Kara Gott Warner is the editor of Creative Knitting magazine. She's also a mom and a lover of anything having to do with two crazy sticks and some fabulous yarn. On this blog, Kara will share tips, tutorials, book reviews, contests and in-depth designer interviews, all dedicated to the craft of knitting.
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Designer Spotlight: Amy Polcyn, Author of Knit a Dozen Plus Slippers
Knitwear designer extraordinaire, Amy Polcyn took some time out of her busy day to share tidbits about her designing life and her wildly popular book: Knit a Dozen Plus Slippers. So without further delay, join me as I chat with one of the hardest-working designers in the industry today!
Kara: What was your inspiration behind wanting to do a book of knitted slippers?
Amy: Well, the short answer would probably be “everyone has feet,” but in truth I enjoy knitting socks, but they take awhile to knit. Knitting slippers is a great way to have all the fun of knitting socks while being able to finish a pair in an evening.
Kara: Can you give a little insight behind how you came up with each of these designs and why?
Amy: My main objective was to incorporate as many different techniques as I could, so there would be something for everyone. In the same vein, I wanted there to be something for beginning knitters, something a bit trickier and something for men, women and children. The Cabled Clog Slippers were inspired by an old pair of slippers I had. They had thick, foam soles and were so comfortable. The Mitered Square Scuffs came from my love of mitered squares and hand-painted yarn–they are truly made for each other. The Mary Jane Slippers were inspired by my all-time favorite type of shoe: Mary Janes. I own more pairs than I care to admit!
Kara: Why did you choose the yarns that you worked with? Do you think that working with specific yarns is better for something like a slipper that gets lots of wear and tear?
Amy: Yarns that would hold up to wear and tear was a primary consideration. In general, I chose rugged, plied yarns. For example, the Universal Chunky Long Print I used in the Mary Jane Slippers has worn beautifully—I’ve been wearing the sample pair from the book for months and they look as good as new.
Kara: Can you talk a little about your Red Sports Cars slippers? They are such a popular pattern in the book. Why do you think they are such a big hit?
Amy: Two reasons: First I think it’s hard to find adorable projects for little boys, and secondly, they are just plain cute. When the book first came out, I was getting messages on Ravelry almost daily commenting on them. One knitter even asked for advice on how to make a pair for herself!
Kara: Many of the slippers in Knit a Dozen Plus Slippers are an easy skill level, but it also seems that your intermediate designs are also pretty easy to master. What would you say to the knitter that really wants to try one of the more difficult patterns?
Amy: I see the variety of techniques as an opportunity to learn something new. Compared to trying to learn cables on say, a sweater, learning them on a slipper is less threatening. For a newer knitter, you could go through the pairs and learn cables, Fair Isle, lace, mosaic knitting, mitered squares and a variety of different heel and toe techniques for a minimum of yarn and time. Several shop owners have told me the book is perfect for classes since there are so many learning opportunities in small doses.
Kara: My favorite slippers are the quick-to-knit Ruggedly Warm Loafers. What a great gift these would make. Why did you choose Sundae by Berroco?
Amy: I loved the colors, and the bigger gauge made them extremely fast to knit up—less than an hour per slipper. I know I need last-minute gift ideas and it helps when they can really be finished at the last minute.
Kara: Can you share what a typical day of designing is like for you? Do you spend lots of time swatching and sketching? What’s the method to your madness?
Amy: After my daughter leaves for school, I start out with emails, invoices and things like that. Afterwards, I move on to any tech editing I need to do (I work as a freelance tech editor for several publishers in addition to designing). Later in the afternoon, I work on knitting samples (except those I’ve sent to a sample knitter) or work on submissions if a deadline is coming up. For inspiration, I get out my notebook of magazine clippings and sketches of ideas that popped into my head (because of course, sometimes they do at the wrong time and I need to remember them for the right time!) I also keep a separate “swatching stash”—13 boxes and counting—and sometimes the yarn is the source of a new idea. I keep a bulletin board with swatches I knit when I just felt like playing with yarn, and sometimes I’ll take one down and start sketching. I usually take a break in the late afternoon for a run, dinner and errands, then I get my second wind and work pretty late into the evening most nights. Instant Netflix is my best friend, and I’m lucky to have a husband who is both busy himself and supremely patient, so he doesn’t mind the long hours I put in.
Kara: How long have you been designing, and when did you get your first break? Can you share what magazines and books your designs have been published in?
Amy: I started designing in 2005. I got my first break in the now-defunct online magazine Spun in the spring of 2005, followed by my first attempt at submitting to a magazine a few weeks later, which was, believe it or not, Creative Knitting! My first accepted submission was the Funky Entrelac Pillow from the May 2006 issue. This gave me the confidence to keep submitting. To date, I’ve had designs published in Creative Knitting, Vogue Knitting, Knit Simple, Knitter’s Magazine, Knitting Today!, Crochet Today!, Interweave Knits, Knitscene, Love of Knitting, Yarn Forward, Cast On and Knit ‘n Style. I’ve had designs in about two dozen books and in a bunch of yarn company leaflets, including Classic Elite, Nashua Handknits, Universal, Mission Falls and Aslan Trends.
Kara: Did you go to school for design? How did your past life lead you to the path of designing?
Amy: It’s really the direction I always wanted to go in, but was afraid to when I was younger. As a kid my favorite toy was Fashion Plates and I spent hours making outfits for Barbie®, and making paper dolls and dressing them. In high school I wanted to study fashion design more than anything—I didn’t yet knit but I was an avid sewer and took sewing year after year in school. I even sewed my prom dress! In the end, though, I was worried it was an impractical choice and I ended up in elementary education. I liked teaching, but something was always missing. I’m a bit late to the party, but I’m finally in the field I love most of all.
Amy: When did you first learn how to knit?
Amy: I learned to crochet first in high school. Believe it or not, my boyfriend taught me! I loved crochet (still do!) but I was frustrated by the more appealing knitting patterns I found in the magazines. I wanted to make the sweaters I saw in the knitting magazines, so I taught myself. It took awhile! The book I bought to guide me said left handed knitters (like myself) should always knit continental, and try as I might, I couldn’t do it. I was too used to holding the yarn in my right hand from years of crocheting left-handed. Once, I gave myself permission to try what the book called “the right handed way” I was off and running.
Kara: Do you have any other book ideas on the burner that you’d like to let us know about or something new and exciting in your design collection?
Amy: I have a lot of ideas simmering. I just finished up another book for House of White Birches called Baby Nouveau. It’s a refreshing approach to baby blankets that avoid the traditional pastels and ruffles. This collection of designs is perfect for moms like me, who was never happier than the day I found a sleek black diaper bag (and would’ve killed for a Lexie Barnes one had they been around at the time!)
In regard to magazines—I have new designs coming up in Creative Knitting and many other popular knitting magazines as well. I have three designs for Baby in the new book, 60 Quick Baby Knits, as well as the cover designs in the new Classic Elite booklet Rocky Coast and the April/May issue of Knitting Today!
For more information, visit Amy’s website: amypolcyn.com.
Amy has generously provided a FREE download of her Mary Jane Slippers pattern, from Knit a Dozen Plus Slippers. Get your pattern here.
For more information, please visit Annie’s Attic.