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.
May 08, 2011
Her designs are popular and we can see why. It is what most of us like to wear. Kristi lives with her husband and two beautiful daughters in a beautiful spot in CA. When you look at the photos of her designs you see that her family is very involved in her life as a designer.
Her two latest books are published by Wiley and are full of beautiful and very functional designs. They are collections of designs by many designers including Kristi herself. Her both daughters were models for some of the projects. Photography is superb in both books and the Pacific ocean is divine.
I am happy to be among the contributors for two of her books. You can see my reviews of these books if you click on the images below.
Now it is time to let Kristi tell her story.
1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?
I truly don't remember learning how to knit or crochet! I must have learned in bits and pieces, a stitch here and a stitch there, from my mother, my grandmother and my aunt. My mother knit a couple of very nice sweaters for my dad before she had children, but I really don't remember her knitting much when I was a child. She knits a lot now that she has the time and even hosts her own knitting group and is teaching people to knit!
My grandmother, born before the turn of the last century, was an enormously skilled craftswoman. She made clothes for herself and her family, probably mainly out of need, but her skills were quite remarkable. As the youngest grandchild, by the time I knew her, her handiwork was just for pleasure. She spent years of my childhood creating a crocheted tablecloth (5' x 10'!) for my aunt out of very fine thread. This was passed down to me as a wedding gift. The stitches are almost invisible to the naked eye. Probably nearly a million stitches. It's exquisite! Hard to believe that anyone would ever take on such an opus today, but whenever anyone asks me (including the voice in my head) about taking on a large project, I think of that tablecloth and know that it is all possible.
My aunt, called Bricky for her red hair, was a wonderful knitter and knit many things for the extended family, including my mom, my sister, and me. She was always knitting, right to the end of her life. Even in her last moments, apparently, she imagined she was knitting. Her son, Mike, in his eulogy said, "Bricky was a knitter even to the end as we observed her, sound asleep, with her glasses in her hands with the stems facing toward her, using her glasses as the needles to knit one last sweater or afghan for one of us in her mind." I think we can all hope for such an end, trying to finish just one more row.
So my best guess is that between the three of them, I picked up a technique here and a stitch there, without thinking too much about it. The first moment of needlecraft I remember was sitting at my grandmother's bedside while she was in the hospital once. My mother was working on a crocheted ripple stitch afghan in rainbow colors of RedHeart. It was for my bed, which had recently received new rainbow sheets and a rainbow bedspread my grandmother made by quilting together two sheets. (These were a replacement for my StarWars sheets, so we can all be clear of the dates! Somewhere between 2nd and 5th grade.) I know that I worked some stitches on the afghan to pass the time, and I remember the idea of working extra stitches in one stitch at the top of the peaks and skipping stitches at the bottom to create the pattern.
The first thing I remember finishing was a dark red sweater with white dots ever few rows in a classic "Lice" pattern. I was probably 14 or 15. The only thing I really remember about it was that the neck opening was way too small and no one could get their head through. Seems like an easy enough fix now! I know that by the time I was an exchange student in Germany when I was 16-17, I was already set enough in my knitting that I did a lot of things in a freakishly American way and refused to switch (my knitted cast-on, throwing instead of picking, etc.). But it was nice that knitting was more popular there and pretty common to knit with friends after school or take your knitting on the bus or train.
2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
My first published design was in the first ever issue of Knitty.com. An any-gauge child's sweater called Haiku, which is still a very popular pattern! The model there is my younger daughter, Ella, who can be seen in More Knitting in the Sun modeling your Natka sweater, among others. Neither of us knew at the time how much this would become part of our lives over the next 10 years! But it really was a great turning point. When Amy Singer, then, like me, one of really just a handful of knitting bloggers, decided to start an online magazine, we really had no idea what was in store for us. I began working too as Knitty's first technical editor. While we were impressed with our audience, it was really only in the single thousands of viewers and the enterprise really seemed like some sort of garage-band/clubhouse project. We learned a lot quickly and I am so impressed with what Amy continues to do with Knitty. It has provided many designers a springboard to move on to other projects. I am not exaggerating to say that I can trace every bit of success I have had as a designer and technical editor back to those early days at Knitty.
3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
My favorite techniques change all the time really, depending on what I am working on. Because I work as a technical editor, I have the pleasure and responsibility to read patterns by a great variety of designers carefully and thoughtfully. Sometimes it's a new structure or shaping technique that catches my eye. Other times it's a new stitch pattern. As an editor, I am forced to think about how these work. And, of course, my creative mind thinks about applying these techniques to something new or "How would this work if you turned it on its head?" or "Would this work in a completely different setting?" and sometimes, "This could be so much simpler if only…"
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?
Because I am so aware of pattern writing, that definitely influences my designs. A beautiful design deserves an elegantly written pattern. I think many designers work from a single garment that they've created. It may be spectacular to see, but the process of writing it up is cumbersome and inelegant. Add 5 more sizes to the equation and you've got a 14-page, 6-chart nightmare on your hands! (Hint for designers: No publisher wants to touch that with a 10-foot pole!) I always start on paper (And yes, paper. I try to work with spreadsheets, but mostly I find my natural designing proclivities are for scratch paper and pen and doing calculations out by hand.) After swatching and thinking, I will try to write the whole pattern out for ALL sizes before I cast on. That way I can find out ahead of time if it's going to lead to calamity down the road if there are 11 pattern repeats instead of 8 across the sweater. Obviously, in the creation of the garment you learn a lot of things and can make adjustments, but if you haven't thought through the process before you start, it's like the whole thing is stuck together with twine and duct tape.
5. What does your studio look like?
I don't think I've ever talked about this before! My work space is usually called "The Craft Room". It's the spare room in our house, and it's only "spare" because our girls share a room! Every once in a while one of them talks about having their own room, but so far I've been fairly persuasive in my arguments against such an arrangement.
Aside from my computer and desk, which occupy a fair amount of my work time, the room has a lot of storage (never enough!) for not only yarn and fiber, but also for any number of sewing, art or craft projects that we dream up and also a good sized table. If someone wants to draw, or paint, or sew, I want to be ready!
Sometimes, the craft table is a homework table. Other times someone is stitching or weaving, or covering something in duct tape. I love being the house where someone can always come to sew on a button or find the yarn ends to make hair for their puppet, or create a building from recycled boxes. Just this week, I loaned a little loom and yarn ends to a boy from school who told his mom he'd like try weaving and I passed on a broken hair dryer and toaster to a kid who wanted to see how they worked. So few people work with their hands these days, any time someone shows interest, I am eager to help.
Aside from the utilitarian aspects of the Craft Room, I have some stuff to inspire me. Right now I have a hummingbird nest harvested from our tree, a bag created by my friend Naida of Kao Pao Shu (http://kaopaoshu.it), an old (pre-QWERTY) typewriter, a drum carder, my mid-century pink Brother sewing machine, an orange 1960's patent-leather purse from Grandma Edna (my husband's mother's mother), artwork by my family, my Kromski spinning wheel, and a gold art deco dress and a shawl knit in Colinette Giotto. Along with natural light from three sides, these things make working a pleasure.
6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?
I knit anywhere and everywhere. The more of your life that is about knitting, the less time you have to knit. I knit waiting for kids. I knit in the car. I knit waiting for appointments. I like to knit and listen to podcasts. Aside from the knitting-centric ones, my usual favorites are The Moth, NYC's RadioLab, and This American Life.
7. Do you spin your own yarn?
Yes, I really do enjoy spinning, but since it's definitely a hobby, it always plays second fiddle to the actual work of knitting. I bought a beautiful Kromski Minstrel wheel as a gift to myself for finishing Knitting in the Sun. I confess that it's pretty dusty right now!
8. Do you belong to a knitting group? I don't belong to a knitting group per se, but I teach a regular class twice a week at my local yarn shop, Knitting in La Jolla. A lot of those knitters are regulars who come every week, so it is very much like a knitting group. A few knitters have come regularly since I started teaching six years ago. Others have come and gone. We do feel very connected with one another and they are a great sounding board for my ideas! Often a new design will come about because one of them says they'd like a certain something. "What can I make with this yarn?", "I saw this great silhouette and I'd really like to knit something like that!", "Here's this shape idea. Here's the yarn I want." "I want to knit something like this, but I need a very simple stitch pattern." -- I really love specific design challenges like that, or I have a pattern idea and one of them will knit it, helping me work out the kinks. It's both inspiring and rewarding to work in an environment like that.
9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?
Yes, I don't think I'd do what I do if I weren't able to reach out to designers and knitters. I love the feedback I get through Ravelry and email about successes (and sometimes, failures!) in knitting my designs. I am constantly in contact with other designers about their work, about what's going on in the industry, and so on. If it weren't for the Internet, this would be very lonely work. I think many of us would not be able to sustain our work if it weren't for the active online community of knitters.
10. Where can we see your published designs?
I have published four books. Knitting for Dogs (Simon and Schuster, 2005), Knitting Patterns for Dummies (Wiley, 2007), Knitting in the Sun (Wiley, 2009), and now, More Knitting in the Sun (Wiley 2011). I've also had single designs published in other books.
11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?
I teach a regular class twice a week at my local yarn shop, Knitting in La Jolla. (See the answer for Q8)
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?
Knitting is supposed to be fun! Whatever your skill level, there is a pattern out there to suit your taste for comfort and challenge. Some knitters truly enjoy knitting the "same" thing again and again. Others always want to try something new. And most of us enjoy great challenges from time to time, but also just want to knit a simple hat or garter stitch scarf now and then when the rest of life gets in the way. That's one of the great things about knitting. You can modulate the level of challenge to suit your mood and abilities. Two adages that I pass on to my knitters: 1. You can make anything if you really set your mind to it, and 2. Commit yourself to 15 minutes a day with it. Anyone can find 15 minutes to spend with their knitting, and some days they'll find themselves settling in to it and knitting much more. Like practicing an instrument or picking up any other new skill, you won't improve unless you practice! Yes, you'll make mistakes, but even with just 15 minutes a day, you will make progress!
13. What are your plans for the near future?
Since I finished up the book, I've been doing a lot of technical editing… and very little knitting and designing. I plan to take the summer off from scheduled projects so that I can do some more design and creative work!
14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs?
More Knitting in the Sun is my latest project. It contains the work of over 20 great designers and it's been a pleasure to get to know them and see their projects develop. I am always so inspired by working with others! I contributed four designs to the book: The Charlie vest, the Huck hat, the Owen blanket and the Caddie backpack.
FG: Kristi, thank you very much for giving this interview. You have done a beautiful job on your books and I hope many people will get a chance to make many of the lovely designs from those books. Good luck with the rest of the tour. Tomorrow's stop is at Knit with KT .