Archive for the ‘interviews’ Category

release me

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

well, here we are in portland, OR; it’s 4 am and sock summit begins today. instead of staying up til my usual time as i should have, i succumbed to jet lag after the teacher dinner last night and now i’ve been wide awake since 3:00 am. with about six hours to go before classes begin, i figured it might be a good time to blog, heh.

as it happens, several publications have been released recently that include work by your truly, so this would be a great time to talk about them. all those secret projects i worked on earlier this year are finally out of the bag—just in time to celebrate at sock summit.

top o’ the blog really has to be sock knitting master class by your friend and mine—ann budd.

ann asked me to contribute to this book when we first met at sock summit two years ago and we have since become very friendly colleagues (in fact, she’s my roommate here—shhh, she’s still sleeping . . .)

published by interweave press, this book is a treasure trove of sock knitting variety, with a plenitude of design viewpoints, sock styles, fabric textures, and range of stitch patterns. if you’re a technique junkie, this is your book.

but enough about all that, let’s talk about my sock, almondine, which is represented in the lace category.

this design was originally conceived as a not-too-fancy unisex lace sock with a vintage feel—the type of sock either david or i would be very comfortable wearing any day of the week.

i chose a new-to-me yarn—cascade heritage sock—that i had just used to knit a pair of boy socks for my nephew amad. i really enjoyed knitting with this yarn; it has a sturdy, good feeling and the colors are lovely. plus, it’s very reasonably priced and has a nice measure of nylon for good wear—a great choice for guy socks.

the pattern is a scaled-down version of the butternut scarf motif; a little more petite and delicate for the sock. and i have my sights set on using it again for an accessory set—i loved the way it looks pulled over my arm as a pair of mitts. i’ll probably work on those in the next couple of months.

this book is a wonderful resource—even ann budd has set out to knit all the socks in it as a personal project (you can knit along or follow her progress on her blog). in fact, around the knitting table last night, she was working on my almondine, the third sock in the book. YAY.

next up, kollage yarns has produced an exclusive release for sock summit—coffee break knits, an assortment of on-the-go accessory and gift projects. can you guess which one is mine?

when my friend erica asked me to participate, she needed to know right away what i wanted to design for it and without hesitation, i blurted out “how about a doll shawl”.

she said. “uh . . . oh-kay . . . that’s a thought”.
i convinced her it was a fanTAStic idea and she went with it (i’m so lucky that people trust me!). and so i bring you little iris

isn’t she sweet??
now, you can only get this booklet in the kollage booth at sock summit, where all of the participating designers will be signing copies during the lunch hour on saturday.

however, those who cannot be on site can participate in the ravelry virtual sock summit and book giveaway in the kollage ravelry group.

now, if that’s not enough and you’re feeling left out, here’s an upcoming opportunity that’s sure to please you . . . we also did the shawl in an adult size, yay.

soon to be available from kollage through patternfish and part of their feed your creativity program for the upcoming year, the little iris pattern will include both shawl sizes. my good friend barb, who test knit the doll size, will guarantee that it’s a fun and really fast project, much appreciated by granddaughters of a certain age.

you can knit two doll shawls from one skein of creamy and one adult shawl from two skeins of the same yarn.

as with the leafprints shawlette, we will not be selling this pattern in our own shop, so look for it from kollage in just a little while.

another new release that includes one of my pieces is the wool people book from brooklyn tweed, edited and photographed by jared flood.

i am so thrilled to be included in this project—it’s a real honor to be asked to contribute by a fellow designer whose work i admire so much. right now you can download a PDF lookbook to browse for yourself.

my design is the hourglass throw, which can be knit in three sizes from baby to sofa throw to bed coverlet in jared’s delicious shelter worsted weight yarn.

i chose a lace and cable motif that i’ve always loved, but which is difficult to design a garment with (though i’m working on it, sometimes). i added ribbed hems and cabled selvedges to up the coziness factor and make it sturdily appealing for every family member. i picked the hayloft colorway, a wonderfully rich, mustardy gold for my yarn color because i formed an instant bond with it; it just screams cozy fall woolens to me.

i had to design this one in a real hurry while i was on a long teaching trip in april, so our amazing and trusty friend karolyn did the honors of actually knitting the sample up—the very first time i have not knit one of my pieces. haha, in fact, i have yet to see the final product—karolyn shipped it straight to BT from her home.

you can purchase the book or any of the fifteen patterns in it through the BT ravelry store.

now the great thing is that we will be able to sell this pattern in our own shop; i just need to get home to photograph the blanket, which should be there by the time i get back in august.

and very close to my heart, we are finally announcing the release of a very special book by larissa brown called my grandmother’s knitting.

due out september 1st from STC craft, it is available now for preorder. filled with beautiful stories from designers about the family members who taught them to knit, this book includes patterns and lovely photos as well.

my story is about my grandma, who taught me to knit and who knit herself right up until the day she died. her favorite thing to knit was afghans; at one time, almost every member of her quite extended family received a beautiful example of her knitting for weddings, anniversaries, new arrivals, or just for love. i own several incredible works by her myself, including this sampler afghan, knit in the 1950s for my mom, which is featured in the book.

in that spirit, i designed a baby blanket similar to many of the ones she knit, with sturdy garter borders and an openwork motif as the main pattern.

look for this book soon; it’s a real treasure, something you can curl up and read while taking a break from your actual knitting.

and i see now that it’s after 6 and the sun is out (sorta), so i better haul my fanny out of bed if i want to squeeze in a walk before class. more later—hopefully with photos from the summit, yes?

flower girl

Friday, March 5th, 2010

say what you will about the month of march; so far, it’s been beautiful here—no lions in sight. yes, it’s still cold (mostly in the 20s still), but we’ve had sun and luminous blue skies and breezes instead of wind. breezes carrying that particular softness which tells me spring is approaching.

while we are far from the day when actual flowers might appear—there is still a great deal of snow cover in the yard—this change in temperament does make my mind turn to gardening and my fingers itch for soil.

without the actual cooperation of the season, one must look elsewhere to satisfy the urge to cultivate garden color and, as luck would have it, the solution landed on my doorstep in the form of a new paperback book release from sixth&spring books

nicky epstein’s knitted flowers reads like a very beautiful garden catalog.

the creations within represent a wide range of floral shapes and varieties which are surprisingly delicate and lifelike, with a good dose of whimsy added for fun.

nicky has also used a variety of knitting styles and constructions to produce these little lovelies; techniques such as felting, beading, lace, and i-cord are all represented.

likewise, she has made great use of a range of fibers and yarns here—small amounts of novelty yarns (don’t we all have a tub full of them somewhere?) are transformed into pieces that add a focal point to any plain project.

ribbons, fur, eyelash, ladders, and chenille—you name it, it’s in here.
nicky’s penchant for embellishment is fully realized in these pieces, with many examples showing embellishments on the embellishments with surprisingly tidy outcome.

the book is not just a catalog of flowers, however—many full-scale projects are included as well. some use a single example of floral embellishment to add interest and some are made up almost entirely of floral texture.

in many instances, the reader is led through the construction of single flower projects which are completely attractive on their own

then shown how to use them in multiples to trim a larger project

flowers and projects alike are presented at every skill level

from simple lace to more complex combinations of colorwork and structure,

though i don’t think any one of them requires very advanced knitting skills. patience and a willingness to work in a smaller stitch space are probably most important here, along with good finishing technique.

now, here’s the part you’re going to like: sixth&spring books is offering a free copy of nicky epstein’s knitted flowers to one lucky reader. to be included in the drawing for this book, please leave a comment at the end of this post by sunday, march 7, no later than 9 pm. the winner will be announced on monday morning.

many thanks to nicky epstein and sixth&spring books for sharing this publication with us today.

and hopefully, i’ll be back in business soon with my camera to resume regular blogging (the new spare battery arrived yesterday; i have high hopes that today’s mail will bring me the charger i desperately need . . .)

and heeeerrre’s chrissy!

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Hello, Knitspot readers!
This is Chrissy Gardiner, your guest poster for today, speaking. Anne was kind enough to let me take over her blog for a bit as a stop on the blog book tour for my (relatively) new sock book, Toe-Up! Patterns and Worksheets to Whip Your Sock Knitting Into Shape. You can go to the Toe-Up! website for details about other stops along the tour, including great reviews of the book by Grumperina and Carol over at Go Knit In Your Hat.

Today I’m going to share a few of the little fun details about the production of the book with you all. It all started just over three years ago, when I managed to get myself accepted to Cat Bordhi’s Visionary Retreat for self-publishing authors. Each year, Cat finds 6 to 8 fiber artists who have book ideas she thinks are intriguing and commercially viable and invites them to attend a week-long retreat up on beautiful San Juan Island, Washington. I’ve just returned from this year’s retreat, which you can read about on my blog.

I went to the original retreat with a completely different book idea, but decided that I needed to write a “practice book” first (as in, I needed to write about something I wouldn’t stress out about designing and knitting a lot of, and that something happens to be socks). I came up with the idea of a toe-up sock book in July of 2008. At the time, there was only one book on the market focusing on toe-up socks and it was pretty small. I decided to focus on developing a series of worksheets that would allow knitters to customize their heels and toes, since most sock patterns need to be converted from top-down to toe-up, and the most difficult aspect of conversion is figuring the new toe and heel numbers.

One of the huge advantages of publishing the book myself was that I was the final decision-maker. I was able to include things in this book that I don’t think would’ve made the cut with a large publisher, like the little section on cabling without a cable needle. I am delighted that the final product is a great reflection of how I think about toe-up socks and how I teach my classes. I was also able to take a lot of time thinking about quality-control, and I made sure all of the socks were tested and the entire book combed over by several proofreaders and both of my tech editors. To date we’ve had a grand total of two minor errors discovered – a real bonus for a book that’s been out for several months!

Boring technical stuff aside, there are a number of fun behind-the-scenes stories about the patterns and photos in the book. Since I was doing everything myself and didn’t have the budget for a professional stylist and models, the photos were taken of the socks on my own feet and those of my family, who were mostly happy to cooperate (the 3-year-old was a little iffy if we didn’t get the shot within the first five minutes). We did a number of photo shoots (my photographer was the intrepid and patient Gail of We Heart Yarn), both at my house and at my in-laws’, and I spent much of the time wondering if the neighbors were going to call the police (or at least the neighborhood association)!

One of the main pattern photo shoots took place in my front yard, and there were lots of contortions and interesting camera-to-foot manipulations involved. The house across the street was for sale, and they just happened to be holding an open house that day. I can’t imagine what people were thinking of the strange women across the street who were dead serious about taking photos of feet… We ended up with delightful neighbors, so maybe it helped keep some of the riff-raff away!

The Vortex socks are photographed here with our shaggy Japanese maple as the background.

To get this shot, I had to sort of sit in the tree with my legs held sideways while trying to make my feet look nice and relaxed. Easier said than done, but after several shots, we managed! I’m so grateful for digital cameras.

After we captured Vortex, we moved to the strip of grass between our sidewalk and the street to photograph Great Plains.

This sock is knit out of Buffalo Gold bison sock yarn, which is incredibly lovely to knit (and wear!) but a little bit difficult to photograph due to the dark color. We decided that the overgrown spring grass on the parking strip would be a nice background for the socks. It sure didn’t look like much when viewed from the street (my next job after getting the photos done was to spend a couple days weeding), but it provided just the right grassland-looking background for these shots, which involved me precariously perched on top of an unbalanced little step ladder.

In a little moment of serendipity, a ladybug landed on my foot and posed for a couple of photos.

Our next shot involved the ancient cherry tree that happened to be in full bloom at the middle school around the corner. What better place to photograph Sakura, a sock inspired by and named after the regal cherry tree?

Only problem is, how best to get feet (normally on the ground) next to cherry blossoms (normally not on the ground)? We spent about half an hour with me lying on the ground with my feet in the air (great fun since we were next to a busy street, near a little neighborhood commercial center, on a lovely Saturday afternoon).

That photo wasn’t so bad, but again it involved me holding my feet sideways against the tree trunk while trying to make my feet look relaxed. Yes, your feet really will look tense and awkward if you’re not concentrating – who knew there was so much skill involved in foot modeling?

This next one was the icing on the cake because it involved Gail getting down on the ground next to me and shooting my feet with the sky/top of the tree as background. We got several slow drive-bys with this one…

One of my favorite shots (obtained with much less drama in our fenced back yard) is of the Old-School Knee Highs, modeled by yours truly outside our backyard chicken coop. Our hens, Ruttager and Diddy, are peeking through the chicken-wire fence in the background.

I was quite adamant about getting at least one chicken shot into the book, and I actually got two (here’s another with my daughter and Ruttager).

But what I really love about that first shot is how nice and shapely my legs look. If you’ve met me, you know I’m no fashion model, so I couldn’t believe this photo when I first saw it! The camera adds 10 lbs, but apparently the right kind of ribbing takes it right back off. This pattern includes a table of measurements and ease recommendations so that you can custom-fit your knee-highs no matter how unmodel-like your calves are.

Can you tell we had a ton of fun with the photography? Our final shoot involved the technique photos, which Gail made look crystal-clear on a nice white background. We shot these on the wide railing of my front porch on a drizzly day. Many of them involved me crouching down with Gail perched over me to position the camera to shoot from a first-person point of view. By this time, I think the neighbors were used to the whole scene (and the house across the street was sold – no more parade of open-house attendees to gawk at us). These shots look so staid and indoor, but they’re just as wild as the rest of the bunch. Who would guess there were so many stories behind all these normal-looking photos? It makes me wonder every time I see a magazine or book if similar things go on at the pro shoots. Maybe someday I’ll find out!

And now I’ve held Anne’s blog hostage long enough – I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the book-publishing process (or at least my own crazy take on it). You can find your own copy of Toe-Up! on Amazon or at your LYS. Happy knitting, y’all!

MANY thanks to chrissy for providing such a beautiful and intriguing post on my travel day! one last word from me as i head out the door—chrissy has generously provided two copies of her book as giveaway prizes. if you’d like to win a copy, please leave a comment at the end of this post by 9 pm on sunday evening february 14th (happy valentine’s day!); we will draw names randomly when i return from germantown and your books will be mailed on monday.

color by kristin

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

as you read this today, david and i are driving east toward the berkshires, where i will be deposited in williamstown, MA for the knitter’s review retreat weekend.

since i can’t be home to write, i prepared another book review for you to read while i travel. i thought it appropriate that the author and designer of today’s new book is kristin nicholas, a designer i have long admired. her farm and life in western massachusetts set the stage for the subject of her new book,
Color By Kristin: How to Design Your Own Beautiful Knits.

and what better time of year to focus on color, when, for most of us, the landscape has turned to a more subtle, neutral palette. we knitters are so very lucky to possess a talent which enables us to create our own color landscapes within our private lives and our community. for those of you who’d like to explore designing in color, or want to try color knitting, this book is a great place to start.

in her latest publication, kristin guides the knitting reader first through an autobiographical timeline revealing the development of her design style and the techniques she uses to draw inspiration from her surroundings. she follows up with several lessons about applying color techniques in knitting and design.

for those who are not familiar with the work of kristin nicholas, this book provides a beautiful window into her long and richly-textured career as a designer and illustrator. her complex combinations of color, stitch pattern, and embellishments have been featured in mainstream publications for over two decades; she has also produced numerous books in several different disciplines of the needle arts and maintains an active blog on which she chronicles her daily life. her charming and original home is a magical kingdom; hers is truly a life of artistry.

in addition to guidance on design, kristin’s new book includes a generous selection of color knitting projects, ranging from basic to complex, with embellishments and without. many are garments, but there are plenty of household accessories included as well.

i feel especially lucky and grateful that kristin offered to answer a few interview questions for us today—let’s turn the “microphone” over to her now!

kristin, tell us about your favorite part of putting this book together; was it developing the projects, the autobiography, the illustrations, or choosing the yarns?

There are so many layers to a book—different processes. I’m sure most knitters don’t think about it when they are holding a book. They just think, “oh yeah, it’s a book.” It takes at least 2 years for me to do a book. That’s a long time in a designer’s life. I started this one just after I finished Kristin Knits but in actuality, it had been percolating for over fifteen years. Soho, the publisher of Color by Kristin “got” what I wanted to present. I have known Trisha Malcom, the Publisher at Soho, for over 15 years. She trusted my judgment and style and just let me go and do what I wanted after she accepted the initial Book Proposal. The Art Director, Diane Lamphron, also understood the presentation I was looking for, my concepts and what I am all about.

Back to your question . . . I think the most enjoyable and my favorite part of doing this book was actually the days of photography. I had a specific vision rattling around in my head for Color By Kristin and Soho was willing to go along with it (just so you know, it doesn’t always go this way). I wanted to photograph the projects here at our farmhouse and on our hill. I wanted to show the knitted projects inside my house with my colorful painted walls in the background. They all go together so nicely. John Gruen, the photographer, is a friend of mine and we have worked together many times here photographing my house for various magazines. He also photographed my Kids Embroidery book. I was ecstatic that Diane Lamphron, Soho’s Art Director, hired him to do all the location photography. John has such a lovely eye for light and I think he really captured the projects and the scenes here at our farm beautifully. The whole team was a lot of fun to work with—Diane, John, his Photo Assistant, Julie the Stylist—it was a great two exhausting days but we got the look I had envisioned!

(Oh, and I didn’t do the illustrations—they are illustrations that Soho owns. I have illustrated many of my books but not this time!)

(readers, descriptions and ordering information for all of the above-mentioned books and more can be seen on kristin’s book page)

in writing your autobiographical sections, what new insights did you take away from examining the timeline of your evolution as a designer? did any of it surprise you, such as a newly-remembered influence?

Ohhhh, you like that part, do you?
(yes, very much; especially the 70s photos—i think i have some just like that!)
We wanted to put a personal slant on the book and Diane (the AD) asked me to see if I could find any old pictures of myself. I looked and looked and couldn’t find any. Then one day, I stumbled up a box in the attic, opened it up and there was my life before I left for college in a box! Wow. Talk about flashbacks!
The thing I realized after writing the Introduction which is called A Life in Color is that I have been working on this book all my life. Color by Kristin is about mixing patterns and color together. It started doing that when I learned to sew when I was nine years old and I haven’t looked back! I’m still doing the same thing I did then only now it is with yarn and knitting and all kinds of other designing. And that is pretty neat to think about.

as a designer, a lot of my own work fulfills me in a purely imaginative (and very important) way, while in reality, the pieces i tend to use or wear the most are the more tailored and practical ones.
what kinds of knits would you say you would use or wear the most? which projects satisfy your “fantasy self”?

Oh, you should see my wardrobe!! I live on a sheep farm and I can’t get out the door and into the car without getting some bit of brown stuff on me! Whether it is mud or muck or dogs jumping up and down. I have a really boring wardrobe because it is functional—lots of brown, black, navy, khaki. I’m wearing the same handknit sweaters that I made 20 years ago—that is the ones that were oversized and I can still fit into.

There are lots of accessories in this book and that’s where I tend to be colorful in my wardrobe. I wear colorful scarves, hats and mittens. But truth be told, I have barely any Kristin-made pieces because they all tend to migrate to publishers and magazines. I never have time to knit for myself—I’m always on some kind of deadline.
As for my “fantasy self” I have no clue—I don’t have time to think about that! We have a sheep farm and sell our lamb meat frozen direct to the public and to restaurants so whenever I’m not working on a book or magazine project, I’m juggling one of the balls bouncing around here on our farm.

since many knitspot readers have a big interest in lace, which has quite a different weight and texture from the more solid color work that you present, can you draw a few correlations between these seemingly disparate types of knitting that might give lace knitters a better understanding of the allure of color work?

I have knit lace in my day and I know why people like to do it. Lace knitters like to follow a charted pattern and watch it develop before their eyes. For me it is the same thing with colorwork—following a chart and watching the colorful pattern build up slowly on my needles. Fair Isle knitting is incredibly addicting—just like lace!

One reason I think lace knitters (or cable knitters too) like to work in those techniques is they are afraid of combining colors together themselves. They like the security of picking one color and buying enough for a project. And that is fine.

I know it can be scary to knit with many colors. I frequently see the terror in knitters’ eyes when I teach classes. Color By Kristin has a lot of instruction for learning about working with color. What all knitters have to realize is there is a learning curve to every technique. Everyone starts working on a basic sock or scarf and then they continually add skills as their knitting knowledge progresses. That is the same way it is with working with color. You get better with every project you try!

I suggest knitters start with a small colorful project to get their feet wet. If they make several little different projects each in a different colorway they will feel more confident with their color-aptitude! And it is really SO MUCH FUN!

(don’t you just love her?? hee-hee!)

is there a project you’d like to create some day that is so fantastical, you are still building up the courage to try it?

I have tons of swatches hanging around here in various bags from over 25 years of designing. I want to sew them altogether and make a blanket or two. I think that would be great. But I guess I need a deadline to do it and I also might need a hand or two with the sewing! The swatches are all different sizes so it would be like a giant jigsaw puzzle to get it all to fit together!

kristen, thank you so much for participating in this blog tour and gracing us with an interview. i’m sure i can speak for everyone reading this in wishing you the BEST of luck with your new book and a happy holiday season to you and your family!

we have been speaking today with designer kristin nicholas about her new book, Color By Kristin: How to Design Your Own Beautiful Knits, published by sixth&spring books, new york.

once again, the publisher has generously offered to send a copy of kristin’s new book to one lucky reader. if you’d like to be added to a drawing for a copy of color by kristin, please leave a comment by sunday, november 22nd at 9 pm, telling me you’d like a copy. we’ll announce the winner next week.