Inspired By: Lee Meredith

Now that it's December, I'm already feeling the pressure of the holidays looming. Even at Muggswigz we're already feeling the extra stress. When December arrives, it's always best to find little ways to lighten the load, and I'm so excited to announce one of my plans for this season! It's been in the works for a while, and it's been so hard to sit on it and keep quiet about it throughout the past month here on Cravings.

For the rest of December and then into January, each week on Thursday or Friday I'll be sharing interviews I did with some of my absolute favorite crafty people--wonderful, smart ladies that I didn't really expect to e-mail me back, but who did anyway with incredible graciousness! This whole thing has been so much fun to put together, and getting to share it with you guys is just awesome! I think it's the perfect way to keep inspired and cheerful despite all the busyness, and I couldn't be happier with the group of people I get to feature here.

So, to kick it all off, it's...
me in orange shapeshifter
Lee Meredith!

Lee is the creative force behind Leethal, where she blogs, designs knitting patterns, sells upcycled goodies and kits, and does just about everything else you can imagine! She's also a talented photographer and crafter, making her one of the most interesting and diversely gifted fresh faces in the knitting world.
It was such a blast to talk to her about what that's like!

Faye: You're one of those creative people who made the jump into being self-employed through your work. Tell us about that. What intially planted the seeds for you being able to make the transition into doing that? To what extent did it scare you, and why?
Lee: I had been planning on dropping down to part-time at my retail day job for awhile, so when I was offered some pretty sweet freelance crafty teaching jobs running throughout the summer of 2008, which happened mostly on weekends, I talked to my boss about needing all those Saturdays off and wanting to move down to part-time.  He said, nope, you can't have Saturdays off.  No way.  So I said, well, then, I guess I'll have to quit.  Totally unplanned.  I stayed on for about a month after that day, figuring out how I might make it work; those teaching gigs really helped me stay on my feet after leaving the job.  I had thought there was a really good chance I'd end up getting a part-time job at a yarn store or something like that a few months after leaving the day job, because I really didn't think I'd be able to make it work after such a drastic transition, but somehow it's been 2 1/2 years now with no day job, and I'm still doing it!  Thanks to my partner's help, and the low cost of living here in Portland.  It was pretty terrifying at the time, and continues to be, since I never know what I'll be making from month to month.  Everything about working for myself is amazing and perfect and the best thing ever, except for the unknown money part, which will never stop being scary/stressful, I'm sure.

F: In what ways do you measure your success so far, and what's been really rewarding about what you do?
L: I feel pretty successful at what I'm doing when I see myself/my work mentioned by strangers, or when I get a huge response to something I put out into the world.  If people are talking about my work, then I must be doing something right!  Really, I feel successful just because I'm able to live on designing/crafting alone, and if I can continue doing that, I'm happy, success-wise. The most rewarding part is seeing my creations/ideas/work inspiring others - reading comments about knitters who tried a technique for the first time in one of my patterns that they loved, or figured out a new concept, or whatever it might be. And just bringing happiness to people through tutorials and stuff - crafting is fun, and I love to read when someone really enjoyed a project I put out there!

F: You work a lot with recycled items, both in your knitting and in your other crafty endeavors. Is there an environmental passion behind the way you choose your materials, or does it simply stimulate your creativity--or both? What tips do you have for people who want to think conservationally about the way they craft?
L: I've always hated waste, and I've also always been frugal, so using whatever reclaimed materials I have around, or that I can find cheaply at thrift stores or reuse shops just makes sense to me.  I hate the idea of using something newly manufactured when I could be using something that's been around awhile and give it a new life.  It also helps make creative and business decisions easier sometimes - like the packaging, for example.  If I didn't try to limit myself to recycled materials in my packaging, then I'd have to do tons of research and shopping around to try to find the best packaging options for each of my products; by sticking to only things I can find at my local reuse store, I just get what works and that's that!  Tips... Just think about what you're using, or about the project you're planning - are there recycled options for any of your materials? Probably.  Go to your local thrift store - look at everything through the eyes of a crafter, seeing clothing as potential fabric or yarn, books as potential paper crafting materials, etc.  Chances are, you'll spend less money, and your project will transform into something you couldn't have envisioned without letting the recycled materials come into play!

F: If you had more time to focus on one particular type of project, what would it be?
L: The one specific project I'd like to be able to focus on is the ebook I've been planning for about 9 months now but haven't been able to actually start yet - on making recycled yarns, and patterns to knit with them.  The type of project for which I'd like more hours in the day is designing in general, actually - I have so many design ideas in my head and in my sketchbook, but have to spend hours a week on other (also fun) things like blogging and my website, keeping up with other internet stuff (like, currently, running my mystery knit-a-long), random freelance jobs doing photography and teaching, and just all the assorted stuff that always needs to be done... not enough time left to design all these ideas!

F: Speaking of your e-books, they're always so well-designed and the photography is stunning! How much time do you put into your photographs on average? What inspires you to choose the vivid colors and unique designs that are your trademark? And do you ever wish you had knitting elves to help you with all those sample projects?
L: Thanks!  A photoshoot for one item doesn't take too long - usually about 20 minutes or so - but the editing can take hours, especially because most of my patterns (full size, not quick knits) have 2-4 different examples that need to be shot and edited.  I've always been a huge fan of color, and ever since I first started knitting, I've always gravitated towards colorful yarns, rarely choosing a neutral.  So, for my designing, I always just choose what I like, hoping there will be enough knitters out there who have similar taste.  As for "unique designs" - I just design what comes into my head, and am interested in playing with construction/shape kind of stuff more than designing a stitch pattern (cable pattern/lace pattern/colorwork/whatever) into a common shape... that just doesn't excite me so much.  As for knitting elves... because I only design accessories and other small items, I usually welcome knitting onto my to-do list, to break up computer work and other tasks - knitting means I get to sit on the couch and watch movies and still be working at the same time!

F: It's been quite a year for you! What were a few of the highlights?
L: It has!  Personal highlights included buying a house with my partner, and getting married!  Professional highlights included releasing lots of knitting patterns and really moving towards knit design being my main thing (less crafting items to sell, and less freelancing), teaching at Summit of Awesome was, well, awesome; I've just finished the huge project of making printed versions of most of my patterns so that I can start wholesaling them to yarn shops, which feels like a really big deal, and I'm also really excited about my first trunk show, happening at Twisted here in Portland this week!

F: What's the first thing you start craving once the seasons change for the chillier?
L: My thrifted cashmere sweaters, all my wooly knit accessories, a different hat every day!  My newest favorite things to bundle up in are my thrifted Pendleton wool robe (worn constantly at home) and my newest knit accessory, which is currently being mystery knit-a-long so I can't say what it is!  Also, hot winter drinks!

F: Aside from next month's Quick Knits club, what's next for Leethal?
L: Well, there are those design ideas that will someday become patterns, and that ebook mentioned above, which will hopefully be released sometime in 2011.  I am really having tons of fun with the mystery knit-a-long, so I'm planning more of those in the future!  In spring '11 a book will come out that I contributed to, which I'm super excited about, because it is a seriously awesome book! Other than those things, I don't know, I'll just see what opportunities arise and go where they take me!

Many, many thanks to Lee Meredith for her participation in this project! If you're new to what she does, click on the links and go check it all out--it's so worthwhile. And be sure to check back next week for the next installment of Inspired By--this whole month is going to be such a good time!

Happy holidays, everybody!

1 comment:

  1. What a cool interview! You can't help but be inspired by Lee Meredith's colorful, fun and edgy designs.