I just came back from the knitting trade show TNNA in Columbus, Ohio and as always my head is just buzzing. So many ideas, conversations and meetings. It’ll take me a while to mentally unpack it all! One of the last conversations I had was not at TNNA but on the way home. For my first flight, I was sitting next to a Chinese- American investment banker. Needless to say, he was rather fascinated to have someone knitting next to him and I spent the hour answering his questions. It makes you think a little laterally when you have to talk about your ‘business’ with an actual business person as it takes them quite a while to get how it works. It’s useful perspective seeing what you do with completely fresh eyes as well.
Our conversation started with the knitting basics; ‘It seems really slow’, ‘Don’t they have machines for that now’ and ‘I remember my mother back in China knitting sweaters for me’. I started to explain that while yes there are machines to do that, and yes it is slow there are other benefits to knitting. The act of knitting is relaxing, empowering, mentally stimulating and it gives you complete power over what I wear. If I used a machine, while it can do the basics very quickly, a home machine can’t do much beyond the basics. If I wanted a basic sweater I can go to a shop and pick one up for less than it would cost me to buy the wool.
Then we moved on to why I just didn’t write a pattern, sell it to a manufacturer and make my business like that. That got us onto a discussion of what I did. My business is about empowering and teaching other people, not creating end products to sell. I have no desire to sell finished knits for a living, I want to teach through my patterns and in person. So a non-knitter only saw the end product, what was being knit but not the process which is usually the most important part to the knitter.
From here he wanted to analyse the market. Was it urban, what age was it, how much disposable income? Being a non-marketing type it took me a while to warm to the subject. But as I thought about it I realised that knitting is a complete and utter luxury in our day and age. We are all time poor so spending many weeks or months knitting an item you can buy in the shop is the ultimate in luxury. The fact that the yarn probably cost double what a finished sweater would cost also puts it into the luxury category but I think time is more significant. To me, knitting, teaching people to knit and promoting knitting is the ultimate in self-care. You’re taking time for yourself, learning new things and enjoying the process of learning something new. By the time we had finished our conversation and were due to land I think I had almost convinced him to take himself to a LYS and take up knitting in his retirement. After all, it’s one of the best mental exercises out there!