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.

February 18, 2010

TODAY'S GUEST: CHRISSY GARDINER

Although Chrissy is well known for her sock designs (and she has many), it is, by any means, not all she designs. According to her Ravelry page Chrissy Gardiner has 132 published designs in magazines, books, and her own line of patterns called Gardiner Yarn Works. When you visit her website, read what she says about herself there and you will see that she used to work in the corporate world as a software architect and lives in Portland, OR with her husband and kids. On a personal note, Chrissy is absolutely delightful and friendly, with a wonderful sense of humor. She is one of those people who makes you feel at the moment you meet with her that you knew her for ages. Here are her answers to DS questions.

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.

February 03, 2010

TODAY'S GUEST: DONNA DRUCHUNAS

I have never met Donna in person, but I feel that I have. I approached her at the time when the book I co-authored was published. It was September of 2008. I was doing a blog tour for our book and Donna very kindly agreed to take the time to write the post on her blog. At that time she just came back from her summer exploration trip to Lithuania and we had some nice conversations about that part of the world. Since then we keep in touch. Donna Druchunas is an amazing person. When you talk to her you forget that she is a well-known writer of many knitting books, a published knitwear designer, and an internationally renowned teacher. You might have read her interview on my blog when Donna's book Ethnic Knitting Exploration came out in 2009. Here are some of her wonderful designs.


So, this time, I wanted to hear from Donna about her life and get to know her better. If you are as curious as I am, let's read the answers below.


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

I started knitting when I was a little girl. I don't even remember learning. My grandmother taught me. I remember making a swatch of yellow honeycomb cable when I was about six years old, so obviously I'd been knitting quite a bit before that. But I don't remember any other things I made as a little girl.

2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
I started publishing my designs in 2002 or 2003, I think. My first book, The Knitted Rug, came out in 2004, and I'd been publishing patterns in magazines for a while before that.

3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
My favorite knitting technique is lace. Although I initially struggled with learning lace, I've since become addicted to it.

4. When are you 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'm most inspired by traditional textiles from around the world. I'm interested in learning about knitting techniques, but I am also inspired by patterns used in weaving, crochet, and embroidery. I collect books about textiles from different countries. Right now I'm engrossed in a book about embroidery designs in Belarus, that was a gift from a friend. I can't read the text, but the pictures are gorgeous. I would like to translate some of the motifs into knitting designs if I ever get caught up with my current projects!

5. What does your studio look like?
My whole house in my studio! I have an office downstairs with floor-to-ceiling book shelves on three walls, a desk with my computer, and a big worktable for spreading out my research. Upstairs I have a "yarn room" that's full of projects -- finished and unfinished -- yarn, fleeces, another work table with my swift and ballwinder and a carder. In my garage I have dye pots and equipment. I also have a laptop and wi-fi at home, so I travel around the house with my work, sometimes sitting in the den and watching TV while I'm knitting, or sitting in the back yard while I'm writing. Even my yard has dye plants growing here and there. And I spend a lot of time writing at the local coffee shop, too. Sometimes, even with all that flexibility, I just need to get out of the house !

6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?
I usually knit on the couch while watching TV and talking with my husband.

7. Do you spin your own yarn?
I love spinning but I haven't done much in the last few years. I recently gave my wheel away because my family has a tradition of not holding onto things we are not using when someone else could benefit. I have kept my spindles though, and I have some fleeces. I'd love to get more time to spin.

8. Do you belong to a knitting group?
I don't formally belong to a knitting group but lately I've been meeting with some knitters at my favorite coffee shop every Friday morning. I'm normally a very solitary person, but lately I've been feeling the need for more social interaction.

9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?
I'm in touch with many other designers and knitters, mostly through email and the internet. It's a wonderful thing to be able to talk to designers and knitters around the world! I can't imagine my life without the internet.

10. Where can we see your published designs?
My books are the best place to see my designs. I've published in most of the magazines, too, but lately I've been writing more articles and doing less freelance design work. I'm very much interested in empowering knitters to create their own designs, as well.
That's the theme of my books Ethnic Knitting Discovery and Ethnic Knitting Exploration. In both of those books, I have tried to provide knitters -- even beginners -- the tools to design their own accessories and sweaters, using the traditions and techniques I love from around the world. I also have PDF versions of parts of Ethnic Knitting Discovery available on my website and on Ravelry. On the photo here I am sitting with June Hall visiting Marija, a Lithuanian knitter, at her home (2008).

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

I love to teach. I teach at local yarn shops, both here in Colorado and around the country, and I teach at a few fiber festivals every year as well. The last couple of years, I've also been teaching Europe. Next summer I will be teaching in Scotland, Switzerland, and Lithuania -- and maybe more places! On this photo I am with my husband, Dominic Cotignola, in Geneva Switzerland (2009). I'll be on that side of the Atlantic from June to September. I'll be teaching in the states as well. In February, I'll be doing workshops and lectures in Wisconsin, and in May I am teaching on an Alaska Cruise. I'm very excited about all of that. I love travel and I love knitting. I can't choose a favorite so this is perfect for me.

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?
My advice to new knitters is to dive in and try whatever is calling to them. Ask for help at a local yarn shop or knitting group if necessary. Read books and look on the internet for videos. But if something frustrates you and you're not having fun with it, put it away for a while and work on something else. Knitting is -- first and foremost -- a hobby and it should be fun!

13. What are your plans in the near future?
I'm planning to travel and teach more next year.
I also have a new book about lace knitting coming out. It's sort of a sequel to Arctic Lace, because it's about Dorothy Reade, a world-class knitter and spinner who helped establisht the Oomingmak Co-op in Alaska. But it's also very different because it has a variety of projects by 20-some different designers ranging from easy to advanced lace patterns, with yarns from extra-fine laceweight to super bulky. It was amazing to work with so many talented designers and to see what they came up with. On the photo : working with Donna Reade Nixon looking through Dorothy Reade's papers in Eugene, Oregon (2007)

14. Can you share with us what your latest design is?
I haven't published many designs lately. I'm working on a book about Lithuanian Knitting, and I've written several articles about knitting and spinning for Spin Off and Piecework magazines. I'm totally obsessed with that topic lately.

15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?
I love to continually learn new things, to explore, and to expand my mind and my skills. I never know what I'm going to do next because I allow myself to follow my passions and I embrace my obsessions. I couldn't think of a better way to live.




My cats Uno and DeeDee watching the snow.




FG:
What a nice way to finish. Donna, thank you for this wonderful interview. It was very interesting and full of information. Just like your books:)