When I was in college, writing books and designing knitwear were not activities I ever imagined I would be involved in. As a child and a teenager, making things, be it sewing, crochet, rug braiding, embroidery, or knitting, made me happy and satisfied something deep within me. In my twenties, I taught myself to spin and dye, and took weaving lessons, but knitting had been second nature to me since I had learned at the age of seven. When knitting, I was always changing patterns to something I preferred, and finally, I started designing garments from scratch.
Designing is not an easy prospect for me, even today, after so many years. It always feels hard and I typically go through a period of loathing whatever I am designing. I have learned to push through all that, and when I emerge on the other side, I am usually pleased with my work.
My inspirations come from historic garments. When I visit the storage area of museums, I am overcome by the wonderful motifs of the lovely garments that I see, and I am inspired to create some wonderful knitted piece based on that artifact. Sometimes I can’t design fast enough!
Computers have made the design process so much easier. I use two different charting programs when I design: Stitch Painter (for charting out the entire garment) and Stitch Mastery (for the finalized motif charts I use in my patterns and handouts). I am still working on my skills when it comes to Excel spreadsheets for grading my patterns, but it really is the way to go!
My patterns and handouts are laid out in Adobe InDesign, with scant knowledge of Photoshop. Each year I find I understand these powerful programs a little better and hopefully it shows in my work.
Sadly I am unable to do much knitting anymore, due to the condition of my hands, but I know of some wonderful knitters who’ll help me out if need be. So, I do use knitters to test my patterns, and I also have my patterns edited by a technical editor (my dear friend Carolyn) to ensure accuracy.
In the 1980s I wrote many articles for CastOn, the magazine of The Knitting Guild of America (TKGA)–it was fun and I have always loved to write. And, after teaching my gansey class for the national guild at two different conferences, I was asked to create a correspondence course on ganseys. That took three months to develop the curriculum, design and knit the samples, and write up the lessons. When I had finished, it occurred to me that I had more to say and that there was probably a book in me somewhere.
For two years I planned and wrote and knitted and in 1993, my book Knitting Ganseys was published by Interweave Press. The process was both exhilarating (it felt SO creative!) and terrifying (the pressure was awful). Writing a book is incredibly difficult– for me, anyway. It requires intense focus for long periods of time, especially in the editing phase. But it is also very rewarding to produce something you can finally hold in your hands to read.
Twenty-five years later, in July 2018, the new edition of Knitting Ganseys was released. I really thought it would be easy to create this new edition. After all, I had already written it, right? HA! I found it to be exhilarating and terrifying all over again!
I don’t write articles so much anymore, as I don’t have so much time to devote to outside media. Creating new workshops (writing the handouts) and patterns take most of my time. My newest project is my School of Knitting Traditions. I am reworking my many classes and the handouts to be offered online. So I am still writing and designing, and photographing, and videotaping, and planning, and knitting just a little bit when I can.