The organisers of this knitting extravaganza are Alice Yu (aka Socktopus) and Cookie A. I am thrilled that Alice agreed to do a blog interview for me. So if you're interested in finding out what makes Alice tick, read on!
How did the idea for Knit Nation first come about?
I found it frustrating that the opportunity to learn from the cutting edge teachers whose books are must haves in our libraries was so limited in the UK! Cookie and I thought it would be wonderful to create an event with an equally strong emphasis on furthering knitting and spinning skills as on a carefully curated marketplace showcasing independent businesses; our goal was to nurture, stimulate and inspire through education and in providing an intimate and friendly environment in which to network and socialise.
You must have been delighted by the success of Knit Nation last summer to organise another event this year. How do you envisage Knit Nation developing in the future?
We are taking it year by year, learning as we go. We're holding our second Knit Nation this year and we've been overwhelmed by the response. It's wonderful! We aren't holding one in 2012 due to the Olympics, so we'll see how things go for 2013.
You've got some fantastic teachers coming over for classes. Is there anybody else that you'd love to come over and teach at a future Knit Nation?
Oh the list is long. There are so many people out there who are innovative in their field, who are wonderful teachers and who have a great following!
If you had the time to take one of the Knit Nation classes this year, whose class would you sign up for and why?
I'd probably go for Elise Duvekot's Meandering Mittens class using her Knit One Below technique since the fabric looks perfect for winter mittens - lovely and warm and works so well with variegated yarns. Either that or Lene Alve's Rovaniemi Mittens class - I've been dying to learn that technique too.
How do you go about finding vendors - do people approach you, or do you actively seek out new indie dyers?
A little bit of both. There are people that I think would be perfect for the marketplace, and then people I haven't come across before but whose products are beautiful and must be in the marketplace.
As well as organising Knit Nation, you've been incredibly busy preparing for the publication of your book of sock patterns. How do you manage to fit so much in?
LOL by working 14 hours a day 7 days a week. The first five months of this year have been so crazy hectic; I haven't been that busy in years, not even when I worked in a law firm in the City! I also launched my new sock yarn Sokkusu Original at the same time (like they say, it never rains but pours) which is being carried by Loopy Ewe in the US, Stitch Perfect in Birmingham, L'Oisivethe in Paris and Holland Road Yarn Co in New Zealand. With the book out of the way there is a little more breathing room. I am really looking forward to having my weekends back.
How do you approach designing a pair of socks? Do you have a seed of an idea in your head and knit a swatch, do you chart it out first or do you just play around with needles and yarn until something emerges?
I start with the general structure (i.e. toe up, cuff down etc.), then swatch a few stitch patterns to see what I like, then I plan the cuff and heels. Then I get charting to make sure things work.
Where do you get your inspiration from when dyeing your yarn? What happens to your dye-pot disasters?!
It's random- sometimes I know exactly the effect I want, and I have to experiment to get to it, like 2 November 1983 which I wanted to capture an image from a tv show - a yellow eyed demon burning down the main characters' childhood home in the middle of the night. It took a few tries to get exactly what I wanted. Lorelai on the other hand, I wanted to use a specific series of colours and I just love the outcome.
If I really dislike something I overdye it. If it is simply not to my taste but is still pretty, it goes to the 'tickle my fancy' pile which are one offs and sold as such.
Other than your own yarn (of course!), what are your favourite yarns to knit with? What do you have stashed away at home?
I love Handmaiden, Fleece Artist, Sanguine Gryphon Bugga, Socks that Rock, Old Maiden Aunt, Pagewood Farm ...... but I have to say that my hands down favourite yarn is Sokkusu Original. If I have to knit something, I find myself reaching for Sokkusu over and above everything else. It is tightly spun but has a fine merino count giving it a lovely soft hand. It is great for socks, but equally lovely for lace (blocks beautifully.) I guess I am totally biased, but since I created it as my ultimate sock yarn, it makes sense it would be my favourite!
Is there one project that you really want to knit, but you've not got round to it yet?
I'm working on my Wild Apples Bohus. I'd really like to finish that this year, but alas I am queen of WIPs. Work knitting takes precedence over personal knitting so lots of my personal projects get put on hold.
When did you first discover knitting? Who were you knitting inspirations?
First came across knitting in university, but didn't get very far. Then about seven years ago I just had a yen to learn to knit. Taught myself to knit continental then English from Montse Stanley's Knitters' Handbook and then discovered socks. I haven't looked back since! My knitting inspirations? Those who can and do. Elizabeth Zimmerman and all those who channel her 'can do will do' attitude - the curious, the innovative and the adventurous.
What essentials do you always carry in your knitting bag?
LOL I have stopped carrying around tools. I can pretty much graft with just my knitting needles, though it is definitely much easier using a tapestry needle! Just the WIP of the moment, the rest I leave at home.
If you could take one knitting project to a desert island, what would it be?
Just one?!?! A really, really, really, really big one so when I got bored I could frog it and use the yarn for other things! I am no good with one WIP. Being a total knitting hedon I have to knit what my mojo tells me to, which changes from day to day (hence the many WIPs!)
Do you have lots of projects on the go at any one time, or are you a monogamous knitter?!
Haha - see answer above. WIP tart, totally!
You've become well known for your fantastic sock designs - but which of these do you prefer?
- DPNs or Magic Loop? Magic Loop all the way. I drop and lose DPNs. Too clumsy!
- Heel flap or short row heel? Heel flap.
- Top down or toe up? I used to be toe up, but them for years and years top down. I really prefer top down because I find a cast-on edge is much better, cleaner and more even than my sewn cast off edge (I dislike the look of regular cast off edges so only use a sewn bind off for socks).
How do you see knitting developing in the UK over the next few years?
We are heavily influenced by the US scene, due to a strong Internet community and the fact that the US has the much larger demographic. But we have a strong and healthy community in the UK which more and more is moving online. I think it's great - getting online gives a greater sense of community and cohesion to the UK scene as there is a place we can all get together - despite scattered geographical locations.
Well, I hope that you enjoyed reading the interview and found it as fascinating as I did. Huge thanks to Alice for being so generous with her time. By way of a thank you, and to make a little space in my stash for a few (ahem!!) Knit Nation purchases, I've decided to have a little giveaway in celebration of Alice and Knit Nation. I've rummaged deep in my stash, and pulled out a skein of Laughing Yaffle sock yarn in the colourway Seaside Town.
To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is become a follower of my blog (if you aren't already) and tell me what your all time favourite yarn is. You have until midday next Saturday (June 18th) to leave your comment and I'll randomly select a winner after that date. I'm happy to post anywhere, so please do enter! Good luck and see you soon! xxx