Three things that helped me get into designing

Three things that helped me get into designing

How did I get into designing?

My first anniversary as a fulltime crochet and knitwear designer is coming up in September! I couldn’t be happier to have this as my fulltime job, and I thought it would be a nice idea to share some of my journey with you. Where did I start out? What was my very first step? What had the biggest impact? Of course I won’t be able to share it all, but I do have three clear pivotal moments in my designing journey, and I want to share those with you.

When did I take the first step?

The very first step on my designing journey, was starting this blog. I’ll save the ‘why’ for a different blogpost. In September 2012, I started my crafty blog, at that time still called ‘Crafty Queens’, to share my crochet and knitting makes while I was still very much a beginner myself. Back then I had no idea that 8 years later, this would be my fulltime job. I still can’t believe it actually! It was by no means an easy journey, but in this blogpost I’ll share three things that helped me kickstart my designing career.

One: Blogging for Breiclub

a collage of my crochet projects, lots of amigurumi

In 2014 – two years into my own blog – I started blogging for another website called ‘Breiclub’ (knitting club). They were a new Dutch website, just starting out, and looking for guest bloggers to write about knitting and crocheting. They were offering €10 per blogpost, and being a student without any jobs on the side, I could use the money! I also happened to really like it. Breiclub organised a meeting for the blogger team, everyone was very nice, and it was just really fun to talk about my hobby with other people. Via Breiclub I also got in contact with Scheepjes, as we were offered to work with their yarns for our blogposts. Later on, I would also record workshops and design patterns for Breiclub.Breiclub haakkalender, with my owl on the left and my gnome doorstopper on the right

I co-designed the Mystery Blanket for Breiclub in 2015, and I designed patterns for their ‘Haakkalender’ (pictured). While I really enjoyed the process of designing and I value my experiences at Breiclub, I decided to move away from them because I didn’t really feel ‘at home’. Even though Breiclub wasn’t the perfect place for me, I learned that I loved to design patterns and to teach others how to crochet and knit. Besides that, writing patterns for other platforms than my own blog was really educative as well.

If you’re starting out with your designing career, perhaps reach out to another craft blog and offer to swap guest-blogs. It’s really good practice to write for another platform than your own.

Two: Mollie Makes Handmade Awards

Mollie Makes Handmade Awards group photo

Ahh, the Mollie Makes Handmade Awards.. I always think back fondly of that day! Mollie Makes is a UK craft magazine, and in 2014 they organized the very first round of the Handmade Awards. There were 5 categories all with different themes, and I applied for the ‘Youth’ category, since I hadn’t established my business yet and was just starting out. I submitted my triangular crochet birds (see below) and was amazed when I got invited for the finals in London! I remember doing my Master Thesis at the time, and asking my thesis mentor if it would be wise to take a couple days off in the midst of my thesis madness. She must have seen the sparkle in my eyes though, because she allowed me to go!

My crochet birds and the award I won at Mollie Makes Handmade Awards

My heart was POUNDING as I was going to the venue where the Handmade Awards were going to be held. But, I also remember chatting to fellow creative women – there were 25 of us in total – and feeling like I truly belonged there. I don’t think I ever felt that deep of a connection with total strangers, and I made quite a few friends by the end of the day.

On that day, I learned that making a connection with like-minded people is vital for creative entrepreneurs. There are SO many factors that can make us feel small: the creative branch always being thought of as ‘hobbies’; female entrepreneurs always treated as ‘lesser than’; our products always seen as ‘frivolous’. Quite often I have the feeling of not being taken seriously, but on THAT day, wow! I have never felt SO empowered. It really boosted my confidence!

So, the moral of this story: find YOUR people. Find a group of like-minded designers/entrepreneurs that really lift you up. Share stories, know that it is normal to feel amazing one day and to feel down on the next, know that it is normal for designers of every level to have struggles. If you’d like to become part of my inner circle, have a look on my Patreon page and join the community.

Three: Becoming a Scheepjes blogger

Scheepjes bloggers group photo from 2016

Since a couple years, I have been working together with Scheepjes, a Dutch yarn company. A LOT of people have asked me throughout the years: How did you become a Scheepjes blogger? And I really don’t have a clear-cut answer for that. Perhaps it is because I started working with Scheepjes yarns in my Breiclub-days, and I somehow got their attention? Feeling SO happy and lucky they reached out to me though, because I am loving every minute of our collaboration together. Looking back, I *think* it was somewhere in December 2014/January 2015 that they came in contact with me, so actually my ‘three things’ listed here in this blogpost happened really quickly after each other.

I love having this blogger group to share stories, ask for advice, and just to lift each other up each day. And of course, it is a big bonus to be working with Scheepjes yarns! One of the big stumbling blocks as a beginning designer is yarn support. Sometimes you just have so many ideas, and let’s face it – yarn can be expensive! So it was definitely a big help for me to be sponsored by Scheepjes, and not have to worry about that anymore. Taking away that worry, meant that I could focus more on the actual creative process of designing. I am super thankful for Scheepjes and all the opportunities they offer to me <3

As far as I know, Scheepjes are always looking for new designers to collaborate with, so if you feel like you want to connect, why not give it a try? It’s also a really good idea to reach out to any local indie dyers and find out how you can help each other. Yarn dyers are often looking for designers to collaborate with. Or perhaps reach out to your local yarn store and see if they want to host workshops? These are all great places to help you kickstart your designing career 🙂

Where will your journey take you?

So, are you ready to take the next step on your creative journey? Just as a recap, here are the three steps I outlined in this blogpost:

  1. Write for other platforms than your own
  2. Find your people
  3. Get yarn support so that you can focus on designing

And don’t worry if your journey doesn’t look like mine, that’s because it’s YOUR journey! Two journeys can never look identical, so feel free to follow your own instincts. If you feel like you’re ticking all of the boxes but you’re still not reaching your goals? Think about what you could do differently. My coach always asks me: what would you DO if you knew you could NOT fail? If you would succeed 100%? What would you do?

Designers Bootcamp

I’m thinking of setting up a kind of ‘designers bootcamp’. Sharing my stories with you, giving you all my tips and tricks on how to find out what your audience is, how to design for your people, and finding out what they want. Would that be something you’re interested in? I’m still figuring out how I want to do this, but if you drop me a message at hello@newleafdesigns.nl I’ll be sure to let you know 🙂

Till next time,

x Carmen

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Three things that helped me get into designing