My indigodragonfly Obsession: The Greatest Love of All

Regular readers of this blog will recognize the name indigodragonfly. If I’m posting about something I’ve knitted, 9 times out of 10 it’s out of indigodragonfly yarn. If you’re a careful reader of this blog and read the captions on my photos you’ll know that part of the appeal is the creative and often hilarious colorway names. Names like “Zen and the Art of Clown Disposal,” “Pastor of Muppets,”and “A Thin Line Between Love and Batteries” are enough to keep me interested. It’s not enough to keep me knitting though – THAT requires much more than just side-splitting creativity with names.

The yarn is a dream to knit with. ALL of it is. I have knit with 13 different bases from this dyer and they have all instantly become my new favorite yarn. It’s a little awkward having that many favorites, but I’ve learned to deal with it. There are 16 more bases in my stash that I haven’t tried yet, so that problem is only going to get worse.

They dye the most amazing colors too. Seriously, I have a TON of hand-dyed yarn in my stash, but the most complex, deep, knit-friendly, can-always-count-on-it-not-to-pool-unexpectedly yarn is always indigodragonfly. And the range of colors is marvelous! They manage to make me like colors that I thought I hated, and any time I’ve been dreaming up a project that needs more than one color they always seem to have the perfect combination in their dyepots. It’s almost creepy how they do that. It’s like they’re psychic.

It’s not just the names and the fact that the yarn itself is like crack for your hands and eyes, it’s the dyers themselves too. Kim and Ron are wonderful people! I want to support them as much as possible. Besides just the general awesomeness that radiates from them, they also have THE BEST customer service I have encountered in the indie hand-dyer business. I’ve bought direct from eight other indie hand-dyers online, and it’s not that the others have been terrible (though a couple of them have), but ordering from indigodragonfly is so much more fun. When things (rarely) go awry, they are really good about communicating with the customers and letting us know what’s going on and when things can be expected to be fixed. They are the standard by which I measure all other businesses.

As a result of all that, any time I have needed yarn for a project my first thought has always been indigodragonfly. Any time I wanted a particular color I knew exactly which one would fit the bill, and it is always an indigodragonfly color. It’s only been two years since I stumbled upon their booth at the Sock Summit, but since then pretty much all of my disposable income has been spent on indigodragonfly yarn.


This is my entire indigodragonfly stash. Isn’t it beautiful? Let’s marvel at it from several different angles.

IMG_3953 IMG_3955

Are you done marveling? Yeah, me neither. Go ahead and finish reading this post anyway, I promise the pictures will still be there when you scroll up again.

“That’s a LOT of yarn,” some of you might be saying. “That’s WAY TOO MUCH yarn,” more of you might be declaring. I can assure you, it’s not nearly enough. This yarn is addictive. You can’t just knit one skein. I can’t even manage to knit one skein at a time. Look at all the indigodragonfly WIPs I have going right now.


That’s two shawls, a pair of mittens, a cowl, a hat (now finished), and a bunch of hexipuffs.

“Wow, that’s FIVE WIPs!” some of you might be gasping. “Wow, that’s five WIPs,” some of you may be scoffing while glancing over at your own WIP mountain comprising 20+ projects. To both of you I say, “I KNOW.” ‘Cause either way you slice it, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re in the “that’s not enough WIPs” camp I can assure you, the only reason there are so few WIPs is because I tend to finish my indigodragonfly projects as quickly as possible. If you’re in the “that’s way too many WIPs” camp, you’re about to think I’m a robot programmed to knit 24/7. Here are all of my indigodragonfly FOs:


That’s 8 shawls (one of them is even crocheted!), 4 cowls, 2 hats, 2 pairs of fingerless mitts, 1 pair of gloves, 1 pair of socks, and a headphone whale. Not pictured are the pair of fingerless mitts that were stolen last year and a shawl I gave away to an ailing family member. Usually I only give away my indigodragonfly FOs to people I see every day so I can still pull out the knits and pet them when they aren’t looking, but that one was a special case.

So, just to reiterate, that’s 21 FOs in only two years! Or another way to look at it is 35 skeins in two years. At that rate, I only have enough indigodragonfly yarn left to last me four years! We’re not talking SABLE here (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy), this is actually a pretty modest collection based on my indigodragonfly consumption rate. And from what I’ve seen on Ravelry, I’m not even that rabid of a customer. There are others with indigodragonfly stashes that surpass mine, and they seem to knit from it at approximately the same rate.

The reason I’m showing you all of this is so you can understand the sheer volume of skeins Kim and Ron must have to dye in order to keep up with their voracious customers. Now imagine doing all of that dyeing without a studio. For the past four years, that’s what they’ve been doing. All of that dyeing has been accomplished in their kitchen – you know, the kind that was built to make food for a couple of people. It’s getting uncomfortable. They would like to eat sometimes, and maybe walk through their living room without having to play Mission Impossible as they navigate over, under, and around all the yarn that has taken over their house.

They need a studio. Their sanity, and the sanity of all of those who depend on their crack – I mean yarn – supply depends on it. To that end, they have begun an Indiegogo campaign!

indigodragonfly Indiegogo

They have AMAZING perks too, like a project bag (if it’s anything like their club project bags, I can tell you they’re awesome!), yarn in an exclusive thank-you-for-helping-us-build-our-studio colorway, and membership in a brand new fiber club! I’m not even a spinner yet and I’m drooling over the prospect of a fiber club.

These perks are so amazing that I’m sort of dying on the inside because I can’t have any. You see, all of that glorious stash was acquired back when I was employed. Now I only have 69 cents in my bank account and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I’m not just sad because I can’t get in on the fiber club (oh god, there’s a fiber club), I’m more upset that I can’t help them reach their goal. They’re so close! Maybe some of you can help them out for me? If you don’t knit or don’t particularly care for the perks I know someone you could send them to *nudge, wink*. And if you enjoy reading this blog, you may want to consider helping them out so that I can continue writing, ’cause if the indigodragonfly supply dries up it would end me. 

Minions, assemble! I need you, indigodragonfly needs you, THE WORLD needs you!

The League of Extraordinary Knitters

There’s been some very interesting chatter going on in the Designers group on Ravelry. It started off with someone asking if there were any active professional organizations for designers. There was once – the Association of Knitwear Designers – but it doesn’t exist anymore. The conversation that followed was fascinating. For those of you with Ravelry access and any interest in the knitting industry I would strongly encourage you to read the whole thread. Yes, all 17 (and counting) pages of it. I promise it will be worth your time. If you really want a quick and dirty peek at what’s happening there was a great summary in post 187 on page 8 that you could start with.

For those of you who don’t have Ravelry access, I will attempt to summarize/paraphrase/comment on the conversation and provide some context wherever I can. There isn’t an easy way to provide annotations on WordPress and I don’t want to call out particular people into the more public space of my blog by quoting them, so wherever I’m paraphrasing a particular post I will provide a link to it. If you don’t have Ravelry and see a link at the end of a sentence or paragraph, that just means it’s not my original thought, ok? I also feel the need to repeat that as always in this blog, and especially in this conversation, the word “knit” and all of its derivatives should be understood to include crochet as well. This is not a knit-specific conversation at all!

Here goes.

There is a need for some sort of professional organization/union/guild/thingy in the knitwear design industry. Why? Well, there are many problems that an organization like that could help address.

Fair Compensation

Designers earn peanuts compared to other creative professions. This is especially apparent in the traditional publishing world where magazines pay the same rate for designs today as they did in the 1980s. Publishers also tend to want to retain all rights to the designs, not allowing the designer to profit from their own work beyond the initial submission (post 15). Add to this the problem that there is no public resource to tell us what “fair pay” would be in this industry. No one wants to publicize what they are paid for their work for fear of appearing “unprofessional,” or worse – retribution from publishers (post 34). This is not just a paranoid fantasy either. A Cooperative Press author is working on a book right now that is described as “like Writer’s Market, but for fiber people.” Unfortunately there has been some trouble getting responses from publishers about even the simplest information (post 70). It appears publishers are resistant to allow any sort of discussion of their practices, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they secretly blacklisted any designers who openly discuss their experiences. Thankfully it is now relatively easy to self-publish knitting patterns, though that comes with its own pitfalls.


Many people talked about feeling isolated in their profession. As a designer you don’t really have an office you can go to and be able to talk about work problems with your peers. For the most part you have to find people to talk to online. It can be difficult to form a trusting relationship with other designers online when you’re starting your contacts list from scratch. It would be nice to have an organization of peers to voice professional concerns with.

It would also be great to have some sort of mentorship program to help fledgling designers learn the ropes of the business – apparently that was one of the most successful aspects of the now defunct Association of Knitwear Designers that many would like to see repeated. You see, there isn’t any formal training for designing knitting patterns. You could get a degree in fashion design, but that barely scratches the surface of the body of knowledge required for knitwear design. Fashion school can teach you how to make a nice-looking garment, but the rest of it – learning how to hand-knit the garment and being able to communicate the instructions for repeating the process in the highly technical language of knitting – is pretty much self-taught (post 174). Usually the job of a designer doesn’t end there. Once you’ve made a pattern you still have to photograph the sample, apply some graphic design skills to make a pleasing layout for the pattern, then you have to figure out a way to sell it, either by pitching it to a publisher or by publishing it on your own. Some of those things can be hired out, but most designers perform some or all of those steps on their own. And we haven’t even gotten into the nitty-gritty of running a business like marketing and bookkeeping. The point is, knitwear designers utilize A LOT of skills in their work, and not all of those are skills that can be gained through schooling. I would kill to have a mentor who had been working in this business for a while guide me through some of the hurdles that I know are coming in my future career path, and help point out some of the potholes that I haven’t seen yet.

Quality Control/Professionalism

Then there’s the problem of free patterns clogging up the market. I mean, there isn’t anything wrong with having free patterns available and I think they’re a very valuable resource for newer knitters and a great way for designers to get some exposure, but there are just SO MANY of them. It can make it difficult to get the consumers to understand why they should pay for a pattern when they can just find another one for free. As was pointed out in the thread if we change pricing to better reflect what it costs to produce a pattern, you tend to get a lot of pushback from a knitters who have come to expect cheap or free patterns. Some will question whether your work is worth paying for (post 18). Well the short answer is “YES”. The long answer is “probably, as long as a well written pattern.”

Currently, the standards of both free and paid patterns are all over the place (post 95). Another thing that a professional organization could help with is to ensure certain standards of quality are met. That way you could be sure that any patterns from designers who are members of said organization are clearly written, tech edited, test knitted, professionally photographed, etc. (post 30). Why should knitters care about standards of quality in knitting patterns? Well, lets consider exactly what kind of service designers are providing.

For knitters, a knitting pattern is a form of entertainment. A well written error-free pattern with clear photographs provides more entertainment that a poorly written pattern full of mistakes and crappy photos. Many serious knitters are willing to pay for a more entertaining knitting experience. To put this into perspective, there are more knitters than there are golfers. Sure, there are free courses that golfers can use, but the paid courses are more challenging and more fun, so any serious golfer is going to be willing to shell out some cash in order to fully enjoy their sport (post 100). The same should be true for knitters.

Right now knitters really don’t have a reliable way if telling if patterns are well-written and error-free before they download them and start trying to work through it. If there was a professional organization of designers and the patterns produced by those designers were identified in some way, then at least knitters would know exactly what standard of work to expect before they invest their time and money into a project!

Legal Aid

This is not the first time the idea of a designers’ union has circulated, but usually it seems to come up during discussions about copyright. As always, I really do not want to get into copyright debate here, but one thing is certain: There is A LOT of misinformation circulating about the subject and there seems to be very little case law out there to clarify things. The reason for that is probably because copyright disputes in the knitting industry rarely seem to go to court, probably due to a lack of funds to hire lawyers. A professional organization might be able to provide two things to help out here:

  1. They might be able to contact some REAL copyright lawyers and find out some actual FACTS about copyright laws and how they apply within the knitting industry. Hopefully once armed with these facts there could be some sort of awareness campaign to spread this factual information around instead of just letting a bunch of armchair lawyers start flame wars all over the internet like they have been for years (post 420).
  2. Perhaps there could be some sort of legal aid fund so if a copyright dispute (or any other legal dispute really) comes up with one of the members they’ll actually have the ability to fight back instead of just having to grit their teeth and take it if they can’t afford a lawyer.

At this point those of you who have some knowledge of the knitting industry may be yelling at the computer screen “But what about The National Needle Arts Association (TNNA for short)? That’s a really big organization that helps shape the entire needle arts industry! Doesn’t that organization help designers with this stuff?” Apparently not. Many of the posters in the thread are members of TNNA and chimed in to detail how TNNA really doesn’t serve the interests of designers. In fact, it was stated that when TNNA reps are faced with issues raised by designers they tend to either ignore them or get really defensive (post 19). I don’t personally have any knowledge about TNNA’s responsiveness to designers’ concerns, but knowing that a member of the Board of Directors didn’t see a problem with hijacking someone else’s pattern to use for his own profit, this assessment is not exactly surprising. It seems their main purpose is to serve wholesalers, and designers really aren’t a big player in that arena.

Lastly, all this talk about a designers’ organizations is fantastic, but there are similar needs in some of the other knitting professions, such as tech editors, test knitters, and sample knitters (post 304). Since these professions all work directly with and are dependent on the patronage of designers it makes some sense for them to have some sort of representation in whatever happens, but until things get organized it’s hard to tell exactly where they would fit in.

That’s a long list of some very complex problems, and even if a professional organization does manifest it is likely not going to be able to address all of them. It’s possible that more than one organization would be needed, or maybe some of these things could be solved without the help of a guild/union/thingamabob.


Lest you think the whole thread was just a big whine-fest, let me get to the best part! As a result of this discussion, there are some plans coming together to address these problems!

For starters, there was a suggestion that starting up a designers’ conference could be very useful. That way designers could congregate, voice their concerns, and start plotting further action (post 19). Shannon Okey has some expertise in this area and seemed pretty willing to explore the idea of using her resources to start an “alternative trade show” for designers (post 37). Many people also suggested that a Google+ hangout would be a great way to hash out some of these ideas. This is where I start feeling a bit tech inadequate – I really don’t know what Google+ is. I mean, I’ve heard of it in passing, but I have no what it does or how it works or anything. I guess I should look into that, ’cause apparently it’s a tool that people are actually using to communicate with one another. There are probably quite a few other social media sites I should learn to get more comfortable with using too (tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, I’m looking at you).

Rohn Strong reported that he has been in contact with a labor attorney and is working towards starting an international knitwear designers union (post 49). The “international” part of that is especially important because the knitting industry is VERY international. Just check out some of the more popular designers on Ravelry and look at where they live. Designers are everywhere.

Amy Shelton is working on an anonymous Industry Compensation Survey and is collecting ideas for the types of questions to ask in this thread.

There are efforts in the works on a couple of fronts to help clear up some of the contradictory or just plain ridiculous information floating around about copyright laws as they apply to knitting patterns. Shannon Okey is working on arranging a conference call with an art/crafts copyright lawyer (post 148), and Amy Shelton has a private Facebook group compiling a list questions to ask a copyright lawyer (post 162).

There are currently two threads up in the Designers group organizing meetups at this summer’s TNNA trade show in Columbus: a general thread, and Sunday lunch thread. I can’t guarantee that a designer’s union/guild/thingy would be a topic of conversation at these gatherings, but it certainly wouldn’t be out-of-place. I wouldn’t be surprised if these ideas gain some serious momentum immediately following the TNNA trade show!

None of this is going to be easy, but just because something is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It’s not like things like this have never been done before. Other creative professionals such as actors, writers, and graphic designers have been able to affect change in their industries through unions or other types of organizations, so why shouldn’t knitwear designers do the same (post 169)?

So, things are happening. A League of Extraordinary Knitters is assembling. Change is coming.


WIP-Cracking Wednesday: Testing

This week I am test knitting a design by Linda Choo! She is April’s Artist in Residence at Shall We Knit and has created a lovely lace shawl design using indigodragonfly MCN Sock or indigodragonfly Linen Silk. The pattern is called “Hemlock Reflections.” If you want to know more about what Linda has been up to during her residency, you can read about all over Ravelry: there’s a thread in the indigodragonfly group, another one in Linda’s fan group, and Linda set up a project page describing the program.

As a test knitter I will be knitting the pattern exactly as written and reporting any hiccups in the pattern. If the instructions are confusing or if the stitch counts aren’t working out the way they’re supposed to the test knitters will be able to pick up on that and the designer can correct the pattern before it is published. It’s like proof-reading, but with yarn.

I am knitting the two color version of the pattern with indigodragonfly MCN Sock. The blue is called “Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey, Spacey-Wacey Stuff (Doctor Who)” and the dark purple-black is called “My Boyfriend Had a Bicentennial (Buffy).” I love mixing fandoms with yarn!

Timey-Wimey and Bicentennial

I cast on last night and am already through the first section. Did I mention it has BEADS?


I am so glad to be able to help prepare lovely pattern for publication, and I’m always thrilled to be knitting with MCN Sock! Seriously, this yarn is heaven.

Greetings and Salutations!

I’ve had a huge spike in page views in the past few days! Welcome new readers! There have also been waaay more comments than I’m used to, which is wonderful and thank you to those of you who left them. I will be responding to all of the comments tomorrow. Tonight I am exhausted from the exciting weekend I spent at Knit Fit in Ballard, WA. I would love to tell you all about it tonight, but I think I need a good night’s sleep before I can use the English language properly again.

I will leave you with one fun factoid before I go to bed. I’m a relatively new blogger, so I’m still figuring out how the whole blogging stats thing works. Sometimes it will show you the search terms people entered into search engines which led them to your blog. Today one of the search terms which directed someone to my corner of the internet was the sentence “Ever since my sister moved back in everything is terrible.” I giggled for like five minutes straight after reading that! Whoever that was, thanks for the laugh. Goodnight everyone, I’ll have much more to say in the morning.

License to Knit

I am often asked “Why don’t you sell your knitting?” There are many factors that complicate the sale of hand-knitted items, but my biggest obstacle to date has been copyright. At the bottom of most knitting patterns there is a copyright notice. The language of these notices range from the generic “for non-commercial use only, all rights reserved” to the more specific inclusion of “this pattern may not be used to produce items for commercial purposes.” There has been much debate in the knitting community about copyright, namely surrounding the selling of items made from patterns. It’s hard to misunderstand the intentions of the patterns that specifically forbid the practice in their copyright notice, but for the more generic notices it can be argued that the copyright only applies to the sale of the pattern. Some even argue that patterns which explicitly prohibit selling items don’t have any legal standing to do so.

Let me be clear, I really, really do not want to get into yet another copyright debate here. I don’t know whether or not I could actually be sued for selling things knitted from a pattern that I did not design myself. What I do know is that the legality of it is questionable at best. What’s even more important to know is that the practice is generally not accepted in the knitting community. Sure, you might be able to get away with it, but if you do and word gets out, people will not like you. Publishers will not like you. Editors will not like you. Designers will NOT like you. If you want to succeed in this business you NEED people to like you.

When I was a brand new knitter I did not understand these concepts. I saw the copyright notices, but I couldn’t quite comprehend their meaning. Back then I don’t think I ever came across the more specific language prohibiting the sale of items, so I was left to guess at the scope intended with the more generic copyright language. I had some vague idea that selling things that I did not design might be slightly illegal, but at the time I thought it shouldn’t be illegal. The patterns I was used to seeing were very simple and typically offered for free. How could anyone have the gall to prevent me from selling a garter stitch poncho made under the direction of a free pattern? I also don’t think I had a concept of “designers” back then – also due to the simple and free patterns I had access to, I’m sure. There wasn’t much personality to be seen in a stockinette capelet, so I think I assumed most patterns were not the work of a single designer’s artistic vision, but were the product of faceless yarn “corporations” just looking to sell you more yarn. Maybe that is how some of those early patterns were designed, I don’t know. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Vogue Knitting that I started to see individual voices in the knitting designs. When the first copy of Twist Collective came out I finally got it. Those knitting patterns are designed by people. Selling things made from their designs wouldn’t be “sticking it to the man” it would be hurting people. From then on I resolved to never even consider selling something I did not design myself.

Catkin – my first encounter with Carina Spencer

Enter Carina Spencer. One day I was poking around on her site, downloading a free copy of Regina and looking at all of her other beautiful patterns (including Catkin, pictured above), when I noticed the words “Licensing Info” in the sidebar. Intrigued, I clicked on it, and within seconds my mind was blown. For a fee she will allow knitters to sell items made from her patterns! She gets paid for her designs, the knitter gets paid for their work, non-knitters get access to quality knitting, no one gets sued, and everyone is happy! THIS IS GENIUS!!

Carina Spencer is clearly a fantastically creative person, but somehow I doubt she is the first designer to come up with this idea. There are probably other designers who offer licenses to knitters, I just haven’t found them yet. I wonder how many designers are even aware of this option? While the practice of selling items made from others’ designs is generally unaccepted, some designers are fine with it as long as you ask them for permission first. I just thought it was a bit tacky to email a designer and ask to use their creative vision so I could turn a profit without offering them anything in return. Maybe that tackiness could be reduced by offering to negotiate a licensing agreement of a sort.

Now when someone asks me, “Why don’t you sell your knitting?” I can tell them, “Maybe I will, but I need to get licensed first.”

Catkin – modeled by Mark Twain

Dear Science

I don’t think this relationship is working anymore. I’m truly sorry it’s taken me so long to finally admit it, but I think you and I both knew this was coming.

I really enjoyed our time together. You guided me through some hard times in my life and have always supported me. You helped get me into college, then guided me through to graduation. I appreciated our lab time in particular, even though you could be stubborn and at times even infuriating, but you always came through for me in the end. I will always cherish those lab reports. You’ve been an integral part of my identity ever since I was a little kid, but I think it’s time for me to strike out on my own.

I’m sure you’ve noticed how distant I have become in the last year. I knew I should have been studying and applying for grad schools, but I was distracted by something else. You’ve seen the signs before. In high school I always spent more time on art homework. I justified it by claiming that art was so much more time-consuming than solving chemistry problems, but everyone knew I didn’t really need to put that much detail into my artwork to get a high grade. I did it because I liked it. I never read extra chapters in an anatomy textbook just because I liked it. But, I made a re-commitment to you in college and I focused all of my academic efforts on you and only you.

When I graduated though, you started to change. All I wanted was to play around in a lab for a bit until I was ready to move on to grad school, but with the collapsing economy you started acting like a Bachelor’s degree wasn’t good enough for you anymore. If I wanted to even set foot in a lab you required a Master’s degree or a Ph.D. You became way too high maintenance for me. I took a job in an office that focused on research hoping it would keep the flame going until I was able to meet your standards, but without the thrill of the lab I started to get bored with you. I craved the trial and error of learning the equipment, the problem solving involved in setting up controls and variables, the methodical way I would execute the experiment, and the thrill of seeing it all come together in the end. I found that thrill somewhere else.

It started out innocently. At first I just knitted when I was with my friends. It wasn’t enough though, and soon I started looking up new techniques on my own and starting bigger and more complex projects, some of which I worked on when I knew I should have been studying. I couldn’t help myself, it was just so relaxing and you were so….not. But then when you pulled away from me after college it got much worse. Sometimes there would be months when I never even looked at a science book, all I did was knit.

The Sock Summit is what really did it for me though. I knew I could never really come back to you after that. I saw what it could be like to be involved in an industry that truly appreciated me for who I was. Learning was freely encouraged! No one needed any special credentials to be able to take a class or experiment with a new technique. Even just walking through the corridors I found people more than willing to teach me new things! The environment was cooperative instead of competitive. No one was trying to edge each other out for grants or be the smartest person in the room. If I asked a question and the teacher (or random knitter in the hall) didn’t know the answer, they didn’t stammer trying to cover up their ignorance, they said freely, “I don’t know, let’s figure it out together.” It was accepted that just because you don’t know everything there is to know about knitting doesn’t mean you aren’t clever.

I think it’s time to finally admit that you’re just not the right fit for me. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life scrambling for grants, having to constantly prove how smart I am, and – as much as I love lab work – I don’t want to have to spend eighty hours a week in a lab just to be respected as a professional. Perhaps it’s time for you to re-examine your priorities as well, because I am not the first scientist to be lured away by the arts. Vogue Knitting had an article in their Winter 2011/12 issue featuring interviews with five knitting professionals with scientific backgrounds. Some of them have left science entirely.

I am moving on with my life. I think it’s finally time to stop pretending this knitting thing is just a hobby when it clearly isn’t. I’m going pro.

Best of luck to you,



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