I started this interview series with the desire to stop feeling isolated as a knitter. I taught myself to knit via Youtube videos. As I was reading Mina’s answers, it was a lot like holding a mirror up to my own design life. I was surprised to see that my struggle is common in the knitting design world.
My first experience with Mina’s podcast was listening to her lovely accent while knitting and exploring knitting videos. I love her openness with her audience and seeing her beautiful knitting and family life mesh so well. Her “Two at a time” Sock tutorial changed my sock knitting life!
So, without further ado here is the interview.
Tell us a little about yourself?
Hi, my name is Mina and I currently live in the UK in a small town just south of London with my Husband, our 2yr old Daughter, and our 2 cats! We’ve traveled around a fair bit over the years and since getting married my husband and I have lived in Dubai, where I taught myself to knit, and then in Bahrain, where I started my video podcast, and then we moved to New York, where our Daughter was born, and finally we moved back to the UK just over a year ago.
As I mentioned I taught myself to knit while we were living in Dubai, it was something I had always wanted to know how to do (a lot of my Aunt’s and older cousins used to knit and my Mum still has lots of the baby clothes that were knit for me by them), once I got started I was soon hooked and couldn’t stop! Then I found my local group of knitters in Dubai – the UAE Amiras – and that’s when I became introduced into the wonderful world of hand-dyed yarns and podcasts.
Soon after we moved to Bahrain where out of sheer boredom I decided to start a podcast exactly a year after I had taught myself how to knit. A few months into that I released my first couple of designs and the rest, as they say, is history.
How long have you been designing?
I actually had to go double check Ravelry for this one but my first designs were published in April 2015. So it has been almost 4 years. Although initially it was more of a hobby and I wasn’t looking at it as a potential job. It was really towards the end of 2016 that I started to realize this was becoming more of a job for me and that realization was so exciting.
Do you still enjoy designing? When did you consider your self successful at designing?
Absolutely I love it. It gives me such a creative outlet I never thought I would have in my work. I never grew up believing that I would get to do something I enjoy so much as my job. It’s a dream (that I didn’t know I had) come true. I think it was when I published the first sock club that I realized that this was going to be a job that would be worth me pouring my time and efforts in to. Having said that I still don’t necessarily consider myself to be a successful designer as I struggle a lot at times with feelings of not being good enough or that people don’t like what I am publishing and that can be hard.
Do you still knit for fun outside of the business of designing?
Vanilla socks are really the only non-design-work knitting that I work on these days. Other than that I have also recently started Spinning which I have found to be a nice break from knitting if I’m getting overwhelmed with work.
What is the biggest mistake you made as a new designer?
I’m not sure, to be honest, I don’t feel like I’ve made too many “mistakes” as it were. I have definitely learned a lot from the process over time, made changes and refined my processes along the way. I think my main take away would be to make sure your layout for the design is clear and easy to read and that someone else checks your work, be that a tech editor or test knitters.
What is your favorite weight of yarn to work? Or favorite colorway?
I love working with fingering weight yarns, I feel like they offer the most flexibility, you can use them single stranded for any project (pretty much), you can hold them double to get a DK/Worsted gauge if you want to knit heavier weight hats or mittens or anything else, and I love that you can hold several strands together from the same or different skeins to get some fun marled effects.
Having said that I also love a good DK/Worsted weight yarn for a fun and quick satisfying project!
What is your favorite design that has been released thus far and why?
Oh, that is a tough one
The above are designs are two of my favorite shawls that I’ve designed, although I do love them all I have had so much wear out of those two. I also love my Pinwheel Scrap blanket pattern as I’ve found it is a great scrappy blanket project and perfect for travel knitting in the car as it worked in blocks so very portable!
What is your biggest project for 2019?
Oh I have a couple of big projects this year, I have several fun collaborations coming up but I am planning on designing and knitting my husband a Gansey inspired sweater (it is the first garment I’m knitting for him too) and I’m hoping to get his input on the design throughout the process which will be interesting.
I’m also running 3 pattern clubs this year, the first is the Seasons Sock Club which is currently going on and the last pattern for that will be released on 1st April 2019. Then from May-August, I will be running a Mini Skein Pattern Club, and finally, for the last 4 months of the year, I will be running a Gift Knitting Pattern Club. So that is another big undertaking for the year that I am excited to be working on.
What is one thing your fans don’t know about you?
I think I’m fairly open about myself and my life on my Podcast, but I think maybe one thing people don’t know about me is that I struggle a lot with feelings of self-worth and not feeling like I’m good enough. Its something I struggle with daily and most of the time it’s manageable but some days it can leave me feeling really overwhelmed and wondering if I’ve made the right choice to do this as a job.
What is one thing you would say to new indie designers?
It can be hard when you start out to be able to afford the upfront costs of getting your designs tech edited, and while I do think using a tech editor is valuable and important to do if you can, when I first started out I couldn’t afford to do that, so I only used test knitters to start with. Initially, I think getting your work test knit is more important. Making sure that your pattern is understandable by a knitter is really important and if you can find knitters at a range of skill/experience levels that is even better. (Ravelry has forums where you can find testers if you are struggling to find some).
What is one of your personal goals for 2019?
To start and finish the sweater I have in mind for my husband and for him to actually like it! That would be an amazing goal to achieve for this year as its something I’ve wanted to do for several years now!
What should a new designer avoid doing?
My number one rule with designing is to design something I would want to wear/knit myself, I also don’t suggest following trends just because it is what is popular at the time, but to create designs you are passionate about.
What other designer do you wish would join this interview series?
Joji Locatelli and Jaclyn Salem (Brooklyn Knitfolk)
Top Bucket list item?
Do you mean to knit? If so then that would have to be an adult-sized Colourwork sweater of some kind, I haven’t done that yet and it is in my plans for this year!
Mina thank you for taking the time to chat with me. For bringing light to the fact that even knit designers feel isolation at times. And for sharing your beautiful designs with us.