Nat Raedwulf of Wolf and Faun Knits is the first Maker to be featured that I had the chance to meet in person, at the Pieces Celebrating Textiles Fiber Festival held this last March. I was lucky enough to get the chance to sit down with Nat and ask about her knitwear design process, and she shared some valuable insight with me on just how important it is to feel passionate about what you are doing.
Not only that, but Nat hails from the same beautiful Island that I currently find myself living on and is building a budding online business. Along with creating intricate and lovely knitwear designs such as the Clary Sage Shawl and Llyr Baby Blanket, she also has an online shop stocked full of beautiful notions for knitters. I am always curious in hearing more about how knitwear designers first got started, and was especially curious to hear Nat’s story.
Side note: I only realized this after meeting Nat, but I had actually featured one of her beautiful patterns (the River and Ravens cowl) in a post of my own here. It’s funny how small the knitting community really is!
I’ll start with the most obvious question! How did you first learn to knit?
I learned to knit when I was about 10 from my Aunt who was visiting. But by knit I mean just the knit stitch. I didn’t know how to cast on, cast off, purl… so I just made scarves in garter stitch 30 feet long, took it all apart and started again (on a very poor excuse for a cast on edge). It wasn’t until I was a teenager that my other Aunt and step-mother taught me the rest of it.
Following on the first question, what made you decide to get into knitwear design and how long have you been designing for?
I started knitwear design after my first child was born in 2013. I am a workaholic but was on mat leave and wanted to make things for her that I couldn’t find patterns for, so I started making them myself. People saw them and wanted their own and publishing the patterns was a lot more appealing than making and selling dozens of the same item (especially since people don’t usually want to pay fair price for knit items).
What is your favorite fibre to work with and why?
I really love all sorts of fibres but I’m very much into wool and specifically the wool I treasure most of all is heritage breed or local farm wool… Hinterland Farms on Vancouver Island being a great example of that… 50% alpaca from Vancouver Island and 50% Canadian sheeps wool. I love it when I know the farmer and know they love their animals and treat them well. I also love natural dyed wools and indie dyed wools. I almost buy and work with exclusively from small batch high welfare farms or indie dyers now. Some people to check out are: Hinterland Farms, Fern Fiber, Knit Cosmic Strings, Primrose Yarn Co. and Hooligan Yarns. All fantastic!
I’d love to hear more about your design process and where you find inspiration for your patterns!
My design process is anything but linear so it is really hard to describe it. Each pattern is it’s own journey. Sometimes I can sit down and make something from start to finish in the course of a few days or weeks but mostly I have an idea in my head for awhile, I play around with it on needles, set it aside, forget about it, pick it back up again, start something else, come back and frog it, re start it and start over. I’ve tried to sketch out ideas on paper and write out a pattern before I start but it never works. I need to see something grow and make adjustments, changes and new design elements as I go.
I take inspiration from the wilds. I am big into nature reverence, myths, folklore and connecting with my Scottish / Polish ancestry so I often pull from traditional designs or myths and legends in combination with making garments that allows me to explore and be out in nature.
What are your favorite hobbies when you’re not knitting?
When am I ever not knitting?
Ok I joke. I am really busy being a mom and step-mom, running my business and working part time as a teacher so I get very little ‘me’ time… so really I do spend most of my free time knitting when I’m able. I do however also enjoy reading, being out at the beach or forests with my partner and children, wildcrafting, growing plants and I dabble in making various potions and herbcraft.
What do you enjoy the most about knitting?
I love the meditative qualities of it. I love feeling like I’m tapped into something that connects women all over the world and throughout history. Women and fibre arts are historically intertwined and it’s been an inherent medium to express our spirituality, politics and emotions. I love that I can knit good energy into a piece and well wishes if it’s a gift for someone, or show gratitude by making something for someone with my own two hands.
There seems to be a growing interest in the ‘slow fashion’ movement. What are your thoughts on slow fashion, and how do you see this movement growing in the future?
I love slow fashion. Bring it on. I am slowly phasing out purchasing clothing that is not locally or mindfully made and I think knitting ties into slow fashion very well. It’s really important that we understand who made our clothes and the true price being made for cheap clothing that harms the environment and humans alike. I am already working on a few pieces to add to my winter wardrobe for next year. I love the mindfulness slow fashion brings to my life.
I see Slow Fashion really growing and taking off. More people are starting their own clothing businesses. More people are learning how to sew or knit. More people are starting to realize the impacts of making poor and making good choices with how and where they spend their money.
What prompted you to open your online shop?
One: Because I really love what I do and making money at it and generating income justifies the amount of my time and energy I can pour into it.
Two: Because I was at a crossroads in my life. I was recovering from two car accidents and getting ready for my Mat leave to end and knew I wasn’t going to be able to work full time at a typical job. I wanted to be home more with my kids and my body wasn’t going to stand for working full time away from home. I needed to find a low-stress solution that allowed me to be home but earn money.
Three: I am really passionate about supporting, promoting and collaborating with other artists and makers. I could spend all day doing so, so why not?
Four: My partner. He’s amazing. From the moment we became friends he encouraged me to view myself as a legitimate knitwear designer as opposed to a teacher or mom who knits on the side for fun. He really pushed me to believe it was possible, probable and a legitimate goal to work towards. He believed in what I did long before I did. He helped me shift my perspective to see what it could be and that it was worth perusing.
Awe, that’s so sweet!
With your online shop and knitwear design business, how easy are you finding it to develop a reasonable work/life balance? Do you have any tips for other budding business owners in the fiber industry?
I was asked this a few times over the past few months and I’ll share with you how I responded at the time to those questions because they still hold true now; here are my greatest pieces of advice that have served me well::
- Be willing to invest in yourself and don’t try to do it all. Often starting a business we think we will do most of it ourselves now and when we get to a certain point or grow enough we will bring in help or professionals. Unless you have a graphic arts background, hire someone to make your logo. Unless you really want to build a website, ask for help or hire someone to make one. You have to believe your product or service is worth it and worth investing in before anyone else will, so invest in it and invest in yourself. Your time is probably limited as it is, figure out ways to save yourself time and energy so more of that time and energy can go into creating your actual products, designs and services that only you can offer.
- Give yourself time but start now, don’t wait. It’s ok if it’s just a hobby at first, if it only brings in a little bit of money at first, or if no one seems interested right out the gate. In this world of social media, you need to give people time to know who you are before people know what you have to offer. It took me 6+ months to go from concept to opening my online shop, and years of knitting and designing as a hobby before I built up a big enough base for my pattern releases to be a viable income. If I had been hard on myself and decided I couldn’t do it all in a month or two so why do it at all, I would not have my business. Sometimes it takes me 6+ months to release a pattern. That’s ok. It’s ok to take a long time. I have two very young children at home, a part time job as a special ed teacher and I am in long-term recovery from two auto accidents. Life is busy and crazy and unpredictable. Don’t wait for life to be normal or easy, but rather just give yourself permission to go at your own pace and take all the time you need but more importantly, start! Don’t wait or put it off.
- Reach out and find community to support you. Don’t try to do this alone. Facebook, Instagram, Ravelry and locally there are many communities and groups aimed at supporting and collaborating with one another in both the fibre arts industry and as a work at home mom. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or reach out to people for advice. This community is very helpful and supportive to each other.
- Don’t hide who you are. Be authentic. When I first started putting myself out there as a knit designer, I constantly kept my personal life and my business separate. I hid who I was and created a rather flat online persona for fear of offending or turning anyone off. It was exhausting and my brand was boring. Eventually I got tired of hiding who I was and started sharing my authentic self with the world. Not only did I attract an audience that really loves who I am and supports me, but my creativity and enthusiasm has increased. Sure the odd person is turned off by me but they were never my audience or client base to begin with, and for every one person turned off by me, 10 more love what I do.
Are there any upcoming events or collaborations that you would like us to know about?
Hmmm. I have a few collaborations I am very excited about but I am not sure what to say about them at this time so I will just say to keep an eye out for some fun things on the horizon! I will be attending Knit City in Vancouver for the first time and look forward to meeting a lot of people there. If you see me, come say hi!
We most definitely will! Thank you so much for this interview Nat, it was truly a pleasure getting to know you better and getting such wonderful advice for the newbie knitwear designers amongst us (me included)! I can’t wait to see what’s next for you!
Nat has also generously offered a discount on all of her patterns from now until the end of June.