• Designer Interview: Mari Chiba
  • Post author
    Josh Hutchison

Designer Interview: Mari Chiba

Today we have an interview with designer Mari Chiba. Last year she published her wildly popular  Connectivity Gloves using SilverSpun Sport, and this year she's back with another great design, this time in SilverSpun Sock! You can learn more about Mari and her designs at mariknits.com.

If you haven't seen the Silver Lining Gloves yet, the pattern is a two in one, a mitten and a glove, which can be worn separately or together depending on how how cold it is on any given day! The outer mitten features a flip-top, giving you added dexterity, and it can be worn alone or layered over the glove. On a super cold day you can wear your mitten over your glove and still be able to answer your phone or browse the internet without having to expose your fingertips to the blistering cold!

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 in Japan. My mom, sister, and I moved to the US when I was 7. I'm half Japanese, but unfortunately have forgotten all my Japanese. It's surreal, but I've seen tapes of myself as a young child speaking fluent Japanese, and it's like seeing a video of another person, because I don't know what I'm saying. I grew up in Oregon, went to college in Boston, met my husband while living in Armenia as a Peace Corps Volunteer, then we moved to Beijing to teach English, and finally I ended up here in North Carolina, his home state.

My mom taught me to knit when I was about 8. I knit part of a headband out of a neon variegated acrylic yarn that was full of holes and quickly gave up. Fast forward about 13 years and I found myself really cold, really bored, and without a lot to do during the very cold winter in Armenia. I taught myself to knit from books I found in our Peace Corps office library, tutorials downloaded onto my USB drive from the internet cafe, and some help from some other knitters in my village and other volunteers. I've been knitting for over 7 years now and I've been designing since 2011.

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?) 

I had an office up until about 6 weeks ago. Now my office is also a nursery, and let's just say that with having a newborn the room isn't exactly fit to be photographed. There may or may not be a box of yarn on the floor, a small (HA!) pile of laundry to be washed, and many layers of papers, yarn, and books piled on my desk. Without photographic evidence to the contrary it's quite possible I have a very tidy office/nursery that would make you all green with envy...right?

Where do your design inspirations come from? Nature, architecture, fine art?

I get a lot of inspiration from ready to wear fashion. I love flipping through fashion magazines and use Pinterest to collect and curate inspiration. I have to say a lot of my sweater designs have been influenced by Anthropologie and high end runway designs I can't afford to fill my closet with!

What is it about designing that gets you to jump out of bed every morning and grab the needles?

I have ideas for designs and they bubble up in my dreams, when I'm walking the dog, or when I'm walking down the street and see a shape, line, or something that sparks my imagination. For me designing is like a compulsion--the ideas are shouting at me and I can't help but knit them up into reality.

What do you have on your needles right now?

Are we talking active WIPs or those lying dormant, too? I have a sweater that I knit and wrote the pattern for over a year ago that hasn't been published because I haven't finished the i-cord edging on one sleeve. I have a baby sweater I knit for Dash and finished when I was still pregnant that just needs buttons. I'm working on a sample for a new design I can't share just yet. I'm also trying to decide on the perfect baby hat for Dash this winter using SIlverSpun Sock, but haven't cast on yet. Those are the ones I can remember off the top of my head...

What qualities of SilverSpun did you find most appealing?

All of them! I've loved going to the mill with you [Laurie] and seeing how SilverSpun is made, I love the story and the yarn itself. It's springy and squishy, soft and durable--what's not to love? For gloves in particular I think SilverSpun is the BEST yarn. It's conductive, which is great because the silver means it'll not only conduct electricity from your fingers to your phone but also conduct heat to keep your hands warm. The spendex in it ensures that i'll always fit perfectly and you can knit them with some negative ease to get the perfect stretch so you can text with accuracy even with gloves on.

  • Post author
    Josh Hutchison