To kick off June--and the subsequent beginning of the summer months--I thought it was about time to reintroduce my Inspired By feature! I've been lucky enough to get to interview and showcase some pretty incredible crafty ladies in the past, and this time around should be no different!
I'm diving in today with the incredible Kelly McClure of Bohoknits! I'm absolutely in love with all her hats, and equally in love with whatever artwork or wallpaper she always seems to have in the background of her photos... You may recognize her signature artsy-casual knits already, but if not I am thrilled to be introducing her to you!
Let's get started!
Faye: Since you do both, I have to start by asking... If you had to choose, would you pick knit or crochet, and why?
Kelly: Starting with the really hard questions, eh? I actually get asked this a lot...I used to spend my time pretty much equally divided between the two, but I think in the last few years I have gravitated more towards knitting. I simply love stockinette fabric and there is so much you can do with knitting. The amount of techniques and skills to learn within the universe of knitting is unlimited. However, there is something about a lacy crochet project that can't be replaced...Naturally, some of my favourite projects include both crafts.
F: Where do you pull inspiration from, and what inspired you to start creating your own designs in the first place?
K: I began designing out of a desire to have specific items that I couldn't find patterns for. When I learned to knit at age six, I didn't use patterns. It was a challenge for me later in life to figure out how to read one! The first pattern I followed was a pair of mittens that I made in high school.
Since then I have been ferociously deconstructing other designer's patterns and redesigning them so I could achieve something specific. It's very rare that I follow a pattern to the letter, but either way I always learn something in the process. I still draw a lot of inspiration from other knitters and Ravelry is obviously amazing for inspiration - maybe too amazing. Sometimes I find I've wasted a few hours just pouring over photos and ideas. Often, too, I will see something in fabric (from a magazine, a movie, or on a stranger in the grocery store) and think it would look great as a knitted object. I have tons of scraps of paper with sketches and ideas for designs jotted down. I'm also a book junkie so I will spend a lot of time leafing through stitch dictionaries and researching a stitch before I begin.
F: Do you see yourself as having an overall 'aesthetic' or theme behind your designs, or do you just make whatever comes to mind individually?
K: The bulk of my designs are items that I made for myself for a specific purpose (usually, staying warm) and after "testing" it out for awhile, I tend to figure out what I get a lot of use out of and what other knitters might be interested in. Because of that, a lot of the designs reflect my personal style. I'm not sure how I would define that except I can be a bit of a hippie and I prefer casual clothing to dress-up. I like to be warm and comfortable! For me, fashion is all about practicality. And if it also looks pretty, that's an added bonus.
F: What part of the process do you struggle with or have to work at the most? And what's your go-to fix when you're feeling discouraged?
K: A big challenge for me is in the details. I can be pretty anal and I like my patterns to be complete and consistent. However, sometimes I feel like I could spend all day updating, revising, retesting and rewriting. Every individual (and every country) has their own way of doing things. Sometimes the editing feels never-ending, but I think it's worth it in the end to have a quality pattern that people can easily follow.
Whenever knitting makes me feel sad, I start a new project! You can see where this logic breaks down...my house is full of half-finished items and swatches.
F: More and more designers on Ravelry, even beginning designers, are choosing to offer paid rather than free patterns, and the average price of those patterns just keeps increasing. However, some designers, including yourself, have chosen to continue offering free pdf downloads of some of their patterns. What would you say the advantages and disadvantages of having free downloads are?
K: I like to offer a lot of free patterns because I simply love to share knitting with others and I like to encourage new knitters as much as possible. Knitting and crocheting are expensive hobbies and the cost of tools and yarn really adds up. When you tack on the price of a pattern, it sometimes makes a big difference in the total cost of the project. For me, it's always worth it to purchase a pattern and I love to support other designers, but I also like to give something back to the knitting community (especially one that has provided me with many free patterns over the years!).
On the other hand, I also know how much time is put into a pattern from start to finish and so I understand why designers charge money. I also think there should be a sense of ownership of that design and that knitters should remember how valuable their time is - charging a few dollars for an idea that they nurtured and spent a lot of time on is more than fair in my books. Whenever I do charge, I try to keep my prices low. Usually the price depends on how many hours were put into the design and the complexity of it.
F: If you could pick any one independent designer to do a collaboration with, who would you pick?
K: I just adore Stephanie of tiny owl knits. I'm not usually a girly girl, but there is something about her designs that brings out the princess in me. Looking at her stuff makes me want to roll around in ribbons with kittens. Her imagination is boundless and her ideas are very unique. She really stands out for me among other designers and her service is impeccable. She is very talented in other arts as well...
F: Do you have any plans to try a venue for your designs other than self-publication? What have the best and worst parts about self-publishing been?
K: Right now I'm pretty happy to be supporting myself independently. I do work full-time, so I design and run Bohoknits in my spare time. I have way more ideas than I have time, but I am lucky to work in a fantastic yarn shop for most of the week where I can write and talk about yarn and knitting all day. I think the only downside to self-publishing is that I don't really make any money at it! Hopefully this year I will find some time to market to other yarn shops to carry my patterns, perhaps send some in to magazines (print and online), and maybe even do up an e-Book.
F: Where do you see knitting taking you in the future?
K: My family always laughs that I seem to have become a professional knitter! It's a very unassuming and unexpected career. I am fortunate that I am able to devote myself to something that I love so much. There are many ways I would like to develop, personally and professionally. Personally, I love the idea of creating an item from scratch. Now that I know how to dye, I will have to learn how to spin. And once I master that I will have to have my own alpaca to shear. Also a merino, goat and camel, of course. Professionally, I would like to see where dyeing yarn takes me, because it's something I enjoy (almost) as much as knitting and designing. I would also love to get some sweater patterns out there. I have so many ideas, but it is very time-consuming to test and get all the sizes and math just right. One thing I know for sure is that knitting and yarn will be a lifelong passion...I may get stars in my eyes when I learn a new craft, but I always go back to knitting. It is the one constant in my life.
F: Now that the seasons are changing and it's getting warm out, what are you really craving to knit during the summer months? Any styles you're particularly excited about?
K: I love knitting with all weights of yarn and I used to be stubborn about knitting with bulky wool in the summer months. I know some people give knitting up altogether while it's hot outside, but I can be kinda snotty and have this whole "mother nature isn't going to dictate my life" attitude, so my crafting habits generally don't change in the summer (plus, I live in one of the coldest towns in Canada). However, I'm really excited about sock yarn this year because I've been spending all my time with it in my dye studio. There are a lot of cute cardigans made with fingering weight yarn and I love ones with cap sleeves. Also anything with pockets. I'm also loving all the vests I'm seeing everywhere...
F: And last but not least, what's on your needles right now?
K: I have a chronic addiction to starting new projects and not finishing them...I call it Knitter's ADD. I technically have probably upwards of 40 projects that are patiently waiting for me to finish them up. The one that I am most excited about at the moment is "Still Light" by Veera Valimaki, a dress with pockets and 3/4 sleeves. I'm doing it with Soxy by Diamond Yarn in a really nice, deep teal.