Today I’d like to introduce you to Glenna C., a talented Canadian knitter and blogger whose work is featured in the December issue of Canadian Living (on newsstands today). I’ve been a fan of Glenna’s ever since I saw her awe-inducing Viper Pilots socks, and so I was tickled pink to have the chance to work with her as she developed a pattern for the lovely Mulled Wine Mitts you see below. She did a fabulous job of developing a pattern that’s relatively easy to knit, plays up the natural beauty of the yarn and teaches a skill that might be new to you, the k1tbl (knit through back loop). I’ve already made one pair and there are more on the way!
To mark the publication date of this pattern, Glenna has posted an excellent explanation/demonstration of K1tbl/ktbl, (used extensively in the Mulled Wine Mitts), and she graciously agreed to answer some questions here on Make+Do. Read on to find out more…
Make+Do: How long have you been knitting and how did you learn? Can you think of any great knitting triumphs (or, ahem, teachable moments) you had along the way?
Glenna C.: I’ve been knitting for about six years. I did learn many years before that as a child, but my “real” knitting life started when I was a new PhD student looking for productive forms of procrastination, and my sister decided it was better to teach me how to knit than to listen to me ask her to knit things for me. Then I promptly became about a zillion times more obsessive about knitting than her, found the blogs, found more local yarn shops, found some ideas, and the rest has followed from there.
My biggest triumphs have been the things that have made me a more confident knitter. Turning a heel for the first time or cabling for the first time and realizing it wasn’t so scary after all; the moment way-back-whenever-it-was when I realized I could substitute yarns and modify the pattern to fit me better; the first time I worked up the guts to go to a knitting night at a local yarn shop and overcome my shyness. All of these things led to me learning something new or meeting more people, which have rewarded me many times over.
Teachable moments? Heh…There was that time I sat down on my knitting and got stuck with a DPN…But really, I think my biggest triumph has simply been acknowledging the fact that I am a very impatient knitter. If I have too many projects in progress I will become unhappy because it will take me so long to finish a single one. So I’ve learned to minimize that and knit the things that make me the most happy at the time.
MD: What’s your favourite thing you’ve ever knitted? Do you have a pattern that you come back to again and again? Why or why not?
GC: My favourite thing is usually the thing that I’ve just finished! No, but seriously folks…I think my favourite right now is my completed Autumn Rose pullover (pattern by Eunny Jang). It was a real culmination of skill and challenge. It wasn’t my first stranded colourwork project but it was certainly a project that challenged me – I modified the fit and colour scheme and it all worked out very well. I was a happy knitter when I finished it. It’s an odd thing to finish a sweater made out of twelve colours, and end up simply throwing it on over a t-shirt and jeans.
Another project that I love more and more is my Oyster Bay shawl, which I worked with Tanis Fiber Arts’ fingering weight in a bright fuschia colour. It is the combination of the pattern and colour that I love so much – I have often worn it wrapped around my neck and shoulders with a jacket and instantly feel like that elegant, cosmopolitan knitter we all dream of being. It’s something no one else out there owns except me.
Sometimes things that are quite simple are very satisfying as well – the Hourglass sweater was one project like that. It’s stockinette all over but I modified it to fit my body exactly the way it needed to fit (I’m tall), and made it in Malabrigo which is so soft and touchable.
The pattern I have come back to most often is the Jaywalker sock pattern (by Grumperina). It is the sock pattern I always take with me when I go on a trip, because it has a 2-row repeat that would normally feel very tedious to me, but suddenly becomes very soothing when I’m stressed out waiting in airports or getting into planes and trains and subways one after the other. I can pull it out of my handbag at a moment’s notice and look at the colours lining up on top of each other and be soothed, 2 rows at a time.
MD: When did you start designing your own knitting patterns and why? Where do you find your inspiration, and what is your creative process like?
GC: The first pattern I ever designed was Ivy, in 2006, which was accepted for publication by Knitty.com. I was very lucky to be accepted on the first go. I designed it mostly because it was the sort of sweater that I wanted very much to knit for myself, but couldn’t find any pattern for that existed at the time. So I decided to make it myself, and it turns out that other people wanted to make it too – I still hear from knitters who are making their own Ivy sweaters, or ones to give as gifts, and it’s very gratifying. It’s taken me a bit of time to make designing a consistent part of my knitting process, but I’m enjoying it more and more.
As for my inspiration…It is so hard to predict that I have stopped trying. Mostly, it starts with some kind of question that I try to answer with, “but how would I knit that?” Sometimes it is sheer practicality, as with the Podster gloves from this past fall. I wanted a pair of gloves like that and thought that probably other knitters did too, so I made the pattern do what I needed it to do.
Other times it is the yarn itself that inspires me. I really believe the most useful thing you can do as a knitter is to buy yarn with colours that speak to you, and then take them home and swatch them up and see what they ‘want’ to be. Often it’s the colour or the stitch texture or drape that will give me an idea. This happened with my 14 Karat socks that I worked on this summer – the gemstone sort of colour of the sock yarns I was working with really made me think in terms of diamonds and delicate jewelry, so I made a sock to match that idea.
Often, my fannishness shines through and I cannot help but knit it out. This is what happened with my Viper Pilots socks [see top of post]. I have a real fondness for a few television shows, and after a while the fannish addiction sort of takes hold in my brain and will not let go. The Viper Pilots socks were a design I mulled over for a little while thinking about Battlestar Galactica. When I look at them now I just love the way the twisted stitches look and feel and the way the pattern reminds me of the characters that inspired me. They certainly won’t be my last ‘fannish knit’, I can tell you that much! Stay tuned for more from that part of my brain.
GC: My blogging wouldn’t happen without my knitting. So, I try hard to let my blogging be driven by my knitting, rather than forcing myself to write blog posts when I don’t have something I’d like to say. It’s a hard balance to strike sometimes. I knit what I am drawn to, and blog from there. When I think about it, the reason I came to blogging was to be a part of that writing and picture-taking and conversation about what people are knitting and what does it look like, and what are we all learning about and what are we enjoying or being frustrated over…So when I blog I try to put myself into that conversation, and tell about what I’m working on and where I’ve been to in the world of knitting lately.
I love Ravelry and visit it most days. It hasn’t taken the place of blogging for me but it does complement it. I think blogs let us express ourselves more as writers and photographers and ‘roving reporters’, and it’s hard to replace that quality with different media. Ravelry is wonderful for connecting with knitters and finding information and ideas, and as an incredible resource and archive. There’s room for both Ravelry and blogs out there – and more – and I think everyone finds their own niche.
MD: What advice would you give a novice knitter? What would you tell someone who’s been knitting for a while and is looking to take the next step?
GC: If you’re a novice knitter, first I would say “Welcome to knitting! I hope you’ll like it here and stay a while.” And then I would say to just keep going and learning things one step at a time. As a novice there are so many challenges all at once and it can take a while to find your footing. Everything is difficult the first time – so just get that first cable or sock heel or sleeve seam done, so you can move on to the second cable or sock heel or sleeve seam when you’ll be able to say “Hey, I know how to do this!”
Let yourself go through it and know that after each project you make, you’ll have learned something that you didn’t know before – either a technique, or an opinion about the yarn you used, or something about how to make the garment fit you better – and the next thing you knit will be better for it. Knit things you want to knit and the learning will follow from there.
For knitters with a little more experience, my only advice would be to just keep on going and find a way to broaden your skills. Is there another way to do something you already know how to do? How about learning Magic Loop if you already know how to use DPNs? Have you tried steeking or short rows or lace? Also, is there a “dream” project that you have been shying away from making because you weren’t a “good enough” knitter? The only way to be that knitter is to knit that project – the twisted cabled sweater or the intricate lace shawl isn’t going to knit itself. You’ve learned a thing or two by now, so just get out there and knit your heart out.
Thanks so much for chatting, Glenna!
Want to try these lovely mitts? I’ve got a skein of Malabrigo Silky Merino to give away. Stay tuned…