Friday, May 19, 2017

An Interview with...Shireen Nadir

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 Shireen here and here on Ravelry. Her yarns are available here.

All the photos, with the exception of the one below, are for upcoming designs.
Where do you find inspiration?
For us, everything starts with photography. We are both avid travelers and never leave home without our gear! Our photography and our travels form the base of all our colourways.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love a nice clean selvage. My favourite way to achieve this is to slip the first stitch of every row purl-wise with yarn in front, then move the yarn to the back and k1. I knit the rest of the row as normal, but I always like to have a 2-stitch garter edging so I can use the technique.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love looking at, and knitting the work of other designers! We all inspire each other, and inspiration can come from anywhere. I’ll also look at the big brands and boutiques to see what’s new on the fashion front.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Between myself and our other Blue Brick colleague, Kali, we get all the knitting done in house. She’s a machine! After the initial test knits are done my technical editor, Kathryn, will also go over the pattern to look for errors.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I wish I could say yes, but our plan changes daily. We have been learning as we go on the business front, but being a small business we can afford to be quick and nimble when needed, which I feel is a real advantage. Because of my career in advertising and background in photography, The Blue Brick has also benefited from an in-house marketing team, which really helped us get noticed. 

Do you have a mentor?
I have a muse ;) My husband Tito is the pillar of The Blue Brick. He’s game for all my crazy ideas and always backs me up 100%. He’s also a dyer, a visual artist and a photographer so we’re always bouncing ideas off each other. 

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Does “flying by the seat of your pants” count?

Do you use a tech editor?
Absolutely! We couldn’t get by without her. Sometimes she’ll expand beyond just knitting to offer support and advice about the design, language, or just life. The Blue Brick and it’s extended family are all tight friends, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Badly, but it’s a goal :) Bringing on staff really helped but its a work in progress for sure. We have to look after each other to remember to eat well, sleep well, take down time and look after ourselves. Because we both still have day jobs, that can be a real challenge, especially with a puppy and a high-needs rescue dog in the house!

How do you deal with criticism?
I’ve been in advertising for 15 years, and everyone knows that the ability to take constructive criticism is important, and ultimately leads to a better product 9 out of 10 times. I also know that sometimes you have to own your work and follow your gut instinct, I try to bring a mixture of both these attitudes to our yarns and designs.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
At present we both have full time day jobs and work The Blue Brick in the evenings. It’s hard, but we believe in what we do and have a lot of passion for yarn and design, and it keeps us on the path. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I think the hardest thing for us was pricing. There is a strong tendency to undersell yourself on the market, especially when you’re new, but you have to value your time, or you won’t be able to progress towards doing this as a career, if that’s your goal. Having said that, the best advice I got when I was starting to design was to offer a few patterns for free on Ravelry, so people could get a feel for my work before spending any money. Tech editing is key, even if it’s just another knitter friend who scans for mistakes you may have overlooked. The Internet can be unforgiving, so try to dot all your “i”s and cross all your “t”s before you release anything to the public. 

What’s next for you?
We’ve just released our first book “Ombré Knits” geared toward helping people understand how best to use our ombré yarns, which is what we specialize in. That was huge, and fun, and we’re definitely looking at releasing these collections annually, or bi-annually in the future. The book is visually lovely in addition to being full of patterns and that’s my goal; to create something that is enjoyable to review and browse in addition to just sharing instructions. I also want to bring more of our photography forward into our work, to further enhance that.

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