Friday, February 24, 2017

An Interview with...Jenny Wiebe

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 Jenny here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

I don't find inspiration in any one place. For my children's garments, I've often not been able to find exactly what I'm looking for and so create it instead, but other times I see a store bought sweater and think, "I could knit that, but even better." I've been known to walk up to complete strangers and ask if I can take a close-up picture of a specific part of their sweater or hat, just so I can get a stitch pattern, or shaping technique. It's a little creepy, but I've not had anyone say no yet!

What is your favourite knitting technique? 

I really love learning new techniques. Even when I think I've found my favourite bind off/short rows/colorwork technique, I love to try new ones. I peruse You Tube nightly to see what techniques I haven't tried and would like to incorporate into my future projects.

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

I don't think there's anything wrong with being inspired by others. I'm flattered when people use my designs and make it their own. I like to think that my designs are completely unique, but know they aren't, they are just my take on what's surely been done before. My favourite Elizabeth Zimmermann quote is "But unvented - ahh! One un-vents something; one unearths it; one digs it up, one runs it down in whatever recesses of the eternal consciousness it has gone to ground. I very much doubt if anything is really new when one works in the prehistoric medium of wool with needles. The products of science and technology may be new, and some of them are quite horrid, but knitting? In knitting there are ancient possibilities; the earth is enriched with the dust of the millions of knitters who have held wool and needles since the beginning of sheep. Seamless sweaters and one-row buttonholes; knitted hems and phoney seams - it is unthinkable that these have, in mankind's history, remained undiscovered and unknitted. One likes to believe that there is memory in the fingers; memory undeveloped, but still alive.”

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

I usually knit 2 of each of my patterns before I have it tech edited, and then test knitted. Depending on the project, I like to get 2-3 testers in each size. That's easy for my child garments, but not often realistic in my adult clothing that goes up to 4x.

Did you do a formal business plan? 

No. I kind of fell into designing, and have just grown my business organically from my first pattern 5 years ago.

Do you use a tech editor? 

Yes, every pattern hits a tech editor before it goes to testing. Sometimes it goes back to a tech editor afterward as well!

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 

Designing knitwear is fun, and is definitely my creative outlet, but I am first an foremost a mom. There is no balance. If knitting is getting in the way of mothering and homeschooling and life, it gets put down until I have more time. This means that many of the ideas in my head never come to fruition, and that some things get put off for months. One day, when my kids don't need me as much, maybe that will change, but for now, my family takes first priority in every instance.

How do you deal with criticism? 

I've been lucky enough to not have had too much criticism. Knitters are, for the most part, absolutely wonderful. Even when I've published patterns with blaring errors, I usually get polite emails asking for help with that part of the pattern. I appreciate those emails, because I can quickly correct the errors and update the pattern. I don't take much personally, so I think even if I did get a less than polite response to my work, it wouldn't keep me up at night.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I'm not quite there yet! I've had a few real 'hits', and those have helped my pattern sales be more consistent, but really, consistency is key in being able to count on a steady income.

What’s next for you? 

I've got plans to create a bulky collection, all from local yarn. I'd really like to knit a few more shawls and try my hand at designing one. I also have a whole pile of kids sweaters that just need to be photographed so that they can be tested and released. Life is busy, what can I say!?

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