Talin Avakian working on her We Are Knitters knitting kit at Our Maker Life’s first event last July.

Photo by Katelyn Todd Photography

It took one message from maker Jewell Washington and a year of work for Our Maker Life (OML) to grow into a movement with about 40,000 followers.

In early 2016, Washington, owner of Northknits Handmade Knitwear, realized it was becoming more difficult for knitters and crocheters to get their products seen outside of their own Instagram or other social media followings. “As I started to get more involved in the maker community, I saw other curated pages that would feature something, but they’d say you have to pay us to be featured,” says Washington. “It felt like such a disconnection and so for me, I thought it was important to have something for us, by us.”

Washington reached out to Kelly Brooks of Knitbrooks, Nathan Bryant of Loop N Threads, Alison Abbey of La Reserve Design and Kathleen Jones of Country Pine Designs on Instagram. The five of them banded together and OML was born.

“[We want] compassion over competition and let people be the makers they want to be, and not be swayed by trends or drama or anything in the maker community,” says Abbey. “We want them to put out designs that are true to them and give them a platform for that.”

According to its website, OML “consists of shop owners, knitwear and pattern designers, crocheters, bloggers, and social media influencers passionate about contributing creatively and collectively to handmade.”

Washington admits that, in the beginning, they didn’t really know how far OML would go. “We had no idea if we would sink or swim with it; it just kind of came together in March [2016],” she says. “We were just glad people were excited as we were and shared the same energy as we did.”

Abbey says that because of the quick response, the OML team needed to learn on the fly. “With a platform so large, we can’t just post a funny meme of a cat eating pizza or something like that,” she says. “We’re always trying to push for good content because we have a lot of responsibility to our followers; we want to put the best of our organization forward.”

The Our Maker Life core team, from left: Kathleen Jones from Texas, Kelly Brooks from Ontario, Jewell Washington from Illinois, Nathan Bryant from Virginia and Alison Abbey from Quebec.

Photo by Katelyn Todd Photography

Along with social media, OML has a website where anyone, no matter if they are just starting out and have 100 Instagram followers or a million, can blog, learn about OML, and connect with the wider maker community. “At the core for us, it’s for makers by makers,” says Washington. Abbey agrees. She finds that having OML has helped her feel less alone as the owner and sole employee of a business.

“Sometimes I’m working on something alone that’s tedious and I don’t know if I’m working in the right direction,” Abbey says. “It’s really nice to be able to have resources online and I can see what other people are doing.”

However, OML and its team want to connect with their members and followers outside of social media. One of their ways to do this is to hold an annual meetup. Last year’s was in New York City and this year’s will be in Toronto, the latter of which sold out in about three weeks. The meetup gives OML members and followers a chance to meet, talk knitwear, and discuss their work and successes.

Our Maker Life released their first minimalist style print book in March, which highlights the knit and crochet community through submitted stories, photos and knit/crochet patterns.

Photo by Kelly Brooks

Last year’s event, which had about 50 attendees, included a keynote address given by Talin Avakian of The Half Full Mug. Avakian had connected with OML previously, but was glad to see so much interest and enthusiasm at the event. She finds that OML has taken everything she likes about the maker community and expanded upon those qualities. “I love that we are so focused on helping one another,” she says. “It truly feels that we are all equals and there is a genuine sense of wanting to learn from one another.”

Avakian will also be attending this year’s event in Toronto, but won’t be speaking. “I am so excited. I am most looking forward to reconnecting with everyone I met last year and honestly just soaking everything in,” she says. “Last year I was definitely a bit more focused on my keynote so I was in a much different mindset.”

“I just loved creating these amazing, strong connections with other people on a social media platform who have the same interests,” says Washington. “And being able to expand upon those connections offline, that’s just amazing.”

Along with their annual meetup, OML recently released a sweater making video tutorial series and released a book, Make: Volume 1. Make is a collection of stories, patterns, and look books from 30 different OML members. Washington says the book was in response to the community wanting more offline engagement. “They would say, ‘I love the first event so much, I wish you could do more events,” so we thought that if we couldn’t do an event every month … a coffee table book is something we felt would work,” she says. “And there was something cool about having a book in your hand and being able to curl up with it, your yarn, and your coffee.”

As for the organization’s future, there have been talks about holding more offline events, if possible, and work has already started on Make: Volume 2. However, OML remains focused on their original mission of producing quality content and offering a connector platform for those who need it. “Our main goal right now is to continue on the trajectory we are on now because we get so much support from other people,” says Washington.

Even though the five team members have worked and built OML from the ground up, Washington says it’s often still surprising how much Our Maker Life has grown in a year. “It was bigger than anything I personally would have ever imagined,” she says. “If I had to sum it up in a word, it would be life-changing.”

For more information on Our Maker Life visit: www.ourmakerlife.org or https://www.instagram.com/ourmakerlife/.

Katie Ingram

Katie Ingram


Katie is a freelance journalist and writer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Her work has been featured in a variety of publications including Maclean’s, Halifax Magazine, Atlantic Books Today, The Week and Ravishly.
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