Ellen Mason’s advise to students is some of the best I’ve ever heard. She’s teaching two classes this year at Fiber College and you’re sure to see and hear her students squealing like 5-year olds as they make new discoveries whether knitting or dyeing. Her design work is remarkable; how will I ever choose which of her sweaters I want to knit? We’re tickled that Ellen is back at Fiber College this year! Here’s Ellen…
At Fiber College I will be teaching how to knit my sculpted thumb mittens. The class is geared to all knitting experience levels – beginners can work on two needles while experts can work two-at-time on long circulars.
I will also be teaching Mason jar dyeing all weekend at the dye tent. The dye tent is a drop-in joint where one can explore acid dyeing for an hour or a whole day. I will have yarn for sale, and you are welcome to bring your own animal/protein fibers to dye.
Who are you? Tell us about your fiber journey.
When I was about ten years old I busted my Mom’s sewing machine. My Dad gathered it up and left the house almost immediately. Two hours later he came home with a 1940’s Singer sewing machine. It was classic black with painted gold scrolls. It sewed forward and backward. That beautiful machine was a gift for me, just me. (They replaced my Mom’s machine shortly afterward.) This is how my folks supported my stitching habits from the time I was a girl, keeping me in yarn, fabric, machines, and tools. They enrolled me in lessons, provided space, and most of all, served as examples. I was raised as a maker by a family of do-it-yourselfers. And I was never, ever bored.
I have since worked as a trim designer/weaver, a graphics artist, a children’s clothing designer, and a dyer. Today I live in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, knitting, sewing, or dyeing every day. I make most of my clothing and I write patterns for knitted items such as sweaters and mittens.
What are your most important artist tools?
Interchangeable knitting needles, 3×5 cards to record ideas, Microsoft Excel and CorelDraw for pattern writing, sharp scissors, and a well-organized work room. I also have a team of family and friends that encourages me – that’s priceless.
What would your FC students be surprised to know about you?
I love most all machinery, from knitting machines to snowmobiles. When I ride my snowmobile I design cold weather gear in my head (in my helmet).
What’s your favorite advice to students?
Approach all art forms like a 5 year old. Enjoy it slowly, trust your ideas, be patient with yourself, and the skill set will follow sometime down the road.
How do you manage/balance your work self and your creative self?
I accept that I am out of balance. I don’t panic. Instead, I play to my strengths. I am a patient mono-tasker: I fall deep in the rabbit hole of discovery, whether I’m developing a knitted thumb or a sewing pattern. I respect mistakes – they are integral to the process. My head stays in a project for a long time and I work through many versions before I am satisfied. Other high-priority tasks are on a list in my kitchen – I’m not as good at remembering the mundane stuff, so I write it down as a safety net. Staying organized keeps my creative mojo flowing.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? We all do it differently.
You can follow my blog here: odacier.blogspot.com