Mary Jane is just plain fun. She knows what’s cool, what’s trendy, and how to make life a celebration dance. Want a quick sense of her aesthetic? Just look through her blog and see the list of friends that she has on Ravelry (her screen name is MaryJane) to see how cool she is! She’s currently building a website for the complete knitting kits her fans having been pleading for every time her work appears in a magazine.
I’m pleased to call Mary Jane a friend and share her effervescence with you…because her star is on track for serious recognition in the International Knitting World. Already a veteran of Interweave Press’ Knits, her designs have been featured in Twist Collective and soon to be on the newsstands, Veronik Avery’s St. Denis Magazine . MJM’s color style is instantly recognizable for those who enjoy stranded color knitting work … but her teaching style is even more remarkable~ she possesses that rare gift of making others feel that their work is better than anything she would have thought of…and like the genius she is, she means it!
When asked to give us a glimpse into her world and her creative mind, she responded this way to our questions:
I’m big on daydreaming, I constantly think about the next design, sketching ideas on whatever is at hand. I love looking at books, some knitting books, but an awful lot of historic textile books, architecture books, books about different cultures, and strange and unusual books I happen upon. No matter what I’m reading, I always look to see what people are wearing, how they are wearing it and the colors and patterns of the garments. I look at the backgrounds of images a lot, what do the people in the picture have in their house? Watching movies I’m always studying the background too, and I’m often rewarded with some interesting textile, or great color combination.
I find inspiration everywhere I turn, the pale yellow, palest pink and juicy pink of my morning grapefruit, a thrifted potholder with crocheted violets, the makers stamp on the bottom of a dish. I think attention to detail is important in my work, choosing the right beginning…garter stitch? ribbing? corrugated ribbing? For me the process of making something is as important as the finished product, being mindful of the moment, taking time to be present…a challenge with a lot of my work which involves impossible deadlines!
I like a leisurely class with a lot of student interaction. I like to know about the teacher, what makes them tick where they get their inspiration, and I also want to get a feel for my classmates. I love to learn new techniques and find even if I think I ‘know it all’ I always get something from a class. To tell the truth, I’m kind of a class junkie, I love taking classes, I’m planning to take at least two here at Fiber College.
Hmmm lets see. I was the handwork teacher for the local Waldorf school, I taught first second and third graders knitting and crochet, so I am verrry patient and very aware of individual learning styles. I’m always looking for the key to unlock understanding for a student. I also worked at a yarn shop for many years fielding every manner of knitting emergency and encountering a wild array of “knitter personalities”.
I’ve got a strong background in color and fashion, earning a BFA in Printmaking from Pratt Institute, taking fashion courses at Parson’s School of Design, studying Textiles and Historic Costume at the University of Washington.
I was the photostylist for Interweave Knits Magazine for a couple of years, a great job which gave me personal access to the work of many, many talented hand knitting designers. This job required a very careful inspection of every garment so that we could show them off to their best advantage and also include all the subtle “knitterly” details.
I’ve been knitting stranded colorwork for about 20 years now. I started with top down sweaters for my kids and their cousins when they were babies, mostly out of worsted weight…crazy mixed up sweaters, no two ever alike. I also made a lot of mittens, the kids were always losing them (no pie!) and hats.
I always dreamed of tackling traditional fair isle knitting, being especially inspired by Alice Starmore and also the work of Patricia Johnston, mother of fellow fiber college teacher Gudrun Johnston, who had a company called the Shetland Trader. I loved both these women’s take on the traditional, and I really wanted to try it myself, but I just didn’t have the courage. One day while reading Sheila McGregor’s book The Complete Book of Traditional Fair Isle Knitting, she wrote “ why not start with a hat”? I thought…sensible idea…I put down the book and off I went, knitting away, mixing colors as I went. That’s where the idea for my Stranded Colorwork Sampler Hat class really originated, the beauty of a sampler, meant for practice.
I go both ways on mistakes, really depending on my mood and who the item is for. I have had major miscalculations become the best part of a design, pushing me beyond my original expectations, but I’m also not afraid to rip out hours of work, in fact I kind of find it liberating!
As far as “tricks” go, I think the single most important thing is to look at your work. Really look at the work in your hands and see what you are doing. It sounds almost too simple, but there you go, try it!
Read the directions through before you ever begin. Highlight areas that seem confusing. Chances are when you get to the “scary part” in the actual pattern, it will by that time make sense. Reading through will also alert you to things you might overlook if you’re really going gang-busters on a project and start making assumptions….there might be some instructions you haven’t anticipated.
Keep calm, focus on what you like about the project, you will be able to do what seems to be impossible.
If you still find you are having trouble. let it rest. go back to it when you are relaxed and if it is still no go…take it to your LYS for help.
I’m very curious about my students, which is one reason why I like a longer class time. I really want to know all about everyone, where they live, what they like to do, what they like to make, what they like to eat, if they like to travel, if they’ve been to any good museums lately, if they hoola hoop. I think student participation and interaction are important elements in the classroom.
I collect…..Yarn! and vintage mugs, I always need new ones since they’re always breaking.
The best advice I have ever been given: Choose a group of light colors and a group of dark colors.
Green is my favorite color, I don’t know, maybe since I grew up in Seattle and it is always green there. I find it energizing but at the same time calming. But to be honest, I like just about every color, you know, you put a color you think you hate next to another color and all of a sudden the ugly one becomes your new favorite.
With knitting I’m self taught, actually I was shown the basics a couple of times, but I crossed over to Continental on my own, after my friend returned from Sweden, and I thought it looked so much cooler. It is cooler, and much more efficient, but I’m comfortable teaching both styles.
What do you like best about what you do? Making things up, mixing new colors, the unexpected “wow” that comes from a happy accident.