October 9, 2010
today, we have a couple of firsts.
the first first: this designer is my first referral.
the second first: this is my first interview with a rocket scientist.
all the way from san francisco and freakin’ nasa!,
(yeah that’s right. i said nasa.)
i give you the yarniad herself,
ms. hilary smith callis!
thanks for being here hil.
can i call you hil?
Of course you can call me Hil! I love being called Hil. And does that mean I can call you Stevie?
for this one interview only, i’ll forgive it.
are you ready to get started?
As ready as I’ll ever be, Stevie.
then here we go:
ten questions for hilary smith callis
1) even though I know the answer, we begin with the infamous first question: english or continental?
Continental all the way. I haven’t yet checked this theory with my grandma who taught me, but I think we knit Continental because she learned from her mother, who was from Denmark. I learned how to knit when I was pretty young and never knew there was a different style of knitting until I picked it back up in 2003. I would even see people knitting English style and would try to copy the “throwing”, but with my working yarn still in my left hand (didn’t really work). It was a major “aha” moment when I realized what English style knitting actually was.
2) melynda bernardi of french knits press nominated you for this interview. when asked what she would ask she wrote, “I would just want to know how she comes out with so many great designs so quickly!”
Well, first of all, I am beyond delighted that Melynda Bernardi knows who I am – she’s brilliant! – and that she would nominate me. Earlier this year, I was even surprising myself with how quickly I was able to finish some designs and get them on the market, and I attribute it to a couple of things. Firstly, I’m a pretty monogamous knitter. It is rare for me to have more than one thing going at the same time, and once I’ve started something it’s really hard for me to stop until I’m done. I get a little obsessed. Secondly, I have a gross commute that can be 45 minutes to an hour each way. My husband and I work together and take turns driving to work…the days he drives, that’s a full hour and a half to two hours I can devote to knitting. That makes more of a difference than I even realized…this fall, he’s been traveling for work a lot so I’ve been commuting solo and my knitting progress has majorly slowed down. How selfish of him, right??
3) unacceptably selfish! in the winter of ’09, you exploded onto the knitting scene when citron was published on knitty. the last time i checked, there were nearly five thousand citron projects going on ravelry. can you talk about your citron experience, from design to publication, to ravelry phenomenon?
Oh my goodness, I still have to pinch myself every time I look at the growing list of Citron projects on Ravelry! The design started out as something I was making to use up a single skein of Malabrigo Lace that had been sitting in my stash for some time. I’m not even sure where the idea came from, except that it had to be top-down because I wasn’t sure how far the yarn would take me. I finished it, thinking it would make a nice Christmas gift for someone, but one day I was reading Knitty’s submission guidelines and thought, “Oh, what the heck,” and put together a submission. I’d heard that Amy Singer’s rejection letters were really sweet and encouraging, and thought she might give me some advice for the future. Then, to my utter amazement, it was accepted! Then came the wait for publication. I was fully expecting the knitting world to cry out against the addition of yet another “shawlette” pattern, I thought people would hate that it was mostly stockinette, that you end the shawl with one bazillion stitches, etc. etc. But people loved it! There were something like 97 projects added to Ravelry in the first week. I continue to be amazed by the popularity of the pattern, but it is such a joy for me to see all the different versions and what people have done with it. People have added lace, different textures, different yarns….it is so cool.
4) it is very cool. i think almost everyone at my shop made at least one. i picked up a copy of julie turjoman’s book brave new knits, in which you and a pattern of yours is featured. can you talk a little bit about what the book is about for those who haven’t yet bought a copy from their LYS?
Brave New Knits is the very first celebration of knitting/designing bloggers in print form. It is a collection of profiles (based on one-on-one interviews) and patterns from 26 different knit bloggers, with photography done by one of the most prominent of the knit bloggers, Jared Flood. Julie did a great job assembling everything – the profiles are fun to read, and the patterns are great. And I swear I’m not just saying that because I’m in it! There are at least 6-7 patterns that I’m dying to make for myself.
5) obviously your blog played a crucial role in your participation in this book. but while almost every designer has a blog, i would argue that most of them don’t blog (by which i which i mean, write on a regular basis unless a new design comes out). so i wonder, which technology do you feel is most important to a designer’s success?
Great question! I have noticed the same thing…it seems that many designers start out primarily blogging, but then seem to stop once their designing careers take off. Part of this is probably because in the beginning, you’re really eager to share your whole process, your inspiration, etc. but when you want to start submitting ideas to various publications, you have to keep all of that quiet. I do still think that blogging is important to a designer’s success, especially in the beginning – it’s how you make friends and contacts and get your ideas out into the world. But Ravelry really takes over from there (at least for the designers who sell on the internet, rather than those who focus on in-print publications). A design can spread through Ravelry *so* quickly, not to mention the ease of setting up a shop there, plus all the great advice in the designer forums. Personally, I’m not sure what I’d do without Ravelry.
6) when did you come to realize that your blog/designs were becoming kind of a big deal?
Are they a big deal?? I mean, I guess I see that Citron is a big deal because so many people have made it, but other than that I still kind of feel like I’m a little kid playing dress-up in the world of the real designers. ☺
7) while i wouldn’t call my knowledge extensive by any stretch of the imagination, knitting and its integral tie to the internet has forced me to learn more about computers than i ever did in school. let me tell you, the day i finally memorized the html code for linking, i did a jig of glee. (how?) has knitting and designing changed your interaction with technology?
Your “jig of glee” over memorizing the html code for linking made me laugh! I am so the same way! Though I work at NASA, I don’t work on the technological side of things, and my educational background is in Greek and Latin, so I knew hardly anything about things like html before I started blogging. But having a knitting blog, and trying to get it to look *exactly* the way I wanted it to, forced me to learn pretty quickly. And, honestly, I never thought I’d ever know so much about Excel formulas. I do all my pattern grading in Excel (thank you, Marnie MacLean for your awesome tutorials!) and, oh, the lengths I will go to in order to avoid having to do calculations by hand. I’m actually not bad at math, but I am *awful* with making idiotic mistakes. So spending hours perfecting complicated formulas actually saves me time in the long run. Anyway, in these ways I feel like what I’ve learned from designing/blogging has actually helped me in my day job, which is kind of cool.
8 ) i’m all about growing as a knitter, challenging myself to learn new techniques. my recent rhinebeck sweater tragedy may force me to learn to steek. is there some knitting technique you really want to master but have yet to? either as a knitter or designer?
Definitely. I have yet to even attempt intarsia (and I’m not sure why I’m so scared of it), but until I do, I will not feel complete as a knitter. As a designer, I would love to do a top-down sweater with set-in sleeves one day.
9) with question nine, i’m giving you this chance to finally set the record straight, to dispel decades of rumor and doubt – was the moon landing staged?
Haha! You know, I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you…
10) it might be worth it. i’m sure i’d get some kind of journalist prize for breaking that story! and now the final and most important question: if you could interview one person for project 10, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Hmm…I would interview Thea Colman of Babycocktails, and I’d ask her if she absolutely *had* to choose between mixing fabulous potable concoctions and knitting…which would it be?
good question! i’ll see what i can do.
thanks so much for being here.
i’m sure we’ll see lots more of your work in years to come.
you know, if the c.i.a. doesn’t get you for leaking top secret moon landing info.
Thank you so much for having me here! It’s been a real pleasure, and I hope we meet again. Oh, and I’ll try to be discreet when I spill NASA’s secrets in the future.
*hilary smith callis (30) lives in san francisco with her husband and step-cat. when she’s not keeping the folks at NASA’s project SOFIA (stratospheric observatory for infrared astronomy) on time, dabbling in crochet and sewing, recovering from the inevitable heartbreak of loving the giants, or attempting to find the best restaurant in san francisco, she’s designing and knitting her heart out for us. find her stuff (and buy it!) on ravelry, knitty, in brave new knits (though you should buy it from your LYS), or on her lovely blog, the yarniad.