Interview with Laura Nelkin and "Knitting With Beads!"

Laura on the set at Craftsy.

We recently had the opportunity to interview Laura Nelkin about her awesome designs, knitted jewelry kits, and her recent experience filming her "Knitting With Beads" class at Craftsy. As we expected, the interview was so much fun! Laura was a joy to talk to, oh so humble, and just one of the nicest folks around! Here is what Laura had to say when we chatted over the phone (mostly in her own words as I did my best to type as fast as I could while she talked.) :)

JBW- We know that knitting with beads, beyond the Craftsy class, is kind of your specialty. What drew you in that direction as a designer, and what keeps you there?

Laura- I only learned to knit about 7 years ago. I actually studied apparel design in college at Cornell and I worked a lot with textiles: weaving, dyeing, fiber arts, but hardly any knitting. Before apparel though, I was really into bead work, more as a hobby that supported itself. I used to make beaded items and sell them to my parents friends. It was a lot of fun. After college, getting married and starting a family, I was at a play date one days and one of the moms offered to teach me how to knit, so I said yes! I fell in love with it instantly. 
Mudra Necklace Kit
Schaefer Yarn Company was nearby so I approached them to see if I could work for them. I started working there and playing around with design. Undulating Waves was the first big hit of my patterns. People really seemed to like the pattern and were drawn to the use of beads in my design work so after that I just kept doing it! It’s fun to design something that you know people want to knit! Beads are always optional of course too and most of my designs can be knit without them as well.

JBW- Where did the idea from your knitted jewelry kits come from? They seem to be such a big hit!

Laura- When I first did a knit jewelry kit, it was a knitted cuff. It was a good design but it didn't sell super well because it wasn't really set up in kit form as well as it could have been. Once I designed the Butin collar, I knew that it would make a great a great kit and so I took what I learned from trying to do the first kit and applied it when I created these new kits. They became a hit really quickly! Now I have lots of kit options to choose from. I really enjoy putting together the color combos and pairing the yarn and the beads. That’s one of the best parts of the process.

Adorn, my e-book project was inspiration for many of the kits. Adorn Anew- 2nd e-book is currently in the 3rd month, Mudra Necklace and Cuff are part of this collection. The Trio Necklace and Earrings patterns from this collection just debuted (though they probably won’t become kits.)

JBW- Do you have a personal favorite design (or designs) of yours that you can tell us about?

Trapeze teaser.
Laura- My favorite pattern is always the one that I have finished knitting but no one else has seen yet. It’s like having a little secret that no one else knows which makes it kind of exciting. This year's Mystery KAL- Trapeze is my favorite at the moment. It debuts August 17th. It's pretty modular so it's really going to surprise people in the construction. People shouldn't be afraid to do a Mystery Knit-Long. It will be very much me and written like my other designs. Plus there is that exciting factor of not quite knowing what is coming next. For those wanting to participate in this year’s Mystery KAL, I am recommending they use a fingering weight yarn with a tight multi ply such as: Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock, Tosh Sock (onesies are good too), Lornas Laces Shepherd Sock, Malabrigo Sock, or plied lace weights will work too.

JBW- As a designer and author do you have any advice for those knitters out there who are just starting to design on how to make a living doing what they love?

Laura- This is a tough question because it is so subjective and specific to the designer. I can only say what has worked for me but a lot of it has been trial and error. Make sure that anything you put out there is your best work possible, that you love it, and it is as error-free as possible. The best way to create followers is to make sure that they feel confident that what they are knitting is going to be easy to follow and read, and there are no errors. Don't be afraid to shelve projects if they aren't ready! I have a lot of designs stashed away that have never become patterns. Also, believe in yourself and don't bite off more than you can chew.
Laura on-set working on
the Accola Shawl

JBW- What was it like putting the Knitting With Beads class together for Craftsy?

Laura-  This was my second time working with Craftsy when I filmed “Knitting with Beads” They had grown A LOT which was really cool to see. Both times, the whole process from start to finish was super organized and professional. They even have a makeup person! Basically, my first whole day consisted of planning my wardrobe for each segment (which was super fun) and working out the set decorations. They really focus on making the set reflect the teacher. They also work really hard to make sure you feel comfortable on camera and on set. Jeremy, the producer, who I had worked with filming my first class was the producer again on “Knitting With Beads” which was great because we already knew how we worked together. We had a lot of fun goofing around on the set.
Close up on the Accola Shawl

On day two, we jumped right into filming the knitting part of the classes. The intro and conclusion are usually the last to film because they are truly the toughest to get just right. If I didn't like a take and knew they were not going to use it I would blow it by making a super funny face or doing something silly. The whole thing was lighthearted and fun throughout even though it was a lot of work. It took two and a half days to film the class.

JBW- What kinds of skills will students learn in your “Knitting With Beads” class?
Another gorgeous
Accola Shawl

Laura- The skills I cover in the class are: the two methods of placing your beads in your knitting- knitting with pre-strung beads & placing the bead on a stitch and also learning to incorporate those techniques into other patterns. The skills are broken down by pattern. For the Pioneer cuff, you’ll learn to place beads both with a crochet hook and pre stung beads. In the Accola Shawl you learn how to knit nupps, a lace technique, while using both beading techniques, and working double sided lace. Double sided beaded lace can be tricky to make sure the beads are in the right place, so this class addresses that. The last design, Clara’s Shawl, shows how to add beads to the edging. The class includes all three patterns in it-- two shawl patterns and the bracelet or cuff pattern.
Clara's Shawl

JBW- Some students may be afraid of e-course's because they lack that face to face in-person instruction. What kinds of things do you think will help students be successful in an e-course?

Laura- Understanding that technology is not perfect and does have certain limitations. Craftsy classes are not a replacement for individualized instruction but they do offer some unique things that you can’t get in a traditional class setting. For one, it's great that you can watch the videos over and over again and you really can go at your own pace. When I teach a one-day workshop somewhere in person, it can be tough to speed up or slow down to meet individual students needs. I have a list of what I have to cover and only 6-8 hours to do so. With Craftsy, you work through the sections as you are ready, there is no rush. You buy the class and you have access to it forever, and can come back as many times as you want. 
Close-up on Clara's Shawl

Also, the Craftsy platform is very easy to use. A lot of students take a leap and sign up in the class and often are surprised at how easy it is and much they learn. Many come back and take more classes. Also, Craftsy has it set up so that you can ask questions of the instructor if you get stuck. I get those e-mails and am usually able to reply to students pretty quickly. Also, it builds community because you can interact with other students who are taking the same class as you!

JBW- And now for the lightening round! (Here are some "fun" questions we asked Laura as well):
  • Where did you grow up? Larchmont, NY
  • What is your dream job? I think I have it!
  • A little known fact about you…I really don't like bananas.
  • Your favorite book? Mists of Avalon- by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • Biggest accomplishment? My daughter.
  • Next big adventure? Iceland
Thanks so much to Laura for being such a gracious interviewee! We had so much fun getting to know her a bit better and hear all about her designing adventures. :)

Learn to Knit with Beads
A Giveaway + 25% Off!

Only for JBW Customers
(Was $39.99, Now $29.99)
Also, when we mentioned that we were big fans of Laura's designs to Craftsy, they were nice enough to extend an offer to all of our customers for 25% off when you sign up for "Knitting With Beads" between now and Saturday, August 4th! The class is normally $39.99 and with the 25% discount it would be $29.99. Also, everyone who signs up by following this link: Knitting With Beads , between now and then will be entered into a drawing to win their class for free! Actually, Craftsy will award 1 in 3 participants their classes for free! (They will notify winners via e-mail and refund their credit cards.) Pretty cool deal eh?!? I'm even going to take the course, so if you sign up too, I'll see you on there!

Thanks so much for reading and I hope you've enjoyed this behind the scenes look at the life of designer- Laura Nelkin!

Happy knitting!

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