Several months ago (at Unravel) I met Sophie Randel, a really great knitter who has combined her hobby with her career as a project manager. Sophie's latest project is something that just might impact your own knitting, so grab yourself a cuppa, and if you have an iPad, get that too - this is my conversation with Sophie... (Affiliate links for LoveKnitting are included in this post.)
Hi Sophie, thanks for taking time to tell us more about your career and your exciting new project! First of all, can you tell us about yourself?
I’ve been a passionate knitter ever since my mum taught me when I was 12. She is still my knitting idol! I grew up in Hamburg, Germany and as an adult also lived in Cologne, before moving to London last year. Funnily enough, in all the places I’ve lived, I’ve always lived next to a yarn shop! This is both very convenient and very dangerous...
To fund my yarn buying, I do agile programme and project management at LoveCrafts (the parent company of LoveKnitting) and for the last few months I’ve been working with our mobile team as the product manager for our first LoveKnitting app.
For the non-technical amongst us, what is it that you do?
My job means I get to work with our technical team to support them in building amazing digital products - which means I can do anything from creating a plan for the delivery of a new feature for the website to organising a launch party. When I first joined the app team, my focus was on defining all the functionality we needed to give customers to ensure a great and useful app experience. I worked with our designers to get their ideas and input and then took that input to our developers to explain what we needed to build (and to also make sure that we tested everything with real knitters). During the last few weeks before launch, I was testing the app continuously. I spent my summer holiday knitting with the app open on my iPad, in the middle of nowhere in southern Germany - it was actually a great way to spend my time off and now I have hundreds of new ideas for what we can build next!
How did you come to be working with LoveKnitting?
It all started one weekend last summer in Hamburg (Germany), I was looking for yarn and patterns online and found loveknitting.com. I was really impressed by their shop and social platform and so I idly checked their job ads (although I fully expected LoveKnitting to be far away). I was amazed to find a job which sounded perfect, and so I applied and within a few months I had packed everything up and moved to London!
Can you tell us more about the new LoveKnitting app and how using it will benefit users?
When we started thinking about the app we made the decision to build a tool for knitters. We had a few options we were considering but ultimately decided we wanted to build a tool for our customers which made their lives (and knitting) easier. We gathered some feedback from knitters on how they used patterns when they were knitting and found that lots of people complained about the chaotic way they relied on scribbled notes and crumpled printed pages. With our wealth of PDF patterns and our digital know-how, that seemed like a problem we could fix and so we set about building something that removed the need for printed patterns. Today the current version of the app lets you view all the patterns you have in your library on your iPad. From the library you can open your pattern to view it, zoom in on it and then use specially designed tools such as a digital pen, pattern tamer and row counter. My personal favourite is the highlighting tool for keeping track of the size of the garment I am making.
|Access the tools from the menu bar on the left (slide it out or hide it with the arrow)|
If I was to sum up the benefits of the app for someone who had never seen it I would say the biggest benefits are 1) no more pens and paper to wrestle with 2) you can take all your patterns anywhere on your iPad 3) you can use really great tools developed by knitters, for knitters.
|Add your own project photos to the project|
How long has it taken to develop the LoveKnitting app and what have been the biggest challenges?
We started developing the app in February. On one hand it was great to build an app from scratch but on the other it was a challenge- before an app is live, you never really know if you are building something people want. One example of this was the row counter tool. During user testing we had 15 knitters come in for testing and of those 15, 14 said they didn’t use a row counter with only one saying they did. Despite only one person saying they currently used a row counter, we still decided to include one in the app. Our thinking was that if we built a really simple row counter, people would use it. At launch we’ve included a small version of the row counter with just one counter per project and if we get feedback from our users that they really love the row counter and use it, we will spend more time extending the functionality.
Another big challenge was that knitting a garment takes time. This made testing the app in a “real life” environment challenging, and going through the whole process of starting and finishing a project was hard. I managed to start and finish two projects with the app. I started two more and one is the Fittleworth Cowl. I really like the pattern and now that the weather is getting colder, I need something warm around my neck. I bought some yarn at Unravel which I think would be amazing with the cowl.
Now the app is live in the App Store, the next very important step for us is to get feedback from our users. I think in a few weeks we will begin to know what users find useful and what we can improve. While we are gathering that information we plan to build our first iPhone version of the app, so that a lot more knitters can have the opportunity to use our app for knitting. We also want to make the app a lot easier for knitters to manage their projects and share their creations. Other features we want to build include: community features so that you can see projects from other users, more free patterns for you to download directly from the app, an app specifically for crocheters and sooooo many more things. It’s actually an endless list and I also fully expect that our users will come up with new ideas we haven’t even thought of yet!
Thank you Sophie, I am loving the iPad app so far and can't wait to hear what everyone else thinks of it - hopefully we will get some comments on this post once people have tried it! I'll be sure to post an update when the iPhone and Android versions are available too.
If you're itching to try the app, you can download it on your ipad right now (it's free) and when you do, you'll have exclusive access to my Fittleworth Cowl which is one of the six pre-loaded patterns. After logging in, any of the PDF patterns that you have already purchased via LoveKnitting will also be available in your library. You can also shop for further patterns (including some of my own) and all of the supplies you need to make them.
Tomorrow, I'll tell you more about Fittleworth and the inspiration behind it. UPDATE: Read more about the design and inspiration for Fittleworth here.