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.

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16 thoughts on “My Road to Independent Knitwear Designer

  1. Loving hearing your story, I’m embarking on something similar and feeling the pressure! Those old industrials are lovely to look at too. Eagerly awaiting the next instalment….

  2. A really interesting read and it bought back some lovely memories of my old Dubied. I ‘acquired’ mine when the yarn company I was working for relocated and I had it set up in my spare bedroom – on wooden blocks as I was terrified it would crash through the floor because they are so heavy! It eventually seized up as I didn’t use it enough and I donated it to a local company that taught knitting machinery mechanics! Good luck with your next step.

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  5. Very interesting to hear your story. You’ve got bucket loads of talent and you’re already making a splash on the UK hand knit designer scene. Best of luck with your continued journey, and I hope we continue to cross paths in the future!

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