red pencil

Pretend Interview with Pam MacKenzie | Part 2

In May, I posted the first part of my pretend interview with Pam MacKenzie who writes the In Stitches knitting column for She had interviewed one of my favorite designers, Angela Hahn, and I looked and looked for the second part, but could never find it.

I figured it never happened, but no…Angela’s name was misspelled as Anglea. Oy.

Here’s the original second part of Pam’s interview with Angela Hahn.

And here are my answers to Pam’s (edited to suit me) questions.

Q: Some designers have said that published designs in magazines are often a collaboration between the designer and the magazine editor. Do you find this to be true in your career? If so, can you describe how one of your designs evolved to meet the needs of a magazine editor?

A: I’ve published only two designs in magazines. My Voussoir Hat in Interweave Knits Gifts 2014 and my Paros Hat in Knitscene Winter 2014.

For my Voussoir Hat, IK gave me a choice of three yarns to use, and I picked Valley Yarns Northfield because WEBS promotes the heck out of every pattern that calls for their house yarn by tweeting, blogging, and podcasting. I figured they’d do the same with my pattern, but they haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Voussior Hat by Robin Allen - A Texas Girl Knits

Waiting for WEBS to discover this gem.

For my Paros Hat, Knitscene told me to use Skacel’s HiKoo yarn in 49 Shades of Gray and Kiwi, and I said okay.

Paros Hat by Robin Allen - A Texas Girl Knits

I wanted a hot pink stripe.

Q: You’ve {will} published a few {one} designs in two a books from Tanis Gray. “101 Little One-Skein WondersCozy Knits” {will have} has mittens and a cowl {a hat} from you, and “Knitting Architecture” has a wonderful tote bag from you. What’s it like to design for a book that will include many designers? For example, do the designers communicate with each other or just with the central editor? Are the deadlines longer than the magazines’ deadlines, or are they about the same?

A: My Happy Hat will be published in 101 Little One-Skein Wonders that will come out in early 2015. This will be my first pattern in a book, and so far, it’s exactly like self-publishing. I worked alone in my studio to create the design, write the pattern, and knit the prototype. And now I’m waiting for the money to roll in. I don’t even know the names of the other designers.

Q: Do you have a favorite design of yours? If a publisher told you they would publish any book you wrote/designed, what would you like to design?

A: I love my Ironheart design that I put on a hat and a pullover.

Ironheart by Robin Allen - A Texas Girl Knits

So many color possibilities.

If that publisher was the same one that published my Poppy Markham: Culinary Cop mystery series, I would tell them to jump head first into a frozen Minnesota lake. If it was another, professional publisher with capable editors, honest accountants, and non-diva publicists, I’d like to publish a book of cable designs. However, they would need to give me a deadline for the year 2020 because my first major cabled sweater design is taking forever.

Q: What’s the most fun thing about being a knitwear designer, and what’s the least favorite thing?

A: My ginormous yarn stash, and my ginormous yarn stash.

Q: Do you have children, and is it difficult to balance your knitting and designing with taking care of them? Or do you find that your knitwear career fits in well with the demands of family life?

A: I don’t have kids, but my knitwear career fits in well with having no demands on my time for most hours of the day.

Q: Do you have any advice for knitters who want to break into the professional knitwear design business?

A: I haven’t really broken into it myself, but I just keep designing and submitting and hoping I hit the right note with an editor.

To Ponder: Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. |-Stephen King-|


Fun Fur in Paradise

According to this story, “a small scale knitting project to recreate the Last Supper spiralled out of control.” The result is 32 (or 33) bible stories “knitted out of wool.”

They’re the usual ones that are easy to dramatize—Noah and the Ark, Jonah and the whale, the Last Supper, Jesus exiting the tomb, etc.

Were this a juried show instead of an exhibition created by the “needlework-mad congregation at St George’s United Reformed Church” on loan to Scapegoat Hill Baptist Church, the tableau featuring Adam and Eve poolside at the Tropicana in Las Vegas would deserve a red ribbon.

Blue Astroturf would have clinched the blue ribbon.

Can you spot the serpent?

October in Scotland Anyone?

The University of Glasgow in Scotland is accepting applications for a knitter in residence for the month of October 2014, specifically the 6th-12th for Shetland Wool Week (which they don’t link to in their job posting, assuming every knitter knows what and when it is and what it’s about).

Fair Isle is in northern Scotland.

The pay is £1000 pro rata and to include expenses for materials. Obviously this program is run by non-crafters with very little notion of the expenses a true knitter could incur in a single month, especially when someone else is buying.

The successful candidate will have:

  • eExperience of hand knit instruction or residency work
  • tThe ability to talk about and demonstrate their work to groups of various sizes and background
  • sSome experience of delivering workshops to community groups
  • Good communication skills
  • Excellent hand knitting skills

I notice that even though the list isn’t numbered, knitting skills are last, a place that usually indicates “oh yeah, and…” that some intern caught at the last minute.

Applications should include:

  • A CV (including any experience of community based work)
  • A letter of application (including a proposal for a project you might undertake during the residency)
  • A sample of your work (photographs or weblinks demonstrating your knitting expertise and, if appropriate, evidence of community engagement activity)

Their entire job posting is heavy on history, heritage, and culture. Yawn.

They also seem to want lots of community-based work experience, but I’m not sure what that means. Does it have to be an altruistic knitters-in-prison type thing, or can you have made thousands of dollars teaching workshops in between poker games on a cruise ship?

Just give me enough time to finish one more round, okay?

Closing date is June 13th.

Master Knitter

There’s an organization called The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA) that…well, I’m not really sure what they do. They don’t say exactly what they’re about on their home page, so I assume that they assume that you know what brought you there. Clearly it’s focused on knitting, and there are conferences and “correspondence courses,” but, oh wait, if you click the Join Today button, you see:

TKGA, with over* 10,000 members, is the largest knitting association in America and a starting point for knitters searching for new ideas, products, markets, patterns and fellow knitters who share the excitement of knitting.

*Should be more than 10,000 members because 10,000 is a countable quantity.

So, TKGA was the original Ravelry, but they now seem irrelevant except for their Master Knitting Program:

The Master Hand Knitting Program was announced in the Fall 1987 issue of Cast On as a way for members of The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA) to have their knitting evaluated using specific criteria and guidelines. It was designed as an educational process, not a competition or contest.

I think that experience and ability are more important than a “degree” in knitting, but I have thought about enrolling in this program because I like recognition of achievement. Wearing something I knit is recognition of achievement by my friends. Publishing a knitwear pattern is recognition of achievement by other knitters. And the designation of Master Knitter (by someone other than myself) would be recognition by everyone throughout the land.

Also, I like school. A lot. I also like homework. And knitting homework? It could be made better only by having Keanu Reeves as my model, mannequin, and idea bouncer-offer.

Keanu as Johnny Utah with the eff-bee-eye in Point Break.

Upon completion of the program, you’re given a lapel pin that you can wear to Wurstfest or bunco night, but let us consider this choice of lagniappe for a moment. Knitters put pins in their knitting only when blocking. I would have to be threatened with a clown coming to my house with a box of hungry moths to ever stick a pin in a sweater I spent months knitting, never mind getting it near something as delicate as a lace shawl. (Which might be why some of the knitters look a little distressed in the pictures of the pinning ceremony. Yes, there’s a ceremony.) A ceramic yarn ball bowl or rosewood needles engraved with the Master Knitter’s name and designation would be a more appropriate and usable commemoration.

There are three program levels, but the requirements are listed on the TKGA website only for the first level, which tests a knitter’s ability to:

  • Look critically at your own work – How will they know if I furrow my brow or squinch my mouth when I assess my scarf or mittens?
  • Research different techniques – Research makes me happy.
  • Accurately follow directions and patterns – So overrated, but I could do it.
  • Accurately measure gauge – Gauge is as mercurial as a Gemini, which means that the gauge I get when I measure at home will be completely different from the gauge the judge gets after the item has traveled to Zanesville, OH. We’ll both be accurate, but we won’t be the same.
  • Understand the importance of gauge – It’s more important to understand that gauge lies like a four-year-old.
  • Knit garter, rib, stockinette, seed, and reverse stockinette stitch patterns with even tension – I knit seed stitch for breakfast.
  • Space increases evenly – Ah, a math word problem: if you have 100 stitches and you want to increase to 110 stitches, how often do you increase one stitch to space them evenly? Answer: k5, (m1, k10) 9 times, m1, k5.
  • Mirror increases – M1R, M1L
  • Mirror decreases – SSK, K2tog
  • Make yarnovers – I.e., make intentional holes in your knitting. I can do that.
  • Knit simple cables – I could knit the Celtic braids from Ragna while shucking oysters if they wanted me to.
  • Change colors – What does this mean? Stripes? Stranded colorwork? Imitating the blueberry girl from Willie Wonka?
  • Weave in yarn tails properly – “Properly” means different things to different people. I tie knots in my knitting, which crosses the border into heretical and would probably get my stash confiscated and me booted out of the program.
  • Write a simple pattern – I have a portfolio of patterns, none of them simple, but they might be accepted.
  • Knit a simple hat in the round – I’m choking on the “simple” part, but I could do it.
  • Properly block swatches – Again that word “properly.”
  • Discuss blocking techniques and care of knitted items – “Hand wash in cold water. Lay flat to dry. Don’t loan it to your little sister.”

The thing about a program like this is that knitting has more opinions than a German sausage maker. There are as many people who say “always” as say “never” as say “it depends.” Where the TKGA judge comes down on a particular knitting topic brings subjectivity to something that needs objectivity.

Whether in knitting or in life, I would want to know more about the person judging me. How does she weave in her ends? Is her tension even? Does she always knit a gauge swatch? If she doesn’t get gauge, does she start her project anyway? Does she let her little sister borrow her sweaters and get them back with pins in them?

Still, I might sign up one of these days.

Put Keanu on notice.

I’d Rather Dine Alone

Why don’t they have mouths?

The story goes on to say:

The Moomin Cafe chain, which is dedicated to a series of Finish (sic) picture books that are popular in Japan, adopted the policy to help customers feel more welcome and comfortable while dining alone.

A few questions:

  • Who wants to sit across from something that looks like it dripped out of the chef’s nose?
  • Wouldn’t you feel like a complete idiot sitting at a table with one of these things?
  • How often are those costumes going to be laundered?
  • Will you have to converse with them or are they going to just sit there and watch you eat?
  • Will you have to specify whether you want to dine with Moomintroll, Moominpappa, Moominmamma or Snork Maiden, or will your companion be assigned to you?
  • Why isn’t it Moominmaiden?
  • How are you going to handle all the pitying looks from the other diners who have friends to eat with?
  • Will you enjoy the constant interruptions to your meal by children wanting to have their picture taken with the thing?
  • What about all the snarky comments on the photos that are going to circulate on Facebook and Pinterest?

How about you? Have any questions or concerns?

It’s Who You Know

Last week, I got an email from one of the librarians at my library. She’s the one who handles inter-library loans (ILLs), so I often get emails from her that one of my requests is ready to pick up. Sometimes I request books that I’m thinking about buying, especially out-of-print knitting books. Sometimes I request books that our library should have, but doesn’t, like Dante’s Inferno*. But lately I’ve been ILLing The Rockford Files and Columbo DVDs. I was between series and rewatching Numb3rs  until one or the other came in.

But that wasn’t what this email was about. This gem of a friend, who is also a knitter, was writing to tell me that someone had donated “a bunch of knitting books” to the libary. She decided not to add them to the collection, so she saved them for me.

A lot of retired people live in my city, and about once a week the library gets a large donation of mildewed books without dust jackets when people move, or, more likely, after someone passes away. I figured a bunch meant five, and I’d find one I’d like to keep.

I was there as soon as they opened the next day, and the librarian led me to a storage room in the back. She told me that some friends of a board member donated the books that belonged to their daughter who had died suddenly. I sent up a prayer for their loss, then did some quick maths: daughter = young = Stitch ‘n Bitch**.

Here’s what I saw in the closet:

Christmas in March.

Here’s what shut my mouth:

Ethnic Socks and Stockings  by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts

Viking Patterns for Knitting by Elsebeth Lavold

Simply Socks: 45 Traditional Turkish Patterns to Knit by Anna Zilboorg

I’ve wanted these books for so long, and the covers were so familiar, I actually thought I owned them. But of course I didn’t because they were out-of-print, rare, and expensive.

For those who love detail, I also got Folk Bags, Swedish Sweaters, Learn-to-Knit Afghan Book, Best of Lopi, Big Knits and Great Big Knits by Dawn French (how cool are patterns by The Vicar of Dibley?), Celtic Knits, Enchanted Knitting, Family Knits, The New Knitting Stich Library (hardcover), Kids Kids Kids, Colorful Knitwear Design, Knitting Lace: A Workshop with Patterns and Projects (I don’t enjoy knitting lace, but maybe I will after working through this), Vogue Knitting American Collection (which I own, but this was a nicer copy), Jean Moss World Knits, Charted Knitting Designs (hardcover), A Treasury of Knitting Patterns (which I own, but this is the 1968 version), and two German books: Burda Handarbeiten Leicht Gemacht I and Perfekt Stricken. Twenty-two books in all.

On my way home, I thought about this daughter whose library I was hauling home. From the titles, I knew that she was an accomplished and ambitious knitter, and that she was probably someone I would like to have known. My own library has similar types of books, heavy on the colorwork and cables. Like her with her German knitting books, I also have some fun vintage ones (it pains me that the 80s are considered vintage), like Knitting Wildlife and Around the World in Eighty Sweaters.

I wondered if she ever knit any of Anna Zilboorg’s Turkish socks or Elsebeth Lavold’s Viking pullovers. Or, if, like me, she wanted those books because they were beautiful and inspiring, knowing that she could knit a pair of Crazy Curl socks or Ragna one day if she had the time and the yarn, and wanted to put in the effort.

If she did knit those things, I hope her parents recognized them as accomplishments and kept them as they would her first finger painting or spelling bee trophy.

Thank you, daughter, for these books. I’ll treasure them and take good care of them, and I’ll think of you, knitting in heaven, every time I use them.

*I’ve never ILLed Dante’s Inferno, but still.

**There’s nothing wrong with Stich ‘n Bitch, but a) my library has it in their collection, and b) my knitting skillz are a little more advanced. (Also, the title of the book should have two apostrophes thusly—’n’—to represent the a and the d missing from the word “and.”)

Where I Won’t Be This Summer

I was sitting around minding my own business, when the Knitting folder in my Inbox lit up. I get a lot of knitting emails, most of them from yarn companies or online stores. I don’t even read the ones that use! an! exclamation! point! after! every! single! sentence! (That would be you, Tahki Stacy Charles. Just stop it, would you.)

This email was from the British yarn company, Rowan, that always sends out good stuff with appropriate punctuation. Beneath a photo gallery featuring some of their beautiful, moody models (I would so love to see that red-headed girl modeling one of my sweaters), it told me about:

A wonderfully relaxing knitting holiday in the beautiful Tuscan countryside, with leisurely knitting days, spectacular scenery, wonderful food and wine—and learning new skills with Rowan’s Head Designer, Marie Wallin.

“Knitting and La Bella Vita” they’re calling it.


La Bella Vita means Too Bleepin’ Expensive in the parlance of my times.

Prices start at £1,310 per person per week, which is about US$2,200. They’ll supply the yarn, but we have to bring our own needles.

Marie Wallin is one of my mostest favoritist designers in the knittiverse, but I have plans to pay off my mortgage within three years.

So, I’ll be cabling and slip-stitching in the beautiful Texas countryside, enjoying carrots, cauliflower, and cacao as I watch cardinals, roadrunners, and white tail deer out my window.

I might even knit up some of these silly little chickens from Rowan.


Esther, Ernie & Enid are in my budget.