These past couple of months, I’ve had the immense pleasure of getting to know the designer behind Annika Andrea Knits. Annika is a talented knitwear designer who loves working with colours and challenging herself with new techniques! She has also recently started blogging, which I definitely encourage you to check out – it’s full of great reads and resources for budding knitwear designers. I am super excited to share with you guys this second installment of the Maker Spotlight series, and I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!
Hello Annika! I’d love to hear more about who you are and where you’re from.
First of all, thanks for having me! I am originally from Germany but have lived in the UK for a bit over six years now. I moved to Scotland for my degree in 2010, then to Surrey in 2014 and now live in Leeds with my partner. Leeds is in Yorkshire which has a long textile heritage and more and more people in the area are reviving this great tradition. It is quite exciting to be here and see it happening! I enjoy living in the UK a lot even though Brexit has made my future in this country a bit insecure and I sometimes miss not having my family close. I am not sure what the future holds but I really hope to move again in a few years and this time perhaps to a new country. I am definitely up for a new adventure.
How did you first get into knitting?
To be absolutely honest, it was because I was bored. At the time, I was studying for my undergraduate degree in Politics and my life pretty much consisted of reading and writing for Uni, going to work and watching telly. I was increasingly frustrated that all my hard work for Uni didn’t result in anything tangible and I just wanted to do something where I could see a result at the end of the day. My mum had shown me how to knit the year before so I got the needles and yarn I had carried around and moved flats with and tried to remember what my mum had taught me. After that I was pretty much hooked and have been knitting since.
Tell me more about how the transition period of becoming a knitwear designer began. What did it feel like to design your first patterns?
I had dreamed about designing my own patterns pretty much from the moment I started knitting but was never confident enough in my own ability as a knitter and kept telling myself I needed more experience, I am not creative enough and so on. However, when my dad passed away unexpectedly my view of the world and my priorities shifted and my new mentality became ‘better to try and fail than never try and regret’. Shortly after this the incredibly talented Francois from Aroha Knits ran her first ‘learn to design’ initiative and I participated in it to see if I could do it. I tremendously enjoyed this different approach to knitting and came up with a design I was rather happy with and even sent to Quince and Co for a pattern call. They didn’t accept it but I was so proud of myself for trying. I never actually turned that design into an actual pattern but I immediately started brainstorming and came up with a few ideas that I eventually published. I was very nervous when I shared the sample with friends and later on Instagram and actually publishing the design was nerve wrecking but I don’t think I was as proud of anything as I was of publishing my cowl and hat design. And I am sure that my dad would be proud of me for doing something I was initially very scared of.
What are your favorite hobbies when you’re not knitting?
I am avid reader and can’t go long without a book. I am currently very much interested in books about gender, economics and current affairs and try to read non-fiction that can help me makes sense of this very confusing and changing world we live in. Other than reading, I like listening to podcasts, baking and recently started to do some yoga which I am enjoying a lot despite not being very good at it.
How do you balance your full-time job with knitwear design? Is there a special routine you follow? What would be your advice for other knitwear designers who also hold down full-time jobs?
When I started designing I worked from home about 30 hours a week which gave me enough time to work on my designing, blogging and everything else that comes with it. However, I returned to full-time work earlier this year and it has been a big change. I am still adjusting to working full-time hours and as I work for a yarn company now, I spend a lot of my time thinking about knitting, working with yarn, writing patterns and swatching which means I get my daily knitting needs fulfilled easily. All of this has certainly resulted in less time and less desperate urgency to work on my own designing that I felt when I was unhappy in my previous job.
I haven’t quite worked out the perfect balance yet but if you’re a new designer, I think working out what priority your designing is going to have in your life is important.
It is good to know how much time you want to spend on it and that if you want this to grow into a semi-professional income generating occupation sacrificing time spent with friends and family will be something you have to do. I don’t want to put anyone off and I certainly get a lot of satisfaction from my designing but sometimes it is really difficult to sit down and do the work when I really just want to do something with my partner or friends.
So, to sum this long answer up: know what your priorities are for your designing and your private life. If you know that, then I am sure you can work out when to do what and how to get to where you want to be without neglecting yourself and your family and friends.
Very excellent advice. Do you have any favorite knitting techniques (i.e. cables, fair isle, brioche, etc.)? Are there any techniques that are on your bucket list to learn?
I would probably answer that question differently nearly every day. Sometimes I love the simplicity of stockinette and can spend hours just going through knits and purls. Other days, I would rather do anything else, including the dishes which I dislike severely, then to knit even one row in stockinette, and I dream of complicated cables or some beautiful lace pattern. There is no one technique I like terribly much more than another but I do enjoy trying new techniques. In my newest pattern, I used an I-cord bind off for the first time and was incredibly happy with the result. I think one of the techniques I really would like to try is intarsia. I am not sure what I would use it for but it sounds like an interesting way to do colourwork.
What do you enjoy doing the most while you knit?
Sometimes I just enjoy the sound the needles and yarn make but I also love to listen to political podcasts or watching a film or TV show. What I watch or listen too changes a lot. At the moment, I am watching the X-files for the first time which is weird because the show has been around for so long and I can’t believe I haven’t started to watch it earlier. It is a great show and I am very pleased to say there are lot of seasons so my knitting entertainment for the next months is secure.
What is the knitting culture like where you’re from? Is it seen as fairly normal for someone of your age to knit?
The UK has a strong knitting culture and I think it has become very popular over the last years for younger people to knit as well. I think the same is true for Germany. However, when I started to knit the stereotype of knitting as an occupation for old ladies was definitely still established and predominant. So much so, that I didn’t think it was worth trying to google anything about knitting because there surely couldn’t be anything as old ladies don’t know how to use the internet. To this day, I am incredibly embarrassed for thinking that, not only about knitting as an occupation but also about older women. I have certainly learned my lesson and am incredibly proud to be ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ so to say and to benefit from all these incredible knitters before me who have established stunning traditions and where able to produce so much more elaborate designs than I can even imagine often without any pattern to follow.
Do you have any advice for knitwear designers trying to break into the field?
Enjoy yourself and celebrate the small successes is probably the best advice I can give. There will be days when you don’t’ feel like working on your designing, especially if you try to make this your job, and that is fine but I think overall you need to be happy doing it. In more practical terms, reach out to other designers. They are usually a very helpful bunch. And I if you want to publish patterns with magazines, Knotions Mag is a great start. Knotions Mag is an online magazine that publishes free patterns monthly (you get paid for your pattern) and it is a super easy process for trying out getting a pattern published. Jody, who runs Knotions is very supportive and does the tech editing, charting and layout. Also, by being published you get good exposure and your name and design will get seen by a large number of people. I recently had a pattern published and it was an incredibly enjoyable experience.
I had no idea. Thank you for the great advice! Lastly, what’s next for Annika Andrea Knits? Any exciting upcoming projects, collaborations, etc. that you’d like to share with us?
What’s next for Annika Andrea Knits is a good question. I am not a hundred percent sure, to be honest, as I am still trying to work out how to do this now that I work for a yarn company fulltime but I do have tons of design ideas. However, I might slow down a bit and not publish quite as regularly anymore. This is also because I like to focus on my blog. I have been working on that since the start of the year and incredibly enjoy working on it especially my monthly feature of introducing new designers by interviewing them and sharing their stories and the research for a new series on ‘fibres to knit with during summer’ that I will start in May. So, the future is still a bit unclear but there will certainly be more designs coming and I really hope to be able to work more with other designers.
Thank you so much for sharing, Annika! This was full of amazing advice for knitwear designers just getting started and it’s always fun to have a little ‘behind the scenes’ peek at the inner workings of a knitwear designer!
Annika has also graciously offered a 20% discount on all of her patterns exclusively for this interview! Just head over to her Ravelry pattern store, click on the prompt for the coupon code, and enter ‘woolyventures’. Coupon code valid until the end of May.
All photos courtesy of Annika Andrea Knits.
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