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.
July 22, 2010
1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?
My mom taught me how to knit when I was 9 but I only made a little garter stitch orange and yellow drawstring pocketbook. I never learned to purl. In only knit this one thing until I decided to really learn to knit when I was 19 and going to the University of Delaware.
On the other hand, my grandmother taught me to crochet when I was 9 and I did a lot of it. My grandmother crocheted all the time and she inspired me. She was also a quilter, embroiderer and seamstress. She always told me I was so clever and really encouraged me to keep trying new things.
My mom also sewed and knit a bit but she had 5 little girls and not a lot of time to make projects. She was always coordinating our craft and sewing projects, buying us fabric and supplies and never had much time to do it herself. I am eternally grateful that she kept those supplies in my hands and always kept encouraging my latest craft and sewing adventure.
2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
When I was just out of grad school, I started a little business selling patterns. Then I got a job at a small yarn company in 1984 called "Elite Specialty Yarns" (which is now called Classic Elite Yarns) and had to really start cranking out the designs because it was my job - along with a lot of other responsibilities. I started out designing very easy projects (which was what the yarn stores wanted and still do!) and then generally grew as a designer by designing more and more complicated projects. I worked with Classic Elite Yarns for 16 years so it is where I grew into myself and my profession. I've been on my own now for 8 or 9 years. Where does the time go?
Over the years, my designs have been featured in many different magazines, books, and yarn company brochures. It's impossible to keep track and I have lost many of the patterns. Oh well. I can always design another!
3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
I love Fair Isle Colorwork and cables. I don't like to knit lace (or anything with yarn-overs in it) because I knit "backwards." I taught myself to knit out of a knitting book and evidently didn't follow the instructions correctly. By the time I figured that out, it was too late.
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?
I work on a project by project basis with the magazines and yarn companies. They usually say something like this to me: "Make us a cardigan with cables that isn't too hard." and then I do it. I have long standing relationships with most of the people I work with and they trust that what I do for them will be good. I'm very lucky.
When I'm doing a book though, I make it all up myself. I generally just start designing around the accepted "book proposal" and then keep building around the designs that happen. Most of my books have 20 to 30 projects in them so it is an organic process that happens over quite a span of time.
5. What does your studio look like?
Let's start this out by saying I'm not much of a housekeeper. I really don't have a lot of time or interest in a spanking clean environment. First off, my studio is in the basement of our really old farmhouse (built in 1751). The room used to be a kitchen and it "daylights" to the outdoors. I think that is some kind of "real estate term" but I like it. At the back wall, it is built into the earth which keeps it really cool. In the front, I can walk out the door to the garden or look out the picture window when there is snow on the ground.
I just love my studio - I call it my "office" and my husband calls it "Kristin's cave." My studio is my very own place and my daughter and husband rarely ever come down the stairs. I have my computer in a closet so I can close the doors when there isn't too much stuff on the floors. I have a large window which looks out on a patio and in the summer there are flowers blooming. I've got an old photocopy machine, a fax machine that never seems to work, a laser printer, and a corded telephone - all the usual stuff. There are 2 large tables that are covered with works in progress, just published magazines with my projects in them, sewing and art supplies. My studio used to be a kitchen so there is a sink, stove, refrigerator, and my washer and dryer are here too. It's always a mess, unless I know I am having a visitor. Then I clean it up and it looks great but only for a day or two. Then I have messed it up again. I think I prefer it messy - it means things are happening and that I am in a creative streak. I know where everything is, almost.
Oh, and there is always a cat with me - we live on a farm and we have nine so someone is always sleeping on a pile of yarn or a swatch or something. Right now Vera is on the window shelf and Annika is on the table. They must have been busy last night.
I actually don't knit in my studio. It's where I do all the stuff that I have to do like typing patterns, drawing charts and schematics, answering email. When I knit, I usually knit in a big chair in the kitchen or in the library room where my art and knitting books are and there is a television so I can watch movies on the DVD.
6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?
I love to knit and crochet in the car, that is if my husband is driving. I used to do that a lot but we don't travel as much as we used to. I miss it. I love to be on public transport of some kind - bus, train, plane and knit there too! It's that uninterrupted time when noone is bothering me - nor when I can worry about putting a load of wash in or doing the dishes - that I really love for knitting.
7. Do you spin your own yarn?
No, I know how but I let a friend borrow my wheel and she never gave it back to me. I have lost track of her now.
8. Do you belong to a knitting group?
No I don't. I really don't have a lot of interest in knitting with others. I guess that is because this is my job and for fun, I don't want to talk much about knitting.
9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?
Some of my very best friends are in the yarn business in some capacity whether it be working for yarn companies, magazines, or designers. We chat on the phone mostly. I find email impersonal and would rather spend a few minutes on the phone.
I have just a couple of knitters and I send them all their patterns by email. Mostly we keep in touch by phone though because it is easier to work through a pattern problem on the phone vs. email.
I hear from a lot of knitters by email when they have finished one of my projects. Frequently they send me a photo which I love to get. It is great to see how they have tweaked something to make it their own.
10. Where can we see your published designs?
Nashua Handknits patterns, Vogue Knitting, Interweave Knits, Knitty.com, my books. I also have quite a few patterns on my website for instant PDF download. I'm adding more and more to it.
11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?
Sometimes. I don't travel far though. If I can't drive there in a couple hours, I usually don't go. I teach all day workshops at yarn stores in New England. I have been doing more teaching this past year.
I also run a series of classes at our farm. I call it "Getting Stitched on the Farm with Kristin Nicholas." They are weekend classes and really fun. It is great to share our farmhouse, the animals, good food, my knitting and color interests with knitters.
You can read about it on my webpage.
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?
As the Nike ad says "JUST DO IT!" Take a deep breath and stumble in. You'll figure it out as you go along.
13. What are your plans in the near future?
I'm going to rake last fall's leaves and stack some wood for next year's fires.
To design and self-publish more PDF instant download patterns.
Add more classes teaching at our farm.
14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs?
Right now I'm in the middle of publishing "Olympia the Lamb's Felted Knit or Crochet Wool Lei." Olympia is one of our bottle lambs from this year and I photographed her on my blog with a wreath of flowers around her neck. Now everyone that reads my blog wants the pattern. So I've got to fulfill the wants of my blog readers.
15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?
My husband Mark and I have raised sheep for over 30 years. Right now we have over 400 ewes and lambs grazing our pastures. We sell frozen meat at local farmer's markets. I write about the trials and tribulations of living on a farm on my blog Getting Stitched on the Farm.
Besides knitting, I do a lot of other creative things like painting (oils and gouache), decorative paint my house, crochet, embroider. I've written two books on embroidery, besides the 6 books I've written or illustrated on knitting. I don't like to think of myself as a only a knitwear designer. I think of my self as an artist who happens to specialize in knitwear and stitchery design.
The current driving force behind all of my work is color and lots of it. I also enjoy taking photos (mostly for my blog) and doing a bit of gardening when I can find the time. My family and farm responsibilities come first so I often don't get as much knitwear work done as I dream about.
FG: Thank you, Kristin, for showing us this beautiful and peaceful place that you call home. We can clearly see where you get an inspiration for your beautiful designs. Good luck with your new book and we hope to see more of your creations.