I started knitting in December of 2015 while living alone in a small house on Cape Cod. I was lonely and bored, and I liked crafting, so I learned the basics on YouTube and proceeded to knit many feet of cotton rectangles. After that, I moved on to scarves and cowls (and eventually moved back to Brooklyn).
It was a pretty good hobby, but it wasn’t until my friend and knitting mentor Francesca gave me a particular tip that knitting really took hold of my life and my imagination.
“Try this Andrea Mowry shawl pattern,” she said, “I think you might like it.”
Okay, sure, I thought. Shawls were something old people wore, but from the way Francesca described it, it sounded pleasantly complicated (mesh panels?), and I was ready to try something new, so I looked it up. “Drea Renee Knits,” I typed. Click.
In an instant, I realized that not only were shawls not lame but that shawls were extremely, primordially cool — essential, gorgeous, decadent. Proto-clothing, the ancestral garment, the eternal, ultimate canvas. In the moody, inviting photos on her site, Mowry was modeling this shawl she’d designed, and she was gorgeous, too. Great hair, captivating teeth. Young. (Younger than me? Oh crap.) She was covered in mysterious tattoos, and smiling so warmly in the snow. Combined, the two of them — the woman and her shawl — kind of knocked me out.
Who is this? I remember thinking. What’s her deal??
That shawl, called Find Your Fade, would go on to become one of the most popular patterns on Ravelry, and, eventually (currently), the site’s No. 1 overall most popular shawl. (Ravelry is like a combined Facebook/Amazon/Google for knitting: a place to share project photos but also buy and sell patterns, connect with people, and research yarn. It is the greatest site ever.) The pattern took the knitting world by storm. I mean, by slow, careful storm, but still. As one knitting blog put it, six months after the pattern’s release: “Unless you’ve been knitting under a rock, you’ve probably at some point this year encountered someone finding their fade.” Also, via the famous knitting designer and revolutionary shawl-conceptualizer Stephen West and his newsletter: “The iconic Find Your Fade shawl by Andrea Mowry is a smash hit with knitters across the world.” Putting it mildly!
Anyway, I bought the pattern, agonized over my (beautiful) yarn colors, and spent weeks knitting that shawl. I also subscribed to Mowry’s blog, favorited her and her patterns on Ravelry, and followed her on Instagram, where she now has more than 100K followers, and the numbers are rising steadily — if I’m counting correctly, she gained 10K new followers in the past few weeks of December alone. In the knitting world, as I learned, she had become something of an overnight celebrity — Mowry had rocketed to the top from out of almost nowhere, with her first pattern published only in late 2014, but with at least 88 since, to become arguably one of the world’s most popular designers. She’s like … the knitting world’s Taylor Swift. Cute, talented, driven, precise, upbeat, and kind, with a wink and a flicker of darkness.
Her patterns are like hit singles, causing waves around the knitting world as soon as they drop. (They typically cost between $5 and $8, and then you buy your own yarn.)
Here is where I wish I could ask her one question, and have her answer it honestly, which is: How much money do you make selling patterns on Ravelry? I’m trying to do the very vague math, and I’m stumped. Selling 8,000 Find Your Fades, for instance (to date), at $7 per pattern, would net $56K for just that one pattern alone (minus the Ravelry fee, which I believe to be less than 3.5 percent of the total). And then there are 88 other patterns, as of January 4, 2019, that also collect passive income. It’s like if I were to get residuals on old blog posts that people were still reading and somehow paying for …
The more I learn about her, the more curious I am. What’s her life like? What’s next? Is that a cabbage morphing into an anatomical heart on the back of her hand? (A head of lettuce?)
As I followed along, I learned that she used to be a hairdresser and a pastry chef. She’s 35 (we are the same age), she’s from Michigan, and she lives there now with her husband and their two young children — although a couple weeks ago she said on Instagram that there were “major changes” ahead for them (my guess is they’re moving, but I’ve been checking in daily). The amazing outdoor photos on her sites are taken by her photographer/musician husband. She’s charming on video (“she’s got humility”). She teaches knitting classes throughout the year, at all the biggest gatherings, and she sometimes sews and embroiders, too. She has one mini-collection of designs in a book (but how does she not have more books out yet?). She lived for a year in New Zealand, she designs multiple patterns at once, she has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, her favorite lipsticks are “any reds” by NARS, she wears L’Oréal Double Extend mascara, and she has at least one knitting tattoo (a ball of yarn on her arm).
I love her, she fascinates me, I love that she’s living a life I like knowing is possible. Not that I could have it, or even that I want it (well, I mean, I do also want it), but it’s nice to know that someone like her is out there. Being game, being cheerful and funny, working hard, making patterns, having a cute family, looking great with all those crazy tattoos. But most of all, her patterns are so good. They’re all so good, it’s incredible. They’re fun to knit, practical, beautiful, and sturdy. God, I love them.
I knit two of her “Golden Hour” shawls within weeks of the pattern’s release (knitting in a rush of excited adrenaline, almost constantly), and I felt as if I were an early fan of a band or something. I’ve knit four of her “Free Your Fade” shawls, and I have the pattern memorized (I’m knitting a fifth one right now). I made another “Find Your Fade,” for my mother. I wish I could knit faster in part so I could make more of Mowry’s designs. Last night I bought a sweater pattern she put on sale, and I can’t wait to figure out the yarn I’ll use for it. She’s brilliant, she’s on fire, she’s at the top of her game. It’s thrilling to be watching and benefiting from her skill. I feel heartened when I creep on her Instagram, when I speculate about what her big “major change” might be over text with Francesca. (I mean it has to be that she’s moving. Is she coming to New York? Probably not, but what if!)
This all feels a little like putting up pictures of her in my school locker, although that is kind of how I feel. I love her! What’s she doing right now?