Polish knit wear designer Gosia Dzik-Holden lives with her English husband and three young children in an East London terrace. She is the creator of Stitchville which offers knitting teaching; knitwear designs; natural yarn and knitting holidays.
Gosia has fought hard to be where she is now. She started freelancing when her youngest of her three children was one.
Having kids freed something up in my creativity. My parents had not let me go to art school but I realised that it was a really important part of my life and it was something I really was not prepared to compromise on, it would take sometime but I was sure I could find a way to do it.
Growing Stitchville happened at an incredibly slow pace. I would always find at least an hour to work on my designs each day but I felt that it wasn’t moving. I would realise that I had been working on a sweater for two months and it still wasn’t finished, but however slow it felt, I concentrated, kept going and held my focus.
I am lucky that my husband is really good at making money so I didn’t have worry about the family going without while I found my way.
I hit some dead ends, for example I contributed designs to a series of knitting books but I came to realise it was an appalling financial deal as you don’t have any rights to your pattern and the publishers are free to reuse and resell it. I was paid £300 for the first two projects , then £250 a project for the next four. I learned to be economic with what I produced but it takes four solid days writing a pattern and you can’t be interrupted as it needs complete concentration.
Having learnt the hard way Gosia is now writing a book of her own on seamless knitting which she will publish and market herself.
Gosia is sure of her taste is very particular. She insists on natural fibres, hating anything fuzzy or sparkly, acrylics, harsh colours or one-dimensional blacks. “If you start with the right fibres you are half way to making a good garment”
She makes real money from her on-line yarn boutique and is in the process of upgrading her site. Begun as a way of selling on her own surplus yarns she now buys specially and makes her own distinctive notes on each yarn . Last year she made £6000 from the yarn sales.
When it comes to clothes she is a demanding shopper
“It has to be impeccably made and if there is one detail wrong then it kills it for me I am not interested in fashion trends I want to make something personal and timeless, clothes should enhance your experience and make you feel great about yourself.”
Remarkably sure of her intuition she says she often foresees trends. Her certainty is a huge asset as it makes her the sort of person people gravitate to. Most people are unsure of their taste and their confidence is boosted by Gosia who knows exactly what she likes and why. Her students stay with her for a long time, probably because they are stimulated by her gentle company, her way of examining things and her positive drive. She has the imagination to understand their knowledge gaps, the bit the pattern writer assumed they knew and they didn’t, the bit between the lines that the learner needs explaining.
Her teaching is done either on a Saturday in her husband’s company’s meeting room in Islington for which she charges £20 an hour or during a home visit for which she charges £20 an hour with a £10 travel fee.
An extension of her teaching is her newly established Stitchville holidays which take place in Landmark Trust venues the first holiday ever is at the end of January in a remote Scottish castle. This is fully booked with one last-minute cancellation. This first holiday is already self funding making a modest profit which will be rolled over into the next venue, another castle booking just outside Edinburgh in November
Getting It Right
A Single Identity The creation of the single Stitchville identity that can over arch Gosia’s various projects makes sense, she is the sort of person who will always be developing a lot of different strands but all of them can be fed from the same customer base.
Clear Focus If you have a lot of strands you have to be very clear about your focus. Gosia could reel off exactly what she wanted to do with next year, where her major effort would be and a set of specific goals.
Work Routine You need to carve out a working day from other demands on your time. Gosia makes herself get up at 6.30am because she is very productive in the morning and will have ” loads done by 8am” when she does the school run She is back at her desk by 9.30 and works until it is time to pick the children up from school. In the evening she will be “pottering about” Even when the children were still at home all day she plugged on accepting that it might just be an hour a day but it would add up and some progress would be made.
Certainty You can’t make it if you don’t have a very clear aesthetic. Every thing you do has to be coloured by that, if customers like one thing they will like another, that way you can build yourself a base. You have to transmit your certainties to your customer, think Trinny and Susannah. Gosia doesn’t dominate but her certainty is magnetic and bankable.
Patience Getting things right takes time. Gosia says she is still building the ramparts but six years ago she would not have believed it was possible. From assistant manager of the John Smedley Brook Street flagship store to knitwear designer is a big stride but its made by talent and persistence— Hours worked 35 per week—-Income £12,500 a year—