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Behind The Stitches: Safiyyah Talley, The Drunk Knitter

Behind The Stitches: Safiyyah Talley, The Drunk Knitter

I'm so excited for this Sunday's interview. This week we get the opportunity to learn more about the talented maker behind one of my favorite accounts, The Drunk Knitter. I've been a fan of Safiyyah's Youtube channel and designs for a while now. This fellow Jersey girl creates knitting patterns that you are going to be obsessed with and her story is just as inspirational. So let's just jump right into this week's interview with maker Safiyyah Talley, The Drunk Knitter.

"The knitting world is honest and personable. For better or for worse" 

Sam: What’s your preferred craft?

Safiyyah: Knitting! Spinning and painting come at a close 2nd and 3rd. Knitting just takes less prep work as there’s no spinning wheel to grease and adjust and no paints to mix up. Also, I love knitting math and knitting spreadsheets.

Sam: How did you learn to knit / who taught you?

Safiyyah: The internet taught me how to knit when I was in 7th grade. I think I was 12? This was way before youtube tutorials, but there was this website that had really grainy videos on how to do all of the basics. One afternoon after buying a set of needles, I just watched those videos over and over again until I got it.

Sam: Do you still have your first WIP and what was it?

Safiyyah: Yes! It was a forest green garter stitch scarf that I knit in bulletproof acrylic. I pulled the buttons off of an ugly blazer that I had in my closet and used them to turn it into an infinity scarf. I still wear it all the time!

"The NYC fashion industry is a very surreal culture. It’s almost like you’re living in a surrealist painting because everything appears realistic and fantastical at the same time"

Sam: Are you originally from New York?

Safiyyah: My hometown is Old Bridge, NJ, but both of my parents are New Yorkers so I spent most weekends in Brooklyn and the Bronx. I took classes at FIT though and I had a couple of jobs in Soho and Chelsea. And yes, all these years later and I still have the subway map permanently branded into my brain.

Sam: How would you compare the fashion industry to the knitting world?

Safiyyah: The NYC fashion industry is a very surreal culture. It’s almost like you’re living in a surrealist painting because everything appears realistic and fantastical at the same time. It’s easy to get lost and believe the fantasy that brands are creating. Contrastingly, the knitting world is honest and personable. For better or for worse, we (the designers) are brutally honest with each other, ourselves, and our knitters and that just creates an environment that is more congruent with my personal values.

Sam: When did you decide the fast fashion industry wasn’t for you?

Safiyyah: When I found out that all of these major brands that we buy from, (Levis, Walmart, Kohls, Target, Forever 21, H&M, Zara, ect), have the agency and the money to make their manufacturing environments safe for the women, men, and sadly even children that work there. Instead, executives of these companies consciously chose not to invest more in manufacturing because that would dip into their six and seven figure paychecks. Learning that in fashion school honestly broke my heart and I knew that I could not be involved in that industry.

Sam: Where are you based now and what made you decide to move?

Safiyyah: I am based in a very small unofficial town in central Indiana. It’s so small that I cannot even say the name because it would give away my home address. I think we have a population of 15, or 80 if you include livestock. I moved to Indiana to live with my boyfriend (now husband) who grew up here.

Sam: You’ve spoken about some of the adversity you faced after moving to Indiana. Can you tell us about one of the instances that really stood out to you?

Safiyyah: We were about to get engaged and we went to go pick out rings. I’m black and my husband is white and I immediately noticed that all of the customers were white. And the employees were taking care of them by offering them drinks and such and even helped customers that came in after us, while we just stood there and waited. Finally, when someone did help us, he kept implying that we couldn’t afford his store and we ended up getting yelled at and kicked out in front of everyone. It was humiliating and I never experienced anything like that back home. Don’t feel bad for us though, that store got bought out only a few months later!

Sam: What were you doing before you started your collection?

Safiyyah: I was a Pre-K teacher at a private school and absolutely loved it. However, after my miscarriage in 2018, I no longer felt comfortable being around babies and children and I had to make a change. I tried painting and writing, but knitting is what really stuck.

Sam: If you feel comfortable sharing, can you tell us the backstory and goal behind your Joy Shawl?

Safiyyah: My Joy Shawl was never really meant to be anything but a security blanket for me to help manage my grief during my miscarriage. I never really planned for it to be a pattern, let alone part of a charity. In fact, I felt like the design wasn’t good enough. But I wore the shawl almost every single day because it reminded me of my baby. It wasn’t until I left my job months later did I get the idea to write down the pattern. And then a few days before the release, I thought “hey, I could help others like me” and I began researching non profits. So it was all entirely accidental.

Sam: What was the response to the project?

Safiyyah: The response was insane. I wasn’t ready for all of the personal messages and emails. I thought no one would see it and then within minutes of uploading it to Ravelry, I had downloads. Even now, I haven’t even fully processed it.

Sam: It seems as though giving back is really important to you. What are some of the other charities that your work has allowed you to connect with?

Safiyyah: It’s important to me because I like to think of it as investing in the next generation. Right now my main charities are Room to Read and National Share Org, both are wonderful nonprofits that I recommend that everyone look into.

"I’ve only been designing for 9 months and I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot, while staying true to my soul and I am very proud of that"

Sam: Can you describe your yarn stash? How do you like to organize it?

Safiyyah: I have a craft room/workspace that’s essentially the size of a closet. I use two large cubby bookshelves to keep my yarn and some craft books in. I don’t really organize my yarn though. I just have them separated by yarn support, PR, and personal stash so that I don’t lose anything important.

Sam: How often do you work on new designs?

Safiyyah: Every single day! From Monday to Sunday! I haven’t released much in the past few weeks because I’ve been battling morning sickness.

Sam: You’ve talked about being “shamelessly proud of yourself” did that come easily for you?

Safiyyah: No, it took me moving away from my family to really feel proud of my accomplishments. I was always the odd one out growing up. I never liked to conform to archaic social standards and always spoke my mind. This made me stand out like a sore thumb in my very traditional and religious upbringing. My family hates that I am “The Drunk Knitter”, but I learned that what really matters is that I am happy with who I am. I’ve only been designing for 9 months and I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot, while staying true to my soul and I am very proud of that. It also helps that my husband was always in my corner rooting for me.

Sam: What made you decide to be as open and honest as you are on social media?

Safiyyah: I grew up in a very private home, which in turn made it hard for me to connect to people. But once I became old enough to spread my wings a bit and listen and learn from people out of my bubble, it helped me develop as a person. I learned so much from talking to others who were so far removed from my own culture that I wanted to share that experience by writing my story down.

Sam: Where can people follow your crafting journey?

Safiyyah: I’m @drunkknitter on Instagram and Safiyyah on Ravelry! I’m the drunk knitter on Youtube and I have a website,

Sam: On a totally different note, you seem like a big fan of Game of Thrones. What did you think of the final season?

Safiyyah: You know, you’ll never know it with my terrible grammar, but I’m a writer by trade. So, I really feel for the show writers. I understand what they were trying to do with character story arches. They just either needed more episodes or needed to reformulate episodes from season 8 and 7 to really make it all come together. I honestly do not think they fully knew what their ending would be early on and it shows. I guess that’s just the limitation of adapting an incomplete subject matter. However, I do love the endings for each character and I cannot wait to read the book version.

Sam: Who was your favorite GOT character and why?

Safiyyah: Daenerys because book 1 would have been boring without her. I just loved how she transformed from the victim to the victor. Her character in the books is much deeper than the show, but seeing Emilia Clarke’s interpretation of her was wonderful. And, I love her tragic ending. It was always supposed to be her ending.

Sam: Since we are on the topic and this is Bobble Club House I always have to end with this question. What do you like to binge watch or listen to while you craft?

Safiyyah: Cheesy romance audiobooks are a guilty pleasure. The genre fascinates me because it’s so popular that it stays on the NYT best sellers and no really talks about it beyond 50 Shades of Grey. And, most of the books are written via a formula that is nearly page by page. It is fascinating! I want to write one!

I want to thank Safiyyah for taking the time to chat with me. If you have suggestions for whom I should talk to next leave a note in the comments section. I’m always on the hunt for inspiring crafters. Also, don't forget to follow along on my Instagram account @bobbleclubhouse for your daily dose of all things knitted and to stay up to date on our upcoming NYC events. Until next week, happy crafting!


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