As the coordinator for the Independent Designer Partnership program, I’ve seen so many fantastic patterns & met so many wonderful people that I’m so happy to share with the knitting world! As an ongoing series, I’m going to be posting interviews with many of the designers, to get to know them & see what motivates them in their designing.
First up is Talitha Kuomi. You’ve probably seen her adorable patterns already – Loved, the super cute crown; Shines, the cheery City Tweed pillow; and her new pattern released this week, the ultra soft & cuddly Line Upon Line. To me, her designs are so whimsical & unique and I am so happy to have her be part of the program
How long have you been knitting?
Since I was 12. I sat down one afternoon and taught myself to knit from my ‘Pioneer Girl’s Manual’. I learned to crochet from that same book on the same afternoon. Once I start something that I really like, I can get sort of overly-focused on it.
What motivated you to learn to knit?
To get my next little badge for the infamous ‘Pioneer Girl’ sash (in retro kelly green no less) I had to complete both the knit and the crochet sections of my handbook. I still have that badge. It’s now sewn onto my ‘taking a trip’ sized backpack along with patches from most everyplace I’ve ever been.
The famous badge!
Who taught you to knit?
That handbook started to teach me. There have been many others since then. Lots of local yarn store owners along the way helped me with a tricky technique or some new stitch that baffled me. My cousin Meri was the one who pointed out that I wrapped my purl stitches backwards which showed up as a very obvious problem when I was knitting in the round one Thanksgiving sitting near her and whatever pair of socks or fingering weight gloves she was knitting at the time. In the last year, since I’ve discovered Ravelry, oh so many video tutorials and descriptive patterns have helped me immensely. Also, each Wednesday night the girls in the Taunton Stitch’n’Bitch help to smooth the still rough edges on my skills.
What was your first project?
The first that I remember was a neon orange and white striped scarf. I had honestly forgotten all about it when I found it one day in a bag of stuff my Mum had saved from my childhood bedroom. My 10 year old quickly claimed it as her own.
What is your favorite fiber to work with?
I could never choose just one favorite, and I warn you that the fibers I lean toward tend to contradict each other. I really approve of natural stuff like silk, hemp and pure cottons. That said, my life with three small children and their ‘often at our house’ friends, prefers yarn that will machine wash and machine dry. Recently I have discovered ‘tarn’ (yarn made of recycled t-shirts). This makes both the Mama in me and the recycler in me very happy. Right now two of the projects currently on my needles are in Knit Picks’ own Comfy Bulky which is so, so soft. How a yarn feels is a huge factor in whether or not I’ll use it more than once. And my friends would say I was not telling the whole story if I didn’t mention my love of super bulky yarns. The thicker the fiber, the better I like it. I get teased plenty for the huge needles it takes to knit up the heavy yarns I love most.
Is there anything in particular that inspires your designs?
I usually design what I want but can’t find. A few of my patterns were birthday gifts my kids wanted for friends and we just couldn’t find anywhere what they had in mind. So, I knit them. The yarns themselves play a huge part in what they become, too. Long before I wrote my first pattern, I had heard other designers say this. At that time, I cynically thought that it sounded really far fetched and even a little crazy. Now I know better. The colors in a certain yarn, or the drape of the fiber in a swatch, even the texture can sort of ‘speak to me’ (the old me is laughing at the present tense me even now..). I guess my whole process really is a bit crazy, but it works.
Who are some of your favorite designers?
I tend to like certain designs rather than a designer’s whole body of work. I do like the clean lines of Heidi Kirrmaier and Assemblage. The edgier stuff of Vadis Designs really catches my eye. The beautifully bulky yarns in the patterns of Twinkle (both knit and crochet) make me want to make most of them at first sight. I own three of Suss Cousins’ books and there are at least three things in each that I’m ready to knit. Some of Jared Flood and Jane Richmond’s patterns want me to knit them. I could go on and on. There are so many interesting individuals out there designing with their own styles ‘on their sleeves’. It’s wonderful to have access to all these people through their patterns.
How long do your designs take to create from start to finish?
From a few spare minutes here and there with the sticks in my hands over the course of a few days to literally months. The picture of what I think I’m going to make gets in my head first. Then when I start actually making it with my hands, it occasionally goes just the way I thought. But, more often I hit a wrench in the works. When I can’t get reality to mold the way I planned that it would, I’ll put that project down and think my way through the glitch. Sometimes I can’t think of or find the answer for weeks. One project may have one or many of these glitches, so the whole process is very organic and scheduling just how long any one will take is way outside of what I’m capable of currently.
Anything else you would like to add?
Probably everyone will already have said this, but having been both a customer and now as part of the Independent Designer Partnership, Knit Picks is really great. Their yarns, it’s true, really do speak to me – the colors, the textures – don’t get me started. Their prices make larger projects so reasonable that they really are within my grasp. Lastly for me, the icing on an already yummy cake, they are kind, considerate and really do seem to care. This is a combination things that draw me in and make me want to stay close.