Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Knitting Contrisstas Day 16: Lisa Boyer

Lisa, thanks for taking the time to be part of Knitting Contrisstmas--- we all really appreciate it! This year Contrisstmas is expanding a bit to include other creative types, such as quilters, of course another love of mine. I swear if I could give up sleep and make time in the basement, just whip it right up.... I could indeed do it all!!! Lisa and I met years ago at a Quilt Hawaii event. She had just published “That Dorky Homemade Look” which was not only very funny, but very well received. I was working with Gramma Ruth’s Gazette, the first of its kind online quilting magazine and she graciously did an interview. I know that much has changed over the years!

KC: First of all Lisa, can I tell you how jealous that I (and most of my readers I suspect) am that you live on Kauai? It is my favorite place on earth, well outside of Paris but that is a horse of a different color. How did you end up there?

LB: Thanks for the nice introduction, Tina! It’s a pleasure to be a part of the “Knitting Contrisstmas” this year. I’m a big fan-- (love your knitting bride pictures!). My fondest alohas and Mele Kalikimakas from Kauai to all your readers.

LB: How did we end up here on Kauai? We vacationed here once in 1988, loved it, and just picked up and did it. We sold everything in Orange County, California, including a successful Chiropractic practice, an office building, a house, four cars, a motor home, EVERYTHING we owned…and got on the plane. My son was only three, so that part was easy. It was my husband’s fault, actually. He’d been dreaming about living on a tropical island since he was a child. His mother once showed me a school essay he wrote when he was eleven years old. In it, he describes being king of his own tropical island! It involved a lot of slave girls feeding him fruit and fanning him with giant palm fronds while he swayed in a hammock anchored between two banana trees. Hysterical. But you’ve got to admire a guy who can make his lifelong dreams come true! Well, minus the slave girls, that is. No way. Unless they do windows. Then they’re welcome any time.

KC: Sounds fair enough to me, you are a reasonable woman!

KC: I know that you are also a knitter and you make no secret that it is difficult to find yarn on Kauai, good yarn anyway. How do you feed your addiction?

LB:Yes, that’s a poser. We have a wonderful little yarn shop here in Hanalei, but it’s small, and of course, she can’t carry all the yarns I read about on the internet. Oh, how I would love to fondle some of those yarns I see pictures of on my computer screen! I’ve never touched Malabrigo, for instance. I have no idea what Manos de Uruguay feels like. But fortunately, once a year, we go to the Mainland where I embark on a yarn “Feel-Up” tour. It’s very erotic, actually. I try not to moan too loudly in the shop.

KC: Tell me a bit about how “Dorky” got started, and where it has taken you.

LB: It all started one evening when I attended my first-ever quilt guild meeting. I had been quilting by myself for a few years, and had only read about quilt guilds in quilting magazines. Finally, an opportunity to attend a large guild meeting on the Mainland came my way. I was so excited to be able attend! When I walked through the doors into the large cafa-gym-a-torium filled with eye-popping colorful quilts and 300 plus ladies, I was thrilled and overwhelmed by all the colors, the activity, enthusiasm, the quilts, the exchanges… amazing! A quilting Happy Place!! I loved it! I was in quilty heaven! But then…the official Guild Meeting started. At first, the formality of all that “motion seconding” and “officer’s report” meeting stuff got me to giggling. But I didn’t giggle for long, because during the meeting, a vicious fight broke out about a raffle quilt! Several women stood up and walked out in protest over the decision to machine quilt the raffle quilt instead of hand quilting it, as was the traditional procedure. There were tears and shouting, insults and anger. A handful of disgruntled women resigned publicly. I was stunned! What happened to the Happy Place? “Hunh,” I thought to myself. “These people are taking this blanket-making thing awfully seriously. Perhaps it’s my calling to throw in some perspective.” So that’s exactly what I did. I wrote three magazine articles about the joys of making silly, goofy, mistake-laden, dorky homemade-looking quilts. I sent them off to Quilting Today magazine and shortly after, the magazine called and offered me my own monthly column. A few years of columns later, GoodBooks publishing called me and asked me to do a book for them. It was pretty great—I became a published author and I never had to suffer a rejection slip.

KC: Of course your latest book is “Stash Envy”……….. can you tell us a little about that one?

LB: The second book was requested by my publisher because—much to both of our amazement—the first one, “That Dorky Homemade Look” was a huge hit! The book appeared on bestseller lists that we never expected it to be on—and featured at many book stores and online retailers as a “pick.” For a short time, it was the Number One book in crafts at amazon.com! So I wrote another—this time, with a deadline (ugh!)—and it was successful, too. Apparently, quilters needed a laugh after attending those fraught-with-angst quilt meetings. My publisher has asked me for a third book, but so far, I’m quilted out. Perhaps I need to attend a knitting guild meeting? Are they as hazardous?

KC: I think guild meetings of any type can be hazardous!

KC: You have also designed a number of quilt patterns inspired by traditional Hawaiian quilts. How many places have you sent your beautiful designs to?

LB: Actually, my designs aren’t inspired by traditional Hawaiian quilts at all. Traditional Hawaiian quilts are typically two-colors and hand appliquéd in snowflake-like patterns, then hand-quilted round and round ¼” apart in an echo pattern all the way out to the edges of the quilt. They’re totally lovely and serene. I’ve made a couple of wall-hangings in the traditional style, but making this kind of quilt requires great discipline! I like to play with color and pattern more during the quiltmaking process. I like to create quilts with more playful Hawaiian motifs and colors: swimming turtles, hula huts, little keiki hula dancers, tropical fish, goofy Tikis…not at all traditional in pattern or color. I’m more of a Malahini quilter instead of a Kamaaiana one, but I love both. I’ve sent them all over the world via mail order—and they have been carried in shops in Texas, Oregon, Florida, even New Hampshire. My “Baby Honu” pattern has been my most popular—people love that little guy.

KC: I know you don’t create Hawaiian quilt designs exclusively----- what is your favorite type of quilt to make?

LB:I think I’ve made every type of quilt there is to make, except one of those “Stack and Whack” kind with the kaleidoscope effect—I have an aversion to those; don’t know why. (They make me feel sick and dizzy, kind of how I feel when I get off the Mad Teacup ride at Disneyland.) I love hand appliqué and hand quilting and always have a hand project going. In between hand projects, I love complex piecing, like Mariner’s Compass or Double Wedding Ring. Right now, I’m in love with the new Modern-style quilts—but I’ve yet to make one.

KC: Tell me about your knitting! I lived in Honolulu for many years and never worked up much interest in knitting at the time. No air conditioning and a tropical climate kind of slowed me down except for the occasional baby sweater. What is your secret?

LB: Socks. Lots and lots of socks. I can’t wear them, but I can stack them neatly in a drawer, admire them, and dream of wearing them on a trip to Scandinavia some day. Also, I have a son and almost-daughter-in-law who attend Washington State University in snowy Pullman, Washington. I force knitted goods upon them regularly. I’ve been waiting to attempt my first-ever sweater, but here it is November and it’s still in the low 80’s, dang it! I think I’ll have to wait until late December until I can stand to have it on my lap. I’m excited about starting it; it’s the “Must Have Cardigan” by Patons and it’s all cable-y and complicated-looking! I love a challenge. I may have to endure a sweaty lap soon.

KC: Funny, that cardigan was first on my list too until I didn't want to mess with gauge and yarn to knit my size. I am going to cast on for the Alexi Cardigan by the team at Berroco instead. Nothing like a great classic cabled cardi!

KC: What is coming up next in the world of Lisa Boyer?

LB: Actually, my life has taken sort of an interesting turn! My background is in science, and that part of my brain seems to be calling to me lately. Specifically, I’m researching menopause and all the…ahem…shall I say interesting (?) changes that go along with it. I want to write something with a scientific basis, but also with a bit of humor. And irony. Plenty of friggin’ irony. In many ways, beginning this phase of life was as much of a shock as walking into that overly-dramatic first quilt guild meeting! I was taken by surprise by all of the changes and I don’t think enough women talk about it. Truly, it’s like adolescence in reverse—the changes are profound. For me, the difference between 45 and 50 years old was just as huge as the difference between 10 and 15 years old. Your body changes, your mind changes—and yet, no one talks about it. I think it’s another writing mission for me.

KC: Tell me a little about your knit designs. Do you think that you will ever design something from the knit world?

LB: Oh, absolutely. I’ve only been knitting for a couple of years, so it’ll be a while until my brain wraps itself around the mechanics of it. I can easily design crocheted items because I’ve been crocheting since I was five years old—even designed and crocheted a sweater for myself when I was in high school. I think not knowing how to read a crochet pattern helped me design one--I just sort of “did” it. I thought designing was just something you had to do when you didn’t know how to read a pattern! I wonder if knowing how to read a knitting pattern will help or hurt my ability to design one.

KC: Because you are a crazy knitter as well…………what is your favorite thing to knit. Socks! Definitely socks. There’s so much variety and drama in such a small project! My first knitting project was a sock. I skipped scarves and hats completely. I had to come back to scarves and hats, and now I think they’re boring to knit. Socks are the thing! My favorite thing to crochet is doilies. I’m a compulsive doily-maker. They fascinate me.

KC: It has become well known that I am the only continental knitter left on the planet these days and you (such the traitor) have just given in and taken up continental. Does speed matter?

LB: Nope. Not at all. I never give myself knitting deadlines, so I never feel pressured to knit fast. Knitting is my leisure thing, not my job. Quilts are my job, and quilt deadlines make me crazy. I hate ‘em. So when I took up knitting, I resolved to NEVER have a knitting deadline. I refuse.

KC: Great thought Lisa, especially to many knitters who are knitting like crazy this time of year! So then, are you a process or a product knitter?

LB: Process, definitely. I don’t need the product, I live in the Tropics! I only knit to knit, not to have a knitted item.

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

LB: I want to knit a sweater—a really complicated one. I may have to move to Alaska to do it. Then I’ll probably want to think of something original! It happens. With quilting, I’ve already made complicated quilts from my own designs. So my new quilting goal is to simplify and learn the elements of what makes a “Modern” quilt. I’ve been quilting since 1987 and I seem to have been making the same kind of quilt since then: blockety, block, block…border…binding. They’re all starting to look the same to me! I want to try something radically different…but it’s like trying a new clothes style. You have to look and learn. The eighties always want to sneak back into my wardrobe and hairstyle—and my quilts seem to suffer from the same problem, you know, “Grandma called—she wants her quilt back?” Yep, I gotta lose the jewel tones and the perfect star points. Someone help me.

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

LB: I’m dorkyquilts. I haven’t posted my latest items! I like looking at other people’s work instead of posting my own. I’m a knitting voyeur. I especially love reading “Dear Auntie Bubbopants.” She’s a kick. Perhaps I ought to write her about my Grandma-looking quilt problem.

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

LB: Clean. I clean a LOT. I love a clean house. Unfortunately, living on Kauai, I have to clean nearly every day. Our windows are open all year long and between the bugs, mold, red dirt, geckoes, mildew and rust—well, I keep busy. I get some of my best ideas while I clean.

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

LB: My holiday experience is changing. I used to decorate and bake and shop and wrap and clean and basically overdo Christmas in a really big way. But now that my son has grown up and gone away to college, I don’t run myself ragged. I enjoy the process more. Christmas has gotten more intimate, more personal, perhaps more introspective? Less hectic, more…hmmm….sweet. I love Christmas. It’s magical. The one tradition I keep is to start a new quilt on Christmas day every year, preferably something really really different. Perhaps it will be something stark and modern this year.

KC: What is your favorite fabric to quilt with? How about what is your favorite yarn to knit with?

LB: My favorite fabric to quilt with? Old cotton clothing. I love making quilts from remnants, leftovers, scraps, old shirts, etc. When I have to buy fabric off a bolt, it’s just not as magical. Yarn, on the other hand, is a different story! I LOVE new yarn fresh from the yarn shop. It smells so good and looks so…ahhhh….pure and innocent. Fresh. Unbended. Expectant and hopeful. Rife with possibilities! I never stop being amazed that you can shave ugly dirty fuzz off of a living animal, spin it into string, and loop it in all sorts of crazy ways to make something soft and warm and wearable. It’s a little miracle that I never get tired of!

KC: Thanks Lisa, what a great visit! I hope to make it to Kauai next fall and plan to hug your neck in person! Mele Kalikimaka and Hau'oli Makahiki Hou!

1 comment:

Melissa Morgan-Oakes said...

I love the turtle quilt!! Someday, when I "retire", I am going to quilt.