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.
February 18, 2010
1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?
Well, I don't actually remember who taught me to knit or crochet! I picked it up around age 10, and I remember a babysitter teaching me how to cast on one day when she was trying to keep me out of her hair. She must not've had the patience to teach me the knit stitch, because she told me that casting on was "knitting". I'd cast on and cast on, and then wonder why it all fell apart when I pulled the stitches off the needle! My next memory is of finding an old skein of bright red acrylic yarn and some plastic needles (one of which was broken and had a Battleship peg taped to the end of it) in a drawer at my grandmother's house. I'd always assumed that she took pity on me and taught me how to knit, but when I mentioned this to my mom, she informed me that Grandma didn't know how to knit - she only crocheted. I had two aunts who were prolific knitters, so my next best guess is that I learned from one of them. It's funny that I can remember the items involved so vividly (the yarn and needles) but not the actual learning process!
2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
I decided that I was going to try to turn hobby into business when my son Owen was about four months old. It took me several more months to get my first designs accepted, but in February of 2006 I published the Ziggy Scarf in the now-defunct MagKnits, and my Winter Branches Sweater. I started my own pattern line in October of 2006 and have continued to publish at a furious rate since then.
3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
It varies based on my mood! I'm probably most well-known for my socks, especially toe-up socks , but I love all sorts of knitting and tend to move from obsession to obsession. For awhile I was knitting lots of lace. Currently, I'm gravitating towards cables and I always love to play with entrelac and colorwork.
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?
A better question is what doesn't inspire me? I'm a big fan of stitch dictionaries (which I collect like crazy), and when I'm ready to start a new project I'll spend a few afternoons poring through all the stitch books, flagging patterns that particularly intrigue me and trying to come up with fun new ways to use or combine different stitches. I'm also frequently inspired by garments I see out "in the wild". For example, my Dude Abides sock from my book Toe-Up! was inspired by the Cowichan-style sweater Jeff Lebowski (aka The Dude) wears through much of the movie The Big Lebowski. I've seen that movie dozens of times, but as I was working on Toe-Up!, it suddenly caught my attention. I paused the DVD and quickly sketched out the colorwork pattern, knowing that I had to put it on a sock.
5. What does your studio look like?
A big mess! I tend to get so caught up in my projects that I have a bad habit of tossing everything else off to the side. Every month or so I have to force myself to get organized! I've got lots of hanks of yarn waiting for inspiration to strike, stashed in various spots where I can see them from my desk. I've also got two office rabbits, Bella and Cocoa Puff, who keep me company while I'm working.
6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?
On the couch, curled up under a blanket, watching something on television that doesn't require too much attention! I love to watch cooking competitions like Iron Chef or Chopped while I knit, or movies that I've seen a hundred times (John Hughes, Christopher Guest, Wes Anderson and the Coen brothers are some favorite directors).
7. Do you spin your own yarn?
I don't! I'm very interested in spinning but I have been resisting the pull as hard as I can. The last thing I need is another thing to compete for my time and attention! One of these days I know I will succumb, but in the meantime I love to watch others do it while I remain blissfully ignorant.
8. Do you belong to a knitting group?
I am a lapsed member of a couple different groups. One of the disadvantages of knitting professionally is that it's hard to get excited to go out and...knit. I also feel like my family sacrifices so much of me for my professional knitting obligations that I don't want to ask them to give me up a couple more knits a week so I can go knit for fun. The social aspect of knitting for me is really fulfilled by the students I meet when I'm teaching classes and the other professional yarn folks I meet at the various trade shows. Not to mention online via Ravelry, Facebook and Twitter!
9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?
I'm definitely in touch with designers and knitters, mostly online or via workshops. I teach at yarn shops across the country and at the semi-annual TNNA trade shows. I'm always happy to communicate with knitters via e-mail, Twitter (I'm knittinmom on Twitter), Facebook (Gardiner Yarn Works has a fan page), my blog and on Ravelry (PM to chrissyg or join our pattern group. I try to manage all the various online communications tools without getting overwhelmed, so e-mail is always the best way to get in touch with me directly. On this photo I am with Janet Szabo of Big Sky Knitting Designs at the LYS in Kalispell where she lives (Camas Creek) and my daughter Sydney. This is a photo of me with (from L to R) Heather Ordover of Craftlit, (me), Amy Singer of Knitty and Brenda Dayne of Cast On on the Sea Socks cruise.
10. Where can we see your published designs?
You can see all of the designs in my pattern line here. If you're on Ravelry, you can see everything I've done for other publications such as Interweave Knits, various compilation books (like More Big Girl Knits, Color Style and Knitted Gifts), various yarn clubs and Twist Collective on my Ravelry page. Whenever I look at that list, I get overwhelmed at how busy I've been!
11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?
Absolutely! I teach workshops at various yarn shops around the country (mostly in and around Portland, OR, so I don't have to travel away from my family too often) as well as at the occasional big event. I was a teacher at Sock Summit and will be traveling to London to teach at Knit Nation 2010 in July. My teaching dates can be found here .
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?
It's just knitting! It doesn't have to be perfect the first time, or even as the finished object (FO). Items you knit yourself shouldn't look like they were done on a machine, and those little glitches are what give your FO its character. Be fearless! With that in mind, Gardiner Yarn Works does try to offer lots of patterns that are on the beginner-to-intermediate skill spectrum. We particularly love designs that look a lot more difficult than they are!
13. What are your plans in the near future?
I'm hard at work on my next book, which I'm putting together with the help of my Gardiner Yarn Works business partner Donna Arney. It's going to feature a little "peek behind the curtain" at my own design process as well as at the creative process of a number of hand dyers who are currently doing exciting things with yarn. We're aiming for a fall release, and there will be at least one way to get your hands on some of the patterns early. Twitter is probably the best way to stay abreast of announcements. I'll also be posting updates to my mailing list, which you can join .
14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs?
You bet! Gardiner Yarn Works just released several new Spring/Summer 2010 designs, including Birch, an entrelac wrap with lace insets, and Valencia (which is coming March 15), a very fun cabled summer top. Also, keep an eye on the Spring issue of Twist Collective - there might be a little something in there for fans of my sock designs!
15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?
In addition to all the knitting, I'm a big fan of hiking and camping in beautiful Oregon, love watching basketball with my husband Bill (we have season tickets to the Portland Trailblazers games), do lots of cooking and baking when I need to shift my creative focus, and just compiled a list of about 300 books that I want to read before I die (from Aristotle to Emile Zola). I'm proud mommy to Sydney (7) and Owen (almost 5), and we share our little urban homestead with three cats, two rabbits and three chickens. I can't remember the last time I was bored!
FG: Thank you, Chrissy. It was very interesting to learn about your life as a designer. We are looking forward to your new book.
To our readers: I hope you enjoy this and many other interviews posted here. I would love to hear from you. Any suggestions, opinions are welcome.
Do not forget to go to this post to get a Toe-Up! free copy generously offered by Chrissy.