Sunday 22 April 2012

Designer Interview: Annie of Knitsofacto

A warm welcome to Annie, this week's designer.

Who are you and where can we find out more about you? I’m Annie and I blog at Knitsofacto

You’ll also find knitsofacto on Twitter, Ravelry and Flickr.

I live in rural North Wales with my husband, children and numerous dogs. Some years ago I was unlucky enough to fall seriously ill and was housebound for some time. My recovery has been long and slow and is still far from complete. Never one to let such things get me down I kept myself occupied, as far as was possible, with embroidery and knitting, both favourite hobbies since childhood. Developing those hobbies into a viable business has been a dream I know many will identify with.

What do you make? I have a number of strings to my bow. I am trained in fine art, textiles, and photography, but most recently have been developing my knitted baby wear designs. With four children of my own and a large extended family I have  knitted more than my share of baby clothes over the years, always designing my own patterns. Recently I have been making the newest of these patterns, and others for knitted accessories, available via Ravelry, and a ‘knitsofacto Baby’ collection will be published later in the year.

Also, and by popular demand, some of the photographic images I post on my blog will soon be available as postcards and prints. And I have begun experimenting with natural plant dyes – another old hobby revisited – so there may yet be eco friendly knitsofacto yarns and embroidery threads available to buy. I would find it hard to just stick to doing the same thing every day, the variety is essential to keeping me motivated.

Where does your inspiration come from?  I am lucky enough to own a great number of vintage knitting patterns dating from the early 1900s to the 1960s and all my knitsofacto baby designs are inspired by the baby wear styles of old. I also find inspiration in classic children’s literature,  both the well known, Little Red Riding Hood or The Princess and the Pea for example, and the more obscure, like The Bee and the Orange Tree or Undine. Both the old stories and the vintage illustrations spark so many ideas. And I take a walk through the local countryside as often as I can; I’m sure my preferred colour palette – mostly browns, greys, greens and yellows - is hugely influenced by the colours of the natural world, just as its textures influence my stitch choices. Gardens and flowers are a great pleasure and a constant source of inspiration too.

Knitting though begins and ends with yarn. Fine wools, alpaca, and silk are the fibres I turn to again and again, whether spun singly or as blends. Sample swatching gives me a feel for the kind of drape I can achieve using my chosen yarn  knitted up in a variety of stitch patterns. Drape then dictates the garment shapes I will choose. Even when a garment is tiny the knitted fabric’s drape is important.

 What tips do you have for generating ideas for designs?  Grab anything that inspires you visually - photograph it, scan it, sketch it, cut it from magazines – and keep everything loose-leaf. Flicking through sketch and scrap books you’ve put together is good, but being able to experiment with different juxtapositions of your visual inspiration is even better. Sometimes a totally unexpected combination of colour, shape and texture will fire the best ideas. Having a pin board for your current favourite images, that you can see while you work and jump up and rearrange from time to time, is also a good idea.

How do you record your ideas?  Once an idea starts to form I both sketch it out and create a word cloud that describes it. But when I start to write the pattern I switch to a pocket size note book that I can easily jot things in while knitting, and my laptop. A lot of knitting design is technical stuff and there’s a fair bit of maths involved so the process rapidly moves away from the visual to the written.

What tips do you have for motivating yourself?  Keeping motivated is only ever a problem for me if I get too bored with doing the same thing over and over. So not only do I practice more than one craft but I always have a few projects of each kind on the go. There’s a fine line between variety and chaos but when I’m well I need a bit of pressure to keep me keen and when I’m not so well if I tire doing one thing I can easily switch to something that challenges me in a different way.

My blog is also a great motivator, not only does it generate a lot of useful feedback but the need to regularly have something to blog about keeps me going when otherwise I might flag.

Do you have any time management tips?  I’m probably the wrong person to ask about that. I start each day by writing a to-do list, with the highest priority tasks at the top. This would probably work well, but I never stick to it!

What’s your workspace like?  Can we have a sneak peek?  There’s not much to peek at I’m afraid. Scribbling knitting pattern ideas and hand knitting are lap-sized activities, and most of my photographs are taken when I’m out and about. I have storage for yarns and cameras and such in a couple of large cupboards, but I mostly work in my living room, sitting on a very comfortable, squashy red leather sofa that is well placed to get the best of the light. Imagine Radio 4 playing and a pile of sleeping whippets at my feet and you’ll get the picture.

Where can we find your designs for sale?  Currently my published knitting patterns are available free via Ravelry. News of when and where the ‘knitsofacto Baby’ collection and the photographic postcards/prints will be available will be posted on my blog.

Do you have any top tips for other designer makers?  Although I have years of past experience teaching art and craft, and have been designing and making things all my life, I am only just beginning my ‘designer maker’ journey, right now it’s me who needs the top tips! But I think the most important thing I’ve learnt along the way is be realistic about your talents but don’t listen too hard to your inner critic, it can be crippling. My motto in most things is  Leap and the net will appear.

Thanks so much Annie for sharing your creative life with us.  I love your motto - it seems to apply to the way I approach things too!

For more handmade loveliness, go and check out all the blogs linking up over on Handmade Monday


Adaliza said...

I love your motto too. It's so interesting having an insight into your creative journey. I love the idea of revisiting old hobbies and interests and shaping today's dreams with them. Very inspiring. Good luck.

driftwood said...

what a great interview, I already read Knitsofacto, but it's great to read some more about it.

Annie Cholewa said...

Ooh 'er ... hello me!

Thank you so much Wendy for including me in your Designer interviews series. It's been a pleasure from start to finish :D

Fiddly Fingers said...

A very inspiring interview! Ooh how I wish, I wish, I wish!
I love your motto too, my saying is 'say yes and think later' very similar!

Wendy said...

You're so welcome Annie - it was a pleasure to be able to include you. I appreciate the time it takes to write these up!

lovetartan said...

What a great interview and I totally love those little baby shoes! Very inspirational interview - thank you. Mich:)

annie said...

Oh you are one clever lady, Mrs K. We all knew that already but it is delightful to read more about you!

Jan said...

A lovely interview, thank you. I like the image of radio 4 and a squishy comfy chair.

Jan x

Carolee Crafts said...

A very good interview Annie and like the others a good motto

Your Friend Susie said...

Wonderful blog, I really enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing. I love getting to know other bloggers.

Acornmoon said...

Great interview, an enjoyable read all round.

Stocki said...

Lovely interview... Annie designs and makes such lovely things...I can't wait to see what the Knitsofacto baby range is like! :)x