Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The spotlight this week is on Elena Shulman of Passion Knits. I think the name of her shop tells a lot about Elena. She has a passion for knitting and for fiber. Her shop is full of bright, gorgeous, creative items that just make you want to reach into the computer and touch them. The colors are beautiful also. I would love to have many of them, but my favorites are the knitted bracelets. My first contact with Elena was in the Etsy Knitters Street Team, but we have had a lot of fun getting to know each other in Spanish. She twittered in Spanish, and I answered one day. We've had a lot of fun, though I know I made a lot of mistakes since it's been several years since I've really studied and my dictionary is packed. She never points them out to me though and keeps on twittering. So here are her answers to my questions in English:
Do you have a day job? If so, what do you do?
I usually do have a day job: my profession is speech-language pathology, and for quite awhile now I have worked in our school district doing Spanish-English bilingual language evaluations with preschool thru high school-aged kids who are referred as having possible language difficulties. I took this school year off, though, so I have had lots of extra time for knitting, which has been wonderful! Oh -- my other day (and night) job is raising my two daughters, which is the toughest, most frustrating, most incredibly fabulous work of my lifetime!
When and how did you learn to knit?
I learned to knit 20 years ago this month. (My goodness, time flies!) I had been shown how to knit twice before that, but didn't take to it. This time, I was going on a three month cross-country RV trip with my now-husband. Before leaving, I mentioned to my mother-in-law that I might get bored after awhile when it wasn't my turn to drive. She suggested knitting, and sat me down with needles, yarn, and a sweater pattern. She also sent me off on my trip with a big book of knitting, which luckily included info on how to fix mistakes! I worked all summer on that sweater, finished it, and actually wore the sorry thing a couple times! (I'm sure you can imagine: uneven tension, lopsided...) After that, though, I was hooked, and I've been knitting ever since.
In the favorite materials section of your shop bio, you listed Rosewood and bamboo knitting needles. What about them appeals to you?
Again, it was my mother-in-law who introduced me to wooden needles, and I have been so grateful. First, the sustainability of bamboo appeals to me. Second, I just love the way wooden needles feel in my hands, particularly the rosewood. They are so smooth, and I find that yarn slides so easily on them. I also love the rich color of the rosewood; for me it just adds to the aesthetic and the incomparable tactile experience of knitting.
Do you have other venues for selling your creations other than your Etsy shop?
Etsy is actually the newest place for me to sell knit pieces; I just set up shop a few months ago. I started selling about eight years ago, sort of inadvertently! A friend of mine had been looking for a scarf for her daughter at holiday time, and couldn't find anything she felt was special. So she asked me if I would knit a scarf for her. Believe it or not, it was the first scarf I had ever knit; prior to that, I had always done clothing. I was actually nervous, because it was something I didn't have any experience with! After that, my friend asked for another one, and then a second friend decided it was a great idea and asked me to make a scarf for her mother....from there, it just took off. For a long time, most of my selling was word-of-mouth.
I still do a lot of custom orders, but I have branched out in more recent years. I have sold at some local craft fairs, participate in home shows, and have pieces on a regular basis in two local, really fun boutique stores. One of them sells nothing but artists' work, both local and national!
When you begin to knit, do you already have your creation in your mind, or do you just go where the needles take you?
I would say some of both. Sometimes I am pretty certain of what I want to create, and other times the idea is more hazy and evolves with the piece. At times, particularly with scarves, all I know is which yarns I want to combine. I just cast on, and see what happens from there. For me, the surprise of what something turns into is part of the fun of knitting!
I have a suspicion that (like me) when Elena visits a yarn shop keeps petting and pawing and fingering all the yarn. Elena's shop http://www.passionknits.etsy.com has some scarves and bracelets that I think look like cotton candy.