project ten: take one

July 22, 2010

welcome to the first installment of project ten!
when i first came up with the idea of these mini-interviews,
i knew exactly who i wanted my first participant to be.
like many of you, she first hit my radar when everyone and their mother started making her charming felted slippers.
months later, she and i became online buddies,
reminiscing about meeting the yarn harlot at the detroit public library.

my dearest bitches, i’m thrilled to present to you
up and coming designer and fellow michigander,
the beautiful melynda of french press knits!

thanks so much melynda for being here.

You’re so welcome- so excited to be your first project ten ‘guinea pig’

are you ready to go?

Yup.

nervous?

Of course!

let’s get started then.
here we go ladies and gents!

10 questions for french press knits

1) i’m going to start with what could be the most important question any knitter can ask another. its answer immediately places you in one of two major camps, and the repercussions can be devastating. are you ready? english or continental?

Starting with that?! I know I have offended others by admitting this in the past. Primarily Continental. I taught myself English for fair Isle purposes but don’t even use it for that.

2) i would argue that it’s your felted slippers that put you on the map so to speak (and you’re free to disagree with me). what drew you to felting?

Honestly, before the slippers, I hadn’t done much felting. I liked the idea of having a manufactured looking product that was actually handmade. Also, I wanted a new pair of slippers, so, like most things I want, I figured there would be a way for me to make it. Sometimes I have a hard time finding exactly what I want in stores, I like the satisfaction of making exactly what I want, and with a cheaper price tag.

3) as a follow up, why do you think your felted slippers became so popular?

I think other people thought they were cute and were drawn to the design. At the time, there were no others quite like them, so they stood out. The other big events were the fact that they were at the top of the ‘New and Popular’ list on Ravelry, followed by the postings from the Yarn Harlot. These things came with many more blog posts, Ravelry projects, and word seemed to spread. As a new designer, it was a dream come true!

4) creating a persona that reflects who you are is so important, especially with the advent of ravelry. in many cases, it’s vital to one’s success in crossing over from enthusiastic knitter to successful designer. how did you come up with the name french press knits, and how does it reflect who you are as a person? as a designer?

Well, the story behind the name is not all that exciting. In February ’09 I decided to open an Etsy shop. At the time, I was in a big work-out kick (they don’t happen all the time, I need to take advantage of them when they come!) and was training for a race. During the training I discovered that a bit of caffeine an hour before my run seemed to help things along. Because of this, my french press coffee pot was always out on the counter.

My husband Joe and I had been trying to come up with a name for my shop for a few weeks. His suggestions were always better than mine, so it’s no surprise that he came up with “French Press Knits” one night. The idea is this- it doesn’t make much sense, we just wanted it to be catchy. I do think it sounds classy and timeless, which is what I want to reflect in my designs. I do get a good laugh when Joe’s friends refer to it as ‘Fresh Prince Knits’ though!

5) can you describe how you made the jump from knitter to designer?

I have always enjoyed making things, creating a tangible product for my work, and my day job really didn’t provide that sort of satisfaction. This is why, a little over a year ago, I thought it sounded like fun to start an Etsy shop. I read in some places that you can’t sell finished products from patterns, and decided I wanted to honor that (especially when designers requested it on their patterns). I started coming up with simple, quick designs that would not take much time to produce. I aimed for projects that required less than two hours of work. I work full time and as much as I love crafting and creating, my time is limited.

So, I started selling my cowls, felted baby booties, and French Press Felted Slippers in my Etsy shop. Before too long, I had knitters contacting me and asking if I was on Ravelry and if I sold my designs there. I had never heard of this mysterious land, so I went to check it out. I’m not going to lie- I was baffled by the empty screens and never thought I would actually take the time to upload pictures of my projects on to the computer. I left and didn’t sign back on for a while.

Fast forward to summer where I took a month off from producing slippers to make my first adult-sized sweaters for myself and realized what an amazing resource Ravelry is. I posted some pictures of finished slippers and many people commented and asked if I would come out with a pattern. I had considered it in the past, but never thought it would be so rewarding. I have published most of the designs that I orginally used in my Etsy shop, and am now working on other patterns.

6) and how has the transition from hobby to business affected your relationship to knitting?

In so many ways I love it- I wouldn’t trade this for the world and I never dreamed I would be so busy writing knitting patterns. It does make it hard when I see something I would love to make and know that I would never have time to make it. I will be working on a cardigan pattern soon that will be for myself, and I can’t wait to wear it!

7) i’m a pretty consistent reader of your blog, and i’m completely jealous of your studio. how’s it coming along?

Well, I announced on my blog a couple weeks ago that I am actually expecting my first child in November. We found out at the end of March when the basement was *almost* finished. Although it seems we are working on it constantly, we are still *almost* finished. Who knew that stage could take so long?! Now that I have my energy back, things are moving again. I have my first baby shower mid-August and it will actually be down in the newly-finished basement, so now I have a deadline. At this point it’s finishing touches and furnishing. I think it will be quite a while until the studio is ‘done’, I’ll probably be filling it for years to come!

8 ) growing up in my area of michigan, i was pretty oblivious to the fiber arts. partly because my family wasn’t into them but looking back, i don’t remember a strong presence in what was my neck of the woods. what’s the fiber arts community like in your area?

Well, I kind of live in the middle of nowhere, but there seem to be quite a few great shops right around me. Even though it is not the most ‘local’ shop to me, I consider Center Street Knits in Northville my LYS. It has the most lovely interior and is located in a great downtown area. If you are ever nearby, you must stop in!

9) while knitting arguably gets the most attention, it’s certainly not the only fiber art. what is the one branch of the fiber arts you wish you were better at and why?

I feel I should brush up on my crochet skills. I learned to crochet before I learned to knit, but I never really did much with it. There are so many edges and finishing techniques that I could learn if I just worked on the basics.

10) if you could interview one person for project 10, who would it be and what would you ask them?

A new designer that I love is Hillary Smith Callis of The Yarniad. You may recognize her name because she was the designer behind the famed “Citron” in Knitty this past winter. I would just want to know how she comes out with so many great designs so quickly!

thanks again for being the first project ten participant.
i can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

Thanks so much for making me a part of this- can’t wait to read the interviews with the other designers!

*melynda and her husband live across the street from the house she grew up in in hartland, michigan. both her and her husband’s family live close by, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. there’s a little french press on the way so get out your baby patterns! you can find melynda on ravelry, facebook, etsy, twitter, or read her lovely blog here.

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