November 6, 2015
Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind?
My younger brother is the most down-to-earth guy you’ll ever want to meet. I taught myself to knit in high school and he started calling me B.knits, which earned him a side-glance with a belly laugh every time. He would shout, “yo! B.knits!” I added purl, dropped the ‘s’ and voilà – brand name magic. I like to keep purlBknit case sensitive with only the B capitalized; it almost looks like a Brooklyn skyline.
Have you always been passionate about design?
I’m going to get creative with this answer. If I had my way the sky would be painted in a very specific shade of lavender and bits of dawn would rain into a homemade soup. In this world, the word design can make any sentence smell like freshly grated lemon zest. Simply put, yes. Always.
Why did you start working in this particular craft?
My relationship with knitting began with my grandmother who lives in Florida. She sent my siblings and I crocheted blankets over the course of 5 years. Soon I was sitting cross-legged on the floor in Barnes and Noble reading how to instructions. I still own the first design book I ever bought at age 14 from one of those Scholastic Book Club pamphlets.
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
Imagine a teenage girl willfully spending an entire Saturday sitting on a twin mattress covered in printouts on how to cable. There has solemnly been a moment in the last 5,475 days of my life that I have not held a ball of yarn. Knitting is an art form. Fiber might as well be ambrosia. A pair of needles is a tool for transformation, an instrument for the imagination. I take my craft seriously, paying attention to the parts unseen and patiently tending to subtle details. I want people to walk away knowing they carry something well made with love and built to last a lifetime.
Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?
It is so easy to wish for pastures greener than our own. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a failure, but for me it was the one thing that affected my confidence entering the every growing competitive environment that is craft business. I soon came to realize the importance of my personal journey independent of anyone else’s success.
Artists like to think everyone is always thinking about them. They’re not. It is so liberating being able to create work you love without comparison or expectation. Understanding that there is no such thing as failure in this business is the best thing to happen to me. If I don’t make mistakes then I’m simply not being the person I aspire to be.
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
I used to host dinner parties all the time for family and friends. I would cook these lavish home cooked meals with homemade dessert, light tea candles and send everyone home with plates of leftovers. Now there is so little time. I have to make an effort to see my friends and spend time with my loved ones, which is so necessary to my peace of mind. My social life has diminished significantly since I started my business, but I really have no regrets. I love what I do. Making work I can share with the world feeds my soul and nourishes my spirit.
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
This may sound corny, but writing for Renegade Craft is super sweet. I literally screamed with glee knowing I would be there in November. Having the opportunity to share more of my story with all of you is enough to light my cheeks on fire.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
I’m creative born and Brooklyn bred. I really do love New York City. Style and fashion can mean so many different things here and each interpretation is cool. I grew up with the freedom to make clothes that can stand out from the crowd. Each garment is a reflection of my personal style, which can range from androgynous tomboy one day to ultra lipstick feminine next week. I tie it all together by pairing rich, neutral color palettes inspired by the beauty of nature I see all around me.
New York has a wide variety of trees, which feeds my fascination with bark. They have an everlasting strength and longevity I admire and channel while managing a crafty business. Trees and their skin are ever present in my brand marketing photography as my Instagram friends can attest to.
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
I was a knitting instructor since age 17. I taught in two different yarn shops and was hired by Pace University to lead a knitting circle for a couple of years. I am a teacher for the NYC Craft Entrepreneurship Program, a 5-class course designed to help artists transform their craft into an online business. I’ve created workshops for the Museum of Art and Design for designers on professional practice.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
After spending time abroad with a community and economic development initiative, I came home motivated to combine my academic and artistic passions. I wanted to build a handmade business from the ground up and empower other people to do the same.
What are some inspirations for your work?
I have lots of fun creating and naming my work to invoke some intriguing element in nature. Like The Raptor Balaclava seriously looks like something straight out of Jurassic Park.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
Talent and creativity is not enough these days. Success stories come after long nights of straight hustling. Believe that you can do it. Be patience with your growth. Have faith and embrace your truth. You are awesome.
Brandi was kind enough to include some of her own Vendor Tips for top notch customer service!
Tip #1 Create signage to support your customer service efforts! When I first started doing markets, I was surprised by how many people asked if they could try something on. Now it’s one of the first things I encourage shoppers to do. I even went as far as to create a “try us on, we’re friendly” chalk board. Also, signs like “ask for help” or “available in other colors” are really great for the overstock you have tucked away. Liquid chalk pens can go a long way to creating beautifully written notes to improve your customer’s experience.
Tip #2 Go for organized, not museum neat. When a hat is too styled I’ll watch some sweet person try to get it back exactly as I’ve placed it. I’d rather we spend our time together playing dress up and chatting about our favorite farm animals. So now I resist the urge to stack cowls perfectly and remember it’s okay if a scarf is not folded just so.Tip #3 Use your favorite home objects as display pieces. I always want shoppers to feel at ease when shopping, which is probably why almost every display piece I bring gets used daily at home. Plus it saves a lot of space when you repurpose stuff. My white trestle legs table is my office desk. One mannequin head is actually a really cool gold lamp from West Elm. Bringing your favorite things from home will definitely help you feel comfortable in a new space and more open to connecting with folks.
Tip #4 Identify the makers. I can smell a knitter a mile away. We tend to travel in packs. Some of my greatest friends and supporters on social media are other makers! When I see someone looking really closely at mitten details or wearing something handmade I immediately spark up conversation, with a “did/could you make that?” If yes, then it’s pretty much kismet. If not then it’s the perfect icebreaker that usually leads to really warm stories about grandmothers and 30 year old handmade Christmas gifts.
Tip #5 Happiness is contagious! Let it run wild.