Friday, June 8, 2012

An Interview with...Aoibhe Ní
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 Aoibhe here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
No one place, I'm afraid. I find that until I have "met" a certain yarn in person, I can't visualize anything for it, but once it's in my hands, I often know what to do. Usually, I'll start with a vague shape, play with the yarn for a while, and then it all comes together.

What is your favourite crochet technique?
Linked stitches, and Tunisian-lace. I am having a blast at the moment experimenting with new, lacy shawls.
Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I have a funny habit where this is concerned, actually. I try not to look at too much crochet when I'm designing, just in case I am influenced, but I will spend time admiring knitted shawls. I believe crochet has much to gain by examining knitting as it has a more venerable history. Crochet is still so young as crafts go, so it's a very exciting time to be a part of it! Inspiration can be sought everywhere.
How many sample/test crocheters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I am lucky to have a great band of women from around the world who test my patterns with me. They give me great feedback, and we refine the text together. I don't consider a pattern complete until it has been through their hands.

Do you have a mentor?
Not really, but I do have great respect for the work of a huge number of designers, and have a few whose advise I would seek.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The impact can't be quantified! If it wasn't for the 'net I'd not be doing what I am. Discovering Ravelry, and the opportunities available to rookie designers therein gave me the courage to try it out for myself. Now, I do almost all of my business online, and the bits I don't, like workshops and classes, tend to be booked on-line.
Do you use a tech editor?
No. I have trawled through about 4 or 5 in my time, and none of them suited me. I thought, at first, it must be them not understanding or not caring about the details, but these days I reckon that is a naive view and that I just don't suit them. Now, I just avoid tech editors in favour of test-crocheters who know their stuff. Working through my designs with a dedicated group has many benefits. Mostly, it ensures that I am fully aware of any change, and become more knowledgeable about my own patterns, too, which helps when answering customer's questions.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Up until very recently, I didn't. It was all work, work, work. But now, after about a year, I find myself in a position where taking days off is necessary. So, now, I make sure Sunday is a total day off, that I make time to see my family and friends, and I swim twice a week. Having a schedule that dictates when you "must" rest is my way to loosen my grip on the reigns a bit.

How do you deal with criticism?
Oh, pretty well, I hope! My testers don't hold back when it comes to flaws in my writing, and I love them for that. If they spot something, it needs to be fixed. I don't think I am too precious with my original text, so by the time it comes to release, it's pretty solid. After that, if people have problems, I will listen. If enough have the same problem, then it's time to fix it.

Constructive criticism is a great gift. It means someone has actually taken the time to explain what you could have done better. I have to appreciate that effort.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
After a year of very hard work, I'm just at that point, now. It's taken a lot. I designed my own website from scratch, I do all my own layout, editing and pattern graphic design work and all the charts I use, too. I design my own ads, moderate my Ravelry forum, and I answer all the questions that come my way. I have spent a year living and breathing my design, my patterns and my work in general, but I have enjoyed every minute of it.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting? 
You have got to love it. You have to love the tough days, when the stitch counts just don't make sense. You have to love the criticism.You have to love the mistakes you make, and when you realize it's time to go back to square one. You have to appreciate your customers, and your testers and let them know that their efforts are valued.

Essentially, this isn't a job so much as a vocation. I'd do it anyway, but I'm lucky enough that I can make a living out of it, too.

All photos from Julie at

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