A Room of One’s Own.

Hello!

Last time I posted about my old studio and my travels on the road to become an independent knitwear designer.

This time I just wanted to post a quick photo diary showing the progression of my new studio. I know there are so many incredibly talented people who are able to perform this kind of transformation on their own, but I had a great set of builders in to do it for me.

Our garage was full of stuff and on its way to becoming a junk store when I decided to have a studio in there instead. It isn’t massive, obviously. It is a single garage with no insulation and had a way to go before I could use it.

the garage before

Before the building, but after some serious cleaning out occurred…

the garage before

I was especially keen on natural light, and the ability to put in large skylights was the deciding factor with going ahead.

new studio in the works

The builders did an amazing job, separating off a small section of garage from a well-lit craft room. They put in laminate flooring with under-floor heating, power points, shelves and lighting. With a little help from IKEA, we were ready to go…

New knitting studio ready to go

Once I had moved everything I could fit from the old studio, there is not a lot of room left over, but it is a tiny perfect space with everything I need.

New EastLondonKnit Studio New knit Studio

Although this is quite a reduction from the previous studio, I am so happy with the result. I never have to worry about the rent going up again! It gives me the space and time to really work on my own designs and projects and dreams, such as my first hand-knit collection. This first baby of mine, the Klee Collection, is so very close to being ready, I can hardly wait to show you.

Happy knitting,

R.

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My Road to Independent Knitwear Designer

Hello!

There is something inspirational about a change in season. Today is another beautiful Autumn day with blue skies and a crisp coolness to the air. It feels like the beginning of something new and wonderful. And for me, it is. This year I have been making some decisions regarding my work and what I want to do with my life. I have been slowly transitioning from freelance knitter in the fashion industry to a independent designer in the handmade crafting industry. I am not there yet, but the path to being an independent knitwear designer is the one I am taking. In this moment, I am so grateful both to have the opportunity to pursue this dream and for all the wonderful people this decision has brought into my life.

Looking back, this all started with some incredible luck.

When I graduated from fashion college some years ago, I was presented with the opportunity to purchase some beautiful industrial knitting machines. I wasn’t ready for such a significant purchase, but these were not the kinds of machines you could just pop down to the shop and buy. They are not manufactured anymore for one thing. For another, machines in such pristine condition are rare as hens’ teeth. So, with more than a little help from friends and family, I bought them.

East London Knit's Dubieds5

Knitting machine

I immediately began to panic as I realised the size of the responsibility I had taken on. The first question to answer was: Where the hell was I going to put them?

A frantic search began and I eventually found a studio that would work—large enough, cement floors, heating, affordable, it was just what I needed. The location was particularly convenient. Hackney Wick is a neighbourhood within easy traveling distance from my home. Full of artists’ studios, quite scruffy but with a single decent cafe, the area suited me perfectly.

hackney wick graffiti

Things I will miss about Hackney Wick: Graffiti….

hackney wick graffiti1 hackney wick graffiti2

I bumbled along quite happily at the studio, making knitwear samples for designers, working with fashion students and teaching machine knitting. It wasn’t a great living, but I was making things and deciding my own fate as my own boss.

ELK sign

A sign on the door made it official.

I knew I should take action to make the financial living more sustainable, but then the next job would come in and I would put off the action plan again.

Then came the Olympics.

The Olympics came London 2012. Very specifically East London. Even more specifically, the stadium was built across the canal from the one decent cafe. The Olympic Park was around a 3 minute walk from the studio.

Stop me if you have heard this one.

More cafes sprang up and it was suddenly not unusual to see people in suits patronising them.

Hackney Wick Graffiti

Rents began to go up, culminating in an eye-watering increase this year. The type of increase that makes you laugh. Or cry. Or definitely make some emotional response.

This is when the action I had put off would be put off no more. I had to make a decision about whether to keep the studio, take on freelance/intern knitters and become a manager, or to give it up.

The thing is, I never wanted to be a manager. I want to make things. So after a bit of soul searching (read: endless complaining to the Very Patient Man), I made the decision and put the machines up for sale.

After feeling sorry for myself for a shake or two, I started to think about what to do with the money I would get from the machines. I can’t lie; this was a particularly sweet balm for my wounded pride. I had enough  to go to some fibre-based retreats this year. And even to build a small knitting studio in our tiny garage…

my garage before the studio was built

‘Before….’

Next time, construction begins….

Happy knitting,

R.

Daily Creativity

Hello!

Autumn is here! It is my favorite season. That back-to-school feeling is always uplifting for me–all the potential and hope of a fresh school year before any overdue assignments and late-night cramming.

After the summer fun, I’m in a stock-taking kinda mood. Although we are 3/4 the way through the year, I am thinking about how my New Years resolutions, among other things are coming along.

One of the more personal, internal aspects of my resolutions are the morning rituals, which have varied in their length and elaborateness since January.

Although I still think of myself as a natural night owl, the fact is that stuff gets done when, and only when, I get up early to do it. I do appreciate a nice bit of self-help and I feel like there is plenty of advice out there about how to be more creative, or productive or happy or anything at all. The advice always boils down to one thing. Just do it. Every day. Do it.

And the way that I do it is in the morning. Before anyone else is up there is a brief but lovely hour when my brain seems more able to focus. And so I do one creative thing–a drawing, and one learning thing–10 minutes of a Spanish lesson, and one productive thing–a little bit of writing and planning for the day ahead. And then, for the last couple of months, I take myself off to the gym for a bit of exercise. There is a really good reason for this, which involves my new(ish) status as a freelancer who works from home, but I will write about that later.

The fun and frustrating bit is the drawing. Every morning I open up a book of photography and choose one photograph to work from. I prefer portraits and street photography; it’s always the faces that get me. I then spend some time drawing from the photo.*

After 2 weeks in Seattle visiting my family and not making a single sketch, I have returned to the routine this morning (at 2 am! Thanks jetlag!) and am not surprised to find that the pencil feels clunky in my hand.

daily creative drawing

The drawing is not good. It is probably better than the first drawings I did, but I have to admit it sharing it doesn’t feel great.

But I guess this is the lesson for me; the creativity isn’t a linear progression. This is at once obvious and obscure. Or maybe it’s obvious from without, but obscured by emotion and/or ego from within.

Creativity is a daily practice. I don’t think it is too ridiculous to say it’s a way of life.

So there’s my pep talk to myself for the day. I would love to hear about your creative kick-starts!!

Happy creating,

R.

*This daily exercise was inspired by the wonderful Crystal Moody, who began a daily drawing practice a couple of years ago, chronicling her artistic work on Instagram. I have also found Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit inspirational.

Come on down to the Market!

Hello!

YITC pop up market place

This Saturday 5 September 2015 is the Yarn in the City Great London Yarn Crawl and Pop-up Marketplace. The Yarn Crawl has sold out, but the Marketplace will be open all day at Chelsea Old Town Hall. There will be an awesome lineup of vendors at the show–including The Fibre Company, Kettle Yarn Co., Midwinter Yarns, Skein Queen, Travel Knitter, The Wool Kitchen, and so many more!

The lovely ladies at Yarn in the City have also organised some great extras, such as an Indie Designer Spotlight, to which they generously invited me.

From 3-3:45 pm I will be under the Spotlight showing samples from my soon-to-be-released collection of patterns and chatting the knit chat. Please do stop by and say hello!

I hope to see you Saturday,

R.