project ten: take eight

September 7, 2012

unless you’ve been sitting under a rock for the past few years,
then you’ve probably heard of my next guest.
even if you’re not familiar with her name,
if you frequent a local yarn store,
chances are
you’ve seen her shit.

“if knitting were a drug i’d be checking into rehab”
“i’ll show you my stash if you show me yours”
“yes, i did make it and no you can’t return it”

are but of few of the irreverent phrases
gracing the front of her products.

today bitches and bitchettes,
i give you,

photo by alisa deshano, divine images photography – ©knitterella®

hello knitterella. may i call you knitterella?

Of course! I like it that way.

this is actually a project ten first in that we’ve actually met.
as with many knitters, it was the yarn harlot that brought us together,
isn’t that right?

Yes, she did. I’m so glad I got to meet you! It was so much fun to have you as a ‘table mate’ at the colorwork class with the Yarn Harlot. You were cracking me up!

i’ve been know to do that on occasion.
so are you ready to get started?


alright let’s spin the wheel.

ten questions for knitterella

1. i begin with the question i ask all my guests: english or continental?

English – I’d like to think I’m a pretty fast thrower too.

2. you began your professional foray into the land of knitting in 2003 when you first created notecards for knitters. can you describe how and why you decided to start your stationery business? did you see a gap in the market, a need not being filled? or was it more organic? did the idea just come to you?

It’s kind of a long story but if you really want to know how it happen this is it… after graduating WMU with a BFA in Graphic Design I landed a not-so-glamorous job at a stationery company in Grand Rapids, MI (the company shall remain nameless). I thought I was hired to do more design work but in reality it was all boring production work. Although I learned a ton, what I really wanted to do was design. I voiced my desires to want to be the one designing the cards and not prepping them for print. Still, I was shot down. It really frustrated me that they didn’t believe in me and so out of frustration I developed Knitterella. I wanted to prove I could and would be a stationery designer, if not for them I would do it for me! I decided to take my two passions, graphic design and knitting, and develop my own line of stationery product. So came Knitterella!

Now that I think of it, this is a real Cinderella story – be it a stationery world version. Makes my name Knitterella a perfect fit, don’t you think?!

3. and how soon would you say that your business took off?
when did you know that this was the way to go?

Really, since 2003, this was only a fun thing I did on the side and never really gave it the full attention it needed until 2010. I know that seems like a real long time and it is. The reason for this is because for all those years I was working full-time as a graphic designer (rest assured I left the card company in Grand Rapids pretty quickly!), but in 2010 I was laid off due to the crappy economy. That was when I thought, now is my chance to give all I have to Knitterella (and Jill Zielinski Designs) and see if I could ‘Make It Work’!

4. was there ever a time when you considered giving up?

For sure! Especially when I wasn’t giving it my full attention before 2010. Since putting it as a main focus I’m so glad I didn’t. I have two wholesale distributors now and am really enjoying getting into pattern design as well. Plus, just all the wonderful people I’ve been able to meet through Knitterella (like YOU) has made it so worthwhile.

5. while i’m always interested in where people get their artistic inspiration, i’m also equally interested in the business side of things. was there a learning curve for you when it came to ‘the business stuff’?

I have no problem coming up with the ‘ideas’ and since I’m a graphic designer it’s easy to execute them. However, I do hate the business side of things. I still could use a class or two in that department. Maybe one day!

6. as you mentioned, you’ve got distribution through not one, but two of the industries biggest distributors. can you walk us through that process and what it was like?

Yes, I’m thankful to have my Knitterella products are distributed through Bryson Distributing and Deep South Fibers. Bryson distributes my stationery and Deep South distributes both my stationery and my pattern line.

First I got into Bryson. A friend actually recommended me to Bryson. I sent in my samples, had a few phone calls and the rest is history. Shortly after that I was contacted by Deep South Fibers. I really wanted to get into Deep South as I totally love all the designers they carry. It was really good company and I wanted to be a part of it!

In case you are wondering, yes, you normally are exclusive to only one distributor. Sometimes though, when you have a product you can work it a different way – I was able to work it out with Bryson and DSF that I distributed my stationery through both of them. My knitting patterns, however, are exclusive to DSF.

7. what’s interesting about your particular work, is that it has as much to do with copy as with design. which aspect is more difficult to tackle and why?

Hmmm, not real sure how to answer this one. They both are their own monsters but I don’t see one more difficult then the other. It really is all about what I’m inspired to create. The process is the same for both.

8. your stationery made the name knitterella what it is, but you’ve branched into knitting pattern design as well. how is your design process for patterns a different experience? or is it?

Recently I’ve really fallen in love with taking my original graphics and turning them into colorwork knitting. It’s like if the graphic designer and knitter in me had a baby ☺ It feels totally natural and I just love the results! My Mojavé cowl is a perfect example of this. I have numerous new colorwork designs in the works. You’ll be seeing a lot more of this from me this year and next.

9. of which design are you most proud and why?

If you are talking about my stationery, my humor gift tags are for sure it. The sayings on the gift tags were things I always thought but of course would never had the nerve to say (like, “Just because it’s handmade doesn’t mean it was cheap”) – these tags were able to say it for me in a cute and useful way. They are still my top sellers so it’s very refreshing to know that others have the same thoughts!

In the pattern design department, my first love is my Smocked Slouch. This is because it was a big goal of mine to start designing knitting patterns and in 2011 I came out with my first one and the Smocked Slouch was it! I’m happy that it was a hit too – at least in my eyes it is – I still sell a lot of them and that makes me so proud ☺

My Mojavé pattern is also very important to me as I feel that this really ‘birthed’ a new passion for me – the whole turning my graphics into colorwork knitting thing.

i love that, for your humor stationery, those were your actual thoughts. personally, i think that’s why they’re so successful; they’re real rather than contrived. and i love that it’s a tangible example of how design allowed you to express yourself.

as for your knitting, the mojavé cowl is by far my favorite of your designs to date.

now on to the final question:

10. if you could interview anyone for project ten, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Gosh, there are so many inspiring knitwear designers it’s hard to pick. Right now I’d pick Kate Oates of Tot Toppers. I designed her Math For Hats Booklet last year and we became fast friends. We even shared a booth at TNNA this past June. She’s pretty much a knitting super hero to me. I want to know how she got into knitting – especially since she actually has a PhD in Political Science. Also, how can she produce her adorable knitting patterns so fast – all while taking care of her 3 young boys. I could use some tips!

You know, I met Stephanie

thanks knitterella. i hope we can hang and catch up over a burrito.

I do too! You know I feel about burritos *wink*wink*

jill zielinski, 34, runs the kniterella empire as well as her design company, jill zielinski designs, from her home studio in rural michigan where she lives with her husband and two young boys. between cookie-breaks and kissing skinned knees, jill finds a way to incorporate knitting and design into her daily life. you can find her on ravelry, read her blog, and buy all of her stationery and knitting patterns here.

One Response to “project ten: take eight”

  1. Anonymous, too Says:

    I may need to try that cowl. “They tried to make me go to rehab, I said No, no no!”. . .

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