Thursday, October 8, 2015

Interview with ChemKnits

This title might be confusing.  An interview with ChemKnits, but you are ChemKnits!

I realized when I conducted an interview with Sarah E. White that some of the interviews I've given in the past are no longer available online.  Why not answer the questions I asked Sarah for you guys today?  I share little bits of my past and history through the blog posts, but I thought it would be fun to tell a bit of my story here today.


When did you learn to knit? 
I first learned to knit from my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Fox, when I was 10 years old.  On days with poor weather, she pulled popsicle sticks with our names written on it and let us select an activity (computer games, board games, etc.)  Knitting happened to have two slots available, and my friend Lindsay and I chose to learn how.  We learned to cast on, bind off, knit and purl.  Shortly after this lesson my mom took me to the store where we purchased some straight and circular needles.  (I actually still have the 16" size 6 needles that I got over 20 years ago and I still use it on hats today!)  Knitting spread through the class and everyone was making short headbands - cast on in the round, knit about an inch and bind off.  We were "collecting" different colors and it was all the rage.  During story time (a lot of Goosebumps back then) we would sit and knit.

What was the first thing you ever made?
I started, and stopped, a lot of scarves back in that era.  I don't think I finished a scarf until high school. I did make a lot of winter headbands (double layer to cover ears) and donated a bunch to the local Women's shelter.

If you had unlimited time and no deadlines, what would you start knitting? 
Afghans.  No question about it.  I LOVE knit afghans and granny square crochet blankets.  I find myself saving patterns all the time.  Ultimately, I neither have the time to make myself huge cozy afghans nor do I have the space for them in my house.  Hmmm... I actually have a house now versus an apartment... maybe I DO have more space now.

Where did your inspiration for Colorwork Knitting come from? Well I can't exactly answer this question as written since I did not write the book Colorwork Knitting!  Instead I will talk about the inspiration for my designs.

I get inspiration in a lot of places.  You can see that my designs vary a lot.  I make a lot of beer cozies because they make wonderful gifts for friends plus they are a fun way to test out different stitch patterns.  With a lot of my amigurumi I would start knitting a new shape and then see the shape of a different cartoonish bug and immediately sketch out a new pattern.  Other designs, such as my colorwork stockings and vest, take a lot of planning and I'll spend weeks sketching out various shapes to create something perfect for my family.

Your latest book is all about different types of colorwork, which is your favorite technique? Again, not my book but I am a HUGE colorwork fan and use it in many of my designs.

I love stranded colorwork.  My blog header is stranded, the Christmas stockings I designed for my family are stranded.  I started using a lot of stranded techniques when I was trying to use up yarn in my stash.  I wanted to make some hats for friends but didn't have enough of a single color to complete the hat.  Two balls of yarn + a fun design = a one of a kind gift!

What is your favorite yarn to knit with? 
I knit with KnitPicks Wool of the Andes worsted weight yarn the most, and it is probably my go do workhorse yarn.  I love that I can get it in 50 g balls and there is a huge variety of colors.  It is also comfortable to work with.  If I had the budget, I would work with alpaca 100% of the time, but this isn't practical for every type of project.  My favorite weight of yarn to work with is fingering weight.  I love the drape and versatility of the thin yarn.

Now that I have a toddler running around, I'm using more superwash yarns so his knit items are washable.  I prefer 100% wool to blends, and I've been really happy with cascade 220 superwash so far.  What are your favorite washable yarns to work with?  I always love recommendations.

You have hundreds of designs! What are your favorites? Dozens in my case, no hundreds, but I still have a lot of designs!

As of today, my favorite design is the Snowy Penguin Set.  I wish I could have written the vest pattern in multiple sizes, but I'm not yet sure how sizes scale with growing babies.  I spent longer working on getting the snowflakes and penguins just so on the vest design than it took me to knit the actual garment!

Another favorite is my 14 cable hat.  This was my first complex design, and I was proud enough of it that I even wrote an entire blog post dedicated to the design process.  Now that I know more about the theory of cable design I think I want to update this pattern with new charts and cables, but I'll have to find time around settling into my new home!

I have a whole notebook dedicated to design ideas.  It is hard sometimes for me to keep up with knitting patterns I find that I love and taking the time to design my own patterns.  I am committed to offering many designs for free here at ChemKnits, but the longer I've been running this blog I've come to realize the value of purchasing patterns from designers I respect.  If a design requires a lot of design effort, I will now offer it for sale to help keep this blog running.

What type of project do you recommend for first time knitters?
Hats.  100%.   Scarves seem simpler, but often in the course of endless garter stitch a new knitter will give up feeling like they'll never finish the project.  You can make a simple rolled brim hat with casting on, the knit stitch and K2tog.  In a hat you see your progress much faster and you can get to a finished object much sooner.

If you aren't a hat person, another good beginner project is a dish cloth.  These small cotton squares are forgiving (since you are going to wash dishes after all) and you can practice different stitch patterns.  They go quickly so the new knitter can have a sense of accomplishment and feel the high of finishing a project.


I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about me.  Do you have any questions you'd like to ask me?  If I get enough I will do an interview part 2!


  1. Hi Rebecca,
    I actually do have a question; I apologize that it's unrelated to the post, rather related to the dyeing you do, but this seemed the best place to reach you quickly. I just handpainted a batch of Coopworth roving, and when I took it out to let it cool off and rinse, I had to peel the sections of roving apart because they were stuck together a bit. Will the fibers be okay when they dry, and draft freely, or am I the new and not-so-proud owner of a batch of semi-felted, unable-to-be-spun roving?

    1. Sometimes I've found my roving to stick together a bit after handpainting, but once it dries it has always been super soft and drafted easily. It does'nt look as fluffy/perfect as i did before (although with some fluffing it comes back a bit), but the drafting was easily. How as the fiber after it dried?

  2. Also, how do you get darker colors with the Wilton's? I've tried adding lots of dye, and it looks one way on the wet roving, but lighter after it's been heated.

    1. And I'm very happy to answer questions here! Sometimes I can get slow with FB and Ravelry when I'm at my computer less and less (Lucky is quite the active toddler!)

      Try adding even more dye. Wilton's is fun but it takes a LOT to get really deep, dark colors. It will always dry lighter than it looks when wet, so try doubling what you used if you're not quite happy with the results the first time. Good luck!

      (I have trouble getting dark vibrant colors when I'm making icing so I find myself having to use WAY more dye than I anticipated.)

    2. Thanks for getting back to me! The Coopworth roving I mentioned previously was the flat, thin kind, unfortunately not the kind that looks like top, So it could be the type of roving, or perhaps Coopworth is less forgiving than other rovings/tops, but this stuff was determined to stay felty! It dried the same way it was when wet, so I really had to predraft, actually tugging it apart to get it to move. Needless to say, I realized I wouldn't be able to make the usual fine singles-for-plying that's my standard yarn, so I opted to "spin outside the box". I'm making a thick-and-thin fat singles that I'll ply with a matching rayon thread for something fuzzy and textural that won't force my fibers too much, so I don't lose the softness. For my remaining fiber, I'm going to try oven-dyeing, where you soak the roving in an aluminum pan, carefully drain off the water, paint it, seal it with foil, and bake it to build the steam needed for setting. That way, I only touch it to put it on the pan, and take it out for final rinsing, thereby minimizing my contact and the chance of me stomping like Godzilla through my lovely, fluffy fiber! ;)