Monday, June 27, 2011
‘THEY WALK AMONG US” GUEST KNIT ARTIST OF THE WEEK: COLLEEN TEERLING
Colleen wears Quiddy
Colleen wears Quiddy
To begin, Colleen tells us a little about herself:
For my first 8-10 years as a knitter, I knit in a complete vacuum: I didn’t know any other knitters, and I didn’t even realize there were knitting books in the library (I don’t know how this library junkie managed to miss that!). I knew very little about knitting other than the knit and purl stitch, so I gravitated toward colour-work, thinking that was probably the easiest to do – if I could more-or-less draw it on graph paper, I could knit it by trial and error. Eventually I discovered library knitting books and expanded my knitting abilities and styles.
Then one day I discovered Jane’s website, and spent a whole rainy weekend looking at her glorious pictures (with very slow dial-up!). I was fascinated by what she did with colour and texture. However, the only yarn I had or could afford was Briggs and Little wool, so I put these images in the back of my head where they simmered over the next few years. Eventually, I discovered how to unravel thrift store sweaters for their beautiful yarns, and I taught myself to dye and over-dye yarn. Now I could finally start playing with multi-yarn, multi-fibre knitting. Soon after this I joined Ravelry and was very happy to discover Jane’s group.
I usually work on 6-10 projects at a time, ranging from the simple to the complex. Right now I’m playing a lot with inventing oddball cables, and I’ve been playing around with lace. However, if I don’t have at least one colour-work project on the go, I tend to get a bit antsy. A lot of my colour-work recently has been greatly influenced and inspired by Jane and her way of knitting. Some of my knitting is not quite a free-form as Jane’s: my outer scientist tends to jostle for dominance with my inner artist. However, since both the scientist and the artist are part of who I am, I’m OK with that. I’m just having fun playing with new ideas.
Colleen began with very pictorial pieces, knitting one for edach of her siblings
Pretending I'm Ophra here, and we're exploring these 'They walk among us' knitting wonders with my special guest of the day being Colleen Teerling, here's the transcript of our interview:
Jane: Colleen, you may very well be one of the most nature-inspired of all the knitters I’ve known. Sky, forest, wave—how would you describe your love for the natural world translated into stitches?
Colleen: I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have lived most of my life in many beautiful natural areas: My vacations as a child were always camping trips in the mountains surrounding us; I spent several summers working on a little island off the west coast of British Columbia on the edge between forest and sea; I work with forest insects now. I abandoned a “smart” career track because I didn’t want to live hundreds of kilometers from the nearest true wilderness. The natural world around me is just essential for me to feel complete and at home. So I suppose it is to be expected that this is where I draw my inspiration for knitting.
I generally only buy yarn when it is deeply on sale. And I have accumulated a substantial stash. So when I want to design something, I immerse myself in the relevant portions of my stash until I find yarns that work with each other and with the ideas in my head. Luckily, I live alone, so I don’t drive others crazy by surrounding myself with yarns as they work with my memories and inspirations. This is often a long slow process, which occasionally spans several years and a few iterations. I find I do my best work if I don’t try to rush things. Hey, I have plenty of projects on the go, so there is no hurry.
Jane: Could you focus on one project among your fabulous project gallery and say how it came to be from idea to stitch?
Colleen: My forest canopy vest has a convoluted story which is pretty typical of how my brain works. I had an idea to knit a triangular shawl with intarsia maple leaves scattered all over it. I would use two different yarns on every new row, with all the ends left as fringe. It took me several years to accumulate and dye the yarns needed. As I started to knit, I realized I didn’t like the stripey look of stockinette stitch with a new colour every row. But I really did like my seed stitch border. Then I realized I had made a mistake with my seed stitch, carrying one of my unused yarns on the front of the work and one on the back. I liked this “woven” effect, so I used this “mistake seed stitch” for a warm winter stole. After knitting about eight inches on my stole, I discovered that it was going to be too thick and inflexible for a shawl or scarf. I put it aside for several weeks and pondered – then took scissors to it, chopped it into a shorter length, and continued to knit – it turned into a vest.
Jane: Do you plan out your projects carefully in advance or do you tend to free-range your creations into existence?
Colleen: Well, as you can tell, the thinking and pondering portion of my design process can take a few months or years. Then I’ll draw out a schematic of my garment dimensions and a rough idea of how I want it to look. In the past, I would often sketch out (at least roughly) a colourwork pattern on graph paper. Lately, though, I’ve been experimenting with being more truly free-range with my colourwork. And I’ve been having fun with that.
Jane: Do you wear your creations out in public and, if so, what kind of response do you generally receive?
Colleen: Oh, absolutely! I think I would have trouble designing something I was unwilling to wear, myself. Even frilly pink concoctions for young nieces have to meet certain internal design standards. Responses from non-knitters (if any) are usually along the lines of, “oh, that’s nice”. However, when I meet other knitters, they are often quite intrigued by what I am wearing and want to know how I knit it. The yarn store owners are always enthusiastic about what I do with their discount odd balls.
You can see more of Colleen's work on Ravelry. Her Ravelry name is 'Teerling'. Thanks, Colleen!