An Interview with: Thea Colman of BabyCocktails {+ a Contest!}

Thea Colman of BabyCocktails, recently published a beautiful sweater, Drambuie, out of Canopy Worsted in Yerba Mate. If you don't know Thea's blog or designs already, they are most definitely worth a look! In honor of the release of the pattern, we asked her to participate in a little interview. Enjoy!

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Kelbourne Woolens: Your blog is called BabyCocktails and the vast majority of your knitting patterns are named after delicious mixed drinks. In addition to posting your knitting projects and other life happenings on your blog, you also share unique cocktail recipes as well. When and how did this mix of yarn and drink happen and where does the name "BabyCocktails" come from? (and, might we add, we're a little jealous we didn't think of mixing knitting with mixed drinks more often first!)

Thea Colman: Ha! I’ve always knit, and I do have a thing for cocktails, so that mix of yarn and drink has been around forever. But, the BabyCocktails name and the business being attached unintentionally evolved over time.

The name: When my kids were smaller, and the afternoons got loooooong, I had a few good friends on my street. We’d get together in the late afternoons for a drink or two before dinner for a little sanity check, and we called those drinks “babycocktails” – since the cranky babies were the excuse for the cocktails. Which makes sense, right? For a business idea with one of the other women, I reserved the blogger page. The business never materialized, but I had the domain, had begun trolling other blogs, and when I decided to give blogging a go in 2005, I used it. Since I was already knitting and making drinks, the combination was there, and the name made sense, but it was purely editorial and I had no intention of doing much more with it.

Then I started designing little things. I loved it, but I thought each of my first few patterns would probably be my last and I’d be going back to work. However, the sweaters started selling and I started to think about designing as a potential part time career. From a marketing perspective, the name made total sense to keep – it was easy to remember AND had a theme built right into it. Starting with White Russian, I decided to tie the pattern names to actual drinks and create a more tightly woven identity around BabyCocktails. In the last few years, it’s panned out well. It’s a great conversation starter, a never-ending pool of pattern titles, AND a tax deductible way to go to the liquor store.

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KW: You mention that you used to "have a career and all the trimmings" but now you focus on your kids and your growing design business. Knowing how much time it takes to put out quality knitting patterns, do you find that your new career is just as time consuming as the last? (except with this one, you can have a drink while you work, which was most likely frowned upon at your last place of employment).

TC: Well, my old life was in advertising, so the hours and the drinking might be about the same! However, this is more predictable – and I set the pace, which is important. I avoid a lot of hard deadlines, so that when I need to, I can put a project down. With one daughter in elementary school, another in middle school, and a husband that travels and works late, it’s key for me. As the girls get older, that will probably change, but for now it’s great to have flexibility to arrange my time.

I work on the business part of BabyCocktails 3-4 days a week, during school hours. That’s around 20-24 hours of real “work”. However, so much of this career is social, and more than a few of my friends come over to knit or to “help” with the cocktails, so a lot of my BabyCocktails work can happen with a house full of kids or friends around me. Plus the knitting is done almost all the time, everywhere I go. With that in mind, I’d be hard pressed to guess the amount of time in a week that’s work-related, and what’s just a blend of life and work. So, it’s probably more time spent, but most of it doesn’t feel like a job.

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KW: It seems as if you started out designing accessories but jumped right into sweaters pretty quickly. A lot of your patterns in the last year have been sweaters in all different shapes with a wide variety of style inspirations. Is there a particular type of sweater that appeals to you the most, or are you more of an "equal opportunity" knitter when it comes to your designs?

TC: I am absolutely an “equal opportunity” knitter. I don’t always know what is going to stick, and my taste is definitely varied. I usually start with something I want to wear, or a single element I like, or a particular style I want to play with. Occasionally, it’s a sweater in a store that I think could have been nice IF ONLY it had {fill in the blank} and I play with the IF ONLY. And sometimes it’s a yarn I need to knit with. So, for each sweater, something does appeal to me, and it’s fun to let it dictate the rest of the project as it evolves. But the thing that appeals to me? It changes every time!

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KW: From your other designs, it is clear you pay attention to yarn properties - gauge, construction and fiber content - when selecting them for your patterns. For your latest design, Drambuie, you used Canopy Worsted, a 3-ply worsted weight blend of alpaca, merino and viscose from bamboo. Why did you chose Canopy for this particular sweater? What in particular made Canopy a good choice for the end result you were looking for in the design?

TC: I actually chose Canopy without a sweater in mind. A friend of mine was making a cardigan out of the Ipe, and once I saw and felt it in person, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. So, in this case, the pattern was designed around the yarn. I really wanted to showcase the softness of the fiber and the burgundy/green color in the Yerba Mate. I started with a fitted cardigan idea, which didn’t feel delicate enough for Canopy. That design eventually turned into Mint Julep, and it was a swatch of the offset cable that eventually led to Drambuie. The motif was soft and distinct and elegant, which is what I think of the yarn itself. Coupled with reverse stockinette and a few columns of ribbing, the design was both simple and elegant enough to match the yarn. After that, it seemed natural to work in the fit and shape of the pullover, which is perfect for the amount of drape in the bamboo/alpaca/merino mix.

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KW: What's next for BabyCocktails?

TC: More of the same – a mix of styles and fibers. I would love to do another dress or try a skirt before the year is up. I’ve also made my first triangle scarf recently and think one of those might be in the lineup. We will see. My goal is to do at least a pattern a month in 2012, of which I have three so far. After a distracting year in 2011 (we sold our house and moved – I couldn’t even FIND my yarn for a while!), I am looking forward to doing a LOT more knitting and having about the same amount of drinks. (More of those are not a good idea.)

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Thanks so much, Thea for participating in this interview with us! For you, our dear readers, we have an extra bonus for you! Leave a comment on this post telling us either your favorite cocktail {or mocktail!} to pair with your knitting/crocheting. Comments will be open until 12 noon EST on January 21st. We have combined forces with Thea, and she has generously agreed to donate a copy of the pattern to us, so one lucky commenter will be chosen randomly to receive a sweater's worth of Canopy Worsted + the Drambuie pattern!

*Comments are now closed, and we will announce the winner on Sunday. Thanks so much to everyone who entered!*