Category: Renaissance Moms

Renaissance Mom: Corrina Ferguson

I am back with another great interview with knitwear designer, Corrina Ferguson. We were delighted to have Corrina as one of our designers early on, in our Summer 2010 issue. We are very excited to meet Corrina, in person! next week at TNNA.

Hi Corrina, thank you for joining me. Why don’t you start by telling us how you got into crafting.

I’ve always been crafty. My mom taught me to sew and my step-mom taught me to crochet, so I did those things when I was younger. And then as a young mom I got into scrapbooking – I enjoyed it, but it felt a bit pre-manufactured. One year around Christmas I decided I wanted to learn to knit. My husband bought me a kit, and I took a class and the rest is history.

You are a knitwear designer, under the business name Picnic Knits. Tell us how that came about.

I used to teach classes at a local yarn store. Once I got a grasp on the copyright issues, I realized it was best to write my own patterns for teaching. My first pattern was the Snappy Hat – which I designed to teach cables. The thick yarn makes it a quick knit, and the cables run all the way to the top of the hat – I hate when design elements stop abruptly! In my old life before we moved to Florida and I became a stay at home mom, I was a technical trainer who taught computer classes and wrote my own manuals. I think that experience has transferred nicely to my current line of work.

Corrina's Snappy Hat

Are you a work-at-home mom or do you have a work space out of the home? If you are a work-at-home mom, how do you juggle your work duties with your mom duties?

I work at home, with an office/studio that I still have no idea what to do with. We moved into a new house last fall and I claimed the formal living room as my office, but I’m still struggling with how to set everything up. My boys are middle school age, so they are pretty self-sufficient. They attend school, so I have a good chunk of day time during the school year to work. The issues I have are just the small daily things – when I’m on a deadline and I realize that I actually need to feed the boys and the husband. A lot of times my best working time is after everyone has gone to bed.

What inspires your creativity?

Everything inspires me. The other day I got out of church and immediately sketched the shaping of a top that I had seen on a girl coming back from Communion. I sketch and take notes constantly – I just need to learn to organize them better. Sometimes I actually wake up from a dream to write something down – although what I write down or sketch in the middle of the night isn’t always useful!

What do you think has been your biggest struggle as a working mom?

The hardest part for me is time management. I look at deadlines that are farther off and think I have more time than I do. I end up volunteering or taking on house projects and then suddenly I’m out of time and staying up all night for a week to get things done. And there are so many things in family life that have to be done “right now” that I need to do better at planning ahead.

Corrina's design, Vittorio

What are your goals for yourself or your business for your future?

Right now I have three main goals for my business. One is to increase my income to match the increase in tuition that will come when my sons hit high school. The public schools here are wretched, so they attend Catholic school. I don’t want to get a real job! My second goal is to go wholesale. Of course that goal means I have to do a lot of work on the back end to get my line ready for wholesale – which comes back to my time management issues. My third goal is to teach. I really miss teaching.

What other hobbies do you like to dabble in? What is your favorite way to relax?

I’d love to sew more. I have a basic sewing machine and I even have projects that are cut and pinned and ready to go. And I’d really like to be able to sew skirts for myself. But I never seem to find the time.

And I recently bought myself an entry level DSLR and I’m learning to take pictures. I have no aspirations of being a faux-tographer, but I’d love to be able to take better pictures of my family and my knitting designs.

Fortunately knitting is very relaxing for me. My most relaxing times are knitting with friends though, and it never seems my schedule allows me to meet up with folks anymore. Anyone wanna come to Jacksonville and be my knitting buddy during the school day? I have very comfortable couches!

The other way I relax is running. I run ridiculously slow so it’s extremely relaxing. I just need to do it more often.

Do you have any advice to give other women that are interested in starting their own small business?

I really think you have to know when you will have time to work on your business. Otherwise you are always working your business and not accomplishing as much as you could if you just had dedicated time. Knitting design as a business is really hard. There’s a ridiculous amount of competition right now. For me, I’m looking at knitting design as a very long-term business to allow me to be home with my boys and support our family. I think being clear what your goals are is crucial to making this a business and not just something you dabble in.

What is your favorite game to play with your kids?

Right now we are loving Phase 10. We played it a friend’s a few weeks ago and had to buy it for the family. We also love Uno and are starting to teach the boys more card games. Now that the boys are older (12 & 13) you don’t have to worry as much about who wins or loses – it’s way more important who the best trash talker is. The boys played Jenga the other night and I was quite proud of how they trash talked their dad!

Thanks so much Corrina!

Renaissance Mom: Carol Feller

I am happy to bring you my interview with Carol Feller, knitwear designer and author of Contemporary Irish Knits. Her most recent pattern was published yesterday in Twist Collective, Corona.

 

 

Hi Carol, thank you for joining me. Why don’t you start by telling us how you got into crafting.

I have never really thought of myself as a particularly crafty person, although I have always loved art and particularly textiles. I first learned to knit when I was in school, but I didn’t really stick with it beyond childhood. When I finished school I spent a year in Art College, where I found myself drawn to textiles and working with fabrics and paper, but then went on to study engineering (I’m embarrassed to say I missed mathematics). Many years later, after a brief career as an engineer and later starting an online retail business, just after the birth of my fourth son, I began knitting again.  I had just sold the business and fully intended to become a full time mum.  Then, on an online parenting forum someone was talking about a new online yarn shop that had just opened. It made me eager to learn knitting again.  They set me up with yarn, needles and a baby knits for beginners book and I was hooked immediately!  I got so much satisfaction from being able to create these little garments out of nothing that I quickly became quite obsessive about it. It wasn’t long before I moved  into designing my own knits.  I found this very satisfying to both the artistic and engineering sides of my personality and I haven’t turned back since.

You are a beautiful knitwear designer, designing under the business name Stolen Stitches. You are also the author/designer of the book Contemporary Irish Knits. Tell us how this all came about.

When I started designing, I began submitting to magazines; both online magazines like Knitty.com and paper magazines such as Interweave Knits and Yarn Forward. I realized that if I was going to actually make a go of this business I had to have lots of different avenues open so I also set up a blog at StolenStitches.com and began self-publishing some of my designs, selling them through Ravelry.com and other web sites.  The name “Stolen Stitches” actually came from my husband; we have four kids and life is so busy that every minute spent knitting/designing felt like it was ‘stolen’!
After a couple of years of publishing individual designs I really wanted to sink my teeth into a bigger, more cohesive project.  Individual pattern releases often feel very isolated, without a larger picture/theme that they fit into.  I had done a few patterns with Kristi Porter for her book ‘Knitting In the Sun’ which was published with Wiley, and when I contacted Wiley about the “Contemporary Irish Knits” idea they were really excited about the project.  It was a great experience, involving lots of travel around the country for photo shoots and research, and I tried to involve the whole family. I didn’t want the book to disrupt family life too much so we had set up a nice long lead time with spaced out deadlines. It worked really well for me and I was never under severe time pressure.

Are you a work-at-home mom or do you have a work space out of the home? If you are a work-at-home mom, how do you juggle your work duties with your mom duties?

I do work from home, but I have a room in the house that is my office/studio and is just for me!  I find it important to have my own space that is devoted to the job as it makes it much easier to switch on quickly when you go into that space.
All of my boys are at school now and the younger 3 finish at 2.30 so I have the mornings for computer and mental work – much easier to do in a quiet house. It is rare for me to actually knit during the day!  I do almost all my knitting in the evening either watching TV, reading or talking.  I also try to keep a simple project in the car to pick up if I waiting around but to be honest I seem to be so last minute I am rarely in a position to actually knit there! School holidays can be a little harder, I do try to get 2-3 hours work done early while they are all still relatively quiet, but I have to accept that I need a much smaller work load during holidays.

What inspires your creativity?

My inspiration comes from all sorts of different places.  Sometimes it comes from materials – I pick up a yarn and it just feels so good to knit that I can’t stop, and keep experimenting with it until an idea takes shape. Other times I’ll get a mental image of a garment (or even just a cable or lace pattern) in my head, and the challenge is figuring out how to put all the pieces together to make it a reality. I think I get the most pleasure from designs that start as mental visions that are then worked through.  It always feels amazing to take something that only existed in your head give it form with just your hands and two sticks!

What do you think has been your biggest struggle as a working mom?

Keeping the balance.  When the boys are in need of extra time and attention and I’ve also got a pressing deadline, I wish I could just shut it off and toggle back and forth more easily.  It gets harder the more established you are as the commitments get bigger and it feels like you have more to lose. (Also, I have to say that housework is one mighty big challenge!)

Carol's collection, Scrumptious Knits. Click on picture for more information.

What are your goals for yourself or your business for your future?

Again, to keep the balance. I want the business to grow, to keep challenging myself to design new things and to try new approaches (books, classes, etc.) but I don’t set too many fixed long-term goals for myself because flexibility in my family life is really, really important to me.

What other hobbies do you like to dabble in? What is your favorite way to relax?

I don’t really have any spare time –  I wish I did!  I am trying to make a bigger effort this year though to “be good” to myself.  I’ve started exercising regularly again for the first time in many, many years and I’m also trying to read more.  E-books are wonderful for knitters as you don’t have the problem of trying to keep the pages open while you knit!

Do you have any advice to give other women that are interested in starting their own small business?

First, be clear about what you want out of your business and what you want to put into it.  There are only so many hours in a day! Second, start small but have a  road map in your head of where you want to go.  When you start small you can make plenty of mistakes and learn from them along the way without a lot of risk. Third, know yourself and your own talents and tastes. You have to accept that it is not possible to be good at everything and know how to get help with the areas that you either don’t like to do or find very difficult.

What is your favorite game to play with your kids?

One of the most popular games in our house has always been UNO.  Everyone from my 13 year old down to the 5 year old enjoys it, and I can even play it while knitting!

Thank you Carol!

Renaissance Mom: Jane Richmond

Today I have the joy of bringing you an interview with the lovely Jane Richmond. Jane is a popular knitwear designer. You can find her online here and also at her Etsy shop. We are so excited to be publishing one of her designs later this spring!

Hi Jane, thank you for joining us. Why don’t you start by telling us how you got into crafting.
I am such a hands-on person. It’s how I learn. I think it is part of my personality to be a crafter. My Mom is an incredible cook but crafty, not so much. She made sure we had every opportunity  to get crafty with summer camps, art classes, and endless support for any interests we developed.

You are a wonderful knitwear designer. How did this come about?
My first design was the Mustard Scarf, it was the product of my first ever fibre festival and a lovely skein of locally spun yarn. I couldn’t find a pattern to suit it so I made up my own. That year I challenged myself to design every hand knit on my Christmas list, they were simple items but they are what launched me into knitwear design.

Are you a work-at-home mom or do you have a work space out of the home? If you are a work-at-home mom, how do you juggle your work duties with your mom duties?

I am a mother and I work from home but I wouldn’t consider myself a work-at-home Mom in that sense because my daughter is in school full time. I have endless admiration for Moms who are able to work from home with their kidlets around. I may love crunching numbers and pattern writing but I also need extreme focus to do it, I’m one of those people who can’t even read a book when there is background noise. Before Elsie was in school I was a work-at-home Mom  and I always felt like my focus was divided between so many things during the day, and everything ended up blending together. I can’t multitask to save my life! Now that Elsie is a little older I find work and parenting are way more balanced, when I’m working I’m working and when she’s home I can focus 100% on my Mom duties.

What inspires your creativity?
I find everyday life is my biggest source of inspiration. I love people watching. Sometimes I wish I had a laptop so that I could work from a coffee shop downtown and just watch people walk by all day long. I’m sure there are a few pedestrians out there that have caught me staring. I should have a sign that reads, “I’m not checking you out, I just like what you’re wearing”.

Jane wearing her popular Oatmeal Pullover


What do you think has been your biggest struggle as a working mom?
Keeping regular hours. Having a home office means you can be really flexible about when you work, a little too flexible. I have learned to discipline myself to work during work hours, save social networking and blog reading for my lunch break, and schedule everything else outside of my work hours.

What are your goals for yourself or your business for your future?
I would love to jet off to Stitches, TNNA, Rhinebeck or some other huge industry event. I read about them online and live vicariously through bloggers that are able to attend. There isn’t one single event that is close enough for me to easily drop in on so my fingers are crossed that attending some of these events will be in my future.

What other hobbies do you like to dabble in? What is your favorite way to relax?
I plant a vegetable garden every year. I find it so rewarding and being in the garden is so relaxing for me.

Do you have any advice to give other women that are interested in starting their own small business?
You really can’t go wrong doing something you love and if the money isn’t there right off the bat do what you can until it is… work a day job, build your business on the side. I think that the best thing I did for my business was give it time to grow without smothering it with expectations that it would pay the bills right away.

What is your favorite game to play with your daughter?
Elsie and I both adore puzzles. We get in the zone when we do them.

Thank you Jane!

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