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.
April 29, 2010
There is much more to learn about Kristen, so here is her answers to my questions.
1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?
My mom taught me to crochet when I was very little. Once I learned how to do more than hook a mile-long chain, I began designing things (I say things because I wouldn't necessarily call them clothes) for my dolls, then graduated into making slippers to fit my own feet. I played with crochet, on and off throughout high school and college, but never really made anything significant with it, since I couldn't read a crochet pattern for the life of me. In 2005 my boyfriend's sister gave me Stitch & Bitch Nation, and from that I was able to teach myself to knit—and read knitting patterns.
2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
The first design I had published was the red Woven Trellis Scarf that was featured on the cover of Vogue Knitting Holiday, 2006 issue.
3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
This changes like the weather… Right now, I'm in love with the pearl brioche knit stitch.
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?
It's different almost every time. Sometimes the yarn speaks to me, sometimes a stitch pattern screams to be used, other times the silhouette of the garment comes to me first.
The Crochet Motif Cardigan was inspired by crochet snowflakes. I was going through a phase of making crochet snowflakes from various patterns, and was inspired to try my hand at creating a square motif that used some of the techniques I learned from making the snowflakes. Once a square motif was created that I loved, I was eager to form it into a sweater shape that worked well.
Sarabande began with a shape. I knew I wanted a yoke, with a fair isle band around the lower section, stockinette stitch below the band, and something more textured above the band, but I wasn't sure exactly what. I drew my idea, then began swatching. There were 3 different Classic Elite yarns that I had in mind for the project, but as I began swatching it was easily narrowed down to Kumara.
Many different swatches were made for this design, testing eyelets and bobbles for the center of the fair isle pattern, and garter stitch and seed stitch for the textured upper yoke.
The Fraternal Socks were born from a concept that I was introduced to in an elevator. I saw a pair of socks that were mismatched, but used the same colors in different places, so in a way, they matched. From that concept I created some colorwork charts, then found the yarn and crossed my fingers that something spectacular would come of it.
5. What does your studio look like?
It's an organized mess. There's a bulletin board with swatches pinned to it, overlapping pieces of paper with inspirational words and drawings. There are piles of papers—drawings, notes. There are boxes of finished garments from publishers, ready for tech editing, and bags of yarn waiting to be played with. It's a *very* small space…
6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?
Oh, I enjoy knitting and crocheting anywhere.
7. Do you spin your own yarn?
Not yet. I do dream to someday begin spinning… but at the moment, I don't have the space or the time to become interested in any more new hobbies.
8. Do you belong to a knitting group?
No. I'm somewhat of a hermit… and often feel awkward in real-life social situations—less so when there's yarn involved, but awkward none-the-less—so I tend not to get involved with groups of people who all already know each other.
I worked in an office at Classic Elite Yarns for a few years. That's probably the closest thing to a knitting group that I belonged to. We didn't knit together much, but there was always talk of knitting, and yarn, and works in progress were shared and contemplated.
9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?
I'm on Twitter, Ravelry and Facebook, and talk to many knitters and designers through those means.
10. Where can we see your published designs?
Classic Elite Yarns often publishes one or more of my designs in each of their seasons. There are some new designs coming out soon in Interweave Knits, Spring 2010 issue, as well as some designs in various upcoming Interweave Press books.
There are many self-published designs available on my website and there is also a gallery section on my website showing existing published designs from books and magazines.
11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?
I do not currently teach any classes.
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?
I learned everything I know about knitting by continuing to push myself outside of my comfortable knitting zone. Whenever there is something I'm not sure of, there is always someone online who has gone through the situation, and can help walk me through it. The designs that bring me the most happiness are the ones I need to research a little. I remember when I wanted to learn about cables. They baffled me, so I looked around online and found a little information about how to make them, and that they're made with this tool called a cable needle. I purchased a cable needle, then knit a little swatch of cables. I LOVED them—so I designed a baby sweater for my expecting cousin that was FULL of cables, then promptly began knitting.
I learned short rows in a similar way. They scared me. I had avoided patterns with short rows until one day I was reading through one of them and I decided that I was no longer going to live in fear of them! I picked up some needles and yarn and began practicing wraps and turns on a little 4" x 4" swatch until I felt comfortable with them—then I designed something to use them—The Broken Rib Tank.
Also, don't hesitate to contact people. If you're working with a pattern and come to a snag, find someone who can help you—even if that means e-mailing the designer. I occasionally get an e-mail from someone who has a hard time understanding something. Often times I can easily resolve their problem by explaining how to do it in a slightly different way. No need to feel intimidated by contacting the designer with a question—we're all human after all :)
13. What are your plans in the near future?
My boyfriend and I are going to be moving to the Austin TX area with our little house… I'm hoping to submit some more designs to upcoming magazines, and I'll continue working as the technical editor for Classic Elite Yarns. Other than that… I like to leave life open to see opportunities as they present themselves.
14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs?
My most recent published pattern is in Classic Elite's Spring 2010 line, in their new 100% organic cotton ribbon yarn, Katydid. The skirt on this top is knit side-to-side with dropped stitches creating horizontal bands—I love that feature. I think it really shows off the yarn.
Sarabande, and the Fraternal socks are some other relatively new patterns.
15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?
I live in a tiny house on wheels, with my boyfriend and our two kitties. I'm a solitary person, and find a lot of joy sitting at home playing with yarn, sticks and hooks, or by bringing more serenity into my life through yoga.
FG: Thank you, Kristen. It was very interesting. Good luck on your relocation and your upcoming publications. I am looking forward to seeing your many new and exciting designs.
To a reader: If you want to hear more about Kristen, you can listen to Getting Loopy podcast with Mary Beth Temple. There are many Kristen's designs that are not mentioned here. Please go to her Ravelry page to see them all. Join our group on Ravelry where you can talk to Kristen and other designers.