Ok, let’s imagine that this is the Oprah show (and I’m Oprah, and I’m about to introduce today’s guest), because you see, I am very, very excited about today’s blog tour stop with Kristi Porter, and I can’t help but want to do the Oprah voice when I introduce her.
(Everyone ready to imagine this now? Ok, good).
Kristi is a longtime friend and knit-associate — she’s tech-edited my books, been in my books, you name it. We’ve swapped all kinds of knit-data over the years. After her recent Knitting Patterns for Dummies book with Wiley, she decided to do something very close to home — a book called Knitting In the Sun: 32 Projects For Warm Weather.
See, Kristi lives in San Diego, which might as well be the moon when you compare it to the weather here in Ohio. The only time of year it’s warm, it tends to be uncomfortably humid and sticky. And while the tile floors at Kristi’s house can be chilly in January, they don’t come close to the bone-chilling freeze here here. So trust me when I tell you she knows warm weather, and (important for the rest of us), all about the powers of layering!
Heeeeeeere’s Kristi! [say in full Oprah-voice]
1. How does environment influence your knitting? You live in San Diego, which isn’t as warm as some people might think year-round — do you tend to pick or design patterns that reflect the weather where you are?
I think we all respond to our environment as knitters! We visited my mom in the Pacific Northwest over the winter holidays this year during their epic winter storms and never in my life has a basket of handknit socks and mittens warming by the fireside seemed so vital and important!
But here in the desert Southwest our needs are entirely different. We need stuff that’s comfortable at 70 degrees. And we need layers. We don’t have cold winters and we don’t have really hot summers. But the temperatures can really fluctuate throughout the day. Even in summer, I might want to throw something over my shoulders when the sun has set.
I have a couple of woolly pullovers that I break out on the coldest days and for visits. But for the most part, cardigans are really the “it” knit for me. On again, off again. Or a top that feels more shirt-like than sweatery. Or a really great wrap. Those are the knits that feel right for me.
2. How did you start designing? What gave you that little push to break free from other peoples’ patterns?
I grew up with people making things. My mom could knit and crochet and sew, though I don’t remember seeing a lot of it as a child. My aunt really identified herself strongly with her knitting, at least when I knew her. And my grandmother was really one of those technically brilliant craftswomen that gave people angst. She was born before the turn of the 20th century and might have turned her talents to other things at other times, but, as it turns out, she focused some of her talents and energies on needlecraft, though sewing and crochet are what I remember. Anyway, at some point, between the three of them, I learned to knit, and I suppose there were questions…and answers…along the way. But really the first things I can remember completing (as a high schooler), I designed. Not that they were good, but the most obvious thing for me was “I want it to be about this wide, and about this long…” They were pretty square. But it was the ’80s. Boxy and oversized were in!
At some point, I learned to read patterns, but didn’t knit from them most of the time. Really, wanting to be able to share my own work with others was what caused me to learn the code. Of course, once you learn to read and understand patterns, a whole world opens up! I read patterns all the time now, both for work and pleasure, I suppose. Since I also work as a technical editor of knitting patterns, I do spend more time than the average bear engaged in critical readings of knitting patterns. Seeing how different designers approach shaping and construction, texture and pattern, is always inspiring. I always enjoy knitting, but design is really my true love.
3. Is there a handful of things that make a knitting pattern “sun-appropriate” for you…as in, appropriate for warm weather knitting? Anything you tend to avoid?
Sleeveless or short-sleeved tops are obvious choices, but I really wanted this collection to go year round and that means layering. A shawl to warm you up, a cardigan you can take off. A cover-up to pull on after the sun sets. I think a “sun-appropriate” garment has to not feel heavy. And it’s got to be airy. Whether it’s looser gauges, lace, openwork, or the silhouette of the garment, you don’t want to be smothered by it.
4. When choosing materials for these kinds of knits, what do you look for? You make the point in the introduction that wool and such are not off limits so long as they’re paired with appropriate design details…what pattern in the book show this best, do you think, and how?
I don’t think anything’s 100% verboten anywhere! If you love a chunky wool yarn, make a scarf. Or make a jacket that can be your winter coat. A silk-wool blend is my favorite, I think, for a San Diego-weight cardigan, but then again, something lacy in alpaca can be mighty nice too! Lighter-gauged yarns and incorporating air into the design mean nothing’s truly off limits.
5. It’s really cool that you’ve taken into account knitters’ desire (NEED?) to print out working charts to carry around and spill coffee on, etc…was this your idea or the publishers’ to make all the charts in the book available as downloads?
Kim covered this already [editor’s note: link is to day 1 tour stop with Kim Werker]. It is cool, though. If it catches on, it may make some beautiful things with intense charts more possible to publish. [editors note, part two: YES PLEASE?! publishers, are you listening?]
6. Both you and your daughters appear as models in the book — was that incredibly exciting for them, or have they just grown accustomed to “this is what Mom does for a living”?
I think it’s more the latter. “Here, hold up this knitted object and pretend you enjoy it!” is not really so far outside the norm around here! Plus the photographer is a family friend, so it wasn’t as if they’d been dropped on Mars for the day. They are excited to see themselves in print, of course, but I don’t think they really get that they might go into a book shop in some other city and see themselves there.
7. Have you ever made a severe miscalculation when it comes to knitting something appropriate for your weather-environment?
I don’t think I’ve made any weather-related disasters, other than a couple of really nice pullovers I can really only wear maybe 2 weeks a year. We don’t really heat our house, so that really ups the amount of time I can spend in wool. Now that I’ve knit a sun hat, it’s like a revelation though. I’ll definitely knit more of those!
Knitting In the Sun: 32 Projects For Warm Weather by Kristi Porter. Wiley, 2009, $22.99 USD
The next stop on the tour is.. Wannietta‘s blog!