Once a week I post interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world.
You can find Ann here and here on Ravelry
Where do you find inspiration?
Oh, the inspirations... they come from the oddest places. Most recently, I've created designs inspired by photos of Johnny Rotten, Josef Albers' "Portrait of a Square" paintings, and sports attire worn by athletes from the Netherlands (orange, so orange). I also have an ongoing fixation with stripes and small stranded patterns in various Grellow (grey and yellow) color schemes.
I never know what's next; I keep an open mind. I've been meaning to knit a jacket inspired by one Nick Cave wore for a concert in 2001 I attended. I even purchased the yarn for it last year.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
I like easy stuff; I like simple yarn-over patterns, big cables, and traveling stitches. I work with a lot of different techniques to get the results I want, but man, I love to knit a lot of garter stitch.
How did you determine your size range?
Well, when I started designing it was arbitrary; I just tried to size for "a lot of sizes." Now I make sure to include sizes meant to fit at least 32- to 56-inch busts when I have control of the sizing. For very fitted garments I size up every 2 inches, and for less fitted ones every 4 inches.
Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I look at everything. I love making things from others' patterns, it's a joy. I'm very particular in what I design and make; it's usually something highly specific that I've been turning over in my mind for months, if not longer... I don't worry about being derivative.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I haven't followed this particular controversy, but I do know that it is difficult to find a balance between helpful pattern support and impossible hand-holding, and between thorough directions and ridiculous verbosity.
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Everything I have published up until this point I have done myself, but I have so much going on right now that I have found a few sample knitters for my designs.
Right now I'm working on several unisex designs, for which I'm knitting the female version (since there is more shaping to work out for the initial pattern) and a sample knitter is knitting the male version after I've finished writing the pattern and having it edited, at least roughly. I've also had a fabulous sample knitter do a portion of a VERY large but simple upcoming design. So I'm learning to delegate.
Did you do a formal business plan?
No, never. Still don't! I switch jobs, nay, careers, every 6 to 18 months, really. I'm not much of a formal planner. From my first paid publication, however, I have saved the money I made from designing and put it back into knitting and design expenses. It has its own account! That's planning, right?
Do you have a mentor?
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The Internet made my business possible. The former online pattern site MagKnits was the first place I submitted a design and the first place I was published, followed by knitty, and the attention my knitty patterns received brought me offers from other publications and projects and gave me the confidence and experience to write up designs for self publication and submit to print magazines.
I can't imagine self-publishing printed patterns. I don't think I ever would have considered it. The profit margin is so tiny.
Do you use a Tech Editor?
Oh yes. Oh my yes. My Tech Editor is the best.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I am not the person to answer this question. My life has always been inseparable from my work, with the exception of a jobs that were so soul-sucking that I had to turn myself off when I went into the office. I will never go back to that sort of work.
Since then, work and life are one adventure after another. Since last February, when I was fired from the last of the awful jobs, my life has been a flow of interesting things that I do.
How do you deal with criticism?
I like the constructive sort! Feedback on things I've published to this point helps me rewrite patterns, if necessary, and makes my patterns better and better.
As for the sort that is not constructive, I ignore it. Sometimes I will get a rejection letter and the reasons for the rejection will seem ridiculous to me, or a knitter will write a particularly nasty comment about difficulties with the stitch count in one of my patterns, and I'll sigh and dwell on it a bit and then let it go. Because seriously. Life it too short.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Oh, I don't support myself through knitting alone, though knitting is becoming a larger portion of my income. Honestly, it's only since last February that I have pursued knitting design to the point that I can work only part-time at another job (or walk out of a job and not have to worry about rent for a month or two, ha ha). Since that point I've been designing and submitting constantly, rather than only when I was particularly inspired, as I had previously.
I don't know that I would want to support myself solely through knitting. I always want to be able to choose my projects and love each one, rather than feel the need to produce produce produce to pay the phone bill. I want to be able to turn down opportunities that don't interest me or aren't the right fit for my style.
Right now I'm working on a self-published collections of patterns that may make me some decent money. Or it may not. All I can say is that it is going to be crazy awesome and that I have loved knitting the projects.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
First, realize that no one owes you a living. The vast majority of artists, musicians, actors, dancers, and knitwear designers have other incomes. Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion about how underpaid knitwear designers are and how it is impossible to make a living through designing, but I would argue that this is the case in every field of the arts, and always has been. It may be unfair, but it is how things are. So pursue your knitting to the extent your job allows. If knitting starts paying, you may find that you can work part-time knitting and part-time doing something else.
Secondly, SUBMIT SUBMIT SUBMIT! Publication, in print or electronic form, will help you learn about pattern writing conventions, will show you how to work with a tech editor, and will give you visibility. My various experiences with publications have been invaluable in helping me to create self-published designs. As for rejections, remember that EVERYONE gets rejections. At least half my submissions are rejected in their initial form; however, some go on to be accepted and often very, very popular in other venues.
Finally, design the things YOU want. Because if you do, even if the submission is rejected and the self-published pattern doesn't sell well, you have something you love that you have made. And isn't that what drew all of us to knitting in the first place?