I had this funny idea five years ago, it seems, to do a series of interviews called the 1-Q Interview, and then I apparently only did it once — one question to Julie Hoover about the value of seams. (An excellent and life-changing interview, I must add!) I was reminded of it the other day when I began to interview Megan Elizabeth, formerly of Wool Days yarn and now with a shiny new web app to talk about, called Making Things. I’d sent her an opening question and was planning to follow up with the rest, but in her infectious enthusiasm for what she’s doing she sent back a whole interview’s worth of an answer! So today I present you my second (unintentional) 1-Q Interview.
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When you first got in touch with me … how long ago was that? … you were working on an online tool for reading patterns and tracking your progress. An upgrade to existing pattern readers, basically. But in the meantime, the idea has really morphed and grown. Can you share a short history of the app?
I’d been running Wool days (a boutique Australian yarn company) for 3 years, and the same conversation kept coming up with our community: I want my making world to fit snugly into my fast and crazy world, so I don’t have to leave it behind. So I can still be me.
And while I loved what I got to do every day (visiting local sheep farms, creating yarn, talking with our community) I sometimes struggled to see how Wool days was going to keep up with the rest of my world. There are too many of us who are passionate about knitting and crochet for us not to have the support, infrastructure and opportunities we take for granted in the rest of our lives. (Netflix anyone?) So being a typical “too much to do, not enough time” person, I started thinking about what it would look like.
I shared my ideas with others, because I know how I make, and what I need. But I can’t speak for everyone. Turns out others had been thinking this way too! I had some of the most wonderful, in-depth conversations with people I knew, and more importantly, people I didn’t.
It became a thing. So at the start of this year we built a thing.
It was simple and awkward. And people were obsessed. The first week, makers spent an average of 10 hours in using the platform.
Working with designers, we took a small selection of patterns and reformatted them so they were interactive. Which basically means knitting and crochet patterns were now truly digital. They adapted to your screen size, there was a sticky highlighter to keep track on the page, row counters, dual axle chart reader, you could make notes directly in the pattern, and there was a scrapbook page to document your project.
It was all just as seamless as using a pen and post-its. At least it was supposed to be.
Every day we’d get feedback on improvements, changes and things that just didn’t work. And every night we’d make it better. Some things were massive changes, and some things were quick tweeks. We were all learning how we make things, and what was frustrating about it. Wanting to knit on the train and not need to mark a dog-eared chart with multiple coloured markers. Wanting to keep making with friends, even when they go home. Or they live on the other side of the world. Wanting to support others who find deep satisfaction in their creativity. We were co-creating our dream tool for making.
We were also working really closely with designers (they create the patterns at the centre of our making world!), and it didn’t take long for conversations around recognition, pay, support and safety to come up. Designers build communities, brands, stories. They dream up, design, test, do maths, redesign, tech edit, photograph, format, market, sell, teach and tech support each pattern they create. So we started rethinking how we access patterns, in a way that celebrates all the work of designers, and creates a predictable and sustainable income — one of the most powerful drivers of creativity.
Yarn stores, dyers, podcasters, teachers, tech editors have joined in the conversation too, and they have some epic ideas. We are a creative people, not only with our hands but our minds. We’ve all thought “what if …” Now we’re building it. Together.
So that’s where we’re at! We officially launched yesterday, which means you can become a member of Making Things to access all the patterns (1000+ tech edited, tested and beautifully photographed patterns), and all the tools. Our library of patterns is now your library of patterns. Our community is now your community. Our platform is now your platform as we build this together.
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Thanks, Megan — I can’t wait to see how it goes and grows!
And for anyone wondering, yes, you can find a few of my patterns there (which automatically makes that link an affiliate link, fyi). [No longer available; see note above.] Let me know if you try it out!
PREVIOUSLY in 1-Q Interview: Julie Hoover in defense of seams