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.
Yay, Our Tools, Ourselves is back! Sorry for the unintended hiatus, but I’ve got lots of great makers lined up for the coming months, and I’m so pleased to be able to get things going again with none other than Carrie Bostick Hoge. You may know Carrie as an independent knit designer, as the photographer and art director of Quince and Co., or as the woman who does all of the above under her own brand, Madder. Carrie was one of the first people whose work I gravitated toward when I took up knitting, and I’ve always enjoyed the glimpses of her barn-studio on her blog. But having now seen the images she sent for this interview, I’m wondering if there’s some way I could secretly take up residence in there, like the kids in the Mixed-Up Files.
Be sure to follow Carrie’s blog, Swatch Diaries, and find her as “madder” at Pinterest and as “maddermade” on Twitter and Instagram. And thank you so much, Carrie, for this:
Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?
I am a knitter and beginner sewer. My mom gave me several knitting lessons in my teens, but it wasn’t until my early twenties that knitting finally stuck and I became obsessed. I played at sewing even before I held a pair of needles. The birth of my daughter in 2011 reignited my desire to learn for real. I want to sew little clothes for her! I’m determined to become a more confident sewer.
Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.
I am very attached to my straight wood needles. (Although my cats love to chew on them—so naughty!) In fact, it was a pair of wood needles that changed my view of what knitting could be. My mom had plastic or metal needles, so that’s all I knew in regards to knitting tools. But one day I saw my boss-at-the-time’s wife knitting some raw single-ply wool with wood needles. This resonated with me — from that day on I knew I wanted to commit to learning to knit. I will use metal needles depending on the project, but I always begin with my wood straights if possible.
How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?
I have a basket for my circulars and fabric organizers for my DPNs and straight needles. But, honestly, the fabric organizers quickly become unorganized because my daughter is drawn to them like magnets and is constantly pulling the needles out and using them as drum sticks. Between my cats and my kid, it’s very hard for me to preserve order with my needles.
How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?
I’m a basket lover, so there are lots of baskets in my studio and at my house. In the basket I usually store the project in a plastic bag to keep it protected. My barn-studio, sadly, has mice so if the plastic bag doesn’t seal, I might still be in trouble. I recently found a bag of yarn with acorns in it! Not good.
Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?
I have my grandmother’s sewing machine and a lot of her sewing notions that I treasure. I have a tin of her buttons, too, that I relish.
Also, I feel a little funny saying this, but I like knitting bags. I splurged on a tote that my friend Karen Gelardi designed and sold on Quince earlier this year. I also have a vintage bag that my mom used as her knitting bag and she passed it down to me. This one is really dear to me. I also have a small project tote that I made in a sewing class that I like.
Do you lend your tools?
Yes, I’m happy to share what I have with others.
What is your favorite place to knit?
I’ll knit anytime of day, anywhere. My favorite place to knit is at home on my couch, or in bed is nice, too. I love that knitting is portable — it’s one of the aspects of knitting that really sealed the deal as I was learning. Coming from photography, where you need expensive equipment and a darkroom with chemicals, it was such a relief to find the simplicity of knitting. You don’t need much — a pair of needles and some wool. So I try to make the most of knitting’s portability as much as possible. It makes me less anxious, too, when waiting, for instance, at the dentist’s office.
What effect do the seasons have on you?
I do a lot of planning, dreaming, thinking and playing in the spring and summer. This past summer, I collected quite a bit of fabric. Fabric inspires knitwear design ideas — I try to imagine the perfect handmade sweater for the piece of apparel I’m planning to sew. (Or dreaming that I’d like to sew.) With the first hint of cool weather, I’m usually back on the needles working on the ideas that brewed over the summer. I love Autumn; it’s my favorite time of year. And winters are quiet and meant for knitting.
Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?
My guilty pleasure is fabric. Definitely fabric. And yarn, too, I have an enormous yarn stash that is quite overwhelming at times. Yarn that I’ve had for years from past jobs, from past Rhinebeck trips (!), and some hand-me-down yarn from friends and family. But, this coming year I’m going to try to knit and sew with what I have and will try, try, try not to accumulate any more for a while. I’ve run out of baskets.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on so many projects for Madder at the moment! Right now I am working on finishing up a pattern called Uniform Cardigan. It is one pattern with several variations, so the knitter can build their own cardigan. Hopefully I’ll be able to release this in a couple weeks. In January I hope to release a small collection of sweaters for Ladies and Little Ladies. I’m pretty excited about this project and look forward to sharing more in the new year.
PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Kristine Vejar
Photos © Carrie Bostick Hoge