All photos included are copyright Zoë Lonergan
Where do you find inspiration?
What is your favourite knitting technique?
How did you determine your size range?
Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Could you tell us a little about your recent book Knits that Breathe?
Knits That Breathe is the culmination of a year I spent experimenting with alternative fibers such as Tencel, SeaCell, milk, and soy, as well as fibers derived from various plants such as bamboo, cotton, and linen. All the fiber blends in the book are known for their cooling, moisture-wicking, draping, and fast-drying properties... just what I needed. And I quickly realized that if garments made from these yarns meant that I could wear my hand knits again, then there must be thousands of other knitters who would also appreciate the results of my research. In addition to knitters who live in warm climates, and knitters who either run hot all the time or are going through menopause, I factored in knitters who are sensitive to wool and find it itchy. So Knits That Breathe is for them, too!
The projects are stylish and comfortable, and designed to flatter a wide range of figures. Many include lace panels that provide their own air-conditioning. All the yarns used for the designs were widely available as the book went to press.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
Many knitters today, with the wealth of information, photos, and tutorials available to them, are challenging themselves to create complex and beautiful projects as never before. While I make a tremendous effort to ensure that my patterns are clear and detailed, I also hope that knitters will seek out any additional assistance they need to achieve the successful completion of a project. That means using all the resources available to them, from the Internet to the LYS to their own knitting group. It's frustrating when a self-proclaimed "beginner" knitter emails me with request like this one: "I've never worked from a chart before, but I want to make your pattern 'XYZ.' Please tell me how to use charts so I can make this project."
I never want to discourage a knitter from making one of my designs, and I don't believe in "dumbing down" patterns because that often results in less interesting end products. I do believe in providing the tools a knitter needs to work one of my patterns with success, such as including stitch patterns in written row-by-row as well as charted formats. However, my confidence in both knitters and in my detailed directions implies that knitters won't be lazy about using all available resources for information. To that end, I'm slowly developing a series of tutorials to post on my website. These will provide tips and extra details about the techniques I use in my books and patterns, so that I can contribute to the existing knowledge base. My pact with knitters is that they'll be proactive and take advantage of that knowledge base to advance their skill set.
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Do you have a mentor?
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Do you use a tech editor?
How do you maintain your life/work balance?With one grown child who no longer lives at home and an understanding husband who also works hard, I'm lucky to have the time and flexibility to put in as many hours as I need. As a morning person, I do most of my pattern writing and editing early in the day. Much of what I do doesn't feel like work even though it is; knitting on long car trips, swatching in front of the TV at night, surfing Ravelry on my phone while waiting on lines, etc. I love to cook, so my husband and I have dinner together at home most nights - no phones on the table, no TV on in the background; just conversation and catching up. It's a ritual that helps me to turn off the work part of my brain at the end of the day. I also schedule time to see friends and family - that balance is important, but it requires conscious effort on my part.
How do you deal with criticism?
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
A career in knitting is not for the faint of heart, and requires energy, inspiration, and ingenuity in spades. Even a designer who seems to have sprung up overnight into celebrity status probably spent a year or more laying the groundwork for his or her success. Having a head for business is as important as having the creative spark because if you don't know how to budget and market yourself, that business goal will likely remain a fantasy.
There's so much competition in the hand knitting design arena that the bar is set high - making it even more essential to be an active part of the community by posting your projects on Ravelry, by creating your own website, and by having your designs published in some of the many knitting publications both online and in print to get your name in front of other knitters. If you love to teach others and have mastered specific techniques for which there is a large audience, approach your LYS with an offer to teach a class. Go online and learn the submission requirements of knitting industry publications. Work up half a dozen patterns and samples to submit, and remember that good photographs will help you sell them!