Interview: Kate from A Playful Day and her journey in the online sphere

It’s an exciting time to be part of the independent, creative world. There has been a worldwide resurgence in the appreciation of craft and we’re seeing a growing recognition of the power of collaboration and support within the creative industries. This sense of community and collective momentum was evident in spades at the recent Edinburgh Yarn Festival, where Kate from A Playful Day took a few minutes out to tell us more about her own journey in the online sphere.

Blogging planning in progress. A still life with coffee, iPad, Journal, Yarn and Camera. Image by Kate from A Playful Day.
(c) Kate O’Sullivan, A Playful Day

When and why did you start the “A Playful Day” podcast and blog?

A Playful Day began as a blog in 2010 when I was struggling with my job. I felt suffocated and was ill a lot of the time. I used to commute for hours a day and while I did, I listened to knitting podcasts. At the weekends I devoured blogs and I felt like I wanted to be a part of that world. I began A Playful Day as a reminder to find a playful moment in everyday and it kind of grew from there. People responded to my photography and writing as I documented simple pleasures like curling up with a knitting project or my new favourite soup recipe. The idea of dwelling on life’s little moments is something we all need to remember from time to time I think.

What doors have been opened for you as a result of the “A Playful Day”?

My whole life changed because of A Playful Day! At first, the blog and podcast were something I did alongside a job I desperately wanted to escape from but soon it began to lead me to new spaces. Magazines, designers and yarn companies began to take notice of my writing and the community I was creating. I started freelancing, helping these businesses put their best foot forward online by managing their social media accounts, developing campaign plans or helping with press releases. I didn’t really know what I was doing at first but realised I was developing skills every day that online businesses desperately needed to excel at to stand out. I’m a curious person so I stuck with it to see where it would lead me.

Over the years, the blog and podcast became a place brands wanted to collaborate meaning it began to support my daughter and I financially. APD was a portfolio and I began taking bookings as a photographer, writer and content creator. One day, I travelled to Dorset for an interview and fell head over heels in love with the landscape. When I stumbled across a sweet little thatched cottage, I jumped. Packing my daughter, myself and what possessions I could move in a van, we switched city life for the country. Now I am a regular contributor at Project Calm magazine and am the Brand Marketing Manager for The Fibre Co. All this happened because of a blog that began with a cookie recipe for friends; I am constantly grateful!

Knitting and an iPhone on a distressed wood table. Still life by Kate from A Playful Day.
(c) Kate O’Sullivan, A Playful Day

Have there been any key milestones along the way – when you felt you were taking your online presence to the “next level”? What led to these developments?

Having been doing this online thing for 7 years, I often say that when you start building an online presence, there are milestones in growth. At first, you just share and are amazed people find you. Just putting it out there feels like a big step. Soon you start to realise you might need to find a more strategic way of sharing if you want to grow an audience or community, especially if you’re doing it for business. This is the stage that often leads a lot of people to do more: more tweets, more blog posts, launching a new challenge….. it can get a bit much and burn out isn’t uncommon.

I think for me, the moment I realised I was ‘doing it’ was when I did less, more strategically. I slowed down and looked at what my audience consistently responded to and then I used that to shape what I did. Increasingly, press requests came without any effort on my part- my content was out there and being shared in ways I wasn’t controlling anymore. I looked at my website and thought about what it said to a new visitor. Could people find what they needed? I shared from the heart and I spoke directly to people and then I carefully went about putting myself out there in such an unguarded way. This is a tricky balance and defining my boundaries so I could be myself was a big personal milestone.

Simple coffee and knitting plans by Kate from A Playful Day
(c) Kate O’Sullivan, A Playful Day

2016 was the year everything came together. I was flying to international events, speaking in front of rooms full of creative people and collaborating with some of the most inspiring businesses I know. My work was been shared on so many prestigious platforms that I sometimes have to hide a bit or I get overwhelmed! At the core though, I was a single parent who worked freelance and those things were what I needed for my daughter and I to have the beautiful life we now have here in Dorset. You know you’re doing it right when you’re living your life and your heart sings. If you’re too tired and strung out to enjoy it? It’s time to regroup. I

What can your workshops offer to people who are sharing their creativity online for purely personal reasons?

I’ve called myself a story teller for years. When I write, photograph or shoot a video I start with a simple question, “What is the story here?” For me, chasing a story has led to a complete life change- the possibilities are endless! You can escape into a creative life, or you can heal. You can find yourself or you can explore the idea of a business you didn’t imagine months before. Unleashing that creativity will wrap you in a community that responds to what you are creating. Even if you’re doing it just for fun- how good does owning your identity feel?

A knitter holding an iPad with Ravelry home page on the screen with a cup of tea in the background. Image by Kate from A Playful Day
(c) Kate O’Sullivan, A Playful Day

You have written recently about the importance of slowing down and taking a step back sometimes. How do you think people can approach their online presence more thoughtfully?

The online world gets a lot of stick for being fake, too fast, too critical, too much. I am a strong believer that you can find your place online and use it to nurture your sense of self and your creativity. You can try on an identity that you might not be brave enough to in your everyday life. Women aren’t restricted by childcare or glass ceilings online. Yes, these issues exist but there are so many women forging paths online and they’re doing it as they hold hands with others around them. You can choose the path you want online because the possibilities really are endless. I’ve made friends for life thanks to our worlds colliding online. Without this creative world, I’d be a much less developed person, I’m sure of it.

Would you like to know more? You can catch Kate here at This is Knit over the weekend of the 13th and 14th of May, as she teaches a series of workshops on writing, smart phone photography & social media skills.  Pop on over to those links and book now – this creative community is going great places, and we’re going there together!

An Interview with Debbie Bliss

We were so thrilled to have Debbie Bliss join us recently for our 10 year anniversary party at This Is Knit. We got to hear about her creative process, her most recent yarns and patterns, and what we can expect in the coming new year. She was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions in this interview, for all of those who weren’t at the event, and want to know a bit more about this icon in the craft community!

Debbie Bliss and Louisa Harding Special Guests at the This is Knit 10th Anniversary Party

Firstly, we’d like to thank you so much for taking a few moments for an interview with us, it was such a pleasure hearing you speak at the This Is Knit Anniversary party!

It was an absolute pleasure to be invited to be part of your celebrations!

Q: What would you say is your main source of inspiration when designing a new yarn?

A: Normally I will see a yarn at Pitti Filatti, the trade show in Florence that I go to twice a year . If it is already perfect as with Lhasa, it will go into the ranges as it is but I may feel after swatching that a yarn can be improved by altering the blend. Or sometimes I will be approached by a company such as Laxtons, who introduced me to Falkland Aran, a beautiful pure wool from the Falkland Islands which is spun in Yorkshire.

Debbie Bliss holding her Falkland Aran Mood Board at the This is Knit 10th Anniversary Party

Q: Does your creative process often start with colourway or fibre choices?

A: When it is a book of designs rather single leaflets I will be looking at a collection that includes a variety of styles, different skill levels and a harmonizing colour palette.

Q: How much does modern fashion trends influence your design choices? Do you look more to current trends, or to the past for inspiration?

A: I love to research trends and keep up to date with current and future looks. This doesn’t mean that I will follow slavishly what is appearing on the catwalks but it interests me to see what shapes or textures are coming through and how I may want to interpret this in my own collections.

Q: Currently, what is your favourite trend in knitwear?

A: I love the way that ready to wear knits have adopted a very strong hand knit look, with textures traveling in different directions, vertical and horizontal cables for example, or a patchwork of texture.

Q: Your favourite fibre to work with?

A: At the moment I am really enjoying working with Lhasa, a cashmere/yak blend which is part of my Pure Bliss Collection. It is incredibly soft but still has great stitch definition.

Mixed Shades of Debbie Bliss Lhasa Yarn

Q: What would you say is the biggest challenge you face when designing a new pattern?

A: I think it is trying to balance and incorporate all the elements that I think are important, style combined with wearability, creating silhouettes that are flattering to women, thinking about how the yarn behaves. All of this and then making sure that the design/pattern still works in all the sizes!

Q: What is your creative process for choosing colourways for a new yarn?

A: When it is a new yarn I am always lead by the “story” it tells me, a silk blend may call for bright vivid colours, or a soft cotton ice cream pastels.

Q: Which pattern would you say is an essential knit for babies/children?

A: A simple, classic cardigan.

Q: What is your earliest memory of knitting, and did you feel in that moment that you had found your calling?

A: My mother knitting me a school cardigan in a virulent bright blue. It came out before the start of every Autumn term and went straight back in the bag again after a few knitting sessions.

Q: If you were stranded on an island and you could only choose one yarn to take with you, which would it be? (If weather weren’t a factor)

A: My new Spring 2017 yarn Sita.

Q: If your dogs could speak, what would they divulge about your yarn stash and/or knitting habits?

A: They wouldn’t, they are very loyal!

Q: Currently, what is your favourite TV show to knit to?

A: The Vikings ( Netflix)

Q: And finally: do you have any hints as to what we can expect from Debbie Bliss in the coming year?

A: New downloadable toy patterns are launched this week in time for Xmas! A beautiful mako cotton/silk Spring yarn will arrive in shops in January and if knitters follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter I will keep them up to date on all our news!

Many thanks again to the lovely Debbie!