Monday, April 14, 2008

Blog Tour: Best of Interweave Knits Readers' Choice Awards

Usually Monday is not my favorite day of the week, but today is a special day for me. For the first time I have a guest on my blog. Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily, Interweave's online place for knitters.

Today she announced The Top 5: The Best Of Interweave Knits Readers' Choice Awards, and presents us with an e-Book of the top 5 winning patterns.

To kick off the blog tour she agreed to answer some questions.

Q 1: As I’ve read on one of your blog posts on KD, people were quite passionate about selection their Top designs. Did you have your own Top Design in mind, and did it make the Top 5 Best of Knits’ Readers’ Choice Awards?

A: Oh, my. You may regret asking me this J My problem is that part of my job is knowing the entire “back catalog” of Knits (the list of all the patterns from all the issues since 1996) inside and out, so I have my head full of all kinds of amazing designs which did not make it! I don’t think I’m supposed to have favorites…but if I did, here they’d be:
Best Baby Item: dead tie between Ann Budd’s Better Than Baby Booties and Kate Gilbert’s Peapod Baby Set.
Best Hat: Veronik Avery’s Short Row Hat.
Best Men’s Garment, no contest there: Jared Flood’s Cobblestone (which wasn’t eligible because it was too new at the time).
Best Blanket/Afghan: tie between the Sharon O’Brien’s Double Wedding Ring Quilt and the Anna Rachap’s Star Light, Star Bright baby blanket.
Best Gift: Sandy Cushman’s Best Friend Dolls (kids) or Vicki Sever’s Heart Sachet (grownups).
Best Mittens/Gloves: Tie between Laura Rintala’s White Witch Mitts and Beth Brown-Reinsel’s Nordic Mittens. (Jolene Treace’s Wine and Roses Mitts a close second.)
Best Cardigan/Jacket: I agree, the Nantucket and the Sunrise Circle. But I think Annie Modesitt’s Sideways Spencer is tied with those, for me, anyway.
Best Pullover: I’m a lace fiend, so the Shirley Paden’s Gibson Girl or her Oriel Lace Blouse would have my vote. But the Cable-Down is AWESOME.
Best Little Top: Therese Chynoweth’s Eyelet Camisole.
Best Socks: Mona Schmidt’s Embossed Leaves Socks tied with Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’ Caspian Sea Socks.
Best Bag: Nicky Epstein’s Felted Floral Bag tied with Marty McCall’s Weekend Getaway Satchel.
Best Lace Shawl or Stole: Evelyn Clark’s Flower Basket Shawl and Miriam Felton’s Icarus.

You can see why no one asked me. J I spend so much time looking at back issues for ideas for what to put in the store that the designs become my children, in a way. I love them all. In five minutes, I’m going to remember ten more “best” ones.

Q 2: Have you knit any/all of the Top 5 winning designs?

A: Oh goodness, no. I actually had a shoulder injury this past fall (breaking down a door, you know—or was it battling that grizzly bear? I can’t remember, really) and I couldn't knit for a few months, so I am really behind in my personal Knitting Queue. I would absolutely love to knit all of them—wouldn’t it be fun to have the entire Top Five Set? Someday, maybe when I get to take a vacation, that Swallowtail Shawl will be my very own shut-up-don’t-bother-me-I’m-on-vacation treat. I’m fantasizing about a beach, with a light breeze, a cabana boy bringing me dorky-looking cold drinks, no phone and no email for miles, and lovely laceweight singing through my fingers as I knit. Sigh. Fantasies are healthy, I hear.

Q 3: All the winning designers are well known and loved for their excellent work. After we all recover from the joy of knitting their winning designs, will there be new patterns of the winning designers in the KD library/store in the near future?

A: We would LOVE to have anything Norah, Kate, Stefanie, and Evelyn do in our store! I know we have plans to feature more of Norah’s designs in the near future, so be on the lookout for that. We sadly won’t be able to feature Evelyn’s designs, however, as we no longer own the rights to her work—I hope she makes them available on her own website very soon! As for the rest, it just depends upon what kind of contract that designer has signed. I’m willing to beg, in person, on my knees, if that’s what it takes. (I am also considering bringing flowers and chocolate to the begging session, but perhaps that is taking it too far.)

Q 4: Has writing blog posts for KD, and reading all the comments, influenced your own knitting?

Ab-so-lute-ly. In the year and a half that I’ve been KD Girl, my knitting skills have improved ten-fold. Even my husband has noticed how much better my knitting is now, which is quite a compliment. I feel as though I am re-learning every aspect of knitting, on a much deeper level, as I write about it for the KD’ers—I have to, in order to figure out how to explain things, or to challenge my own assumptions about how things need to be done. And then, in the comments, I see things through other knitter’s eyes…and I learn it again, a different way. My readers have made me a more thoughtful, questioning knitter: why should I do that decrease that way? Is there a better way to knit this to make it look the way I want it to? When the commenters ask a question, I go off and try to find out the answer…The readers are my best teachers. Their comments and emails and contributions to KD are the best knitting gift I have ever had. Reading them is like taking a master class in knitting!

Q 5: You are the one who decides which patterns will be put up in the library and the store. How can people get you to consider a certain pattern from sold-out books and magazines to be selected?

A: Well, you can never go wrong with dark chocolate, really.
Everyone is most welcome to send an email to with specific patterns they would like me to consider. That email is handled by our KD customer service person, Nicole (who is awesome; you might want to send the chocolate to HER, actually). She forwards the particularly witty or pathetic requests to me, so creativity counts, folks. J She and I also keep a running tally of all the patterns folks have requested. I look at that list each week when it is time to add more patterns to the store—so see, your requests really do get considered! There are cases where we no longer own the rights to a particular pattern (such as the Flower Basket Shawl, unfortunately), and so in those cases, the Pattern Fairy cannot grant your request. (That’s what they call me on Ravelry, the Pattern Fairy!) But if we have the rights, and if the stars are in alignment, and if the chocolate is good, then poof! your dream pattern just might show up in the store or the library! The Pattern Fairy loves that part of her job, making people’s pattern dreams come true. And frankly, I would rather have you folks ask for what you want, and give it to you, than spend a lot of time guessing. So ask away!!

Q 6: Do you see a trend in the knitting community?

A: Knitters are starting to really come into their own—as knitters. They don’t want to just know how to do the knits and purls; they want to know the best way to do the knits and purls, why they should do a purl and not a knit, and how to adjust the knits and purls to their personal tastes! It’s as though for years, many folks knitted straight off the pattern, and never gave it a thought…but got a little discouraged, sometimes, when their knitting didn’t really come out as they hoped it would. With the explosion of shared knitting information online—bloggers showing work-in-progress, knitalongs, Ravelry, and things like the Galleries on Knitting Daily—knitters are starting to want to make their knitting THEIRS. They want to know how to make things fit, they want to know how to move that cable over there, they want to know how to substitute yarn, they want to know how to design their own patterns. They’re not satisfied with cookie-cutter knitting or just knitting the simple stuff all the time. They are feeling their POWAH. “Knittah Powah!!” (You have to say that in a Queen Latifah voice for it to work: “KNITTAH POWAH, people!”) I love that this is happening. I love that knitters are taking their craft into their own hands and learning more about it and making it their own. I think this means that the next few years are going to bring us a blossoming of energetic, out-of-the-box, amazing knitting designs.

Q 7: You are a knitter, crocheter, spinner, weaver, and you work with beads. What’s your favorite craft, and do you have time to do it all? How do you decide which project gets your attention?

A: Hoo boy. You have asked the Double Word Score Bonus Question here.
Well. I have a few knitting projects which are actually Work, with actual deadlines and stuff, so those get priority. The shoulder injury set me back quite a bit, and so now that I am mostly healed, I am playing catch-up. I have knitting goals for each week, sometimes each day, which I try to meet to keep on schedule.
I have a couple of personal knitting projects, like the cabled hoodie for my husband. If I don’t finish this soon, the Spousal Evil Eye will be directed at me, along with big spousal sighs, tapping of feet, and maybe even whimpering. I mean, really: Whimpering. So I try to fit in some time to knit on that every week.
After that…well. I have to do some spinning a couple of times a week or I become a not-nice person. Really. The spinning centers me, calms me, and helps me to do something which is Just For Me. That’s a bit rare right now, so I make a point of spinning as much as I can. That has become part of my own personal spiritual practice, so it’s important, even if I can only do it for five or ten minutes.
The beading…now, that is my personal passion. I was a beadwork designer long before I started designing knitwear. I find myself designing jewelry in my head when I’m stopped in traffic, or when I lay awake…and my bead table is the first thing you see when you walk in my front door. There’s simply not enough time in my life to do it as much as I want to, so, when most knitters would knit gifts for friends, I bead gifts for friends. That’s my way of squeezing it into my life, beading as gift-making. Also, I just cannot fit gift-knitting in very often!
The weaving is on hold right now, unfortunately. I drool over Handwoven, but cannot allow myself to peek between its pages. And crochet, well. I crochet on commission now, for special things, or for a special magazine project.
Which one is my favorite? That’s like asking me which child is my favorite. They are all special. Having said that: I spin for prayer and peace and joy. I bead for loving gifts from the depths of my passion. I knit because a knitter is who I am.

Q 8: You are a designer, too. Do you have something you are working on right now? Knowing what people want, do you design with that in mind?

A: I’m working primarily on two things right now, a garment-thingie and a lace-thingie. (Shhh….secrets!) Both I started on after seeing lots of requests for those types of things on KD and the blogs and so forth. My readers are my greatest inspiration, really. I am constantly doing a lot of research online to see what kinds of projects people are really knitting, which ones they love and which ones they thought were cool for a while but never ended up making. I research people’s preferred colors, yarns, fiber types, what shapes work and which don’t. I approach designing the same way I approach buying someone a gift: I find out all about what they like, what they already have, what they long for, and then I let my creativity loose! I am a very good gift-giver.
That said: I usually start off with a little nagging voice in my head that keeps saying: I want to do Something Lace. I do my research, with the little voice in the background nudging me this way and that, until the nagging voice has a little a-ha moment. I’m very methodical in my designs, doing research, doing a million charts, knitting a gadzillion swatches until the nagging voice is happy and starts humming. Then: I start knitting. Designing is something I just have to do. It’s not a choice, I just do it. I designed my first sweater in high-school, actually. It’s a joy.

Thank you, Sandi!
Sandi with her dog Buddy. "He lost his left front leg due to injuries sustained in Hurricane Katrina, of which he is a survivor," Sandi said.

BTW, I like Sandi's Comfort shawl design, and have it on my to -do list. Sandi can also be found on ravelry.
Blog Tour:

Tues. April 15: Norah Gaughan interview on Lolly Knitting Around,
Wed. April 16: Kate Gilbert interview on Moth Heaven,
Thurs., April 17: Stefanie Japel interview on Chez Aristote,
Fri., April 18: Evelyn Clark interview on The Panopticon,


Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

Very enjoyable reading! I'll be curious what make the top 5 designs. I'm working on the Swallowtail Shawl now and I have to say this is as mindless as lace knitting can get. Love the yarn I'm using so am anxious to finish and wear it!

Toby said...

Great set of questions! I really enjoyed Sandi's answers as well. She brings us so much information on KD that it's nice to turn it around and hear about things that interest her.

Marianne said...

How fabulous is this post! Toby pretty much wrote it for me...
Thank you, Monika and Sandi!

Beverly said...

Yea Monika. Your blog is one of the best. I'm glad you're are on the tour. It's funny that most of us have problems deciding not only what are our favorites but what projects to embark on next.

Excellent questions and wonderful interview.

Rhonda said...

I love that you got this opportunity and I love your blog. I have a little more faith in my choices of knitting now that I know two of my latest projects are on Sandi's list of favs too. Keep up the great blogging, Monica.

Anonymous said...

How great that you were selected for part of the blog tour! I normally don't read these posts, but I read it this time. Very interesting. And she even has a cute dog! :-)

Anonymous said...

I am impressed Monika! I never realized your blog is that famous in the US. I receive the Knitting Daily e-mails here in The Netherlands also.

The interview is very nice. Good questions and nice answers. Well done!

Lolly said...

Very fun! thanks for doing the interview - it was great to see Sandi's side of things ;)

Gloria Patre said...

You aced the questions!! Brilliant! I learned some things about Sandi I didn't know & I really enjoyed reading the interview!
Yippee! Now I know a famous blogger! Will there be an autograph signing later?? tee hee!
And I am now totally officially depressed that mrpuffy finds the Swallowtail mindless lace knitting! I must be a total lace-knitting flunk! sigh!

La Cabeza Grande said...

You rocked the interview, Monika! Great job, famous AND talented lady.

Violiknit said...

Wonderful interview! I really enjoyed reading this!