Friday, November 30, 2018

Reasons to Say No

I recently found myself in the position of saying no to two opportunities for many complicated reasons. Shortly afterward this great article turned up in my inbox. It was a link from another knitting industry insider. It confirmed that my decisions were correct.

The full article is here:   
by Kevin Daum

I've added in my own comments with each reason.

1.  Say NO! When No One Is Ready
Many people say yes to a boss or customer request when the pieces of the puzzle aren't in place. Great work requires preparation. Great teams require alignment. If your team isn't prepared or aligned, agreeing to take on difficult initiatives is a disaster waiting to happen. Young companies often try to speed forward before their organizational structure or business model is ready. They instead end up burning investor money while killing dreams and reputations. Say No! so you can get everything and everyone on board and ready. Then you can say yes with confidence.

I've had lots of conversations with people who wanted commitment to projects which clearly hadn't been thought through at any level of detail. More than a couple of answers to my questions of "we haven't worked that out yet" are a huge red flag.    

2. Say NO! When It's Not a Fit
Salespeople and entrepreneurs alike tend to see the potential in everything and everybody. But a ton of time is wasted on prospects who are never going to be customers, never going to invest, or never going to be amazing employees. Instead of looking for all the reasons why things will work out, save time by focusing on the reasons they won't. Even if you say No!, you can always revisit the opportunity if compatibility improves.

This happened to me on many occasions. People would ask me about collaborative projects that didn't really work with what I was doing. As an example a printer who wanted to get in on the business of printing patterns and was very confused about the PDF pattern download world. 

3. Say NO! When You're Overloaded
Some people are afraid to say No! even when they have too much on their plates. They think it's necessary to respond positively all the time to avoid disappointing others. Then they let things fall through the cracks, get sick or have a breakdown. In this case, an impossible yes causes far more frustration then just saying No! in the first place. Have a realistic sense of your capacity and don't go past your limit.

I made this mistake once and spent quite a few very late nights trying to live up to my commitment. Lesson well learned.

4.  Say NO! When It's Unrealistic
You can't assume that every request has been thought through in detail. Often people ask for what they want with little or no consideration of what's involved for delivery. I never subscribe to the "customer is always right" theory. As a consultant, I wonder, if they are always right, why would they want to pay me? Be the expert when someone asks for something. If you don't know how it works, do your homework and say yes only when you know it can really happen. Otherwise, keep that "maybe" handy.

I once committed to something, thinking that the request was complete only to discover that every week the expectations had been increased. I met the first ask but tried to pull out of the deal on the next which was even more unrealistic. In the end they wanted the pattern as it was instead of insisting on the additional work. It taught me a lot about establishing complete parameters early on in a project.

5. Say NO! When You Have to Go Backwards
It's hard enough to move steadily toward your goals without having to regain lost ground. When approached with an opportunity that doesn't obviously propel you forward, ask yourself: "Why am I even interested in this?"  You may be surprised to find there is simply no justification for saying yes. When that happens, loudly declare No! and move on to opportunities that better align with your goals.

There's a supposition on the part of those who don't write patterns that all other work (teaching and speaking) is just done to promote pattern sales. It takes me about three weeks of full time hours to write a class or presentation. I see that as separate work not promotional work. I think of my Ravelry ads and social media as promotional. The catch all phrase "you should do it for the exposure" gets loud groans inside the industry because we all hear it so often.
6.  Say NO! When It's Unprofitable
You are in business for many reasons, but nearly everyone--founders and employees alike--is in it to profit. Not all profit is related to money, although young entrepreneurs should take note that consistent monetary profit does help your sustainability and your valuation. Sometimes a transaction can pay off in connections, exposure, learning, satisfaction or, yes, money. But when a transaction does nothing to better the people involved, then the word No! should be used. The key is to make sure everyone in the company can understand, recognize and justify a profitable deal. That requires openness and education, so get to work.

The minute I published my first pattern I started getting requests for freebies. In the beginning I was generous and did things at a financial cost to me. After a few discussions with industry insiders I realized that I was doing a disservice to everyone by artificially reducing margins.  I'm in touch with a number of teacher/designers who have left the industry who all cite free patterns and the undercutting of  payments by newbies trying to get their start in the knitting world. I also had a few pros who were very angry at those of us who did this and didn't hesitate to let me know. 

This goes on for several reasons. First, lack of knowledge on the part of organizers, the knitting world is full of wonderful volunteers and new business owners popping up all the time who don't yet have a handle on the marketplace. Secondly, due to the total stagnation of compensation in the knitting world. Payment is set in the mind of the person making the offer and varies widely between organizations or within them during management changes.  Ten years in and I still receive teaching offers for less than what I got in my first year. My favourite ridiculous offer is the profit sharing scheme with no basic compensation to cover my expenses for travel, food or accommodation. I think in this case the organizer was not low balling teachers she really didn't know what the margins actually are. She seemed convinced we'd all be making a reasonable amount. Finally it's a world of women who play by the rules of a hobby and want to play nice. 

7.  Say NO! When You Can't Meet Expectations
People are often optimistic about how quickly and how well they can get things done. Combine that hopefulness with the desire to please a customer, and you are left over-promising and under-delivering. Save yourself the mea culpa and say No! to what you know you can not do. Be accountable and manage expectations. Whatever you do, don't say yes to get the deal signed if you're assuming that, once the prospects are in the door, they'll have to adapt to your change in quality, timing or price. After they realize what's happened, few will come back to say yes and do business with liars.

I previously worked in two industries which were both highly time pressured. I have a very strong protectionist attitude when it comes to not over committing. It's amazing how hard others will push to get you to commit to their timeline when you're being very clear it can't be done.


Friday, November 23, 2018

An Interview with...Lisa McFetridge

Upcoming publication please see the note at the bottom of the post.

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
Lisa here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere that I can see the play of different colors, including, but not limited to:  store displays, walks in the woods, flower gardens, wallpapers.  Pretty much everywhere.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
I am a stranded knitter.  I like to use traditional motifs from Scandinavia and Fair Isle but many of my motifs are mine, created as I need them to execute a new idea.  A good example of this is my collection "Exploring World Cultures" which takes a look at many different cultures, many with no real knitting traditions.   Once I have found motifs / stories relating to the country, I turn them into motifs and create a piece that tells a story about the country and its history and folklore.  (See the Ravelry Bundle "Exploring World Cultures") This is the type of stranding design I love.  To make a design that is efficient and tells a story but doesn't look childish.
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
That is a great question.  I don't look too much at others work mainly because I knit small pieces only.  Hats, mittens, cowls etc... as I like to move quickly onto the next piece.  If I need one of these pieces, I design them.  BUT, I am influenced by everything I see, especially play of color.  I am more likely to notice color combinations than the design.  My mantra when teaching stranded design classes is "Color changes everything"   When someone posts a photo of one of my own designs, I am often taken aback at how their choice of color changes the final product.  Any knitter who takes a pattern and makes it his/her own by changing colors, or making pattern modifications to suit their needs, is a designer and I am influenced by what they do!
Two of my most popular designs are inspired by Olympic Hats - The Latvian Hat from 2018 and the Slovak Folklore Hat from 2014.  
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?

I have had many over the years.  It depends whether or not  I have lots of new elements in a piece if I have it test knit.  I find testers on Ravelry and have had a wonderful experience with the process.
Did you do a formal business plan?
No.  When my youngest was small, I began designing.  This was in the paper publishing world.  It was labor intensive, printing patterns, flyers, doing mailings.  In the end, making money was difficult.  I taught a lot at that time in local shops.
I stopped publishing for about 10 years, then discovered Ravelry.  I still remember figuring out how to put a pattern up and creating my designer profile.  About 5 minutes after putting it up, I had my first sales.  I was blown away at how easy it made the whole industry.
Now, of course, there are so many patterns available as well as free patterns to compete with, but still, it makes a one-person business much easier to run.  There are now many other sites now, Etsy, Craftsy, LoveKnitting, Patternworks.  I sell on many of these as well as WEBS.
In truth, my business plan has evolved over time.  I have geared my business toward charity.  Nearly all the money I make with my patterns goes to charity.  I don't really advertise this fact though I have many patterns that explicitly state that all proceeds go to charity.  I have created many hats for specific events, the most well known being the Boston Strong hat created after the Boston Marathon Bombing.  All proceeds to the victims fund and also a large volunteer effort to put a hat into the hands of every victim who wished to have one.  Photos of some of these folks in their hats are shown at the end of the movie "Patriot's Day".   
Do you have a mentor?
My truest mentor is Susan Shabo, a designer and my first knitting teacher and a cheerleader for me over time.  She is a wonderful person.
Do you use a tech editor?  
I used to, but since my pieces are all small, I have a formula for sizing and find that I don't need a tech editor unless I have something so new or different that I am not confident.  Usually in this case, test knitters turn up issues in the instructions.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I set aside a certain number of hours a week to work on design.  After that, I volunteer.  I work for a dog rescue, a homeless shelter, I dance with Alzheimer's patients and am currently training to be a hospice volunteer.
How do you deal with criticism?
Initially it stung.  Now I take it in stride.  The Internet is a wonderful thing, it brings so much to the knitting community, allowing connectivity and sharing of ideas and advice.  The flip side is the anonymity, folks can say things in a way that they wouldn't if they were sitting across from each other.   
I have had few issues in this vein, one after I published a simple hat using a traditional tree motif.  A raveler saw the hat and commented that I had stolen the design as she had knit one similar from another pattern.  I responded that I had not seen the other pattern, but that since it used a simple, traditional motif, there were probably lots of similar hats.  It was fine in the end.  I try not to make it emotional or angry, as it solves nothing.  
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I have never tried to support myself, always considered it "extra money" and have been very happy with what I make.  My background is in computers, so I could make more money in computing, but this gives me money and the flexibility to do the other things I like in life.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
It is a niche business and some folks make a true living at it.  I think of it like sports.  Everyone has a team they love, merchandise they love to buy, but when it comes down to it, there is only room for a limited number of players who can become Superstars.   I do it for the love of design and am rewarded with followers and purchasers of my product.  I won't live in a mansion because of it, but I have raised a lot of money for charity, I have met some of the most amazing people, I got to teach on a knitting cruise and get to do what I love.
My advice:  Be ready to work hard, have a real business plan so you can measure goal attainment and give yourself time to "become".  You have to survive the first few years of losing money or breaking even before you can assess your real future.  Working for yarn companies if you can find a partner, is a big help.  Stick with it and you get to something you love.
What’s next for you?
It's winter.  New Indie yarns.  More hats.  It never gets old.  There are so many designs that percolate in my brain.  Time to knit...

The “Storyteller’s Gift Cowl” is so named as the knitter creates the gift of a story to the recipient.  Use the charts here or create some of your own.  Many here are versions of ones used in many of the hats in my World Cultures Hat Series - motifs from around the world, many not meant as knit motifs, but created from folk motifs.  Knit a cowl using the charts shown here or make up a new combination of charts.  A blank chart is included for personal use.  When finished, wear it.  When the right time comes, find someone who can use the warmth of a hand knit hug.  Gift the cowl to that person, wrap it around his or her neck.   It may be someone you have never met, or someone you know quite well, someone in need of your hand knit support.  That person may choose to pass it on in the future.  One day you might receive one back... 

The first cowl I made to give away has a special story.  A friend lost her adult son in workplace accident.  In the family’s grief, they did courageous thing and donated his organs.  Four people were saved.  My friend is the first recipient of a Storyteller’s Gift Cowl.  All the motifs are here:  A trio of hearts, one healthy, one broken and one large heart representing her son’s gift; a happy pup, Mingus, her son’s favorite; music motifs representing his work and love of music;  stars, sun & moon, a connection to the song “Close Your Eyes”;  the word MOM (WOW upside down) she is both to me;  an anchor for Hope; a flower from a knit class we were to attend together in Vermont at the time of her son’s passing.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Fitting - A Video Link

I've started another sewing project of a tissue weight knit top. I want to share a video series on fitting a simple knit top because it answers a question which is often attributed by knitters to the wrong cause. Some knitters have a problem with the neckline of sweaters sitting incorrectly and falling backwards. Often this is attributed to back neckline shaping. My sewing and pattern drafting classes always changed the shoulder seam and the centre point of the sleeve to add extra length over the fuller back arm. Most fitting improvements are tiny little adjustments that don't always make sense in the beginning. I was lucky enough to take classes with two teachers who were fantastic fitters, now you can learn a lot of these things online.

The details are in the third video, Balancing Armholes and Shoulder Seams. I recommend that you watch the whole series. Each video is quite short and you may find solutions for other issues. The blog it's hosted on is written by a very popular sewing teacher and pattern maker. Marcy Tilton.

The blog post is here.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Creative Jolt I Needed

I think I must be craving a creative break from knitting. I did some jewellery making at the end of the summer as an attempt to get a creative jolt and quite enjoyed it. However, what I really wanted to do was some sewing. I'm becoming increasingly frustrated with the poor quality of everything available at retail. I also buy way less than I did when I had a full time job which means I want very specific things which are often not available. The other sign was I bought a few patterns and a piece of tweed for a jacket. 

I mentioned the craving to sew to a friend and the next thing I knew she got me to go fabric shopping twice! On the first trip I bought upholstery fabric and recovered all of my living room throw cushions. I had searched for replacements in a few retail shops and the cost IF I had found something I liked was crazy. 

On the next trip I bought fabric for a dress and some notions to get me going. Oh but I needed some serger needles which required a trip to Toronto's fabric district on Queen St W. It turned out my serger needed a tune-up and my sweet husband took it to be repaired and picked it up once it was ready. 


That trip for the needles lead to a few other purchases. I've now made a white faux fur vest, and a pink oversized knit top. 


I completed them while I waited for my serger to come home. The vest is fully lined so no seam finishes were required. I did french seams on the top and finished the double turn hems by hand.  I used a hand finished band on the neckline. The dress is almost done, I just have to complete the neckband and hems.

The top is to wear with these fabulous suede boots my husband gave me for Christmas 2017

Then Craftsy did a free week of classes and I went a little crazy watching and reminding my self of my forgotten skill set. I've dug up my old tailoring notes to review before I start that jacket. 

If you are worried that this will become a sewing blog, don't be, I suspect this is just a lull in my knitting activity. I might share some sewing fitting resources to help knitters which I've done in the past and they are often my most viewed posts.  

Friday, September 28, 2018

Life Changes, an Update

Things are shifting here at Robin Hunter Designs. My husband retired six months ago so my daytime schedule has changed significantly. 

In June I got fed up with the ongoing pain in my left wrist so I took a month long break from knitting. The pain completely disappeared during that month. I went back to knitting and it's bothering me again so I'm carefully monitoring how long I knit, doing my stretches and exercises and icing it whenever I feel any discomfort. 

I'm actively working on three new designs. I've finished a cardigan which has to be graded. I've got two shawls on the go right now. One is vortex shaped and the other is a shallow triangle. 

I'm working towards a slower version of my previous life. Having my husband home is creating an environment which makes me want to slow down and stop rushing through life. This summer we spent time enjoying our balcony garden, reading, cooking and we had some fun watching Netflix. At the same time we've been getting more done at home. We finally replaced our front hall closet doors with mirrored sliders and we have new lighting fixtures in the kitchen. We've got a long list of home maintenance items to work our way through. 

I did a fair bit of jewellery making during the time I wasn't knitting and I got interested in sewing again. I've bought fabric for a dress and a jacket. Hubby is cleaning and oiling both my sewing machine and serger so I can get started. I'm trying to stay creative without putting so much stress on my wrist.

This week we're going out of town to see a play and enjoy dinner at one of our favourite restaurants. I expect life will continue to evolve in new ways as we get used to our new status of two retired people. 


Friday, September 14, 2018

An Interview with...Sheila Toy Stromberg

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
Sheila here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

Oh my gosh, where don’t I find inspiration would be a shorter list! I am trained as a traditional artist (painting, drawing, printmaking, the works) so really I just see the whole world around me as inspiration. I see a shape or texture or color and it gets my wheels turning. Other times, it’s the yarn itself sitting in my hand that inspires me and drives the design. I view my designs exactly how I paint; the work is a composition that must be balanced, have a focal point, and something unique about it.

I feel like I’ve succeeded in a design if I can make a garment do what I dreamed up but sometimes the knitting goes differently than I plan. I try to just roll with it and let the yarn be what it wants to be. I try not to be too forceful with the design process because, just as with painting, the work will tell you want it needs to be. You can fight it and end up with something mediocre or you can embrace the material you’re working with and let it shine. (Easier said than done!)

What is your favourite knitting technique?

Right now, I enjoy designing lace the most but I’m a sucker for a nice cable as well. I really like focusing on one technique or garment type at a time and falling down the rabbit hole. The more I focus on one thing for an extended period of time, the higher the learning curve and the more I am able to understand and manipulate that technique to do just want I want. I find that mastery really enjoyable!

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

I definitely like to see what’s going on in the design world but I try not to fixate on it too much because it begins to impact my originality. But just as with art (and really everything in life), I don’t think you can come into a conversation without knowing what has been said before you and what is being said right now. It doesn’t mean we all have to agree or be doing the same thing, but seeing other people’s work can inspire you and spark ideas that you couldn’t have come to on your own. There is nothing wrong with being inspired by other people’s work, but inspiration and duplication are two different things. I always try to come from a place of originality or bringing a new twist on something instead of stealing. 

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

Presently, my samples are always done by my own hand. I never want to become so detached from my design process that I’m not knitting every day. I also write all my patterns myself, do all the sizing/math, marketing/promotional, photography, and almost always model my own garments. It’s kind of exhausting sometimes but my designs are 100% me and that feels good.

Right now, I have a handful of perpetual test knitters on my roster and I usually open all my designs up to a couple new testers! I strive to have every single size of every single pattern tested so I know how to correct the sizing before the pattern is released to the public. I absolutely couldn’t produce the volume of sizes I do without my amazing testers! I always post a call for testers on my Facebook page, so look there for future tests! 
Coming soon!

Did you do a formal business plan?

I don’t really have a formal business plan but I do set annual goals of what I want to focus on each year and then a monthly goal of how to achieve my annual goal. I think setting goals is the most effective way for me to do what I want to do. I don’t always achieve every monthly goal I set but just having those goals makes me reach higher than I would have without them.

To be entirely honest, I never planned any of what my life has turned out to be at the current point (but I mean that in a good way!). I sort of just started putting patterns out because knitting and crocheting completes something inside me and I was making up all these designs anyways so I figured I should share them with the world. Then I was met with unexpected success and I thought I would give it a real go and I’m so glad I did! I think that I’ve been able to keep my business casual for the most part and it works well for the artist inside my heart.  

Do you have a mentor?

I’ve been really blessed to come into my own as a designer in an area rich with local designers, dyers, and local yarn shops. My favorite yarn shop, the shop I learned to knit in, recently closed and it was a big loss to me. The owner, Verla Younker (her shop was called Unraveled Sheep), really actually started me designing. She would give me design assignments and help me when I was stuck. She put me in contact with some amazing local designers who always patiently worked with me and helped me. Locals from my shop who helped me get started and still inspire me were Verla, Amy Tucker, Mary Triplett, Marian Ju-Scozzare, Katy Carroll, Carolyn Greenwood, and Miriam Felton.

I think it’s really important for designers, makers, and humans to be around their people. You know, the people that share your crazy passions, that encourage you to keep doing what makes you happy, and make you laugh. Go to your local yarn shop! My new shop is The Wool Cabin and it’s a great and encouraging place I can bring my design and crazy ideas and have fun with friends old and new.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Yikes, not really! I just follow wherever my heart, yarn, and interest leads me. I seek out collaboration opportunities with dyers and yarn companies that I like. If I like working with them, I do it again. So I guess my business model is “fly by the seat of my pants and it will magically work out or maybe it won’t and I’ll be fine either way”.

Do you use a tech editor?

It depends on the pattern and what I’m planning to use it for. If it’s a free pattern, the cost of teching it is not something I can recover, so I typically don’t run it through tech. If it’s a pattern with a lot of directions, sizes, and elements, I do like to have my tech editor (Min Jung) look it over. She is a math wizard and is so detail oriented. It helps my patterns so much! Otherwise, I have a few good testers who give me tech edits and look things over for me. 

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Honestly, the balance is hard sometimes. I have 3 small children and 3 small businesses so life gets a little overwhelming sometimes. My husband and I are also foster parents and during a foster case the balance is even harder. We just adopted a foster placement this summer and I didn’t put out a pattern for months (which is contrary to one of my monthly goals!). But you know what? I didn’t even let it bother me because other things needed to be my focus at that time. I really just try to remember that everything has it’s time and season and nothing is going to last forever. Having little kids in my home is not going to be forever. It makes it a little easier to let stuff go sometimes and sometimes I do have to push my work off for the more important things in life. It does help me to have deadlines and monthly goals but being realistic that sometimes those things are going to have to slide is pretty important in my life right now. I do occasionally start to feel guilty that I haven’t completed a design or put out anything new in a while and then I need to remind myself of what my number one priority is, which is my family.

It’s hard when the thing that re-energizes you (which for me is producing art and designs) is something that needs to be neglected for the time being. And if I’m being entirely honest, putting out work feels a lot more instantly rewarding than being in the trenches raising kids. It feels good to be appreciated for something I designed, worked so hard on, and used my brain to create but I know that if I check out on my kids now that I’ll regret it later. Isn’t the tightrope walk of parenthood just beautiful? I feel guilty sometimes if I don’t put something out and I feel guilty sometimes if I’m working instead of being entirely focused on my kids! It’s hard to let all that go and just try to exist and do the best job I can.

I do have a rough daily schedule in place and that helps me do the thing I need to do until the time for that is over and then move to the next thing. I make sure to keep my 2 hours at the end of most days for actually knitting and not just writing patterns. I need that mental break and reconnection with the making process and it helps recharge me for tomorrow. 

How do you deal with criticism?

Well a degree in painting certainly beat all the personal-ness out of criticism for me! Getting critiqued daily on something that your entire soul is in was a lot harder than someone not liking a hat I designed. So I think of criticism in the following way:

1. Are they right? Is there some error/problem/issue with the design that I failed to see before publishing?

I immediately go investigate the issue and see if they are right and there’s an error or if they are incorrect. If they’re right, I go correct it. Problem solved and I don’t think about the criticism again.

2. Are they wrong? Is it a matter of personal taste/style? Are they just having a bad day and taking it out on me?

If this is the case and there is no issue, I either respond as nicely as I am able to at the time or ignore them if the criticism needs no reply. I know this will surprise you, but people are not always polite when they email me. So, sometimes I do need to walk away from the issue for a couple days because I know if I respond immediately I will be curt. I try not to get personal because, of course, it isn’t personal. They don’t even know me so it can’t be personal. So I just acknowledge to myself that it was their problem, not mine, and move forward. 

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

Well, I suppose this is a difficult question for me because this is not my only revenue. I don’t know if I could fully support all my family’s needs if I only focused on designing and did that for the majority of my day. I design more on the side.

I measure my success in designing by my original goal when I started publishing patterns: can I support all my desired yarn purchases with my designs? I really started selling patterns to enable myself to buy whatever yarn I wanted whenever I wanted to, no matter how crazy expensive the yarn was. I was able to do that within the first year of selling patterns. This year I’m focusing on publishing print patterns for sale in local yarn shops and by private yarn vendors. I do make a good amount of excess money currently and I believe print patterns will be even more lucrative! 

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

I would tell them to go for it! Give it a shot for a predetermined amount of time and see what happens. Start with what you are able to do at the moment and see where it leads you. And don’t be fearful about claiming this moment to try it. Be bold. Brazenly tell people you’re a designer. You might feel a little like a fraud at first and that’s OK. The secret is we all feel a little like a fraud for a long time before we start believing it ourselves (and that goes for every designer, artist, and maker that has ever existed so you’re in good company).

I would also recommend that you do everything you can to support and build up other people in the fiber arts world. We all need each other. We need to have a support group. Promote other designers, it’s not hurting you at all. Seek out collaborations. Talk to people. Tell them how much you love what they’re making! They need to hear that. Be supportive as much as you can and this community will hold you. There is room for you because you have something unique to say. You have something to contribute that no one has thought of before. We want you here!

What’s next for you?
Hopefully world domination? Just kidding, I don’t need the stress. I’m hoping to continue to make relevant new work! I am going to get my patterns in more shops in print form and one day get a book published (that’s a goal for another year, but I do want to do that down the line). I want to continue to make designs that are sized for a variety of body shapes and sizes because everyone deserves pretty designs that are fun to knit. I want to seek out more collaborations with new dyers because working with glorious yarn keeps my work energized.

Friday, August 31, 2018

An Interview with...Paola Albergamo

Graffiti (

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
Paola here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I have two main sources of inspiration, depending on whether I'm working on an accessory or on a garment. 

In accessories, I am mostly inspired by contemporary abstract art. This is particularly true when we speak about shawls, which I imagine as wearable paintings made with yarn. I love seeing color, harmony and shapes in pictures, paintings, street art and graffiti, and I try to convey this kind of inspiration in my patterns.
When I'm working on garments, I'm interested in wearability for - I confess! - my body shape. I have a sewing background, and I love translating sewing model making into knitting: it poses a lot of geometric/math problems that I like to solve, it's like playing with puzzles!
In both cases, I love unconventional and unusual constructions, bright colors and strong contrasts.
I am by no means a minimalist, I want my creations to be noticed, because they are different from anything you can buy in a shop.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
When following others' designs, I love every technique. Cable, lace, colorwork, you name it!
When designing I'd say that short rows, modular knitting, and brioche (not necessarily in this order) are the techniques that I use more often and that I feel more natural to me. 

Gocce (

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I think that it is simply impossible not to look at other designers' work!
I try to follow what's going on in the knitting world, with the intention of excluding the ideas that have been already "used" by others.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit my samples myself, because I like the process and because I often change my mind on some details (and yes, sometimes on the entire construction!) while knitting. I know that this is slowing down my productivity, but I enjoy this freedom so much!
I use as many test knitters I can, to be sure that my patterns are correct. I know many say that a tech editor is enough, but I am a former software developer and I cannot even think that an algorithm (a knitting pattern can surely be interpreted as an algorithm) can work if not thoroughly tested. And I love testing! It is like a mini-KAL.

Do you have a mentor?
No, unfortunately.
Did you do a formal business plan?
No, nothing formal. I started designing while still working as a programmer and didn't take it too seriously. Then I lost my job and simply continued working as a designer.
I studied about this industry and have plans, but nothing formal.
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, but I'm still searching for a stable work relationship.
I don't know if I am expecting too much from a TE, but I feel that I've not found the one who can understand my patterns and correct them without actually knitting them as a test knitter does.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Well, my life is very simple: I don't have kids and work from home. And still have problems!
I'm probably very bad at this, and I cannot share any clever thought. On the contrary, I'm looking for advice!

How do you deal with criticism?
I think that criticism is growth. Even the meanest criticism is a feedback and as such it can help you understand what others want/expect from your patterns. And it is always a good occasion to have contacts with your public! 

The Prism Effect (

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Well, I'm not sure I'm there yet. I knew from the beginning that this can take time, I'm not disappointed. I love the work that I'm doing and I'm slowly but continuously growing, what else could I ask for?
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Patience, and a lot of work. Success never comes overnight and pattern writing is much more complex than many knitters think. Turning a passion into a career is not easy, sometimes it will feel like a "normal job". So my advice is to find your own personal happy routine, to bring the joy even in the dullest part of this work.  

Vanishing Point (will be published in September)

What’s next for you?
Last year I worked mainly for third party publications, and it was really satisfying and fun: I learned a lot about pattern writing and I had the possibility to stretch my creativity in many ways. Now I want to focus on self-publishing, because I have many personal ideas that I know are not suitable for magazine publishing. I'd love to participate in collective events, such as the GAL or the Happiness Make-A-Long, because they are fun! I really enjoy them as a wonderful occasion to work with other talented designers and make friends, and, finally, they work very well for me!

Reptile Skin (