Whimsical and woolly, the hand knit creations of Claudia Wilde are just what we’re craving now that we’ve officially entered “sweater weather” season.
Get cozy and read on for our recent interview with the East Van knitter and bright businesswoman…
How and when did knitting enter into your life?
Although my mom taught me how to knit a toque when I was a kid, knitting didn’t formally enter my life as a regular practice until university. For most of my undergrad I struggled with the anxiety of disappointing others and by the end of 2019, my last year of school, I was really done with feeling burnt out and scared all of the time. Writing wasn’t providing me with much joy anymore either and I was searching for another practice that provided me with the same feeling of hope and connection to others. I found knitting to be an excellent remedy for both.
I bought my first needles and skeins at Wet Coast Wools and knit my first scarf November 2019. March 2020 I knit my first sweater using a pattern by Tara Lynn-Morrison (a famous Canadian knitwear designer) and July 2020 I knit my first sweater without a pattern.
What inspired you to launch your own brand?
It felt like a natural progression. My internship ended early due to the pandemic last year, and I was having difficulty finding work as a new graduate in 2020. Law school had always been my backup plan (hilarious if you actually know me), so I spent a lot of summer 2020 studying for the LSAT and knitting.
By September I was seriously worried about my career and finances but also dreading the idea of going to law school. I felt trapped. I was getting lots of compliments on the sweaters I was making though, so my partner and family suggested I try selling some. I made an online store offering customized wool sweaters in November of 2020 and by Christmas I had more sweater orders than I could keep up with. I fully paid my rent in sweater orders that month and have been knitting sweaters for others since!
What, in your opinion, makes the “perfect sweater”?
I love bright, colourful, optimistic clothing. I spent a few months traveling around Finland a few years ago and someone there told me that Finnish people wear bright colours because it’s dark all of the time and they’re trying to cheer each other up. That really stuck with me and has infused a lot of my own wardrobe, especially now that I call rainy Vancouver home! I find mixing nostalgic Fair Isle patterns with bright colours and fun symbols is a fun way of employing this.
I also adore a soft sweater with good structure and natural fibres which is why I use a chunky highland wool with thinner needles. The larger your needles, the looser the knit. There’s a place for relaxed chunky knits, but I find my sweaters age better when they have more structure.
Mohair is another one of my favourite fibres. It’s so buttery and ages so well. I haven’t made anything with mohair just yet, but I have plans!
“I do hope those who wear my sweaters find something that resembles hopefulness while wearing their warm woolly. Life can sometimes be heavy and dark, it’s important to find, make, and share things that are bright.”
Do you have a favourite sweater (besides your own)? What is the story there? What makes it so special?
I actually do! My mom has a large handknit alpaca wool sweater she bought when she was 21 while backpacking around Peru. She gave it to me when I left for university and I’ve worn it to parties, campfires, everywhere. It’s one of those items that’s complimented whenever I wear it. It’s made with a medium weight wool but has great structure.
How do you think that your creative writing education and general passion for literature translates into your knitting?
I think it’s provided an attention to detail, a deep appreciation for hope and humanity, and the duty to share and create things that connect us to one another. I also think workshopping has provided a grittiness that has allowed me to take the criticism of my art less personally.
Ideally, how do you want your customers to feel when wearing a Claudia Wilde creation, besides warm and cozy?
Confident and hopeful! Optimistic and silly! Cream of the crop! Bright and light!
In all seriousness, I do hope those who wear my sweaters find something that resembles hopefulness while wearing their warm woolly. Life can sometimes be heavy and dark, it’s important to find, make, and share things that are bright.
Besides the clothing, what is your favourite thing about the autumn and winter seasons?
Winter bonfires on the beach, listening to the rain while I fall asleep, icy ocean dips, warm baths after being outside in the forest. I am such a water baby and find the sea and rain to be incredibly soothing. I also find them to be beautiful reminders of the importance of seasons, circularity, and the importance of both giving and taking.
What can we look forward to seeing from you next?
I’ll be teaming up with a local boutique this winter for a small collection and series of workshops. I’ll be sharing more details as they come!