Nine years, plus a few weeks, ago, I started a blog. It wasn’t something I’d put much thought into. I’d recently found Knitty.com and Craftster.org and was thrilled to find a few other people who were as into my new hobby as I was. I’d been knitting for a couple of years and had already discovered that I found it easier and more interesting to make things up than keep track of my place in a pattern. That didn’t mean it had ever occurred to me to design my own patterns, I hadn’t even really thought about the fact that regular people made those.
And then two things happened. I got the first Stitch n Bitch book, which I discovered through the author, Debbie Stoller’s magazine, Bust. Since high school I’d been making monthly trips on the bus to a retail mall to pick that, and other magazines that opened up a cool, feminist world where women did interesting things, had strong opinions, liked sex, cared how they looked, and didn’t think crafts were weird and old fashioned. I found the puns in Stitch n Bitch trying and some of the projects were more my thing than others, but I loved that it explained the techniques I didn’t know enough to know I needed to know. The most exciting thing about it though? That had to be the little bios of each of the contributors that accompanied each pattern. I wanted to be one of them.
Enter Knitty. I didn’t have the faintest idea how you went about getting into a book, and the only knitting magazines I’d ever seen looked more like they were aimed at an odd hybrid of stereotypes of grandmothers and pre-teen girls. Browsing Knitty one day I noticed that they had a page titled “get into Knitty”. Much to my surprise, it all seemed like stuff I could do. Follow a template for the pattern, take photos, etc. I started swatching. I worked the shaping for every size out, separately, on graph paper and the construction clearly shows that most of the patterns I’d looked at were very traditional, but I made a cardigan, and a pattern.
The photo I thought best summed up who I was back then — I wore that hat constantly; an early Ravatar; and the current one.
Just like the contributors to Stitch n Bitch I got to write a short bio and provide a photo for Knitty, and their guidelines said this would be a good place to include your blog link. Right then and there I registered a domain and started looking into blogging software.
My first post was motivated by a project I’d made for a swap on the Craftster boards, wanted to share the chart, and needed somewhere to host it. This morning I managed to track down the original photo and reinstate it. Nothing could more hilariously reveal that I had no idea I’d be writing this now at that time than the fact that my very first post is about an intarsia project based on a topless photo from a seventies porn magazine. On the other hand, a lot of my subsequent design work has focussed on making sweaters work with boobs, and I do have a special ability to bring any conversation around to breasts.
I was nineteen years old, feeling a little lost in the multitude of ways that are part of being on the cusp of adulthood, and remembering that the thing that made me truly happy as a kid was making stuff. That summer I rode my bike everyday to work at my uncles’ office, a job that left plenty of time for browsing the internet and writing blog posts. I saved the money I made, and that wasn’t blown on partying, to buy a digital camera. I blogged about the projects I made, which focussed heavily on skulls, corset style lacing and comic book characters, and wrote for an audience made up entirely of friends.
When Amy Singer, the editor of Knitty, emailed me to let me know I’d made it into the issue I was so thrilled, and so unaware that it might not seem very professional, that I posted her email on the blog (something I had no memory of until now!). I do remember finding her comment about Rowan amusing: they seemed like such a distant world.
One morning in September I woke up and thought my little website had been hacked. There was absolutely no way that that many hits could be legitimate. But they were. Knitty had gone live, they’d put my pattern on the cover, and it turned out that when, a few months earlier, I’d been so excited to find a few people who liked to knit, I’d been grossly underestimating their numbers. There were thousands of them. People who loved to knit, who were as excited about finding new techniques, stitch patterns and designs as I was, and who wanted to see my ‘other designs’.
I had no idea then quite how dramatically that would change the course of my life in that moment, but I do remember feeling like something bigger than I’d realised was happening. I couldn’t imagine that it would turn into a career by accident while I was busy trying to figure out what to really do after university. It was exciting to meet other people who liked my hobby, but I didn’t know then that some of them would become the dearest friends. I liked seeing where blog visitors and commenters came from, and I read about other bloggers lives in far off lands with wonder, but it didn’t even cross my mind that I’d travel to meet them there. The creators of books seemed to operate in a completely separate universe, one I couldn’t imagine crossing into, let alone being a part of changing. I sometimes wished I had extra hands and extra hours in the day, but I didn’t know the answer would be found in amazing employees and collaborators. I was hoping to buy yarn and take away pizza, not to support both myself and others.
More than anything, no matter how thrilled I was to find that there were other people out there like me, I couldn’t predict what a wonderful community I’d stumbled into. You changed my life, I love you dearly, and I wouldn’t be writing this nine years on without you. The yarn industry, knitwear design, and the online crafting community, have seen enormous changes in that time, but I’m still, when it comes down to it, thrilled that you’re out there and that you love sticks and string. From all of us at team Ysolda thank you. What will the next nine years bring?
Tomorrow is my birthday, and in time honoured tradition, we’ll be doing a pattern sale so do check back for details on that.