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. Audrey has just published a new book on reversible scarves that includes 31 patterns executed in a variety of techniques. You can see all of them here.
Where do you find inspiration?
My favorite inspiration comes from stitch dictionaries. I’ve been known to wake up in the morning with one or two in my bed, as I’ve fallen asleep dreaming about what to design next! Other times I may be inspired by a particular painting or photos from the fashion industry.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
I divide my knitting into two categories, social knitting and solo knitting. I adore knitting with friends; while laughing and chatting I need something simple. During quiet times alone, I love the challenge of intricate cables or lace.
Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love looking at other designers’ work. I’m in awe of so many clever designs out there. Others’ work prompts me to learn more; I always want to improve.
Could you tell us about your new book, Reversible Scarves: Curing the Wrong Side Blues?
It used to drive me crazy when I made scarves for friends and they invariably wore them with the wrong side facing out. I discovered the joy of reversible patterns, and proceeded to write the book I wish I had on my own shelf.
I wanted lots of diversity, so I include techniques from very simple knit-purl, to cables, to lace, to double knitting. Knitters who have seen my book and trunk show seem delighted when I show them scarves that look complex, but are really very easy to create. For example, I wrote the double-knitting patterns in a way that didn’t require a new technique to be learned; they use just knit, purl and slip stitches. Some of my patterns with ribs on one side and lace on the other are favorites. I wanted the book to appeal to beginning to intermediate knitters, yet also have patterns that appeal to those with more advanced skills. I also want the book to spark the creativity of knitters who want to design their own versions of the scarves. I wrote “Make It Your Own” sidebars for each chapter with hints on designing your own versions or using yarns from your stash for different effects.
I hope that people who buy my book will turn to it many times over the years. With over 30 patterns and variations, knitters should be able to find a pattern that suits everyone they’d like to knit a scarf for, including themselves!
How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
The wonderful thing about the explosive popularity of knitting is there is something for everyone. As a designer, I like to keep my target audience in mind. I wrote the patterns in my book with a bit more instruction than absolutely necessary because I want the knitting to be fun and relaxing. Some of my single patterns that are geared toward more advanced skill sets are written more concisely.
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
For my book, over a dozen test knitters had their hands in swatching and/or making samples. For my single patterns, I use a core group of four or five. I never send a pattern out there without its being test knitted first. I had an instance recently where one test knitter had no problem at all with one of my patterns, yet the second one came up with excellent questions that I then used to improve the instructions’ clarity. I want to be able to improve on any ambiguous instructions so that the people who so kindly buy my patterns don’t have to waste their time.
Do you have a mentor?
I have a “mentor in life”, who encourages me and also calls me on my wrong-headedness when necessary! Her insights have helped me keep going when I’ve had doubts about my designing. In the knitting world, many people who didn’t even know me took time from busy schedules to encourage me to write my book. Myra Wood sat with me at a Stitches event one year and gave me the straight scoop on how all-consuming writing a book is. Elaine Rowley gave me a large chunk of her time at another Stitches event, encouraging to keep going after I had the basic idea for my book figured out. And Elise Duvekot let me walk with her between classes, answering questions I had about getting published. That these women were knitting goddesses in my eyes, and their generosity with time and advice meant the world to me.
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
In my case, Ravelry opened the door to the Internet. It served as a platform to sell my early patterns, and exposed me to fantastic designers and endless possibilities for learning. Online magazines have been a boon as well. I was fortunate enough to have a pattern in Knitty.com, which generated a lot of interest.
Do you use a tech editor?
Absolutely! My tech editors have always caught mistakes, even when I’m sure I’ve turned in the “perfect” pattern. They have suggested better ways to phrase things, or caught errors in my math. I owe it to anyone who sends me money for a pattern to have it tech edited to be the best it can be. I self-publish patterns as the AudKnits line, and I want knitters to have confidence that AudKnits patterns will be a pleasure to make.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I don’t have children, but I do have aging relatives whose care needs a lot of my attention. I’m fortunate to have an understanding husband, since when I’m not overseeing my elders’ care, I’m knitting, designing, or promoting my book. To accommodate my knitting obsession I’ve adopted the saying, “Balance is For Sissies.”
How do you deal with criticism?
Sometimes I bristle, I must admit. But I’m fortunate to have people around me whose criticism is kind and thoughtful, and whose instincts I trust. Eventually I realize they’re right.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I do not make enough income from knitting to cover the expenses of yarn, tech editing, and sample knitting. I’m fortunate to be retired and not have to rely on my knitting income. My hat is off to those who can produce enough top-notch patterns quickly enough to be able to support themselves.