Craft a successful business. Do what matters. Get the free resources:

knitwear designer

Retreat organizer and knitwear designer Varian Brandon

Today I'm delighted to be talking to retreat organizer and knitwear designer Varian Brandon. She shares how she got started designing, what a normal workday is like, and how she deals with the Comparison Trap. Varian's a member of the Starship (which is open now!) and we discuss how it's shaped how she thinks about her business. Listen in at TaraSwiger.com/podcast99/

Play

Today I'm delighted to be talking to retreat organizer and knitwear designer Varian Brandon. She shares  how she got started designing, what a normal workday is like, and how she deals with the Comparison Trap. Varian's a member of the Starship (which is open now!) and we discuss how it's shaped how she thinks about her business. If you loved this episode, hang out with Varian on Periscope!

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

There's no transcript for this episode since it's an interview, but you can sign up below to get transcripts of all the other podcasts!

Interview with Jill Wolcott, designer and teacher

JillWolcott

Play

Jill Wolcott is a knitter designer at Jill Wolcott Knits, a knitting instructor (she recently taught on Craftsy) and a teacher at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco, CA.

We discuss:

  • A love of math
  • How her work as a designer affects her knitting design
  • Doing what you want vs. what people will buy
  • The lessons learned in a “failed” project

Jill mentions that she's a member of the Starship. You can sign up (for free!) to learn more here.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

Adventures in Business with Designer, Instructor and Author Karen Whooley

Today I'm happy to share the adventures of Starship Captain Karen Whooley. Karen is a nationally recognized crochet and knit designer, author and instructor from the Pacific Northwest.  She wears many other hats, too, including Wife of 25 years, Mom of two teens, Bon Jovi Fan, NFL Football Fanatic, Gym Rat and Italian Cook. You can find Karen on her website, Twitter, and Instagram.

People have this fantasy of what it's like to be a full-time maker. But what's a normal day for you really like?

For me every day is a little different really.  And only because being a full time maker allows me to set my own hours around my family and other commitments like church life, and teaching.  I am the mom of an 18 year old HS senior and a 16 year old HS junior, so they are pretty self sufficient now. And it helps a lot that my husband works from home full time too so we can tag team if needed for the kids.

But most of the time this is my day:
5AM-5:30AM: Get up (I am asthmatic so I have to get up and do all the stuff I need to do, medication wise, first)
6AM-7:30AM: At the gym working out
8AM-9AM: Breakfast and dressing for the day
9AM-10AM: I am at my desk checking email and social media
10AM-12PM: Work (This could be writing blog posts or patterns, research, meetings or actually knitting or crocheting up a sample or swatch.)
12-12:30PM: Lunch break
12:30-1:30 PM: More email and social media
1:30-4PM: More work, usually crochet/knit or swatching, but many times still writing up patterns or book reviews, too.
4-4:30PM: Last check on email.
4:30-7:00PM: spend time with family and make dinner.
7-10PM: If no evening activities at church or school, I am watching TV with family, usually working on a personal project at the same time. Unless I am under a tight deadline, then I am working. By 9-9:30PM though I am usually reading a bit in bed. I have to be in bed sleeping by 10PM so I can start all over the next day!

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

When I learned to crochet in 1974 (I was 7 years old) my Nonna told me that she had given me a skill and that I needed to do something with it.  My mom always tells me that becoming a designer and author wasn't quite what she meant!  But that IS what I did with it! In 1998 I started as a crochet designer when I sold my very first pattern to a magazine.  In 2000 I started teaching classes locally at a fabric and craft store and by 2004 I was teaching on the national circuit.  In 2007 I learned to knit and started designing knit patterns in 2010.

Karen with her Nonna, who taught her to crochet when she was a child.
Karen with her Nonna, who taught her to crochet when she was a child.

In 1998 when I started, my kids were 2 years old and 6 months old. I had to work from nap time to nap time during the day.  I would produce about 5-6 patterns a year for magazines, and I started my own pattern line from rejected patterns.  Now I produce countless patterns a year (for example in 2013, I completed 4 books, 2 of which had 96 patterns total each), both for myself and for other publishers.  I have 24 paid stitchers who help me get all the models made every year. At the beginning, I would teach only night time classes so my husband, who worked out of the home at that time, could be with the kids. That was my get-out-of-the-house-and-be-with-adults time!  As they got older I started to travel to events to teach. I started with just once a year when my husband could take vacation in the summer, to now going as many as 5-6 times a year.  I also started teaching online through Craftsy and can reach far more people now, which is amazing in and of itself.  I will still teach local classes from time to time, but they are more of a special appearance now.

What new thing are you exploring now?

Right now, my focus is to get back to my roots again.  My dream when I started was to be my own business as a designer / author / instructor. Designing for magazines and other publishers was to get me the experience, but now I really want to be more me, with a few books and designs done elsewhere.  So I am exploring making more maps (goal setting) that put me on track every quarter to get what I need to do accomplished.  I am also exploring how to “Wrangle My Time” with Tara and creating my marketing plan.  All of this is focusing on getting back to my roots and finding what actually works for me.

One of Karen's books, filled with 96 patterns!
One of Karen's books, filled with 96 patterns!

What's your definition of success in your business?

Success to me in my own business is to create patterns, books and classes that *I* love that also meet the needs, wants and desires of my customers and clients.  It is not losing sight of what my goals for my business are, and to promote the crafts I love in a way that makes others love them, too!

What's the next destination you're working towards?

Right now, I am working toward getting  a few more things off my plate and I am working on developing some systems to streamline what I do as far as designing, publishing, blogging, etc. so that I can finally sit down and develop the next self published book I have had in my head for more than 2 years now! Getting that book out into the world is my next step to regain my goal of being my own publisher again.

Want to learn from other Starship Captains? Sign up here to read their stories!

 

Corrina Ferguson, knitwear designer and author: An interview

corrinafergusoninterview
Play

Today I'm delighted to have Corrina Ferguson of Picnic Knits on, to talk with us about her business as a knitwear designer. I've gotten to know Corinna over the past year, as she's been  a member of the Starship. Most recently, she's  the author Warm Days, Cool Knits, published by Interweave, which is full of knitting patterns suited to warmer weather. 

In today's episode we discuss

How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.

Adventures in Business with Knitwear Designer Denise Twum

Today I'm sharing an adventure with Starship Captain and part-time knitwear designer, Denise Twum. Denise was introduced to knitting by her supervisor while working at her college’s science library in 2006. Knitting kept her company as she traveled to five countries for a year of independent research, and she’s been addicted ever since.  You can see more of her designs on Ravelry  as well as her website.

People have this fantasy of what it's like to be a full-time artist. But what's a normal day for you really like?

I used to be a full-time maker when I was at home with my newborn baby, and each day was different. What I realized very quickly was that, if I didn’t lay out a plan for the day, or list out a few things I wanted to achieve, the day would go by quickly without me achieving one thing.

I’m currently a part-time maker and it’s definitely very challenging, balancing my passion and love for this with a full-time job that I also love, but which is unrelated to my knitwear business.

On a typical day now, I spend most of my day at my full-time position, sneaking quick looks at my knitting emails during lunch time to see if there’s a sale or an interesting email for possible collaboration. After work, I spend a couple of hours with the family, eating dinner and relaxing together. After the little one is asleep, that’s when I get to party!!! …Okay not really, but I love my knitting work so much that it feels like a party for just me, from around 9pm to midnight every day.

Usually I bust out my needles and start knitting anything, with a vaguely formed idea of what I want to knit. I often undo my work a number of times before I find a design I like. Once that design makes me happy, I try to knit it in multiple color combinations to see how it looks.

In recent times, as I think about how I want my business to grow, I’ve realized that I also need to concentrate on the non-knitting aspect of the business, so some evenings, I’ll dedicate some time to conducting research on what the current market looks like, what color trends are being set for fall, what my competition is doing, and ways to market my work and get it out there some more.

Denise's "Procragratification Infinity Cowl" patternDenise's “Procragratification Infinity Cowl” pattern

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

Once I accepted that it would take a lot of work for me to convert this business to a full-time endeavor, I no longer feel that pressure and burden on me to succeed right now. I’m learning how I can use the seasonality of my sales cycle to my benefit, shoring up and knitting a lot of items, or coming up with ideas for new patterns during the summer lull, in order to get ready for the holiday and winter season.

I’m also getting more aggressive about improving and scaling the designing portion of my work. Compared to a handknit item, patterns are a lot cheaper cost-wise for my customers to purchase, and those sales will also boost my visibility on the outlets I use.

I’m also looking into selling in multiple channels, as opposed to my Etsy/Craft Fair combo that I’ve worked for the past few years. I’m very excited to see how that goes.

 

Denise's studio space

What new thing are you exploring now?

Right now I’m exploring a more unified packaging for the items I mail out. Right now I wrap my items and add a label, and it looks nice, but I’m looking to create an experience even with my packaging, so people are excited to open a package from NiseyKnits.

 

What's your definition of success in your business?

My definition of success right now would be to break even, be able to forecast how much I’ll make each year, and to become one of the vendors people think about when they are looking for quality, handmade knit items.

 

Denise's BlockTure scarf designDenise's BlockTure scarf design

 

What's the next destination you're working towards?

I’m hoping I can get some of my items into some shops in the coming year, and publish some more designs.

 

Want to learn from other  Starship Captains? Sign up here to read their stories!