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.

November 13, 2009


If you are connected with the knitting world in some way you most likely know who Shannon Okey is. It is not an easy task to find one word to describe what Shannon does. Let me try to list the things I know about her: she is an author of many craft books, a designer, the former editor of the UK-based knitting magazine called Yarn Forward, a knitter, a spinner, the owner of Knitgrrl Sudio, the founder of designer-owned Stitch Cooperative, a publisher, and a media consultant. Shannon's articles can be found on and her videos on U-tube. I am sure I have missed something here. One thing that can be said about Shannon is that she has such a contagious and exhilarating passion about fiber arts and crafts that you want to follow her work. Here is what she told us herself.

1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?

I got a relatively late start (in my 20s) and though my favorite aunt taught me the basics, Lucy Lee at Mind's Eye Yarns in Cambridge, MA is the one who really taught me. I'd been working on the same scarf for about 4 years -- its ball of yarn is still in my stash! -- and was so incredibly bored with it, I can't even tell you. So I walked into Lucy's shop, said, "ok, I've been knitting this same scarf for ages, I hate scarves, I want to knit a cardigan." And she said, "what color?" This is why she's so amazing. She doesn't do the typical "no, you can't even finish a scarf, forget a cardigan" routine. A month later -- pow! cardigan. Lucy also taught me to spin in 5 minutes. She is a miracle worker, and her hand-dyed yarn is amazing, too.

2. When did you begin publishing your designs?

In my first book, Knitgrrl (2005). I gave away a lot of one-off designs before I started to actually write them down!

3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?

Provisional cast ons used for felting -- it's one of my signature "tricks," you can use it in many different ways.

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?

Color is a big factor -- Maize came about because although I'd bought the yellow yarn to re-knit another design of mine that wasn't working in its current incarnation, I sat down with the needles and just said...ok, wow, this wants to be something corn-like! Whether I'm reading a book, in my studio or driving around, Cleveland (where I live) is an awfully colorful place if you know where to look. For example: this image which I recently published on my site:
I was waiting for some Thai takeout, and decided to take a drive around that neighborhood, which is close to downtown. It's very industrial, and some of the city views are like no other -- when you're located on a lake, the only other way to look at downtown is from the water! Check out some of these colors, from graffiti to leaves to rotting painted tanks. How could those colors NOT inspire you?

The recycled wool scarves I make, and wet felted scarves, owe a lot to the colors I see around me.

5. What does your studio look like?

I recently did a virtual studio tour -- you can see a Flickr set of images here. But this is the executive summary:

You can also see a short video here. In addition, I often work at home, and then I'm curled up on the couch, for the most part!

6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?

Hands down, the couch. I just recovered all its pillows in Amy Butler "Primrose" fabric and plumped them up with extra stuffing. I sit down and am suddenly surrounded by beasts (my 2 cats and dachshund).

7. Do you spin your own yarn?

Yes, I have three wheels and who knows how many spindles at last count -- and as a Louet Yarns dealer, I teach a lot of other people to spin, too!

8. Do you belong to a knitting group?

Technically, yes (SnB Cleveland) but I'm often too busy to go, which is sad.

9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?

Constantly, and in a variety of mediums -- I'm very active in social media, so Twitter, Ravelry, Facebook and my own website are the major ways I reach people. In addition, Stitch Cooperative, the designer-managed pattern coop I founded, has an active internal mailing list, so I talk to them almost every day!

10. Where can we see your published designs?

On Ravelry, and on my own website.

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

Yes, at Knitgrrl Studio and all around North America (there, that includes the Canadians, yes?)!

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?

Listen, if I can knit it, you can knit it. I'm very much of the opinion that people limit themselves -- you are smart! If you can do knit and purl, trust me, you can knit anything I can. If you're having a difficult time with a technique, you just haven't found the right way to learn it yet. Some people learn very well from photos, some do best with oral instructions, some need to physically have someone help them make the stitch motions in order to understand what's happening. Find a different way to learn whatever is giving you problems. I taught knitting in a booth at Maker Faire in San Francisco a few years ago and had everyone you could think of stopping to try -- I think the men and children had the easiest time because they had no preconceived notions that "knitting is hard." There are enough roadblocks in life, you don't need to make more for yourseld!

13. What are your plans in the near future?

I've revived my publishing company, and have several new titles on the way from both myself and other authors. The first book we put out, in 2007, was by Jonelle Raffino of South West Trading Company. I'm planning a digital reissue of that, too!
14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs?

Metis, Ennis Ulrike, and Piri, are the newest to hit the block -- but I have an entire booklet of patterns I've been working on this year called Knitgrrl CSA: Farm Fresh Knits. I'm hoping to have it out before year's end.

15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?

Can I have a nap now?

FG: Thank you, Shannon, for taking the time from your very busy schedule (I even feel bad a little bit now that I asked you to do this:) but I do hope you had fun answering these questions.
Yes, you can have your nap now :):):)

I know I am speaking for our readers saying that it was great to get a glimpse of how Shannon works and what inspires her as a designer and an author. I also wanted to add that she publishes her designs in other publications like magazines. Here are the two examples: the left photo is Mosaic from
Yarn Forward Magazine No. 18, October 2009 and the photo on the right is

Thank you for visiting The Designer's Studio. You can leave your questions and comments for Shannon, if you wish. Tell your friends to come over and read the interviews posted here. There are many more coming.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Shannon

    I am a person who mostly likes to sketch and have ideas then search for yarns to fit my purpose so I would be interested to know do you mostly sit down and sketch an idea, perhaps a concept or motif that pops your head before moving on to yarn choices. Or, are you the sort of gal who sits down with yarns and inspiration comes from contact with them and playing with them or directly from their colour.