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.
August 10, 2011
To learn more about Amy Polcyn, her wonderful designs, and her life as a designer let's read her answers below.
1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?
I learned to crochet first, in high school. I saw a classmate crocheting a bookmark and I wanted to learn. I mentioned it to my then-boyfriend, who surprised me by saying he could teach me to crochet. I learned the basics from him, and then taught myself how to read patterns and do more difficult techniques from a book. I really wanted to learn to knit in 1999 when I was pregnant with my daughter, but as much as I tried, I couldn't get the hang of it. Then one day I figured out the problem. The book I had said that as a left-hander, I should knit continental. It wasn't until I decided to ignore the book and try holding the yarn in my right hand that it clicked. It made sense, as a left-handed crocheter I was used to holding the yarn in my right hand, and I suppose it was just too awkward trying to change hands.
2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
In 2005. At the time, I was working on Level 2 of the TKGA Master Knitting program. As part of the program I had to design a Fair Isle hat and an Aran sweater. When I first started working on them I was totally intimidated, but as I went along I realized I could do it, and it was a lot of fun! I was hooked. After that I published my first design (Mosaic Bag) in the now-defunct web magazine Spun followed by my first magazine and yarn company designs later that year.
3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
Strange as it might sound, I love stockinette stitch. Miles of stockinette might seem boring, but to me it's wonderfully relaxing as long as I like the yarn I'm using! Besides that, I love texture--cables, traveling stitches, ribbing.
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 get inspired by different things all the time. Sometimes it's the yarn, sometimes it's something I saw in a movie or on TV; other times it's a photograph or an object. For example, for Ginevra's Pullover (Interweave Knits Winter 2010), I was inspired by the lace fichus worn by the women while watching Pride and Prejudice one day.
For the Marigold Sweater (Interweave Knits Summer 2010) I was inspired by a photo of my grandmother as a girl.
For the Cable Neck Cardi (Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2010) I was inspired by, of all things, a bread stick I ate in a restaurant!
I carry a little Moleskine notebook in my purse wherever I go, and it's filled with sketches and notes for ideas I get when I'm away from home, and in my studio I have a large notebook filled with clippings, notes, and sketches.
5. What does your studio look like?
My studio is in our extra bedroom, which strangely has a doorwall instead of windows. The great part is that it's on the south side of the house, so even in the winter I get tons of natural light. It's a small room, but I manage to fit a lot in it.
In one corner I keep my spinning supplies (2 wheels, drum carder, etc). I have a large desk made of 2 tables and a low bookshelf so I have storage and lots of room to spread out when working on the computer or sketching.
I have 2 tall bookcases for knitting books, needles, and notions, and on top I keep a little collection of things I like.
The closet has my personal stash in bins to the ceiling, and my "professional stash" of swatching skeins is in 12 bins that are stacked next to the bookcases.
Yarn for projects I'm currently working on are in bins in front of the closet. On the back of the door is some of my fiber stash for spinning in a shoe rack, along with extra knitting bags (you can never have too many!) I used to have a big chaise lounge and a smaller desk, but I decided I needed more room so I moved the chaise to the living room, something my family appreciates as it means I'm more likely to knit out there rather than locked in my room.
6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?
The beach! I wish that was an option more often. I get some strange looks each summer, but I really don't see how sitting on the beach and knitting is any different than sitting on the beach and reading, you know?
7. Do you spin your own yarn?
Yes. I learned to spin a few years ago. I have 2 wheels, a Lendrum and a Louet Victoria, though I'm in love with the Schacht Matchless. I also spin on a drop spindle. Beth Smith at the Spinning Loft has been an excellent enabler!
8. Do you belong to a knitting group?
I do, though we haven't been as active recently. We're called the Detroit Area Knitters and at one point we had several meetings going on in any given week. I first met them in 2006 at a Yarn Harlot book signing, and we've gone on trips together, had yarn crawls, parties, and picnics. I've made some good friends that way.
9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?
I love getting to chat with other designers at TNNA each year. I mostly communicate with knitters through Ravelry.
10. Where can we see your published designs?
Well, since I mainly design for magazines and yarn companies, pretty much everywhere. I have a book out, Knit a Dozen Plus Slippers and my website has links to most of my other work.
11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?
Actually, no. I might at some point, but so far I haven't made the time.
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?
Well, when I was a newer knitter, I wasn't the type to just dive into more difficult projects; rather, I looked for projects that looked doable and built my skills up gradually. Maybe it's my background as a school teacher, but starting "where you are" skill-wise and systematically adding new challenges little by little makes sense to me. So find a project that works for you now, or perhaps has a small element of something new, and start from there. That said, most of my designs are not very difficult to knit. I most often like to knit to relax rather than for a challenge, and I think that comes through in my designs.
13. What are your plans in the near future?
Right now I am working on my second book and a pile of new magazine and yarn company designs and submissions. I also do a lot of tech editing, so there's always some of that on my plate as well.
14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs?
The latest would be the Rose Window Sweater, which is actually one of the first sweaters I designed! After a long road (the project it was originally designed for fell through and it's been in limbo for a long time) it's seeing the light of day on the cover of the March issue of Yarn Forward.
I also have a sweater in the new issue of Knitscene, and a sweater in the winter issue of Interweave Knits called Ginevra's Pullover (see above) as well as the Kinetic Cowl in the same issue. I also designed a sweater for the new book from DRG called Perfectly Plus .
My most recent piece for Vogue Knitting was in the Holiday 2010 issue, the Cowl Pullover (see above). Coming up soon are more designs in Knitscene, Creative Knitting , Love of Knitting , Knitting Today! and pattern from Classic Elite.
15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a fashion designer. I sewed clothes for my dolls and played endlessly with my "Fashion Plates" set. Although I am certainly not a fashion designer, I love that I got to make that dream come true in a small way. I still like to sew, though now it's limited to just belly dance costumes (yes, really!) and Halloween costumes.
I have an 11 year-old daughter who doesn't have the slightest interest in knitting yet, though she does like to spin and even has her own wheel called "Spinnerino."
My husband and I have been together nearly 21 years (since high school) and fortunately he is as passionate about volleyball as I am about knitting so it works out great.
FG: Amy, thank you very much for sharing with us your beautiful work. Good luck with your new book and we hope to see more of your designs.