My name is Adrienne Krey, and my shop is called Neeka Knits. I design and knit cozy accessories like headbands, scarves, necklaces and fingerless mitts. I also sell knitting pattern instructions so people can make their own. I’ve lived in Portland, Oregon for the past ten years, which apparently now makes me an “official” Oregonian. I’m very excited about this. I love Portland like it’s a person.
I started knitting about 10 years ago and haven’t stopped. I’ve always been a dabbler in all things crafty, like painting, drawing, sewing, or sculpting. My brain has been bossing my hands around my entire life. But it wasn’t until I found knitting that I really felt at home in a craft. I love the left-brain architectural quality of it, combined with its colorful creativity. Plus, I love that the result is so cozy and practical. I think a knit hat or scarf, if you wear it enough, will start to feel like a friend.
One of the first things I ever knit without a pattern was a small neckwarmer in a hand spun angora and wool blend. It has this amazing fuzzy halo to it and just gets softer and softer every year. It has accompanied me through so many camping trips and winters and chilly nights. When I’m digging through my closet looking for something to keep me warm and I find it, it feels mine in a way no other piece of clothing does. It reminds me how much coziness and warmth and friendship knits have to offer.
Almost every design in my shop started as a gift for a friend or family member. So, my design process usually starts with me thinking about somebody in particular and then figuring out a knitted soulmate that matches their style. I’m also obsessed with trying to make knitted versions of non-knitted things, like the necklaces in my shop which were inspired by chunky vintage costume jewelry. Even if it’s something two-dimensional, like an abstract painting, if I’m drawn to it inevitably my brain will start asking “How could I translate this into knitted form?” I also pay attention to the finishing of my knits, adding vintage buttons or embroidery to make them feel more special.
Knitting is so calm and zen, but when you do it as much as I do it can get a little lonely. I like to watch movies, listen to the radio or repeat phrases from language instructional tapes while I work. I also love to write stories, so I just recently started dictating stories aloud and recording them while I knit. I probably seem like a crazy person talking to myself all day, but I do think you have be a little bit insane to knit as much as I do!
My business started because I was obsessed with knitting “friends” for the people I love, and as I became more skilled, I started writing down the patterns for my own designs. At first, I planned on only selling the patterns, but when I sold my first few knit items, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist knitting for people all over the world. When I’m wrapping up my orders to ship them out, I still feel like I’m sending gifts to friends.
I’ve learned so many new skills since I’ve started my shop. I’m a people pleaser and I love working for other people, so at first trying to be my own boss was tricky. But I’ve loved getting to play so many different roles! I’ve had to learn how to be my own graphic designer, photographer, model, accountant and office manager. I tend to be shy and indecisive, and at first I was uncomfortable putting myself out there and calling all the shots. But I’m a much stronger knitter now than I was when I started, and I’m starting to see how that strength has expanded outwards and made me more a confident person.
What I value most about Etsy is its sense of community. I think knitting, at its heart, is a communal activity. Before I opened my Etsy shop, I thought selling knits online would feel too anonymous and take away from the sense of friendship I feel when I knit. But my Etsy customers are amazing. I feel such a sense of connection to them! I love it when people request custom orders, or tell me who they’re buying a gift for, or send me pictures of the knits they’ve made from my patterns. Great opportunities from stores and blogs have come my way from my Etsy shop, but I’m most grateful for the friendships I’ve made.
I had a customer tell me once that his wife made a bet with him that I wasn’t the girl in my shop photos. He said she was convinced that nobody that young would be knitting so much! I thought that was funny because there’s actually a great community of young knitters out there, but I do aim to bring a modern, less traditional spin to the knits I make. I absolutely love bright colors. When I’m sitting in front of a pile of yarn, I feel the same excited glee I feel with a painter’s palette in my hand. An earthy, tweedy yarn is so cozy, but I also love the contrast of a chunky knit done in a bright, bold color combination. Since I’m drawn to simple stiches that let the yarn and colors show through, I make my knits unique in their construction. I often change around the way things are knit and work them in a different direction or with new techniques. My husband can always tell when I’m designing something because I’ll space out for hours trying to knit things in my head. I’ll start drawing invisible squares in the air and then spin them around. Before you know it, I have needles and yarn in my hands and I won’t stop until I’ve figured it out. I’ve knit through many hunger pangs.
I used to be awe of how the human brain was able to take two sticks and some string and come up with a dizzying array of knitting techniques and stitches. Now, that awe is nothing next to the respect and appreciation I’ve gained for entrepreneurs who take risks and create their own work. Making a living using only your brain and your own two hands is incredibly challenging and so different from what I used to think of as a “job.”
All photographs by Neeka Knits.