Episode 96: This Thing of Paper – An Interview with Karie Westermann


Straight into the news this week as I have so much of it. Firstly, I want to thank you all for your wonderful positive feedback on last week’s episode and my time with Countess Ablaze. A lot of the feedback was around how well she copes with her autism, and how it doesn’t stop her from doing what she wants to do. We have both appreciated it very much, you are all lovely people.

If you would like some of our crazy Orange Mocha Frappuccino, the bad news is that the batch we dyed completely sold out to newsletter subscribers in two hours. [Fortunately for us, The Countess (despite being in incredibly high demand) has kindly agreed to do a very small number of pre-orders for those of you who missed out. You can pre-order the yarn here until the limit is reached or 20th June, whichever is earliest. Dispatch will be 1st July. Edited: This is now totally sold out. Thank you!

Whilst on my little break I made a couple of appearances on other podcasts. Firstly I was a guest on Harry Duran’s Podcast Junkies. If you enjoyed me and The Countess last week then you’ll love this, it’s very banterous and there is some dogs in knitwear chat. I also appeared on the New Media Europe podcast, the episode is entitled ‘Military Operations‘. That one is more for those of you interested in the business side of things, rather than the knitting but no harm in having a listen, it’s relatively short.

Military Operations

Speaking of the NMEU, the polls have now closed and the ceremony itself is next Saturday. Thank you to all those who voted, though I  must say I’m not sure we have done enough to keep your award. We shall soon see! I’m having somewhat of a costume drama thanks to Wigan General Post Office. They sent my Voodoo to Elgin instead of Devon. Helpful. All that time, all those beads. So my genius solution – well I’m gonna knit me a shawl. In a week. Obvs. Have opted for Talisman by Helen Stewart. It is part of her Shawl Society, which you need to get on if you haven’t already. It is 6 patterns, one a month from  now til November for £15. If you’re not ready for that yet then do try a free tutorial first. Helen takes you through the Spindrift shawl in a series of emails. She’s a good ‘un. I’m using the Urban Hints by The Wool Kitchen as recommended and discussed when I interviewed Helen in Episode 88.

If you are a budding designer then I have some exciting news now. Joeli of Joelicreates and Kate Heppell are holding a Designers Day Out in Manchester on the 16th July, Its from 10-4 and will cost £65 inc lunch and all the tea and toast you can manage!

The final bit of news on this epic news day is that the podcast will now be a fortnightly delight for you. As I have alluded to, I have been very busy of late on other projects and one of those is about to launch. My Notice to Move podcast will be launching on the 25th June and I am so excited about it. It is about entrepreneurship for military persons, spouses and veterans. Will be an associated community with it too around the unique challenges in running a business when you live this lifestyle. I am taking my word for the year and committing to the calling that I’ve been getting from this. If it is for you, or someone you know, then go to noticetomove.com and sign up to newsletter and you’ll be notified when it goes live.


Karie, like many others, began knitting in her childhood but then life happened. She suffered a serious illness and sent her partner, Dave, out to buy her some yarn so she could occupy herself. She quickly caught the bug again and soon became obsessed. Eighteen months later, following her recovery, she was offered a job with a yarn company based in Glasgow from a project page on Ravelry. It was an excess stock of beads at that company that then lead to the wonderful designer we all now know and love. A friend who was launching a new yarn knew that Karie had done some designs to move the bead stock and gave her two skeins and asked her to design a shawl pattern. Karise was the pattern and led to the realisation that this was a viable way to make money. The growth from there has been organic but rapid. Karie feels like having had a start in the industry meant that she already knew the struggles people had and as she had met a cross section of knitters, she had a good background knowledge. It meant she knew her audience and was able to communicate in a way that they can understand. She wanted to make her patterns easy but interesting and enjoyable.

Karise copyright Karie Westermann

Karise copyright Karie Westermann

No day is the same for Karie and she has to don many hats. She may spend entire days with her ‘lovely’ spreadsheets, she may be on the road, she may be reseraching in a facility, or more rarely, she may be knitting. Her creative work is really only 10% of her time. She works a 50-60 hour week and takes one day a week off if she remembers. She drinks lots of coffee but gets out less than we all might think!

So what happens in that 10% of time?

The process of developing a new design is a long one for Karie. She needs to have a context and a story. For the current book, This Thing of Paper, the design of garments is around medieval manuscripts. Karie will sketch, swatch and then need to source yarn that reminds her of parchment or paper. It is a long process and is borne out of lots of research. Karie does concede that it may be an idea to choose easier concepts, cupcakes rather than archaeology-inspired hidden beaches perhaps? But then we can’t change who we are and we need to run businesses in a way that works for us and be happy with it.

A difficulty that Karie has experienced will be familiar to most of us, the struggle to say ‘no’. Moreso she noted the importance of getting contracts and reading them carefully. Beware the chancer. You must know your own worth and not be afraid to ask for the reward that you desire. You do not need to work for exposure if you do not want to. Valuable lessons, often learnt the hard way folks.

Karie’s high points include putting her first paid pattern on Ravelry and being able to pay the Council Tax bill that morning with the proceeds. Very empowering. Another high is achieving her fundraising target for the book on Kickstarter in 25 hours and going on to smash it with still a few days left. It is a book of 10 patterns, essays and accessories due out in April next year. This time Karie has a small dedicated team working with her after learning a lesson from Doggerland alone.

Vedbaek from the Doggerland collection copyright Karie Westermann

Vedbaek from the Doggerland collection copyright Karie Westermann

For Karie’s Desert Island Skein she would choose a heavy 1 Ply laceweight yarn, something rustic and sheep smelling from a smallholding and a sheep called George. Of course.

Her go to resource would be Social Media, particularly Twitter, it keeps us connected when we are physically alone.

For her parting words she reminds us to think of ourselves and what we need to get out of things. When you enter the industry have an idea what you want to achieve, not monetarilly but make it work round you and your life specifically. Do prepare for long hours and hard work to get there though.

Find Karie at the following locations




Wrap Up

That’s all from me this week. As always, thank you for listening. Feedback is always appreciated, and you can email me or message me via Ravelry or social media. If you enjoyed listening today, please consider leaving an iTunes review, to help others find the podcast too. Happy crafting!

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