Even though it's past Labor Day and historically that means summer is over, I'm still not ready to put away my flip flops. The recent cool mornings here in DC though have had me reaching for a pair of Kinston yoga socks (I can still wear my ff but my ankles stay warm.) Kinston is one of three patterns that were designed by Talitha Kuomi for our recent Look Book - Simply Silver. I’ve asked all of the designers for our collection to answer a few questions about themselves and their designing so we could get to know them a little better and delve deeper into the thought process of a knitwear designer. Today we hear from Talitha.
1. Can you give us a little background intel on yourself? Where were you born? Do you still live there? How long have you been knitting? Who taught you to knit?
I was born just south of Boston, MA. We used to take the subway into town. I have especially vivid memories of Chinatown and Brigham’s ice cream sundaes. When I was 11, we moved slightly farther south of Boston into the house where I live now. I taught myself to knit the next year, trying to earn a badge for my Pioneer Girl’s sash. After high school I explored a bit living at the top of a hill overlooking Drogheda, Ireland for a year and then 10 years in Maine ending up a quick walk from the rushing Saco River. My husband and I moved back into this childhood home of mine when our oldest was just three (she’s fourteen now).
2. Where do you do your designing? Do you have a special room in your house, a studio, a favorite chair? (Can you share a photo of your spot?)
The designing starts in my head. A blip of an idea sticks instead of slipping past me. Often I sit down at my second-hand antique black desk later that day with whatever scarp of napkin or receipt I scribbled down a quick sketch or rough notes on the back of. The small workroom that desk sits in is packed with everything from guitars to bongos, crayon drawings by my kids and bulletin board sized collages I've made of magazine cutouts (just as likely to be from Vogue as from National Geographic). To me, this room nearly buzzes with creative energy, so it’s the best spot to bounce ideas around and hash out what the original idea is going to become.
When I’m ready to swatch or actually knit, I sit in the most mellow room of the house. Hazy pink walls, an overstuffed chair and my feet resting lazily on an old ottoman. The knitting is all about calm and rhythm to me. If whatever I came up with at the desk, isn’t peaceful to knit, I go back to the bulletin boards and try again. The process of making a thing has to be as good as the end result to me or I won’t be satisfied.
3. Where do your design inspirations come from? Nature, architecture, fine art, what?
Negative space. I am hooked on the shape of a thing as defined by the negative space around it. Because of this, it is overall shapes that I find the most inspiring. That said, shapes tend to catch my attention when they feel like a certain event or memory or emotion that matters to me. I start with the big picture and then design to fill in with stitch patterns or colors that, to me, echo the mood or emotion of the shape. Sometimes the outline of a piece feels so strong to me, or the yarn has such a strong character that I turn to Stockinette stitch for the texture so it won't all feel overwhelming when it's finished. The choices after the shape are all about balance and telling the story to me.
4. Who are your favorite designers (and it doesn't have to be knitwear designers)?
An individual piece will capture my attention and either make me think or feel connected to something that I was already thinking. Those are the designs that I love whether they are garments or buildings or artwork on the wall, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way about any one person’s overall body of work. That makes naming a ‘favorite designer’ impossible. Can I tell you instead, out of everything I’ve seen in the last seven days, what moved me the most? The chalk art that my 7 and 8 yr olds brought home from school. Even though I’m sure it was not conscious on either of their parts, they both absolutely captured a piece of their very individual personalities in these two pictures. It’s the intensity of the honesty of the truth about each of them showing through that grabs me and holds on tight.
5. What is it about designing that gets you to jump out of bed every morning and grab the needles?
Ha. I am not a morning person, so I can guarantee you that I do not jump out of bed any morning whether knitting is on my mind or not. I wake up much more slowly than that, but once I'm awake I'm ready to live to the fullest every minute of the day and hope to keep up with all my responsibilities as wife, mama, daughter, neighbor and friend. The knitting happens in between all the other stuff, or later at night when my kids are in bed and the volume eases up a bit. It’s what I do for me, for the relaxation of it and it grew into designing as a way to document the joy and the struggle of the plain old living that the days are packed with.
6. What do you have on your needles right now?
Oh. So. Many. Things. Among them: I’ve got a hat for a soldier in a friend’s cousin’s troop overseas, a sweater that’s part of a bigger collection for early 2015, a cowl that’s about going with the flow and how that doesn’t always mean a straight line, and on my head (even thought it’s 80 degrees out today) a bulky hat I finished last night because I’m so pleased with how it fits that I’m not ready to pack it away for fall yet.
7. While designing the three pieces for our Look Book, what qualities of SilverSpun did you find most appealing?
Cotton yarns can be a little rough or stiff by their very nature. I was thrilled at the softness of the cotton in the SilverSpun mix. Then once I started knitting up swatches, the stretch of the lycra opened up the brainstorming of ideas for me, because it allowed the stitch patterns to stretch around a hand or leg or head and stay put. What mostly attracted me to the yarn though, before I’d even touched it, was the silver content. I’m a big fan of silver for health and upping immunities, so the idea of that in the knitting made me so happy. What better than to knit (which I know from experience is good for my health) and then to end up with a finished accessory that promotes health (due to the silver content) by the simple wearing of it. That’s a huge bonus quality in my book.
8. What is your favorite color?
Ready to grimace or silently say ‘ugh’ to yourself? That is what I know happens whenever I answer this question. Here goes. Brown is my favorite color. Honest. Brown the color of the mud that fills the air with the smell of spring. Deeply rich brown the color of dark chocolate. Semi-solid brown interspersed with hints of grey that mimics the depth and texture of tree bark. The mottled brown of wild rabbits. The crisp brown of perfectly timed toast. The familiar brown of broken-in leather boots worn to perfection…you get the idea. I could got on and on.
9. Please add anything else you'd like to share.
My only real frustration with knitting as a designer is that often my head has pictured things that my knitting skills just weren’t developed enough to create. It is only recently that I feel like my knitting abilities are beginning to catch up with what I’ve wanted to design all along. This is really, really exciting. Maybe I’ll soon be up to taking on some classic tales modernized and re-imagined with knitting. What would Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma be knitting in bed before the wolf arrives? Would the Three Little Pigs prefer top down or toe up socks? Is the troll under the bridge actually cranky because the distracting noise of the Three Billy Goats Gruff crossing has caused him to drop a stitch?