THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ME AND YOU IS...

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While reading through the submissions from applicants for the role of Community Manager, I noticed this come up a few times:

“I’ve only been following Frenchie for a few months.”

And it made me pause. I’ve been running Aroha Knits for almost four years now, and people are still discovering and learning about me! That’s so cool!

However…

I realized that, despite me being as open as I can about my struggles and challenges, my triumphs and victories, you may still not know my full story.

With the launch of the SWATCH Studio Circle underway, among all my posts of “You have what it takes to be a designer!” or “I’ve got your back!”, I realized that I wasn’t sharing a critical story. 

My story.

For those who are new to me or been following me for a few months, you’re seeing me four years into my knitwear design journey: where I am now running a six-figure business doing what I love for a living (and getting paid for it!). 

But how did I get here? Where did I start? Apparently, I must have been super creative and smart or super lucky right from the start! I know that for many, Aroha Knits is an inspirational and aspirational brand, but sometimes I wonder if I had accidentally put up a barrier between you and me. Like, “Oh wow, I could never have what Frenchie has! She must have been so talented and smart from the get-go, whereas I am not.”

No, that is not the case. And that’s my fault because I haven’t shared my story with you. My full story. And this may only scratch the surface.

Let’s go back a bit.

In July 2014, here’s my current situation: unemployed. Living in a foreign country. Can’t speak the language. Can’t get a job. Can’t drive. Dependent on my husband’s salary as an assistant English teacher. Only a few hundred dollars in the bank. The closest convenience store is 30 minutes away. Nearest restaurant: 2 hours away. At this point in time, I’ve been knitting for 7 months now, designing as a hobby for 3. Sprinkle in battling depression and anxiety, and voila! You have 2014 Frenchie.

And 2014 Frenchie says to her husband: “I want to make a career being a knitwear designer!”

Let’s set some more context: I barely knew how to knit, let alone design. I had no photography, graphic design, website, writing, branding or marketing skills. And here I am, bright-eyed and upbeat, basically telling my husband who is working so hard to provide for the both of us while paying off student loans, “Out of all the entrepreneurial endeavors I could have chosen, it’s KNITTING!”

No skills, no idea, no chance, right?

Wrong. As you can plainly see.

The reason why I’m writing this post today is to hopefully show you that I’m… just a regular human. I didn’t come into the knitwear design business with years of experience in knitting, designing, photography, copywriting, marketing, branding, how-to-run-a-business know-how, etc. (Want to see my VERY first website from this era for example? This was right before I moved to Japan). 

What I did have was a desire to find a way to make it work because even though I had only been knitting and designing for less than a year, I LOVED it. I was OBSESSED with it. It was my passion and even my life-calling. So I figured it all out along the way. I took leaps of faith. I experimented, I failed, I grew. I learned and invested in coaches and mentors to help me get the results I wanted. What you see NOW is the result of years of passion, grit and a love for what I do. 

The only difference between you and me is that I’m just further along the path of this crazy journey. Sure, there may be some differences in lifestyles between us, but 2014 me was indeed not more talented, creative or skillful than you. And I certainly had plenty of obstacles (financial and mental especially) that I had to pull myself through.

I didn’t go to art school or get a degree in business (I’m an International Relations and French double major). I didn’t grow up with memories of watching my grandmothers knit by the fireside and them passing along the tradition to me. I certainly didn’t go pursuing my dream without feeling massive fear, self-doubt and imposter syndrome. Whenever I signed up for a program, I would feel sick to my stomach at the idea of spending money on me and my knitting.

But four years introduces a lot of growth and strength. 2018 Frenchie is miles different from 2014 Frenchie.

So I ask you, what would you look like in four years? Or even a year from now?

“Why should I have to pay for this when I can find it for free online?”

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After two years of running SWATCH Studio, I finally got this comment (I made it, ma!)

I’m not going to lie, this was a significant violation of my values and triggered a reaction within me. 

So I’m going to unpack this comment and talk about it because there are a ton of layers to this and different angles to take. Get ready for #realtalk time with Frenchie.

ANGLE ONE: YOU CAN FIND IT FOR FREE ONLINE

The truth is… yup, the content I teach in the course can be found online in one form or another for FREE.

I’m not hiding or denying that fact. Why should you pay for something you can get for free? If you just want to learn how to design knitwear, you don’t need the SWATCH Studio Circle.

But that’s not what the SWATCH Studio Circle is about. On the surface, sure, I share my step-by-step process for creating publish-worth patterns. But if you take the time to dig deep into the internet, you’ll find free resources that show you how too.

I’m not in the business of “here’s how to make a pattern.” I’m in the transformation business. What makes SWATCH Studio one-of-a-kind is all the components - the education, the community, and the resources - that make it a catalyst for transformation.

If you just see it as a class, then it’s not going to do much for you.

With the SWATCH Studio Circle, two main components elevate it above “I can find this info online” status.

  1. The community. Being a knitwear designer is often a lonely venture. When I first started out, I didn’t have a city I could lean on for support and encouragement when I was feeling upset about a pattern launch that didn’t go well or frustrated when a test knit wasn’t going well, or sad when a design submission was rejected. It made for a tough few years. This is why a having a community of like-minded people is so important. They can emphasize, provide encouragement and the feedback one needs to hear to help them get back on their feet quicker.
  2. The coaching. The only reason why I made it as far as I have as fast as I have so because I had mentors and coaches to bounce ideas off of and help me get the clarity and strategy I needed to propel my knitwear design endeavors forward. Those who show up for the coaching calls, show up for themselves, are often the ones who I see have the MOST growth and transformation. Why? Because they focus on the WHO rather than the WHAT. Instead of thinking, “What do I need to do next?” and they think, “Who can help me reach my goals? Frenchie! I’ll lean into the resources and opportunities she’s provided for help”.

Yes, you’ll be able to find the information to teach you the steps of knitwear design one way or another for free. But when you’re feeling down and discouraged, will you be able to find a community that supports, encourages, celebrates and comforts you for free? When you’re feeling the fear and self-doubt or don’t know what direction to go in, will you be able to find a group of mentors and coaches who are deeply committed to serve you and provide you with the guidance to help you towards your growth and development as a knitwear designer for free?

When people enroll into SWATCH Studio, they do so for the results they get, rather then a hodge podge of random information. The free information you find online can be awesome and useful, but it doesn't really add up to the outcome and transformation you want. The SWATCH Studio program is structured to give you the best chances of seeing the results you want.

ANGLE TWO: IF YOU DON’T PUT IN THE WORK… OF COURSE IT’LL BE DISAPPOINTING

Now, obviously, when I get an email with a complaint or feedback, I do take it into consideration, because there is a learning experience to be had and if I truly did someone wrong, I would apologize and do everything in my power to make it right. However, I noticed that this particular student never did the work. They didn’t submit their homework assignments, didn’t participate or engage in the private community nor did they take advantage of the weekly coaching calls.

So yeah. If you don’t do the work, of course, the program is going to be disappointing. If you don’t lean in, you don’t get anything out of it. 

The students who excel and succeed in SWATCH Studio are the ones who show up for themselves. They see the course as an investment, not an expense. This is to help THEM grow and develop as a knitwear designer. They are patient, in it for the long-term game. I am deeply committed to their transformation, but if they are not committed to themselves, there is only so much I can do.

The transformation is in the implementation.

ANGLE THREE: INTENTIONAL TRADE-OFFS: TIME/ENERGY VS. MONEY

There are two types of resources we can expend: money and time/energy. Almost every day we are presented with the choice of making the intentional tradeoff between spending money or time/energy. 

Between money and time/energy, one of these is a renewable resource. One of the advantages of the SWATCH Studio Circle is that all the information you need is in one place. You are paying for the ease of access and the luxury of not having to spend hours online finding the resources. You are essentially paying me to do all the research and thinking for you so you can spend more time in your zone of genius and what you love doing: designing knitwear.

You can make your money back, primarily if you view the SWATCH Studio Circle as an investment in yourself and not an expense. You can’t make up lost/wasted time. And, just from personal experience, expending too much time/energy can lead to burn-out.

Students pay for the SWATCH Studio Circle for the convenience of having all the information in one place instead of cobbling together bits and pieces of information they found for free from random sources, plus having a clear sequence that takes them logically through each step.

ANGLE FOUR: I DON’T LET SOMEONE ELSE’S MONEY STORY BECOME MINE

This is one of my biggest fears realized: getting a complaint because my product wasn’t good enough for them and that there were free competitors online.

Two years ago, this comment would have been devastating. I would have shut everything down and doubt my every move. I would be taken over by paralysis and be much too scared to do anything.

After four years of running an online business under my belt, I’ve grown a lot, specifically in the mindset area. I’ve learned not to learn someone else’s money story become.

What is a money story? On a basic level, it describes our relationship with money. This year been filled with lots of growths and shifts towards my own relationship with money - instead of being scared of it and feeling like I don’t have enough of it, I have a much more healthy outlook towards it. I view it as a resource for me to help grow my business and enrich my life and most importantly, I am no longer afraid or nervous about asking to be paid for my expertise and experience. Because I know that what I have to offer is valuable and can transform people. So why do I charge for something that you can find online for free? Because you’re getting MY years of knowledge, experience, and expertise. And that’s worth paying for.

Also, I like to lead by example: if I want my students to learn how to value their work and charge what they are worth, I need to do so myself.

ANGLE FIVE: THEY WEREN’T MY IDEAL CLIENT

Here’s the thing. The SWATCH Studio Circle isn’t for everyone. It’s not meant to be for everyone. So it makes sense that out of the 200+ students who have enrolled over the past two years that a couple would say, “Hmmm, this isn’t for me. I’m out”. 

The SWATCH Studio Circle are for those who are deeply committed to themselves, willing to take action. This doesn’t mean they are not scared or don’t struggle with self-doubt, no. It just says they are eager to act despite it and step outside their comfort zone, knowing they have a lifeline to help them out and give them the guidance needed.

So if you’re the type to…

  • Purchase a course and not do anything with it
  • Not participate or engage with the community
  • Not show up for yourself to get the help you need
  • Expect the transformation to happen automatically

Do not sign up for the SWATCH Studio Circle. If you are not ready to stretch yourself and step outside your comfort zone and do the diligent work, please save your money (or even better, spend it on some yummy yarn!). 

My best students and clients are the ones who say, 

“Frenchie, I want to have a knitwear design business. I am going to work hard for it, and I want you to help me get there”. (Be still my fluttering heart).

I can tell which ones are going to kick major butt in the industry.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I did not write this blog post to “get back” at anyone. If anything, I feel sorry for the person who wrote that because I’m not sure how well they would handle receiving a similar comment since so many of our paid-for patterns have a free version equivalent online.

I wanted to show you, aspiring knitwear designer, the importance of valuing your worth and experience as well as why it’s so important to communicate how and why your offering is more than just a product. If you see it as a catalyst for transformation, to help people, then no free versions are ever going to replace it.

[Giveaway] Potion Yarns Featurette

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The "Tiu Top" is available in the Mystic 2018 issue of the Fibre Muse Quarterly. It will also be available at the end of the month as a single pattern download. Knit in a lustrous merino and silk blend, Tiu is anything but ordinary. A wide front lace panel elevates this effortless shell to extraordinary. Decreases from hem to bust enhance the top for a flattering A-line silhouette you’ll want to wear every day. Today we learn more about the designer behind the yarn used to create the Tiu Top.


Johanna learned to knit as a child, and though it didn’t stick at first, she kept trying. “I tried a couple more times over the years, but never got beyond the ugly scarf phase. Finally, after high school, I got obsessed and started knitting and crocheting every day. Then in 2016, my husband wanted a project knit out of yarn that matched a painting I'd done, and I couldn't find any that looked right. So, he suggested I try dyeing my own, since I'd had over a decade of experience as a professional hair colorist. I gave it a try and fell in love! I quickly progressed to opening my own shop online to sell my hand-dyed yarn (and now fiber).”

Johanna dyes her yarn and fiber using layers of rich color to create unique fiber to inspire others into creating their own magical masterpieces, “I use several layers of color to build up deep, dimensional, richly saturated colors for a unique and artistic skein of yarn. Using luxury, high-quality yarns and fiber allows for vibrant hues, beautiful finished projects, and an individualized style that you'll be proud to wear. I want to inspire you to create with these gorgeous works of art! I hope that my yarns will inspire you to tackle that next big project, learn that new technique, try that scary new skill, and empower you to create your own magic every day! I want to help you discover and cherish the magical power and unique beauty inside yourself, and encourage you to share that with the world!”

Having an extensive background in coloring hair and mixed media painting has helped Johanna to develop her own unique dyeing style and get comfortable with color theory, “I love creating really dimensional tones by combining unusual colors and breaking the rules of color theory to get fantastic results. As a long time knitter, I'm able to really help my customers with questions about their projects, the best ways to use my yarns, and I provide custom color pairings to help my customers choose the best color combos for their patterns. I've spent over a decade refining my eye for color, and my unique skills as a color specialist in the hair industry, have enabled me to create my own techniques for placing color on my yarns and fiber that give them a unique style and complex tones.”

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Want to win the "Tiu Top" kit? Entering is easy. First, follow Potion Yarns on Instagram. Next, leave a comment with your Rav ID on our Patreon post answering the question "What project started your knitting obsession?" Giveaway is open until July 26, 2018 at 11:59pm. The winner will be announced along with the release of the Tiu Top on July 27!

[Giveaway] Harnie Hoolies Featurette

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"Sophyrosyne", a top-down shawl, will be available as a single pattern on Ravelry at the end of the month! So this week we are shining a spotlight on the Harnie Hoolies yarn used to create this beautiful shawl.


Julie got into the fibre arts out of a desire to do something creative, “…that quickly grew into a desire to be more involved in the process. I wanted to learn more about what I was doing, and how it all comes together. For Paul, it was creative curiosity about dyeing fibre, different techniques, how different fibres affect the final outcome, how different dyes work, etc.”

The two knew early on that they wanted to work with new and interesting fibre combinations and go crazy with color. “We're very much free spirits when it comes to dyeing, and are always playing around with color and technique. We rarely have a plan when we enter the dye room; we prefer to keep the process fluid and inspiration take us where it will. This has led to a wide variety of color combinations and techniques, which is great because it means there is basically something for everyone!”

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Paul and Julie love watching their customers find the perfect skein of yarn. “We love it when someone hangs around, squishing and playing with different skeins. You can always tell when they’ve found ‘the one’ and that’s really rewarding, knowing you made something that someone else loves. And for the times when they don’t find quite the right thing, then we ask questions and take it as a learning opportunity to expand upon and work with in a future creative session.”

Harnie Hoolie’s is loved by many for the quality and type of fibre that’s used, but for Paul and Julie, they feel it comes from how the two of them work together, and how their different creative visions complement one another’s. “We each have quite a different approach to the creative process, using different techniques and thought processes. We each see and use color differently (literally, Paul is colorblind in shades of green), so at the end of the day we each produce quite different finished products. People see Paul at markets and festivals, and assume he’s just the muscle, but they couldn’t be more wrong. He’s just as creative as I am and without him our brand wouldn’t be what it is today. We’re very much a team when it comes to our fibre adventures.”

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Website: www.harniehooliesdesigns.com 
Email: julie@harniehooliesdesigns.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HarnieHooliesDesigns

GIVEAWAY

Want to win the "Sophrosyne" kit? Entering is easy! First, follow Harnie Hoolies Designs on Instagram. Next, leave a comment with your Rav ID on our Patreon post answering the question "What are creative hobbies outside of knitting?" (If you don't have one, what is something you would be interested in learning more about?) Giveaway is open until July 26, 2018 at 11:59pm. The winner will be announced along with the release of the Sophrosyne shawl at the end of the month!

[Giveaway] BigFootFibers Featurette

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Sheila got her start in the world of fiber arts out of a desire to dye. “I learned to knit about seven years ago, from my oldest daughter. I kind of dabbled for a few years and then my husband went on an extended business trip. I had just had baby #8 (he was about 3 weeks old) and I realized fairly quickly that knitting was a balm to my spirit! I was an IG newbie, but quickly fell down the fiber community rabbit hole :)”

From there, the whole world of indie dyers was suddenly opened up to Sheila, and she fell in love. “The first seed of desire to dye was planted when I was constantly missing my favorite indie dyers’ updates. And then, last year, I joined in on the KnitStars 1.0 online knitting summit that my LYS owner Shelley Brander of Loops put together. There were lots of awesome teachers: Stephen West, Hannah Fettig, Julie Weisenberger, Meghan Fernandes, Romi Hill, Amy Small, Taiu Landra, and finally Julie and Jean-Francois Asselin. It was Julie and Jean-Francois that inspired me to take the plunge and start dyeing.”

Sheila creates for the fiber world as an outlet for her creativity. “I love knitting, but I am horridly slow. I can dye 10 beautiful skeins in a leisurely afternoon—talk about instant gratification!”

BigFootFibers, Sheila’s hand-dyed yarn company, is a brand that draws its strength from blending opposites together. “We are romantic explorers, wading adventurously into the land of color and technique that are at present unknown to us. It is also my desire to educate about the qualities of particular fiber types and blends. For example, why you would want non-superwash wool for one project, or alpaca for another, and yet the perfect blend for that summer weight sweater might be linen or hemp or sea cell.”

Website: bigfootfibers.com
Email: bigfootfibers@gmail.com
Instagram: instagram.com/bigfootfibers

Giveaway

Caim, the Pi-Shawl design, will be released as a single pattern on Ravelry next Friday. We are giving away a kit leading up to the release: the yarn + pattern. To enter, the rules are simple:

  • Follow BigFootFibers on Instagram (instagram.com/bigfootfibers)
  • Leave a comment on our PATREON post answering the question: what's your favorite unusual blend of fibers? 
    (You need to have a free Patreon account in order to comment)
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How Can the World Be a Better Place Through Knitting?

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I like to attend business/marketing conferences to help elevate my brand and network with some of the most passionate and brilliant people that I’ve ever met.

But often, as a knitwear designer, who mostly sold $6-10 products, in a room with brilliant, creative people in industries that the outside world respects, I felt small and intimidated. I left the conference the first day thinking, “How on earth is my work going to leave an impact on the world?”    

"Am I making a difference? How am I changing people’s lives with my work?”        

The answer, of course, is yes, I am making a difference. I couldn’t see how yet. It was only through massive introspection and mindset shifts, along with the creation of the Fibre Muse Framework that I was able to better articulate how my knitting was making the world a better place.

So how can we change the world through our knitting? I found out that it is a lot easier than I thought. And it is in our thoughts that everything starts and has to change.

1) Change Your Mindset Towards Your Craft

Once again I am going to reference my new found best-friend, the book “Grit” by Angela Duckworth. In it, she shares the parable of the bricklayers:

Three bricklayers are asked: “What are you doing?”

The first says, “I am laying bricks.”

The second says, “I am building a church.”

The third says, “I am building the house of God.”

The first bricklayer has a job (a necessity of life). The second has a career (a stepping-stone to other positions). The third has a calling (one of the essential things in life).

This parable hit me in a way I didn’t expect. So I decided to “translate” this to make the parable of the knitter.

Three knitters are asked: “What are you doing?”

The first says, “I am knitting.”

The second says, “I am creating a beautiful shawl!”

The third says, “I am providing a friend with a much-needed gift of comfort.”

The first knitter has a hobby. The second as a passion. The third as a purpose (to learn more about hobbies vs. passions vs. purposes, read this blog post).

What does your parable look like? When you sit down to knit, ask yourself, “What are you doing?” and challenge yourself to reframe your activity into a purpose. If you’re stuck, think back to your Fibre Muse archetype and framework and use that as a foundation for articulating your purpose.

I am knitting to bring inner harmony to my turmoiled mind.

I am reconnecting with my culture.

I am expressing my individuality and uniqueness through the colors and patterns I chose.

You can keep your purpose to yourself - if someone asks you, “What are you doing?”, You don’t have to answer them as the third knitter did. If anything, this exercise is less about getting validation from the outside world and more of re-shifting your thoughts around what you do and gaining that quiet, steady confidence.

2) Cultivate Your Fibre Muse Values

Next is to cultivate your values through the lens of the Fibre Muses. If you haven’t, take the Fibre Muse quiz to discover which Fibre Muse most resonates with you at this point. Then, read this blog post on expressing the values of each Fibre Muse through your knitting and reflect on what yours are, and how knitting can best reflect your values through the lens of that Muse.

3) Take Action

All this thinking and reflection is good, but it’s practically useless without putting it into action! As a reminder, done is better than perfect. No one is expecting you to get your purpose or to execute it flawlessly. From the previous step, find ways to express your values through your knitting and start! Starting small is ok. Purchase yarn from a company that shares your same values. Pay more attention to friends and family and see if someone is in need. Be unapologetic for carving out time for yourself to create and meditate on your knitting. Once you start going down the rabbit hole of reflection, your mind will start making more connections and ways to act for you. Just go with the flow!

It also helps to share your story on why you create and what your values are and how you express those through your knitting. You’ll get the words out of your head and onto a physical piece of paper (or a physical screen). You want to it out of you and in front of your eyes so you can see what you have written, and make adjustments or reflect on it more.

So let’s start now! In the comments below, write a few sentences on why you create. It doesn’t have to be an essay or the final reason, think of it as a first draft to help get you started.