Today I’m so excited to introduce one of my teammates from the Toronto Etsy Street Team (TESTy), Dylan from the Etsy Shop DylaniumKnits. Dylan is full of excitement for what he does and is helpful and supportive to everyone on the team and in the handmade community. Here’s a little look into his creative life! Enjoy! ♥
How did DylaniumKnits come to be?
I founded DylaniumKnits in September 2010 after finishing graduate school in Linguistics at the University of Toronto. I had been knitting for a while and I was looking for patterns that would be interesting in terms of the construction, but I was also looking for designs that I thought were fashionable and kind of quirky and a bit more edgy than the norm. I was noticing more and more that there is this rift between what I think of as the Craft world and the Fashion world. The Craft world of knitting is focused on new techniques, construction, texture, and fibres that enhance the experience of knitting a garment, whereas the Fashion world is a place where the final look is what matters. Much work is put in to creating interesting shapes, colours, and styles informed by current trends in order to create some really beautiful imagery. The goal of DylaniumKnits is to bring these two worlds closer together. I want to create a space where Fashion (with a capital F) can be inspired by local designers, co-operative working relationships, DIY, and handmade items that make the Craft world such a vibrant and joyous place while at the same time trying to influence trends in the Craft world so we can show that knitting isn’t just for your grandma to make scratchy ill-fitting sweaters or socks that you’ll never wear. You can use these techniques to create anything you want, from a demure but ultra chic winter outfit to a headpiece suitable for Miss Gaga herself.
How long have you been knitting? How did you learn?
I have been knitting for just over five years. I was first taught how to knit by my wonderful friend and then-co-worker Anna. She was always knitting…like, EVERYWHERE and finally I asked her to show me how it was done. I knit my first stitch ever on a TTC bus up somewhere near Bathurst and Finch on our way back downtown after a meeting for work. Shortly after that, I went home for Winter Break and told my mother that I had started knitting. Both my mother and grandmother are avid knitters, so I spent most of the next two weeks at home working on my first scarf. I just became engrossed in it. I quickly picked up the basic techniques and then I was well on my way to making pieces for myself and my friends. The rest is history, I guess!
You seem to use lots of bright and bold colours. Where do you find your inspiration?
Throughout my life, I have always found inspiration and spirituality from the people around me. My community is my life. Recently, I’ve been a very active member of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer (GLBTQ) community here in Toronto. I’ve been involved in various forms of activism in the community and have been getting more and more involved in the Queer arts scene. Many of my dearest friends are entertainers of various sorts: actors, dancers, singers, burlesque artists, drag queens etc.. We value our community and we stand by each other in times of difficulty, and most of the time, we look damn fierce when doing it! I get so inspired by our community because we are unafraid to try new and potentially daring forms of presentation, performance, and identity. We create a space where it’s okay to bring up politics, bodies are celebrated no matter their size, shape, or colour, and our unique cultures are respected and celebrated. When you mix these radical politics with lots of glitter, rhinestones, and strategically-placed pasties and I don’t know how you could NOT be inspired. As far as the colours go, I think this is a direct representation of the vibrant community that I’m a part of. I want my pieces to be a little bit daring but still work with the rest of your wardrobe. I feel like it’s important for us to take a chance every now and then and do/wear/be something a little different than what we are everyday.
I notice you you knit by hand as well as machine knit? Do you have a preference?
I’m actually a very recent machine knitting convert. I only purchased my first machine thee or four months ago, but I have been loving it. There are positive and negative aspects to both machine knitting and hand knitting. For example, a knitting machine is WAY faster than hand knitting, especially for simple stockinet stitches. You can knit a row of 80 stitches in about 3 seconds with the machine, as opposed to the 5-10 minutes it would take by hand. Also, there are some stitches that are much more difficult, if not impossible to do by hand that are super easy to do on the machine. For example, the Honeycomb hat featured on my Etsy store is machine knit. The body of the hat, with the actual honeycomb pattern in it, is extraordinarily easy to do on the knitting machine with some hand manipulation. However, maintaining even enough tension and length in the floats to try and do that by hand would be a miserable experience. (p.s. if you’re not a knitter and you don’t know what I just said, don’t worry about it, just take my word that it would be a very difficult, if not impossible task to make the Honeycomb hat by hand). In the reverse of that, there are some phenomenally easy things to do by hand which are very difficult to do on the machine, especially without fancy and expensive attachments. For example, ribbing is quite difficult on the machine and ends up requiring a lot of hand work when you don’t use a ribbing attachment. All in all, I don’t think I could say which one I like better. They are really just completely different beasts.
Do you have anything new planned for the Spring/Summer season?
I do, in fact! Funny story actually. I was in New York in the middle of January making a piece for a friend of mine down there. During that trip, I had a random run-in with someone from a major department store in the US and she was interested in potentially having this store carry my line for Fall-Winter 2011. You can read the entire story on my blog post about it here: dylaniumknits.tumblr.com/post/2811898634. Anyway, what ended up happening was right after I got back from New York, I cranked out a mini collection for Fall-Winter to send to this person in New York. This is great, but then it left me with nothing done for Spring. So, I’m doing things a little backwards and now creating another line of items for spring. I’m going to be using the two original DylaniumKnits pieces, the toque and the gauntlets as part of this collection, but I want to expand on this, create more of a context and a story for those pieces that already exist. You can expect to find lots of high-contrast colour combinations, more bright pink, some lace work, and lots of versatile garments. I LOVE pieces that can function in more than one way, so you’ll be seeing more of that.
How can people find you?
You can find me on a lot of different sites, because i kind of love social media. Here’s a list of the ones I frequent the most:
I update my twitter and facebook ALL the time, so those are definitely the best ways to stay up to date. I am planning on being a part of the TESTy craft show being held at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto on April 30th. I may be selling at some other springtime craft shows, but nothing is confirmed yet. Also, I’m aiming to have a booth with another TESTy member at the Fall Clothing Show at the Exhibition Centre, so totally stay tuned for that. Also, for those of you in the Boston area (anyone?) I’m selling my Toque kits in two brick & mortar stores: Newbury Yarns on Newbury Street (www.newburyyarns.com) in Boston and the new social stitch lounge Gather Here (www.gatherhereonline.com) in Cambridge. Stay tuned to these shops and more for new patterns, kits, and garments!
What is your favorite thing about selling on Etsy?
My favourite thing about Etsy is the teams and particularly TESTy. I think that it’s so great to be able to create a creative community online and then bring it into real life. I wouldn’t know who many of my fellow designers and artists are in Toronto without TESTy. And now we’re banding together to create the craft show, have a meet n greet to get to know people, and really create a strong support structure for local artists. How wicked is that?!
Do you have any advice to give anyone just starting out trying to sell their handmade work?
As someone who is still very much starting out in this world, I don’t feel like I have the authority or experience to offer any kind of sage nugget of wisdom that will make you successful in your ventures. However, I have picked up a couple things along the way.
• I think first and foremost is meet and network with ANYONE you can. You never know who you’re going to meet, who you’re going to impress, who you might be able to collaborate with or learn from. Because of networking and meeting new people, I have run several professional photo shoots where I had models, photographers, makeup, and stylists and I haven’t paid for any of them. It’s because I’m working collaboratively with these people, giving them proper credit and helping them to expand their portfolio, get their names out a bit more, and make everyone just a little bit happier. If you are honest and sincere about wanting to help other artists while having them help you, treat them with respect, it is amazing what people will help you with.
• Make business cards and carry them with you wherever you go. This relates to the first point because you just never know who you’re going to meet.
• Take all advice under consideration. It can be really obnoxious when someone offers you advice when you don’t ask for it, but I’ve found that sometimes this is exactly when you need it. Sometimes people offer you their wisdom because they want to prove how wise they are, but really they’re just trying to make themselves feel better. But every now and then, there are people who have been in this business longer than you and who actually have your interests at heart. Take everything you can get and process it later to determine objectively whether it’s actually helpful, or just a load of BS.
• Remember that you’re not alone in your craft. This is one of the reasons that Etsy is so great! You can always find other people who do what you do. From there you can gain inspiration, insights, or even just some support if you need it from someone who knows a lot about what you’re going through.