When people find out that I knit, one of the first things they say is something along the lines of ‘that must be so relaxing’. I simply can’t refrain from laughing out loud. Passionate, fun, thrilling, obsessive, creative, exciting, daring, energizing, and alive, are just some of the words I use to describe my relationship to knitting, but never relaxing. With knitting needles in hand, I am generally obsessed with colors, design options, patterns, and the endless possibilities that luscious yarns, needles, and creative thinking open the door to.
I stumbled upon knitting about 20 years ago when I wandered into an adult education class looking for a new hobby. It was love at first stitch as I began to understand the basics. My knitting group was fairly traditional; I learned to follow patterns, and made numerous sweaters, vests, a blanket or two, and baby garments. I always had at least one project on the needles and was compulsive about finishing everything that I started.
I found myself knitting daily, and couldn’t wait for my next class to learn more tricks of the trade. This was well before the knitting craze where everyone who picked up needles made scarves; I didn’t make my first scarf until last year.
It wasn’t until 15 years later, when I discovered Loop & Leaf and met Celeste Varner & Elaine Madsen, that my passion and obsession really took hold. For the first time I began to understand designs and patterns, yarn combinations, and the mathematics of knitting. Not only did I learn to think outside of the box, I pretty much threw the box away and began creating my own patterns from scratch. Thanks to Celeste and Elaine’s generosity in sharing their knowledge and talents, I found myself with an average of 5-10 projects on needles at any one time, throwing away patterns, and knitting 20 hours per week and more. Now, I fall asleep knitting, sometimes knit until my hands hurt, and I knit everywhere from our wakeboard boat to ski slopes, during boring meetings and family gatherings, and wherever and whenever I can get away with it.
One of the things that Celeste said that stuck with me is that the simplest projects are the ones that get used the most. Yes, I have completed complicated cabled and lace projects, and I love them. However, I have found that the items I use the most are the simple, practical, natural ones, with vibrant but not outrageous colors. Hello arm & leg warmers! I also discovered that if it itched or scratched, it wasn’t fun to work on and I wouldn’t wear it. I am not one of those knitters who knit simply because the creation is fun. Although the creation is fun, I knit because I want to wear and use what I make and I want it to be practical and useful, not just art.
Once I discovered cashmere there was no turning back. I was even nicknamed ‘Cashmere Barbara’ at Loop & Leaf, because at any one time, if you search my many knitting bags and projects, most of them are made with at least some high quality cashmere. I do admit, I have been known to dabble in silk/mohair, super soft merino, and some other blends now and again, but Cashmere is truly what moves me to grab the needles and start designing.
Urban Knitta was created because everywhere I go friends and strangers stop me on the street and ask about my fingerless gloves, arm & wrist warmers, and tube scarf. People often ask me to make custom items for them having absolutely no idea what goes into it. The yarn itself makes the cost prohibitive; knitting is a very expensive hobby. If I were to hand make items for someone, the cost would be in the thousands of dollars if you accounted for my time.
I decided I wanted to make my designs affordable for everyone; we all deserve gorgeous, high-end treasures, and it is hard to justify spending outrageous amounts of money to get them. With the help of my entrepreneurial husband, Celeste and Elaine at Loop & Leaf, and the amazing resources from our friends and partners in the states and in China (APS, Remy & Salina), I spent a full year designing and re-working patterns, researching companies, analyzing yarns and overseeing production.
Voilå! Urban Knitta was born!