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.
Deborah is the author of Finishing School: A Master Class. She will be the opening day speaker at STITCHES East in Hartford in October. She will also be appearing at Vogue Live in Chicago in October where she will present a new class in drawing, as well as her finishing classes.
As if all that was not enough to keep her busy, she is writing a regular column for Vogue Knitting about-- what else? -- finishing!
You can find Deborah here and her books here.
Where do you find inspiration?
I am primarily a garment-driven designer, with a strong interest in fabric and texture. I tend to want to explore a garment shapes: I am still, after 30 years, interested in the 3-dimensional nature of garments.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
One of my favorite parts of knitting is the finishing process, where all the details of a project come together in a perfect whole. I wrote a book about this and it is called FINISHING SCHOOL, A MASTER CLASS FOR KNITTERS. The book was chosen last year for Amazon’s Top Ten Craft books. I LOVE finishing—and it does include a variety of techniques! I wrote the book in order to share my enthusiasm for the process. Over the years I have learned many ways of doing things well, and easily, and I wanted to present these things as well!
How did you determine your size range?
I feel each garment needs to be considered separately: I do not have one size range that is etched in stone. Also, since I design mostly for magazines and yarn companies, often I have to meet their needs and standards.
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I see a lot of knitted work—it is impossible not to when you are in the industry-- but since most of my ideas come from other kinds of non-knitted garments, and my own personal interests, I have no problem with seeing the work of other designers. I try very hard to be imaginative and not necessarily trend-oriented. I call my style “Quirky-Classic”.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I have not heard of this. I have never dumbed-down a pattern in my life: I believe in the innate creatively and curiosity of knitters. Many of my designs are very complicated but I pride myself on writing patterns that are clear and easy to understand.
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I work with many knitters at any given time—wonderful knitters-- local and far away-- that I have worked with for decades in most cases. And I also knit samples myself when I am exploring new territory and want to learn with the work in my hands.
Did you do a formal business plan?
My plan is to do the best job I can with each project at hand.
Do you have a mentor?
I have always admired the editorial accuracy and creativity of Barbara G. Walker.
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I have no model—I just do the work I love and so far it has proven to be a successful way of being a part of the industry.
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Easy communication has made my job MUCH easier. Plus I have had the pleasure of meeting and sharing with others in a way that was no possible before the internet—it is more fun!
Do you use a tech editor?
For many years I did all my tech work—it is certainly the best way to learn. But when I wanted to devote myself to designing after mastering the tech end of things, I started working in tandem with a tech editor. Since I do a lot of magazine/print work, I also work with staff tech editors.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I juggle a LOT of work, and put in a lot of hours every day — writing, garment design, fabric development-- but since I tend to crave complexity, it suits me. I try to have a lot going on in my life beyond work. I have a wonderful family, and a dog and cat. I also garden, am a longtime Iyengar yoga student, and I spend a lot of time at my other job, which is a family map business. I keep in touch with a lot of friends. I take a long walk in the city every day. I love being in the ocean. I love the city I live in: Providence, RI. I love to eat!
How do you deal with criticism?
I am grateful for criticism— it shines a light on my work and often makes me think in new ways.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I can’t say I support myself with my design work, even now, after 30 years as a very high-profile freelancer. I crave other kinds of work and I also share a family map business with my brother, who is a cartographer, which helps round out my income:
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I have no real specific business advice since I feel everyone is so different. I like change and diversity in work: I like to juggle a lot of things at once, and I find I get more done that way. Some people like one project at a time, and that suits them. I suggest that people do what they love! Design and knit what interests you! And above all, be precise and dignified—not sloppy or demanding. Meet your deadlines. And be willing to take advice and meet the needs of other people, in addition to pleasing yourself.