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A Long, Long Time Ago

August 13, 2020

Once upon a time, there were two knitters, both working at their local yarn shop. The pair became fast friends and quickly discovered that they both wanted to design knitting patterns together. The rest, my dear knitters, is history.

Emily and Alexa are standing near a cliff in hand knit sweaters. They are smiling with arms around each other. Emily's sweater is a deep maroon with a bright red colourwork yoke, Alexa's sweater is a warm dark green with pops of navy, bright teal, and chartreuse at the yoke.
Our latest adventure in Iceland.

A fateful trip

The year was 2010. I had just finished my teaching degree with no job in sight. (Fun fact: I was almost a high school social studies teacher!) When I met Emily, she was living in Vancouver but soon moved back home to Courtenay, where she was working in architecture. We were two close friends separated by a ferry ride, so we decided to take a weekend away. I hopped on the ferry, and we headed to one of our favourite places: Tofino.

Tofino is an absolutely wonderful spot on the western shore of Vancouver Island. It’s located on the current and traditional territory of the 14 Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, and we recognize the responsibility that came with our presence on their sacred land. We have so much respect for this beautiful area, with its lush rain forests and iconic beaches. Standing on the sand and looking out onto the Pacific Ocean feels like standing at the edge of the entire world! Tofino holds a special place in our hearts, and it was inspiring to experience a land we both deeply love together.

This trip was so inspiring, in fact, that it led us to start a partnership that would change our lives forever. As we wandered the damp forests, visited the local art gallery, sipped coffee at the hipster bakery, and relaxed on the beach, we began to chat about our big ideas. Sitting in the sand, under the stars, Emily suggested we might design a pattern together, but I said no – we should write a book. And that was the beginning of our Tin Can Knits journey. It was that little kernel that grew into our very first book, 9 Months of Knitting.

Emily is standing on the beach looking out at the ocean. Waves are rolling in.
Em looks out over the vast Pacific.
A close up of Emily wearing sunglasses and gazing into the distance. Beach and forest blurred in the background.
Looking cool on the beach.
A moody photo of little rocky islands in the ocean. Clouds pass overhead.
The view from beautiful Uclulet.
Alexa is standing on a dock in a red sweater, scarf, and jeans. She looks a bit chilly and the wind is blowing her pony tail.
It was March, so it was a little on the chilly side!

Life is a journey

You never really know where life will take you. That brief weekend adventure led to a partnership that’s still going strong 10 years later. Emily and I have published over 170 patterns and nine books. We’ve taught classes, attended knitting shows, and participated in countless community events. We’ve written hundreds of blog posts and taken hundreds of thousands of pictures. And best of all, we’ve done it all together.

All of our books! 9 Months of Knitting, Pacific Knits, Handmade in the UK, Road Trip, Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe, Great White North, Mad Colour, The Simple Collection, and Strange Brew.

Since our professional partnership started, our personal lives have changed drastically as well. One transatlantic move and five TCK kids have come along, and our work life has ebbed and flowed around these life changes. I’ll always remember that one year we each had a baby six weeks apart. It was interesting to say the least!

a small Hunter is on Gary's shoulders, decked out in a knit sweater and hat. Gary is wearing a coordinated hat too as they tromp through the woods.
Hunter was the inspiration for 9 Months of Knitting and our very first knitwear model.
Gary and Jones in matching hand knit colourwork yoke sweaters. They stand against a backdrop of snow and mossy rocks.
Our joint family adventure to Iceland was the trip of a lifetime.
John is holding Max and Neve and they are all gleefully laughing.
These three have added so much joy to our knitwear design. Emily is finally as excited as I am about kid knits!
4 adults and 5 kids all holding hands in a row on a bright evening on the beach. They are all wearing hand knit sweaters and facing away from the camera.
The TCK families have grown over the years.
Max and Bodhi are about 6 months old lying on a wool blanket. They are wearing matching colourwork vests and chewing on wooden blocks.
Emily’s Max and Alexa’s Bodhi came along in 2014, only six weeks apart.

Through it all, we’ve remained dedicated partners, and I don’t think I would have done half of the things we’ve done together on my own. Each of us brings different strengths (and weaknesses) to the partnership, and we are truly better as one whole than as two halves. I’m sometimes asked why we wouldn’t rather go it alone, and I laugh a little. Some might find it hard to imagine sharing a business, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Emily and Alexa are sitting on the sidewalk with a vivid blue building behind them. They are each knitting. Emily is looking down at her knitting and Alexa is smiling at the camera.
Doing what we love, together.

Thank you

Emily and I wouldn’t be where we are today without the wonderful people who support us. We work with two amazing tech editors, Karen Butler and Laura Chau, to keep our pattern math on track. And this year, we added our excellent new editor, Sarah Beams of Word Lodge, who helps us keep our exclamation-point enthusiasm in check. Over the years, we also have relied on friends and family to model for us, bringing our knits to life. We’re so happy to have these magnificent folks on our team.

So what does the future hold for Tin Can Knits? What will life look like in another 10 years? We can’t really say, but we do know that there will be a lot more knitting… that we can promise you!

~Alexa

27 Comments leave one →
  1. Alison Caron permalink
    November 7, 2020 7:58 am

    I have only just discovered you about a week ago so I’ve not even gone through all of your patterns and certainly not all your blogs which I find myself being strongly pulled towards.I like your philosophy and truly look forward to working on one of your patterns ( if I have the skills for it) and following along with you in the future.

  2. Deborah permalink
    October 2, 2020 11:22 am

    Just bought another one of your books now I read your story and I am so glad I support you. Will buy more

  3. Caty permalink
    August 19, 2020 8:02 am

    Happy Anniversary! I love your work and have most of your books!!!

  4. Sharon Schaafsma permalink
    August 18, 2020 4:56 am

    Love your story as well as your beautiful patterns!

  5. Meredith MC permalink
    August 15, 2020 7:36 pm

    Happy Anniversary! Your joyful and practical knits have inspired me so much. Thank you for embarking on this adventure and sharing it with us.

  6. Holly permalink
    August 15, 2020 6:35 am

    Congratulations! And thank you! I taught myself to knit 7 years ago using your Simple Collection and credit you with laying the foundation for a lifetime of happy knitting. <3

  7. Celestine permalink
    August 15, 2020 5:15 am

    I love to knot. Self taught since the age of 12. I love your sweaters but love just plain sweaters. I knit for very small babies and little children until the age of two. Then I started making hats which I change to meet my mood.
    I am retired now, so I had all day to create my sweaters and hats. Just want to write you and say thank you for the colorful sweaters.

  8. Carol permalink
    August 15, 2020 5:11 am

    Loved reading your story….my LYS always promotes your patterns and tutorials. You have been so generous sharing your knowledge and talents with the fiber community. I met Alexa at the Ann Budd retreat near Montreal last summer(seems like a lifetime ago! You were delightful to learn from and I still have those squares on the needles amongst my many UFO’s. Congratulations to you both, and many Thanks!

  9. JahidHasan permalink
    August 14, 2020 9:39 am

    Nice makesweater

  10. Lyna Pitts permalink
    August 14, 2020 6:58 am

    Okay you have stolen my heart! A lesson- follow your heart can be relearned at any moment! It is speaking to you right now! Be grateful! You are never too old or to cool or too comfortable! And whatever you do will be absolutely right! Thank you I need that kind of courage again!

  11. Kate W permalink
    August 14, 2020 4:06 am

    Happy anniversary! I met one half of Tin Can Knits (Emily) at Unravel and it was great to meet you. Guess I’ll have to pay a visit to Canada to meet your other half, which is no big hardship!

    I love all your patterns and really appreciate your size inclusivity. I always recommend you to new knitters for your amazingly clear tutorials.

    Thanks for everything you do – here’s to another 10 years (and more!)

  12. Linda permalink
    August 13, 2020 8:09 pm

    Congratulations on 10 fabulous years! Thank you for all you’ve done for knitters. Time and time again I come back to your patterns and tutorials. All the best wishes for the next 10 years!

  13. Melanie Deininger permalink
    August 13, 2020 6:33 pm

    What a wonderful story!

  14. August 13, 2020 6:31 pm

    Congrats!! Love every single one of your patterns–your’e my favorite designers :)

  15. geniap permalink
    August 13, 2020 6:18 pm

    Holy Cow!! Ten years, congratulations!! Actually, I was worried that was a “Hon, mom and mom are breaking up” letter. Thank you for not breaking up. (I really hope you see the funny in this. If not feel free to delete.) Much love, and looking forward to the next 10 years.

    • August 14, 2020 2:09 am

      Hahaha we try to shower the love on each other so as not to break up… and we totally do see our partnership as a second marriage :) So yeah, funny to me! ~ Em

  16. Bonnie permalink
    August 13, 2020 4:28 pm

    Your designs are timeless and beautiful. Thanks and congratulations for ten years of friendship and creativity.

  17. janeC Hanbury permalink
    August 13, 2020 4:21 pm

    Congratulations on ten years of Tin Can Knits, you two have created some wonderfull patterns that are a joy to knit. I particularly like the Heart on your Sleeve project. It felt like we could knit the world into a better place. Looking forward to the next ten years of your inspiring collaboration.

  18. Anna Korteweg permalink
    August 13, 2020 4:21 pm

    I love your account of your partnership. I work closely with a co-author and she wrote a lovely blog about our collaboration recently: https://medium.com/@gokceyurdakul/successfully-co-authoring-for-eleven-years-b489fe98060c. In case you’re interested :)

  19. August 13, 2020 12:23 pm

    You two accomplished all that in ten years?!?! 😓

  20. smonakey permalink
    August 13, 2020 10:49 am

    I’m so glad you met & the rest was history! I’m a huge TCK fan & have purchased many of your patterns. Keep it up, please – I really love the patterns you make!

  21. Patti Lake permalink
    August 13, 2020 10:04 am

    That was a beautiful story Alexa and Emily. Tin Can Knits’ patterns are among my favorites.
    I have knit several for myself and my family, and am in the midst of a beautiful Love Note sweater as I write this. I wish you both a long and continued happy partnership. The world of knitting is richer with your presence. Wishing you and your beautiful families good health and happiness. Patti Lake (knittingirishlass on Ravelry)

  22. Linda permalink
    August 13, 2020 8:23 am

    Congratulations on 10 years! I have just come back to knitting in the last few years so its fun seeing all the new things. It was enjoyable to read your story. Keep it up! Hugs!

  23. August 13, 2020 8:11 am

    Congratulations on your anniversary! [from another almost-high-school-Social-Studies teacher]

  24. August 13, 2020 7:50 am

    Love you guys!! You have done so much for knitters everywhere!

  25. Bullibutz permalink
    August 13, 2020 7:25 am

    💕

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