Welcome to the another edition of Designer Spotlight. Last week I asked Amie Hirtes Bentley, the founder/designer of NexStitch if she would mind answering some questions for me. She graciously agreed.
Two years ago I came across Amie’s web site while searching for Tunisian Crochet videos. She offers a plethora of helpful videos on this topic, as well as simple crochet. She was one of the first designers that I began to follow on Twitter when I started Picklesnot Design.
Then roughly a year ago she was adopted by Roxie – A cat. Pictures began to appear of this adventurous cat and we bonded over being owned by Cats. (Because lets face it – they own us.)
So, naturally I thought of Amie when I decided to continue Designer Spotlight feature.
I asked Amie five questions for this Spotlight.
Cheryl: Where do you draw your inspiration from for your patterns?
Amie: My inspiration to create in crochet comes from many different places including nature, fashion trends, and even just a beautiful stitch pattern that I’ve either designed or tweaked. Inspiration can be from just the mere shape of an object that I see and think to myself, “What would that look like in crochet?” I gravitate towards symmetry, simplistic shapes, and a tonal, sea-shore color aesthetic by nature of growing up at the Jersey shore and I try to incorporate that into my work whenever possible.
Cheryl: What do you enjoy most about designing patterns?
Amie: The “birthing” of a pattern is by far the best part of the crochet design process. Loads of time go into putting together one of my teachable patterns which include many step-out pictures, illustrations, stitch diagrams, etc. So the moment I can put that pattern into the world – on the website and Ravelry – it’s a high five kind of moment. Equally exciting for me is hearing people’s comments about the pattern. I enjoy seeing customers be independent thinkers and stray from the pattern.
Cheryl: On your blog, you refer to yourself as a techno-hooker. How has the internet/technology influenced you as a designer?
Amie: I credit the internet with allowing me to be an indie designer. Back in the summer of 2004, I was looking for something to do. It was my first summer off (as a teacher) and I’d decided to buy a crochet pattern online to fill my time. That purchase changed the course of my life because I’d instantly said to myself, “I can do this. No really, I can do this. I can improve on it, too!” And that’s what I set out to do. And it wasn’t hard to find an audience of people who were interested, what with Craftster and Crochetville my earliest daily “haunts,” I soon realized there were tons of people who were interested in connecting online to talk about crochet and looking for patterns. It was just a matter of putting out a quality product to set myself apart. That’s where the technology helped.
I come from a fine arts and teaching background. I also have a certification in graphic design. So when I put together my website, NexStitch.com, I wanted incorporate technology into it to make it more attractive to people my own age and to show them that not only is crochet cool, but it’s something people of our generation are doing. Soon after launching the website, I created a series of crochet tutorial videos that are linked from the patterns that I sell. A customer who buys one of my patterns can click directly from the pdf to a video hosted on my site and it’ll show them that particular stitch. I feel like this is the next best thing to me being right alongside them to assist.
Aside from the day-to-day implementation of Photoshop and Illustrator to create stitch diagrams and charts and to edit photos, the greatest technological aspect to what I do has to be social media. Ravelry, Facebook, and Twitter have all helped me cultivate a following of people who trust that what I put out is a quality product worth buying and are willing to interact with me about all things crochet. Although, social media is a double-edged sword: it’s great that people will tell you exactly what they think, leaving no room for doubt, but what is its greatest attribute is also its greatest detriment. Regardless, I still enjoy talking to people about our mutual common interest.
Looking forward, I hope to be able to include more aspects of technology in my work including being able to sell patterns via iBooks on the iPhone/iPad. I’ve also inquired about making my own iPhone/iPad app, but the details of that I’ll leave intentionally sketchy.
Cheryl: As many cat owners know, cats can be very opinionated. Has Roxie given you her opinion on a project before?
Amie: Most definitely. I’ve made her two cat beds thus far: the first one was made from an expensive cotton yarn, the other a cheaper wool yarn. I put a great deal of thought into the first bed, making it very sturdy with tripled up yarn and designed it to be self-lining. I even made a cushion out of one of my husband’s unworn shirts. She’s barely used it.
And then one day, I was designing a bottom-up handbag that she just couldn’t help but give her seal of approval to. I was sitting on the couch with the bag rested on a pillow in my lap working on it – and only about half way done with the sides – when she just decided to climb right in! I’d never seen her do that before. My husband and I were dying of laughter because all we could see was her lil’ head poking outside of the bag.
Over the course of the next few days, I tried and tried to get work done on that bag but she’d set up camp in there. She loved it so much, I decided to turn it into a bed for her, which she uses often.
Cheryl: Any advice for those out there that are thinking of getting into crochet design?
Amie: Don’t quit your day job (not just yet anyways). The crochet (and knit) designing business is not easy to break into. Many professional designers do more than design all day. They multitask, dabbling in designing, teaching, podcasting, tech-editing, pattern testing, graphic design for other indie designers, etc.
If you really have a desire to break into the industry, establish yourself as a reputable designer first by getting your designs into magazines and publishing patterns independently online. Once you’ve been paid for a few “gigs,” you’ll soon realize that you’ll need to take on other roles within the industry to supplement your income (or lack thereof). Make connections with other designers, set professional goals for yourself, join CGOA to garner contacts within the industry, and continue to support yourself with a regular day job until you can get consistent work doing what you love. Keep your eyes on the prize of quitting your day job, but don’t take the leap until you can cover your bills.