This week, we’re excited to have Susan B. Anderson in our Designer Spotlight. Susan is the author of several great books, including Itty-Bitty Nursery, Itty-Bitty Hats, Itty-Bitty Toys, Topsy-Turvy Inside-Out Knit Toys, and Spud and Chloe at the Farm. In addition to having all of her books in my own knitting library, we have gotten to know and love her as she has taught at our last two Fling Retreats! I know you’ll have fun getting to know more about her. (And of course read to the end, where you’ll find a special offer.)
Loopy: Hi Susan! Thanks for joining us on the blog today. How long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit?
Susan: Hi Loopy! Thanks for having me. I taught myself to knit just over 30 years ago. I was a very crafty focused kid growing up. I was always making things and looking for crafts to do. My mother was also very crafty and so she whole-heartedly supported my crafting quests. I had always been interested in knitting for some reason unknown as no one in my family was a knitter. That summer 30 years ago, I purchased a how-to-knit pamphlet and some acrylic yarn and needles at a fabric shop. I struggled and struggled to learn to knit only having the pamphlet for reference and guidance. The internet was not around at that time and I didn’t know anyone who knitted. I was truly on my own. However, even with the struggles and limited information I somehow learned the basics and I have never stopped knitting since that summer.
Susan: I love to knit all sorts of things so it is difficult to choose. I will list a few favorite things: sweaters, hats, accessories like cowls, mittens, and shawls, and of course, toys.
Loopy: I think your toys are some of my favorites. So cute. You taught that Little Dragon class at our retreat and it was fun seeing all of the different colored dragons being worked up that weekend! What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?
Susan: The most challenging projects I have knit have been when I’m designing and knitting toys, especially when the toy is supposed to look like something really specific. Toys can be tricky to design and knit because everything has to be just perfect, every feature, so it is instantly recognizable. This can be super challenging and sometimes quite complicated.
Loopy: I know you’re working on some great new designs and we can’t wait to see them! When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?
Susan: I started designing about 20 years ago or so. I had just left my public school teaching position to stay home with my three young children (a fourth child came along shortly after). My oldest was enrolled in a charming little nursery school that hosted a silent auction each spring. My first designing experience was coming up with original baby hats for the nursery school silent auction. I did this for many years and the hats were always an enormous hit at the auction. After that I began designing tons of baby hats which after many twists and turns became my first book, Itty-Bitty Hats.
Loopy: I’ll bet they couldn’t wait to see what you’d come up with from year to year. I’m glad those designs turned into a book that we can all buy! Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?
Susan: My favorite is always the last pattern I have written and designed. I love them all. I will say that my most popular patterns as far as sales go are kind of interesting. The Waiting for Winter Mittens, the Quaker Ridge Shawlette, and the Sweet Pea Hat are the three top selling patterns in my Ravelry Pattern Store. Although I am mostly known at this point for toy design, I love to knit and design other types of items as well.
Susan: By far the best part is the creative part, the planning, the selecting yarn, the sketching, and then the actual knitting of the item. The most tedious part is the pattern-writing and tech editing. I am sure that is the same for most designers.
Susan: Being a mom has always been my first job and then the knitting, writing books and teaching has become my second job.
Susan: The knitting career has become a full-time job for me. I work at home and sometimes it is difficult, although I am not complaining nor would I trade it for anything. It is difficult because sometimes people forget that I am working an actual job with deadlines from home. I can’t talk for hours on the phone and it can be hard to stay focused at times. I do my best and the best part is the flexibility that comes from being your own boss.
Susan: All of my four kids, who range in age from 22 to 15 years old, have learned to knit. My youngest daughter has probably done the most knitting of any of them. She has made loads of charity donated baby hats through the years. They have all shown interest and skill at different points of time and I think someday they may come back to knitting. They all enjoy receiving handknit socks, mittens, hats and sweaters so that is very fun.
Susan: I enjoy a wide-range of hobbies that include running, biking and hiking, reading, gardening, cooking, sewing, embroidery, water colors, sketching, and mosaic tile art amongst others. I have tried so many crafts throughout the years and I continue to be open to trying new things. The more different and varied creative avenues you try the better!
Loopy: Wow – I don’t know how you keep up with all of that! And I suspect that the sketching and water color talent might come in handy when you’re designing new toys. With all of those interests, what would be your favorite way to spend a day off?
Susan: My favorite way to spend a day off is at home with my kids and husband all home. We love to eat a great meal and cook together. I don’t need much as I am a total homebody who loves spending time with her family.
Susan: I am perhaps the biggest morning person you’d ever meet. My morning wake-up time is anywhere from 3 to 5am every morning. This is my favorite time of the day hands-down. As you can imagine I am not much good at night due to my early morning wake up time. I drink a couple of mugs of coffee in the morning and that’s it for the day. I do love coffee so much. I knit Continental and I like both solids and multicolors – it depends on the project!
Susan is offering our blog readers a 20% discount on one of her patterns through her Ravelry pattern shop. The discount is good between now and next Friday, November 28th and the code is: theloopyewe Have fun picking out a new pattern and then pop over to Loopy and find some pretty new yarn to go with it! (And don’t you need a tiny turkey and a tiny elf? Those patterns are free!)