Lee and me, TNNA, June 2012
Lee has just come out with a new mini-collection that I'm completely in love with, Short Stripes Trio, and after taking a peek at the patterns I knew I needed to have her by the blog for an interview.
TSK: You clearly have a mathematically minded brain. I love that you're able to take fairly complicated mathematical ideas, translate them into knitwear, and then make them accessible to even the most mathematically-challenged of knitters. Are you the kindof math geek who sets out to translate a specific math idea into knitwear, or do you start with the knitwear and then use math to accomplish your goal?
LM: I definitely start out with the knitwear idea, then use math as needed to make it work. I usually spend a lot of time swatching to figure out just how to make a construction idea look how I want it, more trial and error rather than hardcore math… I didn'treally take any math in school post high school, since I was an art major, so actual math knowledge is all old and foggy in my brain, I just kind of think mathematically, which helps me figure out weird construction concepts in my knit design, along with allthat swatching experimentation!
TSK: You're famous for coordinating some pretty badass mystery knitalongs. As a fellow designer, I simply MUST ask: Do you complete the pattern before you've ever released a clue, or do you feed off the group's reactions to develop each pattern's twistsand turns? How much planning do you go through to ensure the project stays a surprise for as long as possible?
LM: I've always completed the patterns before beginning the mystery knit-a-longs; I've never thought about the option of using the knitters' reactions to decide where to take the pattern! (Might be thinking about that in the future now, hmm…) For most ofmy mystery knit-a-longs, I've had them tested by test knitters first before releasing any clues, so the pattern is in a pretty much completely finished state by the time the first clue is out there. As for keeping it a surprise, I feel like most knitters likeseeing spoilers each week as the pattern sections go out, so I let knitters put photos on their project pages, etc; I don't really take any steps to keep it extra mysterious, except, of course, telling my test knitters not to reveal their finished knits untilthe end.
TSK: You've created quite a niche for yourself in designing cleverly constructed accessories. Any plans to cross over into garment designing? How would you imagine applying your techniques to that branch of knitwear?
LM: I've thought a lot about this for the future, but have no immediate plans to go there yet… I'm always overflowing with accessory design ideas, and I never have time in my schedule to knit anyone else's designs, which means I have very little understandingof how to construct a sweater, when I think about how I'd design one. I'm actually in the middle of knitting my first real sweater right now (I've been a knitter for over 10 years! I've just always been accessory-focused), but it's slow going since I alwayshave to prioritize my own designs. So maybe within the next couple years I'll be able to squeeze in a couple more sweater knits in order to increase my grasp of garment construction, and then I'll be able to brainstorm more seriously about garment design!
TSK: You offer most of your designs with customizable instructions for any gauge or yarn, and you often include many different options and variations. That seems like a lot of extra work, especially when you consider that the majority of designers out there are writing patterns for one specific yarn or gauge. Are you just an overachiever, or...what's the deal?
LM: There is always so much possibility with knitting, it's so personalizable, and part of the fun of designing for me is to brainstorm about a concept and think of all the places it could go. So I don't want to limit myself to choosing one single yarn, andmaking the design one specific way - I'd feel like I've destroyed all these other potential awesome versions! So, I write most of my patterns for any weight yarn, letting the knitter choose what kind of piece they want to make, and I often include severalstyle/shape/size/etc options to choose from. It's more fun for me (even though it's also more sample knitting work!) and I LOVE seeing all the different versions by knitters that look totally different from my versions! It all kind of connects with how Ilike to view knitting as a fun, almost game-like activity - from my ebook that's actually called Game Knitting, to my Quick Knits projects, which are fun (and often silly) ways to use up leftover yarn bits, to my mystery knit-a-longs… I'm working on a new projectfor the summer which will combine some of these knitting-is-fun elements, which I can't talk about yet but I'm SUPER excited about! Anyway, I think the whole any weight yarn, customizable options, etc, aspect of my patterns scares some knitters away, but allthat variety is to make the knitting experience more personalized and fun! It doesn't mean my patterns are hard to make, I promise! (Well, most of them aren't hard, some can be tricky, but if you trust the pattern, you can do it!)
Thanks so much for stopping by, Lee! For those of you not already following Lee around the web, here are some handy links for you:
Webiste & blog: http://www.leethalknits.com/
Ravelry Group: Leethal Knitters!
Tumblr: Talkin' Under Water
Are you a longtime fan of Lee's work? Leave us a comment with your favorite pattern of hers, and we'll draw one lucky winner to receive a copy of her new Short Stripes Trio! Comments will remain open until May 31st.