Sarah's Amiables

It's Monday and it's time for another interview from a great handmade gift artist! Today's interview is with Sara of Sarah's Amiables - a wonderful knit shop run by a wonderful person. Who couldn't use something warm and fuzzy during these chill months?

What type of handmade gifts do you create, and where is the best place to purchase your crafts?
Handknits are my primary craft. Mostly I knit portable things: hats, scarves, mittens, baby clothes, bookmarks, etc, so I can bring my knitting with me to harness all those little bits of spare waiting time throughout the day, though I've also made sweaters and afghans. I also crochet, spin, and dabble in card-making and sewing, but knitting is my major creative outlet.

I sell my crafts in my Etsy shop:

Let's hear a little bit about you personally. What are your biggest likes, dislikes, other hobbies?
Biggest likes: my fiancé, my cat Jude (when he's not spazzing), hot chocolate with whipped cream, sincere compliments, music, science... and knitting! (soft, colorful fiber, full of potential; smooth, warm, inviting wooden needles.)
Biggest dislikes: inconsiderate drivers

When I'm not knitting (or sometimes when I am...), I'm a neurobiology graduate student at the University of Rochester, and I'm an organist at Holy Cross Church in Charlotte. I also sing with the Schola Cantorum of Christ Church in Rochester. So music and science are big for me, too.

How, why, and when did you get started in your craft?
I've always been interested in crafts in general. For a while origami was my thing. Then sewing, and sketching here and there.

I learned to knit three separate times. First, in sixth grade my friend's mother taught us both how to knit and crochet. We made cozies for our tamagotchis, but that was the end of it. Later, in tenth grade, I saw a friend of mine knitting, thought it was awesome, re-learned, got about halfway through a scarf, and dropped it. Finally, when I was applying to college and had massive anxiety about the uncertain nature of my future, I saw another friend knitting. I found instructions online, re-re-learned, and proceeded to knit All The Time, harnessing my nervous energy. I haven't stopped since then.

What is your favorite type of supplies to use when creating your handmade gifts?
For yarn, I love using colorful, soft, locally produced, hand-spun, hand-dyed wool, or a wool blend with alpaca or silk. It's even better if I spun the yarn myself. Colors make the knitting visually stimulating, even if the pattern is simple, and softness makes the knitting a tactile pleasure.

For needles, I prefer wood. I often knit in public, and metal needles clink loudly (especially if you drop them on the tiled floor in the middle of a presentation...), so they're not my favorite. Plastic needles feel silly to me. Bamboo works well in the thicker needles, but it gets too bendy for me in thinner needles. I try to select sustainably-harvested and hand-crafted needles, partly to reduce my consumer impact, and partly because they feel morally good to work with. That last bit is purely psychological, but it's still true.

<What is the best way you have found to market your craft as an independent artist?
I'm still working on this one. I've got a blog and a facebook fan page which seem to be doing all right. Actually, promoting specific items on Etsy has been most effective for me. Now I'm trying to explore other methods, like blog exchanges, twitter, and fliers.

What is the biggest challenge you find with being an independent artist?
There are several challenging parts! Balancing the time I need to spend in lab with all the time I want to spend knitting is tricky. Marketing and advertising do not come naturally to me. And I frequently find myself torn between knitting what I want to knit, and knitting what I think other people will like, which leads into the difficulty of predicting what other people will like, appealing to their tastes, and getting them to come see what I've made.

Out of all of the handmade artists out there, what makes your art unique?
Lately, I've been studying wool characteristics and spinning techniques, so I can now make educated decisions regarding which material to use for which project, depending on the effect I want. I often knit with yarn that I've spun myself, so I can control the characteristics of the yarn (thick/thin, woolly/smooth, drape, color blending, etc) to make truly unique creations. I've also been exploring design in knitting, so I can make unique items of my own original design. Finally, I try to get the majority of my fiber from local, sustainable, and small-business sources to minimize any negative effects on the environment and maximize the benefit to the local economy.

What are your plans for the future of your handmade crafts?
I have many ideas I want to pursue. I want to include a wider variety of items in my shop. I want to eliminate synthetic fibers and use only natural, local, and hand-processed fibers in my work. I want to develop my design ability further and make more creative and unique items.

I would like my business to grow a little more, so that sales can keep up with my knitting, but I don't want to let it get stressful. So far it has been a challenge, and a lot of fun, and I would like it to stay that way.


Debra said...

Wonderful right up.

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