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.