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  • Jen Johnson began knitting in 2007 while pregnant with her daughter and does most of her knitting for her daughter and son. When she couldn’t find the patterns she wanted, she added designer to her job titles of Navy wife and mother. Jen loves the inspiration she gets from all the beautiful yarns available, as long as she doesn’t get distracted by—ooh, shiny!
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When am I a “real” designer?

Recently, I’ve had reason to ponder this question. I mean, yes, I design things and therefore I am a designer in that sense…but when I’m staring at those forms were I have to fill in my profession, at what point do I stop putting in “homemaker” or “stay-at-home mom” (as appropriate) and start writing, “designer.” Or maybe “knitting designer.” Or, to borrow a phrase from Shannon Okey‘s The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design, “intellectual property developer in the textiles field.” For example, recently my son brought a form home from kindergarten asking if any of the parents had an interesting career they’d like to talk about for career day…and while I’d love to talk about knitting and designing, did it really qualify as my “career”?

I wouldn’t have used the term while I was designing free patterns for fun, but it was clear to me that I was just doing it as a hobby. So at what point does receiving remuneration make this my job and not my hobby?

Certainly at this point, just starting out, I won’t be making enough money to support myself, let alone a family of four–but I don’t need to, since my husband does (and I know how lucky I am to be in that situation). He’ll tell people that he just hopes I’ll make enough to offset my yarn purchases. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I mean, I know he’s half-joking when he says it, and the other half is based on firm knowledge of how much I stand to feasibly make any time soon…and considering the size of my yarn purchases sometimes, offsetting them would take a fair amount! Yet it still feels a little patronizing and belittling, although I know he doesn’t mean it that way (and, come to think of it, I’ll need to talk to him about this before he reads it on my blog!). He’s probably my biggest supporter, never doubting I could do it and never murmuring a complaint about all the yarn I’ve brought home because, “I’ve thought of a great design for this!”

Last week my husband was having some minor, elective surgery done–minor enough that I was allowed to sit in and observe if I chose. Steve was noncommittal on whether I sat next to him or in the waiting room, and I half-joked that I’d probably stay in the waiting room so I could knit–only half because I really have spent most of my sitting time working on design samples. So Steve asked if I could knit in the room, and the answer was that as long as I didn’t actually knit over the incisions as the surgeon was working, that was just fine.

I sat there next to Steve, knitting and chatting with him, the doctor, her med student, and the Army corpsman as the doctor worked away. The corpsman, a very nice Sergeant, watched me work for a bit and then asked, “Is that knitting or crocheting?” His wife has just taken up crocheting, so he was interested, and we talked a bit about the difference between the 2 crafts. Then he asked what I was working on, and I told him.

“She designed it,” Steve piped up. “She’s a designer, and the pattern for that is going to be published.”

So…I guess I’m a designer, and I should stop saying it in an apologetic tone. And next year, when the career day forms come home with Jeffrey, maybe I’ll sign up too.

2 Responses

  1. I would say you count as a designer…

  2. You are a designer, because designers design things and so you qualify. Now clearly, that’s not your only job these days, but it is still one of your jobs and it is entirely appropriate to refer to yourself as a designer.

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