Friday, July 15, 2011

An Interview with...Stephannie Tallent

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 Stephannie here and here.

Where do you find inspiration?
Sometimes I find it while learning new techniques, stitch patterns etc – I’ll learn or see something really nifty and want to incorporate into a design. What I’m starting to do more now, since I’m focusing on collections as opposed to single patterns, is to decide upon an overall theme, create a mood board (this part is really fun for me), then go from there.  The themes come from all sorts of things, but of the three I’m currently working on, one is an architectural and design style, one is inspired by a particular film director, and the other an area and time period.

What is your favourite knitting technique?  
I love cables and Bavarian twisted stitches best – no surprise there!  But I also like stranding and lace.

How did you determine your size range?  
For women’s sweaters, I try to offer XS-3X.  That sometimes means having a multitude of charts & stitch pattern variations to keep things proportional.  I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on having larger sizes (and for modeling the sweaters in larger sizes).


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

I sometimes do.  I don’t worry about being influenced.  It’s fun to see what other people are coming up with.  It’s gotten to be more a matter of lack of time.  I am trying to do more book reviews and participate in more blog tours, so I do get to see more that way.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?  
Hm.  I get the impression that the more popular patterns are simpler (as well as free), at least when you look at Ravelry and the popular projects. However, I hope and believe there’s a market for intermediate patterns.  Having said that, I really don’t like classifying patterns as beginner, intermediate, etc.  I try to list skills required for my patterns rather than classifying them.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?  
I just graduated to having sample knitters!  Right now I have 2 fantastic people giving me a hand with samples.  I also have a group of people who’ve tested for me in the past who are actively testing new patterns.


Did you do a formal business plan?  
I have a plan that outlines goals, design plans, etc.  It includes some information regarding advertising and marketing, but it’s not a business plan per se.

Do you have a mentor?  
Not formally.  I had one assigned while AKD was still around, and she was very helpful.  I have several other people of whom I can ask questions.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

No.  I think this business – designing – has so many options right now.  It’d be nice, honestly, to have some resources with specific examples on this.  Shannon Okey’s book (The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design) is extremely useful, but it doesn’t (and can’t) cover everything (and it’s already 254 pages!).

What impact has the Internet had on your business?  
Well, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have gotten into this without Ravelry, let alone the Internet.  

Do you use a Tech Editor?  

Absolutely.  I tech edit myself, and I swap tech editing with a couple other designer/editors.  I would never dream of releasing a pattern without it being seen by an editor.  I think when you’re designing a pattern, you get into it so deeply that your eyes just gloss over errors, typos, etc.  Maybe, just maybe, if you sit that pattern on a shelf and don’t look at for several months, then work on a bunch of things in between, you can go back and edit it, but…

How do you maintain your life/work balance?  
Not very well; it’s something I need to work on.  I consider myself a ‘laidback Type A’ – kinda like in Harry Met Sally, when Harry’s telling Sally she’s the worst sort –  high maintenance who thinks she’s low maintenance.  Working from home, if I’m home I feel like I should working, and there’s an endless list of things to do ancillary to design work, let alone all the designing and knitting.  

How do you deal with criticism?

Ugh.  Not well.  I take it to heart.

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

Hah.  I’ll let you know in a couple of years, if ever.  Honesty, I make more in a couple days of vet work than in a month of design work and tech editing.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Learn as much as you can about your chosen area, and keep learning.

Be in a situation where you don’t need to rely upon any income from it (whether that means you have a second job, someone who supports you, you’re retired otherwise with enough savings, etc).

1 comment:

  1. Nice interview. Steph does some tech editing for me and I've never seen what she looks like! Thanks.