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Following is the text of an interview sent to me by Nancy Wright, owner of the Productive Spinners List at Yahoo. She graciously agreed to allow me to post her questions and my answers here.

1. Knitting History

Q. When did you start knitting?

A. I started knitting at the age of four. My mom gave me yarn and needles and cast on some stitches. She gave me a magazine that had pictures that showed how to form stitches and I figured it out from the pictures, being too young to read. I didnít learn how to purl, cast on, or cast off until several years later.

Q. Were you always as successful at your knitting as you are now?

A. Hmmmm, am I successful? Well, I completed everything I start 99.9% of the time, and I always have. Iíve completed very few projects that I consider disasters.

Q. Has there been any changes in the choices you make around your projects or knitting styles?

A. I have always chosen projects that strike my fancy or catch my eye. I tend to go through phases of what I knit Ė cables, lace, colorwork, etc. This has always been true. Like Picasso had his blue period, I had my gansey period. Thatís not to say that the periods donít repeat Ė Iíve gone through several cable periods, fair isle periods, and lace periods. Because I have a somewhat compulsive personality, I will immerse myself in something completely before I get bored with it and move on to something else.

Q. Did you have a quantitative progression in your types of projects?

A. Iím not sure what this question means. Do I become a more prolific knitter the longer I knit? I donít think so. Once I achieved the level at which I am now, I havenít varied much.

Q. Do you find knitting therapeutic?

A. Absolutely! I derive a lot of pleasure from feeling the yarn in my hands as I knit. Thatís why Iím very picky about the yarn that I use Ė a fiber snob. I also find the repetition of the knitting motion very soothing and a great way to unwind after a day at work.

Q. What inspires you to continue to make such beautiful works of art?

A. I consider knitting an art form. I love creating the end result, whether itís texture or colorwork. Thereís nothing that inspires me more than seeing the design emerge from my needles as I knit.

Q. When did you design your first garment?

A. When I was in my mid-20s Ė I designed and knitted an aran vest.

Q. Do you enjoy designing?

A. I enjoy it, but enjoy the actual knitting far more.

Q. Do you teach knitting?

A. I have taught knitting informally, one-on-one, and to groups containing at the most seven people. I havenít done any teaching in several years, though.

2. Cataloging

Q. When/why did you start cataloging your knitting?

A. I started cataloging my knitting when I first built a website in 1996. Iím not really sure why I started Ė I guess to have a theme to build a website around.

Q. What do you catalogue of each project?

A. All the information I keep about my project is listed on my website. Pattern source, yarn source, yarn used, needle size, and date completed.

Q. Why did you decide to keep the start/finish dates of your projects?

A. So that Iíd remember when it was that I made a particular project! I used to keep track of both start and finish dates of my projects, but recently started keeping track of just the date of completion. I thought that putting the start date up could be construed as bragging about how quickly I knit, and thatís not my intention.

Q. What have you learned from keeping a catalogue?

A. That I have a poor memory for such things and if I didnít document the details, Iíd have forgotten then long ago.

Q. How has this helped you and your knitting?

A. It hasnít really had any affect on my knitting, other than providing me a nice trip down memory lane.

3. Web Site

Q. Why did you decide to display her finished projects so publicly and beautifully?

A. As mentioned above, I started putting my knitting up on my website just to have something to display there. My purpose was to learn how to build a website.

Q. What do you hope to achieve through your web site?

A. Nothing, really. Itís a way to share my progress with knitting buddies and a nice record of what Iíve completed, but I have no specific goals here.

4. Knitting Specifics

Q. Do you knit continental?

A. Yes I do, and Iím lefthanded.

Q. Is there one type of knitting you prefer out of the lace, aran, fair isle, Starmore, types?

A. Tough question, as I tend to go through phases of what I like. If I had to choose, Iíd have to pick two: arans and Norwegian colorwork (a la Dale of Norway).

Q. Do you prefer knitting from charted designs?

A. Absolutely. If a pattern doesnít have a chart, Iíll most likely not knit it.

Q. Do you like to use written directions?

A. I prefer a chart.

Q. Do you have any hints to help people who struggle with reading charted designs?

A. Photocopy the chart and put it on one of those metal boards with a magnetic row-finder. Or you can use a highlighter to cross out each round as you complete it. It the chart symbols are too small, enlarge them on the photocopier.

A. Lace

Q. There are many people who would love to knit lace. You do wonderful, beautiful work with lace. Is there any specific time savers or any advice specifically for lace knitters or even someone who is just knitting their first lace item?

A. For your first project, start with something easy and small, like a scarf. with a simple lace repeat. When youíre finished, block it according to directions Ė blocking makes all the difference in lace.

Q. Is there a particular pattern that you would recommend to a beginner or a particular shape of an item that you would recommend as being easier than another?

A. In my opinion, a rectangle is the easiest shape to start with. A pattern that I think would be great for a beginning lace knitter is Cheryl Oberleís Kimono Shawl, from her ďFolk ShawlsĒ book. Itís a rectangular shaped shawl with garter stitch borders that are knitted as you go along. The lace pattern itself is fairly easy and repeats over and over. And itís fun to knit!

Q. What size needles are most of your lace items knitted?

A. I think the shawls are mostly knit on US4 Ė 6 needles. The shetland lace handkerchief I made was on size 0000 and that was my first lace project. So obviously I donít follow my own advice to start with something easy.

Q. Is there a specific lace yarn that you think is great to work with?

A. Iíve knit using a wide variety of yarns Ė no one in particular stands out, but I vastly prefer to use wool than any other fiber.

B. Starmore

Wow! You really have a lot of Starmore sweaters on your site! They are all so beautiful!

Q. What is it about the Starmore collections that you feel make them so successful?

A. The designs are artistic and aesthetically pleasing. I think they are very well-designed and the patterns are virtually error-free.

Q. What is it about their designs that you find particularly attractive?

A. The color combinations in the fair isles are gorgeous and the aran designs incorporate all the cable elements I love.

Q. What Starmore patterns would you recommend as being the most fun to knit?

A. My very favorite Starmore design and the one I think is most fun to knit is Inishmore Ė big meaty cables and lots of twisted stitches.

C. Fair Isle

You have a lot of fair isle garments (and not all by Starmore) on your site. I love the items that you designed yourself!

Q. When did you first start making fair isles?

A. Hmmmm, my first fair isle was in the late 1980s I think.

Q. What keeps your interest in knitting them?

A. Watching the patterns and colors emerge. I find it hard to put down a fair isle because seeing the pattern grow is fascinating!

Q. Is there any motif, designer, or specific pattern you would recommend as being particularly fantastic? Same question but now for a beginner?

A. I prefer traditional fair isle patterns, like XO patterns. The Debbie Bliss book ďTraditional Knitting from the Scottish and Irish IslesĒ which is now out of print has my favorite fair isle pattern Ė a pullover vest done in shades of brown.

For a beginner, Iíd say start with a smaller project, like a hat, to get the feel of it, then jump right in.

Q. Is there any book about this technique that you found useful?

A. Alice Starmoreís fair isle book has lots of good information on technique.

D. Aran Cables

The cabled sweaters you have made are simply amazing!

Q. Do you remember your first cabling experience?

A. The first cabled sweater I ever did was when I was 18 years old. It was a fairly complicated aran Ė Iíve never been know to start with something easy.

Q. If you could give any advice to yourself during that first cable experience, what would it be?

A. Have faith in the pattern Ė the cables will turn out looking like they are supposed to!

Q. What are the wildest cables you have done?

A. I donít think Iíve done any particularly ďwildĒ cables Ė Iím a traditionalist at heart.

Q. Is there one specific cable pattern that you love and redo?

A. I love braided cables and Celtic knots.

Q. What is your favorite cable needle and what is your favorite aran type yarn?

A. I donít use a cable needle. My very favorite aran-type yarn was some handspun I bought at the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival a few years ago. Natural cream colored, it was a merino rambouillet blend and heaven to work with. I knitted an Inishmore out of it this past summer. My favorite other than that is Bovidae Farmís fisherman weight wool.

Q. Do you think color makes a huge difference in the visibility of the pattern?

A. Absolutely Ė you donít want to knit an aran in a dark color that hides the pattern or in a variegated or too heathered yarn that detracts from the pattern.

Q. Do you prefer the more traditional aran designs?

A. Always!

E. Norwegian

Q. Obviously, you love Dale of Norway designs! What was your favorite design of theirs that you worked on?

A. I think my favorite is still Lillehammer, the first adult Dale that I knit.

Q. I think many people love these sweaters but are always losing their place in the chart or have trouble concentrating on the designs. Is there any advice you could give them?

A. Same advice as above, for reading charts:
Photocopy the chart and put it on one of those metal boards with a magnetic row-finder. Or you can use a highlighter to cross out each round as you complete it. It the chart symbols are too small, enlarge them on the photocopier.

Q. Many people have trouble carrying two colors. Is there any advice you could give about this?

A. The best thing you can do is have someone demonstrate two-color knitting to you. Thereís nothing like seeing it. If you can take a class in two-color knitting, thatís a great start.

Q. I noticed that you have a replica of 1800's Yorkshire Dale gloves on your site. How did you come about to make these gloves?

A. It was a kit I bought from Schoolhouse Press about ten years ago. Great fun to knit!

Q. Is there anything specific that you love and look forward to in these designs?

A. I love the yoke patterns that have non-repeating motifs. Like Lillehammer.

Q. What Norwegian design was your favorite?

A. Again, Lillehammer.

5. Time Aspects

Q. Do you consider yourself a fast knitter?

A. Yes, fairly fast.

Q. Did you do anything to develop speed?

A. No, just years of practice.

Q. You have 62 completed items listed on your web-site. How many years worth of items are there listed?

A. Maybe three or four years? A few of the items are older than that, but there are also a number of projects I didnít post.

Q. I've noticed that a lot of your projects are finished within a months time. This is a very impressive feat! Do you have any insight into how you are so successful at completing your projects
in such a timely manner?

A. Iím a results-oriented knitter. I love seeing the completed item. Also, I tend to knit things one at a time which really speeds things up. Only this year I stopped taking my main project to knit during my commute to the office because carrying a whole sweaterís worth around was too much trouble. Iíve started knitting socks on my commute. So Iíve always got a sweater and a sock going.

Q. Is time an issue you contend with?

A. Well, I only have a few hours a day in which to knit. This working for a living nonsense really cuts into my knitting time!

Q. Do you have a specific amount of knitting that you plan to get done during a section of time?

A. No, I almost never set deadlines for myself. I find it very difficult to motivate myself to knit to a deadline.

6. Choosing Projects

Q. Is there anything you look for when picking out a new project?

A. I like projects that are fairly complex so theyíll hold my interest.

Q. Do you usually work on one project at a time?

A. As mentioned above, I now have a sweater (or other large) project plus a sock project going at the same time. I almost never work on two sweaters at the same time.

Q. Do you ever think about time issues when considering a project?

A. Very rarely. I try to get my Christmas knitting completed before summer so I donít feel pressure to complete it in time. And I sometimes think Iíd like to finish a particular project so I could wear it to a specific event. But other than that, I donít really think about time.

Q. Are most of your projects for yourself?

A. A little more than half of them, Iíd say. The rest are for family and close friends.

Q. Do you do many small projects that are not listed on your site?

A. Yes Ė mittens, gloves, hats. Iíve just started knitting socks again and plan to post them on my website.

Q. Do you have UFO's? If yes, what aspect of a project makes you stop working on something?

A. Almost never. A few years ago I started working on an aran tunic that for whatever reason I abhored. It was a perfectly nice looking pattern but I took an intense dislike to it and quit work on it. So it languishes as my sole UFO.

Q. Do you have a stash?

A. Um . . . yeah. I never used to have a stash but planned my projects one or two ahead of what I was working on. Then in about 1997 I joined the knitlist. After reading about peopleís stashes I started collecting yarn and now have a fairly large stash. And of course I keep buying more yarn.

7. Successes and Failures

Q. What do you consider is your most successful moment in knitting?

A. Completing the Elizabethan Jacket (from Jade Starmoreís A Collectorís Item). A fair isle with a peplum, inverted pleats, and a shaped body. Yikes!

Q. What project did you learn the most from?

A. Probably the Wave Cardigan (from Alice Starmoreís Fair Isle Knitting book) Ė I learned steeks from that. My first Dale of Norway project was also a good learning experience, as Dale steeks are
done differently from Scottish steeks.

Q. What was your favorite project?

A. Thatís a hard choice, but I think itís Inishmore (from Alice Starmoreís Aran Knitting book).

Q. What was the longest time you worked on a project?

A. Not sure Ė maybe 6 - 8 weeks?

Q. Is there any project that you consider a failure?

A. A recent project Ė Graceknot. I purchased the kit from virtualyarns.com and knitted it in December 2001/January 2002. The knitting was somewhat boring and I dislike the end result Ė not a flattering design for me. I should have known better!

Q. Do you rip out (frog) a lot?

A. Almost never Ė if I make an error, I generally catch it right away.

Q. Is there a part of knitting that you dread?

A. I hate to cast on, particularly when Iím knitting in the round and 300-odd stitches to cast on.

Q. What project, if any, did you did you find hard to work on?

A. Anything that has a long expanse of plain knitting. I have hard time sticking to something that bores me. Also, when I knitted the Pi R Round shawl I thought Iíd go mad before I finished what seemed like miles of edging!

8. Knitting Environment

Q. Is there a specific time of day that you knit?

A. I knit on the train into work in the morning, I knit during lunch break, I knit on the train going home at night, and in the evening in front of television.

Q. You do a lot of items that require concentration. Do you find that you need absolute silence or a big chunk of time to focus on knitting these complicated designs?

A. I can knit the complicated stuff in front of the television with no problem, either alone or with another person. I can carry on a conversation and/or pay attention to television or a movie while doing fairly complicated work.

Q. Are there times when you can not work on a project due to life issues or do you continue to knit on?

A. The only time I donít knit is when Iím away on vacation. I just got back from a Carribean cruise Ė I knitted exactly one inch on a sock the entire ten days of the cruise.

See? Here I am, knitting my one inch on a sock aboard the ms Volendam (looking pretty skanky cuz I just got back from the gym -- hence the exercise clothes).

Q. How do you set up chart you are working on?

A. For colorwork I photocopy the chart and if itís reproduced over two pages tape it together. I put it on a metal craft board and use magnetic row markers. For cables and texture, I can memorize
the chart on the first pattern repeat so I donít need to refer to it again.

Q. This is a list for people who are trying to be productive in their craft. Do you have any advice for them?

A. Work on a project that you love. If you have something that you only have lukewarm interest in, youíll have a much harder time.

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