Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Pro-Verbial 2010: Mary Heather Cogar


Profile #3: Mary-Heather Cogar
Wearing her newest design, Promenade.
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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!
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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.
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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!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Pro-Verbial 2010: Stephen West



Profile #2: Stephen West
Wearing one of his own designs, The Pogona Shawl

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As we continue down the path of highlighting designers who are participating Pro-Verbial Yarn & Fiber Club 2010, we will now meet Stephen West.

Where do I begin with my thoughts of Stephen's work? Let me state the obvious. I adore how he has taken the structure of a shawl and turned it on its head. Before I knew of Stephen's work, if you said the word shawl to me, right or wrong, my mind would jump to matron, lace, pale in color, lightweight, triangular. Stephen has completely changed the look and feel of what many of us may consider a shawl to be. He works mainly sans lace, mostly in stockinette with highlights of ribbing and striping. And, he has pulled apart the triangular shape into a variety of shapes and forms. His work is extremely wearable for both genders. His designs are classic, elegant, and partners extremely well with hand-dyed yarns. For all of the reasons above, I thought Stephen a great fit for this club. I can not wait to see what kind of work he will create.

I feel like I have a special connection to Stephen's work. When Adrienne's sister-in-law, Donna, was undergoing chemotherapy, Adrienne and I co-knit the Daybreak shawl for her. This was a very straightforward project, technically feasible for both Adrienne and myself to knit, and left us a lot of room to think about Donna, while creating something really beautiful for her.

I hope you will enjoy this interview with Stephen as much as I have.

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When did it first occur to you that you wanted to design knitting patterns?
It initially occurred to me after I had designed my first pattern. The owner of my local yarn store (Klose Knit in Urbana, IL) asked me to write up a pattern for the local arts festival. I had a version of a triangular shawl that I hadn’t seen published yet and I was done with the knitting so I figured out how to write the pattern and called it Boneyard Shawl after the Boneyard Arts Festival. The reception to the pattern was great in the shop as well as on Ravelry. That encouraged me to create more designs.

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?
It’s usually the most recent design I finish! Daybreak and Botanic hat are probably my favorite to knit, but my green Herbivore and red Windschief hat are the pieces I wear most.*Stephen wearing his Herbivore.

What drives you to design? What makes it an integral part of your life?
Mostly, it’s other knitters and designers. I am so inspired by the beautiful finished objects created by knitters that I see every day on Ravelry. It feels amazing to know that what I’m designing is something that is appreciated and it’s what others want to create too.

What is your favorite part of the designing process?
Picking out yarns and colors!

You have all the time in the world and have every skill set what would you design?
A shawl/scarf with garter stitch, interesting construction, and a fun color combination. I like to knit while watching movies or listening to music. I know other techniques like fair isle, intarsia, and lace, but I prefer simple knits.

Why have you chosen yarn as your medium v. woven fabric, clay, etc. ?
I don’t feel like I have a choice! It’s just so wonderful to work with and there are countless quality yarns and colors out there.

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?
Not too far back because then there would be no Ravelry. The first time I ate a s’mores cookie from a local bakery earlier this spring was definitely a highlight. I would love to experience that moment again.

When I’m designing I can’t live without:
pen and paper.

My favorite tool to assist in designing is: my computer. I finally learned to type out a pattern as I work on it rather than try to read my “beautiful” penmanship.

What or who has been your major influence in your designs?
Other independent designers. Some of my favorites are Ysolda Teague, Jared Flood, and Gudrun Johnston among many others.

If you could be anywhere in the world knitting, you would be: anywhere cold with a cozy remote cabin and a fire going. It would be ideal if the remote cabin had access to pizza delivery as well.

What intrigued you to work with AVFKW yarns - and/or to be a designer for the Pro-Verbial Yarn Club?
The yarns are so unique and the colors sing to me. I only l work with yarns I love so it was easy to say yes to AVFKW.

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?
The rustic quality of the yarn really stood out. I have not worked with anything like it and I think it would be showcased wonderfully in one of my patterns.

Can you give us a lil’ hint as to what you will be designing for the Pro-Verbial Yarn Club?
I usually design as I go and often make changes, but you can expect an uncluttered pattern with simple clean lines.

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Stay tuned for our next interview with the fabulous Mary-Heather Cogar.

Please note, if you have emailed me to be part of Early Bird sign-ups, look for an invitation on this upcoming Sunday, August 15th.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Pro-Verbial 2010: Kristen Hanley Cardozo

Profile #1.
Kristen Hanley Cardozo wearing one of her own designs, Sunniva.

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I first came across Kristen's work while looking for a pattern to knit for my friend, Michelle's birthday. I found Clothilde. This pattern's fluid, feminine yet not fussy design is what caught my eye. I also liked the fact that Kristen is local to A Verb for Keeping Warm. It was a very sweet knit, well written, and I had it finished in time for Michelle's birthday. Gold star.

Then, Kristen came out with Arabella. A fantastic shawl with all sorts of crisp edges and almost Arabaresque lattice-work motifs. Plus, Kristen created something really wonderful in her act of writing the pattern. She gives the knitter a multitude of options as to how large to knit the pattern, what the mid section of the pattern will look like, and various edgings to apply. I really wanted to teach a class dedicated to spinning and knitting lace. Arabella was the perfect choice given that Arabella has a wide choice of yardage and each knitter could take part in the design of her shawl.

So, when it came time to choose designers for Pro-Verbial, Kristen instantly sprung to mind. I am thrilled that she accepted. Here's her interview. Enjoy.

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When did it first occur to you that you wanted to design knitting patterns?
Pretty much as soon as I started knitting, I knew I wanted to make original designs. I had visions of sweaters made for my body in colors I liked and it was all pretty intoxicating to think of. Since average is a myth, most of us have encountered the frustration of trying to find clothing that fits and flatters our bodies, and being able to make my own seemed to offer a solution to my disproportionately long arms and torso!


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?
Oh, this is tricky! It's usually the one I'm imagining as my next project. Of the ones that are already out in the wild, I'd have to say it's Arabella. I'm very pleased with all the various options in that pattern, from yarn weight to written or charted directions to the different edgings, and I had a lot of fun making it.

What drives you to design? What makes it an integral part of your life (if it is, if not what is)?
I have always had a need to create things, but after my kids were born I found it very difficult to get back to what I used to do, which was painting in oils. The time commitment, the mess, and the potential danger of wee people with toxic materials made it so that I had to look out for something else to do with my hands. I settled on knitting because it was something I could set down and pick back up without disaster, and design naturally followed as a creative outlet for all the ideas floating around in my head.

What is your favorite part of the designing process?
My very favorite moment is when I've finished knitting something new and blocked it and the idea in my head is now a physical reality. It can feel like a miracle to see something turn out the way you imagined it.

You have all the time in the world and have every skill set what would you design?
I have had an idea for a while now about a series of fine art sweaters that I'd love to make. Wholly impractical, but all of them about women and our changing role in society based on historical fashion in conjunction with ideas about women from the same period. Napoleon said that women should stick to their knitting. Well, I intend to, but I'd like to talk about more than knitting with my knitting. Among my ideas for the fine art sweaters, I'd like to make a twin set from the fifties with hidden pockets, a sweater for mothers with a multitude of arms and shapes, and a Napoleonic spencer with a response to Napoleon written into the intricate lace.

Why have you chosen yarn as your medium v. woven fabric, clay, etc.? Largely for the reason stated previously - I could set it down without something awful happening! It was a very practical decision, but I could not have foreseen just how tempting yarn was going to turn out to be.

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?
Oh, this is tricky! I actually have thought about this a lot, but I think in too-literal terms - it's hard to imagine a time period I'm interested in in which my eyebrow ring and short hair wouldn't brand me as a freak almost instantly. It's also hard to avoid thinking in modern political terms. My marriage and family would be openly condemned in so much of the past. I want to go hang with Doctor Who for a bit, I think, and do time travel that way, so I can stop being a literalist spoilsport!

When I’m designing I can’t live without: My calculator and reams of paper! I am constantly doing a little extra math and jotting things down.

My favorite tool to assist in designing is: Excel. It took me a good while to learn how to use it, but I've never looked back. I love being able to input my numbers and then have almost instant grading. I also use Excel for making lace, cable, and colorwork charts.

What has been your greatest knitting challenge so far? And here’s the big question, did you actually complete the project?
OK, this is a weird answer, but my biggest ongoing challenge is returning to older patterns. A lot of my early patterns were barely patterns at all. I started off on Craftster and would just try to write up a general outline of an original design on my blog, and a lot of these early works are sloppy and poorly written. I want to rewrite them, but I'm on to new things and I only get around to one old thing at a time. I would love to be able to bring all the old stuff up to my current higher standards.

Where do you hope your designs will lead you?
I'd really like to build up a larger portfolio and be able to work on some of those more impractical and theoretical projects mentioned earlier. It would be exciting to be a designer of things useful and things artistic both.

What or who has been your major influence in your designs?
I have a book about the history of fashion through about 1910 that I refer to quite a lot for ideas on shaping and structure, and a folder I keep on my computer labeled Inspiration filled with pictures of garments and colors and people that interest me. Anything that strikes me as something I'd want to wear is fodder for ideas, and anything that strikes me as fun to knit is fodder for a stitch pattern.


What is your favorite fiber to work with?
Wool! I love how sheep hair can yield so many different textures and fabrics.

If you could be anywhere in the world knitting, you would be:
Oh, goodness, maybe Lisbon. It looks lovely from photographs, it's got a lot of geographic similarities to California but a different culture and history, and I find a lot of the colors and fabric patterns I've seen from Portugal to be intriguing.

What intrigued you to work with AVFKW yarns and to be a designer for the Pro-Verbial Yarn Club?
The yarns themselves are beautiful. I first encountered Verb some years back at a Berkeley fiber festival, and the colors were stunning. I liked the fact that Verb was local to me, and I love the way the natural dyes create a different color quality than other dyes. I work with a lot of yarns that use different dying methods, and I love those yarns, too, but Verb has a look all its own that permeates everything from the top down.

What intrigues you about natural dyes?
My favorite thing is finding out that a plant or kitchen ingredient that I'm familiar with in one context has this whole other side I never knew about! It's very exciting to think that saffron can make my rice taste great and then turn around and give me something beautiful to wear. It's like a secret identity. By day, mild mannered food enhancer - by night, crusading color hero!

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?
All of the yarns sounded wonderful, but there was a stitch pattern that sprang instantly to mind when I started thinking about what I wanted to make, and after swatching, I knew I wanted good stitch definition and drape, but also something of a halo. The Alpaca/Silk/Cashmere covers all those bases!


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'm a Bay Areaite, and Verb's a Bay Area company! I wanted something that made me think of the San Francisco Bay, so I started working on a branching shell pattern for the edges of the shawl.

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Stay tuned for our next interview with Mr. Stephen West.