I’m excited to have Hunter Hammersen in our Designer Spotlight today. Hunter’s books have always been in my personal library (and even on the “special books of inspiration shelf“!), and I can’t wait for you to get to know more about her today.
Loopy: Hi Hunter! Thanks for being in our Designer Spotlight today. How long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit?
Hunter: I more or less taught myself in college. I figured out something resembling the knit stitch and made a very ugly rectangle. Having never been very good at taking small steps, I then decided that I was clearly ready to work intricate cables. I got Elsebeth Lavold’s Viking Patterns for Knitting, picked out the most complicated cable pattern in the thing, and decided to whack it on a scarf. Unfortunately, I had no real concept of gauge or yarn selection. I picked out some nubbly blue acrylic stuff from Walmart and needles to match. And by match, I mean ‘look pretty with the yarn,’ they were totally the wrong size. I then proceeded to tackle the cable pattern (more or less figuring out how to purl and wield a cable needle along the way). The nubbly bits hid the cable almost completely, and the yarn/needle combo resulted in a fabric so dense it could be used to hold up a sagging porch. But I did make cables. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to add on more yarn, so I was stymied about 6 inches in. I put the needles away for a while after that.
I picked it up again a few years later, this time with lace. I thought that a skein of laceweight was long enough that I wouldn’t ever have to worry about joining on new yarn. So I tried Knitty’s Branching Out scarf.
Along the way, I learned to do increases and decreases. Unfortunately I did not learn about winding my yarn into a ball. Instead I would open up the skein, wind off ten rounds or so, twist the skein closed, and knit that yarn. I did that for the whole scarf. I did learn rather a lot about picking knots out of laceweight yarn. I also found that you can use up that seemingly endless skein of yarn long before you’ve reached the hoped for length of scarf. I’ve still got this (rather short) scarf tucked away in the bottom of a drawer somewhere. I took another break after that.
Then in 2007, I decided to try socks. Socks yarn came in tidy pre-wound balls, and came in the right length for socks. So I wouldn’t have to deal with loose loops of yarn or figure out how to join on more yarn. It took me two months, but I managed a pair. Another soon followed. And then another.
Loopy: That is the best learn-to-knit-journey I have read. You made some GREAT mistakes! (And by mistakes, I totally mean you took a few detours on the most effective route to knitting.) Funny! What is your favorite type of item to knit?
Hunter: It’s sort of a tie between socks and swatches. Which I know sounds dreadfully odd, but it’s true. Socks were my first love, and I still feel they’re more or less the perfect knitting project. But they take a long time, and I don’t get to as many of them as I’d like. Swatches, on the other hand, are instant gratification (and most of my knitting is swatches these days, as I swatch, and write the patterns, and then have other lovely folks actually knit the samples you see in the books).
Loopy: Plus you get cute little squares of patterned yarn with swatches. What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?
Hunter: I don’t really think any of the things I’ve knit have been challenging (at least not after I figured out some basic stuff like picking the right needles and winding my yarn…). After all, you can make your way through any project if you just take it one stitch at a time. For me, it’s usually external factors (deadlines, pesky life stuff intruding on knitting time, sore wrists) that make things tricky.
Loopy: Well some of your patterns look magnificently challenging, but I agree – one stitch at a time usually gets you there. When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?
Hunter: I am terrible at following instructions. So I started mucking about with other people’s patterns to make them do what I wanted very early on (and ruining some perfectly good socks along the way I might add). It was some time in 2009 when I realized that I didn’t have to start with someone else’s pattern and modify it…I could just make it myself from the start. And when you combine ‘terrible at following instructions’ with ‘alarmingly bossy?’ Well, writing instructions to tell other folks how to do what I did seemed like a natural next step!
Hunter: You mean besides whatever I’m working on now? Because really, I’m terribly inconstant in my affections. Whatever I’m playing with at the moment is usually my favorite. But if I had to pick, I’d say I’m rather taken with the Quiescent slippers I put out earlier this year.
Loopy: What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?
Hunter: Getting to make things /exactly/the way I want. That’s actually the answer to both of your questions! Getting to be as picky as I want is fabulous, except when I find myself getting too tied up in the details, and have to make myself step back and stop obsessing.
Hunter: It depends on what you mean by outside of pattern designing. In addition to designing, I publish my own books. That means that a fair amount of my time is spent talking to photographers and printers and freight companies or trying to sort out a shopping cart system for my website or doing my accounting or any of a host of alarmingly non-yarny things. The vast majority of my work time is spent doing things that support the business as a whole, rather than actually working on designing patterns. But I suspect that’s the case for anyone who actually turns this into a job!
Hunter: Full-time. I was working on my doctorate in history when I started publishing books. Somewhere along the way, I realized the books had become my full-time job (and that writing books was a lot more fun than being a professor was going to be). So I made the switch. It’s hard work, but I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.
Loopy: That was a good switch, then. Does anyone else in your family knit?
Loopy: Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?
Hunter: I might just be slightly addicted to modern board games. The yarn stash takes up a bit more space than the games, but it isn’t ahead by much.
Loopy: Modern board games? Interesting. (I didn’t know there were enough games out there to rival a yarn stash.) What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?
Hunter: Someone (someone other than me) should fix me a tasty breakfast, then I will lounge around reading all morning (possibly reading until I doze off and take a little nap…which always feels like the most decadent thing ever). But please do come wake me when lunch is ready, as I wouldn’t want to miss that. I think a nice game after lunch sounds lovely. By the time that’s over, it will likely be time for dinner. And after dinner we should go hang out in the back yard and have a little fire.
Loopy: No knitting in your day off? But then again, if knitting is your job, it wouldn’t be a day off, would it? Ok, so … Morning or Night person? Coffee or Tea? English or Continental? Solids or Multicolors? 🙂
Hunter: Morning! Don’t ask me to do anything requiring brain power after about 4:00 in the afternoon. It won’t go well. Tea…lots and lots of tea. I may have about two dozen different loose teas in the tea cupboard. Yes, tea cupboard…old ironing board cabinet in my kitchen now dedicated to tea storage (um, and there may be seven or eight kinds of honey in there too). And I may well be known to take a tea strainer and good tea with me on even the shortest of overnight trips…in case of emergency you understand. Combination knitting, more or less. Actually, don’t watch me knit. I’m fairly convinced I do it ‘wrong.’ I have, in fact, been told by lots of people that I do it wrong. I’m content to blithely ignore them and keep going. It seems to be working out ok so far. Solids. Or better yet, some lovely semi solids.
Hunter has generously offered all of our Loopy blog readers a 15% discount on her individual patterns, or ebooks. Click over to her Ravelry pattern page to check out all of your choices. The code for the Rav discount is: theloopyewe and it will work from today through next Friday, June 27th. You can also find her hard copy books here (and there is a 10% pre-order discount already running there until 6/26, for her latest book). Also, be sure to pop over to her blog to keep up with her designing adventures and other fun things. She has cute cats named Douglas, Barry and Levon, she has a delicious sounding recipe for Brown Sugar Basil Iced Tea, and I want her Tea Cabinet. The whole thing, all filled up like that.