Friday, April 27, 2012

Musings from Mercury Hall Profile: Patricia Kalthoff

Hey Y'all,
Today we continue our series of profiles of the designers who contributed their knit genius to the latest Hill Country Weavers' pattern book, Musings from Mercury Hall. This time around, we're checking in with Patricia Kalthoff, who created the stunning Blue Gene's pattern. She is Texknitter on Ravelry.

How long have you been knitting?
I have been knitting in earnest for something over 25 years.  My grandmother taught me left-handed/mirror image knitting when I was 13, but it didn’t stick. I don’t think you can really tell any new knitter to reverse everything and expect good results. I kept on wanting to knit though, and came back to it with one of those little How-to books when I was in my 20’s. At that point I learned right-handed and had no problems. Now I knit right, left, combination or continental; whichever suits my needs at the time.

Your favorite part of knitting?
My favorite part of knitting is collecting techniques. There are so many different ways to achieve the results you want, some visible and some that only the knitter will ever know about. As a technique junkie, I love having lots of options to choose from; it keeps me interested as I knit.  

What got you into design?
As a largely self-taught knitter, it really never occurred to me that I couldn’t just knit whatever I saw in my mind’s eye. I was fortunate that I found Elizabeth Zimmermann and Jackie Fee (author of The Sweater Workshop) very early in my knitting life, so I never had a fear of taking an idea and running with it. My first published design came about after I designed a vest for one of my daughters.  Looking at the finished piece I knew that it was as good as some I had seen published, so I called Meg Swansen at Schoolhouse Press to ask about putting a self-published pattern on the Plugs page of Wool Gathering. She suggested that I submit it to Knitter’s magazine. The published vest ended up being very different from my toddler piece, but had many of the same techniques in the knitting.

What inspired your Blue Gene's pattern for Mercury Hall Musings?
Every day I look down at my Blue Willow dishes and marvel at all the patterns in them. This piece is my homage to that, and is designed to be flexible in length to use every bit of a precious yarn.

Will you describe your process?
Most of the time I am inspired by things I see around me, anything from landscapes to textures to colors to dishes. My family has gotten used to waiting for me to snap knitting file pictures on my phone everywhere we go. Often when I am inspired by something I will immediately “see” the finished piece of knitting, and then I have to find a way to make it work.

Any funny knitting stories?
Many years ago, when basic printers still cost about $200, my darling husband started looking at $600 printers. When I asked why we couldn’t get by with a $200 one, he looked me square in the eye and said, “Knit acrylic.”  We might have bought the $600 printer that same day.

What do you do by day?
I am a former tax accountant who left to stay home with the kids. Along the way I started to teach knitting, both in a yarn shop setting and at regional festivals such as the Taos Wool Festival and the Wool Market at Estes Park. Now that my children are in college I am looking at my options, both in and out of the fiber world. One path I am considering is self-publishing my work; Newpark Designs will be named for the grandmother who first taught me to knit.

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