Initially, Andrea Mowry came into our lives as a customer, and has since become an inspiration to us! A momma and a maker with a love for nature, her beautiful knits began popping up in our Instagram feed and we soon became long-distance friends and collaborators. Currently living in Maine with her husband and two kiddos (even her kids have been known to rock Conscious Clothing!), she designs and creates patterns for her beautiful & unique knits. From cozy hats to knitted tops and shawls, we are blown away by the creativity coming out of needles and yarn_ quite frankly her knits are badass. We just KNEW we would love what she had to say, and felt compelled to learn & share some more of her story. As it just so happens, her knitted designs and our linen garments are a match made in heaven.
Take a few minutes to read through Andrea’s story, see her knitted wonders, and learn about her artistic process & inspiration in our interview.
Her husband Peter took these stunning photos.
To check out her knitting patterns, visit dreareneeknits.com.
Tell us a little bit about your story and introduce us to your life - how did you get where you are today?
Hi there! I'm Andrea and was born and raised in Michigan, but am now living near the coast in Maine with my family. When I was pregnant with our daughter, I left my life as a baker and we tightened our belts, hoping we could make it work on a single income as we raised our babies. We focused on the essentials, and little luxuries like yarn to support my knitting habit, become a rarity. As I adjusted to life as a mama, I quickly realized how much of my self-worth was tied up in working (I've always worked since I was about 13), and also how much I needed to have a daily creative outlet to fill myself back up. I pushed myself into vulnerability and decided to try releasing my first knitting pattern. I thought that just maybe I could make a little extra income so I could keep buying yarn from time to time! Well, much to our surprise (and delight), my patterns started selling. I continued to create new ones, and by the following spring, I was traveling to a yarn shop in California to teach my first knitting class. DreaReneeKnits continued to grow and is now a full-time job. Outside of my tech editor who helps me with emails, and my husband, Peter, who takes the photos of my knits, I wear all the hats for my business and work every day to keep it all in balance! I still can't quite wrap my head around that I get to do what I love most every day!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I'm a big fan of waking with the sun and morning rituals. Most mornings I sneak down before the rest of the house is awake to drink a cup of coffee, meditate, spin yarn, or knit. As my family wakes up, we get to spend a little time together before I get my workday started. I've had my small business for about 7 years, and it took me until the last 2 to find a better balance between taking care of myself and my young family with the demands of running DreaReneeKnits. I also prioritize time to move (preferably outside - the ocean is just a couple blocks away) and then you can find me in my studio until evening. I am so lucky to have my studio in my home, especially this past year, so I am available if my family needs me! During my work hours, I try to set aside specific times for computer and admin work so that I can also gift myself uninterrupted creative time to come up with new designs! If I'm not knitting, you can most likely find me in the kitchen - cooking and baking!
So you're a knitting wiz - how did that become such a big part of your life?
I am one of those very lucky knitters that was taught by their grandma to knit at a young age. My grandma Ginny taught me to knit when I was around 9 years old. She planted the seed that would then take root in my late teens. After I graduated high school, I was like many teenagers - a bit adrift and not really sure where life would take me. One day I wandered into a book shop and headed to the craft section. I bought a knitting book, and immediately became entranced by all that knitting had to offer. Thru the next 10 years, knitting was my constant companion as I moved to New Zealand, then back to the US to a number of different states, thru 2 different vocational schools and 2 different career paths. I always wanted to make knitting my job - but really didn't know how to go about it. Finally, a few months after the birth of my first child, I decided to just try! I released my first pattern on Ravelry, and within 2 years was designing full time.
We are so impressed you can make knitting patterns! How do you do that? Can you tell us how you create those?
Before I wrote knitting patterns, I was a baker. And believe it or not - I think my baking days totally primed me for knitwear design! From the spatial awareness needed for decorating cakes and sweaters, to writing recipes - which is strikingly similar to writing patterns! In both recipes and knitting patterns, you use abbreviations, and the goal for both is to take simple ingredients and combine them into something greater than its parts - hopefully easily, without confusion, and with great success for the maker!
I "design on the needles", meaning that I knit the garment or accessory first, taking notes as I go. I then sit down and write it in a way that other knitters of different sizes can understand so they can replicate it in the best way possible for themselves. My biggest goal from the beginning is to never leave the knitter guessing what they are supposed to do. I often record little knitting tutorials to accompany my patterns that knitters can find on my YouTube channel to help them add more knitting skills to their toolkit!
Where do you get your inspiration?
I love to learn. This may be one of the reasons I love knitting so much. You could learn something new about knitting every day, and still, never run out of material! I am always inspired by new (to me) knitting techniques and stitch patterns. I typically fall in love with one, and then explore it in as many ways as I can dream up! Once I've exhausted it, I then dive back into my books, knitting swatches and playing around until something new grabs me! I often use gaps in my wardrobe to help me decide what sort of pattern I want to work on. Maybe I need a cardigan to go with my dress, or winter is coming and I want a warmer hat for my runs. I find that when I follow my heart and feel joyful as I work on the project, that usually translates to others who knit my patterns.
How did the wild year of 2020 impact you and your online business?
The biggest impact on my business was the cancellation of all of my travel. Before 2020, I would travel once to twice a month to teach at knitting shops or big knitting events in the US and around the world. By the end of 2020, it struck me how much inspiration those trips gave me. Not to mention the loss of that human, face-to-face connection of other people in my community. The financial impact was great, but the emotional connection to others was greater.
Tell us about your craft. What favorite tools do you use? What is your process? How long does it take to complete a shawl?
To knit, you really just need sticks and string! My sticks of choice are sharp metal needles, connected by a cord. I have a set of these, where you can swap out needle sizes and cord lengths, meaning I always have exactly what I need - no matter the project. My string of choice has always been wool. Wool has magical properties that help to keep us dry, which in turn helps us to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. To complete a larger project such as a shawl or sweater - it can take me as little as a week, and as much as a year. It really depends on how the yarn speaks to me. Some ideas take longer to develop. It's amazing how much of my creative time looks like me just staring at a wall or out the window as my mind works thru my ideas and how to bring them to life! I usually start my sketching and then I swatch - knitting small squares in the yarn I hope to use to see if what I am picturing will come to life! Once I feel fairly confident that it should work, I begin the actual piece, using trial and error to work out any kinks as I go!
We think a lot about our natural resources and how we interact with the earth_ how do you incorporate sustainability practices into your life?
That is one of the reasons I love supporting Conscious Clothing!
In my own work, I prioritize working with yarn makers who are transparent about how they source the fibers for their yarns and incorporate sustainable dyeing practices with the lowest impact possible on the environment.
What I love about knitting is that you can reuse yarn. If the project doesn't turn out as expected - you can simply unravel it and repurpose that yarn for a different use! I have knit and worn sweaters for a week or so, only to realize the style isn't right for me. If I can't find someone else who will love it, I just tear it out. Many of us knitters like to call it "ripping for joy." It also takes some of the fear out of learning a new technique or playing around with your knitting - you know that if it doesn't work, you can always try again.
In our home, we also focus on all of the little things that add up. We compost and recycle, which has hugely reduced our waste. We make our own nut milk, among many other kitchen staples that otherwise come in loads of packaging. Since our move to Maine, we have been learning to garden and it has been so fun getting our kids involved in growing some of our veggies! Another creative outlet I have also been exploring is mending. Not only does it extend the life of our clothes, but it is a great artistic outlet!
What is your current favorite playlist or album to listen to while you work?
Joni Mitchell Blue - always.
What are your favorite pieces in the Conscious Clothing that you own?
This one is so hard! One of my early pieces was the Marrakesh Overalls, which are still in heavy rotation, along with my Linen floor-length trench. The Weekender Pants are my go-to comfy pants and I love my rompers and dresses for teaching thanks to the easy style and pockets! But if I was forced to make a decision - I would say the Boardwalk Dress!