Starting from well, NOW, every month I’ll be interviewing some of my favourite crafters, makers and shakers that really light up my feed every time I see their designs. This month I’ve been fortunate enough to get to chat with one of my absolute favourite designers, the wonderful Tiam of Knit Safari.
When I opened my Instagram account, Tiam was one of the first designers I followed. I just loved (and still love) her modern, chunky designs, stylish garments and honest approach to making and motherhood – perfection! Whether it’s her craft process, morning commute or beautiful travels around her native New Zealand that she’s posting about, it’s always a treat to stay up to date and follow this talented garment-making goddess! Today Tiam and I chat flabby bits, shoving yarn into garden sheds and the living nightmare that is frogging mohair yarn… The horror!
Tiam, when did you first realise that knitting (and crochet) design was ‘your thing’?
My mum taught me how to knit and crochet (and sew!) when I was really young, and I always dabbled in crafty things. After a long break from anything yarn related, I was at a really stressful job and was finding it difficult to stop thinking about work in the evenings. I had also recently moved back to the UK and brought some peach mohair and knitting needles from my mum’s house with me. I just started knitting – no pattern, the wrong size needles, I didn’t even sketch out what I wanted to make. I just started knitting. The focus shifted from worrying about the day ahead to thinking about how to solve my next knitting conundrum. Do I remember how to cast off? How do you shape a neckline? Is this going to fit? It didn’t matter, because it was something different to my 9-5 to think about, and at that time that’s what I needed. The peach mohair jumper was a giant failure. Too dense, a weird shape, made me look like a blob and it was insanely scratchy. So I frogged it. If you have ever unravelled mohair, you know that’s not an easy task. Long story short, that was over 10 years ago, and I basically haven’t put down the yarn since!
You’re a mum and all of us parents know how hard it can be to balance parenting with crafting and designing. How do you manage your time in order to find moments in the day to run Knit Safari?
I use a project management tool for my longer term Knit Safari goals, plus I write a to do list in my notes app every Sunday night for the week ahead for my day-to-day life, from housework and food prep to social media content and pattern development, and try to focus on those tasks that day (but also not beat myself up when I don’t tick it all off!) Some days, I get nothing done. Other days, I’m super productive and tick everything off. It’s always a juggling act, and I’m still learning how to balance mum-me with yarn-me.
What’s been your proudest moment as a designer?
I pitch ideas to magazines and publications constantly, and a design kept getting rejected. Lockdown happened in the U.K., and I had a gap in my project calendar, so I decided to just do it. The response has been absolutely incredible and has made me realise that I need to back myself more!
I really love seeing your experimental makes pop up on the feed – your loopy cardigan is dreamy – but have you ever had any times where you’ve had a good idea for a project in your head that didn’t turn out the way you wanted in real life?
Well to be honest, not since my peach mohair saga! I pin loads of ideas on various Pinterest boards constantly from shapes to colour trends to stitches, I sketch things and draw size schematics before starting a project (ok not always…) and I don’t tend to unravel things because it’s all mapped out at the start. I learnt from my transgressions – frogging mohair was the kick up the butt I needed!
Do you ever suffer from ‘crafter’s block’? How do you get the inspiration back when it hits?
Definitely, we all do. Especially if I’m submitting to a publication and the moodboard and brief is too vague or too specific. I always go to a “palate cleanser” like some knit socks, to let ideas bubble about in the background. Sometimes, not thinking directly about a thing helps you figure our that thing!
Are there any knitting/crochet skills that you’re yet to master?
I have tried everything (I think!) but haven’t done much Tunisian Crochet, and I have to really focus to do intarsia on my knitting machine so now that I don’t have time to focus, that isn’t something I’m doing!
My husband can best be described as ‘baffled in a supportive way’ when it comes to how he feels about my yarn and making addiction! How does Mr. Safari deal with the mountains of yarn in your house and does he know how to knit?
Yarnia (my stash) is in the “chalet” (our garden shed!) so it’s sort of hidden away, in giant plastic tubs. Sometimes I’ll get a bunch of yarn support deliveries all at once and he raises a brow, but he is super duper supportive and has made some design suggestions recently that have made things go from blah to wow.
Whats your favourite yarn composition to work with? How about a yarn type that makes you see red?
I love all types of yarn! I’ve seen some rose and mint fibre recently that looks fun to use, but I don’t know how to spin my own yarn so that’s out of the picture for me right now.
Regarding social media, how important is it to be yourself? Do you think sharing your real-life persona is important when running a brand or should us designers put a lid on it and focus on the crafting?
For me, personally, it’s another balancing act! Do I pick the most flattering photos for the grid that don’t show my undereye bags or grey hairs or flabby bits? Of course! Do I also share the explosion of toys, the after-exercise schvitz, or the non-yarn things I do in stories? Absolutely.
Okay, for the last question we’ve got a bit of a Desert Island Knits situation: which four crafty bits & bobs would you need if you were stranded on an island Wilson and Tom Hanks style?
Oh… hmmm… some circular knitting needles, some good scissors, a crochet hook, (maybe 6-8mm?) and I can’t think of a fourth! Maybe a giant bale of cotton/silk blend yarn? Like enough to knit some glam tropical island outfits while I wait to be rescued. Would that be allowed? 🙂