Sisters Alison Yates and Andrea Cull.

Photo courtesy of Knitrino.

Within an hour of Vogue Knitting LIVE! postponing its mid-March show outside of Seattle, Washington, due to concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak, Alison Yates and Andrea Cull had an idea. 

The sisters, who had purchased a booth in the show’s marketplace to promote their soon-to-launch interactive knitting pattern app, called Knitrino, decided to rally together with other impacted vendors and teachers and organize a virtual event. 

“It was really clear that people were disappointed and just seemed glum,” said Yates, who lives in Seattle. “Andrea and I work together remotely already, so we knew something could be done.” 

This past weekend, Yates and Cull, an independent knitwear designer based in northeast Oklahoma, held what they dubbed the Virtual Knitting Extravaganza, which included livestreamed courses, lectures and gatherings, along with a virtual marketplace that linked vendors’ online shops.

The show helped fill a void for crafters who had been looking forward to attending the event, and also showed how technology could help make events more accessible.

Yates, who has a background in tech — prior to founding her startup, she led product management, user experience and customer support teams at an engineering software company called Zemax — set up a special section of the Knitrino website and purchased a one-month subscription to the online conference service GoToWebinar.


Safiyyah of @drunkknitter taught a class about two at a time sock knitting. By the end, attendees were ready to cast on their first pair of socks.

Photo courtesy of Knitrino.

Louis Boria @brooklynboyknits taught a class called Designing Your Own Hat during the Virtual Knitting Extravaganza. 

Photo courtesy of Knitrino.

At the same time, the sisters began reaching out to their industry contacts and created a schedule comprised of classes and lectures, including a class on brioche knitting with designer Courtney Spainhower, instruction on stranded knitting from designer Kyle Kunnecke and a lecture on craftivism by independent yarn dyer Diane Ivey of Lady Dye Yarns. A Virtual Pajama Party Knit Night kicked things off on Friday evening. 

A spirit of teamwork and a can-do attitude suffused the event, helping lead to its success during an uncertain time.

“People we reached out to got back to us really quickly, even on the weekend,” Cull said.

By all measures, the event was a success. Most of the classes sold out and the marketplace received over 25,000 hits throughout the weekend. “While some people may still be at a loss overall, almost everyone we talked to has made meaningful sales this weekend,” Yates said.

While it remains to be seen if Yates and Cull will recoup the loss from the postponement of the in-person show, they say they made it a priority to pay the instructors competitively and keep class costs low, with tickets costing as little as $18.

When Jay of @corvidfemme heard about the Knitrino Virtual Knitting Extravaganza she wrote to the organizers to say, “Seriously this is amazing. I’m disabled and immunocompromised, and this means I can participate from my apartment in Seattle, and stay healthy and save energy.” 

Photo courtesy of Knitrino.

“We worked 16-hour days without a break from the day (Vogue Knitting LIVE!) announced the postponement until today,” Yates said. “We were willing to take a loss on the event because we knew it was something the community needed.”

The project has also shown the need for knitting events that are interactive, but accessible. After they began promoting the Virtual Knitting Extravaganza, Yates and Cull heard from a crafter who wrote to explain that she had a disability and was immunocompromised, and was grateful to be able to participate from the comfort of her apartment.

After they posted the woman’s story on Instagram, they heard from other fiber crafters who felt the same.

“We think there are people who want to connect, they just aren’t able to do it in person,” Cull said. “This is a strange moment and I think it’s comforting for people to know there’s a place to go to when things are uncertain.”

Dozens of people have reached out to Yates and Cull about doing something similar.

“We hope that people will!” Yates said. “We think the more we can innovate and keep building a strong community, the better off we’ll all be, especially in these uncertain times.”

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