Alexa and Emily are the creative duo behind the hugely popular Tin Can Knits patterns with which many people around the world have learned to knit. We’ve been lucky enough to see our yarns on their needles many times, and wanted to take advantage of the launch of their new app project to learn more about their atypical company and their inspiring, endearing duo!
Hello Alexa and Emily, we’re delighted to welcome you here! Can you tell us a little about yourselves and how you came to create Tin Can knit?
Alexa:The year was 2010. I had just finished my teaching degree with no job in sight. (Fun fact: I was almost a high school social studies teacher!) When I met Emily, she was living in Vancouver but soon moved back home to Courtenay, where she was working in architecture. We were two close friends separated by a ferry ride, so we decided to take a weekend away. I hopped on the ferry, and we headed to one of our favourite places: Tofino. Tofino is an absolutely wonderful spot on the western shore of Vancouver Island. It’s located on the current and traditional territory of the 14 Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, and we recognize the responsibility that came with our presence on their sacred land. Tofino holds a special place in our hearts, and it was inspiring to experience a land we both deeply love together.
This trip was so inspiring, in fact, that it led us to start a partnership that would change our lives forever. As we wandered the damp forests, visited the local art gallery, sipped coffee at the hipster bakery, and relaxed on the beach, we began to chat about our big ideas. Sitting in the sand, under the stars, Emily suggested we might design a pattern together, but I said no – we should write a book. And that was the beginning of our Tin Can Knits journey. It was that little kernel that grew into our very first book, 9 Months of Knitting.
Since the start of our professional partnership, our personal lives have also changed dramatically. A transatlantic move and five TCK children have come and gone, and our professional lives have fluctuated with these changes. I’ll always remember the year we each had a baby six weeks apart. It was interesting, to say the least! You can read more about our story here.
You are unique in that you work as a duo. This friendly co-creation is a very inspiring model!
Emily: Alexa and I have always worked at a distance, and talked on the phone at least a couple times each week! We love both the independence and mutual support that our partnership gives us. When we’re uncertain about something – a design or business decision – we chat it through.
If you’re curious, we’ve written a bit more about the benefits of partnership on our blog.
For over a decade, you’ve been sharing patterns designed with great generosity and a clear desire to make them as accessible as possible, and which have undoubtedly taught thousands of people around the world to knit and gain self-confidence. Can you tell us more about your vision of knitting and your work as designers?
Alexa & Emily: We’ve always aimed to give knitters MORE – more sizes, more options, more support, and more confidence to take that next stitch. Knitters spend many hours with a project, and patterns facilitate that.
They should be so clear and supportive that you don’t really notice the pattern itself…you simply enjoy the knit. Because knitting isn’t about the pattern…it’s about that soft yarn running through your fingers, about the excitement and satisfaction of making something beautiful, stitch by small stitch. The pattern is just there to aid you in that enjoyment.
You’re currently working on a very exciting project. Can you tell us more about it?
Alexa & Emily: We are working on a responsive knitting pattern format that gives knitters JUST what they need, making the knitting pattern both simpler AND more powerful.
While we have started by creating this new format to work with Tin Can Knits designs, our BIG vision is that you’ll be able to knit ANY of your patterns in this format, in the future. We’ve only just started on this project… you can read about our vision here. https://www.tincanknits.com/app/vision
How is it simpler? When you begin a pattern in this format, you select your yarn-weight, your size, your units, colour, and text size – and your pattern displays JUST the numbers and options that you need for your knit. No more circling or highlighting your size, no more errors due to picking the wrong number!
How is it more powerful? There is support linked on each and every instruction – so when you are uncertain about an abbreviation or technique, you can immediately get help – at a tap! And because the pattern hides all that unnecessary information, we can include more value in a single pattern – more sizes, more yarn weights, more options… without overwhelming knitters.
Check out this format in the free Tin Can Knits App – download it on the App Store or the Play Store – the app includes 9 free patterns, and several patterns for purchase.
What can our readers do to support you in this project?
Alexa & Emily: Download the App 🙂
Try it out!
Let at least one other knitter know about it in sharing the app, or share this link:
The more people who use the application and give us feedback on what we can do to improve it, the more we’ll be able to move the project forward.
We are very honored to have many of your designs created in our yarns, especially in Ulysse and Gilliatt. Could you tell us how you choose a yarn for a design and what qualities you are particularly looking for?
Emily: I was introduced to De Rerum Natura yarns by Ysolda a few years ago, and I’ve LOVED knitting and designing in them ever since. I raved about it so much Alexa had to get herself some too, and she’s smitten as well.
Alexa and I prefer to work in yarns that are produced in countries where we’re confident about labour and environmental laws. We believe this lessens the chance that the chain from sheep to skein includes practices harmful to people and the environment. We also LOVE colour, and I personally lean towards softer yarns!
De Rerum Natura’s yarns tick ALL these boxes, so we never hesitate to choose them. The colour palette that’s been curated, especially, is intensely delicious and appealing to me! I’ve really loved using Ulysses for stranded colourwork projects.
Gilliatt is possibly my very favourite sweater yarn (shhhhh don’t tell the others!). Somehow the lofty woollen spun yarn has really excellent yardage per 100g ball, but it knits up as a very solid worsted weight. I found in absolutely perfect for cables, and after wearing these sweaters extensively, I can attest that Gilliat wears beautifully.
We’ve entered the Christmas season and it’s one of our favorite times of the year, with the smell of cinnamon and the joy of making lots of pretty things together as a family. Do you enjoy knitting Christmas presents or receiving handmade gifts? Do you have any rituals you’d like to share with us?
Alexa: I LOVE this time of year. It feels like my time to shine as a maker, and as a lover of all things over the top! I am currently working on sweaters for each of my kids for an epic photo with their cousins (also in hand knit sweaters). My sisters-in-law also knit, so we’ve been taking a cousin photo each year for a few years now and it’s one of my very favourite things. It’s always chaotic in the best way, and I love so much that my kids are able to be close with their cousins.
Thank you both so much for this interview and for your kind words about our yarns! We wish you all the best for the future and a very happy holiday season!
Join us on Instagram and try to win a €50 voucher on our website and 3 credits on the Tin Can Knits app by taking part in our giveaway until midnight Sunday December 10th (Paris time). Good luck!
Photo credits: Tin Can Knits