Indie Interview: Jen Arnall-Culliford

Hello yarn folk! Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Jen Arnall-Culliford, who is an amazing designer, editor, and writer! She is the brilliant mind behind the Year of Techniques, a set of patterns and linked tutorials that can help knitters get out of their comfort zone and try something new. As a technical editor, she has worked with so many of our favorite designers: Kate Davies, Bristol Ivy, Carol Feller, Gudrun Johnston, Donna Smith  . . . the list goes on! I personally love her style and can-do attitude. She is helping knitters learn new things (which is close to my heart) and expand their horizons. Luckily for us, Jen is also just about to release a *new* Year of Techniques–I’m looking forward to seeing what she’s come up with! Plus, Jen has generously agreed to sponsor a GIVEAWAY for her Bruton Hoody! If you want to get involved, head over to our Ravelry thread OR the YouTube video for Episode 49. Leave a comment about what techniques you’d like to learn! So, enjoy the interview below, get to know Jen a bit better, and  . . . I bet you already have one of her books in your collection, so share it with a friend 🙂 All pattern photographs are © Jesse Wild

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KTS: How did you begin designing your own patterns for shawls, sweaters, and accessories? 

Jen: My design career started when I worked as Technical Editor on The Knitter. I was involved in the commissioning process for the magazine, and had an idea for a pair of socks using the helical knitting method. My Editor, Juliet Bernard, took a chance on me and commissioned them for Issue 7, despite me not having written a knitting pattern previously. I really enjoyed the process, but only because I’d had a very techniques-lead idea. I then went on to contribute a number of designs to The Knitter, and the sister publication, Simply Knitting, each time guided by a particular technique, or necessity within the magazine commissioning process. After I left The Knitter, I worked with Jeni Hewlett at Fyberspates to produce her first pattern collection, and I contributed a few designs to that book. I’ve never really considered myself to be “A Designer”, but rather someone who does designs from time to time. I certainly couldn’t make a living from design alone.

KTS: I love the idea of a Year of Techniques! Maybe it’s because I’m an editor (of an academic journal), but I’d love to know more about the process of creating this collection of patterns and techniques.

Jen: We are launching the follow-up to A Year of Techniques in just a few weeks’ time, and we’ve been working on it since late autumn 2017! It’s quite a long process to put together the right combination of techniques, designers, patterns, tutorials and videos! The first job was to approach designers whose work I love, and ask them whether they would be interested in creating an item that could be used to showcase a particular technique. I am lucky in that my work as an editor has allowed be to work with many of my design heroes within knitting. That’s made the commissioning much easier. That said, this time round there are quite a few who I haven’t previously worked with, so it’s been great to get to know their styles. I then spend some time talking techniques with each designer, and we come up with a concept for their piece and select a technique, item and yarn. I then have to make sure as I go along that everyone doesn’t want to design blue hats in the same yarn! Once we had all 12 projects sorted out, I spent a morning switching pieces of paper around to create a timetable so that each technique in introduced in the right order (some techniques build on each other, and some items use techniques that we’ve taught previously). Each season then needs to be balanced for the mix of type of project (not all socks, or three hats in the summer etc…), as well as to give a roughly balanced cost for the seasonal yarn kits. Once all of that is sorted, it’s just a case of the designs being completed, photographed, edited and then tutorials written, swatches knitted and hand shots taken. Oh and there’s some video filming in there too. It’s a really big job, but also a lot of fun. I hope that knitters will enjoy the programme of learning and knitting that we have put together.

KTS: Do you have other favorite designers or mentors that have helped you (literally or figuratively) along the way?

Jen: Oh gosh! There are so many, but the main people would have to be Jeni Hewlett from Fyberspates, and Kate Davies. It was Jeni who gave me the confidence to go freelance, and she supported me so much when I was starting out with my own business. We worked on a number of pattern collections together, and she’s still really important to me now, as she and her husband Andy have helped us to develop our Something to Knit With yarn ranges. I started editing for Kate in 2011, and she has been really supportive of my design work. We published a number of patterns together under the Cross-Country Knitting title, and then I co-edited The Book of Haps with her in 2016. Without Kate we would never have published our own books. She was absolutely sure that I had something to share with the knitting world!

KTS: You also offer yarn support and kits  . . . what is your favorite thing about running a yarn shop online?

Jen: Having a really good excuse to buy lots of my favourite yarns? And I absolutely love packing orders, as it’s like shopping vicariously for other people. I get really excited for what other people might make with their parcels of squishiness!

KTS: What advice would you give to someone who wants to begin designing? 

Jen: Read a lot of patterns, and knit from a wide range of different patterns. That way you can get a feel for the sorts of things people find confusing and frustrating when following patterns. You can tell that I come to this from quite a technical perspective! I have no advice at all about where to get inspiration for how something might look because that really isn’t my strong suit, but if you have a broad knowledge of pattern writing techniques and ways of expressing things, you have a good start at helping other people to recreate your idea.

KTS: What’s new on the horizon for you? 

Jen: At the moment I can’t see beyond the launch and roll-out of the next instalment of A Year of Techniques! It’s a behemoth and so much fun, it will be all-engrossing for the rest of this year.

KTS: Where can folks follow your work and find out more?

Jen:

***

Thanks so much, Jen, for sharing your ideas and expertise! I love meeting new people (and sheep!): if you are an indie dyer, a hand spinner, a shepherdess, a small flock owner, a mill operator, or a wool trader, I would love to feature your work on this site. Please get in touch via email or Ravelry by clicking the “About” tab (above) Happy knitting! 🙂

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Posted in Bruton Hoody, community, giveaway, interview, Jen Arnall-Culliford, knitting, tech editing, techniques, yarn, Year of Techniques, year-long | 1 Comment

Episode 49: Books, KALs, and Nerdyness

Hello everyone and welcome to Episode 49! I’ll admit to getting a little bit nerdy in this one: We’re talking about stitch dictionaries and charts, Lithuanian knitting, book reviews, and modification KALs for 2019. It’s pretty packed in here . . . oh, and a ski trip?? by buss?? to Colorado with my son’s high school friends?? . . . yeah, there’s that too. We also have a giveaway from Jen Arnall-Culliford that you don’t want to miss 🙂 Come hang a while? ~Melissa

 

SHOW NOTES:

And for anyone thinking and mulling over all of the emotional, political, and important issues of race, anti-racism, and inclusion happening out in the knitting world right now–I promise to share some thoughts in a future cast. My professor hat is on and I’m thinking hard about the most productive ways to discuss some of what’s at stake. In the meantime, I hope everyone feels welcome here and that we can continue to raise awareness, understanding, empathy, and inclusion in this community that I love so much.

Posted in book review, books, Bruton Hoody, community, episode, giveaway, Jen Arnall-Culliford, KAL, knitters, knitting, knitting podcast, Master Hand Knitter, podcast, sweater, sweater design, technique, techniques, video | Leave a comment

2019 To Learn List!

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Thank you to everyone for a wonderful 2018! Through this community (and a little hard work) I’ve learned and experienced so much this past year! Much love to you all! In the spirit of lists-past and with an eye towards growing and changing and learning more, I present my 2019 To Learn list in all its promising glory:

  • Keep and fill a design journal
  • Launch my yarn label “Shorn” and intro my new logo
  • Design 1 hat and 2 sweaters –AND release the patterns!
  • Remember: less sample and test knitting and more pattern development
  • Host a podcast KAL for pattern modifications!
  • Gather and share local knitting book knowledge through the podcast
  • Increase the number and regularity of video tutorials offered
  • Revive the 1 Year 1 Blanket Tradition with 2(!!!) blankets:
    • Northeasterly Blanket
    • Knit Together Project
  • Compete in the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Sheep to Shawl for a 2nd time
  • Spin more . . .
  • Check out a yarn shop in every city I visit ( . . . if it has a yarn shop)
  • Meet more of you fiber folk out there in communities around the world

What’s on your list? Share a link or give us an update on your plans in the comments or over on the Ravelry group thread! Happy New Year to everyone!

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Oh, and here is my 2018 list for good measure:

  • Design a sweater–yep, I said it out loud! DONE!
  • Meet more of you fiber folk out there in communities around the world DONE, and to be continued!
  • Cultivate the podcast offerings and add more video tutorials DONE, and to be continued!
  • Complete the Re-Make-Along with all of you!! DONE!
  • Work on a fun collaboration/test knit with LBHand Knits DONE!
  • Conquer the Geology shawl that thwarted me in the past — Sigh.
  • Continue the one year, one blanket tradition! I’m talking about you, Persian Dreams Blanket in a worsted weight! — 2 x blankets next year coming right up!
  • Become more adept at drop-spindling DONE!
  • Spin 1-2 braids/month on my Ladybug — Maybe next year?
  • Get my Matchless wheel tuned up and humming! — Maybe next year?
  • Check out a yarn shop in every city I visit ( . . . if it has a yarn shop) DONE, and to be continued!
  • Buy less random yarn and fiber–aim instead for sweater quantities of soulful wool! DONE, and to be continued!
Posted in 2018, 2019, knitters, knitting, knitting podcast, learning, plans, to learn, to-learn, Uncategorized, yarn | 13 Comments

Episode 48: Sweater SNAFU!

Lovely, lovely yarn folks! How are you? Happy New Year to you! I have a spanking new episode all knit up for you. This one has a few wonderful FOs   . . . . and some not so wonderful SNAFUs! Plus, a Beastie from Craw Crafts Beasties has joined our crew AND a Northeasterly blanket is in the works! I also announce some new moves for the podcast in 2019 and the winners of the Re-Make-Along for 2018 🙂 Come hang out a while? ~Melissa

 

SHOW NOTES:

 

Posted in Better Sweater, Brittany's Buttoned Cowl, Craw Craft Beasties, Dark Pearl, episode, Kephren Knitting Studio, knitters, knitting, knitting podcast, LB Hand Knits, Northeasterly, podcast, sample knitting, Sceal Gra, sweater, sweater design, Uncategorized, video | 5 Comments

Episode 47: The “Squach” Swatch

Hello my yarn folk! Episode 47 is live! And it’s packed with fun stuffs: Spencer’s “squach” swatch adventures, two WIPs that need modification help, a review of Knit Stars 3.0, some O-Wool O-Wash yarn, and a giveaway winner! Plus, outtakes from our crazy podcasting morning with the puppies 🙂 Come hang out a while?

 

SHOW NOTES:

AND . . .  If you’re feeling the KnitCrate love and want some excitement in your mailbox each month, you can Subscribe to KnitCrate via this link and use this Discount Code to get 20% Off: KTS20

Posted in episode, garment, Knit Stars 3.0, knitting podcast, men knitting, podcast, question and answer, sweater, sweater design, sweater weather, Uncategorized, video, yarn, yarn review | 1 Comment

Episode 46: Summer in December

Hi everyone! Three weeks have passed . . . and I missed you all! We just celebrated American Thanksgiving–which meant some travel and a break from work and everyday life in Illinois. But I’m back at it and this episode is full of FOs, including a tank from Kelbourne Woolens and a KnitCrate wrap; yarn from an Australian swap; Shetland yarn from Donna Smith; and giveaways galore 🙂 Come hang a while? ~Melissa 🙂

 

GIVEAWAY info:
Perry Wilson has offered a free copy of The Feel of Wind on Water shawl pattern to one lucky podcast viewer! To enter, please comment here, on the blog, or on the Ravelry thread answering the following question:

What color combo would you choose for The Feel of Wind on Water shawl OR what yarn would you choose to knit it with?

I’ll close all of the threads and choose the winner in two weeks time. Good luck!

If you would like to purchase The Feel of Wind on Water shawl, use this code to receive a 20% discount: KTS20

SHOW NOTES:

AND . . .  If you’re feeling the KnitCrate love and want some excitement in your mailbox each month, you can Subscribe to KnitCrate via this link and use this Discount Code to get 20% Off: KTS20

 

Posted in community, cotton yarn, Desert Queen, discount code, episode, Facing North, FO, garment, giveaway, hand dyed yarn, information, Kelbourne Woolens, knitting podcast, LB Hand Knits, LB Handknits, pattern, podcast, tank top, variegated yarn, video, yarn | 1 Comment

The Things We Do For Knitting . . .

This is a little photo-essay about the perils of photographing knitwear . . . summer knitwear . . . in winter, after the first snow. I promise to rave about the beautiful top on the next podcast–it’s from Kelbourne Woolens and a sample knit–but for now, I will gladly amuse you with the outtakes. Temperature was about 36 fahrenheit with fresh snow and mud on the ground . . . I have an ankle boot on for my hurt foot . . . and the necessary plastic bags to protect from the mud–I can’t exactly remove my footwear when I go back inside! Enjoy Christmas in July, er, I mean summer in November!

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Glamorous to the max, eh? What have you done for your knitting (photos)? I’m almost afraid to ask! ❤ Melissa

Posted in FO, insanity, inspiration, knitters, knitting, outside, photo shoot, photography, sweater weather, unexpected | 5 Comments