This week, I’m happy to bring you an interview with Thea Colman, the designer/owner of Baby Cocktails. I know you have seen her beautiful work, and I hope you enjoy learning more about her! (All pattern links go to Ravelry.)
Loopy: Hi Thea! Thanks for being in the Spotlight today. How long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit?
Thea: Thanks so much! I’ve been knitting since I was a kid. My grandma taught me a little, and then I took lessons in a shop in the town I grew up in. It was called Claytons, and it had clothing upstairs and a whole craft section downstairs. It was the early 80s and we would go down there to get ribbons to add to our barrettes, and I would always see the yarn and the books. My first sweater I did in the class was a Katia tee.
Loopy: That yarn was calling to you even at a young age, wasn’t it? No surprise! What is your favorite type of item to knit?
Thea: Sweaters. Cabled sweaters. And after that, hats.
Loopy: I have always loved your cabled sweaters. The cables look classic, and then your designs make them look modern. Really interesting. What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?
Thea: Hmmm. Sometimes it isn’t the project itself, but the grading that really gets me stumped. I remember the process on my Ommegang sweater was really a bear – I had knit it top down, and increased into the cables pretty intuitively. When writing how to increase into a pattern, however, it all went sideways. I ended up writing that pattern bottom up so the pattern would be established and the knitter could decrease away and work existing stitches as they appear if they couldn’t complete a cable due to missing stitches.
Loopy: That is such a beautiful sweater! And it’s an interesting peek into the design process to hear that you had to re-write it bottom up to make it easier for all of us knitting it. When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?
Thea: I started about 2010? I had always been one to change patterns around, even when knitting from a book or magazine, and my knitting group informed me that I was already designing. It was the early days of Knitty and blogs and Ravelry didn’t exist yet (WHAT??) so it was a lot harder to get published for me. I could not get a submission into any magazine or website I sent them to, but it was a lot easier to jump in with self-pubs and a blog and get noticed, without all the designers and competition to get seen that there is today.
Loopy: Things really have changed in the publishing and design world in the last decade. And now you’ve been published in a lot of books and magazines! Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?
Thea: I go in phases – I wear my Obans ALL THE TIME and have since each one was finished, but I also seem to be reaching for my Peated Whiskey a lot, my Fernet Branca, and my Pendennis Club. Those are the ones that probably go best with my other wardrobe pieces! I also wear my Averna shawl a ton.
Loopy: I can see why you wear them all the time – such classics, but with your unique design elements and touches. What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?
Thea: Favorite part? The beginning of each pattern – both the concepting and the first few inches where the design starts to show up. Not-so-favorite part? MATH and writing. And during Covid, the phototgraphy is really hard. I can’t grab my friends and make a day of the shoot somewhere fun, and we can’t get away from our homes and kids as easily. I’ve had my daughter take photos of me, which I am not really a fan of – and now that she’s involved in school and her own schedule, I may have to recruit my husband.
Loopy: Covid really has changed things in ways both large and small, hasn’t it? Do you do this business full-time, or on the side? And is that hard?
Thea: Full Time. It’s not hard in that my husband carries the health insurance and it’s his salary that pays most the bills. I am lucky to be a second paycheck. It’s still a needed paycheck, but we have something to fall back on – since it’s hard to know what patterns will sell and which ones won’t. The really hard thing about doing this full time for me is the fact that it’s not always easy to find non-working hours. I knit while watching TV and when I’m hanging out socially, so that’s still me being “on”, and the knitters themselves tend to check in and need attention during weekends and evenings. I’m often putting the phone in other rooms or not reading emails I see when I am “off” so I don’t get sucked in. My real escape is hiking these days, because when I’m moving I am not knitting!
Loopy: Having your own business is so beneficial in many ways, but you’re right – so hard to turn it off. I like that you put your phone in the other room!! Do you have other jobs outside of pattern designing?
Thea: I volunteer at an organization that provides clothing and supplies to kids in need across the state of MA. I do a little bit of stuff for them from home sometimes and am physically there in the warehouse one day a week. My job is to lead the groups that make sized outfit packs for the kids and make sure they know what we need in each pack and to make sure they are making packs of clothes that the kids can use. (or during Covid, to just go and make as many packs as I can with my daughter!) It’s not paid work, but it’s work and I think it’s really important. I’ve been going there for about 7 years, at least one day each week.
Loopy: What a wonderful service you are providing. I imagine those packs are even more needed right now. And it’s great that you have your daughter helping. Does she knit? Or anyone else in your family?
Thea: My grandmothers did, and my Mom knows how to but doesn’t do it much. My kids have no interest whatsoever!
Loopy: Ha – maybe one day it will appeal to them! They have lots of time to pick it up later. Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?
Thea: Cocktails! Honestly, since my work is a hobby, I try to get out and do things or go places when I’m not working. Right now, that means lots of walks in the woods or at nearby hiking trails with my husband and/or my puppy.
Loopy: I keep thinking I need a dog to get me out hiking. (We all know that is not true. But it’s a good theory.) What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?
Thea: Exploring a small town I’ve never been to before with my husband. It would involve some nature, some town, some good food, and cocktails or a brewery.
Loopy: That sounds wonderful! Ok – last question set: Morning or Night person? Coffee or Tea? English or Continental? Solids or Multicolors?
Thea: Night, but with a new puppy I’m finding I can do both. Sleep is for the weak, apparently. Coffee. I’m a thrower. Solids – and the sheepier the better. 🙂
Loopy: Yay for getting a new puppy!! Thanks for being with us today. Anything else you’d like to add?
Thea: I’ve only got two hours while the puppy is at puppy care and I have a pattern to write, so I’ll stop here!
Thea is offering all of our blog readers a 20% discount on one of her self-published patterns in her Ravelry Pattern Shop. I hope you enjoy perusing them and picking your favorite! The code is: LOOPY and is valid 11/6-13, 2020.
Then pop back over to Loopy to pick out the perfect yarn to go with your pattern. Wouldn’t it be fun to knit a new winter sweater in December? Although I’m also taken with that Oban Hat and the idea of knitting the hat in a neutral, using a pop of color on the pompom, and then making a scarf or cowl to go with it out of the pop color. Maybe out of Stonehedge. Or Uncommon Lush Worsted. What do you think?
Have a good weekend, everyone!