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Interview with Knit, Crochet and Yarn Designer Vickie Howell

Craft Rules

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Vickie Howell

Vickie Howell.

Caron International.

Vickie Howell is a busy person. Even if you've never heard of the superstar crafter -- perhaps best known as the host for eight seasons of DIY's awesome knitting show, Knitty Gritty -- one look at her bio will tell you that there's a lot going on in her world.

She's a mom of three, author of six craft-related books with a seventh on the way, writer, designer, and spokesperson for Caron yarns, which is now producing her Stitch. Rock. Love. yarn line, which began with the acrylic/wool blend yarn Sheep(ish).

Howell took a little time out of her busy schedule to tell me what it's like to design a yarn, what inspires her and how yarncrafting differs when working with boys and girls.

About: How and when did you learn to knit?

Vickie Howell: My mom tried teaching me when I was 8 or 9, but I wasn’t that interested in it at the time. It wasn’t until my friend took me to a yarn shop in my 20s -- where I was exposed to some truly gorgeous yarns and a lovely community of women -- that I really took to the craft. I haven’t put my needles down since!

About: You’re well known for both knitting and crochet designs (as well as other crafty goodness). Do you have a favorite medium? Do you like to combine knit and crochet?

VH: That's like asking me which of my children I like best! I love knitting and crocheting equally, because they're so different. When one craft doesn't work for a particular project, the other almost always does. I tend to use crochet more when I want to make something sculptural and knitting when I want something more fluid. I find crochet quicker, but knitting more relaxing. That's just me, though.

I love combining the two mediums (I designed an upcoming toddler beanie in Sheep(ish) that incorporates granny squares with a knitted brim & crown), but have found that companies and publishers are less open to those types of designs because they're not as well-received by consumers. I see that slowly changing though, as people are becoming more open to learning more than one needle art.

About: Where do you get your inspiration for designs?

VH: It ranges, really. I love fashion, music, pop-culture, movies, home decor and vintage design. I get inspired by any and all of those things...and more!

About: Do you find it easier to craft for boys or girls, now that you have both?

VH: It's probably easier crafting for girls because there are less societal rules in doing so. There's more room for flair. I dig designing for boys too, though, because there isn't as much cool stuff out there for them so a great piece can really stand out.

About: How do you describe your style?

VH: Simple, but funky. I like tailored, flattering shapes, but in unexpected colors or interesting patterns and with a little Rock n' Roll or vintage decor nod.

About: What are your favorite kinds of projects to knit?

VH: I love making accessories, garments, baby garments and home decor pieces that are fun to knit and quick to work up. Life is so busy, that I want projects that are realistic to finish!

About: Any new projects in the works?

VH: Yup! I'm currently writing my seventh book (but first one for Chronicle Books), which will focus on projects using intermediate knitting skills. I'm also working on what will be next in the Stitch.Rock.Love line. Sheep(ish) is just the first yarn in the line, so stay tuned for more!

About: You’ve been the face and name of a yarn line before. What’s it like to be involved in the design process of a yarn? How hands on were you in its development? What makes this yarn unique?

VH: It's a lot of fun (and also a lot of work) designing a yarn. I was fortunate to be able to be involved from its inception -- which is to Caron's credit. They let me have a ton of creative freedom, which is any designer's dream. I knew that I wanted an old school, roving-type yarn that was really soft, but could also be washed.

I worked with Caron's product manager (who's also a textile engineer) on the weight and hand of the yarn, then he worked his wizardry with the manufacturer. My largest involvement though, was in choosing the colors. I hand-picked all 21 colors and am thrilled with how they turned out.

It was important to me to have great grays and browns in the line, since I feel like they're hard to find in big box craft stores. Equally important was to have a full selection of super-saturated, rich colors that feel modern but definitely have a retro-chic sensibility. I think it's the colors, along with the sheen of the yarn that really makes it unique -- especially at a price that most everyone can afford. I hope people love Sheep(ish) as much as I do!

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