You may have seen someone new writing from the SweetGeorgia blog lately! We are thrilled to welcome Tabetha Hedrick to the SweetGeorgia family. Tabetha has had an enviable career in the knitting industry. As well as being a designer in her own right, she joins us from her most recent post as Contributing Editor at Creative Knitting Magazine. I had a chance to catch up with Tabetha recently to find out more about this lovely person who has joined the team!
I had a quick peek at your website and wow, you’ve sure done a lot of fun things in the knitting world! Tell us how your knitting journey has evolved so far.
What started out as a lark, learning how to knit, very quickly advanced into the design realm where my inner artist could take center stage. And it wasn’t long before that morphed into new opportunities and experiences that pushed and pulled my heart into the direction where I feel as though I was made to go.
I guess now that I think about it, I have checked off quite a lot of “bucket list” items in the knitting world, from having my first magazine publication to publishing my first book, and everything that has fallen between, such as working with major magazines and yarn companies, teaching online classes, and having a few wonderful people call themselves my “fans” (grin!).
The most memorable parts of my journey, though, are the ones that I have taken me into my new job with SweetGeorgia. I was a relatively intermediate designer when I was asked by a magazine editor to write a few guest blog posts. Now, writing has LONG been my passion (from childhood; I still dream of writing novels to this day), so having the chance to flex my artistic muscles in this particular manner was something I jumped on. I think my work must have been pretty decent because soon I was asked to be the Online Editor for the Creative Knitting Newsletter, writing content and tutorials. Shortly after, I was asked to act as Contributing Editor for Creative Knitting magazine, where I write regular articles, interviews, and tutorials for each issue. And then, the chance at a temporary dream job: I was given the lucrative offer of acting as Editor for Creative Knitting’s special interest issue, Wraps, Capelets, & Cowls, which let me put all of my experience together into developing a magazine from start to finish. I love designing, so much, but working with designers, graphic artists, and photographers to put together a cohesive collection is exhilarating. Talented minds coming together with the singular goal of enticing the knitter? What could be better?
The journey to where I am today has certainly had its ups and downs, but I made the climbs up that ladder with a fierce determination that I’m a little bit proud of. When I look back even just a year ago, it has been completely worth every moment. Every failure, every opportunity … have all made me who I am today.
What are you going to be doing in your new role at SweetGeorgia? What are you most looking forward to?
My new role with SweetGeorgia is Design Director for Knitwear. It is similar to an editorial one, I think, where I will be managing the patterns and collections that SweetGeorgia releases throughout the year (and do we have some exciting things planned!), as well as designing patterns as needed for other projects. I’ll develop themes, research trends, coordinate with designers and marketing, handle all communications pertaining to designs and designers, as well as a oversee content and strategy to help promote everything knitting pattern-related.
And oh my goodness! I am looking forward to so many things that I don’t think I could possibly narrow it down. Working with SweetGeorgia is like a dream, while having the opportunity to help the company grow makes my heart positively leap with delight. I am also very much excited to develop new relationships with talented designers.
It looks like you’ve been a pretty prolific designer – for both yarn companies and magazines. How will that experience help you in your new role with SweetGeorgia as Design Director for Knitwear?
Laughing… I’ve never considered myself a prolific designer; just one who has been spurred on by passion, delight, and, yes, obsession for all things fiber. Designing for so long and with so many different yarns, I know what joy and pleasure it is supposed to bring. I would say that I am also pretty aware of how pieces should fit, come together, and enhance the knitting experience. I have come to understand the way design and fiber go hand in hand to bring delight and excitement to our knitting, balancing the needs of knitability and wearability with on-trend fashion, entertainment, and advancement. That designer background, combined with the magazine work, really enhances my ability to view a future collection in my mind’s eye and to see the big picture from both SweetGeorgia’s perspective and the knitter’s perspective.
What is your own design process like? Tell us how you take a pattern from inspiration (or project brief!) to completed pattern.
I haven’t really been able to pin down what inspires any particular design, because the idea can come from anywhere. And it starts with a sketch in the form of a quick outline – just a quick one that my brain wants to visualize for shape and construction. From there, I make a decision on the type of yarn suitable for the drape, feel, and vibe I want to achieve, and begin the swatching process. While swatching, I explore any unique aspects I want to incorporate, such as shaping details, necklines, or borders. Other than the actual sample knitting, the rest is mostly on the computer (crazy, right?)! I’ll scan a more detailed sketch into my software for finalization, upload images of my blocked swatch, start hammering out sizing requirements in my Excel spreadsheet, draw schematics for the desired construction and sizes, and, if submitting to a company, work up a 1-page proposal with all the details. From there, I’ll start fleshing out the basic pattern (a VERY basic outline with just the numbers I need for the sample I’m making) that I keep in a notebook for when I start knitting the sample; it often gets marked out and red-lined as I work out any issues, make style changes, etc (because change is always, always part of the process!).
Once the sample is knit, I’m back at the computer for the rest: finalizing the pattern, touching up schematic changes, drawing any charts, and, for my own indie designs, laying out the pattern for publication.
You’ve gone through the process of submitting your own concepts and patterns to yarn companies and now you’re on the other side! What will you be looking for in submissions?
For the most part, I’m going to be on the hunt for designers who are both professional in their presentation and exhibition, have a good eye for fit and construction, and passionate in their work, their ideas, and their designs. We want designers that we can establish long-term relationships with, so submissions that “get” both the theme of the collections and the values, needs, and desires of SweetGeorgia’s customers are high on the priority list.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given as a designer in the business, OR! What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into designing knitwear?
That’s a great question and I have TONS of advice, but let me see if I can narrow it down to two:
- Make professionalism a top priority – Not only in clean, well-written proposals, but also in your communications, patterns, handling of deadlines, and presentations. Check your spelling, respond in a timely manner, have firm handshakes, and be thoughtful to the deadlines that fall up the chain from yours.
- If you can, get to TNNA (The National NeedleArts Association trade show). While there are great opportunities to be found there, it is really about the associations and face time you can have with editors, yarn companies, design directors, and fellow designers that establishes the chance for bigger opportunities later down the road. Most of my best work came from meetings at TNNA, but it is also where I met some of the best mentors I’ve ever had in my life.
Personal knitting vs. professional knitting – can you distinguish between the two in your life or do you get to keep them separate?
For a long time, my personal knitting fell to the wayside, mostly because of too many deadline projects in a time span. It can VERY easily lead to burn-out, which I am just now overcoming after a recent stint of crazy. I’m taking a break from designing for the time being, just for the purpose of delving into some personal knits for a while. I know my children will be grateful because they have been hinting, not so subtly, that I haven’t knit for them in a while.
If your personal knitting is still personal – do you have a favourite kind of thing to knit? Or a favourite yarn? (ha!)
Hehe!! I will say right off the bat that I have been a HUGE fan of SweetGeorgia for years, and Trinity Worsted remains one of my most favorite yarns to work with (ooo… and CashLuxe Fine!). I love smooth yarns with a medium twist, hints of luxury, and gorgeous color (so, yup, it’s obvious I would love SweetGeorgia).
I knit shawls and garments the most and am as equally as fascinated with lace as I am cables or twisted stitches. I don’t work multi-color pieces very often (I’ve just never mastered the ability to float my yarns with adequate tension), but am always eager to try out new techniques. I used to knit socks, but after a bit of insanity where I knit 54 pairs of socks in one year, I haven’t exactly felt called to knit one in a while. Grin!
Assuming you’re not always designing – what attracts you to someone else’s patterns that make you want to knit the piece?
I’ll admit that it has been a long time since I’ve knit something that someone else has designed, but my new role with SweetGeorgia and my time to settle into more personal knitting means I will definitely be on the hunt for someone else’s patterns to knit from! Not to mention, it’s going to be super awesome knitting pieces from our upcoming collections (hint!).
I love designs that are subtle, simple, graceful, and cross easily into other seasons, so those are the patterns I most often reach for. Also, because I am more of an advanced knitter, I do occasionally seek out patterns that challenge me, offering up complex stitch pattern arrangements or construction.
Do you do any other fibre crafts (e.g. spinning or weaving) and if so, do you design for those too?
As a matter of fact, I do! I spin! I don’t design, mostly because I still have no idea what I’m doing most of the time with it. Haha! I’ve always said that knitting is my joy, but spinning is my meditation. The lulling hum of the wheel and the fiber spinning out from my fingers in a gentle twist reminds me to be present right where I am, savoring the sound and sensation.
I’m also dipping my toe in to crochet and I love taking photos of my knitting/fiber.
Many thanks to Tabetha for taking the time to answer my questions, and please give her a warm welcome to SweetGeorgia!