World Crafters are people who make things in different parts of the world. Some turned their hobby into a profession, some are balancing a day job with small crafty business, some chose to keep their hobby and just enjoy making, creating and giving. Behind each stitch is a story…
I met Samantha, founder of “Sosa Knitwear”, on Instagram. When I saw her Triple Cable Cardigan, I wanted to reach for it, grab it and wrap myself in it – so cozy, so chunky, filled with so much love for this craft! Samantha lives and creates in one of the biggest cities in the world – New York, the city where everything is possible. Today she is sharing her knitting journey, favorite yarn spots and her chunky big knits with us!
How did you learn to knit?
I first learned how to knit at college. For some reason I put off actually learning how to knit for the longest time. When I was in 4th grade my school offered an after school program to teach kids how to knit and crochet. I was the only girl in my class who turned it down and I didn’t pick up a crochet hook until my junior year of college. After that I saw a few pieces of Sandra Backlund‘s work and it moved me to my core. I said to myself “I want to do that!” Then I didn’t learn how to knit until the summer before my senior year of college.
Do you remember your first project?
My first knitting assignment was to make an animal and it could be anything we wanted. So I decided to make a frog, but as I went along it turned into a sting ray. I was not a natural!
Is knitting your full-time job or do you balance it with something else?
Knitting has been my full time job for the last eight months. I have my collection SOSA Knitwear and I also create custom knits for different clients. Some people ask for full garments that they can then take to a factory to have mass produced and others just need swatches that they can turn into yardage. I love working on other people’s things, because everyone has a different point of view. I love the feeling of seeing someone’s imagination come to life. It’s never boring!
How was your brand ”Sosa Knitwear” born?
After I finished school I started working for this accessories and swimwear brand, which was a great experience, because I got to learn so much and work with some amazing women. But because we were a startup there were a lot of mistakes made. I would go home at the end of the day and say “I wish we were doing this” and “why can’t we do things like that”, and I would get so frustrated. Finally I realized that all of that complaining was silly, and if I wanted to do things my way then I needed to have my own company. So I saved for about a year and in September, of 2014, when the company I was working for shut down I decided to take a leap of faith and jump into SOSA. Timing is everything and you really have to trust your gut with these things.
Could you, please, tell us what SOSA means?
So when I was thinking about what I wanted my company to be like I kept coming across this feeling I wanted to give my customer. I knew I wanted to have big chunky knits for fall and I wanted people to want to curl up with them. I kept asking myself what makes me feel the most relaxed and when do I feel the most at home? For me family is a big part of my life and when I’m around my family I feel like I can be 100% myself. When I was little my uncle started calling me Sammy Sosa. I can’t remember how it started, but I remember that he thought it was the best joke ever and it just kind of stuck. From then on he would say it every time I saw him. When I was a teenager I thought I was too cool, so I found it really annoying and now it’s something that always makes me feel at home. So SOSA is named after that piece of me.
Who supported you on your way to your dream? Were there people who were skeptical about your aspirations?
My family has always been incredibly supportive in everything I’ve attempted to do. I would not have had the courage to start SOSA Knitwear without them! I’ve been lucky enough to find friends that are equal parts supportive and hard on me. Some of them really grilled me and made sure I had really thought things through. But at the same time they were very encouraging. I was a ballet dancer for several years of my life and as a result I developed a very thick skin. This has helped me to be able to hear critiques and not take it personally. It’s easy to get stuck in a bubble and only see your point of view. Having people doubt can sometimes open you up to doing more than you thought you were capable of.
As far as I know you are a graduate of The School of The Art Institute, Fashion Design Department. Could you, please, share with us your experience of your student life there?
Yes, I did attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was simultaneously some of the best years of my life and some of the most challenging. It’s one of the most expensive schools in the world and I come from a middle class family. So there was a lot of stress when it came to the financial side of things. There were a lot of times I couldn’t register for classes on time because I would have a past due balance. Then by the time I could register the class would be full. My senior year was particularly difficult, because my sister started college at Ohio State, so there were two college tuitions being paid at the same time. There was a moment when I didn’t think I would be able to finish, because I didn’t have the money. But I had some of the most amazing teachers and I told them about my situation. Both my fashion teacher, Katrin Schnabl, and my knitwear teacher, Sharon Shoji, allowed me to audit their classes until I could get the money together to officially register. Without them and my fantastic parents I would not have made it.
What led you to knitwear in particular? Was it your initial plan or did you pick it up along the way?
The funny thing is that it was because of my financial situation that I’ve ended up doing what I’m doing today. My junior year I wanted to take an advanced weaving course. But it closed before I could get the money to register. So I ended up in a class called manipulated stitch, taught by my knitwear teacher, Sharon Shoji and the rest is history.
What does your design process look like? Do you plan the design ahead or is it born while you’re knitting a piece? What inspires you?
I’m inspired by color and texture more than anything else. When I’m working on my own things it usually starts with an image in my head and then I try to flesh it out by sketching it in photoshop. But usually the image in my head is clearer than the sketch. So I know going into making the sample that the final product is not going to look like the sketch. Then after I make the first sample that becomes my sketch and it will probably change one or two more times before it reaches it’s final state. Mistakes are my favorite part of the process. If I make a mistake I don’t rush to change it. I ask myself how does this mistake change things? Sometimes mistakes make a piece better than you planned!
What was the most time-consuming project?
From my last collection the most time consuming project was my Triple Cable Cardigan.
Mostly because it changed the most out of all of my pieces, from sketch to final product. The cable that wraps almost all the way around the body is so long and I always underestimate how long a project is going to take me. But it’s definitely my favorite piece from that collection.
Your designs are so rich in texture and techniques! What are your favorite?
I love cables… you will be seeing much more of that in my upcoming collections! I use mistake stitch ribbing a lot! I also love to break the rules a little bit. If a yarn says it should be used on a particular sized needle I like to see what happens if I use a different one. I love looking at, and using, the back sides of the things I’ve knitted! Sometimes I find that more interesting than the side that was supposed to be used.
What is your favorite project?
My favorite project is something that challenges me. I always fall in love with the ones I had to spend the most time with.
What is your favorite fiber to work with?
I am a very tactile person, so for me if a fiber doesn’t feel pleasant I can’t use it. I love lightly spun wools and baby alpaca, and yarns that have a touch of silk spun in there. I spend so much time touching the yarn as I’m making a piece, so if it doesn’t feel good to work with I know I need to start over.
Are you a monogamous knitter? Or do you work on several projects at the same time?
I am absolutely a monogamous knitter. Even when a project is frustrating me I won’t let myself move on until I’ve figured it out. Mainly because I know if I move on to something else I won’t be able to stop thinking about the first project. It just keeps nagging me until I go back and tackle it.
Where is the best place for you to knit?
I’m fortunate enough to be able to have a studio. So I do all of my knitting there, while listening to NPR’s This American Life. Except for when I have a big order that requires me to do an all nighter. In which case I need to be on a couch or a really comfy chair while watching a series of trashy tv shows and romantic comedies.
I believe that surroundings have a huge influence on our creative process. Could you, please, tell us about NY. Are you inspired by New York? Do you have your favorite yarn spots in town?
New York is an amazing place to be if you are a designer! There is an endless supply of exhibits, gallery openings, and good old fashioned people watching.
I split my time between New York and New Jersey and I love them both equally. The people of New York and the landscapes in New Jersey inspire me every day.
I get most of my yarn wholesale, but for personal projects my favorite place to go is the Lion Brand Yarn Studio on 15th street in New York! The people there are so warm and they always have the most amazing window displays. It’s worth the trip just to see the window! I love being around people who are passionate about what they do and there is no shortage of that in New York.
What gifts did you get from knitting?
Sandra Backlund once said “For me knitting is synonymous with creative freedom” and I feel the same way. It took me a while to find my creative voice. It wasn’t until I first picked up a crochet hook that I felt like I could freely express myself. It’s an escape. I can sit down to work on a project and not get up for hours. My wrists and fingers will hurt and I won’t even notice until I come to a break in the project. Whether it’s a new technique or a yarn I’m not used to working with, I’m learning something new everyday. I’m so grateful that I didn’t end up in that weaving course!
Dear Samantha, thank you so much for sharing your story, it is truly fascinating! You can find Samantha and her handmade knitwear on her website www.sosaknitwear.com. Follow Samantha’s knitting journey on Instagram and Facebook to see her creative process and freshly finished knits!