Friday, March 25, 2011

The Journey of a New Knitwear Designer

The original "Neckie"
One of the benefits of blogging for Jimmy Beans Wool, is that I am occasionally allowed to “toot my own horn” so to speak. I am so lucky to work for a company that is so supportive of its employee’s diverse interests. Whether it’s related to knitting and crocheting, or something totally outside the realm of fiber arts like equine therapy or organic gardening, everyone here at JBW can feel loved and supported in those endeavors. It’s such a great environment to work and spend my days in!
When I designed the Basic Neckie back in 2004, I was working as a customer service representative at Patagonia (the outdoor clothing retailer). I was fresh out of college and just knitting simple hats and scarves for my friends for fun. I’d been knitting for years and knew the basics, but I hadn’t really gotten serious about it yet. A friend of mine at the time who was a brand new knitter came to me and said, “Kristen, I want to knit a neck-warmer with a button so that I don’t have to deal with a long bulky scarf, how would I do that?” I told her to give me a few days and I’d come up with something for her.  
Kudo Slouchy Tam
Thus the Neckie was born! I made one for myself first and wrote down the basic pattern for my friend, who then made one of her own. Soon after, I was approached by many of my co-workers who wanted Neckies to wear for their outdoor pursuits. It turns out skiers and climbers like the idea of a simple neck-warmer that is practical on the mountain yet stylish enough to wear out to the bar afterwards. Before I knew it, I had a side job! I was making and selling Neckies to all of my co-workers in multiple quantities! People wanted them in different colors for different outfits and to give as gifts! I was both flattered and thrilled that so many people liked my design.
Donner Pass Cowl
Soon after leaving Patagonia to serve as an AmeriCorps Volunteer, I started an Etsy shop and began selling my Neckies online. I also sold them in my friend Jena’s online consignment shop (her shop is no longer active, but she is still known as Miss. Modish at her style blog). I gave her six or seven Neckies one day and they sold in her shop within a few hours! 

When I started working at Jimmy Beans Wool in 2008, I was starting to get a little burned out on making Neckies. I was also worried that I had become a “one knit wonder.” I’d been contemplating the idea of transitioning from “knitwear maker” to “knitwear designer” so I dug up my old Neckie patterns notes and wrote them down in pattern format and asked Laura, one of the owners of JBW if she would consider posting my pattern on the JBW “Free Patterns” page. She obliged, and my first knitting pattern was published!   

Hipster Hat
Flash forward 2 years. I’ve now started to design with more frequency and fervor under the name of “Marinade Designs.” My first 5 or 6 designs are perfect for the beginner knitter. The Basic Neckie and Kudo Slouchy Tam, both free on the Jimmy Beans Wool website. Last weekend I released 2 more patterns on my personal knitting blog Marinade including the Hipster Slouchy Hat and the Donner Pass Cowl. Both are simple but fun knits that can be done in a short period of time and make great gifts!

Coming soon are two more patterns: a chunkier ribbed version of the classic Neckie as well as a very basic hand-warmer pattern that I wrote for my knitting students at the JBW retail shop here in Reno. I’ll be posting these 2 patterns over the next couple of weeks as I finish editing and photographing the final products. All of these designs are super simple and are great for the beginner knitter looking to enhance their skills with each new project.


Chunky Neckie
These 6 designs are all being offered as free patterns. Why free you might ask? Well it’s simple. These are patterns that I have written and designed at the beginning of this creative process. They are not perfect. They are my own unique take on familiar knitted items and they are a young knitwear designer’s first efforts. I share them with you all in hopes that as part of the greater community of knitters, you’ll share with me your experiences and give your feedback. I am currently working on a myriad of other designs, some of which I hope to publish or have published in the near future. I welcome your feedback on the technical aspects of these designs so that I may write the best patterns possible, and learn from the wealth of knowledge that exists in this wonderful community.


I’ve had so much fun creating and writing these patterns down for you all and I look forward to hearing the wonderfully constructive things you have to say about them! You can reach me via my personal blog: www.marinade.wordpress.com or by e-mail at: marinadedesigns@gmail.com.  
Thanks so much to JBW for allowing me to share my little story in this space here, as well as to my JBW family for all their love and support as I work to find my niche in this amazingly creative community. It’s wonderful to go to work everyday with people who understand and share my passion for all things yarny and fiberiffic (that one’s for you Leanne!)  

I hope you all have a fun weekend filled with lots of wonderfully fiber-filled moments. I’ll see you all back here next week for the return of FO Friday and WIP weekend!
Happy knitting everyone!
Kristen


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