It’s all about the business of selling knit and crochet patterns, and is a must read for designers! It’s also a good primer on internet and social media marketing in general, and a unique look inside the pattern design industry.
For more details about the book, check out my review on the CGOA Now! blog. I’m excited to share with you this interview with the author, Marie Segares.
Becoming a Designer
Me: Tell me about your journey to becoming a knit and crochet designer. How did you learn knitting and crochet?
Marie: My maternal grandmother taught me to crochet in the mid-80s. She tried to teach me to knit, too, but it didn’t really “take” for some reason. (Everything just looked like a giant trapezoid.) I’ve been crocheting off and on since then, though I really picked up hardcore crochet in 2002.
I got a book, learned to read patterns, and then my days of (only) making half double crochet scarves were over! I was all over the internet finding projects and inspiration. In 2012, I picked up knitting again and this time, it stuck.
Me: How did you get into designing knit and crochet patterns, and how long have you been doing it?
Marie: In 2007, I took the classes for the Craft Yarn Council’s Certified Instructor Program and started teaching crochet. My students would want to learn how to make this or make that, and I didn’t want to violate anyone else’s copyright by printing out their patterns.
At first, I was just writing handouts for stitch patterns but pretty soon, I started writing out my own patterns for projects. I became a CGOA Associate Member and I was assigned to an amazing mentor, Mary E. Nolfi. She helped guide me through the process of submitting my first design proposals to magazines.
Pretty soon, I was designing patterns to self-publish, too. My first patterns were published in 2010, but I had been doing those informal, class handout patterns for about two years already.
Branding and Marketing
Me: In your book, you talk about the need to define your brand and what makes you unique. So what about you? What do you feel makes you stand out as a designer?
Marie: It does help that I’m usually my own model! When I design something wearable, there’s a very good chance you will see me wearing it in the project pictures. Over the past few years, as I’ve shifted to mostly self-published (compared to mostly freelancing for magazines), that has helped a lot. I use the same colors and fonts when I share my images online, and I have a pretty consistent way of chatting with people on social media.
I do my best to be pretty similar to what I’m like in real life – so no make up or nail polish, a bit of humor, and a lot of love for all things handmade. It seems to have helped because when I meet people in real life, they almost always recognize me right away.
Me: You have a strong business background as well – tell me more about that.
Marie: I worked in non-profit management for about 20 (!) years, and I’ve been teaching business courses (first part time, and now full time) at the undergraduate and graduate level for the past decade. I also have a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Every little bit helps! But, since most of my business is operated online, and that world changes so fast, I’m constantly learning new things.
Me: If you were to divide a designer’s work time up between designing (including everything involved in producing patterns) and marketing, what percentage of time and effort should be spent on each?
Marie: I think this is a very individual question and there are quite a few factors involved. When I was first designing, I didn’t have any systems in place and it took A.LONG.TIME. to get my patterns out. Now, I have a system and things move pretty fast.
(If you’d like to know my system, here it is in brief: I write out the pattern by hand FIRST, and then as I make the sample, I make corrections to it. When I finish the sample, I take measurements, weigh the leftover yarn and calculate the yardage I used, add the project to Ravelry, and write up my pattern on the computer using my style sheet. I usually take pictures just before or just after writing up the pattern. Whenever I skip a step or do things out of order, nightmares happen!)
I am usually working on about 5-10 projects at a time – some at home, some during my commute, some needed to meet a deadline, etc. After designing for about ten years, and specifically after the last four years (where I’ve published a new crochet pattern on my blog almost every week), designing doesn’t take as much time for me. The marketing part requires more effort because things are always changing and pretty much every time I have a system, something new is introduced and I have to tinker with it a bit.
Now, if we were going to talk about knitting… If there was a Guinness world record for the world’s slowest knitter, I might win it. So, the time I need to make the pattern takes much longer and I spend less time marketing.
Me: Many designers have thought about self-publishing a book. How was that process for you? Do you recommend it?
Marie: I’ve actually self-published four books (Make Money Teaching Crochet and this one, and two non-crafty books). If you are a DIY sort and you have an idea that may not appeal to a huge audience of people (so therefore a traditional publisher will not be interested in it), it’s a great idea. It is a lot of work, but it can be worth it… depending on how well you market it!
Me: Where can we find your work?
Marie: At UndergroundCrafter.com, you can find my free crochet and knitting patterns, crafty tutorials, book reviews, make-a-longs, and giveaways. You can see all of my published patterns (and buy some of them, too) on my Ravelry designer page. I’m also on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.
If you’re interested in the business side of the yarn world, you can check out my Creative Yarn Entrepreneur website. My podcast has been on hiatus for about two years, but there are 71 back episodes you can still listen to, and most are still relevant to indie crochet business folks.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this interview – be sure to check out the book review and giveaway on the CGOA Now! blog tomorrow (9/12/18)