Indie Untangled Everywhere Untangling: Knit Chats

A woman with black hair wearing a pink scarf.

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled Everywhere, taking place from October 15-17, 2020.

Over the last six months, many of us have been propelled, or pushed more, into a world made up primarily of virtual interaction. For KnitChats, a small company of knitting coaches that provides on-demand, real-time knitting help as well as community, this is a moment they were ready for.

The idea behind KnitChats is that it’s the virtual version of the table at your local yarn shop — owner Josie Flores once owned her own LYS, Cardigan’s Knit Shop in Santa Barbara. Knitters can type their project questions into a chat box on the company’s website and get help from trained instructors. They can also join the KnitChats community via an online communication platform called Slack and get access to a public forum, a private Help Line channel and direct messages with the KnitChats teachers. And they can book paid one-on-one help sessions via Zoom.

Josie will be in the Indie Untangled Everywhere Virtual Lounge at 1 p.m. Eastern to discuss her help line!

Explain what Knit Chats is and how it came to be.

KnitChats is an on-demand knitting and crochet help line served by a small team of professional instructors.

The original idea was born in 2017 and is credited to a smart fellow whose larger plan was to build a platform offering real-time help across DIY areas via video chat. Knitting was chosen as the beta platform to test. That larger plan has since been scrapped, but because we loved the idea so much, some of the teachers from the beta team made the commitment to move forward on our own.

Three years into KnitChats, we’re still very much an evolving business.

How has your business evolved since it started?

It has changed so much since we launched back in January 2018. We began by offering real-time knitting help by text, voice and video chat using Slack as the venue. It was nice to discover that not only could we offer an efficient way to deliver knitting help, we were also able to build a self-contained community as a result.

The last several months we’ve experienced a strong bump in the use of our service and we’re enjoying a steady stream of newcomers to our Slack community. Although the impetus for this growth was the result of many people staying at home, we’ve been honing our virtual teaching platform from the very beginning. KnitChats’ work over the last two years has prepared us to meet the moment.

What are the most common problems you help solve?

By far, we get lots of pattern-specific, technical queries: things like how to decipher pattern language, or interpret shaping instructions on a garment, or explaining a garment’s construction process.

Figuring out mistakes is another common question. “What am I doing wrong?” is a good catchall phrase we hear a lot!

What’s the most unusual or memorable issue you’ve had to help with?

We received an email once from a fellow who was asking if it was possible to fix the neckline of a child’s sweater. After some back and forth, he revealed that he wasn’t the knitter, but that it was his wife who was making the sweater for their grandchild. She was so upset about messing up her project that he took it upon himself to search online to try and find knitting help. He found KnitChats, the issue was successfully resolved and we voted him Best Husband of the Year.

What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your business?

I’ve learned how important it is to be flexible and nimble. Our business plan is fluid, so when I recognize that something isn’t quite working, I can try something else. Once you realize that there are no terrible consequences in shifting gears, just learning opportunities, you gain more confidence in making decisions.

KnitChats is all about people, who happen to be knitters. I’ve learned that listening, empathy and authenticity are critical in connecting with people and sustaining a community for the long term.

People knitting around a table.

KnitChats at Stitches West.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I first learned how to knit from my wonderful home economics teacher in high school, Mrs. Beechok. She was the OG Martha Stewart.

What are some of your favorite yarns to knit with?

It changes all the time! I love the artistry of hand-dyed natural fibers, but at the moment I’ve been enjoying quiet, neutral colors in the softest fibers. My desert island yarn is Cashmere.

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

At last count I had 14. It’s an embarrassing amount of WIPs! I’m currently focusing on making hats for a local pre-school serving homeless children.

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