Description



Modeled after the famous TV program called Inside the Actor's Studio, The Designer's Studio is the place where you will meet a well-known designer and read about her/his designing style, philosophy, most favorite techniques, publications, and many other interesting details of the creative world of knitwear designers. Our guests will be answering a set of 15 questions (the same for every guest) and you will have the opportunity to leave the comment or your question after the interview is posted. We will try to keep up with your questions. This is a very exciting project and I hope you will visit here often and will not miss any of the interviews posted here.


Faina Goberstein.

October 28, 2009

TODAY'S GUEST: FAINA M. LETOUTCHAIA

I am very pleased and honored to begin this series of interviews with a very special and brave (you have got to be brave to be the first in the unknown project :)) Faina Letoutchaia. Many of her designs one way or another show some connection with Russia where she was born and raised. I knew her wonderful designs long before I knew her personally. My first introduction to her designs was through her Faina's scarf. It is a small, but unforgettable project that shows the essence of her design style: elegant, stylish, light in appearance, and interesting in technique. Once you see one of her designs, you will never forget it. And nowI will let you enjoy her answers to the following 15 questions.

  1. When did you start knitting and who taught you?

I don’t remember when I started knitting. I believe, my mother taught me, but I don’t remember being taught. From the time I remember myself, I always went with any knitting question to my mom. My mother was left-handed and it was a big surprise to me to discover one day that I can’t help her with knitting a sweater (most probably it was for my brother) and I couldn’t because all the stitches went in the wrong way (and we didn’t have circular needles back then). It was a big puzzle for me!

  1. When did you begin publishing your designs?

My very first publication was in 2001, in "FiberTrends", called Faina’s Scarf. It was a very successful design; it was used for several years in FiberTrends' ad.

  1. What is your most favorite knitting technique?

Any technique that requires attention and "knitting acrobatics". There are a lot of beautiful, fantastic designs done in Garter or Stockinette stitch, but just a thought of doing that much in plain stitch puts me to sleep, doesn’t matter how much I may like the finished garment. But if I have to manipulate yarn a lot, or handle two or three strands of yarn at the same time – I love it.

  1. When you are thinking about some new design, what inspires you the most? Is it different every time? Could you give us some examples on inspiration for some of your designs?

It’s different every time. The only thing that stays the same is that I have to have the whole thing ready and visualized in my mind before I can get down to technical work. For example, the inspiration for the Forest Path shawl came from entrelac technique itself. I thought that if I make the entrelac squares big enough, I could put some stitch design inside each square. Then, of course, the yarn should be fine; otherwise squares would be of enormous size. For the lace scarf I just finished and didn’t write the pattern yet, the inspiration came from my daughter’s pet turtle (I just love this little animal).

  1. What does your studio look like?

Like a complete and horrible mess. Enter at your own risk. Everybody who enters my home is advised to keep the shoes on to avoid sewing pin injury. What is a house cleaning, anyway?

  1. What is your most favorite place to knit?

I am no different from the most of knitters – the sofa in front of TV :) I justify it by saying that I have to keep my English sharp and it means that I need at least to listen to people talking, and TV is the easiest way to do it.

7. Do you spin your own yarn?

Spinning attracted me always, but back in Russia I did not know anybody who could spin, which is no wonder in a big city. I started spinning late in my life and mostly for these reasons: – I couldn’t find lace yarns that I really liked (in 1990s there were no such good lace yarns available as we have now)

- Out of curiosity and the desire to understand yarns and textiles better

-There were spinners all around me.

Spinning became an immediate addiction for me and this addiction took me on a fascinating trip through time and around the world. Gradually I developed my own preferences in fibers and spinning techniques. I now have four spinning wheels (one needs some serious work to become functional) and I am ashamed to admit the number of spindles I have. I have some very beautiful spindles by famous spindle makers like Jonathan Bosworth and Edward Tabachek, and some by unknown masters. I have a small collection of antique supported spindles from Bulgaria, Serbia, and France. I have a fabulous spindle from Peru, a gift from Abby Franquemont. This is my favorite Tibetan spindle by E. Tabachek:

I consider spinning a museum skill. We can keep artifacts from the past in museums under the glass and in controlled temperature environment, but it’s impossible to keep people’s skills under the glass, the skill has to be practiced by living people and passed down from generation to generation. If this process is interrupted, the skill is lost. And with it the part of our history as human beings is lost too. For example, many spinners are completely puzzled by medieval paintings depicting spinners, because there we see spindles and hand positions that are different from what we are used to seeing now. Fortunately, we have people in Andes and Turkey who continue to use this technique. When I spin, I feel the thread of time going through my hands, the thread that connects me with all the generations of people who lived before me and I hope I am doing my part in keeping spinning alive.

8. Do you belong to a knitting group?

I have a fantastic group that meets weekly in a local bookstore (popular joke – you know you are an American if you go to the bookstore for a cup of coffee; I would add – you know you are a knitter if you go to the bookstore to meet with your friends). We have been meeting for number of years and went through good and bad times together. Additional bonus – Sharon Winsauer of the Heere Be Dragone fame is a member of this group.

I am also a member of a Lace Club – a group of dedicated lace knitters. We meet once a month to discuss lace knitting. Additional bonus – Sharon Winsauer is a member of this group.

And I am a member of Flock University, the spinning guild.

9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?

I am very, very lucky – Sharon Winsauer lives just some 10 miles from me and I see her every week. I have seen all her patterns in development and as finished shawls.

I am very lucky to have Faina, my namesake and the host of this blog as my dear and close friend. It’s incredible, we met here, far from the country where we were born and grew up and the friendship just clicked on. I feel like I knew Faina from my kindergarten days.

The rest of my communications with knitters and designers comes mostly from Yahoo groups – Laceknitters, Spin-List, Spindlitis, KBTH (Knitting Beyond the Hebrides; it’s a group that discuss traditional knitting techniques and patterns done in traditional techniques).

10.Where can we see your published designs?


I have two patterns Baltic Sea Shawl (on the photo to the left the shawl is made by one member on Ravelry.com) and Faina's Scarf published in FiberTrends, Forest Path Stole in Interweave Knits, Summer 2003 and later it was chosen for the book The Best of Interweave Knits . Snegurochka's Party Hat was published in Handknit Holidays , and my latest pattern Old Garden Scarf was published in the All New Homespun Handknit by Interweave Press.


11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?

I have been teaching for many years in my local yarn store, but unfortunately, for last two years I haven’t been teaching. I have to go back to teaching; I really love to do it.

12.What would you like to tell knitters who are timid and do not believe they are skillful enough to knit some of your designs?

Try it anyway. Try it on some leftover yarn, or get some very inexpensive crochet cotton yarn from Michael’s or Hobby-Lobby and practice. Do not try it using expensive yarn; it may freeze you with fear of throwing away (if you are not successful) such a nice yarn. But something you do not put much value on may help you to overcome your fear of lace. Then you will see that all this is very easy – just yarn over, knit two together.

13. What are your plans in the near future?

I have three new designs finished and just have to write down the patterns. Then I am planning to sell those patterns on Etsy. I am also working on the book/video about finishing techniques. I hope it will be done in a near future.

14.Can you share with us what your latest designs?

Sure. Here are the three new designs that will be sold in my Etsy shop.

Pichinchus and Torrence of Spring

and Turtle Creek.

15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?

It feels like I have been talking about myself for too long now. I have a husband (he is a math professor); a daughter (she is six months away from being a certified veterinarian); a garden (the most unkempt in the neighborhood) and a tank full of fish (they are funny and beautiful). Thank you for inviting me here and thank you to all of your readers.


FG: Thank you, Faina for this great interview. I wish you much success with all your new projects. I am happy to see your beautiful new designs. Thank you for being my first guest.


To the reader: If you wish to leave a comment or a question for Faina, please do so and I will make sure she will get it as soon as possible. Faina's website is written in both Russian and English.