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. The second link below is to a site that supports a micro-business project that serves the poorest women in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It is a project that Vera and a partner are hoping to grow. Currently, she is designing patterns for Cascade Yarns as well as her independent designs.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find my inspiration from several different sources. I have a son who is a high fashion model who works in New York, Paris, Milan and South Africa. He tends to let me know fun fashion trends within the industry. My Amanda’s Wrap is a result of my conversations with my son, rectangular wraps and ponchos are really hot for Fall 2012.
Sometimes, I see a lace pattern or come across a technique such as the Estonian Braid (lateral braid) and I create a design around the lace or technique. My Bower Cardigan, (picture below) in Knitscene Summer 2012, is designed around a lace stitch and My Ricky for All Seasons (picture below) incorporates the Estonian Braid that I fell in love with.
Other times, I look around the high fashion boutiques or just people watch in Hollywood, where I live. My Favorite Hollywood Vest is an example of my fashion watching in Hollywood.
Also, I look through many fashion magazines from all over the world to keep an eye on trends. My Very Pretty Lace Beret is a result of the current beret fashion trend.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love garments that are constructed from the top-down. I love this technique because the garment can be tried on while it is being knitted and the knitter can make adjustments on-the-go to make a really nice fitting garment.
How did you determine your size range?
I am 6 feet (182 cm) tall and have never been petite. Personally, I wear a size 16/18 or XL. Even as a teenager, knitting, I always had to custom fit my knits since most patterns that I liked were too small for my built. Thus, when I design patterns, I try to design from sizes XS or S up to 4XL or 3XL. I want my knit patterns to fit a variety of sizes.
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I not only look at other designers’ work, when I just want to knit without having to crunch numbers, etc. I also knit their patterns. Most recently, I knit something from Amy Gunderson, Sarah Wilson (the Sexy Knitter), Stephen West or Jane Richmond because I like their designs.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I learned to knit 40 years ago from my great-grandmother in Germany. In Europe, patterns just give you the minimal amount of information with the assumption that a knitter will know “the rest”. I had the support of my great-grandmother and my mother (who owned a yarn store in Germany) to figure out these skeletal patterns. Other knitters are not so lucky to have that support.
I am a teacher by trade and thus, I love to teach others. In my patterns, I try to teach a techniques or I try to be as detailed in my explanations as possible so that inexperienced knitters can follow along. I also provide a lot of email support to anybody who needs assistance in knitting my patterns.
In my opinion, that is not “dumbing down” a pattern that is giving support to get another knitter to make a pattern that she/he would otherwise not be able to knit.
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit all of my samples myself. However, I have an awesome crew of test knitters who live all over the globe, Australia, Thailand, UK, Austria, Germany, Canada, Poland, Russia, aside from the U.S. All together, I have about 16 – 20 regular test knitters.
Did you do a formal business plan?
I do not have a formal business plan, though I try to publish about four patterns per month.
Do you have a mentor?
I have ongoing conversations with other designers. We support and encourage each other, which is something that I really appreciate. Also, I consider the knitters who make my patterns and who contact me, telling me that they love my designs, etc. to be my mentors. I have a group on Ravelry and the encouragement and mentorship from the knitters in my group is incredible.
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Another designer once mentioned in an interview that residual income from his many patterns is what he strives for. With the Internet, this is very much possible to build a business based on the ongoing pattern sales.
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
I have a design business because of the Internet, or rather because of Ravelry! Personally, I prefer to independently publish patterns and that would be very difficult without the Internet.
Do you use a Tech Editor?
If the pattern is complicated, I will use a tech editor. If a pattern is published through a magazine, the magazine employs a tech editor.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Knitting is my passion! Thus, knitting and designing is not work to me, it is relaxing and fun. My husband is super supportive of my knitting and designing and is probably my biggest fan. My children also know how to knit and to crochet. My youngest two – who are five and six – loom knit. My son and daughter who are 10 and 14, are avid knitters. My daughter who plays college basketball crochets whenever she has a chance. My son who is the fashion model knits as well… So we are a knitting and crocheting family.
Also, in addition to designing, I am the founder and executive director of “Fanm pou Fanm” (Women for Women). We teach crochet to women in Haiti who use crochet to set up small businesses. We also supply the yarn and sell crochet items, such as market bags, in the U.S. and Germany. 100% of the profit goes back to the women. My family and I lived in Haiti and survived the earthquake and resettled in the U.S. but many others did not have that opportunity. So, I am assisting other women in making a living through yarn.
As you can see knitting and crocheting is my life.
How do you deal with criticism?
I try to be receptive to constructive criticism because I can learn from that type of feedback. But, at the same time, each of my designs is like “my baby” and like any mother, we get our feelings hurt if our babies are criticized.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Designing is still my part-time business.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Pursue your dream and treat it like a business.