows, but it can be very gratifying. Obviously, if you don’t try, nothing will happen. If you give it a go and find it’s not for you, then at least you know.
It has become quite a competitive market in recent years though, so I guess I would say be prepared to produce as much of a consistent, high-quality product as possible to stay relevant. Do lots of reading and research and develop a relationship with a tech editor you really trust, that’s a must.
And make sure you are still finding enjoyment in it. For most of us, knitting started out as a hobby that brought us joy. If it turns into something that brings you no joy and only stress, it’s time to re-examine your process.

What’s next for you?

I have no big future plans for my knitting career other than to keep up what I’ve worked so hard to build. This was the first school-year that both of my kids were in school all day. It’s been great to get a feel for managing my time and painting a realistic picture for a design schedule. Summer will probably be quiet for publication since it means more family time, but I will be busy working behind the scenes on a few Fall designs I’ve already got brewing. 

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