Interview with Anniken Allis
What made you set up a business which includes selling things at shows?
I started designing knitting patterns and hand-dyeing yarn about 13 years ago. I had to give up my job because of chronic health problems. My daughters were young and once they were both at school I got bored. I hadn't been knitting for a few years because I struggled to understand English knitting patterns (I'm from Norway) so when I started knitting again, I made up my own stuff. I designed a simple scarf knitted in fake fur yarn which I sold on Ebay and to friends. I started designing and knitting other things and was encouraged to write up my patterns after I joined an online knitting forum (this was around 2006) and started a blog.
Knitting gave me a sense of achievement during a time when I was feeling very low and worthless (because I wasn't able to work).
After a couple of years I became interested in selling at shows but I was also nervous about it. My first show was a one day event in Coventry where the stalls were outside and it rained all day (most of the yarn got wet) but it was a huge success and gave me the confidence to apply to other shows. I eventually stopped dyeing yarn due to health problems and I now sell commercial yarn which I select to fit my knitting patterns.
What do you enjoy most about it?
I love meeting people at shows. Being an online business and doing most of my work from home, you can feel a little bit isolated. Getting out to teach workshops and attending yarn events, gives me a chance to meet knitters, chat to them, find out what they like and get to know them better. It's really lovely to see regular customers and knitters that I've got to know online though my Facebook group or social media.
What’s your least favourite bit?
Selling at a show takes a lot preparation. Ordering the right amount of stock, counting everything and packing it up is a lot of work. I leave packing the car to my husband. It's like a game of Tetris trying to fit it all in. My least favourite part is unpacking, sorting and counting everything after a show and updating my website.
What have you learned about human nature while doing it?
Most knitters are lovely. Show organisers work very hard to put on a good event and the other stall holders and show volunteers are always willing to help. There is a real sense of community.
Do you make for pleasure as well? What are you working on at the moment (and can we see a photograph?)
I design knitting patterns and sell yarn because I love knitting and I love yarn! I love touching the yarn, choosing colours and working with it. I couldn't imagine doing this if I didn't love knitting. Knitting samples for patterns takes hours, weeks or even months, so you have to love what you do. Most of my knitting results in a new pattern but I still love it. It's the act of knitting that excites me. I'm not that worried about that I may not get to wear the final item (often it gets posted to a magazine or yarn company for publication).
At the moment I'm working on a new shawl design using Schoppel Zauber Flower, a beautiful soft yarn with long colour gradients. (Bottom photo.) The design will be available as a pattern and kit sometime in June or July.
I've also been knitting a lot of socks during the lock down. My goal this year is to knit 20 pairs of socks. Before the lock down I had finished two pairs of socks this year, but I've finished six pairs so far during the lock down (we're on day 57 as I write this). I mainly knit socks for myself but also for my husband and daughters.
What inspires you?
I am mostly inspired by the yarn. I often pick up a yarn and decide I want to knit with it and then think of what I may want to do with it. I love people watching, both in real life and online, and get inspiration from what I see people wearing. I think everything around me inspired me in some way; conversations, the scenery in Cornwall, my Norwegian knitting heritage, travelling, watching people.
What’s the funniest thing a customer has ever said to you?
Over the last few years as I've become better known through my magazine designs, I've had people ask me, or sometimes they ask my husband as he always helps me at shows, if I'm the real Anniken Allis. It always makes my husband laugh.
What’s the biggest change the Coronavirus crisis has made to your life?
It's sad not being able to teach workshops in yarn shops at the moment. I had a busy teaching schedule this spring and I miss teaching. I also worry about how yarn shops will survive and when I can get back to in person workshops. Most yarn shops are fairly small, so social distancing during workshops will be difficult. On the other hand, my daughters who live in Wales (both in their 20s) came home before the lock down and my husband has been working from home. So it's been lovely to spend more time together as a family. I think it's helped that we're all working so we're all busy during the day in different parts of the house. The good weather has also helped and I feel very blessed to live in Cornwall with lovely places to walk on our door step and to have a big garden.
What are you watching/listening to while you’re at home?
I do watch too much TV when I'm knitting. I prefer to watch things that doesn't require too much concentration. I do listen to audio books too. At the moment I'm listening to a Jane Austen book that I've read/listened to lots of times before but I like the familiarity of it. It feels reassuring in some ways. I'm a bit of a 'Real Housewives' addict (but I only like the American Real Housewives programmes) but I don't like admitting it.
Who in the world would you most like to be self-isolated with?
My family, my dog and lots of yarn. It's challenging having family abroad at the moment as I don't know when it'll be safe to travel to see them. In the 30 years I've lived in the UK, I've never had anything stopping me from travelling to Norway to see my family (as long as I could afford the airfare of course) but at the moment, travelling there is challenging. So I wish my family in Norway lived locally.
What keeps you going when things get tough?
My family, my faith, keeping busy with my work and knitting, walking the dog.
Can people still buy your stuff at the moment? How do they do that?
Yes, patterns are available from my Ravelry Pattern Shop https://www.ravelry.com/stores/anniken-allis
Colourful yarn, kits and my books, Easy Lace Knits and Beaded Lace Knitting as well as online courses are available from https://www.yarnaddict.co.uk/
How else can people keep up with you online?
If you love lace knitting or are interested in learning more about lace knitting then please consider joining my Facebook Group Love of Lace Knitting https://www.facebook.com/groups/1461041074003461/
I send out regular newsletters (max once per week) with news of what I'm up to, links to new tutorials, patterns, discounts and more. You can sign up to my newsletter at https://www.yarnaddict.co.uk/
I am @YarnAddictAnni on Instagram and Twitter. Please follow me if you want to see what I'm up to on a daily basis.