Meet Michelle: The Designer of the Leopard Print Toque
While some trends come and go, I’m pretty sure that animal print will be chic forever. From shoes, purses, scarves and clothing, it’s hard to deny the popularity of this trend.
When I was developing our 2019 fall/winter collection, I knew that it absolutely had to include an animal print toque. At Tuula Collective, we are ALWAYS proud to feature other knitwear designers, and I was ecstatic when I discovered the Animal Attraction hat pattern by Michelle @barleyandflax. (It was later renamed by us for our collection).
And guess what?!? You guys love it too! Actually, you’ve loved it so much since we launched this toque that I can’t make them fast enough!
So, it’s about time we give proper credit where it’s due. Today I’m welcoming Michelle to the blog so that we can all learn a little bit more about this talented designer from Rhinebeck, New York who created this bestselling design.
Tanya: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your business. How did you get started and how long have you been knitting and crocheting?
Michelle: I’ve been a maker for as long as I can remember and my obsession with yarn started soon after learning how to knit and crochet from my grandmother. She encouraged my creativity and taught me how to focus all of my good intentions into every stitch, so I could pass these well wishes on to anyone who wears something I’ve made. I still create this way, and share these good intentions with everyone who wears my handmade items. For me, knitting has been a source of joy, comfort, solace, and zen throughout my life.
Tanya: How did you come up with the animal print design? Was there a source of inspiration?
Michelle: I love creating cozy accessories filled with chunky cables and lots of texture, and my color palette is always inspired by nature. I believe in supporting the slow fashion, handmade movement, and believe in quality over quantity. I have always tried to create classic pieces and accessories that can be worn year after year, and still look modern and fresh. I usually only make items that I would personally wear or gift, though some pieces are just so fun to create, I make them with the intention and hopes that they will find a person to connect with in the future. I’m also a huge fan of donating my makes all year round, so every item eventually finds someone to love!
Tanya: Do you find your designs are more inspired by things that you like and want to make for yourself? Or requests you receive from others?
Michelle: I’ve had a lifelong obsession with animal prints, and have purchased and created many accessories that feature zebra, cheetah, and of course leopard for myself and my friends, but I’ve always been pleasantly surprised when people were kind enough to compliment a chunky knit, leopard spotted toque I made for myself and had been wearing for many years. Up until this point I had only created a few patterns on Etsy and Ravelry and decided to write this pattern down and hope for the best. Instead or pulling apart my favorite hat, (YIKES!) I started with graph paper -I’m old school with writing down pattern ideas- and a cozy leopard blanket for more inspiration, and after about a bajillion counts and tries, it was ready for testing. I need to thank the wonderful community of friends I have on Instagram, who’ve always supported my efforts and graciously tested the ever-living-daylights out of this hat to be 100% certain it met my crucial requirements: it was well written and easy enough for a beginner to try (colorwork can be scary!), and was cute and looked good on everyone! There’s no point in creating something you or someone else won’t wear, amiright?
I knew I wanted to share this pattern, now referred to as the Animal Attraction Hat, in a big way, so I gave away more than one hundred free patterns, along with the rights to sell the finished items online and at craft fairs. I understand this move is somewhat controversial with the maker community, but I believe you get what you give, and we could all use a little more leopard in our lives! Plus, I had a feeling that this design would resonate with a handful of my chunky hat maker friends, and sometimes you just want to put good out in the world, and hopefully this hat would help them sell more at their craft markets.
Who knew it would have been so successful?! Instead of just a few sales and posts on Instagram, this pattern became a best seller on Etsy, and I have seen new hat posts on social media every day, for months! I couldn’t believe it! I still can’t! I’m so grateful for being able to connect with SOOOO many new maker friends, many of whom I have been in awe of for years, and I’m always inspired by all of the beautiful creations and color combos I see out there! But, most of all, meeting all of these new people who have encouraged and supported me has been the best part!
Want your own Leopard Print Toque? Hop over to our online shop and get one today!
* As an FYI, Michelle gives permission to knitters to sell finished items made from her designs, so all Leopard Print Toques purchased from our online store are handmade in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.