Welcome to another installment of my guest post series, ‘Fellow Fibre Friends’! This week, I’d like you all to meet Amy van de Laar, knit wear designer. Her designs are out of this world amazing! Visit her blog, BaroquePurls, as well as the pattern links mentioned in the post.)
Hi folks! I’m Amy van de Laar, a knitting pattern designer from New Zealand, currently living in Melbourne, Australia with my partner Willie. I sell my self-published patterns online, mostly through my Ravelry Store, and I’ve also published patterns in collaboration with Brooklyn Tweed, Pom Pom Quarterly, and Knitty. The designs I’m best known for are probably the INSULATE! hat, one of my earlier designs from 2012, and the Beeswax hat, from 2014.
One of the things I love most about knit design is that it’s just so varied. There are so many different tasks and skills involved, and there’s always more to learn. For example, this year I’ve learned a massive amount about product photography, i.e. really showing your knitting or yarn or finished sample in the best possible light – taking an exciting photo, not just a pretty one. I’ve been getting more and more deliberate about composition and lighting and editing, and generally upping my game with my Instagram photos. It helps that I find photography a huge amount of fun!
I’m really lucky to have a photographer in the family (even if he does live two plane rides away). My dad Jos, gives me tons of advice on taking photos and editing them, and when I’m visiting I usually fit in a photoshoot or two with him as the photographer. Here’s a lovely one of his, with me and my Mum modelling two of the designs from my recent La Folia Collection.
To give you a taste of some of the things that I do day-to-day as a knit designer, this week I’ve been busy finishing up a stranded cowl that’s a sample for a new design, taking photos and posting them on Instagram, revising two of my older patterns, communicating with collaborators, sanding and painting a coffee table to use as a photo backdrop, responding to knitters’ comments and questions on Ravelry and Instagram, editing photos, getting ready for the Indie Design Gift-A-Long, and last but not least, doing my tax return. This was one of my less-busy weeks – pattern-release weeks, on the other hand, can get a bit intense!
Last week I released my latest pattern, Silverwing, and I’m still buzzing from the amazing response it had – both in comments/faves and in pattern sales.
It’s a real thrill when a new release does well, because not all of them do, sometimes for no discernible reason. There’s a certain amount of luck involved, and all I can really do is try to nail the things I do have control over – the photos, the marketing, and the design itself.
One thing that’s not so great about being an indie designer is that because you’re often working on your designs and other tasks all by yourself, it’s easy for self-doubt to creep in. Is this shawl really the best it can be? Maybe I should have done XYZ differently? Will anyone like it? Will anyone want to buy the pattern? Gah! I find it does help to talk through my worries with other people – my family, yes, but also other fibre business folk who often have the same struggles. The Fibre Boss Collective group on Facebook is a really wonderful place to get feedback and advice, or vent frustrations – it has a great we’re-in-this-together vibe, and its number-one rule is ‘be kind’. Another community that’s a great source of positivity and inspiration for me is all of the knitters on Instagram. Getting wonderful comments on a photo of a work-in-progress really gives me a confidence boost. And when you see someone proudly showing off a project using one of your patterns, it’s a great rush!
When I’m not knitting or working on my pattern business, I like to hang out with Willie and his siblings and watch TV (my firm favorite is The Great British Bake Off) or go on adventures to parks or art galleries or places to eat. I also crochet and spin, and my main non-fibre interest is music. I play the piano, and until recently sang in a really good church choir (I’m still ‘on call’, so with Messiah season coming up it’ll be all on again soon).
Thanks for having me!