Meghan & Lydia, Pom Pom
Lydia Gluck and Meghan Fernandes launched Pom Pom in London ten years ago, ‘presenting knitting, crochet, and craft in the modern, beautiful, and meaningful way we’ve always known they should be.’
Lydia was born in London, grew up in Wales, studied in Manchester, and left her heart in Mexico. She has a background in linguistics, and loves trying to draw parallels between knitting and grammar.
Meghan is a former American transplant to London, where she wrote her MA dissertation on knitting in 20th century women’s literature and worked for a publisher, a gallery, and a knitting shop. She revels in the challenge of making and enjoying knitwear for a hot climate.
The magazine is now celebrating its tenth anniversary, and is the key part of an international publishing business split between London and Austin, Texas. Alongside the magazine, they publish books, accessories and merchandise and have built up an enthusiastic audience that cleverly fuses the special interest craft world and the indie mag market. We meet them as they mark that birthday with a special 41st issue.
What are you up to this Monday morning?
MEGAN: I am based in Austin, Texas where I am lucky enough to work from home. We have a detached garage where we ship all of the publications that go to U.S–based readers and independent shops and we have a very small team that handles that.
Since the pandemic began, I was on maternity leave and then began to work from my guest room so that I wasn’t in the same space as anyone working in the garage. I’ve continued to do that because it turns out my coworkers are also my friends and we can’t help being pretty chatty if we’re in the same room, meaning I get a lot less work done!
Now we save our chats for when we actually plan to hang out :) It also helps that now I can get pretty messy with yarns and magazines and mini-photo shoots all over my guest room without feeling like I am infringing on my coworkers' space!
On this particular Monday, for example, I am laying out knitwear and outfits for an upcoming photo shoot for our kids book, taking some pictures of some of the Pom Pom merch for an Instagram post, and dealing with piles of business-y paperwork on my desk.
LYDIA: On Mondays I usually work from our London office in Hackney Downs—so that’s where I am today! I am now based in Norwich, so being in London is a nice change—I really enjoy being amongst my London-based colleagues! I have a fancy coffee as a treat and am settling in to catching up with the team, and getting on with various bits of admin.
I also have some fun yarn colours to decide on, and will be checking in on progress for the next few issues as well. I was away for most of last week so a lot of today will be catching up and answering any queries that have piled up. The rest of the week I work from my office at home, so it’s always such a lovely change to be somewhere else. The travel can sometimes feel a little much (two hours each way at least) but I am always happy I’ve done it.
I think the current balance I have between wfh and working in the office suits me - it was hard to get back into a routine of travelling after so long (before covid we were there four days a week but of course that changed over the lockdowns) but now I am in the swing it’s enjoyable. I can find it hard to not get distracted at home so a little office reset is also good for my workflow.
Describe your desk and your work space.
MEGAN: I am a pretty messy worker. I love seeing beautifully curated workspaces but I’m afraid that’s just never going to be me! However, I do kind of like being surrounded by piles of the lovely publications we make and the beautiful yarns we use in their pages.
I like having my textile gear like my yarn winder and sock knitting machine close at hand too—they are great palette cleansers between sending tough emails or after long zoom sessions. I also have an amazing view of a Texas Live Oak tree out my back window which this spring was home to a blue jay nest.
LYDIA: For today it’s our office in Hackney Downs, which is pretty big and has lovely skylights. I am surrounded by boxes and packing supplies as well as our books, mags and yarn. It’s a great space to work in, and it’s kept very organised by our amazing UK studio manager Noush. We also have plenty of tea and coffee and snacks (very important!).
My workspace at home is much more chaotic. I am doing an MA in Fine Art right now at Norwich University of the Arts, and so my office doubles as a workspace for Pom Pom and an art studio (and a sewing room!). I am surrounded by piles of drawings for Pom Pom and for my course, as well as fabric I have dyed and thread in all sorts of colours, paints, pens, charcoal etc. I have various references, drawings, swatches, and notes pinned up on the wall too—I used to try and keep spaces tidy but I have now realised that I am just a messy person at heart so I might as well embrace it.
As long as the space is only for me I can really let it go!
Which magazine do you first remember?
MEGAN: I am guessing a lot of people probably say this, but I think it was National Geographic. I remember both my dad and my grandmother having stacks and stacks of them. It felt like everyone did! Aside from that, I loved getting Highlights magazine in the mail as a kid. I subscribe to it now for my five year old and love it.
LYDIA: I had a subscription to Horse and Pony magazine when I was around 12 years old. My love for horses has remained but I no longer have that subscription. I remember so clearly that I used to pick it up from the local corner shop every week, I was always so excited to see what would be in it!
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
MEGAN: One magazine that I really grew up on was Bitch magazine. It felt like there was this magazine that was made just for someone like me and I think that is the best thing about magazines—the best ones serve a niche part of our population and make us feel welcome.
LYDIA: The Gentlewoman—I bought a recent issue with Natasha Lyonne on the cover at a new magazine shop in Norwich, and have so enjoyed it. I spend a lot of time immersed in the visual side of my work, so it was refreshing to spend some time really reading.
What first attracted you to knitting and crochet?
MEGAN: I remember seeing a woman knitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. I can’t remember how old I was but I do remember being mesmerized by how she was making the stitches. I hadn’t realized before then how fabric is made. When I was 16 my boyfriend’s mom taught me how to knit and bought me a sweater’s worth of yarn to make my own sweater.
LYDIA: I had a housemate when I was at University (the first time round) who was knitting a red scarf for what seemed like forever. She inspired me to learn and when I was home in Wales for the Easter holidays I gave it a go! I actually used chopsticks the first time I tried because I didn’t have needles yet. I bought a ‘how to knit and crochet’ book (not sure if YouTube existed at this point) and taught myself.
As it happens I found knitting trickier than crochet at first and mainly crocheted for a while. I made lots of terrible hats that my mum wore even though they were ugly. I haven’t really stopped making things with yarn since! It’s hard to say what attracted me to it—but I think what has kept me knitting is the combination of colour, texture, and the option to challenge yourself or just relax into a flow with it. Also I like being able to make clothes exactly the way I want them!
What one project would you suggest for the starter knitter/crocheter?
MEGAN: This is an easy one as we wrote a beginners knitting book! The first project in the book is a simple square drink coaster. Straight lines to start with are key. After that, I’d suggest a scarf! (More straight lines.)
LYDIA: I’ll echo what Meghan said - I’m really proud of that book, we tried to make the beginner’s book we wished we had had when we first started, and I think we succeeded! Straight lines are definitely best at first, getting some muscle memory is key and once you have practiced making stitches you can start making things that involve a few more techniques. I think it’s a good idea to build little by little so you can maintain confidence. Also choose a yarn you love because that will be motivating!
Describe Pom Pom in three words.
MEGAN: fun, ethical, colorful (these are what I aspire us to be, anyway)
LYDIA: exuberant, thoughtful, crafty (hopefully!)
Has there always been a latent interest in craft, or has interest grown with environmental awareness?
MEGAN: The knitters have always been there, we just haven’t historically got that much ‘air time’. There are more knitters in the U.S. than golfers, but we don’t get a TV channel. We could talk all day about how what is traditionally called women’s work is undervalued, but then we’d be here all day :) I think the link between knitting and environmentalism or slow fashion has definitely opened up the craft to more people and a new generation though.
LYDIA: Yeah there has always been a huge amount of crafting happening, it just wasn’t cool / noticed by people who weren’t makers. I don’t think it was latent at all, but the general public awareness of it probably was.
Our readers I think are makers who like us find great joy in creating beautiful things, and in community, and love seeing their crafts shown in a modern and thoughtful way. I do think people see textile crafts as an environmentally aware choice - although I am not convinced that making things yourself always has a huge impact. I think the more important thing is people realising how complicated making clothes really is and that everything we wear has been made by someone in some capacity - sewing seams, operating knitting machines and looms etc.
For example there is no machine that can crochet so anything you buy that is crocheted will have entirely been made by hand. The conditions and compensation of the people who make clothes is, I think, the most useful thing we can learn about when it comes to craft and environmentalism.
Congratulations on hitting 10 years! At what point did you realise Pom Pom was going to grow into a full-time business?
MEGAN: Going full time really snuck up on us. We were both working in a yarn shop in London when we started and didn’t have a lot of direction for our lives (at least I didn’t). We started Pom Pom as a creative project and our community really pushed us to get serious about it. The word spread and people kept buying it. We really had found a gap in what people wanted from a craft publication. Ten years later, we have offices and an amazing staff of 11 people. I still do a lot of work at my kitchen table though!
LYDIA: I think I didn’t realise it would be full-time until it actually was! The first few years we still had part time jobs, and it just grew steadily until one day we realised we could actually support ourselves just with the magazine. I’m trying not to repeat what Meghan has written too much, so I would just say that now I would describe us as fairly established, but still small, independent, and hopefully still innovative when it comes to craft publishing.
Please share one piece of advice for somebody wanting to launch their own publication.
MEGAN: We always say that if we knew what we were getting into, we might not have done it. I think my best piece of advice is to find your niche, or what will really make you different. Learning about publishing will come - you just have to make sure you have an original idea.
LYDIA: My best advice is to stay true to what you want to read. We have always found that the publications and ideas that are ones that we are most excited about are the ones that do best. Don’t make a publication for an imaginary ‘average’ reader. Make it for you and the people you know who have similar interests!
What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
MEGAN: All three of my brothers are in town for the first time in years. We’re going to hang out on a boat on Lady Bird Lake.
LYDIA: I am working toward a work in progress exhibition with my MA cohort so I will be starting on my piece for that, I am looking forward to getting the fabric dyes out! Aside from that I will be hanging out with my horse Jessie which is often the highlight of my week.