Makers in the Raw: Knitatude

Hands up if you have warm, happy feelings associated with yarn! There’s just something about that squishy fibre that’s so easy to love. It keeps us warm, comes in gorgeous colours, and can be expertly crafted into functional yet beautiful patterns to enjoy.

This is the world Chantal of Knitatude lives in. In her bright apartment, there’s a shrine-like quality to her studio. Nested in a large papasan chair, her hands move quickly to crank out beanies, scarves, and even purses in beautiful, brightly coloured yarn.

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Born and raised in Calgary, Chantal went to school for film and television, initially working as an entertainment writer and producer for Breakfast TV, and eventually transitioning into advertising for CTV and Bell Media.

It’s not the background you’d expect when you think of your average small-business knitting company, but Knitatude was born from a love of fashion and a desire for a circle scarf.

“I really wanted one for Christmas, because I’d been going through Pinterest and there were all those big scarves trending,” says Chantal, “I took matters into my own hands, took needles from my grandmother’s knitting kit and I YouTube’d from there.”

That first piece took 48 hours to complete, but Chantal came away with more than just a new scarf.

“I realized it was awesome to make something with my own hands.”

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Over the next couple of months, the number of friends requesting their own knitted pieces from her convinced Chantal she could enjoy knitting while others enjoyed her knits.

This success turned Chantal’s focus to markets and at the 2015 Etsy Calgary: Made in Canada market, where 28 of the 32 pieces she brought were sold. Chantal herself was sold on the prospect of owning her own business.

And though she is incredibly successful, Chantal does it because she enjoys knitting, relying on her husband Todd to help keep her focused on her goals for Knitatude and for herself.

“He’s extremely supportive and is always making sure I do it for love and nothing else – he’s my own personal cheerleader,” says Chantal, smiling.

Chantal and Todd met during a difficult period of her life. Shortly after they started dating, her father passed away from cancer, and kind-hearted Todd stepped in to help her and her family heal, in any way he could.

“We were instantly bonded,” remembers Chantal, “He really took care of my family and was really there to help support and do what was necessary.”

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Not long after they were married, Chantal considered starting up Knitatude, seeking Todd’s trusted advice and support.

“I asked Todd, ‘do you think I could do this?’ and he was, ‘Yeah you can!'” laughs Chantal. But her husband isn’t the only one in Chantal’s corner. Her products have developed their own following.

“There are two ladies who come to Market Collective and they make sure I have matching pairs,” says Chantal, “I’m not accustomed to have people buy sets, but they came in and decided to buy their whole family matching sets of my stuff, which was such a brilliant idea, but crazy to think people would support my product that much.”

Of course, it’s probably not just Chantal’s products that draw people in, but her personality. Topped with bright purple hair, she is endlessly and effortlessly funny, but also has a strong business mind and a warm heart for the handmade community. Embodying the principals of collaboration over competition, she created the YYC Girl Gang with nine girl friends, and continues to seek out collaborators and friends within the knitting community.

Knit Night runs every Thursday night and sprang out of loneliness and a desire to get in touch with her fellow knitters. When she heard one of her favourite knitters on Instagram was moving to Calgary, she jumped on the opportunity.

“Sheridan was moving to SAIT to do a programme,” remembers Chantal, “I was so excited and was like, ‘I wanna be friends!’ so I took a photo of SAIT from my balcony. And we started going on Thursdays.”

Knit Night has since grown from two people to being so large, Chantal now needs to find a new venue. Seeing so many knitters stop by the Starbucks on 16th Ave has helped Knitatude grow, too, with the development of her own line of knitting kits, adorned with funny (and sometimes dirty) knitting puns.

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“At Knit Night, I’d always have people asking who has scissors, who has a darning needle, and I had this little makeup bag that had everything,” describes Chantal, “So, I had this idea of having inappropriate knitting puns on kits, since knitting is really foul. There are a lot of holes.”

Working with local Alberta silk-screening company Ochre Lea, Chantal cuts and sews each kit by hand, sometimes with the help of friends like Kenzie Conrad, owner of Milk and Honey YYC.

Going forward, Chantal plans on continuing to develop her brand with the knitting community in mind.

“I’d like to start releasing patterns, try to take over the world – no – but to grow the knitting community, because knitting is awesome!”

Be sure to follow Knitatude on Instagram, where you’ll undoubtedly be treated to glorious knits and solidly inappropriate humour in equal measure. It’s almost as amazing as knowing Chantal in real life.

Check out Knitatude on Instagram, Facebook, and Etsy.

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