Welcome back to Getting to Know You, my series of mini-interviews with other knitwear designers I admire! This week I've interviewed the woman who holds the title of "Designer whose patterns I have knitted more than any other designer", Jennifer Hansen! Jennifer is the powerhouse behind Stitch Diva Studios, and I first got wind of her gorgeous designs when her sexy tank, Goddess, came out. Since then, I've knitted almost a dozen designs from SDS, some for myself and many through Jennifer's sample knitter program. Believe it or not, I actually got into designing because of Jennifer! But that's another story for another day. For now, on with the interview!
TSK: You've built such a massive brand for yourself it's actually more like an empire! Offering everything from fabulously sexy, beautifully designed knit, crochet, AND tunisian lace patterns to kits, video tutorials and even your own in-house yarn brand, you've turned yourself into a household name among knitters. How did you go from being Jennifer Hansen to being THE Stitch Diva? What tips can you give other designers looking to expand their brand?
SD: Hard work! Although that sounds trite, it is true. Probably a more valuable insight would be to look at what you can do that provides value in a different way than other things you see out there. Find a niche you love.
Cecilia Chemise - sample crocheted by me
TSK: What would you say your niche is?
SD: I'm told that Stitch Diva garments have a certain look to them - a distinctive aesthetic sensibility. I also have interest in techniques like hairpin lace, broomstick crochet, and Tunisian that are not that commonplace. I don't think anyone would come to the Stitch Diva site for menswear, amigurumi or conservative female apparel. There is nothing wrong with those things, but that is not where I like to play.
Endless Knitted Cardi Shawl - Modeled by Jennifer and green sample knitted by me
TSK: Social media is touted as one of the most important things in brand-building, yet you are scarcely to be found on Twitter or even (gasp!) Ravelry. How do you keep your customers interested in what you've got going on, and how are you pulling in new followers?
SD: At the end of the day, I think people are interested in the quality of the design, the quality of the instructions and the value of what a designer does as it contributes to the craft and to a knitter/crocheter's enjoyment of their hobby. There are only so many hours in the day and I really try to create distinctive work that says something different than other offerings out there. I can only hope that defines the brand.
No. 6 - sample knitted by me
TSK: You design, you photograph, you model, you Photoshop, you build websites....is there anything you DON'T do? What tips do you have for those of us who feel overwhelmed by all this technology? What would you say is the single most important thing for a designer to get right, besides writing a top-notch pattern?
SD: I come from a pretty varied professional background in IT, architecture and professional services, so I am fortunate that I have pertinent experiences to bring to bear. Many of these skills have no relation to being a good designer. I also am fortunate to have met some very good people along the way who work with me. I don't do all of this alone.
Silken Scabbard - sample knitted by me
TSK: Interesting that you noted all those extra skills that have nothing to do with the design work itself. It's so true, but unfortunately for self-publishing, these skills do seem vital to a designer's overall success! If you had to pick one skill to recommend a designer develop outside of pattern-writing, what would it be? Photography? Styling? Layout? Having a great website to promote the pattern?
SD: I think photography is key for online sales - this applies to patterns or just selling your used personal items on CraigsList. You can have the most beautiful design in the world, but unless you are able to convey what you have done in a compelling visual way, it just won't be successful. On the same token, it is important for the photo to convey the reality of the design. Other people will make it and post their results online as well. I have ripped designs that showed shaping flaws in photography and then fixed them and rephotographed to get the kind of photo I wanted. The camera is a great design tool.
Cabled Turban - modeled by Jennifer
As a special thank you to my readers, Jennifer has generously offered a copy of my current favorite pattern, the Cabled Turban (above), to one lucky commenter! To enter, you must first "Like" Jennifer's fan page on Facebook, then leave me a comment here telling me you did (be sure to include your Facebook name or I won't be able to look you up)! Winner will be announced on Wednesday, August 31.
Looking for the winner from Angela Tong's interview? It's Miss Julep! Congrats, Nancy, Angela will be sending your free pattern along shortly! Didn't win? Don't forget you can still get $1.00 off Angela's Kouyou or LaReine shawl patterns with the coupon code "sexyinterview", now through August 30!