Blurring the distinctions: An interview with LUKE, quilt artist

I recently discovered the work of LUKE Haynes through this post in Katharine Watson‘s blog, The Printing Press.  I contacted LUKE after reading Katharine’s post and checking out his website, and he graciously agreed to an interview.

For those of you who aren’t already familiar with LUKE’s work, he is an architect turned quilter.  LUKE’s background includes strong preparation in art and design which he uses to make quilts to “discuss utility in aesthetics.”  Like all quilters (that I know at least), he loves fabric.  He works with a lot of upcycled and repurposed materials and his website references the Quilters of Gee’s Bend as an influence.  Currently, LUKE is living in Washington State, but he was once a resident of my dear City and even attended the illustrious Cooper Union for graduate school.  His work has mostly been displayed in fine arts settings and textile museums, but he has also exhibited at quilting venues.  In addition to his website, LUKE can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Etsy, and Flickr.  (All the pictures I’ve posted here have been used with permission and are available for viewing on LUKE’s Flickr photostream.)

Self Portrait #2, Tradition

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to quilt?

LUKE: I faked it.  I started my first quilt in Arts school during a break from classes and went from there.  I took a sewing elective in middle school and learned a bit about sewing then, so I had a working knowledge around a machine.  I have also been knitting and crocheting for a lot of years, which adds to craft dexterity. (UC comment: LUKE’s sewing class sounds as useful as my middle school typing class.  I’m not sure I would have made it through college without it, and I certainly wouldn’t be writing a blog now!)

American Nostalgia #3, Abraham Lincoln

UC: You describe your recent work as being an investigation of nostalgia and function.  Tell me more about this and why you are working as a quilt artist.

LUKE: Quilts have implicit nostalgia in them.  I have found that more and more as I work with fabric and get responses from viewers, all art has within it a certain nostalgia for the artist.  They imbue the work with some idea or question which is then evocative for them in the future.  I want that to extend to the people who see my work.  I want to call memories and tactile experiences into mind as people experience my works and exhibitions.

The function is actually a means to that end.  An object with implicit function can call to mind its use.  You know intuitively and subconsciously what a blanket feels like and its importance in your everyday.  Clothes and fabric are the same.  So when those items are used as the media for an exhibition, you as the viewer have an existing response to the materiality.  This is the same way for me as the maker, which breaks down the gap between artist and viewer.

Gifts #17, Micala

UC: Do you quilt as a hobby as well, or do you have other creative pursuits in your down time?

LUKE: I quilt for myself and friends and family, though I wouldn’t describe it as a hobby as any project I make is a furthering of my own work and knowledge of the media.  (I haven’t had down time in a lot of years, though I would say that there are other projects that I create that are tangential to quilts, like rugs and clothes and installations.)

(UC comment: In retrospect, the intent of my question wasn’t that clear, but LUKE’s answer seems to get to the point.  Those of us who work at a craft are always creating and learn through everything we make.)

Man Stuff #1, Hammer

UC: What are your favorite quilting/sewing tools?

LUKE: I enjoy a lot of the process, but I would have to say that my favorite tools are the ones that have changed my method and helped me make better and faster work: the roller cutter and the long arm sewing machine.  Those two tools have streamlined my process and added years to my life I would have used with scissors or a domestic machine doing the tasks (that) those make easy and quick.  (UC comment: I have long dreamed of owning a long arm quilting machine, but alas I live in a New York City sized apartment.)

Bed Clothes #1, Log cabin reverse (made with upcycled clothes seamed outside)

UC: Where do you find your creative inspiration?

LUKE: From other designers I appreciate, or in my own experiences as a person or a practitioner of the creative process.

Causes #1, Bra (for Simplicity Creative’s breast cancer awareness campaign)

UC: What are your favorite techniques to use?

LUKE: I don’t have a favorite.  I have ones that I use to get a result I want at any given time.  I use any and all to execute to the best of my ability the project I am working on.

Flightless Birds #3, Penguin

UC: Do you have any favorite craft or art blogs or websites to share?

LUKE: I am a designer.  I draw most of my inspiration from the design community, so the ones I turn to are today and tomorrow and Design Fetish (All Things Design.  All Things Fetish.).

Self Portrait #6, Stitched

Thanks for stopping by for the interview, LUKE!  If you haven’t already, please check out LUKE’s website, his Etsy shop, his Flickr photostream, his Facebook page, or on Twitter to see more of his work and learn more about his inspirations and methods.

Interview with Margaret Hubert with Book Review

This post contains affiliate links.

This must be my lucky week!  Just four days ago, I posted an interview with Ellen Gormley.  Today, I’m excited to post an interview with Margaret Hubert.  If you have been crocheting or knitting for any length of time, you have probably come in contact with one of Margaret’s books or patterns.  This post includes my interview with Margaret and a review of one of her recent books, The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting.

The Interview

A few years ago, I learned that the New York Public Library allowed card holders to search for and request books from any branch.  These books would be delivered to your local branch for pick up.  I was surprised to find out that the libraries have a pretty good collection of crochet books.  It was about this time that I was first noticing the names of different designers.  I was introduced to Margaret through the Hooked series of crochet books that I checked out from the library and had great fun making her bags and hats.

Margaret is also one of the designers featured in Crochet Master Class.  According to her bio in that book, her career has spanned various aspects of the needlecrafts industry, including owning a yarn shop, owning a hand knitting business, teaching needlework, writing crochet and knitting books, and teaching at local, regional, and national crochet and knitting events.  Her blog bio mentions that she has also published cross word puzzles and is a member of a Shakespeare club which is over 110 years old.  You can visit Margaret’s website, blog, or Ravelry designer page for more information.


Margaret Hubert in one of her beautiful free form garments…
…and the Free Form Raspberry Jacket in all its glory!

Underground Crafter (UC): Who first taught you to knit and crochet?

Margaret: My mother taught me to knit at a very young age.  I do not even remember learning.  According to my Mom, I used to try knitting with 2 pencils, and she decided that she should teach me the proper way.  I learned to crochet when I was 19 from the owner of my local yarn shop. I had knitted a sweater that needed a crochet border.  My Mom said that she couldn’t help me as she wasn’t a very good crocheter, so I asked for help.  Mrs. B. put a crochet hook in my hands, taught me to single crochet, and I haven’t stopped since.

UC: Since you are multi-craftual, what is your favorite “go to” craft these days?
Margaret: I love both knitting and crocheting, which I do constantly. I also do some sewing, quilting, and needlepoint, but do not have a lot of time for much of this any more. My most favorite thing to do, is to combine both knit and crochet in one-of-a kind free form garments. In fact, I do a workshop teaching this method, and it has become my all time most popular class.
Margaret is teaching her Combination Free Form Crochet and Knitting class at the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival in October.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Margaret: My garden and the woods surrounding my home have a lot of influence on my creativity. I love flowers and use them a lot in my work. Living in the North East, every season brings its own fabulous array of colors, which are my greatest inspiration. Spring with its pastels and greens in every hue, summer brights, colorful fall leaves in yellows, orange and red, and even winter, all are so beautiful.
This Floral Quilt highlights some of the beautiful flowers Margaret enjoys making.
UC: I recently retaught myself to knit after about 25 years of avoiding it.  I found your The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting to be a really helpful resource.  What tips do you have for people returning to knitting or crocheting after a long absence?
Margaret: My tip would be to start with something quite easy, with very little shaping and finishing, perhaps a hat or scarf.  I would use a smooth yarn in a medium weight. Once your brain and fingers begin to remember the motions, then you will be ready to tackle something a little more involved.
UC: What are your favorite crochet and knitting books in your collection (besides yours, of course)?
Margaret: I have seven of the Mon Tricot series of knit and crochet patterns that are so tattered and torn, but I love them and use them a lot. I also love The Batsford Book of Crochet by Ann Stearns, A Treasury of Knitting Patterns and A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara Walker. There are many more, but these are my favorites.
UC: You’re teaching several crochet classes this summer at ChainLink in Minneapolis and at the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival in October.  What do you enjoy about teaching?
Margaret: Of all the hats that I wear, I love teaching the best. I love the enthusiasm of the students, I love the look on there faces when they “get it”, I love how  they like to share and send me photos of their finished projects. Whenever I am at a conference several attendees will come up to me wearing one of my designs, they are so proud and it never fails to excite me.  Most of all, I do love sharing my knowledge and doing my bit to keep the needle arts alive.
Margaret is teaching Learning to Master Bavarian Crochet, Finishing Like a Pro (Crochet), and Oops How Can I Fix That? (Crochet) classes at ChainLink in July…
…and Bavarian Crochet, Intermeshing Crochet, Combination Free Form Crochet and Knitting, Free Form Crochet, and Entrelac Crochet at the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival.
UC: Do you have any favorite crafting blogs or websites you’d like to share?
Margaret: I don’t have a lot of time to read many blogs, or even write many blog posts myself, but I do like to check out Lion Brand’s, Vashti’s and Crochet with Dee.
UC: (Insert your own question here.)
Margaret: If you were to ask me what I thought the most important thing that I could teach someone was, it would be how to properly check gauge and to instill in them the importance of checking gauge before starting any new project. It is so important that I can not stress it enough. It makes such a difference in the finished garment/item and there would be so much less frustration and disappointment.
I can’t agree with Margaret enough about the gauge.  Most of my students who struggle with patterns have it much easier once they begin to swatch and check their gauge! I know Margaret is a busy woman, between designing, writing, teaching, traveling, and the rest of her life.  Thanks for stopping by Margaret!  And now on to…

The Book Review

After about 25 years away from knitting, in the last year I decided to conquer my fears (of making enormous trapezoids) and start to knit again.  Perhaps my motor skills are better now, or I understand yarn and needlecrafts better, or I’m just more patient, but this time it “stuck.”  An invaluable tool that I picked up along the way was Margaret Hubert’s The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting.  I recommend it to my beginner knitting students and think it is a great resource for your knitting library for several reasons.

The book is organized into three major sections: Knitting Basics, Stitch Patterns, and Specialty Knitting Methods.  As the title suggests, the book is heavy on photographs and light on illustrations.  (Sidenote: I personally find it impossible to learn anything new from an illustration, but can use illustrations as reminders for techniques I’m already familiar with.)  Margaret opens with a brief history of knitting, and then jumps into the Knitting Basics section.  This section includes a review of tools, pattern abbreviations, and provides an explanation of how to read patterns in addition to the abbreviations.  At this point, the book jumps into various techniques for casting on (5 options), forming the knit and purl stitches (2 methods each), and binding off (3 options).  Each technique includes multiple, large photographs which are clearly lit.  Margaret then goes on to display several shaping methods.  This is followed by knitting in the round, again including photographs with double-pointed needles, one circular, and then two circular needles.  As you might guess from the interview, Margaret also emphasizes gauge!  There is also a nice piece on finishing.  This section has many photographs, but the text is rather brief.  If you are a visual learner, this is probably an ideal reference book for you.  If you learn best from reading descriptions of the process, this section is lacking some detail that you might need.  For example, there is no discussion about choosing yarn, or how to hold the needles, or the usual debate between the continental and the English knitting methods.

The next section, Stitch Patterns, is like having a stitch guide embedded in the book.  There are 185 stitch patterns, arranged by type:

  • Basic stitches,
  • Light textures,
  • Medium and heavy textures,
  • Laces,
  • Ribs,
  • Honeycomb and brioche stitches,
  • Eyelets,
  • Ripples and chevrons,
  • Slip stitches,
  • Color combos,
  • Motifs, and
  • Cables.

I love the way the stitch patterns are organized – like most knitters/crocheters, I hate seeing a wonderful stitch and then never being able to find it again.  There is also a difficulty rating for each stitch (using the Craft Yarn Council standard skill levels).  The swatches are beautifully photographed and are quite large, so you can see the detail.  The colors Margaret uses for her yarns are also lovely.  There are several project patterns in this section, generally following the type of stitch that is used in the pattern.  This section is worth the price of admission alone for me, since it is a great stitch guide.  However, if you are looking for stitch symbols, there are very few in this book – most patterns use abbreviations only. (The cable stitches in this section all include symbols though.)

The final section, Specialty Knitting Methods, introduces (or reminds!) the reader to (of) various techniques and includes at least one pattern along with a description of the method.  The methods included are:

  • One-Piece Knitting,
  • Entrelac Knitting,
  • Freeform Knitting (clearly one of Margaret’s favorite techniques!),
  • Crazy Lace Knitting (pattern by Myra Wood),
  • Knitting with Beads (pattern by Judy Pascale),
  • Intarsia Knitting (pattern by Sasha Kagen),
  • Twined Knitting (pattern by Beth Brown-Reinsel), and
  • Ouroborus Kntting (pattern by Debbie New)

The Crazy Lace, Intarsia, and Twined projects include charts in addition to pattern abbreviations.  As with the rest of the book, the projects are beautifully photographed and the colors and layout really bring the projects to life.  In the last section, the photographs are of the projects, not the methods for creating the projects.

Overall, I recommend the The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting to a beginner knitter looking for a book to “grow” into an intermediate knitter with.  I also recommend it as a stitch guide – it doesn’t have as many stitches as some guides, but the organization, skill levels, photographs, and yarn colors are superior to most on the market.  There are also projects included so you can try the stitches on something other than swatches if you aren’t at the stage of designing your own creations yet.  The photographs are great for visual learners.  On the other hand, there are few stitch symbols in the book, which didn’t bother me since I prefer pattern abbreviations, but I know that many knitters prefer symbols.  This is really a comprehensive visual reference rather than a thorough written treatise on knitting.  If you are looking for a wordy text, go for the Knitter’s Handbook.  Because of the visual cues, it is also a great book for a more advanced knitter who needs a quick photographic reminder (“Oh, right, that’s how to do the provisional cast on!”) before starting or while working a project.  I gave the book 5 stars.

Getting started as a local needlecrafts teacher

Getting Started as a Local Needlecrafts Teacher, a series of articles on Underground CrafterUpdate: This series is a great introduction to teaching, but since I originally wrote it in 2011, it has become outdated. If you’re looking for a more robust (and updated) approach to teaching, check out my book, Make Money Teaching Crochet: Launch Your Business, Increase Your Side Income, Reach More Students.

Recently while updating my email contacts I discovered that I have taught over 100 people to crochet or knit since 2008!  That is pretty awesome (to me anyway), considering that I work full-time in another field and also have a part-time academic job.

I’m in several teaching groups on Ravelry, and the topic of how to get started as a local needlecrafts teacher comes up periodically.  To celebrate the breaking of the 100 beginner student barrier, I’m writing a series of posts on starting out as a local needlecrafts teacher.

Feel free to contribute if you are currently teaching needlecrafts or dreaming of teaching needlecrafts!

Part 1: Getting started

Part 2: Credentials, or do I really that certification?

Part 3: Location, Location, Location

Part 4: Drumming up business

Part 5: Preparing for class

Part 6: Staying creative and current