Friday, December 26, 2014

An Interview with...Betty Salpekar

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find Betty here and here on Ravelry, her Ravelry group is here. The website for her book can be found here. 

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! But I seem particularly attuned to repeating patterns. I remember sitting as a child at adult gatherings where I had be still and quiet, and I would amuse myself by staring at the upholstery, draperies, wallpaper, etc. until I could figure out the pattern repeats.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I really never met one I didn't like. But currently I'm particularly fond of traveling stitch, stranded color work, and brioche.

Could you tell us about the process of writing your book Solefull Socks and the new technique you developed?
It all started because I wanted to find a way to keep my hand-knitted socks from developing holes on the sole just where the reinforcement yarn ended. What finally worked best was to carry along the reinforcement yarn on the whole sole, not just part of the heel and part of the toe. The best way to do that was to knit the sole in full first, by itself, before any of the rest of the sock. That not only solved my problem, but it was great fun to have the whole sock top available as an unbroken design canvas, with no flaps to make or stitches to pick up. Even better, the way the top is constructed allows stitch patterns — even just simple stripes — to merge,  diverge, bend, and develop in unique and exciting ways. 

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I've never found it possible to avoid seeing other designers' work. In fact, I delight in other people's creativity and innovation — makes me proud to be human! But I do consciously try to avoid doing anything similar to other people's work. If I see something that is like an idea I've had, I don't mind discarding my idea and going on to another project. But nobody can keep up with everything out there, of course, and inevitably similar things will occasionally emerge without either designer having seen the other's work.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
It's difficult these days to find a balance between clarity and too much detail. I take great pains to write my patterns as clearly as possible without making them too long and without insulting my readers' intelligence. I know that knitters are smart, logical people capable of learning new things.

Do you have a mentor?
I have found that there is always something I can learn from every knitter I have a chance to talk with, regardless of their experience level. There is always something they know that I don't know. In that sense, we are all mentors to each other!

How are you using social media to grow your business?
That is my challenge of the moment. I think social media has a lot of potential which I am barely even aware of, and I would like to learn how to use it more. What little I've done with it is kind of fun.

Do you use a tech editor?
Definitely — would never think of not using one. Jamie McCanless is my favorite, and he did a yeoman job on my book.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
That takes practice but I think I'm finally getting the hang of it. I make lots of lists, which helps both with planning and perspective. And I put a high priority on finding at least a little time each day for exercise, especially walking, and for knitting something relaxing.

How do you deal with criticism?
That's always difficult — some days more than other days. But I have found that knitters are generally kind and willing to try to understand another viewpoint. They're really pretty impressive!

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Luckily, it was never my goal to support myself with knitting or writing.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Try not to lose the joy of knitting, even after it becomes a job. 

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