Last month, when my Mirror socks were published, there was another sock pattern that gained a lot of attention, too. The Petty Harbour socks were designed by Rayna Curtis Fegan of First Light Handcrafts. I follow her blog and have chatted with her online on several instances. She is a joy to talk to, and when she agreed to an interview with me, I was delighted.
So, let’s start!
Who taught you how to knit?
I have vivid memories of both of my grandmothers knitting when I was a child, so between them I learned. I can never quite recall which one put the first set of needles in my hands. I do remember the first thing I ever knit, though–a blanket for my doll in white Phentex yarn that ended up twice as wide at the end as at the beginning.
That’s quite a legacy! What is your favorite project to knit, and when did you knit your first one?
Socks! I love knitting socks. When I picked up knitting in earnest again four years ago, my mind boggled that someone would spend all that time and money to knit something that went on your feet. I believe my exact words were “That’s just crazy!” Then a few months later, I took a class from Kate Atherley at my LYS and I was totally hooked. I have knit about thirty pairs since then.
Do you have a favorite design that you could knit forever?
Hmm … Well, I knit a lot of simple socks; I have knit Hermione’s Everyday Socks five times in less than two years. But I am madly in love with Wendy Johnson‘s Rhossili Beach Watch Cap. I have knit that three times and would have made myself more if I didn’t look like such a dork in hats. And I love No Purl Monkeys. I have an unnatural aversion to purling.
Yeah, purling isn’t the funnest stitch for me, either. What knitting techniques do you want to learn in the future, though?
Technique-wise, I think the next thing I actually want to learn is stranded colourwork/fair isle, but I keep putting it off. There are just so many other things to do that it gets pushed off to the back burner. I am not really a process knitter, so unless I actually really like the result, I am not likely to learn it just for the sake of being able to say it’s a skill I possess.
It’s another sock design that is inspired by my home province, this time a fingering weight lace one! But it will have to wait for a month or so now!
Well, we all will be looking forward to it! What does the design process look for you most of the time? Do you have a particular person or thing that inspires you?
Thank you! As for the design process, my first two designs were things that I just knit for two specific people, and then wrote up afterwards. Signal Hill is the first one that I actually set out to design, following a more traditional process.
Inspiration for me comes from lots of places. I am a huge fan of stitch pattern books of all kinds; I got my very first Japanese stitch dictionary this summer. I also take inspiration from some of the designers I know, either online or in real life here in Toronto. Signal Hill was inspired by Glenna C, but I’d say my biggest overall design influence from a person standpoint would have to be Kate Atherley. She creates clear patterns for classic designs that produce lovely results. I took her pattern-writing class at my LYS in July, and it was invaluable!
Where do you hope to go with designing in the future?
I don’t really have a long term vision of where I’d like my designing to go. It’s really just something I started for fun. I have plans for more designs, of course–I just need to find the time to execute them all. I work a regular job and I have other hobbies I’d like to work on (spinning and dyeing being the two that come to mind), so the time I devote to designing is somewhat limited. I think for now, I’ll just take it as it comes!
As a spinner, do you look at commercially-made yarn from a different perspective?
I am really still a newbie spinner. In fact I have really only been spinning in earnest since May, even though I have had my wheel a fair bit longer.
I still love all my commercial yarns, sock yarns especially, because I am nowhere near the point where I can spin the yarn I want. Right now I just spin and then later, decide what to do with the yarn I produce. Right now, commercial (usually indie/hand-dyed) yarns are definitely still my staple.
So, do you hope to branch out into not only designing knitting patterns, but also yarns?
I would actually love to start dyeing my own yarns. I have done some experimenting with acid dyes, and undyed fibres and yarns, but I live in fear of “ruining” them, so I am sometimes not as adventurous as I’d like to be. I need to get over that and just go for it!
A lot of what I have done to date has been kettle dyeing (where you just mix up the dye and just immerse the fibre). I’d love to take a class in handpainting yarns, like the Stained Fingers Dye Camp that a local independent dyer, indigodragonfly, offers in the summer here in Ontario. That’s the sort of method that allows for all the amazing variegated yarns you see from indie dyers.
We’re almost done here, and I just wanted to ask you: What would you consider to be the most valuable knitting book out there?
I don’t have a favourite book, per se. I love my stitch dictionaries; I have two from Vogue and one of the Barbara Walker treasuries. I think pattern books are highly individual, depending on what sorts of things you knit, so it’s hard to recommend just one!
Okay, last question. If you didn’t knit, what would you think you’d be doing with your life at this point?
If I didn’t knit, I have no idea what I’d be doing. Mostly because a large chunk of my community is knitting related, and one of my best friends, who has shown me polymer clay and jewelry making and such, would not be in my life at all. My sister-in-law taught me beading, so perhaps I’d be doing more of that. Or maybe I would just be WAY further ahead on my “To Read” list ;-)
Thanks so much Rayna for letting me interview you!
Rayna Curtis Fegan is a knitter, spinner, designer, and software reporting specialist.