Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Pro-Verbial 2010: Mary Heather Cogar

Profile #3: Mary-Heather Cogar
Wearing her newest design, Promenade.
I first met Mary-Heather at Stitches West 2008, right before she started working for Ravelry. As anyone who has met Mary-Heather knows, she can so easily be described as bubbly, sweet, has a wicked sense of humor, and smart as a whip. I adored her the instant I met her. I have had the fortune of staying in touch with Mary-Heather ever since that first meeting and adore being her online friend. The minute I met Mary-Heather I talked to her about designing, her past projects and her future goals. Of course, when I started to think about the Pro-Verbial Club, Mary Heather instantly came to mind. When she agreed, excitement ensued, and from her interview, you will see why. Enjoy!
When did it first occur to you that you wanted to design knitting patterns?
Pretty much as soon as I started knitting! I taught myself to knit from a book (How to Knit, by Debbie Bliss) and she had lots of stitch patterns in the book as well as a bit of information on how to make your own patterns. The second book I got was The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns by Ann Budd, so I actually got into a craft as a beginner knitter thinking that if you wanted to knit something, you probably *needed* to make up the pattern yourself.

This question could be a little bit like asking who is your favorite child, but really, which of your designs is your favorite and why?
Aaaah, I have a few favorites that stand out to me, but for different reasons! I am gonna pick 3 if that is ok! The Mobile Menagerie was the hardest thing I've ever designed, because there are just SO many pieces, and they are all kind of weird, frankly - they don't make templates or sizing standards for inchworms! It took a lot of trial and error but I think it was well worth the challenge. The Chanel-ish Cardigan was fun to design because I was going for such a particular, specific look that is quite a bit more chic than my normal casual/vintage/hippie style, but still really wearable. And my pattern in the Fall 2010 Twist Collective, Promenade, is something I've wanted to knit for years (because I wanted to wear it!) and it was exciting to have the opportunity to turn my idea into a garment and pattern.

What drives you to design? What makes it an integral part of your life?
I just love making stuff. I always have! Sometimes I'm inspired by an idea for a look or finished item that I want to wear, and other times by a yarn that I touch and fall in love with and need to make something from, but I always am driven to make something that I want to wear and love that hopefully other people will love, too.

What is your favorite part of the designing process?
Ok, I have to admit... I LOVE SWATCHING. I really do! I love it! It's playing with yarn, with stitches, that anticipation of the first blocking, fine-tuning my ideas... I really love it. I could swatch and sketch all day. And sometimes I do! :)

You have all the time in the world and have every skill set what would you design?
There are so many things I have yet to knit - I feel that I will be learning this craft forever (and I love that). I would love to feel confident in designing truly complicated, intricate lace patterns someday.

Why have you chosen yarn as your medium v. woven fabric, clay, etc. ?
That's an interesting question because I have done a lot of sewing - my first job in college was actually making bags for a local store - and in high school I was super into ceramics and I'd still love to work with clay again someday, for fun. I've crocheted since I was a very young girl, and when I learned to knit (shortly after college), something just really clicked for me. With handknit design here is this great need for a balance between one's creative spark, cerebral logic and math and planning, and pure tactile pleasure that really pleases me. :)

You were given a time machine, not in the form of a hot tub, but a time machine nonetheless; where back in time would you travel?
Hmm, assuming this was just an observational trip and I could come back to modern times, with, you know, civil rights and the ability to vote and such someday, I would pick Regency-era England because the clothes make me SWOON. Show me a cap sleeve and an empire waist and I'm a happy gal!

When I’m designing I can’t live without: beer. No, just kidding. Sort of.

My favorite tool to assist in designing is: my sketchbook!

If you could be anywhere in the world knitting, you would be: probably at a shady, wooded campsite somewhere really remote and beautiful with my fella Jacob and my dog Charlie. :)

What has been your greatest knitting challenge so far? And here’s the big question, did you actually complete the project?
My greatest challenges in crafting always happen with the big events like Ravelympics or Tour de Fleece. I am learning now that I sort of choke when it comes to events like these! I set crazy goals, then life gets in the way, and no, I usually don't complete them. I think I'm a better cheerleader for those things, and prefer a more evenly-keeled tempo for my craft work.

Where do you hope your designs will lead you?
I could never in my wildest dreams have hoped to have the career that I have today, both in terms of the design opportunities I've had and my job with Ravelry (which is such a great mix of creativity, business/administration work, and geekiness - perfect for me) and I just couldn't presume to know what's coming next! Mostly, I'm happy to be taking more time to do design work again, both for myself with self-published designs, and working with people and companies I really admire and respect. I took some time off from designing, and it feels really good to be putting patterns out there again now!

quilt and painting by Rhea Locke

What or who has been your major influence in your designs?
My great-grandmother, Rhea Locke, was an artist and made a great deal of her clothing. She also used fabric as a medium for some of her pieces. Her sewing and work was absolutely impeccable, finely detailed, and precise, and has always been a huge influence on me. I'm also constantly inspired by nature, particularly when it comes to color. Sometimes I wish I could paint or dye yarn! I get a lot of design ideas when I'm walking my dog; we live in Albuquerque, at the edge of a mesa and with incredible views of the Sandia mountains and the vast sky. It's a very inspiring place with a rich fiber history! I'd say the other major recurring influence I have comes from my love of history and lots of time spent in costume shops growing up - I really love to look at vintage clothes and imagine their design elements or shapes as modern, wearable knits.

Have there been any surprises along the way in designing or knitting that you’d like to share?
Well, when I first started, I was surprised as heck about how much math was involved, but I'm over the shock of that now and resigned to it. ;) I think the best, most happy surprise to me is how supportive other designers, dyers, and crafters are. I get so much encouragement, validation, and inspiration from other designers - it's a pretty special industry we're in!

What is your favorite fiber to work with?
Merino! No, definitely alpaca. Oh wait - silk, for sure. Yeah - ooh, hmm, maybe buffalo or yak? No, definitely mohair. Or BFL. Ahem.

What is your favorite stitch or combination of stitches and why?
OK. I'm just gonna admit this, though it may seem very simple and boring. Right now, I am really, really loving garter and stockinette stitch. I don't get bored knitting them usually. This year has been a very garter and stockinette kind of a year for me - I need their soothing, meditative qualities in my life! Stockinette is so smooth and lovely, and can put such a great focus on the shaping of a garment, or the yarn from which it is knit, and of course it is the canvas for so much amazing stranded colorwork. Garter stitch has that great texture and squish. Love them.

What do you think defines your designs?
I always hope to design flattering garments or accessories that are fun to knit and end up as favorite, go-to parts of the wearer's wardrobe. When I see people knit up a pattern of mine more than once, I'm thrilled!

Do you spin? Have you knit any of your designs in handspun?
I do spin! I'm a spindler, and have been spinning for a few years. I've yet to knit any of my own designs in handspun (I am not counting a basic sock as my own design). I actually have two skeins of handspun that were gifts that are earmarked for knitting up my own patterns. Ah, so much to do - which is really a privilege. The life so short, the craft so long to learn!

What intrigued you to work with AVFKW yarns and to be a designer for the Pro-Verbial Yarn Club?
I *love* AVFKW yarns, and the people behind them. :) We first met back in 2008, at STITCHES West, and connected right away over our love of yarn, fiber, and also history! :) Since then, I've belonged to the AVFKW Fiber Club and of course, have had the chance to connect even more with the Verb team at fibery events and online, which is great. I love the positivity and passion of the whole crew, the beauty of the yarns, and the real care and thought that goes into the yarns, fiber - even the t-shirts. I was truly honored to be asked to design for the Pro-Verbial Yarn Club, and the chance to get to work with such gorgeous yarn, and have my pattern sent in a club alongside other designers who I truly admire, is just really exciting for me.

What intrigues you about natural dyes?
I love history, I love traditional crafts, I love the fiber arts, and I love gardening - so natural dyeing is just a fabulous blend of those elements (and more). I actually have a dye garden in my backyard for the first time this year, and I'm so looking forward to experimenting with it! (And ultimately - buying more naturally dyed yarns from talented professionals who know what the heck they're doing.)

For the Pro-Verbial Yarn Club, you were given a selection of yarn to choose from, why did you choose the yarn that you did?
That was a fun choice to make. I knew that all the yarns would be amazing, and I really couldn't go wrong, so I chose Metamorphosis, which is a yarn in a fiber blend (superwash merino/silk) that I haven't worked with before. I just got a skein of the yarn and boy is it lovely! I also love the name - for some reason, the Franz Kafka story "Metamorphosis" was one of my favorite stories as a child. I won't be doing a cockroach-inspired shawl for the club, though - don't worry. ;)

Can you give us a lil’ hint as to what you will be designing for the Pro-Verbial Yarn Club? (motifs, stitch patterns, etc)
I've been plotting and sketching, and I'm going to be playing with the construction of the triangle for my design. :) I really want to create a cozy, wearable triangular shawl, built in an interesting and unconventional way, with simple textures that give the focus to the beautiful yarn.

As far as Mary-Heather's design goes, mum's the word, but I can say this much, it's rad! I have never seen a construction quite like it and I imagine that it will be quite an entertaining knit - and cute to wear too!

Right now, registration for the club is open. You have the option of paying in 4 quarterly installments or paying in full. I hope you will join us on this adventure!


WonderMike said...

Oh, Mary-Heather! All that talent, beauty and creativity. Makes me dizzy. I'm sure we will be smitten with her design. How can you NOT love her work?!

Mutare Posts said...

I love these interviews and I am really looking forward to the first release of the proverbial yarn club, hopefully in te for the winter holiday? Can't wait can't wait !

Angela N said...

I love the chance to learn more about Mary-Heather! And I can't wait to see what she has cooked up for the Pro-Verbial 2010 club. Yay!