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