Handmade: Designer has finger on pulse of knitwear
She’s fashionably modern, on the cutting edge for designing up-to-date knitwear, and willing to share her knitting skills with others by instructing classes at local yarn shops and elsewhere.
Meet Cassondra Rizzardi, 30, of Ferndale, who learned to knit and crochet as a young child from her grandmother. However, she gave up knitting for three or four years, but said, “I picked it back up about four years ago when my daughters (Viviana, 7, and Juniper, 4) were little and I was staying home with them.” After years of honing her skills, she’s now in the business of designing and publishing her original patterns for fashion-forward knitwear under the name “Rizzaknits.”
“I started publishing my patterns in 2014 only because people had asked for them, but I didn’t really focus on designing patterns as my career until about two years ago,” she said. “I sell just the patterns, and I teach at any local yarn shop that ask me to come — ... have you any Wool in Berkley, Woolly&Co. in Birmingham, Spun in Ann Arbor, Yarn Garden in Charlotte, (etc.). I intend for that to grow and spread, and I’m always open to teaching at other places.”
Rizzardi, who studied fine arts at Eastern Michigan University, said Merino wool is definitely her fiber of choice “because it’s soft, and not itchy like most people think of wool.” She said, “I have very sensitive skin, and it wears well. And, it last because it’s a hardy fiber. I get most of my yarn through independent dyers, so I can get it in a variety of colors.”
As with much of fashion throughout history, some of Rizzardi’s trendsetting designs are heavily influenced by culture and public opinion. Among them are a statement-making hat she recently designed with a stitch pattern that raises attention. The pattern, which she sells online, has been in high demand.
“I had a hat pattern come out in January called “She Rises,” with a motif detailed (stitch) pattern in the hat that looks like raised fists,” she said. “It really resonated with people as a feminist icon with all the things going on. The connection of the symbolism in the pattern of the fists raised was drawing on women rising together, and overcoming discrimination, and sexism, where the climate around women is often viewed as catty and competitive. A lot of people chose to make those hats for friends, relatives, and people going through chemotherapy.”
Some of her pieces are unisex, but most are womenswear that’s unique and designed around garments and accessories she, herself, would like to wear. And, although she has her own website (rizzaknits.com), she said, “All the patterns are, ultimately, sold through Ravelry, right now.”
Her patterns are priced from $2-$7 each, and she said, “They’re sold as a digital format, and can be printed by the buyer. Also, yarn shops sell them, as well. They’re also (sold) through Ravelry at the yarn shop. If people ask to download them, the price is split between myself and the yarn shop.” Process photos and video tutorials come standard in her patterns “to give beginners the tools they need to knit bravely.”
Rizzardi’s main focus now is to build the Rizzaknits collection and its presence online. “I really do have a wide customer base through the Ravelry and Instagram communities, mostly those around my age — 25-35,” she said. “They like my style. I have brightly colored hair, and I dress stylishly. I have a pretty good core base (of customers) who come to the actual brick and mortar shops, who are hearing about me through the shops. My personal aesthetics appeals mostly to that age range.”
A stay-at-home mom for the past eight years, Rizzardi enjoys the sense of relaxation that comes with knitting, and the fact that it gives her something to focus on while thinking.” She also “love(s) the puzzle of figuring out the pattern.”
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her a (313) 222-2150, email@example.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Rizzaknits at www.rizzaknits.com and on Facebook. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.