Aroha Knits Revamping + FREE New Pattern

What busy and stressful these past few months have been! Between traveling back to the States for a visa renewal, hosting a second round of the 5 Shawls, 5 Days challenge, taking part in Master Brand and really taking a good look at what it is I want to do and where I want to take Aroha Knits, I am exhausted!

But I'm also on fire and excited to be pushing Aroha Knits into a new direction. So what's new? 

Well let's start with the obvious, the MAJOR facelift. Before Aroha Knits was pink, now it's blue! I've been working closely with Chelsea Fitch of knitfitch.com on my visual branding - she not only created my new logo, but she also helped me determine my visual story, the colors, the imagery, the feel... I'm still working on updating my Instagram to be taking that same direction, but my website finally feels as it should be! Yay! You'll also hopefully find that it's much easier to navigate around now. Depending on who you are and what magic you like to create (knitters, aspiring designers and indie yarn dyers), you'll find a section catered to you and how you would like to experience Aroha Knits.

My patterns have also gotten a change as well. You'll be able to see the new look in the FREE download I have for you in this blog post.

PATTERN NO LONGER AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD

But I think the biggest change and shift that Aroha Knits has experienced is... my why. Why do I do what I do? What drives me? What's my mission in this industry? What mark do I want to leave behind? I shared my story on Instagram but I'm going to write it here again for you to take it all at once.

My mission is to evolve and to grow. I am passionate about the transformative magic of knitting in all its forms; from transforming yarn into unique hand knit designs, to transforming my life from dissatisfaction to fulfillment, to empowering other magic-makers to make similar transformations.

I love putting myself right in the middle of the creation process of transforming yarn into a unique hand knit design. Watching and feeling the stitches coming together to create a tapestry of color and texture is such a magical feeling, one that’s easy to get addicted to and lost in, and it’s always an extremely satisfying moment when I take my project off of the blocking mats and think, “Wow, I thought of this idea and I made it come to life!”. Designing quietens my anxiety and combats depression, and honestly, it also makes me feel productive and that I’m contributing to the betterment of society. I incorporate personal stories and my cultural heritage into my designs so that I don’t create “just another pattern”, but something with meaning and significance, to leave a long-lasting mark in the fiber community. I want to leave my legacy in the fiber community, even after I’m long gone, to be known as the designer who drew upon her Maori heritage to create unique designs. 

I strive for a life of financial self-reliance on my design work, so I can continue to do what I love the most, making transformations happen. Like Merlin of Camelot, I like to lock myself away in my tower for days in order to create magic without distraction, then venturing out at the end to share my creations, and knowledge, with the community. Designing transformed my life from dissatisfaction to fulfillment, so of course I have the drive to do the work needed in order for me to be able to continue to do so. It’s challenging to make a living as a designer in the industry’s current state, but I want to play a part in shifting the perception that a designer’s work is worth paying for and that we are unapologetic about making it a career choice.

Part of creating magic is teaching others how to use their internal spark to manifest their own transformations. I don’t want to keep what I’ve learned all to myself - it’s greedy, selfish and only serves to hinder me in the long run. “A rising tide lifts all boats”. That’s why I strive to be generous with my knowledge of knitting and design; being a catalyst for people’s transformations is extremely rewarding and empowering the community, even a little bit a time, strengthens the fiber industry as a whole. Because I’ve experienced first hand the rewards that knitting and designing have brought to my life, not just financially but also mentally and emotionally, I want to empower others to push past their fears and self-doubts to discover the same rewards for themselves, whether it’s in knitting or designing. There is magic to be found in both knitting another designer’s pattern and creating your own; both involve transforming yarn into a project you can feel proud of, boosting your confidence and creativity. It doesn't matter how: use your creativity to make transformations happen!

Transforming yarn, transforming my life and transforming you: it’s these three aspects that help me leap out of bed every morning and push me past my own fears and self-doubts to ignite magic and spark transformations.  

So, in honor of my new mission of making transformations happen, here's a free pattern for you to download so you can start transforming your yarn too! This pattern has been fully tech-edited, test knit, complete with photos and a special link to a private page for video tutorials on any of the more fiddly stitches. So you're basically getting the quality of a paid-for pattern, for FREE!

PATTERN NO LONGER AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD

I would love to hear your thoughts magic-makers! Do you love the change as much as I do? I feel so excited to be taking you on a new journey with me!

Learning to Listen

As you may have noticed, the Aroha Knits brand is going through a bit of a make-over. I recently had a breakthrough in my business that gave me better direction and greater clarity for my brand. I'm still in the middle of working out the finer details but in this post, I wanted to share one of those light bulb moments that we all experience from time to time.

But first, some background.

I was a pretty good student and I really aced college. I knew how to "work the system", as I liked to call it, executing great time management, balancing sleep, study and social life, and generally working hard to make good grades. All this with the intentions of becoming an International Relations professor.

My journey from wanting to become an IR college professor to being a small business owner in the knitting industry is a strange and long one. It's certainly a journey I never even dreamed about until I picked up the knitting needles for the first time and noticed a subtle shift in my spirit.

What am I getting at? Well, becoming an entrepreneur has really caused me to step outside my comfort zone. Every time I release a pattern, I put myself in a potentially vulnerable place. As my audience grows, so do my detractors (which is very scary). I'm usually reserved and don't like to talk much, but people like it when I lift back the curtains on my business (I've gotten used to it now though).

However, the biggest step outside my comfort zone was simply becoming an entrepreneur. You see, the reason why I did so well in school was because I'm really good at making lists, checking off boxes and sticking to guidelines set by someone I know who is knowledgeable and qualified.

By becoming an entrepreneur... I don't have that luxury anymore. I'm by myself. Of course, there are plenty of resources online to help and people to talk to but the process of developing a brand is not mathematical. There is no right or wrong answer and it's all very subjective. There are certainly logical reasonings and numerical research that I can do to determine whether or not I am doing the right thing to grow a business. However, with social media and the internet constantly bombarding us with more and more "things" for us to consume, we sometimes forgo the logic to find brands that make us feel something or resonate with us in a certain way (and that's why I'm a Mac User). 

As mentioned above, I'm going through some rebranding. That includes updating some pages, changing my language and working on a declarative statement. However, I started to panic when I realized that I had no idea if what I was writing was "right". I wasn't sure if the words I was using were getting my intended message across and the words that were crystal clear lacked soul and my personality. And for some reason, I cracked. I was debating whether I should stick with words, expressions, and feelings that were true to me or sticking with to-the-point, no room for mistakes or interpretation messaging that felt cold. I wanted to find a guide with a checklist that said "say this exactly and you'll be golden!".

And that's the both exciting and scary part. I can't rely on checklists and getting things done in an orderly way. I can fill out worksheets and take classes on how to best brand myself but at the end of the day, I still won't know for sure if what I'm doing is "correct" or how well you will respond. And in the end, I decided that all I can do is stay true to me, my values and just do my best. If the words I'm using is clear as mud, I just need to practice copywriting (ERGH) some more.

Shifting from relying on external voices to my internal quiet one is a radical change for me. My mind is often so noisy that it's hard to filter out the junk to get to the core of what is important: what my intuition is telling me. And it's something that requires getting used to, but I think I'm ready to embrace it.

Listening to my gut isn't a weakness of mine so to say, but it is a muscle I haven't stretched in a very long time. Let's see how it goes.

7 Common Objections to Self-Publishing Designs

Yesterday I posed a question on my social media accounts to my followers what fears or obstacles were holding them back from self-publishing their designs and boy, did you all deliver. It was pretty overwhelming to be honest! But I'll do my best to address the 7 common obstacles that popped up in this post today.

As someone who has built a solid following in about a year and a half, who knew nothing about design and writing patterns, barely anything about knitting, but just did it anyway...? If I can do it, so can you. 

1. So Many Designs Exist Already

 There is space here for you.

There is space here for you.

And there will never be enough. There's always room for another beautiful design.

The market for buying patterns is not so limiting that there is a cap for only 100, 1000, 10000, designs. No! Just like clothing, sewing, architecture, art, you name it, everything goes through trends, styles and cycles.

Compare the clothing of the past decades. See how radically different they are? How did they become that way? Through new designs continuously updating and challenging the norm. If all the aspiring designers in the world decided, "Hey, there are already too many clothes on the market. There's no space for mine" and didn't share their work, we would still be wearing 80's wear because there was nothing to replace or update it. Fashion and design heavily relies on ideas pouring in, even if they aren't "radical" or "inventive". 

There is space for you. That's the beauty of online brands. The internet has limitless capacity and there are new knitters coming in everyday, and older designers retiring. There is space for you. You can self-publish on Ravelry, LoveKnitting, Craftsy, Etsy, your own website... whew! 

2. I Don't Have the Time

See, that's the beauty of being an independent designer. You make your own schedule. You can take as long as you need to design a pattern. You don't even need to quit your day job. Designing, like knitting, can be a hobby and not a fully fledged career. Take your time! Focus on building your portfolio at your own pace. Knitters aren't going anywhere.

And if you truly don't have the time because you are working your butt off to just feed yourself, that's ok. Take care of yourself first and when you find that opening of extra time, take the dive. 

When my husband meet his Judo hero, Toshihiko Koga, who is an Olypmic and World Champion a few weeks ago, he retold me his story. I've talked about parts of it before but there was another gold nugget in his speech that really stuck with me. When Koga was a child, he really loved practicing Judo but he wasn't very good at it. So his father said to him, "I know the secret to becoming a great Judo player. In addition to your regular practice time, you need to work more. When the other kids are playing, practice. When the other kids are sleeping, practice". If you're passionate about design, you will find ways to sneak it into your schedule. 

3. I Don't Have the Money

If you have the money to knit, you have the money to design.

You don't need fancy cameras, you don't need fancy yarn to make a design people will love. You can literally unravel a garment and reuse the yarn. And there are plenty of free resources on the internet that you can use to help you learn the tips, tricks and hacks of designing, knitting and online business. Heck, there are any free online chart editors you can use! Stick with the free stuff, and invest in upgrading the technology down the road as you gain more experience. 

 My first website: Frenchie Knits. Yikes.

My first website: Frenchie Knits. Yikes.

Take a look at my very first website, when my brand was under the name "Frenchie Knits", especially this post on the Honey Comb Cowl. The website was on a free hosting service, I knit the sample in Lion Ease yarn, yarn that I could afford, and I used my Mac computer's camera to take the photos. 

Months later I went back to the pattern and updated it using Quince and Co's Puffin line and had my husband take photos using his DSLR that he bought.

To help you out on this front, I made a very simple pdf file of my go-to FREE resources for design, knitting and online business that I'm more than willing to share with you. Just enter your email below to get it! EDIT: These have been moved to the Resource Collection. Sign up to get the password sent to you automatically.

Note that just listening, reading and learning from these materials is nothing if you don't implement it! 

4. I Don't Know Where to Start

Well, that's where I come in. I already have tons of free information on design and will have plenty more in the future. I'm preparing an e-course on designing and writing patterns and you are more than free to email me for help and advice.

One factor of success for ALL entrepreneurs (and not just knitwear designers) is that they had mentors that they could learn from. These mentors were always ten steps ahead of them so their mentors already went through all of the difficulties that they were going through at present. These mentors are encouraging, inspiring but also make them work hard to earn their success.

DON'T be co-dependent on your mentor and rely on them to do everything for you, as your success depends on YOU choosing to work hard and stick in with it. But DO consult with them, ask for their advice, their input and insight. 

5. I'm Afraid of Copying Other People's Patterns

That's ok. It's unlikely but it happens (it's happened to me! Someone tried to pin me for my Aumangea pullover and there are designs that are very similar to my SeaShell Shawl). 

And if you have a case of parallel thought, you can just offer it for free. But here's some words of wisdom from the greatness herself, Elizabeth Zimmerman. 

But unvented - ahh! One un-vents something; one unearths it; one digs it up, one runs it down in whatever recesses of the eternal consciousness it has gone to ground. I very much doubt if anything is really new when one works in the prehistoric medium of wool with needles. The products of science and technology may be new, and some of them are quite horrid, but knitting? In knitting there are ancient possibilities; the earth is enriched with the dust of the millions of knitters who have held wool and needles since the beginning of sheep. Seamless sweaters and one-row buttonholes; knitted hems and phoney seams - it is unthinkable that these have, in mankind’s history, remained undiscovered and unknitted. One likes to believe that there is memory in the fingers; memory undeveloped, but still alive.
— Elizabeth Zimmerman

6. I'm Afraid People Won't Like My Work

And that is why you will succeed.

Hear me out.

There's an audience for everything. You may have to put the extra work in to find them, but they are there. If you're that afraid, use that fear to motivate you. 

Study trends and push yourself outside your comfort zone. Try new things. 

There will ALWAYS be successful and failed designs. Do you think my first (and even current) designs were a hit? No! Do you think they were even that great? Probably not, but my designs have evolved and I'm still learning on how to make them better. And I'm sure if you went far enough on my Instagram, you can find my really, really bad photos.

Learn from the failures and celebrate the successes. Your work will always evolve and get better. You will learn new techniques and your skills will improve. But first, you have to take action on the task you are the most scared of!

7. There's Just Not a Career Here

Create your own career. You don't need to quit your day job and its ok if it's just a hobby.

Take it slowly if needed.

Build your portfolio.

Offer your patterns for free for a limited time to get people to your page (people love free stuff, take note of that).

Contact yarn companies with design proposals for yarn support or for kits. Find out which yarn brands are indie designer friendly (Berroco, Malabrigo, Julie Asselin are just a few!), they will help promote your work! Develop good relations with other indie yarn dyers, they can provide you with yarn support so that you two can work together to get both your names out there.

Submit to knitting publications and don't be afraid of rejection (keep this podcast in your bookmarks to learn about the ins and outs of the magazine industry).

Offer LYS free copies of your patterns for their store samples.

Give, give, give.

Shout your name from the rooftops! You have to put yourself out there. 

You can't expect opportunities to come knocking to your door if no-one knows you're there. Make yourself known. Participate in forums. Interact on social media (it can be just as simple as commenting and liking photos on Instagram). 


Before I end this blog post, I want to go over how important mindsets play into this. If you think small, your success will be small. If you think you will fail, you will fail. If you think there is no space for your work, then there is no space because you didn't make any. And definitely, definitely don't compare your beginning to another's end. Everyone had to start somewhere, and it was through persistence, patience, hard work and effort that they were able to reach the point that you want to get to so badly. That's why I'm not shy about talking about where I started, where I came from. I want people to see that I was just like them and even in just a year you can make such huge strides in your growth!

I believe in you. But do you believe in yourself?

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Motivational Monday: I Thought About Giving Up This Weekend

Ok, I'm going to try to bring the Motivational Monday posts back as there are some nuggets that I hope to share with you. 

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I think I can confidently say that almost everyone who runs an online business thinks about giving up, no matter how successful they are.

I know I do: I thought about it this weekend.

While helping my husband clean up the house, which had gotten quite out of hand, thoughts of being an unproductive good-for-nothing rushed through my head. 

"All I do all day is knit and sit at the computer and I can't even keep the house clean".

"What's the point of all this anyway? I'm just a freeloader, I should get a real job and contribute to this household".

"My husband probably thinks I'm just wasting my time on this silly venture, and while I'm sitting around all day, he's at work making real money".

I expressed my thoughts to my husband later that night. He sat me down and told me that one, I work my butt off, much, much harder than he does, and two, he would do anything to support me, in fact, he felt like it was his life mission to do so because he saw so much potential in me and wanted to see my dreams come to fruition (what a catch this guy!). 

This week I've been working on the Brand Story Challenge, a 10-day challenge set by Jennifer Kem, a Master Brander who helps brands "Get Seen, Get Heard and Get Paid". When my friend Chelsea Fitch of KnitFitch participated in the first round of the challenge (and won the grand prize!) and gushed to me how amazing it was, I had to give it a go. 

The very first prompt of the challenge was uncovering my "why". Why do I do what I do? What's my purpose? It had to be more than "I like to design patterns". I had to go deep and really look inside myself to pull out why I wanted to design and help aspiring designers in the first place. I knew why I was so passionate about my work, I just never could articulate it. 

This is why I am so grateful I'm participating in this challenge because I think I found how to articulate my brand's mission and focus into a single sentence (gotta have that elevator pitch!):

Aroha Knits is about enriching, encouraging and empowering creatives through knitting.

In detail, these three E's are...

  • Enriching the knitting community by creating accessible, stylish and modern pieces of knitwear that reflect and drawn upon my cultural heritage that many can enjoy, whether they are process or project knitters. 
  • Encouraging Maori (and other Polynesian communities) to take up this craft as there is a space for their talents and culture. 
  • Empowering aspiring designers to share their creations informed through stories and culture by providing motivation and education.

So after I had my talk with my husband, I looked back to my answer for the day one prompt and it really ignited the spark in me again.

Running an online business, even self-publishing designs, requires you to be in it for the long-run. It requires passion, motivation, knowing the right questions to ask, knowing where to look and having a deep knowledge of yourself and your mission. 

So that you can find your "why", here are some questions to get you started.

  1. When did you first get into knitwear design?
  2. What do you believe about your designs?
  3. What do you want other people to believe about your designs?
  4. What are you inspired by?
  5. What are you passionate about?

Please share your "why" in the comments so I can read them! I'll be choosing one commenter at random to win any one copy to win a pattern of their choice (so leave your Rav ID too!).

Do so by finishing the prompt: 

My "why" for design is...

Write down your answer somewhere, on a sticky note, in your journal or on your computer files. Make sure it is easy to access to so that you when you feel like quitting, pull it out so you can remind yourself why got into this game in the first place. 

Aroha Nui,

Françoise.

 

Motivational Monday: Red

Let each Monday bring a new source of inspiration, growth and passion for life! Every week I'll be posting a series of images based around a common theme that I hope you will find will spark your creative minds.

Red: fire, passion, drive, motivation, perseverance

Pinterest Images: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

For today's Motivational Monday... Don't strive for perfection, strive for growth.

I've learned some important lessons from managing my own brand: 1) I don't know everything, 2) I know more now than I did yesterday, 3) and tomorrow I'll have learned something new and 4) not knowing everything is ok and almost kinda amazing?

I can talk to anyone in this wonderful community and learn something valuable, whether it's a knitting technique, business tip or just inspirational stories and it's shown me that no one is too small to teach, and no one is too big to learn. We all have something valuable to share with one another and we can all grow!

Motivational Monday: Purple

Let each Monday bring a new source of inspiration, growth and passion for life! Every week I'll be posting a series of images based around a common theme that I hope you will find will spark your creative minds.

Purple: bubble gum, royalty, eccentricity, grape flavored goodness, lavender fields

Pinterest Images: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

Isn't this the truth?

You can put all your love and dedication into a design you've been working so long on and when you release the pattern, it's a pretty slow launch day. It can be discouraging to say the least, but then you think about other patterns you've put the same amount of effort into and they were successes!*

I think of this quote often to help me stay motivated. And I can attest to the value of hard work - the easiest way for me to assess it was in school. While studying hours and hours for an upcoming exam didn't guarantee a perfect score, or even an A, there was no way I could have graduated Summa Cum Laude without that work ethic. And while I am trying to figure out what "success" means to me, I know that I have to continue working hard in the mean time.

*This is not in reference to my most recent pattern release but some of my older designs that weren't so hot and it's more of a general statement!