Anna is an ex-teacher turned knitwear designer. Born out of a life long love of all things woolly (or yarn-y) she made the decision to make teaching the side-hustle and dedicate her time to design.
Meet Anna Elliott, taking the knitting world by storm! During a couple of years of upheavals, re-locations and redundancies, knitting and designing kept her sane. When the dust settled after the move to her current home in Herefordshire, she decided to take the plunge, dial down her teaching career and follow her dream of being a knitwear designer full-time (nearly).
From her home-studio Anna conjures up beautiful designs, shoots podcasts, knits and tries not to get too distracted by the sheep passing her window. We asked her to give us an impression of her typical day and how this transition came about.
(n.b. I really want that jumper)
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Anna. After doing my degree in English Literature and working as a business journalist, I retrained as a primary school teacher. Not long after qualifying I got married and had my two children, going back to work in part time roles after maternity leave each time. During my second maternity leave I also started getting freelance work writing knitting patterns- I’d learned to knit as a child and gone back to it as a relaxing, creative hobby later. A couple of years ago a change in my husband’s job meant we had to relocate a couple of hundred miles across the country. Like many teachers, I’d been finding the work/life balance increasingly difficult to get right, plus my husband’s new role was going to involve a fair bit of working away from home, so we decided that it would be good for the whole family if I switched my side-hustle of designing to my main job.
I now take on a small amount of teaching- mainly to fund the renovations on the old cottage we bought to live in- and the rest of the time I work from home, building up my range of independently released knitting patterns and working on commissions for yarn companies and magazines. My next step is to combine my knitting and teaching skills by running knitting workshops- in real life at first, with the possibility of online versions in the future.
“Mornings are my best time for detail-oriented activity”
8.00 am Unless I’m doing teaching work that day, I try to walk the children to school. I wear my running gear for the journey there, so that I can run on the way back, it stops me procrastinating. I use the Nike app to track my run and sometimes the Spotify running playlist– I must have music to run to or I have zero motivation. If we’re running late and I drive the children to school, I sling my notebook onto the passenger seat. The traffic just after the school gates open is awful, so while I wait for it to calm down I sit in the car and write my to-do list for the day. I run a sort of bullet journal for my knitting business but it does slightly scare me that if I lost one of my notebooks a whole lot of vital information could go with it, so I’m trying to get to grips with Trello for project planning.
9.30 am Whichever way I’ve travelled, once I get in I do a quick Yoga with Adriene session. I can end up being very desk-bound doing this job and getting joint problems when you work with your hands isn’t good news, so I feel like it’s important to start off the day with a good stretch.
10.30 am – 12.00 pm Mornings are my best time for detail-oriented activity; so I will tackle tricky emails such as customer queries or writing design proposals; check pattern copy or do number crunching on spreadsheets to grade for different garment sizes at this time. I try not to stray onto social media too much in the morning, for fear of falling down the procrastination rabbit hole, but I might go on some of the closed Facebook groups for knitting designers that I’m a member of if I need some advice or moral support on a particular issue. I also try to take a quick half hour or so mid morning to post something on Instagram. I’ve been trying to build my audience of potential customers there recently, since I find it one of the most productive channels for getting interest in my patterns at the moment.
I’m no good at eating breakfast, so often end up making something more like a brunch. While I’m at it, I often put something together ready for tea that night, pasta sauce that can simmer on the stove for the afternoon, for example – as that extends my working day a little.
“I take smaller projects in the car with me, so that I can sneak in a few rows while I wait for the children to come out, or during their after-school activities.”
12.00 pm – 3.30 pm In the afternoon I do more creative jobs – sketching ideas for patterns; drawing colourwork or cabling charts using Stitchmastery software; writing ideas for, or recording, podcast episodes; composing and sending newsletters and updating my profiles and entries on various social media. At the moment most of my pattern sales are online, as pdfs, so I have to take building my online profile pretty seriously.
3.30 pm – 8.00 pm Most of the actual knitting I do is usually after school run time. I take smaller projects in the car with me, so that I can sneak in a few rows while I wait for the children to come out, or during their after-school activities. Knitting samples is the part of my job I can do while I’m looking after the children, so I’ll listen to them read, supervise homework, get food ready for them and so on with my needles and wool close at hand.
8.00 pm – sometimes late! Once they’ve gone to bed it’s yet more knitting while I watch TV or listen to audio books – if I’m up against a deadline I have been known to knit into the wee small hours, but even without that pressure I’ve usually got knitting in my hands. I feel like I’m pretty fortunate to be doing what I love for my job.
What three things do you rely on the most each day?
- Wool! Not really a surprise, but for lots of reasons I really like to use UK sourced wools, especially from smaller businesses. It makes sense environmentally and ethically and often it’s the material itself, or the story behind it, that gives me the inspiration for a design.
- My calculator. Knitting design involves a lot more number work than you might imagine and I recently bought myself a good old-fashioned desk calculator, which saves me messing about opening the relevant apps on my laptop or phone.
- The internet. A huge part of the knitting community is still very much an IRL thing, but for me the internet is where I meet and communicate with my colleagues and collaborators; find work; sell my stuff; publicise my work; gather ideas and information and source most of my materials.
If you are keen to hear more about Anna’s adventures in knitting, or simply want to lose yourself in one of the most beautifully cosy Instagram feeds around, make sure you check her out. The podcasts are fab and make me want to take up knitting….and buy an old cottage…and take up yoga…and get some sheep in my back garden.
Facebook- Anna Elliott
Check out the website here
And for the knitters watch this !