Friday, January 6, 2017

An Interview with...Vanessa Ewing

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 Vanessa here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? 

I find inspiration in many avenues in my life. I think this is what helps me produce the amount of patterns needed for Plymouth's numerous yarns. Color inspiration can be found in nature, since nature makes the most beautiful color combinations. I also find inspiration in other art mediums, like sewing. Having a strong design background in garment construction helps me work through and solve knitting design challenges.

What is your favourite knitting technique? 

My favorite knitting technique would be working in the round. I love seams, probably more than the the average knitter, since seaming add structure and body to a garment. However, working in the round is just fun and easy for TV knitting!

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

It is impossible to not look at other designers' work. In fact, I think if you deny yourself that you are shutting off a large part of the world around you. It is important to look at everything and anything that fascinates your eye; whether that be art, food, culture, puppies, etc. Then, let those ideas and images marinate within.

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

I'm not sure I've seen this controversy. I feel there is always room for simple, basic design. Even the most seasoned knitter will want a pattern like this from time to time. However, there has to be a challenge design out there that just grasps the imagination and desire to create. It is truly an art to write out a hand knitting pattern for the public to follow. It is ever-evolving, and should be approached in a thoughtful way.

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

Oh my gosh, this is a great question. I have new sample knitters as well knitters who have been with me since the beginning of my journey at Plymouth Yarn Company. I have, at the moment, 22. They are all special to me, and each has their own unique skills.

How do you balance your role as design director at Plymouth Yarn Company with own design work? 

Currently, I am just designing for Plymouth Yarn Company. I haven't had much time to design for my own collections since I took on the Design Director role in 2014. I produce about 100 designs a season, with two seasons a year. I feel satisfied and challenged by the amount of yarns PYC imports. I do wish to submit more designs in books and magazines in the's just a time issue!

Do you have a business model that you have emulated? 

At first I would say no, but I actually do. You could kind of say it was ingrained in me since I was about 6. I grew up at my mother's yarn shop, Fiber Arts Yarn Shop in Cape May, NJ, which she has owned since the mid 1980s. I am able to apply practical knowledge about best-selling products along with how to market new yarns in an effective way. My mother and I had a lot of fun developing promotions and programs to excite our customers. We started in 2003 a "Learn to Knit" program at the shore, which was great for vacationers who didn't know what to do on rainy days or wanted something relaxing to do on the beach. Every day we had a fee class for anyone who wanted to learn. I would say we have taught thousands to knit from this. I designed the pattern line, which was my first real foray into writing patterns.

Do you use a tech editor? 

Occasionally, especially for crochet. Though I can crochet, I do not consider myself an expert on crochet patterns yet.

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 

It is hard, but I love to work. It is important to take time off and zone out. I dabble in yoga a bit. I would say nothing refreshes me like a nice cup of tea.

How do you deal with criticism? 

In college, I learned to separate myself from my work. You have to, or else you won't be able to grow and succeed. This was one of the most important things to learn, and I am thankful for it everyday.

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

My career at Plymouth, since 2009, is a blessing and I am so thankful for the team work we have there.

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

I would say that you have to find that special voice inside yourself that makes your designs different from the rest. There are so many designers out there, but there is room for you. You have to believe it. 

What’s next for you? 

That is a great question. :) I am not sure but I am open to wherever the wind takes me.

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