The local paint-your-own pottery shop right by Tracy Radcliffe
started hosting visiting artists giving classes in their studio space.
She decided to take a course of four 'introduction to knitting'
classes. As soon as she learned how to knit and purl, the knitting
obsession - which so many of us are so very familiar with - had her
safely in its grasp. She was also able to take a class with Stephen
West, an excellent knitwear designer, and she was very inspired by his
"Boneyard" shawl. At the time, Tracy had no idea how far this new hobby
would take her.
- Tracy Radcliffe, all wrapped up in a shawl of her own design.
Tracy started designing, creating, and selling pieces for her own label, PunkRocKnits,
in 2010. "One word to describe my style is 'freeform'," she tells me
in our conversation. She graduated with a major in Biology and a minor
in Studio Art - but knitting is not as big of a departure from studio
art as you would think. "Yarn is my paint, and needles are my canvas,"
she describes whimsically. When you see her work, the truth of this
statement is evident. She has a great eye for color, texture, and
pattern - mixing uniquely spun wools with sari ribbon, one color flowing
easily into the next. "I don't really follow patterns - the yarns I
use are all so different color and texture-wise – I like to combine
things naturally, in a non-predetermined way," she explains. Letting
the different textures and weights of yarn determine the pattern can
make the piece go in unexpected directions. "Sometimes the end result
surprises even me!" Tracy admits. Each and every piece she creates is
- One of Tracy's shawls incorporating DGY Sari Ribbon
started off selling her work at shows - in 2011 she appeared at 21 of
them! She was working an outdoor craft event in 2012 when she had one
really special customer. One of the women who had purchased a scarf at
the show turned out to be the Division Manager of Accessories at the
clothing company Free People.
Soon after the show, she was contacted by the company and asked to knit
one-of-a-kind original pieces for them. They visited her and explained
they wanted larger, triangular shawls to offer through their website
and in their stores. She made up a 10 piece collection of shawls as a
kind of trial, and every one sold! A few of the shawls went to the Free
People store window in New York, and Tracy was so excited to see it
there when she visited over Christmas! The first larger order was in
the fall of 2013, when Tracy created 5 different shawl styles and made
34 total pieces in only 2 months! While still working a full-time "day
job" and being a wife and mother! I think she may have been knitting in
her sleep. Along with being in stores, Free People features the shawls
in their catalogs and online. Her most recent spring collection was
made with lots of Darn Good Yarn Reclaimed Sari Ribbon, as Free People
were looking for more light-weight shawls for 'music-festival fashion'.
10 of the "Dragonfly" shawls were created, and all 10 sold in the first
3 days they were available! However, if you need one of her shawls,
don't despair. You can always check out her Etsy page here and special order your own!
- Dragonfly Shawl, image courtesy of Free People
these successes under her belt, Tracy is looking to expand her business
ambitions. She was able to hire a part-time assistant, Taylor
Reynolds, a local Graphic Design student. Taylor was blogging about the
great pieces in the new Free People catalog the winter that Tracy's
shawls were included. They soon became friends on Facebook, and Taylor
is now helping Tracy with trend and material research, labeling pieces,
adding fringe, and even knitting! She is a crafter in her own right,
and creates gorgeous Dreamcatchers which are featured in the Punkrocknits Etsy shop aswell as at the shows they still attend.
Tracy's most recent knitting experiment? Working with size 120
knitting needles! That size doesn't conventionally exist in knitting
needles, but a seller on Etsy hand-makes them. Not surprisingly,
knitting with what are essentially small trees in public garners some
odd looks, but Tracy tells me she has started many an interesting
conversation with people while using them. Her 7 year old just learned
to knit with them, and loves them!
- DGY Sari Ribbon on size 120 needles
As long as Tracy keeps thinking "big" about her work and her business, I'm quite sure she'll go far!
Many thanks to Tracy for sharing her story with me, and, as always,