In October 2012 I answered an advert seeking a knitter. It was on an online babywearing forum I occasionally go to, and I knew that the woman placing the ad, Claire of Kitten Creations, made stunningly intricate pieces of textile art cunningly disguised as baby carriers. Anyway, Claire replied; we chatted back in forth in more and more detail about her project, and I was hooked immediately. Her vision was so ambitious and sounded so much fun that I’d have begged her on my knees to let me join if she’d turned me down: she wanted to create a baby carrier on the theme of Where The Wild Things Are, with a massive, mad collection of themed items to go with it, all made by different Work-At-Home-Mums (WAHMs) who’d never met, in one big, online collaboration.
It’s now March 2013, the collection is complete and will shortly be sold at auction (Friday 15th March). I managed to persuade Claire to spare me a few minutes last night to do a short interview. So let the Grand Chief Head Project Boss herself tell you all about the project, which has been the most challenging and rewarding knitting project I’ve ever had the privilege to be involved with:
Initially the idea came from a carrier maker friend of mine. She and her sister had been discussing my friend’s son and how he used to love dressing up as Max from Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak when he was little (he is 7 now) and they both thought it would be cool to have a carrier that was made to look like the Max suit. My friend’s carrier design didn’t lend itself to the concept very well and she decided that if she couldn’t do it then I absolutely had to and got on the case insisting that I do it.
At first I wasn’t as keen on the idea since I’d never read the book. A few days later a copy of the book arrived in the post (my friend wasn’t giving up…), I read it, read it to my children, and fell in love with the idea and started to become inspired by it.
Never one to do things half-heartedly, I soon started throwing everything into it and trying to think of ways to make it even better. I wanted the carrier to be the child’s favourite carrier. The picture of Max dressed up, and the picture of my friend’s son dressed like Max dressed up, stayed in my mind. Eventually I decided that there needed to be a wolf costume to go with the carrier and began to think about how I could do that. In the end I thought that a knitted suit would be amazing and decided to start looking for someone to help me.
When it was decided that the wolf suit would work best if it were footless I thought we needed some boots. If we were having boots we should have some gloves or mittens… And so I started to look around me. What else could we have in the set? Who else could get involved?
And so it grew. One by one I started “collecting” other WAHMs and products.
Why collaborate? Why not just do a carrier yourself?
I wanted everything in the set to be top-notch. I’ve done my best to use the best quality materials for everything I’ve made myself and wanted every piece in the collection to be at the same standard. It just seems logical to me that if you want the best you seek out people who are experienced in that field and used to producing high quality products. It also gets quite lonely being a WAHM sometimes. It’s nice to have colleagues and work mates and be able to bounce ideas around. I also try very hard to support other WAHMs whenever and where ever I can. Supporting WAHMs is something I believe in and this was just too good an opportunity to miss.
I know it was all, entirely, completely a wonderful experience (!), but right this second, what stands out as your happiest day in the 6 months’ work?
The day you agreed to join the project!
It was a major turning point for me. You brought enthusiasm, fresh ideas, and buckets full of hope that I could actually pull this off if I tried hard enough. Until that point I had many, many moments where I wondered if I’d completely lost the plot with this. After you agreed to take the wolf suit onto your knitting needles I never felt the need to question the value of the idea again.
Do you think you’ll ever do something like this again?
I would never say never.
It’s been 6 months in the making and there have been some very stressful moments when external forces have thrown a spanner in the works. Right now I’m exhausted and I just want to see this particular project go somewhere where it will be loved to death and take a nice long break doing smaller projects with a quick turn around.
I’m going to miss the friendships and “work chatter” though, so I dare say I’ll be looking for a new idea to share with other WAHMs before long.
If you could re-live the last 6 months, what would you change about the collaboration or your work?I’ve been staring at this question for about 5 minutes. I honestly can’t think of anything. I got lucky on every point. I managed to get the best people for the job to agree to take my commissions, all the pieces really seem to work together and look like something out of the book which inspired them … it all just worked out better than I could have hoped.
My ideal auction winner would be a fan of the book of course. Someone who couldn’t have afforded the set if they had paid what it’s actually worth. Someone who isn’t afraid to let the items get dirty and, indeed, allows the wear and tear to show like a badge of honour. Someone who will send me photos in a year’s time of everything in shades of muddy brown saying “Look! Look how much we loved it!” but most importantly the auction winner will have a certain type of child. I envision this child to be the sort who loves touching stuff. There are so many different and luxurious textures used in the items that it would just be wasted on anyone else. A child that loves to dress up and run around in character. A child that enjoys being carried when they are tired of walking but always insists on a particular carrier. Everything in the set was made with the child in mind. It’s the child that matters most. It’s all for them.
Sounds just like a real-life Max to me!
The collection includes a baby carrier to fit a child 1.5 – 4 years old; a hand-knitted onesie Max suit with matching crown, mitts, boots and detachable wolf tail; wooden sling toy; sling mirror; vests, every useful bag you could conceivably think of, including one to hold everything in the set together. And the book itself. Of course! Read all about the individual pieces and the people who made them here!