Friday, June 24, 2016

An Interview with...Amy van de Laar

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 Amy
here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

So many places! Nature is a big one - I've based stitch patterns on leaves, feathers, clouds, stars, crystals, and honeycomb, for instance. I've also based patterns on Daleks, the neck of a guitar, and old-school computer games. I really love inventing stitch patterns and then seeing what they want to become.
Editors note: If you are not a Dr Who fan. The Daleks are a fictional extraterrestrial race of mutants principally portrayed in the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I'm torn between cables and lace! I love texture in knitting, whether it's made by yarn-overs or cable crossings.

How did you determine your size range?
I design accessories, so my sizes for each design are really determined by what the stitch pattern repeats will allow. I like to offer 2+ sizes for hats, and I always include suggestions for modifying the size where possible.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I look at other designers' work all the time. I love browsing patterns on Ravelry, and I follow a lot of designers on Instagram. Looking at all the different colour-combos and shapes and stitches that are possible, keeps me inspired!

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I think making patterns more accessible to different kinds of knitters is great! Personally I like to be given more information rather than less, and just skip over any explanations I don't need. I think using a pattern layout with the abbreviations, stitch glossary, and additional tips on a separate page is helpful, so knitters can look up the info they need and the actual pattern instructions can be more succinct.

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

I use volunteer test knitters frequently, to help check my patterns for knitability by different people and in different yarns. I have a few lovely people who are frequent testers, and I put out open tester-calls on Ravelry. And I always knit each design myself first, checking my instructions and tweaking things as I go.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No. I kind of gradually fell into designing seriously over the span of a few years.

Do you have a mentor?
Not formally. But I read and take part in discussions between designers in Ravelry and Facebook groups, and on Instagram and Twitter, and I find it so valuable! I also get a lot out of Tara Swiger's podcasts on marketing and other aspects of running a craft business.

Do you use a tech editor?
I've worked with a few, but am currently in search of one. I'd like to find someone local-ish if possible, but there don't seem to be many tech editors based in NZ or Australia. I do have a proof-reader who is brilliant at checking all of my maths.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

I'm not that great at this. I have a tendency to get obsessed if I'm solving a problem, like trying to make a stitch pattern work, and it can be hard to get my head out of 'work mode'. I'm trying to get better at using weekends for taking a break, instead of additional work time.

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

I definitely don't earn enough to support myself through designing. I have a partner who earns a very good salary, and we live quite cheaply - for example, we have two flatmates to help keep rent costs down. I'm still building up my business by trying out different strategies to make it more profitable, as well as increasing my portfolio of patterns.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Find out as much as you can about the industry: read a lot, and ask a lot of questions. Join the Ravelry groups for designers and budding designers, read blogs, listen to podcasts, anything you can find. Know what you're getting into, because you may not be able to make as much money as you might expect. Knitting design in particular is getting more and more competitive these days.

What’s next for you?

I'm working on a three-piece collection (a shawl, cowl, and wrap) based on a deceptively simple leaf-lace stitch contrasting with garter stitch. The samples are knitting up unusually fast, which is great! They're in a kind of sweet spot between being good tv-knitting and not being too boring. I'm totally in love with the colours, too!

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