Today I’m sharing an interview with knitting designer, Peggy Jean Kaylor, along with a roundup of five of my favorite patterns from her collection. Like me, Peggy Jean is participating in the 2014 Indie Design Gift-a-Long, a virtual extravaganza running through December 31st here on Ravelry.
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Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to knit?
Pegg Jean: When I was very young, I would watch my great-grandmother (my mother’s maternal grandmother) knit and crochet. The first time she put needles or hook and yarn into my hands, I was about 4 years old. I would sit with her and try to make the stitches she showed me … for maybe 5 or 10 or 15 minutes … then I would run off to play with my big brother or little sister. Whenever I came back, my knitting or crochet was always waiting for me to work on it some more.
My mother has since told me that she caught Grandma putting the wool and needles/hook away in a drawer between sessions. She said she tried to tell Grandma not to do that with her precious yarn and tools but Grandma wouldn’t listen. Instead Grandma gave me a small supply of yarn oddballs, a pair of needles and a hook.
It took a few years … and my paternal grandmother took over teaching me when my great- grandmother became blind. By the time I was 7 years old, I was beginning to knit and crochet Christmas gifts for family and friends.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Peggy Jean: My transition into designing was a long, drawn out process. I was in my late teens when my paternal grandmother and I had a conversation. I can remember her telling me that before I could make anything at all, I needed to have a pattern for it. I probably took that as something of a challenge. Granted, up until then I had always had a pattern to work from and I always followed it somewhat religiously … but … at that point, I began modifying many of the things I made from patterns. At some point in my late 30s, I had reached the point where I had never met a pattern I couldn’t modify … and during my 40s, I worked steadily to free myself of all the patterns.
Finally during my mid-50s, my teenage daughter convinced me to begin writing up formal patterns for some of my designs. My darling daughter also convinced me to join Ravelry (she had already joined) … she argued that it was a place where I could self-publish my designs. So, I guess Ravelry has been a ‘business decision’ from the get go … but I never had more fun from any other business decision … and my husband tells me every year at tax time that it’s not a business yet, it’s still only a hobby.
UC: You have a joint Ravelry shop with your daughter. How did you decide to start this venture? What are the advantages and disadvantages of working together with family?
Peggy Jean: Yes, I have a joint venture Ravelry shop with my darling daughter. Our Ravelry shop, Fiber Fabrications, really represents the fact that I did pass this art form on to the next generation … to the daughter I’d named for the woman who taught me to knit and crochet. I was thrilled when my own daughter asked me to teach her how to knit and crochet. Because of my own experiences, I made sure to teach my daughter that she could make anything she wanted to … whether or not she had a pattern. While she was a teenager, I helped her design a felted backpack … I used the project to teach her how to pick up stitches, how to shape the bag seamlessly, how to make mitered squares, how to felt (full) the fabric, how to sew the straps and inside pocket onto the bag, and how to write clear instructions. She sold a few hard copies of her pattern at the LYS down the street and around the corner, where she worked every Saturday while she was in high school.
Having the Ravelry shop with my daughter is now mostly a gesture … because last spring she finished her BS in Chemistry and this fall she moved to almost the other edge of the country to pursue a PhD in Biophysics and Biochemistry. I miss her a great deal … and she hasn’t had time since she graduated high school to design and produce any patterns. I am a good mom, though. I let her have whatever she wants from my own stash every time she is home because it would be way too sad if she did not have enough yarn to engage in stress knitting while she keeps up with the intensity of graduate school.
UC: Most of your patterns are for scarves and wraps. What do you enjoy about these types of projects?
Peggy Jean: I have enjoyed the challenge of designing reversible scarves and stoles. I’d grown tired of scarves and stoles that roll and curl when they don’t hold a block … and it pains me when one side is much less attractive than the other and yet still often seen. It makes my day to design something that is totally reversible. I do have some things in the works that are not reversible … hats and cowls and such … hopefully, those designs will see publication during the next year along with some more shawls and scarves.
UC: What’s your favorite knitting book in your collection?
Peggy Jean: Well … I kind of feel like Elizabeth Zimmermann wrote the Old Testament of Knitting (I was able to borrow some of her books once, so I’ve read a couple of them and find that her ‘voice’ is much like that of the great grandmother who taught me my first stitches), Barbara G. Walker wrote the New Testament of Knitting (I own all 4 volumes of her Treasury and they are well worn), and Nicky Epstein wrote the Apocrypha of Knitting (I own and love her entire Edge series). I can’t really choose a favorite from amongst those. They are all very important to me. The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt is the other really important book in my personal reference library.
UC: Tell me about a designer you discovered through participation in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long. What attracted you that designer’s work?