My Transformational Journey to Becoming a Knitwear Designer

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Lounging on the couch at my parents’ house, in Austin, Texas, after a long day working my shift at the local French Bakery, I see my mum working on her latest project: knitting a simple stockinette cowl, in the round on thick needles, in even chunkier yarn. A simple project to me now, of course, but back then, it was like magic. 

How does taking two sticks and string create something like that?!

At the time, I was living with my parents waiting for my US citizenship. My fiancé (now husband) was working in Japan, and I was missing him terribly. And, I was incredibly bored, as I was only working part-time at the bakery. My hands needed something to do in my downtime. So, I asked a question that changed my life forever:

“Mum, can you teach me how to knit?”

***

As I am working on my second collection of patterns, for the next issue of the Fibre Muse Quarterly, I have often found myself reflecting about my transformational journey that I have experienced over the past three-and-a-half years, from someone struggling to find purpose and direction, to a creative who gets to pursue passion projects. Now, with 70+ patterns published on Ravelry, in the past three-and-a-half years, it is hard to believe that I have been able to come so far from starting at point zero. There is the saying that goes along the lines of: “A year from now you will be glad you started today,” which is definitely true in my case. I thank my past self from three years ago for taking up the incredible journey of knitting, which has led me to where I am now.

Discovering Knitting

I worked my first stitches on January 2nd, 2014. Learning how to knit, and picking up a new hobby in the process was my goal for the year. I did not know what I was going to do when I moved back to Japan, once I received my citizenship, but at least now I had something that I could do when I did!

Little did I know how obsessed I was going to get with the craft. Once learning the basic cast-on, bind-off, knit, and purl stitches, I set off to make my first cowl in the round. And, I actually finished the darn thing! Taking it off the needles, my eyes shone with excitement and glee! I FINISHED IT! Rarely, when I set out on a creative endeavor did I complete my task. But here, on my first go, I had a completed item.

That felt really good.

And then I immediately set out to cast on another cowl.

And then a cabled hat (and then again another one of the same design for good measure).

Soon enough, my room was filled with knitted goods. I was really liking this!

But it was not enough.

Discovering Designing

I wanted to push myself to learn more techniques, and expand my knitting repertoire, but I had yet to discover the magical world of Ravelry. Not being able to find what I needed on the internet, I headed to the library to pick out some stitch dictionaries.

Coming back home with 3 or 4 books in tow, I flipped through them, seeing what I could knit up into a cowl. Finding a simple textured stitch, I did some quick math and then cast-on. I finished my cowl a few hours later (this was to be the Honey Comb Cowl).

That was fun. Let’s do another one! (Enchanted Vines Slouchie Beanie).

My knitting skills EXPLODED. Even if I did not know how to work a certain stitch, I did not care. It looked pretty, and I was going to make my own finished object from it.

I started to move from cowls, to hats, to shawls. And if you look at my design portfolio now, you know that shawls are my THING.

I wrote up the patterns I created, and uploaded them to Ravelry (which I had discovered at this point), despite not knowing what “gauge” was, or the proper format for writing up the recommended yarn. Thankfully, as I knit and designed more, I learned how to write patterns better.

By the time I moved to Japan, in August, I had designed and published more than 6 patterns. It was still a hobby, but I was making some pocket money from it, which helped pay for fancy yarns, and it helped pass the time. 

Creating Aroha Knits

When I hit the publish button on the “Caprius” shawl pattern, in January of 2015, little did I know that I was going to experience my first taste of success, enough to give me the confidence to think “Hey, I can really make something out of this.” This prompted me to really think about my designs. What colors went nicely together? How would this stitch look with this yarn? How could I make this design beautiful? I told my husband at the end of that month that my goal for the year of 2015 was to transform this hobby, I had just picked-up, into a full-time, sustainable business that would bring me joy and purpose.

(I have to give major props to my husband, as he accepted my goal without hesitation, and has been my biggest supporter—and solid rock since then. He is definitely benefiting from the rewards reaped now!)

And thus Aroha Knits was born.

***

Nearing the end of 2017, Aroha Knits has come a long way. In 2015, I started consistently publishing patterns, every month, mostly to grow my audience and attain exposure, which is now, a thriving business. I have expanded my offerings to a quarterly luxury subscription box, a quarterly collection of patterns, and my signature e-course teaching aspiring designers how to transform their yarn into designs of their own making and creation, and thus, kickstarting their own design career. Now a year later, I am seeing my students blossoming and blooming as they begin their transformational journey!

It has not all been sunshine and roses. Projects fell through. Ideas did not work out. Some patterns bombed. 

But. I would not have it any other way. I am so passionate about designing knitwear that the mere idea of not having this gift in my life scares me. This is enough to push me through the hard days, and crappy moments.

In just a couple weeks, I am gearing up to run the 4th round of Initiate Knit Design, my free 10-day challenge, where I lead you through the knitwear design process, from the idea, to having your pattern written up. This challenge has been the catalyst for many a new designer whom have popped up in the past year, and it is only a fraction of what I teach and provide in my signature e-course SWATCH Studio (in which its value truly lies in how much confidence and clarity students experience as they go through the course). 

So, if you have been wanting to start your own transformational journey into knitwear design, as so many others have in just the past year and a half, come join us for the Initiate Knit Design challenge, starting October 9th!

Transform your yarn,

Frenchie