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.
Our World Crafter Tatyana is taking us to Tomsk. Tomsk is one of the oldest Siberian towns that was founded in 1604. It’s often called Siberian Athens, it’s a fount of beautiful traditional architecture, museums and art galleries.
I “met” Tatyana in the Internet long time ago. When I saw her works for the first time my heart skipped a beat… There is something magical about them, something that grips your heart and doesn’t let it go… She puts so much passion, knowledge, love, skills and joy into her designs! I am very happy to share with you Tatyana’s story as a crafter who was brave enough to chase her dreams and believe in herself, even when everybody around her did not…
How did your knitting journey begin?
I am a self-taught knitter, I learned how to knit when I was just a girl by soviet books and magazines. I remember I had children books series “Knitting for Dolls”, classic soviet women magazines “Rabotnitsa” (“The Woman Worker” in Russian), “Krestyanka” (“Peasant Woman” in Russian), “Science and Life” where you could find knitting patterns translated from German, Swedish and French knitting magazines. There were very interesting and avant-garde designs that would be relevant and popular even right now.
Every member of my family was a crafter in one way or another. Especially, my Grandma, my father’s Mom, who was a crafter with capital letter! Her little home was full of curtains,pillows, rags covered in embroidery; handmade satin-stitched table cloths and chair covers made from sackcloth; knitted rags… And our whole big family was wearing things knit by my Granny with wool from her very own goats! And her house had a cozy mixture of flavors – homemade pies, shanezhkas (one of the traditional kinds of a Russian pie), vatrushka (pastry), zrazy (carrots stuffed with apples)…
Do you remember your first project?
My very first garment was a huge oversized sweater that I knit with fingering weight wool yarn of unidentified origin 🙂 I didn’t have enough patience to finish it and really wanted to show it off at the school’s prom as soon as possible. The result? Well, it turned out inappropriately short and my friends had to literally fight me off the admirers from high school 🙂
Does knitting occupy all your time or do you balance it with something else?
Knitting is my full time job that takes all my time without any breaks for vacations or weekends. Even if I go for a trip to tropical countries I always take several projects with me and knit on the plane, beach or in a park in the middle of tropical plants and birds!
How was your brand ”Ruchki & Kruchki” (“Hands & Hooks” in Russian) born?
I always looked at my finished knits as something absolutely ordinary and common and didn’t think that I was creating something special. At that time handmade things were looked upon condescendingly, most people preferred to put on something “cool” rather than a hand knit sweater. But at some point everything changed… I was going through a very hard time in my life and knitting became my only distraction that kept me sane. I was lucky that I had some experience with the Internet. It was still new and you couldn’t find that much information online, but I decided that it was time for me to start my Internet project.
Who supported you on your way to your dream?
I can honestly say – absolutely nobody believed in me. My family and friends were joking that my “masterpieces” will never be sold. My idea to create a knitwear line was ridiculed by all businessmen that I talked to. One businesswoman told me that my works are too authentic and her customers preferred something more “with a sparkle”, better if with a famous label on it.
So, I had to keep going on my own. I was learning everything from the scratch – bank transfers, mail orders, customer support, internet shop development, building social network community, creating and marketing my knitwear brand. And I am determined to keep going. Recently I have discovered Instagram, number of my followers have already grown to more than 500! One of the current goals is to launch my own website.
I am always interested in how crafters look at their hobby after they turn it into something more than just a hobby. What about you?
I can’t say if something shifted in me when knitting became my profession. Knitting is my life! I can’t imagine myself without a crochet hook, needles, my lovely models, irreplaceable photographer Ksenia (@cheshireshark), our fun photo shoots, runway shows – this beautiful, creative and full of joy life that I am blessed to enjoy right now.
One of the most difficult questions – how to put a price tag on your creations. Could you share your experience, please?
I agree that it is one of the most difficult aspects! It was really hard for me to put a price tag on my designs. As I’ve mentioned when I was just starting to knit, I underestimated myself. There were many reasons for it. First of all, the “proper” Soviet Union upbringing which burned it into my mind – money is always something bad. I was completely oblivious of my work, and didn’t understand that It had to be appreciated not just by praise, but materially as well. And of course the attitude to handmade in general at that time was pretty disparaging… So for me it was easier to gift my knits than try selling it.
But when I started to sell at a very low price I understood that number of orders is growing too fast, and I didn’t get either moral or material reward. So I decided it was time to sit down and properly estimate all the work that is being put into my designs. And, yes, I got some negative comments about my prices, which was really frustrating and discouraging. But my clientele started to grow rapidly and I have the freedom right now to work on projects that are, first of all, interesting to me. Right now I put a price tag taking into account my knowledge, skills and time that are interwined in the final product. It’s also amazing to see how something shifted in the attitude of the online community to my designs. Right now instead of questioning my prices, most people support me. It so important and valuable for me as a crafter!
What was the most time-consuming project?
The most time-consuming project… “Flowers’ Child” jacket. It took me 8 months! But I am so happy with the result!
Your designs are so rich in texture and techniques! What are your favorite?
I use all kinds of techniques. Cables, entrelac, Irish crochet lace, crochet motifs, different kinds of embroidery, felting, beadwork, hairpin crochet… If classic techniques are not enough, I invent something of my own. For example, silk ribbons – I can use it for knitting or joining crochet motifs or embroidery parts. Anything that will work for a design!
How does your designing process look like? What inspires you?
Most of my dresses are fruits of my own imagination. Sometimes I work “from the yarn” – the pattern flows on its own. Sometimes, I can be inspired by songs, films, books and yarn/beads/feathers find each other in a new stitch pattern. Often my dear clients have dreams that are later born as a new dress that I create and fall in love with!
What is your favorite project?
I don’t play favorites with my works – I love all of them! 🙂 Each of them has something special that is dear to my heart.
Can you reveal some behind-the-scenes secrets of your design, please? 🙂 What yarn do you use to create these spectacular pieces?
I’ve tried so many different kinds of yarn, different fibers and brands. I love Kauni yarn, it’s so “alive” and inspiring, cashmere by Loro Piano and Carriaggi. I am fascinated by Indian tussah and muga silk and their blends with cashmere, merino wool or cotton; camel and yak wool. I absolutely adore hand dyed yarn by Violet Lynx Dyeworks on Etsy. She is my favorite dyer, we’ve created the most amazing and bold projects with her! Right now I am experimenting with mixing up different types of yarn in one project for even more interesting effects!
Are you a monogamous knitter?
It depends. Usually I have several things on my needles/crochet hook, working with different techniques. I love switching from one technique to another, it keeps it interesting. But sometimes when I have a deadline I concentrate on one project at a time.
Your taste for color is just incredible! You combine colors in such a harmonious way and the result is always mind-blowing! Do you have a special design education or it came with experience?
No, I don’t have a special design education. But I was always interested in art, loved reading, visiting museums and exhibitions in Russia and all over the world. Maybe that’s how I got my feeling of color. Right now I am all about deep “gem” colors and pastel “macaroon” palette.
Where is the best place for you to knit?
Any place where there is light, Internet and my dogs 🙂
Crafting is so international! Can you, please, tell us about your corner of the world where you create?
Tomsk is one of the oldest Siberian towns that was founded in 1604. There is a lot of museums, theaters, philharmonic society, 18th-20th century architecture. I love taking pictures of my knits against the background of antique wooden houses with real wooden lace ornaments.
Tomsk is often referred to as Siberian Athens – there are nine universities! I’ve graduated from one of them as a teacher of foreign languages (French and German). It’s a very creative town! There are several events dedicated to different crafts, for example Tomsk Handmade Fair. There are a lot of craft stores with a pretty good choice of materials where you can find local and from different parts of the world brands.
I really enjoy looking at photos of your knits! They are so inspirational! Each photo shoot is so interesting and unique, each tells its own story. Do you come up with the ideas yourself or somebody helps you?
These last four years brought me so many wonderful friends who help me to come up with ideas, places, organisation of my photo shoots. I am deeply grateful to all and each of them for this! Love them all!!
My site is called The Gift of Knitting, as this craft gave me so much in my life. What gifts did you get from knitting?
I do agree that knitting is a true gift! Knitting gave me a new life full of friends and creativity! I live, love and create because of knitting. I think it really shows in my works.
Dear Tatyana, I am so happy and grateful to be able to share your work in World Crafters series. Thank you so much for taking the time to open up about your passion for knitting and crochet!
My personal favorite is “The Queen of Oak Leaves” dress. I love everything about it – color, texture, stitch pattern and fit.
Can you choose yours? 🙂