anita chew, handmade knitwear australia, knit, handmade

Make My Beanie

Recently I’ve been running my very first competition, #MakeMyBeanie. To enter you had to colour in the supplied beanie template with the winner receiving his or her own beanie made. 

I had some great entries but from the start I was hoping to get one that would push the creative boundaries a bit, something that may be a bit of a challenge. And I always look at a kid’s artwork and see amazing textile potential, so for me choosing the winner was a pretty easy choice.

Normally I create adult size beanies but because of the design it seemed necessary to scale down a little. So firstly, a bit of math and some basic planning was required. 

Because in knitting we start at the bottom and work upwards the first real challenge was how to create that rib. I thought the easiest way to achieve a similar black and white mix was to simply knit one black yarn and one white yarn together to create a marl effect. Interesting as it knitted it created obvious horizontal lines which initially I wasn't so fond of but grew on me (probably because there was no easy fix). 

Once the full piece of knitting was done it was time to embroider the coloured design into the fabric. Using both swiss darning and backstitch techniques I did the design by eye rather than drawing it out first. While it means it's slightly disproportionate in places I hoped it would help recreate the free loose line work of the original. 


From there it was just a matter of finishing touches like the pom pom and tidying up all the loose ends. I have to confess I LOVED this project (enough that I'll probably run another one next year), and I am SUPER happy with the result. I hope it's new owner will be as well. 

anita chew, knitwear, queensland

First market

So we (the knitting and I) stepped out into the world of retail at our very first market stall a few weekends ago. Not one to do things by halves, for some reason I decided that the first market we’d go off to was Finders Keepers in my home state of Queensland. With a crowd of over ten thousand people expected, I found the experience overwhelmingly positive.

Probably the biggest surprise of the whole experience is that the actual retail sales over the weekend weren’t what I feel was the most successful part. Don’t get me wrong, making sales was excellent but there was so much more to it. It was interesting to gauge people’s responses to product and price, which gives you so much insight for development. It was amazing to get specific promotion from the Finders Keepers team and then visually see the flow on effect of that in social media numbers. And it was super exciting that a sale of a beanie on Saturday turned into a wholesale enquiry on Sunday.

Clearly, after just one market I’m no expert but here are my top three tips from a first time market stallholder to any other first time market stallholders out there:

1.     Build a team.
You’ll NEED your family and your mates. So don’t be coy when people offer to help. Just say yes, and then apologise to them later when they realise what they’ve let themselves in for. And if you’re lucky (like me) to have friends in the events hire and styling industries all the better. Make use of them, but be nice about it and promote them as the best stylists in the world. Best stylists in the world = The Styled Group.

2.     Talk to everyone and try and find your people.
Whether it’s customers or other vendors, you just never know where a conversation will lead. Other stallholders can offer great advice and the same goes for customers especially if they’re professional fields are things like marketing or pr. As for finding your people, it’s a matter of seeing where your target market is (mine, not so much in sunny Queensland), where your contemporaries are, and finding those people that ‘get’ what you’re doing. These will be the people that will help you move forward.

3.     Think about the logistics.  
We spent hours and hours and hours building a backdrop for the stall, which looked amazing but turned out wasn’t super practical. I didn’t think about the fact that other stallholders would be butted up to our space so it made it difficult to get to anything we had stored behind it. So I’d definitely think about different storage options and how to really maximise the space better.

But really if I could give any advice to someone who’s thinking about creating a market stall, it would be to just do it. For me, it was a really positive experience and something I’m looking forward to building on. 

anita chew, knit, queensland

tools of the trade 1

Meet my Singer knitting machine (now I realise I should have named her)... Betsy.

I've had Betsy for about 3 years, which is only a very short part of her life. She was made around 1974 and has spent the majority of her time with a lady in Victoria. As her third owner, she spent some time with another RMIT knit graduate for a few years before I bought her during my final year of uni studying textiles in Melbourne. 

Domestic knitting machines like Betsy are a bit unheard of these days but were big business back in the day. Your nana has probably got one tucked away in a cupboard or the back shed that's been untouched for decades. Depending on the make, model and condition they can still bring in a bit of money today. Recently I met a lovely lady, Thelma, who told me about how she bought her first knitting machine, a $1100 Passap, back in the 80's from Myer. Interestingly today Thelma could realistically get a similar price if she sold that exact machine. 

I'll be posting more about Betsy and her workings but maybe in the meantime go check out what you can find in your Nana's back shed.