A Life In Knitwear – Rachel Atkinson
Fancy taking a peek behind the scenes and finding out more about one of people that make up our extensive team of Loopettes? We caught up with technical editor, designer and talented baking friend Rachel Atkinson to find out more about her life in knitwear….
*This competition is now closed – but keep an eye out for more giveaways in the future!*
Plus we have a great pattern giveaway for three lucky readers! Check at the end of the post for how to enter!
Hi Rachel! Your life has a distinctly wooly theme with your dad as a shepherd and growing up around sheep -do you have a fondest memory?
My Dad has trained dogs for as long as I can remember. When I was a baby we had Danny, a German Shepherd who was trained for police dog shows. He and my pet rabbit Susie Poppet were particularly good friends, and on a night Danny would open the rabbit hutch and the two of them would curl up together in the dog basket.
Danny, along with another German Shepherd called Karly, left the house and Dad came home with a Border Collie puppy whom we named Beth and he started training sheepdogs which of course requires sheep!
So the sheep started arriving and the herd grew. You may be thinking we lived in the Yorkshire Dales on a big rambling farm but no, we were in a new build estate and the sheep were moved around various fields in the area. Dad went on to grow the flock and breed Border Collies so there were always lots of puppies and lambs many of which would end up in the garden!
One orphan lamb, also called Susie, became a part of the family. She arrived for a few nights and stayed for a few years!
As she grew it became clear the back garden wasn’t really a suitable place for her so before school Mum would bundle me and my sister Joanne into the back of her Mini and Susie would hop into the front passenger seat and off we would go! Susie was dropped off first at the village farm where she spent the day in a field with some horse friends and then Mum would drop us at school. At 3.45pm we went in reverse, so Mum collected me and Joanne then up to the field to collect Susie who would be waiting at the gate ready for home. In she hopped and off we went back home.
Dad loves his dogs and sheep and shepherding is a way of life for him. It’s amazing to see the dogs work the sheep and a visit to his home at Easter was filled with puppies and lambs and memories of being a child.
Who taught you to knit?
Like so many knitters I was taught by my Grandma and my Mum. Grandma taught me the basics and I began by making garter stitch dishcloths before progressing on to Jean Greenhow toys culminating in mohair batwing sweaters (well it was the 80’s) before my teenage years kicked in and I left it all behind. A long illness about 6 years ago reignited the knitting bug and I haven’t looked back.
Now you’ve picked up your needles again (and left the mohair behind) do you have a favourite thing to knit?
I love knitting socks, there so many techniques involved and you can make them as easy or as difficult as the mood takes you. I’m at my happiest learning a new technique, whether that be knit or crochet, and place myself firmly in the ’process’ crafter category for as much as I love finished pieces I probably enjoy the actual working of yarn and tools far more. It still amazes me that you can take a single length of fibre and basic tools and create something from nothing. Amazing!
Do you have a favourite wool to knit or crochet with?
Give me a nice firm bouncy wool or a smooth linen and I’m happy as a clam! I’m not one for a lot of fuss so good honest fibres tick all my boxes.
As well as creating your own patterns, your main activity is editing and proof reading patterns. How did you get into technical editing?
I spent a number of years as a bookseller and had hoped to get into children’s illustrated book publishing but coming from an Arts background meant I fell at the first qualification hurdle. Not so long after picking up the needles again I started doing test knits for designers where you knit a pattern and feedback any queries or issues and make suggestions as to how you think the pattern could be made clearer. This suited my inner-pedant to a tee, I really enjoyed it and the process knitter in me wanted more! A chance encounter with highly respected Technical Editor, Jen Arnall-Culliford on Twitter led to us having a long chat and I developed my trade from there. I now work with an incredible portfolio of people and the excitement of never quite knowing what project is going to pop-up in my inbox next is one of the things I love most about my job.
You have worked your magic on all of Loop’s own patterns – do you have a favourite ?
Oh gosh, that’s a tricky one! Is it terrible to say they are all my favourites? Each pattern has come with its own set of challenges; Pop Spots began as a 14 page pattern which I edited down to 2 clear and concise pages of instruction (I love love love cutting text!), Honeyblossom arrived as a Japanese schematic and was my first Japanese pattern translation, and the most recent Hygge Baby gave me the opportunity to work with one of my favourite designers,Vibe Ulrik Sonnegard. The diverse range of designers who work with Loop always makes this an exciting job and we have some amazing designer collaborations coming for winter!
What’s your biggest challenge with tech editing and your biggest pleasure?
I love my job, I really do and every day I pinch myself! I work with so many incredibly talented people. On more than one occasion a pattern has arrived and for a whole variety of different reasons I really don’t know where to begin! I love this challenge; taking something which makes no sense and editing it into a comprehensive and easy to follow pattern. It’s always my aim to deliver a finished edit back to the client which they can publish and then not have to worry about answering query after query about how to do a certain aspect of the pattern. Likewise, the person who has bought the pattern has a guarantee that it will be a clear and easy to follow pattern. Modern knitters and crocheters just want to sit down and get on without having to decipher an indecipherable code!
The best part of my job is seeing a final publication all done and dusted after what has probably been months, sometimes years of work and then you get to see various interpretations of the patterns appearing! I sit quietly in the background and smile at some of the wonderful feedback posted about patterns I have worked on. Hearing things such as ‘This pattern is super simple- really enjoying it’ makes my job absolutely worthwhile. But for me the best feedback is not hearing anything at all because that means it has all gone smoothly!
We love reading all about your work and life on your blog My Life In Knitwear – when did you start blogging and why do you enjoy it?
I started My Life in Knitwear back in July 2011 more out of a feeling of necessity than something I really wanted to do but I’m so glad I did. Blogging has become a big part of my life and if I miss a post (I post three times a week) then I feel as though something is missing. I blog an eclectic mix of knit, crochet and other crafts interspersed with bits and bobs from my everyday life including baking which is my other great passion, a weekend in Whitby, a rummage through my desk drawer or bookshelves or something completely random which I think might be of interest or that I want to record. It’s about the simple things in life and finding the beauty in the everyday, we have so much in our lives to be happy about and it’s all too easy to forget this.
My Twitter timeline is also my ‘micro blog’ and I’ve met so many amazing people through it. Working alone from home can be quite lonely and social media is a great way to build a virtual office where you can share a laugh, discuss a hot topic of the day or simply catch up.
Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of starting their own business and working for themselves?
I’ve worked really hard to establish and build my business and I continue to learn and grow every day. It takes time and patience and can be hard and frustrating but don’t give in! The sign of a successful business is all about pushing through the tricky times just like a swan – serene above water and paddling like mad below! Most of all be happy in your work, be kind and gracious and don’t ever bite the hand that feeds you.
*This competition is now closed – but keep an eye out for more giveaways in the future!*
To pay tribute to our well edited knits, we are giving three of you lucky readers a chance to win a copy of the Loop pattern of your choice! There are eight to chose from and you can see the full selection here .
Simply leave a comment letting us know which pattern your heart desires (one comment per person) and we will draw three names next week.
This competition will close midnight on Wednesday 28th May.
Good Luck and Happy Knitting!