CAROL Feller felt ridiculous telling her UCC lecturer that she couldn’t go ahead with her proposed PhD thesis, combining engineering and architecture, because she was going knitting instead.
The knitwear designer, teacher, author and yarn producer had no idea where she was heading. All Carol knew was, if it involved knitting needles and wool, it would be the right path for her.
“I couldn’t not do it, knitting was just an obsession,” Carol told me during a recent visit to her Stolen Stitches Studio in the Marina Commercial Park on Centre Park Road.
When she was a child, Carol had taken to knitting like a duck to water. Her aunt, who had a knitting shop in Dublin, kept Carol supplied with wool for her dolls’ cardigans.
As she grew up, Carol put her knitting aside and opted to train as a structural engineer. However her passion for knitting was rekindled following the birth of her fourth son.
Quite how deep that passion ran only became apparent to Carol as time moved on.
She had given serious thought to the possibility of studying for a PhD but Carol’s gut instinct told her to opt instead for her vague knitting project.
Bit by bit, she started to build up an online knitting business from her home near Innishannon. She somehow managed to make time in between ferrying her four boys to school and gymnastics while also keeping everyone, including the family dog and two cats, fed and watered.
“My business name (Stolen Stitches) came from the idea of stolen time as a mother. Minutes spent knitting had to be stolen from around all the busy work,” says Carol.
All her artistic and mathematical skills were called into play when it came to designing and writing her own knitting patterns. Once she started to have her patterns accepted by online U.S magazines, Carol pored over the corrections made by the technical editors. Little by little she honed her skills as a pattern writer.
Carol has gone on to publish almost 270 patterns and seven books. Contemporary Irish Knits was published by Wiley and Short Row Knits by Pottercraft and the rest were self-published.
Carol has a great ally in her American-born husband, Joseph, who takes all the high quality photographs for her books, patterns and website. Joseph loves coming up with names for the yarn and patterns that Carol designs.
“I’m very literal. I will say this colour yarn or pattern reminds me of something and Joseph goes off on a train of thought and suggests words until I say ‘That’s it, that’s what we’re going to use’,” says Carol.
Joseph, who is Head of Business Information Systems (BIS) in UCC, comes from a very creative family. Both his mother and his sister are artists and Carol feels that her husband’s involvement with her knitting business is a great creative outlet for him, as well as a source of much fun.
That fun is no doubt shared by knitters all over the world, who pick up Carol’s ‘ Nua’ yarn line in up to 40 yarn shops all over the world or who order it online.
Not alone is the yarn a lovely mix of merino wool, yak and linen, but the beautifully rustic colours have really interesting names like ‘Angry Monkey’, ‘Hatter’s Teal Party ‘ and ‘Frog on the Wall’.
The yarn is quite lightweight, which means that the finished garment can be worn nearly all year round. Carol always strives to provide knitters with yarn that is enjoyable to work with, patterns that are interesting to knit, and finished garments that fit and hang well and don’t lose their shape.
Now that her youngest son is in secondary school, she decided it was time to move into a proper business premises. Stolen Stitches is located upstairs in the John Dunlop building at the Marina Commercial Park, with plenty of space to hold classes and workshops.
Carol is very fond of the wall size poster at the entrance to the building featuring Dunlop workers from the 1930s, and the industrial lift that is still in operation.
She will hold an Open Studio at her premises on the last Saturday of every month. Knitters are welcome to drop in for coffee and advice about getting started or sorting out difficulties in finishing off a garment.
Carol is always happy to hold classes for individuals and groups who would like to learn new knitting techniques.
In addition to travelling and teaching worldwide, she also hosts knitting retreats and workshops in Cork and Kerry for knitters from America and Europe in conjunction with KnittingTours.com.
Several times a year Carol puts together online sweater knit-alongs (KALs) which provides knitters with the tools they need to produce a well-crafted finished garment.
“I release the pattern in steps, complete with tips and videos. If someone feels like ripping up their garment, they’ll have 20 other knitters cheering them on and encouraging them to keep going,” Carol points out.
“I get as much enjoyment in seeing people achieve their knitting target and making good friends along the way as I do in selling the patterns. The community and the knitters will always be the central part of what I do,” says Carol.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
See stolenstitches.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 087 979 1289. Stolen Stitches is based at 10 Dunlop Building, Marina Commercial Park, Centre Park Road, Cork.