Day Six and it is time to spend the day with the fabulous Kristin Nicholas! Knitter, designer, author, yarn maven, and wonderful generous spirit! I know you’ll enjoy the interview with Kristen and truly confident you’ll want to comment by midnight the 11th to win a SET of 3 of her awesome patterns: The Quarters Cap, The Kristin’s Creative Christmas Stocking, and The Sunflowers and Zinnias to Knit and Felt. But wait ==== there is MORE! In a giveaway I would be so excited to win myself, Kristin is celebrating her debut on Knitting Contrissmas with a giveaway on HER BLOG! Stop by and have a chance to win 20 skeins of Julia, a Boye Needlemaster set, a Crochet Dude Crochet Hook set and an electric ballwinder. WOW! Comment here by midnight on the 11th and have to chance to add Kristin’s patterns to your collection.
I actually own several of her patterns and am knitting Kristin’s Creative Christmas Stocking myself. Her patterns are beautifully written and tons of fun to knit even for a novice! I hope you’ll do yourself a favor and follow her warm blog, shop a little, hang out with one of the ‘greats’ in the yarn community.
KN:Hi Tina!- I am so happy to be invited to be part of your Knitting and Crafting Contrissmas. I followed your series the last time you did it and loved it. So thank you for thinking of me!
KC: Actually Kristin thank YOU for taking the time to hang out with us a little bit! It’s December 6th and we’re all beyond crazy busy. YOU are always crazy busy though!!! You’re a blogger, a knit designer, an author, a teacher AND you are a wife and mother with a very active farm. I don’t know how you do it all! That’s my first question for you—- what tips do you have to stretch personal time to be creative?
KN: Tina, just so you and all of your readers know, I am not always creative. I have to do the dishes (they seem to be never-ending), cook dinner (I like doing it but we eat a lot of soup!), do the laundry (why do clothes get dirty?), and help out with the farm chores. I have to fit “being creative” in and some days it just doesn’t happen. But that said, if I don’t do something creative at least once a week, I feel at odds with myself. To me, creative can be many things…. it can be taking photos, developing a new recipe, picking out a paint color, planting a garden, sewing a bag…. In fact, blogging is sometimes the only creative thing I do in a day. Yes – I do find blogging creative. It is like writing a book, day by day. And thinking about the plot line developing as the seasons turn and the years go by. There are so many parts of the knitwear design business that just aren’t creative. Like writing patterns, doing charts in Adobe Illustrator, typing text, laying out patterns in Adobe Inddesign. These are things I have been doing for over 25 years so I am used to them and good at them. But I wish they didn’t take so darn much time! Designing the project is the easiest part of the job – it is all that comes after that is tedious but necessary. I think that sometimes people get stuck in creative ruts because they don’t change things up enough. It is always good to learn a new craft or technique to stimulate the creative juices. For me recently, that has been photography – mostly for my blog. I have had such a great time learning more about taking photos and seeing my skills improve.
KC: You’re known for your sense of color along with your style, have you always been good at color or has it been acquired over the years?
KN: I think I have always had a natural ability for working with color. I can remember being fascinated with paint colors and crayons as a young kid and being very interested in what color my mom was going to paint the living room in our first house. I distinctly remember that room – it was cantaloupe colored and it was filled with “Danish Modern” furniture.
Now, I don’t even think about how I use color – it just happens and pours out of my head. I can envision color combinations in my head and how they are going to be when I put them into knitting or on paper.
I teach a lot of knitters how to use color here at my “Getting Stitched on the Farm” classes. They learn how to be more comfortable with it. I have devised a way to teach color that is very approachable. The retreats here at the farm are 2 day workshops, I can see a student’s use of color be transformed and their skills and confidence grow. That is really fun for me – they come to our farm all fearful and nervous and leave knowing what colors to put with what and ready to take on new color combinations that they would never have tried when they get home!
KN: Usually both at the same time. Most recently I have been designing with my own yarn Julia (which has recently been discontinued – sadly) which is a worsted weight yarn spun of mohair, alpaca and wool. It is such a gorgeous yarn – colorwise and fiberwise. I bought a lot of it so I am going to keep working in it for my own use and designs on my website. Knitters will have to substitute a different worsted weight yarn though. When I design for a yarn company, they give me the yarn before I start swatching. We decide on a type of garment and then I swatch, write the pattern and have one of my very talented knitters work up the garment. I knit many of the smaller projects myself and design as I go. Sometimes that is a problem because it is much easier to be creative on the needles but all that creativity has to be written down in a format that a knitter in their own home can follow and re-create. I have to reign myself in! For a magazine, they usually come to me with an project idea (cardigan, pullover, etc) and send me the yarn. I’ll do a swatch and sketch, send it to them for approval and then I write the instructions for my test-knitter. So, I guess it works both ways! I don’t shop for yarn very often and am clueless as to what are the popular yarns of the moment! I am living in my very own farm bubble!
KC: I am sure that I was not the only yarn lover to hear that your Julia line of yarn for Nashua had been discontinued. The ability to find such wonderful colors in such an exciting range will be hard to replace. Will you someday be coloring yarn for another company?
KN: I would love to continue having my own yarn and color range because it is really hard to get some of the odder colors that I like to use from main-stream companies. Time will tell if I can work it out with anyone else.
I wrote about the loss of the Julia on this blog post which your readers may like to read…..
(The yarn business is complicated and this post explains a bit about the back-story of making and selling yarn.)
KC: I’m hoping that many readers are knitting your fabulous Christmas stockings. They are very ‘you’ and yet will fit into the holiday scheme of many homes.
KN: I have been wanting to do a Christmas Stocking Pattern for years and years and finally got it together to do it. I actually knit them last Christmas! It is a great pattern with 6 different stocking versions and 4 different sizes. I’ve also included extra charts and instructions for knitters to make up their very own design. It is way more than just a pattern – it is also a learning experience (if someone wants to learn). If they just want to knit it as photographed – that is fine too – all the instructions are included. I can’t wait to see how my knitting customers run with the pattern and turn it into their own!
I love the photography I did for it – I shot the stockings last January just after a huge snowstorm. I hung them on a barbed wire fence along our country road. It was so much fun – me and my camera and colorful handknit stockings all alone in the snowy woods making a pretty picture for the knitters. It was fun to put a different spin on the classic stocking that most people photograph hanging on a mantel above a fireplace.
KC: Can you tell us about your farm visits, “Getting Stitched on the Farm”? It looks like a fabulous opportunity!
KN: Oh, they really are. I have had knitters fly in from all over the USA and many have come back a second time. They are small classes (6 to 8 knitters) and they are held in my studio and throughout our farmhouse over two days. The knitters really get immersed in how I see color, what inspires me. I share my library of books, my collections of ceramics and antiques and fabrics. On Saturday, my husband Mark hitches up our tractor to a hay wagon and we take an old-fashioned hayride up through the hills that are close to our farm. When we get back, we share a lovely dinner on our porch featuring our farm raised lamb and local veggies. (Vegetarians are welcome and we can cook for them too! One year, a raw food vegan came!) Some of the classes come as a group all together but many times, knitters come in separately. You don’t have to be an advanced knitter – everyone is welcome (although the classes aren’t for beginners). Many of the knitters who come are celebrating a milestone (a big birthday or retirement and just want to treat themselves to something really special). Everyone has been so incredibly nice and warm and fun and they leave as friends. I have had all ages – from 19 to late 70’s – everyone is welcome! The idea to do the “Getting Stitched on the Farm Classes” came to me one night. I ran it by some handknitting industry friends and they helped me get the first few classes going (Thank you Linda Pratt, Cathy Payson, and Alice Gray!). Now I have them figured out and I hire local people to do the cooking and prep work in the kitchen. If it wasn’t for my friends, I never would have had the nerve to do the classes. They were my security blanket the first few times. The classes have the feeling of visiting a good friend and knitting all weekend, learning all about color and knitting and sharing. It is a really special experience and I plan to keep doing three weekends a year. I usually list the dates in the middle of January on my class website. Students stay at local B&B’s close to our farm. Meals and snacks are included here during the days and the Saturday evening dinner is also included. I just began offering private one day retreats for groups of knitters who want to get away for a day and knit together and learn. I had one group this fall and it worked out beautifully. So if any of your readers are interested, they can email me through my website for further information. Here is a link to the Retreat website which is full of beautiful photos and information.
KC: What does your process of inspiration look like?
KN: Oh Tina – I am always inspired by something. Everything I see sparks a different idea in my head! I’m a very visual person so just the process of opening my eyes and thinking about something can spark a different idea! I have so many ideas, I could never knit or paint them all! I never run out! The hardest decision is what to make and do with my time! Time is the issue for most artists. I have to think really hard as I get older about what I want to spend my time on – what is most valuable to do with my time and try not to waste it doing something I don’t like doing! That is a hard lesson to learn but one I think about a lot!
And I love a deadline! It makes my juices run and creativity go wild!
KC: Anything big coming up in 2012?
KN: In the works for 2012… I’ll be doing more of my PDF Downloadable Patterns and continue doing my Knitting and Farm Retreats.
KC: I’m always inspired by your blog and especially how you are determined to paint the life of a farm in such a true light. You weren’t always a farm wife, how has your present life shaped you?
KN: That’s me – The Farmer’s Wife! I really can’t imagine living anywhere else but on this farm. We have over 230 breeding ewes, 4 rams and over 100 lambs that are still growing out who were born last year. We have two working Border Collie Dogs – Phoebe and Ness, two guard dog Great Pyrenees Dogs – Archie and Winston, a guard donkey Eeyore and a guard llama Jeremy, ten cats and 30 chickens. Our business is selling frozen lamb meat at local farmer’s markets. This coming January and February, we will probably have over 300 lambs born. It is a bit overwhelming to think about when I look at those numbers…..
It is really busy living on a farm – each part of the year has its cycle and chores to be done. My husband Mark (who I call The Farmer when writing about him on my blog) does the majority of the work haying, moving fences, feeding the sheep. A lot of his work is done with tractors which I’m not very comfortable driving. I help out whenever a second hand is needed. Lambing is definitely the busiest time of year – it gives us something to do in the dead of winter, I guess. Our lives are based on the cycle of the farm, nature and the animals we care for. We don’t go away much because we can’t just up and leave all those animals to fend for themselves. When you live on a farm, you are constantly faced with life and death. Nature is with us everyday – weather determines how things grow and thrive or die. We live in a rather rural part of western Massachusetts, the last town below the Vermont State Line. Our road is sparsely populated and besides our few human neighbors, we share our lives with coyotes, raccoons, squirrels, bobcats, owls, hawks, wolves, mountain lions, bears…. You get the picture – it’s a bit like the wild west. I am constantly astounded by the things I see outside my door. I really do love living here! It is a challenge but a beautiful place to call home.
Oh, back to your original question – how has living on a farm shaped my life? The farm is my life. It is what we do here as a farm family. I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey and as a little girl, I always wanted to live on a farm. My parents were avid gardeners so I grew up with the growing/garden thing but they were not crops – they were plants. Where we lived, we weren’t allowed to have livestock. The area has changed so much – now it is full of strip malls. I can’t imagine living there now.
I rarely listen to the national news. Except for the local paper and local radio station, I barely know what is going on in the world. It’s odd but the national news of the day really doesn’t affect what we do nor how we live our lives. We’re more about our farm and trying to keep everything alive and healthy. Certain things need to be done each day and with animals there are always surprises. We call it “Daily Tragedy Farm.” Living here gives me plenty to write about on my blog, for sure. It might not always be pretty but it is interesting and real. I feel pretty passionate about keeping it real because I think people in cities are pretty clueless to what really goes into growing their food. So many people think of their chicken, beef, pork or lamb as a slab of meat on some styrofoam wrapped in plastic. I think of it as a natural living being that is harvested to feed people.
I have to be careful though because I do take beautiful photos portraying a gorgeous country scene over and over again – pretty fluffy sheep, strong dogs, cute little kitties. I don’t tell everyone exactly what is happening each day because it really isn’t that interesting – we do the same things over and over. But I do like to share certain things. A couple months ago, I shared a coyote kill of two lambs on the blog. I wasn’t sure how people would react but every comment was positive and thankful for the “keeping it real” post. A couple weeks after I posted it, we purchased two Great Pyrenees guard dog puppies. My readers came out and donated to the “puppy fund” by buying patterns and sending monetary donations. How amazing is that? Wow – I guess I do really have a strong readership and following. It sometimes just plain blows me (and my family) away!
My husband was selling some of our frozen lamb at the Northampton Farmers Market a few weeks ago. A woman walked up to him and started chatting him up. She told him she didn’t eat meat but she did read “his wife’s blog.” He thought that was pretty cool!
KN: To tell you the truth, I am too busy knitting stuff for future patterns (which turn into money to live on) that I don’t make time to knit Christmas gifts. I did just make flower pins for all the girls in the family (twelve of them!) as Thanksgiving favors. I just designed and published the flowers as a fun and gifty “Sunflowers and Zinnias To Knit and Felt” PDF downloadable pattern. I made each girl a flower, felted them all, and sewed on pin backs. Then I made napkin rings out of some green coating fabric and attached the flower pins to the napkin rings. I had them all sitting out on the table with napkins in them. It was quite a scene – everyone grabbing for their favorite color combination. They were definitely a hit and something that was easy enough to mass produce for a large family. My 4 sisters and I don’t give each other gifts anymore so there aren’t that many gifts to worry about. My nieces and nephews are all teenagers and in their 20’s so they aren’t that easy to make gifts for. A couple years ago, I made them all “Quarters Caps” which were a hit but I’m not sure I have time to make something for all of them. They much prefer money or an iTunes gift card!
KC: Do you read a lot of blogs in the creative community?
KN: I have 2 favorite blogs – Alicia Paulson’s Posie Gets Cosy and Jane Brocket’s Yarnstorm. Those are the two I check and religiously. It’s funny – they are the two blogs I found first and the ones I have stuck with since 2006. They are both well-rounded blogs that don’t focus on much knitting whatsever. I tend to bounce around on the internet through links on these two blogs or through the comments I receive on my blog. I find it hard to find blogs again because I forget to bookmark them! I don’t use a feed reader but “e-mail subscribe” to a few cooking blogs that I like including 101 Cookbooks and David Lebovitz. If a blog doesn’t offer an email subscription, I don’t read it. I need to get that e-mail in my in-box to remind me to look at a post.
I guess with all the knitting in my life, I don’t really care to read about knitting every day on the internet. It’s enough for me to keep track of my knitting, never mind someone else’s too! Odd maybe, but I’m more interested in reading about cooking, baking, and maybe a little sewing than reading about knitting!
KC: The past year has been a big one for you, what is coming in 2012? Please share with us some of your upcoming news!
KN: I have a new sock yarn coming out with Regia! (You read it here first folks!) It is called “Garden Effects” and it begins shipping January 15th to local yarn stores in the USA and Canada. Here is a link to a British site for a sneak peek. They have been shipping it in Britain and in Germany and it will be available worldwide wherever Regia yarns are distributed. It is rather exciting because my other yarn Julia was only available in the USA. (*Note from KC: YAY!!!!!)
I taped a 4th season of Knit and Crochet Now which I think may be aired in 2012 on PBS stations. I will continue to self-publish some more PDF downloads too. I’m thinking of knitting some more coats for the lambs again. That was a huge hit! It went viral on the internet. I have notecards (blank) of the lambs in coats in case any of your readers are interested! They make awesome Christmas cards and they sure are cute! *(Note from KC— seriously, is that lamb in the Kristin Nicholas Sweater not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen??? I must have those cards!!!)
KC: What words do you have for your many fans in the world of all things YARN? For those knitters and crocheters who follow you (and are about to)?
KN: Boy Tina, that is a tough one! I’ve been involved in knitting, yarn, sewing, and color my entire life and professionally since 1984. I can’t think of anything else I want to do professionally except for designing beautiful things in pretty colors – that and keeping all the plates up in the air on the farm here! I guess what I can say is that I think about all my customers – the knitters out there in the world – all the time. I try to develop products that they will enjoy knitting and making. I hope I can keep them interested and I really thank them all for supporting my work by buying my patterns and my yarn when it was around.
As a family and farm here in western Massachusetts, we are so dependent on our customers – whether it be the people who buy our lamb meat and cook it in their own home – or those who buy my patterns via the internet – or those knitters who come to a retreat here on the farm. I know everyone has thousands and thousands of choices out there, so appreciate every pattern order I get! The internet might not be totally local but I feel like the internet world of knitters is a very local community – in its own odd way. And I thank everyone who takes time out of their busy day to read what I am writing on my blog, look at my photos, and purchase my patterns. We are not a big corporation – we are just The Farmer and me with Julia putting in her two cents once in a while trying to keep all the plates spinning up in the air!
KC: You know I totally believe in Creative Cross Training but knitting is my foremost love—- what thoughts do you have about our mutual interest in knitting?
KN: The nice thing about knitting is that you can do it your entire life. It’s okay to take time off maybe even for a decade for health reasons or child-rearing. Life sometimes gets in the way! Most true knitters never really stop knitting – they may get distracted by other crafts like beading or weaving or whatever. But it is the portability aspect of knitting that really can’t be beat! What else can you drag around in a bag to meetings, the doctor’s office, soccer games? Not many crafts for sure!
I can’t believe the number of women I talk to her just learned to knit in their 40’s and 50’s and they have become passionate about it! It is a great skill and hobby because there is so much to learn – you can never know it all – I know I don’t!
I’d like to offer this bit of observation to your readers…. just keep on going with your knitting and your skills will improve. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into just one kind of knitting – try different techniques. And by all means, reach out and take a class at a local yarn store or attend one of the big knitting conventions or a retreat such as mine. You’ll meet some wonderful people through it. Knitters are such a great group of people. There’s something about working with yarn and colors – a certain generous group of people who are warm and wise tend to flock to the hobby (pardon that sheep pun). It’s a great industry to be involved in and I thank all who have followed my career over the years and who have supported me. I look forward to meeting many more knitters via my blog or in my classes as the years go on.
KC: Thanks Kristin, we all appreciate you spending time with us! You’re just “the awesomest”!
Check out more from the wonderful Kristin:
Knitwear, Stitchery, Color, and Sheep Farmer
Farm Website: http://leydenglenlamb.com/default.htm