Artist Profile: Katharine Cobey

Katharine Cobey, a Maine Master Craft Artist, returns to Fiber College this year and as in response to many requests, will offer three amazing classes. All three of her classes are for students at all levels! In her 2-day class (Weds/Thurs) Knitting the Masters, Katharine will focus on knitting and the use of surface design and shaped fabric. Even the simplest of stitches and techniques can contribute to the significance and functionality of knitted creations. In Katharine’s Friday afternoon (1-5) class, The Navajo Spindle, students will learn to use this supported spindle (rather than a drop spindle) to create yarn with a long-draw technique. Very few practitioners in the east teach the Navajo spindle; we are so fortunate to have Katharine with us at Fiber College.  On Sunday morning
(9-1), Katharine will teach The Spiral, one of her popular knitted garment designs that can be adapted from full-length to tunic-length. Let’s meet Katharine!

Who are you? Tell us about your fiber journey.
I consider knitting a sculptural technique as well as a craft. Knitters can make art and functional pieces, or both. The more I attempt and see, the more I teach and learn, the more adventuresome my knitting becomes.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer. November 5th, 2010. Katharine Cobey is a fiber artist and was recently named Master Craftsman of the Year for Maine. She talks about her life as a fiber artist.

We are thrilled to welcome Katharine Cobey back to Fiber College this year!

I started knitting when I was eleven. Later as a young mother I knit shawls for myself and friends, and sweaters for the babies. Then in the seventies while I was relearning to walk after an accident, I started to work with hand spun yarns. Without labels or instructions attached around the skeins, I had to figure out my knitting myself.  When I mastered how to shape an anatomically intelligent glove, I realized I could knit a hand, or shape a face.

I decided that I would not allow myself to set limits on what I could knit, that knitting could speak for and about people as well as it could make clothing for them. I would try to knit about what was important to me. If I failed, it was personal, not the fault of this great skill.

I found great teachers in Elizabeth Zimmermann, Barbara Walker, Mary Walker Phillips, Mary Thomas, and Vibeke Lind – And more recently in the generous books of Anna Zilboorg, Lynne Barr, and Lily Chin. All of these knitters have shown me new ways to knit.

Katharine's Spiral design, adaptable to several lengths.

Katharine’s Spiral design, adaptable to several lengths, will be taught on Sunday morning.

In the early 80s, I read an article about knitting a pot holder diagonally. Immediately I thought ‘there is more in this thicket than potholders,’ and then spent much of the next twenty years exploring what I could do diagonally.  In 2010 my husband, David Cobey and I incorporated my ideas and his photography and technical drawings in DIAGONAL KNITTING, A DIFFERENT SLANT.


Since then I have continued to explore what knitting can do, both on my own and with the students I have had the great good fortune to work with.

Katharine on her Navajo spindle. She'll offer a class about this spinning technique on S

Katharine on her Navajo spindle. She’ll offer a class about this spinning technique on Friday afternoon.

What’s integral to your work as an artist?
Simplicity is integral to my work. Less always seems stronger than more. Knitting can do so many things with its one stitch that there is sometimes the temptation to show off with complicated stitches. I find that working something as simply as it is possible, will speak more clearly. When I began Boat with Four Figures I tried five or six different stitches for the shroud and the boat. In the end both were done diagonally, entirely in garter stitch. Portal’s figures are done in stocking knit and stocking knit reversed, all the very simplest of knitting.

Katharine's dramatic 'Portals," a stunning sculpture done with the simplest of stitches.

Katharine’s dramatic ‘Portals,” a stunning sculpture done with the simplest of stitches.

What is your most important artist tool?
After my knitting needles, my favorite tool is my Rio Grande spinning wheel. Without it I could not have done the larger pieces I have made. The boat in BOAT WITH FOUR FIGURES was 60 x 4 feet long, the shroud covering my carved figures an additional sixty feet long. Being able to produce my own yarns at a reasonable cost gave me leeway to knit the larger installations.

Cobey at her Rio Grande wheel which was essential to her creation of her BOAT WITH FOUR  FIGURES

Cobey at her Rio Grande wheel which was essential to her Boat with Four Figures

Katharine’s Boat with Four Figures

What would your Fiber College students be surprised to know about you?
My students might be surprised to know that I often feel shy.


Katharine’s Weds/Thurs knitting class offers students of all levels the opportunity to refine and develop their artful and functional knitting.

Whether you are a new, intermediate, or very experienced knitter, you can plan to bring your knitting to the next level under the guidance of Katharine Cobey at this year’s Fiber College. Don’t wait to sign up for one or more of her classes!

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