Our Tools, Ourselves: Kathy Cadigan

In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know fiber artisans of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.

Photographer Kathy Cadigan's knitting life

I’m enamored of Seattle photographer Kathy Cadigan‘s taste in knitting. (You’ll recall her Jón hat. See also Monochrome Tolt, Pembroke, Volcanic Maren, etc.) And I am also a fan of her photography, as experienced via Instagram. So naturally I wanted a peek through her lens at her own knitting life. I had no idea what I was in for — you’re going to love this.

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Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?

I’ve tried my hand at all of the above; knitting and spinning are the two I’m most committed to. I first decided to learn to knit 13 years ago after seeing a copy of the now obsolete Martha Stewart Baby Magazine. The first issue featured a beautiful knitting tutorial for a little jacket, knitted on straights, 7 rectangles pieced together. The knitting went just fine but the seaming part was a disaster for me. After that, I sought help at the craft store and have been knitting ever since. Like many knitters who began in the ’90s, I started off knitting with novelty yarns and synthetic blends. Today, my preferences involve only the woolliest and most rustic-y of yarns, thanks in large part to the owner of my LYS, Anna Dianich.

Photographer Kathy Cadigan's knitting life

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

I’ve haphazardly collected all sorts of needles over the years: plastic, metal, wood, straights, circulars … you name it. Now I knit almost exclusively on Addi metal circs.

How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?

The majority of my old needles are jumbled together in a plastic  zip-up storage bag.  I dig through it on the odd occasion that I need a US size 50. ;)  Tape measure, darning needles, etc., I keep in an old school pencil box.

How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?

They’re kind of organized … in a disorganized sort of way.

I like leaving new skeins of yarn out in baskets or on trays because seeing them makes me smile and dream of the new projects they’re intended for.

I “store” works in progress out in the open on wooden trays and also now in Fringe Supply Bento bags! The Bento bags are brilliant because they act like little baskets for display, then they tie up neatly away for travel. Perfect. [Editor’s note: I swear I don’t even anticipate people saying these things, much less prompt it!]

Eventually, all woefully unfinished projects and far-too-long unbroken skeins of yarn go into under-bed storage totes. For the most part, I’ve been pretty good about keeping my stash down.

Photographer Kathy Cadigan's knitting life

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

My most prized fiber tool is a recently acquired Sid Sharples/Jack Daniels California Bulky Spinner. It’s solid walnut, crafted in the 1970s.  A lovely knitter/spinner from the Bay Area answered my call on Ravelry when I was searching for that rare bird.

Also, I love collecting books on historical textile traditions. I sort of have books stacked everywhere! It makes me happy to be surrounded by them. I recently picked up a copy of a fabulous book called Knitting in Art. I’d like to try graphing out a beautiful Alaskan motif pictured (under magnifying glass).

Also, also, I love my old cameras. (I’ve included one of my favorite captures: an image of Solfar, the Sun Voyager in Reykjavik, Iceland. I shot it on very unstable instant film. My family had the image enlarged on canvas for me. The result is surprisingly painterly.)

Photographer Kathy Cadigan's knitting life

Do you lend your tools?

I don’t usually lend.  I just give. Mostly needles and a Rasmussen table loom. ;)

What is your favorite place to knit?

When I knit with my beloved knit group I knit to socialize, catch up on the latest, receive counsel on knitterly things and life in general.

When I need to get down to serious knitting business, my favorite spot is at my desk. Next favorite spot is our window seat. Favorite knitting uniform: swants! and mocs.

Photographer Kathy Cadigan's knitting life

What effect do the seasons have on you?

Here in Seattle, I find myself knitting almost year-round. I love it even in the summer months! The youngsters at the pool are always curious about what I’m knitting.  I make sure to bring stash yarn and pompom makers with me. The pompoms are always a big hit.

Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?

Yes. If given the choice between purchasing a knitting kit complete with required yarn and pattern or purchasing the finished knitted object, I choose the FO. Without even blinking.

Except when I went to Iceland. I brought home both.

What are you working on right now?

I’m experimenting with different fibers to spin bulky singles for a Cowichan-style sweater vest. I really don’t know what I’m doing. But I’ve been so inspired after a trip to see Andrea Rangel in Cowichan Bay with my friends Anna and Paula.

I brought home a Cowichan Sweater made by a Coast Salish knitter as reference for construction. It will be quite the learning curve!

Photographer Kathy Cadigan's knitting life

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Lauren (of Süsk and Banoo)

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Photos © Kathy Cadigan

Bonus fave, with somewhat jumbled TNNA highlights

TNNA 2013 - Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, Andrea Rangel, Carina Spencer, Allyson Dykhuizen

I can’t do it! I had visions of an orderly, well-crafted recap of my first trip to TNNA (the main yarn industry trade show), but it turns out my thoughts are as blurry as most of the photos I took on the show floor. It was such a whirlwind. I landed Saturday evening (a day or two later than most attendees) and left early Monday afternoon, and those 43 hours were jam-packed with yarn and ice cream and meetings and knitwear and ice cream and knitting and more ice cream. Columbus has come a long way since I lived there, very briefly, many years ago. For one thing, the Jeni’s that looms so large in everyone’s TNNA experience is on the corner of my old street (the same one the Mona Lisa lives on). Thank god that wasn’t the case then — can you imagine? I’d weigh a thousand pounds. But see? I digress.

The show was a brainful, and then some. So much to look at and so many people to meet. (Not to mention buying decisions — I have lots of great stuff coming for the shop.) And the evenings and late nights were spent knitting and drinking in the company of dozens upon dozens of knitwear designers and shop owners. I got to meet several of the fine, upstanding people who are selling Fringe Supply Co. goods in their shops: Jaime and Amber, who own Fancy Tiger Crafts; Karen Posniak, who owns Do Ewe Knit; Arthella and Trudy, who were there representing Fibre Space (big order en route to them right now); and Anna Dianich of Tolt Yarn and Wool (opening soon!). Chief among the designers I met was Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, my roommate for the weekend, and wow did I luck out in that category. That’s her in the top left photo up there. Bottom right are Andrea Rangel, Carina Spencer and Allyson Dykhuizen, three of the most charming people you could hope to meet. But to try to name all the wonderful people I met is … hopeless. Nor can I begin to summarize what I saw.

So here’s the thing I really want to tell you. One of the highlights of the trip was getting to flip through a dummy of the Fall issue of Knitscene. Everyone had been raving about Mercedes’ contribution, and when I finally saw it, it did not disappoint. It’s the Emmanuelle sweater, pictured below, and I was going to have a hell of a time keeping it under my hat. Thankfully the official preview hit the internet yesterday, so I don’t have to! I love this design, and have been picturing it (predictably) in every possible combination of neutrals: Camel with alternating black and white chevrons? Black with grey and white chevrons? Grey with black and white, or camel and white? You get the idea. But if ever there were a time to embrace color, this sweater would be it.

Emmanuelle sweater by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark for Knitscene fall 2013