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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A sweater for him.

Hello!

I reckon the long-suffering love of my life is knit-worthy. So I wanted to make him a sweater–something he can wear to work, but likes enough to wear in his own time.  This began as the promise many months ago.  It was going to be a Valentines day gift, an anniversary gift, a birthday gift.  Somehow, there was never the time to do it, even though it was to be a machine knit, and therefore doable in a few days.  Finally, after months of dithering and knitting a piece here and there, I managed it.

EastLondonKnit's hubby sweater before

And the conclusion was that it was too short.

I found this conclusion somewhat aggravating.

I didn’t have the time to re-knit everything, so decided I needed to find some way of lengthening the body that wasn’t too invasive, as it were.  The best option was to make the hem longer.

So I knit some new, longer ribbing.ELK rib

And linked it on to the sweater, one row above the current too-short ribbing. (A mini-video of the linker in action is on the instagram feed, also, if you like machines, there’s one at work here.)

EastLondonKnit ribAnd in the end, we got there…

EastLondonKnit's hubby sweater after

 

And he likes it, which is lucky, because that is his knitting allocation for this year! If I start now, I may just manage next year’s anniversary/Christmas/birthday jumper….

Happy knitting,

R.

 

Doily Project, Part Deux

Good Sunday to you!

This week it’ll be short and sweet–I have to knit a sweater and a gown for a client in the next few days and the feeling of grim determination has set in.  Too many pies, not enough fingers?

A consequence of the work may also be lack of coherence, so I had better just get on with it before no one can understand at all kind of maybe.

Carrying on from last week, I have some working pics from the Doily Project:

I knit a relatively fine-gauge black cardigan to feature this little doily:

EastLondonKnit Doily Project Deux 1

As the cardi was crying out for a collar, I held my breath and cut.  EastLondonKnit Doily Project Deux 4 sewing the collar down

EastLondonKnit Doily Project Deux 3 positioning the collar

Then I placed the collar, and with a linker (which is  a sewing machine for knitwear) attached neck-trim catching the doily in place.

EastLondonKnit Doily Project Deux 2 linking on the collar

I then hand-sew around the edges and it was done:

 

EastLondonKnit Doily Project Deux 5 the finished collarTa Da!

Please forgive the pics–not great quality, but I think you get the gist.

Next time, coherence! pixels! auto focus!  Promise!

Happy knitting,

R.

The Machine Age

Hello!

Although this blog is my space for going on ad nauseam about hand-knitting, a funny thing happened the other day and, you know, I gotta share. Cos it’s what I do.

As hand-knitting is my first love and the knitting machines are now so numerous as to impede access to the studio altogether, the logical thing to do was sell a  machine or 3 to free up a bit of room at the studio and, well, it never hurts to have a little extra cash either. So I dusted off the ol’ camera and took some pics: *Click to enlarge*


East London Knit's Dubieds 10EastLondonKnit's Dubieds 1East London Knit's Dubieds 2East London Knit's Dubieds 3East London Knit's Dubieds 4East London Knit's Dubieds5East London Knit's Dubieds 6East London Knit's Dubieds 7East London Knit's Dubieds 8East London Knit's Dubieds 9I suspect it’s like selling a home–you want to move, so you fix everything up and then think, ‘ohh, maybe I shouldn’t move, it’s actually really nice here.’

So I took my pictures, and am now loath to part with the beasts.  There are just too many jumpers I haven’t knit, too many techniques I haven’t tried!  I cannot quite part with my awesome toys. Yet.

But in other news, the hand knits are slowly but surely multiplying–like rabbits in slow motion, they come forth. Posts soon to come on those things.

Til then, Happy Knitting!

R.