Friday, October 14, 2011

An Interview with...Stephanie Dosen

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. 

Pattern available here

You can find Stephanie here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I love to wander flea markets and find vintage trinkets.  The colors, the fabrics and shapes I see, inspire me.  I get inspired by films, the runways, by shapes in nature, forests, oceans, animals, fairy tales and dreamy illustrators like Aurthur Rackham.   

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I definitely love fulling wool.  I have to stop myself from throwing every single thing I make in the boiling water!  Felt just inspires me so much because of the structure and the endless possibilities.  I often get little notes about how scared people are to “felt” things so I’m constantly writing them notes to encourage them to give it a go!  I do remember that feeling too, it’s always an experiment and it totally excites me.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love seeing other’s work!  I love it when I see something that excites me, and then I want to knit it myself so I do!  I still buy a lot of patterns. When I worked at my local yarn shop, the day the Rowan, Rebecca, Vogue, or Interweave magazines came in was like a national holiday!  We all clamored for the boxes and ripped open like Christmas morning. I will never lose that excitement about seeing new things.  I don’t think it has a negative effect on me as a designer because I don’t generally do too many garments, so most of the things I see aren’t something I would be attempting to design anyway.  Of course there is always that moment when I see a design and smack my head and say “AH! Why didn’t I come up with that!”   

How do you feel about the so-called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I have to admit as a pattern writer I have a tendency to want to over-explain things.  I even find myself wanting to explain why I’ve chosen to do something a certain way, over another option.  There is method in all of this madness! I promise! Trust me fair knitter! But over time I have learned to edit and worked on my rhetoric to slim everything down.  I taught for so long that even now when I am writing patterns, I almost hear the customers in my head asking,  "So do they mean 4 repeats AFTER that? or just a total of 4 repeats?"  I always try to answer those little questions.  I like to take the extra time to clarify that doubt before we move on.  It is of course totally crucial to my pattern writing philosophy that I make myself perfectly clear, and know that anyone can sit down and follow my patterns.  And though I feel I am working with the knitter to make sure that they can actually “make the thing in the picture”, I do realize they don’t want to stop to read a story about my cats in the middle of it.   

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
These days I like to have 5 or 6 people test out my patterns before I release them.  I also like to have them tech-edited.  I have heard the argument that a good pattern writer doesn’t really need testers, but I find the questions my testers come up with very interesting.  There will always be someone who looks at the instructions from a different angle, and I really value that input before I release the pattern.  The more reliable the pattern is, the less work and strife there is later for everyone. I know errata are inevitable.  But I think of them like cavities.  I don’t want them, so I brush a little longer.

Do you have a mentor?
I worked at my local yarn shop for several years and so I have lots of heroes.  We had a large shop and an incredibly experienced team of employees.  I thought of them like my mother owls!  They leaned over me and taught me and inspired me constantly for years.  Just sitting here now, I realize how lucky I was to have such an amazing group of women to teach me!  It almost felt like I was a young member of a tribe in a knitting village.  Everyone gave me so much and I’m forever thankful for all of my mentors.  ((Pam, Andrea, Robin, Sue, Deb, Peggy, Joyce, Joelle, Mary Bit, Alice and Morgan)) Thank you!

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Without the Internet I wouldn’t have a business at all.  I don’t have dreams to open a shop, yet I’m taking payments everyday.  It’s a miracle and I thank my lucky stars every single day for Ravelry and Etsy and for the knitting community.  Now we are tied together online and can share our projects with each other and propel the art of knitting.  How many patterns and projects have gone unseen in the past?  Now they are coming out online and we can share them with each other, its like looking through everyone's hope chests, I love it! 

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I must admit that I really don’t.  I moved to England from the States 5 years ago and since then my life has really been about my work, so I really need to work on that!  Wait, did I just say that I need to “work” on that? Yeah, I think I might work too much. 

Pattern available here

How do you deal with criticism?
I had to deal with the idea of criticism in the music business first.  At first, after shows and album releases we would run to the papers, magazines and the net and read all of the reviews.  However, I quickly learned that even if a review is good, the one bad thing someone might say can easily overpower anything else said.  On the Internet, everyone is a critic, and everyone gets criticized for something at some point.  Even if it’s just a picture posted on facebook etc.  I started realizing that all of the things everyone says about me just don’t really matter to my life.  I stopped googling my name and asked my family and record label to stop sending me reviews.  It wasn’t that the reviews were bad, they were mostly good, but I realized that the only person I can please is myself.  And so the reviews, be they good or bad, had to lower in importance for me.  If I have to throw out the bad reviews, then I should really throw out the good reviews too.  So I threw them all out!  I’m too sensitive to read all that stuff and not take it personally anyway.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
From the day I wrote my first pattern to the day I could pay my bills from them was 5 years.  Eternal thanks to Ravelry and Deep South Fibers!

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Don’t stop working for even a minute.  It’s easy to think that the successful designers just “magically succeed” without lots of work, but it isn’t true.  I was able to have a little chat with one of the most amazing and successful young designers, Ysolda, in London a couple years ago and I asked her about her work schedule.  She told me that she works from 10 am to 2 am every day.  I looked at my work schedule in comparison and realized I was working maybe half that much!  I was so inspired by what she said, I gave myself a challenge right then and there to try it out for a year and see what happened.  I put in the work and by the end of the year I looked back over my body of work and felt really proud of what I had accomplished.  Thanks Ysolda! Kiss kiss kiss. 

Pattern available here


  1. She is such a lovely, generous person! Thanks for doing this interview ♥

    ~Thumbelina139 on Rav

  2. lovely interview with a lovely lady. thank you! :)

  3. thanks robin!
    these were great questions and really fun to answer! :D
    hugs and kisses

  4. Very interesting interview with a wonderfully creative person! Thank you both.