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.
January 14, 2010
1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?
At the same time, I am both a little proud and a little embarrassed to answer this question ̶ Partly because of the relatively short time I have been knitting (some people get judge-y about my skills & abilities).
I taught myself to knit when I was bored to tears while taking care of my ill mother in mid-2004 (lots of idle time) in Houston. My mom’s small 1 bedroom townhouse had no TV and a very slooooow internet connection if it worked at all. (She had one of those free dial-up ones.) During a trip to one of my favorite used book stores, I found a knitting & crochet book. I purchased that and some yarn at the local big box store (I was very disappointed with the yarn choices there, even that early in the game).
I was born left-handed and for practical reasons, my parents switched me to write and use chopsticks with my right hand, but they couldn’t get me to change everything so I am now ambidextrous. Anyway, the crappy book I found said that left-handed knitters and crocheters could learn by holding up a mirror to get the reverse images shown in the book and do things left-handed. Yep. I did that. I tried the crochet first because my grandmother had attempted to each me crochet and hairpin lace once or before. Besides a few basic stitches, I didn’t really “get” crochet. I then moved on to the knitting section, working the instructions and examining the pictures with a mirror (working needle in left hand). It wasn’t easy with a mirror, but I “got” knitting right away. I’m sure you can guess what problems I had next: I soon discovered that I really could not read knitting patterns without having to reverse everything. So, I then tried right-handed knitting, but the switching around became rather frustrating and I gave up after 3-4 weeks (during which I also thought that I invented ssk).
About 6-8 months later, I browsed the craft section of my local bookstore and I found Debbie Stoller’s Stitch n’ Bitch. I loved the bitchin’ title, bought the book and decided to give knitting another try. This time, I taught myself “normal” knitting. To accommodate my ambidextrous hands, I learned continental-style. I was hooked. Almost everything about knitting seemed easy and natural to me. I easily understood most everything. For many stitches and techniques, I just had study them at little or do them just once and was able to understand their basic construction and characteristics. Everything simply “clicked.”
2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
My very first knitting-related pattern/tutorial was my Homemade Tabletop Yarn Swift, which I released on my then-new blog in Dec. 2005/ January 2006. I think I put out my first knitting (free) pattern in February 2006. It was my Laced Scarf. Two other free patterns followed: Linh’s Ivy and Buccaneer’s Booty Socks. My first self-published pattern was Liana, which I initially sold as part of a pattern and hand-painted yarn kit at craft fairs.
As far as being a published designer, 2008 was my year. In early 2008, I submitted designs to Knitty, Interweave Knits and 101 Luxury One Skein Wonders. To my sheer delight and elation, I had success with each of those submission attempts. That Fall, Morgan was published in Knitty.com, followed by Mermaid in 101 Luxury One Skein Wonders in October and Pfeiffer Falls in the Winter 2008 issue of Interweave Knits.
3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
Ooh, that’s a hard one. I love unusual or unconventional methods and construction. There are so many techniques that I like and what I like changes and shift frequently. I think it’s easier for me to say what I don’t like: shadow knitting and I’m not big on sock knitting (yes, sock knitters, there probably is something wrong with me.)
4. 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? Different things inspire me. Sometimes it’s walking down the street and seeing a plant, someone’s shoe or a friend’s new purse. Sometimes it’s the challenge of just creating something different. For example, with Twister , I was “inspired” by a news broadcast about hurricanes (morbid, I know), which started me thinking about tornados, whirlpools, snails and other spirals in nature, including cactii. I began experimenting with slipped stitches and twisted stitches. In the end, I chose a narrowly repeating twisted stitch pattern for its texture and the challenge of working out the decreases so that all the “spines” of the twisted stitches appear continuous and unbroken from the bill to the crown. This method was much more challenging to work out than other methods of working a spiral, but I really enjoyed the challenge and really loved the resulting texture.
5. What does your studio look like?
I don’t really have a studio, per se. I work all over the house, but I do have a yarn/sewing room. No matter how much I try to organize and clean, that room never stays very clean for more than 1 day. There are always fiber bits and pins on the floor. I guess I should also admit that my nightstand drawers are stuffed with yarn, UFOs and WIPs, and my dye supplies have a permanent home in my kitchen nook. I can’t seem to keep my studio clean for more than 5 minutes.
6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?
7. Do you spin your own yarn?
Sort of. My friend Zona makes fun of my over-ambitiousness and tension over spinning. For my 3rd spinning project, I attempted to make lace weight baby alpaca yarn. Every minute or so, I’d curse and have to shake out my hands from gripping the roving too tightly. After filling about 1/3 of my spool, the yarn broke and I could not find the ends in my spool despite several attempts. Since then, I have not really spun or practiced and I still suck at spinning.
8. Do you belong to a knitting group?
Yes. I have met several very good friends through my knitting groups.
9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?
I’m still very new to the industry as a designer, but I have met a few designers. Most people, I “met” online through Ravelry, while others I’ve met a trade shows.
I communicate with knitters through email, my website & blog, my Ravelry groups and in person (with those who are local to me and find me via my knitting groups).
10. Where can we see your published designs?
Magazines: Knitty, Interweave Knits, Knitscene, Creative Knitting
Books: Sweater Surgery (more craft and felting, not knitting), 101 Luxury One Skein Wonders, Knitting in the Sun.
Photo of me with Judith Durant, editor of the One Skein series and me wearing Mermaid, which was in the book:
Photo of me with Kristi Porter, author of Knitting in the Sun.
I also have some self-published designs worked as a small collaborative partnership with SWTC and Frog Tree Yarns. Those garments and samples are actually traveling with those companies at trunk shows, fashion shows and trade shows, so knitters might be able to see those garments in person when those companies come around.
11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?
Right now, I mainly teach privately in my home or at the student’s home. I usually teach knitting, but I have also hosted several dye parties and dye workshops.
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? Don’t be scared. Trying out more difficult patterns and experimenting was essential to my knitting education. It was how I pushed myself to try new things and new skills. Also, I would encourage knitters to go to knitting groups and their LYSs to learn from other knitters and take classes to build on your skills. The internet, Ravelry and YouTube are also great for finding information on how to do something.
13. What are your plans in the near future?
Well, I am hoping that the economy picks up so that I can open my on brick and mortar LYS. In the meantime, we have a small online operation at Handicraft Café.
On the design front, my brain won’t stop churning and I have several projects in the works for the near future.
14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs?
One of my latest works includes Liberation, a collection of 6 hat patterns inspired by and honoring notable women who lived in the 20s, 30s and 40s. The hats in the collection are named after Amelia Earhart, Septima Clark, Alice Paul, Barbara G. Walker, Eleanor Roosevelt and Elizabeth Zimmerman.
15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?
I’ve talked about myself quite a bit, eh? Sounds like I’m writing a knitting biography! I’m generally quite handy and crafty, and have spurts of crafting binges in addition to my regular activities. Some friends nicknamed me Crafty McGuyver (much nicer than some of the other nicknames I’ve had).
I also wanted to add that I was very excited to meet Meg Swansen at Sock Summit and talk to her about my Liberation collection, and was delighted that she was happy to pick out one of the designs to be named after her mother, EZ.
FG: Anne, thank you very much for sharing with us your work and your stories. Good luck with your designing and I know will be hearing about you again and again.
To our reader: Thank you for coming over. I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did. Any comments are appreciated. We want to know your opinion about this or any other interviews you read here.