Ann posing last summer in the Norwegian mountain range called Trollstigen ("the troll road") - She is modelling the lady's cardigan Flea. http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/damejakka-loppa---flea-a-ladys-cardigan
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.
|Ann enjoys making alternative color suggestions in her patterns. These are the suggestions from the pattern Flea.|
You can find Ann here, Pinterest here and here on Ravelry
Where do you find inspiration?
Yes, where do I find inspiration? I get ideas. I do a lot of boring stuff (skiing, hiking, walking, things that makes the brain play while the body works) and it generates ideas. When I’ve got the idea, I seek inspiration. I don’t like to admit it, but I decorate my ideas. When the end result is good it doesn’t come out as obvious, though. For some designers their design is organic, a whole, but to me it is not. I have one pair of mittens that I am working on now that I truly can say is created to be like the hand, and the details are not decoration, but shaped for better fit. Beside that, I feel my designs are pure surface.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
I’m a stranded girl but I am in no way lonely, it’s the Nordic way of knitting. The funny thing is that just a couple of months ago I just learned a new way to hold my yarn in the left hand, it makes it so much faster to knit with 2 strands of colors: one strand of yarn over the index finger, the other over the middle finger. And I took the method to my knitting group, so excited because I thought it was revolutionizing – and they all did it that way already. Bummer. I also think – or hope? – knitters think of me as the steeking lady. In Norway we have been knitting kofter (a traditional stranded cardigan) for 150 years, and for the last 60-70 years or so, used the sewing machine for the steek. I actually just saw in Interweave Knits Winter 2015 it is called Norwegian steeking. I am trying to teach knitters to use pure wool and steeking without the sewing machine like they do on Shetland. I love that magical moment when I take my stranded cardigan, the scissors and just show them how easy it is. A lot of my designs are top-down, stranded and steeked.
|Some of Ann's (stranded and steeked) blankets|
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I look to others, to books, to Pinterest boards all the time. I am not very creative like some are, I don’t mind borrowing from others at all. If it is too close to the original designer’s I ask. When I made the sheep chart for the Angry Sheep Cardigan I understood I was very influenced by Kate Davies Sheep heid. So I sent her an e-mail, and asked her how she felt about that. Luckily she seems to share the same world I live in, we all are inspired by something and someone. And I just had a Norwegian designer asking me the same question:
- It seems like my cardigan is inspired by one of your blankets, what do you think about that? Honestly, her cardigan made a renew interest in my blanket – that is how I like the knitting community to be. Many designers are really original, I am not so, but people, knitters, still find my patterns interesting.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
Really, is there such a thing? For the last 70-80 years the Norwegian knitting patterns have been written for knitters who knew it all. No explanations, no context, just a pattern written on 1 to 2 pages. At the beginning of the new millennium those who knit were the people who had been knitting for a long time, and they were like me, middle aged or older. And then suddenly two things happened at the same time. A TV-star in Norway wore a very simple knitted sweater that the young people wanted to knit (and after a while, also the older …), and - Ravelry. After that sweater, the young knitters wanted to knit more and found the well-written English patterns, and now we have a whole new generation of knitters that we (the elderly) just had forgotten to teach. In my situation, as a knitwear designer, that has made all the difference.
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Experience in working with this for the last 10 years has taught me: I can’t get enough test knitters. And not only to test and find errors, to suggest new color combinations, to learn what’s working and what’s not, but to be part of a community, to create something outside my kitchen table. And test knitters, they come in all shapes and experience too. Some are truly good with after shoot-photos, some are really good in spotting minute details that aren’t working, some have ideas – in the ideal world I would have them working for me full time.
Do you have a mentor?
I wish I had a mentor. Maybe I am too old to have one; maybe I should be mentoring someone? I am part of a group called Vottelauget (The Mitten Guild) – we are 8 knitters and designers who have published 2 e-books with fairy tales as a theme and are in the process of publishing a paper book together. If anything, they are my mentors in some way.
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
What I am doing seems to be working so I continue with that. I say yes to teaching, my patterns should be on the cheap side, I am open and reachable for people who buy my patterns, and I don’t want to co-operate with a publisher – and that is what’s making me earn my money. On that note, I don’t translate all my patterns to English, and that is also part of a larger plan. People don’t seem to understand how much time and money that goes into translating a pattern so I always consider carefully which one to spend that hard-earned money on.
How are you using social media to grow your business?
I have several groups (Facebook and Ravelry) and my blog, but I use Twitter almost solely for letting out steam and be someone else than a knitwear designer. For Norwegian knitters and designers FB is so much more alive and kicking. Even though we speak English quite well in Norway, the language barrier of Ravlery is a thing. On FB there are hundreds of groups for knitting and crafting in Norwegian. So I try to be very accessible on FB.
|From Shetland Wool Week 2014: 3 of Ann's patterns, Angry Sheep Cardigan, Bislettbekken (not translated) and Lady's cardigan Fleas.|
Do you use a tech editor?
I have the best tech editor for my English patterns there is, London-based Rachel Atkinson. I also have a Norwegian “number breaker” I like to call her, Jette Kjørseng. I write all my sizes in Excel and she spends an afternoon scrutinizing them. Sometimes I really feel I am managing a small firm.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Good question. I am not. I am very thankful I don’t have children other then on an irregular basis as a granny, and a husband who’s very low in his expectations of me.
How do you deal with criticism?
It’s a hate-love-thing. It breaks my heart every time. On some level it is the best there is because I know I can’t be perfect, and there is always something to learn from it – that is how old I am. I do like the German designer Martina Behm, when people spot a problem or error in my patterns they get one for free. That is the least I can do when I create problems for the knitters.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I have been very lucky because my cardigan The Angry Sheep was – is - such a towing ship for all my other patterns. I published that while working as a nurse, 3-4 years ago. The last 2 years I have been living well off my patterns and teaching. It also takes me around. Just some days ago I was asked to have two classes in the north of Norway. I got paid for seeing the North Light and the Ice Hotel in Alta, as well as doing what I enjoy most, meeting people and teach steeking.
What’s next for you?
I love teaching, who would have known! The last year I’ve done 10-15 classes in socks toe-up, steeking and shaping, and that is what I will do more. And – I have e new e-book coming out in September. Lots and lots of stranded work and steeking.
|When travelling and teaching Ann enjoy's taking these collective photos, showing her patterns. This is the Angry Sheep cardigan in different variasions at the Spinnning Museum Sjølingstad, Norway, last year.|