A lot goes in to creating a knitting or crochet pattern from scratch. In honor of our Read Along Crochet Along this month, I thought it would be fun to give you guys some insight into how the pattern sausage gets made. So I sat down (ok, emailed) with my Technical Editor, Tian Connaughton, about her yarn craft journey, starting from learning to crochet in a corporate break room and leading to a full time knit and crochet business.
This interview is the first in a series of interviews we’re calling Your Stories. This series will feature folks from all over the Hands Occupied community. Whether that’s a chat with someone who helps keep Hands Occupied ticking like Tian or an interview with an interesting member of one of our social media-based groups like Instagram or Ravlery, hopefully this series will help us get to know each other and the yarn craft world a little better!
Tian Connaughton is a Knit and Crochet Designer, Technical Editor of patterns, Blogger at KnitDesigns by Tian, and an all around yarn craft entrepreneur. I got to know Tian through her work as a Technical Editor on I Like Knitting magazine, and when I was in the market for a new go-to Editor, she was the first person I thought of. If you don’t know what the heck a Technical Editor/Tech Editor is in the yarn world, read on – I’ll let Tian explain all about it. :)
Heidi/Hands Occupied (H): Let’s start at the very beginning – what got you in to yarn crafting?
Tian (T): Unlike many designers, I did not learn to crochet and knit as a child at my grandmother’s knees – I don’t even think either of my grandmothers knew how. I started crochet just after 9/11, after returning to work from my honeymoon. Those first days after the attack were pretty dark. I remember sitting in the break room every day at lunchtime watching all the developing news. I needed a creative outlet, so when a co-worker brought in her crochet and volunteered to teach a few of us I jumped at the opportunity to do something constructive during my break time; it was the perfect distraction we needed.
Pretty quickly I got completely obsessed with crochet and shortly after that learned to knit. Then, not too long after learning to knit, I started to design – I hated following patterns and was constantly modifying existing patterns to my own taste. The design bug bit fast and it completely blew up. While at my corporate job, I submitted to magazines and yarn companies. I was always dreaming of the day I’d have time to be able to design full-time. I remember thinking up design ideas during my hour+ commute to work and planning during that hour+ drive home what I’d be knitting and crocheting – between work and family and home there was never enough time to knit and crochet.
H: Tell us about your work/business. :)
T: My dreams of working in the fiber industry became a reality 6 years ago. Today my business looks a bit different. It’s now a multi-faceted business that is a balance of working on my own business and teaching other designers to traverse some of those beginner issues.
At the heart of everything I do, I’m a teacher. I love learning and finding ways to teach people in the fiber industry to think differently and bigger, drawing from my experience in corporate finance and accounting. In the beginning, my business focused mainly on designing, where I was submitting a lot of design proposals for publication while developing relationships as a Technical Editor. Now my business is more diversified. These days I do a bit less designing as I focus on marketing my current catalog of designs and getting those designs to new knitters and crocheters, while working on more technical editing, mainly for 3rd party publications such as magazines, yarn companies, and print books.
In addition to designing and technical editing, I write books and create courses to help crochet and knitwear designers with strategies to achieve their own success in the industry; playing the role of a mentor and advocate that I wish I had when I started out. My greatest thrill is working with a new designer, either one-on-one or through a course, to understand the process of designing, from coming up with the idea, creating the sample, grading the pattern for multiple sizes, developing a style guide and pattern writing, to marketing their designs. This past mid-March I released my newest e-book, Pattern Launch Plan: Sell more patterns consistently without being sleazy. This book is geared at marketing for knit and crochet designers so they can maximize their existing catalog of patterns to generate consistent revenue without having to publish new patterns every few weeks in order to see sales. The ultimate goal of my business (KnitDesigns by Tian) is to help knitters, crocheters, and designers achieve their dreams.
H: When did you decide to make knit & crochet your job? Was it an easy decision to come to?
T: Like many designers, for a long time, I dreamt of the day when I would design full time, where I could sit and knit all day. For a long time, I played it out in my mind the day I would turn in my letter of resignation. That day never really happened. Instead, the opportunity came 6 years ago when my corporate finance job was outsourced overseas. That made the decision easy because I had been planning what I would do for a long time and the opportunity presented itself. I think if I hadn’t been laid off I probably would have stayed in that job much longer than my heart was in it. Now I am thrilled to be able to do the things I enjoy and have time to spend with my family. Don’t get me wrong. I am not sitting watching Netflix and knitting every day. There are days that go by without me working a single stitch, but it’s a decision I wouldn’t change.
H: What is Tech Editing, why is it so important?
T: When I started designing and self-publishing I didn’t know about technical editing. It wasn’t until I started designing for publications and having my designs tech edited that I came to understand what it was and its importance.
A tech editor does more than just read over the pattern for punctuation. A Tech Editor checks your math, grading, and schematics. She can help you develop your style guide so every pattern is consistent. But beyond that, a Tech Editor checks for pattern clarity and consistency so that the pattern says what you mean to say in a way that maintains your individual voice as a designer while making your pattern clear and approachable for a wide range of knitters and crocheters.
Sure, you might get away without a Tech Editor when you’re first starting out. A lot of designers do at the beginning because they don’t have the funds to support the expense, but if you want to take your design to the next level, a Tech Editor is crucial. If you’re looking for a Tech Editor, don’t shop around for one based on price, but rather on how well she understands your style and design aesthetic, as well as someone that can help you as you grow. If you want to take your designing to the next level, a Tech Editor is a crucial partner.
H: What do you like to design and why?
T: My taste in projects to design varies and has changed over time. I used to love designing garments. While I still enjoy designing sweaters, now I’m a bit obsessed with shawls, particularly crochet shawls, because of all the different and fun construction I see in knitting that I don’t see reflected in crochet. Also, I’m enjoying shawls because it’s so easy to pick up one or two skeins of fingering weight yarn at a show or on vacation and know I can create something fabulous. With designing a garment, I have to plan ahead of time how much yarn I’ll need and make sure to get the same dye lot, etc. Right now, those one or two skeins projects are very appealing.
H: As a Tech Editor, you see a LOT of patterns. What gets you most excited in a knit or crochet design?
T: As a tech editor, I do see a lot of patterns. The thing that gets me excited is seeing interesting construction and the growth of designers over time; seeing how their designing and pattern writing has evolved and matured. But I think the thing that gets me most excited is when I’m Tech Editing for magazine. There is typically a mood the Editor is going for, and I’m always thrilled to see how different designers interpret the same theme.
H: What are you working on now?
T: Surprisingly, I am working quite a few knit and crochet projects for myself. One project I’m working on is a 2 color pullover using some vintage stash yarn. I can’t even remember where I got it. This project will be set aside soon as the number of warmer spring days increases to await the return of colder temperatures again. Beyond the selfish knitting and crochet projects, I have a design for a book I’m finishing up, I am writing up some patterns to send off to my sample knitters, tech editing projects for the next issues of I Like Knitting and I Like Crochet magazines, and getting ready to launch my Pattern Writing 101 e-course for May 2018. Summer is a slow period for designers so while my calendar is full right now, I plan to take full advantage of the upcoming downtime to have some fun.
Thank you so much, Tian!