We hope you have all had a wonderful holiday season. We are delighted to be able to introduce you to Toby Roxane — a wonderfully talented young designer. We will be carrying all her patterns and ebooks. If you look at the patterns you will see they run the gamut from shawls to accessories to sweaters with many more to come!
When I first became acquainted with Toby and her work I was struck by her wonderful work but also with her bringing a fresh, new perspective. I know that being a full time designer in the world of knitting is a real challenge. Everyone here knows you will love her patterns and books.
I thought the best way to have you learn more about her was to “interview” her.
- Is your full time work life in the world of knitting?
It is! I’m lucky enough to be a full-time, self-employed knitwear designer. Before I started doing this full-time, in October of 2012, I worked at yarn shops for about three years so I’ve been in the knitting world, in some capacity, full-time for a while now.
- What made you start to make your own patterns?
I didn’t learn how to knit until after I graduated from college in 2009, and when I did learn, it turned out I was good at it. Having recently graduated from college, I was trying to find a job and, like everyone else who graduated in 2008 and 2009, I couldn’t. Plus, I really loved knitting—it seemed right for me in a way nothing else did. I also knew I wasn’t cut out for a nine-to-five office job and that, ideally, I’d want to work for myself. Designing my own knitting patterns seemed like a logical way to make that happen.
- What is the biggest challenge for a young designer?
I know it’s a bit crass to talk about money, but that is, without a doubt, my biggest challenge. This is not a notoriously high-paying field and there’s been a lot of interesting speculation about that recently. Annie Modesitt, in particular, has been a real advocate for designers earning fair pay, but there’s still a long way to go, and a lot of different parts of the industry where the idea of paying designers fairly has yet to infiltrate. As far as being young, I think I face all the same challenges my peers do in this regard, although I’m working in a field where I think I’m definitely on the younger side. I sometimes feel alienated from my peers because I spend so much time with people older than I am, and I sometimes feel alienated from my colleagues because I’m so much younger than they are.
- Do you ever run into people who think knitting is for grandmothers only?
All the time! It drives me nuts! And I get it from both knitters and non-knitters! Working at a yarn shop, sometimes a woman would come in needing help with something easy, like joining a piece of work in the round, and she’d be completely incredulous that I was not only able to help her, but I’d designed the pattern she was working on. And then on the other end, sometimes when I knit in public on the subway or in waiting rooms, a non-knitter will say something like “Aren’t you a little young to be doing that?”
- How do you connect with the creative world– knitting or otherwise? Mainly Ravelry. I don’t know what knitters did before Ravelry. This job can be kind of a solitary one, but I do look forward to the TNNA (The National Needlearts Association) trade shows, where I get to hang out with other designers and yarny folk.
- What in your formal training helped you to be the designer you are?
Well…I don’t actually have any formal training, exactly. I went to school for writing, but I did take a course at the London College of Fashion in the summer of 2011. That course was mainly geared toward people who want to design machine-knits for the big fashion houses and less toward writing patterns for hand-knitting, but I did learn a lot about how to put together a collection, which is something I do a lot (as evidenced by my shawl collections, London Underground, The Tarot Collection, and the upcoming Everwear: London Underground Vol. 2).
- Where do you find your inspiration for new designs?
There are three main places I find inspiration, and it depends on the design. The inspiration for lot of shawls has come from stitch dictionaries, particularly Barbara Walker’s and the Japanese ones. I love to look at stitch patterns and try to imagine the best possible way to use them. Another thing that inspires me is yarn, especially hand-dyed yarn. A lot of shawls have come from finding ways to combine colors in a unique way. The third place I go for inspiration is high fashion. I love to look at the runway collections because I often see interesting silhouettes that could translate well into knitwear.
- How did you find Signature?
I think it was when a co-worker at one of the yarn shops showed up one day with a pair of Signature straights—she let me knit a few stitches and I was impressed. I got a circular size 7 for my birthday that year and I was hooked. Spoiled for life.
- What upcoming projects do you have planned for 2014?
Tons of exciting things! A lot of it is going to be a surprise, but I will say this: sweaters. Many, many sweaters.
- What is something interesting about your life story?
I think I was raised in a sort of unconventional way—my dad was my main caretaker. He’s an artist, and he worked at home while my mom worked in the city, in publishing. I had a few friends when I was little who were in the same kind of situation, with a stay-at-home dad, so I was at least 8 or 9 before I figured out that this was the opposite of what was considered “traditional.” I also used to think everyone made their own art to put on the walls of their houses. All the paintings and photographs in my house were my dad’s, and I thought every family just made their own—when I figured out that people actually bought art my mind was blown.
We are offering a very special introductory price on her patterns as the first of our “12 Days of Deals”. Those 12 days come with a wish for a healthy, happy 2014!