Ravelry is the most amazing platform I have ever seen. It is the temple of yarn adventures and explorations. And it is full of surprises.
I have recognized that I often seek out designers on ravelry based on their advertising or the photos of recently added patterns on the pattern search. This time I had the pleasure of being assigned to interview
Jennifer Raymond aka Tinking Turtle Designs
for the indie designer gift-along 2014 on ravelry! You know – when you want to interview a person you have never met before, what do you do? You look at her profile, project and designer page! Amazing. I am still stunned and I’ll promise that I will adjust my search habits on ravelry – because you can only grasp the beauty of Jennifer’s creations when you look at her whole designer page AND read her pattern descriptions! I have no other word than this – diversity and versatility!
But let’s give Jennifer the opportunity to tell us more about her :)!
Jennifer, when I first looked at your patterns I was amazed by the whole variety of designs – cowls, garments, socks, toys, assessories – in knit and crochet. What does cause you to create so many different wide-ranging designs?
Thank you Kati for saying such kind things about me. There’s a variety of reasons I work both knit and crochet, and I’m going to try and do justice to it all.
The first reason I design knit and crochet is because I don’t really see them as separate – I’m much more like the Japanese in this regard – their word for crochet translates roughly “to knit with hook,” I’m told. I think there’s things that crochet does particularly well – the fact that each stitch is independent of the last allows for greater flexibility. The choices I have in stitches: instead of choosing between a knit or a purl as my foundation stitch, I have single, double, half double, treble crochet – it allows for an incredible amount of diversity! Crochet is particularly good at things like lacework – a beginner can do something lacey without there being quite the learning curve of knit. There are things knit does well also – the fabric created in the same weight yarn tends to be thinner and less heavy. Knitting is very good a certain types of colorwork. And I don’t think anyone can deny that knit socks are much more comfortable than crochet ones.
The second reason is a bit more mercenary. While crochet is a smaller market, there are also fewer designers competing in it. A knitting designer is limited to magazines and books that are knit; a crochet designer has the same limitation. I can reach both markets. If I have an idea that doesn’t work in crochet, it might work in knit, or vice versa. My knit designs, because there is a larger market, oftentimes end up being a little more complex. My crochet designs tend to flex a different muscle: they are often simpler and appeal to a larger audience.
There’s a drawback: I’m not the type of designer that is a niche designer: I’m not a person that’s known for making distinctive shawls, etc. That’s okay with me. I’d probably lose interest if I was doing all of the same thing. I have a huge amount of respect for designers like Stacey Trock – who have made their career on doing a thing and doing it very well. That’s not me (even if sometimes I wish it was)!
You are a designer, a teacher and you publish your patterns in compilations and magazines. Have you ever thought about writing a crafting book? What would you like to write about?
Oh, yes! I’ve recently begun the process of researching what it would take to write the types of books I want to create. I’ve got a couple of concepts I’d like to explore: the largest one is on the care and repair of knitting, and to a lesser extent, crochet. The last book in the US written about repairing knits was a 20 page self-published book by a woman named Rena Crockett titled Flawless Knit Repairs. It was published more than 20 years ago, as best I can tell. I’ve been trying to get my hands on a decently priced copy for the larger part of a year. I know there’s a need: my classes on repairing knits fill nearly every time. There’s information on the web if you know where to look: but there’s nothing collected all in one place. I’d love to remedy that with a book that has beautiful photos and clear instructions. Still, I’ve got a bit of work to go before I’m ready.
I’ve also got a few different ideas for other books – but those ideas need some time to mature.
I love how your humor and your experience in life shines through your designs, design descriptions and teaching classes (“Darn those knits!”). I enjoy so much getting to know the source of inspiration for a design – like your stories about the waterbabies and Mary’s Rose camisole. And the Octopodes!!! Is there always a story behind your designs? What inspires you most?
I was an English Major in college – so the writing part of the job comes very naturally to me. A while back on the Designer Ravelry forums people were talking about how hard writing the Pattern Romance was. I couldn’t really relate: I’ve always loved telling a story. Sometimes to the detriment of facts. It’s a sticking point between my husband and I: I will edit some of the smaller details of a story to get to a “greater truth” (or just to get a laugh) – while my husband is staunchly in the facts are facts group.
I realize one of the weaknesses to my designing is sometimes how varied my collection is*; so I try to have other things to compensate, and part of that is my personality and my voice, and my writing. And because I love to write and create stories, there’s always a story around a design – it’s one of the ways I create meaning around what I do.
There’s a final important component to the writing thing: for many people, my words are the only thing that persuades them to buy one of my patterns. This is my business: I have to sell myself, and that includes the writing I do around my classes and my designs. I suspect (and I have reason to believe it’s true), that some of my designs have been chosen around the story I tell: because not only does it capture the editor’s imagination, but my pattern romance gives them an idea of how to sell my design to the consumer.
*I think, as I publish more, things will have more unity – simply because I’ll have more things to collect into groups. For instance, about two months ago I turned in two socks to Sockupied that will be published in the upcoming year – making my sock collection more robust. Same thing with accessories: I have several crochet pieces in the next year coming out with Annie’s. Some of this I just have to give to time: I’m still very new in my career; it’s only in the last six months that I’ve begun to do this full time. In the last three years the amount of published patterns I’ve had out has steadily doubled each year, and I think that will also hold true for 2015. Also, I know my patterns are getting more polished as I keep going; I’m starting to get a better sense of what I really like to design, and what I enjoy working on, and where that intersects with my income.
Is there a pattern to which you constantly return – like reknitting/-crocheting it in several projects or reinventing it for a different purpose?
Yes, oh definitely yes.
I have a thing about how crochet looks when worked through the back loop. It think orienting it vertical instead of horizontal creates some really interesting fabrics. So I’ve used this technique in Mary Rose’s Camisole, Victoria’s Riflebird, Witchlace and Newport. I’ve got two more designs coming out with Annie’s in the spring that also have that particular look about them.
I also really like elongated and slip stitch patterns on socks, so you’ve got Totem and Totoro and Secret Message. Again, I have another sock pattern coming out this year that uses elongated stitches in another way.
I could go on – I tend to get fixated on a technique and then try different iterations of it over and over and over again. Right now it’s beads: both in knitting and crochet. The amount of beads I’ve bought in the last 4 weeks is… well, it’s a good thing it’s a business expense.
If you could choose with a finger flick (and I am the question fairy :)) to visit a country and a special person today or in history, where would we find you and with whom would you chat about what?
I’d love to talk to my maternal great-grandmother. To all accounts she was quite a crafty woman: and raised two daughters that were quite accomplished before their eyesight failed them. I’d love to see what it was like to geek out with her over crochet and knitting and sewing and rug making and a dozen other things.
I’d love to be interviewed by Anna Sale of Death Sex and Money. I’m a fan of her show, and she sounds both like she’d be a great listener – but also ask those tough questions. I love good meaty chats like the ones she does on her program.
I’m hoping to get to Costa Rica in the next couple of years. I’ve been briefly a few years ago, and it’s a country I’d like to explore in more depth.
I guess that doesn’t quite answer the question, though.
Oh! I’d love to sit down for a good chat with Seanan McGuire. She’s an amazing author and I just have the gut feeling we’d have a good time chatting – after we both got over being rather awkward, as I get the sense she’s about as much of an extrovert as I am – which is not much. I’d love to talk to her about My Little Ponies and geeky things.
Jennifer, it was a pleasure to chat with you and get to know you better!!!