It was architecture that brought Jessica Baker to the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP), but her free time was spent deep in another design medium: knitting. At first, the 24-year-old Iowa native made her slouchy hats and quirky headbands for herself, but as friends took note Baker became a knitter for hire.
After her 2009 graduation and a brief stint back home in Iowa, Baker put her architectural aspirations on hold, moved to Brooklyn, and threw herself full-time into YesJess Knits. She has expanded from hats and gloves into chunky knit jewelry, colorful belts, and men’s ties in vibrant mustard yellows and cool celadons. Baker relishes custom orders like the dark-orange bow ties she created for an entire wedding party. The hobby she learned at the age of 10 became Baker’s livelihood, with her accessories sold on Etsy; through her website; at boutiques in South Korea, Canada, Oklahoma, Florida, and Chicago; and at craft fairs throughout the country. What you won’t find from YesJess is sweaters and other clothing.
“There’s a lot of great knitwear makers but knit accessories aren’t really out there,” says Baker. “I wanted to make things that were affordable.” Her accessories range from $7 for a small knit heart to $76 for a cozy knight’s cowl in acrylic yarn.
There is a seasonal rhythm to YesJess Knits, with orders spiking in the cooler months and slowing as the weather warms. There’s a daily rhythm too, with up to six hours a day spent knitting and another three hours on administrative work. Though some people lose interest in their hobbies once they do them for pay, Baker considers herself lucky to be able to knit all day long.
“I can listen to an audiobook. I can go work in a coffee shop or the park,” she says. “It absolutely doesn’t feel like work.”
Purchase YesJess Knits in her Etsy shop (yesjess) or at yesjessknits.com
Originally published in the November 2011 issue.