This month, I’m interviewing Melissa of DaKine Knits. I have been admiring her patterns for quite some time now, and I especially love her Fruits of the Spirit pattern series. To make it easy to see who is “talking,” my questions are in black, and Melissa’s answers are in purple.
Melissa, tell me about how you got started in fiber arts. How did you first learn to knit?
My grandmother taught me to knit when I was just 12 years old. I loved seeing my creations grow on my needles! However, it wasn’t until I started cloth diapering my oldest daughter (She is almost 11 now!) that I once again picked up my knitting needles and really expanded my skills far beyond what my grandmother ever taught me.
What led you from there to designing your own patterns?
Because we were on a strict budget and our daughter was sensitive to almost all non-natural products (most diaper covers use PUL or a type of plastic), I discovered that she didn’t react to wool, so I started knitting her diaper covers, “longies,” and the like. The online community I was a part of loved my work, and I started getting requests to do in-stock and custom items for others. Very rapidly I got overwhelmed with customs, and even after adding my best friend and fellow designer Nicole Ratliff to my shop, we decided that our efforts would be better spent writing good patterns that were fully customizable and teaching other people to knit. This ended up working out better then we ever could have imagined since as the years went by, (and the number of kids increased) we had less and less time to knit and no time to make customs.
When you’re looking for inspiration for a new pattern, where do you find it?
This depends. Most of my tops, dresses, and even my favorite pattern–the “My Keiki Overalls”–were all fashioned after clothing my children were already wearing. My hat patterns are a bit different. I had decided against many “business” recommendations to do a spiritual meaning behind them all. Over the course of a year, I slowly was inspired with each design, and the bonus one of “Be Delightful” by the stitches, the actual elements, and designs. For example, “Be Patient” is all done in linen stitch. If you have ever attempted this, you know it is an extremely time-consuming process, but is so beautiful in completion.
Which comes first? The yarn or the pattern? Do you find some yarn and come up with the perfect pattern to go with it, or do you have a pattern idea in mind and go in search of yarn that would complement it?
I do it both ways. More often then not I get an inspiration and then purchase just the right yarn. When doing prototypes it is always a toss up between using whatever is on hand and wanting the perfect skein of yarn. On one side it might not work out like I had envisioned, but at the same time it might turn out even better, and how annoying to have used the wrong yarn! I made it a goal very early on that it was not worth it to knit with cheap yarn, and I have pretty much stuck to that. 🙂
As you can imagine, I certainly share your view on that. 😉
What’s your favorite weight of yarn to work with?
I started out as a worsted fan, but lately I am leaning towards the slightly lighter DK weight.
What’s your favorite fiber to work with, and what do you like about it?
Wool. I am always disappointed when I put anything else on my needles. Most of my stash these days is a superwash variety.
What is your own personal favorite design that you have made so far?
My Keiki Overalls! I love this pattern. I worked so hard on the design and making it so versatile and easy to follow after I was disappointed with so many other versions of overalls on the market at the time. I mean, babies with buttons and pockets? I am in love. <3
Now, DaKine Knits is a collaboration between you and your friend, Nicole Ratliff. What’s it like working with a partner? Do you each work independently on designs, or do you share ideas?
Nicole and I are so different in our thinking that we often can fill in the gaps for each other. I am very linear and methodical in my thinking, and Nicole is an amazing visionary who sees the big picture. We actually collaborated together for at least 6 months perfecting the “Dakine Longies” pattern and getting the gusset section just right so that we were both happy with it and it worked well. She is also a professional photographer so that was always handy to have when we worked on the images for our patterns. Between our 8 kids (4 each), we always had a model in the right size and gender.
That’s great! Where did you guys come up with the name, DaKine?
After I got married 15 years ago, my husband and I moved to Maui, Hawaii, as church planters. (Tough job, I know! ;)) The prior 2 years we had met regularly with our mentors on learning the culture and what to expect when we moved. It was still a huge culture shock since we have both lived in the Silicon Valley for our entire lives and my husband’s profession is in technology. We ended up living there about 18 months, and our oldest child was actually born on the island. He is the tallest, skinniest, palest Hawaiian you have ever met. LOL. Anyway, the locals have their own kind of slang on the island and “dakine” is their word for when they don’t have a word. It is how we say, oh, you know that thingamabob. They say it all the time.
That makes sense! I looked it up when we made contact, and I kept seeing the word lots of places but with no description of what it meant. I’m so happy to have a definition!
Where can we find your patterns?
My patterns hang out on Ravelry and a few on Craftsy. We also have a facebook page under DaKine Knits.
Melissa’s and Nicole’s patterns can be found on Ravelry at https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/sources/dakine-knits/patterns.
On Craftsy, Melissa can be found here.
DaKine Knits can be found on Facebook here.
Are there other places around the web where we can find you and your work?
Not for my knitting projects, but I also run an online arts ministry page and blog at created2inspirejoy.com.
What upcoming plans do you have for your business as a designer as well as in other parts of your life?
I have wanted to design another dress pattern; however, it is much easier to make prototypes for infant-sized models rather then the giant children I have now. I may switch gears and work on some more adult knits. I really have enjoyed making hats, including some fun messy-bun versions using my collection of hats as a base. I also enjoy making prayer shawls for many of the wonderful women around me that need some extra comfort during times of loss.
Currently my new personal adventure is heading back to the classroom. I have been staying home with my kids full time for the last 13 years, and I have an unique opportunity to go back to college and finish my degree. I am going to be majoring in Child Development and plan to head in direction of child psychology. I also plan on getting my teaching certificate so I can continue making an impact in the area of child education even after my kids are grown. I will continue to homeschool my own children through this process so it is shaping up to be a very crazy couple of years.
That sounds wonderful! I hope the road ahead for you and your family is filled with blessings and joy!