A couple of years ago, I became Instagram friends with a photographer named Whitney Ott — whose feed features exquisite photos of food and flora and her awesome dog, Scout, among other things — not knowing at first that she was a knitter. Eventually that became apparent, and I also found out that her mother even owns a yarn store (which soon thereafter became a FSCo stockist). We got into a big email exchange about all sorts of things, and I asked her at one point if she’d be interested in doing Our Tools, Ourselves, but it got lost in all the other chatter. Two years hence I renewed the invitation, and today — at long last — my wish for a peek into her knitting life has come true! (My motto for the week seems to be good things are worth waiting for.) Thanks, Whitney!
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Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?
When I was around the age of 12 or 13, my mother taught me how to knit. She’s been a knitter for as long as I can remember and I am glad that she decided to pass on her knowledge to me. Knitting is such a therapeutic activity for me that I can’t imagine doing anything else. The rhythmic click of two needles, luscious yarn and a comfortable chair are so very rewarding.
Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.
I have been a fan of the Addi Turbo circular needles for a long time, and I think I own duplicates and triplicates of most sizes. I tend to mainly use circular needles regardless of the project. When I use DPNs, I like to use wood because it tends to bend a little with my knitting movements.
How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?
Every part of me wants to tell you that I have everything very neatly organized inside some kind of beautiful wooden chest. However, this is sadly not the case. To be fair, most of my yarn is in a designated area and either stored up in canvas bags or in a bin. My knitting patterns are the most neatly organized of the lot. I keep all of my knitting books together on a bookshelf and all of my loose leaf patterns are kept in a giant binder.
It’s the needles that seemed to be scattered everywhere. True story: After a day of running errands, I came home and saw something weird coming out of one of my rolled up sleeves. It was 24″ Addi Turbo connector. I have also walked out of the house wearing a set of needles around my neck by accident. Such is my life.
My husband and I are in the middle of moving from a loft to a house, and I am embarrassed by all of the stitch markers, loose DPNs and other accoutrements that I have found scattered everywhere. I am going to try to be better about my storage system in the new place.
How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?
I have many canvas bags that have permanent homes by the sofa. Some of those bags have smaller bags inside them that have the smaller projects in them. Do knitting chests exist? If so, I want one.
I used to be that person who had five to ten projects going on at the same time. I started to notice that projects weren’t getting finished, and some were being forgotten. So, the last couple of years, I have been making a concerted effort to have no more than three projects going at the same time. It’s really difficult to do because I am like every other fiber enthusiast and want to knit everything.
Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?
I’m going to count my ability to knit as my prized possession. Like I mentioned already, my mom taught me how to knit, and I am just so glad she did. Her mother and her mother’s mother were also knitters. You could say that knitting is part of my lineage. I never had the chance to know my grandmother, so for me knitting is like having a connection to her.
Do you lend your tools?
I’ve never had to lend my tools to anyone, but if I did, I would probably only lend things to my mom or someone that I really trust.
What is your favorite place to knit?
My preference is to either enjoy knitting by myself or with my mom and/or aunt. Like I mentioned earlier, knitting is more of a therapeutic activity, so being part of a knitting group wouldn’t be too relaxing for me. I like to focus more on the knitting and tending to light conversation. I also tend to zone out when I’m knitting, so I probably wouldn’t make for good conversation.
What effect do the seasons have on you?
I would say that I’m an all-seasons knitter. Even though I live in the south, I will still knit with wool in the summer.
Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?
The first fair isle sweater I knit, I didn’t do a proper job of checking my gauge. What I really mean to say is I didn’t check my gauge at all. I was too stoked to be starting such a fun project! The finished size is perfect for a small child instead of an adult. Surprisingly, I wasn’t too upset by the outcome. The joy of knitting it far outweighed the final piece.
I’ve obviously learned from my mistake and force myself to do the gauge swatch, but if something doesn’t work out, I don’t go crazy. I don’t feel like all of my knitting has to be perfect, so I am very forgiving of minor mistakes or errors I make. It’s probably a cliché to say it, but I kind of like having a small “mistake” in my knitting. It makes it unique!
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I am working on Slope, from Shibui’s newest pattern line, and also my husband’s first hand-knitted sweater, which is the Rift pattern from Brooklyn Tweed’s BT Men Volume 2. We’ve been married for almost two years, so I figured it was time he got a sweater. However, I have a lot of projects I want to start! I’m trying to pick yarn for some pillows that I want to knit for our first house together. I’ve got some friends who are having babies, so I am having fun picking out sweet little hat, blanket and animal patterns. I also want to knit an afghan. The list never ends!
PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Courtney Spainhower (Pink Brutus Knits)
Photos © Whitney Ott