Fellow Fibre Friends – Allison O’Mahony

I’m happy to share another installment of Fellow Fibre Friends, my guest blog spotlight.  This week, we meet Allison O’Mahony.  Allison is a knit wear designer and tech editor from Canada.  Please give her a warm welcome!

I’m Allison and I live in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada with my husband, Dave. I grew up here. It’s isolated, but it’s a place with lots of culture and character and I love it dearly. I knit a lot of things, practice a lot of yoga, enjoy a good DIY project, and have an awesome family and close-knit (har har) group of friends that I love.
My grandma taught me how to knit when I was a child, although it never really “stuck”. When I was in university doing my Computer Science degree I picked it up again (because I had SO much free time *eyeroll*). I worked as a software developer after finishing my degree, knitting obsessively in my free time.
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@allisonomahony
As time went on, I became unhappy and unfulfilled in my career as a software developer. I didn’t feel like I was being challenged, learning, or growing. I realized that I was the only person who could make me happy. My unhappiness in my career was no one’s fault and no one’s responsibility but my own. I had been complacent with my own life and happiness and mental health. Instead of depressing, it was actually empowering, realizing that I could do something about it. I felt like I HAD to do something about it. All of a sudden, I couldn’t wait to start working for a living doing something I loved.
So what WAS I passionate about? What fulfilled me and made me happy? My hobby. Knitting! I thought about ways I could turn it into a career. I had dipped my toe into knitting pattern design before but it had never really taken off, mostly because I hadn’t been motivated. Things in my day job weren’t “bad enough” to spur me into movement. I still “designed” things but I didn’t create and release patterns for my designs. I knew it wouldn’t pay the bills, at least not immediately, but I was finally inspired to throw myself into it and see where it took me. At the very least, having something to work towards in my spare time made my day job tolerable. I saw a light at the end of the tunnel.

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@allisonomahony
In January of this year, I dove in head first. I read books and blogs, listened to podcasts, joined online designer groups, wrote down ideas, knitted swatches and samples, and did everything else I could think of to gain knowledge about all the elements of knitting design. It was during this madness that I first learned what a tech editor was.
The “ah ha” moment came when I was listening to an episode of the Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show by crochet blogger/teacher Marie Segares (which I highly recommend to anyone thinking about starting/growing a fibre-related business). It was about test knitting and tech editing knitting patterns. I found it so interesting. I didn’t even know what a knitting tech editor was or that tech editing was even a thing that people did. I did some more research online and this feeling came over me. I heard the glass shatter. How did I not know that this field existed AND that it would be a perfect fit for me?! It was in the knitting industry, which is where I wanted to work. I had done writing and editing for technical documentation in my other life as a software developer, so I just knew I would be good at it. I’m an analytical problem-solver and I love math. I also hate poorly written patterns and cringe (or fume) when I purchase a pattern and the layout is confusing or I find a mistake. Again, how did I not know that this field existed AND that it would be a perfect fit for me? I felt like I had wasted so much time NOT figuring out how to become a tech editor.
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@allisonomahony
Within days I was registered for Joeli Kelly’s Learn to Tech Edit course. Before long I had my first client. Almost a year has passed now and I’ve been able to help so many incredible designers take their patterns to the next level. I help them produce clear, concise, error-free patterns without stifling their creative voice. I help them feel empowered and confident that they can deliver professional quality patterns to their customers, and build their reputations in the process.
My client list is constantly growing (including many repeat clients). I’ve also independently published seven knitting patterns and have had two others published in 3rd party publications.
Best of all? With the help of a part time job at a local shop (and my amazing husband), I’ve been able to quit my job in software development and am now working in the knitting industry full time. Not every day is perfect, but everyday I get satisfaction from what I do, because it’s challenging, rewarding, and I love it.
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@allisonomahony
Allison is a knitting designer and technical editor who loves to create functional, modern knitwear that she can wear every day. She lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, where she can usually be found within arm’s reach of my knitting bag and calculator (and quite often either a coffee or a pint, depending on the time of day).
Periscope & Snapchat: kniterations

Fellow Fibre Friends – Amy van de Laar

Welcome to another installment of my guest post series, ‘Fellow Fibre Friends’!  This week, I’d like you all to meet Amy van de Laar, knit wear designer. Her designs are out of this world amazing! Visit her blog, BaroquePurls, as well as the pattern links mentioned in the post.)

Hi folks! I’m Amy van de Laar, a knitting pattern designer from New Zealand, currently living in Melbourne, Australia with my partner Willie. I sell my self-published patterns online, mostly through my Ravelry Store, and I’ve also published patterns in collaboration with Brooklyn Tweed, Pom Pom Quarterly, and Knitty. The designs I’m best known for are probably the INSULATE! hat, one of my earlier designs from 2012, and the Beeswax hat, from 2014.

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@amyvandelaar

 

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@amyvandelaar

 

One of the things I love most about knit design is that it’s just so varied. There are so many different tasks and skills involved, and there’s always more to learn. For example, this year I’ve learned a massive amount about product photography, i.e. really showing your knitting or yarn or finished sample in the best possible light – taking an exciting photo, not just a pretty one. I’ve been getting more and more deliberate about composition and lighting and editing, and generally upping my game with my Instagram photos. It helps that I find photography a huge amount of fun!

I’m really lucky to have a photographer in the family (even if he does live two plane rides away). My dad Jos, gives me tons of advice on taking photos and editing them, and when I’m visiting I usually fit in a photoshoot or two with him as the photographer. Here’s a lovely one of his, with me and my Mum modelling two of the designs from my recent La Folia Collection.

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@amyvandelaar

To give you a taste of some of the things that I do day-to-day as a knit designer, this week I’ve been busy finishing up a stranded cowl that’s a sample for a new design, taking photos and posting them on Instagram, revising two of my older patterns, communicating with collaborators, sanding and painting a coffee table to use as a photo backdrop, responding to knitters’ comments and questions on Ravelry and Instagram, editing photos, getting ready for the Indie Design Gift-A-Long, and last but not least, doing my tax return. This was one of my less-busy weeks – pattern-release weeks, on the other hand, can get a bit intense!

 

Last week I released my latest pattern, Silverwing, and I’m still buzzing from the amazing response it had – both in comments/faves and in pattern sales.

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@amyvandelaar

 

It’s a real thrill when a new release does well, because not all of them do, sometimes for no discernible reason. There’s a certain amount of luck involved, and all I can really do is try to nail the things I do have control over – the photos, the marketing, and the design itself.

 

One thing that’s not so great about being an indie designer is that because you’re often working on your designs and other tasks all by yourself, it’s easy for self-doubt to creep in. Is this shawl really the best it can be? Maybe I should have done XYZ differently? Will anyone like it? Will anyone want to buy the pattern? Gah! I find it does help to talk through my worries with other people – my family, yes, but also other fibre business folk who often have the same struggles. The Fibre Boss Collective group on Facebook is a really wonderful place to get feedback and advice, or vent frustrations – it has a great we’re-in-this-together vibe, and its number-one rule is ‘be kind’. Another community that’s a great source of positivity and inspiration for me is all of the knitters on Instagram. Getting wonderful comments on a photo of a work-in-progress really gives me a confidence boost. And when you see someone proudly showing off a project using one of your patterns, it’s a great rush!

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@amyvandelaas

 

When I’m not knitting or working on my pattern business, I like to hang out with Willie and his siblings and watch TV (my firm favorite is The Great British Bake Off) or go on adventures to parks or art galleries or places to eat. I also crochet and spin, and my main non-fibre interest is music. I play the piano, and until recently sang in a really good church choir (I’m still ‘on call’, so with Messiah season coming up it’ll be all on again soon).

Thanks for having me!

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@amyvandelaar

 

Fellow Fibre Friend : Beatriz McTiernan

Welcome to the first installment of my blog series, ‘Fellow Fibre Friend’. Each week I’ll be featuring a guest post by someone in the fibre world.  This week you’ll meet Beatriz McTiernan,  who designs beautiful jewelry for knitters. You can visit her at her website, Jewelry For Knitters

 

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Beatriz McTiernan

 

The magic all started when I was 12 years old. It was summer vacation and I was spending my days at my grandmother’s house. It was during this time that she taught me how to knit. We lived in Miami and at that time the only yarn available were acrylics and cotton thread for crocheting. One time I found a red mohair yarn and made a scarf. I was so proud of my end result until I wrapped it around my neck and found it was horribly itchy. Besides , who wears mohair scarves in Miami? Needless to say, that although my grandmother was a talented knitter, she was also a fabulous crocheter. She learned when she was a little girl in Spain. But she lived most of her life in balmy Cuba were she crocheted spectacular doilies, dresses for my mom (her favorite was one with cherries made out of mini bobbles) to queen size bedspreads. I still have some of those items displayed in my home. But she chose to bestow the art of knitting which in hindsight, was a blessing in disguise.

I continued knitting with my grandmother. She continued helping me to complete my projects, until she was too elderly to keep guiding me along.  Then I met this other fabulous knitter from Cuba living in Miami, about 20 minutes from my house. My mom and I went together. My mom never really took to knitting but she was a very talented seamstress. I guess it skipped a generation.  Any way I went to this lady’s studio. I forgot her name. Let’s say her name was Maria. Maria’s studio was filled with the most beautiful yarns. Yarns I had never seen before. Beautiful soft, thin wools and silks, even some ribbon yarns. Definitely not your acrylic drugstore yarn.

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Maria said to me , “Pick out the yarn you like and what kind of sweater you want to make.” So I picked out the ribbon yarn which was so unusual and beautiful in a teal color way. She promptly took my measurements then told one of her three assistants, “Cast on X amount of stitches for Betty’s short sleeve sweater “. Then the magic amount of stitches were cast on with 16″ circular needles and little rings. Then she wrote the instructions in Spanish on a piece of paper, “Knit in the round for three inches, then come see me.”  So I happily paid for my yarn, needles and the little rings which turned out to be my first stitch markers, and promptly went home to knit those three inches on my sweater. Later I understood this was circular knitting, top down with raglan sleeves.

So each time I would finish her instructions, I would visit her again. I would then change to 24″ needles and continue knitting . She would check my work, show me any mistakes I made, then send me to her assistants to help me correct the mistakes. After everything was corrected, she would measure me again and send me home with the next set of instructions. This continued until I finished knitting my sweater and was ready to bind off. The end result was a beautiful sweater that fit perfectly on me. So that’s how I learned to knit…in Spanish, in sunny Miami.

A few years pass, I start studying for my MBA and I meet a dashing young man from the New England area of the United States. Yes, we would fall madly in love and marry. He always told me though, that he  wanted to move back and raise our family in the Northeast. So after a wonderful honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Buenos Aires, Argentina, I was whisked off to Connecticut.

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A few weeks after settling in, of course, I am on the hunt for my local LYS. But there are no Marias measuring you, having assistants casting on for you, and then scribbling the instructions  for you to follow. What I did find were wonderfully kind yarn shop owners, with a desirable selections of wools (and the weather to wear them in) leading me to the section where all the pattern booklets were located.

Well, I started looking at the pattern pictures to see the sweaters I really liked, and bought a few. Got home, read the instructions and the only thing I could translate was: Knit meant the ” front” stitch of the sweater as they say in Spanish. I had no clue what the word Purl meant.  But since all knitters have steadfast determination, I set out slowly but surely to decipher the English pattern instructions with these wonderfully patient LYS owners They soon became my Marias.
Meanwhile, like all knitters wonder, why does life have to interrupt my knitting? After receiving my MBA degree I went to work in the corporate world. This turned out to be one of my biggest regrets of my life. What had I gotten into? A woman could not thrive, flourish, and be promoted in the corporate world. And forget about family life and babies. These were foreign concepts, at least in the 1980’s. The right side of my brain was exploding with creativity but overall I was heading for a full-blown depression .

They say God works in mysterious ways, and so in the middle of all this pain and turmoil I found out I was pregnant. God gave me the best opportunity to exit this part of my life and in 1992, I gave birth to my daughter. Raising my daughter with my husband turned my life into pure joy. I started knitting again. First for my daughter, then for me and my family.
I joined a knitting guild where I have met lifelong friends, continued learning new knitting skills, and later became co-president of the guild for a number of years. We had wonderful guest  speakers. Some of them are now the rock stars of the knitting world.

The late 1990’s turned out to be the beginning of the “explosion” of knitting. It was no longer the image of grandmother knitting.  It was young and old, male and female who were taking up this beautiful art form .My daughter was older now and more independent.  I started working for local yarn stores teaching knitting, finishing sweaters for customers, and selling yarn. In the new  millennium ,the knitting world was alive and fully thriving and so was I.

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I eventually had to slow down. I was knitting all the time (careful what you wish for).
My hand began to ache and I couldn’t knit for several years. It was beginning of neck and right arm arthritis which was never diagnosed until several years later. I bypassed many doctors who could care less if I knit or not. Meanwhile, I was desperate for a creative outlet, so I tried beading and making jewelry and found a new love. Miraculously  my hands didn’t hurt. I guess I was doing different motions with my hands working with jewelry.

Last year I found a fabulous doctor who understood this “creativeness” was an integral part of me and suggested Botox for my neck and shoulder pain. Now I can knit again but not as extensive as before.  This led me to the path of merging my knitting and my jewelry making, and hence, Jewelry by Beatriz, LLC was created along with my website, JewelryForKnitters.  Now I am finally happy with my “work” and I have a beautiful daughter who is now a young lady who just completed her Master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology. And a patient, loving husband who I could never have done this without his help. The future looks bright…!