Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top Shelf

New Year's Eve.................. can you believe it? The year has flown by with a speed both alarming and amazing.

My back seems to be at 80% or so, and even with two days of house guests from Florida I managed to stay off my feet, baby myself a bit and continue with the heat pads and ibuprofen. Knitting time has been far less than I had hoped during my week off (I hate it when that happens) and I've only managed about 6 inches on my sweater in progress. Actually I consider it far more wonderful that it will not become necessary to shoot me in the backyard. With a huge wedding to work this weekend (and a new knitting bride) I'm hoping for a full recovery or it is going to be a verrrrrrrry long day.

Last night we took friends to the hockey game here in St. Louis and had a great time, although the B*lues lost 4-2 to New J*ersey. It was pretty funny, I wedged myself in my seat with my feet braced on the legs of the seat in front of me to support my back and all was good. Sadly, there were no gloves thrown off for a really good hockey fight------ I do enjoy those, c'mon it is hockey after all!! The Puck Bunnies were out in full force, the one sitting next to me swilling endless beer there in her mini skirted and high heeled glory, texting endlessly and waving like an idiot the entire game toward the camera and stepping on my feet with her stilettos was not harmed. I did give it serious consideration. All in all a Top Shelf evening! If only I had a nice sharp knitting needle!!!!!! (The image that conjures up is rather delightful, isn't it?)

I hope that your New Year's Eve is wonderful! Whatever your plans I hope that you are safe, warm, and surrounded by friends and family to say goodbye to 2008 and ring in the New Year in style. I will be having tea downtown with friends in the afternoon and playing cards with friends this evening. With any luck, I'll manage to knit off a few rows in between!

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Man............... rudely snatched from a victorious bit of blogging and knitting came the back. I was so hopeful that my back was just a little thing, a tiny thing really. In the way of all good jokes it has not been. The Cliff N*otes version is that I have been down for the count since Christmas Eve. Up and around for small things but I can't find a comfortable place to sit and my favorite spot to knit (my beloved chaise) has proven to be killer for a lower back on the fritz. I am, for the moment, broken!

I have done a bit of reading when forced to be flat on my back.......... and the knitting has made some progress, though certainly not what I was hoping to show with a long weekend off. Still, I consider every row a victory.

The pattern of seed stitch and cables with that lovely diamond thrown in has been pure pleasure and such fun to watch it grow. I've advanced (big whoop) all the way through the first repeat of the diamond.

I've decided it is homage to my mother who passed away 10 years ago now. I recall what she called her "fisherman sweater" and it looked so like the one I'm creating. Hers was knit in "Sayelle", I don't know if they still make the stuff. But it was natural in color and slam-jammed with cables and seeds and bobbles and what-not. The buttons were medium sized and of a dark wood. She wore that sweater for ages and as a matter of fact when I think of her knitted things I inevitably think of this creation first and foremost. As I knit my version I can't help but remember her and smile.

Here's to you Betty my dear, I miss you dearly!

Now if I could just get around better...........................................

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Day Cast on Party

I searched and struggled to find JUST the right knit for the Christmas Day Cast on Party. (If the truth is told, I cast on Christmas Eve but ended up frogging back the ribbing to put it on a smaller needle and am much happier at this point). You know how it is when you have an idea in your head about what you want to knit (or crochet, or quilt for that matter) and you can't find quite the right pattern? I wasn't in the mood to futz with one, although that certainly would have been an option. A cardigan was calling my name but I wanted to knit a cabled one, in that yummy natural wool that gives a timeless feeling. The closest pattern I found was one by Patons, in a size that wasn't nearly big enough. Refer back to no desire to futz. After loads of searching I think I found a pattern that has most of the qualities I've been looking for.

The Alexi Cardigan from Berroco. Not the straight Norah that I had planned but this one makes me smile plenty big. After the pattern had been decided the yarn came next. At the suggestion of my entire knit group I chose Cascade Eco in natural. YUMMY. As Rachel said at the shop when I bought it, it's so nice and "sheepy"!!!!

Photo of the ribbing taken late afternoon on Christmas Day. I can't wait to get the body of the sweater really going!!!

Please note those (chuckle) really clever row counters. As I do tend to be kind of crazy about them, I needed 3. All of mine have run away from home, seemingly together, so I had to pick up 3 new ones and of course 2/3 were the same color. Not phased and feeling quite clever I used nail polish to delineate which marker keeps tabs on what section of the sweater. Rest assured, the lime nail polish on one of the markers has never seen duty.

I am not shopping, not actually leaving the comfort of my home. There is a very strong possibility that I will not get out of my jammies tomorrow but will just relax. Yesterday afternoon when pulling out the little teensy food processor from the back of the lower cabinet I pulled my back. It is not what I'd call a good time and the only thing to do is take ibuprofen and self medicate a bit. Eggnog is, I have discovered, a fine remedy in part!

Get knittin!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Knitting Contrisstmas Day 25: Norah Gaughan

Norah, thanks for taking the time to be part of Knitting Contrisstmas--- AGAIN! I’m really excited to have you as a returning ‘guest’. Although we laugh that I call you THE Norah Gaughan, you know I still think of you that way!

KC: Norah Gaughan Volume THREE! Wow! It is fabulous………… the volumes just keep getting better as time marches on. Do you have other volumes in the works?

NG: Volume 4 was photographed in October. Check out the sneak peek on my blog. All will be revealed on the Berroco site in mid January. I may be adding more sneaks soon too, since the full reveal is almost upon us.

KC: What has been your favorite design this past year?

NG: That’s so hard – I like the visual pun in Portrait, the highly dimensional cable of Cire-perdue and the wearablity of Calvert. Maybe Calvert is the one I should knit for myself. (after Christmas).


KC: I was going to knit “Manon”…….. it was in my queue and then the famous Stephanie (of Yarn Harlot fame) knit it and I just couldn’t. Not that I have not fallen into the sheep’s path, but in this case it just wasn’t going to happen. I am planning to knit Manon (well) after the holidays. Unless of course I fall in love with another one of your designs to knit and there is a lot of competition. Any suggestions for a knit that looks great on almost everybody? I love Violette-le-duc as well as Eastlake from Volume 3 and think that Ellis from Volume 2 would be pretty great knit in black! I can’t decide!

NG: I think Eastlake looks good on a lot of people. If you’ve got great light to knit by, go for black – cause you’ll wear it. Everything looks good knit in black! You could knit Manon, but replace the cable with one of your choosing. That would be un-sheep-like. P.S. If you’re busty, I recommend adding a few inches above the peplum before the armhole.


KC: You don’t seem to do a lot from the “mindless knitting” category. At least to the outside observer. Are there times when you only want to knit things that are simple and without much complexity?

NG: Have you seen my “almost garter” scarf. That’s the kind of thing I have to do for myself post photo shoot.

Most of the time, I prefer to have something to propel my knitting along – goals- like just one more cable twist or just until I finish the next repeat of this pattern…

KC: You are well known for shapes, designs, texture and interest in your knitwear. What has been the most complicated thing to design?

NG: I had to think a lot when I designed many of the pieces from Knitting Nature and when I do odd shapes like Kaari from NGV1. Even with those though, I try to make sure that there is an underlying logic and structure that makes the design possible to write.

KC: What has been your “most knitted” design?

NG: That would be the Tilted Duster in Interweave Knits.

KC: Because you are a crazy knitter as well…………what is your favorite thing to knit.

NG: Something I haven’t knit before. But maybe that’s a glib answer. I like to knit a pattern that can me memorized but still has a bit to keep track of. I am really stuck on dk weight yarn right now – perfect to wear, nice in my hands.

KC: It has become well known that I am the only traditional, throwing knitter left on the planet these days. Does speed matter?

NG: The faster knitter’s on record are throwers (although I can’t remember where I read that) I pick and I am fast. It’s fun to be fast. My Friend, Grace Judson, taught me to knit 33 years ago. She’s even faster.

KC: I would love to watch you knit!

KC: Are you a process or a product knitter?

NG: Although I design because I am motivated by the product, when I knit, I am all about process.

KC: You are a knit designer of much acclaim, do other designers inspire you? If so, who rings your bells?

NG: I don’t like to answer this question. I don’t want to leave anyone out. It’s exciting to me that there are many folks out there doing unique and beautiful work.

KC: Is there anything in the world of knitting that you have not done and wish to tackle?

NG: I know I’d learn a lot if I tackled a very fine lace shawl, say from Marianne Kinzel. I’d need to go on sabbatical to do that though.

KC: Ahhhhh, desert island knitting. Can we make a reservation now? Because you know I’d want to go and I think we’d have a lot of company!

KC: I know you are very involved in the Ravelry world, do you spend daily time on the web Ravelizing? Can you please share your Ravelry name for those who haven’t found you yet?

NG: I’m on Ravelry almost every day. Sometimes I fear what new pattern problem may have cropped up, but most of the time I love getting to chat with folks and see what they are knitting. My Ravelry name? You are so funny – it’s Norah!

*Note from KC---- silly girl, I know that you are NORAH, others may not. Unbelievable, but true!

KC: What else do you do to feed your inner creative muse?

NG: There are other things one can do? I am picking out all of the furniture and fixtures for the house John is building for us – does that count?

KC: Oh yes, that definitely counts!

KC: What will you be doing during the holidays 2008?

NG: Visiting Mom in Ohio – and my brother and niece too!

KC: What is coming up for Norah and Berocco in the coming year?

NG: I am head of the department now. So, the big challenge is balance art with responsibility! I’m looking forward to the first full season with Cirilia Rose and Donna Yacino on board. We’ll keep the pattern books a rollin’ on in.

KC: Thanks so much Norah----- you are the best! I’m sure you will blend the art and responsible thing well and we will all be the winners with those new pattern books. Keep ‘em comin!


The end of Knitting Contrisstmas has sadly (and very quickly) come------ my heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed their time, it was GREAT!

And thanks to you all for reading, commenting, sending those fab emails and your smiles. They were very much appreciated.

Happy Knitting Contrisstmas
to ALL! May you knit like the wind those things that make your heart light.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Knitting Contrisstmas Day 24: Knit Group

It is Christmas Eve, can you believe it? Almost time for the main event! Grab a mug of Chai, a glass of eggnog, some hot cocoa, or your favorite libation and curl up with my Knit Group. I admit, I'm partial but my Sunday afternoon knit group is the very best in the world. We are a very diverse group in everything and it is always a great time to discuss food, movies, books, politics, sex and even knitting and crocheting!

A small group of us gathered around food and drink with projecto discuss what we thought were some of the hottest things in knitting 2008. Your list may well be different (and please share!), from the group I bring you bits of our chat. (Sorry, no politics, relgion, or sex---- maybe next time, ha!)

KC: What do you think was the hottest knitting pattern of the year or your favorite knit? No.... you didn't have to knit it, just recognize it for making The Buzz.

: (teacher, civil war reenactor, part time knit shop employee and knitter): I'd have to say Yoel's Kangaroo! That was such a cute pattern and a lot of people knit it!

Leonora- (retired, part time knit shop employee, rabid knitter and usually the senior member of knit group, to our delight): I'd have to say the lace top from the Summer '07 Vogue, or maybe the Elizabeth Zimmerman New Zealand sweater, a bit bastardized by me I'm afraid.

RMS: My entrelac beret. (Everyone nodded their heads as this beret has been a big Ravelry knit and is really cool!) I enjoyed the process and the product, the way it all had to be figured out to get it to knit up into the finished product.

Yoel: I think the February Lady Sweater. It is all over the place and seemed to spawn a whole cottage industry of February Lady items.

KC: I am going to agree with the February Lady Sweater. I have not knitted it personally but might someday. By then it will be out of the buzz loop!

KC: Process or Product? What is it about the knit (or crochet) that does it for you?

Leonora: Both!! I plan every detail and really enjoy everything from the yarn selection to the swatching to the tweaks in the pattern. And then I love to knit it and of course love the finished product. I'd have to say everything!

Deborah: I am a process knitter, all the way.

RMS: Product for me, I'm all about the product.

Yoel: Product too.

KC: I kind of switch mid-stream. I love the anticipation and the planning, and I love to start and get going. But somewhere along the line I want it done so I can move on to the next thing! My Ravenna Satchel is a good case in point.

Yoel made a very interesting comment that we all agreed with. That "Ravelry" has slowed down pre-production time. Yes, it is true, the many hours spent crusing Ravelry looking at everyone's projects, reading the groups or searching for patterns can be an enormous (but delightful) time sucker! The group consensus was that most of us use Ravelry more for the friend activity feature (to peek into the queues, stashes, and projects of those on our friends list) than for the group activity. Not that we don't all belong to a lot of groups and read them but when time is of the essence====== the groups go.

We talked about gadgets, if there were any really new or unique things that came along this year or what we'd love to have. The question came up "define gadget". Hmmmmm. If a gadget is something fun and useful then Ravelry was hands down the best gadget of the year. It does not easily fit into most definitions of gadget however, so going to more concrete things we thought that the new Sock Blanks seem to be along the gadgetty lines. Other than Deborah wishing for a wooden umbrella swift in the gadget world, we didn't think of anything that was really a slam dunk in the gadget arena.

Yarn of the Year? Much discussion here and I'm sure you have your own favorites.

RMS: Malabrigo Silky Merino........... or ArtYarns Ensemble......... or Alpaca With a Twist's Baby Twist

Leonora: Schaeffer's Martha!

Deborah: Malabrigo Sock Yarn, or Noro Silk Garden Sock Yarn.

Yoel: Blank Stare. I smile and tell you that Yoel has been achieved a most notable thing in 2008, she actually knit up her stash. ALL of it!!!! Prolifically and wonderfully, a knitter not easily seen out in the world! Because she spent so much time in the stash, she didn't fall in love with a lot of new yarns, much less buy many of them.

KC: I don't think I even commented, being too busy scribbling!

Yarn Scandals!!! A fun topic to kick around a bit-----
  • the fact that D*ebbie B*liss cashmerino has no merino
  • E. L*avold silky wool doesn't have a lot of silk
  • The fire in the M*alabrigo factory causing them to now offer yarn shops no terms. Meaning a yarn shop pays up front for yarn they are not sure when they get. Surely this impacts not only the shops but us, the final yarn consumer!
And we sort of drifted into the discussion of yarn content. When you read a label, there might be luxury yarns on the label/band but sometimes the amount is so small as to be negligible, like=== don't waste your money! RMS shared that 12% is the magic number. Less than this amount in a yarn blend you won't even know it is there. Ahhhhhhhh.

How long have we knit?

Deborah has been knitting since 1993.
Yoel since small kid time (although she is in her 20's)
RMS- a long time. I want to type 37 years.......... did I get that right R?
Leonora: Since age 66===== 6 years ago. (and to see her creations you would think she has been knitting forever!)
KC: my mother taught me when I was a girl. I hate to say it but this number is larger than RMS's. That kind of thing shouldn't have to be said on Christmas Eve!

Who was it that popped up with the great magazine knitting scene debate? I don't recall but we all agreed that the demise of MagKnits was sad indeed and that Twist Collective is completely wonderful. Of course, Knitty continues to deliver. It was funny that there really wasn't a consensus about favorite knit mag---- in print anyway. I guess it falls under the 'different strokes for different folks' thing. It is pretty remarkable in this time where magazines are ceasing publication that we have had several new ones on the print racks. Guess that means that knitting continues to dominate and influence.

Intermission Soundbytes:
RMS: "I'm beginning to have the desire for pretty stitch markers!"-- whereby a lively discussion ensued (I told you, we leave no stone unturned).
-and RMS also delivered the definition and giggle for "schpilkes"======= meaning antsy. :) The online dictionary could not have delivered a definition quite as wonderful as the in person delivery of Yiddish comedy.

What yarn do you covet?
Leonora: Worsted Weight Cashmere
Deborah: A cabana boy. NO Deborah, while a cabana boy would be nice I suppose that is not yarn. And you don't have a cabana. --Well then, Prism Angora.
RMS: A mani pedi every week! Same thing R=== not yarn related, although you may knit or crochet while having a mani pedi you must choose from the fiber category! --Okay, ArtYarns Ensemble.
KC: a couple of balls of Rowan Kid Silk Haze, in every color. Like, every color nothing held back now! Don't ask me why, I guess it is because I've always wanted just to own it! I bet if I had it, I'd figure something yummy to do with it too!

Fiber Resolutions for 2009 ladies?

Leonora: More of the same for me (says the amazingly prolific Leonora!)
Yoel: I want to do steeks!
Deborah: I am not making knitting resolutions yet.
RMS: Publish more designs.
KC: Actually knit on the socks that are in my small knit bag instead of dust it when I go by.

Are we project monogamous as a group?

KC: fairly. I might have a smaller mindless project going if I'm working on a sweater or something that requires concentration but for the most part I focus.
Leonora: I am not monogamous and actually might have several projects on the needles but I do finish what I have going!
Deborah: "NO". She says to underline "no" three times. :)
Yoel: NO, but I do tend to focus on one thing at a time even though I have something else going.
RMS: No. (yet she is also very productive!)

St. Louis Knitterly Pride:

We had TWO knit in public events this year at different locations
more than 5 good yarn shops
an active knitting guild
TONS of knitting groups and knit ins. At a local yarn shop (Knitorious) there is probably the largest weekly gathering of 20-30 rowdy knitters who gather on Wednesday evenings.

What do we DO while we are knitting?

RMS: I watch tv or movies
Deborah: I read or watch tv (Note from KC: it continues to amaze me that people can actually READ while knitting!)
Leonora: I listen to books on tape, NPR, love to watch Net*Flix movies, and of course I knit while I ride the bus
KC: I listen to my iPod, generally catching up on podcasts or watch tv/movies.

And with a sigh and another nod to watching RMS's mittens go from cast on to completion, and Yoel's fine gauge vest grow, or Leonora to knit another wonderful thing(s), or Deborah to work on her most magnificent chunky bag------ and me to drink yet another cup of coffee, take notes and do something about the awful mess that is the back of Ravenna Satchel.......... we drift off to our individual lives. I just love this group................. hope you have one that makes your heart sing no matter what your creative passion might be. It is truly a year round gift you give yourself!

And just in case you have not been in the kitchen enough........... or don't have enough sweets in the house--- a recipe for excellent Peanut Butter Fudge. Quick, simple and really, really good!
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1 bag of peanut butter chips
  • 1 tbs. of vanilla extract
  • and a handful of chopped nuts if you like them, I favor pecans but then I put pecans into everything~
into an 8x8 square pan lined with buttered aluminum foil and enough extra foil around the edges to grab-- melt the chips with the milk. Add in the baking soda, salt and vanilla and mix well. Toss in the nuts if you are in the mood. It should take 3 or 4 minutes. Pour the mixture into your prepared pan and top with a few peanut butter chips on the top. Pop into the fridge to set up and when it is firm, remove from the pan and cut into squares.

**Back tomorrow, the FINAL (can you believe it) day of Knitting Contrisstmas with you know who. YAY! I love me some NORAH!!!

Happy Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Knitting Contrisstmas Day 23: Joanna from Fig Tree

Re: articleJoanna from Fig Tree Quilts! I have to tell you that I’m really excited to have you! I love, love, love me some Fig Tree!

KC: Your designs are fresh and wonderful, your quilts are smashing and your fabrics are so inspiring! You definitely have your own viewpoint---- how did you arrive at what made you……….. well you!

I have always been inspired by antique quilts and antique color palettes in things like vintage children’s toys, china patterns, vintage textiles and advertising signs and posters. When I tried to find those color combinations in quilts and fabrics being designed today, I couldn’t. So first I started making my own combinations of other peoples fabrics, then I started designing my own patterns inspired by those vintage quilts that I loved and then finally I had the great opportunity to start working on my own fabric collections. I have been happily working with color and design ever since. There is something so wonderful about being both a quilter and a fabric designer since I get to visualize the final product of the quilt from the very beginning – designing the very fabrics I am going to use to make that particular design. I like to keep my designs fresh enough for the younger generation but always rooted enough in the past to entice the more traditional quilter or sewer. I love working on keeping that balance between the two.

KC: You have a new line of fabrics that is yummy, Patisserie………. Will there be patterns that will support it as well?

Absolutely! I never release a collection without simultaneously releasing a whole group of goodies to go with it. This time we have quilts, bags, slippers, purses and other fun stuff! They are all on our website. Sometimes I talk about the process of designing them on my blog.

KC: How often do you design a new line of fabric?

Usually 3 times a year, one at each market and then one in between somewhere.

KC: Your colors are fabulous and very distinctive. How did you come to this palette of beautiful color? Do you think that all of your fabrics will continue to draw from the same range of colors?

I think I will always stay with this general palette. I like to call them the “forgotten colors” because they are the same colors that used to be used in those vintage items I was talking about before. All of the colors are somewhat cream based with a somewhat yellow or soft tone to them. For example, I will never use a straight blue but always a somewhat greener, aqua blue that feels aged somewhat and yet still fresh. Every color can be mellowed and aged just a bit to fit in this palette that I love. Every few collections I like to add a new let’s say “trendy” color but still mellow it to fit the Fresh Vintage™ look I love so much.

Dandelion Wishes

KC: What has been your favorite quilt design this past year?

Personally “Butterscotch Tart” or “Snowflake Rose” are my favorites. But “My Paris Traveler’s Bag” is making me happy right now since I have been traveling. Its hard to find a favorite for the year, more like my favorite for right now!

KC: I’m working on “Jelly Stars” your really fab star quilt pattern! I love the innovative use of jelly rolls and the way it all comes together. My fabric choice is the yummy Fig Tree fabrics in your Dandelion Girl collection. How did you discover this cool way to put together this quilt block that has sort of a bad reputation for being tricky?

One of the things I love to do the most is to make traditional patterns that are known for being difficult, remaster them mathematically and make them more accessible to quilters today. I don’t like using difficult techniques like “y” seams, piecing templates and curved piecing so I am always trying to figure out ways to work around those things and still create the design as close as possible to the way it was intended. Jelly Stars is one of those patterns. I had always wanted to make lone stars but there was just no way I was going to use templates or “y” seams to join them. I am really happy with the result. KC: ME TOOOO!!!!!!!

KC: What has been your most complicated quilt pattern?

My most complicated design was maybe Quilted Lace. I got inspired to make a giant block that actually looked like a piece of lace. When people saw it from far away, they had to come and make sure it wasn’t actually a giant piece of appliqué.

KC: What has been your “most quilted” design?

I have one favorite quilter who works on all of my quilts and she does simply wonderful wreath and feather designs that I have her put on lots of different patterns. I’m not sure what is the most quilted design. Most recently probably the “Strawberry Lilies” pattern. It is a classic red, green and cream quilt that I absolutely love to bring out at Christmas. In fact I am secretly happy when it is not traveling around the Christmas season so that I can display it on my favorite living room chair.

KC: What is your favorite type of quilt? Can you define it?

I love traditional graphic blocks that are set in some unusual way and then embellished with just a bit of applique. My favorite quilts always have some kind of an unusual setting or color combination… or both. Something has to stand out and be a bit different about it…

KC: I’ve been asking everyone this year if they are a process or product knitter. This translates to quilters well. When you quilt, do you more enjoy the process of creating the pattern, the construction and quilting itself, or look forward to the completed item?

I definitely enjoy the process of design the most and then the beginning of the construction to see if what is in my head will actually produce the result that I am hoping for. After a couple of blocks I would as soon be done. At that point I want to see the final product and start working on the next design. There are times when I enjoy the process of sitting down and doing the routine work of piecing an entire quilt. But not usually.

KC: You are a quilt and fabric designer of much acclaim, do other designers inspire you? If so, who rings your bells?

Its kind of funny to think of myself the way you just described me because in my head that is not how I see “me”. I am inspired by so many different things and people. I love looking at Japanese and French quilting and fashion magazines. I love pouring over vintage quilt books. I really enjoy the work of Tricia Guild, Cath Kidston, Tracy Porter, Amy Butler. In our industry I love the colors and life of Heather Bailey’s work and enjoy the traditional interpretations of Minick & Simpson collections.

KC: Is there anything in the world of quilting that you have not done and wish to tackle?

That is a good question… I am not sure. I consider myself so lucky to work with some of the best companies in our industry: MODA to create my designs into fabric collections, Martingale/That Patchwork Place to publish my books, American Patchwork & Quilting for magazine submissions just to name a few. We publish our own patterns and love the creative control and freedom that gives us. I guess I need to think about that one a bit more… I know I would love to see how our fabrics are printed and woven one day and maybe design a line of home dec fabrics.

KC: What else do you do to feed your inner creative muse?

Flea Markets and going to Europe are easily my two favorite creative inspirations. Clearly I can do one a lot more than the other. I go to our local flea market once a month and sometimes try to get away on a weekend day to one of the many cute little towns in the Bay Area that have an array of beautiful boutiques and antique stores. I always come back inspired by some little thing or another. Going to Europe is my great inspiration. Weather it is Paris or the tiny villages of the Cottwalds [2 of my favorite places] in the British countryside, there is something about the personality, the palettes and the way of being that inspires me. Being born in Europe, it also always feel like a bit of a coming home for me every time I get the chance to go even if it is just for a few days. This year I had the great indulgence of going twice, Poland and England this summer and Madrid and Paris just this past week. I am still swimming in ideas from both trips.

KC: On that note, I have really enjoyed your recent blog posts from Paris, the photos of life there (and the patisseries) were glorious!

KC: What will you be doing during the holidays 2008?

After my trip to teach in Madrid and Paris, I will settle in at home and not go anywhere for a while. The Christmas tree is waiting for me to help decorate the second I walk in the door as my family went to pick it out without me this year for the first time. I will go overboard on decorating the house [as usual] and then look forward to some of our regular traditions with my munchkins. We do an advent calendar each day, make home made goodies for their teachers and cook a traditional Polish Christmas dinner.

KC: What is coming up for Joanna and Fig Tree in the coming year?

I am actually trying to slow down a bit this next year. Of course this doesn’t mean that there will be any less fabric or patterns to design, but I am trying to find a better balance in my design work and the rest of my life. I want to learn how to knit! Maybe you could give me some pointers. I really also want to sew more with my kids.
Fresh Vintage 11 is pre-ordering (I had better hurry!)

KC: I am patting the chair next to me Joanna! Come right on over, I'll put on a pot of tea and put some needles in your hands! I encourage you to learn to knit, you will love it! I think the best advice to non-knitters who want to learn is that a scarf is not necessarily the best project to learn with. It is sort of like that endless quilt where you get the concept after a couple of blocks and then are incredibly bored with the whole thing. A trip to your local knit shop, a simple project like an easy vest or something of the sort can be very good for the beginner. I can't wait to hear what you choose! I know a lot of quilters who want to learn to knit and actually, there are a fair amount of knitters who have the desire to quilt!

On the work front, I am currently working on my newest line [my 14th line for MODA… wow that sounds like a lot] (NOTE FROM KC: IT ISSSSSS!) and in fact I was just looking at color swatches this morning. We are introducing another new color to our palette and I want to make sure that it is just exactly the right shade. We will definitely be doing more of our newly popular Fig Tree Threads™ patterns that focus on smaller sewing type projects. Folks are really liking how simple they are and that they are more affordable than traditional quilting patterns and are attracting a totally different kind of customer. We also have a few fun quilts that we are working on for multiple author books and magazines; we have a new book due out in the Spring, a couple of international projects and a couple of other new things in the works…. I guess maybe it won’t be such a slow year after all… Thanks for talking with me. Its been fun.

KC: Thank YOU Joanna------ I really appreciate the fact that you took time out of your very busy schedule to make time for Knitting Contrisstmas! I can speak for all of us and say that we can't wait to see what comes next from Fig Tree, we love it all. Now...................... to finish Jelly Stars!

I send warm holiday blessings to you and your family!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Knitting Contrisstmas Day 22: A Trio of Gift Bags

In an effort to do away with paper gift bags this year (cute as they might be)--- I've made little bags for those 'non-boxed' things. You know, the velour lounge outfit goes in a box----- the sweater finds it's home in a box as well. However the smaller FUN things go in little bags, like the trashy novel or the knee highs! :-) These are not only really darling but fast and easy, assuming you have a bit of a stash. If you are stash-less, have no fear the components are easily found, inexpensive and fast to make. The best part is that they can be reused for years to come and enjoyed and re-purposed in all sorts of ways. I like that!

I collect antique postcard clip-art and have for some time. If you do not, you can find it fairly easily on the Web, some freebie and some inexpensive. In my case I cut and pasted the images using a photo editor onto a standard 8.5 x 11 page format as closely as possible and then printed them out onto paper backed fabric. You can find this paper at any craft store under several brand names. I have heard that it is possible to iron plain muslin onto waxed or parchment paper and run it through the printer but honestly, it has only made me crazy---- buying is (for me) best.

Once the sheets of images come out of the printer I allow to dry for an hour or so, then cover with a scrap of fabric and heat set with my iron. Once that is done, cut them out and you are ready to go, you can put quite a few on one sheet and maximize your effort.

Gift bags can be made in any size you like. I used wool felt cut to size. Once the image or images are arranged on the felt stitch around them. I chose simple machine stitches but you can go crazy if you like---- or as simple as you like. You could also use a fusible if you have an aversion to the sewing machine.

Once you've stitched around the images, decide if you want to use trim around the top. The larger bag with the collage of elements uses a fabulous trim on the edge, the Santa bag on the bottom has a simple polka dot grosgrain trim and the small navy bag in the center has no trim at all. It works fine to keep it simple with no trim but I do like the fancy bits the best I think!

Give it a try and let me know what you come up with!

Knit group met yesterday afternoon as usual for a Sunday. We had a great time and came up with our list of knitting do's - don't's and you've gotta' be kidding me's. I'll share it soon and I think you will enjoy having a bit of the group delivered to your door! :-) You know that when it comes to knitters in a group there is no shortage of opinions, or ideas. Ever.

Of all the Christmas cookies in the world there is one that is a must make, every year. Spritz! I love me some Spritz even though each season I have a nasty argument with the cookie gun! Simple shapes, simple sugars and always a cinnamon candy somewhere on the cookie. Most of the first batch have left for friends and neighbors so another load came out of the oven this morning. A full POUND of butter.......... loads of almond extract, as Ina says, "How bad can it be?"

Can you stand it? It looks like the 'kids' are waiting for Santa!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Knitting Contrisstmas Day 21: Kate Gilbert

Day 21, the final push towards the holiday season, the first night of Hannukah.....blessings to all! Today an interview from the talented and generous Kate Gilbert. Designer, knitter, and one of the creators and driving forces behind the "Twist Collective". Kate, thanks for taking the time to be part of Knitting Contrisstmas--- we all really appreciate it! You have had an incredibly busy year and of course we can’t wait to hear more!

Thanks for having me!

KC: Twist Collective rolled out in the late summer 2008 to rave reviews and a huge buzz in the knit world. How long have you been working on Twist?

We started working on it in February 2008 which seems like yesterday and like a million years ago at the same time.

KC: How is Twist different than the other online knit magazines and patterns? I love love love it and know that I am not alone. It does seem to be the new craze in the yarn world!

To start with, our format is really different. We have more of a print magazine feel with pages you turn through and patterns grouped into stories. People who don’t enjoy the magazine feel (because I know that though we have fans, there are detractors too) can go straight to the patterns through the shop and they can go straight to the articles. Also, designers are paid a percentage of each pattern sale which I really feel helps us attract really great designs.

KC: Do you think that it will evolve even more from its current format?

Anything is possible. We have lots of ideas. (*Note from KC: oooooooooh I bet you do!)

KC: I knit “Wisteria” from the first Twist Collective, designed by you of course. What an incredibly fun, interesting, and gorgeous knit! I absolutely loved it! Do you do blog searches or check Ravelry queues to see who is knitting designs of yours or from Twist?

I do look at ravelry and at some blogs, though lately, I get to look at them less and less. I don’t usually look at who is knitting my patterns. I just look at the photos and see what yarns and colors I think work particularly well and hope that there are lots of smiley faces rather than crying ones.

KC: You are well known for “Clapotis”--- it was perhaps one of the first real ‘buzz knits’. Do you continue to be surprised by how it was received and the number of knitters who are still inspired to createnthis design?

Definitely. I’m always surprised. I saw lots of them this year at Rhinebeck. A couple months ago I was in a diner and saw a clapotis. It was pretty funny because I think it’s the first time I’ve seen one not at a knitting group or a wool festival.

KC: What has been your “most knitted” design? Besides Clapoutis of course!

Honestly, I’m not sure. Maybe the Peapod Baby Set? Or Arwen ? Sunrise Circle Jacket? Anouk? It’s hard to know.

KC: How do you find time to knit? You are quite prolific!

Oh gosh. I don’t think I’m prolific at all. Lately, I get only about one thing done every 3 months. My personal projects sit around for years. I did recently finish a sweater for my daughter. She knew it was coming and she was really excited about so I snuck in a row here and a row there while she was in the bath or when I desperately needed to step away from my computer and touch some yarn.

KC: Can you tell us a bit about your designs for knitters?

Yikes. That’s a hard question. I just want to knit what I want to wear. I also like a challenge, either in construction or the stitch pattern or something. I don’t like being bored with my designs or with knitting them. And I don’t necessarily want to make something that looks like you bought it in a store.

Arwen by Kate Gilbert

KC: Because you are a crazy knitter as well…………what is your favorite thing to knit.

I love knitting… well… anything really. I like a bit of everything. I like challenging projects. I like mindless projects. I love stranded colorwork. I love cables. I absolutely adore short rows. I like socks. I love sweaters because it’s such a feeling of accomplishment each time one is done. Lately, my knitting time is so rare that I only want to knit with really beautiful yarn. Silk, cashmere… I want the luxury stuff.

KC: I think we can all understand and appreciate that, for me though I adore the luxury stuff, my pocketbook often insists otherwise!

KC: It has become well known that I am the only “throwing” knitter left on the planet these days and do not knit Continental. Does speed matter?

I’m a throwing knitter too. I didn’t think we were a rare breed! (KC: Maybe it all depends on the knitters you hang out with! It does my heart good to know that you don't find throwers rare!) Speed matters to me when I am knitting on a deadline but I would rather knit well and slower than sloppily and fast. It’s the tortoise and the hare thing. The fastest way for me to knit isn’t continental. I can knit that way too, but I really knit fastest on straight needles throwing with my right hand. People look at me a little funny because I hold a needle under my right arm and have a possibly goofy way of holding the yarn to get the tension I want. Anyway, speed only matters if it you think it does.

KC: Wouldn't you love to put the knitting styles af a zillion knitters on video? Watching them all would indeed be like a ballet of sorts! So tell me Kate, are you a process or a product knitter?

Both. Product for my work knitting. Process for my personal knitting. I like having a finished product, but as a designer, I love the process more than the actual knitting. I love math. I love figuring out how to put a design together.

KC: You are a knit designer of much acclaim, do other designers inspire you? If so, who rings your bells?
Thanks. I’m blushing. There are lots of designers I like. I think Mari Muinonen really has a great eye. I love Ysolda’s work (and she’s great in person too). I like how Norah Gaughan pushes the envelope. Véronik Avery, Pam Allen, Anne Hanson… I could go on and on. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with some really incredible designers.

KC: Is there anything in the world of knitting that you have not done and wish to tackle?

I’ve never knit any sort of pants or skirt. Maybe I should do something like that. It’s a whole different set of problems than a sweater. I have a lot of weirder construction ideas that I would like to try to make work if I could. It’s just a question of having the time.

KC: Are you a part of the Ravelry world, and if so, what is your Ravelry name?

Yes. I’m not a very active member, but I do go in a few times a week and look around in my friends’ activity and the forums a bit. I’m needlesonfire. I started cataloguing my stash and gave up half way through and I’m terrible about putting in the projects I am working on but I think ravelry is a pretty incredible place and I’m glad it’s around.

KC: What else do you do to feed your inner creative muse?
I get on bread-baking jags. I do lots of crafts with my 3 year old. I fantasize about totally redecorating our apartment.

KC: What do you do during the holidays? Anything special?

It depends really. This year we’ll be with my husband’s family in France so we’ll just be eating a lot and hanging out with family.

KC: What is coming up not only for your designs but for Twist Collective?
I have lots of designs I would love to work on if I could find the time. Mental note: must teach daughter to knit or find magical elves. For Twist… who knows! You’ll just have to wait and see.

KC: I'm waiting, I'm waiting!!!! I know I'm not the only one Kate! Thank you for your contributions to the knit world, they are all very much appreciated! And thanks as well Kate for the interview here, it was great! Very Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Knitting Contrisstmas Day 20: Melissa Morgan-Oakes

Melissa, (I think you are a one namer like Cher or Britney!!!!), full name of course Melissa Morgan-Oakes. Thanks for taking the time to be part of Knitting Contrisstmas--- we all really appreciate it! It’s no secret that I just love you!!!! And as the author of “Two at a Time Socks” I’m not the only one, your fans are many! I love the publicity blurb for Two at a Time, although it doesn't hold a candle to the legions of happy fans! "Never Again Experience Second-Sock Syndrome! Here’s the Secret to Knitting 2 at Once!" What a heady thought, and salvation for so many who are stuck in that rut!

MMO: Thanks for having me! I love you too! It's been really overwhelming, the love and support for the book. It struck a nerve with a lot of sock knitters, and I am glad I could bring the technique to them. No more second sock syndrome!!

KC: Is life crazy right now for you? I understand that you are writing a new book!

MMO: Life is a bit hectic right now. My baby went off to 'away' college halfway across the country, and my mother developed some health problems all within the same few weeks. Then writing the second book on top of that, and the rest of life like cooking and cleaning and feeding the's been a very busy year! Things are settling down nicely now as we get into the holiday season, which is wonderful.

KC: How did you come up with the concept of Two at a Time Socks, done YOUR way?

MMO: The truth? I am cheap. And I hate wasted anything: time, money, yarn, you name it. My friend Kristen insisted I could knit socks faster if only I would embrace circular knitting technique. It made sense to me, as it eliminated wasted movement; fewer needles mean fewer motions. But I wasn't convinced that I needed a book to learn, and I was too cheap to buy more than one set of needles. I am a self-taught knitter; so making things work in my knitting comes naturally to me. I bought one 40" long circular needle and headed off for a shopping trip with my husband. As we drove along and the single sock I'd cast on grew, it occurred to me that there was a whole lot of extra cable on my 40" circulars, and why couldn't I just add a second sock? I did, and after a few odd false starts involving some double points and stitch holders and a tiny bit of cursing, I eventually streamlined the concept into the technique you see in 2-at-a-Time Socks. I found, once I'd worked out the kinks, that it cut down my knitting time significantly and allowed me to make modifications or design on the needles without having to remember changes for the second sock. I still knit socks for the family out of my head; no reading or writing, just cast on, knit them up (or down!), finish them off and throw them at whichever family member they're intended for. Two at a time makes it much easier for me to do that. I was knitting socks like that for a while before someone finally got through to me with the whole "You should really write a book about that..." thing. I was a bit dense about that. If it hadn't been for Stephanie DiSantis, who was working at Storey at the time and taking a class with me, I never would have written that book! She really encouraged me to submit the proposal, and with Kathy Elkins (of Webs) behind me, I finally got up the nerve to do it. I can't ever really be grateful enough for them, or the folks at Storey for taking a chance on an unknown author.

KC: Tell me a little about your Sock Viewpoint---- your sockpoint as it were??

MMO: I like to keep a broad Sock Worldview. At this point, most of the knitters I come in contact with either are knitting socks, or want to learn. I don't care how you do it, what yarn you use, or whose pattern or technique you adopt as most comfortable for you. Better yet - take what we've all done and run with it; design your own, create your own technique. There's no right or wrong in knitting. If it looks right and feels right, then it is right. Just knit, and keep on knitting. If you try circulars and it doesn't feel right, grab DPN. If you've tried DPN and found it frustrating, try circulars. One at a time, two at a time, toe up, top down, side to side; just keep on knitting socks. They're portable, practical, and an excellent gift idea. People might demure when they see the sweater with the intarsia ocean scene that you slaved over for their birthday, but they'll wear and treasure the socks!

KC: I know you are a crazy knitter as well…………what is your favorite thing to knit? I happen to know that you do have things other than socks on your needles!!

MMO: My favorite things to knit are knitted things! Within three feet I can see two sweaters, a scarf, a baby set, a shell, a shawl, and another sweater. Oh, and a vest and a dog sweater. All are on the needles, all in various stages of development. Some are published patterns although most are my own designs. Most of them are gifts. I love to knit Elizabeth Zimmermann in my spare time. My personal taste tends toward simple; Bog Jacket sort of things I can wear while I am choring.

KC: It has become well known that I am the only "throwing"l knitter left on the planet these days. Does speed matter?

MMO: Sometimes in classes I'll get students of varying skill levels and with diverse knitting styles. Invariably the newer knitters are slower than those with more experience. The slower knitters can often feel very self-conscious and I really work to diffuse that. Life isn't a speed knitting competition, nor should it be. We all have different paths to the same goal. One knitter's speed may cost her a slower knitter's attention to detail. For the average knitter, the process should be primarily relaxing with a good dose of added self-confidence thrown in from achieving reasonable and appropriate knitting goals. I think it is human nature to compare ourselves to one another; "...she's got nice hair", "...she's got cute new boots", "...I wish I could wear that" and so on. We compare and often consider ourselves lacking, and we just should not do that. It's counter productive to us as knitters and as people. Worrying about the size of your needles or the speed of your knitting is, in itself, wasteful! That said speed is important to me personally because I have deadlines that need to be met. But that desire for speed is not dictated by any other knitter's skills or speed. It's about me needing speed to gain time for more knitting, or writing! If you want to knit fast, then work to knit fast as long as it's about YOU; not keeping up with the knitter next to you!

KC: Are you a process or a product knitter?

MMO: I am primarily a process knitter. Do it, finish it, and move on to something new. I rarely knit anything twice. I will knit duplicates if I am testing a technique, or if something particularly strikes me, like E.Z.'s Baby Surprise Jacket, or if I wear something out. I give a lot of knitting away as a result. Knit it, smile at it, and hand it off. I've become a little more of a product knitter since I started designing because it feels like I give most everything away. Lately I've been more inclined to want to keep and wear the product!

KC: What knitwear designers most inspire you?

MMO: Hands down, Elizabeth Zimmermann first comes to mind. If I could crawl into one knitting brain, that would be it. Next up is Cat Bordhi. There's another brain I'd like to take a poke around in. She's just a genius and I adore her. In both instances they look like they're thinking outside the box, when in reality they just allow themselves a bigger one than the rest of us! I love what Norah Gaughan does - I think she's really the first designer in my experience to consistently put out designs that look good on all sorts of body types, and that's rare. I also love Adrian Bizilia's (Hello Yarn) mittens, and I have a huge weakness for Dale of Norway baby patterns. Omie (grandma) Eye Candy!

KC: Is there anything in the world of knitting that you have not done and wish to tackle?

MMO: Wow. Hmm. Well, I came into knitting sort of backwards. I learned to knit and very soon after was knitting samples for Webs. That led to designing and teaching for them, which left me not a lot of time to knit just for me. But that led to the books, which is awesome, and more design work for yarn companies and myself. If there were anything I wanted to tackle, it would be the backlog of projects I've promised myself that are just for me or my husband. They range from simple to quite technical. I've begun to refer to my stash as "retirement yarn", as I seem to go from design to design lately! I'm torn between a desire to be as productive as possible on the designing and writing end, and making some selfish "me" knitting time. In terms of technique, there's very little that I haven't tried. So really, it would be about just making time for more "me" knitting; putting into practice all the techniques I've gathered over the last few years I think!

KC: Are you a part of the Ravelry world, and if so, what is your Ravelry name?

MMO: Of course! Isn't everyone? Even my kid is on Ravelry now! My user name is melissaknits, and I co-moderate the 2-at-a-Time Socks group there. I've also got some patterns available for sale on Ravelry. I love that Jess and Casey added that feature! It's a great way for me to get my work out into the community. It's also been exceptionally rewarding to have the knitters on the 2-at-a-Time Socks board right there. Although I receive and respond to a lot of email, Ravelry creates a sense of community support among fiber folk. My hat is forever off to the coding genius that is Casey. When I told my husband I wanted a place online where I could talk with my knitting friends, he just grunted and went out to split more wood! I also really love Knitter's Review, which gives knitters a way to stay in touch with everything new and delightful, and chat about it among themselves. Clara's reviews are very well written and she's a virtual encyclopedia of fiber knowledge. It's really easy to feel isolated with your craft. Is a yarn worth the investment? Clara probably reviewed it, and can tell you. Does that pattern knit up as well I hope? Ask the 120 people at Ravelry who've knitted it up already. These online communities give us a place to get good information to make informed decisions as knitters.

KC: What else do you do to feed your inner creative muse?

MMO: The act of living feeds me. I find inspiration in many things. Sometimes it can be simple like a Chinese restaurant placemat, or complex like a feeling or an experience I want to translate into knitting. Sometimes it's the yarn. Or sometimes the yarn stimulates a memory or a feeling and out a design idea will come. Other times it may be a person, or a place. Sometimes it's very simple - I see a sweater I like in the mall and I quickly make a sketch and later recreate that concept with my own yarn and needles. For the most part I take time to keep my creative center open and let it absorb any and everything from the environment. It can be good or bad, happy or sad. It all goes in, and "stuff" comes out. And when "stuff" is banging on the creative center doorway, I don't tell it to go away, regardless of where I am or what I am doing. I grab a pen and paper (or crayon and newsprint if that's all there is!) and let it out.

KC: What do you do during the holidays? Anything special?

MMO: We are pretty low-key holiday people. My mother-in-law always has a Christmas Eve gathering at her house, and then our kids and grandkids come here for presents in the evening if they are around. With blended families involved, it can get tricky, so we try to be the low-maintenance parents. I remember trying to make everyone happy at the holidays when I was young, and I promised my kids and step kids that we would not do that to them. I've tried in the last few years to weasel out of The Tree in my own home, but my daughter will set me straight on that if she can! My husband and I often travel during the first week or two of December, which means I try to have the holiday gift shopping out of the way well in advance of that. Do I knit for family? Everyone asks this. Not as a rule. Once in a while if I see something that I think really would suit a particular person I will. I bake for my mother-in-law; cookies and pies generally, and make foods for my father that he can't have during the rest of the year, but allows himself at Christmas. I've got strong feelings about the holidays and consumerism. I love the idea of a "Little House in the Big Woods" Christmas, where everyone is happy with a tin cup, a stick of peppermint, and a pair of red mittens! My husband and I usually do not give gifts to each other. It's not our birthday, after all!

KC: My woes with knitting Two at a Time are legendary. Everyone knows that I put the fuddy in duddy and love my dpn’s. I have completed my Twos and LOVE them…….. but to be honest I am near scared to death to take on more socks! What is your advice for people like me? Are we doomed forever, or maybe just sockaphobic?

MMO: No one is doomed forever! I think that a lot of knitters out there get upset with themselves for not being perfect the first time around. The frustration becomes overwhelming, and you convince yourself that you just can't possibly get it. Usually there's words in there, like "stupid" and "simple" directed either at yourself or at the author you're convinced it trying to torment you. That'd be me, and I really do stay up nights dreaming of new torment for knitters, I swear I do! The truth is all of knitting is, like life, a learning experience. New skills are just that - NEW! If you want the skill you've got to climb the mountain. For some of us it's a quick jog and for others it's a good hike. Think of it this way - most anyone can ride a bike, right? But how many Lance Armstrong's do you see? One! The rest of us pedal along at our own speed. So get yourself surrounded by knitting angels in the form of your local knit night or guild meeting and get some support. And if that fails I'll come by and we'll have latte, and I'll sort you right out!

KC: Awesome-------- what a fabulous interview, thank you so much! As for the latte, you can count on it! Have a wonderful, warm, happy holiday season full of blessings and bliss!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Knitting Contrisstas Day 19: The Runcible Bin

Inspiration and creativity are always gifts to us all. The blog "The Runcible Bin" is one of my all around favorites and I try not to miss a new posting. You, Mrs. Lear----- are a true renaissance woman! I am always inspired and enjoy each and every entry!

KC: Mrs. Lear-------- you have a husband and children and a very busy life, yet you are incredibly prolific in your many endeavors! How do you do it all?

ML: There is time to knit when I am out and waiting for kids and buses. There is time to knit while listening to the news or waiting for water to boil. The Knitting Olympics project was very rewarding. I prepared the project before I started knitting and then knit that sweater exclusively. A little time spent organizing a project makes a big difference for me.

KC: Yes, organization is always the key and yet so difficult for many. As far as being a monogamous knitter---- that just might be bucking the norm for many creative people!

KC: Your photography has always been stunning, are you a professional?

ML: We have a fancy camera. I use whatever has been left out on the table, pushing leftover mail or plastic bags out of view. I am working on blocking the light with pieces of paper.

KC: That knowledge does make me feel somewhat better----- just knowing that you might have bits of things and a bit of flotsam laying about gives me a smile!

KC: Tell us what "The Runcible Bin" means and how it came about.

ML: Edward Lear, a Victorian poet, made up the nonsense word runcible and used it in some of his poems and limericks. My runcible bin is usually a cardboard box that holds everything I've been working on when it comes time to clean off the kitchen table. I've noticed that great ideas come from a collection of scraps and books.

KC: What is your favorite creative pastime among your many interests?

ML: Right now I'm concentrating on throwing pots and making ceramic whistles.

KC: Your interests are many----- and varied. How have you cultivated such a deep list of books, magazines and projects?

ML: I spend a lot of time in libraries and bookstores. I love to look through magazines like World of Interiors, Marie Claire Idees, and Living. I miss Blueprint and Martha Stewart Kids.

KC: I know that you are a knitter and you create lovely things! Do you think that women, especially creative women still feel compelled to try to squeeze it all in?

ML: I think people use rituals to make time for what is important. A family in love with freshly baked bread will often become devotees of the 5-minute bread movement. Suddenly the morning preparation of throwing the ingredients in a large tupperware twice a week is no more awkward to schedule than brushing teeth or taking the dog for a walk. I like to knit while watching movies or listening to people read.

KC: Tell me about your knitting! What is your favorite thing to knit?

ML: I try to have a bunch of projects in different stages, easy and complicated. I would love to make some Mary Walker Phillips wall hangings and use them as curtains. I would also like to make up my own personal gansey pattern.

KC: It has become well known that I am the only "throwing" knitter left on the planet these days are you a continental knitter. And when it comes to the discussion of both…..does speed matter?

ML: I knit continental style, doing that "lazy" purl, and knitting into the back of the stitch on knit rows.

KC: Are you a process or a product knitter?

ML: Both - I try to combine a beautiful design with wonderful feeling yarn.

KC: Is there anything in the world of knitting AND quilting that you have not done and wish to tackle?

ML: I would love to make one of the silver silk manhole cover quilts that I saw in a book of Japanese quilts once.

KC: Somehow I knew you were going to say something wonderful---- nothing mundane or simple!

KC: Are you a part of the Ravelry world, and if so, what is your Ravelry name?

ML: I love getting alternate color ideas for projects on Ravelry. My name is MrsLear.

Mrs. Lear, creator of the Runcible Bin, thank you so much for your constant stream of inspiration, the fabulous ideas and springboards that so many readers in the blogospere enjoy each time you post.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Knitting Contrisstmas day 18: Suzan--- Knit Cafe

KC: Suzan thanks for taking time to chat with us! I know that I am not the only one in love with Knit Café (the book and the place). I never made it to the Knit Café before it closed but it always loomed large in my soul as a knitterly spot I’d love to visit!

Thank you's so nice of you to contact me. I'm sorry too, that you never made it to Knit Cafe....I think you would have fit in very nicely!

KC: You started your work life as a TV exec with CBS, are there any similarities between this and having a knit shop, and of course that lovely book?

Wow....this question stumped me for a while. At first blush, there doesn't seem to be much in common but as I started really thinking about it, I realized there are a lot of similarities . Both jobs were largely creative and relied on me working with creative people. In television, I worked hands on with the writers, directors to help them create their vision of what CBS wanted, talent, art departments, sales department, promo department in trying to come up with the right campaign to "sell" the show to the owning a knitting retail business, I worked hands on with knitting designers, yarn designers and helped customers to create their vision of what they wanted to create. In TV, I tried to come up with programs that I thought the viewer would enjoy ...with Knit Cafe, I made choices in the yarns, products and designs that I thought my customer would enjoy....and of course, both jobs dealt with the very serious concept of "the bottom line"....finances!

KC: As I mentioned, I’ve never been an in person ‘character’ at Knit Café………. What is the thought now about finding another space? Where in the world is your collection of characters finding to call home? Surely you stay in touch?

Some of my customers became very close friends of mine and we get together, email and talk on the phone regularly. I also have a knitting group at the Farmers Market every Wednesday night where we get together and catch up with each other. It's definitely not the same as having our music and candles and colorful gorgeous yarn all around like at the store but I love knowing that Knit Cafe is still "living" through our knitting group.

KC: What is your favorite thing to knit?

I have a pretty busy life so I tend to like quick and easy projects....hats, hand warmers, neck warmers, vests. Even though I live in California, I knit them all year round using different weights of yarns.

KC: You say you are a slow knitter, funny to me who is the only “thrower” left on the planet as everyone around me is knitting continental. Does speed matter? Hey,

I'm a thrower too! I can knit continental but as a kid I was taught to throw and that just feels more natural to me. Speed does seem to matter to some but it never has to me. I really prefer to lolligag....I like to take my time, get in my zone, look up once and a while without losing my place, listen to the radio or watch TV etc. If I were to concentrate on speed, my fingers would get in the way and I would make too many mistakes. I ski the same way....actually I think I do everything the same way....leisurely.

KC: Because you came to knitting “late in life” (har)-------- do you feel like you have to make up for lost time?

No, I've never thought of it that way. I do seem to always have something on my needles and my needles are never far away but it is due more to a physical need than a pressure.

KC: What knitwear designers most inspire you?

What a great time for knitting and knitters these past 5 or so years have been.....there are so many talented designers of all levels and genres right now. I guess if I have to pick a favorite, one would be Kim Hargreaves. I really like her intelligent and fresh mixing of old and new. I also love the cleverness and originality of Teva Durham.

KC: Is there anything in the world of knitting that you have not done and wish to tackle?

Ohmygosh yes! There is more that I haven't done than have. On the top of the list would be to go to Peru and learn from those amazing women. Their skills are phenominal....and, I have never steeked!

KC: Are you a part of the Ravelry world, and if so, what is your Ravelry name?

Yes, I am a member of Ravelry. You can find me at KnitCafeSuzan.

KC: What else do you do to feed your inner creative muse?

I seem to be enjoying my sewing machine an awful lot lately. I like to combine knitting and sewing onto things I knit and knitting onto things I sew.

KC: What do you do during the holidays? Anything special?

I just love Christmas....don't you!!!! Usually we go skiing but this year my kids (who are now teenagers) need to be home for their various activities with friends. I'm really ok with husband and I go all out in the house decorations and there are tons of good movies out to see ..... I just can't wait for the holiday to begin!

KC: Lastly, what is in the works for Knit Café? Surely I am not the only one wishing you to find a place to park your sticks?

"Greetings From Knit Cafe" is coming out in paperback this spring which really excites me! I saw an advance copy of it and I must say, I like it in paperback form....the amazing Melanie Falick was my editor and she has asked me to do some book signings at TNNA this year, which I look forward to and I have also been asked by various shops to stop by and sign some books for that should be fun. Regarding the shop....I honestly, haven't made any decisions about it yet. The economy isn't exactly condusive to shop renovation etc and I'm really enjoying the time spent at home right now. I continue to keep my ear to the floor to hear what's going on and I love hearing from everyone about what they are up to. I promise I will keep you up to date, Tina! Merry Christmas!

KC: Thanks so much Suzan, it was great! I wish you all the best as well as a beautiful holiday season!