Pattern Shift

#57 - Maaike van Geijn's Rocket Launch: insights from a successful beginning knitwear designer

March 24, 2023 Saskia de Feijter Season 3 Episode 57
Pattern Shift
#57 - Maaike van Geijn's Rocket Launch: insights from a successful beginning knitwear designer
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this podcast episode upcoming knitwear designer Maaike van Geijn, shares her ideas, processes, hiccups, and successes as a designer like how her first three designs were immediately published by Laine Magazine, Kate Davies and la Bien Aimée. We’re discussing topics such as her daily routine, submitting patterns to magazines, designing for multiple sizes, pattern writing, and the importance of testing. She also talks about the impact of working with a publisher and her plans for the future. The unique perspective of a beginner designer and some valuable insights and advice for anyone interested in pursuing a career in the needle craft industry, an episode jam-packed with answers to questions you’ve had for ages.

FULL SHOWNOTES

https://www.asmallerlife.com/blogs/podcast/57 

BEST QUOTES FROM THE EPISODE

"It all starts with yarn for me, the texture and the colours of the yarn. Then I start sketching and trying out ideas. All my designs came from swatching. It's like sketching, a slow process."

  • Maaike van Geijn, knitwear designer

" If you have to make only one decision as an upcoming business... collect people that are interested in your work and direct them to a space that is yours, like a website or an email list, you want to connect with them directly. And once you have a new pattern or product, send it to your friends so they can buy it with one click of the button. .”

  • Saskia de Feijter, small business mentor

LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

Anything that comes up in the conversation, other businesses, blogposts, episodes

Maaike’s three published patterns:

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Saskia:

Hi, you're listening to a Smaller Life, and I'm Saskia de Feijter. Today I'm interviewing Micah Ang. She's an upcoming knitwear designer and has managed to launch herself right into some of the most popular publications out there. I'm curious to learn from Maaike how she's done that and answer the question some of you have asked themselves many, many times, should I start selling my pattern? We are going through the whole process from idea to publication, and Maaike sheds a light on her ideas, processes, hiccups, and successes for any aspiring designer, A fast track, step-by-step lesson on how to get your first design out there for Any Knitter, A fascinating view into the backside of publications like Laine and la Bien Aimée. Have fun. Hi, my name is Saskia. I've got over a decade of experience in running a small business in the needle craft industry, selling pattern and product design, teaching and running a needle craft school. As a small business owner, you are in charge of everything, branding, marketing, selling, promoting, and cleaning. I'm educated in marketing and photography and learn to do everything else on the job. I'm obsessed with the healing magic of crafting and the power of community, and I'm determined to lift our scene up for the world to notice so they can step away from fast fashion. In a smaller life, we learn from experts in the needle craft, textile and creative industry, big names and small about what it's actually like to run a small business. Emotional talks with sellers about wins and woes product and design. Conscious decision making and branding and communication. Why we do it, how we do it, and what we need to become the future of fashion without burning the hell out. A smaller life fights apathy and apparel and aims to inspire you to look at your wardrobe differently. Where do you buy? How do you use your clothes and can you make some of it yourself? Dreaming big about a world where we relied on value-based businesses, the kindness economy, and where we can fully say fuck fast. Fashion. A smaller life is Ja, Wol's completely freeway for makers and sellers to learn how to be part of a healthier take on clothes and fashion. Ja, Wol offers an online community where they can connect and inspire each other. Monthly topics. With challenges for makers coaching and support for sellers, we will move the needle. For more information, go to j a hyphen w o l dot. com. Ja, Wol! Hey Maaike. It's so good to have you on the show. This podcast is for Makers and for sellers to learn about what it's like to run a business in the fiber and needle craft industry. You have such a unique perspective of being the new kid on the block with your business is almost still a baby, but at the same time, you've landed some pretty big publications already. So I thought it would be super interesting for our audience to hear from your perspective, and I'd love to talk to you about designing and life and business aspects of being a knitting pattern designer.

Maaike:

Thank you for having me,

Saskia:

Seth. You're welcome. And. So how about we are, how about we start with just life in general. Tell me what has your day been like so far?

Maaike:

First bringing my daughter to school, and then I did a bit of designing. Normally I walk in the morning, but because I had a lot of work today, I don't do that normally. I walk every morning, like an hour, an hour and a half, just to get a bit in. I live in a very beautiful area near the woods and the dunes and the sea, so it's absolutely not a punishment to do that. And then around 10, I start working until my daughter comes from school. And then normally I also work in the evening. It's a bit my days. Normal days. Yeah. And the, the working now is, Patterns or knitting, which is very exciting. And I'm also now following my latest design for La Bien Aimée. That's a sweater in two gauges, and I've invented a trick for that. I've called it Maaike's. Fast Forward Fix. So you, you need the color work on a small gauge, which I think is the most exciting part and interesting part to knit. And then you'll change for the body and sleeves on a larger gauge, so it goes much quicker. And it all comes from my own impatience as a knitter. I like to knit, but then, you know, yeah, nice color work, yo, and then you have to kni all the sleeves and, and body in the same fine gauge. And then I get bored. So I, I, I. Think all the time this could be done different. And then I invented a little trick, so you, you change quite, go to half the gates from 29 till. To 14 and a half in this instant in these sweaters. I'm

Saskia:

stepping in to

Maaike:

explain something. Micah speaks

Saskia:

fluent knit language and she's talking about gauge and yoke, and I thought I'd jump in and let you know what that is. If you're not a knitter. A yoke is the top part of a sweater that covers your neck and shoulders in the front and in the back. And yoke is typically the part where we use color work in traditional styles. And as you, you probably know from Icelandic sweaters where we have the colors in a, in a circular area around the neck. And when we talk about gauge, we're talking about that is how knitters figure out how many stitches to cast on to get a certain size or a certain. Measurement, the amount of stitches that we need to get a standard four inches or 10 centimeters. And what Mike is talking about, she kind of invented a new way to make her knitting less boring. So she loves the color work, but she doesn't like the the plain knitting so much. So what she did is she's designing color work that's done with a finer needle, so smaller stitches, and the rest of the body is done in a bigger needle size. So that means you have to do less knitting to get a certain amount of fabric. I hope that clarifies things a little for you, muggles

Maaike:

out there. So that goes really much quicker. Mm. and now I've been asked to do some workshops in the amendment. So I'm also preparing that, which I'm very much looking forward to because I used to teach also in Amsterdam and also here in school that was more like beginners or a bit of advance. So it was always my dream to give lessons or workshops about my own patterns and now it's going to happen. That's amazing.

Saskia:

Let's dive into the pattern. Uh, work a little bit later on in the conversation. So what would an ideal day look like for you? For

Maaike:

me, yeah. The thing with knitting and designing, also, I'm a positive person, so always, I always think I can do a lot of things in a day. So I'm always kind of disappointed in the end how much I have been doing because knitting is slow and sometimes you have to go back a little to change. or, well, I'm now working on a pattern with stripes, and so you do have to make a jog-less connection. So I've studied a lot on that, on how to make that as perfect as possible. And that sometimes can take like days or week that you're just researching how to do that. So yeah, my, I, I'm always, at the end of the day, I think, ah, I should have done more. Or I just say, I think I have to accept knitting is a slow business. Yeah. And as I said, I'm an impatient person, so that's a really fun combination.

Saskia:

Yeah. In a perfect day, would you have. More work, more walking in your beautiful surroundings, family time, what would that, what does the balance look like Yeah. For you on a, in a good day.

Maaike:

In a good day? Well, I, I would like to work more always because I enjoy my work a lot and you know, especially when you're designing, but also when you're pattern making, you're like in this concentration and so, It's a bit difficult to go out of it, you know, get my daughter from school, she's home. And then I sometimes try to work a bit, but of course, that's not so concentrated as when I'm alone and then I continue in the evening. So, yeah, sometimes I wish I would just have full days of working. But n well, it also has positive sides because in the morning, for instance, when I'm walking, I very often come up with pattern ideas or the day before I've worked on something and I think like, and then in the morning I'm thinking about it and figuring out how to change it to make it better or, so the walking is actually, not just walking, but for me also very creative moment, often plus that it's, I have very bad back, so it's also very good for me physically. to, to start there with walking and to get a bit of, yeah. Movement in the back and yeah. Also working longer days is nice for the work, but for my, for my body, it's not so good. So actually how it's now, it's quite a good balance.

Saskia:

Yeah. Yeah. Is it can be frustrating when you get in that workflow and you're like really into it and it took a while to get in there. Yeah. And then you're pulled out of that. That can be quite frustrating. I see that, but to have that time to get your mind at rest and your body ready for sitting at a desk, because I think that's what you mostly do when you're working, right? You're sitting at a desk or sitting in a chair. Your chair, yeah. Mostly sitting.

Maaike:

Yeah. Yeah. And it's long sitting is not good for my bag at all. So I also cannot need for 10 hours a day. I have sometimes done it. I. Work nights through. Sometimes I do that because I just needed time and also the quietness in the home. But that's not so good for, for the body, for nobody, but especially for nobody. No, no, no. So yeah, that's sometimes a bit searching. And it also depends, my, my husband, he works in a theater and sometimes he away all the time. So then I'm really limited to the, the school hours for work. But sometimes he also works at home and then he does the afternoons with my daughter, so I can work a bit. So it's also, yeah, our, our rhythm is never the same. And sometimes I wish it would because of course that's more easy if you know just how your week will be. But it also has advantages because, you know, if's easier. I can sneak in some extra work time and in the weekend I also. Quite often work a bit and yeah, for the last few weeks he hasn't seen me a lot in the evening I'm said I'm gonna do a little bit of work, and I never, I returned downstairs anymore.

Saskia:

have you, have you ever calculated the amount of hours in a week that you are working on

Maaike:

average? Yeah. I always had. I used to long think like I have 40 hours a week, but then I started calculating and my daughter is from to school from nine till three of half past eight, till three. And then on Wednesday, only the morning and I was like, I, because I was, felt like hi. So short time. But then I found out it's not 40 hours a week at all. So yeah. And with the walking, that's quite an investment of course to do. I do it because I know it's good for me, but it, yeah, it means that I'm not home before 10, 10 30 every morning. And then,

Saskia:

so what does it boil down to? How

Maaike:

many hours do Yeah, I think, I think four hours a day in the daytime and on Wednesday, not just an early day. And then I do work at least two hours in the evening, I think. Yeah. So it's not so much.

Saskia:

Ah, so it's around 28 hours a week. Yeah, something like that. That's, that's really interesting to know actually. It sounds pretty boring and, but it's really interesting to know what, how much time do you actually use to work? And when you're talking about where I walk, that's kind of the conceptual phase or the, the moment when I get my ideas. And that's also very important. So yeah, that gives, gives us a lot of insight in how. How much

Maaike:

dying It's, yeah, yeah. But in busy periods it's not enough. And then, you know, when my daughter goes playing with somebody I work or I work till really late at night. Yeah. I then I, those 20 hours, eight hours or what it is, I have to get it from somewhere. So for when I was making the pattern for la Bien Aimée made, it was really tight deadline. I think I did it between February and April, including testing.

Saskia:

We'll talk about the designing process in a bit cuz I'm, I'm really interested to see, and I think we also have an audience that's not necessarily a knitter, but could be a a, a sewer or just somebody that wants to start a creative business or somebody that does any kind of craft. Yeah. So to get a little bit of in-depth information on the designing process, we'll, we'll go into that next, but first I wanted to know, do you think of yourself as a perfectionist and does that kind of help you or work against you when you don't have a lot of time to work?

Maaike:

I'm definitely a perfectionist, yes. I don't stop till I think it's good enough and yeah, that is two sided. On one side, I think it pushes you to go a bit further and to search further. make the best out of things. On the other hand, for yourself, it's sometimes also a bit kind of an enemy, especially when you have a, a physical limitation. It's a bit difficult sometimes, but I, I think I kind of accept it a bit that I'm like that and I try to find a kind of balance in that. I know I'm a perfectionist, but I try to Yeah, think when. Cross my boundaries if it's worded or not, or if I can maybe organize it different so I don't have to. But yeah, this is

Saskia:

a good moment to go into that process because when you work for a publication, when you are trying to get your pattern into a magazine, then there's a deadline. But when you work at your own designs, you can, you can sell them whenever you like. So that. Enhance your character or work against it. You've just mentioned LA May and uh, line, different magazines and different brands in the, in the knitting industry that are quite well known, huge feats for you, so congratulations on those are right at the beginning of your career, and that's amazing when you want to submit your pattern to a magazine. From the beginning until the end. Can you describe that

Maaike:

process, how that works? I had this feeling I wanted to design quite early, but I felt like first, like I have to learn more. So I learned like crazy that workshops, but knitted also everything that was uh, possible. I was thinking like, okay, if I'm going to design, how am I going to do it? And then I thought like, maybe I won't publicate myself in the future, but for now, I didn't want, in the first instance, I didn't want it. So I, I decided to look for initiatives that I, that I support, or that I feel connected to. So the first one was Kate Davis had this project, my Place, which you could apply for, and it was also more than knitting, it was also making an essay about your place, where you're coming from. So I made quite a personal story for that and a. with her yarn. That was the idea. So that was the first, and I just,

Saskia:

but that's, that's, that's not a typical way of submitting your pads.

Maaike:

No, no, no. Well, it was in, in that case, typical that you just have to make a proposal with. Not yet a design with, with your I idea and also a big, your story, and then you were selected. So that's, that's also how it goes with other publications. But yeah, this was a bit different because it was an essay and it was also about your personal story. So that was the first, and then secondly, I applied for L for, what was it, 52 Weeks of Easy Needs, which is also a beret. Actually, I sent in a few and I chose one. So that was a bit amazing because you. I knew that normally, well, if you send in, you're not always selected, but immediately I was selected for Kate Davies and then for Lana. Well, and then I saw this, these calls,

Saskia:

can you just, can you just send it, send in your packet? No, no,

Maaike:

no. There's a specific, or maybe you can, I don't know actually, but then make a submission call for a publication with a deadline. And that's normally quite a tight deadline with learner. Like a month. You have a month to, to, to. and then you have to apply with a story, but also with awar and with a sketch. But I had this beret, I just made it because I, I was just making it so I already had it finished. So I made some nice photos on my daughter. So it was a finished there at actually, so I could do that quite quickly. And I sent it in and I was selected. So I was very happy and. I saw this call from la Bien Aimée and it was called Mixing Bases, and I already was busy with this idea about the different gauges and uh, explicitly asked for designs that that combine different yarns or gauges or structures. So I thought I'll send that in. la Bien Aimée is a yarn brand? Yeah, it's actually quite a big company now. I think she yarn Dyer, but she's also making books. This was on the call for her second. So I send it in and I was selected. So with Atlanta, you just apply. They do submission call. So I will suggest you check their Instagram. I think it'll also be on their website, but they first announce it on Instagram and I think also Facebook, if you're on in their newsletter system, you also get it. So they do a submission call and you should really check it because what I say, you have right a month, you apply, you have to make a sketch, awar. Well, you send it in and quite quickly, I'm within two, three weeks, you'll hear if you've been selected or not, and then you'll get a timeframe. For this beret, it was short because I'd already finished it, so I only had to write a pattern and do a test net. But I think that depends a bit on, on how large your project is, et cetera, and they propose you a payment and then you, you go ahead and a make, always make a. I already had one finished, so I made another sample for them. So I made two samples and a pattern. I had the pattern tested by six test letters. Which test knitters are really important in the process cuz you write a pattern, but they will knit your written pattern and check if you've written it in a logical way or if it's all, if it's correct. And then a tech editor from Laine will also check. and then they make the photos really nice. Photos it goes into print. But between sending it in, I think that was last year, November, and it was published a year later. So you have to be patient and realize that it takes a lot of time before your design will actually appear. Yeah. Yeah.

Saskia:

And it sounds like it would be quite smart to have a bunch of these eyes, a couple of these signs ready for whatever this submission call comes. Then you just see what matches their requests and then you have a bunch of the work done. Because sometimes it's about themes as well, isn't it?

Maaike:

Yeah, it is handy to have something. It's not always possible, you know? Now. Yeah. It was also because I was starting, I had some ideas lying and. just send those in. And with la Bien Aimée it was a bit different. And it was actually quite nice because normally it's just digital, just email actually. But with them I had Zoom meetings and May also is a very inspiring person and also really knows how to challenge you, which is really nice. So, and we of course had to talk about which yarn, et cetera. So with la. I sent in a basic idea, but then I got their yarns were actually all minis, and I made a whole new design with the same principle of the gauges. But the whole look of the designers was very different. Did you have a longer period of time to work on that? Yeah. Well yeah, but still it was quite tight because in the first instance, they wanted to publicate it already this fall, but then because of the war in crane and the printing problems, it got later. So I had my pattern finished already first of. And also my first sample. Yeah. So that was also quite tight deadline, but you Yeah. Normally they also tell that in the submission call, what is the timeframe, so you also know where you sign into. Right.

Saskia:

Okay. So then moving back a few steps, let's say you came up with an idea for, so. First of all, what inspires you and let's talk through the process of the

Maaike:

designing. There can be a lot of things, art a lot, but also knitting traditions that I would have been doing the years before studying all kind of knitting traditions and techniques. The Bohus spiritual instance, it's a Swedish knitting technique, but also a whole movement of women actually. That's, that's what I find also very inspiring. Yeah, it was in the, in depression, men didn't have work, and then women started their own business actually by knitting and by knitting hot couture sweaters. Also for, well, at a certain point, very famous people, but it also made that more and more independent. So it was also like a feminist movement, which is very interesting. But also the netting is just amazing. It's beautiful work. I followed workshop with Col. Loret Carmen, and then I got to know it and I've been studying and knitting it. So yeah, knitting traditions are an inspiration, but also nature. Where I live, you know, I've made some trades for la Bien Aimée Can you explain what fades are? A Fade is. Colors that, that fade, that go from one color into the other. Wow.

Saskia:

It's, it's colored work. Knitting color work. Yeah. Where it seems like colors blend. Show each other. Yeah,

Maaike:

yeah, yeah. For La Bien Aimée I've done something with neons and then it lights up in the middle. So

then

Saskia:

you are inspired by nature and by old knitting techniques, different kinds of things, and you have this inspiration and you, you go home and that'll what? What's next in the place?

Maaike:

Yeah. But it's not like, then I see it in the sea and then I immediately go knitting it at home. It doesn't work like that. It's goes somewhere in the back of my head. All these things. For this, I was also inspired. Traditional Chullo from Peru. They use these bright colors as well. So it all goes in my head, and then, you know, I get yarn and then the yarn, it all starts with the yarn for me. I get the yarn and the texture and the colors of the yarn. Then I actually just start swatching and trying out ideas. All my knitting wear design designs came from swatching. just making little samples and see what works and whatnot. I will sometimes make a lot of swatches before I find like sketching. Yeah, it's like sketching is a slow process because you know you can work hours on Little swatch and before you see if what you had in your mind works with. So what I do now sometimes to check my ideas beforehand is use a computer program, stitch Fiddle, in which you can make color charts. Mostly I make color work so. Then I try out first in Stitch fiddle and get a bit of idea how it looks before and sometimes try different color combinations before I start swatching and that can help to speed up the process. Yeah.

Saskia:

You use like crayons or watercolor or

Maaike:

things like that? No, this goes quicker because you can easy also, you know, paste it and make a larger and zoom in and out, and then you get an idea how it looks from a bit further. It's more than enough harder, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I do, I do have crayons and things and yeah, sometimes, but I'm, I'm not a huge drawer. I'm, I

Saskia:

don't, then you, you have your swatch, and then the next thing is, Do you know what it will become before you make a swatch? Yeah. Or, yeah, yeah, yeah. And then

Maaike:

our head is quite simple, but for La Bien Aimée, I made a sweater in 10 sizes. So then it's not only about the idea because you have an idea for colors and for this fade and the middle, but then it has to fit into, then it becomes really reading technical because it has to fit into a certain amount of stitches for 10 sizes, and it has to. In every size. And yeah, I want it to be, I wanted to, to, to connect, so, and to be lined up vertically. Yeah. The Bohus doesn't do that without getting

Saskia:

into the, the deep technical bits about it. Where do you get your information? How do you learn to grade your sizes? We've mentioned it briefly, but you didn't have a design education. You, you came from the theater, and so how did you learn

Maaike:

to do that I don't even think there is an education for it because I did fashion Academy for two years. I've read all the knitting books about grading, but then still, you know, there are no standards for it. It all depends on your yarn, your gauge, and also the the color work pattern you use. So you can study and read about it, but in the end you have to make your own calculations. There's no standard for it, so you know, then you get an idea of how you have to build it. I'm thinking spreadsheets. Yeah. Yeah. I have Excel sheets of pages of numbers. Yeah. That's how I do it. Yeah. You also have have to be a bit technical and like it, I cannot say that I like that the most, but in the, in the end when it works out it, it is a kind of puzzle. So I do enjoy to figure it out. I think I like the swatching far more. Yeah. But this is also quite a challenge to make it work and, yeah. And it's a

Saskia:

difference. It's in my personal opinion, between being a designer or being able to knit something that's

Maaike:

beautiful. That's what I was because yeah, that was, was what what I was thinking. That's the difference. Designing for yourself is easy because you know, you can just figure out and change it a bit and. You know, if you have to make one size, it's not so difficult for one size, you can easily adjust something. But if it has to work for 10 sizes, it Yeah, you need a more firm base and the base should be correct. And there's, yeah, you know, I have just one chart that you can, or two charts I have for all the sizes. So that's the difference. So if you want to become a designer, You know, the designing is maybe one third, and I think the technical part and also the test knitting, and then working with the tech editor, I think is two third of it. And that also quite surprised me. And it is a difference if you need, knit a hat or a beret or a sweater because a sweater of course is technically,

Saskia:

or if you do just three sizes and I, and I'm guessing there's a reason why you do a wide array of sizes.

Maaike:

Yeah. I wanted to be size inclusive, but I also think that's the standard. Now if you want to be in publications, they also do ask. but I also, because for the Kate Davies, I, I only needed to do one size, but I did three because I myself always like it because if you have more sizes, you can also play with a yarn. If you have a bit thicker yarn, you choose a size, size, smaller. Well, I always like to have more sizes on my hand when I knit, because I never exactly the pattern as it is. Yeah, a lot of people

Saskia:

do that. Then you have your Excel sheets with gazillion numbers. And what's the next step in the process? Do you start knitting?

Maaike:

Yeah. I already was knitting all the time. Yeah. What I did for this, because that was limited time, I made a swatch, a big swatch about the front of my chest and where all the calculations were in, so that was the base. I made a pattern of that and then I sent it to the test knitters and started knitting the first sample myself. Normally I would. Sample myself, but there was no time for that. So I did that simultaneously. But I write a pattern first because I also want to knit my own pattern. I always do that. I write it, and then I knit my own pattern before, or this case, not sending it to the testers, and then

Saskia:

pattern writing. You cannot just start writing. It's a specific language. is there a course you can take? Is it books that you read? Is it just copying what other people are doing? How do you land on a certain way of writing the pattern? Because sometimes, if I remember correctly, you get a list of how certain publication is using on the terms. Yeah. It should all be general and it should. The same, but it really isn't. No. So how did you learn to do that?

Maaike:

By just doing it? Yeah. From the publications, not for Kate Davies but for Laine and la Bien Aimée is actually also the publisher of the La Ma book. You get a style sheet that says what, it gives quite a clear direction of how you should construct your pattern or how you should mention things. But that's of course still not a. Doing it. Looking at other patterns which you found pleasurable to knit, for example. Well, I've been test knitting a lot before I became designer myself, and you learn so much from that. I also still do it and enjoy it. From test knitting, you also learn how a pattern is made. So I think I actually learned most from that and not from input. Oh,

Saskia:

that's a great tip. Yeah, it's

Maaike:

great tip. Yeah, because you get like the inside information, but you also see by, by netting and reviewing patterns, you get more insight on how it's constructed.

Saskia:

Test Knitting is a very important part of the design process. It's where you connect to knitters. That knit your design and give you feedback. It's like proofreading a book, right? Yeah. Can you tell me a little bit about that process? Yeah. How you finding people and how that works? How, how you

Maaike:

communicate with them. Yeah. What they also do, they often need is in different yarns. So they also give very important information about yardage and how it works in different yarns, which I really enjoy and find very, I. Until now, I'm mostly found them in my own knitting community. So people I knew from knitting nice workshops in Amsterdam and around the Netherlands, and I asked those again, or the, the people that I was really happy with, which were most of them for the next test, kni. But then for the 10 size sweater, I, I didn't have all sizes. So I also. Further as people that I didn't know so well, but I knew from Instagram that I knew had the size. And in the end I also put a call on, it's called the fattestknits, so that's especially for plus size to make the knitting world more size inclusive. So you can do a call there and they, they are platform actually. And so I found some people there for very small and very big size. So it's not only. Big sizes, but did

Saskia:

you also need a wider deadline

Maaike:

No. Yeah, that's the problem, huh? For big sizes. It also takes longer and my experience was that, yeah, these people I had less connection with. It's also hard to find plus size. Yes. And especially with, because I had a test tight deadline, so they had between April and June to. They didn't have to finish the nest sleeve, but it was really quite tight. So is that

Saskia:

I, I wear usually from what is now quote unquote normal, I wear the third biggest size. Yeah. Usually. And it takes me typically, two months to kni a sweater if I do it outside of my normal job and in my spare time. And that means that I can't knit anything else. So it's quite a commitment. Definitely. And what does, what do test knitters get in return? Yeah. Why don't they do it? Yeah. Well you said one important thing. There's a lot to

Maaike:

learn. There's a lot to learn. And it's also fun because I tested it lot for Anna Maltz, which is a wonderful designer. So you also. Get kind of sneak preview in her mind and her way of working. but I then I think already had some design aspirations. But I think other people, I talked to a test editor, one of my test knitters that are always test for me and she says, yeah, I just like to stimulate and enable you as a designer to make these things. And I think it's inspiring to be in that process, but also to support you to be able to do that. So that's also what I do. I test it for people that. I like their designs. I like how they work. Sometimes they're also friends like'From Cynthia', from the toys. I always test for her because I also want to support their work and support. Yeah. I know how difficult it is to find good test knitter, so I want to help them. So yeah, and some people really like, I think the idea to have a sneak of an early fuel of a pattern and you'll get it for free. Some people say that, but I think like a pattern is five or seven Euros max. 10 euros are. That's a real big gift I've saw. I must say I, I wish I could pay my test knitters or give them yarn to knit because I think, yeah, that's was

Saskia:

next question, because you're kind of expected to knit it with your own yarn. So it's actually also a great way to get rid of some stash. Definitely. If you have a match, that's a great way to do

Maaike:

it. Yeah, but my experience is that you then don't have it exactly. That you have to buy. But yeah, it, it, it can be a really great stash buster. Then I always arrange discounts from the yarns that I use. So if you want to use those, you edit. But that's still also little because of what you're saying. They invest maybe a hundred hours of time for sweater. So yeah, I think it's so generous and a, and a huge gift. And I hope one day we will be able to pay test netters or to give them yarn or you know. Yeah,

Saskia:

I think you think like the big names. Do pay test knitters or do they kind of rely on the fact that they are big names and people want to test? Yeah, that's kinda a, that's interesting balance there isn't

Maaike:

there, isn't it? I don't think test knitters are paid maybe for really big yard, but that's more than I think than sample knitting. I've done that too. Not you can send thanks.

Saskia:

Yeah. And how is that like testing is even more even harder than sample knitting, I think. Yeah, because you also have. Report back and talk about it. Yeah. The, the, the, the test knitting thing is something that I think is very important and interesting, and this might be a good moment to share with the audience that in the Ja, Wol community I opened up the possibility for designers to have your own test knitting space. And that means that a space in the community where you can communicate through video, text, sound files, you can go live. You can have chats, you can upload your patterns, and you can do basically everything you need to do in one space together with the test knitters, and they can also connect with each other. So that would potentially also take a little bit away from your work as a designer. I heard somebody talk about this and I thought this is a great idea. So if you are a designer and if you want to try. Test space. Just send me an email at info@ja-wol.com or go to the website and then we can set up a space. It is completely free for designers. It's completely free for test knitters. This is kind of my way to give something back to the designing industry because it's so hard to make a buck when you just start out. Yeah, and I know you don't have to pay. I dunno, a Google document or, or email. But usually those are so many different kind of spots where you connect with everybody and I have the possibility to offer it all

Maaike:

in one spot. So that's really wonderful because for my first, I used Google Doc and then I went to SCH Slack, which is a bit similar. But you know, you're let in for free and then they throw you out. And I lost everything with regards. Yeah, they don't tell you never do that. No, they don't tell you beforehand. You know, and people, indeed, that's the nice thing about it. It's also a little community, so I think that's also makes it interesting for test knitters to be in this community. Community. They share with each other their progress, their photos. I share things, so that makes it also a far more interesting process than just working in a Google. and also

Saskia:

because you are in the bigger area of all community, you could actually, I asked the people that are in the community, and most of them are very enthusiastic about being test knitters. And if you need more or other people, you can dip into the bigger community and ask people if they wanna join you.

Maaike:

So that's, yeah. That's fantastic. Because it is hard to find test knitters, especially for larger projects with, with title deadlines. Mm-hmm. now, it's really wonderful that you're offering this. Cool. You're welcome.

Saskia:

I'm glad you liked the idea. So we've landed on test knitting and once the test knitting is done, what happens

Maaike:

next? Yes, test knitting is done. You sent your pattern to the publisher, and then normally you have a tech editor who goes through your pattern and checks everything. Again. Laine definitely did that with la Bien Aimée I think there were even three.. And what I did there for designers was actually quite nice. I also had a tech editor before it went to the testers, and I think that's also quite generous to your test knitter, to not send them, well, my pattern was not messy, but it can be messy maybe to send them a pattern that is as finished as possible, especially for a larger project like a sweater that has been checked. It's also a question of time and money, but if it's possible, that is quite nice because then the testers really read the almost finished pattern and and have a better knitting experience, but can also really focus on, not on details, but well, not on mistakes because normally those would be taken out, but more on the process and, but then after it also went to a tech editor. Well, and then it's Finished. And then I, I knitted another sample for both Laine and la Bien Aimée and then they do the photography. Yeah, and with

Saskia:

that sample that you talk about. Yeah. Yeah. But you can also, if you don't have, so you're working on your other sample, you can have somebody else knit that. The sample if you like. Right. There's also a

Maaike:

way to do, yeah. The other samples I think were knitted by sample knitters. Cool. Yeah. Well that's,

Saskia:

that's basically the whole process. Yeah. Except for one thing. I'm very curious to, to hear how do you feel about pricing in our industry when it comes to knitting pattern designs?

Maaike:

Yes. Well, that has always surprised me the price of knitting patterns. And even a lot of people prefer a free pattern. If you would knit sweater, you spend about a hundred hours with a pattern. Why only pay five, six, or 10 euros? Because a good or bad pattern also makes a lot of difference for your knitting experience. I always try to write patterns that are also fun to knit The colourwork, for instance, which are made in the, in the sweater is looks quite complicated, but in knitting it's a nice rhythm. An easy rhythm to follow. So it'd always surprised me that even 10 euros is so little. Also, if you compare it, they ask much more for sewing patterns. Well, I think, well the work that goes in it is, is equal and maybe even more with knitting, but it probably has to do with that knitting industry. Yeah. Has maybe not totally been professional professionalized. Yes. So I hope it'll be, and maybe I will start

Saskia:

anything that you are in the and, and, Walk around, uh, indie side of things. Yeah. Big magazines. Sometimes they don't even get names. The publications. I, I, I'm thinking they'll pay more

Maaike:

and maybe also for testing at some. I don't know about that, but yeah,

Saskia:

that's for why a lot of designers, at a certain point start Teaching and, and teaching their specific look or the techniques that they tend to use or just appearing on festivals to get extra income. Almost like being a band, right? Yeah. Yeah. You have to find different ways to, to earn a living. But then the traveling also takes a lot of time, and so it's not like, it's definitely not easy money.

Maaike:

No. If you want want easy money should not start designing. I think. You have, you need another ambition or, or motivation than money. But, uh, and for me teaching, I really enjoy teaching because, you know, I'm here on my attic in the north of the Netherlands working alone, or with people digitally, but I really like to meet in knitters and to work with them. So for me, teaching, of course, you earn a bit of money with that, but it's also about connecting with people, which makes it really, really nice and interesting. In general, it's for me, not something I can easily live from now. No, that was, that was

Saskia:

gonna be my next question. I mean, you know me, so you were expecting that probably Yeah, but so that would mean that you have to, let's just go like really general, that you'd have to design two or three sweaters a month to be able to make a living when you just. From publications, there's like no way you can do that because you just described how many hours go into making one design. So there's different strategies and you al you already talked about it. I think you're, you're being really smart in getting into publications first to kind of build your name. But after that, it would be smart to do your own thing, right?

Maaike:

Yes, I, but of course you have to do all the photography. The PA are yourself. But I think for the pattern sales, if you are a bit a name and successful, I think that is more a moment more rewarding financially. I saw that with a Kate Davies pattern that is actually in my own pattern sales, but I decided to donate it a pattern sale to the ocean cleanup because it is about the ocean where I live. But I did see by what came in that that's more lucrative.

Saskia:

So because what happens is you, you put it on either your own website or, or a website like Ravelry. and you can keep selling it and the, and the amount, like up till 10 Euros a pattern. Yeah. And then for every sale you get that money. And then with the publication, you just get paid once not for every time somebody buys the book or the

Maaike:

magazine. No, no. But you do get after a year and with some after half a year, and you'll get the pattern rights back and then you. They will sell, still sell the book, but you can also sell it as a single pattern. Normally that is the deal and it, the period depends on the publisher of course in hand, the first year or half year, there's the most buzz around it. But still that's a nice, and you can use their photography normally and well, they have paid for the tech editor, so that's quite nice. What I was a bit shocked about, but maybe there is being unexperienced is that you say you can sell and sell and you get the money, but so much goes to PayPal for instance. It's really ridiculous, but you have to have your own websites. Yeah, but then still, I think, yeah, there goes a, but it

Saskia:

depends on what paying system you

Maaike:

use because it's not Ravelry they are. okay. That, that by percentage is quite nice. But

Saskia:

if you, if you have your own website, you don't have to work with PayPal. You can, but you don't have to. And Etsy is notoriously bad. Yes. Yeah. So don't do that. It seems really easy and it isn't waste, but they, they kind of eat all your money. So yeah, I would say as soon as you can. And why not just move into this topic? Investing in your starting business and what do you invest in and how can you make it grow? First of all, we need to know as we are going through this whole journey with you, from your perspective, do you want to make this your full-time job or do you see this as a hobby with an extra, or do you have plans or are you growing organically with what happens and and make decisions along the.

Maaike:

I think a bit, unless it's also funny when you talk about my business, what you say, it's still a baby. I don't feel it's like a real business yet. Yeah. I think I'm also looking along the way, if I like it enough to keep doing it and how I'm gonna do it, I'm, I'm gonna work still with publications or self-publish because I must say, you know, the, the impact with la Bien Aimée, how I landed on the cover. by surprise, I must say. I'm still figuring out if I want to be in publications or self-published, but I did find out that the impact of working with a publisher like Laine and la Bien Aimée is enormous. They have such a big network and so you know, I would never be able to reach all those people myself. The first. Post of my sweater got like 4,000 likes on Instagram. I would never be able to get it myself and, and Aimée was at Vogue Knitting Live did a fashion show. She's now traveling all over the usa Aimée will make a big trip with a book, you know, so, and maybe also to Japan in Anyway, it's translated in Japanese. Yeah, that's so.

Saskia:

Yeah. As a business mentor, I think this is where you are right now, makes my fingers itch. Like you know that I'm like, okay, this is, this is momentum. You're getting all the attention. What are you doing with the attention? How are you going to use that to propel your business forward? And I'm saying business because if you don't call your business a business, Then it is a different vibe, right? Yeah. So if something costs you money, it's still a hobby, But if you, if it costs you money and you're on your way to, to, your goal is to make some money from it. It doesn't have to be much, but to, to make you feel good about the amount of work that you're putting in, because you could decide to make swatches for fun. Every day, all day. But apparently you like to do more than just the swatches. Yeah. I mean that depends on where you're coming from. So how do you look at that and how do you look at, without like putting words in your mouth, how do you look at marketing and, and putting yourself out there as a brand, do you think about these kinds of things?

Maaike:

Yeah, that's what. I'm thinking about the last few weeks and I, I think I do want to build a website, but then, you know, I also have to apply for design and then I'm like, yeah, then designing wins it in my case, because, you know, I have this deadline, but I do think I want a, a, a small website where, you know, where I can. Show some of my designs and a bit of my biography, and also not to be totally dependent on Instagram because I do have a huge audience there now, and it also grew a lot in the past weeks. But to be able to take them a bit along in my further journey, if I will continue, which I will probably will, although I sometimes I think like, how am I ever gonna get over? It's also, you know, it's been quite an explosion. Yeah.

Saskia:

And I think this is, this is such an important time for you and I know that the designing is, is the biggest thing, but just for people listening, when you have all this attention, it is key if you wanna grow, to, to grasp that attention. And one of the easiest and cheapest ways to do this, like I. I mean, I've said this before and I, I only say it if I use it myself, and I really love it. I love Flo Desk because Flo Desk is a way that you can collect emails. It's a, an email marketing tool, and it has just one price. And for that price, you, you can grow your audience to infinity, whereas, I dunno, meal Chimp or something, at a certain point you have to. Paying more and more and more. I, I won't get completely into this, but this is, they actually also offer you a way to have a learning page, which is basically the type of website you're talking about, but it does cost money. But if you have to make one decision as a, as an upcoming business is collect people that are interested in your work and direct them to a space that is yours. That is. Social media because that can change at any moment and they are fleeting. They are giving you hearts, but you kind of want to connect with them directly. And once you have a new pattern, send it to your fans so they can buy it with one click off the button. I think this is one of the easiest and fastest way to do it. I do have a link. 50% discount if you do want that link, you can get it in the show notes. So what do you think are your next

Maaike:

steps? Designing more? Well would, I wanted to say for people that's consider becoming, designing or in, in any kind of craft, not only knitting. You know, just do it because I always preach that to people. If you really want something and you really, you feel like you want to become something, or, or, or, or do something, just do it. Because normally you will put a lot of effort in it, and you will probably also succeed. A friend of mine wanted to do a podcast about books. The ones in her podcast. She was also doubting and I said, just do it. And now she did. You know, she's this enormous and it's a big success. Well, I did what I preached to everybody and just went doing it. I remember being in the business group at Saskia and I didn't even dare to call myself a designer. And she said, you should. And there was a kind of click in my mind and I started designing and it worked. I don't know if it'll work in the future, but it worked. You know, I, I, I, I got my designs in publications and just try it. Cause if you never try it, you never know. Also, you don't know if you enjoy it, just give it a shot just. See if you enjoy the process and everything that comes with it because you don't know yet when you start designing and see if it's something for you. And I'm still kind of in a process. I think it's something for me, but I, I keep asking myself, do I still enjoy it? Is this something I want to continue? And you are also never too old to become a designer design or, or to, to stop and to go to something. I love this. This is

Saskia:

a perfect ending to a wonderful conversation and I, I loved having that specific viewpoint of where you are in your business right now, and I'm wishing you so many pattern sales. So much fun swatching all the different yarns and hopefully in a while you. People that do the annoying bits for you so you can focus on the on the great stuff. And thank you so much again,

Maaike:

Maaike. Thank you, Saskia. It was a joy to be here.

Saskia:

You can find Maaike's Designs on Ravelry under her own name, Maaike van Geijn And she's on Instagram@breielaar. In the show notes, you'll find the links to where she is and where you can find her beautiful designs. My favorite is Wervel, which is a beautiful yoked sweater pattern that has beautiful neon flowing colors. It's lovely. Go click in the show notes and see her designs there.

Life and work
Preparing for workshops
Introduction Introduction to the podcast and the interviewee, Maaike
About A Smaller Life
Maaike's unique perspective
Explanation of knitting terms
Ideal day
Balancing work and life
Calculating work hours
Perfectionism in work
Designing process
Design Submission Process
Inspiration for design
Design Process
Grading Sizes
Pattern Writing
Test Knitting
Compensation for Test Knitters
Ja, Wol Community for test knitters
Next steps after test knitting
Designing processes
Pricing in the knitting industry
Making a living as a designer
Investing in your knitting business
Maaike's business journey
Building a website and email marketing
Advice for aspiring designers
Conclusion