Sunday, April 8, 2012

Designer…I am Humbled by That Term


I recently came across a pretty cool blog titled:

How to become a Professional Knitter - Robin Hunter Designs

A knitting blog about career transition, personal development and the search for fulfillment.

I haven’t had the time to dive into the blog fully and discover who Robin is, but one of her weekly features is an interview with a designer. 

I am humbled by the term designer, because I don’t really consider myself worthy of being labeled a designer.  Yet I found this interesting and vaguely pertaining to me.

I was so interested that I have copied her list of questions and thought I would answer them as a way for my 4 followers to get to know me a little more.  But seriously folks…can’t we do something about that 4? 

I don’t believe I have even met 2 of them.   The remaining two are wonder and dedicated fiber artist that I will hopefully get to see in the next month of so.  hey ya’ll.

So if my old math serves me correctly – in that list I am missing a spouse, up to 3 offspring and a handful of miscellaneous friends that DON’T appear to have any intentions of “Following” me…

So here are Robin’s questions with my responses and I hope my 4 “followers” enjoy…


Where do you find inspiration?

I often find my inspiration from people and more specifically in a specific person. 

That person could be a close family member, a friend or a complete stranger. 

I usually have an idea floating around, but need the “muse” to develop the look and the storyline that goes with the look and/or inspiration. 

I am sure that as I develop – my style will develop and narrow to fit me.

What is your favorite knitting technique?

Recently I have been loving  the Tubular cast-on and tubular Bind-off.  Visually, the CO and BO are almost identical.  If the project calls for this end-end symmetry, Tubular is the way to go.

But mostly I stay pretty simple.  I find the standard stockinette stitch almost sexy with the simple, smoothness of the lines.

How did you determine your size range?

The PC answer would be - time limitations restrict how much I am able to do. 

I generally stick to the 0-10 dress size range and try to pattern for the average - ideal…not the unrealistic/unhealthy runway model or Barbie.

The not so PC answer would be – because I am knitting more outside of the box with fitted knitwear that hugs the body.

I don’t spend much time on the larger sizes.   There are a million and one designers out there that fit that knitting genre and I don’t want to try and compete with them.   

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?

I love to look at what others are up to…but I really don’t that often. 

I tend to be all over the board with my style. I don’t hold onto just one “fashion style” or look.  So I guess I am afraid of their genius creeping into my style or vision. 

It kind of relates back to my inspiration.  The beautiful, long, dark hair and olive skin may direct me towards one look – while a short haired blond that stands 5’ 8” and loves the outdoors may scream something completely opposite.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?

I don’t really know how to respond to that…

Since I don’t have a history of  knitting, I tend to knit with a very non-traditional mindset.  One could probably argue that I do more to validate the “dumbing down” than visa-versa -  I don’t believe that to be true.

While I do attempt to write a pattern with as much information as one could possibly need, it still amazes me with the questions I do receive. 

I am not faulting necessarily  the reader of the pattern, because I also have a tendency to “…not see the forest through the trees…”

And I realize that my style of pattern writing will attract some and repel others. 

I encourage pushing “your” comfort zone and try to discipline myself to do the same. 

But when a person focuses too much on the worded details, it can often be difficult to see the big picture. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?

At this time I do it mostly myself – enter the little violins.

I had one hat test knit, and it was very helpful. 

I have very recently met a wonderful lady that is willing to do some test knitting for me. 

My immediate impression of her was – this is someone that is detail oriented, but has the experience to consider what I meant to say and what I actually wrote.  

Did you do a formal business plan?

No…no I didn’t. 

I have done business plans before and realize that my business instructor from college would just shake his head at me and walk away disappointed.

I have always felt that a business plan inspires all sorts of thoughts at the foundation level, and creating a good business plan forces you to consider what you are doing and why, but they tend to fall into that proverbial box keep referring to and they become a boorish personal forum. 

Do you have a mentor?

As of now I don’t but always looking. 

I have spent a little time with people but just haven’t found that perfect one that becomes regular/consistent. 

Stirring the pot a little – I also think that as a generational thing, the knitters that have so much to offer me, are often more skeptical or reserved because of my gender, but that is an entirely different discussion. 

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Not intentionally. 

The business grows as money allows…the designing happens as ideas inspire. 

So as a new designer (it feels very awkward to say that) the money is more limited than the ideas - so I hang onto that.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

The internet is another tool for a business to use, but it is not the end all. 

I started the business well after Al Gore had done the initial ground work on inventing the internet. So the internet has always been there for me with this business.

At this time I have been limited/or limiting myself to local personal selling.  For good or bad – selling myself.

I am slowly reaching out as time and money allow and would like to move into the larger city market. 

Do you use a Tech Editor?

Again, at this time those shoes are filled by yours truly. Right – wrong – or indifferent,  this is very time and labor intensive for me. 

Since I change hats frequently to fit the task at hand, I spend a tremendous amount of time knitting, test knitting and re-knitting, because of this. 

But I am learning a lot.  

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

I struggle with this daily.  Since I don’t have the commitment of young children, I have a tendency to over do it and am working on that “balance” issue as we speak. 

How do you deal with criticism?

Also a work in progress…

I try not to take others “opinions” (and that is what they are) too personally.  But how can I not?

I put so much of myself into each piece that I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt. 

For those of you that are familiar with “Project Runway” I completely understand the designers having a melt down after the runway and the criticism that follows.

I poured my heart and time into this…I am exhausted and need to refuel…and along comes the critics. 

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?

Have you been listened to anything I’ve said.   It is nothing for me to spend 150 hours or more on one design with swatches, test knits, pattern and then there are the materials.  That would be over 3 weeks of flipping burgers at some fast food.  Even if I wished for minimum wage, I would have to sell over 300 digital patterns to just break even. 

I am not self supporting and honestly don’t think I ever will.  At this time I only hope that the business becomes self supporting and that my wife keeps me around.

I will goes as far as to question the validity when most of these people believe their business is…

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?

Fill out an application at McDonalds and save yourself a lot of frustration. 

But if you are one of the bi-polar artistic few that lives to create and is willing to self sacrifice as a starving artist – start small, move slowly, think big.


ps.  check Robin out!


  1. Count me in as one of your followers!
    Would love for you to come back to VT and weave with us or just sit around knitting. Fiber people are such friendly people.

  2. Thank you for your kind words Margaret...I wish I could come back, I had so much fun that week and think about you often.

    I have never wove that many hours straight and still have that much fun!

    I wonder if we could remove the longitude between Illinois and New York so the destinations were a little closer...

    I really need to talk with you soon via email.

  3. Ahem. Pity party much? I'm subscribed to you via Google Reader. So there.

  4. hey, it's been a rough couple of weeks, what can I say.