You've probably heard us shouting from the rafters and our newsletter that Kate Atherley is coming back to A Yarn Story to teach some new workshops. Kate is an amazing knitter, teacher and designer and can quite possibly make anyone a sock knitter! We had a chance to ask her some questions about her own yarn story.
Q: What is currently on your needles?
A: Three things on the go: a pair of socks in WYS 4-ply, for easy knitting to help me combat jet-lag, a rework of my Souvaine design, in a lovely silk and cashmere blend, and a new lace design for Indigodragonfly.
Q: You're currently traveling and teaching around the UK. How do you plan/pack your projects for such a trip? What's your strategy?
A: See above! My strategy is always the same for long trips. I have a plain sock with me, for easy knitting for social time, when I’m tired, and when I’m at a pub. And then I like to have a couple of other small gauge projects, sometimes socks, sometimes lace. One is always a design-in-progress which is going to be challenging and time-consuming – ideal for long flights and train journeys. And then the other one is something that is engaging but not stressful for times when the design-in-progress isn’t working out! And then I always have space in my bag for a souvenir skein of sock yarn, just in case the socks get completed.
Q: Who taught you how to knit? When did you get started? Do you crochet too?
A: My Grannie taught me. I don’t actually remember learning to knit – I must have been five or six. She spent a lot of time with us when I was very young, and she always had knitting on the go. I wonder if I didn’t just absorb it by osmosis! She did attempt to teach me to crochet, but that didn’t take.
Q: What's your go-to type of project/favourite thing to knit?
A: There’s always a pair of socks on my needles. I love knitting socks. It’s just so *satisfying*.
Q: You're one of the hardest working folks in the knitting industry. How did your passion for knitting evolve into being the source of your livelihood?
A: It all started because I offered to help out a friend who was opening a yarn shop, around 2002. I offered to teach a few classes. For a few years, I kept working at my day job, teaching at night and on the weekends. I started designing patterns first for the shop, and then I got a great break with an article in Knitty! In 2010 I quit the day job and went full-time. Every day I’m amazed and thrilled that I get to do this for a living!
Q: You're also a published author with a number of books about your favourite things: socks and pattern writing. Tell us about your new book Knit Mitts.
A: Like the sock book, it’s designed to help teach skills and solve problems – there’s a detailed discussion of yarn choices and strategies for warmth, tips for dealing with the inevitable hole at the base of the thumb, and so forth. And there’s also a master pattern template for both mittens and gloves, covering 13 sizes and 13 gauges, so you can design your own!
Q: Do you have to balance between work knitting and your own knitting or is it all the same?
A: It’s funny, I would usually say that I don’t often to get to knit for myself… but I’ve learned in the past couple of years that I’m happiest with my designs and they are most successful when they are things I would knit for me. That is, my recently-published Women of Mathematics collection contains three shawls that I wanted to wear, things that I designed for my own needs and to my own tastes. And the motorcycle jacket, too! I designed that because I wanted to wear it. The challenge is that when knitting for publication, I have to keep the samples under wraps until the pattern is published, and sometimes that can be a pretty long wait. This trip is my inaugural outing for my Noether shawl, even though I had finished knitting it more than six months ago, and I’m thrilled to be able to finally wear it! For me, there are two modes of knitting: something that I plan to publish, and something I don’t. There’s always at least one pair of plain socks on the go, and that’s entirely selfish knitting, and most often the rest is “work” knitting, whether that’s for self-publishing or for publication with a third party or in a book.
Q: Do you have a yarn crush or favourite yarn to work with?
A: I will confess to having a ridiculous weakness for self-striping sock yarns. Anything with fixed stripe patterns makes me ridiculously happy.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
A: See above! For me, my designs are inspired by what I want to wear. (I’m selfish that way!) Put another way, they’re most often inspired by clothing or wardrobe items that I want to have. For example, the Noether shawl design came about because I wanted an all-purpose travel scarf, to replace the old plain store-bought pashmina I had been using for years. Although the designs themselves may not be practical, my inspiration is. I also love to design things that teach or build skills – for example, I’m working a set of three brioche cowls that will build skills for newer brioche knitters.
Q: What's your most recent finish?
A: I have just – like, 2 days before I left -- finished a pair of plain socks, using a self-striping Regia yarn that had been lying around in my stash. I wore them on my flight! I also finished a brioche cowl that’s destined to be part of the brioche-skills-in-the-round tutorial pattern set.
Huge thanks to Kate for taking the time to answer our questions and we can't wait to welcome you back to the shop!