A day in the life of a knitwear designer
I'm so excited to share this next 'Day in the life' feature because not only am I a huge fan of knitting but I've seen this knitwear designer grow over the years to create an absolutely incredible brand. So, without further ado, let's find out what the day in the life of knitwear designer is like...
Hi there Miss Knit Nat, can you introduce you and your job to the Adventures & Tea Parties' readers?
Hi I'm Natalie - I'm based in Woking/Surrey and I'm part of the now Miss Knit Nat duo with Mr Knit Nat!
I started my business back in 2011. Knitting was initially a hobby and a really good way to relax. I would make things mainly for myself and some of my friends, who then started asking if I could make things for their friends and it started to grow from there.
I soon realised there was potential to make some money out of my hobby and six years later, after turning that into a business selling to both retail and wholesale customers, I'm no longer allowed any hobbies!
I learnt to hand knit when I was really young from my Mum and Nanny and I used to continually make and create things, either by knitting or using my old wind up singer sewing machine (sadly, I don’t have this anymore). I've always been interested in fashion and textiles, including working as an assistant manager in high-end high-street retail and have always loved accessories as they can really finish off and make an outfit.
Combining my love of fashion and textiles with my hobby to create Miss Knit Nat made perfect sense. The name of the business was already in my mind too as it is a simple mix of two my nicknames from my university days.
I started Miss Knit Nat with just two balls of chunky merino wool and a pair of needles to make my first snood. I then sold that snood and bought four more balls of wool and it grew from there. I remember vividly the first wholesale order we placed for our yarn and the dilemma of whether to take the risk of spending £400 on wool and I'm so glad we did!
Although I loved hand knitting and creating texture through the fabric, I then discovered machine knitting and became fascinated by what you could achieve with it and how you could blend pattern and colours together. I trained in how to use the machines alongside continuing to hand knit and even took the same course twice, once to find out the functional basics and the second to break the boundaries – machine knitting and hand knitting are both similar and different, the stitch structure is the same but the way they are created is not necessarily - and it got me wondering what else might be possible!
I originally started Miss Knit Nat with a view to create brightly coloured accessories, and finally after getting my own knitting machines I could then achieve that goal and brought the lambswool knits into my collection alongside the hand knits. As I grew to love the machine knitting, and mixing different colourways and patterns to create my geometric designs, these grew and the hand knits were gradually phased out.
Last year we started working with a manufacturer to create our hats and gloves, which felt like a huge but brilliant step. The scarves, headbands and cushions are still made by myself, from the knitting to steaming, linking and finishing.
How does your day start?
Both myself and Mr Knit Nat get up around 5am as we have full time jobs as well as running the business. I tend to travel in early as I commute into London and the early start means I have more of the evening free for making.
At the moment I have breakfast at work (currently peanut butter on a wholemeal bagel with either tea or coffee - I tend to eat the same thing for a few weeks and then switch it when I get bored!). The journey in usually consists of catching up on emails/social media, and with other designer/maker friends on Whatsapp.
At the weekend we are also up early, and usually have breakfast with a much-needed cup of tea in a Miss Knit Nat mug (couldn't resist) followed by either planning/designing, or at the moment stock building for the winter. Clothing wise for knitting days it’s pretty casual, lots of leggings/loose jersey, but for trade shows we tend to be fairly smart but comfortable. Music is a great motivator and we tend to listen to varying Spotify playlists, on a long knitting day you can get through quite a few genres!
Any finished orders are packaged up and taken to the post office by Mr Knit Nat – a regular in the post office especially at Christmas time!
Do you take a lunch break?
Lunch is timed between scarves and is usually something healthy but substantial (machine knitting can be a bit of a workout!). After lunch I then continue with making, from creating the knitted fabric on the knitting machine, steaming, to using the linker to join the circle scarves/headbands. I also try to vary what I'm doing a bit as last year I got tennis elbow from knitting after doing too much on the machine in one go, so I do have to be careful!
We're starting to get Mr Knit Nat more and more involved in the business. You've probably seen him at craft fairs while I've been at home making more stock, but he's also starting to become one of the main contact points for wholesale and our manufacturer as well as keeping track of the accounts, as for the items made in house I still do the full making process.
What do you do in the afternoon?
As well as the weekend making I manage to knit some scarves after work, no more than one or two items though and then later into the evening I concentrate on any finishing and sewing I need to do. I juggle this between exercising to keep strong and healthy for using the knitting machine, and catching up with friends (although November/December do become a bit chaotic!)
At this time of year I'm working on wholesale orders and stock building – last week we also created a new section on our website for wholesale customers to view the new AW17 collection. I'll be launching the collection to our retail customers later in the year but wanted an area for stockists to be able to view the items and see all of the images in one place.
Of course we like to ensure we are always up to date with Neighbours and Home and Away – total Aussie soap fans and it’s the perfect background to sewing up scarves!
What's your weekend like?
Hmmm, I used to knit to relax! Most of the making is done during the day at the weekend and on an ideal Saturday I like to start with an early morning gym visit, work on the business all day and then catch up with friends/family in the evening. Sunday would ideally start with a yoga class followed by more making, and also the occasional afternoon tea club with a couple of my local friends. Usually by the time we get to the end of the weekend there is a fresh batch of scarves or headbands all drying ready to be pressed and finished during the week.
What do you love about your job and do you have any tips you can share or maybe future plans for Miss Knit Nat?
I absolutely love having my own business! It can be quite hectic at times (you do really have to want to do it as there have been a lot of tears!) but the reward and feedback from customers is just so lovely.
I would say to anyone wanting to start out, give it a go! It can take a little while to build momentum so be patient, try things out and see what customers respond to. Craft fairs are also a great way to get customer feedback.
One of the things I’ve learnt along the way is getting the balance right; from making sure you have time for yourself, but also the balance of your business, e.g retail vs wholesale and which direction is best for you to focus on.
This year we’ve expanded the collection and have also changed the finish of the items I make myself, making them more luxury/fluffy and with a slightly thicker feel than in previous years, so we’re really excited to be launching the collection later in the year.
Thank you so much Natalie, it's wonderful hearing all about the behind-the-scenes of your knitting world and what running a business is actually like. Keep up the incredible work!
I hope you've all enjoyed the 'Day in the life of a a knitwear design' and are now heading off to Miss Knit Nat to look at all the beautiful knits! You can also find Miss Knit Nat on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, so pop along and give them a like! If you'd also like to read more 'Day in the life' features, head over hereto discover what a day in the life is like for these incredible people.