Knitting is a passion that has been in both sides of my family for generations. My mother taught all of us to knit and is something I adored doing from the satisfaction of feeling the squishiness of the wool to creating something beautiful. My mother was an amazingly beautiful knitter and both my granny’s never used a pattern in their lives, it was just something they knew how to do and part of their lives. Granny McGonagle would study a pattern of someone’s hat or cardigan at mass then go home and knit it. It was also a source of income for her when she was raising her family.
I worked in banking for over 20 years and when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers I made a decision to take early (very early) retirement to care for her. Knitting was my stress release and something she enjoyed watching me do and chat about. I knitted for friends and family and with the encouragement of these people I decided to start a Facebook page selling the items I created in April 2017. I wasn’t doing it to make money, I sold items to cover the cost of wool and buy my next batch. This took off at an incredible rate and I struggled to meet demand. Sylvia was someone I started conversing with online and she gave me loads of advice and as I loved her knits, I asked her to join me. I consider her a very dear friend. Shortly after, Charlee joined bringing something different and we were a busy wee team.
Very often I couldn’t find patterns for something I wanted to create so started designing my own and discovered I loved it. Family, Charlee and Sylvia encouraged me to start selling my patterns as there was so much interest and with a lot of self doubt, insecurity, fear of ridicule but a stubborn determination to succeed, I did. And what can I say – wow! It has just been incredible.
The demand got so big I opened a second Facebook page dedicated purely to patterns in December 2019. By this time Annmarie had joined the team – it was clearly evident her attention to detail was a huge strength she had. Annmarie now checks all my patterns, brings her own suggestions in and together we knock about ideas to improve and perfect. She also reigns me in when I start doing too much or senses me heading for a meltdown – the demand can be overwhelming but that’s great, right? I am truly grateful for each and every one of my customers and have a lovely bunch of ladies and a few gentlemen who buy pretty much everything I produce..
So my patterns, what can I tell you. My family are from Co Donegal in Ireland and it is a country I adore and call my spiritual home. I have always loved the Aran designs but could not find anything out there for little ones. I also found the layout and instructions for a lot of patterns were unnecessarily complicated and very few jumped out at me. I started designing Aran knits aiming for clear instructions and simplification. I wanted to achieve a modern twist in the beautiful colours that are now available and the response was incredible. People loved them!! Wow, people actually loved my designs, I was absolutely thrilled and this inspired confidence and creativity and still does.
I now design not only Aran but Double Knitting and Chunky knits too to meet the demand of my lovely customers. All my patterns have a story and many are linked to family and Ireland, my two great loves. My business is growing at an incredible rate with customers not only in the UK and Ireland but Europe, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand and some countries I’ve never heard off (geography was never a strong point. Annmarie will tell you neither is counting…).
And now I am on to the next stage of my journey with my website which my son has built for me. My aim is to reach more customers in the world to become part of the Designed By Donna family. The Facebook pages are still in operation but there was a need to simplify ordering and see all patterns together – simplification is my mantra. The admin side of things were also starting to impact on time required for caring for mum.
I’m a full time carer for my mother and consider myself blessed I can do something I love which works around her. She would be so proud and be helping me herself if things were different. However they are what they are and I am so lucky to have a bossy, gifted son who has driven me and my ideas forward and helps me when needed. I couldn’t copy and paste two years ago and it is thanks to him pushing me to work it out myself after showing me once (yip, once) that has improved my technical skills – he is a hard task master!
I hope you enjoy knitting my patterns as much as I do designing them, it has been a family effort from mum teaching me to my son encouraging and helping me with a business plan. It’s been fun and scary but I’m loving every minute and who knows where it will take me. And you! The last three years have been quite a ride…