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Knitting with Tina and Priya – The Asian Sewist Collective Podcast
Patterns & Designers mentioned
Wavelength Hat by Tina Tse Knits
Kittenish Tank by Tina Tse Knits
Frequency Sweater by Tina Tse Knits
Gramma’s Medley Sweater by Tina Tse Knits
Brush of Color Tank by Tina Tse Knits
Colorful Keepsake Shawl by Tina Tse Knits
Priya: The short story is I slid into her DMs.
Ada: Welcome to season four of the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. This is your co-host Ada checking in because it’s been a while. It’s been a few months since our last episode was released. And during that time, our team has been hard at work putting together new fundraisers – go check out our new label collection, and our stickers, as well as working on new episodes, recording with new guests and researching new topics, and most importantly, taking time to rest and recharge throughout our recording season but also over the holidays.
During this time, we’ve been so lucky to meet new guests like the ones we have on today. So we’re going to skip the sewing chat this week and get back to that next week and introduce you to our guests, Tina and Priya who will be talking to us all about knitting this week. And in the few weeks that have passed since we recorded this episode, they’ve actually decided to go ahead and start their own podcast. So we look forward to supporting them and their new show called Between Two Skeins. Without further ado, here is our interview with Tina and Priya.
Nicole: All right, we are so excited to have our guests in today. Could you please introduce yourself to our listeners?
Tina: I’m Tina Tsay, I go by she/her. I am American Born Chinese. And I am a knitwear designer.
Priya: Oh, my turn. So I’m Priyanka, and I’m Indian. I moved here 2016 for work, and my pronouns are she/her as well.
Ada: Awesome. Welcome. And thank you for being here today. Can you both share a little bit more about your identity? Like what are you passionate about your identity? And why are you passionate or not about sharing your experiences as Asians and Asian Americans.
Tina: So I strongly identify with my Chinese heritage. Even though I am American born, I was raised in a household that only spoke Cantonese. So English was not my first language. A lot of my presence on social media is to advocate and resonate with fellow Asian Americans and trying to find them around me as well.
Priya: And you know, I’m from India, I’m Indian, I was born in India, I moved for school and work and things like that, and ended up here. So I’m very much an immigrant or, you know, someone who’s still not quite in one place yet. And so, so my identity is kind of two things. You know, when I talk to my parents, I have like a super Indian accent. And then when I talk to my American friends here, I sound like this. I started sharing my stuff on Instagram, because I was just looking for people like me, you know, and friends, who would have shared experiences or shared interests. And I think when it’s hard to like, see yourself in the world, it’s really important to try to find yourself with people who are like you and the kind of people you want to be around. So that’s kind of why I started doing it.
Nicole: One of the interesting things that is a common thread throughout nearly all the guests that are on our show are touching on that bicultural identity, whether you were not born in the United States, but or wherever and currently live there in North America, or a different country from where you were born. Or if you were born, you know, like in the United States or in North America, but are bringing your family’s heritage and culture with you. So I always love hearing the experience that other folks have had because I have that too. I mean, I didn’t speak Tagalog when I was growing up, but I was American born. But I have a complicated relationship with my Philippine identity. And it’s the older I get, the more I’m like, I don’t really care what anyone else thinks I’m Filipino enough, you know, and I want to learn what I want to learn. But it’s really cool to hear your experiences. And when we hopped on the call before we started recording, we had a great time. You two have clearly been friends. I don’t know for how long but you know, how did you become friends like when did you meet? And then did you meet them the knitting community?
Tina: We did. We did. Yeah. So do you want to tell?
Priya: The short story is I slid into her DMs. I think you were really starting to become one of the more prominent knitters in the community and designers at the time. And I think it was like an intro post and you said something about yourself, which was you were in Michigan and Detroit and I was like one of 500 people in her comments being like, I live in Detroit, let’s hang out. And yeah, she like replied to my DM and she was like, “Yeah, of course, when and where?” You know, and I was at the gym and I think I like swiped away from it to get back to my music because I was like trying to get off the treadmill and not die. And it auto sent her a response that said “on my way!” She didn’t freak out. And the rest is history. We met for coffee and yeah, we’re friends now.
Tina: That was about three years ago now. 2019 Yeah, it was three years ago. And we were already knitting.
Priya: Okay, so you were a designer by then already. And I was I think I was a novice knitter at the time, I still probably just had made one sweater and it wasn’t very good.
Ada: Can we go back to how you started knitting? Because it sounds like you maybe you started at different times? Obviously, you started separately. So when did you start? And do you now currently knit together? Because oh my gosh, for anybody listening, they literally just held up WIPs.
Tina: You know, I’m, we’re knitting the same thing. We’re knitting one of my hat designs that’s gonna be coming out soon. So yes, we do knit together for sure.
Ada: Do you do knit together now? I guess I’m curious, like, how did you each come to knitting? And how did you figure out it was something you wanted to pursue, and I’m just gonna give you the context of I have tried to start knitting about 50 bajillion times. And every time I get very frustrated, and very tired of counting, I give up. And I give my yarn and my needles away to a friend.
Nicole: There’s counting, you have to count?
Tina: There’s counting.
Nicole: Oh, my gosh, I would like I could. It’s so hard. It’s difficult to count. I find I’m like, I always lose track. And there’s no way. But again, maybe you could convert me.
Priya: Before you answer the question, can I just say that happens even if you have been knitting for 20 years? Oh, my God there are days when like the same, like basic hat, you gotta cast on and you can’t cast on 20 stitches. You’re counting and I’m like, what is happening? Do I just give up and walk away? It’s one of those things, but I’ll let you answer the question.
Tina: I started getting because my grandmother taught me when I was, I think around seven or eight. We’re doing like basic scarves, just one type of stitch. And she just give me yarn and just tell me to I mean, she didn’t I don’t even remember getting any instructions, you just say cast on X amount, and just keep knitting until you stop.
So yeah, my grandmother taught myself and my sister how to knit. And then after a while, I didn’t touch knitting for a good chunk of my teenage years. And then I went to college for fashion design. I’m originally from New York, from Queens, and I moved to New Jersey for high school. So I wasn’t living with my grandmother anymore when we were in New Jersey. So I didn’t have a lot of knitting time. I guess it’s not like she knit a lot. But I think she would have been more influential in that part, that I moved back to Queens to live with her when I went to college in New York, at FIT.
And one semester, we had a knitting class. So it’s a like manual machine knitting class. And then also a series of like, textile courses to learn about different kinds of fabrics, weaves knits, interface nonwovens. And I struggled with a sketching class that told me I wasn’t allowed to create my own fabric. Because I was creating and drawing my own types of fabrics rather than just going to a fabric swatch place and just snipping off something that already exist. So I got really pissed that my professor told me, I wasn’t allowed to create something. And I was like, isn’t that the whole point of designing is like creating something that doesn’t?
Ada: Isn’t that the whole point of that school?
Tina: Yeah, I was very confused, for sure. And I was maybe I didn’t understand him. But all I heard was you cannot do something. So when I got into this knitting class, I realized that knitting was basically creating your own fabric from scratch everything from the color you choose to the fiber type, the yarn construction, all of that from the beginning gets built into a fabric. So I got sucked back into knitting.
And I graduated with a knitwear specialization and picked up hand knitting again. And ever since then, I haven’t stopped.
Ada: So when you’re talking about manual machine knitting class, you mean like the thing that kind of looks like a piano keyboard? Or like, were you okay, because we had someone on two seasons ago, Joy Mao, who is like a designer in Brooklyn and she thrifted one of the I think she thrifted it, but I’ve seen them around, and she makes hats out of those where she makes her little like, punch card pattern. Where she inserts it into the machine and then kind of plays it.
Tina: Yep. So that Yeah, I actually follow Joy Mao’s work. I love it. I love her work. Love her work. Yeah, she’s amazing.
Priya: I thought you were gonna say you have one.
Tina: I have two. Yes.
Ada: Yes. Okay, so for anyone who wasn’t converted into buying one of these machines from Joy’s episode, you should. Apparently you should have two.
Nicole: I was a little bit confused by when you said manual machine knitting. I’m like hand manual or is it machine? Is there like a non manual machine knitter?
Tina: Yes. Yes, there are computerized industrial knitting machines, which is actually what I am doing now as my career. That’s another field of its own.
Nicole: Oh, okay. That was really cool. That’s really cool.
Ada: We’ll get to that. I’m curious. Wait. So that’s how Tina got into knitting. Like when you were seven? Priya, you were a novice and 2019. When did you start knitting?
Priya: I was a late bloomer. I started very late. I was, I think 2012 I guess would be the year I can say maybe the first time I ever tried. I was in grad school. And it was like, in the middle of nowhere. I was very bored between classes. And you know, students are broke as hell. I wanted a cheap hobby to get into and my roommate shout out Rasha who’s probably never going to hear this.
She was like, I can teach you how to knit and I was like, Indians know how to knit? What are you talking about? It’s not even cold there. It was like, “Yes, we do, actually”. And I was like, okay, teach me and I just like, got I hyper fixated, I got obsessed with it. And you know, I started with like scarves and hats like everybody else. And I took a little longer to ramp up into like garments, or it still made me nervous. So I would do a lot of like little accessories and do gloves and all of that. And then just when I started getting into like the sweaters and discovered like, there was this whole Instagram, you know, community where there’s designers and other knitters who also share their work and just so much more than you could even imagine for it. Like there’s then there’s the yarn, the dyeing the yarn, dyers, and so much through it. So, yeah, I started way late
Tina: It’s never too late.
Priya: Yeah, that’s true. That’s a good point.
I mean, in India, I haven’t really come across, and I, I’ve haven’t lived there, by the way now for over 10 years. any meaningful stretch, like besides maybe a week or two of vacation, so things may have changed since my day in India, but I think crochet, at least where I was in India in the South was bigger, because you could use more cotton and more like plant fibers. And it’s very hot, you know, where I live. So breathability is like very important. But I know sewing is like huge in India. So knitting, I think maybe some of the colder places like in the north, where I’m not from, and I haven’t really lived either. They do knit quite a lot. And it’s very common. But I just wasn’t aware of it.
And interestingly enough, I’ve met so many Indian knitters on Instagram here who have like, they’ve moved here to the US or somewhere in Europe, and that’s whether in school, or when they started working. It’s a hobby you can pick up when you have a lot of time. And a lot of like solitude, you know, because it gives you something to be busy with. And I think when you move countries, that’s something you end up experiencing a lot of, I don’t want to call it loneliness, but it is, I guess, in a way, there’s not a lot of there’s barriers to entry to a lot of things to do. But a craft like this is very easy to kind of immerse yourself and learn to be with you’re just by yourself. It helps with homesickness and things like that. I feel I met a lot of Indian knitters through Instagram here. And so my, you know, Indians even it is it was definitely a very ignorant statement by myself.
Ada: I literally Googled, because so my parents came from Taiwan, and they had me and my sister here and so I googled like Taiwan knitting just now I know the first like 10 things are like, how to buy a knitting machine, which we’ve covered because manufacturing capital, you know, machinery and stuff, very proud. But then there were like two articles from almost a decade ago that are like, here’s a yarn shop in Taipei like that. There are three of them.
I was like, Well, I didn’t know that. Maybe next time I go back, I should check those out.
Nicole: Yeah, you have me wanting to Google Filipino knitting as well, because I mean, we have all of our own assumptions about our own cultures. And so I would have thought the same thing that’s really hot in the Philippines who’s gonna be like, making hats and stuff. But I’m curious, I just Googled Filipino knitting. And I saw someone about like, I already saw a headline about like, a knitting tradition and a particular ethnic communities. I was like, I will read that. And I love how, you know, Priya, with with your moving and your business and how you picked up knitting that, you know, the community itself was away, like Instagram was a way for you to connect with other people.
You mentioned, it was a solid sort of a solitary activity and something that keeps you busy and grounded alone. But you two are clearly great friends. So what would you want people to know about making friends and within the, like, knitting community, or any common hobby that people might have?
Tina: Well, I have a similar story about moving, I didn’t move countries, but I did move states and moving from New York City to Michigan, in the suburbs of Michigan was a very big change.
Priya: And that is like moving to another country, honestly.
Tina: I mean, yeah, like, think about it, like, from seeing Asians and Asian Americans all over the place to just me. And it was definitely a culture shock. And I also moved to Michigan when a certain someone was elected president. And so being in Michigan was a little scary, because I wasn’t sure who I could trust who I could be safe around. Especially constantly seeing this person’s banners and flags everywhere, in front of people’s homes, they proudly put them in front of their homes and their trucks and all that. And so I definitely knew who to stay away from, which is great, because they make it very, very clear where their morals and their stance is. So I like to spend a lot of time at home, because I didn’t know how to make friends in Michigan, especially because I didn’t know there was any Asian people around me.
So being online and finding the knitting community at that time was perfect for me too. And that’s how we met. But in terms of finding, I think, because knitting is such a time consuming hobby, I think you get a sense that other people who do the craft has the same kind of affinity for slowing down appreciating handmade things appreciating craftsmanship general so in terms of finding other people that have the same type of not personality, but traits of some sort. Yeah, the vibe, same vibe.
Tina: Cottage core! Knitting core!
Priya: But if you come at it from that aspect of wanting to build, almost like a your own little community that way, it makes it a lot less stressful. And it makes it a lot less challenging and difficult.
Nicole: So what I’m hearing is keep sliding into those DMs. Yes. I mean, that’s how we became friends. That’s true. Oh, that’s, this is a fairly serious.
I appreciate the perspective that like, I think some people think, online friends are not real friends. Like I don’t know, I’ve never met Ada in person. And we are I would say, pretty close, like, you know, and the the distance and the ability to sort of disconnect, like, enhances that. Because it’s like, not wasted time together. I think that’s a really important thing to remember about making friends online. But you’re like, I literally have never met Ada. So cool. But you two are just like sitting next to each other.
Ada: And I’m kind of jealous that you get to live in the same place.
Nicole: I love that.
Tina: It’s funny, because we were actually in New York at the same time. And did not know of each other. And then I visited Chicago when she was there living there. And we also didn’t meet but then we finally met when we first because you moved here in 2016. Wow. And I also moved here in 2016. But we didn’t meet until 2019. So it’s like stars have to align. We were like slowly moving to the right. Yeah, you know, position.
Ada: I mean, it’s kind of funny, because I had a very similar experience to both of you, because I’ve moved a lot in my life, I went to two high schools and two colleges. And I mean, all of those were in New Jersey and New York, and then I moved across the country. And then when I moved to Colorado at the beginning of the pandemic, like we knew it was happening. And my partner is also Asian. And so we knew it was happening, we knew what we were signing up for. And then like being here, especially during lockdown, I was like, I am the only we’re the only ones, looking like literally looking around. And you know, it didn’t help that I have extended family here. And my mom has been here for a few years. But that just let me know where the supermarkets were. Not anything about which restaurants to go to, or like where to go. Turns out, they’re all on the other side of the city. And they all require driving. But in since you know people have been going out more in the last year or so. I’ve met a lot of other Asian Americans who have also moved in the last two years, who are also kind of like, we’re like all looking around, trying to befriend each other. But so far, none of them also sew, I’m just trying to talk them into it.
We all kind of share similar creative hobbies so we can go shopping together. But we aren’t in the same sections of the creative reuse store anything. I think it’s like really interesting when you think about your identity and where you have lived before and where you’re going to and then trying to make a community, online or in person because like, for example, people have connected me to their friends who have moved here and we’ve texted, but we still have not met for various reasons. I appreciate both of you sharing because that resonates with me. And I’m sure it’ll resonate with other folks listening. I am also curious, I know we’ve talked about like how you both got into knitting respectively. Now you knit together in person. Tina, you’re also a knitting pattern designer, how did you start designing knitting patterns? And how do you kind of approach running your design business?
Tina: It also happened because I moved to Michigan and I had all this time. And no friends and going online and I started when I found the knitting community on Instagram. I was sharing what I was knitting and designing because coming from a knitwear design background, I was like, I can’t stop designing. Even though my job wasn’t fully like about apparel, and sweaters. I was like, I’m still just gonna keep making stuff. So I started sharing a lot of what I was knitting online, and people kept asking, “Do you have a pattern for this?” And at the time, I was like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What’s a pattern? And why do I have to make one?” So I found where everyone else was going for these patterns and looking up hashtags on Instagram. And so I finally found out “Oh, it’s just like written series of instructions on how to make the thing that you’re making.”
But I also just designed on the needles like I didn’t write any notes I didn’t, there’s just sketches and some numbers here and there and then comes off the needles. In my head, just artists, yeah, it just comes off out of my brain. So I had to figure out how exactly to translate what was a 3d item in my brain onto words, basically. And I’m not the greatest at grammar in English and just English in general.
Priya: You’re fine.
Tina: No. Also not a huge math person either going to fashion school, I did grading, and different sizes of clothing and such, but not having to mathematically formulate the amount of stitches to cast on to X, with and X length and all that good stuff. So that also was a learning curve for me. And I thought, if people were actually interested in what I was getting, maybe it’s okay, if I dove into this a little bit. So I released my first knitting pattern, it was a cowl with a kind of a color fade in it, it was in 2017. And it was called a gradient, fade cowl. And I was like, “Okay, if this works out, if people actually buy this and like this”, that maybe there is some validity, and me spending more time on it. And so after that, I came up with a shawl pattern, and then people were actually liking it.
So yeah, I just had a whole series of stuff. And at the time, I didn’t really know anything about owning a small business at all. So for a while, I was just selling my stuff off of Ravelry, which is what everyone seems to go to. Now I have my own website. But after learning how to do all of that, I was selling everything off of just my name, Tina Tsay because I didn’t really know anything about small businesses. And now then I started hearing people saying that you have to go registered and get an LLC. So I did all that now.
I’ve had my own website for two years now. And I sell all my patterns off of my website on the side, I still have a full time job. There is just so much in owning a small business and doing it yourself. Learning how to build a website, I use Squarespace, but just getting all that ready. And launching it was just another took a whole like six months just to finish that part before even like putting it out into the world. sounds terrifying. And then I realized that if you stay with that format, if you treat it to a different format, you have to do it all over again. And I’m like, “Okay, I can’t I’m just gonna stick with the same format until I get tired of it.” I’m not, I don’t have to make a new thing every season or collection or whatever. Yeah, so for me, it is a creative outlet to do patterns. I would love to design knitwear full time one day.
Priya: She’s gonna have her own, like, brand like fashion line. Tina Tsay!
Tina: I would love to. Let’s write that in the stars.
Priya: The runways in 2023.
Ada: I was like it’s not manifesting thing like if you say it
Nicole: Put it out there. Yeah.
Priya: All right you heard it here first. Okay, broke the news on Asian Sewist Collective.
Tina: I did write down somewhere that by age 35, which will be in like three years, two or three years, to have my own knitwear collection or knitwear brand or whatever. So I’m trying, I’m trying. But I wanted to expand it into more than just like hand knitting patterns. People who know how to hand knit, it is not a large amount of people. It’s not. There’s a lot of people who don’t knit so I want to be able to provide my knitwear designs to people too, who don’t knit, so finished garments but hand knitting a finished garment takes forever. And so yeah, with my background in manual, machine knitting and also being able to computerize industrial knitting machines, kind of utilizing all of that in the future to build my business. That sounds really cool. And Priya, I love how you’re there just being her hype person right now.
Priya: She’s my favorite. I do wear multiple I wear a couple hats in the Tina Tse machine, entourage. Hype person. Uber driver sometimes.
Tina: My chauffeur!
Priya: Sometimes I’m also like a planted like question asker when she does like panels. Like, “I have a question Tina, how would you, can you show us how to wear the most beautiful shawl you designed?” and get it rolling you know a little bit.
Tina: She does it without me asking. That’s why she’s the best person to have in your corner. You’re the best. We’re good.
Priya: Do you want to show them your pattern and try to is this a good time?
Nicole: Yeah, I was actually gonna ask you, Priya, before we started recording you show you had like you grabbed a stack of stuff. And are those Tina’s designs and I want you to show them to us. So and you’ll definitely need to describe it because this is an audio medium. But we are recording video in one day it will get up on our YouTube. But I do want to ask you Priya, like how are you involved in Tina’s work? So we know your her hype person, like are you involved like in her in her work directly or just not just anything that you do is clearly very impactful, which you two are just amazing.
Priya: Oh, I’m also a test knitter sometimes Yeah, among one and a group is, so I’m not the only one doing all of them.
Tina: I was going to something else that you do for me, shoot.
Priya: Sometimes I proofread. I name things, naming, naming.
Tina: She’s so much better at names and so much better.
Priya: I think we come up with them together. Wavelength was a team effort. Remember, because we were like we’re always on the same. And then we went wavelength.
Tina: So that’s what she’s wearing. The wavelength sweater.
Nicole: Oh, cool.
Priya: Top down. Circular yoke sweater. In DK, which is like a light worsted, medium weight yarn. It’s gray. Like a gray purple main color. And then it has this motif that looks like audio frequency waves. Yeah. Yeah.
Ada: Oh my god. It’s like you knew you were going to be on a podcast today.
Priya: It’s like I knew I was gonna be on a podcast today. And that the contrast of the wavelengths are in like a dark purple. And there’s a matching hat, which we’re both wearing.
Tina: She knit both of these, I’m not wearing any of my designs for some reason! But I don’t have to ’cause Priya’s got it all figured out for me. She has it all.
Well let’s not tell them about how I rolled up to my own house after you showed up. I was somehow prepared.
Nicole: You just told everyone. But it’s ok.
Ada: Wait, can I ask the sweater? The Wavelength sweater. Priya kind of stood up. Is it cropped? Is it all the way to the hip?
Priya: It’s a little cropped on me. I don’t know if, yep, sort of. So all right. I did a cropped but I think lots of people did full length and they would have one more repeat of this one or something like this one. One more repeat of the motif. It’s also customizable. She had like charts to put words on instead of just bars. You know that was meaningful to yourself.
So yeah, the pattern has different letters you can knit out and it comes in the pattern comes with the crop length instructions and full length instructions.
Ada: Hey, podcast listeners, looking for a way to support the Asian Sewist Collective? Well, we have a great way for you to do that now. And we are excited to announce our first set of merch – we’ve launched a limited edition set of woven labels on our Ko-Fi page. So Ko-fi.com/asiansewistcollective, and you can get a pack of five woven labels custom designed by our very own producer Mariko with some cute sayings from seasons one through three like “this was a panic sew”, “forgot to prewash” or “made with fabric purchased while traveling”. And they all have really cute designs on them that you should definitely go check out on our Instagram and on our Ko-Fi page to get your very own set of five labels. You will be supporting the podcast and helping us bring you new content and new guests week after week. So head to ko-fi.com/asiansewistcollective.
Nicole: So what motivated you to want to include that type of personalization like it sounds like the way that you describe it was like it’s something intimate and special. Like why did you like what made you think about including that as part of your design.
Tina: I like my patterns to be as versatile as possible because we do spend so much time on the craft and in making garments that if it didn’t mean something to you, it kind of felt like a waste of time. For me personally as a knitter. And when I was designing this pattern, I was going through like a rough, depressive, depression and anxiety, I was going to therapy for the first time with my current therapist. And I was just going through a rough time with struggling with a full time job and whether or not I need a side hustle.
How hard do I need to work on this? Do I need to do this? Is this worth doing all that kind of stuff? And so I actually, my sample of my wavelength has the words human on the cuff. Just to kind of remind myself not to be a robot sometimes. And that I don’t need to be as well like capitalism and all that fun stuff. That ruins humanity kind of forces us to forget about being human. It has very special meaning for me. They’re just a little little gentle reminder to myself not to be cold hearted or not to let the world let me be cold hearted.
Priya: I’ve literally I was gonna say your next one. She said Capricorn letters. Such Capricorn thing to say like do I need a side hustle? What actually I do, but do I need to work as much on the side as
Nicole: So that is super cute. And which leads me to like a question because the pink and the green is making me think of summer, which definitely isn’t in any of the locations we are in. So do you knit for summery tanks? This is just me being really ignorant about knitting. I’m like, you could knit a t-shirt like that. But in a lighter substrate, right. That’s the right word. Yarn. Fiber. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Fiber. So Priya, is that like, a summery top? Or was it intended to be? Oh, cool.
Priya: Yeah, it was a summer project. Yeah, it was intended for summer.
Tina: A lot of my testers were actually talking about wearing it over like a button up kind of like a vest. Yeah, rather than a tank top. So kind of have multi purposes. Yeah, I personally, don’t design for a season because I kind of wear my knits all year round, like either under stuff. Of course, sweaters are hard, but to wear in the summer, but like a cool summer evening, you could pull out a cardigan that you might have intended for winter but can still use in the summertime.
Priya: And I think also like real wool has a lot more breathability than people think. So if it’s very minimally processed, you can wear like a lighter wool garment, even in the summer and not overheat and stuff. But also you do you do have a summer and I’m actually sitting with it, right? It’s a tank top and it’s in cotton. Just this.
Nicole: A cotton yarn.
Priya: Yeah, this is a cotton test knot. This is a cotton tank that she designed. Let’s see it’s got like a little stripe detail on this.
Nicole: What’s that one called?
Tina: Brush of color tank.
Nicole: See you’re really like broadening my horizons about knitting. And this is like sewing as well. Like, this is why you get out and talk to people you think it’s one thing and then it could be so many more things.
Ada: And it’s in this lovely like, not quite bubblegum pink, but like bright, light pink, that gives very warm vibes.
Priya: A lot of my stuff is gonna be pink. It’s my favorite color. You’re gonna see a lot of pink in this. Although as I say that my my grandma’s garden, Granny’s garden.
Tina: The next design, so I named this without consulting Priya
Nicole: How dare you!
Tina: And I know, I know, I made a huge mistake. So it’s called the grandma’s medley. Yeah, it’s to honor my grandmother who passed away when I was designing this and tell Priya, what the name was this of this is I think you were texting me about it. And you accidentally said something else.
Priya: I hadn’t looked at it in a minute like the pattern name and you were just testing knitting it right? Yeah. And I was like, I’m working on Granny’s garden.
Tina: And then I freaked out, like I was like “Granny’s garden!?” That’s perfect why did I name it this!
Priya: The next one now we have a series! This is like a, I think you meant for, it’s originally a pullover I once again scribbled outside the lines and made it a cardigan with buttons and it’s like patchwork with buttons. Kind of sewing-like.
Nicole: So Tina, what what about this pattern was like the homage to your grandmother, like, tell me about what you how you’re feeling like what were your thinking about when you created it.
Tina: So I got into fashion design, because my grandmother worked at a sweatshop in New York City when they still existed. And she was the one who brought me into a lot of making stuff, she would have little like metal jewelry, things that she had to do, like, she got paid like per price or per piece. She would bring home work on that. And so I’ve always grown up around a lot of crafting stuff. And because she taught me how to, she didn’t teach me how to sew, but I was around sewing a lot. And the patchworking type stuff is something that I’ve always loved. Because growing up, I learned not to waste anything. And just being able to use up scrap is something that always fascinates me. So combining sewing Patchwork, and not wasting anything all comes from kind of my background and growing up with immigrant grandparents and parents. So I wanted to imitate kind of like patchwork in a knitting pattern because I hate seaming.
I just I just hate seaming, even for sewing patterns. I don’t do seams, I always do things in one piece the best as I can. And so I wanted to create something that looked like patchwork, but didn’t have to do all the work of the seaming stuff. So I played with all different kinds of slip stitches and striping and color placement to kind of imitate patchwork, as a funeral does in the caption for one of my posts on this somewhere that is kind of like piecing my life back together after losing my grandmother. So kind of a lot of processing my grief and processing the life My grandmother had and how that influenced my life and where I am and all of that good stuff. I’m glad I’m not PMSing because I’d totally be crying right now.
Nicole: Hey crying is totally cool.
Tina: But I’m a Capricorn so I don’t cry.
Nicole: That explains it, my mom’s a Capricorn and she never cries.
Priya: I will cry instead of everything. I’m like a commercial. It was like the dog. You know, I’m crying. Yeah. I did want to say to that that’s a hallmark of a lot of your patterns are very scrappy. You have quite a few like, even the one that kind of maybe was your first maybe what you would call like a viral knitting pattern is home sweet home, right?
Tina: Oh, yes.
Priya: Yeah, formula, which is you have it?
Tina: I do. Oh my god. Yeah. This is my original home sweet home kind of cardigan coat.
Nicole: Whoa, that’s cool.
Tina: And it’s just the most basic knitting stitch that everyone starts out with
Tina: Garter stitch and just knitting it with increases and decreases, making different shapes and joining them as your knitting instead of seaming after, because I hate seaming, and I there’s no way I was gonna seam all this together, and I don’t even believe in ends, there’s still plenty of ends on the inside, which is fine because I’m the one wearing it.
But yeah, well thank you for reminding me. I’m totally very welcome.
Ada: For anyone listening and not watching on YouTube, it is like a lot of different shapes of different sizes and colors kind of joined together in this beautiful motif.
Priya: Yeah, it’s like patchwork, and I can’t see the threads from here and you’re the one wearing it.
Ada: I am curious, because we know from your pattern designs, Tina, that you also donate to different organizations and mutual aid groups, can you tell us more about your decision to kind of work that into your business?
Tina: I think I’m really fortunate and privileged to be doing this as a side hustle rather than my full time job. And with that, I think comes with giving back to the community because basically the community is what got me to where I am and being able to even do this as a side hustle. If no one was interested in my stuff, I wouldn’t be doing this. So thank you to everyone out there who’s ever bought a pattern or supporting me on Instagram, or just signed up for my newsletter, it was really important to me to make sure that I gave back in some way.
And unfortunately, there’s always some kind of tragic thing happening almost every day every month. And the organizations that I decide to donate to are based off of what was needed at the time. I’ve donated to Detroit Black farmers, communities, organizations that aren’t getting the funding that they should be getting things like Asian Mental Health Collective. Because Asians and Asian Americans don’t talk about mental health enough. Those wildfires in California one year in 2018, I donated to that, because I was also visiting LA, I happened to have a vacation scheduled for LA and I was like, I can’t go to California without feeling like I at least not contributing negatively to the place. I’m just about to visit.
Yeah, just a lot of feeling like I need to do something, I guess. Yeah. Yeah.
Priya: For a time you also had you used to run an account where you promoted other people.
Tina: Like, there was a time where I was promoting other designers or small businesses in the fiber craft community that were donating proceeds to organizations at the time just making sure people were spending the money where they should be spending or not, should be to spend choosing to spend it to summarize. Yeah, yeah. For people who do it. Yeah.
Ada: I love that. Do you do have like a few more pieces? Right, Sorry, I interrupted the fashion show. Show me more!
Priya: The last one I have, this is like our little! Oh yeah, our love story!
Tina: This is the colorful keepsake shawl.
Priya: It’s basically like a blanket.
Tina: It’s a triangle shaped shawl with three different types of yarn. Colors. Fingering weight yarn with slip stitches and lace stitches and eyelets and farter stitch and all types of things.
Priya: Very pink because it’s mine.
Tina: So we had one collar, this light blue would like confetti speckles was something you found. Yes. So this yarn. So the long story is in 2019 right before the pandemic, I visited Hong Kong, with my fiancee at the time with my parents who are from Southern China, but lived in Hong Kong for a while. And so I went to a yarn store in Hong Kong, they have yarn stores in Hong Kong, even though it’s hella hot down there. And they had a specific Hong Kong based dyer who had yarn selling their yarn there. And what I like to do when I go on vacation is get yarn as souvenirs.
Ada: Oh my gosh, sewists do this to fabric.
Tina: Yeah, yes. Yes. Um, Buttons.Working button. 100%. Yes, yes. Oh, good one.
So I got a Priya and I the same color scheme yarn. And it was this light blue yarn with red and green and yellow speckles. And very fun. We I could not for the life of me come up with anything to knit with it. And we were both like to the pattern do we, do I design something? And Priya goes, well, I’ve never ever knit a shawl.
Sure. So let, let’s make my first shawl your design. And so we came up with the name together, colorful keepsake because it’s a souvenir. Colorful, because it is a lot of color. And a lot of people who knit this shawl, pick some of the funnest color combinations that are out there.
Priya: You did it as a mystery knitalong, and that was another way a lot of people made friends within their hobby, because they were on knitting the same thing. And they didn’t know what it was gonna look like. And it was gonna be a fun surprise that we all worked on together. And also a memory of the pandemic. April was around my birthday. Yeah, yeah. And yeah, so there’s a lot of lot going on during that time in the show, but a lot going on in the show, a lot going on, a lot going on during that time, and reflect because with the mystery knit along, there are clues that get released every week, or whatever interval the designer picks based off of what they think the time period would be from clue to clue. And in this one, it had four clues over a span of five weeks. So the last week you can kind of catch up if you didn’t catch up. And then there would be like a pattern reveal. And at the time, because it was the pandemic. And I was doing this purely for selfish reasons, too, because I needed to get my mind off of COVID all the terrible things that were happening with the world and not being able to leave your house which wasn’t terrible for me. So I’m the mystery knitalong pattern was free for people so that they can just process with you process. Yeah, just grieve. Collective grieving shawl, I guess. Yes.
The next one! Colorful keepsake, collective grieving.
Tina: No more pandemics! But yeah, so then I when I revealed the shawl, I was like, the pattern will be free for the rest of 2020.
Ada: Can I ask like what might be like a dumb follow up question? I mean, first of all, I too have gone shop fabric shopping while on vacation and then sent Nicole stuff. So we have matching fabric, but also, as a millennial, how do you wear a shawl without looking like a grandma?
Tina: Great question. The question that she planted question. Yeah.
Ada:I’m like, that’s really cool. I kind of want to make one. But then whenever you wear it,
Priya: There’s so many ways!
Tina: Actually as a triaangle scarf, it’s best to wear it as a triangle int he front and behind you and so the little tails will come behind you, it looks like a pashmina or a huge bandana and it kind of works like a cowl or scarf to cover your chest to keep from being cold. I don’t need a blanket, I just grab a shawl.
Ada: It’s like, you know that I’m the person who walks around in a blanket.
Nicole: Ada, get a shawl.
Ada: Now I have to knit a hat and a shawl and a sweater.
Priya: I know the list becomes endless. Once you start, you know, your queue grows and you’re like there’s just never enough hours in the day to knit.
Nicole: I already have that problem with sewing.
Tina: Oh, I don’t think this is like well known but it is well known within the knitting community, that there was a kind of awakening within the knitting community in 2019 on racism and discrimination within the community
Priya: An awokening.
Tina: I’ve been very, very vocal about racism that I have faced in my lifetime, and how it’s just not okay to let it continue anymore. And everyone goes through this awakening and a different point in their lives. And I think I just had had enough, especially with the president at the time and moving from New York City to Michigan and realizing that no one out here cares about us, and in the most disturbing way possible. And there’s no community to support people like me here, not Detroit, but where I where I am in the suburbs.
And so through my vocalness, people were finding me as a Asian American voice within all this, and some people resonated with me, some people disagree with me. We’re not a monolith. And I get it that some people are also okay with upholding systems that are fighting against us, but that’s their choice. And so through that I found a lot of people were finding me but then I also got a chance to meet a lot of other Asians and Asian Americans within the knitting community. And then for me, I grew even out into like, the sewing space as well, even though I have not sewn since college, because college ruined me with the sewing because of fashion design. Yeah.
Um, so I haven’t touched a sewing machine. Since I do a lot of hand sewing. I prefer hand sewing but not a sewing machine. But yeah, so with that, I kind of grew kind of my my circles a little bit into like the sewing space. Other crafting spaces, crocheting, weaving, yarn makers, dark dyers, project, bag makers, and kind I grew all that and I love sharing new people that I find just because I feel with my audience that could be beneficial for them. I think it’s definitely not been like, I mean, I think the online knitting community tends to, there’s very, like, at least lately, like in fashion, it’s very, there’s like trends, and you know, and there are certain knitwear designer certain dyers that become popular and everybody wants to do kind of the same, very similar thing. And I think, you know, it’s, it’s been hard, at least in the beginning, it was hard to find, you know, any kind of representation of people like us, or designs like ours that weren’t just
Priya: I call it like very goop-efied, you know, like goop like, very like that aesthetic. There’s a lot of that. And I feel I see it in a lot of maybe even sewing because sometimes I do see some sewing content in my Explorer. And it took me some time to find people like Tina, you know, and I do see more and more Asian and Asian American and other people of color who are becoming designers.
It’s a very cost prohibitive endeavor to get into, I think, you know, when Tina was talking about our business, it probably give you some idea, knitting is very laborious, very time consuming, very expensive. I mean, you could really make this cost a lot of money, if you decided to get the fleece and carded, and then I have a wheel, you could spin your own yarn. And then you knit it, and it’s just hours, hours and hours of your time into making something that at the end of the day, you could probably get something that isn’t as special or isn’t actually as good, but it’s close enough for like 20 bucks at Target, you know, now, so it’s it’s hard to have people of color, get into something like that, where our work already tends to be exploited, more copied, ripped off more appropriated and more.
And then we generally are the ones who don’t have the time and energy to sit down and pursue these creative endeavors as a side hustle like, you really have to be in a position of a lot of privilege to be able to do that. And traditionally, you know, minorities, people of color don’t have that.
So, for me, it’s been kind of trying to find where I can, as a user, of this community and not community, whatever like in, in the yarn shop of the internet, I’m one of the customers, I try to find people like me to try and uplift and going forward, because I think your designs are very special and unique. You have a very specific point of view and perspective in the world. And it comes out in your patterns. And, like, it’s not just about Well, right now, balaclavas are in. So let’s make one, you know, it’s very to who we are. And that doesn’t change in a fast fashion sort of discardable way. So, for me, that’s been my experience, it’s taken some work, but we’re out there, you just have to look at it and not kind of get sucked into the stream of everything’s going this way. So let me just do the same thing.
And with everyone being more open about like, a lot of times people were afraid of talking about their identity online, because you could get targeted, people might hate on you, because you are x identity.
And a lot of people were hiding themselves from their work, because they didn’t want people to associate their great work with them being a person of color. So through other people being more open and showing their faces, which is for me, very important is to show my face, so that I can show people to not be ashamed of showing their face too. And I see a lot of Asian Instagramers in the knitting community who are still afraid of showing their face. And of course, no, no shame in that. But that comes from years and years of society telling you that you’re not important and that your identity is easily erasable. So I think it’s important to like for me to still keep showing my face and the idea of being too behind that of like, if you’re as homogenous or like as have as much of a default blank slate, let’s call it type of person or seller, let’s say in this community if you’re trying to make money in this business, if the idea and the intention, I think in most industries you will see is that if you are not a person of color, it is easier to get your product in front of eyes, it is easier to sell. It takes a lot to stand up and say this is who I am, this is what I’ve made. And it’s this is me in what I’m putting out in the world. And so I think we’re seeing more of that. That’s almost 98 99% besides the likes I’m not above getting some likes. 99% of the reason I ever post my projects online is because I want people to think like me, they knit in India like what?! It’s hot!
Tina: There are Indians everywhere!
Priya: We get cold too out here in Michigan. I’ve had largely positive experience I think you I’ve had some negative ones it’s just because I was very vocal about things I was saying and it comes with the territory and have grown a tougher skin on top of my New Yorker skin, online skin now but but yeah, I it’s just about setting boundaries.
She’s gonna finally she’s gonna finally get to Rhinebeck, which is this big fiber festival in upstate New York. You’re gonna get mobbed at a big thing. She’s gonna go, and she’s gonna be.
Ada: You’re gonna be her bodyguard.
Priya: You know what I have been working out more so
Ada: You just like check someone who gets too close.
Thank you, I think those are both very thoughtful responses to systems of oppression that both perpetuate themselves on our communities and within our communities. I know just as a fellow AAPI small business owner that I’ve been told, like, my brand is too Asian or like whatever, by people who are within the community.
And so it’s dismantling that I think, is something to be proud of, and that both of you are clearly working towards and proud to celebrate on Instagram and elsewhere. And so my last question for you is that we’ve been kind of going back and forth about this like overlap-ish of knitters and sewers all episode long on as I mentioned, I have tried hitting a bajillion times and I can’t stick to it for more than like, 10 minutes. So my question for you is, our listeners are predominantly Asian sewists. So what would you want them to know about knitting?
Priya: It’s a lot slower?
Tina: I think so, I think knitting is a lot slower than sewing.
Priya: If you worked on every day, every day after work for like six hours until you go to sleep. I could do a medium one in a week, but I’m a very loose fast knitter. But basically at least a month for something more detailed it’s a lot slower but it’s a lot more customizable as Tina said what drew her to it is you get to create your own fabric, you really get to play with construction of garments. I think knitters, at least maybe I should speak for myself, are not as particular or mindful of things like measurements. We’ll just kinda go like close enough.
One thing about sewing though, that is very beneficial for knitting is a lot of sewists know their measurements very well, they’re really in tune with their measurements. Some knitters are not in tune with that. So going from being a sewist to a knitter, in terms of making garments would be a lot easier with just a little bit of simple math to figure out how many stitches per your measurements. So that’s at least would be an easy transition in terms of knitting garments.
Ada: So TLDR me and Nicole are going to make hats.
Priya: Make a Wavelength hat. It’s a very easy pattern. It’s bulky yarns. I was like, what three hours? Yeah, boom done.
Ada: You say that like we know what we’re doing?
Nicole: So like my 15 hours?
Priya: For real my niece, I taught her to knit she’s like, when I told her that she was 12. And we made a bulky hat, which is this weight. And she was done. I would say maybe six hours. And that was with a lot of complaining from her.
Ada: You have to build in time for the complaining. That’s really good to know. Because I will definitely complain.
Yeah, you will get the hang of it. There’s a learning curve. But I think you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. Once you do, then it just becomes very meditative and very repetitive. Big projects are fun for that reason, because you can kind of like if you have like a sweater, and you’re done with like, the complex part is usually like up here or like doing the sleeves or you know, the design would probably be mostly on in the yoke. And then once you get to the body, usually you just have like a few miles of stockinette. So you just literally Netflix and just not even look at it and just going with Yanes
Nicole: I have a Bichon frise. And my mother in law has wanted to like, has like the I had the idea to try to like spin his hair. He hasn’t got she hasn’t done it. But she’s like, I bet you could spin his hair. Because it’s soft of its hair. It’s not it’s curly, too, anyway. Yeah, we’ve gone off the rails my friends.
Priya: We’re actually just like that. And I know there are people who spin cat fur. Yeah, cat fur into yarn. And then they knit with it is wild. I’ve seen like dog fur done
Nicole: Tina your face
Tina: Naturally it’ll go in there. I don’t need to spin it on purpose.
Nicole: Correct? Well, I’ve had a great time meeting the both of you and learning about knitting. I think I’ve appreciated even more just learning about the community and your friendship. We’re not really a how to podcast right? We’re a who are these people podcast. So thank you so much for joining us today. And I’d love for you to remind our listeners where they can find you on the interwebs or anywhere else you could scream at Tina when you see her. So let’s go with Priya first.
Priya: I’m on Instagram at @pizzaveri. So pizza. And then V-E-R-I. It’s, I don’t know, because I like pizza. Kind of my last name starts with the last two letters of pizza. And then I’m on Ravelry which is knitting whatever community basically pattern library but I don’t really use it but it’s under the same name. And if you explicitly use that, I guess you could look at some of my projects there too. Let’s go with them more important person.
Tina: Oh stop it. You can find me on Instagram at Tina dot s-a-y dot knits and then you can find my patterns on my website at Tina T-S-E knits.com. And you could also find me on the Making app. You With the same Instagram handle tina.say.net , no knits! I can’t say knits today!
Ada: Thank you so much for joining us on this week’s episode of the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. If you like our show, please consider supporting us on coffee by becoming a one time or monthly supporter or by buying our stickers and sewing labels. That’s right, we have merch now, your financial support helps us with overhead expenses and will allow us to give back to our all volunteer team who work so hard to provide you with new content each week. The link to our coffee page is ko-fi.asiansewistcollective, and you can find the link in our show notes on our website and on our Instagram account.
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Nicole: All of the links and resources mentioned in today’s episode will be in the show notes on our website. That’s asiansewistcollective.com And we’d love to hear from you. Email us with your questions, comments or even voice messages if you want to be featured on future episodes at email@example.com
This episode was brought to you by your co hosts Ada Chen and Nicole Angeline. This episode was researched by Serena Granger, produced by Ada Chen and edited by Serena Granger and Henry Wong. Thank you so much to the other members of our collective for making this week’s episode a reality. This is the Asian Sewist Collective podcast and we’ll see you next week.