project ten: take eight

September 7, 2012

unless you’ve been sitting under a rock for the past few years,
then you’ve probably heard of my next guest.
even if you’re not familiar with her name,
if you frequent a local yarn store,
chances are
you’ve seen her shit.

“if knitting were a drug i’d be checking into rehab”
“i’ll show you my stash if you show me yours”
“yes, i did make it and no you can’t return it”

are but of few of the irreverent phrases
gracing the front of her products.

today bitches and bitchettes,
i give you,

photo by alisa deshano, divine images photography – ©knitterella®

hello knitterella. may i call you knitterella?

Of course! I like it that way.

this is actually a project ten first in that we’ve actually met.
as with many knitters, it was the yarn harlot that brought us together,
isn’t that right?

Yes, she did. I’m so glad I got to meet you! It was so much fun to have you as a ‘table mate’ at the colorwork class with the Yarn Harlot. You were cracking me up!

i’ve been know to do that on occasion.
so are you ready to get started?


alright let’s spin the wheel.

ten questions for knitterella

1. i begin with the question i ask all my guests: english or continental?

English – I’d like to think I’m a pretty fast thrower too.

2. you began your professional foray into the land of knitting in 2003 when you first created notecards for knitters. can you describe how and why you decided to start your stationery business? did you see a gap in the market, a need not being filled? or was it more organic? did the idea just come to you?

It’s kind of a long story but if you really want to know how it happen this is it… after graduating WMU with a BFA in Graphic Design I landed a not-so-glamorous job at a stationery company in Grand Rapids, MI (the company shall remain nameless). I thought I was hired to do more design work but in reality it was all boring production work. Although I learned a ton, what I really wanted to do was design. I voiced my desires to want to be the one designing the cards and not prepping them for print. Still, I was shot down. It really frustrated me that they didn’t believe in me and so out of frustration I developed Knitterella. I wanted to prove I could and would be a stationery designer, if not for them I would do it for me! I decided to take my two passions, graphic design and knitting, and develop my own line of stationery product. So came Knitterella!

Now that I think of it, this is a real Cinderella story – be it a stationery world version. Makes my name Knitterella a perfect fit, don’t you think?!

3. and how soon would you say that your business took off?
when did you know that this was the way to go?

Really, since 2003, this was only a fun thing I did on the side and never really gave it the full attention it needed until 2010. I know that seems like a real long time and it is. The reason for this is because for all those years I was working full-time as a graphic designer (rest assured I left the card company in Grand Rapids pretty quickly!), but in 2010 I was laid off due to the crappy economy. That was when I thought, now is my chance to give all I have to Knitterella (and Jill Zielinski Designs) and see if I could ‘Make It Work’!

4. was there ever a time when you considered giving up?

For sure! Especially when I wasn’t giving it my full attention before 2010. Since putting it as a main focus I’m so glad I didn’t. I have two wholesale distributors now and am really enjoying getting into pattern design as well. Plus, just all the wonderful people I’ve been able to meet through Knitterella (like YOU) has made it so worthwhile.

5. while i’m always interested in where people get their artistic inspiration, i’m also equally interested in the business side of things. was there a learning curve for you when it came to ‘the business stuff’?

I have no problem coming up with the ‘ideas’ and since I’m a graphic designer it’s easy to execute them. However, I do hate the business side of things. I still could use a class or two in that department. Maybe one day!

6. as you mentioned, you’ve got distribution through not one, but two of the industries biggest distributors. can you walk us through that process and what it was like?

Yes, I’m thankful to have my Knitterella products are distributed through Bryson Distributing and Deep South Fibers. Bryson distributes my stationery and Deep South distributes both my stationery and my pattern line.

First I got into Bryson. A friend actually recommended me to Bryson. I sent in my samples, had a few phone calls and the rest is history. Shortly after that I was contacted by Deep South Fibers. I really wanted to get into Deep South as I totally love all the designers they carry. It was really good company and I wanted to be a part of it!

In case you are wondering, yes, you normally are exclusive to only one distributor. Sometimes though, when you have a product you can work it a different way – I was able to work it out with Bryson and DSF that I distributed my stationery through both of them. My knitting patterns, however, are exclusive to DSF.

7. what’s interesting about your particular work, is that it has as much to do with copy as with design. which aspect is more difficult to tackle and why?

Hmmm, not real sure how to answer this one. They both are their own monsters but I don’t see one more difficult then the other. It really is all about what I’m inspired to create. The process is the same for both.

8. your stationery made the name knitterella what it is, but you’ve branched into knitting pattern design as well. how is your design process for patterns a different experience? or is it?

Recently I’ve really fallen in love with taking my original graphics and turning them into colorwork knitting. It’s like if the graphic designer and knitter in me had a baby ☺ It feels totally natural and I just love the results! My Mojavé cowl is a perfect example of this. I have numerous new colorwork designs in the works. You’ll be seeing a lot more of this from me this year and next.

9. of which design are you most proud and why?

If you are talking about my stationery, my humor gift tags are for sure it. The sayings on the gift tags were things I always thought but of course would never had the nerve to say (like, “Just because it’s handmade doesn’t mean it was cheap”) – these tags were able to say it for me in a cute and useful way. They are still my top sellers so it’s very refreshing to know that others have the same thoughts!

In the pattern design department, my first love is my Smocked Slouch. This is because it was a big goal of mine to start designing knitting patterns and in 2011 I came out with my first one and the Smocked Slouch was it! I’m happy that it was a hit too – at least in my eyes it is – I still sell a lot of them and that makes me so proud ☺

My Mojavé pattern is also very important to me as I feel that this really ‘birthed’ a new passion for me – the whole turning my graphics into colorwork knitting thing.

i love that, for your humor stationery, those were your actual thoughts. personally, i think that’s why they’re so successful; they’re real rather than contrived. and i love that it’s a tangible example of how design allowed you to express yourself.

as for your knitting, the mojavé cowl is by far my favorite of your designs to date.

now on to the final question:

10. if you could interview anyone for project ten, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Gosh, there are so many inspiring knitwear designers it’s hard to pick. Right now I’d pick Kate Oates of Tot Toppers. I designed her Math For Hats Booklet last year and we became fast friends. We even shared a booth at TNNA this past June. She’s pretty much a knitting super hero to me. I want to know how she got into knitting – especially since she actually has a PhD in Political Science. Also, how can she produce her adorable knitting patterns so fast – all while taking care of her 3 young boys. I could use some tips!

You know, I met Stephanie

thanks knitterella. i hope we can hang and catch up over a burrito.

I do too! You know I feel about burritos *wink*wink*

jill zielinski, 34, runs the kniterella empire as well as her design company, jill zielinski designs, from her home studio in rural michigan where she lives with her husband and two young boys. between cookie-breaks and kissing skinned knees, jill finds a way to incorporate knitting and design into her daily life. you can find her on ravelry, read her blog, and buy all of her stationery and knitting patterns here.

project ten: take seven

October 29, 2011

it’s been a while since i’ve interviewed someone for the blog;
the momentum just seemed to stall beneath me.
so i’m more than thrilled to have an interview for you all,
and i think this person is the perfect choice
to breathe new life into project ten.

i still firmly believe i am a newbie in the knitterverse,
having only been in it now for three years.
but from day one, certain names begin to enter your consciousness,
names spilling from the lips of knitters in yarn stores and coffee shops.

spunky eclectic was one of those names for me.
i’d heard it before several time, not knowing who or what she really was.

until one fateful day,
when a certain clockwork arrived on her doorstep.
from then on, spunky eclectic was on my knitting internet radar.
and she’s been added to my list of inspirations.
she’s here with us today,
mistress of several fiber arts,
ms. spunky eclectic herself.
welcome, amy.
can i call you amy?

Heh. Absolutely. I answer to many names and all work just as well.

thanks so much for being here.
are you ready to get started?

Let’s go!

alrighty then.

come on bitches!

here’s ten questions for spunky eclectic.

1. thus far, i’ve only interviewed knitwear designers, but it’s the fact that you are a fiber dyer that drew me to interview you. nonetheless, i’ve begun every interview this way (and you are a knitter), so i guess i can’t stop now: english or continental?

I am a knitwear designer as well though I don’t do it as much these days. Continental all the way baby. Though I learned English and can do both.

2. what i love about your (now former) blog is that you refuse to limit yourself to any one passion. “cook. crochet. craft. knit. sew. spin. weave.” that’s a lot of territory to cover, and certainly seems to fit with the name spunky eclectic. can you talk a little about the beginnings of spunky eclectic? and what it’s relationship is to boogie knits?

That is the million dollar question. How much do you want to hear me blather on? Which is why I named the new blog Blather…. Boogie is just a nickname and that’s what I did for my knitting blog. I always tried to keep the business and personal separate but I don’t know if that’s really possible anymore.

Spunky Eclectic began many years ago about the time when my pottery business was taking a turn and I decided to let it take that turn without me. I was a knitter since I was a tot and that eventually led into all the fiber pursuits including spinning. Once upon a time there were very few hand dyers out there. And almost no one painted on fiber. I spun and I wanted funky fibers so I made my own. Eventually as people asked me to dye for them….well, it’s all history now.

3. i feel like every knitter dabbles with the idea of making the fiber arts their life, but few of us have the courage and talent to make that happen. what made you decide to take the plunge and begin working in the fiber arts? and what was it specifically that drew you to dying fiber?

Art was always my life and my job. From the pottery business it wasn’t a smooth transition into fiber artist by any means but it was the right decision.

As for the dyeing, I seem to have a natural aversion to white. When I did pottery, they were colorful and painted very brightly. I dyed clothing and cloth to make clothes. Which moved into yarns when I couldn’t find what I wanted commercially and into the fibers. If I can dye it, I will.

4. i’m not the most artistic person; i feel like if i wanted to paint something, i wouldn’t know where to begin. it took me weeks to decide what color to paint my bathroom, and i settled on a gray so light, it’s almost white. so people who effectively work with color fascinate me. how does the dying process begin for you? by which i mean, how do you begin to think about what colors you want, and how to put them together?

In college I remember taking a Color Theory class. I hated every minute of it. As a cocky 19 year old, of course I knew it all. Still, I felt I knew what colors go together. I didn’t want to have to paint 4 pages with ¼ inch squares in varying gradients of…. This could go on, I won’t bore you with all the details of that class. Very analytical and I am sure it helped some greatly and in some way it’s still stuck in my brain. By and large, though, for me I it’s mostly just a feeling.

5. do you think about how your fiber will look spun up? does that affect how you dye? or is it all about the color and fiber in the moment?

How a fiber looks spun up is all due to the spinner. I do a class that works with handpaints. We make several types of yarns from cables, to plied yarns and singles yarns to novelties and with all different methods of predrafting. How a spinner chooses to predraft a fiber (or not) and ultimately decides to ply (or not) and finish it will determine how it looks. From the same handpainted top, you can get heathers to self striping yarn and a whole host in between.

That’s the great thing about fibers like this. Everyone has the freedom to decide for themselves how they want it to looks. I’m not in charge once the color is on the fiber, the spinner is.

6. (how) does the fiber content affect how you think about dying a given batch?

It changes it greatly. It changes the methods I may use, the color concentrations, the temperatures I start out with. I believe some colorways are better on certain types of fibers than others. Everything needs to be adjusted if you want to get the same or similar color if you’re changing fiber content.

7. how and when did you get your brick and mortar location? what was that like, going from a solely online presence to a physical one?

I was working out of my basement. So cramped. I had no room for inventory and was always running out and working out of boxes. When the opportunity came up to rent a space from my parents who were altering their business that was in that space, I jumped at it. Sure I pay rent now but I have more room. Essentially we’re still mostly an online store as we are located in the sticks, but it’s so much easier to have stock and figure out how to fill orders. Plus we’re able to have more equipment. I love equipment.

8. what have you found to be the most difficult aspect of working in the fiber arts industry?

This is a tough question. The sense of community is awesome. The people are great. There is always the same issues as an retailer has. The same issues as any manufacturer has….I don’t think the fiber arts industry holds anything special as a downfall. We have some clear positives and strength.

I don’t want you to think I’m shirking the question so the only problem I have with the industry is that many don’t seem to value their work enough. When I say that a hand knit sweater is worth upwards from $200 (not including any work that goes into yarn creation, that’s a separate thing) people think I’m nuts. Everyone that knits/spins/crochets/etc is doing something of VALUE. It is a trade that since industrialization and machines have taken over commercial spinning and knitting that is now seriously under valued.

i feel exactly the same! and some of the rates knitting teachers charge . . . if you did the math it’s almost slave labor! reinstilling a sense of value beyond the aesthetic is something all fiber artists should invest in. but i digress.

9. since i’m a crazy twitter stalker, it’s obvious you are very close with adrian aka helloyarn, and david of southern cross fibres. how does your relationship with these (and perhaps other) fellow fiber dyers affect your own work?

It’s good to have colleagues. We don’t have a water cooler to chat around but we do have Twitter and chat. It’s nice to have someone to tell you that what you’re doing is way cool or definitely wrong. I value my friendships in the industry and in particular with Adrian and David. They will honestly set me straight or give me ataboys as necessary. As for affecting the work, we do sometimes share ideas and bounce things off of one another. It’s good to have other experienced folks to talk to.

10. i end each interview with what i think is the most important question: if you could interview anyone for project ten, who would it be, and what would you ask them?

Hmmm. Anyone? Dead people? I’m not talking zombies but really if Elizabeth Zimmerman came back as a zombie, I’d let her eat my brain. I’m not sure I could ask her just one question. I find her infinitely inspiring and her knitting astounds me. I love it when people look at something and challenge conventional construction.

If you want a strictly live person, lets go with Mercedes Tarasovich Clark (man, I hope I spelled that correctly). She’s a designer and the lady behind Kitchen Sink Dyeworks. I love the idea of the Badass woman’s club. What is the inspiration and tell us more!

awesome interview.
look for me near that water cooler, biatch!

Thanks for the warning. I think the water cooler just got naughtier!

*born in a little inland town in maine, now fondly referred to as “the dirty lew”, boogie lives in the small town next to the lew with a similar reputation. she grew up on a working farm where arts and crafts were always important. her ‘gram’ taught her to sew, knit, and crochet when she was wee, mostly to keep idle hands busy and butts in seats. it worked for her.

“I never really stopped knitting but would take long hiatuses. Then I found myself back in Maine after moving around a bit and settling down. Knitting kept me sane when I moved back to the country. Spinning soon followed. And then my children. And the business. It’s all history after that.”

you should read blog, buy her things, stalk her on ravelry, and visit her at her shop!

project ten: take six

February 8, 2011

someone who inspires me to be greater,
a force of nature, a woman among men among women,
is the magnificent rupaul.
on his amazing show dragrace,
rupaul is looking for four qualities in her queens:


i have taken these words as my mantra,
not only for my own way of being in the world,
but also in what i’m looking for in the people i surround myself with.

of course, any person i interview must have these qualities as well,
and my next guest has them in spades.

“I learned to knit as a young girl from my hilarious Nana. Years later, I used a copy of the venerable Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book to try to recreate Kurt Cobain’s signature cardigan. I never finished it. Debbie Stoller’s Stitch ‘N Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook came out when I was in college and reawakened my dormant knitting skills; the desire to design came soon after.”

and so my lovelies, i present to you,
miss cirilia rose!


did you survive the blizzard?

If by survive you mean “burrow into wool blankets and only emerge for snacks,” then yes, I survived brilliantly!

ready to get started?

SO ready!

alrighty then, let’s spin the wheel!

ten questions for cirilia rose.

1 – ok cirilia. there’s only one right answer to this question. if you get it wrong, we might as well quit right now; english or continental?

HA! Well, this might sound dodgy, but it’s true—I knit both ways! I taught myself to knit Continental about 5 years ago, but I still revert to throwing, especially when I’m doing something fiddly like lace or cables. But I adore picking for long stretches of stockinette.

2 – such a diplomat. the question that i want to ask most is how exactly did you get your job at berocco? i’ve stalked the previous incarnations of your blog (both blogger and wordpress) and there’s just not enough info. i need more details!

Sure! It was a bit crazy, I was modeling at a Webs photo shoot and I got a phone call from Norah [Gaughan]. She invited me to apply for the job and how could I say no? We’d met at Webs and Stitches events and gotten along well, laughing over the Red Sox and various nerdy interests. I think I was really struck by how down to earth she was. At the interview she told me she’d read an interview in Knitscene where I said my dream job was to be a magazine editor. She thought that would be a good match for the job since one of my duties is writing KnitBits, our weekly e-newsletter.

3 – when did you know that this is it? that designing would be your life?

To be honest, that is a decision I have to make everyday. I never planned this for myself, and it has happened quite accidently. It took a few years to even be comfortable with the title, and now I’m feeling like, “okay, I have the interest and some natural talent, all that is missing is the skills set.” I never considered going to school for fashion design or textiles and while I have learned a lot on the fly, a big part of me longs for an academic do-over.

Then again, the things I DID study (consumer culture, cultural studies, aesthetics) certainly play into my designing now. I love to think about material culture and the role of costume in constructing identity.

4 – as a knitter, i find that i am constantly getting jealous of other people’s f.o.’s. do you ever get jealous of other people’s designs?

Oh HECK YES!! It is currently blizzarding in Northeast for what feels like the billionth time this winter, and I was feeling sorry for myself because I have no hand knit gloves, and have been wearing the same sad looking hats for many seasons. It TOTALLY bums me out that I can’t knit more for friends and family and that I can’t drop everything and knit through the massive stash I’ve acquired. I have daydreams where I knit things to sell at Craftland, my local crafty wares emporium.

As for design jealousy, sure, there are times when I think, “I wish I had thought of that!” but for the most part, we’re all making pretty different stuff, so I just “Ooooh, ahhhh, queue!” like everyone else.

5 – you have created so many successful designs; your gallery jacket, shibuya, and paz are three of my favorites.

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but i wonder, have you ever designed something, knitted it up, and then realized it was a dud?

Oh, only all the time!! There are very few designs that I’m actually happy with, to be honest. Which is part Virgonean perfectionism, part newbie designerness. The duds are usually the ones that are forced or rushed. When a project is fighting with me at every stage, I develop a bit of animosity towards it that doesn’t bode well for its future. If I have the time, I will rip and rip and rip. If you’re thinking for a second “maybe I should rip this…” do it. I have never regretted it, and re-knitting those lost inches always seems to go quickly.

6 – of course, you don’t “just” design for berocco, you blog for them as well. can you talk a little bit about what the blogging process is like for you?

…well…I’ll be honest, it is pretty hard for us to blog these days, we’re so busy! I am putting much more effort into our Twitter account, which feels so manageable. I can Tweet from photo shoots, from the mall, from my bed where I’m knitting. Putting together a blog post can feel cumbersome by comparison, so we’re saving it for special occasions.

7 – as a blogger, i am always on the lookout for other knitting blogs that are unique, inspirational, and perhaps most importantly, post on a regular basis. do you have any favorite blogs that you follow, either knitting or non?

In addition to not blogging much, I’m also reading fewer blogs than I used to! But when I do get a minute to check in, I really love reading Wikstenmade’s blog. She is a gorgeous Brooklyn based clothing designer who has this wonderful blend of urban minimalism and rustic Scandinavian style. I’m also a bit smitten with ReadyMade magazine’s team of bloggers. Concise, interesting posts that compel me to DO rather than buy…much appreciated!

8 – you may remember, readers, it was stephanie dosen (a.k.a. tiny owl knits) who nominated miss cirilia rose for this interview. stephanie wanted to ask, “what she feeds the pixie army in her head to create her gorgeous arsenal of fantastic designs?” well, what do you feed them cirilia?

That was definitely one of the best things ever written about me, and it was SO flattering coming from Stephanie because I am a huge, huge fan of hers!! Fantasy Cirilia has knit all of her garments and is wearing a Fawncho right now, with a pair of Meow Mitts!

As for my pixie army, I feed them German sour gummis and microbrews. Also, lots and lots of movies. I am obsessed with cinema. I can indulge my love for history and costume and like a toddler, return to my favorites again and again. A recent favorite is a Japanese film called Wool 100%. I would marry Netflix if I could.

9 – there are so many awesome designs and designers right now that it can be a little overwhelming we mere mortals to sift through them all. ignoring yourself obviously, who do you think is the designer of the moment? that “it” girl or boy that we shouldn’t ignore?

I will choose one of each! Selfishly, I love Amy Christoffers (SavoryKnitting on Ravelry), and even managed to knit her Acer cardigan last year. She is such a great example of how beautiful restraint can be. She doesn’t throw in every technique in her arsenal, and many of her garments are partially seamless, but not TOTALLY seamless, which is a hybrid approach I really love.

My favorite boy is the adorable Stephen West! He travels, he casts amazing models, he isn’t afraid of color and he is a joyful person, which shows in his knitwear. I think he is well positioned to hop over to London and join the ranks of Fassett and Mably.

10 – way to own that question. i adore selfishness! which brings us nicely to your final question; if you could interview one person for project 10, who would it be and what would you ask them?

I just took a class with Josh Bennett, a hot ticket who is currently at FIT studying menswear. I am ecstatic that more men are designing, because it makes the knitting landscape that much more interesting and because personally I love to borrow from the boys when designing and dressing myself. I would love to know how Josh is translating his cut-and-sew curriculum into new knitwear.

well cirilia, thanks so much for being here. you gave some real pageant realness!

It was a pleasure! A curtsy and Vaselined smile for you!

*cirilia rose (28) lives in providence, rhode island, a little city whose idiosyncratic details prove to be the perfect place to inspire a young designer. you can find her working along side norah gaughan at the amazing new england based yarn company, berroco. you can find her designs on ravelry, follow her blog for berroco and on twitter @berrocodesign .

project ten: take five

December 3, 2010

“I talk to ghosts and furniture, and I think bugs have feelings.

My first babysitter almost broke the world’s record for seeing star wars in the theatre the most, but was just beaten out. She did however drag me with her every time, and so sometimes I recite the movie while I am sleeping.

I sing on stages & ride in buses for a living.

I knit every spare second I have.

You’ll find me on tour,
knitting little white mice and batting them around,
chatting up hamsters, or somewhere near the magic tree.”

know who this is? no?
well, you know that anyone who writes that about themselves,
has got to be on interesting bitch!

thankfully, miss spillyjane turned me on to this designer,
and she graciously agreed to an interview.

so today kiddies,
i give you stephanie dosen of tiny owl knits.

hi steph, thanks for being here.

happy to be!

ready to get started?

lets go for it.

1 – we begin with the inevitable first question: english or continental?

i started continental because i am a crochet bird from birth, but i switched to english when i started teaching. people seem to pick it up faster for some reason. now i go back and forth like a vacillating maniac because i get bored easily. you should see my handwriting; it’s just as inconsistent.

2 – you’re an american citizen right? so how did you come to be living in britain?

about four years ago i met my record producer online. after we made an album, i came over to do the mastering. after that i started touring and working with other bands and buying tiny antique books at flea markets. i guess one thing led to another and seems i just never made it back to the states!

3 – looking at your designs, it’s easy to see that you have a love of the fantastical side of things. where did this love come from?

i think its one part snow white, one part tinkerbell and one part dorothy from the wizard of oz. they were really my best companions when i was very little, add the fact that i grew up literally in the woods with no other little girls around me, just makes me a bit of a reclusive fairy head in the clouds type it think? i spend my days making up songs to my cats and hanging up twinkle lights. i wish i wasn’t such a twee nerd but i cant help it in any way. i’ve tried to be hermione but i cant. im luna lovegood from tip to toe.

4 – i have to ask, do you actually believe in gnomes and such? or is it merely part of the tiny owl persona?

there is literally no end to what i believe in because i don’t really believe in anything and yet believe in everything all at once. it is all so insane isn’t it? the fact that we are stuck to a giant hot and cold spinning ball in space, and we care about each other, and we care about our cars and toys. and we die, and babies come flying out of our bottoms! its preposterous really, how we survive here, how we made cheerios and tacos, cars and escalators. gnomes just seem obvious and a lot easier to imagine existing than an ice cube maker don’t they?

lol, i guess that makes sense.

5 – if you had to label your personal aesthetic in three words, what would they be?

earthy, ethereal, pale

6 – how much of your design aesthetic is organic and how much is cultivated? by which i mean how much (if at all) of your new designs are confined within “the look” you’ve already established?

ah that’s a really interesting question, i think maybe i really just design what i want to have for myself, and so far it kind of goes together. i am pretty intense about what colors i have around me. all of my knickers match, all of my plates match. if my book covers don’t match my other book covers, i cover them with fabric. i’m hyper organized since toddlerhood, is toddlerhood a word? anyway, i like my shit to match. and if it doesn’t i get anxiety, so that might be part of why everything blends as i go through phases.

7 – i feel like these days, anyone who knows how to knit thinks they can design. what do you think of the proliferation of “designers?” and what effect do you think it has on knitting as an art form/craft?

i love the fact that everyone is designing, because everyone always has! it’s just that we never got to see it. sometimes, i think of the victorian genius that we never got to witness because it was created by little girls confined to attics, and thrown away before it ever hit the light. what fantastical magical dolls and trinkets did the hope chests of yesterday hold!? what needlework, quilts and clothing were thrown away and lost in war and fire. now the internet is a big glass window and we can peek in to see what everyone is making! It’s so exciting and inspirational every day there is something new. it’s like going into everyone’s secret under-bed boxes, and looking at their creations. and it compounds and folds over upon itself so we get multiple versions of things. it’s all free too, inspiration is free and creation is free. it’s part of human nature to invent and make things, that why we have so much crap around that doesn’t grow on tress. there will always be enough shoppers to go around, there will always be enough. i also love that something interesting is happening. it is so much fun to be in the middle of an arts and crafts, homey, re-use, re-fashion, whimsical, vintage loving, rose and magic filled, plush-tastic wave of creative madness brought on by economical and technological changes. yeah, some of it is low-standard but i don’t really care. i cant imagine how many times other peoples creations given me a heart-rush and actually made my day better for seeing them. the only negative it has i think is that it can be overwhelming, and can make a person feel like they aren’t doing something as good as doris in norway or something. but that’s a personal battle for each person to overcome i suppose.

8 – for some reason, i’m tickled by the fact that you’re in a band, that you express yourself artistically in different media. can you tell us a little bit about your band, snowbird, what your sound is like, who your influences are?

i put out a few solo records and had some amazingly talented hot girls in my band, but after i started working with massive attack i put my solo stuff on hold, only to lose my solo-mojo and my hot girls to other projects. after the dust settled simon raymonde (from cocteau twins) and i just decided to do a laid back project. we’ve done a bit of touring and are still working on the finishing touches of our first record. there will be some really talented people making guest appearances such as robin pecknold from fleet foxes. also, phil selway and ed o’brien from radiohead are also going to sprinkle some magic on a few tracks.

9 – as you know, it was spillyjane who nominated you for this interview. in her interview she said, “i’d like to know how she takes such simple knitted objects and imbues them with so much beauty.” care to take a crack at that one?

oh god for some reason my first thought was “lots of mayonnaise” but that doesn’t make sense does it. i do love mayonnaise though. for a long time i didn’t know that it was just eggs. i try not to think about it. ah thanks spillyjane! she and i have become friends and she is so creative! i love seeing what she comes up with… as for me… aw shucks.. ya really think so? heh heh thanks! all i can say is its like decorating a cake, you gotta know when to stop and eat it.

10 – and finally, if you could interview anyone for project ten, who would it be and what would you ask them?

i’d interview cirilia rose (“skrillaknits” on ravelry) and ask her what she feeds the pixie army in her head to create her gorgeous arsenal of fantastic designs.

thanks steph for being here.
it was great to meet you, if only virtually.

thanks! great questions! it was so fun i didn’t realize i never left home.

*stephanie dosen (ageless) is an american singer living in london. when she is not on tour with her band snowbird, she spends her time designing knitwear, and publishing
knitting patterns under the name tiny owl knits. she also spends quite a bit of time with the gnomes. they play “catch the frog” and “hopscotch.” though, they tend to leave out the hop bit and concentrate more on the scotch. you can find tiny owl knits knitting patterns for sale on her blog, on etsy, & on ravelry.

project ten: take four

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.

project ten: take three

September 17, 2010

today we’re talking with another canadian jane,
jane richmond!

this interview holds a special place in my heart
since hers was my first ever ravelry download.
you just don’t forget something like that!

not only that,
she was the first person to fave/message me re: a project.
as a new knitter, having a designer comment was a big deal.
she made me feel really special
(even if she initially thought i was veronica)

so welcome to bitches get stitches, jane!

So happy to be here!

are you ready for your questions?

all right!
here we go.

ten questions for jane Richmond

1) we’ll start where i always start, with the most important knitterly question: english or continental?

-Are knitters really that divided on this? I knit English and can’t seem to get my fingers to learn Continental but someday I would like to be able to say I know how to do both.

good question jane. what do you think people? are knitters divided on this? i think so! leave a comment with your opinion.

2) when i was first learning to knit, i hated that all beginner projects seemed to be both ugly and time consuming (i.e. garter stitch and scarves). when my ravelry membership finally kicked in (because, in those days, you had to wait to get on ravelry; these kids today don’t know how good they have it), i found your marian cowl. not only was it beautiful and fast, i remember thinking, “i can do this!” and that’s what i love about your designs, their simple beauty. of course, that’s just my take on your aesthetic. what would you say drives your design? what inspires, not only the designs themselves, but the need to design so to speak?

-Well firstly I like to design because I’ve always liked creating original work that I can call my own. Secondly you can’t always find what you’re looking for when it comes to patterns (although I have to say that Ravelry has really brought some amazing talent to the public eye as far as knitwear designers go and that really makes me happy considering I took up knitting when knitting was done for babies and fashion had nothing to do with it).

I like to keep the esthetic simple because I don’t believe knitting has to be complicated in order to be beautiful. What makes a garment really stand out is the stitches, the yarn selection, the small details, the subtlety… you don’t have to throw every knitting technique you’ve ever learned into a design, sometimes less is more.

3) good photography has become vital to promoting one’s brand in the knitting world. i personally love your eye; i think your photos have a very specific look. what are you thinking about when you’re looking through the camera lens?

-Hmm, that’s such a good question, I don’t think I’m thinking anything really… I’m an amateur photographer, I don’t claim to be good at it but it’s certainly something I enjoy doing. My favorite part is the outcome; I really feel passionate about lovely photographs, they make me feel good. I guess I just know what I like, I know what appeals to me and so that is what guides me when capturing and selecting the images.

4) along those lines, it’s often necessary to step in front of the lens to promote one’s designs. the photos of you in your marian (which i believe you have since changed) was one of the big reasons i stopped to look at the pattern and then follow your work. i personally hate being my own model because it’s so flippin’ hard to take photos that flatter both the object and me. and yet somehow you make it look effortless. can you talk a little bit about your experience being your own model?

-I laughed when I read the word effortless. Thank you Steven, I’m glad that’s how I come across because as you know it’s actually a lot of work to take pictures of yourself. Let me start off by saying I hate having my photograph taken and I am a terrible model (meaning I don’t know how to pose, lol, if you’ve ever watched America’s Next Top Model and seen photos of the girls who don’t know how to “use the light” or “work the camera” and they end up with these really awkward pictures…that’s me). So what I do is set up my tripod in front of a mirror so that I can see what I’m doing, lol, otherwise I end up looking like a total goof, seriously!

I also like simplicity when I’m shooting, a plain grey wall as a backdrop. My sister is always bugging me about how boring it is but I love it, it appeals to me.

5) and, as miss tyra says, you must always smile with your eyes, lol. in our initial correspondence, you wrote that you used to be an auto mechanic. that’s a pretty badass profession. i’ll admit i would never have guessed that of you. was it difficult to be a woman working in a profession that one would imagine is almost completely male dominated?

-No, I worked with some amazing guys that really showed a great deal of respect for me. I was prepared to put up with a lot but really I think that I had the right attitude to be in that environment. If you don’t take shit people don’t dish it. I also had to prove that I could do the work and I did, after that it was never an issue.

6) got that fellas? this bitch don’t take not shit! so i read on your blog that you recently moved to victoria. how has living is a city affected your knitting life?

I’m happy to be back in Victoria for my knitting’s sake, I love to watch the trends walking down the crowded city streets, it really fuels my need to create. I also love that I have options when it comes to LYS’s. I have a triangle that I hit up when I need to enhance my stash, Knotty By Nature, then Beehive, and ending at The Button & Needlework Boutique.

7) moving around seems to be a theme in your life. in fact, my new hometown used to be your old hometown. can you tell us who-what-where-when-and-why of how you came to live in the u.s. and then leave us to return to your native land?

-You have no idea what you’re in for with this question, lol, I’ll try to keep it short… I was born on Vancouver Island where I was adopted and brought to the Mainland to grow up in Vancouver, only to move to Melbourne, Australia at age 10. After 9 months we left the land down under to live in Seoul, Korea for two years. After our term was done there we moved to good ol’ Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We were there 9 years and once my sister and I were out of the house we decided to leave our dumpy apartment in Coraopolis and move back to Canada. Victoria was a good fit as Vancouver had totally outgrown us in the 13 years we’d been away.

…when people learn my story they ask if my Dad is in the military, he’s not, he worked for an international Australian company and we became expats living all over the world.

After Christopher and I met and decided to settle down together we moved back to his home town of Chilliwack (on the Mainland), that’s where Elsie was born. We stayed 2 years but ultimately decided we were Islanders at heart. When we came back the Island we didn’t land in Victoria, we wanted to give up Island a try (the pace is slower, things are more spread out, it’s lovely up there), but my family was down in Victoria and the distance was becoming a nuisance… so now we’re here, and I feel like I’ve come full circle.

and as a little follow up to that question, are you still a steelers fan?

-I don’t really follow sports, it’s just not my thing. I did enjoy all of the excitement that surrounded the football season, everybody is in to football in the states, it’s like our hockey.

…you do know it’s pronounced “Stiller”?

yes, yes i do.

8 i’m reminded of a question i asked another canadian jane about border crossings. when i asked spillyjane this question, she gave a very diplomatic answer. i’ll be interested to here your take. while similar on paper, i would argue that americans and canadians have very different cultures (though of course the lines get blurred in the upper peninsula. i think they’re canadians in disguise). so, other than the metric system, what differences if any do you see between american and canadian knitters?

-When I was living in the ‘burgh I didn’t know any knitters, it was pre-Ravelry so Knit Nights and such didn’t really exist for me back then.

From an online perspective I don’t really notice differences so much as similarities. I’ll admire somebody’s knitting on Ravelry, and notice how similar our tastes are and then realize they are in Finland. It’s so cool. Knitting really unites us and I am so thankful to Raverly for opening the door to the knitting world so that we can all get to know each other.

9) good answer, jane. now, question nine is an important one, one that the readers i’m sure are dying to know. it’s no secret that your husband, your mister chistopher as you put it to me, is pretty smoking’. he’s what we would call a “very good knitter.” so what i, and i’m sure everyone else, would like to know is this: does he have a brother?

-lol, he does, and they are all spoken for.
(I am grinning from ear to ear)

10) i start with the same question and i end with the same question: if you could interview one person for project 10, who would it be and what would you ask them?

-Hmmm, I really admire Ysolda Teague for really carving the way for self published designers. I don’t know what I would ask her, It’s sort of nerdy but I love hearing about the design process and how other designers get there, the more in depth the better.

i’ll see what i can do.
i doubt she’ll take my call after my peaks island hood ranting,
but i’ll give it a shot.

thanks so much for being her jane.
if i’m ever on the west coast,
i’ll have to pop up and see you.

I hope you do.

* jane (29) lives on vancouver island in gorgeous british colombia, canada with her equally gorgeous husband, chirstopher, and baby girl, elsie jane. you can find her blog, ravelry, and etsy. seriously people, go buy her patterns!

editor’s note – after rereading this post,
i noticed that jane uses american spelling!
*sigh* it warms my heart.

project ten: take two

August 20, 2010

my next guest for project ten comes to us from that magic country above known as canadia
er . . . i mean canada.

she is one of those people plagued by a need to create, to make,
to turn nothings into somethings.
she learned the basics of knitting at age 12,
but abandoned it soon after, as she thought it was far too fiddly.

a decade and a half later,
her friends showed her the socks and shawls and arm warmers they were knitting, promising that she too could learn to do this.

she balked at this;
she thought that it might be nice to be able to make things like socks,
but was sure that she would never be able to.

a year passed.
one night she decided that she was going to teach herself how to knit.
she did.

ladies and ladyboys,
bitches of all genders,
i thrilled to present to you,
miss spillyjane!


i have to say thank you, not only for being here,
but for being so patient through this process.

Not a problem! I didn’t mind at all.

trust me bitches, she’s been a doll.
when i was an unreliable flake,
jane was my rock.
which is ironic since this is supposed to be my gig.

so jane, you ready to do this?

Definitely ready.

then let’s go.

ten questions for spillyjane

1 – we’ll start where i always start, with the most important question: english or continental?

English! I taught myself how to knit out of an old book and — though I didn’t know it at the time — it was English. I’ve since taught myself Continental so that my colourwork would go faster and look more defined. When I’m working with one yarn only, it’s English all the way.

2 – i first heard of you at the yarn harlot’s talk at the detroit public library, and everyone seemed to refer to you as the mitten lady. it took a while to get the name “spillyjane” out of someone to figure out who they were talking about. how does it feel to be known, if only by some, as “the mitten lady”?

Really? I always figured that “Jane” was easy to remember and that “Spilly” was weird enough to stick. I suppose that’s my work speaking for itself. While I do have a bunch of sock patterns out there as well, I suppose the mitten patterns (at least mittens the way I do them) are a slightly rarer commodity. Regardless, being “the mitten lady” isn’t so bad — at least people are talking! I do love mittens, and it’s nice to have a niche.

3 – which brings me to the next obvious question, why mittens?

I was waiting for this one! Firstly, because I live in Canada, and we have long, long winters. Where I live it doesn’t get so cold that it’s totally unbearable, but a nice pair of mittens is also capable of adding a pop of colour to a dull, grey day. As a project they’re also small enough to make working them go quickly (they’re wonderfully portable!) but large enough (in stitch-count, at least) that I can inflict all kinds of interesting motifs and patterns upon them. Mittens are folky and rustic and homey and yet elegant all at once. It seems so contradictory — I like that combination.

4 – the next obvious question in my mind is what first attracted you to stranded color work?

Oh, it was only a matter of time once I started knitting! Once I had the basics mastered I immediately moved on to the more complex techniques like colourwork. I am totally infatuated with colour — in fact, I’m fairly sure that I don’t have a least-favourite one. The chance to play with them to create wearble objects was too strong to resist.

5 – as a knitter, i can point to the project i am most proud of (thus far), the project that i can honestly say is my best work. which of your designs are you most proud of or is your favorite?

My L’Amour et la Morte socks, hands down. They combine both colourwork and cables in one project and are an absolute delight to work and wear. And I say this after having knit no less than six complete pairs, five of which were sized to fit a men’s large, so you know I’m not making this up! They combine of quirkiness and elegance, which is what I aim for in my work.

6 – as a non-designer, the question i find myself asking all the time is, “how the hell did they come up with that?!” where do you draw inspiration from to come up with your designs?

The better part of my work is basically my response to things I love. Working a certain motif or pattern into a mitten or a sock is my way of paying tribute to a song, a city, an object — it’s the means by which I translate it into wool. I see my work as being part of a dialogue — carrying on the conversation with the person, place or thing that made me fall in love with it in the first place. I always say that if I were a “normal person” (and being “normal” is overrated, I assure you,) I’d paint or draw or write poems or songs or do something a lot less involved than working stitch after tiny stitch just to say how much I like something. But I’m not, so I don’t.

7 – as knitter dude, there are tons of beautiful patterns out there for me to knit, but i sometimes find it hard to find things i’d like to knit for myself. as a designer, do you find it difficult at all to design things for men?

Not at all! I love designing for men — it makes me feel like I’m spoiling them. I liken fancy socks for men to fine lingerie — you may not know what’s under there, but *they* do, and it’s breathtaking! When I design and/or knit for men I go all out with the little details: luxurious fibres; intricate flourishes; the finest finishing. As most men tend to be extremely selective about what they wear I always take it as a huge compliment when they opt for my socks. It makes me happy.

8 – the power of ravelry has meant anyone can self-publish their designs. sometimes they shouldn’t lol. but i’ve always wondered what the process of getting something published in knitty or a magazine is like. can you talk about your experience with publishing?

I haven’t really had that much experience with publishing — so far I’ve only been featured in one book (Cables & Stripes Mittens in 60 Quick Knits) and had one pattern in Knitty (Mystery + Manners, First Fall 2010.) I’m hoping that this is only the beginning! It’s really exciting knowing that your work will be published in an actual book or on a very popular website. The worst part about the publishing process is the waiting: waiting to hear that your work has been accepted and then waiting for the publication to come out (which, believe me, seems like forever until it does!) But when it is…it really is an amazing feeling when you see your work out there like that.

9 – living in windsor means you have the unique opportunity to hop in the car, cross a bridge, and come to the u.s. whenever you like. this made me wonder, other than the metric system, what differences if any do you see between american and canadian knitters?

I love living in a border city, especially since there are so many great yarn shops in the Detroit area. As far as the differences between American and Canadian knitters — I’ve met a lot of both, and knitters are knitters, as far as I’m concerned.

10 – a very diplomatic answer my dear. which brings me to the final question and the end of our time together here; if you could interview on person for project 10, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Stephanie Dosen of tinyowlknits. I’d like to know how she takes such simple knitted objects and imbues them with so much beauty.

well there you have it folks, ten questions for spilly jane.
and ten excellent answers.
thanks again so much for being here.

Thanks so much for having me.

i can’t wait to see what next!

*jane lives in windsor, ontario in a 97 year old house that she shares with her husband and her bird, pookie. you can find her on twitter, etsy, knitty, ravelry, and on her lovely blog

because if you do,

you will end up with a full bag that in no way adds up to a meal.

all the worker bees who look like 70’s gay porn stars,
riot grrl wannabes, or ysolda teague on meth,
will make you feel bad about yourself.

you will return to the produce section at least two times,
only to emerge with a sad shallot from some mexican hothouse.

you will leave with at least three fall fashion magazines
filled with beautiful things you’ll never fit into much less afford,
and you will feel bad about yourself.

you will try to walk away from the grumpy cashier
without paying for your groceries,
and then say something dumb like,
“it’s just been one of those days!”
and feel worse about yourself.

when you finally get home, crack your last red stripe, and prepare to treat yourself to that cup of shrimp bisque you just couldn’t pass up,
you will notice that you grabbed the whole wheat baguette.
you detest whole wheat baguettes.

the only recourse is to drink that beer real fast,
hug on your french bulldog,
and remember;

never go to whole foods angry.

in knitting news,
the northern summer shawl continues.

the designer, jo kelly, has been furiously charting the pattern.
and apparently triple checking all the stitch counts.
she was good enough to email me the changes
without me even asking.

that is a designer!

i also have a f.o.

my second juneberry triangle.
it’s been done for a while,
but there were blocking issues.
(humidity’s a bitch, no?)
i’ve sent it off to its recipient, but i won’t say who.
they may read the blog, and i want this to be a surprise.

any guesses?

i’m also hoping for another another installment of project ten by the end of the month. fingers crossed that the mitten lady will write back soon.

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?



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.