Dana Leigh’s knitting journey began at the young age of five, alongside her dear grandmother.
But while she devoted many years to mastering the hobby as a child, Dana put away her knitting needles for several years before dusting them off as an adult and falling in love with the craft all over again.
“My grandmother taught me to knit when I was around 5 years old, but I put down the needles for many, many years. As an adult, I was looking for a hobby and decided to take up knitting again. I was encouraged to sell my pieces and so I tried and it went well – and then I decided to jump in and take it full-time. And that has been absolutely amazing!”
Fueled with ambition to turn her passion into a small business, Dana founded Rough Bark Knits to create beautiful handknitted winterwear accessories that are both stylish and cozy. In fact, only designs that make her do a happy dance make it into her collection.
“I love experimenting with fabrics, texture and patterns, and I aim to create versatile pieces that are comfortable and flattering on various fits,” said Dana. “I am very picky with my patterns, construction and material. I really want you to love the item you purchase and I work on the design of each piece until I am confident that will be the result.”
How did you decide on the name ‘Rough Bark Knits’?
It sounds silly, but picking a name is hard! So many names are taken in our global marketplace. Although I am a small business, I do want people to be able to Google the name and have my business come up – so I was really looking for something unique that reminded me of nature. I thought of bark and its texture is rough and knits is what I do so – ta-da!
Where do you find inspiration for your designs? And how do you decide on your colour palettes?
I find inspiration everywhere! I look at what’s in style, what’s trending and how that might translate into an item I make that has a modern knitted feel. I am constantly on social media – I love seeing the ways in which people put pieces and colour together. I just kind of take all that in and, when I’m ready to change my colours or introduce a new piece, all of that information plays a role. In terms of colour, I prefer neutrals – and I have noticed that preference in people purchasing my items as well – so I try and stay with interesting neutrals and add a pop or two of colour.
What’s your process behind making your pieces? How many do you typically knit in a day/week?
I am knitting all the time! When I finish ‘work’ knitting, I have been known to knit to relax! This is my full-time job and it is literally what I do everyday. I spend the first part of the calendar year working on new designs and photos, then I build up stock for the busy fall/winter season, and by the time the chilly weather comes, I am usually at local artisan markets and filling online orders. Everything is made by me in my home studio in Hamilton, Ontario.
What’s some great feedback you’ve received from happy customers?
The best feedback for me is excited ‘I just love it!’ feedback, or when people say a season or two later that they have a particular piece and just love it. It makes me feel that I have succeeded in crafting something well-made that someone is enjoying for an extended period of time.
Future plans for Rough Bark Knits?
I would like to do more wholesaling and hopefully book a few artisan markets for 2022! With COVID, in-person shows have been challenging, so I really just can’t wait to get our there and start chatting with people again! I could talk about knitting all day! (Although if you ever do see me, don’t worry, I talk about other things too!!)