Andrea Cull took a one-year hiatus from her teaching position at Fort Gibson High School to start her new company and launch her app.
The biology teacher partnered with her sister, Alison Yates, who recently sold a software company in Seattle. They started Knitrino seven months ago. Its purpose is to connect members of the knitting community, and to assist novice knitters – and even intermediate knitters who want to learn new tricks.
“Knitting patterns are complicated, and there is a lot of lingo to get around. There are these difficult-to-read PDFs, which people use. If you lose your place in the pattern, it becomes difficult to find yourself again,” said Cull.
She compared knitting patterns to driving around the country with an old paper Atlas.
“We are doing for knitting what Google maps did for driving,” she said.
The app allows knitters to see the designs, stitch-by-stitch, on an easy-to-understand interface. The app even allows the user to change the color of the yarn digitally, which helps when users want to customize projects that require multicolored patterns.
Cull explained that the project derived from a need in the community. She reached out and interviewed knitters to find out what they needed in an app.
“We wanted to know what they wanted and what was missing. We interviewed knitters and built prototypes according to what they needed," she said. "Knitters use many different kinds of stitches, and if a user doesn’t know how to perform a specific stitch within a design, they can press on a button, which launches a video tutorial of that specific stitch."
Knitting is a billion-dollar-plus industry, and according to Cull, there has been little innovation in the past few decades, but that's going to change.
“There are a lot of young knitters. It is seen as hip and trendy. There are a lot of thirty-somethings trending with tattoos on Instagram," Cull said.
She explained that these young knitters are technologically savvy and want new tools to hone their art.
Cull was supposed to go to Vogue Knitting Live conference in Seattle, but it was canceled – and they had already paid for a booth.
"There were 30 something vendors, and one was a single mom who started her yarn business," Cull said. "This show was her only hope. We thought, ‘We have to do something for people like this lady.’”
In response, they have built their website for vendors to sell yarn and other knitting tools, and they have seen success through their marketplace. Overall, much of the success of their app has been rocketed by the pandemic.
Cull started knitting years ago during a difficult time in her life. In March, many knitters turned to their craft as a way to cope with depression and anxiety. To Cull, and others around the world, knitting is a cathartic act. She believes it connects knitters to their ancestors before them, who have been knitting since time immemorial.
“It makes you feel close to our ancestors, even if you haven’t met them in real life,” she said. “We have people who write 5-star reviews. They say, ‘I wish I had this when I started knitting in March when the pandemic hit.’”
She said the knitting community does more than just knit. Members hold a different set of values than most consumer markets.
“It values social justice and diversity. They are loyal to the beliefs that they hold dear. Before the racial unrest that we saw, the knitting community was already having these conversations,” she said.
A few years ago, knitters took upon themselves to cobble together pink "pussy-hat" hats in solidarity with women’s rights. In the knitting community, they are engaging in projects that aim to promote kindness and equity. Knitrino is available on Apple and Android for free. They provide one free pattern, but otherwise, users pay for them à la carte, which range from $8 to $17.95.