Knitcircus Contributing Editor Miss T was able to catch up with crochet and knitting author Kristin Omdahl, for an interview about her new book, A Knitting Wrapsody. As a surprise treat, we also have a generous free pattern download from Kristin and Interweave Press for your enjoyment! Watch for Miss T's review of Kristin's new book in the Summer 2011 Knitcircus, due out May 5th.
An Interview with Kristin Omdahl
by Miss T
Kristin Omdahl’s designs are not only striking and innovative, they’re strong reminders that knitting and crochet are joined at the hip. Each craft has much to offer on its own, but — as you’ll see when you take a look at Kristin’s latest book, A Knitting Wrapsody — bringing the two techniques together opens up a whole new territory.
What’s your background? How did you become interested in design?
I have always loved to create and have been sketching women's clothing since I was a little girl. I took a lot of drafting and shop classes in high school because I loved the design and structure. I think I've had a love affair with math problems my whole life and look for problems to solve (mathematically) in real life. In my late teens I was a waitress, but moonlighted as a cocktail dress designer for the "over 21" girls I worked with in the restaurant. I bought a used sewing machine and took an adult education class for six weeks and loved it. For a few years I enjoyed making dresses and had the great opportunity of making a little extra money for my hobby, too.
In college, I majored in chemistry for a few years thinking I was going to be a doctor, but gave up to finish earlier and focused on a business degree instead. I worked in office management and accounting for several years in my 20's but it was a job, not a passion. I got married and moved overseas, and had the luxury of not working at that time. I became pregnant shortly thereafter and felt compelled to make baby booties. I taught myself to crochet, and a month later taught myself to knit. I think I made a dozen layettes before my son was born. I ventured into shawl design when he no longer needed baby blankets and booties. Because I didn't have access to patterns where I was living, I had to figure out how to create the desired shawl shape from gauge and shaping. I used the Pythagorean Theorem to figure out a triangular shawl shape. The combination of stitching and math was a monumental "aha" moment for me. I have been passionately designing knit and crochet patterns ever since.
You are equally well-versed in knitting and crochet, and several of the designs in A Knitting Wrapsody are the result of some very interesting cross-pollination between the two techniques. Do you see yourself heading further in that direction?
Several of the designs in A Knitting Wrapsody are inspired by either the textures or construction theory of crochet. I also drew inspiration from other crafts as well as other hobbies, like fishing. I wanted to use knitting as the medium but create fabric or texture that was not traditional knitting. It was a lot of fun to explore and I am always asking myself how would it be possible to to create A from B.
Spirals and circles are more easily done in crochet than in knitting. You’ve conquered that challenge in the Infinity Cardi-Wrap. What is it about those motifs that makes you want to translate them into fiber? How does this design fit into the overall picture of what inspires you?
I love geometric shapes, especially those found in nature. Spirals are at the top of that list. There are so many ways to create a spiral and so many ways of combining them. Seashells have the most beautiful spirals. When I go to the beach, I always look at the different seashells for inspiration.
What would you like knitters and crocheters to learn from your work, and from the way you approach both crafts?
Don't be afraid! Relax, breathe, and try something new. I have fun knitting and crocheting. I want everyone else to do the same. Mistakes are okay – they are what make us human. Extra stitches, missing stitches, dropped stitches, they can all be remedies one way or the other. Just breathe.
To a non-knitter or crocheter, this sounds silly. But I'll never forget my first knitting project. I cast on so tightly that I couldn't physically insert my right hand needle into the space between the stitch and the left hand needle. Couldn't physically do it! I broke a sweat trying, though! I remember being so angry. I set the project down, jumped in an ice cold shower to cool off, took a couple of very deep breaths, and started over. I've been able to knit into the space between stitches and needles every since.
Living in Florida means that you probably don’t have much use for heavy sweaters. Do you ever long for cold weather, so you can work with beautiful, bulky wools?
On the contrary! We still have a winter – but it is a winter that doesn't need winter coats. However, bulky wool sweaters are perfect for our winter. I wear sweaters, shawls, scarves and hats in FL winter. And, you'd be surprised, but I wear shawls all summer too. The restaurants and movie theaters really crank the air conditioning, so I usually carry a lace shawl in my purse when I go out in the evening. And, as a designer I still have to knit for what ever season I am working. Often times, it means I'm knitting with beautiful bulky wool, but in August. That can be challenging. Thank goodness for air conditioning!
What’s your next big challenge?
I am working on two new books right now – one knit and one crochet – and they are both the types of projects where I am exploring some extremes. So, there is a lot of experimental design and exploration. It is incredibly fun! I can't wait to talk to you about them, but that will be 18 months from now!
Thanks so much, Kristin!