Photography by Amanda Milne and Fiona McLean
SGY: How would you describe Knit Social? What is your brand “ethos”?
KS: Knit Social is dedicated to creating events that foster and build the creative spirit in all of us, by bringing people together to share a common love of all things fibre arts related.
Knit Social evolved organically from a love of social crafting, specifically knitting, that we share. Early on in our knitting careers, we recognized the immense talent in the Vancouver knitting community and made it our mission to create a space where this talent can thrive. That space includes both intimate events like retreats and large scale productions like Knit City, our annual fibre festival. We have expanded and grown over the years and our events now attract talented fibre artists from all over the world, but our roots will always be firmly planted in Vancouver.
SGY: How would you describe the yarn community in Vancouver?
KS: The yarn community in Vancouver is diverse, but we have always felt there is a very special shared creative sensibility that exists within it. We’re so lucky to have such a hive of talented, ambitious, and generous folks working in our community. We see so many amazing collaborations among the creators and makers here which is so inspiring. There are some really great local guilds who are very dedicated to their craft as well.
SGY: What inspires you about your community? Or, what is the best thing about your knitting community?
KS: The best thing about our knitting community is a genuine sense of inclusion and support. We have found it to be a welcoming community that is open to collaboration. It is and innovative, modern and endlessly inspiring.
SGY: How did your start building the Knit Social community? How do you keep things fresh and new and engaging for your audience?
KS: The Knit Social community grew very organically. We began very small. We organized a small retreat when our children we just babies. We cooked and cleaned and hosted the entire weekend, while taking breaks to pump milk in the bathroom. We were buoyed by both it’s success and how invigorated it made us feel to spend time with others in the yarn community. We also discovered how well we work together, so we began organizing small, local events. The community embraced us and we grew with it.
After that we moved on to organising yarn swaps and pop up markets (does anyone remember the pop up yarn shop at the Vancouver Alpen Club? Free beer with admission!), and eventually ended up where we are today, with Knit City Vancouver and two knitting retreats yearly on Galiano Island. We think we were able to grow so quickly over the years because the need has always been there; people want to get together to share these experiences and connect one-on-one.
We try to pay attention and listen to what our customers are looking for, and frequently ask for feedback after our events to be sure we’re keeping the experiences in line with our customers’ expectations. And above anything else, we always try to organize and create events by considering what sorts of things we ourselves would like to experience at retreats or fibre festivals. How can we make people comfortable? How can we make our events fun? Also, because we are a part of the community, we have a good sense of what people want at an event like Knit City.
While it’s important to us to stay modern and fresh, we always respect the diversity and the history of fibre. That’s part of what makes our community so rich and inspiring. There are always new skills to learn and different paths to go down.
SGY: What are some of the challenges with your business or with building community?
KS: The major challenge for us is balancing the work/family life. We have a ton of ideas but rarely the time or means to make them all happen.
Another challenge has been working with the growth of Knit City; every year the show gets bigger and better, and Vancouver has a dearth of appropriate spaces for the show’s needs. For Knit City, we need both a big space for a Market Hall as well as well-lit, comfortable classrooms. We have tried a few things over the years and have learned what works best the hard way. If something is not working, we will change the next year. Luckily our audience is forgiving and has not only stayed with us but grown as we worked out the kinks. There’s a lot of problem solving involved in our day-to-day work.
SGY: Running a show like Knit City you probably see a lot of changes and trends within our industry. What patterns have you seen emerging or what’s the “next big thing” in yarn and knitting?
KS: We’ve been seeing a lot of fibre arts related crafts that aren’t knitting, such as weaving, macrame, punch needle, embroidery, etc., become really popular lately which is fun! I find it really inspiring to see people using familiar materials in unfamiliar ways. Mohair also seems to be really popular right now unfortunately…I (Amanda) have an allergy to it. We’re seeing a lot of really fun colour work out there too, which we love because it really lends itself to creativity. Even though you’re following someone else’s pattern you can still have a lot of fun with mixing colours and motifs. And we’re also seeing small batch, locally processed wool and yarn more and more.
SGY: What are your future plans and goals for Knit Social?
KS: Our goals as partners is to always be improving on our events, be it constantly looking for better retreat locations, or tweaking little things about Knit City to make the experience continuously better for our attendees. We want to keep growing and evolving with our community in the most organic way possible.
SGY: What is your favourite knitting moment or memory?
KS: Our first retreat was pretty special. We have a real soft spot for it as that’s when this whole journey started! We were so earnest and naive. We look back on it fondly and also laugh so hard at ourselves! Suffice to say our retreats have become SO much better 7 years on.