color by kristin

Posted on 155 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, interviews

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.

sam knits green eggs and ham

Posted on 26 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, food and garden, interviews

this is sam, another san diego knitter (and another of kim’s sons), posing with his hand-knit pirate patch. he made this for a friend’s birthday gift last year and it was so popular that he had to take orders for more.

today i am distracting you with sam’s knitting because mine looks pretty much the same as yesterday (i worked on the shawl last night, but proportionally, the amount i knitted doesn’t look like much . . .)

sam started knitting in october 2006, when he was 8 years old. his first project, a scarf for the hamster, seems to be lost to posterity, but photos of a few others survive, thanks to kim (ah, mothers . . . what would we do without them??).

then there was his sleeping mask phase, which also proved popular as a salable item (who knew??).

sam took an interest in knitting during a discussion about the vikings, and how they knitted during long voyages. kim explained that there have been many male knitters throughout the life of the craft, and he liked the idea of joining the ranks. and because it looks so cool, too.

he doesn’t always break completely with tradition, however

everyone needs a good scarf, after all

the next thing sam made was a hat and wristband set in chunky yarn

he couldn’t figure out how to close the hole at the top so he made it into a ponytail hat (i love the creative problem-solving here, instead of asking mom to do it). i think this kid has a future in some sort of mechanical design field.

sam likes working on circular needles, and next made another hat for his brother cole (of the volleyball), for christmas last year.
he hesitated to model it because it doesn’t belong to him, but i talked him into it

(i know. not bad looking at all, eh?).
and i do believe he will knit green ham and eggs some day.

currently sam’s knitting is in a bit of a lull; he started this blanket during the winter

but seems to have hit a bit of a malaise with it (don’t we know the feeling . . .)

yesterday we did some more exploring around san diego (which is why we conked out so early last night and didn’t get much knitting done). before i got here, kim did a 20-mile urban hike with some kids and she planned an abbreviated version for us to do together.

we started in balboa park, and apparently, i was so enthralled and busy looking at everything that i forgot to take any photos there (duh.). it has been years since i was last there and i’d forgotten what an amazing array of beautiful buildings and plantings the park has—and i have to say, it’s looking a lot better these days than it did back then. there are literally endless things to do and see there—you should go if you get the chance.

from there we walked down to the embarcadero (the waterfront) where we cruised the boardwalk, which features changing scenery and roadside attractions all along the way, including some snazzy airplane tricks.

the red bull air races are this weekend and we got to see the trials and practice runs as we walked. we won’t go to the races because we are attending an important summit of like-minded compatriots and peers on saturday (otherwise known as lunch and shenanigans with other knitters; and there might be a yarn store involved . . .).

sculpture of the day

i just love this; it reminds me of david (not literally, but you know, the general joie de vive of it).
then we turned in the other direction and saw that lace is, indeed, everywhere

after the waterfront we headed up through the gaslamp district to wend our way back to the park. this is a charming old quarter of the city with beautifully preserved buildings

it’s interesting to see older building in a climate where they suffer a little less wear and tear from the weather (i was struck with the same reaction when we were in austin recently). the stone, brick and clapboards seem to maintain crisper lines on the edges and in the ornamental details when not exposed to snow, ice, and wet conditions, even though other harsh conditions are present (like wind and sun).
if the buildings were not so obviously built with a different quality standard at work, and the evidence of actual hand-wrought processes, you’d think they were new.

we stopped to eat indian food for lunch, and had the opportunity to meet this gentlemen

if you feel you need to be talked out of what you were sure you wanted for lunch—anytime—he’s the guy to see. seriously, no matter what you wanted . . . you didn’t. and he knows it.
hehehe. it was a good lunch though.

we stopped in little italy to pick up some items at the mona lisa italian grocery; i cooked dinner for the family last night (with the help of kade and sam). we picked up fresh angel hair pasta, olives, cheese, anchovies, and bread—then we stopped before we got completely carried away.

we went home where we set to work making a nice seafood vodka sauce with grilled asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, and garlic

and since we had all these wonderful oranges from the yard

(arrangement courtesy of kade), we made everyone’s favorite christmas eve salade

once everything was pulled together, and everyone was in from volleyball practice and various other after-school activities, we all sat down to eat

have i mentioned how much i enjoy eating with kids?? i do.

the unexpected guest

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in interviews, Uncategorized

i have been waiting for today for a long time . . . and finally, my waiting was over!
no, i did not get new yarn. no, i did not get new knitting books.

today i got a visit from ethel. chub creek ethel! i know you’ve been waiting for an interview. i know it’s been a while; sorry about that. i am working on getting some juicy interviews and finally i scored!

i was a little nervous before she got here, i’ll admit it. it’s just really hard to get interviews with people who are famous in podcasting. so i busied myself getting some refreshments ready.

i hopped around a little when i heard the door knocker. it took some doing to get her into the house and get settled; that is usually the case when someone visits here for the first time. the house is both striking and dumbfounding. i mean, there’s a grand piano in the stair hall. and bicycles. (we SO need to get rid of that piano . . .)

oh! yes, ethel—i can hardly believe she finally made it over. she even got a little dressed up.

finally we settled in the TV room for a talk:

me: ethel, who taught you to knit?
ethel: The Lord, sweetheart.

me: wow! i didn’t know he had the patience for it . . . i guess with his whole flock hanging around, he was bound to take it up at some point, eh? and how long have you been knitting?
ethel: Goodness me… well… I remember attempting to knit a nice pair of mittens for Winston Churchill…. he always looked so chilly.

me: you’ll have to tell us some time how that went! and we know your favorite needles, ethel, but what is your favorite yarn?
ethel: Well if I told you that I’d have to kill you, sweetheart.

me: really—and is that a reaction you learned from the lord too? well, in any case, we should switch topics! which knitting magazine do you like best?
ethel: Hmmm. Have you read “Knit Knack Paddy Whack Space Evenly Along the Row”? It’s in large print.

me: it’s important to see what you’re doing alright. wouldn’t want to make lace when what you intended was bobbles. and, it sounds like it might make a good ed whacker!
where do find yourself shopping for knit stuff most often?
ethel: Ed keeps trying to convince me they sell yarn at the tractor pull, but I haven’t fallen
for it yet.

me: oh, that certainly sounds like hogwash. it’s hilarious how men think they can say anything “yarnish” to us, and we’ll just jump in the car and do whatever they want. speaking of which, do you plan vacations around visiting new yarn shops?
ethel: Well, this weekend I’m planning to lock Ed in the shed. That’s enough of a vacation for me… hopefully this time he won’t dig his way out.

ethel takes a break to use the loo, and i peruse her ginormous knitting bag . . .

my, it’s full . . . what the heck do you think she has in there??

oops, here she comes. (she’s settling in and opening the bag—OMG! out comes the project . . .)

(is that the biggest blanket you’ve ever seen, or WHAT???)

me: (hesitantly, and unable to take my eyes off her knitting) do you knit items for ed?
ethel: Only when he gets on my nerves. Then I spend all day making him try things on.

me: (laughing) that should fix his wagon! how much does ed know about your yarn stash?
ethel: I’m not sure… but I keep finding rat traps next to them.

me: does ed ever comment on your yarn purchases, and how?
ethel: Ed doesn’t see very well, so I just tell him I’m buying a roast. He can’t tell the difference.

me: i have a friend that does that; she shops for yarn on the same night she shops for groceries; one plastic bag looks just like another to her husband!
tell me, does ed help you with knitting tasks like balling yarn?
ethel: Oh heavens no. That would be like asking him to do something really complex that takes patience, like flushing the toilet.

me: let’s get back to you; do you have any favorite knitting programs on TV or the internet?
ethel: I’ve been watching “Sex and the City” but I tell Ed it’s “Socks of the Knitting” and he doesn’t know any better.

me: and what about this subversive knitting; any interest in that?
ethel: Oh you mean knitting outside the box?

me: i guess you could say they are the same thing—subversive knitting is a little more anarchist. are you a subversive knitter in any way?
ethel: Not really, unless you count that time I tried to knit that straightjacket for Ed. He wouldn’t let me try it out on him.

me: i think that would count . . . are there any knitalongs or clubs that you belong to?
ethel: Our nearest neighbor is twenty miles away, and Ed won’t let me drive the tractor.

me: tractor, huh; please tell us more about that. i’m sure everyone is curious.
ethel: Well since Ed smashed the car while he was trying to play with his iPod we’ve been relying on farm equipment.

me: i see, hmmm, and they worry about people who knit while they drive . . . what has been your biggest knitting challenge so far?
ethel: Well the straightjacket was tough, but that didn’t hold a candle to the time I knit that bust of Abraham Lincoln.

me: wow, i’d like to see that; got any pictures? we’d like to hear any special tips or tricks that have helped you.
ethel: Just learn to wield those needles, honey. They can get you out of a pretty pinch if your husband gets too amorous.

me: oh, see, that’s how we differ i guess; i don’t mind at all if my husband gets amorous! but i’ll keep that tip in mind in case i ever feel differently.
ethel, if you could be a famous knitter from history who would you be, and why?
ethel: We’re all famous in the eyes of the Lord, sweetheart.

me: your holiness is really admirable!
and lastly, if stephanie pearl-mcphee is the yarn harlot, who are you?
ethel: Sometimes Ed calls me a knit picker, but I get him right back because he’s a knit wit, and then I poke him with the turbos.

me: well, ethel, thank you so very much for taking this time to talk to me. i know the readers of knitspot will love your candidness on their behalf; we so enjoy getting to know every famous knitter as a real person. goodbye!

wow, wasn’t that awesome? i really enjoyed it. the only let-down was afterward; it was SO quiet once she left . . .

please, everyone, drop a note to dave at chub creek for helping to get ethel over here this afternoon. and listen to his show on monday night!

mason knits

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in interviews, Uncategorized

thank you to all the podcasters and visitors who left comments or emailed me about the podcast roundup last week. i am so happy to have heard from everyone! there is a category link (podcasts) directly to those posts in my sidebar for anyone who wants to refer to them at any time.

i love all beginning knitters. beginning knitting is my favorite class to teach; there is nothing so button-busting as watching someone become a knitter in just a few weeks! today i am interviewing a new knitter, 7-year-old mason j., who i did NOT teach. mason is learning to knit from his mom, debbie j. (our budding yarn correspondent). we caught up with mason through email over the weekend.

me: so mason, what makes you want to knit?
mason: i think it is nice and i like to make items for me to have. i like yarn, it feels nice in my hands and it makes me feel quiet, sometimes i feel sleepy when i use my yarn.

me: sleepy, eh? (hear that new moms?) what is it that you like so much about wool?
mason: it feels good when i rub it on my hands. i like to feel all the little tiny pieces that are in one string of it. my mother calls it a strand. i can feel all the notches in it and i like it. i like to shred the top of it sometimes and see how many pieices is in it. sometimes it feels like there are hundred of them in one string.

me: you know, i like doing that too! what colors of yarn are your favorites?
mason: i like black and red and green. green used to be my favorite color. now red and black are.

me: i like black and green together; like olives in salad. now here’s what i REALLY want to know: does your mom let you have yarn from her stash, or even look at it?
mason: yes, my mother gave me her black yarn and she even made me black yarn by spinning it for me. i can go threw her yarn only with her or my father with me. i am not allowed to let my sister play in it. my mom is even going to buy me some of my own yarn that i get to pick out. i like to spin my mothers yarn stuff. i am not very fast at it but like the wheel sound when i pedal it. it sounds cool.

me: oh, the spinning wheel, yes; spinning is very relaxing . . . speaking of tools, how many different kinds of knitting needles have you tried?
mason: i have one pair. my mother bought them for me. my father helped me mark them so i know they are mine. i asked my mother what size and she said a ten.

me: which type do you like the best?
mason: i like metal. i like to hear the swish they make but they are hard to use, so i have plastic ones.

me: i like metal because i can go faster on them. let’s talk about your current project; what are you working on?
mason: i am making a blanket to take camping for me and my sister. my mother gave me all kinds of yarn to make it out of and i really think it looks quite nice. (my father said he will take the pictures because my mother is bad at it.)

me: wow! that’s ambitious! how many stitches are there in one row of your project?
mason: 40: i like even whole numbers. that makes it look nicer.

me: are you following a pattern, or making it up as you go?
mason: i am making it all knit. i have not learned how to pearl (sic) yet.

me: do you like to watch TV or listen to music or a book while you knit, or
do you like it to be quiet?
mason: my mother reads to me while i knit sometimes or my father will read to me sometimes. Most of the time i like to sit with my mother and father and sister in my living room and knit with my mother.

me: do you know of any famous knitters?
mason: not yet but i hope to meet or know of a boy knitter. my father is taking me to the library this weekend coming up and we will be looking for a book on knitting that is about a boy.

me: well, i know there have been a few boy knitters who ARE famous: charles dickens, kaffe fassett, etc, and you can find out more here: MenKnit.net – History of Men Knitting. so, if you could make ANY kind of knitting, what would it be?
mason: i would like to make something that has stripes of colors that go up and down and not across. i think that would be cool.

me: hmm, what if you knit the stripes going across, and then turned it so that the stripes were worn vertically (up and down)? would that be the same? just something to think about! what are your other plans for future projects?
mason: am going to make a football and my mother is going to buy stuffing for me.

me: now THAT is intrigueing mason! maybe we could help you submit that to a magazine! it’s a great idea, and i know several magazines that would be interested. if you could spend time hanging out together, what would you ask me?
mason: i would ask if you have any friends that are boys that knit other than me. i would ask if you have ever been to india and watched to see if they have people that knit there. i want to go to india. i want to have a passport. my mother and father are taking us to switzerland maybe this summer but next summer for sure to see and learn about our heritage. i would show you my math notebook and ask if you like it.

me: wow, that’s quite a list of questions! actually three of my nephews know how to knit: paul (age 6), daniel (age eight), and joseph (age 13). i taught them a few years ago, but i don’t think they are keeping it up. and yesterday at the yarn store, i talked to a boy named tom who is 9-years-old, about his knitting. he was buying yarn to make a scarf for his teacher. i’m sure he would like to meet you too! and then my friends bil and mark are knitters as wel, but they are men, not boys.
and i know people do knit in india; you can search the internet and even find a knitting penpal (Adventures of a Desi Knitter or ). now mason, who would you like most to knit for?
mason: my sister because she is just little and misses the fun. i would knit for her until she can get old enough to do it for herself.

me: tht is very generous mason! anything else you would like to share with our audience?
mason: i like school. i think boys should knit, it is cool and my father says that knitting is not just for girls. my friend andrew wants to learn now too. i would have a television show about boys knitting cool things like footballs.

me: well, making a TV show about boys knitting is a really great idea! you should do it. thank you mason; we will definitely talk some more about knitting! i heard your mom is going to bring you to class soon.
mason: thank you anne. your very nice and i like you being my mother and fathers friends. you can play over at my house whenever you want to.

me: wow, thanks! anyone who has anything to say to mason can leave comments; he will be able to read them from here!

and now a quick little update on what’s happening around here:

i only cast on one new project over the weekend (ahem, that isn’t as good as it sounds; i started some new spinning, too). it’s this scarf from knitting on the go: scarves 2. i made it narrower, but otherwise i am doing the pattern as-is (K3,P1 rib), and i am getting worried that the curl will not block out. however, the noro yarn does feel really soft (usually i find it scratchy). maybe that’s because i petted this colorway so much . . .

i am in danger of getting ready to cast on another pair of sox with this handspun tweed (heels and toes in the solid to make the handspun go farther):

on friday i gave david the last three pair of sox i had stockpiled; that means it’s time to get cracking and rebuild the stores. no more pussyfootin’ around with lacy dainties! time for a ManSox insurgance.

however, i DO still have some lace knitting on my needles that i want to finish. the shawl for my friend did not get done this weekend, but i did make progress:

i wish i could have stayed up longer to work on it more. i have not had time to sit with this project and really get a lot done at once. i’ve been working on it one repeat of the pattern at a time (14 rows?), usually late at night, so i’m almost always tired when i see it. well, when the shawl is done, i can devote more time to it, and also get back to my cabled sweater. you don’t remember that do you? it’s quite unremarkable in its current state, i can assure you. however, i think it is going to be a FANTASTIC piece when i get a little more done.

monday i had classes to teach all day so i worked on the new striped scarf and then my own sox (which i don’t really need that badly, but i like the yarn); two things that i could do while listening to students and between answering questions.

when i got home last night i plied the sock yarn i spun single for over the weekend and worked for a while on my namesake lace scarf:

i guess that is a lot of knitting news after all. tomorrow i want to talk about handspinning; yes, i know i have barely mentioned it, but it IS dear to my heart.