You have just stumbled upon The Secret Life of Yarn! Before I start revealing some of those secrets, let me introduce myself.
Up until recently I was a “scientist” – that is I studied Biology in college and intended to continue my scientific studies in grad school as soon as I saved up enough money to do so. When the money manifested I suddenly found that I didn’t really want to go to grad school, which I thought was just nerves at first. Upon further examination I discovered the problem was not the school, it was the career – I didn’t want to be scientist anymore! For the past 7 years something else had slowly been overtaking my interest in the microscopic world, and once I was released from homework obligations it had turned into an obsession. Now I’m a knitter.
I’ve been fiber-curious since learning how to crochet in ’97, but I didn’t really get into it until I learned how to knit in ’05. All my friends were doing it and I wanted to do it too, but I never do anything half-way so I went straight from garter stitch scarves to cables and large lace pieces and I still show no signs of slowing down. I’ve been thoroughly immersed in the knitting culture ever since (yes, there IS a knitting culture). Now I’m on a mission to launch a fibery career! I just haven’t quite figured out what that career will look like…
So, back to the secret life of yarn. Many knitters, and certainly most non-knitters, don’t think there’s much more to knitting than stitches. Sure there’s the yarn you buy to knit with and needles you buy to construct the stitches and even the patterns you get to show you what to knit, but you don’t always put a lot of thought into how those things came to be and how they got into your hands or how the idea to knit this particular item entered your brain. To many people knitting is simply an act, which primarily consists of constructing knit stitches and purl stitches to create a fabric. That’s not what this blog is about.
There is an entire industry surrounding yarn, fiber, and knitting*! The reason you are able to buy that gorgeous yarn, use those fabulous needles, and knit that stylish shawl are because of the work of thousands** of people within the industry. This work consists of designing, dyeing, yarn manufacturing, teaching, hand spinning, event planning, web designing, photography, graphic designing, modeling, tech editing, writing, test knitting, publishing, creative directing, social networking, etc., etc. etc. Also largely unseen by the general public is the more subtle force behind knitting, the thing that makes someone who knits into a knitter, and that is the culture of knitting. The sense of community and identity knitters cultivate is also very important to knitting and helps keep the knitting industry afloat. It’s what makes us want to congregate at sock-themed conferences, spend hours on internet forums, and fuels controversies that spill out into the non-knitting world when that culture is denigrated. This is the secret life of yarn, and I am going to tell all!
I haven’t found many resources for people looking to start a career in knitting (though I haven’t been looking for long, so perhaps there’s more than I realize?), but I did find one book which gave me a great start. It’s The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design, by Shannon Okey. I initially bought it thinking it would help me learn how to design, but it’s not a how-to-design book at all, it’s a how-to-be-a-designer book which turned out to be MUCH more fascinating. I’ll be talking about this book more in-depth in future posts, but suffice to say it’s extremely useful in my current endeavor. However, the book is written from the perspective of people who are already established in the industry. The people interviewed and even the author herself got established early-ish in the knitting explosion that occurred in the late 90s and early 2000s. Establishing a knitting career NOW with Ravelry, Facebook, Twitter, and a much larger market (and much more competition) to work with is going to be a little different from the stories given in The Knitgrrl Guide. It was also missing (and understandably so) much of the nuts-and-bolts of starting up a business and becoming self-employed which can be very overwhelming for someone like myself who doesn’t even know where to begin. With this blog, I hope to provide a newbie perspective as I troubleshoot my way into the industry!
Along with posts about my journey into the professional knitting world, I will also be providing insights into knitting culture. Sometimes this will be from the perspective of knitters, other times it will be concerning knitter/non-knitter relations. Knitter-adjacent people may want to tune in to better understand their knitters – if it seems like your knitter is speaking a foreign language, I can help. Since I am trying to get into the knitting business there will of course be posts about what I have on the needles from time to time! I will be sampling many different fiber-related activities to try to find my place in the industry, so you can expect to read posts about photography, dyeing, spinning, designing, tech editing, test knitting, and whatever else strikes my fancy. There will also be lots of posts (and likely rants) about the nuts-and-bolts of self-employment and running a crafty business, so I hope that other crafters, makers, artisans, and wannabe small business owners will find this blog helpful too. Non-knitters are welcome here!
Well, that was quite the introductory post wasn’t it? I guess all that’s left to say is “allons-y!”
*I want to be clear to all the crocheters out there; I am not at all discriminatory against crochet! I would love to add “and crochet” every time I mention knitting, but that would get tiresome. Since I am primarily a knitter and “knitting” and its derivative words are easier to type than “crochet” that is what I will type for simplicity’s sake.
**totally made up number, I have no idea how many people it takes to knit a shawl…yet