Talking with Sultan was like talking to an old friend. It felt incredibly comfortable.
Comfortable is a wonderful word, and it is so intrinsically connected with the world of knitting. Sultan has a gentle, kind way about him that I think anyone would feel at ease around him.
In fact, so many people feel at ease with Sultan and his latest endeavor that he has unwittingly started a movement.
Watch, listen or read the interview below to find out more about this remarkable man and Fiber Community Fund!
Click here to donate to the fund.
I will donate 50% of my Ravelry Pattern Store proceeds, from now until December 31st 2019, to the Fiber Community Fund! The more you buy, the more I donate!
Take a look at all the amazing patterns that have been contributed! As of this writing, there are almost 600 patterns in the Fund (including mine!)
Interview with Sultan Alrasheed, founder of Fibre Community Fund
Magda: I am here with Sultan. And Sultan, you created the Fiber Community Fund, which I’ve been seeing pop all over my feed. And you are, you seem to have a mission of helping people who can’t access patterns and fiber to so that.
So I’d like to talk to you a little bit about that but I‘d also like to talk to you about a few other things, like. . .Sultan: Absolutely.
M: What is your first yarn related memory.
S: My first . . .. I just started knitting three years ago.
M: Ah, OK.
S: So, my first memory was three years ago actually. Experiencing and handling yarn. Just yarn. And not as a fabric made out of yarn.
I don’t come from a crafty family, so I was never really exposed to that.
So yeah, my first experience was knitting a basket weave square.
M: When did you start designing? I mean you’ve only been knitting three years. When did you start designing?
S: I took a class in mid-June. I designed my first thing, garment, little accessory in August.
M: Of this year?
S: No, of THAT year.
M: OK You probably aren’t a person who follows directions very well.
S: No, I am not.
M: I hear you on that.
S: That’s why I keep coming up with new things.
M: Yeah, I can’t even follow a recipe.
I think, I’ll change that. You know, this’ll be better. That’s how I started designing too.
That’s one thing I love about knitting is that you can customize it and just make it for yourself. That’s what mostly attracted me to knitting.
M: Now not related, but you said you did your master’s . . . That you came to North America to do your Master’s. What did you do your Master’s in?
S: I got my master’s in Business Information Technology.
M: OK. Cool. I was thinking perhaps math, because a lot of math people are really into knitting. Because knitting is all about the math.
S: I used to hate math until I started knitting.
M: I used to like math until I started knitting. And then I realized that I couldn’t count to two. I can do higher order math, but I cannot count to two for the life of me.
S: That’s why I use a lot of stitch markers. So I don’t have to count.
Design Process and Knitting Life
M: How do you decide on the names for your patterns?
S: Sometimes the name comes before the design. I have a list, of like “that would be a cool name for a design”.
And sometimes I see a stitch I really like, like the Sago Cycad Hat that I made and we were in a garden that had a big fern. And I looked at it . . .. Originally, the hat was just going to have the stitches going straight up. And I was looking at the leaves. That inspired me to change up the pattern stitch and rename it.
It did not have a name. It was just called hat number 5 or something or the hat.
M: Describe your workplace, where you do your designing.
S: It can be anywhere actually. My last hat I designed, I worked on it on a plane, in a car, in a garden. Because we were traveling. So, I was working on it and frogging back and knitting back again.
I always have a knitting bag with me. And a notebook.
M: Where is your favourite place to knit?
S: Favourite place to knit? Right here. Sitting in . . . I have a small room in our apartment where it’s all yarn and craft and yarn and design-related books. So, I usually just sit here and knit.
Who are your biggest influences in the knitting world?
S: Oh, Staci from Very Pink Knits is a very big influence. I learned how to knit in the round from her. Her videos are always amazing. And I look up to her.
Patty Lyons is another person who is very creative and kind of puts out a design very clearly and very easy to follow. It makes even beginners . . . it takes away any Intimidation they feel of like making a sweater from her designs.
M: Is the sweater that you are wearing one of your designs?
S: No, it’s a test knit that I did for Dani Knits (RavID: daniknitsthings). And this was her first pattern that she ever wrote, and she wrote a sweater. And she is currently testing her second one. I am not testing it, but it’s a beautiful one.
M: OK. So, tell me about your worst knitting disaster.
S: Oh, there are so many. I love to experiment so.
I would say my first hat was the worst. My first knitting project. That hat was so big and so long.
I should not have bought that pattern. It gave you by the number of rows and rounds. So I just followed that and not tried it. And that hat now covers my whole face, my whole head.
M: You didn’t check gauge?
S: I did not.
M: I am shocked!
S: And it was early enough that I did not even think about it. It was like, oh, there’s a pattern.
I don’t know what gauge is.
M: It must not be important.
S: I’ll just skip that part. I’ll just skip that part.
M: Well, it’s a good way of learning what gauge is.
S: It was.
M: OK. Tell us about your greatest knitting achievement.
S: Hmm. It’s always what I am currently working on, or the next one or the last one. I love them all and I love most of my designs equally but in different ways.
M: Like a good father.
S: They are all my babies, even the ones that are not published and never will be published.
About the Fiber Community Fund
M: So, tell us the story of how you started Fiber Community Fund.
S: I started the Fund in late October. Not even so far ago. And I started it with only my patterns. Because I’ve seen Aroha Knits and Jessie Maed and Tina.Say.Knits and they all have that kind of scholarship where people can apply and they get their patterns for free. I was like, why not. I want to help back. And ever since the conversation about BIPOC people and the whole change that needs to happen in the industry started I have been trying to figure out a way of how do I fit in this and how do I give back to a community that gave me so much? And I’ve met a lot of amazing friends and people. And so, I thought, might as well start doing that and give away my patterns.
I woke up the next day with two messages from two different designers asking me if the fund was for only my designs.
So, I was like, oh, you want to give away patterns too. I can organize that. If you want to give me your patterns.
And that’s how it started. I honestly, have not asked any designer or yarn dyer for anything. And people have just showed up and started giving.
M: That’s awesome! My next question was going to be: How did you envision it when you started, but you just explained that. You didn’t really envision it, you just were doing it for yourself and it just spread like wildfire.
M: You must be so thrilled with the response from the community.
S: I was. It was very heartwarming. I did not expect as many people to be, here, take everything. And then people started with the yarn even. Because I was just focusing on the patterns. And I kept getting messages. What about yarn? Are you giving yarn? I have yarn to give you.
OK. I guess I can organize that too.
M: I have nothing better to do.
Is this taking over your life?
S: It is. But I love it.
Now I am organizing all the yarn for the requests. I dyed two skeins of worsted in black for someone who requested black worsted yarn. Because we didn’t have any in the fund. So, I was like, I have two bare, natural skeins that I can dye, so I can do it.
M: So, you’re like the butcher, the baker AND the candlestick maker. You’re doing it all.
S: Basically. Yeah.
M: So how would you like to see . . . or where do you see the fund three years from now.
S: I hopefully see it as part of the community that elevates it. That bridges that gap between the social economic statuses in the community, where you see a really big gap
People are either going for the really high-end yarns or the really, like, craft-store, whatever-I-can-afford yarn.
Hopefully, trying to bridge that gap and kind of balance it a little at least. Where we could give someone a chance to work with natural wool or something with cashmere. And most of the people who ask for things are people who are knitting for holidays or for gifts. Because I’ve got . . . most of them are like, “I wanna make this for my mom” or “I wanna make this for my husband” or “I wanna do this for a really supportive friend that has been there for me this whole year.”
So, I get the background stories which are very beautiful and sometimes very sad.
I’ve started talking to a few tech editors who also want to help out and give their services out. I was thinking of having that as a pilot program to support BIPOC and LBGTQ+ designers who can’t afford to have a tech editor edit their patterns or check their patterns other than their friends or their group of fiber friends.
M: Um. That’s a great idea.
S: Thank you.
M: Do you see, in a few years, you needing help with this.
S: Oh, absolutely!
M: Because it’s a little bit, WOW! It exploded!
S: Absolutely! This is in a few weeks. I’m expecting it to plateau a little bit. But every week I’m getting three, four designers who are contacting me. Or yarn dyers who are like. “I wanna give.” It’s been amazing! I even get people who are offering to help with organizing and things. I’m like, let me figure out the whole program and then I can set people and give you whatever to have you help me
M: It’s hard to delegate when you don’t know what you are doing yet.
S: It is. It is. And that’s why I have been trying so hard to have everything set up. I did not want to give yarn without having a plan.
So, I’ve set up a plan where they can set up a request. What is the information that I would need in that request? And what would I need from people who are donating yarn? And what exactly the guideline should be? Which would be really broad for the yarn donations. But I never know what people will ask for.
M: So are you are you accepting yarn donations from just dyers and yarn producers or also from people who have extras in their stash? Not that I know anyone who has a large stash.
S: Who? What?
M: I work on only one project and I only buy yarn for that one project. Yeah, OK, I can’t even finish that sentence.
S: No, anyone can donate. I’m working on getting a P.O. Box but they’re not as cost effective right now. I am giving people my own address right now. I mean if they want to help, they’re not going to be horrible and send me bad things.
M: I hope not. One would hope not.
S: Don’t send me Anthrax.
M: So, you are handling everything. You don’t just say. “OK, can you just mail if off to whomever.”
S: Yes, I’ve been handling things, state-wise. Internationally, I am thinking of doing people just sending it directly to other people in Europe or Canada because even Canada. I saw the prices for shipping.
M: Our shipping is insane. You know it’s cheaper for me to ship to you in the States than it is to my, literally next-door neighbour.
M: I could hand her the yarn, but it’s cheaper to ship to you. It’s crazy.
But, you know, we are bigger than you geographically and we have about 1/10 the people, so it kind of makes sense.
M: But, it’s still insane. And, I’m kinda mad at Canada Post for my last design, but we won’t go there.
S: Oh no.
M: Well, it actually gave the name to this shawl, it’s called “Going Postal Wrap” because I almost went postal with my interactions with Canada Post. But, that’s not what we’re here to talk about.
So, is this easier or more difficult to do this than you envisioned. Once you realized that you were not in this alone. That this wasn’t just you. That people we gonna start inundating you with donations.
S: It’s getting easier now that the picture is getting clearer on what I want it to be. And how to get there is getting very clear. It’s getting easier. I am writing down all the guidelines, all the programs, and how everything goes. Everything goes into a spreadsheet. Each designer with the number and colour coded. I have everything organized.
M: Right now, do you have . . . Are your requests for donations are they keeping up with requests to donate?
S: They are. Like, the patterns are . . . I have over 500, maybe 600 now, patterns in the fund. And, I’ve been talking to a lot of people and a few people requested patterns and I was talking to them and chatting. So, what stops you from making this? Or what stops you from making that? And I’ve been getting a lot of responses where it’s like: “Yarn. I can’t afford nice yarn to make this.” And, “I’ve made this pattern or this sweater in acrylic yarn but . . ..”
Some of them feel ashamed to even post it online which is just heartbreaking. When you put all that love and energy into making something that you feel ashamed posting about it. You feel like you are not being up to par with everyone else who made that sweater.
That’s one of the main goals of Fiber Community Fund is to gap that bridge. To take that shame out. It’s OK to use acrylic. It’s OK to use Cotton. It’s OK. You don’t have to have hand-dyed yarn to make something beautiful for yourself or to show it off. And enjoy it. You can do it with whatever you can and if you don’t have the funds, hopefully the Fiber Fund will help you.
M: That’s awesome! That is awesome.
Are the numbers that you’re seeing for both donors and recipients, I guess, are they surprising you?
Obviously, the donors are surprising you, we’ve already talked about that.
S: They are. Like I said, a lot of people take a step back before asking for help. I’ve had a person message me a few times, over a week, before they even felt comfortable to put a request. I kept talking to them and . . ., Honestly, I would love to know how to take that shame away. Abolish that shame and just have people ask for help. It’s OK to ask for help.
It goes beyond just a cultural thing. It’s like a human thing.
M: What does the application process look like? From both sides?
S: So, I’ll start with the applicant’s side. That kind of explains how it goes on my side.
So, I made a Google Form where people just write in what they want for patterns. I ask them to give me their either Instagram name or Ravelry name and the pattern they request. And if it’s the Fund I’ll give them either a code or give the designer the Ravelry username so they can gift it themselves. And, at times, some people request patterns that are not in the Fund which I would also buy them the patterns from the Fund.
On suggestions from a few of my friends was to create a Kofi account where people can donate and some can make a monthly donation set-up. So, I did that and I’ve got a few monthly donations. Thankfully, even though it hasn’t been a month yet.
Some people decided to give monthly and yeah. . .. So, I’ve been buying patterns and have been using the fund to send out yarn.
I started with give-aways as well.
And that’s from the recipient’s side – as for patterns.
For yarn, I have a list of five questions. I ask them their Ravelry name, what kind of yarn they want, what kind of fiber they prefer. I don’t think I have allergies, which I should add. And if they prefer to get a pattern from the fund with the yarn. That also works out.
That’s from their side.
From my side, I accept all requests because I feel if someone is brave enough to say, “I need help.” I will not ask. I will not be like, “Why? Tell me why you deserve yarn?” I am not the judge of that. If you think you need yarn, if you think you need the funds to buy something, I will try to help you and try my best to help you.
M: OK, Thank you very much Sultan. I really appreciate your taking the time for this Interview.
S: It is always my pleasure.
M: Thank you. And, I suspect I am going to be seeing a whole lot more of you in the Fiber World in the next little while.
S: I hope so, for the good of the Fund. Thank you very much.
M: Thank you!
Here are all the ways that you can contact Sultan!Fiber Community Fund:Instagram: FiberCommunityFundEmail: FiberCommunityFund@gmail.comRavelry Bundle: https://www.ravelry.com/bundles/fiber-community-fund-patternsSpunNomaditty Designs:Instagram: SpunNomadittyCoEmail: SpunNomaditty@gmail.com