Design What You Love

There is some interesting discussion in Ravelry regarding submitting to magazines, and a question came up regarding whether to submit to magazines you hate. My personal opinion on this is two-fold: life is to short to engage in things that you truely hate. After that, recognize that as a Designer there are a number of options and niches open to you. What are your goals? Do you want to be seen everywhere and anywhere? How do you want to grow your business? What kinds of Designs do you love to do? How do you challenge yourself as a designer?

I will be the first to admit my first goal is not quantity. I work part time and that is my primary income. However, I have to be profitable in my design business, as I cannot afford to truely subsidize it from our family budget.

What am I looking for as a Designer in an job? I want to be challenged and inspired. I won’t produce a design I don’t love. Period, end of story, no discussion, no compromise. Does this mean I won’t design outside my norm? Absolutely not. I can love good design that is outside my normal realm. I can appreciate different types of beauty. I know when a design is good and when it is not. When it is good, I love it. When it is not, I don’t. I am not happy with it until it is complete. When it is complete, it feels done. It tells me I can let go of it. My mind no longer wraps around it. It moves on to the next design.

You will never see me slap something together that a monkey could do. Yes, I know there is money in that. I don’t care. I don’t want my Design Name built on that.

Ann Budd recently told me that my designs are always on target, in reference to a design recently sent to them (I have just completed the 5th project I have done for Interweave). Now that is what I want to be known for. Not the volume of simple, mindless things I can churn out that I don’t like knitting myself. I am not trying to be a Diva, again I just feel life is too short.

I don’t have enough time to do all the designs I have swatches for anyway, let alone put my resources into projects I would end up hating. My idea of a simple project, after all, is something like my Three Flowers pattern or Elizabeth I. While I know people enjoy fun fur scarves and I am happy for them, I don’t myself so you will not see me doing one just to make money off of people.

Besides, I am really retarded when it comes to combining novelty yarns. They don’t inspire me. I can admire them in the ball, but the knitting I love is not conducive to using that kind of yarn. Am I less of a Designer because I don’t push that envelope? Because I don’t design anything? Why should I? The knitting world is large enough with plenty of Designers who enjoy novelty yarns and do amazing things with them. Can they do the same things with traditional yarns that I do? Maybe, maybe not. I would hazard a guess that if they loved it, they would be doing it.

There is an adage in writing, to write what you know. This does not mean that you should never stretch, learn, grow, try new things. It means you should be true to yourself, whatever that is, and to be unashamed. There is a balance between learning, taking in and incorporating, and staying rigidly withing your own narrow margins…that balance between keeping your style fresh and not knowing what your style is. Or simply doing something completely different because you want to. If you have been inspired to, I think that is really where you grow as a Designer. There is much more creative energy in those situations. I guess I believe there is more to good design than a formula. Yes, there are theories and fundamentals and rules and all that. But there has to be a spark there too. If there wasn’t anyone could memorize those rules and theories and be the next Coco Channel, Vera Wang, or any other big name Designer with a capitol “D” (in their cases really, really big “D”s).

I will unashamedly offer you what I love, in every design. It will not be something created soley to earn a quick dollar or two, although of course Designs are made with an eye towards an income (they have to be marketable, after all, or as a Designer you cannot continue to design). They will be thoughtful, and deliberate. They will have a story behind them. They will have substance and meaning. They will have a piece of me in every stitch. They will have details that make the garment look better, because care is taken with where stitch patterns stop and start at the seams, and attention is given to what happens to the stitch pattern at the armhole shaping. They will have attention paid to details that really do make it a Designer garment.

I am a Designer with a capitol “D”…not a designer. I am more than a technician, I am an artist. I am a studio artist whose medium is knitting, and my abstract art looks like a classic handknit that is trendy enough the pattern can be a popular seller for years and still look fresh. Any of you who have my patterns and read the section “Behind the Design” know I love to tell the story behind the design. What has inspired it, some of the desing choices that were made and why. And yes, it really is abstract art.

Do I submit to books and magazines? I do. Mostly to books because their time frames are more in keeping with what I can do in a sane manner and work part time. Besides, I love working with Interweave. I have been on the calls for submissions list for XRX for several years, and keep thinking about submitting but have not yet. I like Rick Mondragon, and generally I like the magazine. The biggest factor for me has been time.

I like having my own line of pattern leaflets and being able to work at my own pace. Part of having my own line is the freedom to use the yarns I want to use. I don’t choose yarns that are wildly out of reach, although I know some are expensive.  But I like being able to choose each design element. With a magazine, there is always the chance that the yarn can get changed. It can happen with books too, although that has not happened as much (on a personal level). When I submit to a publisher though, I really look at the yarn I am using in the first place. This helps cut down on substitutions.

What is next for me? Adding things in my pattern line that I don’t have yet, or as much of. Designs in lighter weight yarns, children’s designs, more men’s designs, and color work. More lace. More warm weather designs. Also a book submission.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace


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